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Synthesizing Portal 2
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Synthesizing Portal 2

September 20, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

How much has the team size grown?

EW: Well, Portal was seven or eight people. This one’s probably, right now, 30 people working on it. It’s weird at Valve, though, because you get to poach somebody from another team for two days to give you a particle effect. We have these resources that. They’re not full time team members, but they’re just there, ready to do something.

And the team will expand as we get ready to ship. People jump in at the last minute. As you know from looking at games in development, they don’t really look like the final release until a month before it’s time to go. It's a lot of work, and a lot of polishing gets done at the last minute.

That new technical ability you have in the game seems to interlock with the fact that GLaDOS maybe sees the player as more of a threat than she did in the first game. Is her overall relationship with the player more aggressive, as a result?

EW: Certainly, the relationship has changed since Portal. She does know that you’re dangerous. There’s certain stuff it would be spoilerish to talk about, but yeah, your relationship has changed.

That is a focus that we want to keep. You know, when you talk about the cake or whatever, the one thing that we took away -- or at least I took away -- from Portal, part of the reason it was successful, was because despite being a game it told this intimate story about your relationship with this one other character. Even though we want to introduce a few new characters, we want to keep the core piece of the story as your relationship with GLaDOS, and how that’s changed by what you did in Portal, and then have some place to go as the events of Portal 2 unfold.

Part of what made Portal so good and memorable was simply that it was so unique. That's a trait that's particularly hard to recapture in a sequel. How do you think about that?

EW: Like you said, it’s always a challenge. The best way to deal with it is to power through and just do something that is going to be good. If you set yourself up to think, “It‘s gotta be revolutionary!” you’ll probably just make yourself crazy and never finish it.

We had a bunch of ideas left over from Portal, and we had a bigger team that we could put to work on it, we definitely have a lot of new puzzle elements, and the paint stuff turned out well. Everything’s looking good. You just try and make the best game you can.

I remember Tom Leonard from the Left 4 Dead 2 team saying that he felt so much more confident in designing scenarios and mechanics the second time around, because he'd had so much practice in that world. Do you find that to be the case as well?

EW: Right. For a lack of a better word, there’s a vocabulary that was established to talk about designing puzzle chambers, and we knew a lot of things that didn’t work, so we didn’t have to go down those paths. Having said that, some of the new elements that are pretty transformative, like the co-op and the paint, brought it into brand new territory. So there was a new learning curve, again, that the designers had to go through.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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