Sunday 30 June 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - A Harsh Lesson in Hacking

Tricky Journal Entry 13: "Man, I am seriously rusty at ICE breaking! Its been so long since I've been in a position to do it, but I feel like I'm having to learn how to do it all over again! At least I have an Ono-Sendai deck, which should at least allow me to make a few mistakes without suffering too greatly. There are also some great new breakers out there that weren't around when I first started hacking, so I plan to check them all out and see what works and what doesn't. Once I'm fully kitted out, I'll be in bases before the ICE even knows I'm there!"

What amazing secrets will be hidden within this base?!

I’m keen to get to the cyberspace bit, so will cut to the chase here. Wouldn’t you love to gain access to top secret NASA files! That’s what I was hoping for when I successfully gained access to the NASA base with my Comlink 6.0 software in Neuromancer. The welcome screen was promising too, with the lengthy title of “NASA Mission Planning System – Ames Research Centre – Space Sciences Division – DECNET Node Mars”. My Scout 1.0 software informed me that there were two access levels to the base, and my Sequencer 1.0 software told me the first level password was APOLLO. Once inside I had four options, being 1. Asteroid Mission Summary, 2. Lunar Factory Summary, 3. Mars Colony Summary and 4. Terraforming Study. I’ll say straight up that none of them appeared to have any relevance in the game. The Asteroid Mission Summary is a study of the launch energy required to reach the asteroid Eros, the Self-Replicating Lunar Factory section discusses a factory designed to replicate matter on the surface of a planetary body such as the moon, and the final two sections simply had “File Under Modification” written in them. I had to assume that if there was a purpose to the NASA base, it would only show itself with second level access.

Apparently only the boring, overly technical variety!

Right, now I’d now checked out every base I was aware of and done everything I could think of with the cash available to me. It was time to start again and make sure I did only the bare essentials, purchasing only the chips, warez and deck that I absolutely needed. Basically this involved doing whatever it took to get Comlink 6.0 installed on my deck (2.0 from Crazy Edo, 3.0 from Panther Moderns board, 4.0 from SEA base, 5.0 from ESFA base, and 6.0 from Tozoku base) and everything that I knew would increase my cash total (getting the $10K from Armitage to start the game, winning two chess tournaments with Battlechess 2.0, uploading Comlink 6.0 to Hosaka base, and picking up my pay from the Hosaka office while impersonating an employee). I literally achieved all of this in about fifteen minutes, and found myself with a total of $29633!!!! That was well and truly enough cash to buy a cyberspace compatible deck, but the question was which one. I made my way to Asano Computing and looked through the models available, referencing the Consumer Review guide so I knew which decks could access cyberspace. I figured I would have to keep a fair amount of cash spare, as I still needed to get some more chips and possibly the security pass of Lupus.

I'm rich!!!!

I figured out that the cheapest cyberspace-compatible decks were the Ono-Sendai Cyberspace II ($18000 with 11 RAM), the Cyberspace III ($22000 with 15 RAM), the Moriyama Tofu ($23100 with 20 RAM) and the Ninja 4000 ($23300 with 20 RAM). Since I really didn’t know how much cash I was going to need, nor how many programs I was going to require being installed simultaneously, I decided on the Cyberspace II. It would at least get me into cyberspace, and I could always restore and get a different one if it didn’t work out. With my new deck, I headed back to Cheap Hotel and prepared to go online! When I operated my Cyberspace II, I now had the option to “Enter cyberspace” as well as the standard “Enter link code” option. I chose to enter cyberspace and shortly afterwards found myself looking at an orange diamond on a grid with a spirally green background. I really didn’t have any idea what I was looking at, but noticed my cash level was dropping at one credit per second, the way it has been while exploring bases. The interface looked completely different, yet I quickly realised that four of the six main icons still remained (the PAX and Talk icons were gone). The Date, Time and Constitution levels were also gone (I could still see my cash balance).

How do I start the tutorial? The game has a tutorial...right?!

I opened up the manual to try to figure out what all the other sections on the screen were all about. “The bottom right corner of the screen contains your EEG monitor, which gives you a visual representation of your brain wave activity. To the left of the EEG there is a gauge of your cyberdeck’s shielding which measures (bottom to top) the damage to your deck’s shield before it begins affecting your constitution level and warez. Just above the EEG is a horizontal gauge of ICE shielding that measures (left to right) the damage you inflict on the ICE or AI during combat.” OK, so if the vertical bar reaches the top before the horizontal bar reaches the right, I’m in trouble! What about the left section? “The left side of the cyberdeck panel is where information will appear when needed. At the bottom centre of the cyberdeck panel, there are four numbers: from left to right, these are the cyberspace zone number you’re in, your X and Y co-ordinates in cyberspace, and the amount of money in your credit chip.” So the Cheap Hotel jack had taken me to cyberspace zone number “0”, and my starting coordinates were 112, 96? I still had questions, such as “what is the orange diamond?”, but decided the rest would probably become clear with a little bit of experimentation. I moved forward to the diamond, and was given the option to “Enter Database” at 112, 112. I accepted!

Um...yeah...sure, why not!

I was now looking at the same orange diamond, yet it had a blue ring around it that I assumed was “ICE”. The manual had the following to say on the topic: “Bases are protected by ICE - Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics - which acts as an independent, semi-intelligent barrier, keeping cowboys like you from getting inside the base. However, cowboys do manage to break in with their specialized icebreaking softwarez. The trick is finding the appropriate versions and types of softwarez to break through the ICE before it can adapt its defences to the attack. There are subtle, slow-acting viruses that sneak up on an ICE layer and destroy it gradually, as well as brute force icebreakers that can crush an ICE layer all at once. There are many different kinds of icebreaking programs – some good and some bad. You’ll also notice that icebreakers vary in their effectiveness, but you’ll have to experiment on your own to learn more about each one.” Cool, so all I had to do was use my ICE Breaking skill and my various ICE Breaker warez to get into whatever this base was! Only problem was that I didn’t have any of these on me, since I’d spent the bare minimum cash necessary to get into cyberspace and hadn’t been able to download anything much with my UBX RAM limitations. I pressed the Exit button back into the real world and went shopping!

It's actually a pretty cool idea, just not one you'd expect to find in an adventure game

I knew there were a few free bits of software that I could add to my deck if I could be bothered going through all my screenshots looking at the various software libraries I’d accessed throughout the game, but I was impatient! I did recall that the Gentleman Loser base had quite a few nice warez to download, so I hopped in and grabbed Hammer 1.0, BlowTorch 1.0 and Probe 3.0.  The first two were ICE breakers and the last one would be useful in figuring out what base I was trying to hack into. I then made my way to Finn’s store and purchased the Drill 1.0 software for $1500, since I’d heard that was a particularly good ICE breaker. I then purchased the ICE Breaking skill chip for $1000 and the Holy Joystick for $20. With all that done, I accessed the Chiba Tactical Police base to enter Larry Moe’s details on the warrant page before entering the Panther Moderns base to purchase the Evasion skill chip from Lupus. I gave the joystick to Nolan at the House of Pong and received the Zen and Sophistry skill chips in return. Finally, I went to the Matrix Restaurant and upgraded my Evasion and Zen chips to version 2. I still had nearly $7000, but I figured I probably had enough skills and warez to learn the ropes in cyberspace, so jacked back in.

Now I have the skills to take this thing down!

This time when I was faced with the ICE protected base, I immediately launched my Probe 3.0 software. A pink electricity-like bolt shot out from the bottom of the screen and made its way slowly towards the ICE. When it made contact, it simply rebounded and made its way back. On reaching me, a message popped up: “DB name: Cheap Hotel, level: 0”. It didn’t surprise me that the closest base to my current location was the Cheap Hotel, since that’s where I was jacked into. So far so good, although pink bolts had started emanating from the ICE as soon as mine had made contact. On hitting me, the vertical bar started filling up. In a panic, I launched Drill 1.0, which once again launched a pink bolt that, when it made contact, quite significantly affected the ICE’s “life”. I remembered from one of the messages I’d read on a board that repeatedly using the same software against ICE has decreasing effectiveness, so I launched Hammer 1.0 and then BlowTorch 1.0. The ICE’s defence was nearly destroyed, but my vertical bar had gone into the red! Not only that, I’d started to notice that some of my software (Comlink 6.0 and Scout 1.0) were now showing minus signs next to them, which couldn’t be good. I assumed that my constitution was way down (the little worm-looking thing on the EEG monitor had gone from green to yellow), and that my deck was copping a beating!

I'm just figuring out what the base is and it's already attacking me!

Eventually the ICE dissipated, and I gained access to the Cheap Hotel base. It was only then that I realised what I’d really been attempting to do, which was gain access to a base that I’d already fully explored. The Cheap Hotel base only has two access levels, and I’d already been there and done that, meaning this whole ICE breaking exercise was really a waste of time, money, constitution, and possibly software. I also realised that in my panic I hadn’t even used my ICE Breaking skill, so likely suffered far more damage than I should have. I exited cyberspace and indeed found that my Comlink 6.0 and Scout 1.0 warez were completely unusable. This meant that I couldn’t get into a base to download another Comlink version, and while I figured the Debug skill would probably assist in bringing my warez back to life, I hadn't purchased it. Rather than run off to Finn's to buy Debug, I decided to restore my game to just prior to entering cyberspace. On re-entering, I decided to see just how big cyberspace zone 0 actually was. Each “step” moved me 16 on either the x or y axes, and the zone went from 16, 16 to 240, 112. That meant it was basically a 15 x 7 grid, but of course there wasn’t a base found at every junction. I explored and found that there were seven bases in the zone, so I set out to use my Probe 3.0 software to find out what they all were (exiting the database as soon as Probe had done its job) before deciding which ones were worth hacking into.

Not the Comlink software! Do you know how long it took me to get that!?

I discovered that the seven bases were Asano Computing (16, 112), Cheap Hotel (112, 112), Panther Moderns (224, 112), World Chess Confederation (160, 80), Consumer Review (32, 64), Psychologist (96, 32) and Regular Fellows (208, 32). I was able to get all this infor without suffering any damage, although my cash depleted significantly in the process. Now that I knew which bases were in the zone, I looked at my spreadsheet to see which ones had access levels that I hadn’t uncovered passwords for. As mentioned previously, I’d already seen everything there was to see at Cheap Hotel, but there was at least one extra level of access that I could gain on all of the other six bases! I once again restored my game (to recover the funds I’d wasted while exploring the zone), and set out to see what I could uncover in each of them. Many readers have suggested that the game goes downhill from here on in, and that cyberspace is fairly repetitive, but I'm feeling pretty excited at having the opportunity to see all there is to see in each of these bases, and to finally be able to utilise all the skills and warez that I’ve been coming across throughout the game. Join me in a day or two to see whether this enthusiasm still remains!

I defeated my first ICE, but my only reward was damaged warez and decreased constitution

Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 9 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!

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - Yakuza Bliss

Tricky Journal Entry 12: "Today didn't go quite the way I'd expected it to. I had a bunch of cash, but I found myself wishing those Rastafarian guys would speak proper English on Zion! I managed to connect with one of them through the use of dub music, but had no such luck with his friend Maelcum while he transported me to Freeside. Speaking of Freeside, my confidence that I was going to be able to force my way into Bank Gemeinschaft turned out to be unfounded, as the codeword I'd been certain would work, didn't! All is not lost though, as I did figure out how to get into the Tozoku base, and it's there that I found Comlink 6.0. This little find led to quite a bit of cash, which I'm hoping will finally allow me to buy a cyberspace compatible deck. Everyone else seems to have one these days. Why can't I?!"

So, what will I spend Akira O'Brien's paycheck on?

It should be clear by now that Neuromancer is not a perfect game. I won’t have any shortage of things to complain about when I finally get to posting a Final Rating post. However, there’s no denying that making progress in the game comes with a real sense of achievement. I’ve surfing cyberspace now, and boy did I have to work for it! Perhaps there were quicker ways to get there, but I feel like I’ve arrived fairly well equipped to continue my progression forward. I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let’s go back to where I finished my last post. I’d just gotten my hands on $10K by hacking into the Hosaka base, listing myself as an employee, then rocking up to their facility and picking up my weekly pay. This was a huge win, but it wasn’t enough to get me into cyberspace for two reasons. 1. I now had $11051, and even the cheapest cyberspace compatible decks cost around $20000. 2. The manual mentions that you can only get to cyberspace by using Comlink 6.0, which had so far avoided me. I’ve learnt to never look a gift horse in the mouth though, so I pushed ahead with my newly earned funds.

Not very professional to leave the front desk unattended!

Once I’d collected my cash from Hosaka, there didn’t appear to be anything else I could do there. Now that I was free to roam the High-Tech zone as an employee, I paid a visit to the other companies located there. I already knew that Hitachi Bio was bad news (the whole lung thing), so I instead entered Musabori. There was a cyberspace jack on the wall, but apart from that there was nothing to see or do. I couldn’t go anywhere else beyond the front desk, and there were no employees to talk to. Fuji Electric was exactly the same, making me think that either these companies were only there for cyberspace access or their purpose just hadn’t arisen yet. I’d been very interested to see where the entrance at the base of the screen would lead, since there was no logo to be seen. I’d had suspicions that it might be Sense/Net, which Lupus had tried to sell me a security card for, and that turned out to be correct. “Lobby of the Sense/Net headquarters building. There is a Librarian computer terminal on one wall. The security scanner activates at your arrival.” A message emanated from the scanner: “You have 30 seconds to produce your security pass. Failure to comply will result in your removal.”

Removal from the room or removal from this life?

I rushed off to see Lupus, stopping in at Finn’s to purchase the ICE Breaking skill chip (I was determined to implant all ten chips listed in the manual). Once I was back in the Panther Moderns base, I purchased the Evasion skill chip and the Sense/Net Security Pass from Lupus, and then made my way back to the High-Tech Zone. I was down to around $4000 at this point and figured I was going to have to restart at some point and play through in a very specific way if I was going to be able to afford a cyberspace-compatible deck. However, I wanted to find out what this Sense/Net thing was all about before I considered starting again. When the Librarian asked me for my pass, I used the “give” action to use it on the computer. “Clearance approved. You now have limited access to the Librarian. Please enter the identity number of the ROM Construct you require from the Sense/Net library vault.” Huh? I wracked my brain, but couldn’t remember discovering any ROM Construct identity number anywhere in the game. I knew from the manual that a ROM Construct would allow me to utilise the personality, responses, knowledge and memories of another human, but I didn’t understand how that might be useful or whose Construct I might want to use. I had noticed that the Zen skill chip description in the manual mentions that Dixie Flatline was a Zen master, so perhaps I’m to look out for the identity number of Dixie? Maybe I’d already come across it and not noticed?

Um...THX1138? What about HAL9000?

Since spending all my cash on the security card hadn’t really helped me with my cause at this stage, I restored my game back to just collecting my pay at Hosaka, then made my way to the Spaceport. Now that I had the Musicianship skill and the codeword for Bank Gemeinschaft, it was time to travel to Zion and Freeside respectively. I bought a ticket to Zion for $500 and travelled to see the Rastafarian old man. As soon as I arrived I used the Musicianship skill, and was given the option between playing dub, jazz, new wave or classical. I chose dub, since the guy seemed so obsessed with it. “Righteous dub, mon! You ver’ good. Maelcum will help you reach Freeside on his tug, Garvey.” Maelcum? Really? That’s awfully close to being inappropriate, particularly when the guy has a “tug”, but anyway. I was a bit disappointed that winning over the Zion leader was only going to result in me being taken to Freeside. I could have bought a ticket there directly for $1000, which would have been $500 less than it cost for the Zion ticket and the Musicianship chip. There must be another reason to go down this path, and I figured it had to have something to do with Maelcum. I appeared on his ship: “Aboard the Marcus Garvey, an ancient space tug piloted by Maelcum. The walls are covered with Rastafarian symbols. The ship creaks when Maelcum punches in a navigational burn.”

Did you just call me Garvey?

Maelcum spoke to me in the same ridiculous way that the leader did: “Maelcum a rude boy an’ a righteous tugpilot, mon. I an’ I come a spacedock soon.” I had a bunch of different dialogue options that I could use during the trip, including: 1. “How long will it be before we arrive?” 2. “What do you know about Freeside, man?” 3. “Can you help me on Freeside, Maelcum?” 4. “Have you got a jack I can use, man?” and 5. “I don’t understand a word you’ve said. I feel like I need a Rasta Language skill chip.” I asked Maelcum how long it would take to reach Freeside, to which he said “Don’ be long now, m’ seh dat. Time, it be time, ya know wha mean? Dread at control, mon.” No, I can’t say I did know what he meant! I asked him about Freeside, to which he responded with “Freeside be a Babylon port, mon. Lots of banks there, ya know?” No shit Maelcum! I hoped that asking him to help me on Freeside might bear fruit, but he responded with “You listen, Babylon mon. I a warrior. But this no m’ fight, no Zion fight. Babylon eatin’ i’self, ya know?” This wasn’t going very well, but I pushed ahead regardless, asking Maelcum whether or not the Marcus Garvey had a jack I could use: “Sorry, mon. Jack burned out when th’ Case-mon here awhile back.” Case-mon??!! Who or what the hell is that? The final dialogue option seemed to sum up the way I was feeling, so I told Maelcum how I felt about his Rasta language. “Don’ ‘stan’ you, mon, but we mus’ move by Jah love, each one.”

Don' 'stan' you eith'r, mon, but don' think be my 'ssue, mon.

I asked Maelcum about every topic that I could think of, including Zion, Freeside, Maelcum, bank, cyberspace, software, skill chip etc. etc., but he didn’t have anything useful to say. Eventually we reached the destination, and it was clear to me that I’d missed something either on Zion or on the ship. Perhaps it would become clearer later what it was. I’d been to Freeside previously of course, and checked out the three main areas. I wasn’t convinced that I could do anything further in the Bank of Berne or at the Tessier-Ashpool bust in Villa Straylight, so I made my way to Bank Gemeinschaft to try out the codeword I’d received from The Chairman on the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority board. As you would know from my last post, I was very confident that I had the solution, so was shocked when entering “agabatur” as the codeword was met with “Security code is incorrect. Try again if you made a mistake.” This really set me back!!! Not only had my trip to Zion resulted in nothing, now what I’d assumed would be the key to me gaining the money I needed for a new deck had fallen flat too! I remembered that a message from Chipdancer to Don Quixote on the same board had said “If you’re serious about hitting Bank Gemeinschaft again, EINHOVEN should make it easier”, but using “einhoven” as the code didn’t work either.

Yes! Finally I've cracked into the...what?....WHAT!!!??? What do you mean incorrect?!

After three failed attempts (my third attempt included at least three strong swear words), I was killed by the security system and forced to restore my game. I considered restarting at this point, but spent the next half an hour going through every screenshot I’d taken since first starting Neuromancer, looking for anything I hadn’t followed up on or anything that now clicked when it hadn’t previously. One thing did! While looking through my shots from the Hosaka Corporation base, I noticed the line “Tozoku are YAKUZA, pure and simple.” It stood out to me that the word yakuza was in capital letters, which is the way link codes are generally represented in the game. So while I’d first just thought the capitals were used to emphasise E.D. Cooper’s hatred of his competitor, I now opened up my Gaijin and tried entering “yakuza” as a link code. It worked!!!!!! I used my Scout 1.0 software to find that there were two access levels to the base, and then used my Sequencer 1.0 software to find that the first level password was YAK. There were three menu items available inside, being 1. Order Status, 2. Specials Available and 3. Software Library. As usual, I started from the top.

Surely cowboys connecting from the Cheap Hotel get a discount...right?

The Order Status section reported the location of two cargo ships, named the Star of Iowa and the Popul Vox, that are bringing mutton, Johnson sweaters and a full cargo hold full of pre-Columbian artwork to Tozoku. It mentioned that some of the artwork had been damaged “because of shifting during a typhoon”, but I couldn’t see how any of this information was relevant. The Specials Available section was no more useful, listing the artwork as on special due to the damage and suggesting “many of the pieces are hollow and make for a perfect place to hide valuables.” I really hoped that the Software Library would have something damn important in it and I wasn’t let down! The library contained Blowtorch 1.0 and Decoder 1.0, both of which I previously would have had to buy from Finn, along with a copy of Comlink 6.0!!! This was massive! It meant I could finally access cyberspace, at least I would be able to once I had my hands on a compatible deck. It also meant I could go back to the Hosaka base and upload version 6.0. This got me $7500, taking my total back up to over $14000. It still wasn’t enough, but I figured if I restarted and played through as tightly as I could, it probably would be.

Someone needs to tell Hosaka about torrenting.

Before I did that though, there was one further thing I wanted to check out. To this point I’d not been able to access either the Bank of Zurich base or the NASA base, as Comlink 5.0 had been incompatible with both links. Surely I’d be able to with Comlink 6.0! I tried Bank Zurich, using link code BOZOBANK, and got in! There was only one access level too, so I was going to see all there was to see. Strangely, there was no password for the base, and I found myself staring at five menu options. 1. Open an Account, 2. Current Rates, 3. Of Interest, 4. Message Base, and 5. Account Operations. I tried to open an account, but discovered that the minimum amount I needed to upload was $1000. I wasn’t sure why I would want an account when I already had somewhere to deposit my money, so didn’t go ahead. The Current Rates were similar to what I’d seen on other bank bases, and didn’t really tell me anything of value. The Of Interest section talked about Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting, which had apparently gone up for auction at Christies in London. The Bank of Zurich acted for a potential buyer, but dropped out when the price reached 2.5 billion credits (it ended up selling for a record 5.6 billion!). The winning buyer sold a third world country to be able to afford the painting.

I'd sure feel safe if my cash was held in a bank with no online password

The section finished by reporting that Bank of Berne has had money chiselled from accounts by Cyberspace Cowboys. Bank Zurich’s security specialist Roger Trinculo was quoted as saying “that couldn’t happen here. Things are too tightly controlled at BZO.” That seemed unlikely given there was no password to access their base! There were three messages on the Message Base, and the first one was from Matt Shaw to me. “There’s definitely some strange things going on in the matrix that’s for certain. I’ve not heard from Distress Damsel or the Sumdiv Kid lately. Have you? It’s really strange not to have them out here messing around.” I hadn’t heard from either of them (although I recognised the name Sumdiv Kid), so this message didn’t really give me anything. The other two messages were a conversation between Phillip d’Argent to Thomas Cole at Graceland Foundation. Phillip informed Thomas that he’d taken steps to squash an “unauthorized cloning attempt”, but recommended he “reinforce the concrete over the grave and add cyberhounds to patrol at night to prevent another attempt at resurrection”. If I'm not mistaken, the grave in question held none other than Elvis Presley! Thomas responded by stating that they have an excellent security man named Roger Kaliban, and that they would remain on the lookout for “any strangeness that occurs in our accounts”.

I wouldn't think the Rastafarians would have much interest in The King

This was all very cryptic (excuse the pun), and I couldn’t see how any of it would be important. I therefore moved onto the final section of the base, being the Account Operations section. When I tried to view it I was informed that “You must have an account first.” I really wanted to know what would be there if I did, so I went back to the Open an Account section and uploaded the $1000 required. “Thank you for joining our bank. Your account number is 712345450134.” I was then given access to my account in the Account Operations section, with the standard Download Credits and Upload Credits options you would expect. I assume I will be able to use my account number for something later in the game, but for now I could see no benefit in opening an account. This post is getting a little long, so I might finish up here and start a new one to describe my cyberspace experiences. I thought I’d reach that stage in this post, but I’ve fallen just short. It shouldn’t take long for me to get the next post up though, as I’m very keen to push ahead and finish the game as soon as I can. It won’t be long now, at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

Why do I feel like this money might not remain in my account for long

Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 8 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!

Monday 24 June 2013

What's Your Story? - Reiko

I'm in cyberspace!!!! :)

I spent over three hours playing Neuromancer on the weekend, so I have a lot to catch up on as far as posting goes. While I figure out how exactly I'm going to approach that, here's another What's Your Story response from one of the more silent readers. She's been reading from the start (I think Reiko is a female, but please correct me if I'm wrong!), so maybe we can coax her out a little bit with talk of Japanese animation and music. Anyone a fan? My experience is limited to the Hayao Miyazaki films, but I find much to enjoy there. Please say hi to Reiko!

My home country is… USA

My age is… 29

My favourite adventure game is… Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time. I love time travel stories, science fiction with aliens, mysteries, and intelligent puzzles, and this game has all of those. The story has some amazing reveals at the end (no spoilers here) and also puzzles that are clever without being too difficult. Its prequel (JP2: Buried in Time) had more evocative music, but the story just wasn't as interesting, and it had a more historical feel than science fiction. I really hope you get to this one eventually, but it will be a long way off (release year 1998, I think).

I'm yet to play a Journeyman game. Intrigued much!

The first adventure game I played was… Hero's Quest (Quest for Glory I). Initially I played it in black and white with my dad on a computer that was probably a 486 or worse, which made it really hard to see what was going on, so we didn't get that far. I don't remember now why it was black and white; there was probably something wrong with the graphics card on the computer though. My dad loved building his own computers, but inevitably he'd use cheap components and there'd be something wrong with them. Anyway, I've replayed it a number of times over the years, both the original and remake versions, although strictly speaking I've never finished it even though I've come very close. The final sequence at the end with the brigands is just too hard (and runs too fast on modern computers). I really enjoyed the parallel replays by Trickster and Addict.

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… Mostly digital, these days. I buy console games in physical format because you have to have the discs to run anything modern, but I hardly buy PC games if they're not from GOG anymore.

When I’m not playing games I like to… Read about people playing games. That's why I'm here. Or just read novels. Mostly science fiction and fantasy. I'm working on trying to keep up with Brandon Sanderson (the guy is a writing machine, seriously) and catching up on reading everything by Guy Gavriel Kay in chronological published order (he writes a lot slower, so I think I'll catch up eventually). My absolute favorite trilogy is GGK's Fionavar Tapestry, a true fantasy classic.

I own this series somewhere, but never got around to reading it.

The thing I miss about old games is… Intricate stories and variable difficulty settings. Honestly, I'm not very good at games because I didn't really start being a gamer until I was in high school. I never had the reflexes for action games, for sure, and now I don't have the time to spend hours trying things to figure out hard puzzles. My favorite games are ones with good stories that allow me to make progress without too much repetition or frustration. I'm happier playing on a lower difficulty setting if it means I get to experience the whole game and see the ending.

The best thing about modern games is… Sensible and beautiful interfaces and fonts. Some of the old classics have nearly unreadable fonts and terrible interfaces with nonsensical keybindings and such. Most modern games already have pretty standard keybindings, and if not, then they usually have the option to change the keybindings. (Or, if you're emulating games, you can change the bindings to whatever you want anyway.) Or the visual interface itself is clickable in sensible ways. The games I tend to play still have a lot of text, so it needs to be readable, and it generally is. I love it when the font is beautiful without being so ornate that it becomes distracting or hard to read.

The one TV show I never miss is… Bones. Although I do miss it once in awhile if the time changes and we don't get it recorded properly or something. But I've been watching it nearly every week for the past few years. I didn't see the early seasons, but somehow I got into it and really started appreciating both the characters and the nature of the series as a murder mystery serial. Sometimes the technology gets a little implausible, like when Angela technomagically reconstructed completely shredded documents in one episode. There's a reason why professional shredders are cross-cut... But it's cool to see them reconstruct a whole scenario from the tiniest evidence.

He will always be Angel to me.

If I could see any band live it would be… Two-Mix. They are a Japanese duo who are famous for generally not having live concerts. Seems like the vocalist was shy or something. They didn't really do music videos either except for one well-known animated video about love and inspiration set to White Reflection (, and an entirely WTF dance video with aliens set to Naked Dance (yes that's the song title). They didn't appear physically in either one. They're probably not producing new material anymore, as they started back with the theme songs for the original Gundam Wing animated show, like Just Communication and White Reflection. They produced dozens of other upbeat Jpop songs though, and a whole concert would be amazing. I'll have to settle for the live recordings from their released discs though.

My favourite movie is… Courageous. It's hard to describe if you haven't seen it, but it's got so many memorable moments and so many good lessons about the nature of family. Truly a family-friendly movie.

One interesting thing about me is… I studied Japanese at school and spent a year studying in Japan. I got into bands like Two-Mix and Every Little Thing in high school and also the culture of anime and Japanese RPGs. I still play Japanese-style RPGs when I can find the time in addition to adventure games and CRPGs.

Two-Mix: I just noticed that Minami Takayama (left) did the voice for Kiki on Kiki's Delivery Service.

If anyone else wants to send their What's Your Story responses through and get 20 CAPs in the process, please send them to

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!

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - Loaded Bases

Tricky Journal Entry 10: "Man do I love this Sequencer software! It's given me the opportunity to expand my reach and access numerous bases that were inaccessible to me previously. I've picked up a few other cool bits of software on the way (including Comlink 5.0), and uncovered both what I assume is the codeword I needed on Freeside and the location of the Holy Joystick for Nolan the Pong Monk. Who says spending time online is a waste of time!!! I'll be in cyberspace in no time. I can feel it!"

Yet another bit of information that I somehow overlooked earlier on!

I’ll say straight up that this is unlikely to be a very visually appealing post. I spent the majority of the last hour going from one base to another, and while I made a heck of a lot of progress, I’m going to be hard pressed to make this interesting. Let me know how I go! Right, so at the end of my last session I’d just discovered what Sequencer 1.0 was for, so I was pretty keen to start using it on all the bases I didn’t yet have a password for. Before I did that though, once again there was a screenshot that I’d come across while preparing my last post that I needed to follow up on. I actually have no idea how I missed it the first time, and can only assume that I hadn’t yet started my spreadsheet. Matt Shaw had sent a message to Harpo on the Regular Fellows bulletin board saying the following: “Checked on the password for Asano’s second level as you requested. It’s PANCAKE, but it seems to be encoded.” I’d only accessed the first level of Asano Computing, so I loaded a random save game and used the Cryptology skill to decode the password (VENDORS). I tried decoding the Musabori password I’d gotten out of Julius Deane (PLEIADES), but wasn’t able to, even with Cryptology 2.0.

I'd much prefer pancake to vendors!

I made my way back to the Cheap Hotel and accessed the Asano Computing base with my second level password. The only addition gained through my upgraded permission was a second menu item called Manufacturers. Going into it revealed the link codes for all three Japanese manufacturers! I’d already guessed that the Fuji Electric code is FUJI, but I was unlikely to guess that the Hosaka code is HOSAKACORP and the Musabori one MUSABORIND. I added both to my spreadsheet and prepared to systematically access all bases on the list. Before I did that though, the amount of software versions I had on my deck was starting to bother me, particularly as my RAM of 10 limits me to that amount of programs installed simultaneously. I erased Comlink 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, leaving my Gaijin with only BattleChess 2.0, Scout 1.0, Comlink 4.0 and Sequencer 1.0 installed. I then accessed the Citizens For A Free Matrix base, finding two menu options available with my first level password. 1. Software Library and 2. Statement of Purpose. I’d hoped to find something new to download in the software library, but discovering no less than five different warez available in there came as a surprise!

It sure feels good to clean up my hard drive

The five different bits of software were Blammo 1.0, Toxin 18.0, MegaDeath 4.0, Centurion 5.0 and SnailBait 14.0. I had no idea what any of them might do, but assumed from the names that they would likely only be useful in Cyberspace. It turned out that I was only able to download Blammo 1.0, as my deck was incompatible with the rest, and trying to use it confirmed my belief: “Cyberspace Only”. The Statement of Purpose was a rather lengthy affair, being an essay on how all citizens should have full access to cyberspace and that “only through the free flow of information can the human organism reach his ultimate potential!” It went on to describe how the people behind CFM believe destruction and anarchy are the keys to change, and spoke of the philosophies of Marx. Finally it mentioned that “BLAMMO is particularly effective in accomplishing our revolutionary aims.” I didn’t really get anything useful out of any of it, so I moved onto the first base that I didn’t have a password for: The Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority. I used my Scout 1.0 software to find that there were two access levels to the base, and then used the Sequencer 1.0 software to find that the first level password was LONGISLAND.

A shibboleth!? I had to look that one up! You learn something every day.

The base contained three menu options, being 1. Company News, 2. Software Library and 3. Message. The Company News section spoke about an idiot computer operator at the New Jersey Nuclear Power Station leaving his access code hoping for any response from the Free Sex Union, instead allowing dangerous lines of code to infiltrate the company network and funnel all power into the Chernobyl / Kiev grid. Clearly referencing the Chernobyl tragedy, I doubted this had any relevance to anything else in the game, so moved onto the Software Library. In there I found Comlink 5.0, which I downloaded successfully! Surely this would give me the ability to access all the bases I had codes for. To my surprise, the Message Board section had 12 messages on it, with one of them addressed to me. As usual, I started at the top and made my way through them. Message one, which was from The Chairman to Inspector Boggs, gave me something very exciting indeed! “The moving allowance you requested has been cleared and deposited in Bank Gemeinschaft. Codeword: AGABATUR.” Could this be the codeword I needed to get into the bank on Freeside?! I thought it just might be! Messages two through to seven were related, yet seemed less important. Someone named GrnMtn was concerned that the Hampshire/Seabrook plant might be showing signs of “a runaway reaction”, and The Chairman responded to say that an inspector would be sent to the site.

Oh please be the codeword for the machine on Freeside! Please!!!

This didn’t appease GrnMtn, who sent her kids to their grandmothers in Devil’s Gorge since one of The Chairman’s colleagues lives next door. As good as this plan seemed on paper, other messages between a Mrs. Waxman to an Inspector named Boggs suggested Devil’s Gorge was in an even worse state: “Listen Boggs, my cat glows in the dark and has lost all its fur.” Inspector Boggs promised a supervisor would contact her “as soon as he gets a new rad suit.” Message eight was from Deathangel’s Shadow (who had shown up on the Regular Fellows board) to everyone, and found him boasting about how he’d infiltrated the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority’s upper section. “Check out the new addition to their software library.” I assumed this was the Comlink 5.0 software I’d just downloaded, so I moved onto Deathangel’s Shadow’s message to me. “Be careful if you cruise near the Citizens for a Free Matrix db. Someone said they’re running a Trojan Horse program, you know, with viruses in it.” I’d just downloaded Blammo 1.0 from the CFM base, and was now concerned that it might infect my deck somehow. Message ten was from Sumdiv Kid, asking Matt Shaw a question I wanted to ask him myself. “You gonna do another rev of BattleChess?” I’m still hoping to get an updated version of the software so I can get some easy cash, but unfortunately there was no response from Matt.

Things haven't really changed all that much have they!

The last two messages on the ESFA message board contained extremely useful information! Message eleven was from Modern Miles to everyone, inviting everyone to access free warez on the Gentleman Loser DB using password LOSER. I’d only used password WILSON so far, so it seemed likely this would give me increased access. Finally, message twelve was from Gabby to Deathangel’s Shadow: “Thanks for the tip about Finn. He does have loads of stuff, he even tried to sell me a joystick. Like what would I do with that?” I knew exactly what that joystick was. The Holy Joystick that Nolan the Pong Monk was looking for! Well, that base was certainly worth visiting, offering up Comlink 5.0, the codeword for Bank Gemeinschaft, the second level password to Gentleman Loser and the location of the Holy Joystick! Speaking of Bank Gemeinschaft, the next thing I did was try to access the bank’s base now that I had Comlink 5.0. I was successful, and my Scout 1.0 software revealed that the base had two levels. Sequencer 1.0 revealed that the first level password is EINTRITT, so I logged in with it to find a menu system with three options. 1. List of Services. 2. Current Rates and 3. Recommended Securities.

How could you hold the Holy Joystick and not feel its power!!!???

The Bank Gemeinschaft list of services included Automatic Funds Transfer (they boast that their AFT program runs 3.7 nanoseconds faster than their competition), Investment Counciling (they claim to be a force to be reckoned with and promise to inform their customers if and when they decide to “rock the boat”), and Fully Automated Bank Transfers (“Need an anonymous deposit in a discreet account at another bank? We do that easier than pouring cash into a paper bag.”). The Current Rates section explained how the bank's fees and interest rates work, with the only interesting info I got from it being that all “securities” are held in their “ultra-secure vaults” and that there is slightly more interest charged for drug transactions. Finally, the third section contained a list of Recommended Securities, including Bell Europa, Musabori, Hitachi Biotech, Maas Biolabs, Fuji Electric, Tessier-Ashpool and Allard Technologies. Overall I didn’t get anything useful out of the bank’s base, yet I imagine the list of securities could come in handy when I get into the vault on Freeside. I still wasn’t able to get into the Bank of Zurich base, even with Comlink 5.0, but I felt like the banks would eventually play a role in increasing my funds to the point where I can finally get a cyberspace compatible deck.

Over 600 years and counting would make you feel like your money is pretty safe. Makes me want to steal it even more!

Scanning my link code list, I decided the next thing I would do is visit the Gentleman Loser base using the LOSER password I’d picked up on the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority message board. As expected, this password gave me second level access, adding two further options to the menu (2. Sorceror BBS and 3. Software Library). There were seven messages on the board, so let’s get to it. The first message was from Bert to Ernie, thanking him for turning him onto the PikUpGirls software on the Loser library. Apparently Bert now knows what women really want and has so many after him, he barely has time to jack in. The second message was from Matt Shaw to me, warning me about the BLAMMO software. Apparently it could “put my eye out”, and given this was the second warning I’d received about software downloaded from the Citizens for a Free Matrix base, I intended to erase Blammo 1.0 as soon as I left the base. The third message was from Count Floyd to Chipdancer. He seemed very concerned about someone named Quixote, who had disappeared while “on his way out to Bank G.” This didn’t seem to concern Chipdancer, as the fourth message was from him to Don Quixote: “After those windmills again, eh? If you’re serious about hitting Bank Gem. again, EINHOVEN should make it easier.” What was EINHOVEN? Software? A skill chip? A base?

Hey Bert! I've found this great software beginning with the letter P!

The fifth message was from Matt Shaw to Count Floyd, basically telling him to chill out. Quixote had eventually “blipped into Gridpoint early this morning”, saying he’d had to “leave town because of a death in the family”. There was that Gridpoint place mentioned again! I was now convinced that I hadn’t come across it because it didn’t exist in the real world. Having no idea how cyberspace will be represented, I’m not sure whether that line of thinking is crazy or not. The sixth message was from Matsumoto to Dr. Asano, telling him that “Gorota’s missing and it’s all your fault you crazy old man! You activated that COMSAT for him at Mission Control! Now he’s way off in cyberspace somewhere!” What’s a COMSAT? Where’s Mission Control? Neuromancer has a tendency to bring in new terminology and language at every turn, making sure that I’m in a permanent state of bewilderment. Matsumoto finished his message by threatening to tell “the Turing people” about what Asano had been up to. Unfortunately for him, the seventh message on the board was from Turing, demanding to know what the “pet project” was that he was referring to.


With all the messages read, I entered the Gentleman Loser Software Library to find four different bits of software to download. The first one was PikUpGirls 1.0 (as mentioned above by the Sesame Street gang), although I sadly wasn’t able to download that due to my incompatible deck. I was able to download BlowTorch 1.0, Hammer 1.0 and Probe 3.0 though, so I did so. I’d seen BlowTorch 1.0 and Probe 1.0 for sale at Finn’s store previously, so now I knew there was no point purchasing them. All three bits of software are “cyberspace only”, so I have no use for them yet. With nothing else to do on the Loser base, I exited and erased my Blammo 1.0 software immediately. There you have it! Another thirty minutes of game time described in detail for your reading “pleasure”! I really don’t know how far into Neuromancer I am, but it concerns me that I haven’t even reached Cyberspace yet. Am I looking at twenty posts here guys? I’m committed now, so there’s no chance I’m going to stop. I might have to ask some questions before I commence any hybrid adventure games in future though to get a good idea just how much detail I should put into it. On the positive side, my next post will have some non-text screenshots at least!

Damn shame that!

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