Do the teams generally stay as they are, or is there flow between them?
KS: They usually shuffle around right after a project ships. People want to go do something else for a little while, and some people want to try something new. There definitely is an ebb and flow to things.
EW: Yeah. Generally, you work on what
you're interested in working on, and by the end of the project, a lot
of times, everybody comes together. We pull people in at the very end
-- some of the super-high level artists give us an art pass through
Portal. There's always people jumping on at the end, but yeah, people
sort of shuffle around and work on what they're interested in.
How did the idea for the developer's commentary come about?
KS: Well, that was something that was done in Lost Coast.
EW: I don't know who thought it up, but Gabe maybe decided to put it in there. It was popular in Lost Coast, so we've done it in every product since then. I'm assuming it will just keep going.
KS: Yeah, we've gotten lots of positive feedback about putting in developer commentary, so I can't imagine we'd stop.
EW: Yeah, I don't think we're going to stop. Hopefully it'll get better. There's a lot of features we'd like to add, sort of interactive visual displays and stuff that'll actually show you what levels looked like earlier.
Concept art and things?
I think it's pretty good, not just as something for people who are interested, but similar to director's commentary for movies, kind of. Have you gotten any feedback from aspiring developers?
KS: Yeah, we've gotten a few e-mails from people saying that the process was really interesting and they learned quite a few things.
EW: Yeah, and one of the goals of it is that even though it's commentary, to try and make it a little bit focused. Instead of having four of us sit in a room and ramble about what we think about the game, we try and actually make each little commentary node have something to say -- something interesting or some point to make about the game or the design.
KS: It's actually quite a good postmortem for us, too, where we can sit around and try and reminisce about "Well, I've worked in this area."
EW: Well, it's not actually a postmortem, because it's coming together in the crazy last four weeks before we ship.
KS: Well, we do have to think about it, though. (laughs)
It's maybe an end-mortem. The only design weirdness -- and I don't know if it's design or implementation or what -- that I found was whenever I would die in the water, I wouldn't know what was going on. Sometimes the portal gun would be lying there, and I could look around and stuff, but I couldn't move and wasn't quite dead yet.
KS: Yeah, part of that came about because... we used to have ragdolls, so whenever you would die, your player would ragdoll, so you could obviously tell you were dead.
It's something we
took out of the game at the last minute, because our ragdoll wasn't
acting properly, and would pose in odd positions and made us uncomfortable,
so we took it out, because we didn't like how it was looking. We didn't
get a chance to put in a really good signifier that you were dead.
Also, I didn't know what I could
do, because I had some movement ability still.
KS: Well, we wanted you to be able to look around while you were dead, to see what killed you. In some cases, the fact that you've got a free mouselook bound to where your corpse is really nice, especially if you got hit by an energy ball. We tried to focus the camera a bit on the energy ball, and it didn't work out so well.
It took me a while to realize I had to do something if I wanted to be alive again, unless I wanted to wait more.
KS: That's actually a Half-Life convention, that you have to click or press a key to come forward. It's something we had too.
That was something I should've known already!
EW: No, again, it's playtesting. We failed you.
KS: It's our fault. (laughs)