Why Haven't They Made This?

Why Haven't They Made This?
Someday, I'll Hack the Gibson

Joe Blancato | 4 Oct 2005 12:04
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Imagine a massive version of Uplink. Hundreds or thousands of hackers moving around a virtual cyberspace, working with and against each other to steal money from banks, engineer viruses and anti-virus programs, or create an organized crime syndicate. Everyone works together to remain just a few steps ahead of the law enforcement capable of killing your online persona with a search warrant. Players could communicate via a souped-up version of IRC and instant messaging programs while they worked. "Younger" hackers could organize diversions while their mentors run through a large network. Currency moves around at light speed, but all that really matters is your credibility.

But that's not what would make a massive version of Uplink so engaging. Uplink's nuance was in the details. There were "shadows" of other hackers everywhere. You had to chase fictional enemies around the internet, follow logs or locate a guy's house. With hundreds of people online, that latticework just explodes with activity. You're chasing someone who's chasing your buddy who's chasing someone who's chasing you. On top of that, your epic Hack of Hacks could be completely ruined by some newbie dinking around in a network three hops behind you. One log file edited incorrectly by a guy you've never met may result in your untimely incarceration.

And that's where an online Uplink could pave all kinds of new ground. Players, through direct competition, could shape the world in any number of ways, while the world remains completely cogent. It has the potential to be the holy grail of game design: Players will have the keys to the car, but they won't be able to crash it into a tree five miles out of the garage, because the mayhem still occurs on the rails of the game's design.

Introversion are the type of guys with the vision to pull it off, too. Now, they just need the investors, which have to this point eluded them. And that's why Uplink was single player. It was a garage band effort that managed to be the best game of 2001, and even their second release, Darwinia (which has yet to secure a publisher), pushes more envelopes than you can count. But until investors feel comfortable enough to take risks again, chasing holy grails is going to have to take a back seat to cost-benefit analyses and cold, hard cash.

Uplink is a platinum mine while everyone is still panning for gold. It's only a matter of time before someone realizes what Introversion is sitting on, and that's when you and I can team up to hack the Gibson - as long as you give me my 60%.

Joe Blancato is a Contributing Editor for The Escapist Magazine, in addition to being the Founder of waterthread.org.

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