Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Character Design - Wheatley

Wheatley was one of the first characters introduced for Portal 2. And people loved him. (Portal 1 and 2 spoilers) The Cores from the previous game were very popular, especially the cake and curiosity  cores.

So, when it was announced that there would be cores in Portal 2, people were interested. Then Wheatley was introduced.

He was funny, he knew about the facility, and he was destroyed by GLaDOS. Of course we liked him, and that was the point! Valve had to make a certain scene very hard to take. This one

Valve did a great set up. When they set up Wheatley, they decided the more sane robots would sound like robots. (See GLaDOS) but the insane ones would sound human so we would trust them more. They also did research and found that English accents gave players an expectation of intelligence.

Despite this, they gave some hints that Wheatley was in idiot before the change. We see that his form of "Hacking" involves either slamming into glass or trying to convince non sentient/sapient machines to let him into the framework.

And when Chell finds the Portal gun, his advice isn't very helpful despite being nearby. It is Doug Rattmann who gives more help despite being completely insane and not even present. (I ADORE Doug, he'll get an entry later) While it is unnerving, it only makes him more charming to the viewer.

His model also gets an upgrade compared to Portal 1. The original models just rotated, Portal 2 models actually show emotion. he "breathes", rolls around, narrows his eyes, etc. It's rather impressive. It also makes Wheatley more likable. He seems human. He's a loveable idiot trapped in this sphere of a body. So his betrayal is a real kick to the gut.

And when we get around to seeing him in his altered form it simply looks wrong. GLaDOS's head fits with the body. It's white like the body and it looks sort of like an actual head (At the very least it seems properly proportioned) Wheatley is too circular and too small. He seems wrong, and VALVE takes every opportunity to remind us of this fact. GLaDOS never watched us in test chambers (Well, not with big screens anyway)

Wheatley always watches. Wheatley's likeability and humanity is the driving force of his character.In the beginning, we chase him because we like him. In the end, we chase him because his likeability now makes him seem "off".

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