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El juego saldrá en el pack de Half Life 2+Potal+Team Fortress 2 para PS3, Xbox360 y PC. en Gameinformer han podido probar una versión casi final de la versión PC y una muy temprana de la 360.www.gameinformer.com/News/Story/200703/N07.0302.1313.05101.htm
While Valve is one of the developers that swallows hot new developers or development teams left and right, the Narbacular Drop team is another inspirational story. Coming out of DigiPen, this senior project was quickly noticed by Valve, and the team was hired immediately. The team quickly got to work on a Narbacular Drop transformation into Portal, which will be part of the Half-Life 2: Episode Two Orange and Black Box packages. Portal mixes the first-person world of Half-Life with a puzzler-platformer that’s guaranteed to rack your brain and make you laugh all the while.
Last week I got the exclusive opportunity to meet with two of the Portal team members, Level Designer Kim Swift and Gameplay Programmer Jeep Barnett. The two gave me a glimpse into this strange new world and a complete hands-on with an almost-final PC version, as well as an early version for the Xbox 360. While Narbacular Drop was the basis for Portal, the game’s entire engine had to be scrapped (DigiPen owns all tech created by students) and everything started from scratch with Valve’s Source Engine.
In Portal, you play as a new character in the Half-Life universe that is trapped in the Aperture Laboratory Facility. You learn more about what Aperture Science is by playing Episode Two than by playing Portal. However, you find out more about who you are in the Half-Life universe while you’re playing Portal. “She” was all your character was referred to, and who “she” is has yet to be announced. Could your character be Alyx? Apparently “she” is not in Episode Two, according to Valve, but that could be just as much a trick as the rest of the game essentially is.
Your character has no idea what’s going on, why she’s in this lab, or how to get out. You are given a portal gun, which shoots two interlinked portals: blue and orange. Go in the blue, come out the orange. Go in the orange, come out of blue. Unlike in Narbacular Drop, in Portal you now have the ability to jump and lift objects. There are no weapons, and the portal gun, gravity and physics are your only tools to traverse these strangely puzzling rooms to figure out how to escape.
In the beginning of Portal, you’ll learn the basics of figuring out a room. When you walk into a room you’ll be presented with signage that lets you know which number room you’re in and lit symbols of what you can expect to be up against, such as blocks, turrets or falling objects. These symbols may be found in the environment as well to give you a little hint on where to toss a portal, and so on. While the first few rooms you’ll encounter aren’t terribly difficult, it quickly ramps up. In the beginning, your portal gun will only shoot the blue or entry portal, and the orange portal will be fixed. Early objectives may have you place a block on a switch or power a moving platform and then land on it. However, once you progress through a number of rooms, you’ll get access to the orange portal gun, which will allow for much trickier movement. Considering you place the entry and exit points in many cases, each room will have a number of solutions.
While the main gameplay centers around you getting from Point A to Point B, you’ll encounter a number of obstacles to get around. Chasms, turrets and surfaces that don’t allow portals will need to be avoided as you attempt to reach your destination. In a sense, when approaching each room I felt as if I had just entered a mini-dungeon in Zelda. By taking a step back and observing the different facets of each room, most of the puzzles can be figured out. Remembering the rules of the portals, as well as gravity and physics will also help. You can drop turrets out of your way through portals, as well as bounce back and forth between each portal each way. Getting over chasms or to further distances is done by “flinging yourself.” Drop a portal to a much lower area and feel free to make the exit away from where you actually want to land. By dropping into the entrance of a portal at a higher rate of speed you’ll exit out just as fast, or flinging yourself out of the exit.
As you move from room to room, there’s a female narrator that speaks to you. OK, basically she screws with your head the whole time. Sometime she’s helpful, other times she’ll mock you. She’ll even tell you you’ve entered into a room where you’re doomed to fail, even though her tongue-in-cheek attitude will drive you to figure out the room nonetheless. This monotone narrator is hilarious with the help of writers Chet Faliszek (Half-Life 2: Episode One) and Erik Wolpaw (Psychonauts, Half-Life 2: Episode One). So who is this freak of computer narration? That’s another secret to unravel while you play through the game.
Visually, Portal is extremely clean and sterile, just as you would expect if you were trapped in a laboratory. Outside of the turrets we encountered or the energy balls we redirected, everything in the laboratory seems to have clean edges and is made up of modular design. Don’t expect such detail as you’d find in Half-Life 2, however, with such a sterile look Portal ran a decent clip, even on the Xbox 360.
Since the gameplay isn’t as frantic or twitchy as a normal console FPS, this lends itself quite well to the console space. While I just built a high-end gaming rig and will most definitely play Episode Two and Team Fortress 2 on it, I could see myself playing Portal while lounging on the couch with a controller. With its simplistic gameplay and rule set, I could see this crossing over to the more casual gamer. Valve mentioned that they’ve done quite a bit of playtesting, and that audience has also been attracted to Portal.
However, the experience won’t be as long as a fully fleshed-out game, and the team explained that it would most likely take the average gamer 4-6 hours to get through the 25-30 levels. Portal won’t be sold separately at the outset and will be included with both the Orange and Black Box releases, either in retail form or downloaded through Steam.
Even though console gamers will benefit from being able to lazily play the game from their couches, the PC gamer will have the ability to download and install user-created mods. Gameplay Programmer Jeep Barnett stated that a UI will be made available just after launch to allow users to quickly and easily add user created levels without having to screw around with zip files or figure out how to import maps. PC users will also have the ability to create their own levels by having access to the same exact tools the team used to create the initial game. Considering there was a new user-created map made available for Narbacular Drop on almost a daily basis, you can almost expect to have a flood of content released by the hardcore Valve/Source community. Could these mods ever make it over to the console space? Not likely. Considering Xbox Live is a closed service, everything would have to go through a Microsoft certification process just as regular game software has to. As far as the PlayStation 3 is concerned, Valve’s Doug Lombardi explained that they’re still trying to figure out Sony’s online service.
Even though the game could easily be played through in an afternoon, it’ll be just as fully featured as other games in the Orange and Black boxes are. The game will contain a commentary, much like Half-Life’s Lost Coast and Episode One had. You’ll also be able to change localization preferences, so if you want to listen to the crazy narrator in French (and have English subtitles), you’ll have that option. Xbox 360 owners will be glad to know that Portal will have separate achievements. The Orange Box will have 50 total achievements spread across all of the games included in the package. And while Valve is still figuring out which games will get what, Barnett said the team has a few ideas on how to utilize them with Portal. After you complete the game of Portal, you’ll gain objectives by making it through each room, but there are also a number of different sub-objectives within each level, and there will be achievements based on those.
While I only got to experience about 10 rooms, I didn’t want to stop playing. Portal mixes a number of my favorite genres—platformer, puzzle and first person—into an easily digestible and entertaining experience. Even though I’m a die-hard Team Fortress and Half-Life fan, knowing that there’s another wonderful piece to the upcoming Box releases only makes the wait that much more agonizing.
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