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!

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NO GODS OR KINGS, ONLY MAN -

Well, Bioshock's been released in the EU, despite some problems. So I thought it would be best to assign a new article, for spoiler-containing comments!

However, would you kindly avoid spoiler-containing subject lines? 'Cause they get displayed on the blog-beast's latest comment thingy. You have been warned.

Quick hint - if you're not hearing Atlas, you may have a corrupted download over Steam. So go to Properties: Local files: Verify integrity of local game cache... and see what happens. My copy has decided to download oodles more data, presumably overwriting whatever got damaged.

Oh, Steam, we do love you really...

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Our Combine Benefactors -

A minor distraction while you wait - a cutting exposé of the ruthless, inhuman brutality present in the ranks of our dear Civil Protection, the face-stomping boots of our Combine oppressors:

Combine Nation: Episode One, by Lit Fuse Films

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Brilliant!

I think what makes it particularly good are the fantastic production values - made even more visible in the high-resolution versions on the Lit Fuse Films website.

Even better, there's the trailer for Maintenance Man - a twenty-plus-minute film being released on August 30th. Sooo pretty....

Other films too - from the darkly hilarious, the quietly touching to the toe-tappingly topical. Sodding heck...

Of course, what would make me desperately happy would be for someone from this overly talented team to make some kind of video for MINERVA. Go on, you know you want to! ;-)

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... And the worst part of it all? -

I'm having great success with computers right now. Witness:

I was rebooting into Windows to do a bit more on MINERVA, and noticed that the Boot Camp OS selection thingy looked a bit ... broken. Strange colour gradients, and all that. Windows itself looked equally weird - and pretty much unusable.

Thinking it was just the graphics card getting a bit squiffy, I rebooted back into Mac OS X. Same problems. Oh ... crap. No amount of rebooting, switching off then back on, leaving with battery out or whatever has helped.

And yes, the worst part of it all?

I suspect I'm going to go round to the nearby Apple Store in a few minutes and buy myself a whole new MacBook Pro, while putting the old one in for a many-week repair. Mr. Steve Jobs' reality distortion field must have a particularly tight grip on me.

They're good computers, honest! Join us!!!!!

You should see what the pictures-of-broken-display look like on the broken display in question. 'Psychedelic' is an understatement...

Edit 2007-08-16: Found a vaguely similar problem described on the Apple support website, and the described solution of resetting the PRAM and NVRAM fixed everything for me too. So, suffering from psychedelic colours on a MacBook Pro? ZAP THE PRAM!!!

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Misplaced Tension (of the 'voltage' variety...) -

The following is a tale about data backups, and how they're incalculably important - and can save a project like MINERVA from extinction. I do have backups, and nothing important has been lost. But here is my story...

So, back in Britain after a MINERVA-overriding, moderately boozy weekend celebrating both my father's sixtieth birthday and retirement.

Decide to get some work done on MINERVA, to placate the acolytes.

Can't find a continental-to-UK mains adaptor for my external, Steam-containing hard disk, but notice that the UK-plugged power adaptor from my backup hard disk has the same connector.

Cue quick check of pinouts and voltages:

  • Pin 1 on LaCie adaptor: 5VDC
  • Pin 1 on Toshiba adaptor: +5V
  • Pin 2 on LaCie adaptor: 12VDC
  • Pin 2 on Toshiba adaptor: +12V
  • Pin 3 and 4 on Lacie adaptor: GND
  • Pin 3 and 4 on Toshiba adaptor: GND

Looks fine. I mean, it would be really embarrassing to fry a hard disk by connecting up an incompatible adaptor, wouldn't it?

Connect up, switch on.

Nothing. No light, no whirring as the drive spins up, nothing.

Hmm.

Rummage around and eventually find a continental-to-UK adaptor, and try the original LaCie adaptor.

Light switches on, no spin-up.

Oh dear. No drive icons on desktop, unidentifiable Firewire device in properties.

Double-check pinout diagrams.

Oh, crap. They're bloody well mirrored - 5V is 12V, and vice versa - I just shitting well fried some electronics in an attempt to save a few minutes.

Okay, okay, don't panic...

Take hard disk out of enclosure. It's PATA, so can connect it up to my older desktop PC that's sat under my desk - if I'd been in Belgium, I'd have had to have borrowed an office machine...

Except it still doesn't spin up. The BIOS doesn't detect a drive. The disk is dead, despite trying different cables, different jumper settings, everything. It's dead, deceased, pining for the fjords.

I wonder if the enclosure still works, and find an old, 4GB disk lying around - I connect it up, hear it spin and chatter, and an icon appears on my desktop. It's most definitely just my 160GB Steam-and-photos disk that's dead - a Hitachi Deathstar to be precise.

Perhaps it was already dead, and the voltage problem was just a red herring? Who knows. But my Steam partition is gone.

I check my backup drive, and a recent, just-back-from-USA-trip copy of my iPhoto folder is all present and correct, all 35GB of it - and check a somewhat private nook of the MINERVA website, and its fairly recent backup of the current version of MINERVA is still present. All my up-to-the-minute VMFs are present on my laptop's undamaged internal hard disk, along with extra copies on both my phone and one of my camera's memory cards. I do make backups.

The hard disk enclosure definitely still works - I purchased a new, bare 250GB PATA drive from PC World earlier today, and have hooked that up instead. It's a Samsung, instead of a marginally cheaper Hitachi - I decided not to trust another Deathstar with my data again.

I've got a working copy of my iPhoto data again, and the only photos I've lost were the couple of Minerva bike efforts I took the other week. Everything else I've taken recently was still on memory cards.

So basically, all I need to do is wait forever for my games to download over Steam again, set my Source SDK stuff up, recreate a couple of new VMTs and perhaps a model or two I hadn't backed up, and then I'm back to work.

It's still all bloody annoying, and all because I'd tried to save a few minutes...

Release date? Oh, I don't know. But I do have excuses. Sorry about this all.

P.S.: Thanks for all the highly intelligent, probing and often still wrong plot analysis - it's really helped cheer me up regarding MINERVA. With a bit of luck, after this inopportune break I'll be refreshed, renewed and ready to work like crazy to finish it all off!

Edit 2007-07-08: Blog-goers may well be interested in my new Acolytes of Minerva Steam Community group thingy. Just try to behave yourselves, okay?

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"Teh girl charactar was sexey lol." -

Eurogamer.net has just published a World of Mods article. Imaginatively, it reviews a selection of mods for Half-Life 2 - mostly multiplayer ones, but with one particular single-player mod included.

It's a pretty tough review for poor MINERVA, but it's great to be given loads of constructive criticism. Too late for part three (which should be released 'soon', but already has got lots more Valve-tested puzzles, variation in settings, combat and themes to go on) but I shall bookmark this review and re-read it when I'm stuck for inspiration!

Oh, and something else - you acolytes downright scare me. Whose idea exactly was it to place a bicycle right outside my flat's front door (the internal one, the bike is right next to the stairs to the flats above) - clearly emblazoned with the brand-name 'MINERVA'? It's enough to make me go into hiding!

Edit 2007-07-27: Acolyte Vecima has pointed out a newly released single-player mod called Riot Act, and I note that the download link has just gone live. No idea what it's like, but the website looks very professional - so do your duty, and please report back!

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