Portal Post-mortem posted

Well, a tease of it anyway.
Reality is bended in this reality-bending game of reality bending. Really.

Gamasutra have posted a little of a Portal post-mortem, written by RPS-crushes Kim Swift, Erik Wolpaw and Jeep Barnett. It’s taken from the January Issue of Game Developer, which can actually be bought in a PDF format for (er) money. Man, I wish people would give us money. Anyway, the two quoted sections involve the development of the game’s fiction and overcoming the technical stuff. Since I’m feigning ignorance of tech-stuff, let’s quote from the origins of GladOS bit. That sounds like an RPSy thing to do.

“Before the writing started, we met with Erik and discussed our list of narrative constraints. Since at the time we were using some Half-Life art assets, and because we wanted to leave ourselves the option of someday using the portal gun in a Half-Life game, we decided that the story should in some way connect to the Half-Life universe.

Practically speaking, we didn’t have sufficient time or staffing to add any human characters, which would have required an impressive amount of animation work and scene choreography. That meant the story had to be expressed without the benefit of any visible extra characters.

A week after the meeting, Erik came back with some sample dialog he’d recorded using a text-to-speech program. It was a series of announcements that played over the newly-christened “relaxation vault” that appears in Portal’s first room.

Everyone on the team liked the funny, sinister tone of the writing, and so Erik continued to write and record announcements for other chambers, while still searching for the story proper. At some point, however, it became apparent that these announcements were providing playtesters with the incentive to keep playing that we’d been looking for all along.

Better yet, in the sterile, empty test chamber environment, players were actually becoming attached to the alternately soothing and menacing computer guide. We’d found the narrative voice of Portal.”

I love it when a narrative voice comes together.


  1. Steve says:

    Postal Post-mortem?

    I’d love one, but I think you got the wrong game there.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, Steve. It says Portal. It has always said Portal.


  3. Steve says:

    Oh no. I’d finally forgotten about my Alzheimer’s as well.

  4. Ging says:

    Hmm, how annoying that my online sub to GD ran out not long ago… Ah well, I’ll just have to wait for it to appear on Gamasutra properly.

  5. Jonathan Burroughs says:

    Postal Port-mostem ported

  6. DuBBle says:

    Portal-post provokes peaceful postpeople, protecting professions

  7. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Post Portal-post punning patter perturbs passing patrons profusely.

  8. roBurky says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve paid money for a PDF file.

  9. Yhancik says:

    Man, that video !
    Getting SW into Soul Calibur wasn’t enough, I want it all mixed with Rez now!

  10. Daniel says:

    The postal is a lie.

  11. DigitalSignalX says:

    I don’t hate you.

    Especially after that link to the star wars rave (?); great stuff!

    Imagine how easy it would have been to carry the dwarf to the rocket in ep2 with a portal gun.

  12. Saul says:

    The bureau currently predicts a 66% likelihood that Episode 3 will feature the portal gun.

  13. Duncan says:

    I figured the portal gun will be on The Borealis (that derelict ship you see mentioned in Ep.2), cos it’s an aperture science ship isn’t it?

  14. Kast says:

    Highly unlikely.

    The Borealis is not much more than a version of the Philadelphia Experiment. Possibly in order to get one-up on Black Mesa’s personal teleport technology.

    Including the portal gun in an open world would cause FAR too many level design and gameplay problems. Portal works because all levels are tightly constrained. Without that tight, enclosed design the player could skip entire levels at a time.

  15. Nobby says:

    (ruins thread with nerdology)
    Episode 3 by all reports will require some significant engine re-writes to accommodate the portal gun, all surfaces will need behaviour characteristics, and the skybox will need to be told to ignore the gun, for example.

    Unless you dont get it until you’re indoors in an Aperture Science designed area. So I’ll shut up now.
    (/ruins thread with nerdology)

    I for one would LOVE to see puzzles involving NPCs AND the portal gun, perhaps creating portals over enemies for Barney to throw grenades through, and witty scripted quips afterwards “I guess you CAN have your cake and eat it too” or something similarly daft.

  16. Kast says:

    The beer is a lie!

  17. Meat Circus says:


    Did you try the hack that allows you to play HL2 levels in Portal?

    I did. It’s great fun. It confuses the hell out of the combine.

    The most useful thing, however, is that it allows you to see what’s behind those combine force fields, which don’t stop the Portal gun.


  18. NewName says:

    Actually, in portal there are no surface characteristics for what surfaces you can make a portal on or not. Rather to make a surface you can’t put a portal on you enclose that surface with a brush which says “can’t put a portal here” (I think it’s a volumetric entity).

    This never made sense to me because it’d make level design a thousand times easier if they used surface characteristics.

  19. matte_k says:

    call me a purist, but the portal gun should stay in portal. It’s one of the two things that make the game unique and fun, the other being GLaDOS. I appreciate the tie in between HL2 and Portal, but there are other ways of doing it, surely?

  20. Kast says:

    @Meat Circus

    No, I never did. From what I heard it was terribly difficult to get working properly. And couldn’t you just use noclip to see behind the forcefields?

    *Nods at what matte_k says*

  21. Eric says:

    I have trouble imagining Gordon Freeman ever wielding the Portal Gun, if only for the fact that you’d actually get to see yourself as Gordon Freeman, something that they’ve avoided in the past. As far as I know, they don’t even have a character model for Gordon Freeman in the game.

  22. trolleydude says:

    The portal gun will probably feature in EP3, but I really hope you aren’t allowed to use it. Maybe have a bit where you see someone else use it and die, like the gauss gun in Half-Life. Besides, there might just be portals with no portal gun. It’d be a bitch attaching heel springs to the HEV suit.

  23. Nobby says:

    Another good point in the case for why Freeman WONT get the gun however would be that the operator really needs the leg braces or they risk suffering a very quick but spectacular multi portal death.

    Unless his suit gets an upgrade (and an ingame character model), it aint happening.

    Put it this way, if Gorden gets the portal gun, he’ll also get arms and legs in the vehicle sections. DOUBLE WIN.