Designing With Portals

After nearly two and half years of the release of Portal 2, I felt it was time to revisit the facilities of Aperture Science. With the release of the Perpetual Testing Initiative, Valve gives people the power to create challenges of their own and not just be a test chamber Guinea Pig.

When you enter the test chamber editor of the game, you’re provided with a starter test chamber and a small toolbox of assets to use in the creation of your level. The construction of the level is very easy, to build your chamber you merely need to select the surface of a panel and pull it in or out. With this, you can have the design of you chamber laid out in no time!

Once you’re happy with your layout, the next step is to flesh out your puzzles with toolbox. With assets such as Companion Cubes, Turrets, Faith Plates, Gel Dispensers, etc., you have everything you need to design and build awesome puzzles to challenge your friends and people online.

From previous experience, I’ve found that setting up triggers in level editors is the most tedious part of the level creation process. This is another thing that the editor has made extremely easy. For example, if I want a button to activate some stairs, all I need to do is right-click on the button, choose “connect to” and select the stairs to set up the linkage.

When you’ve built a map that you’re happy with, the next step is to share it. The Steam Workshop also makes this easy. With one click and a description of your level, it can be available to the world to play within minutes!

I highly recommend this level editor to beginner level designers interested in creating test chambers for Portal 2. I’d also recommend it to advanced map makers who want to quickly prototype an idea before re-creating it with the Portal 2 Authoring Tools in the Hammer Editor.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hammer, it is the map editor which Valve uses to create maps for their games. While your test chamber creation options expand with its use, it is not very beginner friendly. However, there are plenty of online tutorials if you wish to dive deeper into map making with Hammer.

The Perpetual Testing Initiative and Portal 2 Authoring Tools are free for anyone to use provided they have a computer, Steam account and a copy of Portal 2.


Will Friesen is a Game Design student at VFS