Portal 2: Desolation is a fan project in development, a brand new single-player campaign within the Portal. It’s basically a community-created Portal 3, or at least Portal 2.5, created “as a tribute to Valve’s iconic series”, as Emberspark Games puts it. The developers spent the last year making Desolation’s graphics look slick, which meant completely replacing the source engine’s rendering and lighting pipeline.
While Portal 2 already looked cool, its lighting was integrated through a separate editor once the levels were set, and the results could only be seen after the maps were compiled. Any changes to light sources meant recompiling again, which is time consuming, especially as maps get larger and compile times increase.
The Desolation team added a real-time lighting system so the lighting can be changed as they go. It looks nicer too. I think the most impressive part of the whole showcase, which you can watch above, is when the red lights from the turrets illuminate the pipes and other surfaces as they sparkle on them.
The Desolation team has also worked hard to improve surface rendering, reflections, and more. Their goal was to ask, “What would Aperture Science look like if it got the same treatment as City 17 for its enhanced representation in Half-Life: Alyx?” I would appreciate a Portal game even if it didn’t look brilliant, but this work is still quite impressive and certainly answers the question they wanted to ask.
Desolation’s campaign will feature original characters and locations, and will be set years after the events of Portal 2. It will reportedly feature “hours of fast-paced puzzle-solving, driven by an epic new narrative.” That’s a hell of a promise, but let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope the Desolation team can deliver. Check their website for more information.