Tuesday, May 15, 2018

PSU Preview Version

On September 21st, 2013 I uploaded a video about an especially rare demo that let you fight the first three colossi (i.e. Valus, Quadratus & Gaius). The other demos we already knew of (OPM, PSU & PAL) only ever let you fight the first colossus before the game reset back to the starting cinematic. The video came directly from the October 2005 issue of PSM (Playstation magazine) which included a bonus dvd that included game demos and videos, sadly Shadow of the Colossus was not a playable demo, just a 15 minute long video. In it you see a very inept player try to navigate the first three colossi, spending over 7 minutes trying to take down Quadratus! Clearly it was the players first time and is excruciating to watch. When the player fights the 3rd Colossus (Gaius) he/she just stands there and gets hit over and over by Gaius' huge stone club! It's as if the player had given up and just wanted to die! What kind of video was this to promote a new game?

See video here: https://youtu.be/B4RPjZK2ZEw

PSM magazine and disc from October 2005

I'd seen a video in the past that talked about playing this 'three colossi' demo, but it wasn't until I got this magazine from eBay that I knew for sure that it was real. 
See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lZFdETJlbE

I tweeted 'Greg Kasavin' who had played it, but was told it was never released to the public, but at least now I had some video evidence to show.

PSU Preview version title screen

Compare this to the PAL (European version) menu

You can see from the above title screens that we only have the basics here... new file, load file and options. In the later retail versions the menu is completely different with an updated Shrine of Worship and Bonus Material added.

The date for this version appears after the OPM demo was released, but a few days before the PSU demo.
- USA (NTSC) OPM Demo (22nd June 2005)
- USA (NTSC) PSU Preview version (8th July 2005)
- USA (NTSC) PSU Demo (12th July 2005)
- USA (NTSC) Preview version (10th August 2005)
- USA (NTSC) version (14th August 2005)
- PAL (European) Demo (1st December 2005)
PAL (European) version (15th December 2005)

It's clear the PSU demo is the same version as the PSU Preview version, just with one colossus and only the nine centre squares of the map being available to explore. In this version you can play the first three colossi but the entire game map is explorable. Note: When I mention the 'Preview version' I'm talking about a completely different version that surfaced in 2009. It was another earlier build, but is the full game and features all 16 colossi, so it may be confusing at first if you have never played any of these versions. 

See my Preview version blog post here:

So this version (the PSU Preview) only has the first three colossi to defeat before the game resets, but from looking into the code (via a Hex editor) it seems that most of the colossi models and textures are still available. I've had my friend and resident 'genius' coder (Wisi) looking into this for me, but so far despite all his efforts, the rest of the colossi are as yet not possible to be loaded in this version of the game. Note: It was Wisi who managed to reveal the two previously unseen map squares that were hidden in the game's code. See video here: https://youtu.be/wD1GC5U82uc

So sadly, as of this moment, it appears there is no way to load the other colossi in this version, that is from the 4th to the 16th colossus. But even so, we are still gifted with a full map to explore, unlike previous demos. And as this is one of the earliest versions we have ever come across (earlier even than the Preview version), there are some interesting differences to be found.

PSU Preview disc (thanks to Diablodin)

History of the PSU Preview Disc
According to the original owner, it seems that this rare disc was found at a flea market it New Jersey. Discs were being sold for $5 each, and the owner bought the whole box for $80. Once the box of discs was inventoried, this one rare PS2 disc stood out among the rest. The original owner then sold it on eBay for $350 US dollars to a user named Diablodin. Luckily, a friend of the 'original buyer' sent an email to me when I was travelling the US after visiting BluePoint Studios.

So the original owner of this disc had already made an ISO file of the game and had sent it to a friend of his (before he posted it on eBay for sale). This friend was named 'John Conquest', and it was he that emailed me about this rare find! Thanks to John, once I returned to Sydney - after a two week holiday in the USA, I finally got to play this early version for the first time. Note: I have been in contact with the current owner of the disc (Diablodin) and he admitted that he would have sent me the ISO file in any case, based on my enthusiasm of the game, so that was nice to hear!

My Visit to Bluepoint Studios
I should talk about my visit to Bluepoint studios. I can't say too much as I'm still under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) I signed when I first entered their offices, but this is my story as it unfolded.

My friend Randall Lowe standing in front of four 4K displays

Once the new remake was announced in June, 2017 I was very excited about what we could expect to see. I had heard of Bluepoint games before from their other remakes, namely the God of War and Uncharted series, both games I had played on the PS3 and PS4 consoles, so I knew their work was really high end and professional. But then I started to see other Youtube channels posting videos of the PS4 remake and most infuriatingly, unboxing videos of the Shadow of the Colossus PS4 press kit by channels that had way less subscribers than my channel? Why, I asked myself, did these channels have access to the press kit and the PS4 review version but not me? I mean I wouldn't have complained as most of the channels had millions of subscribers - I get that, Sony wants as much exposure as it can get. But there were other channels with just a few thousand subs that had the press kit or the review version?

But I wasn't until December 2017 that I first contacted Mark Skelton (Senior artist) and introduced myself... I got no reply. So I then added a link to my latest blog post about the PS4 remake, see here:

Then he responded! 'Oh shit! hey man! Sorry didn't realize that you were Nomad! We here at Bluepoint referenced your blog and videos A LOT and I have to say, I'm a big fan! I'm not sure how Sony legal would take us sending you the demo, BUT I will definitely ask about it.'

Of course I asked questions and received the occasional email from different members of the Bluepoint staff, namely Daryl Allison (Project Manager) and sometimes from Marco Thrush (President), but usually got the same response... 'We have to be careful about what we say since you are not under an NDA contract'. On the 25th of January 2018 I got an email from Daryl that confirmed what I had hoped was true, 'Boon boon boon. That's all I have to say about that :)'

Boon of the Nomad

At this point, I was skeptical that the 'Boon of the Nomad' trophy was a reference to me, I thought instead that it was a coincidence and that Bluepoint were referencing Wander, who is a lonely 'nomadic' type character lost in the vast forbidden lands - made sense. But thanks to Daryl's email I understood that Bluepoint had indeed referenced my channel! And even had made a special new secret cave in the E5 forest where you could find a barrel from the Last Guardian! Wow, this was so unexpected and amazing! 

Note: I should mention that apart from a couple of extensive blog posts and some short videos, I didn't make any definitive inroads into 'The Last Guardian'. This honor must go to Brian Davidson who managed to find a whole bunch of off limits areas and became a master at reaching seemingly impossible to reach areas! Great work Brian ; ) See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPruM0VfAaE

January 26th 2018, I got an email from Daryl: 'In other news... Our latest plan is ... drum roll... To try and get you to visit us. We are going to ask for confirmation that SIE is okay with it and obviously respect any guidelines they provide. We plan to cover your travel costs, so it's just a matter of you being able to say yes and when (assuming SIE gives us the green light)'.

So this is how I got to visit Bluepoint Studios before the launch of the PS4 remake! It seems they had been planning this for a while, so even if I had never made contact with Bluepoint the odds are they would have invited me in any case, based on the 'Boon of the Nomad' trophy.

So I took the 15 hour flight from Sydney to LA, then a 5 hour flight from LA to Austin, Texas. When I arrived on Sunday the 4th of February I had had been awake for over 32 hours! Jet lag lulled me to sleep as soon as I fell into my hotel bed. The next day I was totally refreshed and so made my way to the Bluepoint studios.

Bluepoint games library

As soon as I entered the studio, I saw Marco Thrush and Steve Schaefer waiting to greet me. I had seen Marco on the Sony Playstation Youtube video about Bluepoint, so I immediately recognised one of the main players at Bluepoint (in Marco's case - the President). Sadly, I had no permission to take any photos or video inside the Bluepoint offices, and a few times I was asked to 'turn around and face the other way so I could not see a monitor screen that featured potentially 'secret' content. But it was like walking around in a Shadow of the Colossus museum! There were posters on the walls, concept art taped up on white boards and 3D printed figurines of the colossi standing proudly on various desks around the office. On a bookshelf was a copy of the PS3 special edition box set signed by Ueda, and the staff where wearing Shadow of the Colossus T-shirts ; )

Bluepoint cafeteria - they made great brewed coffee!

Then the entire staff surrounded me all wanting to shake my hand and greet me! It was a little overwhelming to say the least, but I felt completely at home with this group of amazingly bright and talented people, who let's face it are just fans like us : )

This was the day before launch day, so Marco and Steve led me into a darkened office where I could play the PS4 version, it was a very exciting moment! They sat down on either side of me to watch me play, they wanted to hear my impressions and thoughts about the game they had spent the last two years working on, and from the outset I had no complaints, only great praise and respect for what they had created.

A random Bluepoint office - notice anything familiar on the wall?

The next day (launch day), I woke up I saw a Youtube comment informing me that my channel name was in the credits? I had no idea what this meant, so once at Bluepoint studios I asked Andrew about it, he just answered cryptically 'It's something special'. So I continued playing the game and finished it around midday. Once the staff roll appeared on the screen, Marco and Steve dropped a bombshell! My channel was indeed featured in the credits under the 'Special Thanks' section.

My channel featured in the end credits - such an honor!

But what was this '79 steps to enlightenment' all about? As I played the game, I had occasionally found some of these weird glowing firefly type things that seemed to sound like wind chimes when you approached them. They were very strange and enticing. What was their purpose and why did Bluepoint add them to the game I wondered? Then the penny dropped 'Ah, collect all 79 relics (steps to enlightenment) to find a Last Big Secret!' It turns out, the Bluepoint team had added this special secret into the PS4 version as an homage to me and my channel and all of my videos and blog posts over the years! What can I say? It was overwhelming and completely beyond belief that my small Youtube channel had garnered such praise from a major game development company such as Bluepoint! Note: I had no idea what happened after every relic was collected - I didn't want to know, I wanted to find out by myself.

As the day progressed, the Bluepoint staff were busy checking the feeds from all the new players to see what the general public thought of the game. It was obvious from early on that it was a huge success! Almost every player was giving the game great praise, as it so richly deserved!

Lastly, Marco was kind enough to show me the development build of the game. That is Wander could fly around to any part of the forbidden lands - I just had to name a map quadrant and we could fly there and explore it! I checked out all the areas I was interested in, like the top of the temple for instance... I just had to say 'go to XX' and Marco would take me there.

Bluepoint staff watching Brian@PS4 Trophies discover the Last big Secret!

The day after I left Steve Schaefer posted this tweet:

And Bluepoint Games posted this tweet:

Although I only spent two days at Bluepoint, my memories of this experience will live with me for the rest of my life. Such a grand adventure! Afterwards, I began travelling around to other parts of the country for another week or so as part of my holiday. Oh, and by the way, I received my coveted press kit ; )

PSU Demo
I've never made a blog post about the PSU demo, that is the demo you received with the Playstation Underground Jampack disc (Volume 14, 2006) - it was on my 'to do' list... but just never happened. So here I will briefly discuss the most significant features you find in this demo.
Jampack demo disc - released 20th April, 2006

PSU demo hi-res map

As with the other two publicly released demos, the OPM and PAL demos, the PSU demo only has the nine centre squares of the map explorable, that is only these nine map quadrants have high resolution textures. Outside of these nine squares, the rest of the map have low polygon textures, that are just there to show that there is land in the distance. If you try to reach the edge of the map in the demos, the game with either crash, restart, or you will see a black screen depending on where you try to break the boundaries of the map.

First of all, you may notice that in the main hall the Avion and Phaedra statues are in reverse order, that is Avion is the 4th colossus and Phaedra is the fifth. This appears to be the same in all the earlier versions of the game that we have.

Avion and Phaedra statues are in reverse order

The Malus statue is missing and has been replaced by a copy of the first colossus statue (Valus) for some reason? Perhaps they wanted to keep the last colossus a secret until the final version was released, although there isn't much resemblance between the statues and the actual colossi in most cases ; )

The Malus statue is replaced with a copy of Valus

The bridges to the North of the map are broken, as if a huge chunk of the bridge had fallen into the abyss during some great earthquake. To the East and South, each path is blocked by a mountainous stone, as if dropped there from the heavens as an insult to your intended progress. The result is that you are limited as to what you can explore. 

Map showing the broken bridges and the blocked paths via huge boulders

PSU demo - broken bridge North at F4

PSU demo - other broken bridge at F4

The entire bridge is missing at G4

Of course, the developers only intended the player to ride to and fight the first colossus, that was all. But as the game was so unusual and amazing, players tried other methods to get past these barriers. It seems Pikol was the first the go beyond the barriers way back in 2009 using his glitched emulator, but later it was discovered that you could just Agro launch at the entrance to the E5 forest and reach the other side. Note: I cheated and just raised the huge stone via hacks! See video here:

In the E5 forest you will notice some weird sound effects... Mono seems to be calling out to Wander from the 'other side' and the first colossus footsteps can be heard as if it's only a few feet away, like a huge colossal ghost is haunting you! It's very disconcerting to hear these sounds amid the tranquility of the forest. I made a video about this way back in 2009... when my emulator ran very slow, so the quality is very poor:

Once in the E5 (Autumnal) forest you will also notice a weird aspect of the save shrine, The save stone is missing! That is where it should be is just an empty void. If you look closer, you can actually find the save stone has moved West for some reason? It is now hidden within shrine itself, you can still see the glowing particles of light flowing outside the confines of the save shrine. See video here:

From the E5 forest you can ride North (through a tunnel) and continue to E4 and E3, the Northern lands beyond the Shrine of Worship. This way, you have bypassed the broken bridges that were the normal paths to this area. In a sense, you have circled around the broken bridges to make your way North then East (via the E5 forest). From here you can explore the 2nd (Quadratus) and a part of the 3rd (Gaius) Colossi lairs.

From the E5 forest you can explore some of the lands leading to the #13th colossus, but that is as far as you can go. Beyond that are low res (low poly) areas and Wander will just fall to his death! 

Edge of the map in the PS2 version (at #13's desert temple)

So from my point of view, it was amazing that, for the first time I actually got to ride past this barrier in the PSU Preview version! I first tried at #13's desert. I was expecting the lands beyond the 9 centre squares to be low poly, but as I kept riding on Agro, I passed the barrier! Wow, I can ride much further now!

Solid 13th temple in the PSU Preview version

PSU demo - huge rock blocks access to the E5 forest

PSU demo - huge rock blocks access South (to Kuromori)

PSU demo - huge stone blocks access East (to Avion)

PSU demo - huge stone blocks access East (to Phaedra)

Weapons Icons
Below you see that there are three icons - the ancient sword, the bow, and a hand. This last icon does not appear in the PSU demo... you can only access the sword and the bow. But in the PSU Preview version, there is an extra icon, an open hand which indicates that Wander is holding no weapon.

Weapons icon showing three modes - Sword, bow, and no items

Various Areas of the Forbidden Lands
With the whole map available to explore I mounted my trusty steed Agro and went riding off into the distance to explore this version for the first time. So below I've added some screen shots I took that reveal the stark simplicity of this early version. The new PS4 remake is of course amazing with its richly detailed landscapes, but there's something to be said about a game like this made back in 2005 when the devs had much less to work with and as such, the forbidden lands look much more 'forbidden' as a result.

Case in point - see how barren this landscape is here (at C2)

 Columns leading to Cenobia's lair

Umbral Glade shave shrine at C1

In this image (above) we see what I am talking about. There's just something special here... I'm running out of adjectives! Simple, Desolate, Uncharted, Barren etc. To quote 'Buzz Aldrin' when he was walking on the Moon for the first time - 'Magnificent Desolation!'

Fruit trees at C1

Another view of C1

D2 columns - seen from ground level

View from the D2 ledge - off limits in the PS2/PS3 versions

In all retail (final) versions, this area is off limits (without hacking). That is, there is a small ledge up there where Wander can walk around. It is on the other side of the wall near the the 'Stone Arch Gorge' save shrine. But there is no way to get onto the other side. Note: In the PS4 version this area is accessible. I didn't want to add any PS4 videos into this blog post, but in this instance I think it is appropriate! See video here: https://youtu.be/C7o785SM-g0

I found something interesting at the 3rd colossus arena. When you are far enough away from the curved stone ramp that leads up to the large circular platform where you fight the colossus, you can see a low poly version of the ramp that appears to lead all the way up to the top. That is, it appears to be attached to the circular platform instead of being detached as we see it today. I was always curious if at one time Wander could just run all the way up to the platform without having to jump the gap when he reached the end? It's hard to be sure, but it does look like the ramp is attached in this version (at least in the low poly models).

Ramp seems to join the circular platform

There's a distinctive layer of dark green fog here

Above the Entrance temple

 Agro in the G2 forest

Lake at Basrans's cave (D2) same as the Preview version

C4 pond fish - the pond is clear here

Holding onto a fish at the C4 pond

C7 beta path of grass

This area was first found by SpaceOmega5000 in the Preview version. It's a weird solid stretch of grass that straddles the Southern edge of the C6 cliffs. The cliffs next to it have no substance so Wander can run through them, however beyond this point there is no collision detection. It seems this area was once 'a thing' but later it was hidden inside a mountain so no one could see it. 

C2 island in lake

E5 bridge leading out of the forest

E5 (Autumnal) forest hidden valley

G3 waterfalls

D2 Towers (back side of Hydrus' lair)

You can see 11 columns in this shot, this differs dramatically from what we see in the final PS2 versions. For instance, take a look at the PAL (European) version screen shot below... notice the difference? So it appears there where significant changes to this area between builds. The final PS4 version shows ever more changes with the towers seemingly hidden by an abundance of vegetation.

D2 Towers (PAL PS2 version)

D2 Towers (PS4 version)

Ico beach - nothing new here

Pelagia waterfalls - magnificent even in this early version!

Quadratus door - same as the PSU demo

Ravine entrance - notable for its absence of detail

Wander on Agro in the Shrine of Worship

Top of the Stone Arch Gorge save shrine

View of #13's arena (Phalanx)

Landing hawk at the Dried Marsh save shrine (E1)

There are three hawks in the game that fly down and land on the ground, or in this case on the top of a save shrine. It only lands for a couple of seconds before flying off again, but I was surprised that this feature was still present in this early version. I checked the other two hawks and they also land in the same areas they do in the final version.

Strange mist around Malus' arena (final colossus)

Above the mist layer

View of mist from Malus' platform

As you are heading towards the large stone gates that lead to the final colossus you will notice this really bright white mist hanging above the arena, like an ominous creeping fog has somehow manifested here to ward off intruders. It surrounds the entire arena but only exists at one specific altitude, so once you arrive at the top platform (only possible via hacking) you will see it below you (as in above image).

Texture Glitches
I noticed a lot of texture glitches where you can see through the ground, or see through a cliff face for example. Some places Wander and Agro seem to sink into the ground as the collision meshes don't match the terrain. It seems at this early stage there was still a lot of things to fix ; )

Unfinished texture at Quadratus' arena

As mentioned, I had seen some footage on Youtube with Wander riding past this glitched texture and then fighting the second colossus. This was one of the first features that peaked my interest as I knew this only appears in the PSU demo. Yet this guy was playing the 2nd colossus? This is, in the PSU demo you can only fight the first colossus, but here Wander is riding past this glitched texture at Quadratus' lair. So I knew there must be a version that let you fight (at least) the first and second colossi.

Missing textures at the Eastern Bluff save shrine (H6)

Notice that the fallen blocks you normally find at the base of the save shrines are also missing here. In the Preview version they were invisible but the collisions for them were still present, here there is nothing.

Eastern Bluff save stone is also inside the save shrine

Here again we see that the save stone has been shifted West into the save shine temple itself. Interestingly, it appears to be in the exact same position within the save shrine as we saw above in the Autumnal forest save shrine. Is this a coincidence or just some programming anomaly?

Low poly trees near Eastern Bluff save shrine

When you stand far enough away, these trees pop into view. So this was another save shrine that was to have some fruit trees and a pond nearby. Of course on the cliffs behind them are some more fruits trees, so perhaps they changed their minds here and decided that the cliff side fruit trees worked best.

Eastern Bluff save shrine area

Here is a panned out view of the area, notice that the low poly and high poly textures of the save shrine are slightly offset. You can also see both low res fruit tree models here, but the missing textures on the ground can't be seen from this far out, you need to ride down there an get close enough for them to appear (or in this case disappear ; )

Wander sinks into the ground at the cliff edge fruit trees

Beta lands can be seen from the cliffs

Since I'm talking about the H6 quadrant, I should mention that you can see some of the beta mountains way off in the distance (J7 and J6 ) from the cliff's edge, and if you look up you will see floating above you the I6 textures. Of course there's no way to reach these enigmatic leftover test areas, and even if you could they have no collisions, but what is there is exactly the same as the Preview version. It was one of the first things I tested when I got to play this version. I took Wander on a scenic trip around the edges of the map in the hopes that some new 'never before seen' test area was waiting for me to discover... sadly it was not to be.

Missing textures at G7

On the way south to Malus' arena you pass over a huge area of grass that just disappears under you as you are riding. For some reason this map square only renders in its low poly mode, this includes the Stonehenge structure and some other rock piles... they all disappear, however their collisions are still there.

Panned out view

G2 forest light beams

G2 forest waterfalls

G2 forest Eastern path leading to the #12th colossus

As you can see from the above three images, there are parts unfinished at the G2 forest. The beams of sunlight that break through the forest canopy above are just 2D textures here, however from a distance they look normal. It's only when you get up close do you see them as these low res textures. The waterfall effects are there, but the water leading up to them from the river (pond) is missing. You can still see water splashing effects when Wander runs through the pond but it's as if the water isn't there. And when you are leaving the forest on your way to Pelagia you will see Wander sink into the ground in places, also all the trees in the immediate vicinity have no collision detection... Wander can run straight through them.

Weird effect at #12's waterfall

As in the Preview version there is no current that pulls Wander towards the waterfall when he is swimming, so it's very easy to just swim up to these stone platforms and look at the waterfall as it cascades over the edge, falling majestically down into the depths below. As in the G2 forest, only the waterfall textures are present. The rest of the water effects are missing in this version, so Wander looks like he is swimming in an invisible lake.

Huge chunk of cliff missing at B4

When you are riding from the North side to reach Dirge (#10) you will pass through the B4 map square where you will find the 'Lair to the West' save shrine and the cave leading to Dirge's lair. Here we find some new and interesting differences! The first thing you notice is a huge part of the cliff face is missing, again only the low poly version of it exists in this version, so once you get close enough, it just blinks out of existence leaving an ugly hole with low res textures beyond.

Lair to the West save stone is dislocated from the shrine

This was very amusing to me when I first saw it! No other version has a save stone this far away from its parent save shrine (or observation tower as the art book calls it). In all previous demos (OPM, PSU and PAL), if you tried to save at a save stone the game would crash, but in this version it works! You can save your game at any save shrine in the lands, then load your game as per usual. You even get the 'hawk' or 'Agro' cut scene when you wait at the title screen, however there are problems with this which I will go into later.

The 'Lair to the West' save shrine has no substance

...and has this weird black stone in the centre at ground level

Another colossal tree!

It's funny, but the first time I saw this tree I thought I was looking at the same colossal tree you find at B5 (above the Lair on the Mesa save shrine), so I didn't give it another thought. It was only later that I realised this was another exact copy of the tree placed above the Northern cave entrance to Dirge's arena (in fact SpaceOmega5000 - formally WWWArea realised this first ; ) 

Two colossal trees - one at each end of Dirge's cave

So I jumped up there but the tree has no collisions unlike the NTSC and PAL (PS2) versions. So it's interesting that Team Ico decided to place one of these huge trees at each end of Dirge's lair, one at the North cave entrance and another at the South. Later they removed this tree and left just one colossal tree above the South entrance in B5.

More ground texture anomalies

As we saw in the G2 forest, here again Wander and Agro will sink into the ground textures near the Northern cave entrance. In fact, at both ends of each cave in B4/B5 Wander and Agro sink into the ground textures. Notice how far away the save shrine is in the above image? I wonder if this was perhaps a planned location for the 'Lair to West' save shrine? We can only speculate at this point as the save shrine proper is still in its current location (as in the final versions)... so for some unknown reason, in this version the save shrine was shifted far away to the North.

Northern entrance to Dirge's cave

Above you can see how Agro is still below the intended terrain textures in the Northern cave entrance, a colony of bats flitter above squeaking their shrill songs. There is quite a lot of land in this area that you can walk below - even the cave walls are not immune, Wander can walk right through them.

Dirge's Cave (#Boss 10)
As you enter Dirge's cave you will notice the beams of light streaming down from the large central hole in the ceiling above are again just crude 2D textures. This was much the same in the Preview version, however this time the breakable rocks that the colossus smashes into have a very different design.

2D textured light beams

Floating bush above the sand

Comparison between PSU and Preview (inset) versions

Tree stump like boulders

Have grippable edges

These rocks are very different from what we see in the Preview version and the later retail versions which feature rocks of different shapes and sizes, as you would expect from a bunch of random rocks. But in this early version they are all have a cylinder type shape with a flat top, looking much like a fossilized tree stump. Interestingly, Wander can shimmy around the flat edge of the stone, unlike other versions.

Lair on the Mesa save shrine is also just a ghost!

Here we arrive a B5, the most interesting map square in the PSU Preview version! As you can see (above), the 'Lair on the Mesa' save shrine is rotated 90 degrees from where it should be, and the ground textures are also too high as Wander and Agro sink into the them. As with the 'Lair to the West' save shrine, this save shrine also has no collision detection.

Another texture glitch can be found

Old style rocks not seen in later versions

Invisible stones with lizards crawling on them!
B5 Towers
These towers were first seen in a very early trailer found on Youtube way back in 2005. The video was first featured on the NICO dvd that was only sent out to those Japanese fans who pre-ordered the game. In the specific video trailer, you can only see the towers at the very end of the video... fading out in the last few seconds, see here:

Fast forward to November, 2013. I made a video about the OPM demo, where I could finally explore beyond the nine hi-res map squares, beyond this the game map only featured the low poly landscapes. But even so, there were some interesting things to explore! 

Low res towers at B5 from the video

What I showed in this video was the only evidence that these towers once existed in some other version of the game, although we could only see them as crude low poly models. So you can imagine my surprise when I flew the same route with Wander to B5 in the PSU Preview version. It never occurred to me that these towers would be in this version, I just expected to see a similar (yet less developed) version of B5 as we see in the retail versions... but then I noticed the towers off in the distance!

Low res colossal tree and towers in the PSU Preview version

For a moment I thought, Ah! this version also has those low poly towers like the OPM and PSU demos, but then it hit me... hang on, this version has the full game map with hi-res models and textures. OMG, the towers will be hi-res! And sure enough when I got up close enough I saw the B5 towers in all their glory!

First ever look at the B5 towers

So it was another very exciting moment for me! In the long history of this game there are those rare moments when you experience something that only the Team Ico staff and a few other lucky players had ever seen before, this was one of those moments ; )

Close up view of a tower

The living colossal tree!

But when you get up close, the leaves melt away

I was great to see the colossal tree with leaves for once in the game! However, it's an illusion as the leaves only appear when you are at a distance, these low poly textures seem to be everywhere in this version. Once you get close enough to the tree, the leaves just melt away into obscurity... I jumped up there to test the tree but it has no collisions (same as the Preview version) which is weird as the NTSC & PAL PS2 versions both feature a solid tree? Which means that later in development before the US version appeared, they added collisions to this tree, or perhaps some automatic programming routine made it solid?

More detail of a tower

You can see the towers have some familiar symbols embossed onto them, these can be seen at various colossi arenas in the final versions of the game. So it's nice to see that these textures were still used in the later editions of the game. But why they removed these towers is a mystery to me. I think these enigmatic structures add so much more mystery to this area, so I wish they had just left them in the game.

Landscape is a desolate wasteland

The B2 map square in this early version is very different from what we are familiar with in the retail versions. The landscape is seemingly devoid of all life, apart from a few green bushes clinging to life on a lifeless rock face. The lands are brown and grey and seem to sap the spirit as if some great cataclysm had taken place here in times past... laying waste to a once green and fertile land. Notice how the waterfall is also missing, we see nothing here but some barren cliffs.

Wander looking up at one of the monumental towers

B5 cliffs comparison between the PSU Preview and PAL version

You can see above just how different the two versions are. The PSU Preview cliffs are just basic rock textures that are much closer to the winding path that leads down to the valley floor, the PAL version cliffs are set much further back and appear to have been remodeled and redesigned with the addition of vegetation and the waterfall.

Low profile cliffs at B5

Note: It looks like it would be easy to just run up these hills as they are not very high and have a smooth slope leading up to the top, but you are blocked by the 'sliding' invisible walls which push you back down. There's also a very definitive demarcation line separating the ground textures in front of the hills, as if this section was just pasted on in a hurry, or more likely they had yet to make the two models match.

Two models don't yet match

South view mismatched models

It's interesting that the cliffs we see in the PSU Preview version at B5 are actually hidden behind some later cliffs in the Preview version. That is to say, the developers decided that these cliffs were not adequate for some reason, and decided instead to build a new set of higher cliffs in front of them, effectively hiding them from view. Later, in the retail versions, they removed these cliffs altogether... so without this version and the Preview version, we would have had no idea that they ever existed. This is why early builds of the game are so important and interesting to me. They tell the story of how the game developed over time as we can see what the devs removed and what they added etc.

Preview version cliffs added to hide the PSU preview cliffs

As you can see above, the low profile cliffs we saw are now placed behind a new set of cliffs added in the later Preview version. These 'new' cliffs remained in the retail versions of the game, the old PSU Preview version 'low profile' cliffs were removed. Note: I made a video about this back in July 2011, see here:

Never before seen land at A5

Right next to B5 we see a small piece of land jutting out to the West into A4. Normally this square is empty, but in this version there is still this small left over relic. Unfortunately it's low poly and melts away as Wander gets close to it, so the images above is about as close as I could get. Still it's nice to see some new land for the first time even if it is low poly ; )

Western cape save shrine with another dislocated save stone

Hi-res Land at B6
As we travel down to the valley floor leaving the high plateaued levels of B5 behind us, we head down to the Western Cape save shrine on our way to B6. Here again, we see a save shrine with no substance and its corresponding save stone is not in its proper position. Now let's head further East to C6 where we can see B6 in the distance.

Note: B6 is not accessible in any version of the game... but Wander can travel to C6 which has some fruit trees he can shoot and gather. B6 is an extension of C6 that juts out into the ocean facing West. This is the only version we have where the B6 cliffs are high resolution. All other versions have a low poly extension to the C6 cliffs, that is when I try to take Wander closer to it, the cliffs just melt away. But in this version (for some reason) the cliffs are hi-res (although there is still no collision detection). I had to use a special code to place Wander in the below images ; )

Hi- res cliffs at B6

B5 hi-res cliffs detail

B5 hi-res cliffs panned out

B5 hi-res cliffs levels

Map of B6 from the final version

Closeup of B6 map square

If you look closely at this map square you will see two sets of fruit trees and a pond of water. To the North it appears there are some other fruit trees (maybe) - it's hard to tell. So this tells us that the B6 map square was once much more detailed and appeared to have fruit trees and a pond, however it seems like they moved these to C6 instead and changed B6 to a low poly inaccessible area.

Final Cut Scene
As you can only play the first three colossi in this game, there is (or course) no way to reach the end of the game and witness the final cutscene, but it's still there in the code and using a special byte address I can activate it.

Notice the lack of the shadow figures in this scene

Glitch where Emon and the soldiers didn't run to the pool - they just stood there!

Secret garden column in the main hall (first noticed by SpaceOmega5000)

Emon throws a horn into the pool instead of the sword!

This was one of the most surprising changes in the final cutscene. Lord Emon removes a horn from around his neck, suggesting he has been the guardian of this rare relic for a long time, and only uses it at the utter end of need. It seems this horn has the power to create a beam of light from the pool below. But we have to ask ourselves, where did Emon get this horn? If you look closely, you will see that Lord Emon has a bandana tied around his head, perhaps hiding the stubs of his two broken horns? Could Emon be one of the horned boys? If so, he predates Wander and as such throws a spanner into the timeline of the horned boys and how they first appeared... See video here:

Colossi Corpses
There is a certain code I always like to use when playing any version of the game that turns off all the map clouds, loads the doves around Mono's altar and loads the colossi corpses. When you watch the final cutscene it appears to show both Avion and Hydrus underwater? But as you only have a few seconds to see this I wanted to make sure, so I loaded the colossi corpse models then headed out to see for myself.

Avion remains at bottom of the lake

Hydrus remains at bottom of the lake

Closeup of Hydrus corpse

As you can see, these two colossi corpses are indeed at the bottom of their respective lakes! How then was Wander able to pray at them to enable 'Reminisce mode'? The answer is simple... at this early stage there was no Reminisce mode - that was a later addition. As such, there was no reason to revisit the colossus remains except to view them as an interesting addition to the now empty arenas.

Pelagia remains

The other water colossus 'Plegaia' is large enough that some parts of it can still be seen above the waterline. Although I noticed there was a lot less of it to walk around on in this version. As with a lot of features in this build, you can see differences wherever you look ; )

Misty Falls Save Shrine
I once made a video which included some speculations about this save shrine saying that it was the last save shrine to be added to the game. In the PSU demo when I make all the save shrines appear on the map, there was one missing here (at G2 next to Pelagia's arena). As I was only using the PSU demo at the time I couldn't visit the save shrine to check if it was actually there... I was just going from the map, but in this version the save shrine is still missing from the map, yet the save shrine itself is still where it should be. So it appears I was wrong, as there is no evidence that the Misty Falls save shrine was added last. See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1WY-wRQGLs#t=9m43s

 Save shrine missing from game map

Misty Fall save shrine is still there
Time Attack & Bonus Items
I can force the game into Time Attack mode by using the 'end cutscene code' to jump to the end of the game, then when a new game starts you now have the ability to pray at the statues in the main temple hall and challenge the three colossi in Time Attack mode.

Time attack mode

So what happens I wondered when I trigger a fight with one of the missing colossi (say Phaedra)? Would this force the program to load that colossus? So I tried it and... it didn't work. Wander appears in the corresponding arena but the colossus is not there.

Colossus is missing

Sword light still points to missing colossus

Time Attack clock stays on screen afterwards

Strangely, after I left Phaedra's arena behind the Time Attack clock remained on the screen. Normally when you try and leave a colossus arena during Time Attack you get a message prompting you to leave or stay, so it seems in this version they hadn't added that feature yet. Then I decided to see if I could still gain an item after defeating the first two colossi in Time Attack and indeed and item appeared in the pool!

Unknown item in pool - is this the 'Whistling arrow'?

In this version, Dormin does not describe which item you have received? It just appears in the pool with no explanation. Wander can pick it up by pressing R1, but what he gets is a mystery! So I checked my items via the SELECT button and this is what I saw (below).

An 'Undecided item?'

So it turns out that there doesn't seem to be any Time Attack items in this version. All you have is the ancient sword and the bow. At this stage in development, the Time Attack items had not been added - but the absence of these items is what makes this build unique ; )

Brown Agro

White Agro - Wander with Mask of the Titans & Queen's sword

However, the items are still there in the code if you know how to find them. The different horse colours are also available, that is Black Agro, Black Agro with ICO icon, Brown Agro and White Agro. I usually prefer to use White Agro when playing the game it she stands out amongst the background more vividly than Black or Brown Agro. Same goes with the masks and cloaks, such as the Mask of the Titans, an item not used in the final version.

Eye of the Colossus

The Eye of the Colossus was an item that was removed from the final versions of the game that allowed the player to see the action from the colossus' point of view. It was available in the Preview version when you pressed the R3 button on a second controller but in this version that action doesn't work. But I can still access it using a code (as above).

I was interested to check all the allotted times at each statute and see how they compared to the retail versions, and it appears the times were much shorter in some cases than what we see today - in fact extremely challenging times!

NTA for colossi 1 - 8
NTA for colossi 9 - 16

PSU PV vs PS2/PS3 Normal Time Attack chart

As you can see above nearly all the times are lower than those we see in the PS2 and PS3 versions. Some have been really culled like Quadratus 2:00 instead of 4:00, Hydrus 9:00 instead of 12:00, but the most impressive is Phalanx, just 2:30 compared to 12:00! It's nearly impossible to take down this colossus in under 2:30 for most players, the world record time is 1:02:99 by Stormglad. So perhaps at this early stage they hadn't really tested how long each colossus battle would take and as such put in these arbitrary times? It's also interesting that Malus' time has been unchanged since the very beginning.

Title Screen Cutscenes
If you leave the main title screen idle for a while you will see a special cutscene load that features either Agro riding around the lands or a hawk flying over them. It depends on which save shrine you last saved at as to where this cutscene will take place, but at the start of a new game it's always at the Shrine of Worship. So I was surprised to see that this feature was present for all the save shrines in this version.

'Lair on the Mesa' save shrine title screen cutscene

In this version you can see how less developed the cutscenes are as there is no accompanying  music, just the native sounds of the wind. Each cutscene only ever shows Agro galloping across the land, it seems the flying hawk had not been implemented at this stage. More often than not, Agro will run straight into a cliff wall or a pile of rocks and stop abruptly, neighing in frustration! The cutscenes are also a lot shorter than the later versions, running at just over 1 minute.

So there you have it! A detailed breakdown of the PSU Preview version. Some might see this version as unremarkable due to the lack of colossi, but for me those weird unfinished features scattered around the landscape is what keeps me interested in this game. It's a rare thing to come across any early builds of the game, remember it was 9 years ago when the Preview version first surfaced, so I'm happy to have had the chance to delve into this build.