Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
But if you fancy spending a lazy Sunday morning burning through a bunch of custom Portal maps, I’ve put all the ones I’ve found in the right subfolders and zipped them up, so you can just extract it to your Portal folder and type “map ” at the console to browse through them. I don’t even remotely have permission to do that and it’s actually pretty immoral, so I’ll probably take it down Monday. EDIT: Taken down now, attack of conscience. Most of them came from here or here.
station1 is really nicely made, and doesn’t feel the need to be hopelessly difficult in order to show you how awesome its author must be at the game. It’s got its own visual style, which is nice, but the completely black material it introduces sometimes makes it hard to make out shapes and distances. The top of the central column, for example, in the middle of that screenshot – is it a platform or hole with a thick rim? My favourite thing about it is that it shows you your goal as soon as you spawn, so the adventure to achieve it feels very neatly self-contained, and it’s really satisfying to get back to where you started and finally get through that door.
ren_test2 is difficult. It’s more complicated and intellectually demanding than any of Portal’s Advanced maps, or getting Gold in every Least Portals Challenge. But it’s also geniunely ingenious. I won’t spoil the centrepiece of the map, but suffice to say there’s a switch that does something really, really cool when you press it. It’s simultaneously the smallest and the longest map I’ve played so far, simply because I had to sit there with a cup of tea and think the living shit out of it before I knew what to do. Even then, my absurdly convoluted solution had to go through several iterations before it worked, and I’ll admit that phase is actually just frustrating. It revolves around a bouncing energy orb, and I fucking hate those things. But most of the time and most of the fun is spent just staring at this one room, working out how to fix it.
If you do play it, know that the first switch you press unlocks that door you can see. It took me a long time to figure that out, because in Portal there’s not normally a concept of ‘locked’ and ‘unlocked’, only closed and open – and the switch doesn’t open the door.
Update! Ha! I must admit I was feeling slightly envious of the ren_test2 guy for thinking up such a great central mechanic for his level before me. I had an idea for something similar, but unless it comes off spectacularly it’s probably not as clever. Some consolation, then, to discover that he’s actually a level designer for a little company called Bethesda Softworks.
One of the reasons I’m playing everything anyone makes for Portal is that I am, very intermittently, very slowly and very ineptly, working on my own Portal map. It’s one room with one puzzle at the moment, and even that may be scrapped to fit into the bigger picture. So far all my puzzle ideas are things that require special coding or advanced mapping skills, so now I’m trying to come up with some more basic stuff I can make to learn the engine first.
I’m on the lookout for people to test this, if I actually get anywhere. If you just want to play it, don’t sign up – it’ll be better if you wait till it’s done. But if you want to help me out, drop me an e-mail and I’ll cc you on the next build.
Tom Francis: Multiple awesomes.
The_B: Nice plugin. Although I'm suprised there isn't an auto snipurl/tinyurl one. Or at least that I could find. In the 30 seconds that I looked for...
ImperialCreed: Erm, am I being silly or is that link now broken?
Also, thanks for the tips on the maps. Finally got my net connection back so I can't wait to play them.
Tom Francis: Link still seems to work here.
Tom Francis: Oh, it's just occured to me you may have meant the link in the comments here. That was never supposed to work, I just wanted to check that it would indeed take you to that address - which doesn't exist.