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Portal 2 almost had fake endings, terrible multiplayer and no portals

Beyond things that came out and then went back in, the panel revealed that Wheatley – the charmingly stupid sphere that acts as Chell’s guide at the beginning of Portal 2 (and who, it turns out, was originally envisioned as being voiced by actor Richard Ayoade instead of Stephen Merchant) – was, at one point, meant to be killed permanently when GlaDOS woke up. Instead of Wheatley, players would interact with six other spheres, including a paranoid one who surrounded himself with defense turrets (but pointed them all one way, enabling Chell to easily slip behind him with a portal, pluck him off his pedestal and bash him against a wall before dropping him down some stairs).

Also of interest was what Wolpaw called the “Morgan Freeman” sphere, a personality core that had been sitting in the same 20-by-20-foot space for several centuries, and was full of folksy, homespun wisdom about it – until you took him even a few feet out of the space, at which point his mind was blown, and he became useless. Eventually he found his feet again, Wolpaw said, although all of his wisdom and anecdotes would invariably relate back to 20-by-20-foot spaces.

As funny as that sounds, Wolpaw said that a lot of players ended up missing Wheatley, and that they didn’t spend enough time with the other spheres to really bond with them. So Wheatley came back, ultimately becoming one of Portal 2’s most important characters.

Above: And so, Wheatley's dramatic death by crushing was made less permanent

Not all cuts were character-based, and in fact several gameplay elements never made it to production. At one point, suction tubes were going to play a role in puzzle-solving, with players able to break them open and use portals to redirect the suction. Also, during co-op, GlaDOS would have realized that – as experiments with no human observers – her endless tests with the robots P-Body and Atlas were in a state of quantum uncertainty, like Schrodinger’s Cat. So in an attempt to make the bots more human, she would have sent them after human artifacts, one of which was a Garfield-parody comic strip someone had pinned up, called Dorfeldt (which was drawn by Anthony "Nedroid" Clark, and which we suspect evolved out of this somewhat-NSFW cartoon by Portal 2 writer Jay Pinkerton).

The Dorfeldt gag involved three panels in which Dorfeldt’s owner gets mad at him for eating all the lasagna. Neither GlaDOS nor the bots would have understood how that could be considered funny, and so GlaDOS would have added three more panels, in which the owner activates neurotoxin emitters and Dorfeldt reflects on his poor decision-making before dying.

Above: It's sad Dorfeldt didn't make the cut, but these two didn't really need much more humanizing

Originally, co-op wasn’t going to be Portal 2’s only form of multiplayer, and plans were laid out early on for a competitive version (which was labeled “Portal Kombat” during the presentation). “It was kind of a mix between the old Amiga game Speedball and Portal, except with none of the good parts of either of those two games,” Wolpaw said. “It was super-chaotic, difficult to tell what was going on, and no fun. The only real good news about this part was that we cut it pretty quickly and were able to use those resources to develop co-op a little more.”

At one point, Portal 2 was also set to feature several fake endings. “When we were watching Portal 1 playtests, there’s a part about two-thirds through the game where you ride an elevator into a firepit, and you’re supposed to escape the firepit, and that’s when you go behind the scenes,” Wolpaw said. “But a small percentage of playtesters were just fine with riding the elevator into the firepit. Like, that was a good ending for them. It was dark, but they liked it. So we thought, ‘we’ll service those people.’"

Above: Some people thought this was a fitting end to Portal. Weirdos

“We had these… parts where Chell would die,  and that would be the end, and we’d play a song, and if you wanted to, you could just quit there,” Wolpaw said. “So we had one that was like two minutes into the game, and if you died there, there was just a song that… was just about reviewing those first two minutes.”

Later in the game, Wolpaw said, there was a point where you could see the moon overhead, shoot a portal onto it, shoot another one onto the wall, and you’d be sucked out into space and asphyxiate while listening to a sad song about the moon. (Wolpaw later said this was the sad song that played in one of Portal 2's Rat Man Dens, so it's likely he was talking about Exile, Vilify, which isn't about the moon but is pretty sad nonetheless).

Above: Here's a cool video of Exile, Vilify by YouTube user faceofdoomness

While they alternate endings went over well with playtesters, they were eventually cut, because of “how much work it was going to be for how little payoff, and partly because, other than those two, we had kind of overestimated how many great fake endings we were going to be able to come up with,” Wolpaw said.

The moon does play a role in the game’s actual ending, though, and it helped the writers come up a finale that was much better than the one they had originally planned. In order to break the game’s climactic stalemate, Chell would, for the first and only time, speak a single word: “Yes.” And while that sounds a little intriguing, Wolpaw did his best to assure the GDC crowd that it was horrible. “It was the classic idea… you have this great idea, and it sounds awesome! Chell’s finally going to speak. One word! And it’s going to be the one that ends the game,” Wolpaw said.

“Boy, did it suck,” Faliszek  said.

24 comments

  • BaronVonFistingMcButtholePunch - March 19, 2012 3:26 a.m.

    While Chell speaking would have been cool, it doesn't really fit with the rest of the game (Never speaking during it), though perhaps if she returned for another game she could have an active speaking roll in that one.
  • Net_Bastard - March 9, 2012 12:21 p.m.

    Chell saying "Yes!" at the end would have been a great ending, that is if it happened after the chosen ending for the game. As in, Chell exited Aperture out of the elevator, the Companion Cube gets ejected out, and she just says "Yes!". That would have been a very powerful ending.
  • Alex_Syros - March 11, 2012 9:46 a.m.

    I don't think such an ending would be fitting. To me, the delightful intrigue of Portal 2 ending is that (a part of) Chell probably does not want to leave GLaDOS after all. Firstly, GLaDOS just saved her life. Secondly, having spent so much time with GLaDOS and having gone through a great deal of turbulent stuff together, Chell must have developed a significant degree of attachment to the deviant AI creature (and it's not just Stockholm syndrome here). Then you have all those Caroline connections to boot... The ending you're suggesting would ruin all these intricacies, ambiguity and intrigue, imo. Portal is more sophisticated and subtle than that.
  • Alex_Syros - March 9, 2012 9:25 a.m.

    Scary to think that Portal 2 could have been stripped of all those things which are so essential (even iconic) to its universe now. The fact that it didn't happen indicates that Valve are doing some... well, lots of things right ;) It's actually quite baffling how they manage to eventually settle on really good, near-perfect stuff having started out with a fair chunk of chaff. One great example would be Chell's outfit. If you look at the early versions of Chell's costume, they look rather generic and somewhat uninspired, while the final version is pure genius and blows everything else out of the bleeming water!
  • TanookiMan - March 9, 2012 7:25 a.m.

    Loved the Portal 2 video by faceofdoomness (and The National!), hadn't seen that before.
  • CommanderCrunch - March 9, 2012 12:39 a.m.

    I DEMAND THE RETURN OF THE MORGAN FREEMAN SPHERE!
  • Fuzunga - March 8, 2012 7:57 p.m.

    Oh, so they mean at the point where you had to push the button she would just say "yes"?
  • slapdatass - March 8, 2012 6:26 p.m.

    Stephen Merchant was brilliant, but Richard Ayoade! If there's any British comedian who could have done as good a Wheatley (different of course, but still), it would be him.
  • KidKatana - March 9, 2012 1:21 a.m.

    But he knows nothing of the crunch!
  • rainn'sgaydar - March 8, 2012 5:24 p.m.

    I understand why they cut the multiple endings, but they would have been great. It would have made finding all of them worth playing the game even more.
  • Redeater - March 8, 2012 4:27 p.m.

    With games like Bioshock, Dead Space and The Darkness II getting slapdash multiplayer nothing suprises me any more.
  • TheFabricOfTime - March 8, 2012 4:15 p.m.

    Portal prequel guys? Guys?
  • shneepsh - March 8, 2012 6:32 p.m.

    Don't ask them to make Portal 0 (the 0 will be a giant portal on the box art, of course), you're just enabling their 3-phobia. In all seriousness, I'd rather they drop the Portal franchise name and make this mystery "F-stop" game, which'll probably be really cool, as a 5 hour add-on game to HL3 or whatever they make next. It'll be short and sweet like the original Portal and avoid all the crazy hype and expectations of fans for a prequel.
  • Headstandz - March 8, 2012 4:14 p.m.

    Portal 2 wasn't my favorite game. But it was the only game which ending made me go O.O It was EPIC!
  • Craza - March 8, 2012 8:17 p.m.

    The little "Ting!" and twinkle as you land that portal, ahhhhh man, that was just perfect.
  • SideOfBeef - March 8, 2012 3:27 p.m.

    They couldn't have the main character speak because they're saving that to end Half Life 3.
  • josh-horvath - March 9, 2012 7:03 a.m.

    we all know how it will happen: 'end of the game' alyx: gordon, you have saved us all. what do we do do know? gordon:'lowers weapon' pub everyone: pub? gordon: 'smiles and nods head' pub
  • talleyXIV - March 8, 2012 3:21 p.m.

    First! Spoilers: for those that have not beat Portal 2 (WHY?) Anyway, this article was really cool. I loved Portal 2 and I think it is the single greatest ending sequence ever, you go to the moon, the villain/friend saves you, and you win (are set free.) I can't believe after the success of Portal they even considered ditching portals, Chell, and GlaDos. Really quite unbelievable. Well, however they came up with it, it was a brilliant game.
  • BladedFalcon - March 8, 2012 3:21 p.m.

    More fake endings would have been cool, but even as the game is, Is till felt it had a couple XD Though they did end like a normal death and not like an ending. But yeah... Good thing that ending in which chell speaks was removed. The current one is absolutely fantastic as it is, easily one of my favorite endings of last year, and possibly this generation. Shocking as it might have been to hear Chell speak, it would have topped a trip to the MOON. Also, Chell suddenly speaking just for that would have made no fucking sense.
  • Redeater - March 8, 2012 4:22 p.m.

    Meh. It made perfect sense in Dead Space 2.

Showing 1-20 of 24 comments

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