New World Gaming: Valve Writer Erik Wolpaw on Rick, Under-Appreciated Star of Portal 2
WARNING: If you haven’t finished Portal 2 yet, SPOILERS ahead.
I recently finished Portal 2 from Valve, and it’s easily the best immersive, interactive storytelling I’ve experienced since the original BioShock (along with being a great example of zen problem-solving.) But I had trouble with the final mission, because it involves Rick the Adventure Sphere, a dimwit AI who incessantly babbles at you in a tough guy Texan drawl while you’re occupied by more pressing matters, such as trying not to get blown up. His crazed patter is so hilariously surreal, he’s easily the star of Portal 2, but because he shows up in the last few minutes, he probably the most under-appreciated.
“He might be my favorite character,” my old pal Erik Wolpaw, a lead writer for Portal 2, tells me. “Jay's too (Jay Pinkerton, who co-wrote Portal 2.) The problem with the adventure sphere, from a under-appreciation perspective, is that you kinda miss his best stuff unless you play the final battle a few times and leave yourself a bunch of time with him.”
More on Rick (with some video of his patter) after the break:
“If you give yourself enough time he goes through a little arc,” adds Erik, “he even slightly changes the way the stalemate resolution button booby trap scene plays out. He also sings his own awesome adventure theme music.” Take a look:
“[P]retty much all of his dialog was written out beforehand,” says Erik, “though we improvised some stuff in the studio with the actor who plays him, Nolan North. Nolan's in a lot of games; he plays Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series.
“As for inspiration, we just thought it's be funny to have this totally impotent charming rogue sphere. All man, loves the ladies, but can't do anything about any of it because he's a slightly malfunctioning metal ball. That said and regardless of his limitations, we wanted him to be confident and enthusiastic about absolutely everything that's going on. Nothing gets him down.”
So even if you’ve already finished Portal 2, be sure to replay the final confrontation with Wheatley, and spend some time with Rick. My bet is he’ll slowly gain a cult following, with lines like “Happy Explosion Day, gorgeous!” destined be the “Cake is a lie!” of 2011.