Eurogamer: Chell has been in stasis for a long time, right?
Erik Wolpaw: A long time. We don't say how long, but a long time. And GLaDOS herself has been, in a sense, in stasis because she's effectively been switched off. So the two of you are waking up, not quite simultaneously, because there's a little ramp up before GLaDOS wakes.
It takes about half an hour before GLaDOS wakes back up. You're half-an-hour ahead of her. She wakes up and you're just standing there again, apparently gloating over what you've just done.
Chet Faliszek: The team is so much bigger, so we have a lot of people who can do a lot of other things for us. Was there a dedicated animator for Portal?
Erik Wolpaw: As far as I know there were no animations in Portal 1.
Chet Faliszek: Now we have all these people we can do all these cool things. In the first 30 minutes we have the container ride in, which is this really cool scene. We have GLaDOS waking up, which is this really cool scene.
With the pacing we were worried about fatigue. We were worried about, oh my God, there's just going to be more puzzles. We have these experiences you interact through or go through that help break that up and add to the game.
When you see GLaDOS getting up, all of a sudden you see this embodiment of this voice. Even at the end of Portal 1, I knew she was in there but she wasn't looking at me, yelling at me. Whereas in Portal 2 there's this definite moment when she comes alive where she's looking at you and letting you know.
Erik Wolpaw: It's not because we didn't want to do that in Portal 1. It's just we didn't have anybody to do it. We always had this idea that the labs were being assembled dynamically, and we took some stabs at trying to show you that.
It ended up it was going to be way too much work for a small team to deliver. Now we had the resources to realise that idea, so the environment reconfigures in real-time.
In Portal 1 there was one big transition point. You could call the boss battle maybe a second transition point in the game. For pacing we wanted the story to hit a few different beats. We did that, well, in ways that are spoilerish, but there are a few more characters in the game now.
Eurogamer: You have a robotic helper now.
Chet Faliszek: There's that, but even in single-player there is a whole bunch more characters, a whole bunch more locations you go to.
Erik Wolpaw: You explore a bunch of different parts of Aperture.
Eurogamer: You never leave it though, right?
Erik Wolpaw: Well, maybe not. It would be spoilerish either way...
Eurogamer: We never hear Chell talk, or see much of her. What kind of person is she? Does that matter?
Erik Wolpaw: Personally it doesn't make that much difference. Portal was this intimate relationship you had with GLaDOS, and what we found to a person with playtesters who played the first game, a lot of them didn't even know the character's name was Chell because we never mentioned it. Maybe it was written on her jumpsuit and it was in the file names.
Players didn't care what GLaDOS' relationship was to Chell. They felt like they had this relationship with GLaDOS, and they wanted GLaDOS to recognise them, which is one of the reasons we never have GLaDOS actually say Chell's name.
No one ever says GLaDOS' name either. We've turned that into a thing with the game. Nobody ever mentions anyone's name in the game.
Chet Faliszek: It's to such a point people imprint themselves onto the character Chell. We had a playtester in who played all the way through the single-player version of Portal 2, and then went to play co-op, and during one point of co-op realised the bots have sexes. Immediately you look at it and go, one's a female and one's a male.
The guy got really mad he got stuck with the female. I asked him, you know, in single-player, you've been playing for 12 hours as a female. He goes, no I wasn't. It didn't bother me, but now it bothers me.
Erik Wolpaw: In the beginning, when we were first designing it, and even for the first couple of iterations, the idea was Chell had her story, she got out, let's just let her be. She's out in the wild doing her thing, let's just have a different test subject. Who cares?
But because of that, when GLaDOS woke up, she didn't recognise the player. That's when we first realised, people didn't care about Chell. They weren't like, where's Chell?
At no point in the first 30 minutes were they like, oh, this is a totally different character. It didn't bother them. What bothered them was when GLaDOS woke up and didn't recognise them as the person who done these things to her.
Eurogamer: So that's why you play as Chell once again?
Erik Wolpaw: Yes. Technically, we could have had some other character who had done something. But it's the continuation of the player's experience.
I don't think all games need to do this. It's just the way it is, the silent protagonist.
Chet Faliszek: Gordon Freeman was that in HL2. People jacked themselves into it. Chell's the female version of that.
Erik Wolpaw: In Half-Life we hand wave over whether Gordon is actually silent or whether he's participating in these conversations in a way. It would be kinda odd for a dude just to not ever say anything.
Chet Faliszek: You'd be a jackass.
Erik Wolpaw: In Portal 2 though we play that up. We do some things with the silence that are hopefully interesting. I always had this feeling of Chell is a character who's just pissed off the entire time and having to do this, and just not giving them the pleasure of saying anything. She probably can talk.