An entertaining interview with Valve game designer Robin Walker reveals Portal only added GLaDOS to help the game feel less like a long tutorial.
An interview with Valve game designer Robin Walker revealed that Portal‘s GLaDOS almost didn’t make it into the game – and was only added to make the puzzle-platformer feel less like a long tutorial or gameplay demonstration. Portal is a classic franchise from Valve that rose to prominence thanks to its mixture of innovative gameplay machinations and charm, the latter of which is provided in most scenarios by the murderous AI GLaDOS.
While Portal‘s gameplay has served as inspiration for plenty of interesting and innovative platformers in the years since its initial release in 2007, GLaDOS has arguably eclipsed the game in which it debuted and gone on to become a recognizable element of mainstream pop culture. Whether it’s crossover debates about the strength of GLaDOS compared to other characters or Easter Egg references in other games, GLaDOS’s brand of sarcastic, violent humor and self-aggrandizing behavior has endured for over a decade.
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That’s why it’s so surprising that, during an interview with Tech Radar, Walker revealed that Portal‘s GLaDOS almost wasn’t in the games at all – and wasn’t designed as a central part of the story from the beginning. In the interview, Walker explains that, with most of the levels built and playtesters beginning to go hands-on with the title, GLaDOS still didn’t exist. However, players would give feedback asking when the game was meant to begin, indicating that many of them believed they were playing through a tutorial rather than the actual game itself. The team then had to ask itself “what makes someone go through that experience of those levels and come out and ask where’s the game start?”
The team’s answer determined the existence of GLaDOS – there needed to be a threat, or an antagonist, to get people to feel like they’re playing the game. That helped create GLaDOS, who would then go on to become one of the most memorable parts of the Portal universe, appearing in both games. The adaptation of the Valve team behind Portal was so good it actually created a pop culture icon, an impressive accomplishment given that it wasn’t the original plan to even feature the AI at all.
Malleability in game development is a strong quality in any team, and it appears the developers on the Portal team possessed a lot of it. Managing to create GLaDOS, who figures heavily into the levels of Portal and the game’s lasting reputation, is no small feat. It’s also shocking to learn just how close the industry was to never having had GLaDOS make an appearance at all, which is a testament to how large the villainous AI’s shadow looms over similar cybernetic antagonists even in 2021.
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Source: Tech Radar
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