When Epic Mickey 2 was announced, eyebrows were raised and hands clapped as gaming’s first foray into musical theatre revealed itself. But had Valve’s Erik Wolpaw had his way, the crossover would have happened much earlier. In Portal.
This intriguing piece of Portal pre-history emerged during RPS’ big old chat with geek god Jonathan Coulton early last week. Coulton wrote Portal’s game-ending final flourish Still Alive with Valve word scientist Wolpaw: “GladOS was really his baby; we had extensive conversations about her, her character, what she wanted, how she was feeling, what emotional state the player was going to be in.
“The great thing about GladOS is that she’s a pathetic villain. Your relationship with her is complicated, emotionally, because she’s funny and she’s trying to kill you, and she’s not particularly self-aware.”
Still Alive was originally designed to be sung by GladOS part-way through the game to reflect that relationship, says Coulton.
“Halfway through Portal, when you foil her plan to kill you, and you’re sneaking around backstage… she spends the rest of the game trying various ways to convince you to come back. And she tries everything and none of it works, and you really start to pity her.
“We wanted the song to be a song that she sang, almost a bit of musical theatre. In fact that was Eric’s thing, he wanted a musical theatre number in the middle of the game, a character singing about their emotions.”
It’s not clear whether the song would have taken a different form in its original mid-game home, but if you ask us Still Alive’s sentiment has always seemed, well, rather final.
What kind of Portal has musical numbers? A better or worse kind than the one we ended up with?