How to Create Your Own Portal 2 Test Chambers

I can’t remember when the last time was that a game had as much impact on geek culture as the Portal series. Perhaps Half-Life came pretty close, which explains why Valve is such a powerful force in the gaming world today.

Speaking of today, Portal 2 has received a free update that allows players to design their own tests for other Portal fans to enjoy. You can build your own deadly chambers complete with traps and seemingly impossible puzzles that other players can attempt to solve.

Here’s how:

Accessing the Perpetual Testing Area of Portal 2

Portal 2 received a free update by way of Steam, so you should be able to access this area once you’ve updated your Portal install. For most people, this is done automatically. If you don’t have automatic updates enabled for your Steam programs, you can activate this feature by doing the following:

  • Open Steam.
  • Right-click on Portal 2 in your game library.
  • Select View Downloadable Content.
  • Click the Updates tab.
  • Under Automatic Updates, choose Always Keep This Game Up to Date.

Alternatively, the update should download as soon as you attempt to launch the game. This may not always be the case (on all Steam platforms), but it is at the time of this writing.

Once you have the game updated, you need but to launch it and select Community Test Chambers from the main menu. Here, you can view your workshop (collections of chambers you like or have made), play on community-made test chambers, and make your own by selecting Create Test Chambers.

Creating the Chamber

Much of the test chamber creation process is click and drag. In fact, you really don’t have to use the keyboard at all. Isn’t that cool?

All right, so modifying the chamber walls can be done by clicking a single wall square and dragging your mouse so that you highlight all of the wall squares you wish to modify, then opting to either move or expand (the mouse cursor will turn into a four-way arrow or a simple push-pull arrow icon when you’ve hit the right spot) the squares where you want them to go. Right-clicking any square or group of squares brings up an options menu where you can opt to change the type of block (portable or non-portable) delete the block, or perform any device-specific functions. With gels and other objects, you can opt to enable a dropper which will actually launch the gel into your chamber. Oh, and even that can be adjusted so the stream is anywhere from a drip to an explosion.

So, if you want to start dropping objects in your test chamber, you can mouse over the left-hand side of your screen, which will pull up a list of devices. If you want to install a laser emitter or a faith plate, you need but to click and drag the object into your chamber. Once set, you can rotate it or move it around by clicking the object and doing so. Pay attention to your mouse cursor as it will indicate what action you’re actually taking once you click.

Buttons can be linked to various other objects and even set on a timer, allowing you to add some interactivity to the chamber. For example, you could set a button out and link it to a cube dispenser or even a door on a timer, giving your test subject a limited amount of time to accomplish the next stage of the test.

Publishing, Saving, Rebuilding, and Game View

If there is one part of the builder that, to me, wasn’t entirely intuitive, it was the File menu. By moving your mouse to the upper-left corner of the builder, you will be able to access a menu that allows you to start a new chamber, open a previous project, save your project to the current file, and even save your changes to an entirely new project.

Alternatively, you can publish your build to the community and allow the world to try out your new test chamber. Publishing can be done so that the world, your friends, or only you can see the chamber.

While you’re building your test, you can try out your current build by selecting Rebuild… and hitting TAB, which switches you to game view. This is a great way to try your chamber out before committing to publishing it.

Final Thoughts

This new release really brings new life to the Portal series, which itself has been riding on a multi-year momentum brought on by a combination of sheer entertainment value and geek culture. You can’t seem to escape Portal merchandise at a geeky convention, and the song featured on the final credits has received radio play, countless covers, and even a prestigious spot in Guitar Hero 3.

Opening test chamber building to the community is one method to greatly increase the replayability of Portal 2. Players can build and experience new levels and minigames that may challenge new players on a level GLaDOS may not have been able to. After all, she’s really a softie at heart… I think.

4 comments On How to Create Your Own Portal 2 Test Chambers

  • WOAH!! *Launches Steam*
    Awesome article!! 🙂

  • WOAH!! *Launches Steam*
    Awesome article!! 🙂

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    NICE! This seems better then the old fashion way to make maps for a source game, which was to download the source engine it’s self and create your own maps for a specific game. I could see myself doing it this way.

    • I agree. I downloaded Hammer before and tried making a few maps, but it was such a pain just to create a room and link up some puzzle elements that it wasn’t really worth it to me. Now that the new level editor is out, it’s so much easier and user-friendly. Plus, it’s a lot easier to play user created maps as well (it beats putting the BSP files into your Portal 2 folder).

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