MINERVA (mod)


MINERVA (mod)

Infobox VG
title = MINERVA


caption = "MINERVA: Metastasis"
developer = Adam Foster
license = Freeware
engine = Source engine
released = Metastasis 1: September 2, 2005 cite web|url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=2|title = Metastasis 1 released!|accessdate = 2008-02-21|work = MINERVA development log]
Metastasis 2: March 12, 2006 cite web|url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=10|title = Metastasis 2 released|accessdate = 2008-02-21|work = MINERVA development log]
Metastasis 3 & 4: October 2, 2007 cite web|url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=60|title = MINERVA: Metastasis released|accessdate = 2008-02-21|work = MINERVA development log]
genre = First-person shooter and puzzle
modes = Single-player
platforms = Microsoft Windows
media = Download
requirements = 1.2 GHz processor, 256 MB RAM, DirectX 7 level graphics card,
input = Keyboard, Mouse

"MINERVA" is an episodic series of single-player mods created by Adam Foster for Valve Corporation's Half-Life 2. Installments are released as each is finalized: the three releases for the "Metastasis" episode have already been made, with the third installment released on October 1 2007.

The plot and settings of "MINERVA" are linked to [http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Someplace_Else Someplace Else] , Foster's original map for "Half-Life", and Half-Life 2 itself.

Foster describes Minerva as an "anti-modification": "The aim isn't to replace as much game content as possible; instead, it's to tell my own apocryphal story set in the Half-Life 2 universe, and to actually release something for the public to play." [ [http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=144068%20min Interview: Half-Life 2 Minerva mod] , PC Zone Staff, Computer and Video Games, August 8, 2006, accessed October 3, 2007]

Plot

Storyline

"MINERVA"'s plot is progressed through radio messages from the female character after whom the mod is named (Minerva), the messages are relayed as text rather than spoken words. Minerva's communications are sarcastic and dismissive, and her demeanour brusque, treating the player as a data-gathering tool at her disposal. Information and storyline is revealed in short segments over the course of the chapters, often with no explanation; for example, in Metastasis she reveals that her (and therefore the player's) goal is to discover the Combine's purposes on and underneath the episode's island, but not why she considers this important or how the player became involved in the first place.

Minerva is not omniscient however; Metastasis also reveals her to be working within the limits of satellite imagery and terrestrial radio, and at several points admits to the player that she does not know what lies ahead, and is exploring with them.

Even when Minerva is aware of an upcoming threat, she is not always inclined to forewarn players of it. At times it appears that she enjoys the player overcoming difficult challenges, although not always revealing this in her messages - which are chiding and patronising. This contradictory stance extends as Minerva starts to compliment her "laboratory specimen", to the point of telling the player to "take care" ahead of one enemy encounter. She demonstrates further compassion when encountering a headcrab shell factory through the player, justifying her order to have it shut down on moral grounds. She does not approve of violence for its own sake, however; in both "MINERVA" and "Someplace Else", she loses her temper when the player seems "more interested in combat than your actual mission." She also makes a passing reference in "Someplace Else" to having "insatiable kleptomania."

The complexity of Minerva as a character is an important theme in the game and provides an explanation for the lack of backstory or timeline information.

Timeline

MINERVA’s communications are unusual in that each is prefixed by a time/date stamp in International Date Format (ISO 8601), giving an explicit timescale to the plot. These timestamps extend to several written pieces on the series' websitecite web | url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/archive_1.shtml | title = Archive | work = MINERVA official homepage | accessdate = June 23 | accessyear = 2006] that give background to the story. From these and the in-game messages it is possible to construct a partial timeline of events covered in the MINERVA series.

* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/archive_1.shtml 13th June 1974] - Prolonged seismic event in New Mexico. Starts at 4pm.
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/archive_2.shtml 2nd July 1974] - Seismic event confirmed to be from Black Mesa 'Missile Range'.
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/archive_3.shtml 10th July 1974] - Confirmation of event, explained as a "catastrophic failure". Temporary halt to a research program. Mention made of transportation technology.
* "c. 2000 (uncertain date) - Events of Half-Life; rise of the Combine from this point onward"
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/archive_4.shtml 28th March 2002] - Message written on console in Black Mesa, which is now known as the Black Mesa Research Facility.
* 1st April 2002 - Events of [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/parallax/someplace-else.html Someplace Else] . Minerva claims to be at the Xen outpost against her will.
* 15th October 2009 - Events of "Metastasis". Minerva has somehow arrived on Earth.
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/archive_5.shtml Unknown (later?) date] - Message from Minerva. Claims to have interfaced with some sort of network.

Location

"MINERVA" is placed firmly in our world – part of the first level is played in and around a World War II bunker (identified as such in the game). This puts the location as somewhere in Europe. Furthermore the first chapter is also (as seen and noted in the game) located on an island, which has been confirmed as being somewhere in the Baltic Sea. cite web
url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=20#comment_id_369
title = Baltic?
accessdate = 2006-09-04
work = MINERVA development log
]

Design

"MINERVA"'s designer, Foster, is critical of Valve's design of Half-life 2 maps. His belief is that game developers focus on creating gameplay friendly environments that do not work in an architectural way, "a series of unconnected boxes" says Foster,cite web|url=http://www.idlethumbs.net/display.php?id=224&p=1|title=Minerva|work=Idle Thumbs|date=16 November 2006|accessdate=30 April|accessyear=2006] "MINERVA"'s environments are built as actual environments (with correctly proportioned structures and areas) with gameplay worked in later. This creates a more open design, in which players may, in places, navigate in multiple ways. Later locations can be seen in earlier stages of the game (along corridors or through windows for example)

Map design is the mod's hallmark. While all levels are constructed primarily using Valve's resources, with few new models or textures, Foster follows his own design ideals – that of compact, well designed maps. Although the levels seem huge, as play unfolds, they are in fact very small - wrapping around to use the least space possible. This creates a sense of realism. As pointed out by Planet Halflife:cite web|url=http://www.planethalflife.com/features/motw/minerva.shtm|title=MINERVA: Metastasis 2|date=17 April 2006|accessdate=3 August|accessyear=2006|work=Planet Half-Life]

As a result "MINERVA" maps have a much shorter load time than maps in the original game.

Foster creates the maps in layers. Once a layer is filled he moves the design downwards, which both helps to propel the storyline (a descent into a mysterious shaft) and also makes the best use of space.

Visually the maps are of a high quality, with HDR lighting implemented in the latest releasecite web|url=http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=26|title=High Dynamic Range|date=August 7 2006|accessdate=12 January|accessyear=2007|work=MINERVA development log] , and the environments match those of the official game in look and feel. Not that the maps are faultless; Metastasis 1's custom skybox has issues at lower texture detail to this day.

The player's Combine opposition are positioned logically, a feat given the vast number of communicating areas in each map. New adversaries don't spawn as soon as the player completes an objective but appear realistically as the episode progresses.

Episode plots

Metastasis

"Metastasis" is the first chapter in the "MINERVA" series. It is divided into four episodes: "Carcinogenesis", "Downhill Struggle", "Depth Charge", and "Pegasus". Episodes 3 and 4 were released on October 1 2007, which completed the first chapter.

Carcinogenesis

cquote|"The true method of knowledge is experiment. So, strapped to the underside of a stolen Combine helicopter, you're part of my latest scientific investigation. Objective: To infiltrate and observe this peculiar little island a few miles off shore, its heart burrowed out by our ever-loving benefactors..." cite web
url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_1
title = Metastasis 1
accessdate = 2006-08-03
work = MINERVA official homepage
]

"Metastasis 1" begins with the player being deposited on the shore of a mysterious island by a Combine helicopter. Under attack from the outset, the player must fight a path around the island to gain access to its center, guided on occasion by messages from Minerva.

Combat and exploration dominate gameplay in this first installment. Dropped in the water next to a wharf, the player must survive an initial firefight with Combine forces before getting his bearings. The wharf with its collection of buildings is fenced off; the island's most obvious non-natural feature is a shimmering stream of plasma descending from the cloud cover straight into the island's center. A circuitous tour of the island ensues, involving multiple variegated enemy engagements (at a distance, up close, elevated, bunkered, flanked), all set in a convincing and detailed rocky beach environment. The outdoor tour ends at the wharf next to which the player is first deposited, the first of many such circles throughout the Minerva series. Underground exploration with minimal combat follows, heightening tension and raising questions about what the Combine are doing on the island, the apparent aim of Minerva's "scientific investigation." A return to the surface yields more combat, access to the plasma stream's entry point, and the beginning of the descent down the beam's path that carries the episode to its conclusion and is continued in the next installment.

We learn little about Minerva or her goals, but her messages reveal a megalomaniacal, condescending, and sarcastic personality, and she seems to enjoy, but not assume, the player's continued survival. Her oblique, intriguing comments drive the narrative just as combat drives the gameplay. Minerva also reveals that the plasma stream comes from a geosynchronous satellite (which in turn is steaming it directly out of the Sun) and that the player's objective is to find out its purpose.

Downhill Struggle

cquote|"Experiment shall continue; further data sought. Upon completion, peer review followed by publishing; discoveries communicated to a greater audience. Infiltrate. Observe. Reveal. Destroy." cite web
url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2
title = Metastasis 2
accessdate = 2006-08-03
work = MINERVA official homepage
]

The second level to "MINERVA" is set inside a huge shaft found at the center of the strange island. As the player progresses downwards the level becomes much darker.

This installment involves slightly less combat, although the well placed enemies present a tougher challenge, and seems to be mostly about finding a route further down the shaft. At times this can be difficult with complex puzzles and a lot of backtracking required.

Once again you are directed by the invisible Minerva, who seems to become more sarcastic as the game progresses.

It is revealed that the user is not the only person Minerva has manipulated. She compares you against at least one other such avatar - perhaps a reference to Pericles but it is also possible it refers to the player character of " [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/parallax/someplace-else.html Someplace Else] ", also by Adam Foster. She also reveals that the player is actually a traitorous (or 'reprogrammed') Combine soldier whom she has provided with a Black Mesa HEV suit.

Depth Charge

The third level delves the player deeper and to the lowest floors of the shaft. The player loses his armaments in a weapons containment field, and for a large portion of the level the player must run from Combine soldiers while solving puzzles using crates. During this segment of gameplay, the player will stumble across the impressive core of the reactor that receives the energy of the plasma stream. It is apparently used to power a Combine Portal reactor (similar to the one at the top of the Citadel, seen at the end of Half-Life 2). The player arrives just in time to see a portal form to an unknown (and apparently barren, except for antlions) planet. The planet is also seen as a holographic projection or on screens throughout the Combine base. Minerva says that it is unconquered and unexplored by the Combine, although several Dropships are seen coming through the portal.

Minerva asks the player to sabotage the core, by disabling four plasma containers which help regulate and buffer the core's energy levels. Upon successful completion of the task, Minerva reveals her true intentions and betrays the player. She intends to use the satellite's superheated plasma beam to strike the base with a destructive blast. She informs the player of the base's utter and complete destruction within the first twenty seconds of disabling the cores. The third episode ends with the player fading to white as Minerva brings about the devastation of the base.

Pegasus

The player survives the blast to the surprise of "MINERVA". The laser strike has heavily damaged the installation, and headcrabs now roam free throughout the base, infecting Combine Soldiers. The zombies soon become the primary enemies. Many platforms and hallways are blocked or structurally damaged and require the player to break their way through or find a whole new route around. While making their way upwards the player has to solve some environmental puzzles (like blowing a hole in the floor using gas pipes, while fending off an unlimited number of zombies with reprogrammed Combine Turrets). Upon reaching the surface (now at dusk), the player battles through waves of Fast Zombies, and heads out to the Combine Watchtower, where he makes one last stand against a Combine Gunship, which is preventing the evacuation helicopter from approaching the island. Once the Gunship is destroyed, the evacuation helicopter arrives. The player safely flies off, as another plasma strike annihilates the island.

Out of Time

Foster has stated that the next chapter of the "MINERVA" series will be called "Out of Time", instead of the previous working title "Chronoclasm", and has promised "some freakish gameplay additions...". cite web
url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=15#comment_id_30
title = Answers? Maybe
accessdate = 2006-08-03
work = MINERVA development log
]

Foster has also hinted that he would like to set Out of Time in "a snow-dusted coastal town, complete with its own Citadel." A blog post on the development blog further hinted Out of Time will take place in City 44.cite web
url = http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=63
title = Referencing City 44's Downfall
accessdate = 2007-12-01
work = MINERVA development log
] The film Twelve Monkeys (1995) may provide some influences in the design of this urban area.Fact|date=April 2008

The official site for "Out Of Time" can be found [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/traitor.shtml here]

Adam Foster has been recruited by Valve, and will begin working for them in October (on Half Life 2: Episode 3). Because of this, it can be assumed that Out of Time will come out much later than it would have, if ever.

Notable mentions

"MINERVA" has grown in popularity recently, and it is currently a [http://storefront.steampowered.com/v2/index.php?area=game&AppId=90000 featured mod] on Steam. There have also been various reviews of the mod by independent sites:

*"MINERVA" was featured as a [http://www.planethalflife.com/features/motw/ Mod of the Week] on [http://www.planethalflife.com/ Planet Halflife] .
* [http://dx.ampednews.com/ Amped News] rated it 4.5/5 ( [http://dx.ampednews.com/?page=articles&id=12727 review] )
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php?action=articleinfo&id=10 An interview with Adam Foster] in the February 2006 edition of Computer Gaming World
* [http://www.moddb.com Moddb] gave Minerva a [http://features.moddb.com/287/mods-of-2006-players-choice/?fpage=1 Mod Of The Year 2006 Award] (5th place)
* [http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/ RockPaperShotgun] posted an [http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/?p=456 interview with Adam Foster] in October 2007
* [http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/ RockPaperShotgun] featured MINERVA: Metastasis on the eight day of its [http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/?p=719 2007 Advent Game-O-Calendar series]

Localized versions

The [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/phosphenes.shtml mod's companion website] is available in [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/fr/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2 French] , [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/de/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2 German] , [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/es/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2 Spanish] , [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/it/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2 Italian] , [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/pl/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2 Polish] , and [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/ru/phosphenes.shtml#metastasis_2 Russian] . Fully localized versions of the mod were released in December 2007.

References

External links

* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/ The official "MINERVA" site] , with an introduction to the story and some clues as to the storyline.
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/phosphenes.shtml Download Minerva]
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/parallax/someplace-else.html Someplace Else] , the prequel to Minerva (a mod for the original "Half-Life")
* [http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/blogsheep.php Foster's Minerva Development Blog]


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