Originally, Mel was to be the protagonist of Portal 2, and was later refitted to be in the game's co-op campaign alongside Chell, before ultimately being cut from the game altogether.
The only valid instance of Mel's physical appearance comes from an early placeholder texture replacement of Chell's model from Portal. She appears as a blonde haired, blue eyed woman in a light blue jumpsuit with a fairer skin tone than that of Chell. In the later stages of Portal 2's development cycle, she along with Chell were scrapped from the co-op campaign in favor of the android test subjects; Atlas and P-body.
While Mel was still cast as the game's main character, play-testers "eventually became disappointed" when they found that GLaDOS didn't recognize the player. In addition, after being changed to a co-op character, play-testers were also reluctant to experiment within the co-op puzzles themselves, due to the consequence of dying without respawning; destruction of the co-op bots at the end of each chapter, and the reassembly system for the starting and conclusion of each test chamber, helped tackle this issue. In addition, this helped create an in-universe excuse for the constant respawning of co-op players.
In The Final Hours of Portal 2, a screenshot of an early human co-op campaign can be found. The screenshot depicts the player staring at their co-op partner, who is dressed in the same early jumpsuit design for Portal 2's Chell. However, it appears to be lacking the ponytail hair Chell had and the face appears to be much younger than Chell's development stage at that time, suggesting that the woman in the screenshot is an early design of Mel.
Concept art for Portal Stories: Mel
- Although the human co-op concept was scrapped, several GLaDOS voice lines making reference to the women's weight were reused in the game's release for comedic effect, due to Atlas and P-body being robots.
- Her placeholder texture is a skin group of Chell's model from the first game, which is present and separate from the Portal 2 Chell model in the game files, however the model lacks animations since they are used for Portal 2's model.
- The character of Mel is reused in the Portal 2 mod Portal Stories: Mel, in which she is the main character. This iteration of Mel has a unique design making her distinct from Chell, rather than a simple palette swap.