Poll Question 268 – Do you think Portal mods MUST get harder as they progress?

1st April 2012

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

It might seem such an obvious answer but I don’t think they should.

Here is how my thinking goes…

Regular first person shooters don’t always get harder as the game or mod progresses.

They tend to get more complicated, because you get better weapons, which means the enemies get bigger or harder. But that in itself doesn’t mean the game is harder.

I certainly didn’t feel any of the HL series got harder the further I played.

I am pretty sure that if you ignored the story and location progression, you could pick any point of the game and it would be the same difficulty.

Sure, they are “BOSS” areas and a final challenge, but I see those things differently.

For many things we like an increase in difficulty over a longer period of time. If the level I am playing at is challenging, there’s no need to make it harder.

Harder doesn’t mean better or more fun

Yes, I admit there is a greater feeling of accomplishment if the game or mod is harder, but playing something at the same level can be fun too.

The key is having the right level to begin with.

Just because both Portal games had clear difficulty progression doesn’t mean mods have to. It’s one of the things that dissuades me from many Portal mods. I am happliy playing and suddenly the difficulty gets ramped up, either by complexity of puzzle or by skilled jumps required and I lose interest.

Why couldn’t it just keep going at the same level?

Making the chambers fun and interesting to look at is enough for me. I don’t feel the need to beat the hardest chambers.

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

What brought this on, you ask?

Well, I have been playing an absolutely fantastic Portal mod, called Rexaura which hasn’t got nearly enough attention as it deserves.

It has interesting new mechanics, is well built and fun to play.

Now, don’t think I am complaining about this mod, but I got stuck on Chamber 16 from 19 and started to worry I wouldn’t finish it. Sometimes solutions just don’t come easily, and the following chamber is a breeze.

I had to view a walkthrough for number 16, but hopefully I can figure out the rest. Oh, and I got lucky on Chamber 11 too.

Anyway, go play Rexaura, review it and let me know your thoughts about this question.

Time to Vote!


  1. Derbler

    Though not a portal mod, albeit still a puzzle-themed “test facility” setting mod, Cube is a good example of why ramping up the difficulty can be annoying. I was irritated just watching William McMahon’s playthrough on youtube, seeing him move forward one block, die, load, move left one block, die, load, move right, not die, save, and repeat the whole trial and error process. The most important thing is that the player is having fun, 100% of the time. We should have fun while working hard and while relaxing. It’s a game.

    1. Hec

      The most important thing is that the player is having fun, 100% of the time. We should have fun while working hard and while relaxing. it’s a game.

      YEP I agree about that too, I definitely share it!!

      1. RossBondReturns

        Well See I played that puzzle wrong also…doing the same trial and error.

        However it’s been foreshadowed earlier in the level when you knocked a boot into a trap room with gas what to do.

        And that is use the boot on the large trap floor. Later you get two trap floors with a Companion Cube.

        The hints are there…it’s just I only figured it out after I had beaten both of those puzzles.

        Great mod CUBE.

        1. Derbler

          Even ignoring the puzzles, great mods don’t crash twenty times during a normal playthrough.

          1. RossBondReturns

            Strange I had no crashes at all.

            And I’m running it on a laptop that’s not designed for gaming let alone recording Let’s Plays.

            Oh I take that back it did crash once.

            Version 2 is coming soon anyhow.

  2. Hec

    No definitely NOO and well I absolutely share this Phillip state:

    Just because both Portal games had clear difficulty progression doesn’t mean mods have to. it’s one of the things that dissuades me from many Portal mods.

    Indeed I have a strong rule as a gamer about that, and I SAY: Modders ARE modders!!!!, they are not full 100 percent professional game designers!!!, please remember that guys!! especially the ones who do Portal add-on mods!!!!

    I can accept maybe a 5 or 10% difficult levels added in Portal2 but just because IS PORTAL2°!!!!, it’s done by valve and not by some “random moder”, I know it sounds like i’m subestimating the work of some portal modders, but I AM NOT seriously, I respect their awsome dedication to their projects, but I think they also have to know when to get humble and not too ambitious on what they’re on.., why? becuase maybe u can do a grat portal mod, but not because the project is great itself, you have the unilateral desiscion to make it for HARDCORE ultra skilled gamers you as moders only have in mind sometimes, About that please take a look to the “Portal Prelude” mod (a really awsome concept mod into the portal universe), and I can bet you that if you are an average gamer sometimes too dumb as me in portal, you will use some cheats sooner or later, if not well you have to be an admirable full of patient guy!!!!

    So the reason I trust the professionals to do their professional job, is because as I know they’re professionals they would balance every aspect of the game, that’s why I loved the 2 portal releases, you can beat them!!!!, maybe with some walkthrougs at some points but you can beat them and not to worry because is so impossible to beat!!

    Now thinking in Rexaura, I started but i’m really hesitating whether proceding playing it right now or not, why, becuase when a portal mod or an equivalent puzzle hybrid starts to really bother me I just remember how HL2 mods are soooo much entretaining than some kind of “bully” portal hardest mods, so I have also my rule on that, I Do NOT play HARDEST Portal mods, I just have to find a right ballanced one just to work along with my mood in order to play it and finish it.

  3. Jim Partridge

    OK Me and Philip just had a chat about this on Steam.

    I say it depends…

    If the mod is non-linear, i.e. the player can attack the levels in any order they choose then I would agree, an increasing difficulty scale is not important. If however the mod is a linear progression between levels then I don’t see a problem with things getting tougher as you move along. That’s the case in every game out there. As you rise through the levels, you get better at the game and therefore you need more challenge.

    If the 5th map of Half Life 1 was as easy as the hazard course, then that just wouldn’t work. If the higher level areas of World Of Warcraft were as straightforward as the starting areas for newbs then it wouldn’t work.

    Difficultly in a mod is placed there to grow with the players skill.

    It normally takes me a few maps to get my head back into a portal playing frame of mind again so personally I welcome this difficultly curve.

  4. Soylent Bacon

    I prefer increasing challenge for the sake of pacing. It’s hard to describe why, but it just feels right. It builds up naturally. It’s satisfying when each level/test chamber/chapter/etc. beaten feels like a bigger accomplishment than the last.

    1. That raises an interesting question…How can a mapper increase pace without increasing difficulty?
      Perhaps, subtle changes in lighting, types of textures used and music.

  5. If there are no changes in difficulty of the chambers, the order you play is unimportant (as Jim mentioned in his comment above, from our Steam chat).

    Let’s take that a little further: A non-liner Portal mod, that uses time as the basis of the increase in pace and difficulty.

    I would like to see a mod, that has chambers of the same difficulty throughout, but uses some sort of randomization code, that changes to order you player each time.

    In addition, you have two time options.

    1. A fixed time, that you chose at the beginning of the mod. For example, you select 30 minutes, and you have 30 minutes to beat all the chambers.


    2. A set time for each chamber. The time would be based on the actual time it takes the author to beat the chamber. As each chamber passes the amount of extra percentage time decreases.

    For example the first chamber is 250% the time it takes to beat the chamber. Until eventually, you enter the final chamber with 110% the time.

    Of course, those figures are off the top of my head and the length of time is important but beta testing would ensure it’s not too easy or hard.

    I have no doubt some will say this is a crap idea, and it might be, but how can you be sure until somebody tries it?

    1. Jim Partridge

      I don’t think its a crap idea. However I would suggest a tweak.
      In each map, the player has 4 buttons to choose from at the beginning of each chamber. Each is a different time amount to complete the map. The player can then set their own difficulty for each chamber.

      If I were building a mod like this I’d have player times publish to a webserver for all to see. Kinda like the scoreboard on a game of Space Invaders.

      I dont think sideways like a Portal mapper though. Hence I mod for HL2.

  6. Kyo

    I say no because Portal itself doesn’t have a traditional difficulty progression.

    Portal’s scheme is to introduce a new mechanic bit-by-bit, adding on layers of complexity until you are comfortable with it, and then swapping it out for a brand new mechanic. It’s not until the end of each game when you have to start putting all of this together.

    The point is, the difficulty is more wave-shaped, ebbing and flowing.

    Now, that’s easier to do if you are Valve and have the power to create new mechanics. Most modders don’t, so instead they make the existing mechanics more difficult, creating that traditional difficulty progression, often to infuriating results.

    That said, I think Valve only touched the tip of the iceberg when it came to the interesting ways you can combine the mechanics and I feel Portal 2 probably offers a lot more room for mods that aren’t masochistic, but still can offer their own spin on existing ideas. By the time Portal 1 was over, I kind of felt the game had exhausted most of the ways you could use the small set of mechanics, and so the only direction many thought they could go was higher difficulty.

  7. I spent two days trying to solve a chamber 16 puzzle(Rexaura). At the first day I was jumping, running and “portalling” but it was ineffective. At the second evening I was just thinking. And finally the right decision appeared step-by-step. And now I have stuck on Chamber 17. But anyway I like this mod for its challenge. If you want to feel more satisfaction you should solve a harder puzzle IMHO.

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