‘Overwhelming’ will be your first thought. ‘Exciting’ will be your second thought. ‘Confusion’ will be your third thought; they were my first three thoughts at least. Last year, I had actually dreamed of building my very own Portal map using the ‘Source’ engine, but since I know nothing of how to use the engine, creating a map just became too big of a dream for me. But then Valve came to me in a dream and said ‘Do not fear young one. For we have the solution for you’. And thus, the “Perpetual Testing Initiative” DLC was born. And thus, I realized it wasn’t a dream… well the part that “Valve” actually came to me in a dream was I suppose…
The upcoming free DLC is surprising, because at first glance, it looks like making a map would be difficult, considering there’s not much of a tutorial besides that of the tips that show up through loading times. You’re offered the default template for creating a room in the DLC, with all the features you can place inside it found on your left. You can put in almost every feature found throughout the game into your map, whether it be gels, turrets, windows, lasers, companion cubes, and plenty more. You need to use your head whilst making your map, because there are some worries you do need to think about when making your map.
First of all, you may need to constantly test your map just to see if it works [well]. Being in ‘Beta’ stages, the DLC comes with a couple of bugs; setting up 2 buttons to work for 1 panel or door sometimes may not work, and one button may unlink, even though both buttons are “still connected”. There were also times when a sphere never spawned, or in fact just disappeared. Whilst these certain bugs may not occur for you by the time of release, there may be other “problems” which require you to test the gravity of things when checking if, for example, a cube reaches a high area when launched from a distance etc. But don’t take these bugs and problems to heart, because actually creating a map is hugely exciting if you overlook it’s minor difficulties.
You’re able to turn any panel in your room to a portable or non-portable panel, and if you like, you can set up a system where pressing a button will flip the panel from non-portable to portable. It’s a simple system, and if you like, you can even add a timer, where after a minimum of 3 seconds, the panel flips back to normal. It’s not just flipping panels you can work this for, as you can connect buttons to open doors, to angle panels, to move platforms; all the things you might have found you could do when playing in Portal 2. What I would have liked is design features, where I could be able to choose the design of a turret (like in that comical “Turret” trailer for the release of Portal 2), place paintings on the wall, and change the style of panels I’d like on the walls (the old Aperture to the new); perhaps one day Valve may add this in a future update.
One worry you don’t seem to think about is “can the game handle my map?” There were times I would try to make a glass maze in a room, and it was because of that glass maze that my room just couldn’t build itself for testing or publishing. It’s not the games fault, but you just need to be careful. Whether the DLC will be more powerful by release is unknown, but I highly doubt it.
The other side to the DLC is actually playing custom maps. Some of the maps you can find right now are great fun to play and are very creative, but some maps are broken and do not work; there is no feature where you need to test a map to see if it works before it gets published, so broken maps are thrown into the mix from left, right and center. A great highlight of playing maps is hearing Cave Johnson’s quirky, amusing voice. I feel like his voice may get annoying when playing multiple maps, because he only says one thing per map; and you may just encounter the same voice clip over and over. To download maps, you need to “subscribe” to your selected map through the Steam Workshop, where it will be downloaded and added to your queue. Again, since this is in beta stages, there’s a slight bug where the map might not actually download when it’s supposed to, or it may take longer than it should.
The bugs are many, but their affect is very minor, and if Valve manages to fix these before it’s 8th May release, then yet again, they will have released more solid DLC that many will come to enjoy for years. The DLC will be released for free on 8th May 2012 for PC/Mac. If you are in the beta and wish to play the shown map, search “The Single Path Maze” in the ‘Workshop’ for Portal 2.