THE PROBLEM WITH HACKING IN IZ 3.0:
13 days ago
– Sat, Aug 01, 2020 at 12:08:41 AM
Hi everyone, just hopping in to talk about hacking. This is a long post, so here’s the TLDR version: Hacking sucks. It’s NOT SWADE, NOT FFF, and It’s been re-written yet again. Spoiler: The TAP is going away.
OK, for those of you who want to know more, let’s get to it.
Back in 2006 when we started work on Interface Zero, we wanted to produce a game that was cyberpunk, but NOT Shadowrun, so no Magic or meta-humanity (though we were digging the idea of gene splicing, and hybrids were born). Other concepts grew out of a desire to get out of the shadow of the monolith that is Shadowrun (We were fools for even thinking that we could). Decking, the Matrix, and computers built for the task are obviously not unique to Shadowrun (or CP2020 for that matter). If you don’t believe me, go read (or re-read as the case may be) William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy. But I’m getting off track.
We wanted something different. We looked at the various media that inspired us and went with a concept loosely based on both Minority Report and The Altered Carbon novels, a computer chip inside your head, part biological, part computer. Having one allowed you to interact with the world around you in interesting ways, especially with hacking. The concept was by no means original, but we felt there was room to explore and possibly develop it into a workable framework. Hyper Reality was simply what we imagined Augmented Reality would develop into over the course of decades, and that’s how the TAP and Hyper reality were born. Now, roughly thirteen years after the release of the True20 version, I’ve come to realize I should have cut that idea and went for a more analog solution because let me tell you, it’s caused nothing but pain.
Sometimes, a concept that is narratively cool (or at least mildly interesting) does not translate into a rules system—ANY rules system—and the Tendril Access Processor is a prime example of this. Having a computer inside your head that allows you to directly interface with anything and ANYONE around you is pretty neat—until you start writing rules for it. I confess I wrote none of the hacking mechanics for the True20 version, but I wrote almost all of them for all iterations of Savage Worlds. In my work, I tried to balance the Savage Worlds system with the Interface Zero setting, and it wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy.
Originally, we (the creators of IZ) saw the TAP and hacking in real time as a great way to keep the hacker with the group. We didn’t want to introduce a system where the hacker is off doing their own thing while the rest of the group sits around. We didn’t want to bog the game down like that. Well, guess what…it happened anyway (and no, the irony is not lost on me). The whole problem is that once you introduce a kind of technology that works like the TAP, there are tons of little questions that crop up. I’m not going to get into the gory details of all the discussions I’ve had with fans over the years, but suffice to say that in trying to answer those questions (legitimate or not) and at the same time stay true to the setting, I had to write more rules. I’m just talking about the Savage Worlds editions of IZ, mind you.
As an aside, I also suspect that some of the hardest questions and critiques came from people with a Shadowrun background…but I could just be paranoid there. *shrug* Regardless, instead of recognizing the problem was largely revolving around the Tendril Access Processor and how it worked, I just wrote more rules. I wrote them to answer my own questions. I wrote them to please people who wanted more crunch…but what I didn’t do, was write to just please myself.
In the Interface Zero 3.0 Kickstarter and the run-up to it, I talked about wanting to get back to an old-school type of cyberpunk. I started the work that way, but as with before, I fell into the trap of trying to answer too many questions, trying to please too many people, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
And please, let me be clear. The comments, questions and ESPECIALLY the critiques over the past year were (and are) all valid.
I’m now in the perfect situation of doing something about it before the book goes to it’s long-awaited printing. I still have other errata to fix, so this is just another one of those things.
So, no more TAP. It’s not a question of simply erasing it as if it never existed, though. See, I never finished the Charon story line. I purposely left it blank because I didn’t want to get into a “Deus Ex—Renraku Shutdown” situation, and until now, I frankly haven’t known what to do with that pesky AI…. But it’s still around in 2095, and now I have some clarity on the subject. It’s ridiculously simple, though I’m sure I’ll get hate for it (can’t please everyone). You’ll get to read exactly what happens in the revised edition (unless you’ve digitally burned your copies and professed your undying hatred of all things Gun Metal Games, that is).
Anyways, now, characters must have access to a computer system (either portable computer, or a desktop) in order to hack. Hacking is no longer something you can do to other people or their cybernetics, smart weapons, etc., because hey…No TAP. Hackers may still do things like hack a security camera, a sentry gun, or any other electronic device.
Hyper Reality still exists, but it’s really just a slightly enhanced for of the Augmented Reality tech we see now, and in movies where you see all of these digital holograms all over the place.
Here’s the nutshell hacking system.
Roll your hacking skill plus any bonuses provided by a program against a TN of 4, and any modifiers imposed by the Intrusion Defense System of the computer or device you are trying to hack. Succeed, and you’re in. Fail and you may try again. Crit Fail, and you are locked out. As an option, the Game Master can choose to require a dramatic task. Furthermore, how long it actually takes it completely up to the GM.
Once you’re in, you can manipulate the system in some way (I’ve added some basic guidelines in this section). Make a Hacking roll (again, add any bonuses you get from programs). If you succeed, you accomplish the task. Again, how long it takes is completely up to the GM.
If you fail, the IDS makes a Notice roll to detect your activity. If it does, it sounds an alarm and can either try to boot you from the system or launch malware. Force booting a character is easily accomplished by an Opposed Hacking roll. Fail the test and you’re out. Launching malware is as simple as making a Hacking roll.
That’s pretty much it. I already have programs written, and it’s simple enough to turn the TAP into a computer; I just need to cut out stuff like sprites, ranges(maybe) and a few other elements. I need to change up the edges as well.
I’m really trying to keep things as simple as possible, truly I am. That said, I know I’m going to get a ton of hate for this, precisely because the end-product is not as complex as people want it to be.
I can’t please everyone.
If you’re still reading this, Thanks for your time.
7/25/2020: Plans for the rest of 2020
19 days ago
– Sat, Jul 25, 2020 at 11:02:57 PM
Hi all, Lately I've seen a few questions about the status of Interface Zero, so instead of jumping around from post to post, I decided to answer them both here and on Facebook.
The GM's Guide is coming very soon. I'm partially doing layout and ordering art, and I'm also fixing/writing out a few final sections I felt needed to go in. Based on the current layout progress, I estimate this book is going to be close to 300 pages, so that's taking a bit more time than I like.
The Player's Guide needs errata fixed, and a few things added/subtracted.
Once these things are done and I start getting errata in for the GM's Guide I'll clean up errata as fast as humanly possible and then getting both books prepped for offset printing, and Print on Demand.
After that's done (and I can breathe and maybe get a few hours' sleep), I'll start work on the following:
1. Malmart Catalog
2. The solar system
3. The Europe/Russia/Asia source book.
4. Planning and writing for the "Dark Pathways/Divergences" Book.
5. Work on some other books for another system.
I also have plans for a kickstarter in October/November while I'm waiting for the Offset print books/GM screen and cards to arrive so I can start shipping everything.
So, that's my company plan for the rest of 2020. If you have any questions please feel free to ask!