THE BLUE STUFF
The Blue Stuff was developed as an assignment for the Advanced Level Design course for a period of three weeks half-time. My goal with the map was to reuse specific puzzle elements in numerous ways, i.e. excursion funnel, repulsion gel, buttons and gravity. The level was first designed in Portal 2’s PuzzzleMaker and then exported to Hammer to reiterate the design, level dressing and general polishing.
After two weeks of development I released an early version of the map on Steam to hopefully receive feedback to improve upon. The amount of feedback I got was more that I could ever have hoped for. During the last week I changed textures, reiterated the lightning and some of the level elements. Thanks again for all the playthroughs and feedback!
- Developed at The Game Assembly
- Portal 2 custom map
- Single player
- Development time: 3 weeks (half-time)
- Hammer Editor (Portal 2 assets)
When designing this level my main focus was to reuse specific puzzle elements in various ways, especially the excursion funnel, gravity and the repulsion gel. The main focus was on the excursion funnel and the gravity mechanic, because they are easy to experiment with and rewarding for the player to experience. As shown in the Top Down a lot of different Portal 2 assets were used, but the puzzles and the design were centred on these level elements.
PUZZLEMAKER & HAMMER
During the early stages of this map my complete focus was on using Portal 2s own design tool, PuzzleMaker. It was easy to use and perfect for exploring different puzzle designs and gameplay flow. All of the level mechanics were available from the start and could be implemented with just a click away.
Even though this tool was a pure joy to use, its user friendly interface naturally came with limitations. So when I felt the fundamental design was ready I exported the map to Hammer in order to access the complete library of Portal 2. Hammer was a completely new tool for me, so it was a good challenge to grasp and immerse myself in the real developer tool
THE BEGINNING & THE FIRST STEP
The faith plates plays an important role in the beginning of the level and in the final gameplay moment. In the beginning it is the first interactive element the player encounter and it lets her get a good overview of what she’s dealing with. Also the level’s exit gets presented at this moment.
At this point the player cannot complete many puzzles, only get tempted to solve them. For example, the inactive gel dispenser needs a cube to function, which is one of the main goals of the map. But the cube is placed behind a large grating that can only be accessed from the second room.
The first step the player must take is to turn off the laser fields which hinders the player from getting to the second room. And in order to accomplish this task the player must locate the second button in the first room. However, there is a glass panel blocking the player’s path. To solve this the player must utilize the excursion funnel by switching its polarity and use it to travel across the obstacle.
THE SECOND STEP & THE SECOND ROOM
The second step is to reach the second room. It was intentional to leave the first room with some puzzles unfinished, because I want to motivate the player to continue playing even if she got stuck a little while. In the second room I took advantage of the gravity mechanic in Portal 2. To solve the puzzles here the player must utilize the pit to her left to gain enough momentum to reach different spaces.
The Pit plays a crucial role to add more action and satisfaction for the player. Since the level doesn’t use much on the dangers of Portal 2, i.e Turrets or stress puzzles, the pit contributes a lot of important flavor to the experience.
The first thing to do is overcome the fizzler field in front of the laser beam by putting a portal on tile to the right of the laser and one in pit to left. This lets the player reach the beam from above instead. The laser receiver then deactivates the laser field, which allows the player to push the first button in the room. This button lowers the side panels that previously blocked the player’s path to the second button in the room.
THE THIRD STEP
The third step is to reach the small room where the cube is placed. To do this the player must place a portable tile which faces towards the panels and utilize the gravity to reach the platform where the second button is located.
Once pressed a panel furthest back in the room flips to a portable tile, but there is nothing underneath it but deadly water. The player must place a portal on the flipped panel and jump back to the pit once again. At this stage the player is hopefully familiarized with the tool of gravity that she finds this challenge only to be rewarding to accomplish.
When the player reaches the Cube Room she cannot simply bring the cube back the same way as she came, because the fizzler field is blocking the player’s path. The trick here is to remember the puzzle elements from the first room and combine them with elements available in the current room.
The player must first jump on the bounce gel splat to shoot a portal on the flipped panel from before. Then shoot a portal, through the grating, to the excursion funnel tile and now simply jump on the bounce gel again with the cube and travel back to the first room.
THE FOURTH STEP
The fourth step involves getting the cube through the other side of the fizzler field where the cube holder for the gel dispenser is placed. First the player must push the button to switch polarity of the excursion funnel. Then jump down to the pressure plate in front of the fizzler field, which deactivate the fizzler field and flips a portable tile behind the player.
The flipped panel is only active when the player is standing on the pressure plate. This means that the player have to stand on the pressure while directing the excursion funnel. Then it is simply to release the cube into the funnel so it alone can travel to the room. By doing this it activate The Blue Stuff and unlocks the final choke point for the player.
This puzzle was a bit problematic for some users, because there is a risk of losing the cube in the process of solving the puzzle. If a player were to lose the cube I tried to ease the recovery process a bit, were the player won’t have to perform as many steps as before. But I still consider this as an issue that I might address in future iterations.
THE LAST STEP
When cube is in place the last step involves using The Blue Stuff to reach the exit of the level. First the player must reach the button to switch polarity of the excursion funnel again. Then the player must place a portal on the funnel tile and on a tile on the other side of the room, to guide the bounce gel to cover the area next to the button completely.
Once the area is covered with the bounce gel the player can’t simply bounce to the exit by simply jumping on it. Rather the player must once again use the faith plates to get the extra momentum to complete the level.