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Erik Wolpaw, a long-time Valve writer who has worked on game series including Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead, and Portal, revealed today that he is no longer with the company. Marc Laidlaw, himself a former Valve writer, let the news slip on Twitter, while Wolpaw confirmed it in a status update on his Facebook page.
Wolpaw joined Valve in 2004, and has credits on Half-Life: Episode One and Two, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Portal 2. Prior to that, he was with Double-Fine, where he co-wrote the outstanding platform-adventure Psychonauts, and before that he was one-half of the brilliant (and sadly defunct) gaming site Old Man Murray. He's currently involved in the development of Psychonauts 2, which was successfully crowdfunded in early 2016.
A reason for Wolpaw's departure wasn't given, but it does appear to be legitimate this time around. A report that he had left Valve also surfaced last summer, but in that case it turned out that he'd just called in sick for the day.
I've emailed Valve for more information, and will update if and when I received a reply.
Update: The report originally stated that writer Jay Pinkterton had also left the company, but apparently not.
Word of J.J. Abrams-led Portal and Half-Life movies first surfaced three years ago when the esteemed film director and Valve's Gabe Newell floated the idea at the DICE 2013 summit in Las Vegas. In March of this year, Abrams confirmed both films' existence "they're in development", he said however information has been thin on the ground since. When pressed by IGN at Wednesday's Westworld red carpet event, Abrahams confirmed he's meeting with Valve next week.
"We have a meeting coming up next week with Valve, we re very active, I m hoping that there will be a Portal announcement fairly soon," Abrams told IGN. "We are having some really interesting discussions with writers, many of whom...once you said you re doing a movie or show about a specific thing that is a known quantity you start to find people who are rabid about these things."
Which is pretty reassuring, given the fact Newell has spoken before about the poor quality of pitches he's received from Hollywood production companies over the years some of which were "brutally, the worse", as a result of "not understanding what made the game good."
Abrams continued: "As someone who loves playing Half Life and Portal, what s the movie of this, it s incredible when you talk to someone who just gets it, it s like, oh my god, it s really the seed for this incredible tree you re growing.
"I look forward to being able to talk about it and announce who's working on it."
As do I. Now, which Hollywood actors would best suit these roles, I wonder?
The Valve News Network—obviously, not a Valve-run news network, but rather a thorough YouTube channel dedicated to all things Valve—has released a new video, about Portal. The Unseen History of Portal delves deep into the making of the classic puzzler, presenting a bunch of unseen footage and little-known info in the process.
SEE Portal's origins as student project Narbacular Drop, WITNESS its evolution into a Valve property and into the Source engine, and BEHOLD what came after, i.e. cake. PC Gamer even gets a (very) brief mention—did our site really used to look like that?
Science has gone too far. One minute you're enjoying a spot of light testing, the next you're trapped in the infinite, unknowable void between dimensions, outside of space and time itself, staring at the side of your own head through a kaleidoscope. It's remarkable no one has tried it before.
YouTuber CrowbCat used the Portal 2 SDK to set up a test chamber in which two portals could be brought face-to-face. In keeping with scientific spirit, he jumped on in. Somehow, the game doesn't crash and the result is fun to pass off as part of the lore of the universe. In one of an infinite number of Portal timelines, Chell is lost in the orange and blue folds of the fabric of reality. What a way to go.
Joy to the world, the tests are run! The result is a spectacular three-minute Portal carol built in Source Filmmaker by Harry 'Harry101UK' Callaghan. The turrets—including the Animal King, naturally—have come together at this special time of year to spread neurotoxin to the tune of Mykola Leontovych and Peter J. Wilhousky's Carol of the Bells.
Callaghan did the voices and music himself, with turret rigs provided by August 'Rantis' Loolam, which is an exhausting array of talent and an indictment of my own sorry skillset. You can find his YouTube channel here, and the song is available on Bandcamp.
Portal Stories: Mel is a massive mod for Portal 2 that will be released on Steam on June 25. Representing four years of work by a dedicated team of modders, it contains five chapters, a custom story and original voice work, lots of new assets, and of course a buttload of new test chambers and levels to explore and solve. In other words, it's entirely new Portal game.
The mod begins with a little Half-Life flavor (a long tram ride) and then a scene reminiscent of Bioshock: a stroll through a town built by Aperture Science to house its employees. It's 1952, when Aperture is still a plucky startup with a bright future, and the facility beneath the town is filled with scientists, though unfortunately they're all out of reach so you can't actually interact with them.
Aperture being Aperture, it's not long before something goes horribly wrong. Having been preserved in a cryo-bed, you awaken to find the facility in a shambles. The environments are massive and incredibly well designed with tons of detail, and there are a few professional-looking cinematic sequences. The mod assumes you know what you're doing when it comes to portals: there's no slow build-up to the puzzle-solving as in the Portal games themselves. You get the portal device and are immediately faced with some challenging rooms to solve, and they remain tough for most of the game.
As a Portal player, I'm a bit more fond of the types of puzzles without searing laser fields and acid pits: I like to experiment freely without worrying about dying and having to start over. Many of the puzzles in Mel, however, are of the more fatal type, to be approached carefully and methodically. Gels, cubes, lasers, switches, turrets, and force fields are the main tools and obstacles you'll face in the sprawling and complex levels. Naturally, you'll engage in a showdown with a malignant A.I. near the end of the game.
As far as voice-over work goes, one actor provides a pretty good Cave Johnson impersonation, and another voices Virgil, the personality core who accompanies you through the majority of the game. I didn't find the humor particularly effective, and much of Virgil's dialogue feels like overkill as it's based around him encouraging you to find a way out of the facility. You'd be doing that anyway, right? At the very least, it's done with a lot of enthusiasm and an obvious fondness for the Portal series.
This massive mod is completely free if you own Portal 2, and provides around 6-10 hours of gameplay. Portal Stories: Mel will be available on June 25 via Steam.
Pinball FX2 developer Zen Studios teased a Valve themed announcement last week, and today we finally know what they are up to. Pinball FX2 will be getting an official Portal themed table towards the end of May or beginning of June. While it's not exactly Portal 3, it's definitely an amusing and detailed return to the Portal universe crafted by developers who are clearly fans of the series. Watch the video above for our hands-on look at the upcoming Portal table for Pinball FX2.
For those of you unfamiliar with Pinball FX2, it's a free pinball game on Steam that sells individual tables as DLC. Tables can be demo'd briefly, but eventually need to be purchased if you want to play them for an extended period of time. Zen Studios has done many licensed and themed tables in the past, but this is the first time the developer has worked with Valve. The level of detail on the Portal table is impressive, and makes me hope that this won't be the end of Zen Studios' partnership with Valve.