It all began one sunny, seemingly inauspicious afternoon in a Starbucks. It also ended there – but, you know, later. Ragged and bone-weary from three days of wading through PAX’s diseased hordes, Valve’s Erik Wolpaw, Double Fine’s Anna Kipnis, and I huddled around one last vestige of civilized humanity: a table. Then we spent nearly an hour talking about this year’s sudden upsurge in crazy-interesting videogame stories, because it seemed like the thing to do at the time. It isn’t anymore, but – if you’ll believe it – it was considered cool back then. Those were the days. Anyway, here’s part one. If you behave yourself, you might get part two tomorrow. And maybe a cookie. But probably not.>
Among the many highlights from the Erik Wolpaw/Tim Schafer panel at PAX this past weekend was a brief exchange where an audience member asked what Wolpaw thought about the disconnect between authored single-player games and games that allowed truly personal stories to emerge, like Notch's Minecraft and Dean Hall's DayZ.
"It's not [about] single-player vs multiplayer," Wolpaw said, "it's more, can you have an authored story in that situation? It gets tough. I look at stories coming out of Minecraft or something like DayZ, and honestly… it makes me just despair. If I had any guts or honor, I'd leave the industry." The audience started laughing. "It seems like it's the promise of games. It's like, 'I have full agency. Total, total agency.'"
Wolpaw paused. "I'm not actually quitting my job," he clarified, and smiled.
Schafer picked up the joke: "He'll be pulling a paycheck, but he's not going to care anymore. Because DayZ and Minecraft are so good… and they have better stories than Portal. He was off-mic, and I just wanted to make sure everyone heard that." More laughter.
When co-host Jason Schreier (you may know him from such publications as: this one) asked Wolpaw if he thinks there will always be room for narrative-driven games, The Portal 2 and Psychonauts writer said, "Oh, I think there will be. But, at some point, you're going to go into the kinda 'artisan cheese-maker' model." He then nodded to Schafer, half-jokingly. "Like Tim. You're going to be making these games that directly appeal to a [specific audience]. It may not be one of these 20 million dollar massive productions."
Schafer contributed his own thought on the matter: "I think [that kind of player-driven experience] is maybe the promise of games. But not everybody wants the same thing from games. There are definitely people who like something carefully crafted for them, cheese or games."
At PAX Prime in Seattle, Double Fine's Tim Schafer and Valve's Erik Wolpaw gave a panel called "Plot vs. Play" in which they discussed the ongoing debate about gameplay and story. The panel was co-hosted by Kotaku's own Jason Schreier.
The whole thing was as much fun as you'd imagine. At one point Wolpaw, who tends to be something of a fount of hilarious unrealized Portal ideas at these sorts of panels, recounted an eventually canned sequence in Portal 2 in which players find (and kill) Aperture founder Cave Johnson. Well... they kill his brain, anyway. See, his consciousness is trapped inside a computer.
"There was something in Portal 2 where originally, for a while, you were going to find Cave Johnson.' He would be like, 'Hi, this is Cave Johnson. No really, this is Cave Johnson, look down here.'
And then we'd put him in this crummy box that was plugged into the wall. And the whole thing was that he'd been put into this computer, and he just hated it, and he just wanted to die. And so he wants you to unplug him, and meanwhile there's a ledge that you can't quite jump onto… and you have to stand on Cave Johnson, you have to unplug him and carry him across the room.
But it was hard to communicate what was going on—we maybe could have eventually worked it out, but that was something where it seemed like a good fictional idea and we just never quite worked the gameplay out to where it actually got where it needed to be—it didn't work out."
A while back, a Steam forum poster pulled out some unused dialogue from the game and posted it here, where you can find some lines that seem to reference the sequence Wolpaw was talking about.
"Now, before you say no, I want you to remember that I've lived a full life. Also, if this helps seal the deal, livin' in a computer this long's made me crazy. That's right: I am insane.
"Wait. I suppose tellin' you I'm not in my right mind could sway you to not unplugging me. Let me round back on the important parts: in a computer. Ceaseless torture. Monster in the eyes of god. So why don't you get on over here and unplug ol' Cave."
Ha. File that all under "Things I really wish had made it into Portal 2."
Portal 2's Wheatley doesn't really have a body. He's the robotic equivalent of a floating head in a jar. Which makes it easy for him to whizz about the game's levels, but makes it hard to craft a decent action figure out of the guy.
So custom toy builder KodyKoala went and built him one. Using a Wheatley key chain as a base, he took parts from other figures and constructed a glowing, Portal-gun-equipped torso and limbs, rounding out the figure with his own Companion Cube.
Anyone who's played a Portal game knows that Aperture Science's charmingly neurotic turrets are full of bullets. And CEO Cave Johnson showed off their design in this teaser video last year.
But artist Andrew Gabbott has gone above and beyond in his turret love, rendering by hand an incredibly detailed breakaway view of the Portal 2 enemies. Gabbott captured the painstaking process in the timelapse video above and you've got to respect the man's skills after watching it the whole thing in sped-up fashion. Those who want to wear or own Gabbott's turret drawing can go to his official site.
I showed the Companion Cube underwears to a female friend of mine this morning, who responded with "OMG everyone needs those." I'm inclined to agree, though since they do not make them in a size that would fit me, I grabbed a pair for someone with lady parts to obscure from view.
I have purchased one of each of the items you see above, one for me and two for the special lady in my life, who doesn't read Kotaku enough for this post to spoil the surprise. The Chell art nouveau tee is going on my body. The other two are going on hers. And to make it a little sweeter and a lot less pervy, I also grabbed a pair of companion cube creepers for the boys. It's a family thing now! Eventually we'll wind up on the cover of a JC Penny catalog with our tattoos and piercings airbrushed away.
Other fine Valve items appearing at Jinx include this love "Meet the Pyro" lithograph...
...which I also purchased, some Portal 2 posters, a coffee mug — you know what, just go see for yourself.
Valve's first-person puzzler Portal 2 has received a significant update today. For months, players on PC and Mac have been able to create their own puzzles through the "Perpetual Testing Initiative." However, these creations have had to be solitary affairs. No more! Starting today, Portal 2 players will be able to design and play co-op maps.
In addition to adding co-op, the UGC mode has been enhanced with a new "Quick Play" feature that creates an automatically generated playlist of top-rated maps to play through. That should help appease fans that actually want to test maps perpetually. Current owners of Portal 2 will find a 75% off coupon awaiting them in Steam, so that they can wrangle in a new player to join in co-op puzzle antics.