October 2nd, 2007
Part 3 of Minerva: Metastasis, the last part in greatest mod ever, has just been released. If you don’t own Half-Life 2, buy it purely to play this mod. If you have Half-Life 2, then you should be playing it, because it’s free. The best part is that this update brings two new chapters to the game, rather than the usual single. The culmination of two and a half years of work is complete and it shows.
What makes Metastasis so special is it’s level design. Anybody who’s played more than one first person shooter should notice that the level design is unique, but it’s really one of the best achievements in level design everybody won’t notice. In video games, everything is there for a purpose. You see a switch? At some point you will probably flip it. A locked door? It’s there for you to unlock. Game designers think about ways to slow you down in getting from point A to point B, and the environment reflects that. Why would they put in something that has no purpose?
This is not to say Metastasis is devoid of these things, it’s just better about it. The levels are designed before enemies are placed, putting you in a real building, rather than some levels connected together. You can see other parts of the level when you look down through glass floors. It may seem like a meaningless difference, but when games are trying to pull you in more and more it’s surprising how well Adam Foster does it with such subtle changes. Valve did it with Half-Life 2 by having interesting characters, storylines and spiffy things like battles off in the distance that you don’t fight. Foster does it with a slightly different look at level design and intermittent messages from the player’s anonymous master – Minerva. I’d argue that, from a level design perspective, Foster does as good a job as Valve if not better.
As Foster’s interesting manner of blogging will show you he’s a little… different. He’s genuinely intelligent and strange guy and this is reflected in his work. His numerous semi-fanatical “acolytes” imitate him too. It’s also worth mentioning that he made a mod for the original Half-Life called Someplace Else, which is also very interesting and features the eponymous Minerva as well.