MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

A new life awaits in the outer colonies! -

A faint recording of a ghostly, mechanised female voice encoded into the amplitude of a shortwave radio frequency, echoing off charged particles high in our atmosphere, leading back to transmission from a covert location in a destroyed eastern European city from an alternative, near future...


... indicating that, actually, I'll be starting at a certain Valve Corporation at the beginning of October.

What does this mean for MINERVA? Right now, I don't know - I'll initially be working on Valve's own Episode Three, but after that, who knows? I seriously suspect this isn't the end for this particular chain of experiments in designing single-player Half-Life 2 maps, all conducted for fun in my spare time.

Like any of my projects, it started off small, but rapidly grew far, far, bigger. It's not finished yet, but this time I actually released something. 'Episodic' worked.

And, I accidentally acquired a job in the process. Oops?

To everyone, thanks.


Full solution to puzzle: transmission.gz is gzipped, headerless 8kHz µ-law audio, as used by the /dev/audio device on old Sun workstations. Contained therein are: the Polish national anthem (look at the lyrics of the first verse!); DTMF tones for '050203040903' (if 'A' is '01', this comes out as 'EBCDIC'); and a voice reading Polish digits (each group of three corresponding to a single character of EBCDIC text). The numbers in the decoded transmission? GPS coordinates. The typo? Mine. The fun? Yours!

As for who solved what when, Pace is the first known proper solver of this micro-ARG, in just over 24 hours after I posted that mysterious file - and Tripotimum deserves special credit for emailing me a highly entertaining log of himself and other RPS cohorts puzzling over it, getting incredibly far only to be thwarted by the need to go to work the next day. Thanks!

Article Comments (now closed)

kast's gravatar

1. Success!

Posted by kast at 12:55AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congratulations, Adam! We've all been saying it for... a distressingly long time now, Valve is lucky to have you. Here's to a better Episode Three.

And I won't give up hope to Out of Time, either. ;)

fuzz's gravatar

2. Wow!

Posted by fuzz at 1:02AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congrats Adam!
and to be fair, Congrats Valve as well! You've just got yourself a bloody good mapper :)

^^^everything kast said

Monkfish's gravatar

3. 195 214 213 199 217 193 227 226 090

Posted by Monkfish at 1:38AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Using such an imaginitive puzzle to break the news of your new-found Valveness just goes to show how much they will benefit from your presence, Adam.

I'm glad all the hard work on MINERVA has paid off - it is much deserved.

Now there can be no doubt that Episode 3 is going to be good. Very, very good indeed. No pressure, of course ;)

Pace's gravatar

4. I think I deserve a title or something

Posted by Pace at 1:42AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Kudos again, this was an outstanding puzzle, and a great way to make this announcement! And again, best of luck! (We'd better get some free Valve T-shirts around here or something.)

(and cheers to the RPS chatroom for coming up with that mp3 file, I'd have never gotten that.)

RodeoClown's gravatar

5. Osm!

Posted by RodeoClown at 1:50AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Good stuff!

Does this mean that Ep3 will be a singe, gigantic map of Antarctica?

Sortie's gravatar

6. Modding's the best resume ever!

Posted by Sortie at 1:55AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Truly, who wants to get an education in how to make video games, when you can learn it yourself and at the same time produce a game which is the best way to get real attention in the industry. Let's see if MINERVA goes retail with Valve quality all over it, if so, I'd be happy to pay actually, I enjoyed Metastasis more than Episode One.

But congratulations on that job actually, I look forward to Adam's touch on Episode Three, but I don't hope it'll affect this side project too much, or a possible Valve takeover could be awesome too. Imagine Episode Three shipping along with MINERVA: Out of Time!

Seniath's gravatar

7. Grats

Posted by Seniath at 1:55AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Just want to say grats on the job. Absolutely loved Metastasis, can't wait to see what kind of stuff you can come up with for Episode Three :D

fitzrovia's gravatar

8. About time...

Posted by fitzrovia at 1:59AM, Thursday July 17 2008

...and congratulations.

pox's gravatar


Posted by pox at 2:06AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Many congratulations Adam, Incredible to see that your talents are so recognized!

On the other hand, whether this will served to be a blessing or an omen concerning the future of Minerva I will enjoy continuing to follow your experiments in Half-Life 2 mapping and beyond!

An Alcolyte Regardless.

Campaignjunkie's gravatar

10. Celebrate good times c'mon

Posted by Campaignjunkie at 2:48AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congrats! Go rampant and plant lots of Minerva-related easter eggs in Ep3.

AiusEpsi's gravatar

11. About time too.

Posted by AiusEpsi at 3:21AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congratulations upon the occasion of your assimilation into the machine. Frankly, I'm surprised that they didn't approach you sooner.

MarvintheParanoidAndroid's gravatar

12. Congrats

Posted by MarvintheParanoidAndroid at 4:08AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Awesome, just got word of this from RPS, of all places. I can't think of a better modder to have been taken on board the Valve mothership, fantastic work!

Pace's gravatar

13. Too late

Posted by Pace at 4:48AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Ah yes, I was just going to link to that: (for those of us that aren't already part-time RPSers)

rb_lestr's gravatar

14. hmm... ok

Posted by rb_lestr at 5:16AM, Thursday July 17 2008

I don't know why, but this disappoints me somewhat.

Adam's work has always had a sort of Indie charm,
like each of his mods were a short artistic masterpiece.
I just feel that some of his magic shall be lost in working with valve.
They may be great, but Minerva will never be the same.

Freakoftheuniverse's gravatar

15. Congrats!

Posted by Freakoftheuniverse at 7:02AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Wow! Congratulations Adam! I guess it shows that true talent is still appreciated in this modern age! I, for one, look forward to the quality of Valve products increasing due to a certain addition to their staff :-)

Naurgul's gravatar

16. Cheers!

Posted by Naurgul at 9:52AM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congratulations, Mr. Foster. I saw this coming a long time ago. Anyways, I now regret not trying out the puzzle. Have fun working for Valve! :-)

Nightshade's gravatar

17. Commendable!

Posted by Nightshade at 10:10AM, Thursday July 17 2008

If there was anything that could ever improve Valve, it's you, Cargo Cult. Craft Episode Three beyond our wildest dreams, and enjoy your success!

Columbus007's gravatar

18. Great!

Posted by Columbus007 at 1:05PM, Thursday July 17 2008

This is awesome news.

I can't wait to see some different level design in Episode 3!

Kunal Joshi's gravatar

19. Congratulations

Posted by Kunal Joshi at 1:48PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congratulations Adam,

I would have offered you a job myself but I follow a strict policy of not employing those who pirate my creations :)) (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/05/22/rps-the-game/)

thorin's gravatar


Posted by thorin at 3:00PM, Thursday July 17 2008

I enjoyed a lot playing minerva, and i hope i will enjoy again with yor job in ep3 :-)

Tolkienfanatic's gravatar

21. Congrats

Posted by Tolkienfanatic at 3:21PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congrats Adam,
I loved MINERVA and always said that your work was of the caliber of Valve itself.

This news is all over, by the way http://www.steamfriends.com/mods/p2_articleid/1481

mungler's gravatar

22. marathon

Posted by mungler at 4:16PM, Thursday July 17 2008

were you a fan of the Marathon series at all?

Tek7's gravatar

23. Congratulations!

Posted by Tek7 at 5:39PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Congratulations, Adam!

I was already eagerly anticipating Episode 3 after having recently finished Episode 2 and this makes the anticipation that much better.

May you find great success at Valve in the years to come.

AndyMacK's gravatar

24. Well Done

Posted by AndyMacK at 8:14PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Oh very well done :D As has been said, I can't think of a better person for that to have happened to.

Also, may I happily point out that there has only been one negative comment about this that I can see? 'tis a good sign.

I think I shall one day aspire to have your level of greatness...

Congrats, Live Long, Prosper, do whatever you want to do, and do it well :)

vindow_viper's gravatar

25. Grats

Posted by vindow_viper at 8:18PM, Thursday July 17 2008


I hope this cements Minerva's rightful place in official Half-Life lore...

parm's gravatar

26. Finally...

Posted by parm at 9:37PM, Thursday July 17 2008

...we can talk about it :) Well done, you already know I'm dead jealous anyway :-p

SenatorPalpatine.'s gravatar

27. YAY!!!

Posted by SenatorPalpatine. at 10:06PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Let me just say that this is the most excited I've been over video game news for quite some time.

Very congratulations Adam!!

I look forward to your influences in Episode III, and I look forward to Out of Time, which I'm sure you'll get around to at some point. (And if you start at Valve in October, then you have some time to work on it, right?)

Anyways, I love your work and I love valve's work.(Metastasis>Ep. 1) Only good things can come of this.

Sortie's gravatar

28. Bai2uBrusseles

Posted by Sortie at 10:20PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Does this mean you have to move to Seattle and leave Brusseles and get a permission to live and work over there? Well good luck getting used to the American Standarts!

Pace's gravatar

29. To the new American

Posted by Pace at 11:10PM, Thursday July 17 2008

At least we know how to make a proper toilet. And refrigerator. And washers & driers. The whole appliances thing we've got down. Oh, and anybody who can tolerate cricket should love baseball. And they say girls over here dig British accents, though I have no idea about that one. Oh, but the beer isn't nearly as good. I think my favorite part about England was the pubs, and the selection of beers on tap. You pretty much had to go out though because the damned refrigerators were so blinkin' small you couldn't hardly put any beer in there. (I'll concede the possibility that my experience with refrigerators there isn't the norm, but I do like to complain.)

Pace's gravatar

30. Oops...

Posted by Pace at 11:46PM, Thursday July 17 2008

Oh right, he's been in Belgium. Forgot about that. Um, never mind then, don't know anything about Belgium myself.

OTTER's gravatar

31. Crongrats

Posted by OTTER at 12:43AM, Friday July 18 2008

Well done...you really deserve this...and I have more reason than ever before to buy Ep3 when it comes out..

ps. I loved Metastasis and I hope you can continue it a bit more. If not it doesn't matter cos Ep3 with have some Adam Foster feel to it.

Cargo Cult's gravatar

32. Testing, testing...

Posted by Cargo Cult at 1:57AM, Friday July 18 2008

(Does this mark itself as new? The blog-beast was having, erm, MySQL-humping issues, with each main article listing query taking umpteen too many seconds to run. I think I've fixed it now. And I'm impressed - according to this 'ere system spell-checking, 'umpteen' is a word. But is 'chortle'? Yup. 'Ginormous'? NO.)

Cargo Cult's gravatar

33. ... fixed!

Posted by Cargo Cult at 1:59AM, Friday July 18 2008

I'm off to bed. 'Night all!

Mikel S.'s gravatar

34. Congrats

Posted by Mikel S. at 5:40AM, Friday July 18 2008

This is great news. Your level design tops that of even Valve's best moments in my eyes. There's just... one problem with you working on EpIII. I mean, I'm sure it'll turn out WAY better than it would without you... but I don't think Antarctica can be created on staggered layers... unless I have the wrong impression about where EpIII is going... or if it turns into Halo-Earth-is-a-super-portal stuff. Anyway, I'm sure you'll make a valuable contribution to the level design (and maybe story) of EpIII, and can't wait for OoT. I can't wait to see the whole extensive-vertical-mapping idea (one that should have been looked into from the start, rather than the stupid loop-n-load maps) implemented in future valve releases!

At first, when I heard this news, I envied you, but since then, I've decided that I don't. I look UP to you!

Gratz again!
~Mikel Strawenaskevitz

PS: If EpIII is a piece of shit, I blame you. lol, just kidding.

Mikel S.'s gravatar

35. Clarification

Posted by Mikel S. at 5:42AM, Friday July 18 2008

Um, just so all can be sure, I hope that Earth is NOT a super-portal in EpIII. If it is, I... I think I'd die a little inside. It would be a big let-down.


patrvic's gravatar

36. You have chosen or have been chosen

Posted by patrvic at 5:43AM, Friday July 18 2008

To relocate to finest.
And deserve is all you do. Minerva was awsome. Congratulations.

Just the footsteps i was looking for by the way ;)

CaesarMagnus's gravatar

37. Way to go!

Posted by CaesarMagnus at 6:54AM, Friday July 18 2008

Wow! Congrats. I'm still looking forward to Out of Time, but to have your creative input on Episode 3 should yield some good results.

Minerva was great surprise for me, and especially blew me away when I found out it was just you and a music guy who did it.

Congratulations again. Looks like Valve has taken yet another step in proving they are one of the best developers in the business.

Sortie's gravatar

38. Episode Three

Posted by Sortie at 12:25PM, Friday July 18 2008

According to a recent art drawing from Episode Three that is posted all over the Internet, Episode Three is perhaps going to take place inside the ruins of a citadel, with lots of possibilities of vertical-level design.
But guys note, vertical level design was an experience in Metastasis and does not necessarily work in a game such as Episode Three or Out of Time. Instead we probably have some other goods to look forward too. :D

Oh and I think I noticed this blog being critically slower to reply to my hypertext transfer requests a few times recently, but only in periods.

l1ddl3monkey's gravatar

39. Congratulations!

Posted by l1ddl3monkey at 1:57PM, Friday July 18 2008

A possible loss for the devotees of Minerva but an absolute gain for everyone that eagerly awaits Episode 3 of Valve's opus.

Congratulations; another talent recognised and acquired by Valve.

It does make you wonder; what comes after Half Life?

Baffled's gravatar

40. Stunning news

Posted by Baffled at 2:11PM, Friday July 18 2008

I've been shamefully absent from this arena for a while, but having just read a news item on the Inquirer announcing that VALVe had just "killed" the MINERVA mod by hiring its creator, I nearly fell off my chair in shock!!!!


Now I most sincerely congratulate you on your high-flying ( and high-earning no doubt ) new career, a richly deserved reward for easily the most accomplished and polished Source-mod to-date, but i *do* hope that MINERVA will return someday ....

... hold on, wait a minute , doesn't VALVe have a record of buying popular mods and releasing retail versions of them and/or incorporating them into their existing opus?!

... *might* we be seeing Minerva take a rather less apocryphal place in the half-life universe than we had hitherto been led to expect?!!!!!

kast's gravatar

41. Eh gads

Posted by kast at 2:19PM, Friday July 18 2008

That Inquirer article is negative. Do you everything's alright at home? Perhaps they need someone to talk to.

Even if MINERVA never returns (and I doubt that's the case) at least we have a complete story in Metastasis. It would have been terrible for MINERVA to end half way, with that airlock closing around us.

mastersrp's gravatar

42. Awesome, Adam!

Posted by mastersrp at 2:28PM, Friday July 18 2008

This is amazing, now i will look even more forward to episode trhee!!
Valve found the best there is, congrats Adam :D !!!

Boff's gravatar

43. wuhoo!

Posted by Boff at 3:21PM, Friday July 18 2008


Siman's gravatar

44. Crys

Posted by Siman at 6:08PM, Friday July 18 2008

Don't know if im happy with this valve has destroyed DODS CSS and now they stole Minerva's alpha and omega. Valve has gotten to the short end of my stick as of late, hope Adam can pull them out of it.

But congrats on the job man premo too. I think i might jest change my mind about EP3, but with Minerva left at a tattered end...i don't know this is going to take time to get over.

hmm i think i might have an idea why don't you talk to big CEO and see if the Minerva series can become available free to dl from steam and work on the other parts and release it with EP3, that would be a hell of an release. Also fix the Sources 64-bit support, the mulit-threading engine needs allot of work, and better multi-GPU optimization would be a god sent as well.

Lobster's gravatar

45. Lessons.

Posted by Lobster at 6:24PM, Friday July 18 2008

I hope this sends a message out to the community of counterstrike boomers, that the key to this stuff is not to spend 3 years creating grey model renders for a retail game that will never happen, but to release stuff and develop it over time!

Congratulations to you, and thanks for keeping the spirit of modding alive!

Mangatome's gravatar

46. Holy ...

Posted by Mangatome at 8:11PM, Friday July 18 2008

I can't believe how lucky (and talented) you are.

You rule !

MadTaco's gravatar

47. Your ambition has provoked recognition of your aptitude..awesome!!

Posted by MadTaco at 8:59PM, Friday July 18 2008

Rock on Adam!! This is so cool! You've inspired myself and so many others to work within the Source SDK. Who knows what kind of legacy you might leave behind!


Narcissus's gravatar

48. Go Adam, go Adam, go.....

Posted by Narcissus at 10:05PM, Friday July 18 2008

Congratulation Adam. Valve would be very stupid if they had not hire you.

I liked Minerva more than Episode 1. Great environment with an perfect atmosphere. Also a big compliment to the music creator. Hail Minerva :D

Who knows, maybe we'll see a few Minerva puzzle in EP3. Please forgive him, Minerva :)

Sorry to bother you Adam, but I've a question which maybe have been asked many times before. Would it be very time-consuming to get Minerva on the Orange Box Engine?;)

Pr3d's gravatar

49. GL

Posted by Pr3d at 11:35PM, Friday July 18 2008

Good Luck, you deserve this. :)

Pace's gravatar

50. Hello

Posted by Pace at 12:17AM, Saturday July 19 2008

I'm pleased to see Baffled put in an appearance, though I'm not pleased to see he reads The Inquirer. Badly reported as it is though, there's a point to be had in there somewhere. While we're of course all happy for Adam (and Valve), the news for Minerva is more mixed, her future rather cloudy. And I think I'd agree to some extent with what rb_lestr said, when Adam goes pro this all loses a bit of its charm and fun. Of course it could be good news in the long run, if Minerva or some take on it became an official Valve product, that'd be great. And as Kast says, at least we got some resolution in Metastasis. The incessant theorizer in me is getting a bit nervous though. (and of course any further elaboration on Mr. Foster's thoughts for Minerva's future would be nice? *bashful smile*)

ebola!'s gravatar

51. Whoo

Posted by ebola! at 2:52AM, Saturday July 19 2008

Congratulations Adam! I hope you have tons of fun and learn many new things working with the folks at Valve. I'm hardly surprised they asked you to join them.

We can't wait to see what you contribute to Episode Three!

pox's gravatar

52. for nostalgia's sake.

Posted by pox at 3:00AM, Saturday July 19 2008

I re-played through the entirety of Minerva today after a noticeable absence from playing nearly anything at all. Like pulling a time worn bauble from the mantle of your parent's fireplace trying to relive a moment of exhilarating youth.
I still chuckle at the moments when Minerva's dialogue shifts between haughty impartial directions riddled with mythological allusions to vulgar threats of pleading compliance.

It only makes my heart pitter patter all the more for the thought of what fantastic nightmare City 44 might be dreaming soon. Keep up the good work Adam!

Dache's gravatar

53. Congrats

Posted by Dache at 3:13AM, Saturday July 19 2008

Fucking congrats. Well deserved and I hope you enjoy it. Looking forward to some Minerva-esque areas in Ep 3 now.

Are you still going to carry on updating this blog? I know I'd be especially interested in hearing your day-to-day goings-ons at Valve - at least the bits you'll be able to talk about.

Baffled's gravatar

54. A Dache-ing good idea

Posted by Baffled at 2:09PM, Saturday July 19 2008

Yes indeed Dache, the Acolytes demand a "Report from City-One" Blog of all Adam's adventures in Bellevue! Plenty of photos please!

Better yet ,why not take the Acolytes with you for moral support! I'm sure you could persuade Gabe to add a "purely decorative function" to the list of desired skill sets for future VALVe employees:


I'd make a great standing lamp, and Pace could be a hat-stand ( judging by his Gravatar ) , we'd be no trouble, honest!

But seriously, tell VALVe to develop that Portal ARG idea further, perhaps using puzzle based ARGs for all the Episode-Three based teaser details! They're fun and involving and tantalise us much more than the screenshots that inevitably give away too much of the plot well before release ( Episode Two's press releases were far too spoiler-ridden ). I see they've already started on spoilers for episode Three ( try to restrain them please ):


You're going to have a direct influence on the future direction of the Half-Life franchise ( and beyond ) you lucky thing you, USE THIS POWER WISELY!

Sortie's gravatar

55. Re: A Dache-ing good idea

Posted by Sortie at 2:41PM, Saturday July 19 2008

Whoops I missed that concept art :D. Looks truly awesome! Episode Three is going to be so fucking awesome :D!

Pace's gravatar

56. re: idea

Posted by Pace at 3:21AM, Sunday July 20 2008

Baffled; I've never been quite so flattered. :)

Ian Too's gravatar

57. Fantastic!

Posted by Ian Too at 7:19AM, Sunday July 20 2008

Congratulations Adam!

I'm currently play through Metastasis again and thoroughly enjoying it.

Good luck in your new career!

Mikel S's gravatar

58. re:EP3

Posted by Mikel S at 11:10AM, Sunday July 20 2008

Uh oh... I smell lots of jumping puzzles in EP3... Adam, again, I urge you to make it all as enjoyable. Well, as much as one person in the program can influence it. I don't hate jumpy puzzles, but they can be frustrated if made even a little... not good.

Best of luck in your future endevours! (spelling much?)

Omnivore's gravatar

59. rock on

Posted by Omnivore at 4:16PM, Sunday July 20 2008

Adam, that's wonderful. Have fun, and give us something unexpectedly, subversively, obsessive-compulsive-disorderly good down the road. We've shown we can wait.

From the first acolyte to call himself an acolyte...

Yar Kramer's gravatar

60. Heh

Posted by Yar Kramer at 1:39AM, Monday July 21 2008

Well, gratz. Yeah, I'm a little sad, too, since it means that Minerva's future is now officially Uncertain.

That said ... doesn't mean it'll automatically be bad. Or indeed that it'll *all* be bad. Good luck!

vecima's gravatar

61. congrats

Posted by vecima at 5:47AM, Monday July 21 2008

great news... just try not to forget about city 44 in your off time ;)

in reality though, if i could make games for a living, i doubt i'd find time to mod.

Pete's gravatar

62. Congrats.

Posted by Pete at 9:58AM, Monday July 21 2008

Grats. Im looking forward to your commentary node in Ep3 :)

Cargo Cult's gravatar

63. Re: A Dache-ing good idea

Posted by Cargo Cult at 10:28PM, Monday July 21 2008

The new article any good, Baffled? ;-)

(Anyway, again - thanks everyone. It's still bewildering to look at my blog to see vast numbers of random people wishing me luck. I thought gamers were supposed to be the downfall of society, or something? It turns out you're all lovely!)

MINERVA FAN's gravatar

64. At last valve prove.........

Posted by MINERVA FAN at 11:55PM, Monday July 21 2008

Ok, at so much late valve done the right job.They should hire u earlier.You think u r lucky??????
NO!!!! Valve is lucy to have u and I am unhappy thinking about the future of minerva.Hope You (and also valve) make the Half Life 2: Episode 3-BEST GAME EVER MADE.

MINERVA FAN's gravatar

65. At last valve prove.........

Posted by MINERVA FAN at 11:59PM, Monday July 21 2008

Ok of late valve done the right job hiring u.You think U r lucky?? NO!!! Valve is lucky to have you. Hope you make Half life 2:Episode 3--BEST GAME EVER MADE.

General Balls's gravatar

66. Good work.

Posted by General Balls at 12:20PM, Wednesday July 23 2008

Good work.

DaveW's gravatar

67. Congrats

Posted by DaveW at 1:45AM, Friday July 25 2008

Nice to see someone in the modding community get beamed back up to the mothership! Well done, sir.

locworks's gravatar

68. 'Nuff said

Posted by locworks at 11:22AM, Wednesday August 6 2008

"That which alien force has seized
We at sabrepoint shall retrieve"

Cookies's gravatar

69. Nice one mate

Posted by Cookies at 6:07PM, Wednesday August 13 2008

This is pretty sweet. Valve are going to get a damn great mapper.

The very best of luck in it.

Article is now closed for commenting.

Return to article listing...


revert - flickr - interesting things - modmatic - blogsheep v2.0 - afoster@hylobatidae.org