Friday, 21 June 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - When Crime Began Paying

Tricky Journal Entry 11: "It's about time! After all my devious behaviour in Chiba City, I finally managed to make some serious cash. I hacked into the Hosaka base and entered my name into their employee list, then entered their building and picked up my weekly pay. It worked perfectly, just as Modern Yutaka said it would on the Panther Moderns bulletin board. I've now got my hands on a stack of warez and skill chips too, meaning I really am getting close to being cyberspace-ready. I just need a bit more cash! Luckily, I have a couple of leads that I'm confident will get me what I need and some!"

This list might help you to follow my base adventures

You fine readers seem to be suggesting that I’m really very close to gaining access to cyberspace, so that has really given me a boost of enthusiasm to push on. I’m quite keen to see how that part of the game plays out, and can genuinely say that I have no idea what to expect. Unfortunately, there are still a few base investigations that I have to get out of the way before I can venture forth into the unknown. The next three on my list were Hitachi, Hosaka and Musabori, having just recently uncovered the latter two’s link codes on the Asano Computing base. I didn’t have the first level password for any of them, so Sequencer 1.0 played a large role in getting me in. I’ll get that bit out of the way right now by saying that the passwords turned out to be GENESPLICE, BIOSOFT AND SUBARU respectively. Taking them in order, the first one I hopped into was Hitachi, discovering that it had two access levels in the process. My experience with Hitachi to this point in the game had not been positive (they stole my lung!), so I went in hoping to find some way to damage them in any way I could.

Let's hope this isn't a report regarding my missing organ in an alternate existence

I only had one option in their base though, which was to view the Lung Report. The report went into great detail describing the research the company had been conducting with a goal of increasing lung performance in athletes (presumably by replacing their natural set with manufactured ones). It was all gobbledygook to me, so I had to assume that gaining access to level two would result in options of more value. I therefore left the base and jumped into the Hosaka Corporation, finding it had three levels. The menu system in this base had two options, being 1. New Products and 2. Corporate Sales Figures. The New Products section did what it said on the tin, discussing information on the company’s latest chip, the 68000000. The chip apparently “has the capabilities of 1000 chips of older design”, which is a ridiculous jump in performance. Hosaka also seems to manufacture and sell some sort of figurines, with Jerk and Doctor Death being the “newest characters to be immortalized in petrochemical form.” The Corporate Sales section displayed a list of the company’s highest selling items, with Captain Midnight and Evil Albrect topping it with 1377000 and 1375000 sales respectively.

Evil Albrect isn't going to like being beaten by Captain Midnight. I sense trouble!

None of this seemed very helpful, so once again I figured reaching a higher level of access might offer something more useful. With that in mind, I’d seen a message on the Panther Moderns board from Modern Yutaka that read: “Cowboy named Chipdancer owed me a favour. Broke into the Hosaka base with Comlink 5.0, used FUNGEKI, and then added my name to their employee list. Received paychecks for six weeks before anyone noticed. Only risk was walking in to pick up check.” I wondered whether it might be possible for me to do the same?! I entered FUNGEKI as the password and indeed gained second level access to Hosaka! This gave me four new menu items: 3. New Employee Listing 4. Employee Memo 5. Software Library and 6. Upload Software. The New Employee Listing seemed the most likely place that I was going to be able to commit my fraud of choice, and clicking on any of the seven employees on the list gave me real hope. I could edit any of their details to include my own name and BAMA, so the only question was which employee I should replace. I checked out all of their titles and decided Akira O’Brien was the best candidate (his position was Management).

Hacking bases and manipulating employee lists is pretty satisfying.

I figured I’d have to travel to the High-Tech Zone to see how successful my criminal effort would be, so for now I continued down the menu. The Employee Memo section actually contained two separate messages from E.D. Cooper, with the first one passionately asking his employees not to have any contact with Tozoku (the company that forcibly overtook Fuji Electric). He claimed that Tozoku were really just Yakuza, “pumping tons of money into Matelbro’s G.I. Akira figure set, to the detriment of our sales”. The second message offered to pay anyone handsomely for a copy of Comlink 6.0, which Hosaka seemed unable to get their hands on. The Software Library only contained Comlink 5.0, which of course I already had, and the final section was empty, waiting for someone to upload version 6.0. I intended to get my hands on it at some point, so put down a reminder to come back and upload a copy at the time. I seemed to be opening up a few different ways to make cash at this point, but was still watching my funds dwindle away unabated. With no further sections to explore, I exited Hosaka and entered Musabori with my first level password, discovering there were two levels of access on the way.

Another money making opportunity that will no doubt avoid me for the next few sessions

Inside were four menu options: 1. From the President, 2. New Products, 3. The Answer Man, and 4. Employee of the Month. The President of Musabori was very unlike all the other leader representations in the game so far, appearing genuinely grateful to the people that work beneath him. There was nothing juicy in his message though, so I moved onto the New Products section. The company seems to produce a wide array of niche products, such as Magic Meat-Puppeteers, Magic Nails and Magic Mosquito (a do-it-yourself liposuction kit). The Answer Man was basically a section where employees could ask whatever questions they wanted. An example is: Question: ”Dear Answer Man, I’ve heard a rumor that Musabori hired the Yakuza to kill those two women who were electrocuted by Insta-Nails machines. Is this true? Anonymous.” Answer: “Dear Anonymous, Don’t even dignify such rumors by passing them on. That is utterly groundless. Were we to engineer something like that, we’d have arranged it so the women survived their experience. Dead men tell no tales, and dead women make no commercials...Think about it.” This was all mildly interesting, but once again it served no purpose for me as far as I could tell.

He may be a bit arrogant, but at least this guy appreciates his workers!

The final first level section on Musabori was Employee of the Month, which was awarded to Stan Barlow. “For the last twenty years Stan has screwed the restraining bolt into the engine sub-structure for all our B-2a Swingwing Bomber assemblies.” Well that’s great and all, but unless I’d completely missed something, the Musabori base was so far completely useless to me. At least I was approaching the last of the bases that I hadn’t managed to access to this point. I tried to get into the NASA base using the link code VOYAGER, but my link was incompatible (the Bank of Zurich and NASA were the only bases I couldn’t get to with Comlink 5.0). That left one remaining base to check out, being the Tax Information Service, otherwise known as the Internal Revenue Service. Scout 1.0  told me the base had three levels, yet the first level only offered one menu item. I entered the TaxInfo Board, where I found two conversations between worried citizens and the IRS. Lonny Zone wrote to them to ask which form he should use to report his first year in business’ income. He happened to reveal that he’d made twenty million credits in his black market pituitary extract operation, which turned out to be more than a little bit stupid. The IRS told Lonny his operation was illegal, identified him to law enforcement agencies, and removed his income from him.

The whole Lonny Zone thing is still a mystery to me. Maybe he was in the book?

This explains why Lonny Zone disappeared from Chiba City, but it doesn’t explain why one of his women were looking for me (Ratz told me this in the opening scene of the game). The second question came from Rafaella Hammer, who admitted that he’d failed to report all of last year’s income due to an oversight on the part of his accountant. Instead of telling Rafaella what to do, the IRS’ response was to send him and his tax accountant to jail. Did any of this serve any purpose? Perhaps to let me in on the fate of Lonny, but then that didn’t really mean much to me anyway. Oh well, it was time to get offline and spend some time in the real world! I had much to do too, but I decided to pay Finn a visit. I waltzed into the Metal Holographix and asked him about “joystick”. His response was just what I was after! “So, you’re on a holy mission, eh? I got what you need.” He then sold me the Holy Joystick for a mere $20! I quickly made my way over to see Nolan in the House of Pong, giving him the joystick as soon as I arrived. “You have the Holy Joystick! The Masters will be pleased! As a token of our gratitude, please accept these.” Nolan then gave me two skill chips, with the first one being Zen and the second Sophistry.

Can we play now!?

The Sophistry chip wasn’t described in the manual, but the Zen one was: “Calms your mind after mental shocks. It’s said Dixie Fletcher was a Zen master.” It looked like Zen was only going to be useful in cyberspace, but at least now I had (or at least knew where I could get) eight of the nine skill chips listed in the manual, with only Musicianship avoiding me to this point. As for Sophistry, well it was difficult to know what it might do when I didn’t even know what the word meant. Wikipedia told me that “Sophism in the modern definition is a specious argument used for deceiving someone”. Could I use the chip to better deceive someone? Perhaps use it in conjunction with CopTalk? More likely it was a red herring, along with other chips I’d come across such as Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology and Philosophy. I look forward to finding out whether any of these have any actual use. I implanted both chips regardless, and head off in the direction of the Gentleman Loser. It was time to get that guest pass to the Matrix Restaurant off Shiva, as I’d been dying to know what Emperor Norton and King Osric might have to share with me (I’d been thrown out of the restaurant for not having a pass when I’d tried to enter previously)!

Um...what was he wearing? Pink...or green?

I asked Shiva about “pass”, and she responded with “Emperor Norton left you a Guest Pass for the Matrix Restaurant. He mumbled something about skills and upgrades.” I took the pass and used it to enter the restaurant. As soon as I was in, I overheard a conversation between Emperor Norton and Osric (I'm assuming Emperor Norton is on the left and Osric on the right). Osric: “ I was larking around Rio heavy commerce sector when I see this white cube. It was an AI, listed on the Turing Registry. Figured I’d try to cut the ice. Hit the first layer and flatlined. My joeboy smelled the skin frying and pulled the trodes off me.” Emperor Norton: “I know what you mean. I tried it myself once. That ice was bad news. Maybe an AI got old Bosch. He was worried when I last talked to him at Gridpoint. He thought some AI had found a way to make itself smarter! You believe it?” Osric: “No. Nobody trusts an AI. Every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead. Turing would wipe it right away...Hey! Look who wandered in when we left the door open!” By this stage I’d heard so many horror stories about cyberspace that I was starting to dread actually finding a way in! I wandered up to the duo and checked out my dialogue options.

I have to give the game designers (and I assume William Gibson) credit for creating a consistently unique language, even if I can't follow it very often.

I had the choice between “Got any old chips you want to sell?” and “Hey, what do you know about______” I chose the former, and was thrilled to find that they not only had three chips for sale, but one of them was Musicianship! There was also Logic and Warez Analysis, and all would set me back $1000 a piece. I decided Logic was probably another one of those questionable chips, but snatched up Warez Analysis and Musicianship immediately. Warez Analysis wasn’t in the manual, but I imagined it might help me understand any mysterious software I might come across. I tried using it on all the software I had, discovering a couple of useful bits of info. I already knew what the likes of Sequencer, Comlink and Scout warez could do, but it was nice to know that Blowtorch and Hammer are cyberspace ICE breaker programs and Probe is a cyberspace info program. I then asked the boys about “upgrades”, and was informed that they could upgrade Zen, Evasion, Warez Analysis and Hardware Repair to version 2.0, and Debug to 4.0, all for $100 a pop! I didn’t have Evasion in this current game (I'd restored back to prior to meeting Lupus), but I upgraded the rest without hesitation.

This Musicianship chip should help me better communicate with the loony on Zion.

Things were moving along pretty quickly at this point, and I still had a few more things lined up to do. One of them was trying to enter the High-Tech Zone now that I was officially an employee of Hosaka. I made my way to the maximum security gate and replied with “hosaka” when the computer asked me by which company I was employed. “Domo arigato. You are cleared for entry.” Unlike when I entered the zone previously as a volunteer for Hitachi Bio, there was no mention of access restrictions, which I hoped would mean that I could enter any of the offices I wanted to.  I went straight to Hosaka though, excited to see whether I would be able to pick up Akira O’Brien’s paycheck. “You’re in the corporate headquarters of the Hosaka zaibatsu. There is a cyberspace jack on one wall. As you pass through the doorway, the accounting computer recognizes you as an employee and generates your weekly paycheck, depositing the amount directly into your credit chip.” I then noticed that my credit total had increased by $10000!!!! Finally! It probably wasn’t enough to get a cyberspace-compatible deck, but then I still had a couple of other money making options available to me. I’m off now to see if they work!

Finally my life of crime is beginning to pay off!

Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 7 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!


  1. Good read Trickster, glad I'm finally caught up with you reading wise.


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  3. I'm looking forward to your take on cyberspace. It's interesting to see how much optional areas there are to making progress. I missed quite a bit more than I thought compared to what you were able to gather.

  4. I did a quick search and found that you will need that Logic chip; I won't of course tell you where you will need it. :-)

    1. HINTS! SPOILERS! ;)

      All chips have a use.

    2. Shouldn't you be working on a game Corey?!? :P


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  6. "discussing information on the company’s latest chip, the 68000000. The chip apparently “has the capabilities of 1000 chips of older design”, which is a ridiculous jump in performance. "

    This sounds to me like a play on a computer chips of the time, and if I had to take a guess, the Motorola 68000 line would seem likely. It was obsolete by the late 80s, but was used in a bunch of early computers: The trash-80, the Commadore Amiga, Atari ST, the Macintosh...heck, apparently it is still used today.

    Also, a 1000-fold power increase isn't actually that special in terms of CPU power. Moors law states that the number of transistors you can fit into an area doubles every 18 months. Now, until the early 2000s this was a very direct corralation to the power of the chip, and with some large caveats, was good right up until the multicore era. Now, given that the game came out in the 80s, lets assume we can correlate transitors with power. A 1000-fold increase means that you have to double the chips power 10 times (Giving you a chip 1024 times as powerful). This will take 198 months, or 16.5 years. Now assuming the reference is to the 68000, which came out in 1980, that means you'd reach a 1000x power gain by 1996. Now, the 6800 series ran at about 5 MHz, while the Pentium Pro ran at 'only' 200 MHz, which would seem to be only a 40x speed improvement, but given that you are moving instruction sets, and from a 16/32-bit hybrid to a 32-bit chip...I have no idea. The early 68000s had 40,000 transistors vs the Pentium Pro's 5.5 million, which is about 137 times possibly I'm looking at Moor's law a bit too closely. ;)