And now for something COMPLETELY different

Hi guys.

So in keeping with the theme of me rambling about everything and nothing all at once, I felt compelled to share some more knowledge with you all – from the surface of the moon.


For those of you who have been awake for the past 8 years you may have heard of the “Half-Life” computer game franchise – and if you have, you may have heard of “Portal”.

Probably my most favourite game ever

“Portal” is a hilariously dark humoured puzzle solving physics game…To coin a phrase, using the “Half life” game engine.

The very principle of portal is quite simple. You are presented with a variety of different problems that can be solved by using these “Portals”. The portals come in a rather tasteful Ford Focus Orange and Vauxhall Corsa Blue colour and can be placed independently on flat surfaces. When both portals are placed they form an instant fold in the space between, so you literally step through it. The game uses this principle to put you through several different levels using the portals to solve them.

The interesting part came when the game’s developers added another dynamic to the gameplay: Objects.

Specifically, an object that you would need to complete a puzzle. For example, climbing a ledge that was too high from ground level – the solution? Stick a box in front of it! – Design thinking in action!

The pinnacle of design and engineering - A box

However here was the problem – the box might be needed later on in the puzzle – but the user has left it behind. During the beta testing this happened innumerable times. Sometimes the user would remember the box – backtrack and retrieve it (which although making gameplay longer would be infuriating) or become completely stuck, get pissed off, and give up (or I would). So how do you get the users to take this box with them without spelling it out to them that they would need it for later puzzles? Paint it hilarious colours? Make it talk to you? Make it your friend?….Draw a cock on it?

Well actually all of the above…well, maybe not the last one.

I give you: The Companion Cube

Love at first sight - The Weighted Companion Cube

With its charming looks and quick witticisms it was love at first interaction, and wherever I went – my companion cube came with me.
Probably the most heartbreaking point of the game was when I was instructed to place the poor defenceless cube into an incinerator. I have never known true love since.

So what has this all got to do with design? Everything.
Whereas before the cube was a simple object that could be used and discarded after its initial purpose had been met, when an emotional value was attached to it, it became so much more. It’s a method still used in designing products today, and if you can engineer that bond, you can sell anything.


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