Portal 2 Began Without GlaDOS, Chell or Portals

Last week at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), in a panel entitled “Creating a Sequel to a Game That Doesn’t Need One”, Valve writers Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw explained the process of creating Portal 2, and its wildly different beginnings. Be warned, the following article and video below both contain spoilers for Portal and Portal 2.

The project began mainly due to enthusiasm from Valve staff, but as the original experience had been so self contained, they felt that it was better to try and make a sequel that didn’t rely too heavily on the first game.

According to Faliszek, the mentality around not bringing back Chell was that, “We cut Chell. She got out, good luck to her, who needs her?” before going on to explain that they cut out GlaDOS and Portals. “[We initially] cut GlaDOS. She kinda died at the end of Portal. She had a nice little story. It’s time for a new villain.” And, “We cut Portals. Sure, name is in the title but we figured we’d figure it out later. We had a sexy new mechanic and we were super confident in that.” The new mechanic was apparently titled F Stop, but they refused to detail it further.

In place of GlaDOS, they were going to have Cave Johnson be the main villain. “He was the main character… he was going to be this southern billionaire,” he would also have had a small version of GlaDOS appearing in a minor role reading legalese to absolve him of responsibility for the tests.

They got this version of the game running, including the opening scene which they showed at the panel, but tester feedback all agreed that it did not feel like a Portal game. “Lesson 1: Don’t need to burn everything in the ground.” At this point, they decided they needed to add Portals, Chell and GlaDOS back into the game.

Chell was brought back in when play testers encountered GlaDOS for the first time. Without her, the emotional connection to what you had done to GlaDOS was lost.

Lastly, they talked about how the ending came together. Initially, when the stalemate resolution button needs to be pressed, the button would break. A computer would request that the stalemate resolution associate say yes to activate the transfer, giving Chell her first lines of the series and fading to black. “Boy, did it suck,” laughed Wolpaw.

They ended up getting the ending from a part of the game that had to be scrapped earlier in development. The game was designed to have multiple joke endings, such as a puzzle two minutes in, which if you died from, you would get an ending credits song about your brief time in the game and a scene where you could shoot a portal at the moon, and get sucked out into space. You would then get a song played about your death on the moon. According to Wolpaw “Play testers loved it,” but they could not come up with enough of them to justify having them included in the game.

They took this moon segment and created their new ending, adding that “[the] answers for what you need to do are buried in what you’ve already done.”

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