J.J. Abrams is approaching Guillermo del Toro levels when it comes to projects in development. In addition to finishing up Star Trek Into Darkness, working on Star Wars: Episode VII and producing so many TV pilots we’ve lost track, he also announced at this year’s D.I.C.E. Conference that he and his Bad Robot banner have made a deal with video-game makers Valve for a series of adaptations. Although he didn’t say he’d be directing the movies himself, Abrams does plan on working closely on Portal and Half-Life films.
Portal is a first–person puzzle game that tests players’ problem-solving skills by equipping them with a gun that creates teleportation portals: Go in one and come out the other. At first it seems like a simple puzzle game, and then the story kicks in, with players finding our more about the setting and what’s really going on. Abrams appreciates this aspect of the game.
“You start Portal with no idea why you’re there,” he said. “The whole game is about figuring out the mystery and what’s going on. The more you play, the more you learn, the more you felt.” The first game came out in 2007, followed by Portal 2 in 2011.
Valve’s first offering in 1998, Half-Life has gone on to spawn a series of sequels and spinoffs, the most recent of which was Half-Life 2: Episode Twoin 2007. The series stars Gordon Freeman, a physicist-turned-hero who fights the combined human and alien forces of the Combine.
After discussing the differences between video games and film — the major difference being the viewer’s input on the story, which video games revolve around and film does not — Abrams noted that the most important piece of any story is the characters. “If you don’t care about the characters, nothing matters,” Abrams said. With some solid groundwork already laid by the games, the films will have a good deal of material to work with. At this point, the projects are not set up at any studios, but with so many video games properties getting the Hollywood treatment, don’t expect that to last long. If these films do well, it wouldn’t be beyond reason for other Valve IPs like Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress and Day of Defeat to get the big screen treatment.