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I asked myself if my games are in fact games


Prologue

Hey, thanks for stopping by! Before you read this exposé, if you own Portal 2 and have not played the map I am talking about, I would highly recommend it.

To the Portal 2 workshop

It all started

With a small concept. I was bored in geography class and sketched a few ideas on paper. I thought about this hypothetical game, adding one more “thing” every level; starting empty and going to the visually appealing walking simulations and choice-driven story games. I even considered “multiplayer”, but that didn't make it in the final version like I thought it would.

Then, in September 2018, I created a note on my phone and began writing out each level’s narrative with a small level description.

First levels

Of course, I wanted to create this interactive essay in the Source engine, so I opened up the hammer editor and blueprinted the first two or three levels. I added some provisional voice lines, quick & dirty textures and voilà: I finished the first three playable levels. But since the fourth level needed more visuals, I jumped into Blender and made a few small props: a fence, a tree and some more.

Fun fact: The textures for the models were all in one single vtf-file (except the potted plant “Felix”).

Later levels

While mapping, I kept changing the script here and there but the first levels mostly stayed the same. The “choice” level had many different concepts: A pathway in the forest style that has a fork, jumping down a skyscraper or going back inside, Apple or Android, red or blue pill, voting etc but in the end I settled with the elevator.

When I started, I wanted to make it 100% self-textured, self-modelled - just 100% self-made. When after months of procrastinating and putting the project into cold storage for a while (and learning for my finals infrequently), I moved on from the “forest” to the little office part of the elevator, I decided to f*ck it and simply use Portal textures as well.

The museum though, for example, was first designed as a giant post-apocalyptic scenery and only later changed to the clean and white museum with the Portal frames to different games it is today. Additionally, the discussion about specific video game types was first planned as one continuous voice line with an addition of discussing the Wikipedia entry longer - instead of having the player choose which game he wants me to talk about.

Polishing

I made the first levels look even shittier by disabling the skybox in the and re-enabling in the forest level. Okay, shitty is the wrong word, I made it look plainer.

Finally, I added the music. I asked a few of my favorite musicians if I can use their music and in love with a ghost gave me permission. Thanks to them <3

The voice lines stayed crappy although I re-recorded them - because I didn't have my headset with me at my friend's place so I used phone instead. Oh, also the very first line from level 1 was originally voiced by her! I also had to re-re-record one voice line because another friend complained that I compared Portal to walking simulations.

The last challenge was uploading it. After having trouble with packing my own resources into the level previously, I made sure everything works and next up tackled the publish_tool. Before What is a game, it's been a year since I uploaded a map. And then Valve somehow keeps breaking their software, so it was a torture to upload the map.

But the struggle was worth it, more than 600 people played the map and approximately 90% of the ratings were positive (new high score)! Thanks to all of you from the Portal 2 community.


One example of a nice walking simulator map,
although it is little
- Sejievan on What is a game