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Falstein: Portal The Game Industry's 'Wizard Of Oz'

Starting his new design column for Gamasutra, Sinistar co-creator Noah Falstein has been assessing Portal's longer-lasting cultural legacy, suggesting t
Starting his new design column for Gamasutra, Sinistar co-creator Noah Falstein has been assessing Portal's longer-lasting cultural legacy, suggesting that it is, "if not our Citizen Kane or Birth of a Nation, certainly our Wizard of Oz." The LucasArts veteran, who previously wrote the monthly design column in sister publication Game Developer magazine, particularly praised the level of polish brought to the Valve-created title, noting: "Ultimately, one clearly positive lesson [the Portal developers] followed is one I've heard echoed by such luminaries as Sid Meier and Will Wright; to iterate the design frequently and test it with fresh players over and over again. This is an important way to keep from tweaking a game to be gradually harder and harder as the same testers grow bored and keep requesting tougher challenges. Project Leader Kim Swift has mentioned how they constantly adjusted the game to make it understandable to beginners. This is a supremely accessible game -- you may feel challenged at times (I know as a fairly basic action player I had trouble mastering some of the timing required at higher levels) but it was always clear what I had to do, and it never felt far out of my reach. Conversely, it felt tough enough that I had a very strong sense of accomplishment and victory -- what Nicole Lazzaro refers to as Fiero -- when I came up with ways to get through the levels." In summing up some of his feelings about the title, Falstein, who has been working in the game industry since 1980, comments: "I see Portal as an example of how games are wonderful at evoking triumphant emotion. It represents a culmination of many aspects of game development -- clean, fun and original game elements, the maturation of storytelling and sophisticated use of humor, and use of physics and fast 3D rendering that just wouldn't have been possible even a few years ago. The game just makes me proud to be a game developer myself. It may take decades before the games industry enjoys the same level of general respect as an entertainment and art form that film has now, but when that time comes people will point to Portal as, if not our Citizen Kane or Birth of a Nation, certainly our Wizard of Oz." The full Gamasutra design column by Falstein is now available on the site, including lots more insight and commentary into the thoughts behind the Game Developers Choice Awards 2007 Game Of The Year.

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