Link to the full interview.
GI: Can you explain how Portal came together with the DigiPen students who
created Narbacular Drop?
Lombardi: There was a group of seven kids, two women and five guys…
GI: You said kids. How old are they?
Lombardi: They’re all barely drinking age.
GI: Oh god. (laughs)
Lombardi: They’re in their senior year at DigiPen, and part of their class project was to make a game. So they made Narbacular Drop, and we’ve hired a couple people out of DigiPen over the years. They’re right close to us over in Redmond so we’re friendly with those guys. They invited a couple of people over to see the senior class showcase, which is what the school does to market the students to people in the games industry. So they invite people over from MGS and Nintendo and whatnot – all of the usual suspects in the Seattle area. Robin and a couple other people went over to visit the senior class showcase and just check out what was going on and they saw Narbacular Drop and thought “Wow, this is really cool.” So they invited the seven of them over to Valve to show it to more of us. We were all in the conference room and they started presenting it and about ten minutes in Gabe [Newell] just stopped the presentation and said, “You all should come work at Valve and build something like this on the Source engine.” And they all were just sitting there like, “Did he just say what I thought he said?” A year later we introduced Portal on the Source engine.
For us, that’s one of the greatest things about our job. People say “Shipping Half-Life 2 must have been one of the most exciting times working at Valve.” And actually for me it was calling up Matt Boone from the Day of Defeat team and saying, “Hey, do you want to bring your team to Valve and work here?” And just hearing the pause on the other end of the phone, and I was laughing in my head like, “This kid must just be crapping his pants right now.” It’s great to be able to give those guys their break, and introduce those guys into the game industry, and bring in that talent. The Portal team, just like the DoD team, they’re incredibly talented folks. And they’re kids of a generation that have been playing games all of
their lives. That’s where we look to for how we’re going to innovate is through people and through great minds.