Get the cake ready, Portal turns 10


  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 10 Oct 2017

With the motivational promise of a cake-based reward, and a run of increasingly tricky puzzle rooms that carefully introduced new concepts in an open-ended arena, Portal became an instant and lasting hit.

October 10, 2017 marks the ten-year anniversary of Portal, a first-person puzzle game that brought new levels of humour, problem solving, and meme-ready one liners to the video game space. 

Such was the impact of Portal that it's remained a high water mark in 3D puzzle games since a 2007 debut.

It was released as part of compendium package The Orange Box, which also contained Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two (a third and final episode has not yet been supplied.)

With a silent female protagonist, a portal gun capable of transporting players between two otherwise unconnected points, a deviously antagonistic AI opponent GLaDOS, dumb fellow traveller in the Weighted Companion Cube, the motivational promise of cake-based reward, and a run of increasingly tricky puzzle rooms that carefully introduced new concepts in an open-ended arena, Portal became an instant and lasting hit.

The game was actually prototyped by a student team from Washington's DigiPen, with gaming giant Valve Corp bringing the team in-house to transform Narbacular Drop into Portal.

Lead designer Kim Swift was also involved in several other key Valve projects during that time, starting with the first episodic expansion for revolutionary first-person action game Half-Life 2 and both Left 4 Dead team-based outings – another franchise which, like Portal and Team Fortress, started life outside of Valve.

Portal 2 followed in 2011, adding a slew of new features, two additional characters, and a two-player mode; since there have been plenty of homages, direct or otherwise, to the franchise's successes.

Perhaps most notably, Swift herself designed Quantum Conundrum (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), an inter-dimensional object manipulation jaunt, while Gateways (PC, Mac, iPad, 360) took the Portal idea onto a 2D plane.

Australian twist Antichamber (PC, Mac, Linux) took GLaDOS's untrustworthy nature and applied the concept to explorable game space as a whole, inviting the player to explore and escape from a sequence of impossibly laid-out levels.

Magnetic: Cage Closed on PC and Xbox One swapped portals and paint for a sci-fi prison and a magnet gun, while Magrunner: Dark Pulse applies first-person puzzling to a blend of cyberpunk and Lovecraftian horror.

Also worth checking out is the block-based "QUBE," which migrated from PC and then Mac onto Android, PlayStations 3 and 4, Xbox One and even Wii U, while the more recent XBO, PS4 and PC release The Turing Test continued to probe human-AI interactions.

Perhaps the most worthy successor to the Portal mantle would be The Talos Principle, which combined ancient Greek and Egyptian settings, philosophical ruminations on the nature of humanity and cyborgisation, and a succession of tricky, obstacle-strewn routes toward completion; it, too, is available on Android as well as computers and the PlayStation 4 console.

And Portal's influence stretches beyond its native format, with musician Jonathan Coulton gaining a wider audience thanks to his closing credits song Still Alive, and Dan Trachtenberg approached to direct feature film 10 Cloverfield Lane after releasing seven-minute short Portal: No Escape.

Portal is available to play on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac, Linux and Nvidia Shield. — AFP Relaxnews

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