Saturday, March 7, 2015

10th Colossus

An isolated sand dune... 
Its tracks are well hidden...
Shaking the earth,
its gaze is upon thee...

Developer Name: Narga_A 
Fan Name: Dirge (Harena Tigris) - Sand Tiger
Location Name: Gravewind
Map Reference: B4

Colossus 10 Hints
They legs cannot possibly carry thee away from its danger...
Aim for its eyes...


A tranquil sunlit cave - all seems quiet

Well, sadly this is the last of my colossi posts. After this I will only be updating the existing posts, but I still have a lot more to add about other things (PSU demo, PAL demo, final cut scene, Shrine of Worship and others) so this is by no means the end ; ) But as far as the colossi go, this is the last one. There was no particular order for the colossi, I just wrote about each one when I had enough information, so #10 being last is completely arbitrary.

Dirge opening cut scene

First off I want to share with you a very weird line of text from the Pre-release (Preview version) for the introduction of Dirge. Dormin's words are different in this version and the difference is very intriguing and confusing.

An isolated sand dune...
It's tracks are well hidden...
Along with its friend,
it shakes the earth


'Along with its friend'? What could this mean? Perhaps another colossus that 'shakes the earth' like Dirge does? The only explanation that makes sense to me is another 'sand snake' type colossus in the game and the only colossus that fits this description is the Worm. Remember Celosia (#11) and Cenobia (#14) both share a common line in Dormin's introduction to them 'A guardian set loose...' and they are basically clones of each other, both are small, fast moving and armored. 

In the same way, Dirge and the Worm are very similar in appearance (apart from their heads). We know the Worm lived in a desert environment and although there's no evidence of it being able to move in and out of the sand, it seems likely it could do so. So if I had to guess I would pick the Worm as the likely candidate for the 'friend'.


Early map showing land in A4 and B4 (the lair of the friend?)

Early (blue vest) version of Wander fights the Worm

Notice Wander's clothes, they are very different to the Wander we are used to seeing in the retail versions. He has a blue vest with different designs embroidered onto it. See my 'Versions & builds' blog post here for more information:

Art book image of the Worm

Art book image of the Worm (panned out montage)

Beach and cliffs at B2

If you visit B2 in the Preview version you can see that it's just the tail end of a larger area but it's been cut off along its Eastern edge (right next to the C2 map square where #14 now lives), so we can imagine at one time the B2 beach extending East into C2 making up two map squares to house the Worm. It's been said that one of the reasons the Worm was removed is that it needed too large an area to fight in, and if you look at the art book image of the Worm above you can see that the cliffs are far away in the distance, this suggests the beach was much larger in an earlier build of the game.

B2 and C2 map squares may have once been joined

An Isolated Sand Dune
This is another one of the great landscapes in the game, I mean they are all great but some convey a certain feeling or a stronger sense of isolation than the others. Here, at the very edge of the peninsula we find a huge cave with a sandy floor. I always wondered how this sand got here, normally you find sand in caves on the shore of the ocean, but inland they have soil, so how this sand got here is interesting to me. One explanation is that this cave was once joined to the coast, in an early sketch of Dirge's lair there is no cave present, just a wide open flat plain.
Early sketch shows a large flat plain

We also see four huge rock pillars or promontories and a massive hole in the roof, like you would expect to find in a cave, as if the top of the cave had been eroded away by rain over the millennia. Sunlight streams in from above and some plants and ferns have taken root around the edge.

Panned out view of the cave

Roof of the cave

The roof in this cave has very odd features, large boulder like protrusions that hang down from the ceiling, almost as if some of them once joined up with the four rock pillars positioned around the cave. You would expect to see stalactites here but instead they are all rounded off at the base. So the idea of the discarded Monkey colossus comes to mind. In previous posts I have talked about how this area may have once housed the Monkey, but the evidence to support this is only speculative, read more about this here:

Top of the cave - looking down through the hole

You can see how much vegetation is up here. The ferns sway lazily in the breeze and are oversized compared to Wander as you are only meant to see them from a distance.

The Tunnels
There are two narrow entrances to the main cave, one at the North and another at the South, both contain a cluster of bats that flutter around as you pass through, you can hear the occasional 'squeak' as you ride past. You can kill the bats with explosive arrows but try as I might I couldn't seem to take them out with regular arrows, although it's hard to shoot at such a fast moving target, but from what I can tell, regular arrows won't kill them. In the NTSC (US) version all you need to do is stop Agro in the middle of a cluster and they will drop dead as they come into contact with the horse. For some reason in this version all birds, lizards, bats and even turtles die when they touch Agro.

Northern entrance next to 'Western Plain' save shrine

Northern tunnel has a skylight

Dead bats after contact with Agro

Rock stopper at the entrance to main cave

There are two large identical rock stoppers blocking both tunnels to the main cave. They appear to have been placed here to prevent Dirge from escaping its enclosure, because as far as we know, there is nothing stopping the colossus from digging its way out through soil and up the length of the narrow tunnel towards its freedom, although I think it would be a tight squeeze! Perhaps it can dig through dirt as easily as is can through sand?

Agro can simply ride up the gentle slope to the top of the rock then jump over the edge. Note: in the above image you can see how high these huge rocks are, I think if a real horse jumped from this height it would surely break a leg ; )

No rock stoppers in the Preview version - these were added later

Southern entrance next to the 'Lair on the Mesa' save shrine

South side ledge in the NTSC (US) version

If you climb to the very top of the save shrine you can jump off, and using the parachute, glide down onto this ledge. Note: I have panned the camera out in the above image. Sadly, I don't think this is possible in the PAL/European version as the parachute does not glide as far, you drop like a stone down to the ground. But it makes no difference in the end as there is nothing you can do on this ledge. There is no way to climb any higher, you are basically stuck here unless you jump back down to the ground. Not really worth mentioning but I like to reveal anything however trivial.

So, why two saves shrines? This colossi's arena is unique for this reason. No other colossus has two save shrines so close together at one lair... although technically only the Western Plain save shrine lies within Dirge's map square (B4) and the Lair on the Mesa is just outside this in B5. In fact, B5 has always been an area of great interest as it once had four impressive stone towers that were revealed in the NICO dvd. In the pre-release (Preview) version (due to a glitch) you can see both of these save shrines at the same time.


Early B5 area view showing four stone towers

It was found by WWWArea that these towers still existed (in low res form) in the OPM and PSU demos, but could only be viewed from a great distance. Later, I worked out a way to actually travel to them, although there wasn't much left to see.

Closeup look at the low res towers

Photoshop montage of a stone column at B5

I had always assumed there was an extra colossus at one time in B5 as in most cases, when you see any significant structures or ruins of any kind they indicate a colossus is nearby. Only a couple of areas in the game have structures that don't appear to be part of a colossus arena, the most impressive of these is at D2 where you find the 'Stone Arch Gorge' save shrine. Here there are columns, stairs and a stone wall that are removed from a colossus arena, although the columns and stairs are very similar to Hydrus' lair, which is one map square to the North in D1. The other is the waterfall (culvert) at F4 under the Western earth bridge near the Shrine of Worship. Again, just one map square North is Quadratus' lair, which seems to be linked to this structure.

A4 and A5 map squares from an earlier map

Here we see a huge amount of land to the West of B4 and B5, so now the towers seem to make more sense if they were a pointer leading towards another 'unknown' area. Of course we have no evidence of any other colossi belonging to this area, just our imagination! But it seems evident from the above map that this area extended much further West, although the A column squares don't join up very well with the B column squares, but as mentioned above perhaps A4 was the Worm's lair?

However, in the Preview version there is a small amount of this land that was left over. It was WWWArea (again) who first discovered this as far as I know. When compared to the actual size of the two A column squares it doesn't look like much, but from Wander's perspective is it quite a large area of land to explore.

Hi-res land still exists in the Preview version

Of course I was compelled to explore this area and here is the result:
Hidden area in the Preview version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gut8ujHASL0

Note: There is no collision detection in this area so I have to spend a long time finding the codes for the 'Lair on the Mesa' save stone, then stretching it out to act as an invisible floor that I can run around on. I have to move it up and down to give the impression that Wander is running on a solid surface. If the terrain isn't flat this creates problems that I edit out in the video. But the easier method is to use the 'standing hack' which lets Wander stand in any location without falling through the texture. The images below were made using this technique.

Snapshot of the area revealed in the Preview version

Preview version showing the extra land 'under' the B4 cliffs texture

View of the land next to the B4 map square - you can see under the field here

On a high ridge looking down to the plain below

Unique rock jutting out from the ground

View to the South - plants and dead branches are evident

Vines climbing up a wall to the ancient tree

Top of Dirge's Cave (North)
Above the Northern entrance there is quite a large area of land Wander can explore (although only via hacks), but it's pretty messy up there with lots of large holes and textures that end abruptly. But I remember enjoying exploring it for the first time ; )

Top of cave looking North

Ledge above tunnel skylight - a nice little secret area!

Edge of texture - looking down onto the tunnel

Looking down at the save shrine from a high ledge

High ledge at the Northeast side of the tunnel

High ledge at the Northwest side of the tunnel

Top of Dirge's Cave (South)
At the South entrance of the cave you are presented with a wide open field of grass and another save shrine the 'Lair on the Mesa'. My brother once said that these areas reminded him of a golf course as they are so well tended, as if some unseen gardener was mowing the lawns and pulling out the weeds! From a story perspective however, we can surmise that the grass hasn't grown in many thousands of years as time has been frozen in the forbidden lands. Ueda himself stated this so we must accept it as fact "The ancient land’s seal has been broken by Wander’s coming, and time, once stopped, begins to flow again". The problem with a 'frozen time' forbidden lands is that there are living creatures that still crawl and fly around, why aren't these frozen in time?

You would also think that anything moving into the temporal field would be frozen as well, so when Wander and Agro first entered the lands they should have been frozen solid at the Entrance temple. Perhaps it's just the lands that are frozen, and generation after generation of lizards, doves, seagulls, turtles and hawks survive intact?

But I digress, at the South entrance of the cave are more sheer cliffs and one of the most notable and imposing objects in the game, the colossal tree!

The ancient colossal tree

Why is this tree here and what is its purpose? How did it come to be so huge compared to all the other trees in the forbidden lands? We can only guess that as the land is inhabited by enormous creatures from myth and legend that this tree fits into this mythology. Somehow, this tree was made huge by some magical power, or perhaps it is so ancient, it kept on growing and growing until it died, its leaves having long since decayed away.

It's interesting to note that in the introduction cut scene and in the low res areas of the OPM and PSU demos, you can still see the tree with green leaves, alive and well. So perhaps at one time the developers planned for this tree to be verdant and thriving.

Low res colossal tree in full bloom

Base of the colossal tree

What looks like a door or entrance

Under the tree - nothing here!

South tunnel from outside

Spider like branches of the colossal tree

Wander in the higher parts of the tree

Wander can climb the tree, it's completely solid with full collision detection. In fact you can climb very high onto the top branches before you start to slide back down. It raises one of the old questions I always asked myself, 'why would they go to the trouble of giving this object collision detection if you are never meant to get here?' There could be two reasons, 1) it was once a playable area in the game or 2) it's very easy to add collisions to an object. In the 'Unity' game engine you just have to check a box and the texture you have created miraculously becomes a solid surface... perhaps it was just as easy for Team ICO to do this when creating the game, never realizing that some future hacker would stand there.

Top of East cliffs looking down at the 'Lair on the Mesa' save shrine

Note: These shots were taken after I made Wander 'moon jump' up onto them. Sadly, there is no legitimate way to reach these cliffs in the game unless you use codes, but it's mostly walkable, there are some void areas to be wary of but otherwise Wander can explore a large area up here. 

Looking directly West between two rocks

Nice view from the high cliffs

View of the empty field

Note: In the above series of images I have traveled from the East side cliffs just above the save shrine, past the tree and onto the West side cliffs heading South. The image above is as far South as you can go, but you can run the whole way without any problems.

Lovely view looking South towards the C6 plateau

As far West as you can go in the NTSC/PAL versions

As far West as you can go in the Preview version 

Legitimate B5 Cliffs Exploration
This legitimate off limits area was first discovered by Khfan1 back in 2008 I think, but it was Baxtertimewell who first made a video of exploring the cliffs. Technically we have left behind Dirge's lair now as we have moved into B5, but I thought I should include this area as it's just to the South of the green field (South of Dirge's cave). Sadly, as far as I know it's only possible to reach this area in the US (NTSC) version/Black label/Greatest Hits, I did try in the PAL (European) version but couldn't seem to replicate the method.

Agro launch to the cliff here

Nice view from the B5 cliffs

Note: You must be in Normal mode to achieve this as you will need the flash arrows. Once you have successfully Agro launched onto the cliff, Wander will start sliding down the cliff face... equip you flash arrows and blast yourself West into the narrow space between the outcroppings. Actually, just watch this video I made, it will show you what to do and save me having to write out a lengthy set of instructions ; )

Eventually you will reach the edge of the cliffs, looking down onto the 'Western Cape' save shrine, I always thought this area was 'designed' to lead you here... it seems too perfect a route to be a random oversight by Team Ico, but I guess if it's not possible in the PAL (European versions) then I'm mistaken. Note: I remember Khfan1 telling me that when this was first discovered it was a very exciting time for SotC fans! Surely this was a secret area! Sadly, these posts have been deleted from the Games F&Q website so I can't look them up. All I have are the memories of those fans who were there at the time. I first saw this area being explored in a Baxtertimewell video, posted on the now defunct 'Google Video' called 'I shouldn't be here'. Again, sadly, this video is now lost.

End of the road - the Western Cape save shrine down below

Further along the cliffs you arrive above the B5 (Ico) beach

Note: From the end of the B5 cliffs you can navigate Wander safely down the high cliffs until he reaches the beach. There are enough ledges for Wander to make it to the ground without dying. Try this for yourself, there is a huge area to explore!

Dirge Before Activation
Dirge is hidden just under the sunlit patch of sand in the main cave. When I 'warp' Wander down under the sand you can see the colossus suspended in a huge low res cavern below the sand layer. Interestingly, Dirge's mouth parts are moving, this is the only colossus that has animations in its 'frozen' state. The mouth parts are responsible for chewing its way through the sand.

Dirge before activation below the sand

Preview version - only the sand is illuminated - the beam of light is missing

Agro doesn't trigger the colossus

If I take control of Agro and move it over the sunlit patch of sand, nothing happens. Only when Wander is riding Agro does the colossus come to life.

You can see Dirge is positioned half way through a low res, rocky floor. Below the sand is a empty cavern the same size as the arena above enclosed by rock walls, this is where Dirge moves when triggered. As with Phalanx, if this was a real world situation, this cavern would be filled with sand, but all we see is the space 'above' the sand, so from our (Wander's) perspective, it appears the colossus is undulating through the sand.

Wander in front of Dirge before it's triggered

The large horn-like mouth parts are vibrating from side to side, although you don't see these until Dirge dives up above the sand, these are responsible for how it moves through its medium. These huge sharp horns seem to guide the sand in front of the colossus into its mouth where it is converted into energy. There is a bright luminous ball of light within Dirge's mouth, similar to what we see at Malus, those rings of energy that we see on its arms... like a nuclear furnace that is so hot it melts the sand and converts it into an energy source the colossus can digest (speculation of course ; )

Wander standing on Dirge's back fur

Wander standing on Dirge's tail

Notice how half of the colossus is down under the rocky floor (under the sand floor), below this is empty void. There are no solid parts to Dirge before it's triggered, the whole colossus is devoid of collisions, as are most of the colossi save a few.

Check out my early attempts to see Dirge before activation here:

Dirge under the sand:
http://youtu.be/NaGGukpjFNI#t=255

Dirge Blue Eyes
One of the rare things to see in this game is Dirge with blue eyes. I have never seen this myself but I have heard it's possible. The problem is once Dirge opens its eyes, it is invariably chasing Wander, so they appear orange, only when Dirge is moving away from Wander does its eyes turn blue, but of course from Wander's perspective we never see this happen as Dirge has closed its eyes again.

Apparently it is possible to see its blue eyes for just an instant, according to the Team Ico wiki: 'However, on an extremely rare occasion, its eyes may turn blue for a brief moment. This will only happen when Dirge is brought to a wall or obstacle without jumping, in which case, it will turn and burrow instead. If Wander happens to be in the direction Dirge is turning, the player may see Dirge's eyes turn blue, which in itself might not even happen. This means that Dirge's eyes are just like every other colossus' eyes; it's just that by the time the player sees them, they're orange.

So to prove this happens, I took control of Dirge and zoomed the camera in close to its large plate like eyes. The camera zooms into its body where you can see its eyes.


Dirge eyes before activation - or after it dies

Dirge 'orange' eyes that we see in the battle

Dirge blue eyes - only change when it is moving away from Wander

Note: If anyone can show Dirge with blue eyes during the battle, please upload a video or post an image for me. I will include it here as part of this article ; )

Modding Dirge
I can take control of Dirge's camera view but have no control over its movements, that is I am basically just an observer as it races around the enclosure. The camera is low down behind its eyes so the view isn't very inspiring, however if I move the camera up above the surface you get a great view of the colossus snaking through the sand. When I take control of Dirge before its introductory cut scene (i.e. before activation) it doesn't move around the arena, it just stays put in one place, half buried and throwing up sand. But as soon as I shift the camera back the Wander it resumes its normal movements. 

Dirge frozen after cut scene


Camera view as Dirge moves around the desert

I do have some controls to play around with however, CIRCLE makes it crash into a wall or rock column (although you can make it crash into empty space this way) and D-pad (Down) lets you hear Dirge's strange shriek like call. SELECT will kill it and R3 puts it into its twisting, thrashing motion you see after it has run into a wall. As with the other colossi R3 seems to be an important trigger as it makes the colossi perform their key movements in the battle, for instance Valus kneels down, Kuromori falls off the wall, Basaran tips over, Argus drops its sword etc. I will go into the colossi controls in more details in a future post.


Flying Dirge

Once I have have found Dirge's position co-ordinates I can change its elevation so it's flying up above the sand. This works well with Hydrus as well and transforms the colossi dramatically, once land locked or swimming under a lake they now fly! I also use this concept in reverse with Phalanx so that it moves through the sand like Dirge. The colossus will still follow its usual path, as if it's following Wander, but now above instead of below.


Dirge outside!

Once I have taken control of Dirge I can move it beyond its enclosure (with a lot of tedious work ; ) so it appears outside the cave. But the novelty is short lived as the colossus just turns tail and heads straight back to the safety of its cave. I get a few seconds to watch Dirge fly around above the green field (South side) before it disappears through the cliff face on its way back to the cave. I can change the directions of the colossus (like I did with Phalanx here): 

But it seems I can only move Dirge North, South, East and West. I have so far failed to move it Up or Down like I can with Phalanx. But the result is the same, after a few seconds you see the colossus disappear into the cliffs, its tail undulating majestically behind the rim of the mountains. It will keep this heading indefinitely, but from Wander's perspective there is nothing interesting to see.

Dirge after death


As with all of the colossi, I can climb over them after death by using the 'kill code' or when taking control of the colossi by pressing a certain button on the controller - in this case SELECT kills Dirge. You see the black streamers fly out of the colossus and penetrate Wander, but as you are controlling the colossus, the streamers have no effect on Wander. This means Wander can climb all over the corpse of the sand worm. From this point, the game is frozen in time... it cannot continue until Wander is struck unconscious by the black streamers.

Art Book Images of Dirge
It seems, as with all the colossi, that there were several designs for the sand worm. Udea states 'It's the first one I drew. Considering how you'd go about defeating it, I drew a sketch of Wander firing his bow behind him on horseback'.


Dirge - side view