Tuesday, April 26, 2022

[Part Four] The Secret of Miao Village: Temple Screenshots Analysis

Welcome to Part Four of our analysis of cut-content screenshots of the mysterious "Miao Village" and temple that were revealed in 2002 on the Shenmue.com website by AM2, Yu Suzuki's development team at Sega.

Parts in the series:

  1. Village Screenshots Analysis
  2. Village Content Left Behind
  3. The House in Xiuying and Ziming's Flashback
  4. Temple Screenshots Analysis [this post]
  5. Temple Content Left Behind 
  6. The Original Plan for Miao Village in Shenmue II
  7. Content Reborn
In this part, we will now turn our attention to the remaining four screenshots of a temple location:

The four "cut content" screenshots of a temple

Order of the Screenshots


We saw previously with the village screenshots, that the images originally presented on the Muecas page are not necessarily in time sequence order; keeping this in mind, we will consider whether any change in order may be appropriate.

Temple Screenshot 1/4: Exterior


The image of Ryo outside is clearly the first in the sequence.

Screenshot 1: temple grounds


Ryo stands next to a thick wooden beam [a], with the rectangular shadow at his feet indicating this is part of the temple's entrance gate. Ahead of him, a stone-paved path stretches out in the direction of a temple building. Stone monuments [b] are clustered around in front of the building and next to a bamboo grove. In the distance, a number of light-colored banners or scrolls can be seen attached to surfaces [c]. One other detail to note is that next to the main temple building is a second, smaller building [d], perhaps a storage room of some kind.

Temple Screenshot 2/4: Interior


This is where I believe the sequence of the next two screenshots were swapped around on the Muecas page. The screenshot I believe comes next is the one below, showing an old man who is half-turning towards Ryo, as if responding to Ryo's approach. They are inside a temple, and for the first time within these screenshots, we also see conversational dialogue on the screen.

Screenshot 2: subtitled cut scene with an unknown old man


In the background, separated by a wooden partition, a large guardian statue poses intimidatingly [a] and nearby are lit candles [b] and a large wooden column [c] that gives a sense of the tall ceiling in this room. The top right of the image is blurred [d], which may have been done to hide onscreen debugging text. Dialogue text in Japanese is displayed over a black strip at the bottom of the screen [e], indicating this is a non-interactive cut scene.

The text has an orange tinge, and based on the exchange in the subsequent images we can deduce that it is the old man who is speaking here:
Old Man: You're acquainted with Master Lishao Tao?
A literal translation of the words would be "You say you know Master Lishao Tao?". The speech uses a polite or respectful speech pattern towards the name of Master Lishao Tao, indicating that the old man is aware of her elevated status, and the way he is shown turning around suggests he is reacting in surprise on hearing that Ryo knows her. (Note: I've used the same name order in English as in Shenmue 2, which has the surname last). Also, from the Japanese wording of the question, I feel that it is unlikely to be the case that Ryo has not yet met the Master and is asking here how to find her.

This suggests that just before this screenshot was taken, Ryo has already spoken to the old man upon entering the temple, and has mentioned the name of Lishao Tao. A couple of possibilities come to mind here: one is that Ryo has come to ask about where to find the Master, which is his initial quest at the start of the released game. However, based on the screenshots that follow, it appears Ryo is here for another reason and it seems probable that he has already met Xiuying prior to his visit to this temple.

Regarding the identity of the man in this scene, this character model was unused in the released game, but his model data can be found on the disc. His full character model was located many years ago thanks to Miles Prower on the Shenmue Dojo (aka Stuart, who now runs the Shenmusings blog), who figured out his model ID ("OSY") which led to the full model being discovered:

Character model of the old man in the screenshots

Amusingly, his face texture graphic reveals that he was even given suitably bad teeth which would be glimpsed when talking.
Texture file for the face of character OSY

In addition, separate high-resolution models of his hands are also present on the disc, which is an indication that they were to have been shown in close-up at some point during Ryo's interaction with him.

Models of the left and right hands of the old man

This same character is contained in the set of Shenmue Goodies to be found in a folder named "OMAKE" (meaning "bonus" or "extras" in Japanese) on Disc 1 of the Dreamcast release. The Goodies are small animated black-and-white graphics designed for displaying on a Dreamcast VMU. Around 50 designs were left on the disc in a special folder as a bonus - originally a "Shenmue Passport 2" had been planned but was not completed, hence these are likely to be leftover from that work.

The characters for all but two appear in the final game, with one of the unused characters being the old man in the temple screenshots:
OSY_F.GIF

OSY_A.GIF

Temple Screenshot 3/4: Interior


Moving on, the next screenshot looks similar although the camera angle has moved slightly, giving a clearer view of the second statue behind. The old man has now turned around fully to face Ryo.

Screenshot 3: subtitled cut scene with an unknown old man

This time, the text has a blue tinge, indicating that Ryo is speaking next.

A person's name is mentioned, which appears to be of Chinese origin: 羅孔征. In Japanese the characters would be pronounced "Ra Kou Sei"; an online lookup suggests the following readings in Mandarin:

羅 Luo (or Lo)

孔 Kong 

征 Zheng

Using the Shenmue 2 name order, we get Kongzheng Luo, and the line of dialogue can be translated as:
Ryo: I was told that Mr. Kongzheng Luo's remaining belongings are being kept here...

In Japanese, Ryo uses a word that refers to the personal effects left behind by a deceased person, making it clear that he knows the person is no longer alive. I wasn't able to determine whether he is referring to a male or female, but we will assume the name is for a male character.

Ryo does not specifically say who told him this information; one possibility is that it was Master Tao / Xiuying, having knowledge of this temple; or that, after Xiuying instructed him to should seek out Kongzheng Luo, Ryo has been eventually directed to the temple after gathering further clues from people to whom he has spoken.


Temple Screenshot 4/4: Interior


In this last screenshot in the sequence, it seems that some time has passed as Ryo is now to the right of the old man, and they in a different part of the room.

Screenshot 4: subtitled cut scene with an unknown old man; Ryo is holding an object.


The most significant difference we can see is that Ryo is now holding a reddish rectangular object [a], presumably something that belonged to Luo Kong Zheng, which has been brought out of storage by the old man. We will investigate this object further below.

Other points of interest are some calligraphy scrolls that can faintly be seen on the back wall [b] and the legs of another guardian statue [c] which it seems are dotted around the interior of the temple.

There is now another line of dialogue, spoken by the old man:
Old Man: Come to think of it, this may have been what the gang that attacked Kongzheng Luo was after...

The old man does not use an honorific with Luo's name, indicating that Luo may have been his subordinate or disciple.

It also appears that the item the gang attacked (and possibly murdered) Luo for is the item that Ryo is now holding - but what is it? The answer can be found among the game files.

As a starting point, a known ID used by the game internally that is associated with this location is "SMMK" (this is to be found in the filename of an unused loading screen graphic for the temple exists on the disc, which we will examine in the next part of this series). Armed with this clue, we can search the disc files to see if the developers chose to name any object filenames using this ID as a prefix - and doing so turns up a single object model, SMMK4H1T. As has been mentioned previously, there is no technical rule that filenames must be named in this way, however it is certainly suggestive.

This object, shown below, will look familiar to players who have played Shenmue II - it is in fact the Wulinshu, the martial arts book written by Yuanda Zhu. In the released game, this object is of course to be found in the library at Man Mo Temple in the released game.

The filename of the Wulinshu model used in the game starts with "SMMK", an indication that this once was associated with the cut temple.

The only problem is that its color does not match the appearance what Ryo is holding in the screenshot.

However, upon investigating other object models on the disc that relate to Ryo airing out the books at Man Mo Temple, things take an interesting turn: among the models lies another, unused version of the Wulinshu - and this one has a reddish cover just like in the screenshot! It's model is shown below:

Unused, red-cover Wulinshu.

Somewhat confusingly, its model name has the prefix "WB00", an ID which is associated with the Man Mo Temple area in the released game.

Comparing this book to the one seen in the game, the differences are that the word "Wulinshu" in Chinese characters is printed only on the spine and not the main cover; and more significantly, the name stamp of Yuanda Zhu is not present on the cover. This suggests that having Yuanda Zhu's name associated with the book may not have been in the early plans for the story.

Comparing the book's appearance with the object Ryo is holding in the beta screenshot, despite the poor resolution the shape of certain strokes of the lettering is a perfect fit, confirming that this is indeed the item Ryo is holding in the temple screenshot.

The book model is shut and its pages can't be viewed from the outside, but if we peek inside the book using a model viewer we discover that there are a two separate page textures hidden there - two of the same pages that Ryo comments on when he examines the book at Man Mo Temple:

Peeking inside the unused Wulinshu model (top left) and a better view of the pages within (center, right). Ryo also reads these pages at Man Mo Temple in the released version of the game (bottom).

The unused Wulinshu model does not contain the additional two pages about the Tiger Swallow Style seen in the game, however, on which Ryo finds a diagram with the name of Sunming Zhao. Those two pages look as follows:

The pages about the Tiger Swallow style, which are not present in the unused Wulinshu model.

It would thus seem that the Wulinshu from the beta screenshots belonging to Luo may have originally been a martial arts book, but not one that contained clues relating to Yuanda Zhu or Sunming Zhao.


Temple Library


The smaller building structure we noted earlier next to the main Miao Guang Temple building is very reminiscent of the separate library at Man Mo Temple in the released game. Might this have been the building from which the old man would have retrieved the Wulinshu for Ryo?
 


A Guess at the Events


Here is the set of four screenshots again, this time with English translations superimposed.



Historical note: in the early years following the release of these screenshots, a translation of the dialogue text of the screenshots was posted on the Dojo forums by Kiyuu, a Japanese fan and expert on all things Shenmue, and has served as the authoritative reference for fans over the years. (In her translation, the name mentioned is Ra Kousei, representing the Japanese pronunciation).

Having now collected together a number of clues, this is a good point to make a guess about what this part of the story was originally going to be about.

Possible Timing


This quest seemingly takes place fairly early on in the Shenmue 2 story, presumably around the same timing as when Ryo is looking for the Wulinshu in the released game. Based on the old man's initial response in the cut screenshots, it might be assumed that Ryo has already met Lishao Tao / Xiuying before visiting this temple.

A recent comment by Peter on the Shenmue Dojo forums also places the area as one visited early in the game: "It would have been accessible early on in the game. Specifically when looking for the Wulinshu and Yuanda Zhu, around the time you visit Wise Men's Kung Fu."


Possible Sequence of Events


With a dash of creative license, perhaps the events unfolded something as follows.

  1. Xiuying is not satisfied with Ryo's understanding of martial arts and advises him to seek a legendary martial arts book named the Wulinshu, said to be in the possession of a martial artist named Kongzheng Luo at Miao Village.
  2. Ryo asks around, and eventually learns that the Kongzheng Luo recently lost his life to thugs as he tried to defend his house from being ransacked. However, having been threatened previously, Luo had taken the precaution of placing his valuables for safekeeping in the hands of his martial arts teacher at his local temple.
  3. Ryo arrives at the temple, and explains his quest and the advice from Xiuying. The master, who is initially suspicious, trusts Ryo after hearing he knows such an illustrious expert as Lishao Tao.
  4. Ryo then asks about the items Luo left at the temple, at which the master instructs him to fetch a large book that is kept in the temple's library building.
  5. Ryo returns to the main temple with the book, and the master ponders aloud that the Wulinshu may have been the item the thugs had been trying to steal from Luo.
This is purely speculation, however - leave a comment with your theory on this cut part of the story!


In the next post on this series, we will comb through the disc files for models of other content relating to these temple screenshots that may have been left behind.

Become a Patron!

5 comments:

  1. Awesome job with this article. Im loving this series and seeing how this part of the game could have played out. Puty it was cut, it looks like such a nice area to have explored!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In more modern times they could have released it as a Miao Village DLC!

      Delete
    2. Id totally pay for it! I enjoyed the Shenmue III DLC for what it was, and this honestly looked like it would have been a nice little break from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.

      Delete
  2. This is not an article. This is a love letter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you enjoy the remaining love letters in the series too! :)

      Delete