What could've been: A Portal 2 without Wheatley, GLaDOS, or portals
(Warning: This article contains spoilers for Portal 2. Read at your own risk!)
Before the Portal 2 we know and love came into existence, Valve had many different scenarios in mind. During the Game Developer’s Conference, Valve’s Chet Faliszek and Eric Wolpaw revealed a few of the pre-release versions in question.
In one version Wheatley dies after GLaDOS’ reawakening instead of accompanying Chell and becoming the antagonist. After the witty personality core’s death, Chell meets a variety of other cores similar to Wheatley. One of them was the “Morgan Freeman Sphere”, a core who spent decades in a small 20×20 inch room. He was incredibly wise, but only when it came to that room. Once removed from the safe haven of that room he was terrified and his knowledge was useless.
Another iteration abandoned Chell, GLaDOS, and the portal mechanic completely. Portals were replaced with F-Stop, a mechanic Valve has yet to explain, and Cave Johnson was introduced. The game began with the player waking up on a sandy beach complete with palm trees, an vast ocean, and a blue sky. This luxurious scene slowly transforms and reveals the harsh reality of a testing room. This Portal 2 took place when Aperture Science was a successful company and before Cave Johnson’s passing. Without portals, it is in the name after all, this version didn’t last long though. GLaDOS was put back into the fray, but Chell was replaced with a new tester that GLaDOS didn’t recognize. Players didn’t like that lack of a personal relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist, so this scenario was eventually scrapped as well.
As Portal 2 gradually came closer to the current one the team wondering how to end the game, so a slew of different endings were thought up. Each one had their own song appropriate for the events that occurred. One where Chell dies within the first few minutes, another where she’s dumped into a flaming pit, etc. One ending even involved Chell speaking in order to stop Wheatley, but only a single word. Another ending involved the player blasting a portal to the moon and having the sheer audacity jump through it. After making it to the other side Chell just dies and that was it. This is where Portal 2’s official ending originated from, but without the same grim fate.
Near the end of development the team began working on the multiplayer component which involved two robots competing in a series of never ending tests. At some point, GLaDOS comes to the conclusion that these tests were useless without human observers. She sends the robots on a quest to find objects that would make them more human. One was a newspaper panel cartoon, drawn by Nedroid, that poked fun at the lasagne loving cat Garfield. None of the AI understood the humor, so GLaDOS edited it in attempt to make it funnier. The result was the death of every character in the comic.
In the end a few of the leftover ideas came together and the Portal 2 of today was born. The other ideas were left for dead, but if a Portal 3 were to occur I’m hoping some, such as the Morgan Freeman Sphere, are revisited. Portal 2 ended on a great note so I’ve always thought of Portal 3 as unlikely and unnecessary, but with all of these leftover ideas I’m convinced that Valve has a lot to work with if a sequel is ever made. Sadly, due to Valve’s approach towards the third iteration in their series, I doubt we’ll be seeing any sign of Portal 3 for a very long time.