This is n unrelated post that anyone who has played tetris will find interesting: http://www.gudmagazine.com/games/heaven/
It is true that the portal sounds really make the game what it is, particularly GLaDOS and her conniving, insane ramblings. One particular thing I want to focus on is the way the sounds set the mood or tone of the game.
Portal could easily be a horror game. Remove the robot’s, almost cute, questions, remove GLaDOS’s whimsical, comical ramblings and add some grinding noises, threatening gurgles and screaming. Take away the heart on the companion cube and add a skeleton and viola! A bonafida horror game.
The developers made very specific choices when it comes to the sounds of portal and these choices set the mood of the game. There are definitely creepy elements but the ridiculous things that GLaDOS says and the robot’s asking you if you are still there take the edge of the mystery and add and element of humor to the suspense.
This mood set by the music matches the skin and functionality of the game. The companion cube has a heart on it, the robots are cute little white eggs. The walls are also white and there is plenty of light in most of the levels setting a mood of “science” and “testing” rather then horror and suspense.
The functionality of the game matches this mood. There is something comical, not horrible about flying through the air or being stuck in an infinite loop between the floor and the ceiling. The graphics, sounds and functionality of the game all match perfectly.
I found a website, called Gamecola, that gives out awards to new games annually. In 2007, Portal won several awards, including:
Best new character: GlaDOS,
Most deserving of a sequel. Mission: accomplished.
This is a really humorous history of the Aperture Science Laboratory written by Portal’s creators. Good to know their sense of humor carries past GLaDOS’s witty remarks.
One of the first things I noticed about Portal is the way Chell (the main character) is shepherded throughout the various levels by GLaDOS. While at first this makes sense in the context of the testing center, once Chell (spoiler) breaks out of the first 19 levels, she is still oddly guided to GLaDOS. First, there is the graffiti leading Chell deeper and deeper into Aperture Science, but also the layout of the game itself. While it makes sense for the game to be leading you into new challenges, it seemed odd to me that a game that seems to encourage thinking outside the box (“now you’re thinking with portals”) only encourages minimal exploration within the game.When I tried to enter various grated openings, I couldn’t get through and often the only thing I could see on the other side was a red or white light. Even in the original ending of the game, it ends with a fade to white, before the ending credits.
While there is some exploration within each level, there is still a clear goal. Perhaps is it just because this is a puzzle game, but it seems to me that the game forces the player to stay within the set limitations of what the developers anticipated. Sure, there are many ways to solve each puzzle, but the end result is entering on one end of the room and exiting on the other. Or maybe I am expecting too much from a relatively small game.
I haven’t played Portal 2, but is there more open ended exploration, or is it still following a set path?
Here’s an interesting article on the female roles in Portal. It goes into detail about Glados and who she represents in society.
I agree that the fact that both Chell and GLaDOS are female is irrelevant to gameplay. I think the creators of Portal wanted to make a puzzle game, so they came up with the different levels and challenges, and then focused on the skin of the game (i.e. what the main characters should look like). In contrast, I think the creators of Tomb Raider knew from the beginning that they wanted to feature a female main character in their game. So, they fine-tuned Lara Croft’s appearance, and then developed the gameplay around her. With this begin said, I think the two games are slightly different since Portal is more of a first-person-shooter game and Tomb Raider is more of a third-person adventure game. So, obviously the point of view is going to differ accordingly and the player will be able to see more or less of their character.
As far as GLaDOS, I think the game designers purposefully made her a female voice. In general, I think a woman’s voice is more trustworthy and comforting. This is perfect for Portal since for a large portion of the game you must rely on a mysterious voice to navigate the gameworld. Also, I think having it be a feminine voice allows GLaDOS to have more attitude while remaining ironically funny in some of her statements (especially closer to the end of the game)–if a male voice said some of the things GLaDOS says, players may think it is rude or offensive (sorry, guys).
Lastly, in regards to the ‘Remember, the Aperture Science Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day’ statement, this refers to the background story of Portal, which we don’t find out until Portal 2. Apprarently, the reason why the testing facility is so empty is because GLaDOS went beserk and released a poisonous gas on attendees of Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day.
As we all know by now, both the protagonist and villain in Portal are female. However, this isn’t nearly as big of a deal as, for example, Lara Croft is to Tomb Raider. Perhaps this is because Chell is rarely seen in the game due to the first-person perspective. In fact, unless you might get through much of the game before realizing that you’re playing a female at all. As for GladOS, she’s really nothing but a creepy voice, so her gender is also not the focal point of her character. With Lara Croft it’s painfully obviously during play that you are female- just look at her proportions.
But does their gender really make a difference? Gameplay is not affected, nor do I see this as some metaphor to the place of women in society. It seems to me rather that the gamemakers just happened to make Chell female. However, through some research I found that GladOS reportedly says this,
“Did you know that you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture Science Self-Esteem Fund for Girls? It’s true!”
as well as,
“Remember, the Aperture Science Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day is the perfect time to have her tested.”
HA! I missed these comments during my gameplay (or just didn’t think about them too much), but man, GladOS’s remark does seem a little biting towards femininity. I’m interested in how you all perceive the attitude of GladOS and whether or not this is reflective of any sort of statement on gender.
In chapter 7 of “A Theory of Fun,” Koster listed many ludemes of a successful game: preparation, sense of space, solid core mechanics, range of challenges, range of abilities required to solve encounter, and skills required in using ability. Portal was an extremely successful game that artfully incorporated all of these ludemes to attract a cornucopia of players with a range of video game experience that was challenging to all. The preparation was the first few levels when you begin the game. It is very difficult to be killed in the first few levels where new skills are introduced and the player is familiarized with the game style. The sense of space in Portal is very interesting. It is obviously very limiting because the doors only open forward once the level is completed and the doors will not let open backwards. Because of the actual portals, space is distorted, but only for a short time until the player has acclimated to the new world’s game mechanics. Now onto the solid core mechanics of the game, the game has real physics in that gravity applies when you jump. The player can run in all direction and levitate things with its mind. The portal is the most unique thing to the game mechanics. Everything else is pretty standard. The range of challenges in Portal is spectacular. Speaking as a novice game player, Portal was extremely easy to pick up, but still was very challenging. Most of the puzzles involve logic; all that needs to be picked up are the game controls. Like I said previously, the first few levels are very easy, and progress showing more challenges. As the levels progress, they also introduce new abilities. I believe some of the first ones were: jump, pick up, drop, etc. and as you get further, you learn that the shiny ball of light needs to go into the receptor thing to open doors and such and that you can use the velocity from jump into a hole to project you further. Also, as the levels progress, more and more of these abilities are required to solve the problem. Each time the player uses an ability to solve a problem, their skill in that ability grows.
Portal also has a variable feedback system in which Koster says the result of the encounter should not be predictable. After each level, you are to enter an elevator so you cannot see what is coming next and usually what the mechanic female voice says is very bizarre, ironic, and unpredictable. In Portal, the mastery problem is dealt with in that the levels get progressively harder and you can save your levels to that you do not have to bottom feed. According to Koster, failure must have a cost. In Portal, there is a cost, but it is not too grand. For the most part you have to restart the level or you are set back to a saved point. Either way failure is more of an inconvenience than anything else. Portal uses all of these traits effectively to create a fun, challenging, and addictive game for all players.
I thought sound, in particular voices and the associated gender of those voices, was rather important in level 16 of Portal. I’m pretty sure it’s test 16, but if I’m wrong, it’s the first one with the robots that are shooting at you (I don’t know if there are more levels with shooting robots, haven’t gotten beyond this test…). The gun robots have voices, and they sound like little girls. I thought it was important, as the consensus seems to be that GLaDOS is a female. So does this mean that all the robots are “female”? And since you are female, are the only characters in the game female? If you’ve finished the game, and there are “male” robots, please say so.
That level also contains the area where, for me, the nature of the game changed. I came across a small area where the sound changes so that there is music in the background. The area has “HELP” written multiple times in red (and I’m pretty sure it’s blood since there are robots shooting at me) along with “The cake is a lie” written over and over, along with what looks like day counts. I have only just gotten there, so I don’t know what happens next, but all of a sudden the game went from being solving puzzles with a slightly strange robot/computer telling me things and promising me cake, to something much different. In that one spot, the game became darker, after all, those messages had to have been written by someone. So who wrote them? Why? And where are they now? The “help” message being written in what looked like it was supposed to be blood makes me think the game is supposed to be dangerous, and if it is, then why am I going through the tests at GLaDOS’ instruction?
Earlier in the year we discussed the effect sound and music has on games. Portal is an excellent example, since Portal would not be the game it is today were it not for its audio assets.
Sound plays a major role in Portal. Many of the test elements, such as the Aperture Science Unstationary Scaffold or the Aperture Science High Energy Pellet, have very specific sounds. This allows the player to know when they are near such elements, even when they cannot be seen. At some points there is an eerie whooshing sound, caused by vents, that unsettles the player. Sound is used to hide some other messages. In the Portal ARG messages were encoded into a series of beeps that led to more information.
The most important sound is GLaDOS. GLaDOS, the scheming AI that attempts to lead you to your death has a wonderful sound design. At the beginning GLaDOS starts to unnerve the player with her words. She warns the player to be sure not to —— and also gives suggestions that lead the players death. In addition she gives useful feedback such as “The floor here will kill you, try to avoid it.”At the beginning GLaDOS has an emotionless voice and guides you though the testing. Once you break out she starts to gain emotion. First she shows surprise, but later anger follows.
Portal is well associated with its song, Still Alive. Once the game is beaten Still Alive is played, which is an incredibly popular song. At any gamer convention there are people singing it. In addition there are many snippets of Still Alive inside of the game. The radios in the game are playing an upbeat version of still alive with the words removed.