Half Life 2 Magnifici-Mod MINERVA, The Director’s Cut


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.

It you’ve never played it, you’ve now no excuse (presuming you already own HL2: Ep 1). If you have, tweaked puzzles and graphics are a fine reason to return. That and the fact that, in the ongoing absence of official new Half-Life, this is a rather adept stopgap.

MINERVA: The Director’s Cut should be going live any hour now, but in the meantime you might want to have a delve through the agreeably cryptic site which accompanies it and sets the scene for this unofficial side-story on Combine-occupied Earth. A seemingly all-knowing narrator guides and teases you, identities and motives are questioned and, best of all, barely an inch of digital space is wasted.

What I most remember about Minerva is how free it seemed from those damnable loading points in official HL2 games – its maps were layered like an onion, and just seemed to keep going. They also offered an evocatively bleak, lonely setting, set away from the comparative hullabaloo of City 17 itself. Here’s what I wrote about it back in 2007, which I daren’t read now. I can’t imagine how dreadful the words of my callow youth may be.

Definitely look at this one (er, the game, not my ancient words), is what I’m saying. Meanwhile I’m going to go and look at myself in the mirror and weep for a fortnight.


  1. Ansob says:

    Gosh, Minerva brings back memories of the olden days of Source modding.

    Glad it’s getting a rerelease – last I checked, it wouldn’t even run anymore due to changes to the Ep1 engine. It really is a very good bit or single-player Half-Life-2-ery, with some great writing and level design.

    • Ravenholme says:


      One of the best, I’d say.

      • kwyjibo says:

        Were there any others of note? The other single player source mods seemed to be experimental ones. There was hardly any decent single player action compared to the HL1 days. I guess all the mappers got sucked out into the indie scene, and those who didn’t decided to recreate Half-Life 1 instead.

        • Cargo Cult says:

          Of the more recent stuff – Research and Development is amazing – less about combat and much more about puzzles. Then there’s the multi-part Mission Improbable – some really classy HL2 adventuring.

          There’s lots more that I’ve forgotten about as well.

          • Ravenholme says:

            Hey Adam! (The Man Himself appears, I believe)

            And yeah, I’d say those are some of the other noteworthy ones. R&D is utterly brilliant and somewhat mad.

            And Mission Improbable is classy HL2 style adventuring, with a base in the final part that reminded me a bit of Minerva (And, also, Someplace Else or whatever your HL1 map was called)

          • eclipse mattaru says:

            I’m just here to pile up on the R&D recommendations: That’s one mod that truly gets that “Valve Smartness” quality we all love so much, both in terms of general design and storytelling. As a matter fact, the puzzles in R&D blow everything that the original HL2’s do in that aspect out of the water.

            Also, I hope I was not the only one who was humming the A-Team theme all the way while building that vehicle thing.

        • baby snot says:

          Research and Development, Mission Improbable.

        • The First Door says:

          I played Precursor recently and it is utterly lovely from what I remember. It’s like a compressed HL2 with the same escape feeling of the first half of HL2. Also: Train.

          link to precursormod.com

        • popej says:

          Spherical nightmares is very good. You’ll need Ep. 2 though:

          link to moddb.com

    • CameO73 says:

      Actually, it did run on the Ep1+ engine … if you installed the patch. Just check out the bottom of this page for more details.

      • Cargo Cult says:

        (Woke up. Looked at computer. Blinking heck the news is out early!)

        Three cheers to acolyte Tom Edwards for the patch – I may have reverse-engineered bits of it to get this final edition up and running.

        If anyone’s absolutely desperate to play the new version of MINERVA without delay, here are some early-access Steam keys:


        You shouldn’t need to have HL2:Ep1 installed beforehand, but it’ll save Steam having to download much of its data if you do have it installed already.

        Steam page will probably be here. Estimate is ~10am PDT. Five and a bit hours? Yes, I woke up very early. It’s like an inverted Christmas!

        • smoozles says:

          Thanks! I took the last one

        • aperson4321 says:

          Thank you Cargo Cult !!!!

          I took and used this key: KPDWC-BXM0X-A40MT

          A million thanks!

        • baby snot says:

          Took 5HMK7-D97FG-7248D Thanks!

        • benx says:

          I’ve taken XYRY8-PH6BV-RGMEF, cheers!

        • DrScuttles says:

          Whoa, thank you. I took the top one, W8YXC-PTLWQ-PE8XG.
          Just the other day I was looking through my Steam account and booted up Minerva remembering that it was meant to be good but it crashed almost instantly. Had no idea there was a patch to make it work, but this is just wonderfully convenient.

        • Stevoisiak says:

          Damn, those keys went fast.
          Guess I shall have to wait the old fashioned way. :>

          Also, I’m curious. Why is it that you don’t get a steam page until release?

          • Cargo Cult says:

            No Steam page yet? Various Steam persons being really busy with other stuff. This was all slotted in around other work – a fair number of people donated their time to make this possible. Please excuse the slight chaos! ;-)

          • kwyjibo says:

            What other stuff? We need to know.

        • The First Door says:

          Congrats, it must be really exciting to get an official steam page for it!

          I really loved what I played of it a while back, but I don’t think I ever finished it so it’ll be great to go through it again!

  2. MajorManiac says:

    How time has flown when reading RPS. May you still be writing brilliant articles in another 7 years from now.

  3. The Dark One says:

    Any hour now = Valve’s standard 10:00am Pacific time?

  4. RobinOttens says:

    Wow, that was back when I was still studying physics. It’s been a while indeed. Good to see this is getting a proper steam release. I might even go back and play through the thing again.

    pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  5. Bostec says:

    Any idea on what Mr Foster is up to now at Valve? Surely he was working on The Game That Shall not Be Named but seeing as TGTNBN is never coming out[Criterion Needed] I wonder what he is doing.

  6. sbs says:

    Sweet, I’ve been meaning to replay this. Rock on, Cargo Cult, I hope you will make some amazingly disigned Borealis levels for Episode 3.

    • sbs says:

      Sorry, I named the game that shall not be named. And then when I thought about it I lost the game. Fuck.

  7. golem09 says:

    Time Flies

  8. Mirqy says:

    Ad under this article for an old RPS story: Valve reveals hints about episode 3. That was from 2008. I don’t feel old today, but half life certainly does.

  9. frightlever says:

    Nothing to add really. Brilliant mod. Very glad to hear AF has gotten a career off the back off it. He’s a brainy chap.

  10. strangeloup says:

    I can’t remember if RPS posted an article or not that you can now get Cry of Fear directly through Steam now as well. I’d always rather wanted to play it but for some weird reason you apparently needed the non-Source version of Half-Life 1.

    In any case, I’ll certainly be checking out MINERVA. I confess I hadn’t heard of it previously, but I’ve never really looked at the HL2 mod scene in any real detail — partly because I first played the Episodes (and Portal) on the X360 version of The Orange Box, as my PC at the time wasn’t up to the task.

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    phuzz says:

    Now I’m going to have to play through this new release and check if there’s any differences between this, and the previously released version, such as radios that play SSTV files in certain parts of the level to pick a not-so-random example.

  12. Film11 says:

    Excellent mod, I was really happy to work with Tom Edwards (who is also a stellar character in the Source modding community incidentally) to test the patch a year or so back to get the new version up and working. I considered it a crime that people hadn’t been able to play it the last few years, so all the better that it’s going up on Steam.

  13. beatdarwin says:

    Cargo Cult: I’ll bet site hits are way up over on hylobatidae.org today! So excited about this news! A hearty thank you to you and your Valvean colleagues for their help in bringing this Director’s Cut about. This will increase the legend of MINERVA one thousandfold or more.

    • beatdarwin says:

      I’m surprised and disappointed that @steam_games didn’t post a tweet about this, or tie it in with a promotional sale on HL2 Ep 1. Opportunity lost. I’ll try not to read too much into it. :-(

  14. Kodaemon says:

    As usual, Steam hates me (the feeling is mutual). Trying to install Minerva, Steam just hangs for a bit then pretends nothing happened.

    • DickSocrates says:

      It’s more likely to be Steam hates Windows, because no matter what you do, Windows goes mad all by itself. I’ve had to reinstall Windows 7 twice already and must do it again soon because certain things just don’t work any more. And it is categorically not my fault, I don’t even bother to tinker under the hood any more and yet it’s spontaneously broken itself simply through normal use.

    • D-e-f- says:

      I’m having the exact same problem. I had MINERVA installed via Desura before but I uninstalled that, restarted steam then tried clicking the “PLAY GAME” button on the Minerva page again but still the same result. I even tried it from the steam website. Nothing. Doesn’t show up in my library, doesn’t react, nothing. It also has that yellow “you need Episode 1” banner at the top (I own the Orange Box) but I think that’s there anyway, right?

  15. The Random One says:

    Don’t worry if realizing your old age makes you angry, Alec. I Minerva’d by that as well.

  16. LTK says:

    Hold on, does the original Steam page for the mod from 2005 also hold the updated version, or is it listed separately?