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Science isn't about why - it's about why not
March 9, 2012 11:17 AM   Subscribe

No GLaDOS. No Chell. No portals. Set in the 1980s. Competitive multiplayer. Multiple endings. The Portal 2 That Could Have Been.
posted by Artw (44 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
An earlier interview also indicated that the writers had briefly contemplated making Aperture Science as a company the narrative lynchpin of the series. It's an interesting thought, but I just can't envision the experience being the same without (a) the primary distinguishing game mechanic, or (b) any appearances by the best conceived character in the history of video games.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:30 AM on March 9, 2012


They did the right thing. Holy crap did they do the right thing. (Just bought portal 2 and played through single player about a week ago)
posted by smidgen at 11:31 AM on March 9, 2012


I rather like the beach opening...
posted by Artw at 11:36 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Only If Only, they'll howl at the moon...
posted by Slackermagee at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2012


the beach opening

There's video!
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh my god I wish they had left the Morgan Freeman Sphere in.
posted by invitapriore at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still waiting for a Wheatley GPS voice pack that includes fuzzy logic as to give occasionally give me incorrect directions.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know someone on reddit made a GlaDOS voice file for (IIRC) Garmin units, but it was just a modulated voice thingy, not actually Ellen McLain. It also didn't tell you to take a left at the next light for science. You monster.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:46 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, why couldn't that valve hack have come out with neat stuff like these prototypes rather than HL2 engine source?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2012


Yeah, the Morgan Freeman sphere sounds great.
posted by brundlefly at 11:55 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Has anyone ever put together a mod that swaps Ellen McLain's Portal and TF2 performances?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:00 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like Valve throws out a lot of good stuff and smooths over a few too many rough edges because they pay too much attention to their focus group testers. Very few of the things I love most in games are universally loved.

(For instance: SPOILERS FOR PORTAL 2 DON'T READ THIS! At the very end, when you create the final, climactic portal, if you were to shoot the wrong color, the moment would be ruined. So Valve makes the game cheat so that which ever portal you fire is the right one. I'm really not sure how I feel about this. It seems totally lame, but it would be terrible screw that up and have to come back to that moment after reloading a save or something.)
posted by straight at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2012


Is this where I mention that I never did get to play the Portal Co-op (I have no gamer friends), and if someone wanted to get a couple hours of Sunday afternoon (Eastern Time) testing in this weekend they should MeMail me? Oh, it's not? Sorry.

straight: "SPOILERS FOR PORTAL 2 DON'T READ THIS! At the very end, when you create the final, climactic portal, if you were to shoot the wrong color, the moment would be ruined. So Valve makes the game cheat so that which ever portal you fire is the right one."

My understanding is that this is not the case on the final portal, but rather one earlier in the endgame, where you are being whisked along at high speed, and are not easily able to see what color portal you last shot, so you could be forgiven for making the mistake, and therefore, you are forgiven. By magic science.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2012


Rock Steady: "Is this where I mention that I never did get to play the Portal Co-op (I have no gamer friends), and if someone wanted to get a couple hours of Sunday afternoon (Eastern Time) testing in this weekend they should MeMail me? Oh, it's not? Sorry."

This is the major weakness of what is otherwise a spectacular co-op multiplayer experience. Because it's 95% puzzle solving, someone who's played through it would be a terrible person to play with someone who has not played it. I know how to solve them, and to sit there doing nothing until the other person comes up with the answers doesn't feel like the high road.
posted by Plutor at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2012


I enjoyed Portal 2, but more as a narrative than as a game. Portal 1 I enjoyed as both; the levels were harder because they were more open, there was more room to make mistakes. With Portal you were discovering new ways to break the laws of physics, but in Portal 2 it felt more like you were just putting things in the "right" places.

Don't get me wrong, there was great stuff and I LOVED many parts of the narrative and especially the imagery, but as a game it was very disappointing to me.

As for the differences the article discusses, I think they made the right decisions largely, but yeah, they had to make some compromises to lead the game out of its own internal culture, while still satisfying that culture.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:30 PM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is the major weakness of what is otherwise a spectacular co-op multiplayer experience. Because it's 95% puzzle solving, someone who's played through it would be a terrible person to play with someone who has not played it.

Oh, yeah, I dig that. I'm hoping maybe there are some latecomers to the Portal 2 experience who might be in the same boat I am -- the teeny little dinghy following along behind the giant cruiseliner that is the S.S. BeenThereDoneThat.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:38 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I downloaded it last year on a Steam sale, but haven't started it yet – frankly, I'm scared that my computer won't be able to handle it, and I'll try to soldier through grimfaced and angry at 16fps and not enjoy it at all.

(Portal 1 was fine. Anyone know if 2 demands exponentially better hardware?)
posted by Shepherd at 12:49 PM on March 9, 2012


Shepherd --

I ran portal 1 and 2 on the same several year old notebook with no problems. I think the source engine is very good at running on a range of hardware. I didn't notice 2 running worse than 1.
posted by jclarkin at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2012


Also abandoned, but not until three months had been spent on it, was a competitive multiplayer mode. Wolpaw described it as, “a cross between Speedball 2 and Portal, except with none of the good parts of either.” It too was abandoned so the team could focus more on the co-op.

I wonder you'd have an enjoyable competitive multiplayer just by having puzzles where the players try to race each other to the exit, sort of like a simultaneous speedrun.
posted by Anything at 1:10 PM on March 9, 2012


Josh Robert Thompson (aka More Than Freeman (and Geoff Peterson)) would have been perfect for the Morgan Freeman sphere (assuming they couldn't get the man himself).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


GladOS's Garfield speech was actually left in the game files upon release, and has been posted to YouTube for your listening enjoyment.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:19 PM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd play the co-op again. I played it over a compressed enough period of time, and late enough at night, that there is certainly replay value. Also, the communication presents unique challenges that are sort of a game in itself--I played the first time with my nephew right next to me, and when all else failed, I could lean over and point on his screen to what I wanted him to do.
posted by oneironaut at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2012


Anything: I wonder you'd have an enjoyable competitive multiplayer just by having puzzles where the players try to race each other to the exit, sort of like a simultaneous speedrun.

Especially if you could somehow interfere with the other player's portals. Maybe by shooting one of your portals at one of the other player's portals you could close it?
posted by Rock Steady at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2012


I visited Valve once, at their invitation.

I saw things.

I also signed an NDA.
posted by jscalzi at 1:44 PM on March 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


SPOILER

So Valve makes the game cheat so that which ever portal you fire is the right one. I'm really not sure how I feel about this.

how could either color be wrong? One's on the moon, the other's on Earth. What difference does it make what order or color?
posted by Edison Carter at 1:46 PM on March 9, 2012


You're a mean, mean man, jscalzi.
posted by brundlefly at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Curse you, Scalzi!

I want to go to there.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2012


My understanding is that this is not the case on the final portal, but rather one earlier in the endgame,

Some spoilers here, although I've tried to be somewhat oblique:

(spoiler space)

(more spoiler space)

It's actually true at least three times, as far as I could tell....during the "Moriarty vs." sequence, the "This is the part where" sequence, and at the very end. In all three cases, the game swaps your portals around as necessary if you blow it under pressure. I think the logic is that you can no longer see or control the other portal, and forcing a failure for misremembering which to shoot will jar you out of the narrative.

Whether or not that's actually a good decision, I'm not sure. I'm personally inclined to think "yes" for the ending, and "bad idea" for the first two.
posted by Malor at 1:58 PM on March 9, 2012


Oh, and failing to preview:

how could either color be wrong?

If you have an orange portal already down, and then shoot another orange portal, your orange ring moves, but a link is not created. If you can no longer shoot at the old location, you cannot solve the puzzle, and die.
posted by Malor at 2:00 PM on March 9, 2012


If you have an orange portal already down, and then shoot another orange portal, your orange ring moves, but a link is not created. If you can no longer shoot at the old location, you cannot solve the puzzle, and die.

But at that point, isn't the blue already on a surface?
posted by Edison Carter at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2012


It's at the stalemate resolution button instead of under Wheatley.

I will rationalize Chell being railroaded into possibly pulling a different trigger from the one she intended to by the fact that she was may have been a little confused by the bombs that just exploded right next to her.
posted by Anything at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2012


Ah.
posted by Edison Carter at 2:35 PM on March 9, 2012


Is there any information hiding out there - or even educated speculation - about the F-Stop game mechanic? I'm so insanely curious. The basic portal mechanic is so compelling in its own right. It's fun trying to imagine a game with the usual Valve mise en scene built around a different kind of puzzle.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2012


There's been other games coming out of DigiPen that have involved manipulating time or gravity, so I'd suspect something along those lines.
posted by Artw at 3:04 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here are (MeFi's own) Nedroid's "Garfield" comics, as mentioned in the article: 1 and 2.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 3:05 PM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's Quantum Conundrum from Kim Swift, one of the original Portal creators, which also looks neat.
posted by Anything at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Looking at that video a little more I think neat is something of an understatement.
posted by Anything at 3:14 PM on March 9, 2012


I followed the ARG that preceeded the release of Portal 2. Cave Johnson figured prominently, and I fully expected him to be a bigger part of the final game. I guess the ARG devs were working from an earlier script.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:15 PM on March 9, 2012


If you got a few bucks to spare, I recommend buying Portal 2: The Final Hours, which is basically an interactive book about the development of Portal 2. The RPS article covers some of the same things, but there's quite a bit more in the book.

Reading about all the ways Portal 2 could have been a completely different, probably much worse game, it's a relief to look back at the game we actually got.
posted by ymgve at 3:24 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Void: A Potential Idea For A Portal 3?
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think I'd like to see a directors cut of Portal 2 with some of their other ideas tossed back in..
posted by empath at 11:45 PM on March 9, 2012


I'm still waiting for a Wheatley GPS voice pack that includes fuzzy logic as to give occasionally give me incorrect directions.

My Garmin with the GladOs voice has all the "Oh. You survived my lethal off ramp advice. Again." fuzzy logic I'll ever need.
posted by clarknova at 7:50 AM on March 10, 2012


Artw: "Void: A Potential Idea For A Portal 3?"

A neat game mechanic, but I think the habit of tagging every new game mechanic as "oh this would be perfect for the next Portal game" is really unfair to game developers who don't work for Valve. (Which, lest we forget, is like 99.9% of them.)
posted by Plutor at 9:51 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this is basically a write up of the Portal 2 postmortem at GDC last week. They filmed it, so with any luck it will be online in the not too distant future, and you'll be able to appreciate the jokes.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:26 PM on March 11, 2012


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