Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beta Dam

Discovered by Pikol on the 9th of February 2009 (a Monday night) at around 9:45pm to be exact, while he was exploring the beta mountains. He quickly posted his find on the Games F&Q forums while he edited and uploaded the video to Youtube, a few interested users waited until 1am so they could watch the video ; ) He actually admitted to being a little disappointed with the discovery as he was hoping to find the intro cut scene area, but it was and is the pinnacle discovery in Shadow of the Colossus! 

Here are some images of Wander at the Beta Dam. I'm using the standing hack and also a save stone platform in different images. With the save stone platform I can bring Agro with me and ride around there, but only on level surfaces (like the turret area). It's an amazing area, so mysterious floating out in the void all by itself with echoes of architectural design from Ico. Many people commented on its similarity to the Gondola level in Ico after seeing Pikol's video for the first time.

Close up view of the Dam

Wander on the bridge

Gondola level bridge seen in Ico

Looking west

Top of east arch

Panned out view from east side

Wander with Agro on causeway

Dam causeway matches that seen at the 7th boss - Hydrus!

Top of Dam looking down

Mysterious cave that leads nowhere

Since the Dam's location is at i2 on the map it was speculated that it was once part of #15's area as it's just one map square to the east of the desert temple. The architectural styles of the desert temple and the dam are somewhat similar so this seemed plausible. Others suggested that it was part of #12's area and was a left over model that once replaced the grandiose waterfall seen there. Again this made sense, perhaps Team Ico played around with the Dam at #12's area but decided a waterfall would suit the area better.

But the answer turns out to be something different. The Dam wasn't a left over model floating out in the void, but part of the original vision of a much larger world map. The Dam and surrounding beta mountains all fit perfectly over the world map and show how much more of the game was planned at the outset. We can assume that due to the work involved getting the colossi to work properly and other deadlines the company faced they had to curtail their original 'larger map' version of the game and opt for a smaller world map, leaving the unfinished models where they were. 

I showed this when I overlaid images of the beta mountains and Dam on the beta map, see my video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCAZ0tdjuvo When I say 'beta map' I'm referring to the map you see in the demos and the Preview version of the game. These maps reveal the eastern areas of the world map, the final release has these areas permanently covered by clouds in order to conceal the unfinished parts of the game.

Here you can see the unfinished beta mountains in the A and J columns. I made this map by taking snapshots of sections of the beta mountains and Dam. I had Wander floating above the mountains, made him invisible, then took a snapshot, moved him forward a small distance then took another snapshot etc. until I had all the pieces. Then I laboriously merged them together in Photoshop - like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The Preview version has yet more beta mountains and being an earlier version of the game we can see how much larger the forbidden lands would have originally looked.

I've also shown here the invisible lands at D8 and H8 as well as the mysterious blue squares. A recent addition to the map are beta mountains at I6 which were unexplorable due to the game crashing whenever you entered this quadrant. But I got around this by finding a code that overcame this problem... somewhat (the game still crashed like crazy, but I was still able to map the area ; )

Note: syd_tiger (aka Toxic_Trace) discovered the invisible lands at H8 in October 2008 by accident. The D8 invisible lands are off limits legitimately and can only be reached by hacking.

Team Ico planned to have 24 colossi in the game originally but due to problems with their control and playability they axed eight and used the now familiar 16. So these left over areas likely contained some beta colossi lairs. When you study the beta map more closely you can see that the area behind the dam seems to contain one of these lairs. There's a tunnel next to the dam that would have led to a possible colossi area.

This is at i3 on the map. A path clearly leads from the back of the desert temple (#15's area) past the Dam to this area. So perhaps the Dam was nothing more than a scenic stopover on the way to this colossi area? Much like #8's temple which must be passed through before reaching #8's arena. It serves no purpose other than to add an air of mystery and drama to the game, an ancient, ruined temple that leads to the Colosseum like arena where Kuromori the gecko is trapped. We can only imagine what it would have been like to see the finished trail leading from the desert temple to the Dam, but sadly if any evidence of it exists it's stored away in the archives of Team Ico in Japan.

My rendition of what the Monkey's lair might have looked like

Update March 2015: Since writing this I have come to realize (in collaboration with Morlun91) that i3 (the Monkey's lair) was most probably not a cave but rather a wide open flat plain with the mountains of the Dam at the North end of it. i3 actually looks a lot like another map square D3 when seen side by side and other evidence suggests that this was an early area for the Turtle colossus which evolved into Basaran (#9). You can read more about this here:

You can see the difference in the two maps here. The NTSC (US) and PAL (European) versions have the Dam covered by clouds, but in the Preview version it is clear. If you kill all the colossi in the Preview version (up to #15) the entire map is free of clouds (save for #16) but in the NTSC/PAL versions the eastern part of the map is still covered with clouds. I'm standing in the same place in both maps, on top of the brick like arch at the end of the green path. I suspect this green grassy area would have spread west and joined up with the forbidden lands bordering the path from the desert temple to the Dam.

The Dam is Solid and Walkable!
Around August 2018, my friend and fellow hacker Wisi used his magic to add collision detection to the Dam model and import it back into the game, an amazing feat of programming skill! So for the first time since the Dam was discovered, players could actually walk around its cliffs, climb the imposing structure and explore every detail from Wander's perspective. 

Wander on top of the arch - the i1 mountains in the distance

I quickly uploaded the first of two videos showcasing this amazing feature. The first one demonstrated how the level worked, with Wander travelling all over the different levels, but was still unfinished by Wisi. There were a lot of void holes in the model that Wander could fall through for example, and other work to be done. I spent hours working out how to scale the cliffs, which route to take etc. it was very exciting and a lot of fun to experience a new level like this! 

The video I think is a little tedious, as you just watch Wander run for long distances over the cliffs and terrain, but I wanted to emphasis how large the level was from Wander's perspective. However, players can simply follow my movements in the video to reach the higher levels if they don't want to waste their time trying it themselves. Since this build is based on the 'Preview version' of the game, it's also possible to summon Agro and ride her around the cliffs, but in this video I wanted to stay with Wander. 

The next video I uploaded about a month later, revealed the finished level with all of the issues fixed. Wander could now run anywhere around the level without fear of dropping through a hole to his death, and climb up a lot more structures that were not possible in the earlier build (such as the orange brick structures). I also use the 'summon Agro' command (R2+X on the 2nd controller) in this video and ride her around the cliffs.

Dam with wrap around mountains

Frames of the beta mountains surrounding the Dam

It seems plausible that at one time the Dam joined to the i1 mountains and beyond. It may have been possible to travel from i2 to i1 and explore a much large area of the map? Although there is no real evidence of this... just this view of these 'wrap around' mountains next to the Dam. There is also a downloadable ISO link in the video description so that fans can play the level themselves. See video here: https://youtu.be/j3XXfoPIHiI

i2 and H2 Map Square Images and Speculations
Here are some close up shots showing different views of the dam and surroundings. Since the model is cut off on the West side we can imagine when it was whole that it extended a lot further west into H2.

Arch in the distance

Wisi's test build of H2
As shown above, Wisi even managed to create some land that extended out to the West in the game! Although it's basically just an empty field with a few hills to run around. Even so, it gives us a sense of what it might have been like to stand there in those early Team Ico builds before the H2 quadrant was removed from the game.

View from H2 looking East

View from the H1 plateau of the Dam (Photoshop montage)

The evidence we have suggests the Devil once lived at H2 right next to the Dam (thanks to the insight of Riccardo Sonnino), and when the devs removed the Devil they also deleted the H2 map square (its lair) which featured a platform and some ruined columns, the remains of which can still be seen in i2 (i.e. the orange brick structures). So I was always interested to how you reached the Dam, where was the trail that would lead to this far off structure? 

So I had the idea that if I counted the number of map squares it took to reach a colossus I could then quantify the number of map squares to see if any of the beta colossi would fit the current game count. The furthest you have to travel in the game today is 5 map squares to reach Dirge (#10) or Hydrus (#7). Note: this doesn't include F6 where you start out at the Shrine of Worship. So we can assume that 5 map squares is the limit as to how far Wander should travel to reach a colossus, although we have no idea if this was always the case.

One route to the Dam involves first heading to #15's desert temple then (by some means that is impossible in the final version) make your way across the gorge at the back of #15's lair (where Argus first appears) to the mountains, then you would travel East along a trail that would lead you to H2 (the Devil). This would only require travelling through 2 map squares to reach H2 and 3 to reach the Dam, however since there is no way across the gorge it seems unlikely this was a legitimate route to reach the Devil. 

Of course, we have no way of knowing if the map was different in the early builds of the game... perhaps there was a bridge here leading across the mountains? But I think it unlikely. The most logical answer is the Devil's arena was only a test area and was never part of the main map, which explains why it is out on the Eastern part of the map. The red circle (in above image) indicates the Eastern most plateau of the H1 mountains but it has no collision detection, this isn't even any sound for that matter as it's way out beyond the bounds of the playable area.

Plateau at H1

Another route runs through Avion's arena, Riccardo and I discussed this at length, this route involves 5 map squares to reach the Dam and 6 to reach H2 (the Devil's lair). It's also not clear how you would have traveled through H5 (Avion's lair) to reach the Eastern lands, although earlier maps revealed in the demos and Preview version show H5 as a dry lake bed and not full of water as it is in the game today.

Path to the Dam and the Devil's arena via H5 (Avion's lair)

Another less obvious route requires a lot more travel time and was very likely never possible (or even considered), but I thought I would include it here in any case. It requires 8 map squares to reach the Dam and 9 to reach H2. From the demo/preview maps there is an obvious trail leading from H6 to i5, which from the looks of it used to be a beach type area on the shores of the vast surrounding sea. In the game today the cliffs end at H6 but in the Preview version there are some floating beta lands visible above H6 which may have been planned to be crafted into the i5 map square?

i5 beta mountains (unfinished) from the Preview version

Path through i5 then heading North to the Dam and H2

So you can see how this route would have worked, you would travel from the Shrine of Worship to H6, then follow the trail along the cliffs to the beach at i5, from there you would travel North into i4 (Note: this map square seems significant as the Malus icon appears here when you use Codebreaker codes to start a new game with all of the colossi defeated). It's not clear how you would travel from i4 to i3, but if this were possible (?) you could then continue into i3 (a flat, desolate plain like we see at D3 (#9's lair) today. Follow the path North into i2, go through the cave tunnel until you reach the Dam. This requires 8 maps squares to reach the Dam and 9 to reach H2, so it seems very unlikely that this was ever a legitimate path to the colossus.

So in the final analysis, using the number of map squares required to reach a colossus, it seems the winning route is through H5 (Avion's lair). This requires 5 map squares to reach the Dam, and 6 to reach H2 (the Devil). From the Demo/Preview maps it seems this area was once a dry lake bed with sheer cliffs surrounding it, but if you look closely at the map there does appear to be a path leading East (see below).

Possible path through H5 (Avion's lair) to i5 and beyond

Arch up close - notice the damage to the brickwork

Here are what appear to be steps leading up to the arch, they're the same color as the dam and not like the orange brickwork so they look out of place here. But it could also be just a piece of broken masonry... but it matches a shot of the Devil's arena from the art book quite well and was the main piece of evidence that tied the Devil to H2.

Comparing the steps at i2 to the art book image

Note: The art book image is a much older version of H2 when that area still existed in the game but it seems the devs refined this model which explains why the orange brick structures we see at i2 today look more detailed. Presumably they kept working on the Devil arena long into development (Wander is in his final form in the art book images) but then due to problems with the colossus decided to get rid of it. But for some unknown reason they left the i2 map square and the Dam intact, perhaps one of the developers had invested a lot of time and effort into its creation and couldn't bring himself to delete it? Or perhaps it was just an oversight? We will never know unless someone at Team Ico starts talking.

Looking through the arch

Broken fragments behind arch

On ledge behind arch

Shrine of Worship through arch

So if the Dam ever had a purpose, it would have been to act as an amazing backdrop for the battle with the Devil. It seems clear you were supposed to approach H2 from the West, travelling through the cave and then crossing the narrow bridge of the Dam to reach the green fields at H2. There the Devil would be waiting.

I go into this subject in my beta colossus update and recap video, here:

Other Areas of Interest
The best way to view the dam is to freeze the opening cut scene at the bridge (once Wander and Agro have left the Entrance temple) then using a code I can load the dam model. I warp Wander out to i2 then use what WWWArea and I call the 'load lands' code. It's a single byte code that is set to 1 in the intro, by changing it to zero the model will load around where Wander is located at the time. So when I load the Dam model at the intro there is no fog or mist obscuring the structure, in fact you can travel miles away from it and see it clearly in the distance. I made a video showing this here: 

I shot this at the intro so you can see the mountains in the distance

 Wander standing on rail of bridge

Inside the cave

   Inside the cave... again

Ledge outside cave

High up on mountains looking west

 Mountain views
Photoshop Montage Series
I posted these on the Playstation forums but I thought I'd add them here as well. Using screen captures from the game I put together a series of images that portray what a journey to the dam might have been like. You can think of it as an alternate ending...

Wander, Mono & Agro

After Dormin is defeated, instead of Wander turning into a baby he survives intact, the power of the pool's energy restoring him to health. Mono awakens and together they travel north to the desert temple (a new save shrine can be seen on the map)... Agro's leg miraculously healed!

Wander shines his sword and the beam points to the east, a doorway opens revealing a path

They travel through a long valley towards the unknown

The valley opens revealing the Dam in the distance, here they find the lost save shrine!

I realized some time after making this image that their location is wrong. They would have approached the Dam from the east, arriving at the brick like arch first (more like the image below) but here they are arriving from the north.

Arrival at the arch

Arrival at the Dam

Wander and Mono take some time to enjoy the view and their new found sense of freedom

Wander and Mono pass through the cave which leads to another colossus lair

Of course, since making these images I have learnt a lot more about the Eastern lands so these images don't really make sense anymore. But I decided to leave them here as it's just as important to show earlier speculations in light of new knowledge ; )


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nomad,if Wander jump in an area that is not solid,he falls in the dead floor right?Last week a falcon was too high that i could see a blue floor on a little mountain.

  3. Nomad,when you entered in 16´s area before you kill the 16 appeared a cutscene showing the ocean or the river?

  4. Do you have images of the Second Shrine of Worship and the other side of Pelagia´s forest?I would like to see those places.

  5. There's a cut scene at 16's area in the Preview version, but it doesn't show an ocean or river... not sure what you mean.

    I'll put pics of those places up here soon OK.


  7. Nomad I've been looking at the preview version of the game and found something strange in a suspension bridge part of the map appears to be linked to another here: I have no image of the http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/1066/semttulomen.png that there is there because my ps2 emulator does not work right you can see going over there in the game

  8. It's on the map but not in the game sadly. That area looks like a path leading to what might have been another colossus area (check my video link in this post). There appears to have been two ways to get there, the one on your map and another from Avion's area.

  9. I thought. I wanted to show you nomad:http://img831.imageshack.us/img831/67/foto0160s.jpg,http://img825.imageshack.us/img825/618/foto0162k.jpg it is more nomad do not know if it would be a bridge or a texture

  10. Yeah, that's in I6. I've made a couple of vids about that area as it crashes when you go there - it's a corrupt quadrant.



    That was the last place I had never seen before (due to the crashing) but I managed to explore it in the end ; )

  11. nomad ok I found something very strange how a chain of rooms one after the other near the area of 15 colossu and this made ​​a video on my youtube channel so you see it is my youtube channel is UlquiorraArankar

  12. That's the G2 forest next to No. 12's area. The trees are arranged in squares, although I'd never seen it look like that before... at first I wasn't sure what I was looking at ; )

  13. I'm still looking for other weird things in the game whenever it is send to you first, to see if it has already been shown.
    I would never discover it was a forest. Dormin also found in a texture near the cenobia.http: / / img269.imageshack.us/img269/9063/foto0146o.jpg

  14. Yeah, some textures look like faces! i found one once that looked like a king with a beard and crown, but it's just our eyes making patterns i think.

  15. Nomad could you spend your ps2 emulator because I already downloaded it the more I did not know if you can configure it to upload in mediafire please pass me and would be grateful

  16. Strange,the Brickwork Arch looks smaller on the videos and in Dormin.
    Well,it's beautful to see it from so close.

  17. Could it be that the dam-tunnel connection is what the SotC wiki refers to with "the only Colossus ever to be triggered by defeating another Colossus in the same location" regarding 'The Worm'?

    Granted, judging by the pics the location doesn't appear to be the same, but still...

    P.S. By the way, I'm YouTube's Holothurion.

  18. Yeah, it's hard to see how a colossus would fit in that location, but when it was complete who knows? There may have been a large area for the Worm to live in with the dam as a backdrop. The next colossus (after passing through the tunnel) I have speculated was the Monkey, as from the map it looks like a closed cavern or cave with three entrances. You can even notice it has skylight holes in the roof. Truth is until we get some confirmation from someone at Team Ico we will never know. All we can do is speculate right now.

  19. Nomad, I've discovered something about the map!
    You weren't far off when you said that the map bears a similarity to Valus, sure not in the way you described, but then I saw the cover of the Nico DVD:
    Valus has his arms outstretched in a T-Stance EXACTLY how it looks on the upper part of the Forbidden Lands Map!
    I'm not sure if you know that already though

  20. Yes, another user had mentioned that before, however although it matches the map better there is no 'X' on the NICO DVD cover as there is on the final version cover. If there was an X on the NICO DVD then it would have made more sense that the devs were giving us a hint. Not sure if the map's shape is on purpose or just a coincidence though.

  21. This place looks beautiful! Too bad it was cut from the game... Perhaps it was part of an alternative ending where Lord Emon destroyed the dam and flooded the forbidden lands so that no one could enter again?

  22. I was surfing the web and found this....


    Never seen it before. Do you have any idea where it was taken, and do you think it's possible the devs for the remake added the dam? I looked online but information was hard to come by. Thank you.