Valve On Portal 2: Spoiler Interview Part One

By John Walker on April 27th, 2011 at 12:06 pm.

Finally I can use most of my screenshots.

In an exclusive interview with two of Portal 2‘s writers, Chet Faliszek and Jay Pinkerton, we take the opportunity to discuss the game now most people have finished it. In the first part of our spoiler-packed chat we discuss the motivations behind the sequel’s content, favourite Easter eggs, and how Portal 2 almost contained no GLaDOS, no Chell, and even at one point, no portals. Have we mentioned that there’s spoilers?

RPS: How do you approach a sequel after a self-contained story? How much of things like bringing GLaDOS back was by necessity?

Chet: It didn’t start that way. We always experiment, try new things, goof around. And it way off tangent, crazy, no GLaDOS, no portals.

Jay: He’s not kidding. At one point there were no portals, or GLaDOS. We try everything and we playtest everything.

Chet: That’s the way we work. The game’s been in development for a while. There’s a small core team that starts on it, and they start experimenting with ideas, see what’s interesting. The original goal was the have the sense of Portal, the feel and vibe of Portal, and what else happened was open. A lot of those experiments then get integrated into the core experience. People wanted more portals, they wanted GLaDOS, they wanted to be Chell.

RPS: Why do people want to be Chell? A character with whom you have no connection.

Chet: I don’t think they wanted to be Chell. I think they wanted to be the person who killed GLaDOS.

Jay: You don’t want to meet GLaDOS in the second game and she has no recognition of you. There is a lot of back and forth, with game design, all these new mechanics, and then they come to us and we try to fit story, and that suggests new things for the design. At one point two years ago some Cave Johnson dialogue got leaked – so I can now tell you, two years ago Cave was the bad guy in Portal 2 and GLaDOS wasn’t in the game. It was a prequel. We liked the character enough that we snuck him into this.

RPS: The Cave section is almost like a prequel. Was that the desire to keep that section in?

Jay: Originally we were almost seeing how far we could push the line, and at some point, with saner heads, we realised, you know what, we want to see GLaDOS again. We want Chell back. It was us trying to try new things, but then I think realising that we missed a lot of the elements that made the Portal 1 story.

Chet: One of the cool things about Portal has been Aperture Science itself. So there was a lot more about Aperture Science. At one point we said, “Let’s just put it in Aperture Science and worry about the rest later.” So you have the whole of, they keep trying stuff, and as it goes bad they just brick it up, move on, never talk about that again.

Jay: Having said that, Portal 2 is two and a half times longer than Portal 1 – we couldn’t just have the same test chambers. It would have gotten fairly dull. So it was a lot of fun for us to create new characters. “Let’s explore this for a while… I think it’s about time GLaDOS came back – let’s see what she’s been up to.” Juggling those balls gave us more of a sense of momentum than it would have been if it was just GLaDOS hectoring you for eight hours.

Chet: We don’t have this big design document that we write out before we start a project, that we must adhere to at… all… costs… and… nothing… must… change. We do have things we do before running off. There’s goals, we’re not totally insane. But at the same time we’re not stuck to a plan. We’re way more flexible.

Jay: Other stuff snowballs. We came back and said, “Well, Wheatley’s going to be a villain now, and he’s also an idiot, so what would Aperture look like now it’s run by an idiot?” The level designers just had a blast. That snowballed, and we were bouncing back and forth. Certain things catch and they become these huge things. Similarly for us, our wishlist was Stephen Merchant, J.K. Simmons. And suddenly we heard back that they would do it, and those roles got more ambitious.

RPS: The original Portal was very funny, but felt like a puzzle game that was funny. Portal 2 feels much more like a comedy game. It seems to be a more important focus.

Chet: I think in the first one all that snuck up on you. That uneasy beginning, and then, “Oh, I can laugh.” How we start this one, we say, “It’s okay to laugh.” With comedy you kind of have to tell people sometimes that it’s okay to laugh. “You’re going to be laughing, you’re going to sit back and enjoy.” If you’re not laughing in the first ten minutes because of Stephen Merchant, you’re dead.

Jay: One telling thing, people often forget how minimalist the first game is. When they think about it, they tend to think about the break-out scene at the end. You don’t want to take people back to square one. You want to think where to go next from there.

RPS: There’s three writers, right? You guys and Erik Wolpaw. So which of you is it that has the horrible mother?

Jay: It was less mother issues than it was – and this is something that Erik was very adamant about – it was doing things you hadn’t seen before. There are so few strong female villains, that it was fun for us to write in a way that writing the stock Jeremy Irons villain wouldn’t have been. I think that’s true of a lot of the characters. We try to give them enough of a character that it’s not just shtick. They can get genuinely tender, they can get genuinely villainous. When Wheatley does his heel-turn at the end he drops the comedy pretence entirely – he’s just mad at you. And at the end of the credits sequence he’s genuinely sorry. It’s finding comedy in those moments, where it’s not just this one note. I think GLaDOS exemplifies that, where she’s not just this moustache-twirling villain.

RPS: But there’s also this maternal cruelty about her.

Jay: The passive-aggressive nature of her is definitely the through-line. She’s never going to overtly attack, it’s always these subtle mind games. Which again was super-fun for us when Wheatley was in charge, and trying the same thing. He’s ham-fisted in his approach, “Fatty-fatty-fat-fat.”

RPS: You give GLaDOS a bunch more motivation, too. Was a part of it looking at the first game and asking “Why? Why is GLaDOS evil? What motivates her?”

Chet: “What does she eat in the morning?”

Jay: I think a lot of it was the wishlist of: what do we want to do this time around? One thing I wanted to try was: wouldn’t it be neat to have you and GLaDOS as buddy cops against a new threat? It wasn’t until we started executing it that I realised that half of this buddy-cop team doesn’t talk, so that doesn’t work too well. So that required some last-minute rejigging. So it was this laundry list, we loved these characters, we’d lived with them for two years, so what would happen if we did this? What would happen if we did that?

RPS: What would happen if we put her in a potato?

Jay: Exactly. We’ve seen what happens when she’s imperious and in power. What happens when we strip away that power. A lot of that was a game of Jenga. You’re taking stuff off the bottom and seeing what happens.

RPS: The idea that when Wheatley goes into the machine he becomes evil too – it seems it’s an inevitability of being so powerful. Power corrupts?

Jay: Yeah, power corrupts absolutely, and if you’re an absolute moron it happens five times as fast. The other thing was, GLaDOS was able to handle it. I think it’s left vague whether she was ever under its control.

RPS: But as a potato, she does seem to be a nicer person. But that’s influenced by the discovery of her being Caroline.

Jay: When we playtested, we found a very stark difference between this imperious, all-powerful GLaDOS talking to you, and this powerless GLaDOS talking to you on your gun. And what we discovered was, point blank, no one wants to hear this woman telling you you’re an awful person, dumb and fat, while she’s sitting on your gun. People were asking, “Why am I carting this person along?” By a matter of necessity GLaDOS needed to have a character shift. She’s going to be your sidekick – she can’t just be needling you for a half hour.

Chet: Also, she’s a potato.

RPS: You’re motivated to keep her around, because you release she’s your only hope.

Jay: Something else Erik noted was there’s a difference between the player and Chell. When the player first stumbled on GLaDOS in early tests, the idea was that you as the player would turn her on. But no one wanted to. We were curious, because everyone wanted GLaDOS back. And we realised, yes they want her back, but as embodying the player they thought, “Why would I want this killer to turn back on again?” So there’s that same carried on – people wondering, why would I want this potato with me when she’s clearly this bad person who’s eventually going to betray me? Playtesting really helped us get that right.

[At this point Chet notices an odd, futuristic-looking Motorola device on the table we’re sat at.]

Chet: There’s a lot of Motorola gear here.

RPS: Were they in recently?

Chet: I’m pretty sure this is my gift. Gabe just left it here for me… I probably shouldn’t steal it.

Jay: You probably shouldn’t steal it on tape.

Chet: Can you just turn the tape recorder off for a minute because I’m clearly not going to steal the gear someone left here…

…Alright! Now we’re back, and the table’s fresh and clean.

RPS: So, there’s this turret on a conveyer belt, which I rescued.

Jay: Yeah, that’s an Easter egg. Not everyone picks that turret up.

RPS: She told me about Caroline. How did she know about that?

Jay: What’s the official name for the turret?

Chet: It’s the Oracle Turret.

Jay: Which tells you everything you need to know. My favourite Easter egg, which people can go find, is in the final act. Evil Wheatley has you on a conveyer belt which you can jump out of, with a spinny blade wall. You can jump out of that thing again and again, and he starts begging you to get back in, before restarting his super-villain speech. It’s always tickled me.

RPS: I loved the dismissive treatment of the Weighted Companion Cube. Obviously there was so much lunacy about a box with a heart on it – did that take Valve by surprise?

Chet: Yeah, if we would have known we would have had more cubes to sell.

Jay: One thing we all agreed on this time around was, once something becomes a meme it belongs to the world and not us any more. No cake, no companion cube. We could hear people’s eyes rolling if we went back to the cake.

Chet: But clearly if you haven’t finished the game yet, everyone else can talk about cool stuff and you’re out of it, so you’d better buy it.

RPS: I like the allusions toward cake, and GLaDOS’s cold dismissal of the Weighted Companion Cube might be the cruelest moment in the game.

Jay: But you do get your Weighted Companion Cube back at the end. And we can guarantee that’s the exact same one. It’s the Portal 1 companion cube.

RPS: Well, I am the person who painted one on my freezer.

Jay: I just put meat in mine.

Join us for the second and final part of the interview later this week.

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131 Comments »

  1. WASD says:

    John, do you ask them about the promotion/ARG/scam in the final part?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Probably not, as if it’s anything like the EG interview it was done a week or so before the game launched.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “So guys how about we stop talking about the potential GOTY and chat about something really fucking tiresome for a while?”

    • WASD says:

      @Lilliput King;

      “4) This one is tougher to figure out, really. To the best of our knowledge, as a result of the ARG, the game did come out a few hours earlier than certainly we’d been told to expect. Whether Valve oversold the possibilities of what might come about from people engaging in the Potato Sack CPU business is still up in the air. Clearly there are some who are upset that it didn’t bring the game out over the weekend as so many had hoped, especially if they paid for the Sack in the attempt. We’ll be contacting Valve to see if they want to comment on how it all went.http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/04/19/lets-address-some-portal-2-nonsense/

    • John Walker says:

      This took place before that weekend, and as such we did not discuss it.

    • jealouspirate says:

      There was no “scam”, there’s nothing to talk about. Portal 2 is a fantastic game, there’s no need to bash it because some people weren’t happy with the promotional material.

    • WASD says:

      Ok John.

      @jealouspirate; I’m not bashing Portal 2.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Can we all just agree that we’re not going to whine about the most minor of probably accidental missteps by Valve until after they’ve either:

      A) Released at least three bad games.

      B) Jacked the RRP of their game up $15 a month before launch for no reason.

      or C) Stopped giving away huge quantities of free material and providing excellent community support for their library of world class games?

    • Grape says:

      Steven Hutton, you are free to stop fan-wanking at any time.

    • shoptroll says:

      I was wondering if you guys got to talk to anyone with all the interviews cropping up all over the Internet.

      Looking forward to the other half of the interview. Having finished the game last night, I’m enjoying reading all the post-release interviews. Very interesting to read how the game changed over the course of development, although the prequel concept isn’t too surprising given the size of the Cave Johnson segment.

      Do you know if anyone interviewed any one else attached to the project? All the interviews focus on the writing. Which makes sense given the outstanding job they did with the dialogue, but I’d be curious to read a Q&A with the level and puzzle designers as well.

      Oh and curse that sneaky Quins simultaneously heading off to the Zenimax press event in Utah which made me think you needed two people to cover the amount of things they were showing. Should’ve stuck to my initial assumption!

    • WASD says:

      @Steven Hutton; How about we complain after Valve’s third bad gaming related decision?

      TF2′s item store
      L4D’s item store Coming soon, probably?
      Portal 2′s item store*
      Portal 2′s promotion/ARG/scam

      * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldPSITyKlaw&wl_token=mkwHi1fOXajcsADCc09hJfLLEd58MTMwNDAwNjA2NUAxMzAzOTE5NjY1&wl_id=ldPSITyKlaw

    • kavika says:

      @WASD: All optional.

      I thought the ARG was one of the coolest promotions I’ve seen for any product, considering that people who already owned the games (I owned 3 or 4) got new content for free, and could participate in a cool puzzle (actively or passively). The fact that they had a sale on those games was just gravy for those who didn’t pre-order earlier.

      I didn’t buy the package, not because I didn’t think it was a good deal, but because the extra games I did want minus the games I already had was less than their asking price. This situation was the same as every other games packages I’ve ever passed over or purchased off of steam. And I’ve bought at least 5, maybe more. They do them all the time. And most of them don’t get extra free content as a result of the sale…

      If I’m slightly annoyed at anything, it is that I didn’t get the better deals because I pre-ordered too early (before the potato pack). But I don’t mind because I still got a discount on something I was going to buy anyway.

    • dux says:

      @WASD – Of those 4 things you mention:
      One I can only disagree with – they’ve already given away a ton of free content for a game released for a nominal fee nearly 4 years ago, and again, is optional.

      One you made up entirely.

      One – the ARG – I simply cannot understand at all. Poorly implemented, perhaps. But a bad idea entirely? I think not, unless you want the same old tired forms of advertising you get with any other game release. Many people also seem to have missed the fact that the ARG cost a lot of money and development time on behalf of not just Valve, but the indie developers as well.

      That leaves one last point, which happens to be the only one I can agree with. The item store in Portal 2 is completely pointless and a bad move on Valve’s part, but as far as bad ideas go I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse. It doesn’t impact on regular customers in a negative way whatsoever, it’s just in rather bad taste and strikes me as something that would come out of Activision’s HQ rather than Valve.

      But for some reason the PC gaming community, which can only be described as fickle at this point, decides this is enough to launch into scathing attacks on Valve and sabotage the Metacritic scores of one of the finest games they have ever produced, despite the fact that they are one of the very few remaining high-profile developers committed to the PC as a gaming platform. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      Yeah, what a scam. A bunch of good games being sold for cheap, with bonus clues and activities thrown inside them for you to ponder over or ignore. Or, if you’re like me, you already owned half of them and decided not to pay a cent, and instead you got a bunch of neat expansions for free. Who do these arrogant jackholes think they are?

    • Defenestrated says:

      I bought the Potato Sack long before I even knew it was part of Portal 2′s promotion. It is full of great indie games, at least 4-5 of which I already owned, so that allowed me to gift some great indie games to friends. All for less than most single retail releases. Then I got a bunch of cool Portal related content for those games for free.

      If people are upset because they bought a bunch of awesome games (and supported great indie devs!) because it only released Portal 2 a few hours early… they must set themselves up for disappointment quite often.

    • dsi1 says:

      People think the ARG is a scam?

      Apparently fun is bad for you if you don’t have to pay for it!

    • battles_atlas says:

      I like to think of myself as a pretty contrary cunt, but the loud handful on here who insist on wailing about the slightest perceived misstep from what is very likely the best collective ever to associate with PC gaming really put me to shame.

    • whydidyoumakemeregister says:

      @shoptroll

      The developer commentary had quite a bit of information about different level design and stuff. Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as in depth as I’d hoped, and the fact that you can’t just turn on commentary at any point (and can’t save during commentary, so if you die you go all the way back to the beginning) is straight up fucking stupid.

    • WASD says:

      dsi1 wrote “People think the ARG is a scam?

      Apparently fun is bad for you if you don’t have to pay for it!

      The problem with that comment dsi1 is that some people did.

      Here’s something to read that RPS hasn’t had the balls to write about been allowed to write about as they haven’t had permission from Valve: http://gamasutra.com/view/news/33902/Opinion_The_Human_Spirits_Too_Good_For_ARGs.php

      John Walker wrote: “4) This one is tougher to figure out, really. To the best of our knowledge, as a result of the ARG, the game did come out a few hours earlier than certainly we’d been told to expect. Whether Valve oversold the possibilities of what might come about from people engaging in the Potato Sack CPU business is still up in the air. Clearly there are some who are upset that it didn’t bring the game out over the weekend as so many had hoped, especially if they paid for the Sack in the attempt. We’ll be contacting Valve to see if they want to comment on how it all went.http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/04/19/lets-address-some-portal-2-nonsense/

      Still no comment from Valve…
      Still no article from RPS…

    • dsi1 says:

      @WASD

      Yes it was an ad, an ad that provided enjoyment for hundreds of people. I’m not sure why you think everyone has a hidden agenda.

      Why did you pay for the Potato Sack if you didn’t want to play the games? I bought the Potato Sack even though I owned a 1/3rd or so of it already, gifted the extra copies to some other ARG players, and then enjoyed playing the new games I got.

      You may want to read your link: “But it was fun, right? Nobody was forced to do it, and Portal superfans were probably excited to find a way to engage with the new release they were waiting for. Some people just love solving problems, wondering what mysterious websites are about, competing with other people to see who can be the first to figure out a clue. ”

      That is what the ARG was, a game about games, a game that you paid for as much as you wanted, whether it be $0 or *whatever the Potato Sack costs*. If you paid for it and felt betrayed afterwards who’s fault is it? Is it any developer’s fault that you don’t like their games? Is it any more their fault when it was a game that you didn’t even have to pay for?

    • WASD says:

      @dsi1; Here’s the rest of the article:

      “Fine. But when I hear popular authors and speakers talk about all the amazing things users can achieve within the context of designed interactions, I’d rather them be a bit more honest; we’ll probably still play anyway. Give us an idea of what it’s all for and what we can expect — that way, you can surprise us by beating our expectations, not letting them down. And give us something for our trouble besides the joy of having been marketed to.

      Most of all, I don’t want to hear ARG designers or gamifiers or anyone like that talk about imagination, about fun and engagement, about the triumph of human spirit and creativity, when their work is best applied to glorified ad campaigns. That’s insulting, and it’s exploitive of everything great about human nature.”

    • dsi1 says:

      @WASD: We did get something other than great entertainment from the game about the game, we got great entertainment from the game afterwards.

      I’ve never seen people be against something so enjoyable before, it isn’t like the ARG is forcing you to buy anything, and if you did you have no one to blame but yourself.

    • WASD says:

      @dsi1; You’re missing the point.

    • Bornemannen says:

      The point is that the people that are angry and upset were expecting the ARG to be a Half-Life (Ep) 3 reveal and not “just” about Portal 2. It’s understandable that people would expect that but at the same time why make a big reveal like that before the release of a major title?
      I think that the ARG was a big success, it created a lot of buzz for the indie titles and for Portal 2 which I think was the whole idea from the start. It at least made me order Portal 2, something that I wasn’t planning before the ARG started up.

  2. Bilbo says:

    Bah, I want to read the rest of this now.

  3. Teddy Leach says:

    I’ve never understood the attachment to that bloody cube. I incinerated it without a moment’s hesitation.

    • Sky says:

      ♪ You monster. ♪

    • Wulf says:

      I was hoping there’d be some way to not incinerate it just to show GLaDOS what for. I spent ages looking for a way to try and take that cube out of the test chamber with me.

    • Bureaucrat says:

      Agreed.

      Murderous AI forcing you to navigate deathtraps while promising cake = funny.

      The bits about former test subjects going mad and obsessing about said cake and some crate = not particularly funny.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      @Bureaucrat: “The bits about former test subjects going mad and obsessing about said cake and some crate = absolutely friggin’ hilarious.”

      I fixed your quote for you. ;)

    • Grape says:

      I’m 100% with Bureaucrat on this one.

      Sometimes stupid is just stupid.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Humour is deeply subjective shocker, news at ten.

      The jokes you didn’t laugh at, other people did. The jokes you did laugh at, other people didn’t. Good thing there were so many jokes then, eh?

    • whydidyoumakemeregister says:

      Humor is definitely subjective. For instance, I thought Cave Johnson was mind numbingly annoying. I opened the menu every time he started talking to see if I could mute just his voice. It would have been so satisfying if there was an achievement to rip out all of his loudspeakers. It sounded like he was speed reading the dialogue because the jokes were too long to be funny.

  4. alice says:

    Lovely interview as always. My favorite Easter egg is at the part where he kills you, if you hang around Wheatley tries to entice you to jump in the pit with a fairly long list of wonderful things waiting for you at the bottom. Would never have heard it without trying for the achievement either, which I think is indicative of how achievements can positively contribute to gameplay.

    • alice says:

      Also I would play the shit out of a prequel with Cave Johnson as the villain. Or listen to him talk about lemons for an hour. Or play Fart Cops. So, you know Valve, whatever is cool.

    • Oozo says:

      By far my favourite part as well. I smiled and smirked constantly throughout the game, but that’s where I laughed out loud for the first time. And for the second. And the third. Didn’t even know there was an achievement there – just enjoyed it for the sake of it.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      On the flip side, I think the Professor Portal achievement evidences how an achievement can negatively impact on gameplay. Instead of 2 players going through the co-op both experiencing it for the first time and trying to find the solutions together, you’ve got one who’s completed co-op and one who hasn’t – it takes away some of the magic.

    • shoptroll says:

      Huh. I didn’t stick around for that bit at all since I thought he was going to kill me quickly :)

      There’s a lot of cool stuff in this game if you just take your time and explore a bit instead of rushing through. Love the amount of easter eggs in the game, and amazingly they’re not all tied to achievements.

    • Xocrates says:

      I also quite liked that GlaDOS will also react if you come back to the pit but then continue your merry way without jumping.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      I missed that part (I could’ve sworn I turned back and then didn’t hear anything, so I pressed on again), but I did like how there was a reaction when you jumped into the spiky crusher on the conveyor belt. “Oh! Wow, I didn’t expect THAT to actually work. All right then.”

  5. Rii says:

    I tried to rescue the turret on the conveyor belt but somehow it fell and got stuck down the side. I spent, like, a good 30 seconds trying to get it back out again too. Poor thing.

    • alice says:

      I don’t blame you.

    • Meat Circus says:

      There’s so much wonderful dialogue that comes out of the Crap Turrets, and the broken personality spheres (Space Core, Adventure Core, Fact Core) that most players will never get to hear, unless they watch them on the Youtubes.

      Space Core: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcs4klrjlwE
      Adventure Core: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGxj3cxYWYY
      Fact Core: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxMKoB-A5-8
      Crap Turrets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_wduPpNyv0

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Yeah, I went back when Wheatley asked just to see what he’d say. And when he ran out of things to try and entice me in, I jumped in to see what he’d say. And laughed as he admitted “Huh. I really didn’t think that’d work.”

      I only found out about the achievement after jumping in, when it unlocked. I try to ignore achievements on my first go through any game—only on my second playthrough (with commentary) I did try to get them.

    • airtekh says:

      The broken turrets were the highlight of the entire game for me. I must have sat there giggling for ten minutes in the turret room.

      I totally lost it when I heard one of the broken ones trying to imitate a real turret.

    • olemars says:

      I picked up the turret on the conveyor belt and promptly dropped it off the side down the bottomless pit, which I feel is the appropriate action whenever I encounter a turret. It went “I’m differeeeeeent” as it fell (reminds me, there was another(?) turret that said the same earlier on, hmmm) Got the achievement anyway, but seems like I will have to replay so I can hear what else it had to say.

      The corrupt spheres at the final fight annoyed me since i felt there was a certain urgency and I had no time to listen to them, which I wanted to do. It was the same in Portal 1.

    • McDan says:

      It’s just amazing how much effort went in to creating all the alt-dialogue that most people don’t hear. Such a wonderful dev team. The whole ending sequence up until the final moment after the credits was also one of the best I’ve ever played through. Love this game so much.

    • shoptroll says:

      Add me to the list of bastards who threw the turret off to the side once they picked it up :)

  6. Ian says:

    I still don’t care about the companion cube. Is this because I failed to avoid spoilers for it (though I didn’t know you had to incinerate it) before I actually played the first game? Or am I just a shit? :(

    • ArthurBarnhouse says:

      I think the player not caring is the core of the joke. Everyone has placed an artificial value on this cube, either because they have mental health issues or because they are a robot that wants to hurt people with mental health issues. Then chell comes into the middle of it, and absent all of that history it’s just strange and funny.

    • Ace Jon says:

      Look, I’m going to be honest and say I’m not sure. But if you give me the option of calling an insecure person a rude name, I’m going to take it.

    • LintMan says:

      I still don’t care about the companion cube. Is this because I failed to avoid spoilers for it (though I didn’t know you had to incinerate it) before I actually played the first game? Or am I just a shit? :(

      Basically, the companion cube love was one of the funnier running gags in the game, which then became a meme, which some people started playing along with to perpetuate or get in on the joke. If the silliness of GLaDOS trying to torment you by telling you the companion cubes are sentient and “I think that one was about to say ‘I love you’” doesn’t give you a chuckle, then it’s probably best to focus on the other jokes in the game.

  7. WASD says:

    wrong place. see above.

  8. Diziet Sma says:

    “If you’re not laughing in the first ten minutes because of Stephen Merchant, you’re dead.”

    Oh poo…. I’m dead then. The whole game was excellent but that voice and character inspired rage in me. I was so happy when he became the bad guy and in comparison GLaDOS the good character.

    I simply can’t stand Stephen Merchant I suppose, then again I’m not exactly the worlds biggest fan of Mr. Gervais. I simply don’t find either of them funny, although some of Gervais stand up is right on the nail.

    • skinlo says:

      Hmm, I don’t find Gervais that funny, but I thought Merchant was great for the role. I do like his voice however.

    • Koozer says:

      I exitedly loaded up Portal 2, stared at the art, and then with a horrible remembrance heard Stephen Merchant. Fortunately, he wasn’t nearly as annoying as I thought he’d be. He was pretty good!

    • Kaira- says:

      Count me as dead then also. Though Wheatley got a few funny bits towards the end, but most of the time he was pretty much annoyance incarnate. And so was Glados, until she was youknowwhatted.

    • djbriandamage says:

      I enjoyed the robot repartee for the most part, but for some reason they just didn’t act like robots AT ALL. Just like snooty people. I really don’t understand that. In the first game Glados’ personality was a good balance of computer and human, but in the sequel it was overly schticky.

    • Ovno says:

      Oh god Jar Jar Wheatley….

      Till he turned bad then I felt my hate for him was correctly aimed and I enjoyed the game much more….

      As for the why am I carrrying this annoying thing round with me… exactly what I was thinking for the first 2 hours of the game.

      I almost modded the sound files to robotise him he was so annoying at that point.

    • Big Murray says:

      Comedy is always going to be a thing of personal taste … but I don’t think it’s deniable that Valve managed to hit a new high of comic timing for a video-game.

      This isn’t really a spoiler, but just in case … spoilerspoilerspoiler … the bit where Wheatley asks you to turn around while he “hacks” a door. For a game where you’re mostly always in control in the first-person, I thought that was a brilliant joke. Made me laugh, anyway. And there’s loads of examples of that throughout the game … comedy which only works in the video-game medium.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Just to add some defense to Wheatly (Jar Jar Wheatly? How is that a thing someone can honestly say? I’ll never know), I loved him. I was laughing from the very first scene. When you first meet GLaDOS and it appears he’s dead I was genuinely distraught (having forgotten that I’d seen scenes with him later in the game in previews).

      So yeah, humour subjective, loved Wheatly. Though to be fair, everything in Portal 2 worked for me, or at the very least, nothing actively grated.

      I actually wonder, what the nationality breakdown is of Pro vs. Anti Wheatly people. I’m from North America, and round these ways various British accents are sort of seen as vaguely comedy accents. Things will be funnier because they are said in a British accent. I worked with a guy from Wales one summer and we had a lot of fun just getting him to say stuff. Obviously, that connotation wouldn’t exist in the UK, so I’m wondering if people who aren’t liking Wheatly aren’t liking him because to them he’s just an idiot, as opposed to an ENGLISH idiot, which is funnier.

    • Pattom says:

      @djbriandamage: I think that one can sort of be explained away by most Aperture AIs being “personality constructs,” not just GLaDOS. That’s what I’d assumed, anyway.

      And I thought Stephen Merchant did a good job voicing the character, even though I liked Wheatley so much more when it turned out he was SUPPOSED to be stupid.

    • RomanRazor says:

      I was just annoyed that, you know, I finally had a Ricky Gervais styled charater in a, you know, FPS game, but no real gun with which to, you know, shoot him repeatedly in the, you know, face.

      You know. *inset slimy snicker laugh here*

  9. Vexing Vision says:

    You should have mentioned that there’s spoilers.

    I don’t hate you.

  10. Lilliput King says:

    Typo: “because you release she’s your only hope.”

  11. MasterBoo says:

    I actually think the first 10 minutes of the game were the most funny ones.

    That and when you actually decide to jump into the pit/the crusher.

  12. Tei says:

    Some people, on the Internets, criticize Portal 2, because wen you buy it, you buy like 3 games. The cave johnson prequel, the modern Aperture one, and the coop one. Other people thinks that the game is intense and big, but not intense and big at the same time. And others say the game has Negative Space. I dont know, but that sounds bad. Do people in internet talk way too much?

  13. Monchberter says:

    Did anyone else think that the Cave Johnson section was Valve’s love letter to the original Half-Life?

    They just love their abandoned science facilities.

    • applecup says:

      Maybe it’s just me being thick, it’s been a very long time since I’ve played it – but I don’t remember there being abandoned facilities in the original Half-Life?

      I know there was a big section of Blue Shift set in one, but… that was a Gearbox one.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I suppose the entirety of all Black Mesa was in the process of abandonment. If I remember correctly, an atom bomb expedited the abandonment process quite forcibly.

    • Monchberter says:

      Remember the chapters from Blast Pit (tentacle monster), Power Up (gargantua) to On a Rail (train and flooded subway fun)?

      They were all technically based in long time abandoned parts of Black Mesa which all showed a bit of decay and ruin. Like Portal 2, the beginning and later Black Mesa levels are set in relatively new parts of the facility while the middle part has you off looking at antique equipment.

    • djbriandamage says:

      Yeah, I won’t be sad the day game developers get tired of the “something mysterious happened long ago and all the player gets to see are the stagnant ruins” trope. Half Life 2 pretty much tied a ribbon around that concept, and Bioshock stuck a tape recorder beside it. Portal 2 borrowed both of those things and added a running dialogue.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Some of the grey corridors and chequered floors reminded me of Black Mesa, but that was about it. Nothing I’d really have considered a deliberate reference to Half Life 1. What did I miss?

    • Nogo says:

      Being a big fan of Lovecraft, mystery novels, the Fallouts and that episode of Dexter’s lab where he finds his first invention I hope it never goes away.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      It’s also a trope that games do better than any other medium, so it’s understandable that it crops up a lot. Personally, I like it, and hope it never quite goes away.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      Yeah, it’s just a simple fact of technology that an empty environment to explore is much, MUCH easier to convincingly model with a computer than, say, even the most banal conversation with another human being. It’s why “lone adventurer investigates abandoned and/or monster-ridden ruins/facility/amusement park” is and will continue to be such a gaming trope. (See also: disembodied voice somehow accompanies you via radio and offers canned, one-sided commentary on your actions.)

      Similarly, the reason so many indie movies are built around people in contemporary settings sitting around and talking about their neuroses is because it’s much easier and cheaper to film this convincingly than, say, Moxie Firestone vs. The South Pacific Volcano Gods.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Well, beyond the fact that it is easier to do on a computer, it’s also best done on a computer. Story telling through exploration of an environment, particularly a long abandoned one, isn’t nearly as effective in a book or a movie as it is in a game. That is, games are fundamentally simulations (even if what they are simulating doesn’t exist), and there’s something about simply experiencing an environment as a means to a narrative that can be very effective when done well.

      So it’s not just games avoiding their weaknesses, but also playing to their strengths.

    • JackShandy says:

      Here’s a lovely explanation of why Abandoned Dungeons are important.

      http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-i-mean-when-i-say-dungeoncrawl.html

      The blog is generally NSFW, but that specific post isn’t.

  14. checkers says:

    THE ADS ON YOUR SITE MAKE IT SOOOOOO SLOWWWWWWWWWWWWW

  15. mickiscoole says:

    this first sentence is to ensure that no spoilers appear in the ‘recent comment’ sidebar of the main site, and thereby minorly spoiling things for the very very very unlucky people who haven’t yet finished portal two. I am not sure how many characters I need to write.

    I hope that the second part of the interview asks about the whole turret choir thing. Glados would have known that she was gonna let you go right from the start, as early on you can see the turrets rehearsing their part along with the fat turret (which you also see in a lift tube taking off)

    • D says:

      I agree that something should be done about the spoiler bar on the right side of the front page, but at least I now know the exact amount of characters to make it hide

      There we go. Well, she could have made those turrets to sing for any number of reasons, I don’t think it was planned for Chell. Remember she also made a room with robots just screaming continuously. She’d probably tell you it was for science.

  16. JackShandy says:

    Thanks a ton, John. I’m doing an assignment on Passive-agressive Narrators, so an interview with the writers of Portal 2 is just what I needed.

  17. enshak says:

    I understand why this will be most peoples game of the year, especially game reviewers as they are writers first, but dam where are the portals as the first half of the game could have been called catapult, laser chess and lightways. The Cave Johnson part, well you can now think with portals more as well as paintballing, but it is so glorious to play and Cave Johnson and Caroline are such wonderful characters that I think this might end up being my GOTY, but I just wish they called it something else like Chell’s adventures in apperture science and not Portal 2.

    • D says:

      You don’t think those things mentioned involved portals at all.. Huh, interesting. How did you manage to catapult again?

    • enshak says:

      @D. In Portal you would fling yourself across the room by falling down verticaliy from one portal to another and when you had gained enougth momentum, you would place a portal on a wall to fling yourself across the room. You didn’t need an external device such as those flip boards.

    • Chris D says:

      I don’t believe you’re pulling the whole “When I was a lad…” schtick between Portal and Portal 2. I mean, I know things change quickly these days but come on…

    • DainIronfoot says:

      I’m almost positive there are still situations where you use a fling in Portal 2.

    • enshak says:

      @Chris D. When I was a lad if you wanted to reach a high place you would put portals on floors of different heights to reach that place, but you youngsters today just want to use a blue vertical lightway.
      @Dainironfoot. You do get to use more portal techniques in the Cave Johnson part I just wish that there were more times where you got to use them, as Portal was rightly praised for the way it taught you them. I haven’t played the co op part so maybe there in there.

    • Mutak says:

      The faith plates and goo did take the place of a lot of twitch portaling. I would like to see some of those sections redone as “advanced chambers” with more of the twitch style of play required, but i didn’t mind it at all in the main game.

  18. JackShandy says:

    W-What do you mean, Tei? What does my future hold, cryptic oracle?

    EDIT: Curses, vanished.

    • Tei says:

      I was tryiing to warn you about the dangesr or paradox.

      You could finish your easay with something like. “If you think this essay is dumb, consider how much I have needed to dumbed it down, for my readers”. If you want to fail the essay, of course.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Depending on the teacher, you can get away with a fair amount of jokes / levity. I had a prof for whom I would make nearly all my foot notes jokes and / or oblique pop culture references. Did well in her classes. A friend of mine for his final paper in a human sexuality class titled it “Porn: Who Wants Some” and shaped the text of his last page like, ahem… male genitalia. The comments where a good two lines of “hahaha’s.” He got an A- on it, I believe.

      Just got to know your audience.

  19. Caddrel says:

    It’s fascinating to think of the idea of Portal 2 as a prequel. They could have had you as one of the people walking into Aperture Science as a test subject back in the 1950s.

    Put into that context, Cave Johnson’s constant references to contamination, cancer, and ill-health make a lot of sense. The scripting would only have required a few tweaks to make him a very effective villain.

    This setting would also have allowed you to see Aperture Science as they were first putting together GLaDOS, with all the inevitable “Don’t do it!” feelings that come along with that. Dead scientists, putting together the machine that would kill them.

  20. Jetsetlemming says:

    Laughing in the first ten minutes due to Wheatley? I was laughing immediately after the look up and down prompt, when the automated voice refers to those actions as your physical exercise for the day.

    Also “Oracle Turret”? I’ve been referring to it as Spoiler Turret among friends. I so liked Spoiler Turret. Shame that you couldn’t take it with you and put it in the turret evaluation machine for the superbest easter egg ever, because there’s a sizzler right after it. :(

  21. cool1990 says:

    When are we going to see Half Life 2 Episode 3?I can’t wait anymore

  22. kyrieee says:

    Not that I care (other than the fact that I think bothering to call out exclusives is silly) but GiantBomb also did a spoiler interview with the writers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other people did it as well.

  23. edit says:

    What I liked about Portal 2: The experience of playing Portal 2, and just about everything in it. Marvellous game.

    If there is anything negative I could say.. The absence of ‘hard sci-fi’ in the writing? We got, what, one mention of Cave’s decision to explore A.I. and mind digitization but no real exploration of those ideas. The writing focused so hard on being funny that its potential to explore interesting concepts was overlooked. The A.I. characters themselves were utterly human, always driven by emotion, and while the idea that they were copies of human minds could explain this, there was no further mention of it. I loved the dialogue and LOL’d, but given the strikingly sci-fi visuals and premise it felt like that whole dimension could have also flourished in the writing.

    Co-op:
    - Gestures. It seems ironic that the moment you are performing a “gesture”, something meant to be expressive, all your control and ability to express yourself is completely taken away. Not only this but immersion is broken by jumping to third person. Nothing wrong with the idea of having gestures, but I didn’t click with this approach to implementing them.

    - A minor point perhaps, but I felt it was a missed opportunity for there not to be any way to nudge or kick each other or spheres etc. My co-op partner and I had a feeble attempt at sphere football before determining that it wasn’t worth the effort when you could barely get the thing rolling. More chances for free, sandboxey play and shenanigans would be the one thing I feel could have really lifted the co-op, which is already brilliant.

    The game is a masterpiece nonetheless.

    • shoptroll says:

      My biggest gripe (and it’s a minor one at that) with the game is the huge amount of loading screens in this game. Which I guess is due to the level of detail in the levels? I feel like L4D had bigger environments and had fewer loading screens.

      Although, it did make the game feel like it was just a bunch of smaller segments which might’ve reinforced the checkpointing system. I know I was a lot more willing to throw self-preservation to the wind in this game since the silent auto-saves only set me back one or two steps in a puzzle when I died.

    • edit says:

      True, the loading screens did seem crazily frequent at first, but I stopped noticing as the levels started growing a bit. I do thoroughly look forward to Valve’s (hopefully inevitable) jump to open, streaming worlds though.

    • psyk says:

      You can play a rugby like game

  24. y3k-bug says:

    What’s the “other story” that John alluded to in his review of the game? I’m on my second playthrough and haven’t noticed anything that resembles that.

    • passingstranger says:

      I believe it’s the Cave Johnson/Caroline story that he’s talking about. That does take the front seat for a while, but he could be looking at the main story of that section as simply the history of Aperture with the Caroline to GLaDOS transition and Cave’s fate being the sub-plot.

  25. Sami H says:

    “If you’re not laughing in the first ten minutes because of Stephen Merchant, you’re dead”

    *checks pulse*

  26. passingstranger says:

    I am seriously enjoying this so far and for the same reason I enjoy the developer commentary in-game. It feels like they’re being almost unusually candid about the game process. I guess, compared to any other developer, they are.

  27. kavika says:

    *edit* reply button didn’t work

  28. terazeal says:

    And here I thought the AIs using human pronouns for one another was a joke.

  29. Bahumat says:

    I just want to hug the writers for the way they handled the ending. Not the silly singing turret choir, or anything like that; but just the pure commitment to character that it took to give GlaDOS her ending, in it’s way. The brilliance of her reasoning, the consistency of it to character, was perfect; both from the standpoint of ‘caroline deleted’, to: “And as it turns out, killing you is really hard.”

    I loved that at the end of the day, her reasoning for letting you free, letting you live, was just that you were too much goddamn trouble to her nice, smooth, computerized operation.

  30. WASD says:

    Wrong place. Again.

  31. El_MUERkO says:

    Any word on why they choose to do a cut scene for the ending (a low rez grainy one at that) instead of keep it in-game?

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I imagine it was motivated by the amount of work some of the effects would be to pull off for very little gain. If you think about it, using your brain AND your mind (here I am stalling to avoid spoilers popping up on the right side bar, okay I’m probably good now) the room filled with turrets and the giant wheat field, especially a smooth transition between the two all in one level, are probably non-trivial things to make work nice in engine, and since the pay off would be a 30 second, non-interactive scene, they probably figured that it just wasn’t worth the bother.

      That’s how I saw it anyway.

  32. Nutrion says:

    People don’t WANT to play Chell (stupid name), but we have control an avatar to solve this.

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