• Fintan Davies

The Beginning of Portal: Game Design Analysis Part 3

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Welcome to part 3 of my Game Design analysis of the beginning of Portal. In this blog I will be analysing both the decision making/complexity and the story.

The screenshots are from my own playthrough of the beginning of Portal (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020).

Difficulty Progression and Complexity (Hoppe, Andreas, 2020)

Fig. 01: Switch and Cube

My screenshot (Switch and Cube, 2020)...

· In the tutorial chamber, there is only one solution which is to place the cube on the switch (Fig. 01) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 07:54-08:12). It’s a very simple tutorial that shows the barebones goal on every chamber which is to open a door to enter the next chamber.

Fig. 02: The Portal gun

My screenshot (The Portal gun, 2020)...

· In the second chamber, you get access to the portal gun (Fig. 02) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 12:18-12:30). It is now up to the player to create a portal to progress to the next chamber. Before the second chamber, the portals were created by the game but now the player has to create a portal themselves.

Fig. 03: Crossing a gap

My screenshot (Crossing a gap, 2020)...

Fig. 04: The sixth chamber ceiling

My screenshot (The sixth chamber ceiling, 2020)...

The player however can’t create a portal in every part of a test chamber. Later chambers like the third (Fig. 03) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 14:30-14:40) and sixth chamber (Fig. 04) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 19:37-19:44) require the player to create a blue portal at specific parts of them. This includes floors and walls.

Fig. 05: Raised platforms

My screenshot (Raised platforms, 2020)...

· In the fifth chamber, two switches are introduced (Fig. 05) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 17:13-18:17) whereas in previous chambers, only one switch was in them. This time the player has to consider manipulating two objects with specific portal placements.

Fig. 06: Death state

My screenshot (Death state, 2020)...

· In the sixth chamber, dying is now a possibility (Fig. 06) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 19:11-19:28) whereas you couldn’t in the previous chambers. The player can create a portal anywhere on the floor and wall but they now have to be careful of where they’re standing in the chamber because the energy ball can kill the player.

Fig. 07: Portal placements

My screenshot (Portal placements, 2020)...

· In the eighth chamber, timing your portal placements and positions twice is now key to finishing the chamber (Fig.07) (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 22:37-22:50). Before this chamber, one portal could be placed in a certain position without having to time it. There are now more than one portal placement that the player has to consider.

The Story (as it unfolds) (Hoppe, Andreas, 2020)

· Before the beginning of the game, Chell was a test subject. She rebelled against Aperture Science and was then placed in detention at the relaxation vault.

· When the game begins, Chell wakes up in the relaxation chamber and is then tasked by GLaDOS to complete the 19 test chambers (Fintan Davies Sound, 05:18-05:58).

· GLaDOS’ role in the story (as far as up to the eighth chamber) is to give advice to Chell on how to complete the test chambers, explain the function of objects in the game environment and what she should avoid.

· She also malfunctions during her dialogue (Fintan Davies Sound, 2020, 05:47-05:53) which makes her a mysterious character that we, the player, want to find out more about. This mystery forms part of the player’s motivation to keep playing the game.

This concludes Part 3 of this blog! Thank you for reading this series of blogs! I had a lot fun writing them and I hope you enjoyed reading them!

Reference list:


Heading structure by Hoppe, Andreas from an unpublished offline education workshop document, Game Analysis Workshop: Portal (14 October 2020).


Switch and Cube (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

The Portal gun (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

Crossing a gap (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

The sixth chamber ceiling (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

Raised platforms (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

Death state (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

Portal placements (2020) [My screenshot] Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

Youtube video:

Fintan Davies Sound (2020) Great Game Design: The Beginning of Portal. 19 October. Available at: (Accessed: 19 October 2020).

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