The Manual: I probably should have read "Your Purpose in Life" before I started
Reading the manual really did make things much clearer. Two things that had been confusing me to this point were why I woke up face down in my dinner at the beginning of the game and why I needed to go and reclaim my deck from Shin’s Pawn Shop. The manual explained both, telling me that I’d arrived at Chiba City after falling on hard times. As soon as I’d arrived I’d had to pawn my deck for some cash, and with no real purpose to existence, I’d “spent the last two days in a drunken stupor, wondering what to do.” That cleared all that up, but what I’d really wanted to get from the manual was some explanation of how decks and skill chips work. I’ve inserted the whole section that discusses decks and Comlink access below in case anyone wants to have a read, but the short of it is that I will use my deck to access “bases” (computer systems), within which I can gather important information. I’ve already collected a few link codes from bulletin board messages and citizens of Chiba, and these will connect me to specific bases and give me varying degrees of access to them. If I want to get to the good stuff though, I’m going to have to find higher level passwords, and to get into the secure corporate and government bases, I’m going to have to upgrade my Comlink software too.
I already look forward to finding the software that lets me "bypass the simpler password systems"
The section on skill chips was pretty straight forward. Each chip is implanted directly into the brain jack on the side of the skull, and once a skill is learnt it is remembered permanently. Using a skill once it is learnt is simply a matter of clicking the Skills icon and selecting the skill from the list. I learnt many other valuable things from the manual, but I’ll discuss them when it makes sense to do so rather than fill this post with stuff that makes no sense to anyone apart from those that have already played the game. With all this in mind, I opened up my inventory and clicked on the Cryptology skill chip I’d retrieved from Shiva, and then selected Operate Item. A message popped up saying “Skill chip implanted”. Now when I clicked on my Skills icon I could see Crypotology, so I clicked on it. “Enter a word to decode:...” So that’s what it was used for! I couldn’t think of any words I needed to decode at this point, so I went back to my inventory and implanted the Hardware Repair chip. When I tried using it I was given a list of items I could repair, which at this stage only contained the UXB. When I tried to repair it I was told that the “Hardware has no bugs”.
I have other skills too...honest!
With all my skill chips implanted, I turned my attention to using the UXB deck. I had options to Operate, Discard or Give it, and I also had the option to Erase Software. I chose to Operate it, and I was then asked what software I wanted to use. I only had Comlink 1.0 software available, so I selected that. I was then asked to enter a link code, so I opened up my spreadsheet and looked at the ones I knew. I typed in CHEAPO, which was the link code for the Cheapo Hotel. I needed a way to pay my outstanding bill, and I figured this might just be it. The welcome page told me that the password to enter the system was GUEST, along with the confidence building line: “Hey, it’s better than sleeping in the streets!” I entered the password and was cleared for level 1 access. I quickly noticed that my credits were ticking down a second at a time, which was a bit concerning. Clearly I wasn’t going to be able to hang around in these bases for too long! There were three options available to me, being 1. Room Service, 2. Local Things to Do, and 3. Review Bill. I decided to take them in order, so selected Room Service. All I got in response was “You must pay your bill first.”
Internet sites will be drastically simplified in the future
Choosing option 2 gave me access to a list of four ads. In order they were for Donut World, Manyusha Wana Massage Parlor (obviously the establishment where I met Akiko), a service called Psychologist and Crazy Edo’s. Three out of four were really just ads, offering nothing of value (I'm pretty certain this time!), yet the Psychologist advertisement gave me a link code of PSYCHO and described itself as a “socially-acceptable outlet for private frustrations, phobias, and general concerns.” With that done, I clicked on Review Bill in the top level menu of the base and was shown the bill for my room. The total charges owing were $1000 and yet there was no money on the account to pay it off with. I had an option to “pay bill”, so I did. This immediately removed $1000 from my credit total and I assumed would now allow me to enter the Cheapo Hotel. With the bill paid, I accessed the room service and found I could order either Karanakov Caviar or Yomiuchi brand Sake. Crazy Edo’s message to me on the bulletin board had said “Where’s my caviar?” and suggested that I would be able to trade some for software, so I ordered some for $200. I ordered one lot of the sake too in case someone requested some later, but noticed my credit total didn’t go down with these purchases. I checked my bill again and found the $215 was now outstanding, so I paid it off again (I imagine if I hadn't I still wouldn't be able to enter the hotel).
That's hardly Cheap now is it?!
The next base I accessed was Regular Fellows, which seemed to be a place where “artists” go to share warez. My level one visitor password gave me access to three menu items, being 1. The Galley, 2. Checkout Counter and 3. Critic’s Corner. The Gallery was basically another bulletin board, although this one contained a bunch of discussions based around sharing higher level passwords to bases. My apparent friend Matt Shaw had left a message stating that he’d uploaded his jacked up version of BattleChess 2.0. I wasn’t sure at the time whether this had any role to play in Neuromancer or was just an advertisement for the real BattleChess (a few of the creators of Neuomancer also made that classic chess game), but I added the link code (WORLDCHESS) to my spreadsheet anyway. More interestingly, someone named Harpo left a message spouting the second level password for the Cheap Hotel (COCKROACH). I wondered whether I might have been able to use that to wipe my bill without having to pay it, so marked it down to try out later. The only other message that seemed important was one from Deathangel’s Shadow, which warned everyone how “the ICE out there has gotten smarter. Each time you use the same ware against it, it does less damage. Always keep a variety of different warez with you.” The seemed like good advice, although it didn’t mean much to me at this point.
I assume I'll have to come back to bases like Regular Fellows from time to time for updates
After I’d finished perusing the Gallery, I accessed Checkout Counter. There I found two bits of software that I could download, being BattleChess 2.0 and Scout 1.0. I couldn’t think of any reason not to download both, so I did. I wasn’t sure what that actually achieved, but for now I moved onto the final menu item, which was Critic’s Corner. This was a section where software was reviewed, and there just so happened to be reviews for the two bits of software I’d just downloaded. Scout 1.0 was listed as a recon program, and the reviewer very handily told me that it can be used while on the intro screen of any base to see how many levels it has. As for BattleChess 2.0, the review was filled with Matt Shaw boasting how he’d modded the original game and made it heaps better, leaving “the initialization protocols all alone so the World Chess Confederation still thinks it’s BattleChess 1.0.” Once I exited the Regular Fellows base, I noticed that the two pieces of software I’d downloaded were in my list when starting up the UBX deck. Neither of them was usable straight from the list though, so I assumed I’d have to find the right time and place.
I remember playing Battle Chess on my Amiga. It's probably where I learnt to play chess badly.
The next base I accessed was Consumer Review, where I could find “up-to-date ratings by cyberspace experts” on each of the 24 cyberdecks available from 9 different manufacturers. Once I was on the welcome screen, I was keen to try out my new Scout 1.0 software to see how many levels the base had. I could find no way to run another piece of software though once I’d started Comlink 1.0. A quick scan of the manual revealed that each deck has a RAM Limit, and that this limits the amount of pieces of software you can run simultaneously. High powered decks, such as the Ono-Sendai Cyberspace Seven, can manage up to 25 programs at once! Could it be that my UBX could only handle 1? It was either that or I just didn’t know what I was doing. Once I’d gained level 1 access to the base, $200 was deducted from my credit total! I was going to have to make the most of this visit! The menu system was split into two sections, being a numerical menu containing 1. Rankings of All Models, 2. Flatline Category, and 3. Triff Category, and an alphabetical menu containing 7 brands (including Yamamitsu, which was the brand of my deck). I quickly checked out the Rankings section, finding that my poor little deck was on the very bottom of the list.
Rub it in why don't you!
Rather humorously, the Flatline section was “reserved for those decks that our experts wouldn’t touch with a ten foot logic probe”, and the first one listed was...you guessed it...the Yamamitsu UXB. Interestingly though, I noticed that my deck was listed as having a RAM value of 5, meaning I should be able to run 5 programs simultaneously. That ruled out RAM as the cause of me not being able to run Scout 1.0! Perhaps it's supposed to be used in cyberspace? “Our experts agree that the Yamamitsu UXB is the absolute worst of the worst. When our test deck was powered up, it exploded and put our expert operator in hospital downtime for two weeks.” The Ausgezeichnet 188 BJB was also on the Flatline list, as was the Blue Light Special, with both of them being described as buggy and dangerous. I made a note to stay away from those models when the time came to purchase a new deck, and moved onto the Triff Category. As you might have guessed, this section lists the very best decks available, as rated by the experts at Consumer Review. Top of the list was the ever-praised Ono-Sendai Cyberspace VII, but the Samurai Seven and the Ninja 5000 also got a mention. I highly doubted I would be able to afford any of them any time soon. I read through each of the brand summaries, which might came in handy later when I go shopping, but with nothing else to see or do, I exited Consumer Review.
I've got to get myself one of these!!!
Next up was Asano Computing where the only option available to me was to look at the Catalog of hardware they had for sale. All the models I’d read about at Consumer Review were there, but I wasn’t able to make any purchases or see anything in particular about any of them. I therefore moved onto the next link code I knew, WORLDCHESS! The World Chess Confederation base was, as you would expect, all about chess, and the menu options were 1. About This System, 2. About the Tournaments, and 3. Membership Application. Choosing option 1 gave me a quick rundown of the system’s history, and explained that “the WCC network allows members a chance to play against the best and, if you think yourself worthy, you can even pit your skills against those of the legendary simulation of Palos Morphy himself.” Selecting About the Tournaments gave me information about the different classes of competition in which any members can participate daily. There were 10 classes ranging from “unranked beginner” right through to “Victor” (which seems to be a man named Victor Lavaska), and there are prizes to be won. Was I really going to be able to play chess?
Level 1 Access to Asano lets me view what products they have. Here's hoping higher levels let me steal some!
The answer was both yes and no! Choosing the Membership Application section resulted in a screen where I could purchase either Temporary Membership for $10 or Full Membership for $150. Apparently Temporary Membership would allow me to participate in one tournament, whereas Full Membership would allow me to participate “in all tournaments and activities as a club member.” I chose Full Membership and was given a second level password of MEMBER. I was now able to select from two further menu options, being Enter Tournament and Challenge Morphy. I chose to enter a tournament and was asked what software I wanted to upload. I could choose from any of the software on my deck, but only BattleChess 2.0 made sense. This was apparently all it took, as I was then given a notification that I’d won my first game against Contestant 1. “You won, your ranking has been upgraded to unranked Novice. Prize money of 250 credits has been added to your credit chip.” I played again and also defeated Contestant 2, upgrading my ranking to Novice and giving me another 350 credits. This was easy money, but surely it wasn’t going to continue in this fashion?! The answer to that question came quickly, as any attempts to beat Contestant 3 failed. I could only assume I would need better software to get any further.
It's a depressing future where contestants merely pit their software against their opponents!
I selected Challenge Morphy to see what would happen and received a message saying “If you think you’re ready for me, look for me in cyberspace...I’ll be waiting.” I might just do that, whenever I get the chance to experience cyberspace. That will take getting a deck with cyberspace capability, and I don’t yet know how expensive that will be. I'm certainly intrigued by Neuromancer, but it sure takes a bit of getting used to. I’m a bit concerned about the amount of posts that will be required if I continue with this level of detail, but perhaps the information overflow is most prevalent during the game’s initial stages. I plan to record every action that seems advantageous (i.e. Send message to Armitage, Pay Ratz, Get deck from Shin’s Pawn Shop, Get skill chips from Shiva at Gentleman Loser etc.), then restart fairly regularly to rush through them all, making sure I waste no cash or time. I don’t yet know whether time is all that critical, but there’s no doubt I’m wasting days and money just trying things and recording bits of information for the blog. I still have a couple more bases to check out before I continue my exploration of Chiba, and I’m sure there will be some new bulletin board messages and news awaiting me by the time I’m done. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in this game!
Don't hold your breath!
Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 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!