Thursday, April 21, 2022

[Part Three] The Secret of Miao Village: the House in Xiuying and Ziming's Flashback

Welcome to Part Three of our analysis into screenshots of the mysterious Miao Village revealed in 2002 on the Shenmue.com website by AM2, Yu Suzuki's development team at Sega, showing content that had been cut from the game before release.

Parts in the series:

  1. Village Screenshots Analysis
  2. Village Content Left Behind
  3. The House in Xiuying and Ziming's Flashback (this post)
  4. Temple Screenshots Analysis
  5. Temple Content Left Behind
  6. The Original Plan for Miao Village in Shenmue II
  7. Content Reborn
In the previous post, we identified several object models from the first few floors of the Yellow Head Building in Kowloon that are likely to have once been part of the Miao village seen in the screenshots.

In today's post, we will investigate another location in detail: the setting for the flashback showing Xiuying as a child with her brother Ziming inside a house that shares many similarities with the houses seen in Miao village.

The House in the Xiuying and Ziming Flashback 


The flashback occurs when Ryo goes to bid farewell to Xiuying at Man Mo Temple, informing her that he will be leaving to follow Lan Di's trail to Guilin.

The flashback plays just before Ryo travels on to Kowloon.

Xiuying gives him a stone that makes up half of a yin yang symbol, and after doing so, the flashback scene plays.

The flashback shows Xiuying and her older brother (Ziming) as children, sitting together on the floor of a dark interior that is illuminated by a fire that heats a pot over the hearth. Xiuying receives the stone from Ziming who tells her to keep it safe. 

Flashback scene with Ziming and Xiuying.

Due to the limited visibility during the flashback, it is hard to distinguish details of the environment. 

However if we examine the scene directly, under improved lighting conditions, the difference is literally night and day! (Note: this model can be found within the 0278 folder in the game files).

The interior of the room is revealed, showing a pot hanging over the hearth from a wooden frame overhead; cushions around the hearth; a fur rug on the floor near one wall, and bowls stacked on a shelf nearby.
Hearth area

Note that the design of the floor cushions is slightly glitched in the screenshot: these should appear with a symmetrical pattern:

Cushion texture

Furthermore, not only has part of a room modeled, but the interior of an entire house!

This same pattern design can also be seen at Shenhua's house in the released game, albeit in brighter colors, on the stools and cushions:
The same design can be found on several items at Shenhua's house



External View


Here is a view of the model from the outside revealing an L-shaped building with an entranceway at each end. Note that this is not necessarily the intended appearance, as this model would have been created for showing interior scenes.

House model exterior


Top-Down Interior View


This is a plan of the house, looking down from above.
Plan of Ziming & Xiuying's house

The main entrance lies at the top left, which leads through to the living area. There are two sleeping mats with pillows laid down nearby. At the bottom right is a second entrance, which also houses the kitchen area. The circular orange shapes are light shades - the house has electric lights.

Let's examine the interior in more detail.

Kitchen Entrance


This is a view of the kitchen entrance area from outside house (a door is not present in the model). Inside, to the right, can be seen the side of the large stone cooking stove. A long stone step gives access to the raised floor of the main area of the house, beyond which is the hearth.

Kitchen entrance

On the inside of the doorway are two narrow yellow banners with writing on them:

Doorway with banners

In fact, these carry the same writing as the red banners seen on the wooden building models we examined in the previous part, suggesting that it may be a tradition for the village houses to display such banners as good luck talismans at the entranceways.

Harvest Basket


To the left side of the entrance area inside are a couple of large crates. On one of these rests a large woven basket with shoulder straps, of a type used for harvesting fruit or vegetables. (It is empty).
 
A woven harvesting basket sits at the entrance

Kitchen


On the right side of the entrance area is the kitchen which contains a surprising amount of detail. A large cooking pan rests on top of the stove and on the wooden bench are various vegetables: eggplant, sweetcorn, leeks and mushrooms. Also here can be seen a number of bottles and bowls.

Kitchen bench with vegetables

A similar selection of vegetables is be found on the kitchen bench at Shenhua's house:
The kitchen at Shenhua' s house.

Water Tub


Also in the kitchen is a large wooden tub, which on inspection appears to be a container for fresh water. One neat graphical touch that the developers have included is the effect of a reflection of the ceiling rafters and daylight shining through a nearby window on the water's surface (although the reflection effect is not dynamic).

Water tub with reflection

Electric Lights


Electric lights hang from the central rafter at three places inside the house (two in the main room and one in the kitchen) confirming that an electricity source is available.

Electric light

By way of contrast, Shenhua's house in Shenmue II has oil lanterns (although in Shenmue III these were changed to be electric):

The house has electric lights, unlike at Shenhua's house in Shenmue II.


T-shirt


Hanging on a line in one corner near the hearth are some laundry items to be dried by the heat of the fire: a towel and a blue T-shirt. (Note, the towel texture here is slightly glitched in the screenshot; it should be a continuous pattern).

Washing hangs to air in one corner

Interestingly, the T-shirt design is identical to the one worn by the characters we hypothesized earlier as appearing in the Miao village screen shots, adding another possible connection.
The same T-shirt design can be seen on these characters.

Floor Rug


Nearby the laundry area, an animal skin rug can be seen against one wall, as well as a storage cabinet that contains a stack of bowls and wooden boxes.

Animal skin rug.

Hearth


The iron pot above the hearth is shaped similarly to a kettle, but without a spout, and is suspended by its handle.

The hook is attached by a rope to a piece of wood that is shaped like a fish - this fish shape being a traditional decoration for such hearths (in Japan, at least - if anyone has information about whether this is also the case in Hong Kong or China, please leave a comment!). Its purpose is for adjusting the height of the hook.

Some other items can also be seen in hearth: a pair of tongs for stoking the fire, as well as a pot stand.

Comparison of hearth in the scene (left) vs a traditional sunken hearth in Japan (right). Photo by くろふね (Creative Commons license)

Several of the items found in the hearth (kettle, tongs, pot stand and even the "fish" rope adjustment!) are also to be found in Shenhua's home, although the shape of the hearth itself is hexagonal rather than square:
 
The hearth at Shenhua's house (Shenmue II) shares many similarities.

Beds


At the far end of the house, near to the side entrance, two woven mats with small pillows have been laid out on the floor to serve as beds.

Sleeping area

Main Entrance


Finally, a view looking back at the room from the entrance at the other end of the house. On the left are some empty shelves, which may be for placing shoes, and on the right is a pile of cushions. This would presumably be the entrance used by guests.

Entrance at the other end of the house.


Video


This video footage, taken several years ago by user kakuzawa, is a little fuzzy but shows Ryo walking around the house model (with the electric lights on!).

Overall Comment


The house in this cut scene caught the interest of fans right from the game's release, and within a few years screen shots and even in-game exploration videos were shared by people like LanDC and Mestre Ziming on the Shenmue Dojo forums, who posited that this may be a Miao village house.

This house interior has been created with loving attention to detail, filled with items that reflect the lifestyle of its inhabitants. There is clearly much more here than was ever required for the game's short flashback scene with Xiuying and Ziming, which strongly indicates that this full model was originally created with more in mind.

Based on its external appearance, the house's design would fit right into the cut Miao Village, with just the addition of some extra textures such as the roof thatching for completion. The design of the T-shirt found inside also suggests a link between the design of this house and the village.


In the next post on this topic, we will dig into the purpose of Miao Village in the story before its removal, based on the clues found to date as well as some recent comments from developers who worked on the development of the game.

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4 comments:

  1. So cool to see that they actually put effort on modeling this house. Maybe we were supposed to visit on miao village? Not specifically as Xiuying and Ziming house - I think it’s more likely they reuse the house model for this scene (thus the dark lighting to make It unrecognizable when you actually visit it?) anyway, thanks again for the analysis!

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    1. I agree with your theory! It feels like somewhere you would actually have been able to view in the village - in fact there is even a texture of sunlight shining through the slats in the windows, although I couldn't get it to display properly in the model viewer.

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  2. Based on the near 20-year-old videos of the room being explored within the Xbox version, would that help find the coordinates to access (it) in the USA Dreamcast beta?

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    Replies
    1. A similar map-switching technique should certainly be possible to allow Ryo to explore the cut scene room in the USA Dreamcast beta.

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