Code sleuth restores Bloodborne’s gargantuan, and sadly cut, Snake Ball boss

Source code sleuth Lance McDonald has once again been poking around the innards of From Software’s PlayStation 4 masterpiece Bloodborne, and this time he’s uncovered an absolute blinder: a gargantuan Snake Ball boss that didn’t make it into the final game.

This boss is interesting for all sorts of reasons, not least the fact that data miners had seemingly known about its existence, in a manner of speaking, for some time. Crucially though, none had realised, thanks to various technical oddities, the significance of the model.

As McDonald explained in the comments to his latest video, most third-party model viewers completely ignore intended scale and, as a result, the community had uniformly assumed that the cut Snake Ball boss was just another variant of the standard Snake Ball and Great Snake Ball enemies found in Bloodborne’s Forbidden Woods area.

However, McDonald realised that more was going on when he examined the critter in From Software’s in-engine model viewer. This official viewer does maintain scale, and McDonald quickly realised this particular snake ball was, in fact, larger than Bloodborne’s Vicar Amelia.

This discovery also helped tie up a previous loose thread. As McDonald recaps in the video above, an early alpha build of Bloodborne featured a mechanic whereby defeated bosses dropped Fresh Livers, and these could be consumed for a large number of souls. One liver, however, didn’t correlate to any boss found in the final game: the Soul of the Snake Ball.

With all these piece now in place, McDonald set about reintegrating the creature into the game. Much like its lesser namesakes, the boss Snake Ball is a mass of writhing serpents – individual creatures but inextricably tangled into a fearsome whole. Unlike its lesser namesakes, however, the boss – which consists of several vast snake heads, surrounded by smaller ones – is enormous, towering high above the player.

With the creature enabled, it’s possible to attack its smaller heads to trigger distinct damage animations, and a concerted barrage of attacks will cause the larger heads to droop, placing the boss into a ‘stunned’ state. And this is where it gets particularly interesting: during this stunned state, the subterranean snakes that feature in the shipped game’s Shadow of Yharnam boss fight in the Forbidden Woods emerge from the ground.

A bit of extra probing from McDonald revealed that these underground snakes, even in their final game guise, are labelled as “snake ball large neck”, tying them directly to the cut creature. Furthermore, an animation visible in the model viewer (but not in-game) points to a sequence in which the boss’ surrounding smaller heads bury themselves in the ground – at which point, presumably, the subterranean snakes would emerge.

Couple this with the fact that the Forbidden Woods is already teaming with smaller Snake Balls, and it seems reasonable to surmise that this particular boss had once been envisaged as the capper to that area, instead of the Shadow of Yharnam boss battle that made the final cut.

What’s more, thanks to McDonald’s dedication, it’s now possible to get a pretty accurate – if still incomplete – representation of how this Snake Ball boss might have played out. Although the creature ordinarily has no AI or battle script in the main game, further sleuthing revealed that it was also intended to appear within Bloodborne’s Chalice Dungeons. And while no maps remain where it can be encountered, McDonald managed to extract its AI file from the Chalice Dungeon script and restore it to the main game.

The result, as you can see in the video above, is pretty spectacular (although, according to McDonald, not even remotely balanced for battle), introducing us to a towering, and terrifying, monstrosity that thrashes, writhes, and lunges in frankly alarming ways. Its smaller surrounding heads swipe and bite, while the larger snakes lash out from above, spitting poison. The creature even includes an animation in which the player can be swallowed whole.

There is, of course, no clear indication why From Software eventually decided to give old Snake Ball the chop, but it’s possible that its sheer ungainly size and relative inertia simply made for a battle that wasn’t much fun to play.

Whatever the truth, its revival affords another fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of From’s beloved game, and another wonderful gift from McDonald to Bloodborne fans. Indeed, McDonald’s entire video series is a must for Bloodborne (and Dark Souls) aficionados, and is well worth exploring in more detail if you haven’t done so already.

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