LucasArts' Secret History #11: The Dig Starry Fanboy Eyes

Starry Fan Eyes

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I'm The Dig's biggest fan in the whole planet earth and I thought you should know it. I was about to do an objective review, an in-depth analysys on the greatness and flaws of the game, talking about things like character development, story arcs, gameplay structure, etc. But there is no way I'm going to let that happen, there is just too much emotions involved. I want the starry-eyed fanboy to address you. I want to speak from the heart and move you to tears.

There are many games I love, but I have few memories of when I first played them as clear as this one. I was eleven years old and it wasn't yet a year since we had a PC at home. An old friend of mine -avid gamer- lend me some games, and one of them happened to be The Dig.

It all took place at night, the game was already installed. Dark clouds and thunders filled my screen as the LucasArts logo was about to appear; oh man! The opening was the coolest thing I've seen on my monitor at the time. As I started playing I was completely absorbed into that world, the space, being an astronaut, saving earth from a colliding asteroid. It felt like a completely unique experience. I didn't manage to solve the whole space part that night, but I knew the fun was about to begin.

It is because of The Dig that I have books about space shuttles. It's because of The Dig that I was interested in learning who Attila the Hun was. It's because of The Dig that for many years I thought it could be possible for a journalist to go into space just because he or SHE knows many languagues (come on!). It's because of The Dig that I don't do drugs...

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The Dig had a deep impact (ha!) on the last years of my childhood, but was it all charm and roses? It sure wasn't, it took me two (human) years to finish the game. Which brings us to the difficulty of the puzzles. If you are stranded on an alien world, especially one which was previously inhabited by an advanced civilization, then understanding certain things would require some degree of mental challange right? Maybe some chess-like logics would need to be applied, right? Not exactly I'm afraid. I would have appreciated if some puzzles were logically hard (like the light bridge that needs it's panel opened and circuits re-arranged), but many of them were just plain insane.

The first time I got stucked was when Brink (first) dies. I did all that needed to be done until the reviving part, but I just couldn't figure it out. One night I dreamt the solution while sleeping ("holy cow, I have to use the crystal over the dead body!"), it was the first and only time a videogame I was playing managed to get into my slumberland. By the way, that wasn't an example of a hard puzzle, just of how much it got into my (lack of) life.

But let's talk about hard puzzles, the one that prevented me from finishing the game was the damn alien tablet. I know that cursed thing much better than the back of my hand, I've stared at it for hours, I even got to print it so I could study it more carefully and try to discover what it was for. It turned out that the content of the tablet was probably meaningless and all you had to do with it was to show it to Maggie at one very specific point in the game. At that point, after two years of playing the game, I didn't mind that the puzzle was completely irrational, I was just thrilled that I was finally going to finish it.

I think The Dig is worth any adventure gamer's time for a number of reasons. One is Bill Eaken's artwork (with Bill Tiller refining and adding to it), really amazing and beautiful. He completely managed to create an alien world without doing something unrecognizable. The place is not much different from earth, it is different enough. You really feel slightly odd and alert while walking through Cocytus (a name which curiously enough, is never mentioned on the game itself). At the same time it's filled with beautiful stunning views. I think that's probably the best achievement in the game, creating the perfect mood and atmoshphere.

Contributing inmensly in this area is the music composed by Michael Land (most known for the Monkey Island theme song). Not your tipical sci-fi tunes here for sure. He went for something quite introspective for The Dig, and completely delivered. An amazing score that today would have won tons of awards this days that didn't exist back then.

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Compleating the audio part of the game is Clink Bajakian with some pretty awesome sound design magic. His work really adds to the overall atmosphere and reality of the place. Alien birds, bats, turtles, spider-monsters, humming winds, ancient technology. He has a sound for everything, and everything's in it's place.

What about the game's troublesome and endless development period? The Dig was in the hands of Noah Falstein, whose intention was to make an adventure game with many RPG elements, set in the future. Brian Moriarty, who developed most of what ended up being the finished game. Dave Grossman, who tried to capture the savage creature that Moriarty had left (when he left the company). And finally Sean Clark, who managed to get the game released. I really admire Sean for achieving what three other guys (for different reasons) couldn't, but I'm really curious about what Brian Moriarty's The Dig would have been like if he had finished it. For instance, I feel like the ending would probably have been much more interesting and less cheesy (just like Loom's ending was). So, could The Dig have been better? undoubtly. But all in all, including its many flaws, its still a great game with so many wonderful things that are unique (including the greatest drug metaphor ever included in a videogame).

The Dig, I love you and you know I would have voted for Cora Miles.

-- By Santiago Méndez (Sam/Valkian)

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