The filmmaker behind Star Trek, Cloverfield, and television’s Fringe and Lost could be going into games development.
In the opening session at the DICE conference today, JJ Abrams appeared alongside Valve boss Gabe Newell, and the two nonchalantly spoke of the possibility of movies based on Half-Life and Portal.
The possibility of a partnership between Valve and Abrams’s Bad Robot is exciting indeed.
"Yes, we are talking about doing Portal and Half-Life movies, and we’re talking to Valve about doing games together," Abrams told Gamasutra shortly after leaving the stage.
Abrams says he likes to dabble in any medium he can get his hands on, and the chance to work with a company like Valve was more than enough incentive to try out game development.
"I don’t think I’m particularly good at anything. I just enjoy the experience of making various things," said Abrams.
"Games are something as a player, I’ve loved and appreciated for years. So the idea of being able to get involved and learn from a group like Valve…"
"Bad Robot has already been in the interactive world with the Action Movie FX app for iPhone. The idea of going deeper… I think we already took the first step into the pool with the app, and we’re ready now to dive into interactive. Dave Baronoff, who runs Bad Robot Interactive, is leading the charge in that regard. And we’re excited about the opportunities there."
Part of the fascination of having a storyteller like Abrams joining forces with Valve is the way such a move could shift the debate about narrative in games.
When asked what he thought of the industry-wide row, Abrams said the issue is about being true to your format.
"Well, the good news is, there are a lot of cautionary tales – games that feel very old school, where suddenly and clunkily, you get taken into a cut scene and you suddenly feel the mechanics of what’s happening, and now you’re forced to sit there and listen," he explained.
"I think the key to any game is whether or not is it true to its format. Is it taking advantage of what’s available. I’m not saying the game that we produce – and there are a lot of different things that we are talking about in regards to gaming at Bad Robot – I’m not saying what we’re doing would solve that problem."
So what exactly would a game by JJ Abrams look like?
He says he’s a big fan of Tribes, but more recently his inspiration has come from the more artistic indie scene.
"I’ve been inspired by some games like Journey, which was incredible. It was just crazy emotional, wildly beautiful. A true experience. I love that game. I love Limbo, the mood of it. I just thought it was genius," said Abrams.
Abrams wants to steer clear of the graphically-driven blockbuster genre exemplified by Call of Duty.
"In no time, it’s going to be photorealistic to the point of preposterousness. At that point, it’s irrelevant," he explained
"So I’m not looking at the graphical stuff. That’s going to happen anyway. What I think is critical is gameplay and the emotional connection to the characters."
Though there will certainly be a great deal of expectation placed in such a partnership, Abrams thinks it won’t change the way the industry works by itself.
"I think that as the gaming industry evolves, it will become whatever it becomes, because the stuff that works, in a Darwinian way, will prove itself."