MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

Juvenilia 2 - Eidetic -

Here's another; eidetic.kwd, also dating from early 2003. It was an idea which had been stuck in my head for ages. I still don't know where to go with it.


It wasn't the same as reliving an experience, it was altogether more detached. A recording, but one with terrifying, bewildering yet flawed accuracy - it was only when re-examining the output from the human senses could the hidden details be appreciated. There was a darker side, however. Unobserved details permanently out of sight, missing information that could never be recovered. She could see the individual phosphenes, disguising what she saw like a grainy mesh of pixels.

"Are you completely sure this is the man who mugged you?"

With a tired expression, the police officer pushed the drawing back over the desk towards Anne.

"Yes, as I've explained..."

"... You have a photographic memory. We know."

"I prefer the term 'eidetic'." Not photographic, which implied fixed, perfect snapshots. Not the complete, multifaceted recall which she possessed.

"You said. I ask again, is this the man who mugged you?"

There had been no need for a police artist, as she had drawn the likeness herself. A haggard, lean face with close-set eyes, short cropped hair and an unshaven chin. A simple description might have matched any of thousands of people, but she didn't deal with such large-scale, anonymous features. To her, the precise location and length of a stray hair was equivalent in magnitude to hair colour; the exact positioning of wrinkles and creases in the skin replacing apparent age. Drowning in detail.

"Is there a problem? I've tried to get the drawing as close as I can."

The lighting was unusual, to say the least. Illuminated from the side by a streetlamp, it was too difficult to subtract the deep shadows without losing information, without extrapolating from nothing. She dealt with details, not generalities.

"Well, you see, we have a bit of a conundrum. We know who it is you've drawn, we can identify him from this. Are you sure about everything you've said? The time, the place of the attack?"

Earlier that evening. She had been walking to her car from the office, leaving later than usual because of a delayed fax. A quick glance at her watch, then the rapid sound of footsteps behind her, splashing through the rain. She had turned round, and -

Anne put her head in her hands, resting her elbows on the table, and nodded. Her descriptions had been good; given the circumstances, it was unlikely anyone else could have done better. The adrenaline, the fear - all combined to reinforce the memories. Unlike others, her mind did not create false details in times of stress. Perfect recall became ever more perfect, a permanent record of the event. A blessing, or a curse?

"Are you sure you're describing the right person? Maybe in the confusion you mixed up the negatives, put the same film through twice?"

"It's not bloody photographic, as I keep telling you." She'd been at the police station for five hours already, it was almost midnight. Hadn't they got enough?

"Okay then. Is this the man?"

He took a piece of paper out of a folder and showed it to her. A fuzzy, black-and-white printout of what looked like CCTV footage, with a date and time corresponding to more than a day before the mugging. A man in a jacket, glancing towards the camera, waiting in line at a bank.

"That's him! The jacket's got five buttons down the front, with the bottom one missing. It's got a small tear in the left sleeve, and..."

"Right. Is this him?"

Another printout, this one in colour. A photograph, the same man. A view of his head. Blue, broken skin, almost the same colour as the stainless steel beneath him. An autopsy, not a mugshot.

"Yes, but..."

"Oliver McCullagh, brought in yesterday afternoon. Decided armed robbery would supplement his income, but some joker thought pepper spray would calm him down. Ran out into the street, was hit by a car. Died almost instantly. I ask again, is this the man who mugged you?"

Article Comments (now closed)

SkUrRiEr's gravatar

1. This gives me an idea

Posted by SkUrRiEr at 8:13AM, Thursday August 17 2006

This, almost immediately gave me some form of idea, possibly for a mod / story.

Think Theif 2 and Deus Ex, only with the source engine.

You're in the near future, maybe only a couple of days from now. You're mugged, and remember *ever* detail of your attacker. As in the story above, they died yesterday, and we pick up from when we leave the police station.

There's something not right - how can a dead man mug you? You only have your memories to guide you, in a world of blank faces and stares, you must use your skills in recognising and remembering the most minute details in everyone around you to piece together the mystery, and determine exactly *what* happened that night.

Ok, a little cheesy, but I'm sure you get the idea.

I'm thinking a modern city, dark and gloomy like Max Payne, re-tracing your steps that night, matching up your memories with the places and people around you trying to find out what happened.

As for technical details: all the NPCs would have blank, featureless faces, with some small detail changed for each one, e.g. the condition of their jacket, the briefcase they hold, how their hair's arranged etc. - this would occur for *every* NPC in the game, not just ones involved with the story, and there would have to be enough differences so that you'd *never* run into the same person twice. The game would help the player with recognition - i.e. when you see someone, it would put an overlay over their form showing *what* is significant about them - e.g. their hair would be highlighted, showing the significant part, or the tear in their jacket would be highlighted, or whatever. - these would have to be in fluro green or yellow so that the player wouldn't miss them. The player would be able to "recall" different people, assigning names / tags to them, which would then be displayed on the hud. - Actions this person took might also be "realled". As for the beginning of the game, you would start with a few faces and places remembered, and these would guide you back to the alley, where something would happen to lead you to the next clue, and which would lead you to the next.

Weaponry would consist of things like pepper spray, a small hand-gun, and maybe a couple of more "high tech" items to help you with your task.

Game play would lean more towards sneaking and hiding in the shadows, like Thief, and Deus Ex when you play it without killing anyone. =)

As for how the story progresses, clues would be uncovered, then acted upon, leading the player towards understanding the conspiracy underlying the entire story.

Hehe. This is a *lot* longer than I expected =)

If any of you budding game designers out there want to tackle this idea, you may, just be sure to give me some form of credit.

Speaking of conspiracy / sneaking style games, I'm still waiting for someone to try to implement one of the Thief games in Source.


Julian Calaby

Cipher's gravatar

2. The Spam Never Ends

Posted by Cipher at 10:06AM, Thursday August 17 2006


Nice story btw :)

vecima's gravatar

3. again, good

Posted by vecima at 7:20PM, Thursday August 17 2006

i don't think it really needs to go anywhere. unless you had a plan of her solving the mystery.

that was some great writing ... better than the first.

kast's gravatar

4. double glance

Posted by kast at 4:11PM, Friday August 18 2006

At first I was thinking "What does the investigator want? WHY go over the same thing over and over and over again? It must be infuritating." Then the game's given away and I mentally double glance over the information that's just been presented. "Can that be right? Wouldn't that mean... oh boy."

It's a wonderfully subtle reveal. Great reading.

PiX_NeG's gravatar

5. nice gameplay ideas

Posted by PiX_NeG at 11:19PM, Friday August 18 2006

Skurrier, that's a swell idea you've got there. I, myself, loved the Thief and Deus Ex series' atmosphere and gameplay. Implementing a sneak system into Source would be well sweet. Of course, I have no idea how it would be done.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

6. Riot Act

Posted by Cargo Cult at 11:51PM, Friday August 18 2006

I'd love to see a first-person game with crowd scenes.


With your objective hidden in that crowd - you must find out his (or her, or its) appearance, behaviour and distinguishing features from clues in the surroundings, in buildings, in what people say.

Pull a gun out and you could kill this enemy - but also cause fear and panic in whoever might be watching. And incur the wrath of the authorities.


I think it might need a Half-Life 4 engine to do properly, however... ;-)

SkUrRiEr's gravatar

7. Re: nice gameplay ideas / Riot Act

Posted by SkUrRiEr at 6:49AM, Sunday August 20 2006

What I want to know is why nobody out there's trying things like this.

Sneak style games were a real eye-opener for me - I'd only played FPSs up until I loaded up Deus Ex and tazer'd my first terrorist. As for Thief, it's (now) a long running itch in my side, I always find myself playing it, int the dark. I wish there were more games like that

Cargo Cult,
(damn, I like the connotations in that name)

I *really* wish game developers would start trying stuff like that out. *really* wish that. I respect Max Payne for having us run through the streets of NY, with a plausable excuse for a lack of innocent bystanders, but sometimes I wish that I was running through a crowd of partygoers, chasing some person down. - and an assasination game style like you suggested would be *excellent* - a step in a completely different direction.

As for what engine would be required to do it, any engine which allows enough scripting and level-of-detail stuff to allow you to:
1. put a (dynamic) fog behind the first rows of people in the crowd you can see - so that the bottom halfs of all the crowd after the first three or four rows are hidden.
2. be smart enough to just render ("think about") the heads, upper torsos, and arms of everyone outside of the first three or so rows you can see.
3. make sprites of / hide everyone outside the first 10 or so rows.

Doing those things *should* be possible with HL1, and *definitely* doable with Source, UE3, etc.

The biggest challenge with creating a crowd scene would be to create enough *atmosphere* so that the thinness of the crowd is not noticed by players.

Everything else, like creating "paths" through the crowd, pushing away bystanders, LOD trickery, and everything else will only enhance this effect.

However, you would still have to be careful as to how the player can see the crowd, otherwise all this would be quickly noticed - e.g. running through the crowd would be a good idea, trying to find a crate (for instance) in the middle of a crowd would be stupid.

*hands over $0.02*

Julian Calaby

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