Beyond Portal 2

4th May 2011

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

This article is not a review of Portal 2. That will be posted on a new part of the site eventually. This is an article ABOUT Portal 2.

This short article contains spoilers about the game and my upcoming review.

Let’s get this over and done with…. I was a little disappointed with Portal 2. The beginning was okay, the middle fantastic and the end, mostly meh! with one “WOW, cool! moment.

Mostly through the game I kept saying to myself “I can’t wait to see what modders do with these assets!”. Notice I said “modders” because even though maps can be fantastic, I fear they will simply be “just” puzzles. Amazing puzzle, incredible puzzles, crafty puzzles, beautiful puzzles, devious puzzles and downright sneaky puzzle. But “just” puzzles.

They lack the deeper involvement. They are the “One night stands” of the sexual relationships. I’m looking for the “affairs” of the heart. The mods that sweep me off my feet with romance and passion! [Please note, I am neither condoning or condemning brief sexual encounters or unfaithfulness – just trying to use a colourful analogy].

For the first time I think it will be possible for modders to make a mod that is better than the game. Yes, that’s a bold statement and there’s a lot of depth to Portal 2, but I felt the story was weak, the script between Wheately and GLaDOS strained and laboured (Cave was perfect in script and VA – at least in my humble opinion). In fact, the whole game felt like a sequel that was made because of an obligation rather than passion.

Anyway, fingers crossed that in a year or less, we’ll get some amazing mods. Let’s hope that’s just part of what gets created with Portal 2.

We’ve already seen the first machinima, called The Lonely Robot and we hope it’s the first one many.

But, Portal wasn’t a particularly fecund in that regard and that wasn’t anybody’s fault, because Valve don’t make games with that in mind and the community can only use what they have or can build on. Portal 2 might offer our community something more and that’s what also excites me.

As much as I love the games, I also love the creativity of the community. Let me offer you an idea of how Portal 2 could along you to create.

Below is an image taken from a Bit-Tech.Net forum thread. The OP, as you can see, ended up painting the whole area white. Pretty funny but also kinda cool.

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Howe long until we see Portal 2 Art? Yes, that’s right, you heard it here first. Portal 2 Art. Capital A. Imagine mappers make some huge empty rooms with vents capable of spouting blue, white and orange gel. The player/painter, whatever you want to call yourself, can turn the vents on and off any time they want. They can position portals around the room to throw the gel into any position.

Next comes the coder, who with a few keystrokes, give the “playnter” (see what I did there?) more colours and perhaps even more control over the amount.

Keep going with the innovation and use the Excursion Funnel to throw the gel around and before you know it you have a virtual Jackson Pollock!

Okay, I admit that the long term market for Portal 2 Art is not looking good, but there’s one idea for you.

How about some vintage Portal guns, with cool portal effects. Going back in time could provide plenty of opportunities, both from the gaming perspective AND other sorts of creations, don’t you think?

So let’s hope the community decides to get its teeth into Portal 2 and we could see some amazing creations.

Why not share your ideas for Beyond Portal 2 in the comments.


  1. I think you’re a little too optimistic here. You can’t even remotely expect anything with a story as good as Portal 2, let alone better. If there is something I know about modding community, it’s that they utterly suck at creating things with a story. I’m 99% sure that nobody even be able create something with a decent story.

    Yes there will be lots of modifications, lots of puzzles, some good, mostly bad. But I don’t expect anything different. Maybe I’m too pessimistic here, but I can’t say in the past I saw anything that hints me to expect differently. Only thing Portal 2 can inspire modders to do is creating even more difficult puzzles. That’s the only thing I expect.

    Also I don’t think Portal 2 has a weak story. Actually it has one of the most spectacular stories I’ve ever seen in a game (hell, even in a movie I dare say). I’m not even remotely disappointed. Portal 2 is the best thing Valve’ve ever released. Yes, that includes all Half Life series.

    1. I’m not even remotely disappointed.

      I’m happy for you. I’m not suggesting that other people feel the same as me.

      1. I know. But if you liked the kind of games I did you’d get used being disappointed. I really miss games like Portal and Half Life. And being satisfied fully, that’s really an awesome feeling.

  2. Shadowmancer471

    I have to agree entirely with civanT here
    I personally loved the story of Portal 2 to bits, and I enjoyed the puzzles a lot despite not being a puzzle fan. Probably not my favourite Valve release (See Half-Life 2 series), but still one of my favourite games.

    However, I have a feeling that the Portal series are very restrictive when it comes to modding.
    Sure the new engine is exciting, but I’ve always found that Portal revolves around a series of set puzzle pieces.
    Which means that most maps are just a collection of these pieces arranged. I mean sure with the new assets (e.g. Gel, as you were saying Phillip) or P2, people will make amazing and fantastic looking maps, but I’m not particularly excited about them.
    Looking at maps+mods for Portal 1, there is only one I can really say I enjoyed (Conundrum), all the rest are frustrating or recycled in my opinion. And Conundrum was basically another Test Chamber straight out of Portal, even if it was excellently devised.

    I’ve tried mapping for Portal 1, and I didn’t enjoy it.
    In Portal you have to follow a set of tight rules often or the map can become annoying due to game mechanics used that are not present in the game.
    New game mechanics are fine, great in some cases (Blue Portal’s Fans for instance), but unless you introduce them like Portal 2 does, then they are just plain confusing. I think Blue Portals did an excellent job introducing these mechanics, even if the puzzles themselves were too difficult.

    Now compare these set pieces to say Half Life 2 modding. Half Life 2 is a simple “point and shoot’, which actually increases the scope of modding dramatically.
    If you want to drive a giant robot and shoot rockets at the helicopters attacking you, there’s a mod for that.
    If you want to take on a strider with a car sporting a spinning blade, you can do that.
    Heck, if you want to wander around a nightmarish hospital running from giant shadowy clouds, yup…there’s a mod for that.

    And so on.
    Although I’ve probably phrased this very poorly, I personally think that mapping for Portal games is boring and restrictive, even if they are fun to play.
    Good maps take a lot of effort to create, and whilst I’m sure some mappers will create masterpieces with Portal 2, I can’t forsee any new and exciting maps on the same scale as other titles.

    Basically, I’ve found that in shooter games you can be a lot more imaginative (Paranoia, Research+Development, Precursor etc), and it’s this imaginative idea that I, and possibly a number of other mappers, focus on, and it’s creating this new and fun idea that drives the map onwards, and gives one the inspiration to carry on.
    Whereas Portal, no matter how clever the puzzle is, is really just more of the same stuff Portal had. And that’s just putting pieces of a jigsaw together.
    Whereas modding for Half-Life 2 is creating the jigsaw in the first place.

    If you can decipher this rambling nonsense, then that can be my two pennies on the matter.

    1. However, I have a feeling that the Portal series are very restrictive when it comes to modding.

      I don’t think you need to have a feeling, I think it would be universally agreed.

      I can’t forsee any new and exciting maps on the same scale as other titles.

      Neither can I, and I never said that would be the case.

      I completely agree that the other HL games are much better suited to modding than Portal 1 or 2. I just feel that the mods we may see for Portal 2 will be a step above the mods we have seen for Portal 1.

      1. Shadowmancer471

        Oh, of course. I think that there are a wider range of Portal 2 assets, both in visuals and gameplay.
        I just hope we don’t get the “Portal bug” where most Portal 2 maps are difficult to the point of severe frustration

        1. Absolutely agree with you, but my feeling is that modders wil take the new mechanics as a challenge to make the puzzles harder rather than more interesting.

          1. Anon_253013

            This will happen to a degree, but there are a few mappers from the Portal 1 community that put out maps that were geared toward the normal player. If the modders pick those guys up, there should be some good times had. If not, at least those mappers will still make some content for normal Portal 2 mechanics!

  3. I think that mods will be about as popular for Portal 2 as it was for the original. (if not less)

    Unless Valve does the golden thing and add a “Custom maps/mods”-browser-in-game-download-manager – thing. if that happens then maybe the typical casual gamer might get his re-playability that he soooo wishes for (survey at my school). Thus creating a bigger audience and making modders/mappers feel more appreciated.

    But I don’t think that will happen.

    We’ll properly see a lot of mods appearing over the next few months, and then they will start to fade.

    (Oh and now where that has been said, I will inform that I’m working on my own portal 2 mod, hopefully it will be done before people uninstall their portals)

  4. I liked the Portal 2 story, although the gameplay left me disappointed in places. The test chambers were great, but the large areas where you just had to look for portalble surfaces to transport you over and beyond obstacles got a bit wearisome. But who knows, maybe Valve will come up with some innovations of their own with the forthcoming Portal 2 DLCs. #1 is out this Summer. Can’t wait!

  5. Hec

    Actually it has one of the most spectacular stories I’ve ever seen in a game

    quoting CivanT, I agree with him too, I just loved the story, and my favourite part of the game was when we entered the old AS section with the spheres, I just really loved those transitions from the 1950’s environments to 1980’s and 90’s enviroments, where u can clearly see the evolution of aperture siencie labs, frome the time where they used to recrute austronauts and olympic athletes for the test untill they passed by recruting poor bumps from the streets, paying them his 60 bucks, and therefore the obligatory-voluntary testing for the personel, also was a delight to hear Cave Jonhson’s voice,his pictures and how he evolved mentaly across those years, oh god for the first time on that game I was able to take a break from that sometimes annoying glados allways bother and messing up with me!!!!!, I just loved PORTAL2 and I hope there’s a PORTAL3 sooner or later.

    As for the mods that can came up soon i’m not that excited as Phillip for me are just mods and that’s it, they are not the game itself, but, yeah I really would love to see a mod that use those aperture sience old sections, I would really love to see a mod that can show how it was AS, facility in the 50’s, operated with live human personel, and the old aperture sience portal, or quantic holes device that u carried back on those years on ur back, id love to get to aperture sience in a limo like cave J said, and get outta there also in a limo, or beeing a bump and get paid the 60 USD, for the test I did, and maybe discover some dark plans AS has in mind. Oh men yep maybe i’m not really entushiastic about mods, but I really hope they use this awsome new, OLD FASHIONED ENVIRONMENTS P2 gave us.

    Most of all I really loved P2, and I hope P3 came out, and even more that HLep3 reveals some conection betwen the storys, maybe the CMB found many assets that AS, developed as pretty priced jewls for their domnination plans.

    And yep, so far P2 has been the better release of valve in years not even the L4D sagas can compare with this amazing launch valve gave us.!!

    1. Derbler

      Hey sorry, but there will never be a Portal 3. By freeing Chell, they killed the franchise. I loved the ending and I got a very satisfying sense of closure by seeing her released into the world, but if Valve even tried to make a Portal 3, it would no longer be a “Portal” game, if you know what I mean. We should just look forward to DOTA 2, Episode 3, and of course, Left 4 Dead: Midnight Riders which should all be thoroughly Valve-tastic!

      1. Kyouryuu

        Also, much like Capcom in the 1990s, Valve can’t count to 3. 🙂

      2. Hec

        Oh yes, well that’s kind of the most likley possibility, but imagine if valve can’t count to 3, then I guess HL3 is soo screwed, and that’s also something that never is going to happen probably, and yes, L4D along with the midnight riders, would be soo kick ass, I hope they work on that!!!

        1. Hec

          oh look I didn’t know this, here’s the link between P2 and HL2, is really interesting to see that video, hope u can watch it:

      3. Derbler. when you say there won’t be a P3 because they freed Chell, you are probably wrong. Haven’t you seen the image discovered in the Portal ARG of a little house on a prairie… inside a vast lab?

  6. Wesp5

    I agree with Phillip and disagree with everyone else her about Portal 2’s story! What story? You mean: good AI helps you against bad AI – former good AI turns bad and former bad AI turns good – good AI helps you against bad AI? That’s not much of a story, it’s just a setting, and this includes the “prequel” part which was fun for Cave’s comments but ugly from the level design side. While I admire the perfection of Portal 2, it’s still just a cheap sequel to me which could have been much more if they had continued outside the test chambers setting.

    1. The story runs a bit deeper than that. What about…[spoiler] the revelation that GLaDOS is Cave’s wife,and that Chell is quite possibly their daughter? I was also impresses how we ended up helping GLaDOS to defeat Wheatley.[/spoiler]

      And how can something be “ugly from the design side” but “perfection’? Not trying to pick an argument. Just curious as to what you mean. 🙂

      1. Wesp5

        Well, your spoiler is still just a setting for me. A story is something that happens during the game! As for “ugly” compared to “perfection’, I didn’t like the “prequel” levels, but I admire how perfect the whole game is. This includes no obvious bugs, running fast on my old system and being polished all over!

        1. Hec

          I didn’t like the ” prequel” levels

          Oh god u must be so nuts, man those levels were the best of all the game, just pure old school on all of them I loved those levels, so I can’t wait till someone build an entire mod centered on those enviroments, cross fingers in order to that happen!!

  7. Kyouryuu

    Portal 2 was a great game, but it has a serious lack of replayability. After you’ve solved the puzzles, there’s nothing to do. There is no unpredictability in the game’s core design – no AI to mix things up – so everything unfolds exactly the same way every time.

    I do think that Valve only scratched the surface on the various ways you can combine the puzzle elements together in the Wheatley chambers. There are a lot of combinations that modders can exploit for themselves.

    But I doubt Portal 2 will have a significantly larger modding scene than Portal 1. It’s more that the same scene just got a few more toys to play with. If anything, given the higher visual bar, the scene might just get smaller.

    1. If anything, given the higher visual bar, the scene might just get smaller.

      I agree completely. And it’s not only the modding scene. I hate to admit but all these graphical advancements in gaming technology are really crippling the developers if you ask me. These great visuals (i mean all the games. UE3, CE3 etc.) doesn’t grow on trees. They require time, money, great concentration, and devotion. It was easier to develop games before. Now you must be an elite developer to create something not bad.

      In my opinion modding scene will get smaller in the future but this small base will create really high standard stuff. Nowadays it looks big but this is only because these great visuals draw attention and people want to create their ideas with these great visuals. Soon they’ll learn that they won’t be able to do what they want and this will create a big “shrinkage” in the scene. At least that’s what I think.

      1. Yes, I agree with you both, that the higher graphical expectations of the players may make the modding scene smaller. That and the fact that many people are considering moving onto indie games and engines.

        A lot of the indie games that I have seen haven’t incredible graphics but they do have interesting game mechanics and presentations. perhaps that’s what the modding community needs to do, focus more on gameplay and less on visuals.

        That said, since modders are necessarily using a game to mod from the gameplay mechanics are hard to change enough to make it seem different. Starting with a game has both advantages and disadvantages.

  8. What I’m confused about is how you could find the interaction between Wheatley and GLaDOS laboured. Honestly, I know many people in real life who would talk less naturally than that.

  9. vehk

    i think that with the new gel mechanics (especially the brilliant white gel), the foundations are finally laid for a full fledged portal in hl2 setting mod. when you restrict the available portal surfaces to white and structure the puzzles wisely to discourage abuse, the portal gun wont be overpowering that much in an outdoor environment. something larger than ‘maybe black mesa’, maybe also combining gravity gun with portals and you can have a new R&D on the way.

    – throw stuff with GG, use blue gel to bounce it around
    – hunters + orange gel / hunters + bounce pads
    – paint headcrabs blue so they bounce away 🙂
    – gradually paint the level white to reach higher ground

  10. Major Banter

    This may sound stupid, but the more powerful engines limit what can be built.

    Portal 2 is the first Valve game that I’ve had to significantly turn down the graphics on to get a good performance, and that worries me. The editor is always more power-hungry than the game, so is the scene going to be limited to people with desktop behemoths?

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