Thinking With Portal 2’s Puzzle Creation Contest

May 25, 2011Written by Tyler Minarik

Portal 2 has been out long enough for most players to have had a chance to run through the singleplayer campaign, and most likely the co-op campaign too, but many are left wanting more. Along comes a map editor to save the day, and a contest from Valve to get the community jump started.

If you own a PS3 copy of Portal 2, then you should know by now that it came with access to a complete Steam version of the game for use on PC. Unique to the PC version is a map editing tool, allowing everyone to create their own grueling test trials of death to challenge friends with. While we have yet to see any of these creations hit the PS3, perhaps due to the PS Store still being down, it seems Valve is looking to get the community jump started by hosting a contest called “The Summer Mapping Initiative”. The contest started yesterday, Tuesday, May 24th and lasts until Monday, June 6th at 11:59pm EDT (warning, this is the start of E3, so you may want to get your entry in before hand). Entries must adhere to the following requirements, some of which may indicate these maps are intended for later distribution:

  • Maps must be submitted no later than June 6th at 11:59pm EDT.
  • Both Singleplayer and Co-op maps are allowed. You may submit one map of each game mode.
  • Maps cannot contain custom assets of any kind. No exceptions. Spend your time working on your puzzle, not making models, textures, sounds/voices, or other extra content.
  • Maps must contain both an Entry and an Exit elevator, the style of which as appropriate for your map theme. 1940’s Aperture maps can use the old style elevators, destroyed Aperture can use the destroyed looking elevators, and so on.
  • Maps must be able to be completed without using engine or portaling glitches of any kind.
  • Entries must be uploaded to the Download Database and uploaded in a compressed file format (such as ZIP, RAR or 7z).
  • Entries must include the source VMF.

Basically this sums up to ‘use what they gave you’, and ‘make sure the puzzle is solvable’. Sounds like cake, but designing a clever puzzle can be more difficult than it sounds, and the process should have contestants appreciated Valve’s great level design by the end. Making a great puzzle doesn’t just mean making it difficult, so Valve has kindly provided a few points on which entries will be judged:

  • Puzzle complexity
  • Visual appeal and attention to detail
  • Innovation and imaginative design
  • Adherence to an overall theme (1940’s Aperture, destroyed Aperture, etc.)
  • Overall fun and playability

If you think you’ve got some great ideas for thinking with portals, now is the time to make them happen, since of course this contest ends with winners receiving wonderful prizes! The first and second place winners will receive the following prizes:

Of course, writing this very article has me frustrated, since I couldn’t help playing Portal 2 without my head brimming with great ideas, but my ancient hardware won’t run the game or map editor. Thus, I leave it to you dear readers to provide us with new challenges and scenarios which will twist our minds later this summer! The full rules for the contest can be found here, along with links to the forums and proper submission locations. Get your creative juices flowing, and let us know if you’ve got the ultimate conundrum for portal users everywhere (don’t tell us the answer though, of course!).