So, unlike the Narbacular Drop team, the Tag guys weren’t hired specifically for that purpose? It just emerged?
EW: Well, they weren’t hired specifically to incorporate Tag into Portal 2, but they were hired to develop Tag in an interesting way. And it turned out that that interesting way was to merge it with Portal 2.
So Portal is almost becoming your college graduate training program franchise.
EW: Yeah, I mean I don’t know if, going in the future, that will hold. It held true for this, at least. Those guys came in and it just made sense that their particular, experimental gameplay actually fit into the Portal gameplay mechanic pretty well.
I'm sure the success of Portal was part of what encouraged Valve to pursue that path again, hiring a student team to develop a concept.
EW: Oh, sure. Yes.
Did it impact the game at all when [Portal designer] Kim Swift left for Airtight?
EW: No. Everybody at Valve gets to work on whatever they want to. A few of the Portal people -- and if you think about it, the Portal kids were pretty young -- had spent a third of their life working on Portal, so a couple of them wanted a break after Portal shipped to try something else. At the time, Kim was helping out on Left 4 Dead. She left, and we miss her, we wish her the best, but it didn’t impact the development of Portal 2 at all.
Are you the primary writer on this game again?
EW: Yeah. I’m writing a lot with Jay Pinkerton, another one of the writers at Valve. We’ve been tag-teaming a bunch of stuff lately on the Team Fortress 2 updates.
I think some people, including myself, feared that a potential Portal sequel might really over-exploit, or browbeat the meme explosion that surrounded the first game. Is that ever a temptation?
EW: If you thought you were sick of the memes, I was sick of it way ahead of you. For instance, cake. I had enough cake jokes, I’m not going to...
The cubes are in there because they’re a gameplay element, and obviously, GLaDOS is back, but there's a bunch of new gameplay and we want to tell an interesting new story. We didn't jettison everything, but I absolutely do not want to try and resurrect a three-year-old meme. That seems like it would be kind of sad. It's not a good idea.
The broad arc of Portal was that you delve deep into the weird underbelly of this facility and it collapses by the end. It looks like the premise of Portal 2 is just the opposite -- you’re starting in this destroyed environment and GLaDOS is rebuilding it.
EW: Right. Basically, you’ve destroyed the environment in Portal and GLaDOS comes back to life through a sequence of events, and starts rebuilding the facility. So that’s the first part of the game, and then it goes off in some other directions from there.
How did you end up with that? Did it just seem sort of an elegant thing to do, mirroring it in that way?
EW: Yeah. It seemed like it would be an interesting way to show Aperture Science. We wanted you to see the effects of what you’d done in the first Portal.
And part of what we always envisioned in Portal, but really didn’t have the manpower to do, was to imagine the facility as this living, breathing place. We always had this idea, in our heads, that the test chambers were modularly assembled and can be reassembled, but we didn’t have the manpower to actually create any of that, and now we do this time.
Having her rebuild the facility before your eyes gave us an opportunity to show off some of that stuff. And then once she rebuilds the facility this time, there’s a lot more. Besides being the voice of the facility, you can really feel that she’s in control, because she can manipulate the environment in real time as you’re doing things.