MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

Yeah, so you've looked behind the curtain, only to discover the whole world is a carefully manufactured lie. But to what ends?

Well, I'm Adam Foster, and these are my experiments in Half-Life 2 mapping!


Recent Photos

Space ShuttleWashington DC - National Air and Space MuseumWashington DC - National Museum of Natural HistoryWashington DC - ExplorationsRadio-4-Matic, and other hackingPhotos of 2012


Development Log

Page 21 of 24: < Prev - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 - Next >

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?

97 comments - article now closed for commenting

Non-Gaming Diversions -

Not a proper blog post, and most definitely not a stunning exposé of sweatshop conditions in Valve headquarters (actually, it seems more like trips to Hawaii and an on-site masseuse) - but instead, have some random odds and ends I've been accumulating.

  • Seattle panorama - excuse the clouds. Note to self: do not climb Space Needle on first opportunity, wait for sunshine instead.
  • Yet more photos - this time of Genoa, Italy. Go me!
  • Oh, and this article should highlight itself as being new. Hopefully. This is a test.

36 comments - article now closed for commenting

Mystery objects -

Well, I'm back from an utterly fantastic trip abroad. Saw lots of things, met interesting people, and completely failed to overthrow any governments. Oh well.

SAS is somewhat more comfortable than being strapped to the underside of any Combine aircraft, be it synth or metal, and luckily I wasn't dropped off on any particularly hostile and/or mystery islands en route. But I did get to see icebergs, glaciers and things in northern Greenland on the way out. Unfortunately, I was sat in the middle, so no photos - I got a great view from the loo, but I thought taking a large digital SLR in there could be considered ... mildly peculiar.

Other news - Metastasis 2 is Planet Half-Life's Mod of the Week, and it's a good read despite consistently misspelling 'metastasis' (now fixed!) - oops. But there's some nice screenshots taken from angles I haven't really seen before, and lots of ego-stroking praise. Always appreciated!

Update 2006-04-18: Talking of nice screenshots - a Mr. Kast has posted some of his own. Well worth a look.

23 comments - article now closed for commenting

Peculiar locations -

I am currently roughly 15km up in the air, travelling at 829km/h, somewhere above the icy, far-northern reaches of Canada.

30 minute trials of satellite internet access rock. Although my poor MacBook reckons it's a bit slow...

7 comments - article now closed for commenting

MINERVA on a MacBook Pro? -

Thanks to Apple's new Boot Camp, it's true!

This also means I'll be able to get work done on MINERVA while I'm on the move. Which is good, since I'll be away from my PC for most of the rest of the month.

16 comments - article now closed for commenting

Page 21 of 24: < Prev - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 - Next >


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