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Shacknews - John Keefer

It's been about six years since the Minerva mod for Half-Life 2 was released, but after some cajoling from co-workers at Valve, developer Adam Foster has given it a new coat of paint and is releasing it on Steam as a Director's Cut.

"It's taken long enough, but via lots of nagging and prompting from fellow Valve employees I've finally got round to getting MINERVA, the Half-Life 2 mod which got me a job at Valve, up on to Steam," Foster said in an email to Shacknews. "It was originally released in late 2007 to pretty much universal acclaim, but now there's about to be a super-fancy Director's Cut edition with tweaked visuals, bug fixes, better puzzles and all kinds of subtle improvements. Nothing hugely new, just old stuff tidied and polished for this re-release."

The mod, which is still free, tasks you with uncovering the mystery of an underground Combine facility while being fed information via text by a female character named Minerva. To play, you will need Half-Life 2: Episode One installed.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Hello?

I hate Adam Foster, creator of last decade’s rapturously-received Half-Life 2 mod series MINERVA (not to be confused with BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den) and more recently a Valve employee. I hate him not because he is talented, not because he works at a cool place and not because I have a pathological distaste for people called ‘Adam.’ (Smith, you’re fired). I hate him because today he has made me feel SO OLD.

One of the first long-form pieces I ever wrote for RPS was an interview with Mr Foster about his excellent, thoughtful mod, and its fine accomplishments in level design and mood. That was in 2007. Now it is 2013. Six years> later. And I am posting about MINERVA again. He now works at Valve, and meanwhile I’m still typing words into the same CMS, but older, grimmer, fatter. At least I’ve changed my chair twice since then. Something Foster has also done is repackage and spit’n'polish his mod for a well-deserved re-release on Steam today. (more…)

PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2 mod Minerva getting Director’s Cut, Steam release">Minerva







Adam Foster, creator of the brilliant Episode One mod Minerva, works for Valve now. Clearly then, the temptation for this Director's Cut news is to lead with the implication that Valve are releasing a new Half-Life game on Steam. I'm not that mean - plus, it's early in the morning, and I'm worried the shock and subsequent disappointment would be too much for you all. Admittedly, then, it's not new, or even particularly official, but the Steam release of Minerva does promise to be the definitive version.



Foster explains that, while the Director's Cut won't contain additional content, it's still a significant overhaul, including "tweaked visuals, bug fixes, better puzzles and all kinds of subtle improvements. Nothing majorly new, just old stuff tidied and polished for this re-release."



If you're yet to play it, Minerva is one of those rare "Valve quality" mods, that in some areas surpasses the game its based on. Its cleverest trick is map design - Foster creates seemingly huge levels in surprisingly tight spaces, thanks to his talent at creating realistically proportioned, interestingly vertical game spaces.



Here's a short preview of what to expect, courtesy of ValveTime:







Minerva should release for free later today. You're now free to wildly speculate about this being the beginning of an Episode 3 ARG.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Poker Night 2 brings a new set of wisecrackers to the table">Poker Night 2







Who told you that Adult Swim cartoon characters, ditzy cyberpunk robots, and a cuddly rabbit-and-dog detective team couldn't live together in harmony? Because if today's Poker Night 2 release is anything to go by, they totally can. Well, as harmoniously as a bunch of wisecracking jerks can get on while competing ruthlessly for assorted unlockable items, anyway. Check out the new cast of players in the trailer - and we've got a list of the prizes up for grabs, too.







Brock Samson from the Venture Bros squares off against Borderlands' plucky Claptrap, while Ash Williams from Army of Darkness and the notorious Sam and Max are all plotting your defeat. Oh, and just to make your "Omaha Hold 'em" losses against these fictional smartasses all the more devastating, your dealer is the soul-crushing GLaDOS.



The prizes are based on your platform of choice, so us PC gamers will be aiming to outfit ourselves in these stylish Borderlands 2 and Team Fortress 2 items. Because look: you're nowhere near striking fear in your foes' chests unless your Mechromancer is wearing a perpetually grinning Max Mask. There are also numerous in-game unlocks to be had, such as themed poker tables and chips. I hope Max's face is slapped on everything.



For just a fiver, Telltale's Poker Night 2 is available today on Steam.
Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Added "Only allow map files" to the possible selections in the download filter option for clients
  • Fixed a client crash related to the material system
  • Fixed Diamond/Carbonado Botkiller weapons using incorrect team materials for the arms
  • Fixed a vphysics regression where some items would travel farther than they should
  • Improved performance and stability for the Linux version
  • Removed range restrictions from viewmodel_fov_demo
  • Updated the Ap-Sap so it can be gift-wrapped and have custom names/descriptions applied to it
TF2 Blog
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:


  • Added "Only allow map files" to the possible selections in the download filter option for clients
  • Fixed a client crash related to the material system
  • Fixed Diamond/Carbonado Botkiller weapons using incorrect team materials for the arms
  • Fixed a vphysics regression where some items would travel farther than they should
  • Improved performance and stability for the Linux version
  • Removed range restrictions from viewmodel_fov_demo
  • Updated the Ap-Sap so it can be gift-wrapped and have custom names/descriptions applied to it
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Face Off: Are silent protagonists superior?">face off silent protagonist







Are mute heroes better than verbose heroes? Does a voice-acted player character infringe on your ability to put yourself into the story? In this week's debate, Logan says "Yes," while his character says nothing. He wants to be the character he’s playing, not merely control him, and that’s easier to do when the character is silent. T.J. had a professional voice actor say "No." He thinks giving verbalized emotions and mannerisms to your in-universe avatar makes him or her feel more real.



Read the debate below, continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Logan, you have the floor:



Logan: BioShock’s Jack. Isaac Clarke from Dead Space. The little boy from Limbo. Portal’s Chell. Gordon Freeman. These are some of the most unforgettable characters I’ve ever played, and they all made their indelible impressions on me without speaking a single word. In fact, they made such an impression because they didn’t say a word. By remaining silent throughout, they gave me room to take over the role, to project myself into the game.



T.J.: All of the games you mentioned were unforgettable narratives. But everything memorable about them came from the environments, situations, and supporting casts. Gordon Freeman is a great example. What can you really say about him, as a person? I find Shepard’s inspirational speeches to the crew in the Mass Effect games far more stirring and memorable than almost anything I’ve experienced in a silent protagonist game. I was Shepard, just as much as I was Gordon. But I didn’t have the alienating element of not having a voice making me feel less like a grounded part of the setting.







Logan: Ooh, Shepard. That was cold. I’ll happily agree that some games are better off with fully written and voiced protagonists—and Shepard’s a perfect example. But it’s a different matter, I think, with first-person games in particular, where your thought processes animate the narrative: “OK, if I jump into a portal here, I’ll shoot out of the wall there and land over yonder.” In this way I’m woven into the story, as a product of my own imagination. If the character is talking, I’m listening to his or her thoughts—and they sort of overwrite my own. It can be great fun, but it’s a more passive experience.



T.J.: First-person shooters are probably one of the best venues for silent protagonists, but lets look at BioShock and BioShock Infinite. I definitely felt more engaged by Booker, who responded verbally to the action, the story twists, and the potent emotions expressed by Elizabeth... than I did by Jack, who didn’t so much as cough at the chaos and insanity around him.



Logan: But was the result that BioShock Infinite was a better game, or just that it delivered a traditional main character?



T.J.: Booker? Traditional? Did we play the same game? I mean, it’s a tough call to say which was out-and-out better, as there are a lot of factors to consider. But zooming in on the protagonist’s vocals (or lack thereof) as an added brushstroke on a complex canvas, Infinite displays a more vibrant palette.



Logan: Do you think that Half-Life 2, in retrospect, is an inferior game as a result of its silent protagonist?







T.J.: Half-Life 2 was great. Great enough that we gave it a 98. But imagine what it could have been like if Gordon had been given the opportunity to project himself onto his surroundings, with reactive astrophysics quips and emotional back-and-forth to play off of the memorable cast around him? We relate to characters in fiction that behave like people we know in the real world. So yeah, I’ll take that plunge: I think I would have bonded with Freeman more, and therefore had a superior experience, if he hadn't kept his lips sewn shut the whole way.



Logan: A scripted and voiced Gordon Freeman may or may not have been a memorable character, just like a scripted and voiced Chell from Portal might have been. But in a sense, that’s the problem! Because some of my best memories from games with silent protagonists are the memories of my own thoughts and actions. I remember staring at the foot of a splicer in BioShock and realizing that the flesh of her foot was molded into a heel. I was so grossed out that I made this unmanly noise, partway between a squeal and a scream. I remember getting orders shouted at me in FEAR and thinking, "No, why don’t you take point.” I’m glad these moments weren't preempted by scripted elements.



T.J.: You were staring at the Splicers’ feet? Man, in a real underwater, objectivist dystopia ruined by rampant genetic modification, you’d totally be “that one guy” who just stands there dumbfounded and gets sliced into 14 pieces.



Logan: No, I’d be the guy at Pinkberry with his mouth under the chocolate hazelnut nozzle going “Would you kindly pull the lever?” But my point is, I remember what I did and thought at moments throughout all of my favorite games, and those are experiences that are totally unique to me. And that’s at least part of why I love games so much—because of unique experiences like that.







T.J.: I see what you’re getting at. Likewise, a lot of my love for games is driven by their ability to tell the kinds of stories other media just aren’t equipped for. Silent protagonists take us further beyond the bounds of traditional narratives, accentuating the uniqueness of interactive storytelling. That being said, really good voiced protagonists—your Shepards, your Bookers, your Lee Everetts—never feel like a distraction from the mutated flesh pumps you come across. When the execution is right, they serve to enhance all of those things, and lend them insight and believability.



There’s nothing like being pulled out of the moment in Dragon Age: Origins when the flow of an intense conversation stops so the camera can cut to the speechless, distant expression of your seemingly-oblivious Grey Warden.



Logan: Oh yeah, there’s no question that voiced protagonists have their moments. But they’re not my moments, and those are the ones I enjoy the most in games. Valve seems to understand this intuitively, and that’s why it’s given us two of the most memorable characters in videogame history: because I think the developers deliberately build into their games moments that they all understand will be uniquely owned by the players; “a-ha!” moments when the solution to a puzzle suddenly snaps into focus, or narrative revelations like watching horseplay between Alyx and Dog that instantly tell you a lot about how she grew up. Voiced protagonists can give us wonderful characters; silent ones let me build my own.



That’s the debate! As always, these debates are exercises meant to reveal alternate viewpoints—sometimes including perspectives we wouldn’t normally explore—and cultivate discussion, so continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for more opinions from the community.











https://twitter.com/hawkinson88/status/325060938120183808



@pcgamer it really depends on the writing. Some voiced characters are amazing, and some are whiny and annoying.— Ryan H (@kancer) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer In many cases, yes. I am forced to substitute the absence of a developed personality with my own words and thoughts. I like that.— Rocko (@Rockoman100) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer The volume of the protag doesn't matter, only the skill of the writer: hero voice is just one tool of many in a master writer's box— Jacob Dieffenbach (@dieffenbachj) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer The most interesting characters are the ones with a history, with regrets. Blank characters don't have that.— Devin White (@D_A_White) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer Most voiced characters seem to disappoint. I think silent ones express the storyline better through visuals which I prefer.— Casey Bavier (@clbavier) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer Definitely voiced. Having an NPC talk to you directly, then act as if your lack of response is totally normal feels eerily wrong.— Kirt Goodfellow (@_Kenomica) April 19, 2013





@pcgamer Silent! #YOLO— Michael Nader (@MNader92) April 19, 2013

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jim Rossignol)

I am increasingly anxious about of the pointlessness of videos of virtual reality>. Nevertheless, you can sort of imagine what’s going on in this Oculus Rift plus Virtuix Omni (a multi-direction treadmill platform for moving about in VR) as a chap plays Team Fortress 2, below.

I am not sure if it would make me feel a bit giddy. (more…)

PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: gmDoom for Garry’s Mod">gDoom for Half Life 2







Omri mentioned a mod called gmDoom last month, which allows you to bring the Doom experience, including weapons, enemies, HUD, and entities, into Garry's Mod. After watching a few weeks pass as bugs were squashed and updates were released, I decided it was finally time to pull-start this particular chainsaw and take it for a spin. I also decided, instead of just playing around, to really play. Specifically, I wanted to play through the entirety of the Half-Life 2 campaign, using only the gmDoom HUD and weapons. Space Marine, welcome to City 17!



Hm? What? Who? Space Marine is skeptical.



After getting off the train in City 17, I realize how happy I am to be an angry, violent Space Marine instead of a befuddled, bespectacled scientist. Gordon Freeman didn't pick up a weapon until a good half-hour into Half-Life 2, but Doomguy is always packing a pistol, a chainsaw, and his fists. Rather than wandering through the beginning of the game, helplessly watching as citizens are abused at the hands of the Metrocops, I can immediately right some wrongs by applying a healthy dose of SPACE VIOLENCE.



So, when I see a Metrocop shove a citizen, I punch him to death (the Metrocop, to be clear). That annoying flying camera robot gets a taste from my pistol. What's this? Other cops, standing around doing nothing violent? Not on my watch! They die. I approach a couple citizens as well, just to see if weapons work on them too. (Weapons work on them too.) Oh, and that cop who tries to make me pick up a soda can and put it in the garbage? I saved the chainsaw for him.



Marines. Always. Recycle.



Before long, I'm in the canals, fighting enemies who can actually fight back. It mostly works well: the weapons are effective and feel natural after a few minutes of play, though you have to be pretty darn precise with your aim for long-distance kills. It's also a genuinely neat experience: the sights and sounds of the throwback Doom weapons mixed with the atmosphere and enemies of Half-Life 2. It's double-nostalgic. It's like combining two tastes I love, bacon and chocolate, into one violent, historic mouthful of video game.



Something else I notice: while it feels a little odd in this day and age to play a game where you're constantly staring at your own face, it does make your health quite a priority. Instead of a percentage or a colored bar, you get to look at your sad mug streaked with blood, a pretty visceral reminder that it's not your health meter taking damage: it's your own face. Finding medkits feels a lot more urgent when you're hurt so bad your hair is bleeding.



Space Marine needs food, badly.



Ammo for my Doom weapons, naturally, is not stocked in City 17, so I just spawn some for myself from the Garry's Mod menu when I run out. I try to also give myself new weapons when it feels appropriate. When Metrocops start using machine guns, for example, I give myself Doom's chaingun. When I remember that you don't get a shotgun until you get to Ravenholm, I give myself one anyway, because screw that.



After escaping City 17, I wind up deciding to skip the second half of the canal levels. Making a Space Marine drive a crummy boat powered by a fan just seems insulting. It's like making Willy Wonka eat a celery stick. He knows not of, and cares not for, such primitive tools. Fast-forward, then, to Ravenholm!



Plus a quick stop in Black Mesa East to kill a disgusting alien. You're welcome, Vance family!



In the zombie-patrolled streets of Ravenholm, our Space Marine seems quite comfy. Hideous shambling monsters, blood, gore, horror: these are what Doomguy was made for. I admit, I do pine for the Gravity Gun, because flinging giant circular blades into zombies is still awesome. The super shotgun works just fine, though.



These zombies don't shoot back? You got off easy this time, Earth.



After blasting my way through Ravenholm with kindred spirit Father Gregori, I decide to skip the driving sections of HL2 as well, mostly because the driving feels like 100% Half-Life 2 and 0% Doom, and the mix is what's really making this fun. I skip to the lighthouse at the end of the coastal maps, and dig in with the resistance as they fight off the Combine attack.



After defeating a few waves of drop-ship soldiers, I run into a little problem when the Synth Gunship arrives. I've given myself Doom 2's rocket launcher, but it only fires in a straight line, as opposed to HL2's laser-guided launcher. The Gunship doesn't shoot my rockets down, but there's no need: I keep missing because the Gunship keeps moving. Try as I might, I just can't hit the sucker. He, however, has no problem hitting me. It's time to call in reinforcements.



No shame in a Marine calling for backup. SPACE backup.



I use G-Mod to spawn a Doom Cyberdemon-- shut up, that is TOTALLY FAIR-- and the gunship and the Cyberdemon immediately decide they hate each other. (Isn't introducing one enemy to another enemy always awkward, like when your work friends meet your personal friends?) Unfortunately, the Cyberdemon is also unable to hit the gunship. Finally, exasperated, I just take out my G-Mod physics tool and hold the stupid gunship in place, letting the demon blast it to pieces. ALSO FAIR.



Hold still. This will only hurt a lot.



And, having used a physics tool from 2006 to help a cyborg demon from 1993 kill a biosynthetic airship from 2004... that's where my play-through of Half-Life2 abruptly comes to an end. It was a fun experiment, sure, but holding a three-dimensional gunship in the sky with my finger so a two-dimensional demon can whomp on it serves as a massive reminder: I don't just have two great games to play with here, I've got three, and I've all but forgotten about the Garry's Mod part of the experience. I've been eating bacon and chocolate, YES, but I've been completely neglecting the GLORIOUS BOTTLE OF BOURBON sitting right there to wash it all down with.



Time to switch from playing Half-Doom 2 and start playing a game I call Make Everything Fight Everything Else By The Lighthouse For Six Straight Hours!



Combine vs. Heavy Weapon Dudes!



The Combine win!



Pinky vs. Combine!



Pinky wins!



Arch-vile vs. Antlion Guard!



Antlion Guard wins -- but Arch-vile really does raise the dead Doom monsters! Awesome.



Antlion Guard vs. Spiderdemon!



Spiderdemon wins (eventually)!



Helicopter vs. Pain Elementals and Lost Souls!



Draw. Spawned helicopter doesn't seem to ever die, and Pain Elementals never seem run out of Lost Souls.



After making Everything fight Everything Else for six hours, I do, eventually, return to Half-Life 2 proper, mainly to see if I can take down a Strider with a Doom 2 rocket launcher (I can, and quite handily) and to try out the plasma cannon on the Combine (it works amazingly well). And, of course, to unleash the BFG on a store-front full of Combine soldiers.



Looks like the store... *sunglasses* ...is CLOSED.



Putting this mod into that other mod and putting both mods into Half-Life 2 is amazing. Do it! Do it now!



Installation: Mostly simple! However, you'll need a WAD file from one of the Doom games to import all the assets. If you don't own a Doom game, you can use a WAD file from the free shareware version of Doom and still get most of the weapons (I used Doom2.wad; full list of what the various WAD files give you access to here). Drop the WAD in the garrysmod/garrysmod folder in your Steam directory. Then, just subscribe to the mod on Steam Workshop and when you boot up Garry's Mod, it will be enabled. You can spawn all your weapons and monsters from the menu by pressing Q, and enable the HUD using the console code doom_cl_hud 1.



Also, and perhaps this is obvious, but you'll need Half-Life 2 installed for all the Half-Life 2 stuff.
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