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Sci-fi Horror Game SOMA Out September 22nd, Twisting Human Mind and AI

Thomas Grip's Avatar Posted by Creative Director, Frictional Games

SOMA, our upcoming sci-fi horror game, delves deep into the mysteries of subjects such as identity and consciousness. In this post I would like to explore the real world inspirations that have shaped our game.

The Problem of Other Minds

Relax and just concentrate on what it’s like being you for a moment. You can hear sounds, feel things, see things, and so forth. You also have certain emotional responses connected to this and you perceive the world around you in a certain way. All of these things make up the essence of being you.

While you know for sure that these experiences exist for you, how can you know for sure that others have them? Since these emotions are purely subjective and lack any sort of physical basis, there is nowhere to look inside a person and make absolutely sure. After all, it does seem possible that a person could act like they are conscious; but that this is achieved in a purely mechanical fashion and that no subjective sensations are involved.

For most people the solution is fairly simple. We look and act enough like each other to assume that we all must have a similar subjective experience. While we can never be 100% sure, we can be fairly certain. There are instances where it gets tricky, though. For instance, there have been cases where comatose patients have turned out to have been conscious and fully aware for years, without any means to contact the outside world. Even more difficult is the question as to whether animals are conscious.

Soma

And it gets harder still when it comes to robots. If a robot acts like they are a conscious person, should we consider them human? Are there any attributes that are required to be truly conscious? And if we find out that a machine probably is conscious, should they get the same rights as us?

These questions and many similar to them are things you will face head-on in SOMA.

The Weird Case Of Anosognosia

Again, focus a bit on yourself. Look down on your body, move your limbs, and feel your skin. You are pretty confident that you have an accurate depiction of who you are right? In fact you don’t even have to really actively look at or poke at yourself to know you are there. You can just close your eyes and know it’s all there. This ability to know our own bodies comes naturally and seems like the most obvious thing in the world.

Enter the strange world of Anosognosia. After a stroke, some people will have one of their arms go limp, and are unable to move it. But the weird thing is that they will deny this has happened to them. If a doctor asks them whether they can move their limp arm, they will say “yes” and then act as if they just did just that when in fact it just stayed still. If probed further, they will start making excuses, such as “I do not feel like it right now,” or even deny that the arm is theirs! Yet apart from denying their injury, their cognitive abilities and self-knowledge are otherwise perfectly fine.

Think about this for a moment. Think back on how obvious it was to you that you could know all about your own body. Now consider that these people feel it is just as obvious that they have two functional arms. And what is even creepier is that as you start pushing them, they start making up these outlandish explanations, as if they are broken automatons. In a way, it’s like we are entering a twilight world between the spiritual and physical. Brain damage makes the human part of us break down and reveal the machinery beneath. And this is exactly the creepy area in which SOMA is set.

The Dangers Of Controlling AI

As our AI gets increasingly powerful we will soon start to face a big issue: how can we make sure that it behaves like we want it to? How does one code a system so that it understands and takes human values into consideration?

Soma

Normally when one talks about AI, we imagine something like HAL, a talking machine that understands human wishes — but it doesn’t need to go nearly as far as that. Consider a self-driving car that has a passenger. What if it’s approaching a situation where it calculates that it has two choices. One, it could make an avoidance maneuver and spare the life of the passenger inside. Or two, it can go off a bridge, killing its passenger, but save the four people in a car ahead instead.

If we program the AI to save the biggest number of lives, then we make a car that could potentially kill its own passenger. And if we do the opposite, protect the humans inside at all costs, the car might plow through pedestrians to save its passengers.

It’s very tricky to get machines to do what we want, and the more intelligent and complicated they become, the harder the problem gets. We like to think that some things like the sanctity of life and so on are fundamental concepts, but this doesn’t have to be true for an AI at all. For instance, a famous experiment proposes an AI that sees nothing of higher value than paper clips and continues to turn the entire planet into them. It might sound outlandish to us, but to an AI, even one of extreme intelligence, all that we hold sacred could mean nothing. This is yet another angle that SOMA will be exploring.

I hope that gives you a taste of what SOMA will be about. It should also prepare you a bit for the strange world you’ll enter when SOMA launches on September 22nd.

Add Your Own

H__O__J__A__T said:

September 18th, 5:41 am

Is there any pre-order bonuses? As far as I know, there isn’t any.
And please answer this, do you have any plans for porting or remastering Amnesia games and releasing them on PS4?

jonnyzombieboy said:

September 18th, 6:04 am

Guaranteed day one buy for me. I’ve been waiting for Soma since it was first announced for ps4; can’t wait!

Jakracer said:

September 18th, 6:05 am

Maaaan this game is looking better and better with the more i learn about it.

TheFlyingPuffin said:

September 18th, 6:08 am

Not going to watch any videos, don’t want anything spoiled and I don’t mean just the story. The esthetics, sounds etc, too. I love the consciousness theme. Can’t wait to play day one.

cusman said:

September 18th, 6:12 am

I have gone from never heard of this game to highly anticipating getting my hands on and playing it next week, and I typically don’t play horror games. I don’t even know yet if this is a digital or physical retail release game or how much it will be costing.

    Sarcinelli86 said:

    September 18th, 12:30 pm

    – $30 on PC & PS4 (can’t say regional prices)
    – ~10 hours of playtime (as high as 14 for some)
    – Live on Steam 22nd, 9.00 CET / 0.00 PDT
    – US and EU region stores for PS4
    – Translations (text only): FRA, SPA, ITA, GER, BRA, RU
    – No VR at launch
    – Digital only
    – No PS4 pre-order

    https://www.frictionalgames.com/forum/thread-30606.html

paulogy said:

September 18th, 6:23 am

Lovely (and somewhat horrifying) thought experiments! In your self-driving car example, what if the car AI decides to preserve *itself* at the cost of its passengers or oncoming cars? I look forward to exploring concepts like these in your game :-)

insano_jaco said:

September 18th, 6:29 am

Day 1!

SureBigBuster said:

September 18th, 6:37 am

Can’t wait!!!

Vextalon said:

September 18th, 7:21 am

I haven’t heard anything in awhile about this game. Glad it came out before Halloween. I can’t wait to play this with my new headphones. Any chance is there going to be any dynamic themes Anything about the price?

    Sarcinelli86 said:

    September 18th, 12:31 pm

    $30 on PC & PS4

glassmusic said:

September 18th, 8:37 am

Can’t wait for this!

PLEASE port Amnesia over. I have it on Mac but I just can’t sit in front of my computer screen for hours on end. :)

There’s money in porting it over, that’s for sure!

Speady123 said:

September 18th, 9:13 am

I’ve been interested in this game when it was first announced, and I’m totally excited. What’s even cooler is that “Soma” is actually the drug used in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. Maybe we can see some relevance?

Tomoprime said:

September 18th, 9:24 am

PRICE? !!!!!

    Tomoprime said:

    September 18th, 9:39 am

    To answer my own question I checked out the SOMA website:

    SURVIVAL HORROR – COMING 22ND OF SEPTEMBER – $29.99 USD

    KonietzkyStrain said:

    September 18th, 9:39 am

    I know it is $30 on Steam, so I am guessing around the same on PS4. I own all the games made by Frictional on PC. I definitely will be getting this on day one.

sealum01 said:

September 18th, 9:27 am

I can’t wait to play! Please support PSVR! This game seems like a perfect match for VR!

EverythingOnFire said:

September 18th, 12:36 pm

Wish we’d get info on the PS4 versions price. Steam has it right now for $26.99, and for right now that’s where my money is going. I want to support the PS4, so please show me that you want my money just as much or more than Steam does, Sony.

VincentDesrd said:

September 18th, 4:54 pm

Is there an embargo on the reviews or have they not send any copies? Either way that makes me kinda nervous…

Richlando said:

September 18th, 5:26 pm

Review codes havent been sent out yet. Waiting on Sony to send them to publishers.

    Richlando said:

    September 18th, 5:27 pm

    $29.99 btw

whereymyconary said:

September 19th, 8:00 am

Damn over priced for digital… Wait for a physical copy or sale. I’ll pay 60 for physical anyday when it has 10 hours of game play… But not digital.

Looking forward to this though. See what Black Friday brings me.

    Throbbing_Chub said:

    September 22nd, 8:05 am

    Wait, what? $30 digital is overpriced, but you’ll pay $60 just to have a case and a disc?

Welmosca said:

September 20th, 12:24 am

Oh nice to finally see a release date for this game,been followin it since it was announced with that gameplay video which was what picked up ma interest.
Looking forward to play the game…looks like some damn fine horror.Not about to pay $30 for it though.

    Welmosca said:

    September 20th, 12:36 am

    Forgot to say…amazing subjects you touched there in the text.Game will be really interesting.

    “While you know for sure that these experiences exist for you, how can you know for sure that others have them?”

    I’ve thought many times about this already.

Mercenary09 said:

September 20th, 8:19 am

Can someone tell my why this game is $30 and doesn’t have a Platinum trophy? Ground Zeroes all over again.

ANDSv2 said:

September 20th, 9:47 am

Insane. This has gotten more than a few pages of press from the PSBlog and other Playstation related sites, yet there is no pre-order? You wouldn’t even know it was coming out on the PS4 if you looked at the PS Store.

Hatchetforce said:

September 21st, 4:28 am

This is one of those double purchases for me. Already preloaded under Steam – same username – and will grab the PS4 version tomorrow. Both the material and the location setting have unbelievable appeal. As an owner of Frictional’s previous titles I know their pedigree and eagerly await the launch.

robbaltimore said:

September 22nd, 2:52 am

Does anyone know where this game is. I can not find it in the PS network store and it the 22nd wtf? I have waited forever to play this and it is not in the store what gives.

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