MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

Beginnings -

My first map, Metastasis, has been under production for the last four months or so (in other words, since I got a PC capable of running the Source SDK without continually locking up). While I've done plenty of single-player mapping for the original Half-Life, of which one map actually got released, Half-Life 2 is a new venture for me, so this first map has very much been a learning process for me.

Basically, I've had to learn Half-Life 2 mapping, and in many ways it's remarkably different from the original Half-Life. For the geometry, there's the new displacements to be used for terrain, the new func_detail for simplifying VIS, and endless prop_static entities for the level of detail we've come to appreciate in a modern computer game. Next, the section I'm being particularly careful with is the AI. For example, with a fairly open map one has to learn how to stop all the enemies from immediately navigating right across the whole terrain and all engaging the enemy at once. There are a lot of features in Half-Life 2 to counteract this, and also to make encounters much more dynamic and interesting - unfortunately, until recently this has been very badly documented, but the new Valve Developer Wiki has put an end to that in a pretty spectacular manner.

And last, but by no means least, there's the plot. I feel that one of the most important things in a map is direction. If the player doesn't feel like they are doing things for a reason, all hope is lost - if you give hints of what will happen, and a driving cause for the whole experience, then this will change dramatically. Condensing an ongoing theme into a number of short, cryptic messages is great fun, but I'm sure people won't understand (or notice) half the references and allusions I'll be making...

I'll be updating this section of the site with news of my progress and of more technical, less story-driven aspects of these maps - so stay tuned!

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