The matrix is an interlocking system of computers, called hosts, linked together by grids - the world telecommunications network. Most computer systems throughout the world are accessible via the matrix, assuming you have authorized passcodes or can hack the system. A matrix user can theoretically connect to a host on the other side of the planet within seconds. The human mind cannot directly comprehend the flow of data in the matrix. If users were restricted to old-tech tools, the system would be unmanageable. Artificial Sensory Induction System Technology (ASIST) however, opened up the possibilities of Direct Neural Interface access to computers and the matrix was born. Everything in the matrix is graphically represented and if a user is authorized to view a file, they take a microsecond-long trip through a computer generated landscape to find it right where they expected it to be located.
Shadowrunners have their own reasons for being inside a system, and can take advantage of the same technological advances.
To connect to the matrix, people use cybernetic interface devices known as Cyberdecks and cyberterminals. All such devices have a fiber-optic cable with a standard data plug like those found on home telecomm systems. The deck or terminal connects to its user either via an electrode net that slips over the head or with a direct cybernetic interface via a Datajack. Once activated, the deck or terminal overrides most of the user's own sensory information and replaces it with an electronic simulation of the matrix. After a second of disorientation, the decker appears in the Matrix at the point where the cyberdeck was used.
The matrix is a second dimension that gameplay can take place in with a focus on some of the more tech savvy shadowrunners. Deckers can jack-in to the matrix from a terminal and take advantage of any weakness in the system they find there, providing unique and sometimes necessary advantages to the player.
Network nodes are the interconnected rooms that make up the matrix. These rooms are connected to one another by portals that allow the decker to access deeper parts of the system. However, these Portals tend to be inaccessible at first, as a system sensing intrusion will likely send IC to deal with the intruder. Once the IC has been dealt with, the matrix nodes found in the room may be hacked and the decker may progress further into the system.
The following information is really all there is to know about the way the matrix functions in the games.
Portals are what allow a decker to traverse network nodes. They are archways that become active after data is accessed in that area. You have to step out of the arch, then back in to teleport to the next area, moving between the spaces under the arch will not accomplish the location change.
- If trace reaches maximum and the decker attempts to retreat through a portal it can cause the response force to transition with them, leaving them surrounded.
Matrix objects are props used for processing interactions from within the matrix to the real world. These objects when hacked tend to have beneficial effects to the decker's team, such as opening doors, accessing security cameras, and taking over turrets. Some may even hold lucrative paydata or other valuable information.
- See Decking for a list of possible rewards.
Alarm level is referred to as "Heat" in the level editor (not available in mobile versions) and "Trace" in the game user interface. This level is used for the trigger "On Dimension Heat Threshold". This can be used to spawn Black IC on a decker that has made his way too deep into the system or have real world response to a detected decker intrusion. The value starts at whatever it is initially set to in "Scene Properties".
- In The Dead Man's Switch, and Dragonfall trace levels increase automatically every round as long as the decker remains in the matrix.
- In Hong Kong system trace levels increase only when IC detects the decker's avatar.
Intrusion Countermeasures (IC)
IC are your standard enemies found within the matrix, and may be accompanied by deckers. There are two different variations of IC, white and black with subtypes for each.
- White IC appears in all three games. They deal damage to IP rather than HP and can range from dedicated attackers to support IC that buffs other types. In Hong Kong they increase trace level as well, +5 per round for each one present.
- Black IC appears in all three games. The only major change is combat effectiveness, and infliction of HP damage rather than IP. In Hong Kong the "System Response Level" will determine how many spawn upon reaching maximum trace level.
- Watchers are only found in Hong Kong. They move around nodes on a guided path. They have a cone of vision that lights up the floor tiles in front of them. When a deckers avatar enters this cone the watcher will quickly increase the system trace level (+20 per round) until defeated. Once the system Trace level has reached the maximum, watchers will disappear and be replaced by other IC (usually black).
- Blockers are only found in Hong Kong. They are stationary and usually placed around a matrix object to prevent access to that object. They can be destroyed (after trace reaches maximum) or hacked via a minigame (see below). Failure to defeat the minigame will increase the system trace level (+20 per failure). Blocker IC can be forced open with a significant increase in trace level (+50). "Blocker IC Rating" determines the difficulty of the minigame.
Hacking minigame (Hong Kong)
The minigame is divided into two parts.
- The first is matching number codes up to 7 times. The first two number codes consists of 4 digits each, the next two codes are made up of 5 digits each, the third set of two codes have 6 digits each, while the last code has 7 digits. Matching a number code will grant you more time for the second part of the minigame.
- The second is matching symbols. The "Blocker IC Rating" determines how many symbols there are in the final code; a rating of 9 means that the final code has 9 symbols. The final code itself is obscured. From time to time, snippets of the code are revealed. To crack the code, select the correct code from the list of options given before time runs out. If a wrong selection is made a new code is generated, and the list of options will be reset as well.