Today, I got the combat system for No Crypto for Old Men working. I’m really happy with it. Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge):
Here, the purple blocks are ICE. The player has hammered his way through a block of ICE and it has fallen (the gray block), and he has continued past it to get to a valuable data store beyond. On the right, you can see the console commands used to defeat and see the way past the broken remnants of the ICE.
The game includes a modular combat system that lets me easily define the criteria which causes the ICE to fall in the game. I can basically combine one or more “rules” for when ICE falls, and if the player ever meets those criteria, the way forward is opened.
Mechanically, you have a small list of terminal commands you can type to perform various actions. For instance, in the screenshot above, you can type HAMMER 4 to spawn four Hammer workers which attack a nearby ICE block with buffer overruns. This particular block of ICE has to be overcome multiple times, because it keeps rebooting itself when it detects anomalies, so the player does it a few times. This requirement for more-robust-than-usual ICE was easily defined by the modular system to simply use the regular Hammer requirement three times.
The richness of the game will come from having an interesting mix of different ICE to attack. Luckily, there’s an in-game wiki that players can reference which collects all the known information on the back doors in these systems. In the fictive game world, all cryptography is required to have back doors installed, so naturally, word gets out quickly on how to defeat these systems, and it is soon available to every malcontent and troublemaker looking to take data that’s not theirs. Players will be able to look up the different makes and models of ICE blocks they encounter in the wiki to help them figure out how to defeat them. Some will be straightforward, some will be complicated, but hopefully, they will, taken together, really convey that feeling of being a clever hacker, clacking away at enemy servers and watching them fall like dominoes.