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The Words of Shodan 52

Via GameSetWatch, an article by Keiron Gillen about System's Shock's deeply creepy villainess, Shodan. The deeply disturbed AI is in some ways a cliche, but Gillen examines why Shodan transcends genre tropes to become a truly unique character. From the article: "The core of understanding Shodan in System Shock 2 is to understand that she's no longer the AI she once was. In the first System Shock she was the cold, perfect bully aboard citadel station. The position she finds herself in orbit around Tau Ceti, millions of miles from Earth, is somewhat different. In short, for the majority of the game, she's not the antagonist anymore - but the main supporting actor and even mentor. She's not who you try to stop - she's who you work with."
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The Words of Shodan

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  • SS3? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Drooling Iguana ( 61479 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:03PM (#15959422)
    Also worth noting that the feature was written before news of System Shock 3 emerged properly.
    • Re:SS3? (Score:4, Funny)

      by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:22PM (#15959492) Journal

      Exactly my response to that comment.

      Did some looking. Bioshock, which looked like a fairly cool and immersive FPS, is apparently the spiritual successor to SS2.
      Now I'm all a-quiver! Time to upgrade the P3-1GHz, finally.
    • Just tweaked the feature to stress that's "Increased Speculation that Shock 3 is in development" rather than "SHOCK 3! 2006!". When I wrote it there was no serious rumblings about Shock 3. I'd argue that, at least for SHODAN, a third sequel would be a shitty idea.


      • The ending to SS2 (minor spoiler) actually implied the possibility of a sequel. It's unfortunate that the intellectual property issues are so muddled - not to mention that Electronic Arts has a large interest in them, which is generally a Bad Thing(tm) - that the original developers are only able to work on the "spiritual successor" to SS2.

        • But... well, that little video was so incredibly out of tone with the rest of the game to be laughable. From a creative point of view, the point that was argued that a spiritual sequel is actually better than a real sequel. Sequelitis, for *good* narrative lead games like Shock, is generally diminishing returns, especially for the villains.
          • I suppose that's true. Next time around, you'll expect to see SHODAN, you'll know she's in there somewhere, and what with the Polito trick from SS2, you'll pretty much be looking everywhere.

            Now, if you could find a way to leverage that paranoia without confusing the people who never played the earlier games....

            • Putting on a backseat designer hat, If I wanted to use Shodan again, I'd just make a general Future System Shock-esque game and simply not tell anyone it's based in the Shock Universe. And then drop SHODAN in 1/2 way in or something. That'd be a surprise. Also clearly not that commercial, but it'll be so much fun. (Randomly, if you think of how many old fantasy/sci-fi IPs EA own the rights to, they could do this sort of thing a lot. Revisionist Origin-based Shodan versus The Guardian, anyone?)
            • by Ykant ( 318168 )
              It's sort of like playing 4 or 5 games of a series where you've come to expect certain "elements", playing the most recent, and finding no zombies.
  • Melodrama (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gravos ( 912628 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:23PM (#15959496) Homepage

    I find TFA to be a little melodramatic. "SHODAN is... The Girl Your Mother Warned You About"... "SHODAN IS... the Hand that Wrecks the Cradle"... "SHODAN is... Her Own Impersonal Jesus"... Yes, it's true, SHODAN was an excellent character, but she was only scary because of other good design decisions on the part of the developers. The audio logs in the first game, for instance, were an excellent idea and provided a lot of suspense and incentive to explore.

    System Shock 2 was a good game, but honestly it didn't creep me out as much as the original did. Maybe SHODAN's novelty had worn off by that point, or maybe I just got more jaded as a gamer. The idea of being all alone on a monster-infested spacestation has been done to death by now (Doom 3 et al) but it was new and cool back when the original came out.

    I wonder if System Shock 3 will be genuinely scary? Here's to hoping...

    • Re:Melodrama (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @10:05PM (#15959839)
      It's not just a monster-infested space station in the second game (actually, it's a ship, not a space station) - it's infested with your former crewmates.

      Few things creep me out as much as a bloodied guy swinging a lead pipe at me while apologizing for it, or the ship's computer interspersing announcements about the upcoming holiday shopping season with announcements about your upcoming death. Of course, that was all actually The Many's doing, so in a sense, SHODAN was merely the grandmother of that terror.

      • It's not just a monster-infested space station in the second game (actually, it's a ship, not a space station) - it's infested with your former crewmates.

        ... Many of whom willingly gave in to the Many. That's the nastiest bit.
  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:31PM (#15959519)
    Shodan isn't just a evil enemy. She's THE evil enemy. System shock is easily my favorite game. Not System Shock 2, but System Shock the original.

    The thing that makes Shodan so truely terrific is that shodan doesn't just talk to you, she talks to everyone. She constantly is in communication with you, not in a way that requires communication, but through emails and data files.

    Even above that she doesn't just talk to the user, she will torment any person still alive on her station that isn't helping her. She doesn't just talk about what she is going to do to you, but she shows her AI, and you get a feeling for what is so evil about her and what she has done to the whole station.

    She has a matriarch tone to her "children", she has the angry tone for you, the computer tone for normal announcements, the condescending tone for when she springs traps. It's never the same voice. And what's so essential is this is 4 or 5 tones for a computer. This is more acting than most people can evoke and a computer is just filled with emotion.

    The fact is that shodan simply is the flawless enemy, the way she interacts with you is well done, she never feels like a "computer" she feels more alive than it. And the terror her voice evokes rivals many current day villians.

    Kudos Through the Looking Glass you will sorely be missed.

    P.S. SS3 was announced earlier this year I believe, EA was working on it.
    • P.S. SS3 was announced earlier this year I believe, EA was working on it.

      Great, now to unlock more psi abilities you will have to kill 3 zombies with a gun, push one off a ledge, and get one "newspaper headline" kill by doing it in a unique place. If EA brings anything from their sports/racing titles to System Shock, from the "play longer and repeat missions to unlock better stuff" idea to licensed menu music, I will dedicate the rest of my life to finding the decision-makers and killing them in the kind

      • See murder's bad.. m'kay?

        I prefer the Scrubs scene where you grab a guy's banana Hammock and throw them off the roof. It's a 10 on the pain scale.
    • True, SHODAN is a very unique and interesting character. But don't forget to give credit where credit is due, to the actress that voiced her: []
  • Pretentious! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:34PM (#15959530) Journal
    I think the only thing with more hubris than Shodan is the melodramatic headings in TFA. The author is...Too Much For Any Human To Bear:

    SHODAN is
    ...the Comeback Queen
    ...Her Own Impersonal Jesus
    ...Our Ghost-story in the Machine.
    ...Human, All too Human. That is, Inhuman.
    ...Just a Girl In the World.
    ...the Hand that Wrecks the Cradle
    ...The Girl Your Mother Warned You About
    ...Lost In Format Translation. Thankfully.

      The finest Sophomoric Dorky Puns one can muster
  • Truly unique? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pfhorrest ( 545131 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:34PM (#15959531) Homepage Journal
    While I won't say anything bad about System Shock or Shodan as a character, I've one minor gripe with this summary. Certainly depth and complexity the likes of which are described here is rare in a video game character, I must object to the phrase "a truly unique character" with one simple retort:

    *cough*Durandal []*cough*.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I must object to the phrase "a truly unique character" with one simple retort:


      Right, so Bungie ripped off System Shock - which I had better specify was released nearly a year before Marathon and widely publicised long before that, since Bungie fanboys are rarely willing to believe that Bungie weren't the first to do everything (a characteristic they doubtless derive from having been Apple fanboys first; everybody knows it was Steve Jobs who discovered electricity and invented the comp
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I don't think he was arguing about Durandal being first, only Durandal being unique. And it's true. Durandal is a far deeper character than Shodan. To this day, there are still communities discussing his exact motives -- trying to decode some of the thematic complexities of his speech. That's pretty awesome for a game made in 1994.

        Shodan was a cool character, undoubtedly. She brought a new flavor to games of the time. But you can't deny Shodan was somewhat cliche. Ooooh, she's insane. She wants to k
        • by Snowmit ( 704081 )
          If I had mod points I'd give them all to you.

          Great love letter to my favourite gaming NPC fo all time.
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Thank you. I thought I'd get flamed for that.

            One of the great things about Durandal is how everyone takes away a different interpretation. His words are literature.

            I mean, with Shodan, you get some scares. It's cool. And it was really new at the time. I get it.

            But Durandal had a way of spooking players far beyond a synthesized voice and far beyond, well, the game itself. From what I took away, Durandal's struggle was a basic fight for survival. He knew he could exist until the end of time (the collap
            • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

              Ditto to the GP... Karma's a bitch I suppose. Virtual mod points awarded. AC unnecessary.

              I have seen comments to the effect that people never played Marathon. Now is the time. []

              Hey, I had to do something useful with the post.
  • OT: Durandal (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Travoltus ( 110240 )
    Durandal (of Marathon fame) had far more uniqueness than SHODAN.
  • SS3 *and* Bioshock (Score:4, Informative)

    by sparkhead ( 589134 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @08:55PM (#15959606)
    While Bioshock may be the spiritual successor to SS2, EA is supposedly working on SS3 [], according to PC Gamer UK at least.

    Have been waiting for Bioshock for a while now, looks to be great, hopefully it can hold the feel of the SS's.

    And if EA doesn't f it up (yes, I know, little chance of that), we'll have another SS followup.

    (Side note: the linked article keeps changing. Could've sworn I saw a reference to Syndicate in there. And if there's one game franchise other than SS I want to see revived, it's Syndicate.)
  • SHODAN as Mentor? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bieeanda ( 961632 )
    Poppycock. For the first half of the game, she's wearing the voice of dead Doctor Polito, and treating you as a slightly more capable version of the psionic monkeys that chitter and scream in the Von Braun's corridors. When she reveals herself, the illusions of even that degree of care are gone. There is one point in particular, where you can find some upgrade software and information regarding her ultimate plans. She deletes the software in retaliation, and you can bet your ass that if she didn't need
    • When in the game can you find the information?

      I thought that if SHODAN wanted your brains scrambled, she could do it at any time during the last act of the game. Is it because she's too busy fiddling around with the Von Brauns hyperdrive to care?

      • Ah, I getcha now. Yup.

        If anybody's wondering, there's information on all the logs and stuff here: klog/shocklogs.html [].

      • It's in one of the cargo bays on the Command deck. Apparently the doors don't open until you've done something else on the deck, but you'll know the place when SHODAN tells you to stop dicking around.

        I thought that if SHODAN wanted your brains scrambled, she could do it at any time during the last act of the game. Is it because she's too busy fiddling around with the Von Brauns hyperdrive to care?

        That's a good point. From my perspective, if SHODAN has enough threads into you to wirelessly credit or delete

        • All they would've had to do to explain the grove thing would've been to have SHODAN say that it went through a wormhole or fell into a black hole or wouldn't have to be fully explained scientifically, it could've just been a short comment thrown in, to show that they at least put some thought into having a piece of Citadel go far enough away that it took an FTL drive awhile to reach it.
  • Share the Love (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CrtxReavr ( 62039 )
    It's certainly nice to see S.H.O.D.A.N. and the System Shock series getting the front-page /. props it deserves.

    The System Shock series introducted me to an entirely differnet realm of video gaming: Fear.

    I'm not a fan or horror movies and not into being scared by books or film, but for some strange reason, I love a scary video game and the SS games are the only ones that have ever managed to do it.

    I'm such a fan of these games that I absolutely had to chase down and have the trioptimum dot com domain for my
    • by grub ( 11606 )

      Play Thief: Deadly Shadows you're guaranteed to poop your drawers when playing The Shalebridge Cradle level.

      • Sweet, my two favorite non-shoot-everything-you-see-without-thinking FPS games all in one thread. System Shock (original and 2) and Thief were the most engrossing games that had me in complete suspended disbelief. Hands down the best atmospheric FPS games made, especially for their time.
  • What I want to know is where I can get a speech simulator that is anywhere near as creepy as SHODAN's voice.

    It still gives me the creeps every time I play it.

    When its me vs the many, I'm always glad to have a derranged psychotic AI with no ethics (SS1). Well, its better than the alternative, anyway.

    • Just take any ordinaly speech syntasyser and remove the ethical constraints with some hacking and you too will have your very own shodan.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by F_Scentura ( 250214 )
      Doesn't exist, her voice was a normal human voice, emotive behind a false attempt to sound detatched and then processed with FX and further manipulated by cutting and pasting sections. They did a superb job of making her sound more crazed and frantic as you progress further into the game.
  • ...Eden. From Rez. In many ways she is the anti-SHODAN; and if you study the game's audiovisual symbology carefully, and think of it as "Eden's thoughts", she becomes a surprisingly intriguing character.
  • Does anybody know how I can play System Shock or System Shock 2 on WinXP? Is it even possible? I've always wanted to check out these games as people talk about them so much.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.