Sunday, 14 July 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - Ocean's One

Tricky Journal Entry 17: "I'm rich!!!! For weeks I've been trying to get my hands on a large sum of cash from one of these vulnerable bank bases, and today I hit the jackpot...twice! I hadn't even really considered the Bank of Berne to be a target, but came away with 500000 credits for my efforts. I spent a large portion of my afternoon shopping of course, getting the Cyberspace VII I've always wanted along with a stack of warez and skills. Surely I'm unstoppable now, especially now that I have my first ever ROM Construct installed too!"


Even at this stage of the game, my constitution was copping a beating while trying to break through ICE.

I can't believe this game has already required 17 gameplay posts!!! Its been a huge undertaking, and I hope we don't face another game like it any time soon, regardless of how I feel about the actual game. With that in mind, I'll get on with it! There were three sections on the Turing base, being 1. AI Registry, 2. AI Reports and 3. Skill Upgrade! As usual, I took them in order. The AI Registry was a list of all AIs, along with their Registration IDs and Citizenship! It included the likes of Sapphire, Hal, Xaviera and Chrome (who I’ve defeated) and also Neuromancer and Greystoke (who I keep reading about). I couldn’t think of a way to use the registration IDs or Citizenship to my advantage, but perhaps it would come up later. The AI Reports section was actually broken into three sub-sections, being 1. Monthly AI Report, 2. General Alert and 3. Primary Alert. The Monthly AI Report included an article by Michele M., talking about the AI named Chrome that “is presently operating an on-line psychology service”. The report suggested that Chrome was merely “gathering data on human neuroses as well as encouraging some of the cowboys to cease their illegal activities”. The General Alert section reported that “two of our specialized AI destruct programs are missing from our vault! Junior Turing operatives should be informed that these warez are to be considered extremely dangerous! Both are part of our battle library to ensure that mainframe AI’s belonging to Allard Technologies and Musabori Industries do not get out of hand!”


This list at least helps me figure out which AIs I've defeated and which are still out there waiting for me

This alert was both good and bad for me. It was good because it confirmed my belief that there were particular pieces of software out there that were needed to defeat certain AIs (such as the Musabori AI that I could find no weakness for), but it was bad because I’d hoped to find them somewhere in the Turing base. If they weren’t here, where was I going to get them from? I moved onto the Primary Alert section, where I found a message concerning a Turing operative that had died while investigating AIs owned by Tessier-Ashpool. Before her death, she had discovered that the AIs seem to “have a certain ability to alter reality”, which was a scary thought. Finally I checked out the Skill Upgrade section, which contained upgrades to the Phemonenology, Philosophy, Sophistry and Logic skills. While this sounds like an awesome find, I was very disappointed to find that the upgrade would only take the skills to level 5, which I’d already surpassed (mine were at level 6). There was also an upgrade to Psychoanalysis level 4, but I hadn’t even purchased that skill chip during this game as it wasn’t all that useful. Regardless, with Turing all done, it was time to go back to the Bank of Berne and see if I could now defeat the AI there.


I don't see how anyone could get to this base without already having level 5 skills!

To my delight, I defeated it pretty easily this time, since I’d increased my skill levels since my first attempt. “How can you have done this, you bug? How is it that I die at your hands?” I’d not been to the Bank of Berne base at all in the game so far, so all six menu options were of interest to me. They were 1. Current Rates, 2. In the Know, 3. Message Base, 4. Funds Transfer, 5. Software Library and 6. AI Message Buffer. The Current Rates section was no different to any of the other bank rates pages, merely displaying the bank’s various interest rates. The In the Know section was an information service for the bank, and reported that their security chief, Roger Stefano, had “died in a terrorist strike against one of our bank branches”. It went on to claim that customers should expect the sort of dedication Roger had shown, and suggested cowboys were syphoning money from all the other banks apart from Berne. I hoped to test that theory soon, but first I entered the Message Base to check out the four messages contained there. The first message was from Anson Auric to Tozoku Imports, inquiring about the ETA of a shipment for Mr. Stefan Rogers, which they were concerned might have disappeared. Tozoku’s response was that the shipment was “not lost, merely hiding”, and that they will notify Anson when “things are under control”. This is another conversation which I simply can’t figure out the relevance of!


It sucks realising you're inferior doesn't it!

The third message was from Thomas Cole to Anson Aurix, telling him that he knew an excellent security man named Roger Kaliban. I’d seen Roger’s name mentioned on several message boards now, but still have no idea who he is or what I’m supposed to take from it all. While the first three messages seemed pointless, the fourth and final one certainly wasn’t! It was from Administration to Anson Auric: “Due to the security problems we’ve been having, we’ve changed the master authorization code for the Funds Transfer system to LYMA1211MARZ. The Funds Reserve Account number is still 121519831200. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.” I’d always expected to syphon money out of Bank Gemeinschaft, but perhaps the Bank of Berne was the real target all along! I entered the Funds Transfer section and was asked to “Enter source account number:”.  I entered the Funds Reserve Account I’d just discovered, and then entered the source authorization code from the same message. The account held no less than $500000, and I was asked how much I wanted to transfer!!! I did what anyone would do, and tried to transfer the whole lot! I was then asked to enter the destination bank link code , so I entered BOZOBANK (I’d previously opened a bank account with the Bank of Zurich), and entered my account number. “Transfer Complete”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I hoped for some money, but $500000!!!!!!!!!

That’s right! After struggling with funds the entire game, I now had more money than I could possibly need! It wasn’t showing in my interface though, and I quickly realised I needed to go into the Bank of Zurich base to download the credits. I still had a couple of sections to check out on the Bank of Berne base though, with the first being the software library. It contained ArmorAll 1.0, Slow 3.0 and Probe 10.0. I'd already downloaded the first two from the Screaming Fist base, but Probe 10.0 was a fair upgrade to my version 4.0! I snapped it up, then moved onto the AI Message Buffer section. There I found two messages to the AI I'd just defeated (named Gold). The first one was from Greystoke (the AI guarding Musabori), saying "Yes, yes, the cyberscum must be stopped from raping the banks. You are right to bring this to our attention. Do what you must to stop them." The second one was from Neuromancer: "Gold, I believe you should not take offense at the pilfering of rounding errors. We all know you keep track of them down to the hundredth digit. That these cowboys place a value on that sort of thing does not make you any less powerful. If they attack you, by all means, defend yourself, but we should not take the offensive, no matter what Greystoke predicts." I was starting to see that the two AIs fighting for cyberspace dominance had very different "personalities". Greystoke was aggressive and unrepentant, whereas Neuromancer seemed more thoughtful and patient.


Neuromancer...just a nice guy really.

Whether or not this meant anything was yet to be seen, but I was too excited to think on it any further. I jumped into the Bank of Zurich base and downloaded my newly acquired fortune, stopping to admire my new cash total of $502024! I then made my way back to Chiba City and went on a massive spending spree. I replaced my deck with a top of the line Cyberspace VII (which would allow me to have 25 warez simultaneously), then bought all the skill chips that I’d ignored due to lack of funds (Cryptology, Bargaining, Warez Analysis, Hardware Repair, Psychoanalysis), then upgraded all the ones I could at the Matrix Restaurant. Finally, I bought the Sense/Net security pass from Lupus, which I assumed I would need at some point. After all this spending, I still had over $430K! I took all this new stuff and prepared to move onto cyberspace zone 4, 5 and beyond. Now that I had Easy Rider, it didn’t matter where I jacked in, so I just did it from the Cheap Hotel. It also meant that my systematic approach that I’d used to this point went out the window a little bit, as I tried to hack into new bases from zones 4, 5, 6 and 7 in whatever order I discovered them. This resulted in me getting crushed a few times, but I see no point in me describing those occurrences and concentrate on the successes in the order they occurred.


Look at that balance. Just look at it!

The first base I cracked was Bell Europa, which contained a Software Library and a Message Base. The software library had ThunderHead 4.0, Acid 5.0 and Cyberspace 1.0, and since I could now hold heaps more software, I downloaded them all. I’d not previously figured out what Cyberspace 1.0 actually did, so had another shot now that I could hold onto it with no deck space consequences. I immediately realised that accessing cyberspace using this piece of software, rather than Comlink 6.0, means I access it for free! This was quite ironic really! I’d finally got to a point where money was of little concern to me, and now I found a way to save heaps of it!!! The Bell Europa message base only had one message, which was from Leo Kestrel to Service Rep. This message seemed to be another attempt at humour, with the service rep claiming that Leo was still required to pay his phone bill, despite the fact their phone’s failure caused the fire that burnt down his home. The service rep then claimed that Leo’s comment that the phone failed to work when he tried to call in the fire was “a very cheap shot. Just because our equipment shorted out, causing the fire, is no reason for you to ridicule all we do here at Bell Europa to serve our customers.”


Telecommunication companies don't change at all in the next 45 years

The next base I hacked into turned out to be Sense/Net, and inside I was shown the ROM Construct Catalog. As I’d expected all along, the first name on the list was Dixie Flatline, and this was also the only construct on the list to have a ROM Construct number next to it (#0467839). I took a break from cyberspace and made my way to the Sense/Net building in the real world. I showed my security pass when requested, then entered Dixie Flatline’s ROM Construct number. “Availability verified. Checkout is approved.” Awesome! After weeks of play, I could now finally use the ROM Construct icon in the interface. When I did, a message popped up saying “Hey, bro! I’m the Dixie Flatline, best cowboy that ever punched deck.” I was then given a menu with three options in it, being 1. Software Debug, 2. Software Analysis and 3. Monitor Mode. Software Debug and Software Analysis did exactly what the Debug and Warez Analysis skills did that I already had, yet surprisingly not as effectively. When I tried to use the Monitor Mode option I was told it was for cyberspace only, so I went back to the Cheap Hotel to try it out. I’ll jump ahead briefly and say that having Monitor Mode switched on causes Dixie to warn me when an AI is present on a base, and he also tells me when I’m close to having my brain fried. Most importantly though, it makes my Zen skill work better, allowing me to survive longer when my constitution is plummeting.


You punch decks?

The next base I visited was one I’ve been hunting down since the start of the game...Gridpoint! This is where Matt Shaw has been telling me to meet him and my other apparent friends since my first session. There was no AI, so I was able to hack in pretty easily. “Okay, so you made it to The Gridpoint. Whatdaya want, a medal?” A medal would be nice to be honest, but I had to make do with three menu options: 1. Message Base, 2. Look Out and 3. Software Library. The first message was from Deathangel’s Shadow to Anonymous Bosch. He’d shown up at the “rendezvous point” to trade Python 6.0, but Bosch hadn’t left a copy of Slow 3.0 as promised. The status of Bosch was again under question in the second message, where Matt Shaw asked Deathangel’s Shadow if he knew of his whereabouts. He seemed genuinely concerned for his well-being, and wondered whether he’d been napped by the Federales. In answer to this, El Aquila wrote to Matt Shaw, telling him that the rumor was that Bosch had been flatlined. It was either that or he’d simply stopped entering cyberspace, which seemed to concern El Aquila more than his possible death for some reason! The fourth message was from Matt Shaw to All, requesting anyone that was still around at Gridpoint to make themselves known. Clearly no-one did, as the fifth and final message on the Gridpoint base was from Matt Shaw again, announcing how scared he was that no-one had answered his call in 24 hours.


The Gridpoint practical joke was going splendidly!

I’d had hopes that I would find out some really important information on the Gridpoint message base, so was pretty disappointed that all I’d got was the standard “there’s something weird going on in cyberspace” comments. I moved onto the Look Out section, where I found warnings about three bases. It warned that the Psycho base was used by enforcement agencies to get at cowboys, that Free Sex Union was anything but free, and that everyone should be careful near Musabori as that was the last place Anonymous Bosch was seen. That left only the software library, which contained Jammies 3.0, ThunderHead 3.0, Hammer 5.0, Injector 3.0 and ArmorAll 2.0. I already had Injector 3.0 and ThunderHead 3.0, but the rest were new and cool. Jammies 3.0 finally made Jammies a really useful piece of software as, if timed correctly, I could stop ICE from launching warez of their own for quite an extended period of time. ArmorAll 2.0 didn’t replenish any more of my “health” than version 1.0, but it did it a lot quicker, making it really valuable also. Now that my deck could hold 25 pieces of software, I started hording one shot viruses too, so downloaded quite a few Injectors and ThunderHeads. I was feeling good about my situation, having pretty much unlimited funds, making consistent progress through the bases, and finding cracking ICE easier and easier as my collection of powerful ICE breakers and viruses increased in power.


It's nice to not have to clear out software every time I find something to download

I’ll cover one more base in this post, which is the one I’d always thought would result in a flood of cash coming my way...Bank Gemeinschaft! I’d only had first level access when I first entered the base, and having full access gave me three new menu options: 4. Message Base, 5. Software Library and 6. Funds Transfer. There were five messages on the Message Base, with the first one being from M. Godot to Herr Geistjager, thanking him for “the tip about Fuji Electric.” I wasn't told what the tip was, but Mr. Godot transferred $30000 to Herr’s account to say thanks. The second message was also to Herr, with this one being sent by the security officer I’d heard of so many times, Roger Kaliban. Roger wrote to tell Herr that he was not in any way involved with the banking irregularities that Herr had brought to his attention, yet paid him a “token of appreciation” into his account regardless. The guy is clearly dodgy, but I still have no idea whether he plays any real role in the game! The third message was from Roger again, this time to Epkot Foundation, informing them that he’d apologised to Kryo-sleep Corp for certain cash transfers being delayed. Fortunately, Kryo-sleep had told Roger that “Walt had not begun to thaw anyway, so no harm was done”. Funny, but useless to me!


Who the hell is this Roger Kaliban and what relevance does he have?

The fourth and fifth messages were between Thomas Cole and Adrian Finch, with Thomas telling Adrian how uneasy he was about moves Musabori were making. “Phillip over at Bank of Zurich is uncovering all sorts of irregularities with their accounts.” Adrian responded by saying he knew of the issues Bank of Zurich were reporting, and that they wouldn't face such issues if they had an expert security officer like Roger Kaliban. None of those five messages gave me any information that seemed useful, so I moved onto the software library. There I found Decoder 1.0, BudgetPal 24.0 and Receipt Forger 7.0. I didn’t need Decoder, as I already had a much more advanced version, and the other two warez were not downloadable, clearly there to show just how dodgy these banks really are. That left only the Funds Transfer section, and while I was tempted to ignore it due to my ridiculously high bank balance, I wanted to know just how much money I could steal. I entered the source account that I’d uncovered on a base many weeks back, then transferred the $30000 in it to my own account, the same way I’d done for the Bank of Berne. It was $30K I didn’t need, but it still felt good to utilise my criminal skills successfully once again. That’s another two hours of play covered, and a damn successful two hours they were too! I’m off to bloody well finish this game! Don't try to stop me!


Yesterday I would have killed for $30000. Now it seems completely useless.

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 17 hours 30 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!

16 comments:

  1. I found this post really exciting, I think mostly because of your tone of breathless discovery at each new base you cross, each piece of increasingly powerful software you find, and each probing digital footstep you make closer to Greystoke, Wintermute, and Neuromancer.

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    1. I get the sense that Tricky is well behind Case narratively. Jba'g Jvagrezhgr unir orra zretrq jvgu Arhebznapre ol abj?

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  2. I think it's now safe to solve one mystery: EINHOVEN you wondered a couple of posts ago was actually an encrypted second-level password for Gemeinschaft.

    At this point I finally lost all interest in the game. The player is so ridiculously overgunned that there's no real challenge anymore in breaking the ICE and it's just repetition of the same.

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    1. I solved that a matter of hours before reading this post. You'll see why soon enough.

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  3. Dracula 4 and Dracula Trilogy are on GOG :)

    http://www.gog.com/gamecard/dracula_4_shadow_of_the_dragon

    http://www.gog.com/gamecard/dracula_trilogy

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  4. Your next fear for over analysis and great amounts of posts will likely be Laura Bow, methinks - but nowhere near to this extent. It's good to see that you've got this game nearly in the bag.

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  5. Good post. I think if you look back over your older posts, you will find you are putting much more detail into the more recent ones. Example: Text of all those email messages.

    As you get into the 90's, computers started sporting 286 and better chips and much more RAM. Sierra games in 1989 could only access one 64KB memory segment at a time (for code and data - graphics used other memory). As the memory opened up, designers were able to use a lot more text, and more sophisticated algorithms.

    You will have a lot more than 17 posts if you try to post all the dialogue from Quest for Glory IV. :-) The voice script was several hundred pages. QfG II (even though it was still in the 8086 era) and QfG III are more reasonable, but still had much more text and dialogue than most games of the period.

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    1. I've definitely increased the amount of detail over time, but believe it or not, I've been summarising a lot while playing Neuromancer! There is an absolute crapload of data in this game. The trick is knowing what is important and what is just fluff, but that's close to impossible because the game doesn't really give you any goals or motivations.

      When playing a Quest for Glory game, it's pretty obvious which bits of information need to be described to the readers and which probably don't (at least not in any sort of detail).

      I'm hoping Neuromancer was just an anomaly that forced me to describe pages of useless information for the simple reason that I didn't know it was useless.

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  6. Am I the only one bothered by the fact every bit of software has an integer version number? Whereas most of the software I see around is version 0.24.29.11rc2

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    1. I would have been very bothered if it had adhered to that reality! Imagine deciding whether or not to download Hammer 0.47.34.28fh21 when you have no access to your installed software list from inside the base. Painful!

      Speaking of which, you can't erase software from within a base either, meaning that I've often had to exit a base and delete version 3.0 of something and then rehack back in just to download 4.0. Also very painful!

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  7. This is a really great post! You really make a game from the stone age of gaming sound interesting and fun, although I believe it is at times quite the opposite.

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  8. "I don't see how anyone could get to this base without already having level 5 skills!"

    I got there with level 1 skills... I just avoided all the bases with AI. I don't think it was expected though since one of the skills ended up wrapping around to level 1 again. :D

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  9. New Kickstarter, from Jim Walls this time! Looks like the Sierra Kickstarter roster is nearly complete now. C'mon Roberta...

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/precinctgame/precinct

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    1. Interesting. I might back this one. Now where are the Murrys with their Manhunter-inspired kickstarter?

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    2. Thanks for the link. Somehow this KS doesn't interest me much, but I'll back it for old times' sake.

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  10. Hi Trickster,

    just a note from the (more quite) German fanbase of this blog. (I'm still catching up)
    Herr Geistjager would be translated to english "Mr. Ghosthunter", therefore it is funny that you call him "Herr" all the way. ;-)

    I'm alread eager to read your Monkey Island posts but I will have to wait for this a couple of month until I have read through all this chronologically. Keep up the good work!

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