Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
The Forgotten Shooter
Of all the FPS games I have played, Shogo was by far the most fast and furious by a mile. It
also required the most skill of any FPS I have encountered. The sheer speed of the game required
tremendous reflexes and intuition when playing against others. In comparison, Shogo makes the Quake
3 - QuakeLive series seem a bit toned down, and makes any version of Unreal Tournament as well as
other comparable shooters often played in esports today seem sluggish at best. I sometimes think that
if today's Halo players had to play at the same velocity that Shogo players did that they would probably
pass out from exhaustion within the first few moments of a match.
For those unfamiliar with Shogo, it was developed by a little company called Monolith
Productions (the same company who would eventually bring us F.E.A.R - the multiplayer aspect of
which has often made me drowsy more that once). Monolith has not done too bad for themselves over
the years. And although they have made their share of obscure and failed games, they always seem to
be able to pick themselves back up and find a way to give us something new to chew on. I've been
fortunate enough to know a few of the guys at "Lith" over the years and have often found them to be
very optimistic and accessible.
Shogo had an entertaining, if not short, single player story in addition to its furious multiplayer
mode. The game itself had modest sales (probably due to its release being overshadowed by the almost
simultaneous release of Half-Life). This is also probably the sole reason the game never saw any
expansions or sequels. Even so, Shogo has been able to maintain a cult following over the years, and to
this day it is quite clear due to recent statements, that the developers have not forgotten the unique
experience they created in Shogo. And only time will tell if we will see this masterpiece re-emerge.
During its peak years the multiplayer competition consisted mostly of lan parties and servers hosted
by individuals. Even so it did make its way into several BYOC tournaments, as well as community
hosted tournaments. And although the Shogo community was never very large by today's standards it
was inhabited by a healthy community of extremely skilled and very competitive players.
Over the years the best Shogo players have come and gone, and been replaced by others. During
my time the most notable were Kain and Exo. Two players of extraordinary skill who would often
come to a draw in a 1 vs 1, or in the unusual case one might best the other by a single point. Other
notable players included Keerby (the last winner of a tournament that featured Shogo), Cash, Bedrone,
and Blackdiamond. There were of course many others, but the above stand out not only for their skill
but also because they were often outspoken or controversial at the time. Kain and Exo were nearly
impossible to beat, Cash (a skilled player in his own right), was very outspoken, and rarely in a positive
way. Bedrone was controversial for using the Red Riot (the Quake equivalent of the BFG..only
bigger). Bedrone was most likely an alias of another well known player who would log in as Bedrone
from time to time for the simple amusement of using this weapon. Regardless he was extremely skilled
in the game and the only person I ever saw beat him was Exo. My best guess is that Bedrone was in
reality Kain, logging in under an alias to have a little bit of fun. Further down the road Blackdiamond
emerged as the next great player, although accusations of cheating would eventually damage his
reputation beyond repair. There are many clans and players I could list along with those mentioned,
yet they are too numerous to list for the purpose of this article.
Lack of Support, and The Death of a Cult
What eventually drove away the small cult following that revolved around Shogo came in the
form of two extremely harmful hacks that were released to the public - One by accident, one on
purpose. And although these hacks were eventually patched by the community, the lack of client
support from Monolith lead to a mass exodus of the games most talented players.
It is hard to say from memory which hack came first (there had been others, yet none so
devastating as what was to come, and previous hacks had been worked around by modders within the
gaming community). Regardless of which came first, they are both worth mentioning.
The first hack centered around the fact that animation could be manipulated client side. As
gaming companies realize now, this is a big error in development. The hack allowed you to cheat by
firing your weapons at an insane rate of fire. Of course this took all of the skill out of the game as even
new players could frag other players simply by spamming their weapon without any need to aim. This
hack alone splintered the community. Blackdiamond had been accused of using a similar hack at a
much earlier date (which he always denied), yet this was the first time the community at large had seen
it up close and personal, as now everyone had access to it, and many people started using it. With more
and more players using this rapid fire hack the servers became unplayable for most everyone.
Eventually the modding community moved in to fix this with a client/server file verification system. I
did not stick around long enough to experience this new anti-cheat system however. For it was the
second hack that drove me from the game.
The second hack was not truly a hack so much as an exploit that the developers forgot to take
out of the final release. It was a command anyone could turn on in game called modelboxes. What this
did was essentially create a box around players. These boxes could be seen through walls and other
obstacles. As you can imagine this takes all of the strategy and instinct, and eventually skill, out of the
game. When you always know where your oppenent is, and where he/she is going on any given map,
you will never have to anticipate their next move, and you will always have the jump on them. This
incredible advantage had always been a part of the game, yet most people were not aware of it until
certain members of the modding community made it well known. At the time I played there was no fix
for this. Ironically by turning modelboxes on yourself, you could easily determine who was using
them, as those who used modelboxes always went directly to their opponents.
During this time Keerby was considered the best player in the game (although an old-schooler
would come around once in a while to teach the lad some humility). One day I played Keerby in a 1 vs
1 and he seemed to be everywhere. I wondered how on earth he was getting to me so promptly. Then
it hit me - modelboxes. After I was down a few frags I decided to turn my own modelboxes on and see
if he was indeed using this exploit. I made some very irregular runs on the map we were playing, I did
a bit of camping, and every unusual thing I could think of that would prove he was not using
modelboxes. Unfortunately, no matter what I did he always came directly to me. This is not a matter
of knowing a map really well. Nobody, and I have played with some of the best players in the world,
can predict where you are going to be every single time you respawn on any given map (especially
when you are going to extremes to take non-standard routes and exhibit irrational behavior). Yet
Keerby could, and did. To make a long story short, Keerby was using modelboxes to determine my
every move, and in utter disappointment I called the game and exited.
If the "best" player in the game was using an exploit to get a leg up on the rest of us, then how
many others were using it? At that moment I no longer wanted to be part of a community which had
become so meaningful to me. So I simply left the game for good, never to return.
And so did many others.
Regardless of how it ended for me and so many others in Shogo, I would love to see this game,
or one similar to it, revisited by a developer. Today's slow paced FPS's leave most of us drooling at the
screen as we try to stay awake through yet another map. If it was not for QuakeLive I think an entire
generation of gamers would think the world revolved around Counter-Strike and Halo. The current
FPS genre needs a company (outside of ID and Blizzard) that is willing to put the skill back into
gaming. Monolith made a valiant effort with F.E.A.R - I just wonder if they have the balls to re-visit
Monolith's Website - http://www.lith.com