Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

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Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Sirius » Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:45 am

Hey guys, in case you don't check Reddit... Have a look at this !
Incredible, huh ?

The first demo (Nexus) is kinda interesting but not really my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the few couple of rooms, so I stopped there.
The second and third demo (D'ni in Real Time's original version of the Tiwah and an early build of Hector's Cove) are simply awesome. Go play those ! The Tiwah demo doesn't have a clear ending, but it actually goes BEYOND the last locked door from the End of Ages version, so it's definitely worth checking out. Hector's cove is just a small area, but it's nice regardless.

So... I feel like commenting on it a bit. SPOILERS from here on, don't read until you've played both through.

---------------------

There were some design changes between the DiRT and EoA versions of the Tiwah, but those are so obvious I'll pass on it. Still worth mentioning the earlier version has a few more elements which make much more sense IMHO, such as more debris, remains of a D'ni "worm" excavation machine, more sensible doors design, sparser lighting, the Tiwah being actually pitch black, the elevators wiggling when you get off them, etc. Also, the sound design is a LOT better IMHO. On top of that, the whole trip feels a lot more "Cyan-like" than Uru/MystV IMHO - it feels a lot more polished, with lots of attention to the way the avatar interacts with the environment, etc. I love how Indiana Jones-esque this feels. This is really cool.

But it's really impressive to think that it's actually running using the Plasma V1 engine (the file structure is even the same as realMyst's). It feels like there are sooooo many features which got scrapped from Uru. Various avatar animations, the firemarble torch, etc. The avatar actually looks at interactable items (some mechanism called "interesting" which I always wondered when browsing the Plasma source). Ladders have much better avatar animations, can curve, and you can jump down from them. Wall climbing (ala Gahreesen) is present. Swimming works. You can hang from pipes. You can pick up kickable objects from the ground. Wow. Feels like playing some Zelda game from within Uru.

On the other hand, it's not surprising so much got scrapped. Networking a game like this is hell, and even in single player it's largely buggy. The firemarble torch always glitches (and can't be lit in most areas where it would actually be useful), climbing ladders can sometime be done through walls, picking up objects fails if you're not correctly lined up, etc. And that's on top of the horrible physics engine and missing walls in lots of areas, leading to falling under the world. I'm also not really fond of the third person camera. Fortunately, you can use console commands to save/load the game (which takes an incredibly long time for some reason), and this is especially useful towards the end of the demo which is really not polished. Oh, and it being Plasma, you'll sometime come across the "Dirt.exe stopped working" Windows message.
But still, it's worth the pain to go through.

What else... Well, I'll delve into the technical side a bit more.
It seems the game uses the "itinerant page" system, which I think means it loads and unloads pages on the fly while you progress through the Age. This is interesting since AFAIK it's completely non functional on regular Uru.
In the game files, there are references to a few (supposedly playable) characters: Mike, Steve, Josh and Tony.
Also in the game files are a lot of interesting audio files:
  • Some files referencing a "scarab-something" location in Descent (not sure if it's one of the caves we go through or if it's unimplemented).
    EDIT: it seems it's also an avatar brain, so somehow the avatar takes control of some scarab creature at some point ? Bah, who knows.
  • The last cave from the demo is actually the "bug cave" - meaning the stalagtite structures are probably hives. Makes sense since there are some bug swarms moving around.
  • gsndElevatormusic.wav - this is the standard Tiwah elevator music, but slightly less "bouncy". I actually prefer it to the Myst V version.
  • gsndElevmus2x.wav - this is the same music but with another feel to it - darker, more adventurous. Interestingly, it has a more "oriental" feel to it, similar to the "rivengehn" or whatever bonus audio track from Riven. (Disclaimer: I don't know anything about oriental music, but it's definitely not something in the European/North American style, AFAIK. Feel free to make fun of me if I'm saying something stupid :) )
  • gsndElemuzac.wav - okay, someone was clearly having fun there...
  • CokeMusic.wav - some kind of very tense music for a cinematic ? Not sure.
  • DniReveal.wav - obviously intended for the end of the trip through the caves. Once again has an oriental feel to it.
  • TreeTheme.WAV - starts off as an early version of the Kadish Gallery theme, before going into something much darker with a bigger chorus. Very interesting. I think the woman's voice might be MIDI-generated, and was later replaced with a real person singing in the final version (but then again, audio isn't really my area of expertise).
  • gtghShroomMx.WAV - a similar theme, but without the darker chorus. Also, I'm not sure what this location was. GTGH, Great Tree something, or guild hall ? Shroom, something to do with Teledahn ?
  • gtghTreeAmb.WAV - an alternative version of the Relto ambiance sound. I like it a LOT more than the two variants from the Uru/Phil Reltos.
  • Various Hector's Cove sound FX, suggesting there may be some "shales" (big marine creates) there, and they aren't really friendly.


Sigh... If this were Plasma V2 instead of Plasma V1, we could have so much more information by looking at the various files. I'm still mad that Dustin left without releasing his reverse-engineered classes of realMyst, this would allow us to convert those files to Uru...
Come to think of it, the engine also comes in a "debug" compiled version. Wouldn't this allow easier reverse engineering of the engine ?

Anyway. I hope you had fun playing those, and that my rambling was interesting :D
Last edited by Sirius on Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Aloys » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:07 am

This is such a treat! :) I never expected any of that to see the light of day, especially in such a random manner. That just came out of nowhere. I found that too on Reddit, of all places; looks like this was only "announced" on Eric Anderson's personnal Twitter..
I had to cancelled my friday night plans. :p That's the most fun I had with Uru in many years...

There is so much in this demo that is so better that what made it into Uru. As I went through it I felt excited like I haven't been in a while. >_>

I love how Indiana Jones-esque this feels

Totally! The many little avatar animations, the climbing parts, the flashlight, the whole feelging of exploring, discovering new places, and taking risks doing so.. In many ways this demo feel much bigger and more adventurous than Uru. The whole Descent is much better than what we've had so far. In fact this feels so closer to what I originally thought Uru/Dirt/Mudpie would be... There's a big 'cave explorer' vibe I love here. D'ni, always felt "safe" for lack of a better word. Here I was going through dark places, slipped and almost broke my legs, hanged on from rusted pipes above a 100 feet drop, almost drowned several times... This really felt like a big adventure. Uru not so much.

Only sad thing about it is there doesn't seem to be a proper ending, which is a little weird. There's this weird fade to black when you reach a certain area, but you can keep playing.. In the dark. wth. And you can almost solve the puzzle in that last area; except for that one part. Why?.. That's super frustrating..

console commands

You can use /help "letter", and get a list of all the commands that start with that letter. Couldn't find a proper way to fly the avatar around unfortunately.

Ladders (...) can curve,

I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure we can do that in Uru too.

If this were Plasma V2 instead of Plasma V1, we could have so much more information by looking at the various files. I'm still mad that Dustin left without releasing his reverse-engineered classes of realMyst, this would allow us to convert those files to Uru...

Yeah, that sucks. I'd have loved to make a new super Descent in Uru. :)
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Sirius » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:53 am

Aloys wrote:This really felt like a big adventure.

Yeah. Actually, this reminded me of both Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (great game) and the "Surprise in Minkata" thread, especially when going deep into the caverns.

Aloys wrote:Only sad thing about it is there doesn't seem to be a proper ending, which is a little weird. There's this weird fade to black when you reach a certain area, but you can keep playing.. In the dark. wth. And you can almost solve the puzzle in that last area; except for that one part. Why?.. That's super frustrating..

Yeah, I guess it was never intended to be a demo with a proper ending, it's just a snapshot of the current progress at the time (especially since that last area feels much less polished). The fade to black is weird, there is no reason for it to occur there of all places. Using the "shading 0" console command makes it clear there is nothing particular about this area either.
I tried falling down to the last platform, but it seems there is no collision there.

Aloys wrote:Here I was going through dark places, slipped and almost broke my legs

Good thing the character we're playing is extremely lucky. He could have just broken his leg slipping on the rock just at the entrance to the tunnels. That would have been rather bad 8-)

Aloys wrote:I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure we can do that in Uru too.

Hmmm, I don't think so, it looks like the ladder modifier assumes ladders are always vertical. It was probably rewritten from scratch since it's behavior is really different in both versions of the engine.
Still, when you think about the time Cyan put carefully crafting every detail like this on such a primitive engine, it's impressive :shock:

Aloys wrote:Yeah, that sucks. I'd have loved to make a new super Descent in Uru. :)

Definitely. Although come to think of it, GPNMilano was working on expanding the whole area as part of the Intangibles project, I dunno how far she got. (But then Intangibles stuff seems at a halt anyway - save for Tweek working on Cyan's Ages besides his own when he can.)


Sirius wrote:Come to think of it, the engine also comes in a "debug" compiled version. Wouldn't this allow easier reverse engineering of the engine ?

Answering my own question, it would help, but this doesn't make it particularly easy either. From what I can tell, having the matching PDB would be much better, but we don't have it, and the RTTI map doesn't look like it contains useful info. Too bad.
I might try poking around the available Drizzle code to see if it can be improved... I doubt there is much I can do about it though, but it doesn't hurt trying.
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Tweek » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:16 pm

Sirius wrote:In the game files, there are references to a few (supposedly playable) characters: Mike, Steve, Josh and Tony.


Those are custom avatars for Cyan employees.

Also in the game files are a lot of interesting audio files:
[list]
[*] Some files referencing a "scarab-something" location in Descent (not sure if it's one of the caves we go through or if it's unimplemented).


EDIT: it seems it's also an avatar brain, so somehow the avatar takes control of some scarab creature at some point ? Bah, who knows.


Scarab is a D'ni mining machine, it runs on rails within the nodes and tunnels (which you can raise and sink into the ground). There was at one point going to be a section where you would have to move one of these vehicles resulting in it going off of a balcony and crashing into the shaft floor.

[*] The last cave from the demo is actually the "bug cave" - meaning the stalagtite structures are probably hives. Makes sense since there are some bug swarms moving around.


Yep, the Bug cave would have had fireflies/bugs zooming around it they would devour the light from your firemarble, feeding on it. When the cave system was reworked (which isn't seen in the build you guys have) there was going to be a firemarble manufacturing device that would pop them out for you to use.


[*] TreeTheme.WAV - starts off as an early version of the Kadish Gallery theme, before going into something much darker with a bigger chorus. Very interesting. I think the woman's voice might be MIDI-generated, and was later replaced with a real person singing in the final version (but then again, audio isn't really my area of expertise).


gtghShroomMx.WAV - a similar theme, but without the darker chorus. Also, I'm not sure what this location was. GTGH, Great Tree something, or guild hall ? Shroom, something to do with Teledahn ?


As far as I can tell the Great Tree structure that we see tied on to the Great Tree pub in Uru was going to be part of the path down to D'ni at one point. I seem to recall it had a Linking Book in it I want to say to Teledahn but I can't remember for sure. I'll have to check my files.




Sigh... If this were Plasma V2 instead of Plasma V1, we could have so much more information by looking at the various files. I'm still mad that Dustin left without releasing his reverse-engineered classes of realMyst, this would allow us to convert those files to Uru...
Come to think of it, the engine also comes in a "debug" compiled version. Wouldn't this allow easier reverse engineering of the engine ?

Anyway. I hope you had fun playing those, and that my rambling was interesting :D


I actually have the old 3DMax files for DIRT stuffs. >.>
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Aloys » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:43 pm

I actually have the old 3DMax files for DIRT stuffs. >.>


:o Gimme!

Wait, you probably can't do that.

(Beside I haven't used 3dsMax in years.. But that part I can fix)
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Sirius » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:59 pm

Tweek wrote:I actually have the old 3DMax files for DIRT stuffs. >.>

That doesn't surprise me ! It's nice to hear those files are in good hands.

Tweek wrote:Scarab is a D'ni mining machine, it runs on rails within the nodes and tunnels (which you can raise and sink into the ground). There was at one point going to be a section where you would have to move one of these vehicles resulting in it going off of a balcony and crashing into the shaft floor.

Ah, that makes sense. The other machine, Worm, is functional but stuck, so it sounds like you would have to take its power core to Scarab which misses one.
Also, crashing down through the whole Shaft... That would do a lot of damage. The DRC definitely wouldn't like that !

Tweek wrote:Yep, the Bug cave would have had fireflies/bugs zooming around it they would devour the light from your firemarble, feeding on it. When the cave system was reworked (which isn't seen in the build you guys have) there was going to be a firemarble manufacturing device that would pop them out for you to use.

Very interesting, this would make for a nice puzzle.
Save for the holes in the collision, I actually liked going through this area. It feels familiar after reading the Book of Atrus, yet there is still plenty of stuff to discover.
I'm not sure it would work well as an introduction to the game though - it's way too linear for a multiplayer game. Oh well.

Tweek wrote:As far as I can tell the Great Tree structure that we see tied on to the Great Tree pub in Uru was going to be part of the path down to D'ni at one point. I seem to recall it had a Linking Book in it I want to say to Teledahn but I can't remember for sure. I'll have to check my files.

Yeah, this tree goes way back, it appeared on the Rime imager if I remember correctly. I wouldn't have guessed it would be located there though.

Thank you for the additional info, this is really interesting :)
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Tsar Hoikas » Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:37 pm

Cyan shared this with the Intangibles team X years ago, FWIW. Here are some quotes from me many years ago about the demo that might be helpful:

Me, Myself, and I wrote:
POSTER REDACTED wrote:MESSAGE REDACTED


To save:
    1. Create a directory called SAV in the same directory as Dirt.exe -- the game will crash if you do not do this.
    2. Press ` to open the console.
    3. Type Save, followed by the name of your save file.
    4. To load, type Load, followed by the name of your save file.

This appears to work. I have noticed that sometimes the avatar becomes invisible if you load a game that is still above ground (Descent). Your mileage may vary. If the game asks you a question you cannot answer about some abandoned object nonsense while loading, simply press N.

I've also noticed that if you screw up your avatar in some way (he refuses to dismount ladders), your save files might remember that bug.


There are other console commands, but I've forgotten them and don't remember what I did with the list of them. :(

The Tsar wrote:We need to set our expectations a bit. This is just an "as-is" tech demo of DIRT gameplay. It's not finished and has bugs. Furthermore, DIRT has been totally abandoned for 10+ years, so... Bugs in these demos are irrelevant. These were just shared for us to see the intangible assets in a live situation.


I'm glad this is finally available for everyone to see. It's a really cool demo. It's too bad the Max plugin changed so much from Plasma 1 to Plasma 2. We *do* have the Max files, but it would be roughly the same amount of work to export this from 3ds Max compared to moving everything to (and exporting from) Korman. Food for thought :)
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Paradox » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:40 pm

Nice to see an explanation for some of the prefixes we've seen in texture files that never quite made sense: hcov is Hector's Cove, dscn is Desert Canyon, gsnd is Great Shaft, chbc is Bug Cave. I have to imagine that gtgh is Great Tree/Guild Hall. We see a lot of gtgh stuff reused in the Great Tree Pub.

I love the feel of the DIRT demo. I love the slightly more cinematic aspects of it with the opening reveal and the log cutscene. I love the sense of a dynamic world and danger, where actions like walking across a bridge can cause it to collapse. I love the more active avatar doing things like climbing the grate and swinging from the pipe. I love how it's lower quality, but feels visually better than Uru in some ways. I love that the desert wasn't yet ret-conned to be in New Mexico :P

This would have been an absolutely great and really unique single-player game, and I'm so disappointed that it never got to be completed.


Sirius wrote:It seems the game uses the "itinerant page" system, which I think means it loads and unloads pages on the fly while you progress through the Age.


The "itinerant" page flag makes it so that the page does not get unloaded. This is used in one place in Uru: to have the Kemo fireflies stay surrounding the player when they link out.

Sirius wrote:Sigh... If this were Plasma V2 instead of Plasma V1, we could have so much more information by looking at the various files. I'm still mad that Dustin left without releasing his reverse-engineered classes of realMyst, this would allow us to convert those files to Uru...
Come to think of it, the engine also comes in a "debug" compiled version. Wouldn't this allow easier reverse engineering of the engine ?


Yeah... *cough*
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Aloys » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:30 am

For what it's worth here is what I believe to be the full list of console commands:

Show Spoiler


* I haven't found a way to properly save that list from the console, so I typed it by hand; hopefully I didn't miss anything.
You can always get more help on a particular command by typing Help "command name"


Also, unrelated tip: I noticed loading times are much faster in windowed mode versus full screen.

(even more unrelated: I noticed the exact same thing last year in Obduction, which is funny since those are two different engines, must be some sort of curse following Cyan around from game to game..)
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Re: Nexus demo, DiRT's Descent, and Hector's Cove !

Postby Sirius » Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:01 am

Tsar Hoikas wrote:I'm glad this is finally available for everyone to see. It's a really cool demo. It's too bad the Max plugin changed so much from Plasma 1 to Plasma 2. We *do* have the Max files, but it would be roughly the same amount of work to export this from 3ds Max compared to moving everything to (and exporting from) Korman. Food for thought :)

That doesn't surprise me. And I suspect it's not really high priority compared to completely new Ages.

Paradox wrote:I love the feel of the DIRT demo.

It's definitely closer to the level of polishing Cyan is used to, compared to Uru. And it finally makes sense to have an avatar in a single player Myst game too. Other Myst games convey the feeling of danger through the presence of other animals or people; this demo conveys it by having your avatar fight against the crumbling remains of D'ni outskirts, with the promise of D'ni on the horizon. This is really cool.

Paradox wrote:The "itinerant" page flag makes it so that the page does not get unloaded. This is used in one place in Uru: to have the Kemo fireflies stay surrounding the player when they link out.

Sounds like it's useful anytime something has to follow the avatar through reloads. I originally thought it was because some portions of the demo were unloaded on the fly, but maybe it's just because the save/load system requires them.

Paradox wrote:Yeah... *cough*

Oohh, shiny ! I came across this a while ago, but for some reason never took the time to have a deeper look and then forgot. Grmrbl, how come I'm always busy with real-life when cool things crop up...

Aloys wrote:Also, unrelated tip: I noticed loading times are much faster in windowed mode versus full screen.

(even more unrelated: I noticed the exact same thing last year in Obduction, which is funny since those are two different engines, must be some sort of curse following Cyan around from game to game..)

I think that's a common problem with video games which load data asynchronously while also displaying a progress bar. From what I can guess the two processes (loading and rendering the screen) have to take turns to access the GPU. Playing fullscreen or windowed may or may not lock the framerate, which has an impact on rendering time, and thus stalls loading.
It also affects other parts of the engine, which is one of the reasons people prefer to play in exclusive (true) fullscreen, or in windowed (fake) fullscreen.
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