Portal Facts from interview with Jeep Barnett

Today, I got the most awesome opportunity to talk to Jeep Barnett, a programmer (one of the original 7 on the Narbucular Drop team) of Valve’s new game called Portal. The talk was mainly about the latest game Portal and about the Digipen game, Narbucular Drop. Please be warned, that thecakeisalie. And there might be a few cool things you might not know yet about Portal.

After introducing some of his work to me and a group of others, he went on to talk a bit about Portal and how it really works (which I won’t discuss how the game works from a code aspect [that would spoil everything, and no one likes spoilers]).

Here are some new facts in an easy to understand format:

  1. Most people know this already, but you play as a woman and the game is set inside the Half-Life universe. Roughly about the time of when Gordon Freeman starts his “work”
  2. The computer lady in the trailer? It’s actually voiced by a real person with no modifications to the voice at all. She apparently gets paid to “talk in a totally cool monotonic computery voice”
  3. Portal was recently submitted to the ESRB, likely it will get an E or E10 rating
  4. There are about 25 levels
  5. There is a “challenge” mode after you beat the storyline (about 3 hours if you are a good gamer and are very experienced with Narbacular Drop) and he wouldn’t spoil it for us.
  6. There are about 25 Achievements for the Xbox 360 version of Portal and 100 achievements for the entire Orange Box.
  7. According to Jeep there will be an SDK coming out soon that will allow people to make new levels, and portal mods. This SDK will allow players and modders to create their own content for Portal. He looks forward to the idea of a map-pack for the 360 (he did a gathering motion of “user generated maps” with his hands and then whisked them off to a spot designated as an Xbox 360)
  8. There is no in-game level editor
  9. There is a slight possibility that Portal will be sold separately in the future.
  10. In Portal you can load almost any level within the other Orange Box games and play on it within Portal (with the portal gun), you will be able to use other guns when you do this.
  11. In Narbacular Drop, only some walls and floors can be portal’d. In Portal shiny stuff = portal friendly, concrete like objects != portals.
  12. Some objects might be Portal immune in levels
  13. Within Portal, you have only one gun which is the Portal gun
  14. The PS3 version is being done by EA Europe
  15. There is Multi-Player (at first he denied it, but then let it slip accidentally), however it won’t be shipped in the retail versions.
  16. There are cheats. And thecakeisalie is not one.
  17. Apparently, after you get the 64 digit code from the Portal Website and you somehow type it in, the code will be rejected. That’s how deep the rabbit hole goes.
  18. You can jump (it’s a bit conflicting, but I am quite sure he said that jumping was a yes)
  19. If you want to get in the game industry as a programmer or artist, he recommends that you go to Digipen, apparently, companies “light up” when they hear you have gone there.
  20. The game has no DirectX 7 support. And the system requirements are “pretty low” (forgot to write down the actual requirements).
  21. The portal gun has anti-grav powers, however it is a weakened version from the gun in Half-Life 2. Big objects don’t move well with it.
  22. Portals really create a small physics world with all the objects near by the portal (not going to go in much detail other than that).
  23. Portals aren’t done via clones of the entire game world.
  24. You can no longer shoot portals from a portal
  25. In Narbacular Drop, Princess No Knees was created before they even came up with the idea of Portals. Originally, it was going to be a tag like game where there was a huge map, with small objects and you could go “inside of the small object” and it would be huge from the inside but small on the outside.
  26. No news on an FPS MMORPG within Valve.
  27. Portal releases on October 8th (Valve says the Orange pack comes out on the 9th, possibly the game comes out on Steam earlier)

Anyways, Jeep also talked about how awesome it is that he is working on the Valve team, and how they presented it to Valve and how nervous they were. He also talked about how difficult it gets when you deal with the portals, and how they were working from the Havok engine. Plus the fact that when they first started and their first versions were so buggy and kept crashing that they thought Valve would fire them all. Valve didn’t fire them (that’s so nice). Thanks for talking to us Jeep!