Behind the Iconostasis: the inventory of The Dig playable demo And now for a look at the icons in the playable demo of Sean Clark's The Dig which for one reason or another were not used in the final game.

Inventory and conversation icons seen during a playthrough of the demo.

These three icons -- the wire found in the alien ship, the alien tusk, and the ghost's apparition -- were all modified in some way for the final game. The wire was redrawn and changed in color from blue to brown; the tusk was redrawn to be straighter in shape; and the ghost icon had its left edge cut off, an unusial change.

Conversation icons from the demo. The red color used here was later replaced with a darker shade for the final game.

The rest of the icons don't appear during gameplay in the demo as ordinarily seen.

Temporary conversation icons for the Cocytan library, the light bridges, and the island summoned back from another plane of existence.

Temporary inventory icons for four square metal plates.

It's likely that originally, the asteroid interior contained three square metal plates, as in Brian Moriarty's version:

The fourth square metal plate (which is outlined in blue, unlike the others) would have been found somewhere on Cocytus. Probably it's an early design for the power crystal used to activate the lighting system in the outer tomb chamber.

Temporary inventory icons for the four metal plates of irregular shape used to open the cathedral spire door.

Temporary icons for the items used to trap the rat on the planetarium spire plateau: a short metal rod, a metal rod with one curved end, a dowel, the cover for the planetarium door mechanism, and the ribcage of a dead animal.

The metal rod is later used to hold down the trigger for the tomb skylight, a puzzle that was apparently held over from Brian Moriarty's version.

Also, while the icons used here are brown, the final game colored them red, to suggest that the metal parts had become corroded and rusty. And that long rod with a curved end looks very interestingly like a scythe. Some deliberate visual Loom homagery is going on here, methinks.

Temporary icon for the machine part to the planetarium door, stolen by the rat on the outer plateau.

This temp icon suggests there were actually several bits and pieces stolen by the rat, not just one. It's possible that reinserting them properly in the door-lock mechanism was the object of an additional puzzle at one point.

Temporary icons for the green life crystals, in quantities of one, two, three, and four.

At this stage it seems that the crystals' design was rather different: they appear to have been long and thin, with red spots at certain places breaking up their otherwise green glow. This design combines aspects of the green egg-shaped life crystals and the long, sharp red "death crystals" which were used together in Brian Moriarty's version to achieve a successful physical and mental resurrection.

And the official strategy guide for The Dig contains yet another alternate inventory icon for a life crystal. Comparing it to the icon used in the game shows that the icon was redrawn again at some point, even after the green crystal design reverted to that used in Brian Moriarty's The Dig.

(This wasn't the only time that Sean Clark's design team thought about changing something from Moriarty's version and then nixed the idea. At one point, the labels on cutscene storyboards indicate that the PenUltimate PDA device, whose name dated from Moriarty's design, was briefly renamed the Rutan -- which rhymes with "Newton," as in the Apple Newton PDA which inspired the PenUltimate.

The name Rutan was also a tip of the hat to the 1930s laxative Serutan, whose TV commercials proudly announced that its name was simply "Natures" spelled backward. And "Rutan" spelled backward is "Natur," or "nature" in German.)

Temporary icon for the tablet with alien writing found in the museum spire.

Temporary icon for the explosive canister found in the life-crystal repository at the base of the museum spire.

In the final game the canister was depicted with three sharp red spikes, an homage to the "death crystals" administered three at a time in Brian Moriarty's version.

A temp icon for the alien turtle found in the museum spire. Note the three visible flippers (of six), and the explosive canister protruding from its mouth.

Temporary icons for the mysterious sarcophagus in the outer tomb, at a point before Low knows that it conceales a hidden entrance.

Unlike all the other temporary icons in the demo, this one has two different images associated with it. One is blank, while the second represents the multi-level complex beneath the outer tomb chamber.

A conversation icon representing the hidden lower levels of the tomb complex. This is the same icon as the second state of the "sealed tomb" icon above.

The final game uses just one icon to represent the tomb chamber in conversations.

A temporary conversation icon representing a corpse. Whether it stands for Brink's dead body or for the dead alien Inventory is unclear (though probably the former, in my opinion).

The early icon for the monster that abducts Maggie, which in the final game looks like a giant spider.

In the demo, however, the monster is shown as a gray-skinned creature with blood-reddened vampire fangs, and the distinctive flat-top haircut of Boris Karloff's Frankenstein monster. Both of these details suggest that the monster is not a natural creature, a thesis borne out by the Inventor's words to Maggie in the final game:

"The monster that captured me... are there any more of them?"

"That one did not evolve. It was made. And there are as many of them as are needed."

Inventory icons of a lighter and a lit match, found next to the monster icon in the resource files. It seems that originally, the monster didn't respond to the flashlight, but only to natural light sources that generated fire. So Low would have to use either the lighter or a lit match to get past it, and give the other light source to Brink so he could distract the creature.

Two icons representing the grate near Maggie when she's captured by the spider. The first icon shows the grate before Low diverts water to it; the second shows it afterwards. As with the tomb icons seen above, the final game uses just one icon in this instance.

A temp conversation icon for the gateway to Spacetime Six, here represented via the Twilight Zone-esque image of a series of gateways leading off into infinity.

A temporary icon, probably for the Eye generator found in the cathedral spire. The final game uses only one icon for both the actual Eye gateway and the device used to open it (a recurring theme, it would seem).

A temporary icon for the missing Eye part, here represented as a circuit board.

Additionally, several icons found in the final game are not in the demo: the glowing blue rod used to repair the tomb-spire tram (and its associated "tug up and down" red-arrows cursor), the white combination rod given to Maggie by the Inventor to find the Eye part, the Sierra-style WAIT sundial cursor inspired by Brian Moriarty's Infocom game Trinity, conversation icons representing Maggie and Brink, and the gold and silver scepters used in the planetarium chamber.

It appears that originally, the player didn't need to use the blue rod to repair the tomb tram. In fact, early screenshots of Sean Clark's The Dig, showing the room which houses the rod in the final game, suggest that the rod didn't even exist as an item at that stage.

This meant that Low could visit the tomb spire, and the outer tomb chamber, before reaching the planetarium spire. However, he still couldn't get all the way into the tomb: doing so requires using the map spire's projector, and the map spire door's combination rod is found in the planetarium chamber.

In fact, the tram-repair puzzle doesn't seem to have existed at all at the time of the demo. Instead it seems the dark tunnel in the Nexus originally led to the beach where the Eye part was hidden.

In the final game this beach was found beyond the spider's cavern instead. The spider's lair too was likely originally located off a branch of the dark passageway in the Nexus. In Alan Dean Foster's novelization, the creature's nest is similarly hidden in a passage branching off from one of the tram shafts, rather than in the map spire.

The different location of the nest and the beach explains the presence in the final game's datafiles of some rather sexually suggestive dialogue where Maggie refuses to accompany Low onto the beach to find the Eye part.

Also, since seeing the eel (which guards the cave containing the planetarium door rod) is what causes Brink to run away, this means that if he didn't visit the eel immediately, Low could explore the tomb spire while still accompanied by Brink. (Just enough dialogue remains in the final game's datafiles to verify this assertion.)

The Dig's lead programmer, Gary Brubaker, said in a 2005 interview that this initial puzzle layout was changed because the developers "found a bug late in development that required a huge redesign" and had to curtail the amount of time Brink spends alongside Low.

Below follows a detailed description of the bug in question, for the curious:


(No, seriously, that's the bug. But why the LucasArts programmers would deliberately mislead us about it is a story for another article.)

To accommodate the three rooms (25, 26, and 100) used in the final release for the tram-repair puzzle, several alternate bits of content were sacrificed.

One of these rooms (probably room 100, since that's next to several other closeups of door locks) would have been dedicated to reassembling the bits of machinery stolen by the rat in the planetarium spire to repair the planetarium chamber door lock. This would probably have been akin to the robot-sentry door repair puzzle in Fate of Atlantis.

Another room would have been used for a puzzle of fitting together the shattered pieces of the tablet found in the library. Dialogue in the final game's audio files reveals that the tablet was supposed to shatter due to an earthquake, likely when Low first entered the library. Unused image file in the game's resources, seen above, confirms this.

Since room 28 (seen above) houses the close-up of the intact tablet, the tablet repair puzzle would probably have been found in room 26.

Now here's where things get interesting. As far as I can tell, Room 25 was dedicated to an alternate version of the outer tomb chamber -- one which featured a dead Cocytan as the centerpiece rather than a carved statue. The earlier design is referenced in some dialogue from the final game's audio files. This version of the room may in fact have been the same outer tomb chamber used in Brian Moriarty's The Dig (seen here in a very early screenshot from Sean Clark's design):

But this alternate tomb would have coexisted in the game files with the tomb chamber as we see it. So which one would players see?

My best guess is that -- in a nod to the Klein bottle puzzles involving three-dimensional mirroring from Brian Moriarty's The Dig -- the answer would be determined by which way Boston Low left the starting screen when the astronauts first arrived on Cocytus.

The central screen of the outdoor Cocytan plateau, where the landing party first appears, has two exits, one left and one right. Go one way, and the player would find the statue upon reaching the tomb spire later in the game. Use the other exit, and Low would find a dead Cocytan in the outer tomb instead.

This change would also have triggered several minor alternate lines of dialogue, which remain in the game audio files: for instance, a less hostile version of Brink's initial bid to become the group leader, and a scene where it's Low rather than Maggie who notices the metal bracelent on the eastern end of the starting Cocytan plateau.

Thus, two playthroughs of The Dig could be subtly yet distinctly different, and yet reach the same overall ending - a remarkable demonstration of the alternate realities afforded by journeying into Spacetime Six.

An additional two rooms found in the final game were probably not yet implemented by the time of the demo. These are room 71, which shows a fossilized turtle that provides a hint to the bone-assembly puzzle, and room 86, which is just a black screen.

From the below screenshot seen in a pre-release slideshow demo, it appears that the turtle fossil was not originally present in the museum spire crossroads. Likely it was added in as a hint when LucasArts testers complained about the bone puzzle.

The fossil close-up and the other room with the black screen probably replaced two displays from alcoves in the museum. In Bill Tiller's initial design, the museum area had six display alcoves instead of four.

Since the game's resource files devote a separate room to each display, two rooms would have been needed to house these extra scenes, one of which it seems was later repurposed for the turtle fossil.

Some dialogue from just before Low revives the dead Inventor in the tomb spire suggests that one of the museum's two extra display alcoves housed a portrait of the Creator building his machinery:

Low: I think this is the same creature I saw pictures of on the display in the museum. When it was getting buried. Not that I can tell one alien from another. But there was a picture of an alien being buried. It might have been this one.

Maggie: What about the picture of the one who created all of this technology? They could be the same guy. They could all be the guy inside the pyramid.

The other alcove, I'd venture, probably housed a display giving a visual introduction to the Eye and Spacetime Six. This is hinted at in the conversation when Low and Maggie first enter the cathedral chamber:

Low: I saw something like this in the museum display. This machine was the greatest of the inventor's achievements.

Maggie: What does it do?

Low: I haven't the faintest idea.

Some additional images from the strategy guide, showing the state of the game around the time of the demo:

At first the light-bridge lenses in the tomb, museum, and planetarium spires were fixed to the top of the console. That might've made getting onto them a bit more difficult for Low!

Also, initially the planetarium-spire waterfall used hand-drawn animation composited into the scene, like the ocean waves in the previous rooms, rather than a simple palette-cycling effect as in the final game.

Low standing in the lower tomb chamber, without the elevator present. Did it at one point return to the upper room after Low stepped off, like the Minoan elevator in Fate of Atlantis, only to return when Low needed it again?

Low in the museum back when it had six display alcoves instead of four. Oooh... spacetimey.

An early animation for the partly formed center of the Eye suspended above the central basin.

Screenshots of Brink with his hand trapped in the crevice. Here his sprite uses the normal palette for stage-2 (post-resurrection) Brink, but in the actual game it reverts to his stage-1 (pre-death) palette.

Low standing over the crevice in the path to the planetarium chamber. The room still uses its palette from Brian Moriarty's time, and the boulder allowing safe passage after the first jump isn't present.

The astronauts floating around the central pedestal used to activate the starship-asteroid. The astronaut sprites are much smaller compared to the four plates than they are in the released product.

A picture, possibly from debugging, of Low standing by the side of the crystal starship from the game ending.

At the time of the demo, the player did have to clear away a mound of dirt from the base of the door to the museum spire. Note that at that time, the rod used to open the museum door was orange rather than purple.

This puzzle presumably existed to make the player retrieve the shovel after Brink's death. However, the shovel isn't present as an item on the ground of the Nexus in the demo's datafiles... though it does appear in the finished game, where Low picks it up automatically from where it fell, beside the Nexus entrance.

A forgotten puzzle where the key is in the game, and the lock in the demo datafiles. Fancy that.

Likewise, the gold and silver scepters were a late addition, not found in Brian Moriarty's version of The Dig. In that version, there was a single crystal control rod, flexible like a joystick, which Low would use to control the planetarium display. So the player would probably just click on the moon they wished to move (perhaps causing it to light up?), and then select the point in orbit to which it should travel. This must have persisted in Sean Clark's revision for some time.

The white rod given to Maggie by the Inventor is missing as well. Perhaps at this stage he was meant to describe the location of the Eye part to her, rather than giving her a map of sorts. In this case the developers seem to have decided that "a picture is worth a thousand words". :D

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