Gamma Energy visits the Aperture Science East facility, built after GLaDOS gained sentience. The goal was to create a facility where GLaDOS' research could be examined and tested without harm to employees or other people who actually... mattered, without her knowledge. Pick up a prototype Portal Device and try not to die.
I won't be able to finish by the March 8 deadline nobody noticed me promise, but you'll rather likely see a release this week.
Posted by Gamma_Energy on Mar 7th, 2011
I didn't really go with much fanfare when I released the One Point One trailer on Youtube a while ago. This was mostly so I could waffle on the release date without as much of a repercussion when I ultimately decided to do so.
In the trailer, I announced a release on March 8, 2011 - seven months to the day Gamma Energy was released and almost 1 year after my commitment to release the initial version at all. I wasn't aware at the time, but that's also Mardi Gras, two days after the release of Pokemon Black and White in the US, and Albanian Teachers' Day. However, I'm finally getting FiOS tomorrow after not having cable TV ever, so I might not have the prerequisite internet connection with which to upload the mod. Basically, consider this my announcement that One Point One will be released probably not Tuesday, but almost certainly some time this week.
What to expect? Not a miracle, I warn. I've seen the outrage people get into when the makers of content try to fix what isn't broken. I didn't change the solutions or layouts of any part of the mod before Chamber 29, because for all its flaws and lack of general notoriety, people seemed to like it, and to be honest, I'd still have been satisfied if only one person enjoyed it. I, however, was not ready to re-make and test 30 solutions in the time given. (There was also an incident I'd rather not get into that left me busy with other things for all of February.) I did go back and fix one of the simpler things people complained about: lighting. I know more now, and where I used to hate putting together those uneven metal blocky walls with bright white lights behind, but I've gotten used to it and it's become something I now put off and do when I'm bored and uninspired to make anything else. It's basically my replacement for those time killing browser based Flash games you find on Newgrounds or Kongregate. Move some blocks here… click that… drag that… compile… <7 minutes pass> play level… make less bright… etc. The end result is a brand new 29, 25 Advanced, 21, challenges for 22 Advanced, 29 Advanced, 29, 25 Advanced, and I think maybe one more, along with minor lighting and glitch fixes for some of the other chambers - notably 12 and 13. I've also messed a little with 24 so the physics would work a bit better, and I've changed the last two maps in the mod a bit so they look nicer and have alternate solutions. I don't edit this page on the same computer I use for mapping. Incidentally, this makes it hard to produce statistics.
Anyway, as a bit of compensation, I thought I'd finally share with you the goals and thought processes involved with creating some of the chambers in roughly the order in which I created them.
******** WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW ********
This started with the single goal of not destroying the Companion Cube. The original layout was roughly the same. However, the first large room overseen by the large observation room originally contained two platforms with buttons on them. In order to open the door, the player would need to place the cube on one button and stand on the other. Upon pressing either button, that platform would slowly sink into the hazard liquid below. Should the cube fall into the liquid, the level would fade to black with the infamous rewritten Emily Dickinson poem scrawled across the walls in Portal's Chamber 17. You lose. Game over. As if the logistics of that weren't enough, the next room wasn't much better. You may recall the third energy ball catcher requiring the player to hold the cube sideways and bounce the ball into the catcher - a technique mercilessly stolen from Portal itself. In the original version of this room, this technique was required for ALL THREE catchers, one of which required a bounce through a portal, and one which took about 20 seconds to adjust and went all the way across the room. Even this was a remake of a room in the original "Save the Cube" level. I've decided to include both of these prototype levels in One Point One for those who may want to look into the evolution of design, as this was the oldest and most modified chamber of all of them, second perhaps only to
If there was ever any constant in the development here, it was my desire to make the player truly eat GLaDOS' words. The threat of Android Hell as "a real place where you will be sent at the first sign of defiance" wasn't quite fulfilled in Portal, and neither was the line indicating that "You haven't escaped". This introduction - this slow rise was, in my opinion, always the greatest part of the mod and one of the oldest as well. The original version made it pretty damn obvious what was coming - there was a cake right there. The final version left it completely unexpected, and is the one time I fully took advantage of the fact that people don't look up. The trap is pretty obvious if you do. The goal, though, was to unexpectedly raise the player into certain doom. The version from "Save the Cube" had but a single rocket turret, as I was still deathly afraid of the ordinary turrets. The first remake was almost exactly what the Advanced chamber looks like now, whose frustrating difficulty overshadowed the enjoyable panicked fear of the rise. This "OH FUCK" moment took many tries and several months to perfect, but I really liked the result. I think most of you did too.
Not much to say here. The tube mechanic also came from the original "Save the Cube" level. The huge observation room is based off the server room at the place I worked at for most of the mod's development. It was very cold and smelled like old paper.
This is another of the levels inspired by the originals. I was always fascinated by what would happen if the glass were slightly less bulletproof. This was also the point at which I decided to start naming the chambers. Although players had been introduced to breaking glass two levels prior, everyone managed to completely forget when I expected them to use physics to break the glass, no matter how many times I hinted at it, explained it on the walls, or made the puzzle solve itself, players still just didn't get it. Fustrated, I wondered if players would object to the instructions appear on the screen. Heh. That'd be incredibly stupid. It worked, though. Of course, major credit goes to a certain Flash game about burning ropes.
Yet another excuse to use a GLaDOS line to its full, literal potential. I was always confused by the use of that line in Portal. There was no Electrical mechanic. I introduced it with the intention of having electrified water later in the game. I didn't know it would turn out the way it did at the time, with the ball generators. Also, there were about five times as many turrets in this level than the final version ended up with. You'll see if you play the Advanced version in One Point One. The Advanced version is long and brutally challenging. I'm still having trouble getting through it with any remaining sanity in my more final playtests. The final Gold challenge time for 25A is 11:11.
These appeared with the idea of filling in the gaps in the chamber sequence to make a 25 chamber mappack. There was also going to be a 5 map BTS excursion between the 5th and 6th test chambers and an additional 10 map BTS area at the end. For those of you playing at home, that'd be significantly longer gameplay in the main storyline alone than the entirety of Gamma Energy as released. Most of the puzzles in this part are pretty much clones of puzzles from Portal - simple and thus pretty hard to modify. You really can't expand much on placing a single button in a single room with a single cube to open a single door. The exception here is the second chamber. I wanted to put something together that would be just a little bit challenging without even handing out a portalgun at all. Almost everyone who played this level went through it the exact same way. I made you think. :D Another good exception to this pattern is
I set up this complicated puzzle with an interesting solution and played it like that. Then, I gave it to my brother and he found a much simpler solution. "Oh…" I thought. Huh. The Advanced version of this chamber is rearranged to force you to follow my original solution, and it worked out well. One thing that really troubled me during development was the "Cube Kill" button. I didn't want to make a "Cube Kill" button. I really didn't. To me, the concept always seemed lazy and unimaginative when other mods and map packs used it. I spent almost a week trying to program triggers to return the box should the player become separated from it, but that caused even more problems. In the end, I decided that I could either make a Cube Kill button in a room that the player could always return to via the stationary portal or scrap the puzzle entirely. I chose the former and resolved to design my puzzles better next time to avoid such a situation.
This was the first puzzle that I threw together without first coming up with a strict solution. There was no intended solution when my brother first tested it, though the level was a bit more open than it is now. The solution he found became the solution I designed around. The second time I had him test it, he found a way to leave the level without the upgraded portalgun. I tried many different ways to prevent this, but ultimately decided on simply making the exit elevator door not open. It's pretty obvious, actually, if you know how to Peek-A-Portal. The timing was pretty hard to get right on this one too. After making it, I decided that I should probably lay off the timed buttons for a while in favor of simpler, more fun elements to create less action and more puzzle.
Originally, this was named "Fling II", with chamber 6 called "Fling I", chamber 15 called "Fling III", 19 called "Fling IV", and 29 called "Fling V". I realized the naming scheme was stupid and gave them better names later, mostly because 29 was more than a simple Fling level. When I put the entrance right next to the exit with the kill grid in between as a joke, I watched every beta tester jump or walk into it jokingly, exactly as I did in the second trailer. The level at that time had no autosaves because it was nearly impossible to die. I put an autosave there about a week before release. If I could make achievements in the mod, this one would be called "Victory Suicide".
Realizing I hadn't yet made a turret level and that by this time I had pretty grand ideas for what can be done with turrets, I decided it was time to introduce the bullet eggs. In addition, the final room in Android Hell hadn't yet really been explained. You have to take out all the turrets for the door to open. It was fairly obvious that that was the plan - my brother, upon first playing that level, murdered the turrets instinctively without first thinking about how to open the door, and noticed that the door opened immediately upon tossing the last one to the ground. To be fair, almost every level I gave him lacked the lightstrips linking buttons to doors because those take too long to fix when still in the prototype phase. I usually told him what was linked to what when he asked. Anyway, the goal of this was to give some practice killing turrets, and to introduce the "Turret Kill Counter" in a relatively sane and calm setting. It was also upon making this level that I considered an actual release of the mod as a… real thing people who don't directly know me could play. It was also at around this time that the "Weighted Companion Escape" mappack became the "Gamma Energy" mod. While I was at it, I put together the first two Advanced Chambers: Android Hell and On Your Own. I had no intention of making any challenge maps at this time, and no intention of even releasing the mod at any defined date. I think this was around October 2009.
Stuck without much of an idea for a chamber slightly harder than Android but significantly easier than Faithful Companion, I decided to make a chamber just before Faithful Companion to introduce some harder energy ball puzzles, as Faithful Companion still had some of the most difficult energy ball puzzles I'd ever seen, though probably easier than Prelude's Chamber 19. Oddly enough, this chamber is one of a select few of the simplestly constructed chambers in the mod. I literally sat down at about 3:30 one afternoon and stood up at 10:00 that night with the chamber almost exactly as it would appear in the final release. All I added after that day were cubemaps, lightstrips, and decorative observation rooms. Fun fact: The small office in this chamber is arranged identically to my gaming setup at the exact time I put the level together, down to the empty soda cans on the desk. I moved this to become Chamber 27 after nerfing the difficulty of 20.
I have odd memories of putting this one together. I left the TV on after watching an episode of Seinfeld I'd seen many times before. Anyway, an episode of "Bones" came on. I wasn't actually watching or listening to it, but with my mind devoid of ideas I turned around to shut the idiot box off. The characters were standing in a large cathedral or university - a large room with a few columns in the center holding it up. After turning the TV off, I recreated this area in Hammer, albeit on a much smaller scale, and worked from there. This was another chamber of note which I built with no intended solution whatsoever. However, this time I did come up with a solution before handing it off. It was dark because it was meant to alienate, to confuse. There weren't many places to put portals at all, and I felt like the level needed some eerie symmetry. You'll note that each button opens one thing and closes another. Mostly, I left it dark because I procrastinated the walls long enough that the mod got released with it dark. It's brighter in this update.
I felt like the mod something to ramp up the difficulty you can put into a timing puzzle before not using them anymore. Simultaneously, I considered the possibilities of taking out a bunch of turrets while standing on glass. They'd need to be removed carefully so as to not break the floor and fall to certain death, so the puzzle became part "Timing Hell" and part "Don't Break the Glass". It became rather evident rather quickly that taking out a turret without having it shoot the humongous target that is a weak clear floor in its random spray of bullets is downright menacingly evil. I ended up saving the chamber into two files, now accustomed to what I felt was now the "proper" way to resolve a difficult chamber: One became the level as it appears in the mod - a few fairly simple puzzles with no more than 10 seconds to complete each of them. The other became the Advanced version. Most of the work on the Advanced version came about on a day when my brother was being somewhat annoying, as brothers tend to be. He was doing the dance known as "The Jerk" while singing "I'm a beast! I'm a beeeeast!" and essentially claiming that there existed no one greater than he. To shut him up, I put together the hardest damn level I could from the scraps of the hardest damn level I had and invited him to test it like any other level. It pissed him off enough that he picked up the keyboard and smashed it on the desk, spraying letters everywhere. In retrospect, it was pretty mean but the joke was on me when I ended up buying a new keyboard.
I'd been fooling around and, by this point, was skilled enough in Hammer to make rather complex devices myself - I was no longer limited in the slightest by the training wheels of the Prefabs. In a map for the mod that was really more of a Garry's Mod style playground for me to test techniques than a level itself, I managed to create a dropper that could place arbitrary numbers of cubes. Immediately, I thought to use it. I tried to come up with a bunch of different challenges involving more than one cube. If you dissect the level enough, you'll realize that two of the buttons are trivial and two are barely a challenge. However, one of them required you to have two cubes in addition to the one you needed to place. If anything, this was meant to "introduce" the idea of working with more than one cube at a time, remind the player that having a bunch of weighted cubes doesn't necessarily mean answers will be trivial. It was also a bit of a rushed level in that, while working on it, rumors started to accumulate - a radio transmission here, a mysterious robotic voice there, communication technologies untouched for a decade, and a surge of activity within the Steam Community.
Portal 2 was coming.
Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but it would be over a year before this legendary sequel would surface. I didn't really think much of that, though. This was the New Valve, the Valve that would begin to release games on time. (Ha!) Also, I was 19 and suddenly realized that I'd been sitting on my ass my whole life, dicking around with unimportant things and generally wasting my time. Oh, but I had this. I had something that wasn't yet another doodle in Paint, or a random city in SC3K, or a Civilization nobody would ever hear of. I wanted to have something that wasn't a Garry's Mod map 120 people would ever hear of and 7 people would ever play more than once, or a game show aired on our high school's closed circuit TV system whose premise, style, and name (Tribulation, it was called) were stolen from Jeopardy! whose production story is easily longer than this mod's and could fill the DVDs that nobody ever bought. I realized that with an (apparently, to my paranoid mind) imminent Portal 2 release, it was either do or die - release this in a timely manner or have it rot into the huge pools of fail that are the unexplored reaches of the Internet.
While debating whether to ever release it or not, my brain was out of puzzles. I asked my brother if he had any ideas, and he gave me one that would later become this chamber. I've got to give him credit, as it turned out to be one of the best chambers in the game, despite my efforts to "ruin [his] idea and turn it into a Communist Dictatorship". I had only one real issue with it: I wanted it to be the chamber where I would use the line about being "entirely on your own", later revealing that that statement was "an outright fabrication". I couldn't think of a good way to do this, and didn't have any good place to stick an observation room either. I forget exactly where it came from, but I had the idea to make cameras that were quite obviously there, with a vain attempt to "hide" from you if you looked at them. I made a prototype "shy camera" in my test map, and for some reason, found it instantly hilarious.
This map was another of those thrown together rather quickly and without much originality to it. I was kind of running on empty with good ideas for the easy chambers, and figured I should formally introduce that fling before making the player use it. After all, I had intended the audience to have not played Portal in a while, as there hadn't been any major map packs released for a while. I seriously didn't expect not one but two major Portal mods to come out in such proximity for mine.
This was originally going to be a massively long level with highly complex paths and loop gameplay and turrets shooting from everywhere at everywhere else. I put something together with the intention of making it longer, but playing it almost felt "right". I couldn't bring myself to add more because it seemed so balanced. It was a simpler thought process without much to say, a break from multi-box logic and a break from timing and complex flinging, a small reintroduction of the turrets that hadn't been seen in what felt like an eternity. I resolved that the next chamber would be significantly longer to compensate.
I put this one together with some scrap ideas from Five Boxes, Taste of Blood, and On Your Own that I was originally going to add but either forgot or didn't really have a good place for. I needed to come up with something longer to make up for 16, and knew from both the Valve Developer Wiki and my own experience that It's much easier and simpler to place points A, B, C, and D in the same room, but come up with a way to force the player to visit all of them in some inconvenient order than to put them all in a straight line. I had a good thing going with the multiple boxes and some spare ideas, so I used that. The name also came from the fact that Chamber 17 in Portal had "Box Marathon" as its working title, so it all fit together that way. I distinctly remember rebuilding one part of this level, the energy ball launcher, a few times. There were some pretty bad windstorms around me and the power kept cutting out every 15 minutes or so before finally going away for good some time that night. This was the day I learned that my computer with its 500W graphics card alone could not have its power backed up by a 300W APC power supply and, by the same token, probably shouldn't be using just a 500W power supply. For almost three days our family's activities included Flashlight Scrabble, Glow-In-The-Dark Monopoly, and sleeping with more blankets than I ever thought we owned. An unrelated interesting thing to note that's a bit closer to the mod itself than my freezing dream self last year is that people seem to love stacking the cubes to reach higher ground. In one particular (read: the only) playthrough video by Michael "DemonStrate" Yanni that I watched long after the mod's release, he stacks cubes to get one box and gets mad when it's really hard and stupid to do so. That was never the intended solution, and at no point in any of the test chambers is that the solution, because box stacking is stupid. Speaking of stupid game mechanics idiotic Portal map designers like me keep using,
It was time to close the gap. I had two chambers left between what I'd made before and what I'd made long before, and I needed to introduce the infinifling somehow. "Oh, there has to be a better way", I thought. "There needs to be some hint as to how to build up the velocity of objects to give them enough momentum to break through glass in the later levels." I couldn't think of one, though. I put the mechanic in in as simple a way as possible. I left so much room for error. I tried to make it so that pulling the fling off successfully would require no additional effort in landing. Sadly, I hadn't been the one to finally use the technique in a Portal map with proper success. Of course, Valve did - just make the player who fires the portals not the same player who falls through them. I didn't know that yet and didn't have a good way to steal the technique once I did. Incidentally, I had an idea for a later BTS area that would make good of the fling using a pair of stationary timed portals that just didn't work in practice. I might use it in a Portal 2 level. I know I'm doing something for Portal 2. I kind of have to now with all the leftover ideas I didn't get to do for them being impractical.
If I felt any part of the mod had cheated the people who spent their time and money bandwidth on my creation, it would be this. The level was to be a sort of "easier version" of Work Quickly, like Android to Android Hell. In theory, it would be long but simple and easy, about as long as I made Gemiinii for the One Point One update. The problem was that I'd already done all the things you can do while confined to a small platform. The level quickly became long and boring, so I clipped it short in what was beginning to feel like a haste to link the two sides and move on to more interesting later puzzles. It was upon making this connection that I registered the domain name and started to form a release date in my mind. I hadn't thought to release it on ModDB yet. I also started to develop mild delusions of grandeur. A voice in the back of my head reminded me that anything I do could easily be liked by no one before becoming forgotten to the changing winds of the 'net. A louder voice told me that I had a good thing going here and that people were probably starved for something they could add to Portal to more than double its gameplay length, that Portal: Prelude was really damn hard, and that people were probably sick of endless recreations of levels from the TFV map pack. Don't we all love the voice who only tells us what we want to hear?
At this point, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for chamber names. "Android Hell" and "You Have to Break The Glass" meant something. This didn't. In any case, I finally found use for a technique I originally came up with but didn't use for "Five Boxes". I'm referring to the two pistons in the center of the main room. I tacked on a little puzzle to grab the cube that would summarize a few of the techniques from before. These last three chambers would be a "remix" of prior game mechanics. This is also the point in the mod's development where I really went at it with frequent mapping sessions lasting several hours. I ate dinner at my keyboard more than ever before, because I had decided when I wanted to finish. My 20th birthday gift to myself would be this thing done. It seemed reasonable, as rumors spawned pinning Portal 2's release date as early as September, and I thought I could make it.
Every so often, I managed to crank out a chamber that was far too difficult for words. The others had several months to erode, per se. This one didn't. I wanted to make something worthy of being the second to last level in a game, which I've found traditionally to be the most difficult. I'd also come up with an ending. I was set on the final fade out the player's dead body since changing the name to Gamma Energy. It was a way to eat GLaDOS' words again - "high energy gamma leaking portal technology" probably isn't the greatest thing to be exposed to on a very long test course with a very prototype Device. Most players didn't get this, I later found out. I blame the chamber's difficulty. The voice of reason who reminded me not very long ago that the infinifling was extremely difficult must've gone fishing when I thought it was reasonable to use this - the Fifth Fling - in a level for reasonable people. I feel like much of what I can say about this level has been said already, so I won't.
I wanted this one to be somewhat easier, and knew I needed to combine turrets with a very long energy ball redirection puzzle. It's the last test and needs to have something to its name. This is also the point where I wanted to make sure the player was no longer afraid of turrets, as the skills would be needed later. After finishing this chamber, I felt I could definitely make it to the end from here, as the rest of the mod would be rather variable length. Plus, I'd been doing all stages of the work on each chamber in turn, rather than making the whole game out and polishing it one layer at a time. There's good reason for that - it'd be boring for me. The way I did this, at almost any time, I had some chamber at whatever stage of development I felt like I wanted to work on that day. Sometimes, I didn't feel much like detailing while at other times I gained a sudden urge to rearrange blocks. Before starting the Escape levels, I scripted bases for all the maps that would have challenges with wonderfully easy records to beat - 999 steps, 999 seconds, 99 portals. I soon discovered that Portal's achievements were linked to Gamma Energy's when I mysteriously gained "Aperture Science" while trying to come up with a good gold time for Android Hell.
I wanted to recapture the unexpected "OH FUCK I'M GOING TO DIE" moment from Android Hell, but knew I couldn't - especially with something as obvious as a cake in the middle of an unguarded room. It took two weeks to finish this room. I needed to ensure that the player wouldn't be able to not fall into the pit. My brother was very good at not falling into the pit. The final version of this room is covered in player clips and invisible brushes. It was also rather difficult to point out to the player that the ceiling is slowly dropping and will cause a painful death in a minute when these facts are absolutely unapparent without looking up. That the player is once again without a portalgun at this point makes it that much harder to move around, while anyone even moderately adept with the Device could escape the room in less than a second after locating the exit.
This part was going to be a bit longer as well, but all the puzzles I came up with only one portalgun for a player this experienced were incredibly stupid - either not fun, not challenging, or nigh impossible to make work correctly. In any case, I wanted to return the player back to Chamber 3, where a full gun could be obtained. I ended up using the singular control room with one button. I had wanted originally for the player to type (read: press E while aiming with crosshairs) on the keyboard to make the transition happen, but recalled making that exact mistake in the original "Save the Cube" levels. The idea here was that some employees had thought to escape the facility by setting up portals to a safer point. I leave what happened to them as an exercise for your own thought.
I simultaneously edited this map and the original chamber to get some sense of consistency. The original level needed to play the same, but needed to be a way to acquire the Device this time around. Upon doing so, I realized the player would need a way to continue from there, and that there honestly wasn't much you could do with a fully upgraded portalgun that you couldn't do with a stationary portal and rotating automatic portalgun not of your control. Enter the Rocket Turret, literally. Most people don't seem to think more than one move ahead in Portal unless they need to or are prompted to take caution by some sense of danger. I expected the player to consider at this point only how to grab the gun. Upon doing so, the player would stop and think, "OK. I've got this thing. Now what do I OH GOD THERE'S A ROCKET TURRET!" Success? I was never really sure. Testers were becoming fewer and more spaced out. I'd already used up my cache of appropriately aged and interested siblings, cousins, and friends who I could watch and acquire real data from.
I wanted the next few minutes of gameplay to consist of running through large, undeveloped caverns to find a way out of them. I scrapped the idea after one room because portals are damn glitchy once you get into more creative mapping, and portals DO NOT like being used anywhere near displacement brushes or water. I was glad to pick the idea up for One Point One when I found the right way to use the concept, far away from portals as possible.
It was time to get serious now. I'd gone through hallways a while without a real puzzle to solve. I decided it was about time to break some glass. It seemed appropriate considering that the use of the entire gameplay mechanic didn't make much sense within the test chamber environment. If I was going to do this, I'd need a good way to deliver more… whatever was going to be used to smash the glass. Enter pointless box crushing machine. The moving pistons throughout the escape in Portal never made sense to begin with, and I didn't question them once until… exactly this point actually. Further down is a room intended to showcase an early portal prototype. I was originally going to have the player use this VERY early prototype to leap to a completely different part of the facility. As a prototype, it was highly unstable. A button could be pressed to activate it, and it would open. Five seconds or so later, the portal would start to fizzle out randomly for a second before closing in a violent explosion that would kill the player were she in the same room as it. To solve the puzzle required a quick button press, a run through a stationary portal, and an expertly timed and aimed shot to escape impending doom. Returning to the scene would reveal that all the glass in the lab had shattered, allowing safe passage onward. This was cut for mostly obvious reasons. I came up with the next segment simultaneously. I wondered what would happen if an explosive barrel were placed on a piston. To my delight, it exploded and broke all the glass near it. I would soon discover that barrels can also, to the same effect, be shot by turret or rocket turret, or placed strategically close enough to another barrel destined for a violent, fiery death.
This is when I discovered the beauty that is Propper. It's a tool that lets you make models using Hammer exclusively. It's great for building, for example, plastic overhead observation room lights that you don't want to make out of func_details every time, with the added ability to turn one ON or OFF at will. It's pretty good for making clear tubes and metal coils so you can finally put together that game mechanic you've been thinking of for three months but had no idea quite how. It's not so great at making waterfalls of toxic sludge. I tried playing with the particle editor to mask it, but always thought it looked like crap. I never found a modeler though, so it just sort of stayed like crap that way. At least, I thought it did.
I knew by now that the tubes would be the integral to the final boss, so I knew I needed to teach their use. They can be broken like any other glass, so to introduce it I stole a page from Android Hell and had a turret shoot the player, committing suicide and destroying the obstacles ahead in a fantastic display of stupidity. Fun Fact: Portal turrets become non-solid after they stop moving, so I disabled the lowest ball here to make that less obvious. I had the player first break tubes the way they might remember to break glass. In all fairness, this worked perfectly fine when I first made it. However, there was either some update to the Source Engine or some configuration file I messed up at some point between making the tubes and releasing the mod that completely fucked up their physics. That you can fling objects to ludicrous speed and smack them against the tubes with full force in a direct bullseye without them cracking, yet repeatedly jumping on them will shatter them below your feet was never intended. When replaying this level, you'll notice a few doors have been unlocked with an alternate (and more entertaining) solution set up for it. Another thing people seemed to keep not understanding popped up when I added the Generators to the equation. The player is supposed to break the tube, and then bounce the energy ball out of the tube. Original designs required the player to stick an object in the path to continuously bounce energy balls out, which again makes more sense from a practical standpoint, but gets a bit unwieldy when standing in a small, confined space with hundreds of energy balls bouncing around the room. Some players in this room, by sheer bad luck, broke the tube and knocked the ball out in one smooth motion, so they didn't realize the two were separate actions. Because of the close proximity to the end of development, that's something I also didn't realize until after release.
Shortly after coming up with an ending leaving the player dead, I came up with the idea of overloading a massive generator, powered by some mythical Aperture technology that looked nothing like any ordinary power device. Upon making the coils, I had found the answer. There were originally to be eight separate circuits which needed destruction, rather than the two I ended up using. In addition, the player was going to be shot by everything under the sun - rockets, turrets, and whatever else I could come up with. A river of explosive barrels would rain through, and death from radiation would slowly degrade perception. This is still beyond my ability to create. I'm also surprised that everyone's immediate solution to the puzzle was to have the rocket turret shoot the tubes themselves, rather than to have the rocket turret shoot the explosive barrels which are significantly bigger targets and more interesting to look at. It was to be expected, though. While the rest of the mod was tested by a few friends and random volunteers from ModDB, this part was tested by only three. It makes a good suggestion: Make the first part of the game, then the end, and then fill in the middle. Apathy and fatigue had begun to set in, and it was hard to communicate what was supposed to be going on, or what was the significance of what you'd just done without Ellen McLaine, without any particularly grand writing skills, and without much of a will to continue. The day this was finished to what I believed I could accomplish, I announced a release date and got to work tinkering with whatever was left to tinker with.
A few people have asked me about what's supposed to be going on here. It's the ending I had going since shortly before calling it Gamma Energy. The portalgun doesn't work anymore because that generator you just broke was powering it. (Hence allowing the portals to not violate Conservation of Energy. That such a generator exists was always my theory to rectify this severe disagreement with the laws of physics.) You are killed by radiation poisoning from the prototype Portal gun, so you basically lived through all that just to die an anticlimactic death. It wasn't completely pointless, though. By destroying the power systems, GLaDOS had no hardware to connect to, and no way to control the facility. There were others trapped as well. They were able to escape thanks to your efforts. Look carefully and you can see their journey snaking through the building. The companion cube is fine. I've fixed up the last shot a bit of the zoomout from that part of the building. One person mentioned that "it looks like some shitty Garry's Mod map" which, considering what other game I spent a lot of time mapping for, makes a lot of sense. Anyway, everything's alright in the end because not all hope is lost. Woo Hoo.
If there's any lesson to take away from this, it's that nothing good comes from an uninspired rush, so I take no shame in waiting another week to fix up what's done here and push it out, though I bet most of you didn't even realize I gave tomorrow as a release date in the first place. There's still a whole lot more left I could put in - I have six ideas for brand new chambers already but don't feel like I could implement and test any one of them to withstand any sort of rigorous playtesting. There would be glitches, problems, and maybe even a repeat of that level. There's a whole new game out there, waiting to be conquered. I know we're not getting the Portal 2 modding tools immediately after its release, but there's still much we can do before then. I had always thought I would have the Last Great Portal Mod before the sequel's appearance. Of course, I was wrong. It looks like that honor will go to Awakening. I'm rambling on though.