In October 2008, Syd-tiger posted his discovery of what he called an 'invisible floor' over the ocean in H8 on the GameFAQs website. He discovered this strange anomaly by accident - 'I was actually just trying to see how far I could get to the east, trying to get to the cloudy area left. I got mad and jumped off Agro, and I use the cloth whenever I do anyway. Sheer luck!'. The next day Khfan1 was exploring this area and discovered a mountain at the north east corner of H8. This was the first glimpse of what fans later called the 'Beta Mountains'.
You can read Syd-tiger's (aka: Toxic_Trace/Willy) GameFAQ post here:
Khfan1 made a video of the invisible lands here: (one of my favourites!)
This is as far as you can get legitimately in the game, just one tantalizing look at a mountain mysteriously floating out above the ocean. It wasn't until Pikol came onto the scene and showed us that this was just the tip of the iceberg (so to speak). Using his emulator glitch he discovered that the mountain Khfan1 found was just the first in a long chain of lands that the developers had left in the game but were completely inaccessible.
Map showing all the squares that contain beta mountains
G7 Cliffs above the invisible lands
Solitary mountain at the north east corner of H8
It's only possible to launch off the cliffs onto the H8 invisible lands in the US (NTSC) version. The PAL/Japanese versions have a tweaked cloth of desperation that doesn't allow you to float out far enough (this is also true for the HD PS3 version). I don't know about the Chinese version as I've never been able to get my hands on a copy.
So it was Pikol that first had the means to explore these vast, unused eastern lands and this led to his biggest discovery of all - the beta dam. Unfortunately, there were no more temples or ruins to be found even though the beta mountains occupy nearly 18% of the entire map. Nearly all are just vast, empty plains punctuated by the occasional cliff or mountain range and most have the same whitish/brown texture. It is my belief that these are the basic matrix upon which the developers would fashion the landscapes in the game, a skeleton if you will that was later textured with grass, plants and trees etc. There is evidence for this in an early intro trailer that shows the cliffs under the entrance made up of the same whitish/brown texture (before it was rendered into what we see today).
Check it out here (at 02:45): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bMFsDmOuBc
So here I will be showing images of all the beta mountains starting from I8 (the one Khfan1 found) and heading north all the way up the J column, then west into row 0 and ending in the A column (as shown in the above map).
Complete I8 beta mountains viewed from the south
Top of the mountain looking west
Strange blue triangle next to the invisible lands (H8) as seen from I8
These mountains seem to be the southern most cliffs of a once larger area
The I7 quadrant was removed leaving I8 and J7 to the south and east
Heading east we come to the J8 blue lands with these distinctive triangles
A vast plain of blue nothingness!
We move north to the J7 beta mountains with this unique high wall
Complete J7-J6 beta mountains - you can see how it's been cut on the west side
Other side of wall
Lonely mountain top - I brought Agro along for company ; )
Mountains tower above a large flat plain
Heading north we move into J6 (same mountain range though)
Very top of J6-J7 mountains
Map of what we have seen so far H8, I8, J8, J7 and J6
We move north to the sheer rock cliffs at J6
Top of J6 cliffs looking south
Towering cliffs at J6
Looking down at a lower ledge - very angular and jagged
On lower ledge looking down - a dizzying drop to the ground below!
Lower ledge - was this a path at one time?
Moving north into J5 we pass through a vast, flat empty plain
Finally arriving at some rounded hills
J5 & J4 viewed from a distance
Northern tip of J5
You can see the vast scale of the landscape here compared to Wander
We've moved into J4 - a thin band of brown mountains
You can see it's also been cut away from I4 (which was removed)
Map of I4 and J4
You can see what looks like a path leading east from Avion's lair into I4 which looks to have large table top type mountains and valleys. We can imagine the brown sand like floor extending west from J4 into I4 with the J4 mountains acting as a barrier to the east.
J4 mountains looking south
J4 mountains looking north into J3 (which are higher up)
Southern tip of J3 - clearly this area was unfinished
Undulating plains at J3
Miles and miles of the same patchwork landscapes
At the border of J3 and J2
There's something mysterious about these lands. They exist out at the edge of the map, unexplored and forgotten. Even in their unfinished state there's an eerie stillness about them. There's no sound out here, only the sound of Wander's footfalls or his parachute opening and closing breaks the absolute silence. But they were made for a reason, a much grander vision of the forbidden lands that sadly was never realized. But seeing them from Wander's perspective makes you appreciate how much work was put into making them and even in their bare boned state, there is still a grandeur about them.
We can only imagine what areas like these would have looked like complete
J2 depression - next to where the beta dam mountains begin
We are moving north into J1
Looking down a steep cliff face (shown in above image)
Most of J1 is flat except for the western edge which has mountainous features
Map showing black screen crash areas - the beta dam is at the bottom
Quadrant I1 was removed from the game and as there is no object within it, the game will crash if you try and enter. Normally they put a small white cube or triangle texture in the empty quadrants so that there is something to load, but here they seem to have overlooked this. But the crash area extends beyond I1 into the surrounding quadrants, so exploring these areas was impossible. They don't even load using the Dormin editor, you just get an error message. But WWWArea worked out a way of freezing the quadrant so it was possible to enter and he used this to get a closer look at the brick like structures north of the dam (you can see from the map above that these are within the crash area).
So I used this technique to first explore the western edge of J1 (which had never been seen before). I was hoping that this last unseen area might hold some interesting leftover relic, some ruins or a broken column... but as I guessed, there were just more mountain features. Even so, it was still interesting to see this area for the first time.
Northern tip of J1 (west) - more angular structures
View from the south end
High walls tower above Wander
A lonely outpost at the edge of the world
We head north into J0
We are at the northern most edge of the map here
We head west into H0 along the top edge of the map
Colossal wall of rock - the area has a greenish hue
What I have dubbed 'The Temple Mountains' as they almost look like a temple
Looking up at the Temple Mountains
Wander on first tier of the Temple Mountains
Panned out view of the area
Bottom of a valley
The H0 mountains have a deep valley far below ground level
Bottom of H0 deep valley - you can move a little way into I1 down here
There's a large cleft in the mountain face
Top of cleft looking down
The H0 valley winds around north into H1
Wander looking down into the H1 valley
Top level of H1 - mostly featureless
We now move west to the other side of the map - to the A0 beta mountains
Large flat plain with sheer walls
Looking south - these mountains are similar in style to the H0 beta mountains
Wander contemplating his next move further south
A2 mountains - there is nothing in A1 except a large flat plain
Looking down into a wide valley
We move south into A3 - distinctive non textured mountains
Again it was Pikol who first found these but could only view them from far above
Parts have a pinkish creamy hue
Clearly unfinished mountains
There's a lower level to these mountains - perhaps it was to be a cave of some sort?
Complete A3 beta mountains showing both levels
Extra Beta Mountains in the Preview version
When the Preview (or pre-release) version appeared a few years ago (around September 2009) it was soon discovered that there were more beta mountains than in the final version. Both Pikol, WWWArea and myself found these, but I believe Pikol was the first to see them. In any case there were extra mountains at B0, C0, D0 E0, G0, B1, B2 and I6, the latter being within corrupt quadrant. As this was an earlier version of the game we can see how much more work was done in the early stages of development. The forbidden lands were much larger and more extensive than previously thought, covering roughly 26% of the entire map.
Map showing all the squares that contain beta mountains in the Preview version
Map showing beta lands from both NTSC/PAL and Preview versions
I'll start off at G0 and work my way west this time. G0 is just east of the bridge and exists at ground level, unlike the rest of the beta mountains which are around 300 metres above ground level. Why they were put up so high is a mystery, perhaps they put them up high to work on them and when finished they would have moved them back to ground level? Or perhaps these lands merely existed at higher elevations.
G0 appears to be a beach type area with dark cliffs at its northern edge. It definitely looks like sand where the cliffs meet the ground, as if they are wind blown dunes of some kind.
The brown smear behind the cliffs is the low res 2D mountain texture
Top of cliffs with H1 beta mountains above
Top of cliffs looking west at the bridge
South east corner of the E0 beta mountains
You can see how close the northern beta mountains were to the forbidden lands we are familiar with. It seems clear they were planned to be joined at one time, perhaps being accessed via the entrance temple. There's an early image of the Entrance temple in the art book with Wander's HUD displayed, so we can speculate that at one time it may have been part of the game and could have allowed access to the northern beta mountains.
Art book image showing the Entrance temple with Wander's grip and health
A large expanse of flat land as far as the eye can see
Northern edge of the map - you can see we are outside the game game map here
We arrive at what looks like a large crater. There's an entrance at the south side but it's above ground level, so perhaps this was to be a lake at one time?
Looking down into the crater
At the bottom of the crater with Agro
Further west of crater - you can see the south entrance more clearly here
We arrive at another crater type structure, larger than the first
Edge of D0 crater
View of D0 crater from above - you can just make out Wander and Agro
Angular plateau - most of the features are on the south edge of the mountains
More mountains jutting up out of the plain
Top of mountains from previous image
Heading west we see more mountains rising up on the horizon
We are at the very edge of C0 now, moving into B0
View to the western edge of the northern beta mountains
Northern edge of map at B0 - a trail leads up to higher elevations
View to the east from the edge of a cliff
Panned out view of B0
Wander surveying the mountains
Here A0 and B0 meet
View of A0 mountains from B0
Down below B0 we can see B1, a large flat, mottled brown plain
Northern beta mountains float above the B1 plain
To the west we see the A0 beta mountains floating up above
To the east we see the edge of the forbidden lands (around 14's area)
and to the south we see some more beach like cliffs at B2
Cliffs at B2 are the same type as G0
We now move back across the map to I6 where one last set of unfinished lands exist. The I6 quadrant freezes the game when you enter too far, so it's problematic mapping it. I can use certain codes to move around there but invariably the game still freezes. These lands extend a little way into 15 (to the north) and J5 and J6 to the east.
You can actually see these beta mountains from H6 in the Preview version
This is as far as you can go north in H6, but you can see from the map (inset) that a path led northeast to I5. So we can imagine the cliff winding around the cliffs leading to perhaps a beach like area with caves at I5. If you look closely at the I5 quadrant on the map you can see what look like caves. As with most of the other beta mountains, those at I6 are high above ground level.
Part of the missing I5 quadrant looking southeast
Further east in I5, closer to the mountains
Northeast edge of I column looking north - J column is to the right
Lands not yet joined - J column on the left, I column on the right
Southern tip of J5 looking down
Here we can see how the J6 mountains continued west
Panned out view of the stretched texture