The Chassis Theory

I noticed that there haven’t been a lot of theories that explain why the character models for GLaDOS are different between the two games.

My theory started when I read this paragraph on the Half-Life Wiki article for Chell:

“Despite GLaDOS’ apparent destruction, only a part of her was destroyed. GLaDOS reactivates a room full of Personality Cores and re-captures Aperture Laboratories, filing a letter to Chell, informing her that she is still alive and “not even angry” about Chell’s actions- but not before extinguishing a candle on the cake, which was not a lie after all.”

It made me think: What if the body we see GLaDOS inhabiting in the first game was never meant to be Her final one? Perhaps the scientists were so eager to get Her operational in order to finally beat Black Mesa, that they brought Her online in a prototype body while still planning and constructing a better, more well-designed body for Her to inhabit later on. Her body in the first game seems not only severely restricted, but also very prototype-ish, especially compared to Her body in Portal 2.

However, something they hadn’t planned for were the violent and murderous tendencies that She exhibited only moments after being turned on. This obviously presented a problem, so the scientists and engineers got to work coming up with Personality Core-based solutions to keep Her under control. This would’ve also meant that development on Her ‘final’ body was slowed or delayed.

(Note that the Portal 2 Co-Op DLC does confirm the existence of at least one prototype chassis. However, instead of having a core plugged into the DOS Mainframe, it was a computer and keyboard. They could’ve been using this chassis to test and develop code in preparation for the construction of Her ‘final’ body. Its design is much closer to how She appears in Portal 2 than in Portal, suggesting it was created after Her initial activation.)

Eventually, the scientists found the right combination of Personality Cores to mostly subdue Her (Morality, Curiosity, Intelligence, and Anger). Still extremely murderous and suffering from the mental anguish of being put into a computer, GLaDOS begins to cooperate with the scientists for a time. More development was likely made on Her ‘final’ body at this point, and construction on it was very likely started.

Getting back to the story of the games, GLaDOS still wanted revenge on the scientists for putting Her into a machine, so She craftily hatched Her Bring-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day plan. This managed to kill nearly everyone, excluding Doug Rattmann and the Test Subjects in Relaxation Vaults. The scientists who did survive were forced into compulsory testing until they all eventually died. At the same time, GLaDOS spent ample time trying to eradicate Rattmann. These events would allow time for all of the bodies of the deceased to be taken care of (I’d imagine that, with a place as big as Aperture, one of the duties of the nanobots would be to serve as a form of automated cleaning system).

Having Rattmann running around behind Her back wasn’t something that GLaDOS was very happy about, and She did spend quite a lot of time trying to kill him. Eventually, Rattmann had the idea to go and move Chell to the top of the Testing Queue, knowing that Her stubbornness and tenacity would be the perfect thing to take GLaDOS down.

It’s unknown why, but eventually GLaDOS shifts Her focus from Rattmann to testing with actual Test Subjects. Pulling Chell out of Cryo-Sleep, the events of the first game take place with Rattmann watching and waiting behind the scenes. The first game progresses, and Chell eventually sets out to destroy GLaDOS. When She realizes this, GLaDOS begins leading Chell to the old prototype chassis. Knowing that its defenses were minimal, She counted on Chell destroying it. Doing this would destroy the restrictions the scientists had placed on Her and allow GLaDOS full, unrestricted access to the entire Facility, which was what She has been wanting all along (this idea is supported by GLaDOS’ lack of surprise in the line She says when the player steps into the AI Chamber: “Well, you found me. Congratulations.” Also, GLaDOS uses a bit of reverse-psychology to convince Chell to destroy the Morality Core, which was preventing Her from killing Chell outright).

However, after Chell destroys the rest of the cores in the boss fight, it somehow causes a Superportal to form above the prototype chassis, severing Her connection with the mainframe at the same time. The mainframe must have sensed the failing hardware and, in an attempt to save as much as possible, initiated a core dump. This managed to save GLaDOS’ personality and software, but the energy produced in the destruction of the prototype body trips the Facility’s main power breakers, shutting the majority of the Facility down. Because of this, the Black Box save feature was unable to boot Her into the other under-construction chassis.

The Superportal teleported Chell and the parts of GLaDOS’ old body outside of Aperture and into the Employee Parking Lot (which was empty because of looting/scavenging due to the events of the Half-Life games). Shortly after, the Party Escort Bot retrieves Chell and puts her in Extended Relaxation. Rattmann witnesses her being taken back in, and returns to try and save her. Being unable to get her out of Extended Relaxation, and with the Main Life Support Grid blown, he is forced to run through a Test Chamber to get to the Reserve Controls. Unfortunately, he gets shot by Turrets in the process. Although he was successful in patching Chell’s room into the Reserve Grid, it is unclear if he survived or not. However, evidence exists that he did (see my note at the end of this theory).

On the other end, an automated system activates other Administrative Cores to run the systems that needed to be ran, while GLaDOS (saved in the mainframe’s Black Box feature) files a log in the system about Chell (Still Alive) before getting stuck in the loop that made Her re-live those last moments over and over again.

Here’s where things get interesting. TVTropes.org, a website dedicated to documenting common tropes in media, suggests this in the Cliffhanger Copout section for Portal 2:

“The ending of the first game does not quite match up with the second, even with the Lab Rat comic. The first game ends with GLaDOS exploding due to the incineration of the cores, Chell and GLaDOS landing on the surface, Chell getting dragged back inside, the cake not being a lie, the other cores waking up, and GLaDOS filing a report about not really being dead. The sequel reveals that the cores are separate entities and not vital components (so why the explosion?), GLaDOS’ body changing shape and getting back inside the Facility offscreen (Party Escort Bots like the one that dragged Chell?), the cake being ignored (though that part was a joke), most of the cores being cut (see What Happened to the Mouse? below), and GLaDOS actually being dead (well, besides reliving Her death over and over) until revived.”

TVTropes suggests an interesting idea to bridge the gap between the two games: Other Party Escort Bots dragging GLaDOS’ wreckage back into Aperture. While I don’t think it would be Party Escort Bots specifically, it would make sense that some automated system would try to recover the wreckage of the valuable components that had made up GlaDOS’ first body. Aperture is shown to be presumably self sufficient in Portal 2, especially in Turret Manufacturing, so it’s likely that this was the case. This happened off-screen though since the player never sees it because Chell passes out shortly after the Party Escort Bot begins retrieving her.

Now, years pass away (more than 50,000 according to Valve writers, but I call BS on that). Chell’s Half-Life Wiki article suggests:

It is not exactly clear how much time Chell has spent in stasis between events of Portal and Portal 2. … Now beginning the events of Portal 2, she wakes up countless of years later, the Announcer fades out (or stutters) after uttering a nearly endless stream of the digit, nine – as the Announcer has reached a maximum count. This is proven when the Announcer’s sound file suggests the “nines” repeated until the message has finished, making it about 50 “nines”, which would imply a stasis of 2.74×10^47 years (longhand this number is “274” followed by 45 zeros). Even with the many scientific and technological leaps and bounds made by Aperture, it is highly unlikely that a patient could be kept in stasis for such a long time, as normally patients must be awakened every 50 days to avoid psychological damage. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that this enormous figure is correct. … However, judging from the amount of plant growth in the Testing track, it is likely that Chell has been asleep for quite a long time, long enough for the facility to become dilapidated and plant life to take root and flourish. … Upon taking a look at the other containers in the Extended Relaxation Center, it can be seen that the period of time between the “packing” and the “expiration” dates is exactly 20 years. … which means that it has most likely been even less than that, judging by Chell’s mental and physical strength that allowed her to survive the events following her awakening.

The ‘expiration dates’ on the containers shown in Portal 2 expire in 1996, which (according to the timeline kept by the Half-Life Wiki) is several years before GLaDOS kills everyone before the events of Portal, meaning it’s likely that the dates were more of a required regulation rather than a hard cutoff. Why would Aperture continue to keep ‘expired’ test subjects? Also, in a History Channel documentary called Life After People, it shows that the level of decay seen at the beginning of Portal 2 happens within 50-100 years of no human interaction or robotic maintenance, so that seems to be a more reasonable estimate for the amount of time passing between both games.

In that time, the Administrative Cores fall into disrepair, malfunction, or are incapacitated through other means one by one. Because the Facility was only running on what systems were powered by the reserve grid, the Cleaning System and the Repair System seem to not have been functioning as well. Because of this, the Facility decays and slowly falls apart over the next 50-100 years.

Eventually, Wheatley (likely serving as a replacement for a better-functioning core, albeit in an unofficial capacity) comes and wakes up Chell, thus starting Portal 2’s events. Soon, they reach ‘Her chamber’. The previously unfinished ‘final’ chassis is still visibly incomplete and the missing pieces are not found anywhere nearby. Originally constructed hanging from the ceiling, it now lays in pieces on the remnants of the access stairs around it, having crushed them when the ceiling supports decayed and gave way. The presence of the stairs indicates the body was still being tinkered with, just like the one in Portal. However, it is clearly different from the first game’s model, and the whole location is actually in a different part of the Facility than the one in Portal (see my note at the bottom of this page).

Shortly after arriving, Chell and Wheatley accidentally turn the entire Facility back on by flipping all of the breakers in the Main Breaker Room, restoring power to all of Aperture. Because only 50-100 years have realistically passed, the majority of the electronics and computers have not decayed beyond a functioning state, and the entire Facility gets restarted. Now that power is restored, all the disconnected hardware reconnects to the mainframe one by one, including the newer partially constructed chassis.

This whole time, the Black Box save feature that GLaDOS has been stuck in over the last 50-100 years has been doing two things: Keeping the files active and ‘alive’ by looping the last two minutes of GLaDOS’ life and scanning the mainframe for suitable hardware so it could reboot Her. Now, years later, as everything powers on and reconnects, that module finally finds the suitable hardware it was looking for. GLaDOS gets put back in the partially constructed chassis, along with countless years of built-up anger towards Chell, and the second game progresses.

Some of the lines in ‘Still Alive’ are something to consider as well:

  • I’m not even angry. I’m being so sincere right now. Even though you broke my heart. And killed me. And tore me to pieces. And threw every piece into a fire
    • Although clearly sarcastic, if GLaDOS actually means what she says here it’d be because it was Her plan all along for Chell to destroy the prototype chassis and set her free.
  • And we’re out of beta, we’re releasing on time. So I’m glad I got burned
    • This could confirm the prototype status of the first chassis, Her plan to destroy it, and Her happiness to be free from it.

It’s important to note as well that when you reunite with GLaDOS later on in Portal 2, Her model has once again changed from how you first see Her at the start of the game. She has now completed, repaired, and upgraded the previously incomplete chassis, most likely following the original designs left by the long-dead scientists and engineers while adding a few tweaks of Her own.

Her habit of constantly developing and improving Herself can also be shown if The Lab VR’s Robot Repair experience is to be considered canon in the Portal timeline, since Her design is once again upgraded with a different optic, different styled faceplate, and lighted wires, among other differences.


Evidence for Rattmann’s Survival

The room where you first get the Portal Gun in Portal 2 has a ton of his murals. Specifically, there is one of Chell sleeping, and the same mural is shown being painted by Rattmann in the Lab Rat comic before Chell defeats GLaDOS in Portal. So, most likely you get the Portal Gun in Portal 2 in the same room he painted the mural in Lab Rat, because it’s not very likely he moved all the murals there. It’s not exactly the same room though, because it appears the supports for the floor and walls he painted on have decayed and they have fallen a few feet into the water below. However, the most important thing to observe is in the center of the room: a pedestal made of broken panels, with the Portal Gun resting neatly on top.

Someone had to put the Portal Gun there, because the panels weren’t broken before GLaDOS was defeated in Portal and Rattmann isn’t shown doing it before he goes into the pod. Logically, he would’ve been the only one interested in doing it, and the Portal Gun is there, so the conclusion can be drawn that he at least survived his wounds from Lab Rat, got out of the pod, and put the Portal Gun where he hoped Chell would find it in the future.

Other evidence to consider is the very first sign of Rattmann seen in Portal 2. In the AI Chamber where you first see GLaDOS, he has painted red arrows leading to the Main Breaker Room. This suggests he knew Chell would eventually get out of Cryo-Sleep and need to find a way out of Aperture, and would have to have been painted by him after the end of Portal. Why he was unable to restore power to Aperture himself, however, is unknown.

While nothing confirms that he eventually escaped Aperture, I personally believe he did and is alive somewhere on the surface, living in the post-apocalyptic Half-Life world.


Evidence for GLaDOS’ Chamber Locations

While they might initially seem the same, all of the locations in Portal and Portal 2 are unique, and don’t overlap between games. This means that the AI Chamber in Portal is different than the three (yes three!) we see in Portal 2. Thanks to some clever people on the internet, there is evidence to back this up.

All the levels of Portal were combined into a single image by Twitter user Purrspctiv. Their tweet showing their work has long since been deleted, but a picture of their map was saved and posted by Tumblr user LambdaGeneration. This is their Portal map:

tumblr_ps9ij0byXh1s1rufio1_1280

All of the levels of Portal 2 have been combined into a single map image by Reddit user mark63424. This is their Portal 2 map:

h28gut8x1fj51

For both games, the first several test chambers are designed to be very similar to help new players understand portals and help returning players refresh their knowledge. However, there are a few differences that show they are not the same locations.

First, Portal 2 has different textures than Portal. The real-life reason for this is the difference in game engines and art assets used between the two games. In-universe, this can be explained by assuming the levels in Portal take place in an area constructed in an earlier ‘era’ of Aperture’s history, just like the visual differences between Old Aperture and Modern Aperture in Portal 2 are explained.

Second, the elevators between test chambers are completely different between the two games. The real-life and in-universe explanations for this are the same as before. However, there is one key difference that can prove they are different locations: the elevator’s direction of travel. In Portal, they take you upwards to the next chamber; in Portal 2, they take you downward. If Valve had been trying to make these first chambers the exact same locations for both games, I doubt they would overlook something as vital as the relation of each chamber to the next and their vertical order.

These two observations are enough, in my mind at least, to show that each game takes place in a separate part of the same Aperture facility. By following these series of test chambers from their starts to the AI Chambers in question, they end up miles apart (literally according to the game’s unit scales) and couldn’t possibly be the same locations.


I hope that I haven’t bored you to death, but after initially coming up with these ideas I keep finding evidence to support it! Thanks for taking the time to absorb all of this!

2 thoughts on “The Chassis Theory

Leave a Reply to Mosquitobrain Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s