Poll Question 104 – Do you play Portal maps?

20th December 2008

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

I recently visited all the Portal links I have in my Links section only to find that some site had closed and others seemed dead. This got me thinking whether the Portal mapping scene was dead too. There don’t seem to have been many maps released recently, unless new Portal maps sites have been launched and I don’t know about them, which is entirely possible.

This is unusual for a Valve game. Normally there are small groups of developers who love a game and keep producing maps and other content. Of course Portal is very specialized and only really a mini game, but still.

I then started thinking about L4D and wonder whether the same thing will happen to this game. In fact I am surprised that I haven’t heard too much about maps or mods for this yet.

Anyway, I am actually thinking, and I stress it’s only thinking, about adding Portal maps and mods to PP. Over the Christmas break I will play a few and see how I feel. If most PP visitors don’t play Portal maps then I might not bother.

The Poll


  1. Kyouryuu

    The absence of mods for Left 4 Dead is likely because the SDK has not been released. Some people have tried to configure it manually and I think it’s generally possible, but most are holding out for an official release from Valve, which is unfortunately is taking a long time. It also doesn’t help that L4D uses a new package system that your standard tools can’t pry into. I just hope that by the time the L4D SDK does release that people will still be playing it. While I don’t sense boredom with the existing maps, I do notice players realizing their predictability. Most good players have the ability to see a Tank coming from three rooms away, which takes a fair deal of randomness out of the equation.

    Needless to say, the unrealized potential of L4D is very frustrating.

    As for Portal, the game itself was all I felt compelled to play. People said Portal was short, but I think it was about as lengthy as it could have been without overstaying its welcome. Plus, one of my personal opinions about Portal is that GLaDOS really made the game. If you take her dry and morbid humor out of the equation as some Portal mods do, there’s not a whole lot to go on.

    But then, I’m not a huge fan of puzzle maps. I know that some of the higher profile releases for Portal pride themselves on being near-impossible to solve, and I take no pleasure in that. You can always make Portal more devious to the point where only the hardcore can figure them out. Portal lacks a broader range of basic gameplay mechanics that would give it more lasting appeal to a general audience. Even something as basic as a rudimentary humanoid NPC, for good or for evil, would open up a huge range of potential puzzles. Without a fundamental change like that, you’re trapped making the complicated even more so, and that’s an untenable long-term position in my view.

  2. MikeS

    I agree with the above comment — Portal was just long enough and relied on GLaDOS to a large extent.

    I loved Portal, absolutely loved it, but I’ve derived little pleasure from playing maps for it. I think the main reason for this is Valve spend hundreds of man-hours observing playtesters of varying abilities. Mappers don’t have that luxury so their maps are rarely as balanced or appealing as the original game. This could be said of several HL maps and mods, but it’s a problem that is even more pronounced with Portal maps because of the nature of the game. I’ve started playing maps only to realise I need to master a superhuman feat of reflexes and eye-to-hand coordination to proceed. It’s frustrating. Valve wanted everybody to complete the game and love it. Too many mappers want people to struggle and give up. Or maybe they’re such good players themselves they forget most people aren’t? Either way, Portal maps are particularly prone to this “balance of play” problem. Also, with a combat map, if you’re shooting and moving forward, you’re likely going the right way. WIth an entirely puzzle based map, if you get stuck, you can’t even be confident you’ve not encountered a bug.

    So, as you can gather, despite being a massive Portal fan, I’m not bothered about seeing maps and mods on PP.

  3. Sushi

    I do play custom portal maps, and actively seek out new ones. It’s true that as of late, they have been coming slower than they were six months ago, but there are still a number of very good ones (major & minor) out there that are worth playing.

    The only two sites I browse for Portal maps are myaperturelabs.com and thinkingwithportals.com. Between the two, I’m pretty satisfied: if PP doesn’t want to bother with Portal maps, it’s OK with me since there are other good resources out there.

  4. Kyouryuu

    “Also, with a combat map, if you’re shooting and moving forward, you’re likely going the right way. With an entirely puzzle based map, if you get stuck, you can’t even be confident you’ve not encountered a bug.”

    Just want to agree with that point. We’ve definitely seen our fair share of HL2 mods where people noclip around puzzles due to bugs and such. With Portal maps, it’s never entirely clear if you’ve hit a bug, or if it is an intentional part of the design. There’s certainly trust that the official maps won’t abandon you, but custom maps are another story.

    “Too many mappers want people to struggle and give up.”

    Because they don’t have much else to do. The majority of Portal is, after all, establishing a graceful learning curve for the final act. Most mappers probably feel that covering that ground again isn’t innovative or exciting, so instead they try to take these mechanics and go all Rube Goldberg on them. The problem is, it’s easy to make a devious map knowing that some masochistic soul out there will always complete it. It’s much more difficult to make a map with general appeal with your rather limited set of mechanics.

    I think one way Valve tried to ward off this concern was to include the time trial mode. For those who are obsessive about completion, time trials presented a way to make the easier maps reasonably difficult. The key here is that it is an optional challenge. Keep in mind that, for most users, passing through the game is good enough. For those who want more, you have this additional mode that forces them to complete the same puzzles under time pressure. Therefore, the need to make the maps themselves intensely devious is kind of awash.

    Again, just my opinion. 🙂

  5. feckineejit

    I tried playing portal prelude and it was too damn hard to be any fun. If there were fun portal maps to play I would definitely play them.

  6. Kasperg

    Portal maps are made with Portal items and Portal textures, which compared to for example Half-life 2, are very few and a bit limited. While I enjoyed the retail game (the humour was a great touch), I don’t consider it in the same league as other first person games. Portal requires a lot of disbelief (as sometimes Black Mesa also did) regarding the size and materials of the scenarios it takes place in.
    The achievement of completing these user created maps seems like the only real objective, as oppossed to facing a final boss like GlaDOS. This means that ultimately, these maps are 99% a pass-time and hold no significant story, new settings or new game mechanics that woud interest me or motivate me to play them.
    think I’ve reached a point in my videogame life in which I really don’t care if I face a real challenge. I’d rather have a satisfying experience even if it’s easy than being frustrated (even angry) about something I’m doing for enjoyment in my free time. Reloading, falling, retrying jumps 15 times etc is something I’m getting bored of after all these years.

  7. Anonymous

    Yes, but not recently. In fact, I just started working on a Portal map after a long hiatus.

    And also, Portal: Prelude proved to be a disappointment on multiple levels: it was hard, excrutiatingly difficult toward the end, and the GlaDOS dialogue (even if done by the same actress) still felt out of place.

  8. I’ve played every decent Portal map and mod I can find. I’ve enjoyed them all.

    While I found Portal: Prelude to be ridiculously challenging the first time, I found the story to be so well done that I just couldn’t put it down. Now I don’t really find it all that challenging at all, though I do often have to save once or twice within any individual level, especially the last two chambers.

    The real problem is that there’s a very steep learning curve to Portal. The exact same map can be completely beyond one player’s skill, while at the same time being completely old hat to another player, even if both players have a comparative amount of playtime in portal and other map packs. On top of this, even if a map is challenging, once you learn the trick to it, solving it and other maps similar to it go form being “impossible” to “too damn easy”
    With portal, you either get it, or you don’t.
    People who make maps for portal that require any skill at all are usually made by players who are fans of Portal’s puzzle aspect, and as such they were usually the ones who have become VERY skilled at those puzzles. Compounding this is that they need to test their own levels multiple times to ensure it works properly. The result is that anyone who is capable of making a decent puzzle is going to trend towards “too damn hard” for everyone else.

    1. Force9Storm

      Yes Portal prelude was tough, not just towards the end, but the whole game. Pulled my hair out so much I’m bald now, but tytytytytytytyty so much for creating it. As for the dialogue being out of place, bollox. It was a prelude & for me it fit very well & made me laugh (maybe I am a simpleton, but I thought it was great & as original as the gameplay itself). Most Portal maps I download are fun, but finish too quickly (again I say this with appreciation to all Portal map creators). Prelude was different. It was too tough – I agree with that, but it went on, & on , & on. GREAT!!!!!!!!! MORE 😀 can’t wait for Portal 2 lol

  9. Force9Storm

    I am fairly new to discovering Portal I guess. I check on myAPERTURElabs.com just about every day now hoping for a new map. There’s probably at least one new map every week. But one needs so much thought to make a new original map that’s worth playing. I’d love to have the imagination to do this. I so much appreciate the work & originality that goes into each map that these people create for free for everyone’s enjoyment. Portal 2 will probably be one of the greatest selling games ever made. Without a doubt, millions of people are waiting for this.

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