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Interviews

Portal

We dive through a portal with Valve's Kim Swift amd Doug Lombardi to discover more about the world of puzzly weirdness

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Everyone's been very impressed. Were other teams in the company eager to nick your ideas? For Episode Two?

Kim Swift: I don't really know if that's the case! We definitely got a lot of help from people trying to fit our technology into the Source engine!

How does the Portal story fit into the Half-Life universe? How much work has gone into it?

Kim Swift: Uh, no comment? We've definitely thought about how the storyline's going to fit back-ends with the main characters in the Half-Life universe - Gordon's Half-Life world. But there's nothing we can really disclose at this point...

Doug Lombardi: You're not Gordon in a Portal. You're someone who hasn't been introduced before. You play a new character in the Half-Life universe. And you're basically a rat in a maze in this test facility - a test subject for Aperture Science laboratories.

Getting a bit more nerdy, is it Half-Life 2 or Half-Life 1 era?

Kim Swift: No comment! I really do want to talk about it, but I can't!

What can you tell us about art direction, the lab environment and the female computer voice speaking?

Kim Swift: We had a very abstract game concept and we wanted an abstract environment to go with it. We initially tried to fit our gameplay into more of a Half-Life 2 space with a lot of clutter and a lot of objects everywhere, but we found that it detracted from the gameplay. People would get confused and weren't sure what to do - they wanted to play with this object as opposed to the object we wanted them to play with. And so we stripped it down to bare bones. We wanted them to focus on the gameplay objects that we have in each chamber, and it came that having this sci-fi, abstract test chamber arena was perfect for our game.

What inspirations did you use in making Portal? Were you annoyed when Prey came around?

Kim Swift: Honestly, we didn't even find out about Prey until maybe three months into our project, and we kind of said 'Oh, wow - this game has portals. Okay!' and got back to work y'know? I think that when Prey was first announced we were like, thirteen? Fourteen? All of us are in our early twenties now so... As far as inspiration goes - I don't know. Everybody on the team plays different types of games. I'm a big RPG fan and so we all brought our own ideas about what makes a good game into the pot. It helped a lot that we all had our own opinions.

Would you like to expand the game past the Episode Two release? Add in multiplayer, perhaps?

Kim Swift: Multiplayer is something we definitely want to do. We've got a lot of crazy ideas and fun things to try out - but we haven't settled on a particular game design yet. As far as what we want to do with Portal and the rest of the single-player game, we're just waiting until Portal comes out to see what kind of feedback we get from the community and take it from there.

So you'll be actively supporting the game post-release?

Kim Swift: Once again it goes back to how the community feels about Portal, if we get people wanting a whole lot of new levels well of course!"

Doug Lombardi: Also, we're going to update the SDK with Portal stuff. We've actually had people saying they've designed maps for Portal for when it launches and they're like 'When are you launching your SDK?'.

One final silly question - if you had a portal gun here, how would it make your life better?

Kim Swift: Oh man! Putting a portal here at work, and one at home would be nice. Actually, I think that was a Simpsons episode where Homer had a portal and it went straight into the refrigerator from the couch or something like that. That would be nice. But I think that having instantaneous travel would be handy in anyone's life.

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