Interview: We catch up with Portal 2's Jeep Barnett, and quiz him about the first game's success, cake, and the future of Aperture Science...
Hot on the tail of our Valve studio tour comes this insightful Portal 2 interview with Jeep Barnett. Jeep was one of the original creators of Portal, even before his team and project were bought by Valve, and had quite a lot to talk about in regards to the original game, the relevance of ‘The cake is a lie’ meme and, of course, Portal 2. Check it out below. We’ll also be posting our interview with Doug Lombardi soon that covers the Valve approach to creating games, DLC and how they go about managing a team of creative individuals.
Atomic: So you worked on the original Portal as well as Portal 2?
Jeep: Uh huh. Yeah. So I went to school at DigiPen and with those group of people. Valve hired us, we worked on Portal 1 all the way through and it was basically our small team and Erik Wolpaw, the writer. And then after Portal, I've been working on other things: Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Alien Swarm and other stuff like that. And also Portal 2. I'm a programmer on Portal 2; I've been mostly working on the co-op part.
Atomic: How long is the co-op campaign?
Jeep: So the co-op campaign is maybe a tad shorter than the single-player campaign, but they're both individually longer than Portal 1 was by quite a bit.
Atomic: Because the original Portal was... well, how would you say how long it is? Because it depends on how stuck you get.
Jeep: Yeah, it’s kinda crazy. It really depends on people’s skill levels. I mean, when we were testing internally we saw about six hours on average. Out in the wild we saw maybe four hours on average because I think it was more of a hardcore crowd that was into it in our statistics. But, like, we saw people who took up to 16 hours. It was a huge, huge amount of difference and I think that’s different to most games that are more like, yeah it’s two to four hours. It was three to 16.
Atomic: Exactly. Because it was so puzzle heavy it’s really hard to say it’s this long because I saw a speed run online the other day. Did you see that one?
Jeep: Yeah, it’s about 16 minutes.
Atomic: It was eight minutes. It was crazy!
Jeep: Yeah, it was ridiculous.
Atomic: But he glitched the hell out of it, obviously, to do that. So, I wanted to ask about the evolution of Portal. You mentioned that it started off as something that was included with the Orange Box. So it wasn’t something, especially for PC, that you had to pay for. Were you guys expecting it to take off in the way it did?
Jeep: Ah, I mean, when we started working on it, Valve was like, ‘You should work with us, y’know, just make the game and do what you do.’ Okay, and we had enough of a game where like we didn’t know whether we should charge $10 for it, we didn’t know if it should be free. We don’t really know. And then the Orange Box started coming together and we’re like, okay, now we can feel a little stress-free about it because we’re riding on the shoulders of Team Fortress and Half Life 2, and we'll just be in there and if people want to check out this crazy game then, y'know, they can do that. We were so blown away by the reaction of how much people loved the game and just how far it went critically and culturally and all that.