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Drawing inspiration from such diverse sources as Bell and Braben's Elite and William Gibson's Neuromancer, Uplink: Hacker Elite was released in October 2001 by Introversion Software, who dub themselves "the last of the bedroom coders". Players take on the role of a black hat hacker-for-hire in a dystopian cyberpunk future, performing industrial espionage for the highest bidder using an abstracted point-and-click interface. Uplink acquired a powerful cult following owing to its atmosphere, tracked music score and novel gameplay, although early releases suffered from some nasty bugs.


Best time, bad ending: single-segment 0:20:12 by Ian 'B'man' Bennett on 2007-12-07.

Author's comments:

Hi guys, hope you enjoy my first run on SDA. I've been working on stuff for about 15 months, but this particular one took only a few weeks to get down. This run was done on Uplink v1.55, which is the latest version at time of running.

Before I get started, much luv to the whole SDA team, but particularly to nate and ballofsnow for their hard work on the anri-chan movie encoder, and mikwuyma for putting up with my annoying PMs constantly. You know it.

Anyway, on to Uplink. Long story short, it's an open-ended strategy game. Go for the good ending, and someone's going to have to define when the run actually ends, because the game doesn't. Luckily for that poor bugger, I'm going for a bad ending here.

The first ten minutes or so of pretty much any single-segment Uplink run is going to be done in the same way. The "storyline" starts on April 14th, the game on March 24th, meaning you've got 21 game days to get set up. Which means getting loads of money, upgrading your system and getting all the software you need. Of course, the most obvious way of doing that is by hacking a bank, but that takes a bit of work. As Uplink randomises most of the data in the game upon creating a profile, you can't research people and systems in a single-segment run, so it's all improvisation.

The start of the run is basic setup. I make my profile, hit InterNIC to get a load of Internal Services Machines (ISMs) in my links, set up a really long bounce in the map screen, and complete the test mission so I can get started. The Uplink Test Server's password is always "rosebud", but unfortunately it's about the only system that doesn't have a random one.

A few basic tricks that help in places, are hitting Tab to focus on the next text box, Enter to submit forms and get through welcome screens, and clicking on "scroll-in" menu items before they appear. Being quick in general is a case of being one step ahead as much as possible - having tools opened before you need them, for example. The other big trick is using the VeryFast time mode to its full potential, to minimise the amount of time you spend waiting for something to happen.

Once I can get into Uplink's mission board, I start the most lame part of the run. In a system that's totally random, you can convince your clients to give you all the money for each mission. It takes a long time, and is really frustrating, but it's usually quicker than actually doing the missions. This time it didn't go all too well, but you can only create a profile, make your bounce etc so many times before you don't really care how slow it is...

Anyway, my target balance is 15,500c, which is enough to buy the minimum software required to hack a bank. Once I have enough, I go and buy Log Deleter v4, Password Breaker and Proxy Disable v5 (banks have Lv.5 proxies x_x). I then abandon all those missions, which is cool because I don't have any Agent Levels to lose. Jackpot.

From the low level I'm at, hacking a bank takes a bit of setup. To get money, you need a target with a lot of money, and the usual strategy for that is to take a "Trace a recent balance transfer" mission. Unfortunately, I don't have a high enough Agent Level to do so. So, the first order of business is to raise the level. The best way to do so is to hack a bank, ironically, and transfer money into your account.

First, though, I need an account to hack, so I deliberately get caught by the International Social Security Database. The ISSD is one of those servers where you only get a fine if you're actively traced. This has the funky side-effect of giving you an account number, so I promptly get that bank in my links and make a throwaway account for use on it. I then hack the ISSD's account, disable the proxy, and transfer 1,000c into my throwaway. This gets me the Agent Levels I need. While I'm there though, I log into the throwaway and send that 1,000c straight back to pay the fine. Doing it all at once is dangerous, as my base hardware takes a long time and I need to delete statements and logs, but it all goes fine.

Hacking a bank in this game is easy. Doing it with minimal hardware and software isn't.

Soon as I get the notification for Agent Level Up, I find a trace mission and find my target, then hack it in pretty much the same way. This time though, I take a lot more money, and move it into my Uplink bank account. The last step, I found out later, isn't necessary, as you can set which bank account will be used for transactions from the Finances screen. That wastes about 20 seconds.

With the money in my account, I hit VeryFast mode and start buying stuff and making a huge mess of my inbox. The Trinity gateway can hold 8 CPUs, 128Gq of memory and an 8Gq modem, so I get that. After cleaning up, I get the software I need for the final hacks.

This run's category is a nice easy one, to be totally honest. Essentially, once you take ARC's employment offer, you get Revelation v1, which is all you need to take down the Internet (which, of course, is ARC's aim all along). So, you can do it straight away and get the bad ending without even getting any awards. This is what I do here - soon as I have Revelation, I can go to town.

Anyway, once I have all I need, it's getting fairly close to the 14th, so I take the time to clean the crap out of my links, leaving pretty much only the ISMs which are my targets in the final part, and hotspot the ARC ISM which I need to bounce through to the ARC Central Mainframe on the 14th. After getting the dead agent's email, I get in and out of ARC and cover my tracks, then use my spare time to get rid of all the software I don't need. I receive ARC's email, make a mess of replying to it, and then we're good to go!

In order to take the Internet down, you need to have 20 systems infected with Revelation at any one time. This is easier now than during GrandTour, as you don't have an Arunmor hacker working against you and there's no time limit either. My strategy for each system is thus:

A few systems only have a monitor, so I don't need to bypass proxy. However, Revelation will not infect the system if no security has been bypassed or disabled. So I still need to disable the monitor. The strategy above probably isn't as fast as bypassing both the firewall and proxy, but it'd mean changing it up more for those other systems, which is more confusing. I find it very easy to get mixed up during this part anyway, what with having to hack 20 systems.

Shortly after I reach Africa, I come across a rare system with no security at all, and it throws me for a loop. At the time I was unsure whether such a system would be infected by Revelation, so I decided to try it regardless. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Shortly afterwards, disaster struck as I accidentally saved over my bounce. After panicing for a few seconds and trying to find InterNIC in the mess of servers, I realised I didn't need to worry about logs and whipped up a bounce to use to the end. From there it was plain sailing, and once Revelation spread to my server I hit VeryFast to end the game quickly.

So, can it be improved? Of course it can. I made a few errors which lost perhaps a minute, and I'm sure someone out there has quicker general play than me. This is the sort of game that really needs quick thinking and a cool head. Then of course a minute or two could probably be saved by getting money quicker at the start and using a faster Revelation hack process.

Either way, I'm happy enough with this run, and hopefully I'll be back fairly soon with some Arunmor goodness, or maybe even 10 Awards. That'd be funky... Peace out.

Have fun.

~ Ian

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