Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - Learning the Ropes

Tricky Journal Entry 1: “Rather oddly, I woke up in Chatsubo today, face down in my dinner. It could have been worse though I guess. I could have eaten it, dying in agony like those other poor unfortunate souls. I really need my deck! I feel naked without it. I’m heading out now to collect it from Shin. I might just drop in at Gentleman Loser on the way. Apparently Shiva has a couple of things for me there too.”


The game has full mouse control, and I can click on options (such as New or Load) with the cursor.

It was just yesterday that I was commenting about how I wanted to keep up the same level of detail in my posts that I’ve had for the past ten or so games, despite Mean Streets taking over a month to get through and producing close to 30000 words out of me in the process (that’s half a short novel!). Well, my first hour long session has made me question just how long I can uphold that. There’s a LOT of dialogue in this game, and that first hour of play produced no less than 237 screenshots! Thank goodness for Lars-Erik’s screenshot solution (which works perfectly by the way), otherwise I wouldn’t have got anywhere at all. So, while I will do what I normally do here, I’ll be summarising much more than I have been to keep things moving, attempting not to skip anything that might become important later. That being said, this first post covers nothing more than the interface, initial mechanics, and the opening room of the game. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be learnt (and explained to the readers) before a player can wander out into Chiba City. Let’s begin…


The first sign that the game won't be following the book. I can choose my name!

Neuromancer began in a way not many adventure games do. It asked me what my name was! The Trickster wouldn’t fit, so in true Australian style I shortened it to Tricky. A click later and I was looking at my new self standing in the middle of a bar called Chatsubo. I’d just woken up “face-down in a plate of synth-spaghetti”, and Ratz (that’s the guy behind the bar with one prosthetic arm) was demanding 46 credits for the non-eaten food. I immediately noticed that I only had $6, so I was already in an interesting predicament. I hadn’t read the manual at this point, so before I did anything I was going to have to spend some time checking out the interface. There were six main buttons on the left hand side, with the first one bringing up an inventory. All I had to begin with was a pawn ticket and the aforementioned credits. Clicking on either of the items brought up a secondary menu where I could “Operate Item”, “Discard Item”, “Give Item” or “Exit”. The second button was labelled PAX, and clicking it gave me access to the “Public Access System”. I now know that I can only access PAX when there is one situated in my current room (there’s one on the back wall of Chatsubo).


"You can see Chiba sky through the window, the color of television tuned to a dead channel." It appears some of the descriptions are straight from the book.

I was given three words or phrases and asked to enter the correct verification code. This was obviously a piracy control, and I believe the game was originally shipped with a code-wheel that players had to refer to whenever they accessed a PAX terminal. Since I’d chosen to run a cracked version of the game, I simply pressed enter and was allowed access. I had four options available to me: 1. First Time PAX User Info. 2. Access Banking Interlink. 3. Night City News 4. Bulletin Board. The user info was really just a hilariously complicated policy for terminal use that managed to include multitudes of unnecessary acronyms such as MPPILC (Multi-Phased Public Information Library Core) and WHOOPEE (World Holographic Organizational Obligation for Electronic Eavesdropping). None of it meant anything, so I moved onto option 2. Here I could download or upload credits, and also view a transaction record, similar to a standard ATM. I could see that I had $2000 in my account, so I chose to take out $500. That should cover the spaghetti with plenty left over, and I didn’t yet know whether there was any danger in carrying large sums of cash around Chiba City (the game is based in Japan in the year 2058). Viewing my transaction log revealed that I’d downloaded another $131 already today, and had been fined $1000 for something or other.


Let's hope I don't have to sell a kidney or a lung to get more credits

I moved onto the Night City News, where I could read two major articles along with the “News in Brief”. The first article described how 87 fatalities had been caused by the synth-spaghetti at a bar named Chatsubo when combined with more than three glasses of beer. The combination creates an explosive chemical which ignites in victim’s stomachs! Well, I was feeling pretty glad that I’d only slept in my spaghetti and apparently not eaten any. The second article talked about a “well-known logic gate crasher” named Jonathan E, who had gone missing. There was speculation that he’d been killed in cyberspace by “black ice”, an illegal form of base protection. I’ll take that as a warning that spending time in cyberspace isn’t without danger. The News in Brief contained a bunch of silly articles, including farm animals that kidnapped a UFO for a joyride, and a man that ate his own head in Donut World. The last article seemed a bit more serious though, discussing the son of the “Prez of Fuji Electric” who has gone missing. Whether or not that will play a role later in the game or not, I can’t say.


87 fatalaties before they did something about it!

Finally there was the bulletin board, where I discovered four messages to the general population, one to Ratz the barman, and seven messages waiting for me! The four messages to the general public were not worthy of discussion, being credits for the game, in-game ads, and a message explaining why there are no messages in the system prior to 11/14/58 (lightning strike). The eight messages for me were clearly very important, so I’ll relate my findings here. 1. Matt Shaw advised me to get my hands on good software from the BBS’s, which he said I would need to figure out what’s going on. He also told me to upgrade my Comlink warez and my equipment so that I could reach better bases and to find “us” in cyberspace as soon as I had enough cash. I didn’t know what much of this was talking about, but assumed I would soon enough. He finished by saying: “We need your help bad, but I can’t talk about it here. Don’t want to start a panic, you know what I mean?” This sounds like the beginning of the plot, so I assume Matt Shaw plays a role down the track. 2. FFargo sent me a message to remind me that I owed him $2000.3. Shin sent me a message telling me that I better pick up my deck at his pawn shop or he’ll have to sell it.


It looks like email doesn't really progress in the next 45 years.

4. Crazy Edo asked me where his caviar was, which he’d apparently committed to trade some software for. 5. Matt Shaw sent another message containing some “comlink numbers to get you started”. The link codes were CHEAPO for Cheap Hotel, REGFELLOW for the Regular Fellows, CONSUMEREV for Consumer Review, ASANOCOMP for Asano Computing, and WORLDCHESS for the World Chess Confederation. I had no idea what to do with these at this stage, but Matt thought they would keep me busy  until I could “afford a cyberspace-capable deck”. 6. Anonymous Bosch messaged me to tell me that he’d dropped off my Cryptology skill chip (that he’d borrowed from me six months ago) with someone named Shiva at a place called Gentleman Loser. 7. Emp. Norton warned me that “something weird’s going on in cyberspace” and that I should “sharpen my skills and keep your head down.” 8. The same Emp. Norton told me that Shiva (the person at the Gentleman Loser) also has a Matrix Restaurant guest pass for me and that we should meet there and talk. The last remaining message was from Red Snake to Ratz and said: “Read about your problem in the Night City News. Did you forget to pay off the Health Department this month? I can fix it. Talk to me.” Clearly there were a lot of dodgy things going on in the Chiba City underground, and no doubt I was going to get caught up in them shortly.


Everyone wants to reach the better bases. Um...what's at the better bases?

I noticed I could also Send a Message on the bulletin board, but since I had nothing to say to anyone, I exited the PAX. Continuing my exploration of the interface, I found that the third main icon allowed me to speak to someone in the room (Ratz in this instance). I was a little confused by the interface here as clicking the left mouse button or pressing the space bar moved through dialogue options without actually saying anything, but I eventually figured out that pressing the right mouse button or the enter key selected the current option onscreen. For example, I could say any of the following things to Ratz in relation to the $46 I owed him for the food: 1. “How about if I owe it to you? You can trust me.” 2. “I’m ready for desert. Have you got any pudding for me to sleep in?” 3. “I’d like to sleep on it some more, if that’s okay with you, Ratz.” 4. “Sorry Ratz. I can’t afford it. Want me to give it back?” None of those options seemed very good to me, particularly as I did now have the cash, but I selected option 1 (by pressing enter) to see what would happen. Ratz’s response was: “Pay up, cyberscum. Use the PAX if you need money.” I figured that was probably to right thing to do, so I went to my inventory, selected my credits, and gave 46 of them to Ratz. “Thanks, friend artiste. Shin came by, but he didn’t want to interrupt your beauty sleep. He still has your deck.”


I won't be giving tips in a joint like this

I talked to Ratz a bit longer, discovering that my deck that Shin had was a Yamamitsu UXB, and that one of Lonny Zone’s girls was looking for me. Finally, he told me that I “better find a way to pay your bill at Cheap Hotel, or they’ll start asking you to sell your body parts.” Wow! Neuromancer was throwing a lot of information at me before I’d even taken a step. Talk about throwing the player into the deep end! I was already starting to notice the RPG qualities of the game, although without any sort of journal to record my “quests” or “clues”, I was going to have to use another spreadsheet. Speaking of RPGs, the fourth button in the interface was for skills, although I apparently had none at this stage. The fifth button would normally give me access to my ROM Construct, but since I didn’t have one, did nothing for the moment. The sixth and final main button allowed me to save my game (and to restore if I wanted to), so I took the opportunity. Only having four save slots was pretty damn scary, particularly as readers have already mentioned that Neuromancer contains lots of dead ends. I’m going to have to use these slots wisely!


4 save game slots!!! Ouch!!! (yes, I realise I could cheat, but where's the fun in that)

The four other smaller icons in the interface merely changed what was displayed in the white panel above them. In order, they displayed the date (currently 11/17/58), the time (currently 01:59), my credit total (currently $460) and my constitution level (currently 2000). I’ve noticed while writing this post that the days are ticking away fairly rapidly, but I have no idea whether anything I need to achieve is time based. That pretty much wraps up everything I need to say about the interface, at least initially. I guess I should also state that my first impressions from a technology point of view are not very good. I’m sure you can tell from the screenshots that the graphics are pretty average, but you wouldn’t be aware of how grating the PC speaker quality music is. It sounds pretty awful, so thankfully it isn’t constant (it does randomly kick in for another run through every now and then). The game has very little sound otherwise, so I imagine I’ll be listening to my own music while playing. I also have concerns about the movement, as there seems to be no way to stop my character from moving in a direction once I start. If I start walking to the right, I can’t press right again to make him stop. I have to change direction or purposely walk into something. Using the mouse is fine for the icons, but makes moving around next to impossible, so I’m going to attempt to memorize the icon key shortcuts and leave the mouse out of it entirely. I’m pretty sure something will actually happen in my next post, so stay tuned!


Just so you know there IS something outside of the first room

Session Time: 0 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 0 hours 20 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

37 comments:

  1. Attention TBD!

    Alfred n the Fettuc already owns a copy of the Space Quest Collection, so since you both tied in predicting my score for Mean Streets, he would like me to offer it to you.

    Please send me an email to theadventuregamer@gmail.com and I'll send you the code.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh. Thanks Alfred (and of course Lars-Erik and Trickster!)

      Looks like I'll be playing along with the next game.

      Email incoming soon.

      Delete
  2. Hmmmm...my spreadsheet on Google docs is not opening. Let's hope it's a temporary issue!

    I don't have a copy anywhere. Can anyone else open the playlist?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can open it just fine. Do you need a copy emailed to you as a backup?

      Delete
    2. I can't get to either the playlist or the CAP leaderboard documents. I keep getting Google Drive errors.

      If you can make a copy of both spreadsheets, I'd be most appreciative. I'm a bit paranoid now!

      Thanks!

      Delete
    3. I too can open them both with no issues.

      Delete
    4. I can get to it now. Go figure!

      Thanks for the reassurences guys.

      Delete
  3. I'm also forgoing the mouse input. It just seems completely without merit. Also, my clicks register multiple times when selecting dialog that I miss half of what's said.

    I found it funny Shaw gives "Comlink numbers" that consist of letters.

    "it does randomly kick in for another run through every now and then"

    Music plays at midnight of each day. I only noted this because I left it open for a bit on the timer and noticed the music kick in right at midnight.

    "8. The same Emp. Norton told me that Shiva (the person at the Gentleman Loser) also has a Matrix Restaurant guest pass for me and that we should meet there and talk."

    I actually hadn't checked the PAX boards since the beginning. It looks like this message doesn't show up until a day or so has passed in game time. This wasn't there at the start. This post looked safe from spoilers, but I think I'll have to skip your posts for a bit.

    I've got screenshots to pour over and the manual to read. I noticed credits tick away while on bases, so I've been capturing screens instead of reading, then pausing to read and parse the information. I know I'm being overly conservative, but I hate seeing resources tick away while playing a game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trust me, it's not overly conservative, it's just common sense when playing this game. Money is the most important resource at the beginning of the game, so it shouldn't be wasted.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, lack of funds has crippled a couple of my attempts so far, so I've started writing down what to do after calling a base, reloading and then just punch through it as fast as I can.

      Delete
    3. Speaking of money, there's some easy credits that you can get at the very beginning and that Tricky appears to have missed:

      Hint 1) Qb lbh ernyyl guvax nyy gur zrffntrf frag gb rirelbar jrer hfryrff?
      Hint 2) Purpx bhg gur bar sebz Ze. Nezvgntr.
      Spoiler) R-znvy uvz lbhe nppbhag ahzore naq ur'yy or unccl gb tvir lbh fbzr zbarl.

      Delete
    4. You just know that I'm going to replay the first room now and try to find the credits!

      Delete
    5. Gah, easy credits? How could I have missed that already? I'll skip the hints for now and see how far I get. The only thing I've bought is the chip from Shiva. I'm trying to keep credit spending to the bare minimum.

      Delete
    6. No need to restart and replay the room; you can find those credits any time, as far as I can tell.

      Still, if you play like I did, you'll end up replaying the first bit anyway. :p

      Delete
    7. I've already restarted a couple of times. What are people's thoughts on using information that I actually haven't gathered in-game, but I've written down from a previous playthrough? I've been trying to stay fairly true and see the information on the screen, but it seems very easy to save, gather a bunch of info, load, and do it more quickly/efficiently.

      In any case, I was going to ask if it was X, I entered a rot13, and matched a couple words. So, I think I know what you're getting at. I found that in a previous attempt, but V nyfb znantrq gb trg neerfgrq gbb znal gvzrf va gur znffntr cneybe, jnf pneelvat nyy zl perqvgf, naq onfvpnyyl fcvg ba gur whqtr, fb V jnf xvyyrq naq gurl gbbx nyy zl zbarl gb oevat zr onpx gb yvsr. V nyfb unq gur gubhtug gung V'q jnvg gb qb nezvgntr hagvy V pbhyq trg nabgure onax nppbhag naq gel gb fgnpx uvf srr ol fhozvggvat zhygvcyr nppbhagf. V unir ab vqrn vs gung jbhyq jbex.

      In any case, I'm not really hurting for credits and I have a number of leads. I need to get back to my RPG tonight, but I'm itching to get through some more Neuromancer, or at least catalog my leads. I do wonder what one can do to earn credits if you reach 0 though.

      Delete
    8. I've spent about 3 hours so far learning this game, which includes a few playthroughs (I think I'm on my fourth restart), and I feel like I still haven't even scratched the surface. I'm barely on the next day still slumming around bases after talking to Shiva.

      Oh, and I suppose selling body parts is what you do when you get down to 0 credits now that I think about it.

      Delete
    9. Lars-Erik is right, you don't need to actually be in the first room, it's just something you can do also in the first room.

      Yes Zenic, you are on the right tracks. I hadn't considered the possibility of doing it second time, and I am not sure if that is possible.

      Selling body parts is an option, although I wouldn't recommend it, because it's not good for your constitution (that's going to be important later), and buying them back costs more than what you got from selling them.

      From my first attempt to crack the game, I remember there were some fixed "treasure troves" to be found (if I'd just kept my notes, I might remember where there I to be found...), but I found no real way to grind for money.

      Personally, I am playing this in a wimpy way and won't bother gathering all the info again, if I happen to die. Then again, I seem to remember the possible deaths at the beginning (Zenic, lbh qba'g tb cvffvat gur nhgubevgvrf, gurl unir thaf), so I haven't died yet. If someone is playing this really hardcore, I'd suggest loading only what you need on your credit chip and leaving the rest on your bank account, so you won't lose all your money, if you happen to get "resurrected".

      Delete
    10. I've noticed two things that have to do with the above conversation.

      spoilerish/thing of note about: Lbhe onax nppbhag qbrfa'g frrz gb tb artngvir, naq V qba'g frr nal cranygl gb vafhssvpvrag shaqf.

      hint/heavy spoiler: Guebjvat lbhefrys ba gur zrepl bs gur pbheg fb sne unf bayl tbggra zr n ursgl svar, 10X, ohg ab qrngu va gur 3 gvzrf V grfgrq vg. Jvgu gur nobir, V qba'g xabj vs gurer'f nal ynfgvat cranygl sbe guvf.

      Delete
    11. Ah, I thought the only draw back to selling body parts was having to buy them back at double price. Didn't realize it eats into your CON. Maybe I'll squeeze a couple hours of this in tonight.

      Delete
    12. Getting close to a plaintext hint there, Ilmari. :p

      OK, got my cryptology chip. Now to see what this baby can do.

      Delete
    13. Lars-Erik: I know I was teetering on a fine line, but I didn't want Tricky to go on a red herring hunt.

      Zenic: Yes, now I remember that (oh, I could have saved some money...)! So at this stage it's still better to keep your money with you...

      Just got little more credits, now, how should I spend it?

      Delete
    14. I'm investing heavily in chips at the moment, though I'm not quite sure why.

      Delete
    15. Neuromancer confuses me.

      Delete
    16. I think I play too many fantasy games. I keep misreading it as Necromancer.

      Delete
    17. Lars-Erik: Just general confusion or are you stuck somewhere in particular?

      Delete
    18. Just general confusion Ilmari. I think I'm getting the hang of it now though, after hacking into some bases and finding some explanatory texts about the difference between types of softwarez for instance.

      Currently leveling up my ICEbreakers and taking down my first AI's.

      Delete
    19. I think I am pretty much in the same position (this is also where I got stuck in my original playthrough). BTW, what software are you using to log in to cyberspace?

      Delete
    20. Right now V'z hfvat gur Plorefcnpr 1.0, nf vg frrzf gb abg qenva nal pnfu juvyr fcnpva'.

      Rot13'ing that to avoid potential spoilers. Seems to work nicely so far.

      Delete
    21. Yep, that's probably the best. Well, now I've "cleaned up" both Purnc Ubgry and Tragyrzna Ybfre areas of all AI, and I have no idea where to go next. I'll probably have to do some scouting in the "real world" and find other places to log in.

      Delete
    22. I found another set on gur bgure fvqr bs gur frphevgl tngr gb gur rnfg, but it's really hard and the first one I tried flatlined me a couple of times. Going back to the places you mentioned to make sure I haven't missed any needed warez there. If not, I might have to see if I can smash their ICE after more tries.

      Delete
    23. By the way, have you found any particular use for Wnzzvrf 1.0? I get what it does, but it doesn't seem to last long enough for it to be any useful.

      Delete
    24. Oh yes, there was playing area there also! Now I'll just have to figure out how to get there (no spoilers, please).

      I've tried using Wnzzvrf at the beginning of every ICE battle: I think I gain few seconds more to bash it with something. If there are larger version numbers out there, they might work longer.

      Have you found any use for Zvzvp 1.0? I suppose it's meant to pbcl gur nggnpxf bs gur VPR, but it just doesn't appear to have any great effect.

      Delete
    25. As far as I can tell, you won't get attacked until you land your first hit. Although you gain a few seconds, does it last long enough for something else to hit? If not, it seems more like it hinders you than helps. I might try it some more and see.

      I haven't tried Zvzvp yet. Let me know if you get it to work, could be great to use on some of these bases.

      Delete
    26. Oh wow, you really really want to get your hands on NezbeNyy 1.0, it's a life saver!

      Delete
    27. It's fascinating reading all this now. It seems everyone playing this goes through the same thought processes!

      Delete
  4. Man, I hate having to read lots of text in monospaced fonts. Also there seems to be some zaniness present that I don't remember from the original, we'll have to see how that develops.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I got excited about this game because I enjoyed the book. We'll see how long that lasts.

    ReplyDelete