'It was the middle of the night. Darkest dark. The perfect time for coffee, stims and decking. She was sitting on my desk, shining. The Fuchi Cyber-6. A hot deck for an up and comer like myself. It had taken me half a year of waiting on tables at the sushi restaurant, being as phony as the rest of the ghosts out there, to save enough for this beauty. My fingers were trembling slightly, in anticipation. Compared to this dreary existence, cyberspace was an explosion of color, brightness hitting senses you didn't know you had. I couldn't wait. As I raised the cord to insert it into the jack at the base of my skull, I trembled for a different reason. The big corps had said that the magline train would be soundless and wouldn't stir a mouse. Score one for public relations. Maybe if they maintained the line, that would be true. But down here in the slums, nobody cared. I was so getting a new place as soon as I got paid for this contract.'
Welcome to the 22nd century! In Decker you portray the part of a promising hacker, or decker as the current term dictates, just starting out his or her career. You've got the deck and once you start it up, you choose your street name and an icon for your trips into cyberspace. You get to choose an area where you have starting expertise, or you can be a hardass and start without. Also, you can elect to play with free saves or ironman mode, where you can only save from the menu in your home. When you're ready, find yourself a contract and go into cyberspace.
'I recalled my first contract. Ironically, it had been at Yoshi's Sushi, where I work during daylight. What Mr. Johnson thought of my ragged streetwear, I didn't know. Maybe he thought it was quaint. Or maybe he saw me for what I was, all fa'ade and bravado. Regardless, he gave me the opportunity. Payment on delivery, after all. No skin off his nose if I got flatlined. Mr. Johnson was, of course, an impeccable corporate suit. Tie just right, no creases in his jacket, cool shades that he wore indoors. Very incognito for somebody slumming. 'Mr. ...Demon Seed, was it?' His voice was as slick as his appearance. 'I represent a multi-billion dollar corporation, as you no doubt realize. We manufacture a well known brand of cola. Now, this small time company is edging in on our market with their second rate brand. Our men in covert research reports that they're on the verge of a breakthrough. A new recipe, Mr. Seed. One as addictive as anything you've ever seen before. We stand to lose as much as a percent of the market share. That is unacceptable. We know for a fact that their research is kept inside their database. They're still small time. They can't afford proper security. What we want you to do, is enter that database, locate the data and erase it. Can you do that for us, Mr. Seed?' I could. I did.'
Contracts come in many shapes and sizes, but of course all involve you entering cyberspace to complete them. A typical contract sees you fetching a particular file for your employer, but other missions could be to sabotage equipment or creating a back door into a system. As you start out, the pay is low and so is the difficulty, but as you progress, both will rise steadily. Completed contracts will increase your reputation, botched ones will do the opposite. Do well, and you'll be able to increase your lifestyle and gain access to better equipment to deal with the increased difficulty.
'I got paid and it was a paycheck that instantly beat waiting tables. One night's work scored me more than I could have made in a month. Of course, what I didn't tell Mr. Johnson was that before erasing the research data, I had downloaded a copy, which I sold to a third party cola brand. That's business. But enough of that. I jacked and hit the blinking green switch on the Fuchi. All was lines of light and white noise, like a cheap effect in a tacky science fiction stim. As everything came back into focus, I quickly oriented myself. Flashy icons moved slowly in the distance, tracking the rigid lines between nodes. In front of me, floating serenely as everything did in the matrix, was a mean looking giant, carrying a two-handed sword. Great. Somebody had been playing too much T&T growing up. Behind the giant was what I was looking for; the entrance to the system. Reaching out, I conjured a floating panel and quickly entered the command to launch PassGen 2.0. An instant later, the giant shifted imperceptibly and let me pass. Talk about crappy ICE. I was inside the sytem.'
Most of the game, you will play inside cyberspace or the matrix. The layout of the matrix can be likened to a series of interconnected rooms. Each room may contain anything from enemies (ICE) to treasure (data files). How you deal with enemies determines the kind of game you get, but the simplest and most efficient way is to hide and deceive them. This translates into the programs you have running, which do just that. For instance, you can use the deceive program to make an enemy ignore you if they see through your hide program.
'First things first. I brought up my proximity mapper, checking out nearby nodes. Finding some promising I/O ports, I proceeded to enter and scan them. As luck would have it, I found what I was looking for in short time: The entrance port for ICE into the system. Once I had that deactivated, I could work more at my leisure. After passing further into the system, I was unsurprised to be accosted by a giant, roaming eye. 'State your identification!' the eye ordered. No problem, enough kiddie stuff. A quick command and Gag 3.3 was running, preventing the eye from communicating with the rest of the system. Now it was time to see if my investment had paid off. Out of thin air, I conjured AK 4.7, an overdimensional automatic rifle. It took up a good chunk of memory, but might just be worth it. Blasting away, I ignored the eye's feeble commands. 'Cease your hostile action! Alert! Alert! Intruder! Cease your hoo- styyyy-' Ahh, the sweet taste of victory. No more roaming eye to annoy me. While the AK had passed its test, it was one thing to battle probes. Quite another to take on black ICE with its own attack subroutines. That was a test I didn't want to take yet.'
Should you need to fight the enemies, you will find that you are greatly inconvenienced. Any hostile action, or being detected as an intruder, will raise an alarm, which means that all ICE in the system becomes hostile! Not only that, but once they find you, they will chase you around until they're destroyed or have destroyed you. Even if you kill them, they will respawn! There are two ways to deal with this. First, you can find the node where they spawn and deactivate it. Second, you can use a silence program before an alarm is raised, and destroy the ICE thus unable to alert the rest of the system. But this can be difficult, as you don't control when the silence program ends. Combat is further complicated by different types of ICE having different vulnerabilities, forcing you to use precious memory for different kinds of attack programs. As I said, it's easiest to hide.
'While searching for my contract goal, I came to a data store. Though I was looking for the controls for the company's security cameras, I couldn't let this opportunity pass. A quick command line and NodeSearch 1.2 was running. Finding several interesting files, I also launched GoldDigger and found that indeed several files had a significant market value. And some could be used for blackmail, no doubt. One file in particular looked promising. A giant, emerald green snake, looking like a reject from a Conan stim, lay curled around it, mouth open to swallow the file, wary eyes watching my every move. A self-destructing Tapeworm. It would erase itself and the file if tampered with. Not to worry, I had just the thing, WormKiller 1.2. With but a virtual press of a button, I scrambled that snake but good. With a great deal of satisfaction, I watched the snake writhe and scream soundlessly, swallowing itself from tail to head, vanishing with an imaginary 'pop'.'
Treasure rooms contain any number of data files that may or may not be valuable. For this purpose, you have programs that scan the files to sort the potential from the junk and ones that evaluate the potential files to find their worth. Once you know what's what, it's time to bypass the guardians and download the files. Sometimes, you'll need a third program, decrypt, to bypass ICE that guards individual files. As you can see, the number of programs start adding up, but data files not only typically contain your contract goal, but you can often make more money downloading data than you'll get paid for completing the contract.
'Score one for me! The snake had been guarding an experimental program somebody had been working on. A virus called RotWorms Mk1. This would be a very valuable addition to my deck. While a virus would work slower than the AK, I could implant the virus without the ICE noting it, and thus slowly elimiate it. I had been eyeing another virus program in Thrifty Electronics the other day, but couldn't afford it. Now I didn't have to!'
All that money will burn a hole in your pocket if you don't spend it. Thankfully, you can enter stores between contracts and buy both hardware and software to enhance your cyberdeck. There is a great deal of equipment to choose from, many of which give simple enhancements, but also very specialized programs to help you out in specific situations. Everything comes with a price though, both in money and space. Of course, if you're lucky, you can find programs and design plans for hardware inside the matrix and save some of that money.
'After my fortunate find, my luck just wouldn't stop. Shortly, I came upon the node I had been searching for. From here, it was as simple as deceiving the guardian set to keep intruders away, and deactivating the security cameras. Now, the rest of the job would be up to the wired street samurai and his friends, waiting out in the pale. What they did was none of my business. All I had to do was press a button and I'd be safe and sound back in my apartment. No physical risk to me. At least as long as I didn't pick a fight with black ICE. Time to collect the paycheck.'
Once you complete a contract, you're given your money as well as bonus points that you can spend on your personal skills. These are skills that help you inside cyberspace, typically by enhancing your different programs, such as skill at hiding or attacking. There are also skills that let you create your own programs or hardware, though these take a long time to use, so aren't recommended for beginners. After spending your money and skill points, it's time to find another contract.
'I was burning. The bugs had been chasing me through several nodes. It had been a simple enough contract right until three eyes converged on my position and bombarded me with queries. One wasn't satisfied with my manufactured passcode, and before I knew it, the entire system was on my back. This huge insect swarm had chased me down and kept stinging. My attacks had been inefficient, as they phased in and out of existence, avoiding my attacks only to strike back at me. I had been trying my best to put an end to the alarm, anything to complete the contract. But I had to face it, I wasn't going to make it. To make matters worse, an ICE designated Sherlock caught on to me in the last node. If it had completed a trace, I was done for. Time to jack out. Mr. Johnson would be pissed, but there would be other Johnsons. As everything went pale, I groaned. The bugs had battered my virtual self to the point where my brain had started to fry. In the distance I heard sirens. Maybe they were for me, maybe not. Regardless, I launched a last second program that would delete all trace of my having ever rented this place and took the two belongings I needed, stumbling out with the cyberdeck under my arm and the coffee cup in my coat pocket. Like I said, it was time to find a new place.'
When things go wrong, the enemies in the matrix can attack you physically or they can attempt to trace you. Attacks do physical damage which will take expensive time in the hospital to heal, while traces can end your game outright if you're reported to the police, so entering the matrix is not without risk. But you'll cope. You're a decker after all!
As you can gather, Decker is a game of short exploration missions, where you enter a virtual 'dungeon' to avoid or fight enemies while searching for treasure. In this respect it is a descendant of Rogue, the original dungeon exploration game. With rules lifted from the Shadowrun role-playing game, Decker is more futuristic in its setting, of course. I have been playing it on three computers with three different operating sytems, Windows 95, 98 and XP. It plays in small desktop windows, which may be annoying to some, but I find it rather convenient that I can have my mailbox open, listen to mp3s and play Decker at the same time.
Everything about Decker is much more simplistic than I make it out to be. Graphics are simple 2D icons, sound is limited to a few effects and there is no music. Commands are typically given through a combination of mouse and keyboard, and learning the shortcuts makes the game go much more smoothly. Special notice must be made of the well made, thorough help file that comes with the game.
In spite of its simplicity, Decker has its charm, not only in addiction value but in piquing the imagination, as you can see. It's hard not to play just one more mission, to find just one more program, move into the next lifestyle. Decker is good for a five minute, one mission game, or for spending a rainy day. Decker comes with my absolute recommendation.
Playability 6 / 6
Idea 4 / 6
Technical Implementation 3 / 6
Game Graphics 2 / 6
Game Musics 0 / 6
Game Extras 2 / 6
Overall Rating 5 / 6
Welcome to the 22nd century. In the game of Decker, you are a hacker who specializes in breaking into corporate computer systems, for which you are handsomely paid. Of course, these corporations don't idly sit by and allow you free run of their systems. The systems are guarded by Intrusion Countermeasure programs (ICE), which attempt to kick you out of the system, or possibly even kill you. The basic equipment of a Decker is the cyberdeck. This... (read more)
CWF Crew rating:
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