The tl;dr of what I want in a new Portal game can best be summed up by reading the lines in bold. If you’re bored, have a read!
Today HTC announced they’d partnered with Valve for the Vive headset (part of HTC’s “re” product line, so, re:Vive). Obviously the thoughts quickly turn to software for it. With Valve being the partner, Portal came up in a post I was reading. (Imagine sailing through the air in first person.) It always felt like Portal 2’s online component didn’t take off like Valve wanted, so, let me pitch a Portal 3, or at least a Portal Online. The chief decision in my choices is that it should be a game with continued updates, like DOTA2, CSGO, and TF2. And even better would be allowing it to rely on community support for content, but still allow financial opportunities for the developer that seem fair to players.
The important part? Each server is a testing facility. The person who runs the server (herein owners) should get a large series of options to better fine tune the experience for players. And this will present financial opportunities for Valve AND for the community members that contribute to the game. Also important is offering several non-required elements for players to improve their experience. Let’s look at those items first.
1. Maps – Highly rated maps should be vetted for inclusion on the marketplace if the creator wants. A very small minimum price should be required. ($0.25?) This pays for the evaluation of maps, as well as hosting, and should benefit the map maker. However, server owners should be able to run maps from outside of the marketplace, just without a logo of approval in server lists.
2. Player components – Players need to be differentiated. Playing as the people unfrozen at the end of Portal 2, suits and colors are a solid start, but offering new purchases (maybe play as robots, especially if done in components) could do well. Components, suits, colors, sounds, and mini-actions are never integral, but can be used as random drops as well as purchasables. Much like TF2, each server can do its own, or abide by the official list.
3. Personality cores – And here’s where it gets a little more interesting.
Server owners will choose a “GLaDOS”-like AI to run their testing facility. You can start by giving players a few basic free options like some of the personality cores from Portal 1 & 2. Imagine bounding across giant gaps with Rick, the Adventure Sphere from Portal 2, urging you on. To triumph in the face of danger! Or imagine a dark room with flickering lights, with the hiss of the evil red sphere from Portal 1. Then it snarls violently as a piston came from the ceiling and tried to smash you. (Or RuXx Emma Thompsonor even actress Emma Thompson who narrated Will Ferrell’s life in Stranger Than Fiction.) Even allow players to fashion their own personality cores and offer them for free download, the better ones vetted and placed in the marketplace.
Each Personality core recording (that costs money in the marketplace) should have story hooks built in for story arcs that rise and fall that trigger X maps into the server. The important part is different script portions that can be used by map makers and communicate the same information in a way specific to that personality core. The types of script needed to be used in the procedural story would be “introduction”, many “normal chamber” lines, appropriate “going away” scripts, and “re-introduction” recordings as well. Why? Each server starts with the introduction. Then the owner’s chosen chambers progress normally. But with the first Valve Update, GlaDOS takes control of the owner’s test chamber from the owner’s personality core, runs a few levels (introducing updates), then the owner’s AI regains control. Maybe GLaDOS patches in via network. Maybe it’s a copy. Maybe the two AIs are battling; maybe they’re working together. That’s not important here.
It’s only really important that personality cores in the marketplace have the appropriate generic audio recordings that maps will assume and reference. The lion’s share will be the large variety of “normal chamber” recordings, but Valve Updates would include maps that would use rare plot advancement hooks that would be required of all personality cores on the marketplace. Those would be the “going away” and “re-introduction” scripts. During the update we may get a new paint color (a la Portal 2) or world item (enemy units, new world mechanics, etc.). Maybe you could even let users trade off cores with the right audio hooks. Maybe some servers wouldn’t care and just want tons of levels.
Another important factor is that while the server owner decides the order of the chambers, this is not TF2. There is no automatic progress. Each chamber needs to be instanced when a player arrives in it. If a chamber already exists, a player should be joined with whoever is currently running that chamber on the server. In the elevator at the beginning of a chamber) players should be able to go the previous puzzle, or restart the current one. “Next chamber” should be possible in exit elevators, as well as beginning elevators if you’ve already completed the current chamber. Servers should track player progress, like they currently do for non-standard TF2 items, so you can easily get back to the chamber you belong on. But people should be able to backtrack and help, if they want. If you get to chamber 2, and I join the server for the first time, I start in chamber 1. Server voice and text chat could be passed off as communicating on a network.
So, players can buy suits, components, colors, sounds, and actions that spread across servers. Server owners can buy AI personality cores to personalize their server, and maps to use in their servers. And occasionally Valve sends updates that temporarily take over servers and seamlessly advance the world.
That’s the Portal Online I’d be happy with. Also, you get two O’s in the logo. POrtal Online. One blue and one orange!