Wolpaw & Lombardi Talk About Portal 2

Wakey wakey.

I’ve got the most incredible surprise announcement to make after the jump in this post! It’s going to be amazing! Start getting worked up about it now! Also there’s 1UP’s interview with Valve’s Erik Wolpaw, lead writer on Portal 2, and PR guru Doug Lombardi. It’s a slightly awkward interview, established by a very peculiar opening question. But it contains all manner of titbits about Portal 2, including how the game will manage to offer two-player co-op without breaking the fiction. Don’t forget about that surprise!

I had pasta for lunch.

And here’s the interview:

The idea of each of the personality orbs having their own section seems fantastic. The gels… it sounds like a lot of fiddling, perhaps eating away at the simplicity/purity of the original. I’ll be interested to see whether they maintain the balance. Being Valve, I somewhat suspect they will.

Don’t forget you can see the trailer here.


  1. Skinlo says:

    I’m so sad, I got a tiny bit excited for a second there :(:(

  2. Dominic White says:

    Ha, cute that they didn’t seem to remember that the whole ‘Cave Johnson is in Portal 2’ thing was fairly public knowledge at this point.

  3. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    I want a more difficult Portal.

    • Adrian says:

      me too :( i don’t care about companion cubes! those parts of the game always bothered me. i want harder rooms!

    • Vinraith says:

      As mentioned down the thread, you guys have played “Still Alive” right?

      link to moddb.com

      There’s a multitude of challenging user-made maps, as well:

      link to portalgamemaps.com

      Personally I’d be happy if Portal 2 were more challenging than the original Portal, but less so than Still Alive.

    • LintMan says:

      I thought Portal’s difficulty level was perfect. The puzzles were tricky but solvable without needing to bang my head over it forever or head off to GameFAQs. And much more importantly: once you figure out the solution to a puzzle, it didn’t take umpteen retries to actually execute it. I think this is part of what made Portal such a brilliant and popular game. If it was much harder, a lot of people wouldn’t have bothered playing at all or wouldn’t have finished it.

      I have exceedingly low tolerance for “Do it again, stupid” type gameplay – attempting the same goal over and over before finally getting it right adds ZERO gamplay value or fun for me. I’m much rather mave 4 hours of solid fun with little “fail and reload” than 8-12 hours of constant reloading.

      That all said, I wouldn’t mind if the puzzles are somewhat harder to figure out and make use of what we’ve already learned – I just really don’t want to struggle over and over to pull off the solution once I figure out what it is.

  4. radomaj says:

    A demonstration! Spoilers-schmoilers, you’ll watch it anyway.
    link to youtube.com 1
    link to youtube.com 2
    link to youtube.com 3

    • radomaj says:

      It contains most of the new mechanics and two of the sexy gels.

    • Skinlo says:

      I couldn’t resist =/

      The graphics seem really good though! Obviously upgraded from the L4D2 version of the engine :D

    • Rich says:

      I really hope that personality sphere’s voice was a place holder.
      It sounded like it was just some guy in the wings.

    • pilouuuu says:

      Can you look at this and say that gaming is not art? The art of gameplay!

    • Mojo says:

      This is sexy as hell.

    • Gabriel says:

      British personality core.
      I dare any other game at E3 to beat that.

  5. KingCathcart says:

    ZOMG PASTA!!!!!!!

  6. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    What kind of pasta?

  7. benjamin says:

    The footage of gameplay looks stupidly fun…I like!

  8. Ben says:

    I cringed through that entire thing

  9. Veret says:

    Anybody else notice there seem to be a lot more open, expansive rooms in this game? The original kept things pretty confined a good 90% of the time, so it looks like we’ll already be seeing some new styles here. Or maybe they just cherry-picked all the impressive stuff, who knows.

    Also: At 4:57 I actually clapped when the box landed on the button. Very Rube Goldberg.

    • subedii says:

      Haha, yeah, I did the same. Two points!

    • TheBlackBandit says:

      I’m rationing myself clips of this game so I don’t watch too much – which video is that sequence in?

      Plus, I’m already captivated by the animation of GLaDOS. I’d love to see their developer commentary for that.

    • Veret says:

      @BlackBandit: It’s in the interview itself. They keep cutting to brief 5-second gameplay clips, so you might have missed it.

  10. Evoc says:

    What annoyed me about Portal 1 was that it was too easy. The challenge missions didnt really offer a challenge either.

    I want a more difficult Portal.

  11. Vandelay says:

    That was quite an awkward interview. That opening question was one of those stupid cliché questions that you never actually think anyone would ask, whilst the interviewer seemed to be doing an impression of a nodding dog throughout.

    Still, the game is sounding great and the footage looked very impressive. As I said in the teaser trailer we saw the other day, it looks like a bigger version of Portal, which I think is all any of us would want.

    The gel idea sounds interesting, but I could see it removing the simplicity of Portal. It seemed a bit strange that they said they didn’t want to add anything besides the player just being able to put down the two portals, but then followed that right up with the gel. As long as they don’t force you to do some precision placement on the gel, I’m sure it will be alright.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the single player only being double the length of the original though. That would only make it about 4-5 hours long, which isn’t much. I would much rather the co-op only be about 2 hours long and the single player be closer to 10.

    • Skinlo says:


      Portal took me around 4-5 hours to finish, on the 3rd play through. Admittedly I don’t rush, but still, I can’t imagine it taking two hours unless you are one of these power players. If it was around 10 hours long in single player, I’d be happy.

      Co-Op sounds interesting, I’m not sure if I have any friends to play it with though :'(

    • Clovis says:

      I agree, it took me like 4.5 hours on my first non-rushed playthrough (in one exciting sitting). And then several more hours working on various challenges. Twice the length sounds perfect. I definitely do not want the main story to take 20 hours or something.

    • TenjouUtena says:

      My first time playing after I had one my Steam ‘time spent playing’ clock said just under two hours. And I believe it. Sure felt like a good two hours, though.

    • Vandelay says:

      Maybe I’m miss remembering, but I didn’t remember it being very long at all. I certainly wouldn’t have said it was anywhere near as long as COD:MW, which was only about 5-6 hours long. But about 10 hours would be a good length for a game like this.

      Looking at the videos posted above, it looks like the gel will be quite straightforward to use, so my worries (and John’s) seem to be misplaced. They come out of tubes like a Companion Cube and you simply place a portal underneath to make it come out of your other portal. Looks like it may also reward some quite creative play.

    • Vinraith says:

      Portal took me about 5 hours, as I recall, but I was taking my time and finding all the secrets and such so I’m sure it can be speed run far faster than that if you’re so inclined. That’s place Portal 2 at about 10 hours, which would be disappointing. When they said “full length game” I was envisioning something meatier, I wonder how long the co-op campaign will be.

    • Starky says:

      Hmm… Portal took me 2 hours my first time, now I can do it in like 35-40 mins.

      Then again I got all gold on all the challenges too (thus gaining the aperture science achievement).

      Not trying to boast, but I find 4-5 hours highly doubtful, unless you literally spent loads of time wandering about randomly, and given the game is very linear there isn’t that much wandering do be done.

    • Ripbeefbone says:

      10 hours of portal puzzles seems a little much

    • LintMan says:

      My first playthrough was 4-5 hours also. I tend to take my time when exploring and looking for secrets.

      And honestly, I thought that was just the right length for the game – I was quite satisfied at the end. I think many other FPS’s run less than 10 hours these days, so it’s not unreasonable to have 8-10 hours for a “full length” Portal 2. At least, it’s OK with me, and long as it’s 10 hours of interesting stuff and interaction with GLaDOS and not 10 hours of constant reloading to get past each grueling level.

  12. Ace says:

    Scooter sure does bob his head a lot.

  13. KingCathcart says:

    Mental Note: Avoid Tom Stoppard references when talking to a Valve writer.

  14. TheApologist says:

    I am not the superbrains you people are – more variety not more difficulty sounds great to me.

    Basically, the difficulty was brilliantly pitched to my mind – if it was more difficult, for me at least, it would not have been the brilliant experience it was.

    • subedii says:

      Well I didn’t find the game too difficult as well, but I can agree that I don’t particularly want them to make it difficult either.

      If you want an interesting and oft difficult puzzle game, look up Research and Development. It’s one of the best HL2 mods I’ve ever played.

    • Starky says:

      I agree the main game was tuned perfectly.

      The difficulty should come in extra modes, challenges and such as was found in the first game, but more of them, many more.
      I want at least 10-15 challenge maps for a full retail portal.

  15. Clovis says:

    It’d be cool if they went farther with the modding on this one. Like make it more like Little Big Planet or something where you can easily grab the mods from within the game, maybe from a list where they’ve been rated by other players. It seems like the Steam Cloud stuff would make that a lot easier to do.

  16. Tei says:


    This is a instaclassic.

  17. airtekh says:

    Anyone who has doubts about the ‘gels’ they will be implementing should immediately download and play Tag; and then imagine what it will be like with a Portal gun as well.

    I’m so looking forward to this game. :)

  18. Andreas says:

    Go play portal prelude

  19. Nero says:

    Anyone but me think about The Mighty Boosh when hearing the orb talking? I must have forgotten that the acquired the Tag people cause yeah when I saw the trailer it was the Tag mechanics. Looking forward to this one.

  20. Sobric says:

    “Did Rosencrantz and Gildenstern solve puzzles?” made me laugh.

    Somewhat awkward interview, but good info (and clips!). I also liked Doug Lombardi’s poker face at the end (I assume PS3 “surprise” had yet to be announced?)

    • Vandelay says:

      Yes, the lack of PS3 on his list did make me smile. The fact that the interview listed PS3 without any kind of doubt when asking the question must have made them realise that they weren’t about to announce a big surprise.

  21. Urthman says:

    When they first talked about these gels, I (having played Tag) was imagining a separate “gel gun” or something.

    I really, really like the mechanic of using portals to redirect liquid streams. That’s going to be lots of fun. (And easy for Valve to design levels so that you aren’t tempted to use gels constantly in ways that aren’t fun.)

    But then, is there really anyone who thinks Portal 2 might be a disappointment? I can’t think of any sequel I’ve ever felt this confident would not be screwed up except maybe Mario Galaxy 2.

  22. rocketman71 says:

    Damn you Valve. I see those little videos of Portal 2 and I can’t stay mad at you for your E3 Fuckprise.

    Now, give us the L4D DLC, 2 months late already, dammit!

  23. ARMLESScorps says:


    this sounds really good. Erik Wolpaw sounds like an intelligent guy who knows a thing or two about game design ( and the valve approach) and the footage looks really impressive. Not sure about the number of new components they are adding to the mechanics (ie the gel and the floaty stuff) but then again I had the same fear before left 4 dead 2 came out and i thought that turned out great , so its probably best just to trust valve. Does anyone know anything about this Erik Wolpaw guy? I havnt seen him interviewed before I dont think, and on wikipedia he is just listed as a writer for , among other things, portal and psychonauts. Is he a typical valve employee in that he probably gets involved in game design and other aspects other than writing?

  24. Thomas says:

    An informative interview, in spite of a rather horrid interviewer.

    It is kind of sad, however, that the writer for Portal is lacking in the Shakespearean references department.

  25. Freudian Trip says:

    Can you imagine asking Doug Lombardi a stupid question? The man looks like he could destroy your soul just by staring at you.

  26. Adrian says:

    Im sold on this after watching the 3 videos posted above. the one thing that disturbs me is that valve is still using these 10 year old auto turrets :(

  27. Mungrul says:

    Anyone else get a big Defrag feel from these Portal 2 videos?

    • Tarqon says:

      It makes me happy to think of Valve as the inheritors of the Defrag philosophy.

  28. Simon says:

    IF valve’s past is anything to go by, then for the whole simplicity to complexity from the original to a sequel the Left 4 Dead games might be indicative.

  29. Shazbut says:

    Valve are so far ahead of everybody else it’s comical.

  30. Felix says:

    Are titbits kinda like nipslips?

    ..hmm, now I actually scared myself out of watching the interview /shudder

  31. godwin says:

    I like how those Aperture Lab animated diagrams are copyrighted 1998.

  32. Simon says:

    Btw. Doesn’t anyone else think that with the Aperture Science buildings being like a living construct thing is more then just, ah, well, ‘Citadel’ -ish?

    • Starky says:

      Well Portal is set a few years after the events of HL2 (and episodes) but Glados was supposed to become self aware shortly before the events of HL1

      So they couldn’t be the same place – unless the citadel is an outgrowing of the labs (which is doubtful from the outside view of the labs you get not looking like that at all).

      It does look very similar – maybe the citadel was once another Aperture science lab, grown to vast proportion.

    • jonfitt says:

      AFAIK any timeline is based on supposition.

    • Simon says:

      I wouldn’t say that there might be a direct link, but there might be an opening to suggest a more indirect link (ie. Apature science hasn’t just been outsourcing it’s tech, but might even have ‘offworlded’ it.
      (like where black mesa got it’s infamous ‘sample’ thing)

  33. Keep says:

    Re: Loads of new elements – I’m confident they’ll be introduced at such a pace that you’ll never actually think “damn this is a lot to deal with”. Seems like a lot to us now to hear about them all at once, but over the course of the game? I’d say the variety is pitched just right.

  34. V. Tchitcherine. says:

    After watching the gameplay walkthroughs, I must say all of this incredibly exciting.The mystery about the progression of the story and many mechanics only adds to the appeal and holy fuck does the art design, engine and even sound design remain beautiful. This is why I love Valve.

    Though E3 has been disappointing in some ways (the embarrassing Ubisoft presentation and the transparently desperate clamouring into Nintendo’s casual domain… lack of in-game Deus Ex: Human Revolution footage) there seems to be a number of incredible, day-one purchase titles that will be released within the next year; Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mafia II and Rage (there are probably more titles I’m neglecting to mention).

  35. fearghaill says:

    They say there is a long gap between Portal and Portal 2…. how long was the gap between HL 1 & 2?

  36. Wulf says:

    I think I’m sold on this by merit of the new GLaDOS and the yappy little robotic assistant alone, since I like stories centring around AI, and this one looks like it could be a really good laugh.

    If nothing else, it looks … fun. So bring forth your Portal 2, Valve. I am not afraid!

  37. The Dark One says:

    I knew Portal was a small project but I hadn’t realized that it was just the Digipen sudents and Wolpaw through most of its development. Now I have this image of them working in the basement, stealing workstations and abducting the occasional artist so as not to play their hand before delivering the final product to Gabe.

  38. HYPERPOWERi says:

    They’re building up for a big reveal, one game at a time.

    GLaDOS is Dog.

  39. aisi says:

    You have no one to blame but yourself. You really should know better than to trust people who say things!

  40. starclaws says:

    Have you seen the videos ? It looks waaaay more challenging.

    • The Dark One says:

      In the interviews they’ve done they said they’re trying not to make the puzzles more challenging, but to broaden the way you go about beating them. Which makes sense, after all,. if you’re shipping it with four times the content of the first Portal.

  41. asdf says:

    I’m not buying another fucking Valve game until I know what’s going on with HL2Ep3. All the new Portal2 information makes this decision exceedingly painful.

  42. Juice says:

    Was anyone else disgusted by the interviewer? The incessant nodding of the head, a physique better suited for radio and an overall greasy appearance made me cover him up with another window while I watched this video. Excited about Portal 2 tho.

  43. Saul says:

    @Walker: Have you seen the gameplay videos? The gels look amazing– they’re not an item you pick up, but an additional tool you can play with via your portals to do crazy shit in the environments.

  44. Sub says:

    @fearghaill: The gap between HL1 and HL2 was about 20 years.