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Lost Chamber Zero by ebola

Lost Chamber Zero is a new insight to how custom maps for Portal should be built. Straight off the bat the level gets going with some unique puzzles and designs, along with introducing a new game play mechanic unseen in even the official Portal maps. A button which does not open a door, but in fact exists to stand on the button (or use a cube) to begin the platforms movement. Releasing the button allows the platform to move back towards you, all of that piled in with a big tub of poisonous water leads to some innovative ways of solving puzzles.

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The design of the level sticks very close to official Portal chambers, and you would have no trouble recognizing the game from a single screenshot. The level design is visually pleasing, not too complicated and at the same time serves its purpose to the map. There are 4 to 5 puzzles to complete in Lost Chamber Zero and 2/3 chambers - depending on your play style these chambers may take a long time, or a short time. For any player however it is quite easy to diagnose the problem - it's just executing it. The puzzles will usually require the test subject to backtrack through areas they have previously done another puzzle, which is great; it allows the player to solve a different type of puzzle in an area they are already familiar with. One thing that was quite looked into here was cube loss - if you happen to run into a fizzler with a cube or your cube falls into the water, there is no way to get it back. Requiring a restart or to load a saved game. This also brings me to mention the lack of autosaves in the level. Right at the end I killed myself with an Aperture Science High Energy Pellet, and hadn't saved all the way through, pushing me back to the start; which in turn was quite frustrating.

Fizzlers are later on introduced to the level as part of a puzzle - at the same time so is the Aperture Science High Energy Pellet. This puzzle is fairly quick and doesn't take much brainpower, but at the same time is very clever. There is no music in this level to pump you up for the puzzles, but you can easily enjoy the level without it. The lack of GLaDOS voices takes away from the Portal feel by a pinch, but you still feel you are being watched at all times, as a use of a camera takes place in this map, sooner or later you will find yourself side by side to this camera - eerie.

The map is unfortunately short and ends just as you begin to become enticed with Lost Chamber Zero. Though nothing has been heard from Ebola as far as making a new map goes, I'm sure he won't stop here. The space in the map has been utilised greatly though and still delivers a juicy amount of game play and puzzles.

I was also lucky enough to score an interview with the very Ebola about the design and development process of Lost Chamber Zero.

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Quote:
Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Hi Tom. Thanks for taking time with me to discuss the development process of Lost Chamber Zero. Now, first things first, it's safe to assume that anyone that can use Hammer and has made maps in the past was looking forward to mapping for Portal perhaps even more than playing the actual game, so with that said a lot of people began to make plans and ideas for new maps. Did actually putting your ideas down into Portal prove to be a more difficult task than you once thought?

Tom "ebola" Chiu Actually, putting my ideas down to Portal gave me lots of headaches. There are very many things to consider that makes you redesign and redesign again. The most obvious one is making your puzzle work. Then, once you get a playable puzzle you have to test out the playability; I didn't feel like releasing the map until I was sure the players can get a good idea what they're suppose to do.

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: With a lack of SDK, all mechanics such as the ball catcher had to be implemented by the user and there were no prefabs unlike in the official SDK when ever it is released. Many discussions went about on the forums about how difficult they were. How much time and effort did this take and how much trouble did it add to making Lost Chamber Zero? How long did the map take to finish from start to end?

Tom "ebola" Chiu Oh boy, being the first map, it was more like an adventure I would say. I never had this much trouble mapping since the old days, but also never had this much fun. Everyone is on a new playing field here, so every day there are new discoveries. Working around the SDK was actually not that hard and to be honest, the decompile tool was a godsend. Without it, I could definitely not have figured how to do certain things such as the combine launcher/catcher nor the elevator at the end. With that being said, it took about 32 hours of work in Hammer and 4 hours on paper to design the map.

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: ThinkingWithPortals has indeed grown, and a personal thanks to you for being a contributing part to our community. How much help did you request from TWP and how much did it contribute back? How much of a lifeline was TWP to your design process?

Tom "ebola" Chiu Haha, the best thing about the TWP is that it really is a heart-warming community. I find newbies asking the worst questions ever, yet finding the sanctity of aid. It wasn't so much the technical stuff that TWP helped me with, although a couple of the members did answer some of my hard questions. It was more along the lines of helping with the testing and getting very beneficial criticism and even birthing new ideas. That is what drew me to the community in the first place. That and msleeper's hot ass.

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Haha, well as the first spotlight map ever at TWP does this inspire you to make another map at the hopes of maybe seeing another of your maps there once more?

Tom "ebola" Chiu Well, I can't promise anything except that the next map will be better than my first one. I have put a lot more thought into this next map and I think it will be a good one. Hopefully, we'll see a release if not at the contest then soon afterwards.

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Finally, the map is visually pleasing. The build isn't too complicated and at the same time still serves as a Portal chamber map. How much did you focus on the looks of the level, and did you build the mechanics first, or the visuals?

Tom "ebola" Chiu I am very methodical in my mapping. I always put my map design on paper first; then, I work on the puzzle itself. I usually test after every room is done and test the map, fix it, and test again, until I fix everything I can myself before moving on. I don't work on any visuals until I finish the map, because I consider the puzzle itself more important. However, I do consider it a very big factor, and I think it's also part of the reason my map has been successful. After I finish the map in terms of playability, I took a deep breathe, then moved onto the visuals. It actually took a large part of my time because I am a perfectionist. I usually end up adding a lot more detail then I intend. If you take a look at my first map, you'll see pointless details such as blue hall lighting at the beginning, extrusions from the metal walls, roping and piping from the bts areas and even bubbles in the sludge, if you happen to like sludge. :)

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Thanks for your time Tom.

Tom "ebola" Chiu: You're welcome, and now I must hurry to my class!

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The map has unique design and is visually pleasing. It introduces a few new mechanics unseen in the official Portal maps. The puzzles aren't too easy and at the same time they aren't hair pull material. The level includes clever hazards and visually looks great. The puzzles aren't hidden and are usually a snap to work out what to do. The level requires backtracking through the level, which allows you to see more sexy visuals of the map. It includes an advanced chamber/challenge version of the map.

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Cubes can be lost to fizzlers and poisonous water - and with no cube dispenser you can only retrieve a cube by reloading the level. There is a strange bug in the upper chamber which allows you to place Portals on the floor, but does not allow you to go through them. The map is sadly short and seems to end just as you are getting into the level.

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Game play: Fluent and very Portal like but a few bugs - 4/5
Design: Awesome looking and playable - 5/5
Puzzles: Not too difficult and not too easy - 5/5

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Unmissable Play!

Life is like a pipe, it's hard to get through and you're not always guaranteed a happy ending.

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Grudge's review of Lost Chamber Zero is a triumph for the Portal Mapping community. Setting a high standard, he takes a deeper look at a map that a screenshot can't encapsulate.

By covering all aspects of the map, and even getting a miniature "developer commentary" by interviewing the mapper, this review engenders extreme confidence in the reviewing abilities of Jack "Grudge" Ryan.

I was actually able to catch up with the author of the review for a quick word.

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Quote:
John "Hober" McClane: Welcome to the party, pal!

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Uhh... thanks? What's with the gun?

John "Hober" McClane: It's okay. I'm a cop. Trust me, I've been doing this for eleven years.

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: So, uh... How about my article? Shouldn't we talk about that?

John "Hober" McClane: Yeah, so my captain keeps telling me.

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Look, are we here to have an interview about my review, or what?

John "Hober" McClane: No fucking shit lady, do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza?

Jack "Grudge" Ryan: Look, whatever. I got stuff to do. Call me when you're ready to talk about my review. We can get together and do this for real.

John "Hober" McClane: Yeah, come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs...

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This review sets a high standard that may be hard to follow, but for now, we'll be waiting for the next good thing from Grudge!

"Games are made out of smaller games ? turtles all the way down, until you hit the game that is so trivial and stupid it isn?t deserving of the name." --Raph Koster

:lol: review!

Life is like a pipe, it's hard to get through and you're not always guaranteed a happy ending.

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This is an excellent review of a really good map. Good work setting the bar high in the review department. Now don't start slacking off on up-coming reviews :)

Unique things like this I think will help set TWP apart from the rest of the mapping community. A great first step in a good direction. I give this review a 10/10.

Rivid31 wrote:
This is an excellent review of a really good map. Good work setting the bar high in the review department. Now don't start slacking off on up-coming reviews :)

Unique things like this I think will help set TWP apart from the rest of the mapping community. A great first step in a good direction. I give this review a 10/10.

Thanks very much, it's appreciated. :)

Life is like a pipe, it's hard to get through and you're not always guaranteed a happy ending.

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