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.
We featured a work in progress last week, the beginnings of a music video looking at Chell's life after Aperture.
Zachariah Scott has finished his work now, and sent the new link along to us. "After Aperture" is a slow, meditative, thoughtful look at Chell from outside the first person perspective. What exactly does one do with one's life after a couple hundred years down at Aperture Science?
Scott has added notes on his source of inspiration, as well as a few asides on the limits of Source Filmmaker. There are only so many assets available for Chell (as generally one plays Portal in first person), and that limited the available shots. But the Companion Cube really is that large, to scale. All in all, it adds up to a lovely take on a character whose thoughts we rarely get to see.
(Caution: Portal 2 ending spoilers ahead!)
Portal 2 had a satisfying, if ambiguous, ending. The player, in the form of Chell, finally got to breathe the air free of Aperture. There was no deer.
But what comes next for our silent heroine? One fan started this music video using Valve's new Source Filmmaker. It's the very early stages of a work in progress. It doesn't tell us what Chell's future holds. Not yet. But it does look gorgeous, bird, cube, and all.
exile vilify, rough pose work [qqmoarz tumblr]
In the spirit of the many "Meet The" videos from Team Fortress 2 comes this fan-made video by Harry Callagan. Made mostly in Premiere Pro and Photoshop (not in Source Filmmaker!), it's an impressive showing, considering that Callagan describes it as something that "started as a very quick visual test, but grew into something a little bigger."
Props to the voice cast for doing their best to keep up with Stephen Merchant and Nolan North. The whole thing is a lot of fun.
Last week, my misidentification of a laser engraving on a space part suggested the wrong personality core from Portal 2 was symbolically being flown to space (a fate echoing the game's story.) A team of 18 teenagers from Nevada stepped in to restore order, and properly send the Space Core—or, well, a plushy version of him, anyway—to near space.
That image above is of Space Core (and an Energizer Bunny) at about 91,000 feet, which were launched yesterday by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas' Summer Advanced Gifted Education Academy—aka smart kids. One, named Jake, enrolled in a class called "Project: Space!" whose goal was to send up two weather balloons. "In the first week, I found out that the majority of the class were huge Portal and Portal 2 fans when we sung both 'Still Alive' and 'Want You Gone' from memory," Jake writes.
After seeing the story last week, Jake proposed the idea of launching a Space Core into space, which was immediately supported. He wrote Valve, which quickly sent back its thanks and encouragement and the Space Core plushy. (The Energizer Bunny was the group's hat-tip to the battery maker, which supplied the power source.)
"After much preparation and anxiety, we sent up the weather balloon [Saturday] morning and retrieved it in the afternoon," Jake wrote. "The balloon ended up going up about 91,000 feet (we could have done better, but the wind decided to make our lives harder)."
The photo above is blurry because the balloon's camera lens still was fogged by a cloud it had passed through. The image is of the balloon just before it burst.
"Lots of things have been sent into space before, but I think this is the first time a space core was sent up," he noted in conclusion. Indeed.
The project team, Flying Apple Space Technologies (so named because Newton's fell to Earth, theirs is going in the opposite direction) is working on uploading a full video of the Space Core's flight. They also have another launch coming up and are keen to find supporters so that they can send up more scientific instruments. Previous launches by the SAGE Academy have included Geiger counters, weather loggers and a flight predictor.
You're about to see what happens when a team of "speed-runners" knows enough about the progress and timing of a game that they can finish something that normally takes hours in just over eight minutes.
The run, with video slightly edited for your viewing pleasure, is above, while this online document is full of notes detailing how they actually did it.
For the doubters, there's this:
There were no cheats, hacks, or modifications made to the game while the speedrunning took place. Everything you see in this video can be done on a current Steam version of Portal without using any console commands. Any part where the video "stutters" or when a "console box pops up" signifies a segment. The console box is a demo artifact, and we couldn't fix it from popping up.
And if that's not enough, there's a link to download a demo of the run in full below.
Portal Done Pro-er - Portal Speedrun - 8:31.93 - WR [YouTube, via Beefjack]