Sunday, 16 June 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - The Boy Yonder

Tricky Journal Entry 9: "Haha! Larry Moe won't be ripping me off again! I entered his details into the Chiba City Tactical Police Warrant List and then waited for him to be picked up by the cops. That gave me free entrance into the Panther Moderns meeting room, where I found Lupus Yonderboy. I got stacks of useful information out of him, but most importantly he was selling an Evasion skill chip and a Security Card for Sense/Net. As if the above didn't make my day a success, I then collected a heap of link codes from Julius Deane, figured out that the Sequencer 1.0 software will let me figure out the passwords for them, and found out how I can gain entrance to the Matrix Restaurant. A solid day's work all up!"


Damn java issues!!!

After my recent successes fooling the idiot cop in Donut World, convincing him to give me numerous link codes and passwords, I was forming a lengthy list of bases to check out in my spreadsheet. Unfortunately, in most cases I had either just a link code (Bank of Zurich, Hitachi, Eastern Seaboard, Bank Gemeinschaft) or just a password (Fuji Electric), but not both. It seemed pretty unlikely that I would be able to guess a password for a base, but perhaps I could guess the link code for Fuji Electric? I tried connecting to FUJI...it worked!!! I’d already decoded the password that O’Riley had given to me, so entered UCHIKATSU to get in. The menu contained five options, being 1. Company Notes, 2. Executive Survival Kit, 3. Press Releases, 4. Personnel Management and 5. Memo. I started from the top, reading through the lengthy company news from boss Harry Watkins. The majority of it was standard management positivity, but the increase of “meat puppet breaks from 10 to 11.5 minutes for all line employees” stood out as unusual. There was also a name that appeared on the New Hires list at the very bottom that really caught my attention. Larry Moe, of Larry’s Rentals, had been hired as a consultant!


Andy needs to get his priorities right!

The Executive Survival Kit appeared unimportant, merely explaining the two Fight Club-like rules that all working at Fuji Electric should follow. 1) Mr. Watkins is always right and 2) See rule #1. The Press Releases section contained an article describing how NASA had “signed a multi-trillion dollar contract with Fuji to provide ROMcards and software development for the Prometheus ship.” Interestingly it finished with “For further information contact Watkins at FUJI or Bob Shepherd at VOYAGER”. I assumed that VOYAGER would be the link code for NASA, so I added it to the ever-growing list. I moved onto the Personnel Management section, where I found what I was hoping would be there. There was a list of all the new employees, along with their BAMA ID’s! I’d already tried adding Larry Moe’s name to the Chiba City Tactical Police warrant list, but hadn’t known his BAMA ID at the time. I was now convinced that this was exactly what I needed to do, and wrote down 062788138 for later use. The final section, Memo, contained a message from Harry Watkins to all Management Level Employees. It talked about Fuji being bought by another company named Tozuku. “I know some of you think of them as common criminals, but I can assure you there is nothing common about them at all.”


Seeing Larry's BAMA ID made me finally feel like I was getting this game.

The memo closed with some rather disturbing imagery: “I thank all of you who were concerned about my wife and child. They’ve been returned to me and we’ve found all of little Harry’s parts. The doctors say he’s got an excellent chance of recovery and I agree that he doesn’t really look like the Frankenstein monster at all.” That was all pretty weird, and I didn’t know what to make of it. I wrote Tozuku into my spreadsheet, thinking I might be able to guess its link code the way I did with Fuji. That would have to wait though, as now that I’d finished exploring the Fuji Electric base, I was super keen to see if my instincts about adding Larry Moe’s name to the warrant list were correct. I once again accessed the warrant section on the Chiba City Tactical Police base and replaced one of the names there with Larry’s. I then put his BAMA ID next to it, exited and made my way straight over to Larry’s Rentals. I pumped my fist and literally shouted out my success when I found that Larry was no longer there, and the door to what I assumed would be the Panther Moderns meeting place was open! I entered the room and found the leader of the Panther Moderns, Lupus Yonderboy, standing in the corner. “Lupus is watching you with a slight smile on his lips. Tattooed on his hand is the word, “CHAOS”.


Yonderboy III: Panther's Lair

Lupus didn’t seem all that impressed with my presence. “You got past Larry. That’s good. You won’t get past me. That’s business.” I had a few dialogue options available to me: 1. “Top of the mornin’. I arrested your friend and I’ll do the same to you unless you answer some questions.” 2. “Lupus, my man! I hear you’re the kind of guy who helps stray cowboys. Can you answer some questions for me?” 3. “Geez, you’re really a funny-looking dweeb, aren’t you?” 4. “Exactly what is a Panther Modern?” All but the third one seemed like decent options to me, so I took them in order. Lupus wasn’t at all convinced by my CopTalk act: “It’s not morning and you’re not a cop. Drop the act and take a hike.” However, when I asked for his assistance, he was much more positive: “Matt Shaw says you’re all right. So talk. What do you want to know?” I then had the option to ask him about any topics I wanted. I remembered an earlier message where Larry Moe had stated that he had Coptalk and Lupus had Evasion, so I asked Lupus about “evasion”. “I can sell you an Evasion skill chip for $2000. You’ll need it for protection in cyberspace.” That sounded like something I would definitely want later on!


My ma taught me to always use protection!

The manual describes Evasion as follows: “Gives you a chance to retreat from combat with an AI when you realize you’re not prepared yet for this particularly horrible form of suicide.” I wasn’t sure whether I would get another chance to see Lupus, so I bought the chip and implanted it. The next topic I questioned him about was software, to which he responded with “Try the Finn. I hear Drill 1.0 is a great icebreaker.” Given I didn’t know what any of the warez Finn was selling actually did, this was valuable information. I went through all my screenshots looking for anything that Lupus had been involved in, since his name had appeared a few times. A couple of messages had mentioned how Lupus had “burnt” Gemeinschaft, which I now knew was a bank. I asked Lupus about “gemeinschaft” and was told “I’ve be siphoning from account number 646328356481, for years.” Unfortunately, although I’d been pretty confident it might work, asking Lupus for the bank’s security code (which I needed to enter it) didn’t result in any further information. Another message on the Panther Moderns board had been from Lupus to Angelo, talking about Mr. Who and something called Sense/Net. I asked Lupus about “sense/net” and got even more information! “If you want a ROM Construct from Sense/Net, I can sell you a Security Pass to get you into the building.”


Um...can you tell me where the building is?

There’s an interface icon called ROM Construct, but to this point I hadn’t come across one. The manual describes ROM Constructs as follows: “Highly illegal and not available to private citizens, cowboy or otherwise, are the ROM Constructs. Each ROM Construct is a recording of an individual human’s personality responses, knowledge, and memories. Constructs are occasionally used by cyberdeck operators in the government and large corporations, which is why top of the line cyberdecks contain a slot for a ROM Construct cartridge.” As cool as that sounded, I didn’t have the $4000 required to get the security pass, nor had I come across a company called Sense/Net during my travels. I was starting to wonder whether I’d missed part of the game environment, since I hadn’t seen a place called Gridlock either, which had been mentioned numerous times by various characters. I couldn’t think of any other topics to ask Lupus about, and the dialogue option asking him what the Panther Moderns were all about was only met with “Chaos. That is our mode and modus. That is our central kick. Believe it.” I left Lupus and Larry’s Rentals, and headed back to Julius Deane’s office. There was something I wanted to try!


You actually have an organised group based around chaos? How ironic!

While scrolling through my screenshots looking for any mention of Lupus, I’d come across something that hadn’t meant anything to me when I first read it. Someone named Scorpion had asked Red Snake whether he knew the link codes for Fuji or Hosaka, and Scorpion’s response had been “Why do you keep asking me about Japanese companies? Do I look like Julius Deane?” I hadn’t known who Julius Deane was at the time, but now I did. Could it be that he would be able to give me link codes for any of the Japanese companies? I asked Julius about Hosaka, Fuji, Hitachi and Musabori, the four Japanese companies I’d come across in the high-tech zone (I asked about Tozuku as well, but he didn't know anything about that). He gave me answers for all four of them!!! Hosaka: “I’ve heard the password is VULCAN but that’s probably in code.” Fuji: “I’ve heard the password is DUMBO, but that’s probably in code.” Hitachi: “Just one word you need to remember: GENESPLICE” Musabori: “I’ve heard the password is PLEIADES, but that’s probably in code.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough cash left to upgrade my Cryptology chip, and the only code my 1.0 version was able to decode was DUMBO (the Fuji first level password is ROMCARDS, but I already knew the second level code so this was pretty useless).


This is the coded password. By the way, did I mention I'm selling a Cryptology upgrade?

I’d gained a lot of information during the last hour or so, but I still found myself uncertain what to do next. I had plenty of new link codes and passwords, but in every instance I was missing something I needed to access them. I felt like I should restart and save enough cash to get the security pass from Lupus, but then I had no idea where it would be useful. I did know that there was one building I hadn’t been able to see a name for in the high-tech zone (since the entrance was at the base of the screen), but I didn’t know if that was Sense/Net or something else. I decided the best thing to do would be to try and figure out what the Sequencer 1.0 software that I’d downloaded could do for me, and that meant going back to Cheap Hotel where there was a jack. I hadn’t accessed the PAX for a while either, so I took the opportunity to see whether there was now any fresh news or messages on the board. There was, on both accounts! I now believe that my style of play could be limiting the amount of information I can get from the PAX, since I keep restoring and replaying through my progress as quickly as I can. This was the first really long session that I’d played without restoring, and therefore the first time that the day had ticked over from the 16th to the 17th and then the 18th. There were new articles and messages dated the 17th, so maybe I need to let more time pass to read this stuff?!


Does the game really withhold valuable information until you've spent a certain amount of time playing?

There was a article on the PAX titled “NASA AND FUJI DO BUSINESS”, which of course I’d already found out about by accessing the Fuji base. I gained nothing new from the article, so I moved onto the News in Brief for today. Once again there was an article about me! “SAVAGE NIGHT OF TORTURE: Strange Chatsubo patron spends night sleeping in synth-spaghetti. Customers shocked.” The other new article was titled “SON RETURNED TO FUJI PREZ”, and talked about Harry Watkins’ son. I knew from the Fuji base that the boy had been kidnapped by Tozuku and used to convince Harry to sell the company, then returned in pieces, yet the article suggested that they “must have misplaced him”, and that the son was “in one piece, more or less.” Not really gaining much from any of this, I checked out the three new messages on the bulletin board. One of them was an advertisement for something called CFM, suggesting anyone that’s angry about being locked out of cyberspace because they can’t afford the required equipment should log into a base using link code FREEMATRIX and password CFM. Another of the messages was an advertisement for the Internal Revenue Service, where anyone having tax related issues or concerns should visit comlink IRS with password TAXINFO.


I'm just shocked that there were actually other customers!

The most significant message on the board though was one from Emperor Norton to me, answering a question I’d had for ages! “Shiva at the Gentleman Loser has a Matrix Restaurant guest pass for you. Let’s talk.” Finally I was going to be able to get into the restaurant! Rather than head straight for the Matrix though, I thought I would finish my session by trying to use the Sequencer 1.0 software. Using it straight from the inventory resulted in a “Database Only” error, so I entered a random base (Gentleman Loser) and tried using it. To my astonishment, the software cracked the first level password one letter at a time, eventually telling me that the password was WILSON!!! This meant I was going to be able to enter all the bases I had link code for and use Sequencer to get the passwords! Unfortunately I was down to around $50 at this point, so I was in no position to spend time jumping in and out of bases. This last minute discovery though has opened the game right up to me, and I’m really excited to jump back in and see where it all leads. I'll just have to start again...again!


Sequencer 1.0: This...is awesome! Can't wait to use it!

Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 00 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!

21 comments:

  1. Still making progress!

    Am I being mean if I tell you that you have found the Sense/Net building but just haven't recognized it? :p

    By the way, question out of nowhere; did you post this from Japan?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you are being mean! ;)

      and

      No, I didn't post this from Japan. Why do you ask?

      Delete
    2. My reader suddenly redirected to blogspot.jp, but later I found out it did the same for CRPGAddict as well, so just a fluke I guess.

      Delete
  2. I thought this was the most intriguing part of the game, because the real world and the database parts interacted somewhat - and figuring out what to do with Larry Moe was really satisfying.

    I actually noticed at the very beginning that you missed the information on Julius Dean - like I've been saying, you have to read everything carefully ;)

    Lars-Erik: I thought Tricky suspected it already.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yay! I caught up. So far, I'm a bit disappointed by how opaque this games plot is, and the lack of characterization behind the main character, neither of which were weaknesses of the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've picked up the book and I'm finding a lot of descriptions taken straight from it. The game is a bit shallow compared to the book. Things like Julius being a friend and how Armitage fit in are almost completely lost in the game.

      Delete
    2. No kidding, it is a solid book, and a lot less silly, even if it is rather overrated compared to the hype it has gotten since then.

      Delete
    3. True. For a game that's based on a rather decent book, I feel they dropped the ball on plot and motivation.

      The setting is taken from the book yes, but if you ask Trickster now after investing over 6 hours in the game what the plot is, what your motivations are, what you're trying to achieve, I'm guessing the answer will be pretty thin. I know I didn't know what the goal actually was until the very last bit.

      For a lot of games this isn't a problem, but when you use a setting based on a pretty known book people have higher expectations. At least I know I did. ;)

      Delete
    4. See my comment comparing this game to Tears for Fears.

      Man it feels good to be caught up.

      Delete
    5. It's good to have you back as well. :p

      Although I'm not sure I agree with you that the medium isn't up to the task at this stage.

      Take a look at Maniac Mansion for instance. From the start you have your motivation (rescue your girlfriend). The plot, although there isn't very much of it, moves along somewhat the further you get in the game with the sentient meteor.

      Another example is Mean Streets. You get your motivation early on (the murder case), and the plot and story moves along quite nicely with the game.

      This is also true when you consider games like Gold Rush!, the Manhunter games, Police Quest and a few of the King's Quests.

      On this one though, you have a one-sentence motivation (Someone's heard that someone's trying to kill you). There are some tidbits along the way that furthers the plot, but they are too far between especially in the first half of the game to give you a good sense of direction. They manage to portray the world pretty well, but when the question I kept asking myself during this game was "Why am I doing this?", I feel they let the book down.

      I might just be too harsh on it though. :p

      Delete
    6. Right, but the stories are all so simplistic that they are easy to convey. Heck, there hasn't been a game written yet that has a novel-worthy plot (POSSIBLY the Mass Effect trilogy, with a good writer who felt free to edit and improve the stupid parts, or some of the KotR games or some of the Fallout series). Let alone one from 198X.

      Delete
    7. I can see we disagree again. :p

      What about the Baldur's Gate, Assassins Creed, Gabriel Knight and Tex Murphy series? All of these have had accompanying novels due to their heavy realiance on plot and story. I'm sure there are more, but those I can name off the top of my head.

      You are correct though that none of these came out in 198X, as the closest are probably Sins of the Fathers and Under a Killing Moon in early 1990's, and Baldur's Gate late the same decade.

      Delete
    8. I have to disagree with you, Canageek. There are quite a few game with novel-worthy stories. Planespace: Torment for example. Gabriel Knight, any of them. The Longest Journey. Of course, they may not be on Dune's plot level, but they have better stories that many novels around. Even Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis has a plot way better than Crystal Skull (I know, quite an easy feat).

      On the other hand, I do agree that in 198X games didn't have that great of a plot, possibly due to size limitations and the novelty of the medium.

      Delete
    9. Well, Zak McKracken came out in 1988, actually!
      Anyway, I think many of you are being too harsh with Neuromancer. I found the way the story builds up bit by bit very intriguing, as it helped make you feel the alienation of living in the cold and unforgiving world which is the setting of the novel. Trying to convey that feeling through sound and graphics would have probably been much harder to achieve due to the technical limitations of the time. I could be a bit biased here, because I'm a huge fan of both the game and the book as you can probably tell by my 23-year-old nickname -I was 16 when I played the game and I started reading all of Gibson's work right after- but I remember that Neuromancer was pretty unanimously greeted as a good-to-great game by computer magazines back then.

      Delete
    10. Well, well, well...if it isn't Lupus Yonderboy himself! You wouldn't mind giving me a small discount on that security pass would you? ;)

      Welcome to the blog Lupus! At least, welcome to the comments on the blog.

      Delete
    11. No games with decent plots in 198X: A Mind Forever Voyaging is at least one exception. It might not be a novel length, but it would make a good short story. Someone even tried to turn it into a movie, apparently (couldn't obtain the rights):

      http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/06/08/saturday-crapshoot-a-mind-forever-voyaging/

      Lars-Erik: Most of the game adaptations of books or movies I’ve seen have usually relied too much on the fame of the original, making the plot much shallower than the original. It’s been a rare exception if the game has lived up to its original source.

      Also, I think some good games do not have a clear motivation at the outset: Ultima IV is a good example, because you are just thrown into a fantasy world with no specific goal in the beginning. Of course, games like these work only if there’s a large and interesting game world to explore and lots of interesting things to do. Neuromancer is perhaps a bit too small for that.

      Lupus Yonderboy: I don’t think I am that negative about the game, although it is certainly not my favourites. I also liked hints and details of the game world scattered in the database messages, although some of the humour in the “real world” broke the mood. What I most found not to my liking was the cyberspace part of the game, partly because it was not a genre of my choice, but also because it started to become a bit repetitive in the end – no more about that, since Trickster hasn’t got there yet.

      Delete
    12. I agree that adventure games doesn't have to have clear motivation from the get-go. But as you say, that has to be balanced out with something interesting for the player to do that drives the desire to play forward, a longing to see what's over the next hill.

      For me at least, Neuromancer ended up too repetitive with too few locations and things to do to warrant it being one of the greats. All points I guess you've made already Ilmari. ;)

      Delete
    13. Lars: Baldur's Gate: I didn't get all the way through it (I keep meaning to!) but as of when you got to Baldur's Gate itself not much has actually happened. My Dad read the novel back in the day, and recommend against it, as it wasn't very good, so I went back to whatever I was reading at the time (Pern, I think).

      Assassins Creed has a terrible plot, where they string together every interesting historical even and tie it to a shadowy conspiracy, robbing history of its gradure and allure, and mocking the people who were actually part of it. I've not read any Dan Brown, but I strongly suspect there is an influence there. The bits with Ezio were better, and I guess there could be a novel there.

      Gabriel Knight and Tex Murphy series? I never played either of these.

      Planespace: Torment: Again, a whole in my experience, though you probably have a point there. It does cheat a bit by using the existing Planescape setting though.

      Again, I've not played any of the adventure games.

      There was at least one game from 1988 with a full novel: Portal: http://www.hotud.org/component/content/article/38-adventure/20523
      Well, more of a long short story, really.

      I'm probably on an anti-game story kick right now, as I'm finding most of them very repetative and bland as of late. I'm sure there are games with ideas that are easily pulled out into novels, but I don't think much before the mid-90s really had the depth to be interesting, likely as very few people at this point saw games as a serious medium for story telling, thus all the jokes and banter; There was no attempt (in North America) at this point to maintain a serious tone, as that wasn't seen to be important.

      Delete
    14. And I think that's where we diverge; I don't think it has to be all that serious for it to be an interesting story. Humor, bantering and jokes can just as easily lend itself to a good book for me as the more serious, "now we're going to tell you a story", type games.

      As for Assassins Creed: They aren't historically correct, no. But do they have to be? Would the story be better for you if they called Venice Westholt, Leonardo da Vinci Stefan Gimignano and the Templars Brotherhood of Order?

      I guess it all boils down to what we find entertaining individually. I can read a documentary one day and still find enjoyment by reading a fantasy novel set in the Assassins Creed universe the next, jump to a zombie short story after that and then off to Rama for some science fiction before going back to a biography and be really happy with all of them.

      And for me, all the series I mentioned have stories and plots more than good enough to have a spot in my library shelf.

      But again, you are correct that this is really early in the development of story and plot as a motivator for playing games.

      Delete
    15. Lars: I wasn't talking about being historically correct, I was more referring to the 'The Truth' sections where every major point in history seems to have been due to the Templars or Assassins. Also, the odd disconnect between the lovingly detailed cities and people of the setting, and the total disregard of any time period outside of the current game. It felt like there were two writers: Someone who loved history, and someone who vaguely remembered a history class from high school.

      I've got to say, I think I have to retract my comments that there are no games that could be turned into novels: I should say, there are very few games that would stand as novels on their own, rather then as an outline for what could be fleshed out and reworked into a novel.

      Kind of like movies: There just isn't enough there in most movies for a full novel. However, there are good ideas that could be expanded into a novel. I don't think we've hit a game yet where I've seen any ideas that would be worth writing up as a novel or a short story. Later on we will though; I was being too snarky and narrow minded when I said that.

      Also: Lars? Comedy is probably one of the few genres I've never gotten into. I can really appropriate a funny book, and I've read JPod and a few similar books, but generally if I want a comedy I'll go read webcomics.

      Delete
  4. Thanks, Trickster! I stumbled upon this blog about a month ago searching for something about Neuromancer (I don't remember what, exactly) and found out you were about to play it. Then, being a great fan of adventure games, I started scanning all the older entries. I think I'll stick around, maybe I'll also write a "What's your story" sooner or later. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete