Hey everyone,

Stephen Ferguson (Level Designer) and Annemieke Eerkes (Programmer) here, developers of Portal Stories: VR and the award winning Portal Stories: Mel.

Portal Stories: VR will be launching soon, feel free to ask us anything about it or any of our other projects!

Store Page

Proof: https://twitter.com/PortalStories/status/732219473705439232 https://twitter.com/PortalStories/status/732288027872088065 http://steamcommunity.com/games/446750/announcements/detail/833542022388811225

EDIT: We are heading to bed but we will check back tomorrow if there are additional questions, Thanks for all the questions!

EDIT2: We are back again to answer any final questions you may have!

EDIT3: Thanks so much for all your questions! Until our next game!

Comments: 152 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Buxton_Water20 karma

In the early stages of the game, did you try experimenting with standard "portal" portals?

PortalStoriesMelDevs12 karma

There are a lot of technical limitations when making VR games and Portals are very expensive to render, you have to get 90fps with a high resolution screen so you need to fake as much as possible! That's not to say its not possible to do but it was not suitable for us.

JustSayTomato9 karma

What do you think of the portal-like Budget Cuts teleportation system?

PortalStoriesMelDevs9 karma

It is a great mechanic and works really well in Budget Cuts but we don't think it works for our game without changing the gameplay a lot.

roleparadise3 karma

Can you expand on this a bit more? Aspiring VR developer here, just want to learn from your experience.

Are portals something you wanted to implement but couldn't because of performance limitations? Or maybe you didn't find them practical in a room scale scenario? Or did you just prefer to focus on a teleportation system from the beginning?

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

It’s a little bit of everything. We wanted to expand the general teleport mechanic that a lot of VR games use to something more of a gameplay element, rather than just a locomotion solution. It’s also really hard to make sure that your vr game can be played in various room sizes. That’s why we always have relatively big pits in front of the anti-teleport fields, if they’d be too close to a walkable space you could just walk straight through it.
We are already on the performance limits on our game, and adding in portals would have definitely cost a lot of visual fidelity in the entire game. For example; we’d have to cut out Anti-Aliasing and probably downscale the resolution.

kernelle11 karma

Portal Stories: Mel was one of the best games I've ever played and thank you for that.

Have you ever had contact with the actual creators of Portal? Did they ever comment on you guys creating an arguably better Portal game?

Final question, what are you guys' favorite games?


PortalStoriesMelDevs7 karma

Hey kernelle, thanks! Glad you enjoyed our game! We have had minimal contact but a few individual developers at valve have said they liked our work, nothing official.

Favourite games: Witcher 3, Metroid Prime, Portal, Half-Life, Mass Effect, Audioshield - Stephen

Audioshield, Bioshock, Civilization, Dark Souls, Mass Effect, Portal, Settlers, Space Pirate Trainer - Anna

zeg68511 karma

Hey guys, thanks for this awesome (almost impossible) hard mod!

My question is: Did Valve contact you in any way about what you have done so far? If so, did they offer you a job or some kind of consideration for your work?

PortalStoriesMelDevs16 karma

We have had minimal contact with valve, we had some feedback from individual developers at valve but nothing official. No jobs offered :(

Mexander988 karma

How did you get the idea to Create a Portal VR Game, and how long did it take to complete?

PortalStoriesMelDevs12 karma

After the Aperture Robot Repair Demo added in the teleport ability I was instantly fascinated with it, it started appearing in lots of other games but I was always disappointed that it was used as just a movement system. I wanted to use the teleporting as an actual gameplay mechanic. From there the idea evolved in to making a small series of puzzles using this new mechanic.

We have been working on the game for around 3 months, pretty much all of the gameplay elements from Portal 2 had to be reprogrammed from scratch in Unreal Engine 4. All the levels and puzzles were designed over the course of a few weeks, although polishing it all up takes a lot longer!

QuestionAxer6 karma

Hey guys. Absolutely loved Portal Stories: Mel. I was blown away by the amount of detail in every little thing. Three questions:

  1. Do you happen to have high-resolution versions of the artwork hanging in the Aperture Science offices at the beginning of Portal Stories: Mel? They were so badass and I'd pay lots for physical copies!
  2. What challenges did you face in terms of designing for motion sickness in VR, specifically, falling through portals at high velocities? Valve mentioned their playtesters all kept getting sick.
  3. Is Portal Stories: VR going to be just as difficult as Portal Stories: Mel? I know many criticized it for being a bit too difficult, but I really loved the challenge it provided.

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

Thanks! (Glad to know some people noticed the detail I put in - Stephen)

  1. Our 2d Artist, Jacob Briggs actually does sell A3 posters of some of the artwork from Mel on GameTee
  2. We avoided moving platforms as much as possible and instead made small teleports. We did not use Portals as we couldn't think of a way to overcome those issues :( We do however use 2 new tools to navigate and solve puzzles in a new way!
  3. Portal Stories: VR was designed so that people who have never even played portal should be able to complete it, so it is a lot easier, it utilises some new mechanics specific to VR.

muthax20015 karma

What were some of the challenges you faced while developing the game? Is there a component or function of which you're most proud?

PortalStoriesMelDevs9 karma

It was quite a challenge to re-program quite a few mechanics over from Source to Unreal. The retrieval tool specifically turned out to be harder than expected. I also loved how the turrets turned out! Those guys are a lot scarier in VR! - Anna

Coming up with fun ideas for levels was quite challenging, with the teleport gun and the retrieval tool, if you can see somewhere you can teleport there and if you can see a cube you can grab it from any range. I worked height in to the levels and came up with gameplay elements such as the Teleport Displacement field to better work with this. To avoid motion sickness, we made a teleport pad instead of using lift platforms. For this project I wanted anyone to be able to play it, even someone who had never played portal 2 so I had to plan the difficulty accordingly.
I think I am most proud of how the turrets turned out, we werent sure how to utilise them in a fun way in VR and then I came up with the idea of having to duck behind cover to avoid them, its pretty fun and hilarious to watch - Stephen

MrFroho5 karma

What is the difficulty behind implementing the Portal Gun in a game like this, does our current locomotion restraints prevent this from being possible?

PortalStoriesMelDevs4 karma

There are technical limitations regarding VR and getting a steady 90fps with high resolution screens.
Motion sickness is a big concern when it comes to changing orientation and velocity without your body moving, it is not fun and can leave you with a headache and nausea for 30 minutes after :(

Tony16970 karma

Sorry but I don't get it. I get a stabel 130+ FPS on a 980ti in portal 2 with this max settings on a 4k screen. I guess a 970 coud do 90 fps too?

PortalStoriesMelDevs7 karma

This is however Portal 2, Portal Stories: VR runs in the Unreal Engine and performance is not comparable to Source.

RedPaperMoon5 karma

I just finished PS:VR and I must say bravo. The tests were interesting, the scenery is polished, and the extra scene at the end left me wanting more. Valve needs to talk to you guys about a full fledge VR Portal experience. Will you be doing more VR related games/applications in the future?

PortalStoriesMelDevs4 karma

Thanks very much, glad you liked our game! We are currently looking in to making our own IP!

barakicohen4 karma

Are there any plans for a follow up to Mel? The name Portal Stories seems to imply that, but I could be wrong. Any other big mods or games in the works?

PortalStoriesMelDevs6 karma

We are releasing Portal Stories: VR very soon which is a short campaign set in the Portal multiverse. We do not have plans for a 3rd Portal Stories game.
We do however have plans for brand new games in the future!

Dragon_Slayer_Hunter7 karma

There's never a third anything in games relating to Valve :(

PortalStoriesMelDevs6 karma

1, 2, 2056?

michaeldt2 karma

Looking forward to what you guys are working on. Thanks for making this and Portal Stories: Mel. Both are fantastic.

Do you have any current project you can share details of?

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

No details yet ;)

barakicohen2 karma

Will Portal Stories: VR be playable without VR? Or is it just a creative use of the capabilities of VR that must be experienced through VR?

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

Portal Stories: VR will only be playable in VR as it was specifically designed with VR in mind. We did look into adding traditional control methods but the experience is greatly diminished without VR and motion controls.

OllieTheChimp3 karma

How long does an average playthrough last?

Do you get to use the portalgun?

How does magnets work?

PortalStoriesMelDevs5 karma

For Portal Stories: VR an average playthrough is about 25 minutes, its just a short little campaign with some new mechanics utilising VR which we made in just 3 months.

We use 2 new tools, the Instant Teleport Gun and the Apparatus Retrieval Tool to solve puzzles, giving you something a little different the the Aperture labs.


demerkies3 karma

will you not make a 3rd sequal because it'll contains a 3?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

What is this "3" you speak of?

AnvitZero3 karma

What are your opinions on YouTube Let's Play videos?

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

We love them! They provide great feedback for us that helps us improve as developers to make better content in the future, see what we did wrong and what we did right!

Kestre3333 karma

Not in a negative way, but how do you justify the amount of time your team has invested into this as a free game? Is it just for fun? Resume cred? Skill building?

I'm grateful there are incredible developers who share their hard work, but puzzled how it's financially viable for you!

PortalStoriesMelDevs9 karma

Its fun and a great learning experience for us, also a nice piece to have in our portfolios! With these games we've gathered a lot of feedback and experience we can use to help us develop our own full fledged game in the future.

Thanks, unfortunately it is not very financially viable and this will probably be the last free title that we will be releasing.

Dawars003 karma

Will you (can you) make modding tools so that we can create our own puzzles in this fantastic world?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

We do not plan on releasing modding tools for Portal Stories: VR, it would take several months to implement a user friendly level editor in game.
If you want to make levels for Portal 2 you can always use the Portal 2 Authoring Tools Beta under the tools section on Steam, this is what we used to make Mel.

Jamie643263 karma

What were your favourite parts to develop in Portal Stories: Mel?

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

The levels were incredibly fun to design, build and iterate. Working on Portal Stories: Mel has helped us improve as developers to make better content, it was a huge task to undertake, we wanted to make something as high quality as an official game and we managed to push past every challenge we faced during development, it helps that me and Anna never give up :)

TheYagich3 karma

How many times have you fired Chris?

PortalStoriesMelDevs4 karma

Approximately 692,056 times.
Also Chris, if you are reading this... you're fired!

WELSH_BOI_993 karma

What's the future of Portal Stories?

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

At the moment we do not have any future plans for a Portal Stories 3, it is not financially viable for us to keep making free games. We do have plans to produce our own IPs in the future!

Fresh_C2 karma

Do you plan to continue with the 3d-puzzle genre for your next project? And will it be a VR game?

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

Yes we enjoy working on puzzle games, it may possibly be a VR game but we haven't decided yet.

RobKhonsu1 karma

What is your opinion on games which try to accommodate both flat screen players and VR players?

Personally as a player I'm very skeptical when I see a game which is for both flat screen and VR. I feel like concessions are made to make both experiences work and you're left with a game which is not the best that it can be on either a flat screen or in VR.

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

There’s a lot still to learn about VR for developers as well. I think some games do some amazing stuff. For example, “Keep talking and nobody explodes” is a great game that can be both played in VR and on a normal screen. VR does absolutely add something to the experience. Games like “Holopoint” also have the option for other people in the room to keep track of what’s going on. I think some asymmetrical local multiplayer (with one player having traditional controls, and one player being in VR) could be incredibly interesting as well. - Anna

Magictwic2 karma

What is the hardest part about making a VR game compared to a game like Portal Stories: Mel?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

There are a lot of factors to take in to account, motion sickness is a huge concern, it is also technically challenging as you need to get very high performance.
Its also a challenge to make something fun that utilises roomscale well, there isn't much point just adding VR to what could just be a non VR game.

Jfl312 karma

Did you find it intimidating coming to a much beloved franchise like portal and adding new lore?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

Yes we tried to keep things consistent with the existing lore, we also wanted our story to be quite separate and stand apart from the storylines in Portal and Portal 2.

JustSayTomato2 karma

It seems like the vast majority of Vive games are using Unity as a base engine (there are some high profile exceptions, but Unity seems to be the norm). What made you choose Unreal Engine, especially given that there's no easy path to move from Source>Unreal?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

We decided to use Unreal since I already got a bit of experience with it after experimenting with it for a little while. After we saw the HammUEr plugin release, we had an easy way to port Source levels over to Unreal.

With the levels in Unreal we only had to program the entire game and re-program a variety of Portal mechanics. - Anna

Unreal has a lot of nice inbuilt lighting systems for making things look nice and natively supports BSP geometry unlike Unity. Blueprints also made things a little bit easier to program. I have used both engines and I didnt really mind which, they both have support for SteamVR - Stephen

ultravix2 karma

When russian language will come?

PortalStoriesMelDevs7 karma

We don't have plans for subtitles at this time as they are a challenge to implement in VR.

TomasKr2 karma

What is the length of game?

PortalStoriesMelDevs4 karma

This is a short VR project we made in 3 months, it contains around 25 minutes of content.

kyle2732 karma

Just finished playing it myself, and wow, I never thought i'd be so afraid of elevators!

What was the 'ah-hah' moment when you were developing? When did Portal Stories: VR as a concept click?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

After playing the Aperture Robot Repair and trying out the teleport system they added I knew I wanted to use it as a gameplay mechanic and not just a movement system. Pretty much I woke up one morning and had a ton of ideas for puzzles utilising a teleport gun and thought of a sort of gravity gun as the 2nd controller tool - Stephen

VampireSausage1 karma

Would you rather fight 1 GLaDOS sized duck or 100 duck sized GLaDOSs?

PortalStoriesMelDevs4 karma

100 duck sized GLaDOS's!

Mewoko1 karma

I am sure that you have been asked this before or are about to be asked this, but:

I know you just released this game, but are you planning on releasing the game for Rift use too in the near future? Thanks!

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

We created this game with motion controllers in mind, if the Oculus touch uses SteamVR it might be possible to play. However we do not have access to Rifts so we cannot test if the game works or not.

GrammarWizard_1 karma

Will the two sequels announced on the ModDB page awhile ago still be a thing?

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

There are no plans for a 3rd Portal Stories game.

minorgrey1 karma

I've got Portal Stories VR downloading now and plan on giving it a go tonight! I know you've made a couple of great mods, but you do you have any plans for developing a paid game? You guys have garnered a lot of support already, so I would think releasing a full original game would probably be pretty successful.

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

Thanks, we are currently exploring our options for our first original IP. At this time this is our last free project.

starlordpants1 karma

Hey guys, great work on making this happen. What are some tips for keeping the game looking good and running at 90 fps using Unreal Engine?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

The trick is to keep things as simple as possible, and fake as much as possible.

Simple materials, merging meshes together, avoid complex collisions. Use mostly static lighting.

Also, Unreal engine 4.11 with instanced stereo rendering also significantly improved the performance compared to 4.10.

NazdarReddit1 karma

Impressive mod! How did you manage to fund yourselves this far? Do you ever wish you could go back and charge for your work?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

We have made these projects in our free time to show our love and dedication to the portal series as well as expanding our own skills and portfolio.

No, we could have made Portal Stories: Mel and Portal Stories: VR paid products but we wanted to make the games available for as many people as possible and get more feedback so we could become better developers.

Unfortunately this will most likely be our last free project as its not financially viable to continue making free games. We do have plans for future IPs though!

damagepy1 karma

Aperture Science Innovators use a Salt-mine... there are a lot of salt! Cave Johnson likes Lemons! Lot of lemons. So they had a lot of resource to do Tequila shots (with lemon + salt). The reason of the "accidents" and glitches were that the scientists and staff was drunk all the time including Cave Johnson? :) Real question: how long was the biggest map's compile time?

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

For Portal Stories: VR about 3 hours for the longest compile, for Mel, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

2EyeGuy1 karma

Could you add VR support to Portal Stories: Mel, even if it makes us sick and might only run at 45 FPS in some places? We'd still love to try it.

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

No this would be too huge a task and take months of work and still be an issue that would prevent players being able to play without motion sickness.

Ch00balicious1 karma

I'm just dying to know; what was the biggest technical challenge you encountered during development?

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

If a laser went through a fizzler it would fizzle a cube, so that was interesting!

redn20001 karma

I fell in love with Portal stories: Mel when you guys released it. I just wish I had the cash to drop on a Vive.

And I was wondering, you said you want to release your own games later on, will they still be on steam? And will any of these games involve the Source engine or something totally new? I'd love to buy whatever it is you come out with.

PortalStoriesMelDevs2 karma

Yes they will probably be on Steam and probably running the Unreal Engine!

balr1 karma

First off, congratulation on such a fine piece of work. Very impressed.

Was the GNU/Linux build of the game hard to complete and maintain? How was your experience with it? How much do you feel that the Source Engine made is easier/harder for you to work with?

Harry101UK1 karma

Thank you! We're glad you liked it! ^_^

How much do you feel that the Source Engine made is easier/harder for you to work with?

If you're referring to PS:VR - this is actually built entirely in Unreal Engine 4! Source 1 does not support VR / Vive roomscale currently, and Source 2 is not publicly released! ;)

balr2 karma

I totally forgot that PS:VR is not Source like PS:Mel but Unreal Engine 4! Well at least UE4 supports Linux so I still have some hope we'll see a Linux build eventually (provided HTC Vive ends up supporting Linux in the first place).

You mentioned Source 2... are you waiting for Source2 to work with it in some ways?

PortalStoriesMelDevs1 karma

Once the Vive supports Linux we will be looking in to getting it working.

StipularEight95-1 karma

Will you guys ever port Portal stories: mel to a console (like the 360)????

PortalStoriesMelDevs3 karma

Incredibly unlikely, this would be incredibly expensive for us to do and is impractical for mods.