Ah, Node.Hack. We have come a long way from Wargames. Truly, a game about hacking computers, played in the palm of your hand on a megabit-throughput smartphone? As children growing up in the 80’s, we would have boggled at the thought. And yet, it’s that very same retro-fueled heart that’s beating at the core of this game.
Does the node-and-bridge architecture remind you of something? Do the representations of the player, the enemies, the loot, do they seem like somewhere you’ve been before?
They do to me – and it’s no accident. I am an unapologetic ASCII-hound, and the simplicity of the single code-page world was an exercise in constraint-fueled design whose challenge has yet gone unmatched.
Tim Sweeney’s ZZT – the grandfather of this kind of game – made it feel like all things were possible. And, during my SysOp days on my bulletin board, I fell in love with a particular doorgame called NetRunner (shown above): a 1993 ASCII-based hacking game that drew inspiration from the card game of the same name, and the stylized anthropomorphism of “node” hacking made popular in the Shadowrun series of RPGs and the visceral writings of William Gibson.
As a developer, I’ve had some direct forays into that world of ASCII graphics with prototype projects like The Agency: Razor One, but today’s modern platforms – phones, tablets, consoles – just don’t play that game anymore. And why should they? Games made of text characters? They fail to impress, they feel like playing on punchcards.
But what if a stylized version of that world formed the backdrop, crafted some of the rules, and then let you break them? Could you imagine, being held down to an ASCII world but then suddenly breaking free? Explosions, splashes of binary on skewing vectors, breaking the imagined plane of the two-by-two universe?
I did – and I called it Node.Hack.
Tomorrow, it will be released to the world, and I hope that you’ll enjoy it. There’s a lot of my childhood in its shapes and contours, from the sounds to the interface all the way to the strange notion that somehow, tapping that node with your finger, rather than typing it into a computer console, still feels right – even though we aren’t sure why.
Welcome to the future. Again.
Learn more about Node.Hack at http://www.nodehackgame.com.