The Dig

The Dig

Infobox VG| title = The Dig

developer = LucasArts
publisher = LucasArts
designer = Sean Clark
Brian Moriarty
engine = SCUMM v7
released = November 1995 []
genre = Adventure
modes = Single player
ratings = ESRB: Kids to Adults (6+)
PEGI: 7+ (2002 re-release)
USK: 6+
platforms = DOS, Mac OS
media = CD (1)
requirements = 486DX2/66MHz CPU, 8MB RAM, 1MB Hard disk space, 256 color VGA, MS-DOS 6.0
input =

"The Dig" is a graphical adventure game developed by LucasArts and released in 1995, and a novel based on the game written by Alan Dean Foster. It was the 11th game to use the SCUMM game engine, and is famous for its connection to Steven Spielberg and notorious for its prolonged production that had the game bordering on vaporware.

Released as CD-ROM only, "The Dig" was sold for PC and Macintosh computers. It contains a full voice-over soundtrack and a digital orchestral score. For the most part, the game's graphics are hand-drawn and sparsely animated, with a mixture of pre-rendered 3D and hand-drawn animation clips also presented in certain parts of the game.

It is the most serious LucasArts adventure game, containing no slapstick, and relatively little subtle humor, an element found abundantly in all other LucasArts adventure titles. It is also the only one to fit perfectly into the science fiction genre.


"The Dig" intro animation starts with a radio telescope in Borneo picking up an unidentified object, directly heading towards Earth. It is a giant asteroid that could cause catastrophic damage upon impact. A team of five is tasked with the mission of taking the Space Shuttle Atlantis to the asteroid, named "Attila" after Attila the Hun (to be distinguished from the real asteroid 1489 Attila), and plant nuclear explosives on its surface to cause it to divert to a stable orbit around the Earth. The five members of this crew are:
* Commander Boston Low (voiced by Robert Patrick), the main protagonist— a retired astronaut and survival expert
* Dr. Ludger Brink (voiced by Steven Blum), an archaeologist and geologist
* Maggie Robbins (voiced by Mari Weiss), a reporter and linguistics expert
* Ken Borden (voiced by David Lodge), expert shuttle pilot
* Cora Miles (voiced by Leilana Jones), NASA technician and political candidate

The game starts when Low, Brink and Robbins leave the shuttle to plant the explosives on the asteroid's surface. Their actual mission is not very long or difficult, and apparently serves mainly as a tutorial for players to come to grips with the game and get to know the characters while setting the stage for the real story of the game:After setting off the explosives and successfully causing the asteroid to enter an orbit, Low, Brink, and Robbins explore the asteroid to find out that it is hollow. After further exploration (and activation) by the crew, it turns into a starship in the shape of a shining dodecahedron, transporting the three to a distant planet of unknown position. The crew starts to explore the deserted planet (now named Cocytus by Brink), their main priority being to find a way back home. While the planet has a high state of technology, it is in a state of decay and appears to be devoid of particularly intelligent animals.

The title 'The Dig' refers to the whole process of investigation and exploration of the planet, in order to make the alien machines work again and discover what happened to the lost civilization. The main theme is xenoarchaeology.

The story's emphasis is on the stranded trio's interaction (and occasional conflict) as they spread out to explore the desolate world, each in their own way: the commanding Low determined to find the way to go home, the intelligent and stubborn linguist Maggie Robbins studying the dead civilization, and the geologist Ludger Brink, who seems to be sliding into a state of madness.

The trio eventually uncover dozens of "life crystals," which have the ability to heal wounds and resurrect the dead, but make the user heavily addicted. Brink, after healing an amputated arm and being resurrected from a fatal fall, becomes obsessed with stockpiling the crystals. Robbins meanwhile deciphers the language, and she and Low begin to interact with an ancient alien they find sealed in a pyramid. The alien was a leader of its society, but it was left behind after its society abandoned the planet, in order to warn anyone who discovered them about the way the crystals decayed its civilization.

The alien instructs them how to return to Earth, but Maggie dies from a fall after helping restore power to a gateway. Low meets another alien that guides him through an interdimensional space, and eventually resurrects Maggie and Brink, he being free of life crystal addiction. They return home with an expanded view of the universe and a new understanding of civilization's purpose.


An impressive list of people worked on the game: The project leader was LucasArts Sean Clark, Industrial Light and Magic created some of the CG imagery, it is based on a story idea by Steven Spielberg and has writing credits for Spielberg, author Orson Scott Card (who wrote the dialogue), and the well-known interactive fiction author Brian Moriarty (whose previous Lucas engagement was with "Loom").

"The Dig" was originally conceived by Spielberg as an episode of Amazing Stories (and later as a film), but was concluded to be prohibitively expensive. During the game's release, the director did not deny the possibility of making it into a movie. However, over a decade later, no progress has been made on a film version of the story.

"The Dig" had by far the longest development length of all LucasArts adventure games. Work began in 1989 but the game was not released until 1995. During its development there were four successive project leaders, starting with Noah Falstein, followed by Brian Moriarty, then Dave Grossman, and finally Sean Clark who managed to get the game released. [ [ The Dig Museum - History ] ]

The first preproduction involved a storyline that took place in the distant future. A crew of explorers in a space ship visit an abandoned planet and discover signs of very intelligent life with powerful technology and artifacts. It is first assumed that the occupants of the planet had died off, seeing as there is no sign of them left, but as the story progresses, the player discovers something very different.

When Brian Moriarty took over, he decided to start again from scratch. This version of the game was similar to the actual game that was released, but it had one extra character, a Japanese science-hobbyist business tycoon named Toshi Olema, who funded the Attila project as long as he was a part of the crew. He was later completely removed from the story. This version was also very bloody and adult, and although Steven Spielberg thought this feel was very fitting, he had received quite a bit of negative reviews for rating the first "Jurassic Park" film PG-13 with as much blood and violence as it had. So seeing as he believed that parents could purchase the game for their rather young children, he requested that it be toned down a bit.

Other notable design ideas which were dropped during the game's production include a survival angle, which forced you to keep water and food supplies for life support and exploration of entire huge cities on the planet.

The third version of the game was the final version that was released. The development team admitted to a somewhat rushed, desperate construction, with the end result being an arguably fragmented game experience, in which inconsistencies abound. Even the three main graphical elements of the game — the hand-drawn art for Cocytus, the pre-rendered 3D graphics, and the hand-drawn cel animation for cut-scenes are very different-looking.

Some fans of the game had attributed the turbulent development history of the game to "The Dig curse". This term was coined because the game's design team met for the first time at the Skywalker Ranch on the day the 1989 San Francisco earthquake struck. It was said that this started a bad omen for the project that persisted throughout.


In July 1995 the game was finally released exclusively on CD-ROM.

The game was met favorably by the press and gamers alike upon release. Players typically liked the sense of wonder they felt in exploring the seemingly-abandoned planet, although some disliked the game's serious atmosphere. Some of the more distinctive puzzles, described as "Myst"-like, were also met with frustration by players.fact|date=March 2008


The music (composed by Michael Land) consisted of Land's original score performed on a Kurzweil K2000 synthesizer, enriched by hundreds of short chord samples from the works of Wagner. With its ambient, dynamic flow, the music fits well with LucasArts' iMUSE concept as well as the game's scenery. Land cited the music he personally composed for "The Dig" as the type closest to his own individual style. "The Dig" was also the first Lucas game to have its soundtrack also sold separately as an audio CD, adapted as a linear continuity of finite pieces. The CD was released in small numbers, however, and this rarity led a lot of gamers to desperately look for it.

The Novel

A novel based on the game was also written by Alan Dean Foster, who is famous for having written book versions of many famous movie titles such as "Star Wars" (ghostwriter), "Alien", "Aliens" and "Alien³".

The novel is not completely consistent with the game, but presents the point of view of the indigenous civilizational race, something not seen in the game. The novel also provides some background detail (such as the reaction on Earth after the discovery of Attila), in addition to filling several plot holes and mysteries that can not be explained in the game.

An audio book version of the novel was also released. [ [ The Dig on LucasArts Museum] ] Notably, the cover of "The Dig" audio book features a picture of four astronauts. The artwork was done for the second draft of the game which featured four game characters. Later, the artwork was retouched for the game box and the book covers to reflect the reduction to three main characters, but the cover of the audio book was left with the four character design.

Trademark Issues

On February 6, 2007, LucasArts filed a notice of opposition with the US Patent Office against Digg to uphold their trademark for the game, [ [ US Patent and Trademark Office: LucasArts Trademark Opposition] ] claiming that Digg was "identical or nearly identical to Opposer's mark The Dig." After settling out of court, LucasArts' notice of opposition was dropped on September 19, 2007.

Video game "Easter eggs"

At a certain point of the game (after Brink's sudden disappearance), if you talk to Maggie about Brink, Low will say "Have you seen this boy?", which is exactly the same line Robert Patrick (his voice actor) says in "" and a spoof scene in "Wayne's World".


External links

* [ The Dig Museum]
* [ The Dig: In the Deep of Space, a Curse is Alive...] A history of The Dig, Adventure Classic Gaming
* [,28 Adventure Gamers review]

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