Shadowrun - The Titans of Old
The Matrix is an unavoidable part of life for the vast majority of metahumanity. It permeates almost every societal layer and it’s insidiously easy to grow reliant on. And while the catastrophe of the Crash 2.0 left millions dead (or as good as), there is little lingering fear over indulging in the newly reinvigorated Matrix.
Service is provided by a number of sources. Many corporations that have an interest in the Matrix and telecommunications will maintain their own, while all of the Big Ten will have huge, sprawling grids designed to show their dominance in virtual space. Many cities will also operate their own public grids are well, but these are often a lot more barebones than their corporate counterparts and suffer from regular connectivity issues.
The Matrix functions over a number of layers. The most common one will be the one that you instinctively use daily by just living your life. Almost every electrical gadget will engage with the Matrix in some manner, be it your trid-set streaming Horizon’s latest blockbuster, your fridge automatically downloading a firmware upgrade or the security check at the neighbourhood grocery store silently inspecting your SIN. Peaceful computing at it’s finest.
After that gentle background hum of technical caretaking, you have augmented reality (or AR). You’ll generally need a specialist tool to view AR, such as cybereyes or specialist eyeware, but these are common and often inexpensive enough to be commonplace. Viewing the world in AR is identical to seeing it as-is, but with an additional filter of sensory input. Businesses will have AR signs, gangs will leave AR tags on street corners and various directional markers (or ARO’s) can guide you where you need to go. There’s also a huge market in AR games. To the point where it’s not hugely uncommon to see a wage slave on her lunch engaging in a finger pistol gunfight with a neon-mohawked teenager across the street.
After the reality+ of AR, you have the fully immersive experience of delving into the Matrix itself. The equipment to do so is fairly common and affordable (a decent commlink and some nodes to connect the device to you temples will get you there for only a few hundred nuyen) and it offers an experience a world beyond even AR. Full immersion in the Matrix transfers your consciousness to an avatar of your own choice (either painstakingly designed yourself or bought off the shelf) and lets you roam the digital streets and alleyways of an altogether separate world.
The look of the world itself will be largely based on which grid you’re on. For example, Renraku’s corporate grid is a huge pastoral countryside with innumerable quaint, culturally themed villages from around the world so as to drive home their PR on being all about remembering ones culture and roots. Horizon’s grid is like one big love letter to hollywood boulevard, with countless touches of flash and pizazz whilst Aztechnology’s is themed around a family friendly jungle environment.
While on a grid, you’re likely to see many others users and programs. Other users will mostly be using their own individual avatars, no matter how incongruous it might seem to appear as a anthropomorphic tractor in a grid themed around a huge dock or a swarm of tiny flying sheep in a virtual nightclub. Programs and digital constructs native to the grid will however show up with their own suitable imagery. If a grid is designed to look like a simple office building, search programs may look like roving flashlights while security IC might appear as eternally alert personal security.
No matter what skin it’s wearing, the Matrix is truly titanic in scope and slaves to the old adage, “if there’s demand, there’s supply”. In the space of five minutes in the Matrix, you could go clothes shopping, dressing up a virtual facsimile of yourself and then ordering the outfit that you liked most, followed by dredging up old records on a favourite sports team from a regional library on the other side of the world and then meeting up at a club with your old school friends who’ve scattered across the globe (complete with dancers, music and drinks that the full sensory immersion lets you actually taste). All while your car drives you home from work.