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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Portal for everyone

So, i've been really busy this week. Checked out a community Bible Study group, watched the Preds game, went to the Preds game last night, and of course...i've been playing Portal.

The rest of the Valve Orange Box came out at midnight pacific on Wed. I've only been able to squeeze in a little bit of Portal since then (didn't finish it, but i'm fairly near the end from what i understand) and haven't been able to touch Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

A couple of notes about Portal:
1) This game is really cool, but was way too basic early on. For a game that is part of a bundle that is rated "M", the first half of the levels in Portal are way to basic. I understand the need to have a few teach-players-how-to-use-portals levels early on, but after that, make it challenging fast. The levels ramp way too gradually, and there wasn't ever really a point where i was frustrated with the game (though more than a few times where i realized later "i did that the hard way" and can go back and improve my performance for achievements later.) That leads me to #2.

2) Portal is essentially a spatial IQ test. It's not a first person shooter in any way really. This is a first person puzzle game. You can take your time with all the tests (in fact, if you do, you get to hear more of the goofy things the AI computer voice says throughout the game) and you are never in danger of eminent attack (only if you miss a platform and drop into toxic waste, that kinda thing). The problem is that everyone that plays the game, myself included, recognize that this is an intelligence test (which is reinforced by the fact that it is presented as a test throughout the game). This leads to the fact that many people - very much including myself - under inflate their play time even more than usual. When a game comes out there are always geeks that say "oh this just took me 6 hours to play" or whatever. With Portal, people are being very casual about how easy the game was for them and it only took them an hour, etc. I know i just did when talking with Matt on the phone. I told him i wasn't quite done, but had only played for an hour or so. In reality, thanks to my Steam Community Profile, i know that i have actually played for about 2 hours.

Ah well.

3) Having said that, it is very very clear that it will be very simple for users to rapidly start spitting out map-packs of their own with new levels to play. And a multi-player hack will be out in...i'll say 8 days (from release). Given that someone else hacked Half-life 2 Deathmatch to basically be multi-player Portal months ago (Excite Mod), it shouldn't take too long to get a cleaned up version running now that the real thing is out. This game is not so much a game as an introduction to an engine, which will spawn hundreds of hours of playable levels rapidly.

4) Lastly, for those who are interested, or who just want to test their spatial IQ Portal-style, here's an awesome flash game that someone took way too much time to make. Obviously it is a little more simple than the real Portal game as it is just 2-D instead of in full 3 dimensions, and you can see all the map instead of being stuck in a 1st-person point of view. But you'll get the idea. PORTAL: The Flash Version. Much fun

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