Part 14: You know what really grinds my circuits?You know what really grinds my circuits?
Did I mention my capacity for grinding is absurd? I set a goal for myself for this grind session, which was supposed to be, like, two days after the last update. I decided to fuck that goal and keep grinding until this happened:
That's right, we've got a skill rating of 15 in both Attack and Defense. Why? Mostly to make up for the fact that hardware and software lag so far behind. Experienced Hacker isn't the highest reputation at this lifestyle level, but it's the highest I've been during the whole grind.
Here is an assortment of highlights and new things that happened, in no particular order:
Competent Hacker is the next rep level after moving out of the box. If your reputation is maxed by the time you upgrade your lifestyle, it only takes one or two successful missions to raise your rep.
When you find programs or source code on servers, the rating is determined by the server rating with some variation. This means we're actually going to get some good use out of stealing programs rather than buying them. Unfortunately, hardware source code is hard to come by, so we're still going to have to buy our hardware upgrades.
Speaking of which, I dropped a big chunk of nuyen on an Attack 9 chip. Sure, it's only an improvement from 5 to 6 with our current CPU, but now our Attack is future-proofed for a while.
Holy fucking shit this is awesome. Area attack may do reduced damage, but the fact that it hits everything in the node more than makes up for it. Especially if a red alert triggers and you get swarmed. This is our default attack program from now on.
Experienced Hacker comes after Competent Hacker. Also, contracts with multiple targets pay a ton in nuyen and skill points.
At one point, once, I saw our first Hardened IC. Fortunately, we had stolen a Piercing Attack 4 or 6 program at one point, so I just loaded that in as a swap to kill it.
Here's an example of a timed mission. Timed missions are hard for stealthy characters and ball-bustingly hard for combat characters. 180 actions may seem like a lot, but when you figure out all the turns spent scanning every file in every datastore, and remember that by now every server has multiple levels, it's quite short.
I had a weird bug with this mission, where this one objective flag never updated. It didn't even recognize that I found the contract file; it calls it file ??? despite the very next line demonstrating that I did identify the file (by scanning it).
The proximity mapper is a nice upgrade that basically extends what you see on your mini-map. It's very handy for finding certain types of nodes quickly, but by no means mandatory to have.
As you can see on the minimap here, the proximity mapper identifies nodes within 2 junctions of you, instead of just 1.
I'm rather surprised that Cross Applied Technologies, or CATco for short, is only a rating 7 server. In the 3rd edition timeline (during which this game was made), CATco is one of the Big Ten, a AAA-rated megacorp with a seat on the Corporate Council.
In case I forgot to mention, being dumped by now actually hurts. I wasn't paying attention and, after some failed runs, put myself in real danger of death by meatbod damage. That's never a good idea, as the length of time it takes to heal increases dramatically as your health fails. With 95% health, you can rest at home for just a day or two to get back to 100%. From here at 35%, it took over two months.
Finally, my first and only successful attempt at a timed run. The only reason I was successful is that it's a Run Program mission. I just loaded and ran the program from the starting portal node to identify the target node, murdered my way there, and ran the program again. Once it finished, I immediately jacked out, because by then I was surrounded by hostile IC.
To reiterate, this is my current state. At this point, I can consistently perform missions on rating 7 and 8 servers, unless they're marked N for no alarms. Silence and Smoke last a single turn when they do work, and even Analyze takes half a dozen tries before it gives a result. That's the life of a combat monster, sadly. So once again, I leave you with a vote on how much I grind before we leave our apartment:
Option A - Rent Receipts are for Losers: we've got enough money to make the jump to middle class. Why not let our income work for us and start putting equity into a small house or condo? Sure, there's something to be said for hacking into corporate giants from our one-room apartment, but the cat lady next door and the trigger-happy landlord aren't as romantic a picture.
Option B - We Aren't Famous Enough: sure we're an experienced hacker, but are we the BEST hacker (given a one-room apartment)? Frag no. Moving out won't bring us any closer to having ladies over - yet. But until that day comes, we can stick it out right here.
Option C - We Aren't Good Enough: who are we kidding, we can barely make our way through basic rating 8 servers. And yeah, 15 is a nice number for our attack and defense, but isn't 20 so much nicer and rounder? Our hardware isn't even rating 10 yet, for Ghost's sake! We were fools to leave the box, and we're sure as hell not leaving our apartment until the very last possible moment!