Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dear Valve,

I love your games. Ok, I love Portal. But I Love Portal a whole lot. I love portal SOOOOO much I made my own full-sized companion cube, but in plushie form, so I could hug it.

The Cube will always love you back!

After I devoured Portal 2, you announced a music video contest. I have a friend that likes Portal, and loves The National, and has a giant video camera. I already had the plushie cube of awesome, so all I needed was a Chell cosplay, and we were going to have the most awesome video ever.1

Now, I had been considering doing a Chell cosplay for a while, but the fact that I couldn’t run around barefoot at a convention really bothered me.2 And I wasn’t exactly stoked about doing a Portal 2 version. I was kinda upset about all the changes you had made. For one, how in the world does being in suspended animation “quite a lot longer” than normal cause this kind of transformation?

Might not have a minor case of serious brain damage, but has a major case of serious plastic surgery.

On a level, I understand that Portal is now a success, and you want your main character to look more heroic, but I don’t know why "heroic" means that she’s got to be wearing makeup. Seriously, where did she get the stuff? Your original model, while haggard, was much more believable for someone trapped in a facility run by murderous robots.

Now we could branch off here into a big long discussion about how the only heroines we can have in video games have to be attractive.3 And this is definitely a discussion I want to have, but it really deserves a whole separate post, because as important as that discussion is, I just don’t really think I can focus on it. Right now, all I can really think about is how Chell's jumpsuit in Portal 2 isn’t even close to the same as what she was wearing in Portal.

Am I the only one who noticed?

Those are so not the same!! She didn’t just unzip her jumpsuit and tie it around her waist to get down to business. She clearly changed her whole jumpsuit! Maybe I’m being a bit nit-picky. Characters change costumes all the time. And the old jumpsuit did have holes in the knees, so maybe she really did need a new one. And there are some comments that you’ve made about the first jumpsuit looking more like robots dressed her. So maybe Wheatly changed her clothes while she was sleeping at some point in time.4 But if you wanted to redesign your character, why did you go from “makes sense” to “inexplicable”??

Cause it’s not just the changes on the suit that bug me. Her other articles of clothing don’t exactly make a whole lot of sense either.


Seriously, what is the grey thing? Is it her underwear? If it is I might have to take back everything I’ve said about video game chicks always having to be hot, cause those are some mad-terrible grannie panties/spanks. For my costume, I wear two pairs of nylons that have been cut off at mid-thigh. I need two, one black, one grey to get the right color and opaqueness. And with the seaming and everything else, I can’t figure out what else it could be. Honestly, I’m wondering if you know what it is either. And don’t get me started on the non-existence of three-quarter length tank tops.

And while we’re looking at this, note the placement of her jumpsuit. It’s about six inches below her waist! When you tie your jacket around your waist, do you make sure it’s sitting all sexy and low on your hips? Oh, you never really thought about it before? Yeah, cause you just tie it around your waist. I have to pin my jumpsuit in no less than three places to make the knot tight enough to keep the jumpsuit from slipping down and off my butt. You could have at least had her tie a double knot...

Now lets look at the jumpsuit a little closer. The jumpsuit in Portal was actually really well thought out. Your seams were unique, but they made sense. Also, the jumpsuit was symmetrical in it’s construction. That’s not usually something you have to point out in a video game model, but in this case, apparently I do. Cause you lost it in Portal 2. And subsequently, so did I.

If you don’t want someone to look at your model so close, don’t make such a good game.

What were you thinking?!? I'm really starting to lose it here!! Seriously, I think that GLaDOS just analyzed at this jumpsuit too closely, and that’s why she tried to kill everyone. Did you think that no one was going to look at this that closely?! You do realize that there are costumers out there, and that a lot of them have an eye for detail, right?! Did your forget that you allow people to unpack and view your assets!?! All the pictures in this article were taken using YOUR viewer!! And I’m sorry, I’ve got a bit of a thing for costumes making sense. And this doesn’t make sense. You wouldn’t have such different seams on each side of your jumpsuit. And you can’t have a seam start on one side and not end up on the other! Where did it go?!?!?!5 Did you have two different designs and forget to merge them into one? Did you have a reverse copy-paste error6 where you copied one side of the texture to the other, and forgot to leave it alone??7

And don’t even get me started on the seven seams on the legs. Seven!!! Not two,8 not four,9 not eight10, SEVEN!?! Are you trying to make me crazy?? Cause it’s WORKING!!!!

And now for the final, and most disappointing part of all. The Longfall Boots. Let’s be clear here. I was really excited for these boots. They are super cool! And now that Chell has footwear, I was looking forward to feeling wholly accurate in a convention environment. But that was before I started to make the boots. Now, remember, I was on a really tight schedule,11 so I didn’t have time to make them how I would have liked. I had to do something fast. I attempted to shape the white part of the boot out of model magic12, just to see if I could quickly make something boot-shaped that would work on camera. However, once it was molded over my foot, and it had mostly dried, I couldn’t get it over my heel and ankle without ripping it. So I’m really not sure how you expect these boots to come off. Or go on for that matter.13

Awesome until you realize they are impossible.

And don't tell me she just slips into them. Those are form fit to her legs from above the ankle. There is a REASON that ankle boots have zippers. They aren't just there for decoration. Like whatever that weird line is on the side of her foot.14

And then why on earth did you keep making her run around on her toes? My Chell boots are a beast to walk in. Did you see my video?!? Did you see how I couldn't get enough traction to push my poor cube up the hill? Yeah, they didn't work so well for that. There's a reason I ripped them off!15 And note with I did with them after!!16 Yeah, that's wasn't acting. That's exactly how I feel about those boots!!!! Granted, I did make mine by chopping up some old gogo boots. And they don't have the best soles. Not to mention, in order to make them more true to form, I ripped the heels off. Which probably wasn't the be idea on my part.17 Because, now when I go to conventions, I can't walk down stairs. Or rather, I have to walk down them sideways, one step at a time. I'm not Lady Gaga, I don't have my degree in walking in crazy shoes. But I have a suspicion that even when I make them out of plastic and spring steel that they are still going to be problematic to walk in. Mostly because they are 4" tall and the springs stick out 4" from the back. Which is the real problem when attempting stairs. And if walking and stairs are going to give me trouble, I don't know how I'm supposed to solve spatial puzzles18, outwit a diabolical being bent on my destruction19, and the defeat the dumbest moron who ever lived.20 Ok, maybe that last part isn't so hard.

So Valve. I love you. I really do. You guys are great. You make great games. But would you mind just thinking your character's clothes through a little more? I'm not saying you need to pander to anyone, I'm just saying when you're done with your models, maybe find a costumer with a little experience, maybe someone who used to be in video games, maybe someone who has some basic 3d modeling knowledge, maybe someone with their own giant plushie cube. Maybe you could just ask her if they make sense. And then we can just avoid these problems in the future. And I'm sure then we'll all sleep better at night. I know I will.

Best nights sleep evar.

1 Too bad you didn’t think so. Apparently a cube isn’t as cool as a sock puppet. No, I’m not bitter. I respect your decision. To break my heart.
2 Yes, I care about this level of accuracy. And for some reason "it’s a part of my costume " doesn’t ever matter to convention staff...
3 Have you ever seen the female equivalent to Tychus Findley in a main role in a video game? Yeah, me either.
4 Back off fan fic writers.
5 Don’t say "portals."
6 An error where a programmer copies a section of code, and pastes it somewhere else, but then doesn’t make the changes needed for it to work in the new environment.
7 Yes, I know, you can’t just do that with the geometry of this model. I made video games for 6 years, I know how textures work. Do you know how seams work??
8 Like normal.
9 It could work...
10 At least it’s a multiple of two!!
11 I normally like to have months or years to work on my costumes, not just a few weeks.
12 Worst. Product. Ever. Don’t use it. Every costumer tries it once before they join the "I hate model magic" Facebook group.
13 If you say "portals" I'm going to have to punch something.
14 I don't know what that is, and if it's supposed to be a zipper, I think you need to go and look at a zipper again.
15 Note, look closely, I have to unzip them to take them off!!!
16 Spoilers! I threw them off a cliff!!!!!! ...Yes, we picked them up so I could fix them for the next day of shooting...
17 Most Portal 2 Chell cosplayers have boots with heels.
18 Like how to get the boots on and off my feet.
19 The designer of these boots. Or GLaDOS.
20 Wheatly, of course. Who did you think I was referring to??


  1. I have to admit, when I first saw Chell in the first Portal I was shocked. "I'm a girl?" followed closely by "I'm not a very attractive girl?!". I thought I was playing a video game, but then I was just confused. Then I was impressed that they made her look so human.

  2. I was so impressed and happy'd by this rant. :D Wow. I wrote out an EXACT SAME RANT LIKE THIS, although there were less detailed rants about the costume (I have to admit I didn't look as closely as you) and more about her physical appearance. Like the makeup, the hair, and the fact that the first Chell had visible SCARS AND SCRATCHES while the second Chell, despite having survived Wheatley's courtesy call, was the same smooth shade of pink all over her body.

    Oh, also, the first Chell had spots on her ears where some earrings had clearly been torn out. Aperture Science OWNED her. She had a story. New Chell is boring. Aperture Science lets her put on eyeliner before starting the tests, because you have to look pretty while forwarding the cause of science.

  3. Wait. I have a theory about the plastic surgery.

    Maybe when Chell blew up the facility, she was seriously injured enough that her face was bashed in or something, and robots had to reconstruct her face, so they made it good as new, and cleaned her all up and fixed her hair because why leave it a mess, right? It doesn't explain the makeup, but gosh darn it, I have to believe there's a good reason she looks like a model. A SCIENTIFIC reason.

  4. I just saw this so I feel like I should post. Perhaps you could get a pair of boots with heels, remove the heels and go from there?

    Also, the companion cube is *INCREDIBLE* which is what brought me to this site. I wish I had one, and I don't even like Portal that much. I do, however, know Ellen McLain a wee bit, as there is a long story involving her husband and a wombat that I'll spare you at the present time... Have I mentioned that cube is incredible?