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Creating a Portal 2 Test Chamber

I recently rebought Portal 2 on my PC to be able to play with a friend and found out it comes with its own level creator. My first level, Lab Rats is now up on the Steam Workshop--please leave any feedback if you do play it (spoilers below)!


Design Process

As my first time using the level editor, I wanted to create a simple co-op test chamber to get familiar with it and practice making physics based puzzles.


I started out playing around with the editor to get familiar with the controls and learn how to set up and use the items. I decided I wanted to limit the items in the puzzle to just buttons, the edgeless safety cube, and the fizzler.


Inspired by some recent videos I've watched about teaching rats to drive, I wanted to give the players the feeling of being a laboratory rat (even more so than the regular theming of the game) and decided the maze was something I wanted to try out. I lowered the maze section so that one player could run through it while the other player could help direct them.


I wanted a timing element in the puzzle to make sure both players are engaged. I decided to link one button to the fizzler (which temporarily disables it so the maze player can catch the ball and a portal can be placed in the maze for them to get out) and the other button to the ball dropper (so the bird's eye view player can time the drop correctly before the ball gets dissolved by the fizzler or the deadly goo below it). The player in the maze can strategically place their portals so they don't have to run through the full maze to the drop location, which would make them miss the ball.


Once the player has the ball, the two can then coordinate how they want to place portals to get to the sphere button and open the door.


Once I finished the level, I shared it on different discussion posts of people asking for levels to play to get some feedback and played it with my friend, stepping back and allowing her to direct me what to do.


From the feedback I've received, I've made some small adjustments to the timers.


Thoughts, what to improve, and what I'll do differently

I liked using the level editor a lot. Its been a while since I've worked on something other than one of my own from-scratch personal projects and I enjoyed just focusing on making the level instead of working on programming, audio, and everything else, too.


The editor was a bit clunky for me to work with at first but after some trial and error, it is pretty simple overall. There isn't a lot of documentation on some of the items so I ran into an issue when setting up the ball dropper button that allowed it to be pressed once and never again, but for the most part, everything was pretty simple. The community discussions are still active and I've seen people reach out for help with level issues when they need it which is nice to know that's an option.


As for the level itself, I think it was a good start, especially since I have limited experience working on multiplayer projects. There are many ways to go through the level and solve it which isn't a bad thing and allows the players some creativity, but the puzzle doesn't engage each player equally. The maze player may end up doing most of the work while the bird's eye view player stands and waits to press a button. For this test chamber, I think I made use of the items well, but not the portals. For the next puzzle, I think I want to focus on the players moving around with the portals more to both get to the door to open it instead.

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Claire Yeash

Level Designer

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