Author Topic: What is "hacking?" Or more aptly, what do you want out of it?  (Read 1237 times)

Offline Misery

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Re: What is "hacking?" Or more aptly, what do you want out of it?
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2016, 07:20:52 AM »
I like the hacking system for the most part.  I like the risk-reward aspect, and also the fact that it's a way of accomplishing some major effect without upping the AI progress.  It's sort of an alternate route there, which is nice to have and makes for some interesting decision making.   I also like that the process of doing it is different; I cant just throw a horrible ship blob in there and blow the place up, that's not going to do it.  I've got to actually defend the hacking unit for awhile.  That's quite different from just plain assaulting a planet so it breaks things up a bit, which can be nice.

The one thing that bugs me is that the AI's response to this never seems all that interesting.  I dunno.  Something about the way it responds to it just seems a bit stale to me.  It's hard to describe. It might be interesting if it had some really creative/loopy possible responses to the hacking.   

As for the way the hacking mechanic itself works, that's all fine by me.  I don't see anything wrong with it.  But I'm not like, super attached to it either.

Offline Tridus

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Re: What is "hacking?" Or more aptly, what do you want out of it?
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2016, 07:42:04 AM »
On second thought why does the player have to go to an AI planet to hack it? It's not like I'd have to go next to someone's computer in order to hack it in real life. So perhaps all hacks could be done remotely.

You do if that computer isn't accessible from a remote network. High security organizations often have *at least* two sets of networks and computers: the ones that face the Internet, and the ones that are totally disconnected from it. You can't hack the latter without getting onto that other network, and that requires physical proximity (or exploits that can jump air gaps and other very high end stuff).

It's entirely reasonable that the AI would have some stuff that it considers high security risk and wouldn't have accessible from the universal network.

Offline Tridus

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Re: What is "hacking?" Or more aptly, what do you want out of it?
« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2016, 07:56:30 AM »
But hacking being global always felt slightly off to me.  If I'm hacking, usually I think about hacking a specific THING.  In other words, rather than saying "I'm gaining the ability to do some random something in the future by accumulating numbers," I'd rather do something like "here is my little fleet of hackers who are presently doing something RIGHT HERE."

Professional hackers collect and stockpile exploit knowledge without always knowing what they intend to target in the real world, too. Then, when they get a target, they figure out if they have a suite of exploits that they can use to build an attack against that target. If not, they have to look for something more specific for that target itself (and when in doubt, just start calling up employees and asking for passwords...). People have sat on zero-days for quite a while, then sold them or used them on high priority targets.

Effectively, that's what HaP is. We gain knowledge of how the AI works, find ways to exploit it, and then when we choose a target, we deploy some of those exploits. The AI learns from that, and it gets harder next time.

Honestly, I don't entirely understand why you seem down on it. I think it works really, really well. Accumulating HaP isn't interesting in itself. But, is that even a problem? *Spending* HaP is a set of interesting decisions and trade offs, and the set of things you can spend it on increases as you scout farther out and gain more intel about what targets are available.

Maybe it's worthwhile to look at replacing the idea of HaP itself with something that doesn't feel quite as much like a late addition, but IMO the hacking end of the system works really well and doesn't need drastic change.

Offline zharmad

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Re: What is "hacking?" Or more aptly, what do you want out of it?
« Reply #18 on: September 01, 2016, 03:59:32 PM »
I'm going to just write down several major avenues in which the player progresses through the game, and ones that hacking influences:

1) Research knowledge acquisition. (ARS manipulation)
2) Materiel. (ARS unlocks and fabricator unlocks)
3) Scouting.
4) Reach.
5) Controlling the enemy's options. (locking down AI unlocks, Sabotage, etc.)

...looks okay to me. Well, I find that not having to defend Mark-IV fabricators is often too good of a boon to pass up. YMMV. It might be that hacking just needs better UI integration so you know clearly about clarity and ease-of-use.

...if only the AI hacks you, like in Mother Russia.

EDIT: I was looking at AI plots earlier, and had an idea. I think the way the Lobby allows you to customise down to the exact figures should be reconsidered. Consider this: what if you don't know what the AI is plotting on the long term, and must engage in hacking activities to reveal parts of their intentions? For example, if the Avenger plot is 100% or 0% chance (toggled on or off), you simply react accordingly. What if it's... 50%? Would you risk it?
« Last Edit: September 01, 2016, 05:19:31 PM by zharmad »

Offline Elestan

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Re: What is "hacking?" Or more aptly, what do you want out of it?
« Reply #19 on: September 02, 2016, 02:16:09 AM »
I very much like the presence of Hacking in the game, but I think the implementation could use some work.  Here are some ideas to play with:

Make AI Command stations have modules in them, to provide hacking targets that do different things.

One of the modules is the computer core.  Flying a Hacker in and target-clicking the computer core starts to "mine" the HaP from the core.  Each CS can only be mined for a limited number of HaP.

There are a variety of other targets that the Hacker can hack by flying in and attack-clicking on them.  In each of these cases, it drains HaP to achieve some effect:
  • The command station also has a "Sensors" module.  Hacking the Sensors module blinds the AI in that system.  The blinding lasts as long as the Hack continues.
  • The command station also has a "Database" module.  Hacking the Database starts downloading knowledge, up to the normal limit.  If the download completes, it also reveals any Exile survey information for the system.
  • A design backup unit has two modules in it, one of which can be targeted for Download, and the other for Corrupt.  I'd also be fine if it just took one hack to accomplish both (it might need to be re-priced)
  • Advanced Factories and Adv. Starship Constructors can be hacked.  Doing so could work the same as it currently does, but it might be interesting to instead give the player the ability to build their own Advanced Factories and ASCs (instead of adding Mk4 construction capabilities to their normal facilities).  These facilities would be expensive to build, and could only build Mk4 ships (or perhaps also Mk5 ships if the player also has the necessary plans).
  • Fabricators and Core Turret Controllers can be hacked with the same results as there are currently.
  • ARS units can be hacked, but I suggest that this actually give you the unit of your choice, instead of just rearranging them.
  • The Nomad Beacon can be hacked, as today
  • Sabotagable installations can be hacked, as today

The nice thing about this hacking approach is that it's way more intuitive.  You build a hacker, then you click on what you want to hack.  No messing around with special submodules.

I'd also suggest that there be different Marks of Hackers, with different abilities.  Maybe Mk1 has no cloak, Mk2 has a cloak, maybe Mk3 can target other ships with their hacking beams for no HaP cost; this just serves as a Paralyzing attack that does Reclaimation damage over time.

Regarding Hacking Response:  This is actually one of my least-liked game elements, because it involves the AI getting the "magic" ability to materialize a potentially infinite number of ships out of empty space.  This feels like a contrived gimmick; If the AI really had such a capability, it should be using it in response to all kinds of provocations, and gate raiding would be pointless.

IMHO, instead of just sending in a bunch of ships, the AI should do something more interesting.  Maybe if the player has a lot of excess HaP, the AI doesn't even immediately sense the hack.  After all, hacking is supposed to be stealthy.  At the next stage, the AI senses the hack, but not its location, so it starts a "trace" action through the warp network.  This could involve some eyecandy like a "probe beam" firing from the AI Homeworld and flying through a wormhole to strike an adjacent AI CS on the path to the system being hacked.  After some amount of time (maybe dependent on excess AIP and/or the type of hack), that AI CS relays the beam through a warp to the next system.  This "trace" continues until it reaches the system where the hack is happening.  Players can interfere with the trace back having other Hackers doing "Computer core" hacks on the systems in between.  If the system being hacked is cut off from the AI, an extra delay at the AI CS before the gap.

When the beam reaches the CS in the target system, the next hop is to the actual item being hacked (if it isn't a CS module).  The hop after that is to the Hacker...*kaboom*.

The nice thing about this kind of hacking response is that it's way more interesting/unique than just having to fight a bunch of extra ships.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 02:18:13 AM by Elestan »