In Neocron 2, a hacker is anyone who uses electronics and skill to open things they weren't supposed to open, or to go places they weren't supposed to go. You use the same basic tool for all of this, the Cryton HT-TL30 Hacktool. (There are other, more expensive models of hack tools. They were meant to be used in a part of the game that was never implemented, and they convey no advantage. Ignore them.) A hacktool is a wrist-mounted computer, presumably with some kind of electronic probes for outputs (although they're not shown). To wear it, you put it in one of the slots in your Quickbar. To use it, you press the number key for that Quickbar slot, and "fire" it at the thing you want to hack.
When you start out, with only a little bit of the Hacking subskill (under the Intelligence main skill), you can mostly only pick electronic locks. This will let you enter secure parts of hunting areas, and let you steal equipment from locked storage boxes. You can also hack the genetic replicator system so that instead of reassembling you at the destination point, your software representation "wakes up" inside cyberspace, in a place called HackNet, with its own destinations, uses, and enemies. As you rise in skill in Hacking (and Tech Combat), you can add software modules to your hacktool to let you engage in combat with intrusion countermeasures software, enemy software viruses, and enemy runners inside Hacknet. As your skill continues to rise, you gain the ability to help your clan by hacking outpost security terminals in the Wastelands, converting the control of those outposts to your clan. And eventually, you get good enough at hacking to be able to use your hacktool to crack open the dropped equipment belts that runners leave behind when they're killed if they don't have a Law Enforcement chip installed in their brain.
THE BASIC PUZZLE
The basic interface for hacking, the starting place for all hacks, is the hacking puzzle. This represents a computerized lock. Down the center are a row of tumbling letters and numbers, representing tumblers in the lock. On the left are your electronic probes. Use your up and down arrow keys to select a probe to light up, and then click the right mouse button to activate that circuit. If you picked the right circuit, it will activate one or more of the tumblers in the center of the hacking screen. Then the computerized lock will use its defensive probes to attempt to solve its side of the puzzle, in an attempt to cancel out your probes.
The number of probes you get is determined by your Hacking skill; more skill equals more probes. The difficulty of the puzzle is based on the difference between your Hacking skill and the difficulty rating of the lock. If you have a much higher skill, you'll get a trivially easy puzzle. If the lock has a much higher rating, you'll get an impossible puzzle. The puzzles are somewhat random, though, so it's worth trying a couple of times if the difficulty is at all close, if you could have almost solved that last puzzle. Each time you fail at hacking a lock, your character will receive a small electrical shock.
How do you know which inputs to pick? Between your probes and the tumblers are a series of circuits, or pathways. They are connected, or terminated, by four different symbols, called gates. They're called the and gate, the or gate, the not gate, and the terminator:
Where you see an "and" gate, you have to light up all of the inputs to get the output to light up. Where you see an "or" gate, lighting up any of the inputs will cause the output to light up. You won't see very many "not" gates on your side of the screen (unless you're way, way over your head); they invert the signal and turn it into one that helps the other side. And a terminator, as you might expect from the fact that the trace doesn't go anywhere, stops the signal cold.
The puzzle will continue for 30 seconds, or until both sides have used up all of their probes, whichever comes first. If at the end of that time you have at least 11 tumblers lit, you win, and the lock will be unlocked. You'll be able to tell if you get more than 11. Each time you light up a tumbler, one of the asterisks in the lower-right edge of the puzzle will light up. The ones you have to have are bold-faced. If you have any non-bold-faced asterisks lit, it means you have 12 or more tumblers lit.
Since you will probably never have 11 probes, what you obviously want to do is to find places where "or" gates cascade, or at the very least where you can light up as many things as possible with as few "and" gates as possible. In a normal difficulty puzzle, there will almost always be places on your side of the screen where a single probe will light up 3 or 4 tumblers.
The lock always uses its probes to respond to yours. And it moves much slower than you do. So if you start by lighting up tumblers at the bottom, you can force the lock to waste time moving its cursor to the bottom. On the other hand, if you have way more probes than you need for this puzzle, you can often force it to use up its probes early by lighting up exactly the right number of tumblers at the top of the puzzle; this will get you out of hacking much quicker. That can be important, because ...
WHILE YOU ARE HACKING, YOU ARE BLIND AND DEAF. For that 10 to 30 seconds, you can not receive chat messages (unless you're using an external voice chat program like TeamSpeak or Ventrillo). You will not see your usual health bar. You will not hear gunshots fired near you, nor will you hear them hitting you. Make sure that your environment is safe, or that some field medic is covering your back, before you engage a hacktool, or some sniper will wait for just that moment to blow you to kingdom come.
WHAT IS THERE TO HACK?
Access Code Interfaces: Scattered throughout the world are various Access Logins that you can hack to gain entrance to an area 'locked' by the Access Login. Successfully hacking one of these will usually result in a nearby door opening for a small period of time. Sewers, Outzones, and other areas all over the Neocron world have these small interfaces. If you see one, give it a try and pay attention to what happens around you afterwards.
Supply Boxes: Also found throughout the world are various small metal boxes, they look a lot like toolboxes, called Supply Boxes. About every 15 minutes, if there is at least one player in the zone, the boxes refill with a certain kind of loot. The boxes used to tell you what kind of loot, but that lead to the most valuable and easy-to-get-to ones being "camped" and fought over 24 hours a day. Now, it's a bit of a search, and every hacker has his or her own list of favorite Supply Boxes. As a rule of thumb, nearly every box that contains valuable items is in a dangerous environment. But not always, so it's always worth checking a Supply Box a couple of times to see what it spawns.
In particular, there are locked Supply Boxes at the end of all Dome of York Storage Areas and Bunkers. In Neocron City, there are low level locked Supply Boxes in the level 1 and 2 sewers, and at the ends of the Outzone Storage Areas. In the Military Base, they're in rooms inside the Storage areas. You can also find them at the far end of many Wastelands underground areas.
Here are the known kinds of Supply Boxes, and about how much Hacking (HCK) skill it takes to open one:
- Basic Supply Boxes: The same stuff that's in Rotten Boxes, plus occasional medical supplies. About 20 to 30 HCK.
- Light Weapon Boxes: Low-TL pistols and melee weapons, mostly. Sometimes junk, though, so they can fool you. About 30 to 50 HCK.
- Light Armor Boxes: The sweet spot, if you can find them; easy to hack, valuable stuff - a random selection from anything sold by basic armor vendors. About 50 to 60 HCK.
- Psi Boxes: I don't know if these still exist, but if they do they drop random level 1 or 2 psi weapons. About 80 to 90 skill.
- Heavy Weapon Boxes: Higher TL weapons, especially cannons. Around 120 to 140 HCK.
- Heavy Armor Boxes: Power armor and rare armor. I've never managed to open one, and haven't even found any yet, but I remember them taking about 160 or more in HCK.
Warbots, Mad Copbots, and Other Bots: Warbots are actually first-generation power armor suits, basically battlemechs, left over from two wars ago. Their pilots died with the suit on autopilot and auto-defense. Animals in the wastelands disturb the dirt in old battlefields and dig them up all the time. Once you "kill" one, about 55 to 90 HCK (depending on the model) is enough to open the operator compartment and steal any spart parts or valuables on board. Mad Copbots and Amok Copbots are Copbot cyborgs who've been driven insane; about 30 or 40 HCK is enough to unlock the armor on one's corpse and loot them. There are also a few other robots and/or cyborgs that can't be looted until they're hacked. This makes a little bit of hacking a very valuable skill, because Warbots are among the easiest sources of the rare parts that are needed to build the most valuable weapons in the game.
Outpost Security Generators: Each Wastelands outpost has a terminal somewhere that controls the security settings for the outpost, including who owns it. To defeat that, three different hackers with about 140 to 150 or more in HCK have to take turns getting to that terminal and defeating the lock on it. Then and only then can a fourth hacker (or one of the first two) enter Hacknet and convert the outpost to their clan. I'll cover this in more detail in a later guide to outposts.
Dropped Equipment Belts: If a person without an LE chip dies, they usually leave behind a locked equipment belt. How much stuff is in it, and what stuff, is determined by their soul-light. A person with positive (green) soul-light drops one item. A person with a soul light below zero but above minus 16 (yellow) drops 2 items, I think. A person whose soul-light is between -16 and -32 (red) drops 3 items. Below -32, it's five items. To encourage combat in war zones (zones that contain outposts), you drop one less item in a warzone than you otherwise would, so if your soul-light is green then you won't drop anything in a war zone. The item(s) to be dropped are chosen at random from the ten most valuable weapons, pieces of armor, unimplanted but carried implants, or pieces of loot that you're carrying. (Construction, Research, Recycling, Salvage, self Implant, and regular Repair tools never drop.) If you have positive (green) soul-light, this will never include the item in your "safe slot," item one on your Quickbar, as represented by the padlock next to it.
You can always open your own equipment belts, or (if you don't have an LE yourself) those of anybody that you're teamed with. To open any other dropped equipment belt, you must first unlock it. To do so, you can't have an LE installed yourself, and you must defeat the lock. At 100 soul light, this takes somewhere around 180 to 200 HCK; very few people can open a level 100 belt. At -32, though, it's as low as 90 or 100 HCK.
Gene Replicators & Security Logins:: Hacking a GR or Security Login will bring in you into the world of Hacknet, outlined below.
It only takes about 25 points in Hacking (HCK) to enter Hacknet. (Note: None of this applies to Tanks. Tanks can't enter Hacknet, period.) To do so, "fire" your hack tool at any genetic replicator, and defeat a difficulty 25 very easy lock. Instead of being asked to select a destination, you will be dematerialized and your pattern will "wake up" inside Hacknet. In appearance, Hacknet can best be described as sort of like a cross between Tron and The Matrix. Scrolling datastreams cascade from higher security to lower, the default direction of gravity in Hacknet. Fixed position datapaths lead to various parts of the network, via gates. Up and down datastreams move you between paths of various heights. Scattered on and around the paths are various 3D icons for software programs running in that part of Hacknet. Some are benign, others aren't.
You move around in Hacknet by running or walking on the paths, or by using the more solid up/down datastreams the way you use gravlifts in the outside world. Warning: There are no protective walls, either on the sides of the paths or around the gravlifts. Falls can and will hurt or kill you. (Falling off of the datapath is supposed to kill you, but that part wasn't implemented right. When Reakktor threated to do so, people screamed bloody murder and they've backed off for now. To get back onto the datapaths, use the /set reset_position 1 command and wait 2 minutes.) To pass through a gate, right-click on it.
Except in one special case that will be covered in the outpost guide, you will always, and I mean always, appear inside the Domain Name Server (DNS) for your faction's part of your city's mainframe computer network. This is true no matter which genrep you hack. Above you are the various increasingly secure database sectors of your faction's network. Behind and below you is the firewall (path) that leads to the city mainframe. From the city mainframe, you can go through your city's other faction firewalls to get to their DNSes.
Each DNS contains gates to three hunting areas called Infected Storage 1 through 3. As a beginning combat hacker, Infected Storage 1 will be the best place for you to start leveling up. As of patch 130, Infected Storage 2 and 3 are much more dangerous than they're supposed to be; this is scheduled to be fixed in a later patch. Each DNS also has a gate to a Database, which at present isn't used for anything. Each DNS also has a Logout gate, and this is how you get out of Hacknet: go to any faction DNS (or outpost DNS) and pass through the Logout gate, and you'll appear at that genrep.
Above the DNS you'll pass through three levels of firewall, intended to kill off Hacknet runners from enemy factions. If you keep going up, you'll eventually end up in a sector called Highest Security Database. This is protected by level 60 Intrusion Countermeasures, and contains four cone-shaped software icons that dispense blueprints for the faction's most carefully guarded secret equipment. To access your own, all you need to do is carry up enough high-capacity datacubes (bought from any faction supply manager) and right-click on the cone-shaped database icons. To access any allied or neutral faction's database, you travel there in safety and then fire a one-shot weapon called a Codebreaker at it. (Codebreakers are built by higher level recycler characters from code fragments looted from intrusion countermeasures software in enemy DNSes.) Each Codebreaker will let you download one blueprint. To get a blueprint from an enemy highest security database, you have to survive the dangerous journey all the way across Hacknet to there, survive passing through all the firewalls, defeat the counter-measures in the the database sector in combat, and then use your Codebreaker(s).
Each city's mainframe is (as of patch 130) nothing more than a set of paths connecting the city's faction DNSes to each other, and to the outbound Travel Link. Almost all of the public genetic replicators in the world are connected by a series of Travel Links. These travel links are very hazardous to an unarmed, inexperienced, ill-equipped runner. Each one contains about 16 level 60 and up hostile software programs that are determined to keep all runners from getting by them. The farther you get from a city, the higher level the hostile software is.
As of this patch (130), the level 60 software isn't actually as dangerous as it's supposed to be. This makes this a good place for a Hacknet combat hacker to level up after the level 1 infected storage areas.
You can find a pair of maps of all of the travel links here on nc.syn. The first one is the logical map, which explains the overall flow of data through Hacknet. The second one is a geographic map, to help you visualize which outposts are easiest to travel to from each city.
Finally, there are the Hacknet stand-alone systems. In Neocron City, they are in the Plaza, Via Roso, and Pepper Park sectors. They are also found in all 10 Dome of York sectors. There are three per sector: low, medium, and high security. Each one is a stand-alone computer system that presumably has something to do with the operation of equipment in that sector. At the far end of each one is a database that dispenses rare code fragments. In the future, those rare code fragments will be used to build a new class of rare weapons that have not yet been implemented. As of patch 130, not only are the weapons not implemented and one of the fragments unavailable, but the Hacknet levels are very poorly designed; nearly everyone gets insta-killed as soon as they step in. The low security ones were meant to be useful as leveling areas for starting characters, but they're just barely completable by mid-level characters. The medium security ones can be done, with some caution and a few failures, by capped Hacknet combat characters. The high security ones are death traps. This is scheduled to be fixed in a near-future patch.
Hackers are supposed to start with two plug-in software modules for their Hacktool:
* HEW Attack Software V0.01 (Requirements: INT 3, HCK 7, T-C 3)
* Cryton Regeneration Software V0.05 (Requirements: INT 3, HCK 7)
As of patch 130, this is broken. Find a player character constructor to build you one of each. This will have to be someone doing you a favor, because there's no way that you, as a starting character, can afford to pay them for it. Still, most people understand that you got screwed, so if you can find someone from your own faction who's got the software available to copy, they'll probably hook you up for free. Or at least, I'd like to think they will. (This should be fixed in patch 131.)
To use these, put them on your Quickbar. Select them like any other weapons. Fire the attack software at hostile software to damage it. (Warning: Almost everything in Hacknet has longer range than you do. Especially at first. If nothing happens, it means you're probably out of range.) To heal up, fire the Regeneration software at nothing in particular. Eventually, you'll gain the ability to use Defense software that, while it's running, will partially shield you from attack by other software, including other runners.
Every time you use a piece of software inside Hacknet, you'll use up a certain amount of Hacknet energy. This refreshes pretty quickly. If it doesn't refresh quickly enough, you can buy special one-shot pieces of software (boosters) that work just like psi boosters or stamina boosters to almost-instantly refresh your Hacknet energy.
The stores also carry what's called Multilink software. Multilink attack is supposed to attack multiple targets at once. Multilink regeneration is supposed to heal all runners near you. Multilink defense is supposed to run the defense software on every runner near you. As of patch 130, none of these work, so don't use them. They do the same thing that the regular versions do, but slower and they use more energy to do it.
You buy (crappy, store-bought, poor 40% quality versions of) Hacknet software and add-ons from HEW, which can be found in Via Rosso sector 3 in Neocron City and in the Main Retail Area of the Military Base. There is also a non-player character smuggler named Coder in the Fallen Angels sector (sector 3) of the Dome of York who sells the same items. You should not use these store-bought software weapons. You should take them to player character scientists and engineers and get them rebuilt, just like any other weapon.
HACKER CHARACTERS AND STATS
Equipment: Other than your Hacktool, and the Hacknet software, none. Implants don't work in Hacknet. Armor is worse than useless. Not only does your armor not protect you in Hacknet, but (as of patch 130) it still degrades in condition every time you get hit.
Outside of Hacknet, there are many implants that boost your Hacking (HCK) skill. For brain implants, there are the Hacking CPU 1 through 3, the Special Forces CPU, and (rarest of all) the MC5 Synaptic Accelerator. The Smart Cybereye series of eye implants boost HCK. So do the Advanced Nerves spine implants. There is also one drug that boosts Hacking skill for 3 minutes: Dolinskin, a perfectly legal "+4 drug" that temporarily gives you +12 HCK (among other effects).
Strength Skills: No STR skills affect hacking in any way.
PSI Skills: No PSI skills affect hacking in any way, directly. However, the Passive Psi weapon "Spy Skillbooster," level 1 to 3, gives a temporary boost of 5, 10, or 20 points to the Hacking skill. This buff will continue running inside Hacknet. However, the buff can not be re-cast inside Hacknet, so when it runs out, you don't get the benefit again until you leave Hacknet.
Constitution Skills: Inside HackNet, your hit points are based in large part on your Health (HLT) skill; if you don't have at least 60 in this, you're tempting fate. Your running speed will be the exact same as it is outside, so it will be heavily dependent on your Athletics (ATH), which should probably be at least 25 eventually. Your stamina inside HackNet will be heavily dependent on your Endurance (END) skill, but the opinion of nearly all the hackers I've spoken with is that you'll spend enough time not running, for example in vertical datastreams, that you'll never run out of stamina anyway. I'm dubious about this, and besides, you'll need to do some running outside sooner or later, so you probably want at least a few points in this. If you're going to be a pure Hacknet combat hacker, then all, and I mean all, of the rest of your points should be split beween Resist Energy (ENR) and Resist X-ray (XRR), because all combat damage in Hacknet is split 50/50 beween energy and xray.
Intelligence Skills: No skill matters other than Hacking (HCK). 25 to 35 points in HCK will let you retrieve your own faction's blueprints from Hacknet, and use Hacknet to return home for free and without synaptic impairment (unless you're a Tank). About 50 is a good place to start with Hacknet combat, but only against the lowest level software. About 55 to 75 will let you hack Supply Boxes up through light armor and robots up through the Warbot Titan. 95 is enough to (barely) run the level 3 defense and regeneration software inside Hacknet, which will let you travel the level 1 and 2 Travel Links in near perfect safety. About 130 to 150 is enough to hack outposts. It may take you up to about 180 in HCK to pop the most difficult dropped equipment belts. There is no such thing as enough HCK for Hacknet combat. It will take all of your INT points to cap the damage on the level 3 Hacknet software.
Dexterity Skills: Running speed inside Hacknet is the same as it is outside, so your Agility (AGL) will be somewhat important, and if you don't have at least 25 in it you'll regret it. For no readily explicable reason, the Remote Control weapons skill (RCL) contributes slightly to your skill with lockpicking (but not enough to matter if you're a Hacknet hacker). If you are a Hacknet combat hacker, then all of the rest of your points need to go into Tech Combat (T-C). There is no such thing as enough T-C for Hacknet combat. Hacking is more like droning, and not at all like using rifles or pistols or cannons or psi weapons. The secondary T-C requirement is not just a requirement, but an actual skill, and to cap effectiveness you will need to raise it far, far above that minimum.
Character Class: Since implants don't work inside Hacknet, a private eye hacker is crippled by his limit of 60 INT, which will keep him or her from being able to use any of the level 3 software. That's a crippling limitation. In theory a psi monk would make a perfectly good hacker. But if you do, you'll find yourself pretty limited inside Hacknet by the low upper limit on your Tech Combat skill, and pretty frustrated by how slowly DEX increases on a psi monk. A capped tank can spare enough INT points to hack simple locks and loot Warbots, and that's why lots of capped tanks have 50 or more HCK, but that's all they can do. No, the perfect hacker, and the only class that has any business being a pure Hacknet combat hacker, is the spy.