Azrian's Chambers is the first level I created using the Portal 2 level editor. Within this level are three different chambers that vary in design, puzzles, and interactions. Each chamber's puzzle must be completed before moving on. With each solved puzzle/completed section, the subsequent puzzles only become more challenging. Will the player be able to solve all Azrian's Chamber puzzles, or will they be trapped there forever?
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While designing the base architecture of Azrian's Chambers, I wanted to create three chambers that vary in their X, Y, and Z dimensions. This was done since each room's dimensions affected the puzzles I designed for the separate chambers. Furthermore, the rooms' dimensions were designed to make solving the puzzles within them a unique experience. Thus, when compared to solving various puzzles in chambers whose dimensions are the same, having differing structural aspects add an extra level of intrigue. This also aligned with my rule for structuring each Azrian's Chambers. Each chamber's dimensions would increase slightly to enable more space for scaling puzzle difficulty. Given that the first two puzzles were designed to build upon each other. Thus, when faced with the third chamber, the player isn't overwhelmed or gets confused about what general actions are required to solve the puzzle.
Once I was finished with the architecture of each room, they were woven together by small passageways/tunnels. These were used to mark the completion of one area once passed through and the entrance to the next chamber. Furthermore, these hallways were designed so that the next/end goal point was always located within the player's vision once they entered the room.
Chamber 1 Puzzle
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When I was designing the first puzzle the player would encounter within Azrian's Chambers, there were a couple of design rules. First, this puzzle was meant to be relatively easy. As such, it was designed to take a few minutes to solve for someone who had yet to acquire hours of experience within Portal 2 or other puzzle games. Of course, the veterans would be able to solve this puzzle rather quickly, but that was okay given the puzzle's primary role within the level.
This role was to warm the player up to specific puzzle design mechanics and how certain items within the environment were designed to interact with each other. This leads to my second rule followed when creating this chamber, which has a distinct theme in terms of interactions used. This meant not overcomplicating the section by adding all these various interactions/puzzle mechanics. Instead, stick to a couple of mechanics and use them uniquely but straightforwardly, given the puzzle's desired difficulty.
With this in mind, I began selecting various puzzle mechanics I intended to add to the first chamber. Following my design rules, I decided the theme to be around differing buttons/cubes and their interactions with fizzlers and a traction beam. For the sake of this puzzle following the path of simplicity, it was designed to be solved using no more than ten interactions with the environment. Thus keeping the straightforward nature of the puzzle. While in turn, since the puzzle being designed around being a building block for future puzzle encounters, gives the player a sampling of what is to come in a later chamber.
Designing Azrian's Chamber:
Chamber 2 Puzzle
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With the first chamber puzzle complete, tested, and checking off the box of all the rules I had set for its design, it was time to move on to the second chamber. During the design process for the second chamber, I wished to craft a puzzle somewhat different than the one found in the first chamber. The reason for this is that the second chamber, like the first, was to be an interaction building block for the player to learn, overcome, and thus prepare them for the final section. Therefore, I didn't allow the puzzle to be based on buttons, fizzlers, or tractor beams. Although a singular button and tractor beam are used, they are more meant to hint at what interactions lay ahead in the final chamber.
Armed with this base desire to design/create a different puzzle than that in the first chamber, I began to develop. Since buttons, fizzlers, and tractors weren't allowed to be used as a mainstay cog within this puzzle machine, I switched to a different type of puzzle, a reaction and velocity puzzle. These puzzles use game mechanics other than standard button/lever-based environmental interactions.
Instead of moving objects or the player character by walking, launchers, as I call them, are used as the mainstay method of traversal. However, a couple of essential aspects had to be considered while designing chamber two's puzzle: distance, speed, and angle of other objects within the room. Furthermore, how these aspects will interact with whatever objects are sent flying from the launchers. Knowing this, I placed launchers and angled platforms around the section. They were always located in view of the player and in a manner that created a visual order of usage. As such, the player wouldn't shoot portals at platforms too high up, given that the launch object wouldn't have the velocity or angle to cover the distance required. This order of usage was also backed by the various angles of the platforms and the dimensions of the chamber, making it more evident to the player that they can't shoot a portal up to the final platform and expect the cube to cover the distance needed to solve the puzzle.
However, this balance of speed, distance, and angle of both platforms and launch angles required much more testing than the first chamber. The reason is that, unlike the first puzzle, the launcher-based puzzle had more details that needed to be altered or improved to enable the ability to solve the puzzle and reduce an element of RNG. For example, the RNG from this puzzle was the cube's rotation and the placement of portals on the angled platforms. The RNG issue was mainly addressed by altering platform angles for a more comprehensive array of possible cube rotations. Which, through testing, appeared to reduce the number of collisions causing the cube to lose speed and splash into the pool below. With the cube collision problem addressed, it was time to move on to the final chamber.
Designing Azrian's Chamber:
Chamber 3 Puzzle
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I returned to the other two rooms during the final chamber's design process. The reason and logic behind this action were simple; take sections of each previous puzzle that made them unique and find methods of combing these design ideas into one compound puzzle with its distinctive feature. The critical parts that comprised the first puzzle incorporated the combination of fizzlers, angling tractor beams, and buttons requiring a specific block type. The essential puzzle mechanics within chamber two were the launchers and their launch angles. Furthermore, the other integral parts were the various platforms and their different angles located throughout the room.
Keeping these critical parts of puzzles 1 and 2 in mind, I started to design the third and final puzzle. Much like the previous rooms, the dimensions set during the structure phase played a crucial role in how this puzzle functioned. Knowing these dimensions, I began designing the angles of both the launchers and platforms throughout the third chamber. I add an element not seen in the previous section during puzzle three's design process. This addition launches the player as part of the puzzle's solution. Furthermore, due to the puzzle's built-in reaction puzzle type, I designed a piece of the puzzle in which the player had to react in time to open a portal on a raised platform. Given that this might trouble some players, I ensured it would take only a few seconds to try again, even if they missed. The platforms' various angles were designed to fling the player back to the chamber's entrance, thus enabling these easy retries.
Although adding this reaction-based section wasn't just thrown in there, part of a plan to add more elevation during the puzzle-solving process. As such, the player would fling themselves along with a cube up to the over watch position in the center of the right wall. Within this small over watch position was a cube-button that was attached to the fizzler below that stopped any attempt to power down the laser wall. This small section was based on the fizzler and button combo found within the first puzzle and thus at this point should be easy for the player to solve.
However, with all this said, this high-point section wasn't just created to add a puzzle element familiar to the player at this point in their playthrough but enable them to see the whole puzzle from more of a top-down view. Using this over watch location, environmental interactions, objects, angles, and or walls that enable portals all become visible to the player. Thus the primary purpose of this section is to give the player a visual overview of what needs to be solved and interacted with to complete this puzzle.