Friday, 11 November 2022

BloodNet – Undead Man Walking

By Will Moczarski


Ransom III.


And so it begins again. My next session of BloodNet should have lasted longer than two and a half hours but unfortunately I was sick in bed for much of the week. However, I noticed that it will be necessary to keep track of conversations, hints and locations very thoroughly. Furthermore, The CRPG Addict’s Opening Post on BloodNet made me realise two things: that his writing is a lot better and that I can go through my (in-game) contacts to find some pointers where to go and what to do. It’s not a quest log but still useful. 

I had visited most of the recommended locations in my first session anyway but the information about some of the NPCs was still welcome. In the starting location I noticed that I had overlooked an object that sort-of blended with the background. It turned out to be a radiation suit but I am unable to figure out how to equip it. The controls of the game are generally fine but the menus are really quite finicky. 

But back to the contacts file: I learned that the Houston Matrix Rovers have a series of illegal WELLs in the net. I’ll be sure to listen to Ransom’s conversations with their members more closely this time, maybe I can figure out a password. In another note, Ransom calls the Flux Riders his “old gang.” One of the Riders’ new members is one Oona Flyte. They met while both of them were out clubbing and Ransom appears to be vaguely interested in her. Could this be the love story some of the promotional materials were hinting at? In contrast to this a note about Monique St. Claire reminds Ransom to avoid “The Abyss” if he does not want to keep running into his ex-lover. Moreover, there’s a warning that something bad is happening in Central Park. “I’d better be ready for action there,” Ransom remarks. Sounds like the cemetery I got slaughtered in last session. 

Some more notes: Another gang, the Doom Pilots, have gone soft in Ransom’s opinion. Rymma and Garrick Fizz are the best (married) couple of deckers Ransom ever surfed the net with. Ransom owes a thousand dollars to a woman names Sis Konfigg, speaks fondly of Leeza Five Eagles, and that’s about it. It seems the contacts are not only for quests but also helpful for recruiting a party. 

Because it now feels like a quest I head to the Houston Matrix Rovers once more and talk to Penn Martinez. And this time I listen more closely, take some notes. Penn tells me that I can give him any computer code I don’t know what to do with. I should probably keep that in mind. He also offers me a place to jack in which is always handy.

Hakim still doesn’t want to talk to me and Reflex Symptoms is busy debugging some Chinese code. Larry Owen tells me about Tim Goldfarb who was also in my contacts. Goldfarb got high on Morph Codes and they re-engineered him instead of improving on him. Morph Codes appear to be a risky kind of augmentation device, and Goldfarb accidentally merged the Morph Code and his soul box, causing severe brain damage. Rumour has it that he calls himself “Wild Child” now and runs with a gang called the Autonomy Dogs somewhere around Wall Street. 

Another guy called Rags Trammell gives me some background on Abraham Van Helsing who was one of TransTechnicals’ most important executives but alienated his peers by investing more money, recruiting more people, generally building a more dangerous infrastructure than any of them. His plans to overtake not only the net but also the city seem legit. 


Howling with the Autonomy Dogs.


I paid a visit to the Autonomy Dogs and found Goldfarb there. The conversation with him was somewhat incoherent due to the severe brain damage he suffered but some words appear over and over, notably “Mozart.” Ransom presses Goldfarb for the Morph Codes (though I’m not sure why) but I’m not sure if his answers are pure gibberish or if there’s a way to figure out their meaning. Take this, for instance: “Mice and cheese. Praxis units. You must edge surf round car mountains and ICE t-t-t-tea to Notional Labs cluster with salamanders Mozart and address skimmerhorn the monkey rack Mozart pistol.” Some of these correspond to phrases Goldfarb used earlier (praxis units – theoretical agendas; sandwich – cheese). “ICE t-t-t-tea” probably refers to ICE programs (security bots) in cyberspace. When I ask Goldfarb for the address he replies “Pornography and seersucker Mozart castanets.” Ah well, maybe it’s just gibberish after all.

The leader of the Autonomy Dogs is called Sabaccatus St. Aubens. He tells me he objects to everything impure and elaborates that he is mostly talking about people who have implants. St. Aubens offers me 40.000 dollars if I assassinate a guy called Markus Piston of the Hard Metals who celebrate the joining of flesh and circuitry. I’m not inclined to do that because St. Aubens is quite a jerk and a white supremacist. If I interpret Ransom’s condition correctly he’ll have to bite someone eventually. St. Aubens seems like a good candidate. 

I check out Bellevue Hospital where I haven’t been before. It’s full of “burnouts”, people who remained jacked in too long. The only two NPCs who are still able to carry a conversation with me are a male nurse and a woman who’s a regular visitor of her burnt out husband. Her name is Ellen Flyer and she is convinced that someone pulled a number on her husband. She implies that only the best would be able to go into cyberspace and retrieve the pieces of his mind. Sounds like a job for Ransom Stark!

That’s all I’m able to find out, so I head straight to The Abyss. Here, all of the patrons are just waiting to be recruited, mentioning their price as soon as I strike up a conversation. The only exception is Cisco Alvarez who is Hakim’s congenial partner (of the Houston Matrix Rovers). Cisco is willing to join me if and only if Hakim is willing to join me as well. Seems like I should talk to the man once more. 

For now, I hire a guy called Max Bax who is convinced that the angel of the Lord comes to him at nights in visions and voices. He has a severe problem with socialists and communists but he’s not so  sure about the companies. Max even goes so far as to stipulate that “[t]here may be… a link between the corporate and the divine.” But he doesn’t like vampires and at only 4.500 dollars he seems like a steal. I hire him on the spot.


“Mad Max” Bax, my neoliberal Godsman.


I also hire Rymma Fizz because she was singled out in Ransom’s notes. She tells me her husband is working for a gang called Electric Anarchy somewhere uptown and that she’s out to trail a guy who’s accused of being a vampire. I think I’ll keep you close, Rymma, in case I’m the alleged vampire you’re looking for. However, Ransom comes clear before the conversation is even over and Rymma is quite surprised and sympathetic. If I understand it correctly she doesn’t even charge me for her services. 

Having expanded my party I check in to St. Patrick’s Church but the pastor is out and about at the moment. Moving on I pay a visit to the Hard Metals. Clanck Sprocket asks me for a working leg, anything that gets him off the ground. He will give me an EMP focaliser in return (whatever that may be). Where may I get some spare body parts at this hour? I honestly don’t know.

The next conversation is with Markus Piston, the guy Sabbaticus told me to dispense of. He tells me of his gang’s philosophy and asks me to bring him a right arm of the Haas-Peters brand. I take note of both fetch quests but don’t leave the place without hiring a guy called Tempered Steele who’s quite the knob but then no party should be without one, right? Finally, another guy called Liquid Nails offers me some cybergenetic attachments for two grand but I decline. I’m worried that it might mess up Deirdre’s implant for good. 

I drop in at the Doom Pilots’ hangout. Ransom immediately begins to reminisce with one of them called Stive but the Doom Pilots don’t contract anymore. According to Ransom’s notes they’ve gone soft anyway so maybe it’s for the best. A guy called HoloGraham (*slow clap*) tells me that the word on the street is that someone big is coming after me. Thank you, Holo, I’d figured as much. Another guy called Ghost Walker tells me to buy some vasopressin or psilo blossom from a dealer called Madame Mescal in order to improve my cyberspace experience. That’s another location on my map. They just keep coming. Sis Konfigg offers to tell me the address of the Bank of New York in Cyberspace if I bring her a level four cloaking chip. This sounds like a really good deal. If I only knew where I might turn up one of those. Scream Wipe finally gives me my first Cyberspace address but it may be too dangerous for me just yet: TTheat will take me to a cluster loaded with records on half the people in the city maintained by TransTech. 

I pay another visit to the Houston Matrix Rovers because I want to mention Cisco’s name to Hakim. He doesn’t believe me but at least he keeps talking to me this time. I learn that Hakim specialises in rescue operations these days, collecting lost souls from the Cyberspace and downloading them in a safe place. For this purpose he needs a Praxis 3000 elite deck. He’ll even let me hire him (and thus Cisco, I suppose) if I can bring him one of those. That’s a lot of fetch quests and a little hard to keep track already. 

Now that I have a bit of a party I decide to buy some better weapons. I get a White Noise Blaster at Auntie Personnel’s and sell some items that look superfluous to me. Then I save my game and have another go at the Trinity Church Cemetery. My whole party gets slaughtered and I don’t kill even one of Louella Travesty’s gang. This is obviously a fight that needs to be fought at a later time or with a different approach. 


Q: Are we not men? A: We Are Devo!


I go back to The Abyss and hire a guy called Kyle Avery who seems like a pretty good hacker. Tempered Steele strongly objects and doesn’t want a “pretty boy” in our party but other than that there seem to be no consequences. I buy some grenade at another street dealer’s called Vince and then I head for the Cybersurgery Group. The resident doctor offers to augment one of our party with a neural cannon and I elect to have it applied to Tempered Steele – what’s one more appliance for a member of the Hard Metals, right? 

I decide to hit the last of my contacts and take a look at Central Park. Immediately I’m approached by a young hustler called Slick Earl who sells me a rudimentary weapon for 300 dollars. Some assembly is required but I just put it in my inventory for now. Another guy called Sanders Tomalin calls me he’s suffering from Hopkins-Brie syndrome. He should really see Deirdre Tackett but we know that’s rather difficult right now (or even forever after?). The social commentary is a little heavy-handed here as Tomalin tells me how the sick cyberspace addicts are simply shoved into the streets when The Company has no use for them anymore but it’s still kind of impressive how many serious topics BloodNet attempts to tackle just a few hours in. In my opinion the “tacky” parts are more enjoyable when it comes to the quality of the writing (assuming they’re meant to be tongue in cheek) but the subject matter is quite strong throughout. 

At this point I decide to try out the “bite” mechanic on Tomalin. The other members of my party are appalled by the rash display of my animal instincts and Ransom disposes of the body quite nonchalantly. Here’s hoping that I won’t need the guy to solve the game somehow. Also, my humanity goes down which is ostensibly due to my victim’s high “innocence” stat. 


My bite’s as bad as my breath.


I pay a visit to the Flux Riders but don’t really learn anything new there. A guy named Stick is standing in a circle smeared with blood preparing for a fight. The handwriting is reminiscent of the one in Deirdre’s lab (“You’re next, Stark”, remember?) and here it says “Imagine what?”. Is there a connection between the Flux Riders and Abraham Van Helsing? One of the gang members called Shock Maraud sort of spills the beans and tells me they’re waiting on a guy called Van Helsing who promised them a proprietary data base from Rimbus drugs – they only need to kill a guy in return. The guy being Ransom Stark? I think it’s probable that the Flux Riders either killed or kidnapped Deirdre for Van Helsing but of course I can’t prove anything at this point. 

However, Shock Maraud’s loyalty towards Van Helsing is only dependent on the date base he promised them. It’s supposed to be hidden away in a Rimbus cluster with the address “antibody”. Wow, I’ve got my first cyberspace address. If I give the database to the Flux Riders before Van Helsing gets there Shock Maraud will work for me instead. Sounds like a good (and possibly necessary) deal to secure my survival. 

Time to check out the cyberspace once more, and this time I stay jacked in a little while longer. I happen across a virus in the shape of a dragon who’s apparently the lost soul of a guy called Elvis. “The King” used to be a cyberspace legend but his digital identity was separated from his actual body. He asks me to download him in a safe place and turn him into a proper cyborg by coming up with a vessel for his mind. 

I also retrieve three parts of Charlie Flyer’s ego. Remember Ellen Flyer, the woman at Bellevue Hospital? There are five parts of his ego floating around somewhere on the net. Maybe I can help her if I collect all of them. 

On another screen I come across an avatar called New Klee R. Wynter who tells me to steer clear of Zeus who’s apparently a very powerful net entity who’s out to get me. Lucky me: Zeus is right there on the next screen represented by another dragon-shaped avatar. He approaches me right away and tells me that my attitude offends him because I do not respect his authority. Obviously I have no control over Ransom’s cocky answers and the conflict only escalates further. He challenges me to a duel at NYU (on the net, I presume?) and lures me with the prospect of getting all of his decking equipment and information if I win. 



I will steal your thunder, just not right now.


Before I get to turn up more parts of Charlie Flyer’s ego I am apprehended by a security cage. The adjacent ICE erases my decking unit’s memory and thus Elvis and Charlie Flyer are both lost forever. I restore my saved game and collect both Elvis and the three parts of Charlie’s ego once more. Then I call it a night and have a lot of loose ends to sort out before I return to the game for my next session. And what can I say? I’m really enjoying myself so far. BloodNet is obviously flawed and may become quite tedious in the long run but the opening hours have been lots of fun. The CRPG Addict will post again in 3 or 4 days and my next post on BloodNet will be online next Thursday. 


Session time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 30 minutes

22 comments:

  1. TBH, in terms of writing I feel like you don't use enough pictures. It does feel like there's a derth of 'em in these entries. Probably not something you can capture very well, but it does look like I haven't seen much of the combat yet. We could have stood to see the hospital or the bar again.
    Speaking of money, do you really need the money? IIRC, Ransom started with more than enough to not have to sorry about getting paid for anything...unless you mean to tell me that very definitely legitimate copy I purchased years ago was hacked by unethical people to include more money! I admit, I wouldn't have thought that would be another issue to add to the game's pile of them.

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    1. Thank you for the feedback, it's always appreciated (I mean that!) I'll try to include more screenshots next time.

      Speaking of combat, I haven't seen much of it either, only when I enter the cemetery. And the money seems to be sufficient, at least so far. I can't see (yet?) how that might become much of an issue anytime soon.

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  2. If I can offer a counterpoint... I usually find Morpheus's posts overladen with waaay too many images. That said, a few more might have been nice here.

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    1. I personally like the image-laden posts, but mainly when the authors have fun with the captions, a TAG tradition so far...

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    2. To the extent that we have a MOS here, the recommendation is for one medium size image per "page" of text, but it depends on the writer and what works with his/her style. We had some posts early on that were walls of screenshots and like 5 words and those aren't very fun to read, but well-captioned images in a row can also be funny. Everything works when done well!

      For my part, it looks like I have one image per 250-300 words for graphical games (where I usually want to show a screenshot of every room) and one image per 450-500 words when I am "illustrating" a text adventure. (Based on a quick check of a few recent posts.)

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    3. (This post is one image per 450 words, btw.)

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    4. Fair, but I feel like there's a happy medium between me showing what happens when you examine everything versus missing out on showing key mechanics and possibly locations. I very definitely go for an exceedingly "show, don't tell" approach, and apparently my posts are something like 150-200 words per image.

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    6. Apparently many of our readers would prefer to have more screenshots. I respect that and I'll definitely include more of them from now on. Thank you all for the feedback, discussions like these are really helpful!

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  3. I came over here from the CRPG addict's site and I'm quite happy to follow another player's coverage of the same game. And yes, more screenshots, please, it makes everything easier to follow.

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    1. Thank you for the feedback! I have stepped up my screenshot game by now. :-)

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  4. What percentage of the game would you say is a graphic adventure compared to a Quest for Glory game? Because I feel like QFG would be a 60/40 for adventure and this... pretty much looks like a 90/10 for RPG (I may be wrong).

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    1. So far I'd go for 80/20 for graphic adventure, actually. I haven't figured out if the stats do anything and there simply was no combat except one fight that I may have attempted too early. That may change as I dive deeper into the game, however.

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    2. Wow, I was expecting the opposite! I guess we are simply seeing the same things, but giving them different names:
      - Interface: Even if the interface has been used in multiples graphic adventures, we can't really say it makes a game have "adventure elements" by itself.
      - Dialogs: Some may say they are "adventure sections", but the truth is they are included in many RPGs.
      - Puzzles: Now these are actually adventure sections, but I haven't noticed any yet (maybe I wasn't paying enough attention).
      - Character creation, combat and character improvements: These are definitely the only RPG-only features, and I remember the 3 of them already appeared at this point.
      Of course, RPG and adventure games are similar and 40 years ago, RPGs were called "adventures" by the video game press. But I guess to be fair we would need to compare puzzles Vs. character creation/character improvement/combat to actually determine whether a game steers more to the RPG or the adventure side.

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    3. The RPG stats are way, way less relevant in this game than in QfG, although not really intentionally. The RPG elements are just implemented really badly. You could turn the game into a pure adventure pretty easily (just remove the handful of mandatory combats or replace them with puzzles), but if you take out the inventory puzzles and fetch quests you're not left with anything resembling a functional RPG.

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    4. I agree, stepped pyramids. Also it feels much more like an adventure game than an RPG, even more so than QfG, in my opinion.

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  5. Seems to be a lot going on so far! How does the combat and party members work? I'm generally more of a fan of single character RPGs, or at least ones where you don't need to micromanage your party too much.

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    1. Absolutely, there's a LOT of data to process. I'm not sure how combat works just yet but as soon as I get into more fights I'll be sure to talk about it some more.

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  6. I'm impressed by your cavalier attitude to biting and killing NPCs :)

    In my own playthrough I was very worried to find myself dead ended by killing a key character (because, let's say it, it's not like the game oozes polish) or running out of time, I remember playing very conservatively.

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    1. Ha, cavalier attitude sounds about right. This is a HUGE game so I'll try out some silly things once in a while just to see what happens. I figure I can always restore if the result is really harmful to my progress.

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  7. What is it about cyberpunk and terrible pun character names. Some of the ones mentioned here the game just about gets away with, but New Klee R. Wynter is risible.

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    1. I agree that New Klee R. Wynter is quite painful.

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