The History of The
By Santiago Méndez, Andrew Ervine and Bill Tiller
NOTE: If you worked on any of the versions
of The Dig. And think there is innacurate information or you simply
remember something you would like to add, The Dig Museum has the doors
open for you. Contact us.
the afternoon, there is a breeze in the air, clouds are all over the
sky, dark clouds that announce a storm is coming. This is how the story
of The Dig begins. Which was quite different as how, the history of
The Dig really happened
It all begun in 1989 when Steven Spielberg
started to show interest in computer games. He was (and still is) a
friend of George Lucas and he was very happy with Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade (made by LucasFilm Games).
Around that time he brought to LucasFilm his idea for The Dig, which
was based on two main concepts. The first was originated by an idea
he had for an episode of his Amazing Stories TV series (that due to
budget and technology reasons was never filmed). The second concept
was a merge of ideas coming from two films: Forbidden Planet and Treasure
of the Sierra Madre. These two concepts were the base for the beginning
of The Dig.
The first project leader was Noah Falstein
(read his interview here). Part
of the team for this first version was: Dave Grossman, Ken Macklin,
Anson Jew, Terry Whitlach and Iain McCaig among others.
The game was described as a "Science Fiction Role-playing Adventure".
The main characters (from which you could choose) were a man called
Terasov (an engineer) and a woman called Fox (a biologist). The story
took place in the future; the characters were part of the crew in a
spaceship assigned to explore an unknown planet which was apparently
desolated. Eventually you find out that aliens who lived in this planet
You can read the original game script/description in the downloads
Noah Falstein worked on The Dig for about 18 months and after a series
of events he eventually was laid off. Before this, Brian Moriarty had
been already assigned to The Dig project and he decided to start from
1993 the second project leader, Brian Moriarty (Creator of Loom and
the Infocom text adventures Wishbringer and Trinity), again took some
of the Spielberg's original concepts and created a new story. This story
is at least 80% of the one you have played in the released version.
It occurred in the present (or near future) and this time it was an
Adventure game. This was a much deep and serious version than the one
it was released; it was also more bloody and violent.
Bill Eaken developed the artistic style of the game and did most of
the backgrounds. He was the one who came up with the idea of the spires.
He sketched them up in a rough concept and Brain saw those and thought
they were interesting and that the whole game should take place just
on these spires. Moriarty wanted no plants or structures on the islands,
just rocks. Bill was worried it would be boring so he came up with two
elements that would help make the rocks less boring: bright color, and
the alien rock carvings. Bill Tiller (lead artist on the released version
of The Dig) took these themes and pushed them even further, adding even
more cravings, even some plants, and lots more water and water falls.
The color, the water effects, the vistas, and the alien rock carvings
al gave this new Dig a unique and appealing style, despite the stark
In this version there were four main
characters: Boston Low, Dr. Ludger Brink, Judith Robbins, and Toshi
Olema, a Japanese businessman who provided much of the funding and technology
for the shuttle mission, since NASA was at an all-time budgetary low.
Because there was an extra astronaut, the box art showed four characters
instead of three, as seen on the cover
of Adventurer #6 and on the audio-book of the novel. This fourth spacemen
was later photoshoped out, by the time the package was being designed
(read the interview with Blind Mice Studio here)
(Interestingly, Olema is not an actual Japanese last name. Brian Moriarty
remarked to other team members that he had a funny background story
for it, but it's never been revealed. Also, the idea of an executive
from Japan funding an entire shuttle mission is based on the early 1990's
fear in America of the rise of Japanese industry. One of the influences
driving Moriarty to use the concept was Michael Crichton's novel Rising
aliens saw the multi-dimensional reality to which they had ascended
as a paradise, since it allowed them to live forever (they weren't trapped
in it, as in the final Dig). They wanted to share it with others, but
only those who proved their worth. So when other races began to explore
space, these aliens would send an asteroid to their planet, as the first
step on the journey into this higher plane. But in order to enter the
aliens' reality, beings had to have their subatomic particles flipped.
Such flipping was accomplished by passing through a four-dimensional
tubular shape, known as a "Klein bottle," which was apparently
contained somewhere in the asteroid. The Klein bottle would cause all
four crewmembers to become left-handed before they arrived on the alien
planet, and the game's artists had to animate them in that manner.
The alien world had been intentionally designed to be dangerous; the
whole place served as a test to find out whether new arrivals were clever
enough to survive and find their way into the aliens' higher plane.
Like in the final game, the aliens would occasionally show up in the
form of "ghosts" to guide the crew. In Moriarty's The Dig
they were orange in color, but in the actual release they're blue.
Some of the puzzles and plot ideas were much more violent than anything
in Sean Clark's version. For example, Toshi Olema was killed after walking
through a cave filled with falling acid drops, leaving behind a bloody,
mutilated corpse. Also, Judith Robbins was attacked by a swarm of fierce
One puzzle required Low to get rid of some bats who were blocking the
entrance to a cave (perhaps so he could rescue Judith). An eel caught
bats to eat by emitting a beam of green light from its eyes which stunned
them, so they would fall to the water below. Low had to electrocute
the eel, cut out the lens of its eye, put the lens on his flashlight,
and shine the light at the bats; then the creatures would drop to the
Life crystals apparently existed in Brian Moriarty's design for The
Dig, and drove Brink insane, as in the final game. It was in this version
that cutting off Brink's hand was first thought up; in the original
idea, the tide was rising in the cave where he was stuck, and he had
to be freed quickly to save him from drowning. While the basic puzzle
remains in the released Dig, there's no water involved.
himself asked for these violent and gross scenes, since he had done
similar scenes in movies such as Jaws, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park,
but after Jurassic Park came out, Spielberg was heavily criticized for
the violence in the movie, due to that fact many parents ignored the
PG rating and inappropriately took very young children to see it because
it had dinosaurs in it. Spielberg was concerned that the same would
happen to The Dig that parents would buy it for young children. So he
called LucasArts up and asked them to tone it down.
Moriarty's game was controlled by a 4-icon GUI which resembles the one
in Sam and Max Hit the Road, with icons representing the actions Examine,
Pick up, Use, and Move. The game wasn't being made with the usual SCUMM
system, but was going to use a new engine that was being developed called
The heavy emphasis on scientific details in The Dig's story worried
LucasArts marketing, and the game was unpopular inside the company due
to it unusual development length and due to the unusual amount of publicity
it was getting. Many felt better games were in development at LucasArts
but weren't getting near as much press or interest. Eventually, when
Brian Moriarty became very unhappy with the development of the game
for many reasons, he left the company to go work at Rocket Science (in
fact he left LucasArts the same day that the Pizza Orgy for The Dig
was being held). Rumors
went around about why Brian quit, but most agree it was an incredibly
stressful Project, due to Spielberg's name being attached and due to
amount of art that need to be generated for it. Brian's past experience
in text based game making had not prepared him for developing such an
animation and art heavy project and with such a large staff. The added
stress of developing a replacement for the SCUMM engine didn't help
The third project leader was Dave Grossman,
who picked up where Moriarty had left. He made some fixings to the game
while trying to retain as much as possible of the Moriarty version.
The company was not going to allow him to start a completely new version.
Dave worked on The Dig for a few months, until Sean Clark came in fresh
from his succesful project Sam and Max hit the Road.
Clark was the person who finally managed
to finish the game, in 1995. He made some major changes, including removing
Toshi Olema entirely and changing Judith's name to Maggie (as a reference
to a character on the TV series Northern Exposure).
game engine was switched from StoryDroid back to SCUMM, LucasArts' standard,
because that was the engine Sean knew best and felt at this point The
Dig needed to mitigate as many risk as possible. The character designs
also were redone (by Geri Bertolo). And the aliens' backstory was greatly
simplified (to management's relief).
Although early beta versions of Clark's The Dig included a 5-icon GUI
much like the one in Brian Moriarty's version (but with an extra Talk
to icon added), it was later simplified to the final "one-click-does-it-all"
interface, after the former was deemed too cumbersome by testers.
(Some team members experimented with a Full Throttle- and Curse of Monkey
Island-style "verb coin" control method, using a sheer glass
pentagon with the five icons arrayed around it. But Sean rejected the
idea, because he didn't want to copy another game.)
During testing, the original space puzzle was simplified considerably.
The player originally had to take the Pig to the asteroid surface; return
to the shuttle and carry the explosives back to Attila; and then radio
to the shuttle to have Ken and Cora scan the asteroid for the devices'
The voices in The Dig's demo, quite different from those in the actual
release, were once intended to be used in the final game. However, during
production on Sean Clark's design, almost all of the dialogue was rewritten
after being recorded. During the re-recording process, LucasArts decided
to hire new, more professional voice actors.
The original lines were recorded at a time when the 5-icon interface
was still being used. If you explore the demo's audio files, you can
find references to the various commands (such as Low saying "I
wouldn't want to be pushy" in response to the command Move Brink
or Move Maggie).
Also, during the rewriting, some of the scientific details in dialogue
were simplified. For example, in the demo, Low notes that a plant is
respirating if you click on it. In the final game he worries that the
plant might be something like poison ivy.