Portal's Aperture Science got its start in 1953 producing shower curtains for the US Army. So it's poignant that in 2011 the company goes back to its roots, and produces shower curtains for...your bathroom.
These curtains don't talk, don't sing and don't flash lights. They're just curtains. Good, honest curtains. The kind of curtains Cave Johnson would sell to the Army. Only without all the mercury*.
They cost $20, and you can grab one from the link below.
*WARNING: They may contain less than 1% mercury.
Portal 2 Aperture Laboratories Shower Curtain [ThinkGeek]
Vector doesn't only have a customized bedroom, he has a Portal bedroom, complete with Companion Cubes and an Aperture-branded toilet. Ah, to be a kid!
There's also GLaDOS watching over Vector's room, which I'd say is totally creepy if Vector didn't seem so deliriously happy about his room.
Vector Farr - The Portal Bedroom [YouTube]
Any way you slice it, it's been a good year for Nolan North. At this time last year, the ever-present voice actor had become something of a go-to joke—people had cottoned to the fact that his voice was featured in 50% of the video games that had been released that year (slight exaggeration), and had started to give him some good-natured jibes.
This year, he's turned up in four of the biggest games of the year—in addition to his recurring roles as Nathan Drake in Uncharted 3 and Desmond in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, he played the role of The Penguin in Batman: Arkham City and voiced several of the funnier turrets in Portal 2. Both of those last two roles demonstrated North's versatility—many comments have been made about how so many of his characters sound alike, the sort of "bashful everyman" personified by Drake, Desmond, and North's take on The Prince from 2008's Prince of Persia. But to hear him play up Penguin's menacing Cockney accent or the broken Portal turrets' bewildered bravado disproves those assertions.
Today we have a couple of fresh looks at North and his process. First up is a fun, short audio clip from an interview that Sarah Elmaleh did with North for the new issue of Kill Screen. In it, North talks about how he listens for various accents, and what kind of information is important for him to assume a new role. I enjoy hearing him talk in his actual speaking voice, since it becomes clear how different it really is from that of Nathan Drake.
The second, more in-depth piece, is a large interview that ran today at Grantland. In the interview, Tom Bissell asks North about his work, the process at Naughty Dog, and what gamers look for in their cutscenes. "Gamers have become savvier," North says. "They're more sophisticated and they want good performances. When you don't do performance capture alongside voice capture, there's always going to be this disconnect."
North also talks about one of my favorite bits of the game—the part where Charlie's claustrophobia kicks in. He describes how that character-note emerged organically from a bit of ad-libbed dialogue:
Graham McTavish plays Charlie Cutter, a pal of Drake's, a tough guy. During one of the first days we were shooting, we had this alley scene, and he said, "Wouldn't it be kind of funny if Charlie was claustrophobic?" Amy started laughing and said, "Do that. What would that look like? Let's try it." Well, in the game, Drake and Charlie are running down a London alleyway. Drake is like, "Charlie, come on. What are you doing?" He's like, "All right. I'm coming, I'm coming," but he goes through the alley saying, "It'll all be over soon, it'll all be over soon, it'll all be over soon." That was completely made up. We all thought it was funny.
North also talks about taking the Penguin, and why he took the role:
I'm sure you've heard people say that I only do one voice. Desmond Miles is my voice but a little darker. Nate is another little side of a personality. But they're not the same person. Penguin wasn't my way of saying, "See? I can do other things!" But I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind. You know, I do six different animated shows. I'm doing one of my animated shows on Monday, and in it I'm doing five voices. Three of them talk to one another and you won't know from one to the next that they're all me.
I'm proud of the versatility I've had since I was in high school, getting in trouble for all these voices. What happened was that there were so many of these big heroes I played - in Dark Void, Assassin's Creed, Shadow Complex, Uncharted, and Prince of Persia - and they all showed up at about the same time. It got a little ridiculous. When Portal came out, and I was listed in the credits, people were asking me, "Were you really in that?" Yeah! I did three spheres and some turrets.
It's a fun interview, and covers a lot of ground, including the other roles he played in Uncharted 3, how his oldest son dressed up as Drake for Halloween, and how he got his start as a… journalist, of all things. Hmm. Might have to consider getting into voice-acting.
On second thought, maybe not.
Uncharted 3: Who Is That Man? [Grantland]
Nolan North Interview Excerpt [Kill Screen]
If your Christmas gift guide needs an entry in the "stuff that sounds stupid at first but then you quickly realise it's amazing" section, ThinkGeek's talking Cave Johnson portrait should do the trick.
Officially licensed by Portal creators Valve, the portrait measures 15 1/2" x 11 1/2", and comes packed with thirteen phrases (the actual ones from Johnson's wonderful voice actor JK Simmons) that can be activated either by walking past it or pressing the things' plaque.
It'll sell for USD$40 and will be available next month.
Portal 2 Cave Johnson Talking Portrait [ThinkGeek]
The second big update to Portal 2 will feature "an easy to use in-game map editor that will let users design, build and share their own single-player and co-op test chambers with the community, who will be able to view, play and vote on them with a simple click," Valve revealed today. It will be out in early 2012. We shared more details earlier this week (time warp!).
As the original image wasn't in wallpaper dimensions, and it's so damn pretty people are going to ask, I've taken the liberty of putting together a 1920x1080 version, which you can grab here.
Portal 2 [Alex Garner]
In a free expansion to his PC, Mac and iOS behind-the-scenes article/app The Final Hours of Portal 2 that will be available today, Keighley explains that Valve people are working on "a Photoshop for test chambers," a user-friendly editing tool that would allow amateurs to easily craft new Portal 2 levels. These folks are also developing a system that would allow Portal 2 players to access the new levels from within the game, without having to go outside the game to access them. "Now maps will appear on an easy to use menu, dramatically expanding the potential audience for fan-created content—and hopefully making it available on the consoles as well."
Exciting as this might be for Portal 2 fans, the cleverest idea is that, as Keighley writes, "the writers are even discussing the idea of adding a personality to the editor... magine what it would be like to have GLaDOS berate you every time you spell something incorrectly in Microsoft Word and you'll have a sense of where this can go."
Valve may have worked with Keighley on this app and given him access for this info, but they don't confirm if all this is definitely going to be released—or just is in the experimental stages.
Keighley's update shares many more details about the making of this month's Peer Review DLC and some tantalizing details about ideas considered but scuttled for the expansion. Let's just say, we could have had DLC in outerspace, if only Valve had more time and resources. Bummer!
Check out the app for more details. If you have it, look for all this and more in a bonus chapter that should be available any minute now.
Due out in mid-December, it's an officially-licensed product available at ThinkGeek, and will go on sale for only US$30. While the plush's product listing doesn't specify which phrases the little darlings will utter, they do say the turrets will know all "the phrases all proper sentry turrets should know".
While Portal devotees are the initial targets, I can see a lucrative secondary market opening up for people who make internet videos about cats.
Yesterday during a writer's roundtable at the Game Developers Conference Online, Valve's Erik Wolpaw, Marc Laidlaw, and Ted Kosmatka opened up on some of the processes - and problems - they had writing Portal 2.
First up, problems! Wolpaw says that, originally, the idea was to have the player and GLaDOS team up in a "buddy cop" situation, ala Lethal Weapon.
"We had envisioned it as this buddy cop thing, where you'd be together and you'd be bickering and it would be awesome. It honest to God did not occur to us that the buddy cop thing doesn't work if one of you is quiet. It's funny now, everybody's laughing, but it was a true moment of incredible panic for us when we realized we'd painted ourselves into a corner."
How'd they get around this? They turned lemons into Cave Johnson.
"And that's when we decided we need to give her some external thing to deal with. She has a relationship with Cave, realizes she was another person, and then there's the bird and other stuff. We run into that a lot with the silent protagonist, even at this point."
The other interesting topic revolved around a bananas theory some crackpot Portal 2 fans have that, based on a single line of unused Cave Johnson dialogue, there was intended to be some kind of scene where the Aperture boss rapes his former assistant. Um. Yeah.
"There's some piece of dialogue in there where Carolyn is saying 'No, no, no, I don't want this. I don't want this", says Wolpaw. "And there's some kind of story on the Internet that apparently people think has been verified that there was a scene where Cave Johnson was raping Carolyn, and that J.K. Simmons wouldn't read the dialogue, so that's why we don't have it [in the game]."
"Apparently these are people who never saw [prison drama] Oz. J.K. Simmons will do anything if you pay him. But that is absolutely not true. It's like they played the rest of the game and thought we wrote a rape scene in there and had that in there for a while and thought, 'Well maybe we'll ship that.' It's insane."
Writing Valve's silent protagonists [GameSpot]
The first downloadable add-on for Portal 2, the free cooperative missions known as "Peer Review" is now out for PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (or will be any minute now). And if you don't already own Portal 2...
Steam is selling Portal 2 at the very reasonable asking price of $14.99 USD for the next couple days. You have until October 6 to get that 50% deal, so if you're still procrastinating on one of the best games of the year, procrastinate no more.
Today's downloadable add-on for the game continues the co-op adventures of Aperture Science bots P-Body and Atlas in a new test track. "The DLC also features a single player and co-op Challenge Mode, and leaderboards to compare Challenge Mode scores with friends and the Portal community," says Valve.
Portal 2 [Steam]