MINERVA Goes Pro: Valve Hires Ultra-Modder

By Alec Meer on July 17th, 2008 at 1:39 am.

We’re far too late with this, and we feel extraordinarily bad for it – E3 has an unfortunate tendency to possess games journos body and soul for one mad week a year. But it’s never too late to celebrate, and so we shall.

Adam ‘Cargo Cult’ Foster, the delightful fellow behind what’s comfortably the finest singleplayer HL2 mod in the ‘verse, MINERVA: Metastasis, has snagged himself a job at Valve. Let there be much rejoicing.


Says the man himself:

I’ll be starting at a certain Valve Corporation at the beginning of October. What does this mean for MINERVA? Right now, I don’t know – I’ll initially be working on Valve’s own Episode Three, but after that, who knows? I seriously suspect this isn’t the end for this particular chain of experiments in designing single-player Half-Life 2 maps, all conducted for fun in my spare time.

Like any of my projects, it started off small, but rapidly grew far, far, bigger. It’s not finished yet, but this time I actually released something. ‘Episodic’ worked.

And, I accidentally acquired a job in the process. Oops?

To everyone, thanks.

Congratumalations, Adam! It’s well-deserved without a doubt – and way past time, as anyone who’s played Minerva will attest to. Unfortunately we missed out on the mini-ARG Adam presented on his blog that ultimately led to this cheerful revelation, but a slew of canny RPS readers, amongst other denizens of Adam’s own site, managed to decipher his elaborate code. It involved hacked audio files, the Polish national anthem and GPS co-ordinates, from what I hear – co-ordinates that turned out to be Valve HQ.

A cunning puzzle indeed, and one of many reasons why Adam’s upcoming tenure at Valve really is good news for gamers. I fervently hope to see his remarkable level-design efficiency applied to Half-Life 2: Episode 3 – this man could save us from those all-too-regular HL2 loading points.

If you’ve not played Minerva yet, especially its remarkable third episode, now is the time. Do so quickly, so you can legitimately say ‘I preferred his early work’ come Episode 3.

Thanks to Tom and Chris for tipping us off to these glad tidings.

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94 Comments »

  1. MetalCircus says:

    Being the cold bastard I am this does not make me rejoice.

    It makes me so very, very jealous :(

  2. Roritharr says:

    Fucking jealous indeed.

  3. Ross B says:

    Wow, grats after just playing metastasis I can see why.

  4. Angel Dust says:

    I must say I never really liked Minerva. It wasn’t bad, I loved the island landing part, but alot of the level design was repetitive sci-fi bases ala Halo. I don’t know if I played the third episodes though. Will have to check that later

  5. Alec Meer says:

    I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly keen on the second chapter, but the third one was fantastic.

  6. Stick says:

    Good call, Valve. Congratulations, Mr Foster.

  7. Syntaxus says:

    Three cheers for modders everywhere, I say.

    Minerva is truly fantastic. If Mr. Foster’s influence at Valve means less loading-points in Ep 3 and beyond, I will be even happier in the pants.

  8. Cooper says:

    I loved the first one on the island, it was a real breath of fresh air compared to the Half Life style, which always seems too obviousy linear. Though the path was pretty linear, it never really felt like it – the guidance around the island never felt forced.

    Anyway, job very much deserved in my opinion.

  9. The Hammer says:

    Wooo, congratulations, Adam! It’s been a long time coming!

    Happily made Metastasis since the sublime first chapter, and been a fanboy ever since.

    Just another reason Episode 3 is gonna be great!

  10. Lunaran says:

    ‘Bout damn time. I was beginning to think you were too cool for the industry, CargoCult.

  11. MeestaNob! says:

    Great news for this guy, well done!

    Reading between the lines, I imagine Minerva might be finding its way to consumers in a far more official-release type situation some time in the future.

  12. SirNuke says:

    Great news, though I’m kind of surprised that Valve didn’t hire him a while ago.

    Death to loading screens!

  13. Pace says:

    Adam’s brief summary of the solution doesn’t quite do justice to the complexity and difficulty of that puzzle. And sheer awesomeness too. It was a fabulous puzzle(/ARG).

    (edit: who’s to say Valve hasn’t been trying to hire him for awhile?)

  14. SenseiJinx says:

    That’s really awesome. Best of luck to him! *goes to try out Minerva*

  15. Y3k-Bug says:

    I’m so glad Adam got this gig. Such amazing talent is present in Metastasis. And this includes the pacing and atmosphere; the fantastic level design goes without saying.

    Incredibly happy for him.

  16. Brokenbroll says:

    Great news for Adam, Valve, and the fans. I felt that the best of Minerva was easily up there with Valve’s top work in Half Life, and for me personally Minerva is a stronger piece of game design than Valve’s own work, excepting Episode 3.

  17. mister slim says:

    Congratulations, Cargo. I look forward to Minerva’s guest appearance in Portal 2.

  18. malkav11 says:

    Frankly, although I wasn’t really expecting it, per se, this doesn’t come as much surprise, either. Valve’s propensity for snagging talented modders is no secret, and Foster’s definitely such a guy.

  19. Shawn says:

    what a wetdream

    congrats Adam, talk about living a dream….

  20. Erlam says:

    It’s about fucking time! Congratulations man! I absolutely loved Minerva. In fact, much more than either half-life. The level design was fantastic. One of the most enjoyable shooter experiences I’ve had, in fact.

  21. Novack says:

    @Alec, Good to read some kind comments from at least one of you!

    Really awesome, no acid words, no sarcasm, nor twisted word games…

    Uff, its relaxing, you have to admit it…

  22. wyrmsine says:

    Good show, Cargo. Both the job and Minerva, I mean.

  23. Tom says:

    Rock ‘n roll.

  24. Chaos Theory says:

    Woh, woh, woh, slow down there a second. What’s this about multiple episodes of Minerva?

    I really liked what I played, but I have no idea what part of the series it was, and would very much like it if there was more I haven’t played. I installed it from the website, the ‘patched’ exe, and had the chapters (mild spoilers ahead) “Carcinogensis, Downhill Struggle, Depth Charge, and Pegasus”.

    Was that the whole game, and I’m just late to the party with each chapter was released sequentially? Or am I really missing 2/3, or 3/4 of the whole thing?

  25. sigma83 says:

    Speech! Speech! Speech!

  26. sigma83 says:

    Chaos Theory: You’re done. The ’3rd chapter’ was Depth Charge and Pegasus released simultaneously.

  27. Noc says:

    Woo! There are no losers in this deal.

  28. James T says:

    Congrats, Adam! Access to playtesters should give your maps that extra bit of awesome ;p

  29. Mr. President says:

    While Metastasis failed to blow my mind (all this hype led me to believe there would be some cool writing involved, not just well-designed half-life2 maps), this is a heartwarming success story, I like it when such things happen. Congrats! I’m still waiting for “Out of Time”, it’s going to be finished, right?

  30. Scandalon says:

    I know CargoCult reads (and semi-frequently posts) on RPS, I trust he’ll see this.

    Partly in response to Angeldust:
    Though I think the heaps of praise that was, er, heaped on Minerva was a tad overblown (it wasn’t perfect, there were a few spots where I got stuck – in the “where do I go now?” vein), I must admit it’s also the only 3rd-party map(s) I’ve played to completion for HL2, wich says a lot – I’m cynical and hard to please, and I don’t really like how HL2′s combat feels. (I played 2 minutes or so of another one that starts you on a boat, have yet to try Mistake of Pythagorous…Heck, I still haven’t finished HL1!)

    Interesting he mentioned Halo, as the whole thing felt like a Bungie love letter…the island, the mysterious, small-g godlike persona AI… Yes, it was “more of the same”, but it was good more of the same, but with a slightly different flavor. Even though Iknew what the level was doing to me, I’d still get caught up in it and a few minutes later fall for another map-trick and be lured into some situation, spring the trap and after it was all over (including the shouting), somehow having just barely enough health and ammo to survive, go “dagnabit, I should have seen that coming” and then go off and do it again.

    In fact, I’d be willing to bet that his story telling and atmosphere building ability are a large part of what got him the offer, not just the technical map-making abilities.

    I’m intruiged to see what his contributions to Ep3 are, and what Valves influence may have on further Minerva adventures, and further out, what we’ll see out of this that might be non-halflife universe…

    The fact that a large portion of Minerva was made on a Mac just makes it that much more sweeter.

  31. Jeremy says:

    Metastasis was a good map, with an entertaining plot, even though it suffered from some limitations (what one-man production hasn’t in some way). I can’t wait to see what he produces next. And I think a redesign of his mod, with more added on, could be a real cool extension of the Half-life universe. I’d shell out for it.

  32. Subjective Effect says:

    Good news for all. Well done.

    I must say that this headhunting based on modding skills is very nice. It’s a natural way to spot talent and it’s happened so often over the years it’s inspiration for modders everywhere.

  33. Naurgul says:

    Congratulations Mr. Forster! I always thought this would happen, eventually.

    *regrets not trying to solve the puzzle*

  34. Nny says:

    Good for him, congratulations!

  35. Nick Halme says:

    Never played the mod, but it looked great — it even had an intriguing story.

    Grats to him, it’s always great to see hires from the mod community :D

  36. espy says:

    Congratulations, Cargo! Well done, and good descision on Valve’s part :D Good luck with everything!

  37. Skalpadda says:

    Hihi, I remember commenting here on RPS that the Borealis would be a great place to set Minerva-like maps; now it looks like we’ll be getting something like that. Awesome and well deserved indeed Adam!

  38. skillian says:

    Nice one CargoCult, I’m a big fan. Hope it works out well for you :)

  39. Terr says:

    Good for you, Valve. I was wondering when you would get to it. MINERVA was a piece of, I’d dare to say, art.

    The level design easily rivaled that of Valve and the narrative was excellent. And that all done by a single person.

    Congratulations, CargoCult. I can’t wait to see what you’ll bring us in episode 3 and beyond.

  40. MisterBritish says:

    Yoohoo! Cult! Stop lurking and give us a speech :P

  41. Crispy says:

    Less a case of snagging a job at Valve and more a case of caving in under repeated demand, methinks.

    Well deserved (on both Valve’s and Foster’s part), if a bit contrary to CargoCult’s hitherto stance on the matter of putting his indubitable talent to work in the industry. Like I hinted above, I wonder: “What made him crack in the end?”

  42. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Congratulations, that man!

  43. AciD says:

    That’s a good news for start of a day. Good luck in your new job!

  44. CrashT says:

    See for some reason I thought he already worked at Valve…

    Congratulations, very well deserved.

  45. Kast says:

    Woo! And may I had a big ‘Hoo’ into the bargin?

    Very glad RPS is making the big deal out of this that is requires. You might call this another landmark hiring. Valve does itself a heap of good by hiring Adam Foster and only good can come of this.

    Fingers crossed this doesn’t cause too much trouble with the continuing MINERVA story. Bring on Out of Time!

  46. Meat Circus says:

    Official Valve-shaped Steam release of Minerva incoming? With Ellen McLane on voices?

    Oh, do lets!

  47. gulag says:

    Now they just need to grab the ‘Mistake of Pythagoras’ guy to make a bonkers Zen level to finish Ep 3. That mod had a seriously spooky feel.

  48. wcaypahwat says:

    Congratulations, Mr. Cult.

    That is all I have to say.

  49. RedFoxBot says:

    Congrats CargoCult! I must admit the idea of adding your own flavor to Episode 3′s mix is incredibly exciting!
    I wonder if you’ll be working on the new portal game as well? The combination of portals puzzles and your level design would be fascinating.

    And like others have said, if Minerva happens to get buffed by valve and appear on steam for a small fee I’d happily pay for it.

    @gulag totally agree, they should hire him aswell

  50. Bozzley says:

    Congrats!

    Erm, stupid question time – I tried the first episode and gave up. If I start again from the third one, am I missing much in the way of story?