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