Sunday, April 17, 2011

Introduction

Welcome to Nomad's Shadow of the Colossus blog

Here I will be posting images and ideas of things I'm exploring in the game. There's a lot of stuff I do in the game that's not really video worthy but still interesting so I tend to take screen captures and post them on the Playstation 2 forums, but since there's little or no activity there anymore I decided to post them here.




About Me
I was first introduced to the game when my older brother lent me his copy. He had played it briefly but couldn't even get to the first colossus xD. That is he made it to the first colossus area, climbed up the ledges but failed to do the backwards jump from the pillar to the ledge. He's more into in war and racing games anyway, so he wasn't really interested. But he mentioned that it had received a 98% rating in an Australian game magazine, so that peaked my interest.

So I played the game through almost without any help... I must admit I got totally stuck on Dirge the first time I played - the whole shooting its eyes from horseback thing, so for this colossus I sneaked a peek online for help. But I think anyone who plays the whole game with a walkthrough is missing out on a great experience. Working out how to scale and defeat the colossi was what made this game so memorable (for me anyway).

So I played it through a couple of times then returned it to my brother and that was that. It was much later that I happened upon a Youtube video of the climb to the secret garden, I knew nothing of this previously and so I got interested again. I went out a bought my own copy (which was the PAL version) but then discovered that there was no rest spot half way up the climb as I had seen in the video. So I had to play the game through four times to get enough grip to make it up there #$%@*. But it was very satisfying when I finally did.

About this time (around June 2009) I happened upon the Playstation 'Quest for the Last Big Secret' forum and from then on I was hooked. There was something special about this group of people who all had the same hope of finding an unknown secret in the game years after it was released. They called themselves 'Secret Seekers' and all manner of crazy theory was put forward, from stabbing the sand under the Ico rings with the Queen's sword to draining Hydrus' lake in the hopes of uncovering a sunken city!


The logic was that the secret extra item you received in ICO (the Mace) was obtained in such an obscure manner as hitting a special tree with the sword, that it was quite possible some even more obscure item or secret could be found in Shadow of the Colossus. It was speculated that the ICO secret had been leaked to the public, but that Team ICO had kept tight lipped about the secret in Shadow of the Colossus... if only this was the case. It's strange that even today, six years after it's release there are still many who think there is a secret to be found, but for those of us who spent months or years posting on the Playstation forums the truth sank in quite early on.

This was all due largely to Pikol, WWWArea and to a lesser extent Radical Dreamer who had the means to get to places by hacking and/or emulator glitches. Radical Dreamer was the hacker, but he didn't hang around very long (this was before I joined) but Pikol opened up the game with his now famous videos. But I was inspired by their work and desperately wanted to explore these unattainable areas myself.


The first thing I wanted to do was get onto 8's temple. There was a short video of Baxtertimewell Agro launching up there but try as I might I could never make it. I must have tried 100 times at least on the console but never came close. I later learned that this is only possible in the NTSC version, but it taught me how to Agro launch, so I started exploring the lands to see where I could get with this new found technique.


The first off limits area I made it to by Agro launching was a small grassy ledge at B5 on the map. It's right next to the south side of Dirge's cave and although there's nothing there it was very satisfying to explore a previously unexplorable area for the first time!

Shortly after this I began using the PCSX2 emulator, and although it ran the game 'very' slowly it allowed me to at least make videos that I could post on Youtube so that other secret seekers could see what I was doing. The in-built recording function used to crash the emulator so I was using a screen recorder at the time then speeding up the videos when I rendered them, but the quality was pretty terrible. In fact the B5 ledge launch video is my earliest upload, check it out here http://youtu.be/JoRhnuQAvHs#t=1582 (Note: You may have to manually goto 26:22 as Youtube's time indexing function doesn't work sometimes).

The next thing I did was launch up to the embankments in the E5 (Autumnal) forest. There is a huge area up there to explore which surprisingly no one had yet mentioned or made videos of, even though the game and it's secrets had been discussed for a long time on the Games F&Q and Playstation forums. The area is full of void pits so it's clear you are not meant to get up there, but I found my way behind the E5 towers which was another exciting discovery for me!

Behind of the E5 forest towers

So I was Agro launching everywhere trying to get to places that Wander alone could not. I found a small area next to the entrance to 14's cave (at the end of the path lined with columns) that led underneath the lake with the island in the centre. But it is full of invisible walls and once there you get stuck and end up falling into the void. I later saw that Khfan1 had already done this, both he and Baxtertimewell were famous among fans for their Agro launching and flash arrow climbing discoveries. 

But I wanted to find a legitimate area that had no invisible walls and would lead to a secret, and shortly thereafter I found one! I launched up to a ledge that snakes along the cliffs at the north side of 15's temple, it's high up and hard to see from below but from a distance it's visible. Once up there you can run along the cliffs and end up at the front section of the temple, that is the part with castle like turrets and platforms that you can only see from the top of the stairs once you enter. 

This was as close as I ever came to finding what I was sure was a secret area. You could get there legitimately, there were no obstructions and it led to an off limits area... it was an amazing moment. 


The first thing you see are the giant eye glyphs staring down at you, it was an ominous feeling as if some guardian of stone was keeping watch over the northern entrance. As far as I knew no one had ever been here before as I'd never read on any forum about this area, only that people had noticed the ledge, nor had I seen a video about this (Note: Pikol had been here but he used the emulator glitch to do it). It also looked like it had been planned for players to get here, with what looked like an entrance leading in. If it had been a solid wall then I might have thought otherwise, but it was clearly designed for Wander to be able to explore.


You can see it's an amazing area with the castle/temple platforms laid out before you, the central stairway running through its centre. But sadly, a great view of the temple was all it offered. The whole area has no collision detection and disappears and reappears depending on where Wander is standing, as if the textures can't decide whether to be on or off. You can run along the northern edge up to one of the main turrets but that's as far as you can go, any further and Wander falls into the void. I was disappointed to say the least, although I still think it classifies as a secret area, the only other similar area is the top of 8's temple which also requires Agro launching.

So I've always wondered if Team Ico had plans for this area but ran out of time to finish it, explaining the glitchy textures, or if it is just a unintentional result of the game physics engine. Perhaps Team Ico didn't realize that Agro launching would get players up here? Like 8's temple which also has glitchy textures once you are on top of it. (Edit: In the PAL/PS3 version this area is blocked by an invisible wall, so it's clear they didn't want you to get up there, it was just an unintentional result of the programming it seems, never intended for any purpose).

Video here (August 1st 2009): http://youtu.be/lKgbkhz5Ef4#t=4490

Updated HD video here: http://youtu.be/JLO2YxFzbNU

When I ran out of places to Agro launch I wanted to take it to the next level, which required hacking the game. I had no idea how to do this but I got a clue from one of Radical Dreamer's videos. 

Radical Dreamer video using Tsearch to hack Wander

Radical Dreamer made just a few videos basically to show what was possible by using a memory editor and posted the links on the Codemasters website, so this is how I was introduced to Tsearch. People didn't discuss hacking issues on the Playstation forums for fear of being banned so information about how to use it was scarce.

I searched the web but nothing really helped me as I was a total n00b with zero experience in hacking games, I'd never even considered it before, so I fumbled around with Tsearch with no results. But eventually I got some help getting started (thanks largely to umjammerlammy aka: Dark0ssX) and worked out how to do the 'jump hack', that is to change Wander's altitude. So from then on I could jump up high into the air and float down with the parachute to land on some high ledge or platform that I'd only ever seen from ground level. Note: Dark0ssx helped Pikol, WWWArea and myself get started, he was one of the early pioneers that hacked the game. In fact, it appears he was the first to reach the top of the temple in the demos (which are solid and walkable), but he didn't bother telling anyone about this... I only learned about this later when I asked him some questions about his interest in the game.

Finally I could get to those areas I had only dreamt about, but I still couldn't move forward except by opening and closing the parachute (which only moves you forward a little), still there were a few easy places to check out first, like the opposite towers of the E5 forest.

Behind south side towers of the Autumnal forest

I was such a n00b that it took me ages to realize that if I paused the game then locked my three coordinates for Wander (x,y,z) then unpaused the game, Wander would be instantly transported to that area determined by the values I had set. So now I could move in the four cardinal directions as well as up and down.

In October I uploaded a video of the intro cutscene that featured some weird effects and this got the attention of WWWArea who had always wanted to hack the cutscenes (Watch it here: http://youtu.be/mLkJg5Bjpws). He had some previous experience with hacking games so we set up an online chat session and began exchanging ideas. This was the start of an amazing journey of exploration as together we were the first to see areas in the game's landscapes that no one had ever seen before (except of course the Team Ico programmers). The real breakthrough came when WWWArea found a code that froze the intro cutscene. Why this code exists is a mystery, perhaps the programmers needed it for testing , but whatever the reason by freezing it we had all the time we needed to move Wander around and explore the area.

Wander floating above hills of the intro cutscene

The intro cutscene consists of five different parts 1) the canyon 2) the forest 3) rest stop in the rain (this is where you see Emon and his soldiers arrive later in the game), 4) a long green field and 5) behind the entrance gates with the main bridge leading to the temple. Each area is a different model that loads separately, so each model has to be explored independently. The same freeze code works throughout, but at the green field the screen turned black so we couldn't explore that area at first. I talk further about the intro cutscene in a separate post here: http://nomads-sotc-blog.blogspot.com/2011/07/intro-cut-scene-green-field.html but this is how I became deeply involved in hacking the game, to see what other areas I could find that you can't see normally.

There were many other exciting discoveries to follow such as exploring the other cutscenes, modding the colossi, finding different camera controls, turning off the bloom effect, exploring the beta mountains and even just some weird codes that did strange things to Wander or Agro, all took place throughout our online chat sessions. I uploaded videos like crazy but recently deleted many of them due to bad quality or low views. Things have slowed down now and I only upload the occasional video these days, but I still like to boot up the game, climb on Agro and go exploring ; )

Wander's Sleep Code
I found the code that makes Wander go to sleep a while back. It works at any place in the forbidden lands except within the area of a loaded colossus, but in front of Mono's altar it gives the impression of Wander's deep regret at the loss of his beloved companion... if that's what she was?

Wander sleeping at Mono's altar

Here he is snoozing up a tree! I guess he's tired after all that colossi climbing ; )

Note: When I say 'code' I really mean a memory address. Codebreaker codes are byte addresses (1 byte) but I mostly use 'float' addresses which are 32 bits I believe. Searching for bytes results in too many addresses to search through, so floats are more user friendly (although you still get thousands of results).

I'm lucky in that when I reboot my computer, or the emulator for that matter all the codes I have saved still work with my emulator save states, otherwise I would have to find the codes all over again each time. When I installed Windows 7 every time I booted up the emulator my codes had changed, so I had to use a hex calculator to convert them back to a usable form. This is due to 'pointers' which change from game to game, that's why only the health and grip values work as Codebreaker codes or similar are savable from game to game, most other codes have pointers which change. WWWArea's codes change from game to game so he has to find the codes for whatever he wants to do each time, which is time consuming and tedious.

Update: The latest versions of the PCSX2 emulator store the save files in a stable block of memory that doesn't change, so the horrible days of converting codes is now a thing of the past. So if I find a cool new memory address these days I only have to find it once and it will always work with my save states. 

Wander praying at the altar

Here's Wander praying for Mono to wake up. I made him pray at a save shrine and noted the hex values that appear for his animation controls, these values are near his position co-ordinates in the code. So I can recreate all of his animations whenever I like, although as mentioned above, some don't work near a loaded colossus.

Rain in the Forbidden Lands
I've finally worked out how to make it rain anywhere in the forbidden lands! It's pretty cool, changes the atmosphere of the game dramatically, however the pay-off is no collisions... I have to use the standing hack to move around, or a save stone platform. It only works at Malus so I can't make it rain at other colossi battles since the rain only appears when Malus is loaded.


Rain at F6

Rain at G3

Storm over the Shrine of Worship

Some Other Hacks
Here are a few more things I have played around with over the years, just some stuff I haven't shown before which doesn't really fit into any category. Some took hours to create, while others were just simple ideas or explorations to see what was there ; )

Here I retouched those arches to see what they might have looked like when new

Stretching out the clouds to create a weird looking sky

Using a save stone platform to ride up to the Entrance temple

Inside the altar above Mono

Another area above Mono's altar inside the Shrine of Worship

High above the forbidden lands

Testing the mist effect on the path to secret garden

Huge save stone platform


Here I moved a temple from #14's arena to the beach at B5

Closeup look at one of those weird white cubes

Blocks I made in Google Sketchup

OPM demo Entrance temple model

Large rock stopper model from the demos

#16's arena model which fans call 'Cataclysm Circle'

I recently bought a 3D printer from MakerBot, so I can now print out 3D models. I have always been an avid inventor since I was like 12 years old, so it was a great opportunity to save a lot of money on prototypes. I have spent thousands of dollars over the years paying engineering firms to build my prototypes via their CNC router machines. But now it's very easy to design something in Google Sketchup or Maya then export the file to my 3D printer. Below are a couple of early tests I printed. I used the SotC viewer to export the models then fixed them up in Maya (which I am still learning how to use ; )

3D printed model of Valus - early test with crude results

3D printed model of a save shrine - much better results! Just need to paint it