According to Valve’s Erik Wolpaw, most players are quite oblivious to Portal’s protagonist, Chell – but would be devastated if she didn’t return to continue her relationship with GLaDOS.
“In the beginning, when we were first designing it, and even for the first couple of iterations, the idea was Chell had her story, she got out, let’s just let her be,” the Portal 2 writer told Eurogamer.
“She’s out in the wild doing her thing, let’s just have a different test subject. Who cares?
“But because of that, when GLaDOS woke up, she didn’t recognise the player. That’s when we first realised, people didn’t care about Chell. They weren’t like, where’s Chell?”
Wolpaw said players weren’t fazed by playing a different character during the first thirty minutes of the game.
“What bothered them was when GLaDOS woke up and didn’t recognise them as the person who done these things to her.
“… Technically, we could have had some other character who had done something. But it’s the continuation of the player’s experience.
Agreeing with fellow Valve staffer Chet Faliszek that Chell is a female version of silent protagonist Gordon Freeman, Wolpaw then commented that unlike Freeman’s ambiguous conversational participation, Chell is most definitely silent – perhaps by choice.
“In Half-Life we hand wave over whether Gordon is actually silent or whether he’s participating in these conversations in a way … [But in Portal] we do some things with the silence that are hopefully interesting.
“I always had this feeling of Chell is a character who’s just pissed off the entire time and having to do this, and just not giving them the pleasure of saying anything. She probably can talk.”