Portal Co-Creator Says Her New Game Can Definitely Be Compared to Portal
The puzzle solving mechanics of Portal, as some may already know, were based on a student developed game called Narbacular Drop, developed as a senior project by four Digipen students in 2005. Immediately after graduating, those four students were hired by Valve on the strength of Narbacular Drop, thrown onto a sixteen-person team, and tasked with making Portal from scratch. Kim Swift was one of those four students.
So, after landing a gig at Valve right out of school, gaming media were surprised, to put it lightly, when she left the company in 2009. No worries, Swift says, she just prefers smaller development teams, and it’s totally fair to compare her next first person puzzle platformer, Quantum Conundrum, to the elephant in the room: Portal.
The expanding team sizes and the fast-paced schedules made her democratic,vid design-by-committee approach to game development difficult to maintain, so when the opportunity came up to start over with a small team, she packed up and left behind the studio that gave her a chance fresh out of college to start anew.
Finally, nearly two years later, Airtight has revealed its first game with Swift as captain: a physics-based puzzler for Square Enix called Quantum Conundrum, which sees players progressing through stages by manipulating their environments through entering and exiting different dimensions, each of which makes the world behave differently.
Swift talks about many different facets of putting Quantum Conundrum together, and about game design in general, but we found her explanation of design composition:
It’s composing a scene like you would for a painting. So let’s say I have a basic room [Swift sketches on paper] and I want the player to go here, right? So what I want to do as far as geometry is, let’s say, let’s have these walls curve in, because it’s going to lead your eye along this line here. And you can see, we’ve done that quite a bit with our curves and angles.
It’s not just because they’re just quirky and fun, they actually help point and compose the scene where we want you to look. So in the case of, say, this image here, we wanted you to look at the image of Professor Quadwrangle. We wanted you to look at all the stuff over there in the corner, and we also wanted you to look at the ledge up there too.
So as you’re coming in this room, I immediately want you to look at the right. Even though there’s important stuff to the left, I want you to look at the right. So the way I lit this particular scene is because there’s two windows up here on the side, I wanted you to look off to the right. So I made sure to use a light that cast at kind of an extreme angle, because that tends to look the best.
Funny how a run away success like Portal can become both a phenomenal addition to your resume and the standard by which your next projected will inevitably be judged. In either case, we certainly look forward to seeing what Ms. Swift’s team has come up with this time.