It's easy to think of game development as a relatively simple process but as we've discovered over the years it's rarely as straightforward as this. Few games turn out as concepts imagined and a range of hurdles exist that can permanently change the shape of a game. As Ben Lincoln from the Legacy of Kain: The Lost Worlds Website eloquently puts it: “Every great story is pared down from a larger concept. The reasons vary, but the result is the same - a catalogue of the things that might have been.” Infamously Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver had its final third cut as time pressures meant swathes of content was left on the cutting room floor. We knew Blood Omen had endured similar heartache – with a troubled and complicated development arrangement that eventually led to legal division during the development of SR1 - but relatively few cut concepts had seen the light of day....until today, with a discovery that is probably the biggest outpouring of cut content for the past 15 years.
Game development of course typically involves numerous changes for numerous reasons, some cuts come early in the design and concept phase, while others can be cut out at the last to prevent delays. In the latter category are the changes made while the game is in the final phase of active development – these can lead to a number of interesting changes in the final months before release and these shadowy Alpha and Beta Development copies of games can sneak out to the public where the story of development can be told.
Generally betas do not often give you masses of cut content or whole cut areas – for example that last third of Soul Reaver is unlikely to turn up completed on a disc – but each provides a bite size picture of what was changed and what once existed. But on this occasion The Lost Worlds has turned up something very special – an Alpha copy of Blood Omen. Beta copies also exist with a few changes but the Alpha has such a large amount of alterations that have never been seen before.
For starters the entire map world is staggering different. The Alpha has hundreds of areas that were removed from the final game, were greatly changed to render them almost unrecognizable or were reshuffled and changed locations – these alter the locations of many landmarks and end up giving Nosgoth a completely different look ultimately suggesting that the view of Nosgoth we've come to know in maps was something hastily added at the last minute. Instead the map world is in fact something else which might be familiar: if you recall posts on the maps of Nosgoth previously, you might remember that there was an unusual stretched map if the Heaven area of Avernus Cathedral (with a similar map featured in The Nemesis Castle) – The Alpha reveals that this was the actual in game map of Nosgoth as originally intended. A nice touch is that as you visit areas a 3D version of the area is put on the map. This is just the tip of the iceberg too. Here's a rundown of the most noticeable changes with links to where information will be added:
- Hundreds of areas are new or heavily altered to render them virtually unrecognizable compared to their retail counterparts. These include no less than 90 previously unknown map areas and over 90 that have extensive changes. The main overland alone has at least 17 areas that are changed or new - and many are reshuffled or positioned differently to render the layout of Nosgoth as completely different to the later maps.
- Many Dungeons are rearranged or moved and there are several that are entirely unknown – some of these appear partially complete or unfinished and many lack special items.
- Two previously unknown spells which work similarly to Repel – Force Shield (for physical attacks) and Magic Absorb (for magical attacks) are found in the dungeon that was later used for Repel. Repel also exists in the alpha and is found in a dungeon that was ultimately discarded
- Magic is treated as several overlaid bars in the colour order of the magic spheres – fill the green one you start filling the red – meaning a far larger magic capacity
- Boss areas can be done in any order – each has a 'shortcut' style path around them to enable the player to bypass them entirely.
- Many areas are totally different or in totally different locations – Uschtenheim is virtually unrecognizable, as is the Termogent forest area. Avernus is totally different with a far more open layout and lava for some reason. The Lake of the Dead is also greatly changed and orientated north-south, Vorador's Mansion is in the far south with a different trail leading to it, the Lake of Tears is smaller and the Wolf Dungeon is the other side of it – With Nachtolm repositioned so it actually sits on the end of the Lake of Tears. Ziegsturhl has accessible rivers that can be navigated to allow access to several other areas.
- The Heart of Darkness objects have another origin story - in addition to cut retail version dialogue suggesting they were the hearts of Janos’s victims. Dialogue in the alpha suggests in the original vision the heart was intended to be a single item that could be reused and consumes magic energy. The implication may be that it literally was intended to be the heart of Janos originally.
- There are no teleporters at the pillars (and in many other places) – instead you reach a small clearing where the next area loads.
- The Cemetery is larger with more crypts – these essentially serve to teach the absolute basics of pressing a switch etc and were probably moved for being too basic. Most of them revolve around puzzles using the barriers that are only seen in the lightning area in the retail game. These areas seem to have been trimmed and combined together to create the second crypt seen in the retail game.
- Switches are manually activated with the action button.
- The Lightning message is in English, as are other Blood script cues – suggesting it was yet to be implemented.
- Several additional Blood fountains are present in the game - some of which bear blood runes across them. It is presently unclear if these use the cut blood fountain dialogue found in the retail version.
- There are a number of additional dialogue cues and audio that has been completely removed in the retail version - the importance and implications of these vary.
- There are fire and moving sign effects that are removed in the final game – many signs are present that are removed in the final game.
- There are far more vista points – with no fewer than five available from the top of Nupraptor's retreat, suggesting a far more open world than would be seen for some time in gaming.
- The Energy bolt dungeon interior is reshuffled, but the exterior is moved to a new graveyard-like map area north-west of the pillars. This area is inhabited by the lunging 'ghost' enemy class – these are only seen in a single room in the retail game. (not to be confused with the ghost enemy state after you killed someone and returned to the room).
- Vistas have a completely different triangular design.
- The clock starts at a zero rather than 4 days 17 hours.
- No tiles are present for the areas of the Lost City, HMCS Bitter or Hash'akgik's altar, suggesting these were not part of the build yet. In their place are areas relating to the additional Cemetery Mausoleums – which would be combined to create the retail second Mausoleum
- Vorador's Chess match is present (and is also present in a later beta version of the game) – the historically suggested bugs are present but the biggest problem seems to be that that the piece breaks the flow of the game and is difficult to understand – even with the knowledge of what it is and what you're doing.
- The Lupo the Butcher warp is active – it leads to an area inside Nupraptor's retreat where several butchers attack simultaneously (missing from the final game) – there is no Lupo dialogue associated however and it's unclear if any were meant to be Lupo himself.
- A greatly Nemesis keep is extended and is accessible in a time period where it is inaccessible in the retail game.
- The Water balloon wielding vampire hunters removed from the retail game are present.
- Moebius's museum features several items that can be seen clearer than the retail – including a car tyre and a 'joker-like figure flipping off the camera.
- None of the separate 'secret areas' are in the a game - although the counter lists that there are 200 secrets (there were only 100 in retail).
- The soundtrack is replaced with various classical pieces – notably “O Fortuna”
- The End credits are much different, featuring bat flight footage.
If you're still reading then there's a bonus in the shape of SR1 goodness – an early beta that has been uncovered which has rooms from the Chronoplast Vision cutscenes in as actual rooms that can be explored. These demonstrate that the Ariel scene was actually set in a textureless remake of Raziel's territory; the Pinnacle is just a small open ended corridor, probably intended for the scene only. However the big secret is in Kain's final scene – which is set in a room with several details which cannot be made out in the video normally (including climbable walls) – these features suggest the room may actually have been part of Kain's cut final boss fight and represent an actual glimpse of Kain's mountain Sanctuary -with a broken version of the boss fight itself able to be initiated, but not completed.
Obviously with the masses of changes that have been initiated it may take some time to fully document and publish these, but expect the changes to dominate articles in the next few weeks and months on the wiki, and also expect further updates from other LoK community pages. Be sure to check back here too as links to more on this will follow as more becomes available.
For Quick Reference you can find our map gallery here
The Lost Worlds news on this goes into a lot more detail and can be found here
Ben has also started publishing individual articles dealing with the changes, prepare yourself for the onslaught:
http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Alternate_World_Maps.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Alpha_and_Beta_Versions.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Additional_Crypt_Dungeons.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Deleted_Outposts.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Deleted_Town_and_Encampment.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Extended_Willendorf_Tunnel.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Force_Shield.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Magic_Absorb.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Force_Shield_and_Magic_Absorb_Dungeon.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Original_Repel_Dungeon.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Original_Avernus_City.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Frozen_Town_or_City.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Five-Tier_Magic_Meter.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/A_Traitor_in_The_Circle.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Alternate_Malek_Boss_Battle.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Placeholder_Cinematic_Music.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/William_the_Just_and_King_Ottmar.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Lupo_the_Butcher.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/The_Stahlberg_Resistance.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO1/Mysterious_Statues.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/SR1/Movie_Rooms.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/SR1/Early_Chronoplast_Videos.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/SR1/Alpha_and_Beta_Versions.html http://www.thelostworlds.net/LoKSeries/Eidos_E3_2001_Digital_Press_Kit.html
Below is a gallery of the most interesting images, accompanied with a spreadsheet that attempts to detail the differences: File:BO1 Alpha Map Differences.ods Enjoy Baziel (talk) 18:06, December 1, 2018 (UTC)