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Valve's Erik Wolpaw on Portal 2's difficulty, PS3 Steam features


Portal 2 writer Erik Wolpaw wants you to know that Valve's upcoming sequel isn't as difficult as it looks. Trailers for the game show off plenty of insane action, filled with daring leaps, breakneck speeds and physically impossible tricks. "We're going to train you," Wolpaw told us at PAX East, "At no point are we going to ask you do something that we haven't prepared you to do."

"One of the things we learned after releasing Portal 1", Wolpaw told us, "was that there were a couple puzzles in Portal 1 that required some sort of twitchy ninja skills to actually execute the solution." He added that Valve monitored the game on Steam and that those who quit the game "almost universally" quit after playing one of the two puzzles that are most difficult to execute. The biggest pleasure of Portal, said Wolpaw, is the "aha moment," the moment when a player understands the puzzle and discovers its solution. "If you then struggle with the controller for twenty minutes to execute the solution that you already know," said Wolpaw, "almost universally we found that it was frustrating people."

Valve has thus endeavored not to make the puzzles in Portal 2 too "ninja-ish." Valve has also "tweaked the physics a little bit." For example, actually getting through portals is easier now. "In Portal 1," said Wolpaw, "if you were flying through a portal and you sort of clipped it a little bit, chances are you'd bounce back out and have to redo it, so we made that a little more forgiving."

As for the apparent mind-numbing difficulty on display in the Portal 2 videos released so far, Wolpaw noted that trailers have to be entertaining. "Someone slowly thinking about a puzzle" doesn't make for a good trailer, he said. "You have to sweeten it a little by having someone do some crazy ninja moves," though the downside is that some people may believe the game is more difficult than it actually is.

Intimidating, no?

Wolpaw assured us that Portal 2 actually does a better job of easing the player into the game. "We've actually gone the other way, and tried to make it more about actually thinking the puzzles through and less about struggling with the controller to execute them." Of course, Wolpaw still believes there will be players that show off incredible skills. Referencing the player that finished the first Portal in under ten minutes, Wolpaw said, "I pretty much will lay down the gauntlet and say no one's going to solve Portal 2 in ten minutes."

That said, he's particularly excited to see players start working on cooperative speed runs. "It's going to require this almost dance between two people to do that," said Wolpaw, "people on the team talk about it all the time, because we cannot wait for the video where the guy and his partner who manage to solve co-op in whatever the fastest time is."

When asked if those who enjoyed honing their ninja skills would be treated to any challenge rooms in Portal 2, Wolpaw told us that they won't be shipping with the game. "We've kind of shifted those over to achievements," said Wolpaw, though he added Valve is planning Portal 2 DLC, which should be announced after the game ships next month.

If we do a Move game, we want to do it from the ground up.

Regarding the inclusion of Steam features on the PS3 version of Portal 2, we asked if Valve is interested in allowing other PS3 titles to offer similar features. "I think we're always looking into stuff like that," said Wolpaw, adding, "We're not ready to talk about anything like that, but I think it would be great if it happened."

We asked about the mistranslated German report that Portal 2 would receive PlayStation Move support, Wolpaw told us, "Unequivocally, no Move support." We pressed the subject, noting that Portal 2 will support Razer's Hydra controller on the PC, but Wolpaw informed us that most of the implementation was handled by Razer itself. "They were sort of off on their own doing that. They did a nice job, but was not part of our core design." He added that Portal 2 was deep in development when the Move came out, saying, "If we do a Move game, we want to do it from the ground up and make sure it's something that really takes advantage of Move. You know, do it right."

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