I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of a hacker (or cracker – whatever you prefer to call them) game. Uplink seemed to do this quite nicely, though I haven’t actually played it more than just playing around with the demo.
Now imagine that you use the hacker theme for a puzzle/turn based strategy game (TBS). I’m thinking about breaking into systems and planting malicious code represented visually by models and levels – more like Tron than Uplink.
You are a hacker who gets missions from different shady employers. The missions could be to bring down a system by planting virii in it, install a program to tap information or perhaps seize control over a system.
The game is divided into different levels of gameplay/strategy inspired by games like UFO, X-COM and Syndicate. The world map is where you’ll receive your missions. Here you can view your base (your apartment/computers), make new code snippets (the classic research element), upgrade your system or perhaps even buy extra computers.
To complete a mission you’ll need a couple of tools – malicious code and hacking tools. These are tools which you’ll have to spend time on upgrading, much like researching in the UFO-games. Some factors might make it easier to research faster – new hardware or software, or perhaps coffee!
From here you’ll have to either hack into and/or plant a virus in another computer – depending on the mission. Consider this part as troop deployment, the snippets of malicious code are your troops and you’ll have to get them into the computer you’re taking over. Once they’re in, you can start moving them around real-time.
This is a risky process and you might get caught while trying to do this. Perhaps your target computer is running a routine virus check or perhaps even one started by the system admin because there was something fishy about the systems behavior. The scan is represented by an area sweep which is tricky to dodge – but if the code is encrypted (an upgrade) it’s easier to pass the scan.
The game mode will switch to turn-based the moment the scan or an enemy detects your malicious code. This is a bit like how battles are handled in Fallout. You’ve got action points and the order in which you act depends on your initiative (only that it’s called thread priority in this game).
The enemies are anti virus programs and decoy files spread throughout the level. Fighting them could be done as a “normal” battle – either close combat or ranged – or it could be more of a chess-type game where each models movement characteristics play an important role. This should be combined with other code characteristics like for instance encryption (for stealth) or multithreading (for increased action points).