Portal 2 is a wonderful educational tool, but Valve wants to convince everyone else of that fact. And not by evangelizing the title to college-aged people the world over, but instead by turning the game into a more direct learning experience, with custom tools to match educational programs. "We just add another layer on top of the authoring tools to simplify the production of those spaces," Valve head Gabe Newell explained to us this afternoon.
In so many words, the level creation tool for the PC version of Portal 2 gets another layer of interaction on top of the placement of, say, platforms or boxes. "If you give us a lesson plan, we can give you a tool that allows kids to build content to lock down those lessons," Newell detailed. "The number of times I solved problems about how fast will this be going at this time -- how about if it's on the moon?" In his words, "It's a lot easier to get people excited about it [education] if they're on the moon and they get to throw the rock at the piece of glass that breaks the glass that lets all the robots fly out." We can all agree on that, Mr. Newell.
Without indicating when the education-focused version of Portal 2 will be released, Newell confirmed that his studio is currently building the application. "The layering on top of it of the framework for giving people a direct physical experience of physics is there, but you have to tell me exactly how you want to measure whether or not your students are successful or not." While we're certainly interested to see what Valve cooks up, we have to imagine that the students of the world are far more intrigued.