It all started with a question: “How do you get into the church?” The answer, it turns out, is simple: You don’t—at least not yet. Yes, Nier: Automata’s baffling secret door was all just an intricate mod.
If you haven’t been following along, Nier: Automata’s secret door had all the makings of a pantheonic gaming secret. Two months ago, one Nier player, known only as their Reddit handle, Sadfutago, started asking around on niche subreddits about a hidden church. But Nier: Automata, an action-RPG developed by PlatinumGames and released in 2017, didn’t have a location that matched such a description, which led the few people who paid attention to call bullshit.
Eventually, Sadfutago posted video evidence of the discovery, located in the Copied City, a level of Nier: Automata that’s devoid of color and texture, giving it the look of a game in early development. That clip—and subsequent, more extensive clips—sent the community into a tizzy. Some fans thought it was a legit instance of cut or hidden content for Nier: Automata. Others figured it was totally fake, either a hoax or a mod or a viral marketing campaign orchestrated by Nier director Yoko Taro, who’s no stranger to hijinks. (Here’s a thorough rundown of the whole saga.) More still did the one thing the internet does best: Meme it into oblivion.
Well, it turns out the whole area was the work of three modders: DevolasRevenge, who designed the geography and architecture; Woeful_Wolf, who created the tools in Blender; and RaiderB, who wrote the scripting tools. They’re planning on making everything public, but not for a few days, DevolasRevenge tells Kotaku. It’s been quite the week. They’re tired.
“Originally, it was supposed to be a little joke to show people, and we fully expected data miners like Lance [McDonald] and Grojdg to shoot us down in two seconds,” DevolasRevenge says. “But they were questioning it as well.”
At first, the footage seemed legit. But over the past few days, Sadfutago’s posts have started to include dead giveaways. One of their latest Reddit posts mentioned “Zinnia”—a niche aspect of Nier lore—which indicated Sadfutago, whoever they were, was more knowledgeable than they let on. Plus, the whole church area contained assets from Nier: Replicant‘s more recent remaster, which came out in 2021. It’s a stretch of the imagination that the base version of a 2017 game could include character models from a 2021 game. (This discovery was widely believed to have been made on the game’s 1.00 version—meaning it hadn’t been affected by any post-release patches or updates.)
“Towards the end, I figured most people thought it was a mod,” DevolasRevenge said. “I didn’t mean to mislead anyone.”
DevolasRevenge said that some people “seem to be taking this negatively.” But over on the Nier modding Discord, at least, folks are in largely good spirits. They’re cracking jokes, validated in their assumptions that something was fishy with the church. Some prolific Nier modders are pumped to start working with a new suite of tools. While Nier: Automata modding tools are fairly sophisticated, modders haven’t been able to alter the game’s environment to the degree seen in the church videos.
“This will have quite a large impact on the community,” Meowsandstuff, a member of the Nier modding community and a leading figure in the hunt to prove the secret door wasn’t all it seemed, told me. “While we already had the tools to make similar stuff, from my understanding a lot of the newer things are much more better-developed and user-friendly.”
As part of his sleuthing, Meowsandstuff was designing his own version of the secret church. The architecture of the area was spot-on, but it kept crashing whenever you’d try to walk down the main hallway to the church. He’s now planning on polishing up the progress he’s made so far. He’ll scrap the rest, then use the new tools for a slew of other ideas, including one that renders the Nier: Automata map with the low-key look of the Copied City (which, by the way, sounds dope AF).
“I’m honestly feeling quite refreshed,” Meowsandstuff said. “I wanted to believe it could’ve been something that wasn’t a mod, but now knowing that this is a mod and knowing that we are getting access to the tools necessary to make stuff like this has really energized me.”