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Inanimate Object of My Affection #3: The Portal Script

September 15, 2009

My apologies for this being old news, which as everyone knows is the worst kind of news on the Internet. But as far as I know, I still control the “Publish” button, so enjoy. Dammit.

This is my loving tribute to some of the best dialogue ever written. I won’t qualify it further because that would diminish the impact. It’s from a videogame, but saying that it’s the best dialogue ever written in a videogame seems to damn it with very, very faint praise.

It needs no qualifications. The dialogue is incredible, shot full of dark humor and unexpected twists. You can read the entire game script here, which includes a beautiful ASCII drawing of a cake.

This is all taken from Portal, an amazing platformer from Valve, the makers of Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, etc. The story is basically this: you are a test subject passing a series of obstacles to prove both yourself and the brand-new portal gun viable. You are guided by an AI named GlaDOS.

“Guided” would be a strong word. GlaDOS is a manic-depressive AI with some control issues. It spends its time alternately cheering you on:

“Unbelievable! You, {SUBJECT NAME HERE}, must be the pride of {SUBJECT HOMETOWN HERE}”

belittling your efforts:

“That thing you burnt up isn’t important to me. It’s the fluid catalytic cracking unit. It made shoes for orphans. Nice job breaking it, hero.”

and trying to kill you:

“That’s it. I’m done reasoning with you. Starting now, there’s going to be a lot less conversation and a lot more killing.”

There are vague promises made about a party and cake should you survive, but as you continue it becomes apparent that even if you did pass all the tests, the AI would prefer you dead anyway. Fun stuff:

“You’re doing very well. Please be advised that a noticable taste of blood is not part of any test protocol, but is an unintended side effect of the Aperture Science Material Emancipation Grille, which may, in semi-rare cases, emancipate dental fillings, crowns, tooth enamel, and teeth.”

“Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record. Followed by death. Good luck!”

“Spectacular. You appear to understand how a portal affects forward momentum, or to be more precise, how it does not.”

“The device has been modified so that it can now manufacture two linked portals at once. As part of an optional test protocol, we are pleased to present an amusing fact. The device is now more valuable than the organs and combined incomes of everyone in {SUBJECT HOMETOWN HERE}”

“The Enrichment Center is committed to the well-being of all participants. Cake and Grief Counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test. Thank you for helping us help you help us all.”

“Did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture Science Self Esteem Fund for Girls? It’s true!”

“The experiment is nearing its conclusion. The Enrichment Center is required to remind you that you will be baked, and then there will be cake.”

“Congratulations. The test is now over. All Aperture technologies remain safely operational up to 4000 degrees Kelvin. Rest assured that there is absolutely no chance of a dangerous equipment malfunction prior to your victory candescence. Thank you for participating in this Aperture Science computer-aided enrichment activity. Goodbye.”

Once you begin to attack the AI itself, the fun really begins:

“What are you doing? Stop it! I-i-i-i-i-… Weeee are pleased that you made it through the final challenge where we pretended we were going to murder you. We are very very happy for your success. We are throwing a party in honor of your tremendous success. Place the device on the ground, then lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. A party associate will arrive shortly to collect you for your party. Make no further attempt to leave the testing area. Assume the ‘Party Escort Submission Position’ or you will miss the party.”

“Didn’t we have some fun, though? Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and i said ‘Goodbye’ and you were like ‘NNOO WWAAYY”, and then I was all “We pretended we were going to murder you”, that was great.”

“Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you’ve managed to break so far is my heart. Maybe you could settle for that, and we’ll just call it a day. I guess we both know that isn’t going to happen. You chose this path, now I have a surprise for you. Deploying surprise in five… four… Time out for a second. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Do you see that thing that fell out of me? What is that? It’s not the surprise… I’ve never seen it before. Nevermind, it’s a mystery I’ll solve later, by myself, because you’ll be dead.”

“You are kidding me! Did you just stuff that Aperture Science Thing We Don’t Know What It Does into an Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator? That has got to be the dumbest thing that- Whoa, Whoa, WHOAAA… Heh heh heh heh… Good news. I figured out what that thing you just incinerated did. It was a Morality Core they installed after I flooded the enrichment center with a deadly neurotoxin to make me stop flooding the enrichment center with a deadly neurotoxin. So get comfortable while I warm up the Neurotoxin Emitters.”

“Huh! There isn’t enough Neurotoxin to kill you, so I guess you win. Ha! I’m making more. That’s going to take a few minutes though. Meanwhile, oh, look, it’s your old pal, the Rocket Turret.”

“Neurotoxin… *cough* So deadly… *coughs* Choking… Hahahaha… I’m kidding. When I said ‘Deadly Neurotoxin’, the ‘Deadly’ was in massive “sarcasm quotes”. I could take a bath in this stuff, put it on cereal, rub it right into my eyes. Honestly, it’s not deadly at all. To me… You on the other hand are going to find the deadliness a lot less funny.”

“There was even going to be a party for you. A big party, that all of your friends were invited to. I invited your best friend, ‘the Companion Cube’. Of course, he couldn’t come, because you murdered him. All your other friends couldn’t come either, because you don’t have any other friends because of how unlikable you are. It says so right here in your personnel file; ‘Unlikable. Liked by no one. A bitter unlikable loner whose passing shall not be mourned.’ SHALL NOT BE MOURNED. That’s exactly what it says. Very formal. Very official. It also says you were adopted. So that’s funny too.”

“Oh, you think you’re doing some damage? Two plus two is… ten… in base four I’M FINE! Look. You’re wasting your time. And believe me. You don’t have a whole lot left to waste. What’s your point anyway? Survival? Well then, the last thing you want to do is hurt me. I have your brain scanned and permanently backed up in case something terrible happens to you, which it’s just about to. Don’t believe me? Here, I’ll put you on… ‘~Hellooooo~’ That’s you! That’s how dumb you sound! You’ve been wrong about every single thing you’ve ever done, including this thing. You’re not smart. You’re not a scientist. You’re not a doctor. You’re not even a full-time employee. Where did your life go so wrong?”

“I let you survive this long, because I was curious about your behaviour. Well, you’ve managed to destroy that part of me. Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to, now, I can’t get the neurotoxin into your head any faster. Speaking of curiosity, you’re curious about what happens after you die, right? Guess what? I know. You’re going to find out firsthand before I finish explaining it though, so I won’t bother. Here’s a hint. You’re gonna want to pack as much living as you can into the next couple of minutes.”

The game concludes with an amazing song:

And there was cake, apparently. The recipe is long, hilarious and in the comment thread.

-CLT

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7 comments

  1. The Cake Recipe

    1 18.25 ounce package chocolate cake mix.
    1 can prepared coconut pecan frosting.
    3/4 cup vegetable oil.
    4 large eggs.
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.
    3/4 cups butter or margarine.
    1&2/3 cups granulated sugar.
    2 cups all purpose flour.
    Don’t forget garnishes such as:
    Fish shaped crackers.
    Fish shaped candies.
    Fish shaped solid waste,
    Fish shaped dirt.
    Fish shaped ethyl benzene.
    Pull and peel licorice..
    Fish shaped volatile organic compounds
    and sediment shaped sediment.
    Candy coated peanut butter pieces, Shaped like fish.
    1 cup lemon juice.
    Alpha resins.
    Unsaturated polyester resin.
    Fiberglass surface resins.
    And volatile malted milk impoundments.
    9 large egg yolks.
    12 medium geosynthetic membranes.
    1 cup granulated sugar.
    An entry called ‘how to kill someone with your bare hands’.
    2 cups rhubarb, sliced.
    2/3 cups granulated rhubarb.
    1 tablespoon all-purpose rhubarb.
    1 teaspoon grated orange rhubarb.
    3 tablespoons rhubarb, on fire.
    1 large rhubarb.
    1 cross borehole electro-magnetic imaging rhubarb.
    2 tablespoons rhubarb juice.
    Adjustable aluminum head positioner.
    Slaughter electric needle injector.
    Cordless electric needle injector.
    Injector needle driver.
    Injector needle gun.
    Cranial caps.
    And it contains proven preservatives, deep penetration agents, and gas and odor
    control chemicals. That will deodorize and preserve putrid tissue.


  2. That’s good stuff, but the dialogue is funnier when you actually play the game.


    • It is. A lot of it builds into some great running gags, if you will. Not to mention the talking turrets…

      The thing that surprised me the most about the game was the unexpected dark edge that suddenly shows itself.

      I ran into that about the same time I ran into my first turret, got hit and saw my blood on the wall. Suddenly, the AI seemed a lot more unbalanced and menacing.


  3. […] out, Capitalist Lion Tamer posts a tribute to the dark, sharp and hilarious dialogue in the video game Portal: It needs no qualifications. The dialogue is incredible, shot full of dark humor and unexpected […]


  4. Awesome! Totally awesome! I love that song!


    • It is truly awesome stuff. The whole game is. Sentient AI’s are always the most fun.


  5. I cannot praise this game highly enough. It’s challenging enough to be one, the graphics aer great, GLaDOS is the best thing ever, and the turrets are epicsqueecutewin.
    PLAY PORTAL NOW OR DIE. MEMORIZE THE SONG. THIS SI GOOD STUFF.



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