MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

7 - Collision -

Work in progress. Stealing characters (but not abilities or situations) from Eidetic, this tragic tale about MD5 checksums will actually have an ending. And be of novella length. Oh my.

Surprisingly, some other project keeps getting in the way. I forget what it's called. Athena, or something?


The tuneless bleep from the computer woke her with a start.

Red roundel on the email icon: one new message.

Katya sat up, picked up her long-cold mug of coffee, took one final swig then, composing herself, clicked on the icon.

Detective Peter Highbury, Leadchester police. Forwarded, a case number she didn't recognise in the subject line. New work, most likely. She'd better get paid for it this time, she thought. Bleary-eyed, she read on.

hi kat,

got a right interesting one for your weird deductive powers here! dead body, blood spatters, and a proper little mystery! one of ours is involved (but he's not the dead one), suggest you come down to station immediately. have attached some paperwork if you want a read, tried calling you but yr mobile was switched off or summat. silly girl.

see ya,



Frowning, she scrolled down further. Photographs: a male slumped against a wall, dark arterial spray arcing behind him. The dead body, presumably. That was one for the forensics; her work was much more fruitful when the subject was both alive and fully conscious.

More photographs. Stacks upon stacks of papers, folders and filing cabinets, almost filling a small, seemingly windowless room. Shelves with binders, files and boxes, all carefully ordered, aligned, sorted and collated. Unreadable on her computer screen, tiny, feverish black writing covered almost every available surface, like some scaly, reptilian skin.

Ah. This was presumably where she came in.

She closed the computer, ignoring the rest of the attached documents, stood up, put her coat on then started walking towards her office door. She'd better get paid for it this time, she thought again.


"So you're telling me you're not sure if it's a murder, a suicide or an accident?"

"Yeah. Pc Plod breaks into some apparently abandoned building, after being told of some kind of disturbance, and finds our corpse surrounded by boxes of papers, albeit very much alive and waving a gun around. Depending on who you believe, either our friendly stiff shoots himself despite our valiant Plod trying to wrestle the gun off him, viciously attempts to shoot Plod but gets shot himself in Plod's attempts to defend himself against such flagrant antisocial behaviour, or has his gun cruelly nicked by Plod and thus got shot in a topically messy bit of police brutality."

"Er... Right," Katya paused for a moment, thinking. "You basically don't have a clue who shot whom and why, yes?"

"No. I mean yes, we don't know. Whatever, you know what I mean."

Detective Highbury leant back in his chair, put his hands behind his prematurely balding head and began to smile.

Katya went on. "What about fingerprints? Witnesses? Anything like that? I mean, what's Constable Smith's account of it, given that he's a major potential suspect?"

"Fingerprints are all messed up, and could match any of the possible stories. Witnesses are our corpse and Pc Smith, and Smith claims it was all self-defence. But he's a bit, well, suspect anyway, in part because he nearly lost his job in a happy little incident a few months ago where his boot oh-so-accidentally came into contact with some lout's head. Claimed that was self-defence too, would you believe?"

"Two men, one gun, both had hands on gun, one man dies. Nobody except the survivor to say what happened, right?"

"Yup. Got it in one, girl."

Katya had to ask. "So, what do I have to do here? Magically delve into Smith's head, and retrieve the truth? I'm not a miracle lie-detector, you know. I'm a psychologist. I have methods too."

"Nah. Not Smith. Head's practically empty anyway. Need much better than that."

"So, what is it you want?"

Detective Highbury sat up, pulled a desk drawer open, heaved out a large plastic envelope filled with handwritten sheets of paper and dropped it on to the desk in front of her, grinning. Katya was expecting this.

"I want you to magically delve into the mind of a corpse. Think you can do that, my dear?"


Katya Sorokova. Newly qualified psychologist. Average height, average build, average looks. Mouse-brown, shoulder-length hair framing a thin face, high cheekbones, brown eyes and a long, slightly crooked nose. Still waiting for that proper, steady job which might fully utilise her years of expensive training, and now sat in her bedroom office on some as-yet unpaid side-work, poring over some tens of pages of miniscule handwriting with a magnifying glass.

Edward Traynor. Unemployed, homeless drifter until five years ago, at which point records documenting his existence began to peter out. Had excelled at school, before failing every single one of his A-levels; a death in his close family was thought to have triggered the first of his many mental breakdowns. Tall, desperately thin, almost emaciated. Sparse hair, a near skull-like head. A single gunshot wound to the lower jaw, the bullet travelling upwards and backwards until shearing through the brain-stem, killing him instantly.

Murder, suicide, or accident?

The handwritten pieces of paper she had been given so far were merely those which were found scattered on the floor in the immediate vicinity of the deceased. She had been reassured that there were many, many more where they came from - despite apparent attempts at the incineration of certain batches.

The handwriting was small, neat and usually surprisingly legible. Print, not joined-up, it generally formed proper, grammatically correct sentences, although any actual separation into paragraphs was missing. Written in thin, black pen on both sides of plain A4 paper, only the density of text and the content gave it away as the barely coherent ramblings of someone of perhaps less than sound mind.

So it continued:

"... today I have been made aware of some of the lesser known aspects of this condition, in that I am profoundly knowledgeable about the possibility of progressive changes which shall befall this non-local viewpoint. It is not entirely without due care and attention that I document these important facts and figures, for due to this means of communication I am limited to recording only that which can be understood by an uninformed bystander, since it is implicit that my message be read and dispersed by whomever may discover it. Furthermore, ..."

The predictable concern that the world was about to end?

How ... stereotypical. Cinematic, even.

Katya read on, determined to extract a theme more promising than crude paranoia. Flick through the folders, find something new.

... A diagram.

And that brings this ludicrous Creative Writing Week to a close. I hope you've enjoyed it!

Article Comments (now closed)

xbskid's gravatar

1. Novella?

Posted by xbskid at 2:40PM, Tuesday August 22 2006

Put me down for the first preorder!

Nesretep's gravatar

2. Hmmm....

Posted by Nesretep at 6:02PM, Tuesday August 22 2006

Sounds like an interesting story? We're you saying that it tied into Eidetic or that you just stole some characters? Either way, it sounds like a great story. Just finish that Athena thing so you can get back to it! ;)

kast's gravatar

3. "Hmmm..." indeed, Nesretep

Posted by kast at 6:28PM, Tuesday August 22 2006

Fascinating story and a massive improvement over previous examples of creative writing we've been lucky enough to see.

Yup, definately looking forward to seeing more of this in the future.

Siman's gravatar

4. ok....

Posted by Siman at 1:32AM, Thursday August 24 2006

grate story but i still dont have a release date

ViralHatred's gravatar

5. Nice.. Get me a copy!

Posted by ViralHatred at 12:58PM, Thursday August 24 2006

Yeah, get me a copy, i'm still clinging to my seat.

And how is minerva coming along?

Nesretep's gravatar

6. More on the creative writing...

Posted by Nesretep at 4:46PM, Thursday August 24 2006

It's no wonder that we're so absorbed in the Minerva storyline! Don't you think? This is really a good start to a great story and just shows one of the reasons why we love Minerva. Adam can come up with a great story, both Eidetic and this story would make great reads.

vecima's gravatar

7. good stuff

Posted by vecima at 7:58PM, Friday August 25 2006

yeah i have to say that's the first thing that struck me about minerva... the writing style...

as soon as i finished reading the

"you've made it this far so i might as well introduce myself..."

message, i was like "wow, this mod has good writing," only to be even more pleasantly surprised by the mapping mastery bestowed upon the ensuing areas.

Baffled's gravatar

8. What's the opposite of dumbing-down?

Posted by Baffled at 9:32PM, Friday August 25 2006

It's reassuring to find that people still recognise the value of storytelling in our world of ever-increasingly dumbed-down Popular Culture. I think that MINERVA's success is due to its author's literate and intelligent emphasis on telling a story . We all keep coming back to find out what is going to happen next, and that power to hook people is the mark of a gifted storyteller.

I seem to remember saying that quality sells itself, and that was evident again in a comment I spotted about the recent , but inevitable, news of Episode Two's delay until next year ( see Lord.Blue ):


For those who haven't spotted the new videos doing the rounds, here is a link to low-grade copies:


locworks's gravatar

9. Would the opposite be "to smart up"`

Posted by locworks at 12:15PM, Saturday August 26 2006

...although one rarely sees any attempts to make something accessible to a smaller or more sophisticated audience. Present mod designer excepted. :-)

Naurgul's gravatar

10. Smaller audience?

Posted by Naurgul at 2:39PM, Saturday August 26 2006

Really, Half-Life 2 has a very well though-out (I'll refrain from using words such as "sophisticated", they smell of elitism) story, specifically presented so that it matters only to the ones who care enough to delve into it. If one doesn't care, it can pretty much be a kill fest.

The same goes to Minerva, to a lesser degree. You can pay attention to the messages but you can choose not to and you'll entertain yourself without feeling you missed something.

That's good and all, but it brings me to my next point. I get signs from my environment that people don't care for finding something really though-out, it just needs to give that impression and be easy to swallow. So, I see (not dead) people getting into works of art (movies mostly) only because they get a "good feeling" out of them and rejecting anything requiring a bit more though.

PS: The irony, though! Sorry Mr. Foster for not reading any of your stories yet. I trust I will do so in the course of... well I'm really not at liberty to say! In the meantime, this is where I get off. ;)

Nesretep's gravatar

11. "New" comments...

Posted by Nesretep at 6:06PM, Saturday August 26 2006

Sorry if I'm a bit off-topic, but...

Did anyone else have ALL of the comments from the last week or more listed as new even if you already read them or was the one who posted it? I was excited to see all of the new comments when in reality there were so many to read.

Naurgul's gravatar

12. Recent Comments

Posted by Naurgul at 6:19PM, Saturday August 26 2006

Yes there's a new "Recent Comments" feature now.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

13. *hic*

Posted by Cargo Cult at 6:59PM, Saturday August 26 2006

All I can say is that acolytes should have been at the Cercueil, Rue des Harengs 10, just off the Grand Place in Brussels an hour or so ago.

To whom it may concern: thanks! Seriously... :-)

Baffled's gravatar

14. A casket of ale, please.

Posted by Baffled at 8:16PM, Saturday August 26 2006

It seems that the Cercueil ( that's french for coffiin ) is a Belgian Theme-Pub dedicated to death. Apparently guests are seated around coffins and are served drinks in skulls glorying in such names as Demon's Semen and Corpse Urine. No I'm not making this up:


I suppose that, like most things, it must seem like more and more of a good idea the more drinks you have ;-)

locworks's gravatar

15. According to well-informed sources,..

Posted by locworks at 11:47PM, Saturday August 26 2006

a couple of pints of Leffe brune were served in skull-shaped earthenware over a wooden casket to two casually attired gentlemen, who were overheard talking about computer games, Roman mythology, architecture and translation.

(Twas an honour and a pleasure, Adam.)

vecima's gravatar

16. alas...

Posted by vecima at 3:04AM, Sunday August 27 2006

i wish i lived in England. There are no cool coffin clubs here in new jersey. only sports bars, hip hop clubs, and typical bars (loud classic rock, forty something year old regulars with a look in their eyes that tells you it's possible to stop living, even if long before death). oh and there are strip clubs, but i've never been... those are really scraping the bottom of the scum bucket.

both times i've been to England i absolutely loved it there.

Nesretep's gravatar

17. Episode One is giving me fits!

Posted by Nesretep at 3:30PM, Thursday August 31 2006

Yesterday was my day off from work so I thought I might play a little HL:Ep. 1, but everytime I clicked on the icon that was put on my desktop during installation, the hourglass would flash for a second, then the harddrive light would go on for a second or two and then nothing. I even tried waiting to see if Steam was just taking a while. After an hour, it still hadn't even begun to load. Any ideas?

PiX_NeG's gravatar

18. troubleshooting for Nesretep

Posted by PiX_NeG at 2:22AM, Friday September 1 2006

1. did you try restarting your computer / restarting steam? Windowz sux like that.

2. do you have any firewall software (i.e. Zone Alarm, windows automatic firewall) that might be blocking steam's access to the internet? For whatever reason, Steam has to talk to valve before launching any application, and if it's not allowed to access the internet, it wont launch any applications (unless you run it in offline mode) Also, I've noticed that ZoneAlarm will sometimes prevent any internet traffic if it has been running for an extended period of time. I just close it if this is happening.

3. are there possibly multile instances of steam and/or hl2 running at the same tiime? check your 'processes' tab in the task manager (ctrl+alt+del should bring it up. you may need to click on the 'task manager' button after ctrl+alt+del to access it) for duplicate instances of either program and teminate them. this should cause you to need to re-login to your steam account when you open it up again.

4. also in the 'processes' tab of the task manager, look for any other programs that may be eating up valuable CPU time and terminate them with caution. many programs are neccesary for windows to run properly, so if a process has a name you dont recognize, it's best to let it run. unless it's spyware or a virus or worm. but that's for another tech session.

5. if all else fails, i find it somewhat comforting to cry into my palms. and then maybe sue the pants off the offending party. good luck, mate.

xbskid's gravatar

19. I just had an epiphany

Posted by xbskid at 4:49AM, Friday September 1 2006

Is it just me (And this has probably been covered before), but do you think that Minerva was the inspiration for the attitude of the synthed announcer voice in Portal?

kast's gravatar

20. That must have hurt

Posted by kast at 10:42AM, Friday September 1 2006

PiX_Neg, 5 cont...

It's even better if they've raised their hands away in disgust and surprise. It look like they're about to punch you when the security guards come bursting through the door. Just be sure to beat your face up before hand.

xbskid - Well, we have no idea what Minerva actually sounds like so I think it's unlikely. I'm sure, however, that System Shock's SHODAN was resourced in the development of Portal.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

21. Bacon

Posted by Cargo Cult at 10:54AM, Friday September 1 2006

A friend took upon himself to calculate my Kevin Bacon number. I'm not sure if apocryphal free game mods are valid, but here's his interpretation nevertheless:

"Adam -> Minerva (unhealthy relationship)
Minerva -> Weird Alien Space Thing (Metastasis or whatever it's called)
Weird Alien Space Thing -> Robert Guillaume (Half-Life 2)
Robert Guillaume -> Alison Lohman (Big Fish)
Alison Lohman -> Kevin Bacon (Where The Truth Lies)"

5. I am connected. All hail the 'fnu!

vecima's gravatar

22. 5? try 4

Posted by vecima at 6:26PM, Friday September 1 2006

Adam -> Minerva (unhealthy relationship)
Minerva -> Eli Vance (Both in Half - Life)
Eli Vance -> Morgan Freeman (sort of looks like him)
Morgan Freeman -> Kevin Bacon (they shared a moment)


ok, so maybe its a stretch, but i thought you might be happy to hear you were closer to Bacon than you thought!

PiX_NeG's gravatar

23. pop culture mania

Posted by PiX_NeG at 4:22AM, Saturday September 2 2006

Nice Fight Club reference, Kast. Amazing how it just keeps popping up in this blog-thing.

On the subject of Mr. Bacon, I think I may have you beat, Adam.

1. Me -> my mother's relative John Leonard (Jack) Swigert, Jr. (sorry, but I can't recall the exact relation)
2. Jack Swigert -> Kevin Bacon (he played him in Apollo 13)

Does that count?

vecima's gravatar

24. well... wow

Posted by vecima at 6:03AM, Saturday September 2 2006

its not gonna get any closer than that.

unless of course you ARE Kevin Bacon.

or i guess if you've slept with him

xbskid's gravatar

25. .

Posted by xbskid at 5:55PM, Saturday September 2 2006

kast - You don't need to know what Minerva sounds like. I meant the attitude and wording. Minerva was the first thing that came to mind when I was watching the Portal trailer.

Holy Socks's gravatar

26. Relationships

Posted by Holy Socks at 1:04AM, Sunday September 3 2006

Minerva and the voice from portal both appear to mock the player and both appear to be much more powerful than the player (I have my doubts). But the relationship between the voice in portal and the player looks like the relationship between a scientist and his guinea pig, where as, in Minerva its more like the relatiponship between a chess player and a pawn. Well, thats what i think anyway.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

27. IKEA nesting instinct

Posted by Cargo Cult at 2:14PM, Monday September 4 2006

I am currently, furtively looking at the IKEA website while at work.

There is no hope for me now.

Baffled's gravatar

28. Pining for individuality

Posted by Baffled at 3:21PM, Monday September 4 2006

I am a ,mostly recovered, IKEA addict myself. I live surounded by Swedish pine artifacts and birch sprung chairs with ridiculous names; like countless others around the world.

I have a test for you to discover just how hopeless a case you have become:


Cargo Cult's gravatar

29. 2/10 - must try harder

Posted by Cargo Cult at 3:36PM, Monday September 4 2006

... And one of those I selected incorrectly. I meant clock, and clicked dice.

I guess this means that my inner Tyler Durden is far from escaping - although my expedition earlier today involving the purchase of household cleaning products can't have helped. No soap, alas. My budget didn't run that high.

But it appears some have more serious accommodation problems than ours. Search term which appeared in my web statistics today:

"how to remove the smell from a dead body in a small house"

I'm not sure whether I should be more concerned that someone searched for that, or that someone found my website with it.

Naurgul's gravatar

30. Well, I've *got* to get rid of this stench, you know!

Posted by Naurgul at 3:44PM, Monday September 4 2006

I couldn't but make a quick search for it. You should be proud of yourself, Adam. Your blog showed up fifth in a google search ( http://www.google.gr/search?hs=2wY&hl=el&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Ael-GR%3Aofficial&q=how+to+remove+the+smell+from+a+dead+body+in+a+small+house&btnG=%CE%91%CE%BD%CE%B1%CE%B6%CE%AE%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%83%CE%B7&meta= ) accompanied by this text:

"The dead body, presumably. That was one for the forensics; her work was much more fruitful ... He had never been able to remove the smell from the kitchen, ..."

As for the one doing it, I'm sure google could inform the police, can't they?

kast's gravatar

31. A quick fix

Posted by kast at 1:25AM, Tuesday September 5 2006

I've just thought how to solve both problems at the same time! (The problems being an Ikea nesting instinct and decomp' fluids having soaked into the carpet and furnishings...

Blow up your abode!

Well, it worked for Jack.

Sadly, and worryingly, almost all of the furnishings and general stuff in my house is IKEA (mostly Leksvig series, the knowledge of which worries me). This was caused by a sudden need to equip my previous home from scratch on a limited budget. Still, no excuse. I am unclean!

Nesretep's gravatar

32. IKEA

Posted by Nesretep at 7:53PM, Tuesday September 5 2006

Forgive me for my naievete (sp?), but just what kind of store is IKEA? I sounds like a furniture-only Walmart from what you have said so far. It must be something they don't have here in the states, or at least not where I live.

Nesretep's gravatar

33. Also...

Posted by Nesretep at 8:40PM, Tuesday September 5 2006

Sorry to Double post but I finally got to finish playing HL2: Ep1. I thought it was alot of fun. The Ep2 trailer that played at the end was all screwed up though. The colors were all wrong it it kept pixellating (sp?) something terrible. Thank goodness I had seen most of the important stuff from it in screenshots and such from PC Gamer.

Holy Socks's gravatar

34. What is Ikea?

Posted by Holy Socks at 9:01PM, Tuesday September 5 2006

Ikea is pretty much a furniture store, but for me each store is like a little (huge) hell on earth.
The thing that gets me about Ikea, or at least the one near me, is that its not laid out on a grid instead theres an almost endless snaking path of furniture. I'm glad that theres a cafe at the halfway point or i'd become disorientated and pass out.

PiX_NeG's gravatar

36. holy freakin crap

Posted by PiX_NeG at 1:27AM, Wednesday September 6 2006

I can see, now, why IKEA is such a symbol of worldwide domination and tyrrany. And, logically, thus ties into every single diabolical plot or scheme imaginable. All those props throughout HL2? Probably IKEA. Even in the face of a full-scale alien invasion and takeover, they will find a way to remain. And here I thought Dr. Breen was evil. In truth, he was merely misled by the shiny world of IKEA catalogues; seduced by the glamour all things cheap and easy. It's our post-modern prostitution of the soul. Soap, anyone?

Cargo Cult's gravatar

37. Small-scale addictions to modern living

Posted by Cargo Cult at 12:57PM, Wednesday September 6 2006

Yesterday, I purchased cutlery, a draining rack, a cheese grater, some wooden spoons and a pyrex bowl. Not from IKEA; from CASA. Much more ... accessible.

Yes, in case you're wondering where this sudden domestication came from - I've emigrated!


Currently lacking useful objects such as: fridge, table, chairs, modem, bed, but things are getting there. MINERVA development currently restricted to furtive moments in the office - a groin-toasting MacBook Pro is hard to use for mapping without a table. It gets ... warm underneath.


xbskid's gravatar

38. Stalkers!

Posted by xbskid at 4:06PM, Wednesday September 6 2006

We know where you might live, Adam Foster. :]

fuzz's gravatar

39. Stalkers?

Posted by fuzz at 6:37PM, Wednesday September 6 2006

Yeah, just about any town with regency houses. I'm going to guess cheltenham, do I get a prize?

Nobody's gravatar

40. Useless Stalkers!

Posted by Nobody at 11:18AM, Thursday September 7 2006

Did you not see the word "emigrated"?

Nesretep's gravatar

41. Yet another delay...

Posted by Nesretep at 2:13PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Geez Adam, could you quit having a life so you can finish MINERVA! ;-) No more of this moving around or toasting yourself with a MacBook Pro!

Cargo Cult's gravatar

42. Not Cheltenham

Posted by Cargo Cult at 2:15PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Yes, that word 'emigrated' is quite important.

Also, it's a picture of my back garden - I reckoned if any acolyte were to get in there, the only way for him to get out would be in a body-bag.

Random useful purchase from the disconcertingly nearby Apple Center - a fast external hard disk. So I can do Windows (and MINERVA) stuff without being shoehorned into a 14GB partition. Things were ... a bit claustrophobic at times.

Baffled's gravatar

43. Emigration?

Posted by Baffled at 2:34PM, Thursday September 7 2006

It is possible that by moving to Belgium, Adam may not have actually emigrated. According to a typically diabolical new scheme, dreamt up by Brussels, Europe's national borders may be replaced by Regions. One such Region, the North Sea Region, will encompass both Derby, Adam's former abode ( or near to it ) and much of Western Belgium:


I suspect, however, that Adam is to live in Brussels itself, which no doubt will have a special status of its own ( "The Infernal Region" would be fitting...). To cap it all, this plan was penned by GERMAN cartographers! I find myself repeating that old refrain: " Who won the war anyway?".

Nesretep's gravatar

44. What the...?

Posted by Nesretep at 3:50PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Someone over there in the UK should track down the idiots who put that revised map together and sack and I don't mean they would be fired! I mean like the old medieval "sacking of the castle" kind of deal...that whole thing is just ridiculous! National identity is important to too many people to just eliminate it all together.

This whole EU thing seems kinda lame if you ask me. I know they've basically been implementing it over the course of a few decades but when the people turned down the constitution, where does their (the EU's) power come from to do such things as reorganize Europe to their liking? To quote another "great" Englishman, "Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses...." I think his name was Dennis something. :)

Holy Socks's gravatar

45. The Universal... European Union

Posted by Holy Socks at 4:33PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Im not really very anti-Europe but that map makes me very angry.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

46. Intense Paranoia, Fear and Loathing

Posted by Cargo Cult at 5:05PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Conspiracy invented by the Conservative British press? Quite possibly. It's the first thing I've ever heard about an 'improved' map.

It's some xenophobic tosspot misreading some graphs and diagrams in a directive somewhere, and assuming the worst thing possible - intense paranoia about his enfeebled, shrunken English testicles concluding in only possibility - an Evil European Plot.

... Iterreg III, an EU initiative designed to foster 'cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.'


The right-wing press is hilarious, but makes me very angry. ;-)

Nesretep's gravatar

47. Maybe we should trade...

Posted by Nesretep at 5:47PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Perhaps we should trade Press Corps....our in the states is decidedly left-wing, yours is right-wing...give some of our to you, and yours to us and voila! Now we are able to get a more balanced perspective from the press. That would work, right? (Wait...who am I kidding?)

Baffled's gravatar

48. Reading between the lines

Posted by Baffled at 6:04PM, Thursday September 7 2006

It was fairly obvious that those lines weren't actual borders being proposed ( they'd be impractical beyond words ). The graph/map gave the, admittedly slightly hysterical, Daily Mail an opportunity to bang the old United-States-of-Europe-Conspiracy drum.

It may be guff in literal terms, but it does highlight how important a stable sense of identity is to many, 'mostly' reasonable, people ( including at least 3 acolytes ). I'm not right-wing by any means, but I do give some residual credence to concerns that a self-styled 'elite' feel they have the right to impose their vision on the masses regarding "NO" votes as merely temporary setbacks to inevitable 'progress'.

Your last two posts show signs of your inner Tyler Durden surfacing after all, Adam. What are we poor acolytes supposed to make of your aside that, should we ever find ourselves in your new back garden, our only conceivable exit would be in a body-bag? Add to this your snarling assault on the right wing press ( you even resorted to caps *gulp* ), and we may have cause for concern for our hitherto mild-mannered maestro! ;-)

Holy Socks's gravatar

49. Right and left wing

Posted by Holy Socks at 6:10PM, Thursday September 7 2006

At the risk of turning this into a political debate, I'd like to say that its becoming hard to tell the difference between right and left wing in Britain.

The "left wing" Labour party are pro nuclear power and have taken us to war more than once, and the "right wing" conservative party are trying to make the county more environmentally friendly. As far as I can see politicians don't have opinions any more and just try to guess what the "swing voters" and the press want.

Nesretep's gravatar

50. We're under attack!

Posted by Nesretep at 9:16PM, Thursday September 7 2006

They've found us again! The spammers are everywhere!

Baffled's gravatar

51. Viral Advertising

Posted by Baffled at 9:32PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Speaking of advertising, you MUST, if you haven't already, try this:


It's a viral advert for Portal!

Type 'help', then 'login', then any username>2 characters, the password is 'Portal', then 'help' again, then 'dir' (although 'list' did the trick for me ) then 'apply'. Then the fun begins...

Discussion here:


kast's gravatar

52. fuming

Posted by kast at 9:40PM, Thursday September 7 2006

The Daily Mail claims that the map show Kent to be a part of France. Isn't it just as possible (using the same rabid, irrational thinking) that 'Kent is now part of France'? Besides, the entire statement is rediculous. Is Normandy now the whole of France?

Personally, I find the idea of a United States of Europe quite appealing. And the notion that such a thing would destroy national identities is patently quite absured. Each nation would remain a constituent state with jurisdiction over certain aspects of law and policy. Each state would return representatives with real power to the senate-equivilant (which is far preferable to the current impotent state of many). The decisions made by the Union would have to be so much clearer in collective super-nation like the USE as the politicians would be pandering to the public.

Would the people of these nations instantly become one homogonous mass of average, grey Europeans? The United States of America has been around for over 200 years yet the citizens of New York feel very different about themselves to the citizens of Nevada or Texas, and they came from relativly similar cultures. The British and the French would never forget their own distinct culinary tastes, or legendary rivalery. People wouldn't gather around the dinner table each Sunday for bullebaise and escargot, just as they don't now.

And finally, it's been over 60 years now since the end of WW2. Britain is far closer to the Germans than it is to, say, Russia. Can we PLEASE get over the soddin' war!?! Hardly any of the people who bash the Germans were even alive at the time yet it is from this conflict against the Nazis (not the German people, I hasten to add) that this fear and prejudice stems.

kast's gravatar

53. Apature Sciences

Posted by kast at 9:59PM, Thursday September 7 2006


The favourite colour bit is CRUEL!

Naurgul's gravatar

54. How do I feel for lying about my favourite colour

Posted by Naurgul at 10:44PM, Thursday September 7 2006

Yes. It was really funny. I couldn't stop giggling for the whole duration of the "test".

Best parts:
-lying about my favourite color
-getting to choose a crime only Ι would do
-looking up the dictionary for the word "regicide" only to find out that I wasn't supposed to know.
-starting to write down the code only to realise it was constantly changing

Sadly, I also found out that not everyone appreciates this kind of humour. Oh well... their loss!

Holy Socks's gravatar

55. video

Posted by Holy Socks at 5:11PM, Friday September 8 2006

Has anybody seen the video of the relaxation vault along with the message about the 20 year old computers, meaning portal could be set in 2002.

I loved the colours bit and was I the only one who found the assumption of some form of illness slightly disturbing?

kast's gravatar

56. Video?!

Posted by kast at 5:26PM, Friday September 8 2006

Link please! :D

I found it vaguely reassuring that they had an appropriate understanding of their target audience. ;)

Holy Socks's gravatar

57. thecakeisalie

Posted by Holy Socks at 5:57PM, Friday September 8 2006

just type in "thecakeisalie" once youve logged on. video is a bit of an overstatement though.

Baffled's gravatar

58. The meaning of it all

Posted by Baffled at 6:37PM, Friday September 8 2006

The leading theory of the meaning of it all seems to focus on Valve's upcoming Tenth anniversary, as cake seems to be a theme ( a cake with candles flashes onto the screen at one point ). But the phrase "THECAKEISALIE" way refer to that spreadsheet and its improbably expensive items being a cover for the funding of the "Enrichment Center". The spreadsheet seems oddly written with "INTUB-XLG" being a separate item when it should refer to the flour shouldn't it. (..and what's TACK-THMB (thumb tack))?

I hadn't picked up on the 1982-plus-20-years-being-2002 clue, Holy Socks. One theory doing the rounds is that the Portal training is taking place at Black Mesa during the events of HL1. But that happened before 2002 didn't it, so I guess you may have debunked that theory then ? ;-)

Nesretep's gravatar

59. Portal theories....

Posted by Nesretep at 7:07PM, Friday September 8 2006

The reference to 20-year-old equipment may only be approximate rather than an exact count. For example, we often to refer to older buildings by an age rounded to the nearest decade or 1/2 decade. So it could potentially fall into the HL1 time period.

kast's gravatar


Posted by kast at 8:34PM, Friday September 8 2006

Thumb tacks for Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey?

Tombocombo's gravatar

61. Re: The meaning of it all

Posted by Tombocombo at 4:22AM, Saturday September 9 2006

Valve never confirmed the date that Half-Life took place. My friend just bought it for PS2, and in the manual it says that Gordon Freeman will begin work at Black Mesa on "May 12, 200-." Meaning that Gordon has been there since May 2000 earliest, but since Episode One confirms that Barney and Gordon are close friends, he's probably been there much longer. Thus, the 1982-2002 theory is plausible.

Baffled's gravatar

62. Mysterious or meaningless?

Posted by Baffled at 1:46PM, Saturday September 9 2006

Someone has discovered that if you repeatedly click that UIN(+L), it highlights, and if you then type continue, a sequence of characters is highlighted ( one each for most of the questions and seperate from the 'thecakeisalie' sequence ). The resulting sequence I got was "at82e3dc kis> t L>ttLDrrxpazNI". Could others try it and see what they get? It's probably meaningless but, then again, you never know.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

63. A Briton closer to a Russian than a German

Posted by Cargo Cult at 3:03PM, Saturday September 9 2006

What's even better is that I'd planned my own MINERVA-related-mainframe accessible over the internet, with plot hints buried therein.

However, I'd been planning on running an authentically emulated 1974-era minicomputer, running 100% genuine UNIX software for you to hack about with through telnet.

Alas, Valve beat me to it - with a Flash-implemented, cruder simulacrum of a DOS machine. But a rather nifty one at that. Perceived bureaucracy with certain shades of my Belgian residency forms, methinks - but also containing an intentionally dark humour. Portal definitely fascinates me - a puzzle game with a definite plot!

Nationalism - the floor of the office I was working in yesterday has (in clockwise order from my borrowed room): a Russian woman, an Italian man, a Dutch woman, two Belgian (?) women, a Frenchwoman, a Frenchman, another Belgian woman and finally a Dutchman. The boss. The other floor has a Spaniard, a German and a Finn that I can think of. There are certainly others. Plus I had a meeting with a Polish bloke that afternoon. Alas, no beer that time...

Any national rivalries in that organisation are infinitely more good-natured and jovial than a hideous, xenophobic and twisted 'English pride' common where I lived in the UK - just a few miles of what was described as 'the skinhead capital of Britain' in a newspaper article. I keep my vote there - and shall continue to vote against the BNP.

I've previously tried to keep my politics off this games-related blog, but I don't think Tyler Durden should be an ardent, certified Guardian-reading, muesli-eating lefty with a deep admiration for the international co-operation made possible by the EU. Yes, those at the top force constitutional matters upon us, but we at lower levels should pay far more attention to what actually goes in this creation called 'Europe'.

(Oh, and the true reason I moved to Brussels? RAW. BEEF. SANDWICHES. 'Nuff said!)

JY's gravatar

64. welcome

Posted by JY at 3:40PM, Saturday September 9 2006

For all Half-life addicts in this small country: welcome to Belgium, enjoy the beer!

Baffled's gravatar

65. Mais je plaisantais seulement

Posted by Baffled at 6:02PM, Saturday September 9 2006

My eurosceptic...oh alright, europhobic, bluster of late, was intended to be tongue-in-cheek...honest. I do recognise the importance ( and inevitabilty ) of greater co-operation within Europe, and, yes Kast, agree that we should be over the soddin' war.

I wish you well in your new life as an honorary Walloon, and hope you don't give up on that mock-mainframe idea as we could do with some more hints.

vecima's gravatar

66. tangy, with a bold aroma

Posted by vecima at 3:16AM, Sunday September 10 2006

The right-wing press is hilarious, but makes me very angry. ;-)

but, since across the pond you drive on the left, with the steering wheel on the right, does that mean that your "right wing" are the liberals?

telnet onto a unix machine containing minerva tidbits? don't mind if i do! that soudns like quite the saturday evening to me.

vecima's gravatar

67. uhh, i mean...

Posted by vecima at 3:17AM, Sunday September 10 2006

"The right-wing press is hilarious, but makes me very angry. ;-)"

-that was suppposed to be quoted in my previous post. sorry for the confuzzledom.

Evan's gravatar

68. I demand MINERVA related updates! D:<

Posted by Evan at 5:13AM, Sunday September 10 2006

See subject.

I'm loving these short stories and the like, but still, I've been itching for part three since the beginning of summer. Not to rush you into releasing it prematurely, but if we could at least get a progress report? A bit of a teaser? Hm? Yes?


Lewk's gravatar

69. I agree with poster 68

Posted by Lewk at 4:12PM, Sunday September 10 2006

I just finished Minerva 1 and 2 again. I love it, so simple and yet enjoyable. A progress update like "Yeah I worked on it a bit more this week-end" would be awsome!


Nesretep's gravatar

70. Simulated operating systems

Posted by Nesretep at 3:10PM, Monday September 11 2006

I once wrote a limited simulation of DOS in Qbasic that would allow you to do quite a bit due to it's running the allowed commands using a DOS shell of sorts. It was quite convincing and made for some great practical jokes! :-)

kast's gravatar

71. Inspired

Posted by kast at 5:57PM, Monday September 11 2006

I am now inspired to attempt a little joke emulation of DOS with C++. :) *Cracks knucles and sets to... pondering*

Nesretep's gravatar

72. another fun one...

Posted by Nesretep at 7:36PM, Monday September 11 2006

Another one that my friends and I used to do in the computer labs back when I was in high school was to change the DOS prompt to something that looked like a warning message from the system. Our teachers in the computer lab were doofuses and could never figure it out. It was great! :)

Naurgul's gravatar

73. Curiosity killed the unaware computer user

Posted by Naurgul at 8:16AM, Tuesday September 12 2006

This reminds me of the days in junior-high school . I'd create create a batch file named "dont open.bat" that would infinitely re-run itself along with displaying the message "You have been punished for your curiosity!".

The memories...

Suzuran's gravatar

74. Computer History

Posted by Suzuran at 2:52PM, Tuesday September 12 2006

It'd be more fun to have one of the old non-UNIXes anyway. Unix was really kind of a lightweight in the days of old. The PDP-10 operating systems were pretty nice; ITS, TOPS-20, or TOPS-10 would work well. I actually have a real live PDP-10 sitting across the room from me. It lacks a hard disk and network connectivity though. (Computer history is one of my hobbies, and I tend toward older minicomputer and mainframe systems.)

The older systems felt much more, well, polished than unix does. Commands were typed as full words rather than short sequences, but you could abbreviate them if you wished. TOPS-20 even had context-sensitive help available - If you typed a ? at some point in the command line you would be prompted for what your options at that point were. (Cisco IOS took this and some other design aspects like operator enable/disable from TOPS-20.) They also have the bonus of being sufficiently alien to modern kiddies that they are reasonably resistant to damage.

I have an installation sitting in hibernation at work; I might have to resurrect it so people can see it.

Holy Socks's gravatar

75. Minerva puzzle

Posted by Holy Socks at 5:53PM, Tuesday September 12 2006

I really like the idea of a "MInerva Mainframe" but what would be even better is if it was implemented in one of minerva's episodes, like having the odd terminal dotted around the level. I dont have any idea how hard this would be to make, though.

SIman's gravatar

76. min

Posted by SIman at 10:16PM, Tuesday September 12 2006

still wateing for that release date.............................(...thill the end of time)

Suzuran's gravatar

77. TOPS-20

Posted by Suzuran at 3:36AM, Wednesday September 13 2006

I brought up and updated my old TOPS-20 system. It can be reached at ojamajo-doremi.umtec.com

Someone who is persistent should find their way in. Those who are impatient or wish to have a directory can email suzuran (at the same host) for an account. The system is remedial, which means if someone manages to crash it, the monitor will wait in debugger until I look at it.

This system was designed in the older, gentler days of the internet, when it was safe to assume the anonymous of the world were well-behaved. The actual OS ws released in late June of 1988. Parts of it still use the term "Arpanet". There are newer parts of it too, some of the updates to unix tools are as new as two months ago.

None of the UNIX stuff was in the original OS - This one has Panda Powers ^_^

It will assume you have a teletype by default. That is why the backspace does what it does. If you have a newer terminal, like a VT100 or the like, you should tell it that.

Nesretep's gravatar

78. Not again...

Posted by Nesretep at 10:24PM, Friday September 15 2006

The subject says it all.

Holy Socks's gravatar

79. noooooo

Posted by Holy Socks at 10:31PM, Friday September 15 2006

who is actually going to spend money on something because of spam on a forum or blog?

vecima's gravatar

80. at work, IE gave me this

Posted by vecima at 10:42PM, Friday September 15 2006

For assistance, contact your network support team,reference FCH#3_Bluecoat

Your request was categorized by Blue Coat Web Filter as 'Religion'.
If you wish to question or dispute this result, please click here.

was i supposed to ssh/telnet or something?

vecima's gravatar

81. oh...

Posted by vecima at 10:43PM, Friday September 15 2006

on second look i guess it was the web filter here at work.

Aranth's gravatar

82. Spam

Posted by Aranth at 2:04AM, Saturday September 16 2006

I think the main point of blog spam is to get lots of links leading to your page, for page ranking purposes, or something.

Suzuran's gravatar

83. Spam and Anonymous

Posted by Suzuran at 4:16AM, Saturday September 16 2006

That's correct ^_^

They want many referrers so Google's PageRank algorithm will rank them high in search results. It's called Googlebombing.

Also, since Anonymous on ojamajo-doremi reached 150 failed login attempts (I guess my password was not easy enough!) and people have moved on to trying to guess my password (!) I created an account named "toshiaki" with the password "sage" for people who just want to see the machine.

I highly recommend "ADVENT" and "ZORK".

Cargo Cult's gravatar

84. TOPS-10

Posted by Cargo Cult at 3:34PM, Monday September 18 2006

This is even more bananas than UNIX. I think I like it!

(I'm really doing some serious thinking about a MINERVA mini-ARG set in an old mainframe. Running on real-live archaic hardware would be wonderful; previous ideas had involved the use of SIMH: http://simh.trailing-edge.com/ ...)

Cargo Cult's gravatar

85. ... And spam

Posted by Cargo Cult at 3:40PM, Monday September 18 2006

The pagerank-hunting spammers need not bother here, incidentally - all links in comments get the 'rel="nofollow"' treatment, alas. So you can click them without any problems at all, but search engines ignore them.

So the spam is just an annoyance, to be cleared up whenever it arrives.

... And I was supposed to be working, but this damned TOPS-20 thing's distracting me. :-)

Suzuran's gravatar

86. TOPS-10 vs TOPS-20

Posted by Suzuran at 6:58AM, Tuesday September 19 2006

They are actually two completely seperate operating systems. TOPS-10 predates TOPS-20 by almost 10 years. It was the basis of the TYMCOM-X operating system that ran the Compuserve service back in the old days. That's why Compuserve user IDs were in XXX,YYY format - They were actually TOPS-10 project/programmer numbers. The difficulty with running a TOPS-10 is that in addition to being more obtuse and confusing than TOPS-20, it's somewhat less capable. It lacks TCP/IP and modern terminal handling.

simh is all well and good but has a somewhat limited PDP10 emulation. I suggest klh10 instead. simh emulates only a KS10, which is the model I have. It's the smallest and slowest PDP-10, the only one you could run in an unprepared room. The others required special power (3-phase AC and lots of it!) and tons of air conditioning (The room had to be kept around 73-75 degrees) to operate, but achieved far better performance (and had blinking lights, which were very important!) KLH10 emulates either a KS10 or a KL10, which was the biggest and fastest of the 10s. There was supposed to be a faster-still PDP10 called the Jupiter, but it was canned due to internal politics at DEC, and brought an end to the 36-bit line. This ended up costing DEC many of their largest customers - They all migrated to UNIX or IBM 370s rather than DEC's VAX. Arguably the first in a long series of management screw-ups that ended the company.

Getting the real hardware is not anywhere near as difficult as RUNNING the real hardware. They burn lots of electricity and are very temperamental. Spare parts are very rare. There are also extra difficulties involved in running them on European power. The biggest whammy is the disks. I've been searching for one for my machine for almost 6 years. There is a group working on an adapter to allow newer PC disks to be used in place of the old MASSBUS disks the 10 expects, but it's very undocumented and very slow going.

A real-life KL10 system was taken down on average once a week for preventative maintenance - Changing filters, checking for debris, checking the power supply, air-conditioning work, etc. Paul Allen runs a 2065 with an Internet connection and HE complains about how much it costs, so that should be a hint...

The draw for me is the absolutely beautiful PDP-10 assembly language. A real shame it didn't persist. For example, I wrote a multithreaded IRC client for TOPS-20 in only 840 lines of assembly. It would be less if I were better at it. There were a few bugs in it, but it worked enough for bothering people ^_^ A true Wizard would have used COMND% and half the space with half the bugs.

If you're really interested in running one drop me a line. I'm not a Wizard but I know enough to drag a machine into existence and cause problems.

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