Monday, November 28, 2022

BloodNet: Metaphysical Streets of the Physical Town

It's not hard to imagine there's no heaven.
         
Ransom Stark is a vampire, slowly losing his humanity to his bloodlust. He wants to cure his condition and get revenge on the vampire lord who gave it to him: Abraham Van Helsing. As a bonus, Van Helsing is on the board of Stark's former employer, the totalitarian TransTech, which seeks to control both regular space and cyberspace. Somewhere along the line, Stark hopes to rescue his friend, Deidre Tackett, who created the neural implant that saved Stark's life. She appears to have been kidnapped by Van Helsing. Stark keeps meeting other people who hate TransTech and/or who want to kill vampires, but he's having a tough time actually accomplishing anything for them.
    
As this session begins, I take stock of my open quests and leads. This is the type of game where you want to do this frequently:
    
  • I'm still a vampire. I have no specific leads to cure that.
  • Van Helsing is still alive. I haven't tried returning to his penthouse. Maybe I could just bring the fight to him?
       
Spoiler: This is a bad idea.
     
  • Deidre is still missing. Her followers, the Lost Kids, are somewhere in cyberspace, protecting a hacking program called Incubus from discovery by TransTech. "Someone must find them in cyberspace before Van Helsing does," Deidre's journal said.
  • I previously visited the Flux Riders, and the leader wouldn't talk to me because I had a cyborg named Nimrod in the party. Now that Nimrod is gone, I should try again.
  • Vampires are killing people in Central Park. A nun named Mother Mary may be able to help me stop them. She wants me to meet her at St. Patrick's.
  • Cyril Thorpe can help me overcome obstacles if I place a material object belonging to "whoever is at the root of the difficulty" by his body.
  • The Kafka Conspiracy, a gang on West 23rd, wants to meet with me.
  • Rymma Fizz, one of my companions, wants us to swing by Electric Anarchy and pick up her husband, Garrick. Electric Anarchy may have some information about vampires.
  • I've got several pieces of Charlie Flyer's mind, found in cyberspace, but no quest to go with them.
  • Sabaccatus St. Aubens, leader of the Autonomy Dogs, wants me to kill the leader of the Hard Metals. I'm not sure I want to do that, as St. Aubens is a racist jerk. I could at least visit the Hard Metals, though.
  • I have the consciousness of a hacker named Elvis in my decking unit. He's looking for a cyborg body. I do have some cyborg parts.
  • A hacker named Paula DiMigglio asked for help freeing her friend Banks Verbatim, from a TransTech "data cage." I'll need a data cage key from TransTech's headquarters. See the next item.
  • Kimba West, "mayor" of the Central Park shanty town, wants some fiber-optic cable from TransTech's headquarters. I need a security badge before I can finish my burglary there.
  • A girl in Central Park wants Psilo Blossom. I don't know where to get it.
  • I need a toolkit so I can start building things.
  • A bunch of modern-day knights inhabit the Cloisters in north Manhattan. I'm able to visit some of them if I put on some makeup first. One of them, Sir Helveticus, wants me to find his younger brother.
      
Yikes. In addition to all of this: I'm carrying way too much stuff. I decide to tackle that one first. I start clicking on triangles across the city until I find something promising: "Vince's Munition Emporium" on East 96th Street. It's exactly what I needed. For the first time, I'm in something that looks like a proper CRPG buying/selling screen. Not only do I get rid of a bunch of stuff, I'm able to buy an extra vial of Instapigment, and a jury rig toolkit. 
   
With the toolkit, I'm able to consolidate even more space by assembling a flame thrower. (You know you're a CRPG veteran when the thing you're most excited about upon acquiring a flame thrower is that it's now taking up only one inventory slot instead of four.) It needs jellied gas to run, but I have some of that. I'll probably save it for special occasions.
         
Just like Santa Claus.
      
That leaves me with 16 quests. Approaching the list organically, I still think raiding TransTech's headquarters takes priority. But where am I going to get a TransTech security badge? I guess I could start with people who hate them. That means checking out the Kafka Conspiracy and/or Electric Anarchy. I go with the Conspiracy first and head to their place in Chelsea.
    
Like everyone else, the Conspiracy members are hanging out on a street corner. I speak to the leader, Coover Tristan, who is fond of quoting famous poets and writers, including Walt Whitman, e. e. cummings, Roland Barthes, and my third-favorite poet, Wallace Stevens. (To answer the obvious question: Pablo Neruda and T. S. Eliot.) Tristan explains that the group is targeting TransTech's infrastructure. He won't tell me any of the group's secrets or offer any help unless I bring them a multichannel transmitter from a group of pirates on 96th Street called the Icon Robbers. Moreover, he wants me to steal it stealthily, with no violence. Instead of solving a quest, I got yet another one. 
         
Call the roller of big cigars.
     
Another Conspiracy member, Chrysalis, tells me a "tale that is told in cybercircles of late." It's clearly about Tackett's Lost Kids. Apparently, four of them entered cyberspace permanently, but a fifth stayed behind to destroy their bodies. "He waits for you, Stark," she says, without offering any information about how to find him. A cyborg member named Words Blanque offers nothing helpful, but I note with amusement his unique dialogue, which has him defining random terms in the middle of his sentences.
   
I head up to Electric Anarchy in the Bronx. There are a bunch of them. Phracktle K. Oss offers to pay me $10,000 to assassinate the security director of TransTech at their headquarters. He probably has a badge, but I need to get into the building first, so that's no help. Phree Thaught wants a Dragon Soul Box; she promises "a phreaky way to get rid of TransTech pigs"--specifically, a powerful sleeping gas. Auntie Matter offers to trade a powerful weapon called a Wrath Ray for . . . a TransTech security badge. But of course she has no idea where to get one. Garrick Fizz, Rymma's husband, joins my group.
    
Having accomplished nothing but adding more quests to my list, I settle on a new strategy: systematic exploration. I'm already at the top of Manhattan. TransTech's headquarters is at the bottom of the map. I start working my way down. In order, I try:
   
  • Van Helsing's Penthouse on West 125th Street. Some vampire named Anastasia congratulates my boldness on walking "right into the lion's den." She attacks with what I'm guessing is one other vampire (since I can't kill him) and three non-vampires. My party makes short work of them, but every time one of the vampires gets down to 0 hit points, they rebound with half their health. I reload and try equipping stakes first, but I hardly ever hit with them. Bottom line: I need more tools and experience fighting vampires--maybe one of the knights' soul blades--before I can prevail here.
  • The Cybersurgery Group on East 125th Street. A freaky lab. A guy named Steve Austin (ho, ho) offers "cut rates" on cybergenetic limb attachments. I have options to get the Ude Utsukushi 66 arm, an ocular implant, and an aural implant attached. I decline for now, as his "reasonable rates" are in the tens of thousands of dollars, and I've been spending like a sailor.
       
I'll come back when I have $6 million.
    
  • Doom Pilots on East 125th Street. Another gang. Like the others, they don't like TransTech. Scream Wipe, who has a history with Stark, gives us the password TTheat to access TransTech's security records. Ghost Walker tells me that a woman named Madame Mescal on 96th & Broadway deals in Vasopressin and Psilo Blossom, both of which make cyberspace navigation easier. Sis Konfigg will give me the cyberspace address of the Bank of New York for a Level 4 cloaking chip. HoloGraham and Stive just have some friendly words and banter.
   
I notice a couple of things at this point. Time doesn't seem to pass on screens unless you deliberately rest. If you do rest, Stark's bloodlust goes up 1 point per hour. It goes up as you move between areas, so the game must be calculating transit times. To avoid increasing bloodlust too fast, you probably don't want to go to too many unnecessary places.
   
  • Madame Mescal on West 96th. Another dealer operating out of the trunk of a car, and what do you know? She has a TransTech security badge, just sitting there for purchase. I purchase that, plus a backup canister of jellied gas and another tube of Instapigment, but she doesn't have the promised Psiolo Blossom. 
      
I figured I'd have to solve a quest to get hold of this.
     
I abandon my systematic exploration at this point and head for TransTech's headquarters. But once again, the Entry Drone says: "Check for clearance badge is negative. Admission to headquarters denied." What the hell? It takes me a while to figure out what's going on. A character needs to equip the badge to get by security, but the badge only fits in a slot for which Stark already has a cybernetic arm, and I can't remove it. I have to have Rymma equip the badge.
     
TransTech HQ has a creepy statue.
    
This time, the Entry Drone lets us through and offers a summary of the Star Chamber's executive report. (The Star Chamber is TransTech's governing body.) I avoid the employees and head to the elevator, which gives me options for Security and the Nanotech Lab. I'm here for three reasons: fiber-optic cable, kill the security chief, and find a cage key. It feels like "Security" is the answer to two out of three of those things. 
   
Chief Daryl Paine is in the office by himself. He orders me out, and when I don't leave, he attacks. I try to bite him, but my fellow party members gun him down before I have the chance. We loot a Security Cloak and several weapons. 
       
It's not exactly a fair fight.
     
A search of the room reveals Wrath Ray Plans, a Dragon Soul Box, Deidre Tackett's Essence, a list of Tackett's associates, and a "Cyber Crackdown List" that includes people I've already met or know of, including me, Tackett, Hakim Maghsoudi, Garrick Fizz, Lenora Maor, Sis Konfigg, Zeus, Elvis, and Charley Flyer. The one exception is a Lazlo Greene.
   
But no cage key or fiber-optic cable. I take the elevator to the Nanotech Lab. There are two employees working, but they both assume I'm from company management. I search the lab and find a Nanoblast, 4 Nanoblast Micromissiles, a Buzzsaw (automatic weapon), Blood-Producing Nanotech, a Wireless Effector, and a Service Nanomachine. There are way too many arcane items in this game. Even with the manual open beside me, I can't keep track of half of the junk this game throws at you.
   
Unfortunately, still no cage key or fiber-optic cable. There is, however, a little triangle indicating another exit from the room. It's in front of a door with a control panel. When I walk over to it, a message says "the door is locked." I can't find any way through the door. I previously noted that one of the items you can jury rig is "Electronic Lockpicks," which I suspect I need here. I'm worried that having murdered the security director, I won't be able to return to the headquarters once I leave, so I reluctantly reload from before I visited, having accomplished nothing.
    
Every adventurer's bane.
     
Electronic Lockpicks require a Lock Database, a Lockpick Casing, and a Diagnostic Unit. I got the Lock Database in a previous session in Central Park. I have no idea where to get the other parts, but I assume I'll find them eventually.
   
  • Icon Robber's Studio on West 96th Street. I'm supposed to get a multichannel transmitter without hurting anyone. There are four Icon Robbers in the place, and I can't search it with them present. There's no stealth mechanic in the game that I'm aware of, nor any stealth object, although who knows with all this junk I'm lugging around? I try talking. Members named Cody and Rigginbotham just tell me to leave. Squid wants my permission to use my likeness in videos. Ludes Moshe mistakes us for actors. I don't have any options that help. Maybe Phree Thought's sleeping gas would help here? I need to get the Dragon Soul Box out of TransTech first. For now, I leave.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art on East 86th Street. As we enter, a guard indicates that the museum is closed to the public. Rich folks are allowed to have soirees in the evenings. A guy named Montgomery Taylor says he used to be a member of the Hellfire Club, but he's gotten uncomfortable with how "scary" and "perverse" things have gotten lately. He offers me his invitation to a club party at the Plaza and suggests I look up his associate, Emily Esaki. An obnoxious couple named Dauphine Dmitri and Damean Tocque have just had a baby, and they want to implant her with the Babel Code. Dauphine offers me $25,000 for it. I don't know if I'm done with it or not, but I take the chance and sell it. I later note that Will at the Adventurers' Guild hated the couple so much he decided to feed on them to reduce his bloodlust. 
      
That was a nice top-up.
     
  • Strawberry Fields on West 79th Street. This turns out to be the home of the Black Aggots gang. They've enclosed the Imagine mosaic and turned it into a fighting ring. After Stark exchanges some threats and insults with the leader, Shock Maraud, he tells me that the gang has been contracted by Abraham Van Helsing to kill someone; they're just waiting to find out the name of the target. They'll forget the contract if I can bring them what Van Helsing has promised: a drug database located at a cyberspace address called ANTIBODY. Since they're probably going to be contracted to kill me, it's probably best if I got ahead of this. 
  • Flux Riders on West 79th Street. Hondo will talk to me now; he just doesn't say anything I understand.
        
Just when I was thinking I could come to enjoy cyberpunk.
    
  • Hard Metals on West 66th Street. A gang that fetishizes cybernetic body parts. Members are named Markus Piston, Clank Sprocket, Tempered Steel, and Liquid Nails. Sprocket wants a cybernetic leg; I missed what he said he'd trade for it. Tempered Steel will join the party for $10,000. Nails takes $2,000 to tell me about a guy named Strongarm Tacktick who sells technology on West 66th Street. I don't know which of them is the leader, but I'm not going to kill any of them for the Autonomy Dogs.
 
Strongarm Tacktick is on the same block as the Hard Metals, so I visit him next, and here I find what I need. He sells implants, Doppelgangers, cyborg body parts, other crafting items, and the two items I need for the Electronic Lockpicks. He also has Kevlar Helmets. They're expensive, but I buy one for Stark. He doesn't sell quite enough cyborg parts to finish an entire body for Elvis, so I don't buy any of them for now.
   
I jury rig the Electronic Lockpicks and head back to TransTech. I try to repeat what I did before, only this time two security guards are waiting in the Security room. I'm not sure what changed. After I kill them, the chief appears, apparently unaware that I've just killed his associates. Rather than wait for him to attack us again, I have Stark preemptively bite him, since my bloodlust is back up to 68%.
      
Are these (electronic lock) picks or electronic (lockpicks)?
          
In the Nanotechnology Lab, I pick the lock on the security door--or, more accurately, using the PAL system, Slash does. I find a Praxis 3000 decking unit, a Level 4 cloak, fiber-optic cable, and an Azrael Soul Box (second only to the Dragon). I still can't find a damned cage key. More guards attack as we leave the room. I'm annoyed because my inventory is so full I can't pick up all of the stuff they drop.
   
Because of our visit to the Metropolitan Museum, I guess, we have a third elevator option: Emily Esaki. Her office is empty, but a search reveals a lapel pin with a "fierce sword insignia." Oddly, I already had one of these from somewhere, but I don't remember where I got it.
       
I'm not sure Stark has what you would call "lapels."
      
We get the hell out of there and return to Tackett's Lab to plan our next move. I figure I'm going to at least use the Dragon Soul Box before I give it away.
   
This game is getting complicated. It's starting to feel like I'm making choices that I can't walk back. I suppose if I have to start over, I have to start over, but we'll see how long I can keep it going until then. 
    
Time so far: 11 hours



18 comments:

  1. AlphabeticalAnonymousNovember 28, 2022 at 12:24 PM

    Thanks as always for the continued, compelling updates. I can't help but feel that I'm also learning plenty that's new to me about New York City (e.g., that there is an Imagine mosaic)...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Phracktle K. Oss, Phree Thaught, Auntie Matter, ... this game sure likes its wordplay jokes / references. And I probably don't even get half of them as a non-native English speaker and depending on the cultural background.

    Still looks and reads like an interesting game with its setting, ambiance and ideas, though indeed it seems hard to keep track of all the items and what they do.

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    Replies
    1. "Auntie Matter" is at least a pun, but stuff like "Phree Thaught" and "New Klee R. Wynter" and "Strongarm Tacktick" drives me up the wall. They have the shape of wordplay but not the substance.

      Delete
    2. Agreed, some writers have a knack for giving fitting, well-sounding and inventive names, but not the authors of BloodNet.

      Delete
    3. I think the names work quite well. After all they are street names, a lot of them handed out by socially inept deckers trying to sound cool, or some semi-tough street gangers.

      I'm not sure if they were intentionally chosen that way by the writers - probably not - but I don't think that really matters, for me they fit the theme.

      Delete
    4. @stepped pyramids: I agree with your statement "They have the shape of wordplay but not the substance". Had a similar thought when commenting above, but couldn't spontaneously think of a different expression than "wordplay" to describe these things. Is there?

      Nevertheless, I also agree with Buck in that (to me) they make a certain sense in the setting for the reasons he gives.

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    5. I'm inclined to agree with Buck. They go okay with the setting. If some of them are awkward, well, so are some of the NPCs.

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    6. To me, punny names sound not so much like a street guy trying to act tough, but more like a fiction writer trying to be clever. The sourcebooks for Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, and Vampire have plenty of examples of tough street names that aren't forced puns.

      Delete
  3. TransTech is basically a piƱata full of quest items. There's at least four just in the security office, and all you need to do to get them is kill some guy. At least you need to do a few extra things to get into the storage room.

    I don't think you've made any "whoops, gonna have to reload" decisions yet. If I recall correctly there's at least one situation where having Nimrod around can start a game-breaking fight so it's good you fired him.

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    Replies
    1. Considering how expensive Nimrod was its probably pretty close to one. I find the whole limited funds thing kind of interesting, because I guess that means back when I played it, the copy was hacked so Ransom had millions of dollars. I just never questioned it. Considering the way the gameplay is, I don't think that was a bad thing.

      Delete
  4. >Blood-Producing Nanotech

    That sounds extremely interesting for a wanna-not-be vampire.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'd like to say that I'm really appreciating the opening summary paragraphs you've put into this game's entries. Maybe this sort of recap isn't possible for all games, but it is making this one much easier to follow.

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  6. I wonder if the flamethrower can stop the game's vampires from coming back to life. Quite a typical vampire trope, although in a setting filled with high tech weapons such as lasers, maybe not such a sure bet.

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  7. upcoming list is intriguing

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  8. You mention not having found how to devampire yourself yet. Here's a hint: start the game but stay on the main menu and wait a while.

    ReplyDelete

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