OK, so, it's been a month since I last posted. That's not so great. Considering my audience size is about two, it probably doesn't matter, but whatever. It's been a while.
So, I bought the Orange Box, which may explain some of that absence of posting. Half Life 2: Episode Two was fabulous, and like all good things left you wanting more.
The more surprising thing in the box was Portal. I was expecting an interesting puzzle game involving portals (create your own "holes" in walls, go in one and you'll come out the other). What caught me (and many others) off guard was the very subtle and very funny story that ties the game together. To top it all off, it has one of the best credits sequences in any game.
Really, Portal is just a nearly perfectly executed game, and meshes perfectly with Valve's game design theory. They always design their levels to teach players the skills they need, and then give them progressively harder problems to solve with those skills. The story that helps hold that together involves an insane, homicidal computer running the show, but this aspect is only gradually introduced. In fact, the story is so subtly introduced I have read raging debates on the forums about what different parts of the story actually mean. That people care that much about the story is perhaps the greatest indication about how well done this game is.
More to the point, I wish I had made it. :-)
At least it gives me some good ideas on how games I'm working on should be designed, and hopefully help make them better.
As usual, Yahtzee has generally captured the essence of what I'd like to say in Zero Punctuation.