Portal 2 takes place after Portal, long after enough for Aperture Science to be wrecked and covered with plant-life. What happened? Valve plans to explain some of that gap in the coming weeks, before we can play Portal 2 on April 18.
"We're actually going to release something that we're not talking about yet that will give a little bit of the story of the interim time," Erik Wolpaw, one of the writers on Portal 2 told me at PAX East today. "We're doing that before release."
I'm not sure how much detail we're going to get. Valve is being cagey about how we can once again resume the role of test subject Chell even if Aperture seems like it's been through a long period of decay. "You were in this cryo-chamber," Wolpaw told me. "Maybe yours was just better or you're tougher."
Portal games take place in the universe first established in the Half-Life games. And, yes, they do all fit together. "Portal is after Half-Life 1 and before Half-Life 2," Wolpaw said. "Without getting into it too much, Portal 2 is further down the line." I asked if that meant that Portal 2 is, say, after Half-Life Episode 2. He didn't want to get into that.
The Portal and Half-Life games co-exist, but they won't crossover too much, Wolpaw said. "We tried to keep as light a touch about it as we did in Portal 1. Fans of Half-Life will notice some things, but if you haven't played Half-Life they'll just kind of pass right by you. You're not going to see Gordon tromping through the facility." He likened it to how the X-Files had an overarching plot but then also standalone episodes that were a little looser. "Aperture Science is kind of this fun-house of science, this bubble in the otherwise serious Half-Life universe."
We'll have more from Wolpaw and about Portal 2 in the coming days.
Fans of the game should note that the game is being demonstrated in a theater at PAX East, where a new character, Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture Science, is being revealed for the first time. He's voiced by JK Simmons, who played J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies. In Portal 2, it's not clear if he's alive, a recording, or what. But he is happy to give you some instructions and to give instructions to those Aperture test subjects who are part praying-mantis. Didn't see them in the demo today!