Gabe Newell (co-founder and managing director of Valve) and J.J. Abrams (founder and owner of Bad Robot Productions; and writer, director, and/or producer of… a whole lot of things) just announced, during their keynote discussion “Storytelling Across Platforms“ at the 2013 DICE Summit, that the two are actively discussing plans to collaborate on both games and films, including adaptations of Half-Life and Portal.
Throughout the half-hour discussion, J.J. and Gabe discussed the similarities and differences between storytelling methods in both film and video gaming; using clips from each other’s works: Valve’s Half-Life 2, Bad Robot’s Cloverfield, as well as other movies like Die Hard and Jaws. Though it wasn’t really a debate at all, the two did some light sparring regarding interactive elements that affect storytelling, such as agency.
Gabe, touching on the total lack of agency within film, asked: why don’t the characters of Cloverfield throw the camera down and run away? J.J. responded by illustrating the problem of excessive agency within video games, and showed a scene from Half-Life 2 (the second chapter, “A Red Letter Day“) where the player hops around the level, playing with cactus pots and throwing grenades about, instead of listening to important expository dialogue from the characters.
But it was right at the end of the discussion that Gabe and J.J. dropped a very intriguing little tidbit. Gabe said that all throughout the discussion, the two were actually recapitulating similar conversations they’ve had in the past, and that they’ve “reached the point that we decided to do more than talk.” Referring to his own Bad Robot Productions, J.J. then said “There’s an idea for a game that we’d really like to work with Valve on.“, and Gabe responded with: “We’re super excited about that and we also want to talk about making movies, either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie.”
That’s all the two said on stage, though according to Polygon (thanks to Dhel for the tip!), J.J. later said, regarding the Half-Life/Portal film projects: “It’s as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets, which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas.” I’d be inclined to add that… well, hopefully none of those ideas involve the whole thing non-sensically ending in a church, but thankfully, J.J. Abrams had nothing to do with all that.
Well, it’s definitely something that’s still in flux – far from an official announcement of any sort. Still, it does seem like something that will eventually materialize in some form or another – otherwise, Gabe and J.J. surely wouldn’t have gone public with it, even at this stage. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time a Half-Life film adaptation has been proposed to Valve (fifth quote down, in this post from the Marc Laidlaw Vault)… and for that matter, nor would it be the first time an official Half-Life movie has actually been produced.
On a slightly related note, last month, on Episode #306 of the Nerdist Podcast, Gabe also confirmed that a 15-minute Team Fortress 2 short film was in the works at Valve, after the team had experimented with plans for a 90-minute TF2 feature, before they realized how daunting a task it would actually be. It’s obviously not related to Bad Robot’s collaboration with Valve, but it is interesting to see that Valve is really starting to embrace different forms of media as an active component of “entertainment as a service“.
The Verge; Polygon; and Engadget.