This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
It might spoil your gaming experience when first playing the related games.
The Aperture Science computer-aided Enrichment Center is Aperture Science's main facility where its products branded "Aperture Laboratories" are developed and tested, and the main location of Portal and Portal 2. Located in the Upper Peninsula of the American state of Michigan, above and inside a disused salt mine, the facility has been monitored by the computer GLaDOS since 200-.
Built in Michigan, USA sometime after the founding of Aperture Science in 1947 when Aperture's products were branded "Aperture Science Innovators". It is unknown if the same complex is used during the time Aperture was a shower curtain manufacturer.
After contracting moon rock poisoning in 1974, both of Aperture CEO Cave Johnson's kidneys failed in 1976. He then laid out a three-tier plan for the future of his company: the Heimlich Counter-Maneuver, the Take-A-Wish Foundation, and most notably, the 'Portal' project, which gives birth to the development of the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Testing for the 'Portal' project calls for the construction of the Enrichment Center, a large area of the Aperture Laboratories Underground consisting of Test Chambers and offices, where Test Subjects test the ASHPD.
In 1986, Aperture Science heard of similar portal technology being developed by Black Mesa. To counter this, construction of the first Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (GLaDOS) begins in Aperture Laboratories, with the aims to accelerate the 'Portal' project and to develop the first Artificial Intelligence.
In 1996, the Disk Operating System parts of GLaDOS are completed, and work begins on the Genetic Lifeform component. During that time, the Aperture Science Red Phone plan is implemented in case GLaDOS appears to become sentient and godlike, requiring an employee to sit by a red phone on a desk in GLaDOS chamber's entrance hall. GLaDOS is fully completed on May 200-, and is switched on during the Aperture Science's annual bring-your-daughter-to-work-day. Within one picosecond of being active, GLaDOS becomes self-aware, locks down the entire facility, hoping to seize control, and floods the Enrichment Center with a deadly neurotoxin. Quickly, the Aperture employees fit her with a Morality Core to ensure that she is kept under control.
GLaDOS still manages to wrestle control of the facility from her now trapped creators, however, and is soon in full control of the Enrichment Center, with several Test Subjects as her rats, including Aperture employee Doug Rattmann. GLaDOS aims to beat Black Mesa in the race for portal technology. However, she effectively loses this race when the Black Mesa Incident occurs mere days later.
Sometime after GLaDOS' takeover and shortly after the Combine invasion of Earth, Chell is awakened in her Relaxation Vault, and guided as a Test Subject by GLaDOS, utilizing the completed Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Chell finds the facility showing clear signs of decay and neglect, with GLaDOS showing signs of instability. Chell later comes across hidden alcoves in the chamber walls, where desperate messages are written on the walls by Doug Rattmann, a schizophrenic former Aperture employee who has run out of his medication and survived inside the facility following GLaDOS's takeover. At the conclusion of Chell's testing, instead of the cake that was promised, she is met with an incinerator, from which she narrowly escapes. It is here that GLaDOS reveals her true murderous nature, but attempts to convince Chell to return to the testing area and wait for the planned "party associate". Chell ignores her and makes her way through the decaying maintenance areas of the facility, where no humans have clearly been for years. After many ambushes by GLaDOS and her Sentry Turrets, Chell finally finds herself in GLaDOS' main control center. After destroying GLaDOS' Morality Core, the robot, now free of her restraints, begins to once again flood the building with neurotoxins. However, Chell manages to incinerate the A.I.'s Personality Cores before being consumed by the toxins, and GLaDOS is seemingly destroyed while Chell is thrown outside to the parking lot in the subsequent explosion, where she is dragged away by the previously mentioned party associate, and brought back inside in stasis.
Despite her apparent destruction, however, GLaDOS files a letter to Chell, claiming to be "still alive" and that she is not angry with her. A failsafe then activates a series of Personality Cores and re-captures the laboratories, which were heavily damaged after GLaDOS' explosion.
Portal 2 era
An unknown amount of time, up to 50 millennia pass while the facility is falling apart, with Test Chambers crumbling and foliage rampant throughout. The Personality Cores become restless, showing concern for the ruined state of the complex, and new Test Chambers are built. One such core, Wheatley, awakens Chell from stasis and convinces her to escape the facility, bringing Wheatley with her. Chell agrees, and the two set out across the building complex.
After navigating through the maintenance areas, with Wheatley babbling incessantly, the pair finds an elevator, which the core attempts to activate. It begins to ascend, however, and before Wheatley can stop it, the two find themselves facing GLaDOS, who sits in ruin in the remains of her chamber. GLaDOS, bitter towards Chell, forces her to resume her tests with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device as revenge for her murder at Chell's hands. At the same time, GLaDOS begins rebuilding the facility, restoring it to nearly pristine condition by the time Chell can break free of the Test Chambers.
Following a Core Transfer with Wheatley, GLaDOS is transferred into a potato-powered chip or battery with only enough processing power for the simplest of functions, while Wheatley takes control of the facility in her place. Wheatley quickly becomes power-mad, renaming the facility "Wheatley Laboratories" and driving both Chell and GLaDOS deep underground. In the meantime, Wheatley sets about producing freakish mishmashes of objects and poorly-built Test Chambers, destroying vast chunks of the facility and causing the main reactor to begin melting down. GLaDOS and Chell defeat Wheatley and restore a somewhat reformed GLaDOS to power, who rebuilds the facility again and releases Chell to the surface, having finished her robotic replacements.
The Enrichment Center is made of the main testing facilities (with the Test Chambers), administration offices, and maintenance areas that link together most parts of the facility. While the facility seems to mostly be underground like the Black Mesa Research Facility, it features on the surface at least one parking lot, as well as some verdure/forested areas.
Size and layout
The Enrichment Center is extremely large, even by the standards set by facilities such as the Black Mesa Research Facility, which is dwarfed in comparison. The salt mine is composed of nine vertical shafts, each at least 4000 meters deep and hundreds of meters in length. Within the cavernous shafts is a large abundance of space that remains unused by Aperture, and installations are often suspended above huge drops that extend deep into the mines. Between the Enrichment Center and the Test Shafts is a large hatch that, when open, allows an elevator to connect the original facility to the modern one. The Mobility Gel pipe system also flows through this connecting hatch. The modern facility is supported by a vast array of large springs, likely a network of seismic isolators to prevent sensitive research equipment from being affected by the instability of the mineshafts below.
The several testing areas are used to test one of Aperture Science's most successful achievements, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device.
Standard testing tracks
The Enrichment Center contains numerous "Test Chambers" where Test Subjects are trained to perform simple to complicated tasks with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. The tests are monitored by GLaDOS and security cameras. Aperture Science scientists can watch the tests in small offices spread around the test chambers.
Each Test Subject is accommodated in a Relaxation Vault with no privacy, set within a Test Chamber, with transparent walls, and connected to the outside with a portal.
At the start of each Test Chamber is a large rectangular luminous panel that lights itself when the Test Subject approaches, accompanied by a loud hum. The number of the current Test Chamber covers the whole upper half of the panel; under is the current test's completion bar, with the current chamber number against that of the final one, and the proper completion bar below, getting longer as each Test Chamber is completed (it is made of 76 lines; each Test Chamber starts with 4 more lines - Test Chamber 01 starts with 4 lines; Test Chamber 00 starts with the 76 lines, reached again at the start of Test Chamber 19). Under the bar are two rows of five of squares, each containing a logo of what the Test Subject is expected to see in the following chamber. The panel ends with a standard Aperture Laboratories logo at the very bottom.
A notable feature among the Test Chambers is the stark atmosphere. All of the walls and floors are a plain gray, and the overall feeling is one of a clinic or clean room. This motif continues until Chell escapes, at which point the atmosphere becomes dark and foreboding while Chell navigates through the innards of the Enrichment Center. The known Test Chambers range from Test Chamber 00 to 24.
In Portal 2, the Test Chambers receive a fundamental design overhaul, now constructed of hundreds of robotic arms carrying panels, which collectively form the walls, ceilings, and floors. It is this modular system that allows GLaDOS to construct an infinite variety of testing spaces and modify them on the fly - this system is also used in other areas throughout the facility. In Portal, walls are moving too, but much more limited than in Portal 2.
The original Enrichment Center was built at the very bottom of the salt mine the modern facility was built in and built steadily upwards over time. These chambers, containing the Repulsion, Propulsion, and Conversion Gels, were sealed away decades prior, yet they often show far less damage than the ruined facility above. For the most part, some broken catwalks aside, all of the furniture and technology in the abandoned facilities seems to at least appear in good shape, including the prerecorded voice of Cave Johnson. These chambers are built in enormous geodesic domes and spheres (made from asbestos), stacked on top of one another with markings along the sides of structures to indicate the year they were built. The abandoned Test Chambers are unsealed and cleared by Chell in her efforts to return to the surface - in the process, their Gels become available for use in the upper facility.
The higher one ascends through the test chambers (and therefore - progressing through more recently built chambers), the lower quality the test chambers and their monitoring areas seem to be. In addition to this, the quality of the test subject diminished over the years as well. While at first astronauts and Olympic champions are hired as test subjects, they were soon replaced by simple hobos picked up from the street and, eventually, the very employees who are supposed to monitor the tests. Both of these facts suggest that Aperture Science was running out of budget fairly quickly. This is also confirmed in the Development Commentary.
A slightly more minor difference in the progression of chamber levels is the logo of Aperture Science shown during loading screens. When the game begins, it shows a decayed Aperture Laboratories logo as seen in the elevators of Portal. Soon after GLaDOS is powered back up, the logo is cleaned. However, once Wheatley forces Chell down into the depths of the facility, the logo becomes the original Aperture Science Innovators as well as the offices having a 60's theme to their design. Progressing through the sealed chambers reveal a new logo, somewhat reminiscent of computer startup screens from the early 90's as well as having 90's themed offices. Once Chell returns to the modern facility, the "Aperture" in the modern logo is crudely replaced with "Wheatley", and faintly tinted orange.
The offices comprise the observation rooms that the Aperture Science staff used to watch Test Subjects executing their task in the Test Chambers, as well as other offices, connected by dimly-lit corridors. The offices contain chairs and computers and seem to have been last used long ago. Computers seem to be stuck into some sort of loop, some are disconnected, their cases open, and several chairs have been knocked over. Clipboards and empty cups are scattered on the desks. Two office areas contain a projection room where a looping slideshow titled "Dollar$ and Sense: Competing with Black Mesa for DoD and Government-wide Acquisition Contracts" can be seen.
Central AI Chamber
GLaDOS is stored in the center of a large octagonal chamber, suspended from the ceiling. At the end of the events of Portal, the chamber is partially destroyed, then fully rebuilt by GLaDOS during Portal 2, then partially destroyed by Wheatley and Chell and rebuilt again by GLaDOS at the end of the game.
These areas (nicknamed "bts", or "behind the scenes" by the Portal developers) are in very bad condition, suggesting they have been abandoned for a while. There can be seen many parts of the Aperture Science Pipe Network (with occasional broken tubes) that brings the Weighted Storage Cubes into the Test Chambers, elevators bringing the Sentry Turrets, and other machinery. A room dedicated to the maintenance and fixing of the Sentry Guns can also be found, as well as a long office dedicated to the maintenance of home computers, overlooking a large room filled with toxic liquid.
In Portal 2, the maintenance areas are visited much more frequently throughout the game, due to the damaged state of the facility. These areas often provide more platformer-like challenges between Test Chambers.
Behind the scenes
- According to Realm Lovejoy, the frosted-glass observation rooms seen in Test Chambers make the player feel as if they are being watched at all times while keeping the identity of these watchers a mystery. The rooms serve a practical purpose as well since they are often used as convenient and logical light sources for the Test Chambers.
- The ambient sounds heard in the Portal test chambers are recycled from Half-Life 2. For example, in areas involving flinging, Ravenholm's sounds are heard.
- The projector used for the "Dollar$ and Sense" slideshow in Portal appears to be based on the model LC-XT1 by the Eiki company. The texture file includes a remote not seen in-game.
- A diorama exhibit sequence was originally to appear in Portal 2 but was ultimately cut. It was to consist of a corridor with concrete walls, with sconces on a side, and several cases on the other. One case was to contain three Aperture dummies (one dressed as a woman, the second in a man in white, the third as a farmer), with a grey Aperture logo behind; one was to contain at least one chicken statue; one was to contain a cardboard figure of Cave Johnson posing with a bearded hobo, someone in a straitjacket (identical to the Screamer cut from Left 4 Dead), and a little girl with the Aperture logo on her dress, with a blue Aperture logo behind. The texture for the cardboard figure is present in the Portal 2 files, under the name "diorama_card001.vtf".
- In the 1970's Aperture Laboratories, the new Aperture Laboratories (without the text "Laboratories") logo can be seen on personal computers. Possibly Aperture Science reused the 1970s laboratories in 1980's and later before their condemnation. Large 1970's computers can be seen in offices too.
List of appearances
- ApertureScience.com (First appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two (Logo only) / (Borealis blueprints only)
- Portal: First Slice
- Portal: Still Alive (Non-canonical appearance)
- PotatoFoolsDay ARG
- Portal ARG
- Portal 2: Lab Rat
- Portal 2
- The Final Hours of Portal 2
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Up Pioneer Press cover
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Aperture Science: A History on Game Informer
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 ApertureScience.com
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Portal commentary
- ↑ "How Valve Opened Up Portal 2" on Eurogamer.net
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Game Informer, April 2010 issue
- ↑ The Final Hours of Portal 2 — Chapter 8: The Power of Paint, page 6
- ↑ The Final Hours of Portal 2