Hack The Planet! Hacknet Coming In August

Mess with the best, die like the rest.

I dig games which turn your screen into another computer, hauling you into their fiction. TIS-100, Digital: A Love Story, Her Story, and so on are grand and all but, like anyone with blue hair and a leather jacket who grew up in the nineties, what I really want is to hack the planet. Uplink and its admirers are grand, but I need more.

I’m really digging the look of Hacknet [official site], an upcoming terminal-based hack ’em up which uses real-ish techniques and will have us typing in terminal commands ourselves. Cracking! Slip on your fingerless leather gloves (studs optional but preferred) for a peek in its trailer:

Hacknet has its own hacking techniques and terminal commands for would-be-super wizard class hackers to master, but one-man team Team Fractal Alligator say it won’t hold your hand. They say it uses “real hacking processes” that are “based on actual UNIX commands”, which look like they ape actual hacking techniques but use fictional code and tools so you won’t actually learn how to hack the gibson.

You will have a little help, mind. The plot is that a swanky hacker has died and their dead man’s switch activates, sending their suite of hacking tools and instructions out to you, asking you to find out what happened. You’ll be breaking into servers, digging into e-mails, and generally going wherever you please, as it’s a bit freeform and branching. That all sounds splendid.

Hacknet is due on August 12th, priced at $9.99.

33 Comments

  1. Nixitur says:

    Oh man, this is all I’ve ever wanted from hacking games.
    Uplink was great and I especially liked its short command-line based segments, but they were rare and not really all that powerful. I dug deeper and even tried a few browser games promising command line hacking, but often recoiled at some design decisions, especially when they had stats that determined how fast you hack (what?).
    This looks so much better than any of those. I only hope that we’ll also be able to write scripts that automate some tasks. If, before every hack, I had to, say, connect to these three servers first, start a program on my local machine and then connect to the target, I want to be able to write a bash script that just does those things in order.
    But hell, even if that isn’t included, I’ll probably still pick it up because it just looks so interesting. I’ve finished Uplink dozens of times and I still never get bored of it. It’s time for something different, though.

    • J Arcane says:

      If you want something more sophisticated, you could always try security wargames, where you actually use real tools on real servers: link to overthewire.org

      • Nixitur says:

        That looks amazing!
        Thanks for that, I will definitely check that out once my exams are over.

    • Artist says:

      Try Street Hacker if you like the genre. One of the best, imo.

    • babymoses says:

      I played hacking games a lot growing up, and besides Uplink my favorites were Dark Signs and the games from Exosyphen (Digital Hazard, Hacker Evolution). The latter were a bit more arcady, while Dark Signs was slow paced, atmospheric and story-focused. If you like hacking games, do check these out, I always felt the people who made them loved the genre as much as I did.

      • AshEnke says:

        Dark Signs seems to have been taken offline not long ago… A shame.

    • Henson says:

      I never figured out how to use the command line in Uplink. Maybe it’s time for me to read the manual.

      And even after all this time, I still don’t know if the game has a main plot or not. I either get caught stealing millions from a bank or get stuck with a dozen ‘frame this guy’ missions I don’t know how to do. Still, great game.

      • Nixitur says:

        Not getting caught stealing from the bank is pretty simple, but requires beefy tools. In preparation, you definitely want an account at the same bank as your target.
        You need Proxy and Firewall Bypass 5, otherwise, it’ll either block your attempts to even transfer stuff or it’ll block your attempts to delete the transaction logs.
        So then, transfer the money from the target account to your account at the same bank.
        Then, delete the “transferred money to” log from the target account.
        Quickly log out from the target account, then log into your account at the same bank and delete the “received money from” log from your account’s log.
        Then, disconnect and delete a routing log from anywhere on your route. There is no reason not to delete it from InterNIC, though, because it’s the simplest and least dangerous.
        Congratulations, you’re rich!

        Framing this guy is pretty tricky. You need the Log Modifier.
        What you want to do is to set up a short route. Up to three bounces, no more. Again, it’s beneficial to have InterNIC to be your first bounce.
        Then, hack any server. It doesn’t matter, but preferably not something high-sec like a bank because they just work too quickly. Don’t use Monitor bypass or it won’t work. You want the server to notice your attack.
        Then, quickly disconnect. Do not wait until the trace reaches you.
        Quickly connect to the first server on your route. Ideally, this should be InterNIC and you connect directly to it.
        Modify the routing log from your last hack. Instead of it saying “Routed 127.0.0.1 to [next bounce]”, it should say “Routed [frame guy] to [next bounce]”.

        As a consequence of this, when the server investigate your hack, they will follow your short route to InterNIC (or whatever your first bounce is (although it should really be InterNIC)) and then see that the frame guy was the one who committed the hack.

        And yes, there is a main plot. It’s pretty interesting, so I won’t spoil too much, but just a small hint to how you get onto the second route: If somebody tells you to do something, what would happen if you just didn’t do it?

      • Nixitur says:

        Oh, also, (curse you, non-existent edit button!), the command line in Uplink is very limited and pretty much only useful for jobs where you’re hired to completely destroy a server.
        I don’t quite remember how it works, but what you do is basically delete two folders (one of them sys, if I recall correctly) and then use “shutdown”. The server will then reboot, except everything is missing.
        Another note about those “destroy everything” jobs: It will only count as completed once your hack is in the news, unlike the “delete this one file” jobs. It doesn’t make much sense, but what can you do.

        • ZJVavrek says:

          Years ago, I spent a while thinking about the different Uplink jobs, and I figured this out: For missions where it’s “copy this one file” or “delete this one file”, your employer obviously has a spy in the organization that they don’t want to compromise. That’s how they know which file is important. It’s also how they know when that one file has been deleted. They have a big operation going, and you are just one small part of it.

          When the job is “destroy the server”, that’s when they don’t have a spy, don’t know where to strike, and just want to set their competition back. That’s why it needs to show up in the news: they have no one on the inside to tell them whether or not you were successful.

  2. AriochRN says:

    Well, it seems to have Uplink trace beep. That used to right give me the willies.
    Looks like I’ll have to dig out the ol’ cyberpunk gumshield before saying a garbled, “Hit me!”

  3. shinygerbil says:

    Can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to use the ‘replace Chicken “Weak Security”‘ command on pretty much every *nix setup I’ve ever encountered.

    Looks like fun :D

    • Nixitur says:

      I can tell you that the first thing I’ll do in this game when encountering a webserver is replacing every noun with “chicken” just for laughs.

  4. Artist says:

    Warning, possible scam inbound! Hacknet was already released for free in 2012 (link to indiedb.com). And it falls ways short of games like Street Hacker. Strange that its suddenly up on the plate again.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      That’s an alpha version – development’s continued all the while.

    • phlebas says:

      It could be a free version versus full version thing – that indiedb page makes reference to an impending full release, having been in further development the last couple of years.

  5. phlebas says:

    Real-ish techniques, intriguing plot and appropriate music? Looks moderately fab.
    (I grew up in the 80s rather than 90s. Supercom, Satcom, Hacker, System 15000 – a total fiction approach can make for amazing atmosphere, and limited graphics weren’t a problem in context)

  6. Hunchback says:

    Looks very stylish and nice, i just hope it doesn’t have many “timed”, “type/click as fast as you fucking can” parts like Uplink did, because i really disliked those and eventually quit the game because i couldn’t be arsed to stress over it. I’d rather it’s more thought-and-preparation kinda game than a speed-typing test.

    • Nixitur says:

      Having played Uplink a lot, I’ve found that the only time that it was a test of speed was in bank hacks (and one other, secret target) where you had to delete the transaction logs on both ends and a routing log as quickly as possible.
      Other than that, it was quite simple and you had plenty of time. Just add dozens of servers to your route and you easily have ten minutes to finish your task that only takes a minute with even the slowest computer.

      • Luringen says:

        I found myself running out of easy jobs before I had the money to buy the tools I needed to complete the more difficult ones. Made it seem like there was a “correct” order of upgrades, and if you didn’t know the order you would be stuck. I might have just sucked though.

        • Nixitur says:

          Yeah, that’s kind of a problem, but not a huge one as you steadily get more easy jobs by just waiting. Thankfully, you can greatly speed up time, so as long as you don’t miss the main story, you should be fine.
          As a rule of thumb, I’ve found that you usually don’t want to buy anything but the highest tier. The low-tier Log Deleter, for example, is really useless really quickly while the highest one is amazing.
          Also, most people will probably tell you not to buy the Proxy/Firewall Cracker, but I’ve found the (I think) Proxy Cracker tier 1 to be great because it helps you get through (I think) the Social Security database to change entries. Those jobs appear pretty early, way before you have the required money to get the highest-tier Proxy/Firewall Bypass.

          I usually go up to where I have the highest Proxy/Firewall Bypass and highest Log Deleter and then wait for one of those “trace this recent money transfer” jobs where the transferred money is on the order of millions of credits. Write down the bank IP and account number and become really rich really quickly, at which point you can buy absolutely everything and the game becomes a cake-walk.
          There’s mods that fix this exploit, but it’s kind of appropriate and I can’t imagine it not being intended.

        • Nixitur says:

          Oh, another way to quickly gain money is to always ask for half the money in advance when you’re negotiating with the client. As long as you don’t willingly terminate the mission, you will keep the money. So, you can totally go for missions that are way above your ability, ask for half the money and then do those missions way later. Or not at all. There is no time limit on any of the normal missions.

          • Luringen says:

            I’ll probably give the game another go now, thanks!

          • Nixitur says:

            Oh, hang on, I just had to experience that there actually IS a time limit on missions. My job was to steal some data from a server and when I looked at the File Server, it was completely empty, probably destroyed by some other hacker. My only choice was to abandon the missions which really sucks.

  7. Solidstate89 says:

    I see that Ghost in the Shell reference you made, Alice. I see it and I like it.

  8. Scrobbs says:

    Errrr. If these hacking games are getting more realistic… and you (collectively) crave this type of thing… and you have to learn the game’s on ‘language’… why don’t you visit Vulnhub.com, download a VM and do the real thing. It’s good fun.

    • phlebas says:

      Does the VM come complete with a mysterious message from a dead hacker?

      • Scrobbs says:

        Not from a dead one. A live one, as often the message you have to find is the ‘flag’by which you can let the VM dev know that you’ve solved it.

    • Eiv says:

      Appreciate the link, going to read up on this and start learning! :D

  9. Scrobbs says:

    on=own*

  10. Demon Beaver says:

    Anyone else got a little heart attack with the BSOD in the trailer?

    • Eiv says:

      Luckily I didn’t have it full screened, otherwise I would have :)

      • funkstar says:

        i ahem shat it when i cocked up in the game and got the bsod, then all you’re left with is terminal, and need to find a way to get an important system file back without any of the nice shell :D