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Now You're Thinking With Portals 171

Posted by Zonk
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed-you-fail dept.
Valve's got a new game in the works, and it's quite the mind-bender. Portal is a puzzle/FPS hybrid that will utilize holes in space to do the impossible. From the Ars Technica post: "That video makes my brain hurt in all the right ways. The set up and voice-over are both hilarious, and at first it seemed rudimentary to me. Then everything goes crazy and you start to realize just how much you can do with this technology. I'm looking forward to seeing fan-made videos hit the 'Net with all the insane stunts and tricks you can pull off. This seems to be one of those games that you'll have as much fun playing with the game as you do simply playing through it." This is a title definitely worth checking out for yourself.
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Now You're Thinking With Portals

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  • A DigiPen Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by rizzuh (594786) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:15PM (#15745437) Homepage
    Portal is based on a game called Narbacular Drop [nuclearmon...ftware.com] that was developed by a group of seniors at the DigiPen Institute of Technology [digipen.edu]. Valve ended up contracting the entire programming team to work on Portal. It's interesting to see how a game school's relatively small-time project has become front-page news on dozens of gaming sites.
    • Re:A DigiPen Game (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:55PM (#15745782) Homepage

      I just played that game. It's the same general idea as Portal will use, so it's fun to play around with the physics and all before the game comes out.

      One fun thing to do is shoot a blue portal in the ceiling, a red one in the floor, and then fall though in an infinite loop thing... and then as you fall shoot a blue portal in a wall, you go flying out like in the Portal trailer. I used it to get over a lava pit (I think it might have not been the correct solution, but it was fun. :)

    • Too bad Narbacular Drop's Web site says: Bandwidth Limit Exceeded ... :( Coral Cache didn't work well on it either. :(
  • Narbacular Drop (Score:5, Informative)

    by SB5 (165464) <freebirdpat@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:17PM (#15745451)
    This game is based off of "Narbacular Drop". The guy that made "Narbacular Drop" got hired to Valve, and went on to make this.

    Lots of people keep calling it a "Prey" ripoff, whether his idea came from "Prey" or not, its a completely different game imho.
    • On the wiki article on this [wikipedia.org] they mention how this game has been in development before Prey was released, and as mentioned, the guys from Narbacular Drop were HIRED to do this. So accusations of copying would be rather hard to make stick.

      And besides, I'd rather have good ideas taken wherever they may go. The danger of course is to lose the thing ABOUT the feature that made it good in the "original," but as this seems to be only enhancing the possibilities, I say "go for it Valve."
      • On the wiki article on this they mention how this game has been in development before Prey was released

        Read the wiki article [wikipedia.org] on Prey. It's been in development since 1995. (!) I remember the original PC Gamer spread which discussed all the cool features that portal technology would allow. As it worked out, however, the technology was a bit too complex and was shelved. A new version was later created with a different codebase and released in 2006.

        So I think that it's hard NOT to say that Portal was influenced

    • I'm with you on that one - let's count the similarities, shall we?

      Both games are 3D FPSs with portals whose names start with P.

      What about the differences?

      Prey: spirit walking, gravity manipulation, Native American protagonist, "living" level design.
      Portal: at-will portal creation, portals don't have to share horizontal/vertical orientation, "futuristic" level design.

      This isn't including the assumptions one could make about the gameplay: knowing Valve, the player character will be silent, where the Prey prot
      • Turok: Dinosaur Hunter


        Heck ya! Native american protagonist. Spirit mode. Futuristic levels. Lot's of portals. What more could you want?

      • What about the differences?

        Prey: spirit walking, gravity manipulation, Native American protagonist, "living" level design.
        Portal: at-will portal creation, portals don't have to share horizontal/vertical orientation, "futuristic" level design.

        What do you mean "share horizontal/vertical orientation"? There are rooms in Prey where a portal takes you onto a wall in the same room, or drops you through a ceiling in another room, etc., meaning your orientation shifts as you walk through it.

        • I must have missed that: all the portals I saw were either horizontal on both ends or vertical on both ends. The general point still stands, though.
          • One example off the top of my head is in the demo.. right after you get off the little planet ("That was fucked up..."), there's a room with monsters crawling on the wall opposite you ("No, *this* is fucked up!"). The portal on your floor leads out onto the wall. It's around 19:05 in this video [youtube.com].
    • Re:Narbacular Drop (Score:3, Interesting)

      by webrunner (108849)
      The thing people need to realise is that:
      - In Prey, portals are a new thing that level can do to the player
      - In Narbtacular Drop and Portal, portals are a new thing that the player can do to the level.
      • Re:Narbacular Drop (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mr2001 (90979)
        With the right mods [filefront.com], players can "do" portals to levels in Prey too.
        • Re:Narbacular Drop (Score:3, Informative)

          by webrunner (108849)
          Well, it's not in question that Prey -supports- the same kind of portal stuff as Portal, the same way that the DooM 3 engine -supports- physics simulation, but it's hl2 that really made it the focus of the game and a major gameplay element through the use of the gravity gun and physics puzzles.

          Doom 3 physics:half life 2 physics::Prey portals:Portal portals
    • The idea of portals has been around for ages. Anyone who knows anything about 3D programming should know about the differences between Portals, Octrees, BSP trees, and so on.

      In fact, if I remember right, Duke Nukem 3D was played essentially as a portal system with all the limitations of Doom. For instance, I once made a fun level which had a long ramp/tunnel that sloped downwards, but otherwise went straight to an elevator, and you bring the elevator up and you're at the top of the ramp, even though the

      • this is about gameplay and not about culling methods.
      • Then, just for fun, they added these tubes in the middle room. Each tube was an invisible teleporter (obvious if you were looking for it) that would make you appear at the top of another room -- so basically, each room had a tube that lead downwards to each of the other rooms.

        This is in contrast to the Quake engine, where instead of a series of tubes, it'd be more like a big truck that you just dump something on.
  • by twistedsymphony (956982) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:18PM (#15745459) Homepage
    Wow, I've played through Prey and the portals in that game really mess with your mind but being able to create portals at will certainly makes for some messed up stuff. Reminds me of the black circles they used to have in old cartoons were they'd just throw it in the ground or onto a wall and walk through.

    I'm curious how they plan to let you get yourself out of an infinite portal loop like a portal in the floor the drops from the ceiling back into the portal in the floor. etc. unless of course said portals are only good for X number of uses. Even still This one looks to be much cooler then the gravity gun.
    • I'm curious how they plan to let you get yourself out of an infinite portal loop like a portal in the floor the drops from the ceiling back into the portal in the floor.

      Looking at the video on their page it seems they'll allow it just fine. This game looks very nifty!

    • I'm curious how they plan to let you get yourself out of an infinite portal loop like a portal in the floor the drops from the ceiling back into the portal in the floor. etc. unless of course said portals are only good for X number of uses.

      If it were up to me the solution would be single-player: You can still access the menus, load from your last save. multi-player: Have a timeout period on multiple uses where you are blocked by the portal's surface instead of going through it.

      • From the video the solution is quite simple.

        The portal-gun looks like it will only allow 2 portals to exist at once (one leading to the other), so to break a loop you just fire your gun anywhere else, and the first portal created will disappear and be replaced by the new one.

        • If portals work the way I think they do, you'll be accelerating if you're in that kind of a portal loop (floor to ceiling) just as if you were falling an indefinite amount of distance. Remove the portals and SPLAT! You have become a small crater.

          Of course, it would help for a floor to floor fall, as in that case, you're constantly changing direction, so you never pick up any real speed. Still, I think the real solution is the same as the solution to not blowing yourself up with a rocket launcher: Don't
          • falling damage is a parameter that can easily be set to 0

            i don't think a game like this would give much about physical realism, instead it would only care about making for interesting gameplay. instant-death loops are not part of that. i guess they would even implement some kind of (not too high) upper limit for falling speed, because otherwise you would quickly end up with funny temporal aliasing effects between frame rate and loop speed. this would probably be interesting for us techies but be harmful for
        • That makes sense for a single player game. In multiplayer you would need something to prevent one asshat or a team of asshats from setting something like this up.
    • "I'm curious how they plan to let you get yourself out of an infinite portal loop like a portal in the floor the drops from the ceiling back into the portal in the floor. etc."

      From the video it looks like infinite loop portals would be allowed. To get out you'd just shoot to make a new portal on the wall next to you. This would change the location of one of the two portals breaking the loop.
    • I'm not sure they'll let you get out of an infinite loop alive. Portals violate conservation of energy, so you end up falling faster and faster, leave the infinite loop and you're gonna go splat I think.
      • Create an exit portal leading up and an entrance one in the ceiling. Tricky (timing) but possible. Again law of conservation of energy is violated but in opposite direction. Or trivial if the game ignores damage of hitting the ceiling - most games cause fall damage if you actually -fall- but hitting the ceilings at huge speeds (or grabbing ladders while falling really fast or such) doesn't cause any damage. Anyway, given enough room you can do wonders about losing speed.

        More interesting would be to create a
    • > I'm curious how they plan to let you get yourself out of an infinite portal loop like a portal in the floor the drops from the ceiling back into the portal in the floor. etc.

      Simple. Fire off another portal to the side while you're falling through that loop. You'll fall through the portal one more time, then you'll pop out of the new one, hopefully away from the hole.

      What would really be a gas would be fake portals that pass light but not matter. Fire a real portal over a fake one, run through. Remo
      • Simple. Fire off another portal to the side while you're falling through that loop. You'll fall through the portal one more time, then you'll pop out of the new one, hopefully away from the hole.

        I don't think that will work, but if it were possible -- maybe right-click for portal A and left-click for portal B, make them different colors? -- then that would be an awesomely cheap way of doing insane things. For instance: I don't think the Source engine measures the speed with which you impact a wall, only

        • i strongly assume it's "click: red -> click: blue -> click: red..." and so on.

          where one color means input and the other means output, effectively you will always have exactly one pair of portals. if the last portal you made for your loop was the output in the ceiling then "shooting" anywhere else will result in you hitting the floor where the input portal was before and if the last portal you made was the input in the floor then the next will be the output, so you will fall into the input and emerge w
  • Meep, meep! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:21PM (#15745490) Journal
    Reminds me of the ACME portable holes they used to have in the old Road Runner cartoons :-)
  • Gameplay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tester (591) <olivier.crete@o c r ete.ca> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:35PM (#15745600) Homepage
    its nice to see that some people are still working to improve gameplay with innovative ideas instead of just focusing on technological details (such as how exact and good looking the shadows are).

    Its all in the gameplay!
  • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:49PM (#15745735) Homepage Journal
    Bungie's Marathon series used a portals-based (though still "2.5D") engine way back in the day, and there were plenty of maps which used made use of what we called "5D space" (two different rooms occupying the same 3D space at the same time, yet not actually being the same room). I know this isn't precisely what the article is talking about, but it's still an application of portals technology for the purposes of interesting gameplay. One of the maps that shipped with the first game was even called "5D space", and was basically a maze that folded around and intersected itself. You could run around a 270-degree curve of hallway on level ground and not intersect the same bit of hallway you were travelling down before you hit the curve...
    • To add to the fun, explosions (grenades, rockets, etc.) occured in all overlapping spaces. Whether this was a bug or a feature was debatable. (Hi forrest!)
    • Duke3D also did this, and had some secret levels that demonstrated it. They used it to allow things like elevators and stairs and multi-story buildings while still being 2.5D. Even some of the normal levels that make sense in full 3D have some amazing tricks for this, but it really gets fun when you start messing with the level editor. An elevator that looks and feels like it travels vertically, but you end up a mile away horizontally? Swim across town underwater and surface in the exact same spot? All
    • You could run around a 270-degree curve of hallway on level ground and not intersect the same bit of hallway you were travelling down before you hit the curve.

      Not until you got to 360, at least...
      • No, you could even have a 360-degree flat loop that didn't intersect itself. And a hallway with a 270-degree bend *would* overlap itself; if you came down a real-world hall, and then it curved around 270 degrees, it would have to either dead-end when it hit the wall of it's earlier segment, or intersect that segment.
    • Fun with portals, grazy gravity and stuff, hm, I think I have seen that already around back in 1993, like here [tentakelvilla.de] and here [tentakelvilla.de], good to see that today first person shooters are finally catching up...
  • Hopefully they'll make a version for some non-Microsoft platform.
    • doubt it (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955)
      double the development time, double the support issues for an additional one percent in sales. just isn't worth it. yeah you can re-use much of it from one platform to the next, but you also have OS specific problems with each.

      I don't know why they don't put games on boot disks, whatever OS they want to use. Would solve a lot of the problems that normal end users have with bad performance due to viruses and spyware, plus the game developers would likely use a linux based system. no compatibility issues,
      • Re:doubt it (Score:2, Informative)

        by KIFulgore (972701)
        Most developers use DirectX, and you can't legally distribute that on a boot disk. You could with OpenGL but most devs are getting better performance and shader support from DX now (so say some of my Digipen graphics programmer friends, who could be wrong).
        • Most developers use DirectX, and you can't legally distribute that on a boot disk.

          Uh, you have no idea what the fuck you're talking about [microsoft.com]. But nice try.

          The real issue is that you can't legally distribute a bootable Windows disc, and the OSes you can distribute don't support DirectX.

          Meanwhile, making a bootable linux disc is a stupid idea too, because you can't update drivers without making a new disc.

      • double the development time, double the support issues for an additional one percent in sales

        The second part is true, but the first part is not. If supporting an additional platform doubles your development time, it had better be because you're doing a complete rewrite for each platform - which would make you an idiot.

        The situation is even sillier than that since you can use OpenGL, OpenAL, and SDL on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and if you write sufficiently portable code you'll have little work to do t

      • Linux development tools don't hold up to VC/DirectX yet. So a linux bootdisk as the target doesn't work well. A windows bootdisk would have license issues with MS.

        And even if linux were more viable ... you'd have to ship with soooo many drivers for good performance (a boot disk that works well on all systems doesn't use the advanced 3d features of cards that games would need).

        • Linux development tools don't hold up to VC/DirectX yet.

          So if it really matters that much (you aren't just making a completely new engine), how hard is it to just, say, mod Quake 4?

          you'd have to ship with soooo many drivers for good performance (a boot disk that works well on all systems doesn't use the advanced 3d features of cards that games would need).

          Oh noes! That would be soooo hard! In fact, no one's probably ever done [kororaa.org] it before [slashdot.org]!

          Yes, I know that second project is closed. The reason has nothing to

      • double the development time, double the support issues for an additional one percent in sales. just isn't worth it.

        PS2 isn't 1% in sales.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hopefully they'll make a version for every non-MS platform except the one you use.
    • ...though it was more of an interactive novel than any sort of 3D game :p

      A href="http://www.lemon64.com/games/details.php?ID= 3773">http://www.lemon64.com/games/details.php?ID= 3773
  • Limits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kaenneth (82978) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:58PM (#15745806) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how many portals the source engine can handle, each portal is a new point of view to render from.

    If there was multiplayer, imagine a wall with 16 portals on it, the other side overlooking the 16 portals again... from 16 different angles...
    • by Surt (22457)
      No obvious reason for it not to be arbitrary, except for performance limitations. I'm guessing by fuzzing your view through the portal they limit the depth they need to render through the portal, but for number of portals, there's no obvious reason you can't just render scene after scene into each portal texture.
    • Not sure how far they've made it in their engine, but from a programmer point of view, there are SO many ways to make load lighter. Fade away the portals that are further (or are facing away) from the camera center, limit recursion, simplify shaders in each recursion and put a portal effect in front (probably after 2 portals you can render fairly small portions with very simple shaders). Plus the portal seems to be limited in size. The things that REALLY bog things down are realtime shadows and such. As fa
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @04:17PM (#15745930) Journal
    Portal technology allows you to join arbitrary regions of space so that light travels from one to the other, So here's a room divided into 4 quadrants: +-------+
    +.A...B.+
    +.......+
    +.C...D.+
    +-------+
    Go east from A, say, and you get to B. With portal technology you can throw away D and join the south edge of B to the east edge of C. The next result: you walk 270 degrees around the room and you end up back where you started! This is essentially what physicists mean by a curved spacetime. In this case the spacetime is "piecewise" linear with all of the curvature concentrated at the center of the room. And when you join regions with portals you can potentially use any affine transform you like. For example you could have a ring corridor with the property that when you walk around it once you are half the size you were when you started. You might see yourself half size (or twice as large) if you look far enough. This is similar to the way a mathematician might build a manifold using 'charts' and 'atlases'. (A non-orientable manifold would be one where walking through a certain door reflected you, or the universe, depending on your point of view.)

    (Note, I don't mean that there are 3 rooms, A, B and C. I mean one big room with 3 regions, and maybe a thin pillar in the center. It would look like an ordinary room until you dropped some objects and started walking around it. And of course it would get very tricky to deal with someone in one of the other regions shooting at you. You'd see them in multiple directions.)

    You can even do weirder things like make portals work in spacetime...

    • In all seriousness, that might actually help people understand some aspects of Relativity, if done correctly. (Do not, for instance, get stuck up the ass with making an "educational" videogame and take out the shooting or something.)

      And trying to understand Relativity definitely makes me want to just pick up a videogame...
    • Portals like those shown in the demo couldn't exist in physical reality. They clearly violate conservation of momentum. In order to conserve momentum, they would have to be portals in spaceTIME, not just space, and that would also imply gravitational effects. So you could never create portals like this in the real world.
    • Now there is a good idea. Something for HL3 with their adventure puzzle style. Do some stuff, jump in to a time portal, interact with the things you did (are doing) a minute ago in order to solve the puzzle.
  • Straight to video (Score:2, Informative)

    by fractalrock (662410)
    Here's a link [gamespy.com] to an .mpeg so you don't have to deal with the annoying script on Gamevideo.com's page.
  • Have you ever watched the Beatles' animated The Yellow Submarine film? There is a Sea of Holes. Anyway you should watch it, and not while smoking or licking anything because that would be bad.

    By the way, the Beatles didn't actually do the voices for their characters except for the singing because they were busy saying "screw you" to the capitalistic society that gave them the free time and wherewithal to meditate on how screwed up the capitalistic society was. Or maybe they just respected Billy West's opini
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is already a simple mod for the prey demo that allows this... http://forums.3drealms.com/vb/showthread.php?t=193 35 [3drealms.com] with a video demonstrations http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6727494773 800764468 [google.com]
  • by neo (4625) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @06:58PM (#15746829)
    If you just turn around and shot the wall, you can travel to the final level immediately. What a rip off.
  • Now this is what I call an interesting looking game. The Portal gun also has the gravgun capabilities - did you notice?

    Nice to see Valve putting their HL2 revenue to good use instead of just milking the HL cow.
  • by SynapseLapse (644398) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @11:43PM (#15747780)
    Descent featured the ability to create portals in game. It was used as a space save measure to fit larger levels into a rather small level cube, but there were still some interesting fan based levels created using that part of the engine.
  • Slashdotted (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @11:48PM (#15747790)
    I couldn't load the video referenced in the article, but I found this on Google Video (which I think is the same video). It looks pretty sweet.

    Link [google.com]
  • by Taulin (569009)
    Decent was also another portal heavy game. Portals were a way to cull geometry easily.

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