MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

Trip to Valve: Episode One -

Yes, I visited Valve. Yes, I played a work-in-progress version of Episode One. Congratulations on figuring it all out - it seems my clues weren't too cryptic this time...

Anyway. The meat of the matter.

Episode One: don't go in expecting a whole new game. Do expect six or so hours of varied, incredibly polished Half-Life 2 action - while you certainly could finish it in a single sitting, a couple of pauses to catch your breath could be recommended. In places, it's seriously intense gaming - and roughly a third of the way in is the most disturbing, shocking scripted sequence I've seen in any Half-Life game yet. All I can say is ... poor Alyx...

Something I noticed is that it seems a lot more plot-driven than previous Half-Life content - there are various story elements introduced that I'm really looking forward to seeing resolved. Yes, it adds yet more mystery to the Half-Life universe (well, it wouldn't be a Half-Life game without that, would it?) - but does so in a manner that suggests some things will be answered sooner or later. Anyone trying to derive plot elements from filenames in the encrypted GCF might have a rough idea of the overall events which occur in Episode One, but not the reason for them. If that makes sense.

The version I played was somewhat unfinished, and the ending seemed a little disappointing - however it did require a fairly major feat of imagination to see beyond the broken visportals to see the true intention behind it. It seems Valve builds the intros and endings to their games last of all - so I have every faith that it'll be tidied up into something visually spectacular.

It's really interesting to see how successfully Valve has separated gameplay design from the visuals. The oft-mentioned orange-maps aren't so much for removing the visual design, they're more to tell the playtester that the visuals aren't finished, so can be ignored - even if the designers might have a good idea how the final map could actually look.

Over lunch with a bunch of map designers one day (a very good steak in the restaurant at the top of the building Valve is in - although still overcooked by my continental European standards!), I happened to mention that, having seen the grid-like nature of Seattle, I'd become particularly impressed by the authentic European non-grid design of City 17, and how it seemed drastically different from American cities. They took this as a serious compliment - it turned out that few, if any of them had ever visited a European city, and were simply working from reference designs from the art department. They might as well have been building some completely alien world - they had concepts and references, and worked from those. In my opinion, the system most definitely works.

Conversely, they seem to really admire my slightly bizarre way of doing the whole lot, simultaneously. Which is great, too!

I had a long chat with Randy Lundeen and Robin Walker right after playing Episode One, bringing up various maps in the game and making minor suggestions while they made notes. Since I got to playtest fairly late in the development, I knew I couldn't suggest any major changes - but I wouldn't be surprised if I get to see some minor changes in the final product. Often of the minimalist, continuity variety - or of changing lighting colours to better differentiate between different locations in the same building. Still, I'm really proud that they asked - and I'll be even more proud if they listen...

I also had a long chat with Ken Birdwell and Kelly Bailey on world design, and how it influences MINERVA - and all I can say is that I now know why Valve is so successful. There's some serious intellectual talent behind the team, and it seems to have infected my little project with some minor, pivotal plot points. Minerva now has a true home, and MINERVA has a true story arc. There is now weight behind my little project.

Valve going 'episodic' seems like a big experiment - there doesn't appear to be some Grand Scheme written in stone for everything Valve will do in future, rather everything is fairly fluid and capable of amendment. I'd say this is a good thing - multi-million dollar budgets seem to have introduced a serious fear of risk in the gaming industry, so if a major games company is willing to try out new things, then that's good for us all.

A couple of other people to thank, in no particular order: Greg Coomer, Kathy Gehrig, Erik Johnson, Jeff Lane, Dhabih Eng, and a load of others I've forgotten the names of (I'm hopeless with names) - so thanks!

On a more random ending note, have a link to the Wikipedia article produced by my faithful acolytes on this blog. It's a bit gushing in places, so please, maybe you could smooth things out before I slap a lovely {{NPOV}} template on it?

Article Comments (now closed)

Crispy's gravatar

1. Lucky son of a-

Posted by Crispy at 3:23AM, Tuesday May 9 2006

Congrats on the invite, a trip to Valve is something most people can only dream about it, but in (what I hope will be) kickstarting the HL2 single-player mapping community into producing more original stories and styles you deserve it imo.

Even if you're staunchly against going into the industry, it must be nice to still be able to make contributions to a AAA title, no matter how small they may be.

Ravien Coromana's gravatar

2. Cool...

Posted by Ravien Coromana at 7:52AM, Tuesday May 9 2006

I think it rocks that you got to go inside valve and just talk with the guys there. I love your Minerva, and now that you have push from both you and ideas from Valve, I'll be better than ever... I wonder if one day you'll merge with valve... heh.. That's an intresting idea... but then you couldn't supply your massive greatness to us for free!

WhoZeDuke's gravatar

3. Graphics

Posted by WhoZeDuke at 8:21AM, Tuesday May 9 2006

How are the graphics. HL2 quality, Lost Coast Quality, or in between?

wargamerROB's gravatar

4. VALVe

Posted by wargamerROB at 9:03AM, Tuesday May 9 2006

I would kill just to learn how Valve does their design process. I know about their cabaal thoery, but I would love to see it in action. Congrats on the trip, and the recogniztion of MINERVA as canon. That seems to be the biggest achievment a Half-Life 2 single player mapper can get.

Baffled's gravatar

5. Intriguing

Posted by Baffled at 9:04AM, Tuesday May 9 2006

"Minerva now has a true home.."-does this mean that they've found a place for her in the official halflife universe? "..and MINERVA has a true story arc.."-does this mean that you didn't have a clear idea of who Minerva was yourself, allowing the story to evolve itself? All rather cryptic and intriguing. Incidentally, can a minor plot point be pivotal, or a pivotal plot point be minor?

Speaking of cryptic, I've just staggered to what I suspect is the last part of "Mistake of Pythagoras", the puzzle block room. What did you think of that mod? It's certainly unusual. That spiralish room nearly finished me and my poor old Radeon 9500, please don't be tempted to use infinitely spawning enemies to harass us poor players, or at least forwarn so I can pop down to Argos and pick up a fire extinguisher. As fun as that scenery-crunching ESP gimmick was, I'd rather you avoided overpowered weapons as well. That gravity gun section near the end of HL2 rather spoiled it for me, too easy.

That EU photo you posted...sent shivers down my spine. There's some very impressive photography on your site, all you? If so I can see where your flair for lighting, atmosphere and mood came from. I hadn't thought that the business of making Web pages would invlove so much travelling, a tad ironic that. What's that reference to "my continental european standards"? A case of too much Bistro and too little Pub, if you ask me.

TomboCombo's gravatar

6. Minerva and Half-Life Episodes

Posted by TomboCombo at 10:53AM, Tuesday May 9 2006

Congratulations, Adam. Not only did you get to play the next Half-Life game a month before us and rub excruciating plot points in our faces without revealing them (excuse me, I need a moment to sob), but you also got Minerva a recognized part of their continuity. I'd like to see anyone else achieve that. Now for your interrogation, 007: does that mean the dates in Minerva are correct, too? Any idea on how this will tie into future Half-Life games (i.e., will your plot and Valve's intersect in the future)? Is there some way you can get Valve to release Episode One a week early (come on, you're all pals)? How's progress going with Metastasis 3? And finally, as the Half-Life Episodes are released, will you use any new content from them in future installments of Minerva?

xbskid's gravatar

7. Milkacowsis

Posted by xbskid at 12:24PM, Tuesday May 9 2006

Y'know, I wouldn't object to MINERVA: Metastasis being an officially recognized HL2 expansion. So long as it remains free. And speaking of Minerva, how goes development on part 3 (And I don't think my question regarding the naming of the final release of Metastasis was answered)?

Kast's gravatar

8. Musings

Posted by Kast at 3:11AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

You had the gall to give Valve advice on map design? O.O ... Good on you! You're definately on to something good when the recipients of over 70 'Game of the Year' awards want your constructive criticisms.

So many more hints that Valve accepts MINERVA as canon. I wouldn't be surprised to a radio message from Barney go something like this, in Episode 1:

BARNEY: "Alyx, thank god you got out of there. Keep running but keep an eye out - the forcefields are down and the city's full of xen animals. Stay away from the West side - choppers are heading out that way. I heard something about an orbital power link and some guy making trouble on an island. Anyway, they've got everything heading out that way so steer clear!"

Obviously that's a bit too clear but I would love to see Valve make some kind of nod to MINERVA in a future episode.

F-Ish's gravatar

9. Congratulated

Posted by F-Ish at 3:58AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

That you got to play EP 1 and helped Valve to make it even a better product. I can't wait to play it i wanna do how the story continoune and the end of City 17 it was a good city... Gotta love the explosion of the citadel.

DarkPrimus's gravatar

10. Subject? Just read the comment.

Posted by DarkPrimus at 6:23AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

You asked them about how to update MINERVA to support HDR by using the Episode 1 files, right? =p

Naurgul's gravatar

11. spolers & wiki

Posted by Naurgul at 7:30AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

You do realise that the "Poor Alyx" quote, cryptic as it may be, can be spoiler-ish if you know where to look. The guys over at steampowered forums have already started a discussion based on these very words. I have my own(not unique though)theory on what you might mean but we *are* supposed to be cryptic around here.

On another topic, I share your opinion about the wikipedia article.I would try to organize information a bit better myself if only I was more confident in writing an encyclopedia article in a language different than my mother tongue (that really sounds like colonel odessa, please don't get the wrong impression).

Evan's gravatar

12. Someplace Else

Posted by Evan at 7:47AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

I broke down and actually got the Steam version of Someplace Else. I have to say, it's amazing and definitely reminds me of Minerva.

You know what I would think awesome, though? If there were Xen levels for Half-Life 2.

Kast's gravatar

13. Not Odessa

Posted by Kast at 7:49AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

Oh, no. Odessa-ing would be to say something like "Right, well I'll just go and finish off what I'm doing and tell everyone what we're all doing over here and how much work needs doing on the wikipedia article. Then I'll get right back, pitch in and lend a hand."

What you said reminded me more of General Melchett (of Blackadder Goes Forth). A perfect example of him would be... "Ooooh yeeaaassss. I sure am sorry that all I can't join all you young chaps in going over the top tommorrow, but I fear there's no place on the battlefield for an old man like me with a wooden bladder."

Kast's gravatar

14. NO

Posted by Kast at 7:54AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

I was making my last post at the time that Evan made his recommendation so I'm afraid I will have to take up another post with my reply...

NO! NO! NO! And, err... HELL NO! Blasphemy! The heathen's words burn my ears and soil my Holy Monitors of Displaying! Let is no Xen. There never was such a place. Any mention of a possibility of an idea of such a level having appeared in any canon game is breach of doctrine, shall be expunged from record and the perpetrator burnt in the cleansing flames of the Citadel's carcass!

Or we could have a balanced, reasoned arguement as to the benefits of including such levels in the game, but that doesn't sound nearly as fun. ^^

Evan's gravatar

15. XEN!

Posted by Evan at 8:39AM, Wednesday May 10 2006

Xen would suck for an actual canon level in Half Life 2. I mean more for modded levels and whatnot.

Just imagine a HL2 version of Someplace Else, eh? I think that would rock the socks off of quite a few llamas.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

16. Canon? Well, not Nikon, anyway.

Posted by Cargo Cult at 7:57PM, Wednesday May 10 2006

Alas, MINERVA retains its apocryphal nature, but face it - it's more *fun* when I can do what I like. I'd had a good idea where the plot was heading, but now I've got some more concrete reasons for that direction. Which may veer a long way from existing HL2 canon...

Photography: yes, it's all mine. I'm still learning (using my patented wander-round-with-camera technique), but I'm having fun. Plus actually observing our world helps when building a new one in Hammer. Oh, and my trip to Seattle proved really useful for another reason - cheaper lens! A lovely 17-85mm EF-S zoom with image stabilisation. £330 rather than £480 over here. The lethargic dollar is great.

Everyone seems transfixed by my apparent 'spoiler' regarding Episode One, which is odd since I don't really spoil anything. But it's fun to see everyone's imaginations go into overdrive regardless...

I think someone asked about the AI. Well, in Alyx's case, in many places it's more like cooperative gaming than shepherding a dumb AI around - you'll work with Alyx, not despite her. I didn't notice any significant changes to the enemy AI, but it seems to have been put to pretty good use. And the new stuff is fun to play against... ;-)

Graphics? HL2 plus, basically. There appears to have been some monkeying-round with shaders for various characters, making them look more realistic - and there's the fairly subtle HDR in there too. It's not some complete graphical revamp of everything, but it still looks great.

Talking about revamps - anyone seen that Halo 3 announcement trailer? I really enjoyed the first game (you might have noticed certain ... influences on MINERVA), but still haven't got round to playing the second (no Xbox and all that) - but all I can say is that people at Bungie *seriously* know how to make impressive trailers. But can they remember the games stuff of old? ;-)


Kast's gravatar

17. Halo, smee again

Posted by Kast at 10:41PM, Wednesday May 10 2006

I've only played the Halo demo, and that was only the once a long time ago. Yet, I do vaguely recall something remeniscent of the Combine's watchtower with its bridge to the centre of the island. The tower with two fixed gun emplacements that you see the drops-ships come in from?

Maybe it's my memory playing tricks but I'm sure there was something like that in the demo mission.

And I don't think it matters what you say, Adam. MINERVA will always be canon to us acolytes :P

Baffled's gravatar

18. Next-gen effects...

Posted by Baffled at 2:07AM, Thursday May 11 2006

I noticed the increasingly ubiquitous depth of field effect in those Halo 3 screen shots. Are developers going to implement that, and similar effects, in gameplay or are they just for movies and stills? If they are, does anyone here know how thats going to work in practice? I played around with DOF in Garry's mod and it made me feel nauseous. It seems strange that the principle effect of next generation hardware could be to make things out of focus, blurred or otherwise distorted. I can see how such effects help a director or a photographer influence the viewer, but how will this affect the illusion of freedom in a virtual space? Part of the fun of gaming, especially in multiplayer, is in spotting that face at a window and in engaging the enemy at various ranges. How will this be possible if everything beyond a few virtual feet of the nearest object is out of focus? Did anyone see that DOD:S effects movie "Prelude to Victory"? I was literally baffled that day...

Kast's gravatar

19. Login?

Posted by Kast at 5:56AM, Thursday May 11 2006

Have I been totally blind and just not noticed this before (I bet you've all seen it but not said anything) or is the 'Login' button at the bottom of the screen new?

Now, while I imagine this is purely for Adam's benefit, does it mean we may get the oppertunity to register, record and edit our posts?

DarkPrimus's gravatar

20. Concerning the Halo 3 trailer...

Posted by DarkPrimus at 3:12PM, Thursday May 11 2006

Re-read the first Cortana letter. Then go watch the trailer again. Compare the two.

If there's one thing Bungie knows, it's how to foreshadow.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

21. Login? Not for you, for me!

Posted by Cargo Cult at 7:16PM, Thursday May 11 2006

There's a spangly new 'admin mode' in this section of the blog, which you're not able to see - until now, the article posting stuff was entirely separate from this lot. Yes, it was an ... interesting design.

It needs a lot of work (it's pretty much nothing but a bare login system right now), but it's a start. Other features added include automatic closing of articles for commenting (wait two weeks from the posting of the article or last comment, and commenting is closed), numbering of comments (oooh), and a couple of bugfixes.

I might add a username-remembering thingy for you acolytes when I have time - long train journeys on Saturday, so *something* might get programmed...

Depth of field: there's a Episode One screenshot showing this effect too - I didn't see anything like that when I played through, so it might be a recent addition. I think it's only a cutscene/scripted sequence type feature in games - but having just bought a 50mm, f1.8 lens (for the grand total of $70), I know how addictive it can be.

Foreshadowing? The Cortana letters may have been an ever-so-minor influence on my very own Minerva, so yes, I'm familiar with them. The tiny smidgen of Halo 3 seen so far does thematically seem more like the first game than the big, brash sequel - although whether it'll be any good remains to be seen.

Who knows, I might get round to playing it when it's ported to Windows Vista+++ in, ooh, 2045 or so...

Cargo Cult's gravatar

22. Testing, testing...

Posted by Cargo Cult at 8:04PM, Thursday May 11 2006

Let's see if this username-remembering thing actually *works*!

Cargo Cult's gravatar

23. Testing again!

Posted by Cargo Cult at 8:07PM, Thursday May 11 2006

Very obvious typo. Fixed.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

24. Gravatars?

Posted by Cargo Cult at 10:11PM, Thursday May 11 2006

Borrowing something I saw on the Steam Review -http://www.steamreview.org/ - you can now have pretentious, fully Web 2.0-compatible 'Gravatars' on this 'ere blog-thing.


Isn't that fancy?

F-Ish's gravatar

25. Cool

Posted by F-Ish at 12:40AM, Friday May 12 2006

Yea there fancy. =D
Gonna check it out.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

26. Fancy, but...

Posted by Cargo Cult at 1:16AM, Friday May 12 2006

... Like everything Web 2.0, it seems to run more on enthusiasm than sense.

Avatars have to be individually, manually rated by the people behind it - as in, human beings have to assess them all, and rank them accordingly. So I've uploaded one, but it still won't work until someone gives it the all-clear. One day.


Hopefully at least some of the acolytes are in a similar queue... ;-)

Kast's gravatar

27. *Bows*

Posted by Kast at 5:21AM, Friday May 12 2006

Ready and waiting for approval. :)

Though I can't say I hold with all this modern jiggery-pokery. In my day, the internet didn't have no daft number after it! *Huff* ;)

Cargo Cult's gravatar

28. It works!

Posted by Cargo Cult at 6:52AM, Friday May 12 2006

... Except there are also formatting issues in Internet Explorer, as I've just discovered.

The following seems appropriate.


xbskid's gravatar

29. Yay Acolyteness

Posted by xbskid at 11:50AM, Friday May 12 2006

All hail the Adam Foster. Now I just need an gravatar. >.>

vecima's gravatar

30. ummm.....

Posted by vecima at 12:27PM, Friday May 12 2006

ok, so i checked the remember me over to yes.... does that mean i dont need to enter my name anymore?

DarkPrimus's gravatar

31. That's right.

Posted by DarkPrimus at 3:10PM, Friday May 12 2006

Unless you decide to post on a different computer. In which case it wouldn't have the cookie stored to remember your info you entered.

Kast's gravatar

32. Wowza

Posted by Kast at 7:15PM, Friday May 12 2006

'Yay's! I have my gravatar - taken from the very walls of the bunker's lower rooms. The rathery gory showers, to be precise.

And my cookies are working. Excellent. :)

vecima's gravatar

33. i need a face.

Posted by vecima at 6:58AM, Saturday May 13 2006

how do you get a gravitar?

Cargo Cult's gravatar

34. Gravatars

Posted by Cargo Cult at 7:32AM, Saturday May 13 2006

Sign up with your email address at the www.gravatar.com site, upload an image (ideally 80x80 pixels), and once it's approved it'll appear whenever you use that email address on appropriate blogs.

Hmm. 'Blog.' It's a hateful little word, isn't it? I thought I'd managed to avoid such horrors, but now I find myself contributing such a thing to the world all by myself.

But then, this is BaaBaa-BlogSheep(tm). Which, as of earlier today, is officially template-tastic with completely separated logic and presentation, with the final few bits of readable text being moved out of the source code and into external support files. Who knows, when it's finished, I might slap the GPL on it and make it available for other like-minded anti-bloggers?

It's proving a really useful testbed for my paid work, anyway. I can muck about with new stuff without a project manager breathing down my neck, constantly monitoring some imminent deadlines... ;-)

Baffled's gravatar

35. London falling...

Posted by Baffled at 8:20AM, Saturday May 13 2006

I've just stumbled across a rather exciting looking new HL2 mod. Its called Black Mesa :East and is still in the early stages but some of the conceptual artwork grabbed my attention...

Perhaps "Brussel's Revenge" would have been more appropriate:




vecima's gravatar

36. me too me too!

Posted by vecima at 10:41AM, Saturday May 13 2006

funny, i also just ran into that mod earlier today!

small virtual world, isn't it?

Kast's gravatar

37. London

Posted by Kast at 8:23PM, Saturday May 13 2006

Oh it's nice to have UK-based mods. Especially those where you actually play in the UK.

I just hope you get to blow up the houses of parliment at some point :P It's probably been turned into some sort of factory anyway.

I'm just waiting for Black Mesa: Source to be released. You know, the remake of the original Half Life. That is looking beautiful.

Baffled's gravatar

38. Gravatar

Posted by Baffled at 12:17AM, Sunday May 14 2006

How did you chaps get your gravatars? I've tried to log on but get no email, they just ignore me :( Is it not working at weekends or something? Also does the image have to be 80x80 as the ones here seem to be 44x44?

It is indeed a small world or great minds thinking alike.. I'd be careful what you say about wanting to blow up Westminster, Kast, MI5 might be monitoring blogs like this. They must spend their time and our taxes doing something....

Kast's gravatar

39. Baffled? I'm complete discombobulated!

Posted by Kast at 12:34AM, Sunday May 14 2006

As I recall I got my email reply instantaneously (gwad, that's bad spelling). You can upload a picture of any width and height you like once you've logged in, so long as the memory size is less than 100kb. It will automatically be resized. Give it a couple of days and your avatar will be approved and rated.

The avatars here have probably been resized by the webpage specially.

Oh, and I wouldn't worry about MI5 following me. I've already probably alerted the CIA ages ago when I accidentally stumbled across an offical Adobe Acrobat file that gave specific details on the Stinger launcher.

Baffled's gravatar

40. Da Foster Code

Posted by Baffled at 2:35AM, Sunday May 14 2006

Accidentally stumbled...oh yes...after accidentally typing "stinger missile" into google..;-)

The security services are however taking an interest in computer games and mods in particular:


A mod like Minerva might prove an effective way to cryptically communicate with cells..or recruit and train people to take on government installations.

Thinking about all those mysterious ingame missives from Minerva, I thought to check for possible coded messages surrounding MINERVA and its author...

Checking anagrams of ADAM FOSTER yielded a variety of results from the rather cool FAD MAESTRO, the rather apt OF D'ART MESA, and the rather insulting A SAD MATE FOR...us lot presumably ;-)

Hylobatidae gave A BAD TITLE HOY hehe, plenty of references to Libya....and A DEATH BY OIL....I think I'm on to something....



Naurgul's gravatar

41. The Bard

Posted by Naurgul at 3:36AM, Sunday May 14 2006

It doesn't seem to work well. First of all, it seems to find the most obscure anagrams known to man (or machine, in this case). Secondly, it fails to detect real anagrams, like this one: "nyello" (So what? I am a Tolkien fan, any objections?). Shouldn't "lonely" be an anagram for that?

That was a bit off-topic. Just to make a proper comment, I'll say this:

Since Adam was able to do all these things at Valve headquarters without drooling at all, we can safely assume that he was worthy.

Am I right?

fitzroy_doll's gravatar

42. Burberry headcrab

Posted by fitzroy_doll at 5:37PM, Sunday May 14 2006

The visit to Valve sounds very interesting. Someone on the Steam forums also mentioned having paid them a visit, have they always had such an open door policy? It's great publicity for them in any case. I'm surprised at their comments on designing European cities. Isn't their art director from Bulgaria?

I hope Black Mesa East works out for the people working on it. From where I am sitting (literally), London already looks like the Combine have arrived, only they got Norman Foster to design their citadel and it went a bit gherkin shaped. I look forward to taking the airboat up a toxic Thames while fighting off hordes of zombie chavs.

Baffled's gravatar

43. A glitch, a screwup, and some typos

Posted by Baffled at 7:32PM, Sunday May 14 2006

According to the Gravatars forum there is some kind of glitch with the registration link, it just refreshes without adding you to the list. I can't help but wonder, then, how you all got yours..its a good job I'm not paranoid.

I've somehow managed to delete all my cookies *don't ask* so, if this is noticable, its me not your programming. There's no accounting for the human element is there Adam *rolls eyes* ?

My posts are riddled with typos, it seems that I'm blind to them until just after I've clicked the add comment button. Did someone mention the ability to edit posts? Worst offender has to be "Brussel's" ugh, and the hylobatidae anagram should have read "BAD TITLE AHOY" which I thought was quite funny but the typo rather killed it *sigh*

I'm looking forward to a combine London as well. As for a toxic Thames, just how did they manage to make such a mess in just seven hours?

Kast's gravatar

44. Thames

Posted by Kast at 8:38PM, Sunday May 14 2006

"As for a toxix Thames, just how did they manage to make such a mess in just seven hours?" - Baffled

Indeed. It took Victorian London decades to achieve that kind of pinnacle.

And I was the one who mentioned the ability to edit posts. I was daydreaming about Adam's login function at the bottom of the page. Nothing for us acolytes as of yet.

We are not worthy of login! :P

vecima's gravatar

45. Punting on the Thames

Posted by vecima at 1:11AM, Monday May 15 2006

allways good for an outing....

sorry... my son used to love Merry Poppins.

as far as the toxicity, Our Benefactors had near twenty years accomplish this...

also, on the subject of timelines, i'm supposing that minerva takes place roughly half way between hl1 and hl2?

someone verbally lash into me if you think different... i'd be interested to discuss this.

Kast's gravatar

46. Timeline

Posted by Kast at 2:57AM, Monday May 15 2006

Timeline - Excellent book, that. The film was a bit of fun but flawed. Should have gone for an 18-rating.

MINERVA certainly occurs sometime between the two games. However, the Combine seem very well established. The sub-terranian structure seems to have been built into the rock, not teleported there like the Citadel was. A construction like that takes a LOT of time, especially when working with stalkers. (Those things can NOT be efficent). So it's going to be closer to HL2 than HL1.

I personally think the events of MINERVA take place about a year of Gordon Freeman's return. I can't put into words why exactly, but I just get the impression.

Baffled's gravatar

47. Musings on time,crates,fashion..and sewage

Posted by Baffled at 4:25AM, Monday May 15 2006

The only reference I could find to the chronological setting of MINERVA occurs in this article:


Notice there's a reference to the location of crates in there. I tried out that Crate Review System outlined in Adam's latest link. I'm afraid to report that MINERVA scored a rather paltry 7 seconds on the StC (Start to Crate) rating system...oh dear.

I gave some thought to the prospect of Zombie chavs. I wanted to retort that fashion really ought to have moved on, even for chavs, by whatever time BM:E is set. I was going to say that no self-respecting Zombie should be seen dead under a Burberry Headcrab..when it occured to me that they were, in fact, dead...

As far as this toxic Thames theme goes, I really wouldn't recommend any kind of outing on the Thames these days Vecima. In recent months they've been dumping raw sewage into it whenever we experience a heavy downpour...something to do with the Victorian sewers being overloaded. So we don't appear to need any extra-terrestrial assistance in the pollution department here in London.

Incidentally what's that bit about the Citadel having been teleported into place? I didn't know that...

Kast's gravatar

48. Citadel

Posted by Kast at 5:04AM, Monday May 15 2006

At the very start of the Seven Hour War, in MORE THAN ONE location, whole perfect cylinders of matter disappeared. Buildings, people, earth, sewers... everything just disappeared, cut off along the cirumferance of a circle hundreds of metres wide. Within seconds, in their place, the Citadels (yes, plural) appeared.

This, and many more little gems, was revealed to Gordon Freeman by Eli Vance, accompanied by a slide show, in an early draft of Half Life 2. Check out Raising the Bar.

Now, the idea of multiple citadels may or may not have survived to the final cut. I must stress that this is from an incredibly early draft. It's never specified how many citadels there are. The fact that all in game characters refere to THE citadel may only be because its the only one important or relevant to them. Or maybe the Citadel of City 17 is the most important of them all (Breen does live there, after all).

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49. chronogenesis

Posted by vecima at 6:00AM, Monday May 15 2006

i agree that minerva takes place between the games, but i think it probably more exactly in the middle than closer to hl2...

hl1 was sometime between like 97 and 2002
(just loosely guessing here, cuz i dont feel like looking up info that might not be right anyway)

so hl2 is anywhere from 2015 to 2021 i'd say... and minerva is 2009...

so actually, maybe it is closer to hl2...
as far as construction goes.. well, we've yet to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, so i won't bother to speculate.

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50. Linear interpolation

Posted by Cargo Cult at 6:29AM, Monday May 15 2006

All necessary dates are on the MINERVA website, in Someplace Else and in MINERVA. Put 'em all together, draw up a timeline, and you might learn ... something?

Anagrams: I once discovered my name to be an anagram of 'deft aromas'. And 'armed fatso'. Which was quite good too. I'm not aware of any intentionally hidden messages, but there's always the chance my parents have been working behind the scenes since the beginning...

Zomburberry: the idea of a cross between Shaun of the Dead and Ravenholm fills me with both horror and glee. I like chavs so much, I'm, erm... Currently in Brussels, looking for a flat. Long story!

Anyone want guess at a location for MINERVA? Hopefully you'll get to explore a coastal city (lightly dusted with snow) in the next chapter, complete with its own citadel. I'm going by the many-citadels
interpretation of the Half-Life 2 plot, in case you're wondering.

Downhill Struggle wins on the StC rating, incidentally - there are crates in view of the player as soon as you start. I've just realised the same isn't possible with Depth Charge, since you've seen the airlock already...

Well, that's enough plot nuggets for now! ;-)

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51. Blog implementation

Posted by Cargo Cult at 7:00AM, Monday May 15 2006

Dearest acolytes, some answers to your other questions:

Not even I'm capable of editing comments right now without low-level database intervention - until yesterday, I couldn't even delete them. I've removed the separate admin-only version of the software, and now this side will do everything if a valid admin username and password is provided. Like, post new articles, edit them (complete with formatting preview), etc...

All comments are equal, by the way. Mine go through the same code as yours, and only the IP address is recorded by any way of user identification. The remembering-cookies thing saves just your username and email address in your browser, and the code will use that information if those cookies available and valid - if you manage to clear your cookies, then nothing significant is lost.

I'll definitely look into proper user accounts in the future if spamming or impersonation becomes any kind of a problem, but for now, I'm happy with BaaBaa-BlogSheep(tm) the way it is. The somewhat explosive growth in the number of comments posted seems to indicate you lot like it as well. Which is nice.

Except, back to MINERVA!

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52. Admonished Digression

Posted by Baffled at 9:02AM, Monday May 15 2006

I think I detected some displeasure from our Dear Leader that he caught us discussing another mod on His blog.

So the next chapter(a term with rather more class than episode) is to be called Depth Charge hmmm. But how is it that we shall get to explore a coastal city (lightly dusted with snow, no less) when we are currently deep underground and, judging by the title, destined to go ever deeper? Is the citadel not going to retain its apparent monopoly on teleportation...? Is it a city at the Earth's core (snow notwithstanding-I seem to remember a daft film about such a city at the centre of the Earth which did have its own weather system..) or have I got the wrong end of the proverbial crowbar?

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53. Moo

Posted by xbskid at 12:45PM, Monday May 15 2006

Journey to the Center of MINERVA? :o

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54. Episode != Chapter

Posted by Cargo Cult at 6:59PM, Monday May 15 2006

First chapter of MINERVA is called 'Metastasis'. Hopefully that'll set things in order. Yes, I'm proudly taking this 'episodic' thing as far as it'll possibly go.

As for other mods, you're more than welcome to discuss 'em (I like mods, after all) - but the Black Mesa: East one looks a bit too ambitious. It's got the standard unskinned weapons renders, basic map screenshots and concept art done in pencil - I wish them luck, but unfortunately I've seen far too many promising mods start in a similar way but go on to fail... :-/

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55. Chapter definition

Posted by Kast at 7:03PM, Monday May 15 2006

Baffled - Depth Charge is not the next chapter, only the next level in MINERVA: Metastasis. The next chapter, in which we visit this coastal city and another Citadel, is MINERVA: Chronoclasm (possibly).

*Goes and makes notes of all the dates and events he can find*

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56. Timeline

Posted by Kast at 8:22PM, Monday May 15 2006

OK, here's what I've got. If anyone else can think of something, please post.

* 13th June 1974 - Prolonged seismic event in New Mexico. Starts at 4pm.

* 2nd July 1974 - Seismic event confirmed to be from Black Mesa 'Missile Range'

* 10th July 1974 - Confirmation of event, explained as a "catastrophic failure". Temporary halt to a research program. Mention made of transportation technology.

* 28th March 2002 - Message written on console in Black Mesa. Facility now called the Black Mesa Research Facility.

* 1st March 2002 - Events of Someplace Else]. Minerva claims to be at the Xen outpost against her will.

* 15th October 2009 - Events of Metastasis. Minerva has somehow arrived on Earth.

* ?? ????? ???? - Message from Minerva. Claims to have interfaced with some sort of network.


Now, I have an interpretation of the timeline which I've shared below. If anyone has a different interpretation, I'd love to hear it.

The seismic event at BM in 1974 was a wholy different event to the Xen incident. The fact that there was anyone available to send the security memo would seem to support this.

They managed to keep a teleport open for a while (hence the extended duration of the event). Somehow, an entity calling herself Minerva infiltrated the Black Mesa Missile Range's computer system. There she lied dormant until the failed experiment in the test chamber more than two decades later, in 2002.

In the empty bowels of the Black Mesa Research Facility, she displayed a broken message to a chosen avatar, a survivor of the incident. Her message drove them forward and in three days time, the arrive at the Xen outpost shown in Someplace Else where Minerva has somehow gone too. Where her test subject goes from there, we don't know.

Seven and a halfyears later and the Combine have control of Earth. Minerva has returned to Earth and has connected with the Combine's computer network. She choses this time to find out more about the occupying forces and inevitably to assist in their downfall for reasons unknown. And so begins Metastasis.

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57. Next chapter.

Posted by Berrie at 12:47AM, Tuesday May 16 2006

Hearing you talk about the many citadels interpretation I thought: couldn't you have asked the people of Valve if there were more citadels?

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58. Baffled by name....

Posted by Baffled at 1:07AM, Tuesday May 16 2006

It seems I got a bit muddled back there, sorry. I hadn't realised that MINERVA was to be such an extended opus. It's good to see that despite a determination to be realistic in your plans, you retain a sense of ambition where it matters most. I promise to pay closer attention next time...:-)

As for this PhD thesis, on the Chronology of the Half-Life franchise, you seem to have embarked on Kast, I'm going to need to do some research before daring to comment. I don't want egg on my face twice in one day.

On the subject of paying closer attention, has anyone else noticed that our comments are being printed out on top of what looks like some kind of blueprint...?

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59. Investigation

Posted by Kast at 3:47AM, Tuesday May 16 2006

The franchise? No... oh, no, no, no. It's not a timeline of the whole story at all. That would include everything from the subjugation of the Vortigaunts to the key events of Freeman's life leading up to Black Mesa (eg his nameless sponsor) to the possible fallout of the Citadel's destruction.

Now I did a little bit of digging and have found the blueprint image (logically enough called blueprint.jpg) and have made it clearer to see.


Now I have no idea what its off. There appear to be cogs or something in the top half. Maybe an engine?

Baffled's gravatar

60. The Parallax View

Posted by Baffled at 10:17AM, Tuesday May 16 2006

I've just discovered some fragments of a HL1 mod made by Adam that apparently predate Someplace Else, called Parallax. Apologies if you all knew about this already..but I didn't. There's some indication that the plot was something of an early version of Minerva. There's a reference to uncovering what really happened in 1974, and to discovering where Xen really is...and a narrowly missed chance to view a picture of Adam here:


I'm currently downloading the surviving fragment (at 1.38KB/sec) from here:


Nice find on the blueprints front Kast, you'd make a good detective and your working theory sounds plausible except maybe for that part about dormancy. There is a reference by Minerva to her trying to warn everyone about the coming disaster with simulations in archive 5. The Parallax story seemed to involve seeing the Black Mesa event through the eyes of one of the scientists not portrayed in HL1. I wondered whether Minerva might have been such a scientist. Although that reference to a "box of lights" perhaps does point to her either being a computer or at least being in one. I must be getting a bit punchy as I, very briefly, considered the possiblity that she was the Black Mesa computer or even the early internet shocked into sentience by the incident...Don't laugh...

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61. Parallax? Hmm.

Posted by TomboCombo at 10:53AM, Tuesday May 16 2006

Is that what Parallax is? I always thought it was another big word Adam used to show off (see "Hylobatidae" and "Carcinogenesis"). Very interesting, I'll have to take a look at this. And don't be so hard on yourself, Baffled; somehow, the idea of Black Mesa researchers creating some kind of cybernetic god, either through purpose or ignorance, doesn't seem too far out when compared to the other things lurking in the Half-Life universe(s). I have my own theory: whether Minerva was human or not, she was loyal to Black Mesa and their mission to help humanity somehow. With the resonance cascade, portal storms, Seven Hour War, and Breen's selling out the human race, she came to realize how weak and stupid humanity was. Having determined that she is a superior organism (used loosely), Minerva decided to screw with the pro-Combine humans as much as they screwed with themselves and their world. It could explain her credo, which has been taken down now: "Two billion died and I did nothing....But never again!" Which leaves one point of confusion: the identity of the player character. Who are you?

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62. who are you?

Posted by vecima at 11:43AM, Tuesday May 16 2006

the player...

who cares, just some poor shmuck...

"the right man in the wrong place"

anyhow, is the player the same person in "someplace else"?

also, minerva may not have been on Xen, unless she said so explicitly (i forgot now, been a while since i played "someplace else") perhaps she found a radio frequency that permeates the dimensional membranes

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63. Hmmm...

Posted by Kast at 5:43PM, Tuesday May 16 2006

Thanks, Baffled. :) I'm the product of hours of tinkering with websites and playing 'Not Pron'.

I think Minerva was on Xen because she said she was 'trapped here'. Now, its not clear where 'here' is but I think she would have dropped a hint if it wasn't the same place as the character.

Now as I'm at a college computer I can't play Parallax right now but I'll definately have a look at that when I get home. There's always the possibility that the plot has changed since then, so we'll have to bear that in mind.

Assuming Parallax is still relevant, I'm guessing the player character is the intended recipient of Archive 4. *Checks the dates then mentally slaps himself* Shees... bit of a difference between 1974 and 2002.

Think I'll hold out on any more postulating till I get home.

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64. None the wiser....

Posted by Baffled at 1:13AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

I managed to find time to run through what remains of Parallax. I'm afraid it's rather short and there are no plot titbits to discover therein. It was, however, recognisably the work of the master. You CAN overdo this sucking-up-to-the-boss business can't you ;-)I liked the music at the beginning, very Hitchcock and the desire to avoid linearity was again in evidence.

That first link I posted seems to have died for some reason... Talking of dying, that damn Gravatars business has gone nowhere. I've posted on their forum asking for a manual activation but have heard nothing...Besides I've decided to use a different email address for this, so it wouldn't work on older posts anyway.

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65. Brainwave

Posted by Baffled at 3:41AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

Apparently, in Roman mythology, Minerva was not born, but instead, sprang fully formed, and armed, from her father's (Zeus) brain. That does sound like the creation of a scientist doesn't it? Also, She only believed in defensive war and that seems to resonate with what you were saying TomboCombo.

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66. Looking Backwards

Posted by TomboCombo at 6:41AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

Hm, that's a rather cryptic fact I'd forgotten. I think it's safe to say that Minerva was trapped in Xen for a very long time. In Someplace Else, when she refers to her friend, the soldier "who almost knew what was going on," (in my mind, this soldier was part of the US invasion of Xen, anywhere from 1997 to 1999; Someplace Else takes place a few years later) she makes it sound as if a lot of time has passed since then. Not only that, but you can also receive a message from her if you wait in Xen once you've activated the teleporter for several minutes (it takes a while, for anyone who'll try it). In this message, she reveals you are the third human she met journeying through Xen; the soldier she talks about was the second. What do you think it could mean? Is it possible that Minerva was sent through the portal in the 1970s and her messages in the new millenium are the results of tampering with the technology present there? It would explain the corruption of the Black Mesa message but the clarity and speed with which she reacts to your actions in Xen. As for her communications in Metastasis, it's safe to assume she escaped since (or because of) the events in Someplace Else. Finally, something else to support this idea: at the end of Someplace Else, Minerva smugly declares that there is no Area 51 or UFOs, the closest we ever came to one was capturing an unlaunched ICBM from the Soviet Union. Perhaps Black Mesa was founded as a facility to study the missile? Could this missile have actually housed a satellite necessary to make accurate teleportations? It might explain the earthquakes in Black Mesa as the first experiments in interdimensional travel, but the relationship with Minerva is still unknown.

On a different note, the link for the archives is broken for me: I can access Archive 1, but if I click "next," I simply see another copy of Archive 1 (the URL actually says http://...archive2). It then links to the same page if I hit "next" again. Odd. Will we be seeing any new archives soon?

And lastly, did anyone figure out what the blueprints are for?

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67. Oops.

Posted by TomboCombo at 6:44AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

Don't click the link in my post, it doesn't go anywhere. I just wrote it as an example of what I meant.

Well, since I've got time, Adam also mentioned on a forum some time ago that there was an item strangely out of place in Someplace Else that had significance to the story or explained some mystery. What could it be?

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68. The French ARE good for something.....

Posted by Baffled at 7:21AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

A workaround for the broken archive link is to switch to the french version, move to archive 2, and then switch back to the english and it should work normally after that.

I'll get back to you later on your interesting cogitations...

Kast's gravatar

69. Russian Missile

Posted by Kast at 8:14AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

I really don't think the reference to the Russian missile was important - just Minerva giving it as an example of the most 'alien' object to have been found.

A method I've been using for a long time is to open up the title.txt files for Someplace Else and Metastasis - you can see all of Minerva's messages right there, clear as crystal.

"Aren't you trying to get home? Such enthusiasm towards this world
reminds me of someone. Remember that soldier, the bloodthirsty poet?

His predicament had to be recorded somewhere, even someplace
away from prying eyes. Such an incident, the second of its kind,
had to be remembered.

Second? You're the product of the third. Don't forget that."

I always assumed this to be a reference to Pericles or some such hero of myth but our recent discoveries would suggest otherwise. Not the third human at all, but the third 'event'. The first was in 1974... maybe the second was HL?

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70. Archive Error

Posted by Kast at 8:18AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

Oh, and by the way - I had the same problems with Internet Explorer while at college today but now, using Firefox, I can navigate the archived pieces just fine. I could do so before, as well.

*Test with IE* Yup, it's a combatibility error with Explorer. It's not working with it.

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71. Wow.

Posted by DarkPrimus at 8:56AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

That's quite a bit of speculation we've got going on here.

And to think, back when I first played Someplace Else, I just thought it was Durandal referring to the MJOLNIR cyborg from the Marathon games.

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72. On Minerva and Missiles

Posted by TomboCombo at 9:52AM, Wednesday May 17 2006

I know that the odds of a Russian nuke having major significance to the plot is unlikely, but I won't rule out any possibilities. Besides, in Archive 2 (I used Baffled's method of going through the French pages, thanks!), Harvey comments to leave Black Mesa alone because as far as he knows, the Russians have nothing to do with it. It could be a bit of foreshadowing as well as some dramatic irony. Still, an ICBM would have more to do with Black Mesa than Minerva, so this mystery (if it is one) is probably of minor consequence.

How about it, Adam? Have we gotten close yet?

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73. It's all Greek to me........

Posted by Baffled at 3:43AM, Thursday May 18 2006

Kast's mention of Pericles got me thinking...:

WHERE are we in Metastasis? Well it's an island which was occupied by the Germans in the Second World War...the Germans occupied Greece and most of her islands in the war, soooo could we be on one of the Greek Islands (off season as its a bit wintry) .."..I am your Athena, you are my bastard Perseus and our Medusa for today is this island.."?

WHO are we in Metastasis? Well, consider the lines "your pitiful, traitorous life.." and "what YOUR COMBINE FRIENDS have been working on.." add that to the comment after the quote refering to dying for one's country.."..but you renounced all that regardless, didn't you?". This seems to point to our being some kind of collaborator..

WHEN is Minerva? Well, she seems unfamilar with the type of headcrab we encounter inside "..that dead headcrab looks a bit ...unusual" but they seem to be the standard HL2 stock, so unless she is seeing something in them that we can't perceive, she is not from the future. Can she be from the past? Well, she makes a reference, in the website's title page, to "covertly guiding long-dead warriors.." so at least a communication with the past seems on the cards. Might some of Greek or Roman mythology record one of the Xen events..that soldier, in Someplace Else, whose predicament "had to be recorded somewhere.." Also that line: "I must create my own system...your ancients were superstitious deluded zealots prone to inflation of already impossible, beautiful claims" might suggest that she influenced our mythologies. I can hear Kast from here, shouting: "no Baffled, the timeline, 1974, the soldier was in the second event.." but it could be the second from Minerva's timeline but have reached into our past, couldn't it?

WHERE is Minerva in Metastasis? Well she says at one point, "but what would I know, all alone in this forsaken machine?" What machine?

WHO or WHAT is Minerva? Well consider this from Someplace Else, "..when you're something like me.." said of her ablity to turn off the gravity nullifier. Does this, and that reference, above, to being in a machine, point to her being a sentient program of some kind? Also at the end of SE she says "I played a large part in mankind's discovery of [the high energy portal thingy] although FEW WOULD LIKE TO ADMIT IT" Why would people have a problem with admitting that a machine, or a program, or even an alien, assisted their discoveries, other than vanity I suppose. But what if Minerva were some kind of supernatural entity..a greek goddess, say. Scientists would indeed find it difficult to come to terms with some kind of supernatural guidance or assistance. But, having said that, she does make a reference, in archive 4, to her having been in a similar situation to us, and to our ability to follow her with some lateral thinking. Who are these collegues and friends to whom she refers? Why do her colleagues need forgiving? Why were her warnings stolen, plagiarised and cited by a tiny circle of friends? Who are her "adopted forefathers" whose discarded playthings are "conducive to a meaningful imposition of my thoughts upon our captors"? Does that refer to the ancient Greeks and their mythology or to some alien race and their technology?

I think we can safely discard that ICBM, Tombocombo, and as for that item out of place in XEN, I would tend to think that that refers to the human technology, doors, switches and walkways built into the organic surroundings. I don't remember such things in HL1, also, I haven't time to check, was there a Xen level in Opposing Force?

Oh and what of this from SE, "we are trapped in an immense world of delight, closed by our senses five"? A reference to a Matrix style element to the story, or just a poetic reference to our own physical dimension not be the only dimension.

And finally...bottom left, it's not there, but it's there, if you see what I mean:


Cargo Cult's gravatar

74. Deep, Dark Hatred ... for Internet Explorer

Posted by Cargo Cult at 4:22AM, Thursday May 18 2006

I haven't a clue why it's mangling those links. The French and English sides are identical regarding HTML - I'm wondering if it's something to do with the auto-language whatnot thingy...

I'll hopefully be able to have a closer look tomorrow, when I can boot into Windows without a dialup internet connection.

As for all the speculation - very, very interesting. The second incident was never publicly announced - it was going to be a short map-pack for Opposing Force, but Nightwatch got in the way so it was never finished. Not too sure about your delineation between human and alien in places, mind - and there's still some information hidden away in some pretty foolish corners on this 'ere website.

Baffled's gravatar

75. Gee, that was quick...

Posted by Baffled at 4:54AM, Thursday May 18 2006

Got some feedback from The Source rather rapidly there, great service in this place!

Ok, so possibly my separation of human and alien tech on Xen was a bit out of kilter.

BUT, I've just reread the intro page to Someplace Else and it reads : "An ANCIENT MACHINE tainted by human technology guarded by vicious pack of Nihilanthi aliens." (my capitals). So an ancient machine, eh? Tainted by human technology, eh? That's interesting...

This post has been proudly entered through Firefox as I've just downloaded it :)

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76. Wowza Mark 2!

Posted by Kast at 6:27AM, Thursday May 18 2006

That's a lot of speculation, there, Baffled!

"there's still some information hidden away in some pretty foolish corners on this 'ere website"

Hmm... must investigate.

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77. A message from Minerva

Posted by Kast at 6:59AM, Thursday May 18 2006

Yes, not one most people will have seen. Within the code of I think every MINERVA page is this little gem:

"Minerva to Microsoft: IE is a foetid, diseased cadaver. Please dispose of it immediately then sterilise the autopsy room before I catch something nasty... "

On the front page, the line 'I am Minerva' is given the font class listed as 'Heresy'. Interesting but most likely irrelevant.


Check out the picture in the above link. It's from the front page. I've only just noticed the writing at the back of it. Seems to be some kind of computer read out of complex calculations - an experiment or something. I can't work it out.

TomboCombo's gravatar

78. Congrats, Baffled.

Posted by TomboCombo at 7:09AM, Thursday May 18 2006

That's a pretty comprehensive look at all we know. I think you're the first person to suggest that Minerva is actually a Roman goddess. So, we suspect that the island is somewhere in the Adriatic Sea (Italy was an Axis Power, too, so I wouldn't rule out somewhere up the Italian Peninsula). As for Minerva's ability to influence the past...damn, that's brilliant. I never would have considered the idea that she based our mythologies on her own experiments from millenia in the future. It makes sense, but one thing intrigues me: Greek gods are more like superheroes than the monotheistic views on God. You can fool them or beat them with the right skills; so who trapped Minerva?

Huh. I would have said we've got all the right info and have to figure out how it all connects, but Adam had to be himself and leave another cryptic clue.

And about the ICBM, I doubt it has much relevance, too. I just remembered it and thought of launching the rocket in Half-Life and spazzed out.

Baffled's gravatar

79. Westward ho!

Posted by Baffled at 9:14AM, Thursday May 18 2006

Ok chaps, ditch that Greek island idea, I thought it all looked a bit too wintry (although Adam's working with HL2's Eastern European props). I think I've figured out where Metastasis is set. I think it's set on the island of Sark in the English Channel, which is indeed "a few miles off shore"..it's 20 miles off the coast of France. It's small, 3 miles wide and 1.5 miles long and had a population of just 600 when the Germans invaded. But the clincher, I felt, was this structure on the beach:


If you check back with the game you'll find a very similar structure. Now, I seem to remember the same thing in the Silent Cartographer map in Halo, so it could all be coincidental. But it could also have been the inspiration for a Sark setting...you never know...

vecima's gravatar

80. picture...

Posted by vecima at 12:32PM, Thursday May 18 2006

Kast... that picture, hard to tell, but it almost looks like its blending from computer text to runic symbols of some kind...

though, there's always the possibility that its pretty chicken scratch.

Naurgul's gravatar

81. speculation++

Posted by Naurgul at 6:03PM, Thursday May 18 2006

I would like to bet that Minerva is actually an artificial intelligence agent, or rather the computer which runs this software. It's common practice to name computers like this and it does explain some things (for example "But what would I know, all alone in this forsaken machine?").Being a goddess can also be sarcastic since it was humans who created the gods, didn't they? She also described herself as a tools used by others.("I am Joyeuse, an infinitely cutting blade wielded by an ignorant tyrant, for a cultural renaissance based upon military might.") If the hypothesis is true, then how long has she lived? Is she even a human creation?

As far as greek mythology is concerned, I'd like to comment on "I am your Athena, you are my bastard Perseus, and our Medusa for today is this island;..." . According to the legend, Perseus had to kill Medusa. Athena just equipped him with magic items and gave him directions.

Maybe I'll try to make some real sense out of all this during the summer.

Tyler's gravatar

82. Ignorant tyrant

Posted by Tyler at 3:16PM, Friday May 19 2006

"I am Joyeuse, an infinitely cutting blade wielded by an ignorant tyrant, for a cultural renaissance based upon military might."

Hmm... "Cultural renaissance based upon military might" sounds like the combine. I wonder if Dr. Breen is the "ignotant tyrant". If so is Minerva a tool that has turned against its master?

“I am Joyeuse� what is Joyeuse? A misspelling of joyous? A name? I haven't heard this word before.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

83. Illumination

Posted by Cargo Cult at 5:42PM, Friday May 19 2006

Type some names into Wikipedia, and you might learn a lot...

Baffled's gravatar

84. Sharp thinking...

Posted by Baffled at 1:53AM, Saturday May 20 2006

That's an interesting take on the sword angle, Tyler, that might well be a valid link to the Combine. I'd somehow managed to not notice the large sword on that page, something I'd like to blame on Kast, as he had me straining to read that text in the background ;-) But as to Breen, does his authority extend beyond city 17 (kast?, you know much more about the official back story than I do), and aren't we going to stray some way beyond that city in this mod? The name Joyeuse seems linked with the name Durendal, do we think that the Marathon computer game, mentioned earlier by DarkPrimus, has any bearing here (I've never played it)?

I tend to agree with you Naurgul, but would a computer have colleagues or friends...? I too think that I may have got a little carried away with that Greek Goddess line, and find myself leaning toward Tombocombo's idea of Minerva being captive or stuck. She does seem to be a strange mix of power and helplessness, (she seems to need us, at least),so perhaps our ultimate goal is to release her? A Goddess-like damsel-in-distress hmmmm, I wonder if we are getting a glimpse into Adam's psyche there....just kidding ;-)

Finally, Vecima, I do think that Minerva might well be in Xen. Does "..this forsaken machine" from M1 + "an ancient machine" from SE = Minerva trapped in Xen? She would indeed, then, need a way to "permeate the dimensional membranes" in order to communicate with us (somebody's overdosed on StarTrek ;-) ).

Does anybody think that we might need a separate thread for our crackpot theorising (...perhaps entitled "The Cracked Pot"..or not)? Or would that make this into a forum; just what IS the difference between a blog with a comments function, and a forum?

TomboCombo's gravatar

85. Swords

Posted by TomboCombo at 6:16AM, Saturday May 20 2006

I took the liberty of looking this up on Wikipedia and found some fascinating pieces of information:

= Joyeuse was the sword that belonged to Charlemagne, first Holy Roman Emperor. These emperors were crowned by the ruling Pope and served as the lords to whom God entrusted His people. Rumor says that it was made from the sword of a Roman soldier that stabbed Jesus during His crucifixion.

= Durandal was used by Roland, one of Charlemagne's paladins and was rumored to have originally been owned by Hector, prince of Troy. It was supposedly indestructible.

= Cortana was used by Ogier the Dane, a king who opposed Charlemagne but then joined him to save Europe from invading Muslim armies. An inscription on it said: "My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal."

Well, this clarifies some interesting points and gives some support for Tyler's theories: "cultural renaissance based on military might" plus ignorant tyrant who presumably sees himself as the ultimate power...sound familiar? After all, we assume Breen is the Administrator of our planet. But do they ever say that? Perhaps Breen thinks he is, but other Citadels have their own Administrators working independently of him.

This is funny. I hope you're proud of yourself, Adam; you have successfully created a game where there could be a 1,001 different ways to end it that we're expecting. The funny part is that you always planned to work with #1,002.

By the way, can anyone work up a file with all the evidence and cryptic messages and analyses from Minerva and Someplace Else (and Parallax if there's anything...incriminating present) in it ? It could streamline this process a bit.

Kast's gravatar

86. Various

Posted by Kast at 7:10AM, Saturday May 20 2006

Baffled - Can't see the sword for the trees, heh? Not my fault :P

In answer to your question... Breen is described as the Administrator of Earth, as controlling Earth from his the Citadel... and he tells the Combine Advisor "I can still deliver Earth..." when he's pleading for help at the end. And would a man in the position of orchestrating Earth's capitulation after the Seven Hour War really settle for some back-water city? No... he'd want influence over the entire world (no matter his motivations).

I would say the difference between a forum and a blog with comments is two fold:

* A blog has little or no heirarchy of posts. It is a linear progression of articles, each with their own single strand of responses. A forum has boards, sub-boards, stickies, announcements and posts - very structured.

* In most forums anyone can create a topic and anyone may reply to that topic. In a blog, only the owner may create topics (meaning the individual articles).

Thinking about the 'ignorant tyrant', perhaps we're looking on too small a scale. If it really does refere to Breen (and I'm not yet convinved of that), perhaps he IS in a position of power over the Earth but the Combine might have other worlds under it's bio-synthetic boot. Or it could mean that he thinks he's more important to the Combine than he really is. He's a tool - little more.

Kast's gravatar

87. Read, read and read again.

Posted by Kast at 7:28AM, Saturday May 20 2006

Ignorant tyrant? Can't it just mean Charlemagne?! I think we're maybe overanalysing the Joyeuse thing.

Oh, and TomboCombo - it was a Spear, not a sword. The Spear of Longinius, also known as the Spear of Destiny. Said to bring the owner victory and success in all they attempt. For example, it's claimed the Nazis had it for a time but lost the Spear and immediately began to lose the war.

Oh, and it's really cool in Constantine :P Great film.

TomboCombo's gravatar

88. Re: Kast

Posted by TomboCombo at 8:21AM, Saturday May 20 2006

I know about the Spear of Longinius/Destiny (and Constantine was cool), my mistake for putting "sword." I never heard of the idea that owning it would guarantee you victory, though. Hmm...

DarkPrimus's gravatar

89. Concerning Breen

Posted by DarkPrimus at 8:36AM, Saturday May 20 2006

Breen is the figurehead of the Combine on Earth. He's the human face to talk to the masses and comfort them... as it were.

Dialogue spoken by citizens confirm that Breen's messages broadcast in other cities as well; City 17 is merely his base of operations.

Concerining the Citadels in other Cities, I would wager that there are no human leaders there, only Combine soldiers who take their orders from Breen and the Combine Advisor(s)- it's the more likely possibility, but totally speculative in nature.

As for Breen himself, he certainly has the authority to order around the Combine troops to his whim- but ultimately, he answers to a Combine Advisor. It's no doubt much easier to have a local liason run things than have to transport an Advisor to every planet the Combine take over.

So, Breen is the most powerful (unmodified) human in the Combine hiearchy on Earth, but in the grand scheme of things Combine, he's not that signifigant. They probably offered him transport to another world because of his knowledge of the teleportation that had been worked on in Black Mesa.

Baffled's gravatar

90. "...other worlds..."

Posted by Baffled at 8:40AM, Saturday May 20 2006

You might well be on to something there, Kast, with the thought that other worlds might be involved. Consider the name of this chapter, Metastasis, which appears to refer to the spread of a cancer from one organ to another. Might this be a reference to the Combine spreading from one world to another?

Tyler's gravatar

91. Being used?

Posted by Tyler at 10:16AM, Saturday May 20 2006

"Ignorant tyrant? Can't it just mean Charlemagne?! I think we're maybe overanalyzing the Joyeuse thing."-Kast

We can only speculate who the tyrant refers to or if it really is any 1 at all but from the sentence

"I am Joyeuse, an infinitely cutting blade wielded by an ignorant tyrant, for a cultural renaissance based upon military might."

I get the impression that Minerva is being used by some one or some thing that she's not too fond of.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

92. Occam's Razor

Posted by Cargo Cult at 6:52PM, Wednesday May 24 2006

In my avoiding of a deus ex machina, you *might* have heard of some vital political constructs already...

I'm really enjoying all this speculation (but you've only just *started* on the names-looking-up thing) - even when you're catastrophically wrong, there's some really good reasoning behind it.

But you've still missed out over half of Europe with the island-location thing...

noob's gravatar

93. adamn foster = cargo cult

Posted by noob at 12:16PM, Wednesday May 31 2006

why cargo cult?

M_Gargantua's gravatar

94. Half?

Posted by M_Gargantua at 10:15PM, Tuesday June 13 2006

half of Europe you say?

thats just mean.

but We can narrow it down.
- Its not near the seas of the middle east.
- The water bodies between and around the boarders between Europe and Africa seem a little too Temprate for the Island depicted in Metastasis.
- around England/France has some probabiltity.
- That means the North sea is a likely area.
- The Baltic is another good bet becasue it was under the control of the germans. And the islands of the Baltic were never contested until the end of the war becasue Germany controled pretty much everything around them.
- The Arctic sea north of russia is the last bet. The island could be close to the west side of it where it isn't snowing all year.

Im leaning toward the Baltic

Cargo Cult's gravatar

95. Baltic?

Posted by Cargo Cult at 5:52PM, Wednesday June 14 2006

Finally, someone's got it!

I've still to decide the precise nationality of the city in Chronoclasm, but since I've already got cultural advisors from Poland, Latvia and Saint Petersburg, I'm kind of spoilt for choice... ;-)

M_Gargantua's gravatar

96. So...

Posted by M_Gargantua at 6:42PM, Monday June 19 2006

the island is somewhere north of city 17, which by all hints is placed around Berlin Germany.

I'd say put it in whatever snowy country a line passing through your island from Berlin hits.

Baffled's gravatar

97. Oh For Pity's Sake

Posted by Baffled at 3:54PM, Wednesday June 21 2006

I had invested some considerable amounts of my, really not very valuable, time trying to find an ACTUAL REAL-LIFE island on which MINERVA might be set, only to see some johnny-come-lately pop up and suggest a whole region and win all the praise.

I was going through all the possible islands eliminating them acording to structures and features not present ingame. I was currently favouring Ruhnu:


It's nice and small, and was taken over by the Germans in WW2 and then the Soviets, but interestingly while the population never exceeded 400, and averaged 100, it was evacuated after a storm in the 1970s and left pretty much uninhabited. This seems like a pretty good fit to me and is off the coast of Latvia, although it's a part of Estonia.

I shall be expecting the virtual equivalent of a pat on the head forthwith for my efforts, as I am most put out by this turn of events.

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