For this week’s Dissecting Design, we’re taking a look at Portal. Portal was one of the first games to be the genre of action puzzle. I also talked about how it used organic tutorials to teach the player how to use the portal gun and advanced maneuvers without having to stop the game. I also talked about what it was like playing through the final level when the tutorials were over, and why the portal gun doesn’t necessarily mean having infinite puzzle potential.
I recently put up a video spotlight of the game Mushroom 11: A puzzle/platformer from Untame that is very unique in its design. However, during the video I commented that I felt that I wanted to play as much of it now, as I didn’t think I would come back to it, even to finish it. This isn’t the first time this has happened and I wanted to talk about this phenomenon of one-time game design.
Teaching someone how to play your game is one of the toughest parts of being a game designer and one that I’ve spent multiple posts talking about. Many people learn better through instructions, while others prefer visual aids and it’s hard to develop the perfect tutorial.
But for today’s post, I want to look at a shortcut that developers have used whenever they need to explain new forms of game design to players in the form of organic tutorial design.
It’s a safe bet to say that if you’re reading this, that chances are you know about the game Portal. The lead designer behind Portal: Kim Swift left Valve to join Airtight Games and became the director for Quantum Conundrum. Given the physics based puzzles and wacky lab setting; you could say that Quantum Conundrum bares similarities to Portal. But with some different design philosophies, in some ways it feels like Portal’s evil twin.