The Annotated Dig Strategy Guide
by ATMachine of LucasForums
I wrote this in order to put down exactly what is in the Dig Strategy Guide, so that rumors and other whisperings about what it may or may not contain can be laid to rest. I'd be flattered if this goes up on dig.mixnmojo.com when it can. If I have the time, I might even end up scanning in some of the pictures from the guide later on.
The most interesting section of the guide comes at the back. For those (like me) who salivate when they hear mentions of the early builds of The Dig, there is some very interesting information there. I have combined that with things I have learned elsewhere to make more of a complete guide to all three versions of The Dig known to have existed. I hope you Dig buffs find it as fascinating as I do.
1. Launching the Dig
Straightforward advice on how best to proceed with the game, as well as a chapter-by-chapter list of what's in the guide.
Boring. Let's move on.
2. Crew Roster
At the start of this chapter is a picture of the official logo of the Shuttle Mission to Attila, with all five crewmembers' names, as well as an eagle grasping an asteroid in its talons, surrounded by Earth and five stars.
In the introductory notes of the chapter, we learn that Brink and Maggie were sprung on Low just before the press conference in the intro, and that Low (as can be deduced from the game) respected Brink more than he did Robbins.
Each crewmember has a biography and a piece of concept art showing him or her in uniform.
What follows is a bulleted summary of the characters' biographies.
--Veteran commander, brought the shuttle Endeavor down on manual flight when the auto-guidance system failed
--Became an instant celebrity, but shunned media attention
--Loves to fish; was doing this when Cora Miles coaxed him into heading the Attila mission
--Competent, a loner, doesn't mingle much with civilians
--Rarely makes jokes, except under pressure
Dr. Ludger Brink:
-- Archeologist as well as a geologist, works in the field of "space geology," has been a science advisor in space before, made a spectrograph analysis of Attila
--European-educated, popular party guest, excited about going to Attila
--An extremely skilled skier
--Did badly in public school, learned to distrust authority (which she still does)
--Rich parents enrolled her in a private school
--Attended Columbia University, major was journalism, minor was ancient languages
--Took one of Brink's archeology classes
--Terrorists once took over her Los Angeles news show; she gave the leader's trust and granted him an interview explaining his demands. When the police arrived three hours later, he surrendered peacefully, saying that her thorough questioning had alerted the world to his cause
--Later worked for CNN; first woman to broadcast from a combat zone
--Her relatives live in rural upstate New York; a large family, several brothers, many nieces and nephews
--Suspects a cover-up of something in the Attila mission
--Grew up on the poor side of Chicago, avoided fights by being big for his age
--After college, entered Air Force and astronaut corps
--Self-effacing sense of humor, often makes jokes (except when under pressure - then he's serious), loves NASA's
parties for its astronauts
--Nervous about the Attila mission; if it fails, the asteroid could take out a large city and the surrounding area, or create a gigantic tsunami
--Had five older brothers, all of whom were amateur mechanics
--First words: "Monkey wrench"
--Her father died when she was a baby
--Her mom worked often; she was raised by her brothers and played in a '57 Chevrolet on blocks
--Sent to college by her brothers' salaries
--Majored in engineering, went to the Air Force Academy and the astronaut corps
--Promoted legislation for minority job-training and scholarships; respected by politicians and the public
--Campaigned for Congress before Attila came up
Alan Dean Foster, the author of the novel, seems to have known a couple of these points, as Low is in retirement after the Endeavor mission at the beginning of the book. However, in his story, it is a NASA tech who tracks Low down, not Cora. (Just a note: I haven't read the novel in a long time, so go easy on me if I get some points wrong from it.) Other things are probably different as well.
3. A Brief History of Cocytus
What follows is a summary of what the guide says, condensed and in less detail.
Cocytans mastered faster-than-light travel 3,000 years ago. They sent out multiple probes, disguised as asteroids, to attract fellow spacefaring species to their planet. They could "sense" physical forces like gravity and inertia, "knew" what would and would not work in regard to those forces, and could use their mental powers to affect certain material things. They thus experimented scientifically more in the manner of creating art - by trying to find the expression of a hypothesis that felt best or looked right to their senses.
Cocytans revered the number five, due to the fact that the planet's only mountain was the one seen in the game. They brought samples of all species to live on the mountain, as it was a sacred place. Some roamed freely, others were held in check by forcefields (until those all failed while the Cocytans were trapped in Spacetime Six and they migrated to the top of the mountain). Their respect for animal life was due to their perception of the animals as being a part of and a variable in the forces of nature. Time was thought of as a measurement of the stability of physical forms; humans' time index would be .003 to a redwood's 10.
The Cocytans began to ponder the problem of immortality when they realized that it might take millennia for their probes to return. They sought to extend their lives to be able to meet extraterrestrials when the day came. So the life crystals were invented: they were specially grown, and were "tweaked" by the Cocytans' mental powers. The Cocytans only knew that the crystal restarted the body - they hypothesized that sprits retained a certain affinity for their bodies, and these spirits would return when their bodies were restored. The longer the spirit had been away, the less affinity it had, and it would spend less time in the body before re-dying.
In the first few days, hundreds were resurrected. However, the obsession with getting and having more and more crystals was expressed in each and every reanimated being. Even those who had once been venerated by their fellow Cocytans now were thieves and murderers. All of those who were returned to life had to be put to death, and their families, who had had their high hopes dashed, grieved en masse. The crystals were not completely destroyed, as they were found to be good sources of power for other devices to achieve immortality. Some were hidden and lost, but most were gathered up and locked in the museum spire, with only top scientists allowed access.
One of the most brilliant Cocytans of the age was the Great Inventor. He had uncanny perception and ability to work with natural forces. He confirmed the ancient Cocytan belief in a dimension where spirits of Cocytans resided and advised the living via ghostly visits. It was he who built the machine, powered by life crystals, which would open "the Eye," a gate to that dimension.
When he activated the machine, feedback from opening an interdimensional gate was sent through the controls, overwhelming him. He died within minutes of turning it on. His funeral was attended by thousands, and he was interred in a pyramid in a spire on the Sacred Mountain. In the belief that when the extraterrestrials came, the Cocytans could safely observe them and then return to the physical world, the planet's whole population entered the Eye.
The path between dimensions overwhelmed the Cocytan senses, and they could not find the way back to the physical realm. They had nothing to keep them occupied doing, and they existed as only bodiless intelligences devoid of physical sensation. Their only means of affecting the world they had left was by manifesting in a ghostly form of little power. They saw many alien races come to Cocytus and fail to stay alive, let alone release the trapped souls. A solar flare melted the polar ice caps and flooded the entire planet, save the mountain with five spires. After what seemed an eternity, the expedition from Earth arrived . . .
Some of the things in here sound rather unbelievable. The description of the Cocytans' senses and mental powers is not explained quite well enough to be credible to the skeptical reader. However, the account does show how all of those animals arrived, how the life crystals work, and how they came to be scattered around. The account differs in a few places from the book. There, other continents beyond the spires are alluded to by a Cocytan Low meets; here there are only the spires left above water. Also, the Inventor here is killed by his machine (as is Maggie), unlike in the novel, where he takes his own life due to his failure to stop his people from going into the Eye (if I recall correctly).
4. Mission Log: Game Walkthrough
A step-by-step walkthrough of the game, told in first person from Low's perspective. Occasionally there are interrupts in the narrative; for example, side notes giving more details about the situation the crew is currently facing, a checklist of events for the player to use, or a close-up guide on how to solve some of the more complex and difficult puzzles. There are also a few scattered black-and-white pieces of concept art/background paintings, which are neat, but not very interesting.
4a. Art of The Dig
This section is rather cool. There is a short summary of the basic plot accompanied by pictures from various points in the game. There are also some color concept art pieces depicting some interesting stuff:
--A seagull flying over the ocean, with a spire in the background
--A 3-D rendering of the valley where the crew lands on Cocytus.
--A painting of the pool where the eel and turtle reside
--A painting of the room where Brink loses his hand (same as on LucasArts' 20th Anniversary site)
--A painting of the astronauts carrying the Flying Pig to Attila
--A painting of the shuttle in space next to Attila and the Moon
--An early concept painting of "a paranoid Brink hiding from his fellow crew members"
--An early concept painting of the crew making archeological excavations near a Cocytan sea (with many spires and
two crescent moons)
Personally, I'm inclined to suspect that the last two pieces depict some things from one of the first two versions of The Dig. The action taking place looks nothing like anything in the final Dig game. The size of the paintings in the book is rather small, though, so this list makes them seem rather more important and breathtaking than they are.
5. Maps of The Dig's World
This is really rather self-explanatory; there's no need for me to summarize this.
6. List of Inventory Objects
Interesting only as a collection of data. You learn nothing here that you won't find out by playing the actual game.
7. Hint Section
This is the hint section for those who only want selected solutions to puzzles. No longer does LucasArts use the dreaded red-gelatin decoders; the really helpful hints are merely printed upside-down. Like the Walkthrough section above, there are some scattered pieces of concept art; the most interesting one depicts the five spires and bowl in the center, but there is absolutely no water!
8. Cocytan Bestiary
This section features the concept art done for many of the creatures in the game, with remarks from Low about his feelings on each one. Many of them are ugly-looking; some are cute; all are shown in more detail than you see in the game. The descriptions, however, tell us more about Low's opinion of them than scientific "facts" about their habits and preferences.
A few of the creatures stand out more than the others, though:
--A Cocytan ancestor with fully functional wings. It had claws on its front feet, and what should have been back feet were melded together into some weird appendage at the rear. Its nostrils were at the top of its head; it had a large, animal-like jaw with huge canine teeth; and it had human-esque eyes on either side of the head, set below the jawline.
--A Flying Eel! Even scarier than the one in the game.
--The Seagulls, on closer inspection, are evil in appearance and have their legs fused together.
--The Turtle sketch doesn't have six legs, but four legs, with two small flippers on each side between the legs.
My theory is that these odd sketches were not originally designed to show the evolution of Cocytan fauna; rather, they were concepts of creatures as they appeared in the early versions of the game, before being modified to fit the new puzzles and storyline. When the guide was put together, the drawings, rather than being filed away and forgotten, were added in to the mix of wildlife from the final game already in this section, and re-labeled as now-extinct creatures.
9. The Making of The Dig
Now the good stuff! Speculation abounds.
We begin with a general outline of the overall process of making a LucasArts game at the time of The Dig's release. It's very generic, though, with no mention of anything like "project leader quits and a new one is brought on," or "entire story is rewritten because the new leader hates the old ideas," or "all old art is thrown out to give a fresh start to the project," which did happen in this case.
One interesting quote: "After The Dig pizza orgy, for example, the interface and the beginning space puzzle were considerably simplified (the player originally had to place the Pig on the asteroid, come back to the shuttle to get the explosive devices, and call to the ship from the asteroid to get targeting sites for the devices)."
Remember this quote. I'll bring it up again later.
Now, the credits are given. Yay! One interesting point here: the Great Inventor is here called "the Creator," as he is in the novel.
Next are biographies of various people. They're not really interesting, except for certain excerpts, which I reprint here.
Sean Clark started as the leader of the third design team by "writing an almost completely new story, creating different characters, and changing the game engine to SCUMM, LucasArts' standard scripting utility." If it wasn't Scumm, what was it before? Old press clippings I've seen tell us that the old engine was something called StoryDroid. About the only thing we know of it is the name, though.
"The previous two versions of the game didn't have all that much to do with asteroids. In one version, a grizzled old space prospector in search of a legendary treasure recruited two ordinary earthlings. In the other, two alien races were waging interstellar war; the player's goal was to acquire and stockpile consumable resources. Both versions, however, were repeatedly postponed when other projects took priority."
I'm not quite sure whether this is the gospel truth or LucasArts getting confused on what the previous Digs were like. From a recent Bill Tiller interview, we know that he worked on the second version of The Dig, and he never mentioned anything about an interstellar war, the acquisition of resources, or legendary treasures and space prospectors. The second version (which he should know) had different puzzles and a somewhat altered storyline, but nothing else I've heard points to it being anything but a traditional adventure. We know that the idea of saving the Earth via a shuttle mission was still present in version 2, and that there were four characters: Boston, Brink, Judith (later renamed Maggie), and Toshi Olema, a Japanese businessman who financed the journey. These small details tell us that Dig 2 was probably not the "acquiring of resources" game that the Guide suggests.
But what about Dig 1? Bill Tiller knows less about this, but he does tell us that in-company rumor had it that there were some RPG-style elements, such as feeding your character. However, this would mean that Dig 2 had only two (possibly three) human protagonists, while BT clearly asserts that there were four. Clearly, some information has gotten mixed up somewhere in LucasArts, or Bill Tiller is either misremembering or not remembering enough. I'll leave it to the readers to decide for themselves, but I side with Bill. Jo Ashburn (the Guide's author) has made mistakes at other times in his writing (the "deadly snow cone, in combination with a keg of black powder, that brought a mountain of ice down on LeChuck" in the EMI Guide retelling of previous games comes to mind) so I trust him less than I do an employee who had his ear to the ground when the important stuff was happening.
Phew. That was a lot of typing. OK, let's move on.
Jonathan Ackley recalls that "he and fellow programmers Livia Mackin and Gary Brubaker had one week left to prepare an early version of the game for presentation to Steven Spielberg. Gary came in and announced, 'I've talked to Sean [Clark], and we've got to rewrite the interface.' This meant, in essence, that they had to rewrite the entire third version of the game, which at that point had taken more than two months to produce. They coped."
I have long suspected that the screenshots of an early Dig build on dig.mixnmojo.com are of version 3. I base this idea on the fact that only three characters are seen in spacesuits and on Cocytus. Also, the screenshots' sender has told us that in that version, the player had to manually scan for the asteroid coordinates, similar to what was described above; that piece of info probably came from early builds of version 3, which is what the Guide seems to center on. However, the inclusion of odd inventory items, such as a tourniquet, in screenshots of that build, suggests that that may not be the case. In any event, those shots look like classic Scumm, especially the font (and not some "StoryDroid" thing), so I do think it is Version 3, before getting its makeover to the final interface. You can decide for yourselves, however. Flip a 3-sided coin.
Livia Mackin makes mention of "the old version without the 3D sequences," as well as (presumably) a new version that could only run on Pentiums.
"According to Charlie [Ramos], the animation in The Dig is about as realistic as 2D art can get, with a little cartoony stylization. Charlie cites Geri Bertolo, one of the Canadian crew, as a major influence on his own work and the overall look of the game. Because of Geri's interest in Japanese animation, the cut scenes have a decidedly anime look. This kind of creative cross-breeding, according to Charlie, is a major part of what makes an artistic team work."
This is interesting. This explains why old pictures appear to be done in a more "photorealistic" style (check out Low's hand on the PenUltimate or on the close-up of the stone tablet, still in the game from Dig 2) and why the early video segments, from what we've seen, resemble those in Dark Forces. The final game has fewer close-ups of objects and less action that takes place on the game backgrounds, as the new art team preferred to put important sequences in animated movies.
The final part of the guide is "Where's Vader?" This lists some of the wacky shapes of objects relating to LucasArts, Lucasfilm, and Steven Spielberg that are hidden in the light bridge control panels. I'll leave it to you to find them on your own.
Just for fun, here are some tidbits about the earlier versions of The Dig:
--In Dig 1, Noah Falstein was project leader. In this game, the aliens had four arms, and so you needed your
companions' help to operate alien machinery. You may also have needed to feed your character every so often.
--Dig 2 was led by Brian ("Loom") Moriarty; Bill Tiller was an animator on this version, but the Lead Artist and Lead Animator left the project, so Bill filled in as Lead Artist
--One puzzle in Dig 2 required you to cut out the lens of the eye of an eel. This eye could shoot green beams of light that would stun space bats which were blocking the path to a location. You had to blow up the eel, cut out the lens of his eye (spattering blood on the screen), put the lens on your flashlight, and shine the light at the bats. Another puzzle required you to cut off Brink's hand, but this time to save him from drowning
--Dig 1 had a jungle-like setting, but Dig 2 was similar in style to Dig 3, with odd rock formations and no foliage
--Toshi Olema, in Dig 2, was a Japanese businessman who financed the shuttle mission because NASA had little funding. As the mission was critical to saving the Earth from destruction, both Sean Clark and Bill Tiller thought this was absurd, and Sean tossed Toshi out. "Olema" is not a Japanese name, and Moriarty said he had a story behind the name, but we don't know what it was.
--Judith was renamed Maggie after a character on the show Northern Exposure
--Toshi was originally painted on the box, but was re-painted out, except for his foot, which remains as a rock.
The four-astronaut image is still somewhere, though, either on the soundtrack CD or the novel audio book.
The Dig at Mixnmojo.com
Anything here is cool. A must for fans of The Dig. In particular, the sections on the early versions of The Dig.
The Inventory at JustAdventure+.com
The March 2003 and April 2003 issues of The Inventory magazine are amazing reads for Dig enthusiasts. The Bill Tiller interview in particular is spectacular.
Bill Tiller's Web Site
Bill Tiller showcases some interesting early Dig art on his personal site, presumably from version 2. I particularly like the "PenUltimate by Olema."
Fans of Dig.mixnmojo.com, listen up!
Look for anybody who might be able to re-submit the scan of the French publication Tilt Magazine (July 1993 issue), that showcases The Dig, to the site. Johann Walter (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
) did it once, but we need to re-obtain it, as the image has been lost in a server move. That's all for now.