Post news RSS Eight years later – looking back on Aperture Ireland

I look at my own mod through fresh eyes almost a decade after its original release (and six years after the final release) and reflect on what went right and wrong.

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This morning, I decided to take a trip down memory lane, by downloading the latest release of Aperture Ireland, installing it, and playing through it start to finish. I guess before I even started it, I was glad I had finally released a version that didn't need loads of finicky install steps, like the first few…

The first issue I noticed was that the image on the monitor got distorted when the AI was talking. As I recall, I shipped with this glitch, because it only occurred on Linux and I couldn't figure out how to fix it. Somewhat regrettable, but then I don't know what the hell I was thinking with those monitors in the first place. Perhaps if the "person" on the screen was sitting behind a desk and wearing attire appropriate to working in Aperture, it would have made some sense, but as it is, it's just strange and random…

Honestly, my voice acting as the AI didn't make me cringe as much as I thought it would. Hearing the simulated test supervisor speak with a rural Irish accent actually made me smile, and seemed quite appropriate for the setting of the mod. Of course, the quality of the recording was subpar, and in quite a few cases, the writing leaves a lot to be desired (chamber 10 anyone?).

There were also a few custom music files that didn't play, and I heard Doctor Kleiner say "fiddlesticks" more often than one would like to when playing a Portal 2 mod. I tried manually running "snd_rebuildaudiocache" (which I know one shouldn't have to do) but it made no difference. I can only conclude that I accidentally omitted some sound and/or script files from the zip file for the version 2.0 release – that or Valve found some way to break them in the past six years…

Other glitches I noticed were the cube dropper in chamber 13 dropping two cubes at once (not sure how that sneaked in there, since I must have playtested that before releasing 2.0, at least the advanced version) and, of course, the poor aim of the rocket turrets. I definitely remember shipping with the latter glitch, having failed to figure out a way to fix it, and having put fairly arbitrary holes in the floor in certain places to aid steering the poorly-aimed rockets. Nonetheless, the rocket-based gameplay was definitely more frustrating than it needed to be.

Speaking of gameplay, the elephant in the room is the mapping itself. I know well from the comments I've got down through the years that the puzzle design failed to impress (especially since so many of Portal's trainings are just repeated), as did the lazy texturing in several places. Well, hands up, it's all true. I suppose I didn't want to be working on it for more than a year, and it was mostly a solo effort. I did start to rush it once we got into the summer of 2012, since I was about to go into the final two years of secondary school, and possibly be forced to abandon the project altogether (maybe many would have preferred if I did!).

I suppose the other excuse that I had in my head at the time for the mediocre gameplay was that I was trying to tell a story with this mod. Except I've since come to realize that it wasn't a particularly good story, nor did I tell it in anything like a good way. Still, I didn't really come across anything I felt too ashamed of…

… Until I reached the final section of the final boss – that's really when it all fell apart! I built, choreographed and scripted the whole thing myself, and even I didn't have a clue what was going on! For starters, there was no visual indication of the Strider's warp cannon, which was key to knocking the final sphere off the boss. I'm sure there was originally a beam, but it somehow got broken, and I didn't fix it since it was at the end of the game, and (as I said before) I was rushing. It got even more confusing (and frankly goofy) from there… I also feel there wasn't enough attention drawn to the danger of running out of time, despite the clocks all over the place.

Then of course, there was my writing and voice acting for the Vortigaunts, both in sphere form (yep, that was part of the story too…) and in the flesh. My only consolation was that the gameplay leading up to that was so confusing, that most players probably never got far enough to hear it!

I still like the idea of a Combine creature invading an Aperture facility, but I feel I'm in the minority with that, so I don't know if I'd still use that final boss concept if I were making this mod now. Whatever about the concept, the implementation sucked – I'd definitely throw out and completely rethink the final phase of the fight. Along with most of the test chambers…

The final scene with the Vorts? Well, the name VIGoV came from there, so it does have a place close to my heart, but if I were to redo it, I'd have to at least rewrite the dialog, and maybe get somebody better to do the acting.

Who knows, maybe someday I will go and remake the whole mod, hopefully in a form that more people would enjoy. Until then, goodbye and thank you so much for reading!

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