Rock, Paper, Shotgun - (Alec Meer)


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

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

I haven't really played many community-made Portal 2 maps. Whenever I get the urge for more Portal, it's usually because I'm in the mood for the biting insults of GLaDoS, the goofy earnestness of Wheatley, or the brusque instructional tones of Cave Johnson, as opposed to simply wanting more puzzles. This week, though, I decided to finally see what the Portal community has been up to, and I managed to find a decent seven-part single-player campaign called Dilapidation, set in a damaged and deeply unstable corner of Aperture Science.

Dilapidation was created by modder LoneWolf2056, whose name suggests that he or she is either a lone wolf from the near future or perhaps the 2,056th lone wolf to join the Steam Community. The campaign takes place after Chell's latest escape from the Aperture labs, and begins with you, an unnamed tester, waking up next to what remains of your stasis cube in the Enrichment Center. Like a series mentioned last year on PC Gamer, Decay, the Enrichment Center of Dilapidation is busted, rusted, broken down and getting worse. It's filled with shattered walls, piles of rubble, overgrown plants, and even some birds that have gotten in through some missing ceiling tiles that provide a few tantalizing glimpses of sky.

The  Weighted Companion Cube, doing its best G-Man impression.

The puzzles of Dilapidation are mostly very large, generally made up a series of smaller interconnected test chambers that form one big puzzle requiring a number of coordinated steps to complete. There are no gel puzzles or turrets, but just about everything else from Portal 2 is used: laser beams and fields, buttons and switches, storage cubes and discouragement redirection cubes, light bridges and excursion funnels, and plenty of emancipation grids. There are also a few puzzles involving faith plates and a couple that require you to power up a circuit.

The elevators don't arrive on time. And don't stop in the right place.

It's not just puzzles that are on display: Dilapidation also has a fantastic sense of atmosphere. There are some great sequences between puzzles where the floors buckle, bridges collapse, and elevators malfunction, sending you tumbling deeper and deeper into the facility. These events aren't just for show, either. At one point a metal catwalk collapses, dropping you into a new test chamber, and the section of the metal walkway that plunges in with you winds up being part of the puzzle's solution. Crafty!

Cube holsters on the floor AND ceiling. I'm not getting out of here for a while.

The beginning of each new chapter picks up right where the last left off, making it feel like a complete game as opposed to just a series of maps with the same theme. The whole thing feels pretty expertly done and well-planned. Rather than just give players a challenge, it's clear the modder wanted to provide an entire experience, and I'd call it a success.

The more you burn, the faster the fan spins. What should I burn next?

With almost no dialogue (you get a bit in the final chapter, as Dilapidation closes with a genuine boss fight) you wouldn't think there would be a lot humor in this campaign. And, of course, there isn't. Still, I wound up laughing a few times due to the Weighted Companion Cube, which appears here and there throughout the maps, tantalizingly close but just out of reach. It actually becomes a running gag as you try to reunite with the box-shaped heart, but are constantly stymied by the crumbling architecture and faulty equipment.

Come on, door. I've got five out of six checks! That's a passing grade! Let me PASS

How hard are the puzzles? The creator describes them as medium/hard, which for me translates to hard/quite damn hard/this is very, very hard. On the other hand, I've never been particularly great at Portal's puzzles anyway, so I expect the average gamer will do a bit better. It took me about three hours, so it'll probably take you around two hours, except for the one guy in the comments who will inevitably claim to have beaten all of the maps in fifteen minutes without even using the portal gun.

Oh, look who's awake.

Installation: Steam Workshop makes it easy as pie cake. Just subscribe to the Dilapidation collection, start Portal 2, select Community Test Chambers, then select Play Singleplayer Chambers. All the maps (0 through 6) will be listed in your queue!
PC Gamer
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
Release notes for 4/26/2013

[ MISC ]

- Reduced cl_radar_scale minimum from 0.4 to 0.25.
- Fixed a problem where workshop maps included in Operation Payback weren't playable on community servers without Operation Payback Pass.
- Fixed a problem where Operation Payback banner could sometimes show up over friends in Play With Friends lobby.
- Added an explanation to Operation Payback Pass to indicate that Operation Payback is a mapgroup for Classic Casual mode.
Community Announcements - alfred
We have released a Beta update for Half-Life and associated games.
Changes in this update are:
<ul><li>Fixed music tracks to correctly play across level change and to not stop (or restart) at unexpected times
<li>Clamped health values to fix display issues when it dropped below 1 or above 255
<li>Draw the "Paused" message when you pause the game
<li>Fixed custom game menus (like ones displayed by AMXModX) not rendering correctly
Community Announcements - alfred
We have released a Beta update for Counter-Strike 1.6.
Changes in this update are:
<ul><li>Fixed console spam if a user connected with a particularly malformed UTF-8 name
<li>Fixed "bomb has been dropped" message staying on the screen
<li>Made keypad Enter key work for MOTD, team and class menus
<li>Clamped health values to fix display issues when it dropped below 1 or above 255
Community Announcements - Chet
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The L4D2 Beta is mutating. Not content to just be the testing ground for the new <a href=''>Extended Mutation System</a>, we will be adding Linux to the Beta. And not content with the number of testers in the Beta, we will also be opening up the Beta to all L4D2 owners.

Huh, what?

The L4D2 Beta build is a separate download from the main game. This is where we are testing new features to the game – currently we are testing <a href=''>EMS</a>. Starting next week, we will be testing Linux there as well.

This code churns more frequently than the main game depot, so if you are bandwidth constrained, you might want to wait for the changes to move to the main game.

If you are playing the Beta game, you can only connect to other players in the Beta and to Beta servers.

Next week it will appear in your library alongside the main L4D2 game.

You do not need to enter a code to gain access and it is totally voluntary to download and participate in the Beta.

For modders currently in the Beta, now would be a good time to update your current work and get ready for a whole bunch of new testers.

For players, not only is the Linux build new, but the Window and Mac versions are also updated, so we need plenty of non-Linux testing as well.

When the Beta expands next week, we will post on how you can help give feedback and participate in the Beta.
L4D Blog
The L4D2 Beta is mutating. Not content to just be the testing ground for the new Extended Mutation System, we will be adding Linux to the Beta. And not content with the number of testers in the Beta, we will also be opening up the Beta to all L4D2 owners.

PC Gamer
International 3 Announcement

Valve has announced the third annual The International tournament, the most prestigious competition in competitive Dota 2. The competition returns to Seattle's Benaroya Hall August 6-11, where the 16 top Dota 2 teams in the world will compete to be named world champions. A prize pool has not yet been formally announced, but considering both previous iterations of The International posted pots in excess of $1 million, we think it's safe to say that it won't be chump change.

The bracket will consist of 13 invited teams and three who make it through a preliminary qualifier. The only invited team announced so far is last year's champions, Invictus Gaming (iG) of China. There will be two qualifier events: East and West, taking place at the end of May. The winning team from each qualifier will be guaranteed a spot in The International 3. The runners up will compete against each other for a final, Wild Card spot on the eve of The International 3.

If you're looking for some Dota 2 e-sports to watch in the mean time, there are some exciting games going in in the Chinese G-1 Champions League Season 5, featuring both Western and Eastern teams, with a $40,000 top prize.