TGL was in London last week play testing Portal 2’s single player and between sessions we managed to grab a hold of Valve’s Chet Faliszek for a quick chat about Portals, fast talking English comics and DLC…..
Here’s how we got on…..
CF: Today you’re seeing the first 20 minutes of the game and it’s where you meet the Wheatley character for the first time. He’s voiced by Stephen Merchant and he’s going to wake you up and take you off to meet Glados because you got to see some Glados, right?
TGL: So Glados is actually introduced to the player quite early in the game?
CF: She is.
TGL: Could you tell us a little bit about the audio design? Valve have announced a number of different actors will be lending their voice to the game. Can you tell us why Stephen got picked for Wheatley?
CF: Well, with Glados, she’s a very measured speaker. She thinks before she talks. She’s very deliberate. So to play off of that and give the players a sort of audio break, we wanted a character that kind of thought faster than he talked and that’s definitely the Wheatley character. He’s very fast talking, very energetic and it was great to get Stephen Merchant. He’s a great comedic actor and he’s able to talk really fast! There’s a ton of audio in the game; for example, at the start where you are asked to say the word apple and if you don’t, Wheatley will go on forever and ever and ever. If you don’t push forward he’ll just keep talking. He’ll always fill the space.
CF: Yes, for some of the game he is.
TGL: Why Stephen? Why an English accent?
CF: We’re big fans of a lot of British comedies. The Alan Partridge show is my favourite thing ever. So we had a British voice in our mind and then we listened to the podcasts with Ricky Gervais, Stephen and Karl Pilkington. We just really loved Stephen’s voice and how fast he spoke and how funny he was. It really comes through in his performance that he just gets the jokes and he knows how to tell them.
TGL: So has Portal 2 got a more human side to it? The first Portal was a little cold and mechanical, very much a case of getting from A to Z in the insular labs. How have the labs and the experience evolved?
CF: At the beginning of Portal 1 Glados is more mechanical and more emotional and we didn’t want to set players back to that. We do a little bit in co-op where she goes back to her mechanical side at the beginning but we want to have a little more warmth and show more of a range of reaction in the lab space. With Stephen, we didn’t need to add an effect to his voice, he’s just talking. We thought that really fit well. With Portal 1, the story kind of snuck up on you. You didn’t really realise the story at first maybe. With Portal 2 we knew people would know the story right from the off and expect big things so we wanted to make sure that what we delivered had a wide enough range for everyone. To do that, you kind of have to remove that mechanical element.
TGL: Is there an innate pressure to deliver with Portal 2 given how huge Portal 1 became?
CF: We’re always nervous about that. Portal 1 had a very specific vibe and a very good feeling. So we asked ourselves, how do you capture that while enhancing the game? That was definitely a concern. We wanted to make sure that everything new we added was still ‘Portal’.
TGL: There’s more of an impetus on scale now. We’re not as confided to the white and grey walls of the lab in Portal 1. Can you tell us a little bit about the new environments we will see in 2?
CF: Today we’re seeing the run down Aperture Science and these some of these labs you may have seen before but we’ve expanded them out and now we’ve introduced wildlife and vegetation. That was the idea. We wanted this area to be affected by the blast when Glados exploded at the end of Portal 1. This area has definitely been affected and as you go on, you will see many different locations and environments around Aperture Science. It was really important to us, along with pacing, that you’re seeing new things. With audio, we wanted you to hear new things. And of course we wanted new puzzles and new puzzle elements.
TGL: Of course there’s co-op which, along with the single player, provides two very different campaigns in their own right….
CF: Correct. Co-op is its own individual campaign. Its own stories. Its own characters.
TGL: What about the length of the campaigns?
CF: Portal is this weird thing. The campaign is as long as you want to make it. Some people plough through and barely blink. Some people take a really long time. The single player is about three times as long as Portal 1 and co-op is about twice as long but that’s only because with two people in the room, you’ll be a lot faster solving puzzles.
CF: We do a lot of testing. We bring in a lot of people into our offices to play it and test it. We bring in everyone from hardcore counter strike guys to noobies who never really play console games. We test the game that way and we’re always trying to keep every sort of gamer stimulated and interested at every level.
TGL: The Half Life games in particular resonate so deeply with gamers. Are you surprised by how huge the Portal universe has become?
CF: We never could have guessed that it would have taken off the way it has. We didn’t invent the game with this is mind. We just wanted to create a good game, with good environments and a cool world and go from there.
CF: In terms of single player experience, it’s absolutely the best. In terms of co-op, I’m going to say it’s a tie with the Left 4 Dead series. Left 4 Dead is near to my heart. The Single player is so dense in Portal 2. It’s the best.
TGL: So now that Portal 2 is finished and ready to ship, can be expect Valve to support it after launch with DLC?
CF: We do have plans for DLC but we’re not going to make any announcements just yet.
PORTAL 2 is available in Ireland on Playstation 3, 360 and PC from April 21st.