Warning, spoilers for the ending of System Shock.
In the original System Shock, the ending sees the Hacker (you, the player character) enter Cyberspace and take down SHODAN, AKA the Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network. Victorious, you return to Earth and are heralded as the hero of Tri0ptimum, but System Shock nearly took a different turn for its finale.
Speaking to RockPaperShotgun about the history of System Shock, programmer Rob Fermier revealed, "The original ending of the game was gonna be that when you defeated SHODAN, we would make it look like you had crashed to desktop. Your commands wouldn't work, and you would start to think that SHODAN had come into your actual PC."
Something about retro games is creepy enough, but I can't imagine finishing a six-hour session of System Shock at night ending with my desktop and SHODAN breaching my files and infiltrating my system. It sounds terrifying, especially in the early days of the internet where this would've become playground chatter that your mates wouldn't believe. 'Sure James, I bet the villain hacked your PC'. It sounds like a Herobrine joke.
On a more meta level, SHODAN was designed to represent the developers, a sentient AI that viewed the player as an enemy, someone who would spend their time in the game trying to break boundaries or sneak past objectives. Essentially, SHODAN was Looking Glass Studios trying to catch speedrunners in the middle of glitches.
"In a sense, SHODAN would represent us," designer Austin Grossman said. "We would have all these triggers in the world, and we would be seeing through the triggers what the player was doing, and we'd be commenting on it. It turned out to work very well."
"We wanted SHODAN to feel like this presence," Fermier added. "We wanted a sense that she was all around, literally the ghost in the machine, running the whole station. I remember the designers saying they wanted you to hate SHODAN not just because you were told to, but because you experienced her messing with you directly. We talked about a bunch of crazy things that never went in. At one point SHODAN was going to drain your XP from you."
If you fancy hopping in and trying to take on SHODAN for yourself, the System Shock remake just launched and already has an impressive range of scores. We at TheGamer gave it a four-star review, saying that "The level to which it manages to remain faithful to the original while also very much being a modern game released in 2023 is impressive... this is easily the best way for people today to experience one of the most genre-defining games of all time."
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