PAX East 2011: Portal 2's Writer Didn't Try to Reinvent the Cake

PAX East 2011: Portal 2's Writer Didn't Try to Reinvent the Cake

Portal was perhaps one of the most quoted videogames ever created, but writer Erik Wolpaw says he doesn't feel any pressure to cram the sequel full of memorable memes.

Valve's beloved puzzle/platformer starring homicidal computer GLaDOS churned out more well-known lines of dialog than you can shake a Companion Cube at. Entire websites are devoted to Portal's extraordinary quotability, and let's not get started on how embedded in geek culture that damn cake has become. Players might be expecting the sequel, Portal 2, to offer the same kind of memorable dialog, but writer Erik Wolpaw says he didn't really worry about that while he was writing the game.

"It wasn't like we set out to make anything quotable, we just wrote the way that we write," he told me at PAX East, explaining how he and Chet Faliszek approached writing Portal. "And so we just did that same thing again and it's just hard, with memes or whatever, you can't really plan for it because if you do it probably seems weird and forced. People are smart and they can sniff that out. So you just do the same thing you always do and don't worry about it."

You can't always predict what bits of writing will take on a life of their own, he explained. "I was watching Avatar the other night and one of the characters says, like, 'We're not in Kansas anymore,' and I seriously doubt whoever the screenwriter of Wizard of Oz was, wrote that line, like, 'A hundred years from now, this is the one people are going to be saying.' Who knows? The goal is just to make a good game and tell a decent story. Anything else is just a bonus past that ... or a curse. Bonus slash curse."

And what about Portal's enduring confectionary legacy? "No cake jokes in this one, so if there's no new memes created, there's certainly been one retired. You won't have to worry about the cake jokes this time," he said.

Maybe we'll get a nice brie en croute instead.

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I think I'll just throw this out here...

This is PAX footage, btw.

I can tell just by watching the trailers that the writing is still genius, so there doesn't have to be cake.

"Don't disappoint me, or I'll make you wish you could die."

Glad to see they know what they're doing. He's right about forced memes, how they never work and just seem weird to the audience. It's good that their self-imposed standard isn't to create new catch-phrases but rather to continue Valve's tradition of excellent writing, with any new memes spawned being natural children of the content, as it should be.

I'm perfectly happy that they're not bringing back cake jokes. I got sick of everybody saying "The cake is a lie" after the first game came out, and it seems like it would be lazy writing to reuse old jokes instead of writing new ones. Not to mention, GlaDOS can't fool Chell with cake again, it wouldn't make sense to promise it this time around.

P.S. Thanks

That's fine with me Valve, a great story is a hundred times more memorable than a quotable line

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Susan Arendt:
Maybe we'll get a nice brie en croute instead.

You suggest the memes go upper-class?

it doesnt matter the cake was a lie

Formica Archonis:
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Susan Arendt:
Maybe we'll get a nice brie en croute instead.

You suggest the memes go upper-class?

Indeed, why not? We're a classy lot, right?

THE CAKE IS A LIE!1!!!1!

OT: I'm glad it's goin' down this way. :D

Pakkie:
THE CAKE IS A LIE!1!!!1!

[email protected]!

 

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