Story and Interface in Brian Moriarty's Version of The DIG

Below are some "facsimile screenshots": pictures which I have created myself, to show off how the minimized version of the interface in Brian Moriarty's 1993 version of The DIG, and the early alpha build of Sean Clark's subsequent version, worked.

They are not actual screenshots. However, I've tried not to contradict anything which I know happened in these designs for the game.

I will freely admit one major error right from the start: I've failed to apply the translucency effect which the real in-game minimized inventory boxes would have featured. This is mainly because I couldn't hope to replicate it with perfect certainty, and, in this instance at least, I decided to leave well enough alone.

The interface in all three versions of The DIG worked very much like the one in Sam and Max Hit the Road. It used several verb icons, located in the inventory, which functioned as cursors when clicked on.

The major differences from that game's GUI include the use of a plain black-and-white cursor as the default Walk to cursor, and the more typically LucasArts-like position of the inventory slots at the bottom of the screen.

Because the walk boxes in certain screens dipped below the ordinary bounds of the interface, both Sean Clark's early DIG and Brian Moriarty's two versions (floppy disk and CD-ROM) allowed the player to minimize the overall GUI into a small box. This looked essentially like the one in the bottom left corner of the screen in The Dig as released in 1995.

In Brian Moriarty's version, the Talk to action was performed simply by double-clicking on characters with the regular white cursor, in a foreshadowing of the later "one-click-does-it-all" interface. However, Sean Clark's version introduced a separate Talk to icon--which had its own palette, separate from the icons retained from Moriarty's DIG. This was a tip of the hat of sorts to the game's previous project leader.

---

Brian Moriarty's The DIG, Floppy Disk and Talkie CD Versions


Image from the CD version of Brian Moriarty's The DIG, as seen in LucasArts' Adventurer magazine #7 (Winter 1994).

In the CD version of the Moriarty DIG, the four interface icons to the left of the inventory were kept on screen at all times, a feature which was quite deliberately left out of the floppy disk release.

The blue icons seen in the inventory here are exhausted dialogue options.


An image from the floppy disk version of Moriarty's The DIG, as seen in LucasArts' Adventurer #7.

By this point, however (according to the article text), production on a floppy disk release of The DIG had been abandoned.


Another screenshot from the disk version of Moriarty's DIG, as seen in the French computer games magazine Joystick #40 (July/August 1993).

In the floppy disk release, as can be seen here, the interface icons could scroll off the screen once the player acquired enough inventory items.


A screenshot of the normal extent of the interface at the bottom of the screen in the floppy disk version of Brian Moriarty's The DIG.


In Brian Moriarty's The DIG, both floppy disk and CD versions, the Walk to cursor was a simple white pointer with a black shadow beneath, and it did not have any text on the Sentence Line to explain what it did.

No doubt the assumption was that most players would figure it out almost immediately.


Floppy disk and CD: In Brian Moriarty's The DIG, as in the final game, on-screen entrances and exits were denoted only by their proper names on the game's Sentence Line.

The floppy disk and CD versions used two different fonts for the Sentence Line. Both had white text, but while the floppy version used black shading generated beneath the white letters, the CD version placed a black outline around the white text instead.

Interestingly, this is exactly the same difference that appears in the respective fonts of the EGA floppy disk and PC talkie versions of LOOM (for the latter of which, it is usually stated, Moriarty did not write the dialogue).

Notably, the font in the CD version of Moriarty's DIG looks rather more like the fonts in a typical LucasArts game than the one in the floppy release.


Floppy disk and CD: In Brian Moriarty's The DIG, the player could obtain not one, but three, tusks from the alien grave site near the astronauts' starting location on Cocytus.

This was because, unlike in Sean Clark's later released version, where the player found all the bones for the bone puzzle in one place, in Moriarty's DIG the player had to collect them from various sites around the alien planet. However, to judge from surviving screenshots, in Moriarty's version the completed animal skeleton was much easier to reassemble, once the player found all the necessary bones.

In the disk version of Moriarty's DIG, the interface icons glowed gold when the player hovered them over usable objects.

This ability was removed in the CD version--the very same point at which the barrier in the larger interface was erected, which let players scroll through inventory icons while keeping their interface verbs handily on screen.

Moriarty probably wanted to make a subtle point through the very interface of the two versions of his game. As the noted scientist, mathematician, and alchemist Isaac Newton put it, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."


A similar meta-textual joke also shows up in Brian Moriarty's earlier graphic adventure, LucasArts' fantasy game LOOM (1990).

If the player uses a Roland MT-32 sound card (the best on the market in 1990), then an additional, otherwise hidden music track plays at the beginning of the game: the Overture.


Floppy disk and CD: In Moriarty's The DIG, talking to characters was accomplished simply by clicking on them with the ordinary Walk to pointer.


Floppy disk and CD: Boston Low tries facetiously to Move Robbins.


Floppy disk and CD: Boston examines a trio of cute baby birds, who will very soon become eel food.


Floppy disk and CD: Boston Low prepares to cross the chasm separating him from the Cocytan planetarium.

In Moriarty's DIG, all the interface and inventory icons featured a black shadow beneath them. Again, this was likely meant to use the game interface itself to convey symbolism: namely the fact that the shadow of death hangs over every living thing on the planet Cocytus.


Floppy disk and CD: Boston Low uses his trowel/shovel.

In Brian Moriarty's version, the Flying Pig tool chest, which originally made the journey to Cocytus along with the four astronauts, carried both a small trowel and a larger shovel.


Floppy disk and CD: In the underwater cave, Boston Low finds one of the metal plates which help to unlock the secrets of the Eye machine.

In the CD version of Brian Moriarty's The DIG, unlike the interface icons, the inventory icons did light up when brought into contact with a usable object on screen.

---

Sean Clark's The DIG, Alpha Version


A screenshot of the normal extent of the interface at the bottom of the screen in Sean Clark's The DIG.


Sean Clark's early version of The DIG explicitly defined the purpose of the Walk to cursor on screen. That cursor now took on LucasArts' standard cross-pointer shape, instead of the arrow pointer favored by Moriarty, as seen in his earlier game LOOM.

Clark's DIG also used a traditional LucasArts font for its Sentence Line, and its text was gray in color instead of white.

In The Dig as released, although the same font was used, for some reason the letters were spaced farther apart, so that their shadows did not touch.


In Sean Clark's version of The DIG, the shadows beneath the interface icons and inventory items were eliminated.

Moriarty had put those shadows there for reasons of profound symbolism. It appears that Clark did not care overmuch for such subtleties.


Low stands in the alien graveyard on the surface of Cocytus. In Sean Clark's DIG only one of the three alien tusks could be picked up.

Note that in this version, the glow surrounding the interface icons and inventory items, used to denote successful interaction with a background object, was red.

In Clark's alpha design, as in Brian Moriarty's CD version of The DIG, the verb icons scrolled along with the inventory. When a player was carrying many items, he or she would have had to scroll back and forth between the icons and items repeatedly while solving puzzles. This is visible in an article from a 1993 French games magazine.


Low talks to Brink, using the new Talk to icon, as the two prepare to rescue Maggie Robbins from a monster.


At the crossroads below the museum, Low tries to Move Maggie.


With the Use icon selected, Boston Low stands on one side of the cliff which spans the path to the planetarium.

In the finished game, Clark and his team added a boulder which Low could push over, thus saving players the inconvenience of having to jump over the chasm repeatedly.


In this screenshot, the player has selected the shovel. Clark's initial design added descriptive text to the Sentence Line when an inventory item is selected, helping the player to remember what they were hoping to accomplish in the first place.

Here, although the inventory icon is the shovel from Brian Moriarty's version of The DIG, the Sentence Line refers to it as a trowel, like the other digging tool in Moriarty's version. (This error of nomenclature is also found in the 1995 demo of Sean Clark's finished product.)


Here the player tries to use the shovel with an item in the foreground of the screen.

---

Additional Miscellany from Brian Moriarty's The DIG

In Brian Moriarty’s The DIG, starting with the player's second time through the game, just before the four astronauts entered the asteroid Attila, the player would be asked if he wanted to replace either Ludger Brink or Toshi Olema with the shuttle's engineer, Cora Miles.

Doing so impacted which of the astronauts would die first later on, by falling into an acid pool on Cocytus.

During the first playthrough, Toshi Olema would die by plunging into the acid, while attempting to cross the thin crust above it.

But subsequently, if the player replaced Toshi Olema with Cora Miles, Ludger Brink would be the one to die while trying to cross the acid pool.

Conversely, if the player opted to have Cora replace Brink, Cora herself would perish in this fashion instead.

Whichever character was killed by the acid would be the one who went insane after their resurrection with the green life crystals later in the game.

The inscriptions in the Cocytan museum in Moriarty's DIG would suggest, intentionally falsely, that the green crystals did all that was necessary to resurrect the dead. Thus Boston Low would act on this deceptive advice.


Screenshot of the green life crystals from Sean Clark's version of The Dig, released in 1995.


Screenshot of a red "release crystal" from the Moriarty DIG. Three of these were needed to correct the insanity-inducing effects of a green life crystal.


This bat cave in the map spire is harmless to the characters in the finished release of The Dig.


But in Brian Moriarty's version, this was where some terrifying bats dropped Judy Robbins to her death.


Screen capture from Anson Jew's LEC animation reel, showing Judy Robbins plunging to her demise in the sea below.

Judging by the screenshot published in Joystick #40, seen at the top of this page, Ludger Brink (or his equivalent in repeat playthroughs) was also mortally wounded during a failed attempt by him and Low to save Judy from the murderous Cocytan bats.

(This was the inspiration for the puzzle in the 1995 release, where Low and Brink have to team up to rescue Maggie from a giant spider, and succeed in doing so.)

Whichever character died first, via the acid pool, would be the one who experienced insanity brought on by the green life crystals. Low would have refused to use the red crystals at first, even when prompted by the player, because the museum displays would have showed them being used to kill, not to heal.

However, confronted by the deaths of the remaining two astronauts, Low would be forced to try the red crystals on one of his two deceased comrades.

Through trial and error, Low and the player would realize that both sets of crystals had to be used to ensure a successful resurrection. Thus, in Moriarty's version, the villain could have been anybody: man or woman, black or white or Japanese, depending on the player's own choices earlier on. Likewise, the player's two allies changed as a result of these same variables.

This makes the green life crystals in Moriarty's DIG into a powerful metaphor for prejudice. The moral is this: anyone who wants everything in life to be uniform, no matter their race, gender, or creed, is a villain. A certain amount of Chaos is necessary, even desirable, in life.

Come to think of it, the red glow which surrounded the green interface icons in Sean Clark's The DIG, to indicate a successful possible interaction with on-screen objects, was itself probably a metaphor for the shadow of the past...

...i.e., it was an allusion to Brian Moriarty's previous version of the game, which featured both red and green varieties of life crystals.

Which means the blue glow used to highlight inventory items in the 1995 release of The Dig might be yet another metaphor... for sadness. In this case it refers to the "blue feeling" of being alone (and unaccompanied by other editions of the game!).


Of course, during the initial playthrough, where the members of the astronaut crew were fixed, Toshi Olema (the only person of color on the team) was unalterably the game's villain. The player couldn't change this until his or her second time through the game.

Thus, those players who only played through the game once, and were disgusted enough by its apparent racism to avoid replaying it, would miss Moriarty's larger point entirely.


As further evidence for my above statements, here's a WIP screenshot from later in Moriarty's DIG, when Low and Robbins unlock the door to the cathedral spire, the fifth and last of the five islands in the game.

The door to the Cocytan Inventor's laboratory hides a booby trap, and Judy is killed setting it off. It's evidently not the first time she's died, judging from the above screenshots. But unlike in the released Dig from 1995, she doesn't kill herself immediately after being resurrected, because Low managed to bring back her mind intact from death, not only her body.


As this WIP screenshot (from Joystick magazine #40, July/August 1993) attests, the only two astronauts whose places were absolutely fixed in Moriarty's The DIG were Boston Low himself, and Judy Robbins, the reporter.


These two images show the fully extended version of the inventory, which appeared at the bottom of the screen, in Brian Moriarty's The DIG.

The first picture is an actual WIP drawing from LucasArts' files; the second is a reconstruction made by me, showing the icons' proper placement on the screen.

In the second image, the blue background represents the on-screen world, and the purple color shows where a translucency effect would have been added behind the inventory icons. The green upper highlights, above the icon slots, show where the translucency would have been brightened up to create a framing effect.

The four interface icons would have been present in four of these item slots.

In Brian Moriarty's The DIG, Boston Low would have been able to physically carry only sixteen inventory items at once. The rest would have been stored in the Flying Pig tool chest, back in the central canyon. When the player tried to use an item which Low didn't currently have on hand, Low would have automatically returned to the canyon to retrieve it.

This was essential to Moriarty's realistic notion of an "idea inventory," as described by LucasArts animator Bill Tiller.

The player could only access all of his or her inventory items--both those physically carried by Low and those left in the Flying Pig--via the standard inventory layout.

But the standard inventory in the floppy disk version had the additional inconvenience of letting the green interface icons scroll offscreen whenever the player's "idea inventory" got full. The CD version corrected this, but it also removed the helpful golden glow which surrounded those interface icons when they hovered over a usable object on screen.

Evidently Brian Moriarty was trying to make the game interface itself teach a moral lesson: Whatever changes one makes to the world create both improvements and setbacks.

Thus, with each alteration to the game interface, the players themselves gain something in convenience, but something else is lost in return.

As Isaac Newton would have said: "What goes up must come down."

Notably, to judge from the collapsible inventory as seen in Sean Clark's alpha version of The DIG, this conceit was retained there as well, up until the point when the entire game interface was overhauled and radically simplified.


In the final version of The DIG, Boston Low can comfortably carry up to 40 items at once, so the player never runs out of inventory space. Maybe he developed deeper pockets when his character sprite was redrawn at a larger size.


This screenshot reveals that, despite his touchiness as a professional archaeologist, Ludger Brink was much more of a practical joker in Brian Moriarty's The DIG.

Here, having just removed the helmet of his spacesuit, Brink is pretending to choke on the atmosphere of the alien planet. In reality, it's perfectly breathable.

In Sean Clark's The Dig, Boston Low mentions that the astronauts' suits can automatically determine whether the air is safe to breathe. In Moriarty's version, it seems, the more retro-styled spacesuits (which come almost straight from 1950s SF movies) lacked that capability.

Additionally, note the four spacesuit colors: blue, red, green, and yellow. Low's suit is blue, Robbins' is red, and Brink's is green.


This screenshot from LucasArts' Adventurer #7 indicates how the astronauts' varying spacesuit colors in Moriarty's Dig served as a visible marker of identity. Here the four colors are blue, red, yellow, and black.

If, as I've long believed, Brian Moriarty took inspiration from the 1960 East German SF film The Silent Star, then the yellow spacesuit likely belongs to the African-American astronaut, Cora Miles, and Toshi Olema's spacesuit is the one black in color.


This WIP screenshot from Moriarty's The DIG reveals where the entrance to the acid room was. It was actually hidden within the interior of the wrecked spaceship in the central canyon.

The acid room was the key to obtaining a long pole which allowed Low and his companions to climb up out of the central canyon, as they could not in the 1995 version of The DIG.

In the game as released in 1995, the entrance to that room is still there, hidden in plain sight. However, Low and his crewmates (and, by extension, the player) fail to recognize this as an exit--they're too busy being distracted by the light show put on by a Cocytan ghost.

In Sean Clark's The DIG, all the ghosts were blue, just like the logo color on the box art of the game as released in 1995. But in Brian Moriarty's version, the ghosts were orange-gold in color... and the logo on Moriarty's box art was evidently gold as well.

Notably, Alan Dean Foster's novelization concurs with Moriarty's earlier design in describing the ghosts as orange.

---

Jokes about Brian Moriarty's The DIG in Sean Clark's The DIG

There are quite a lot of these, actually... so many that it's surprising, given the oft-repeated story of Brian Moriarty leaving LucasArts in disgrace.


A subtle reference to the player's ability to take Ken Borden and Cora Miles to Cocytus in the Moriarty DIG remains in the introduction of Sean Clark's published game.

If you look closely, Ken and Cora are wearing costumes derived from the character sprites in the earlier Moriarty version.


Images of the room housing the fourth metal plate which unlocks the cathedral spire, as seen in both the early alpha build and the final product of Sean Clark's The DIG. Note that, in the final release, the artists changed the position of the room's lone exit, seemingly arbitrarily.


The joke is that this room housed the four-dimensional Klein bottle in Brian Moriarty's version of the game... and, of course, a Klein bottle has two exits, each leading to a different three-dimensional space.


Type S-W-A-N in the tram control room (as in Swan Lake, the source of the soundtrack for LOOM) and you get this animation, where Low watches another version of himself swim by outside.

The animation of Low swimming used here is actually an early version of the finished animation which is used when Low enters the underwater cave in the museum spire.


Look closely at the bottom right corner of the underwater tunnel background, and you'll see the body of the dead eel which Low killed earlier.


But the eel was blown to bits in Sean Clark's DIG... the body seen here is actually from the Brian Moriarty version, where Low electrocuted the eel instead!

Amusingly, in the above screenshot, Judy Robbins is standing on the very spot where Low resurrects the Cocytan turtle in Sean Clark's Dig.


In the 1995 release, in order to explode the eel, Low has to booby-trap the turtle by inserting an explosive device into its body before resurrecting it.

This deadly device has three prongs and is colored red: an allusion to the red "release crystals" in Brian Moriarty's The DIG, which were fatal when administered in groups of three, but which also ensured a successful resurrection when combined with a green life crystal.


Solving the planetarium puzzle in The Dig gives the player a visual reference to a famous scene in Stanley Kubrick's landmark 1968 SF film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke's accompanying novel was a big inspiration for Brian Moriarty's storyline.

In both Kubrick's film and Clarke's novel, the titular Odyssey expedition consists of five crewmembers. However, one of the crewmen's names differs in the book and film versions--which were both written by Arthur C. Clarke at the same time, in collaboration with Kubrick.

This anomaly was explained in Clarke's 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, where he notes that in earlier drafts of the novel, the Odyssey crew actually had six members.

Brian Moriarty was a big Arthur C. Clarke fan. His storyline for The DIG referenced not only Clarke's 2001 novel, but also Clarke's other seminal SF work, the 1973 novel Rendezvous with Rama. Clarke's titular Rama is an alien spacecraft which, in the near future of the book's setting, enters Earth's Solar System unexpectedly, and is explored by a team of astronauts.


The visual effect of the asteroid Attila transforming into a starship was deliberately designed to echo a visual effect from "The Tholian Web," an episode of the original Star Trek TV series. In that episode, the evil Tholians use their "web" technology to send a Federation starship--a double of the USS Enterprise in all but name--into a parallel universe.

Brian Moriarty very likely intended Toshi Olema's un-Japanese surname (derived from a city in California) as an homage to the similarly unorthodox name of the Japanese-American helmsman, the San Francisco-born Hikaru Sulu, in Star Trek.

In his first episode, the original Star Trek series' second pilot, Sulu served as the "ship's physicist" on board the Enterprise, before settling into his final role as the helmsman.

On the other hand, Toshi Olema, who was supposedly a wealthy businessman in Brian Moriarty's game, was actually stated to be Dr. Toshi Olema, a brilliant astrophysicst, in LucasArts' Adventurer #7.


In the version of The Dig released in 1995, Brink asks if the trio of astronauts can climb up the earthen slope on one wall of the canyon, and thus reach the outer rim of the central island. Low replies that this isn't possible, because the dirt ramp doesn't go up all the way up.


But, as is evident from a 1993 LucasArts promotional video, in the Brian Moriarty version, the astronauts overcame this problem, with the help of a long pole, and the magnetic boots which the crew members wore in Moriarty's design.

Notably, Toshi Olema is missing from the above screenshot. As I mentioned earlier, the acid pool on Cocytus would have been accessed earlier in the game, from within the central canyon. Boston Low had to cross the acid--whose thin crust would bear the weight of only one person--in order to retrieve the metal pole necessary to climb up and out.


In Sean Clark's 1995 The Dig, a display in the Cocytan museum shows a 2D animation of four aliens burying a fifth (the Cocytan Inventor) in the tomb spire.


In Brian Moriarty's version, the museum display shows much the same scene: four Cocytans burying a fifth.

But in the earlier game, the moment is shown in a much more advanced 3D holographic form, as opposed to the simple 2D animations used to record data by Clark's Cocytans.

Note that here, three of the aliens carry green life crystals, while the fourth holds a sword. This is the symbolism of a Cocytan funeral ritual: the inversion of their resurrection technology, which uses three sharp red crystals and only one green crystal.

The subtext is that this particular Cocytan chose to die, rather than live eternally, which Cocytans were quite capable of doing.

As a corollary, the Cocytans in Moriarty's The DIG were not dead, or forever stuck in another plane of existence, as they were in Clark's game.

Rather, they were all merely hiding temporarily on the other side of the Eye... waiting to see if the four astronauts from Earth would pass their intelligence test, and prove themselves worthy to receive the gift of immortality.

Interestingly, in Alan Dean Foster's novelization of Sean Clark's The DIG, the Cocytan Inventor states that, just as in Moriarty's version, he deliberately committed suicide. This contrasts with the backstory as told in the game's offical strategy guide, where the Inventor is said to have been killed by his own machine, just as Maggie Robbins is in Sean Clark's released DIG.


In the introduction of Sean Clark's The DIG, a female English reporter, whose face is never shown, asks Boston Low in an indirect fashion (by probing into the crew's biographies) whether the asteroid Attila might be the product of an alien intelligence.

The actress playing the reporter is clearly an American faking an English accent.

In Brian Moriarty's The DIG, Judy Robbins was an English reporter. The Maggie Robbins of Clark's DIG, by contrast, was an American.

Perhaps this unnamed and unseen reporter in the intro cutscene of Sean Clark's The DIG was meant to be a cameo from Judy Robbins herself.


If so, it may just be possible that the other reporter in the opening cutscene, an American-accented male seen only in silhouette from behind, was meant to represent the Japanese-American Toshi Olema.

---

After making all these connections, one is left wondering: who exactly was responsible for all these in-jokes relating to the previous version of The DIG?

Sean Clark... or perhaps him and Brian Moriarty, working together?

---

Go to the first page of facsimile screenshots from early versions of The DIG

Return to the page of pictures from Brian Moriarty's The DIG

Return to the pictures from early builds of Sean Clark's The DIG

Return to the information on the history of The Dig

For more neat The Dig stuff, be sure to visit the Dig Museum.

Back to index