Interviewed by Dennis Sloutsky
Strategy First's upcoming game is something you've never experienced before – a breath from the world of computer security, hackers, shady business, good and bad and more... We've had the chance to chat with Thomas Arundel of Introversion Software about the game developed by them that Strategy First will bring to the North American market in end of February 2003.
Hi, please introduce yourself and the company you work for.
Hi, my name is Tom (Thomas Arundel), and I’m a Director for Introversion Software. We’re a new developer/publisher and Uplink is our first title. We’re based in London in the UK.
Please introduce Uplink to our readers.
You assume the role of a highly skilled computer criminal working for an underground organization in the year 2010. When the game starts, you have to make a living by accepting job offers posted anonymously via the sinister Uplink Corporation to break into computers and delete, sabotage, copy, or alter data. As time goes on the jobs become more involved and dangerous, and you start to attract the unwelcome attention of rival systems crackers. Pretty soon you’re tied up in a rapidly evolving plot to either save the Internet from a deadly virus or assist in its destruction.
In which genre of games can you classify Uplink?
That’s a difficult one, as Uplink has elements from several different genres. It’s a strategy game, with logic puzzles, but also a simulation and an adventure through cyberspace. We’ve also seen the birth of several Uplink clones, which has prompted some to say that it’s a new genre of its own. If I had to choose though, I’d probably place it in the strategy section.
What are the main strong points of Uplink?
Uplink exists due to the strength of its gameplay and atmosphere. We used a free-form approach to the game, allowing the player to pick missions as he/she pleases, and also to explore the vast number of ‘special’ computers in the cyberspace of 2010. The simple graphics and futuristic soundtrack contribute a lot to the atmosphere, which means it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a game. One of the best bits though is the ‘trace tracker’ which is there to warn you as the system under attack traces the path of your signal. If it reaches you, you’re caught, and the closer it is, the faster the beep – it really gets the adrenaline pumping!
What kind of audience is Uplink intended for?
We’ve had great responses from Gamers, Hackers, IT professionals, and Linux Penguins. There are loads of secrets in game, and in the real world too – anyone with a curious mind will love it.
Can you give our readers an example of a typical mission in the game?
Well you’d start by logging in to the Uplink Corporation bulletin board to get a job. This time someone wants to you put a rival hacker in jail. You’ve hacked the Criminal database before so you’ve got the right tools to crack the system. You connect by bouncing your signal off 15 other computers and, bang, you’re in. But the trace tracker is beeping at you. You’ve got 30 seconds . . . 20 seconds and you’ve found the guy . . . 10 seconds and you’ve changed his criminal record - now he’s doing life for murder . . . 5 seconds and you’re deleting the log files, the trace tracker is frantically beeping at you, barely keeping up with your heart rate . . . your mouse is a blur as you scrabble to disconnect with half a second to spare. A minute later (having sped up game time) you check the news and your victim has been arrested. You check your bank and it’s 5,000 credits up – time to buy some shares and tinker with the Stock Market before your next mission...
How computer savy will the players have to be in order to enjoy Uplink? After all real hackers possess an excellent knowledge of computer security, software and hardware.
Uplink does an excellent job of abstracting away from the details of computer hacking. The tutorial at the beginning of the game teaches you the basics, and there’s a comprehensive help system to learn about what tools you need to use against certain defenses. So you don’t need to know any more than that needed to run the game.
What was changed in Uplink since the original version that was released by Introversion Software back in 2001? Are there any new and exciting features in it that we can witness?
We’ve released a number of patches, downloadable from Strategy’s website since then. There are big extensions for advanced players – a whole new type of computer network to crack, an in-game IRC client, and an ability to skin the game.
With the recent classification of hackers as terrorists by the USA government and the Kevin Mitnick process that was given as an example to all the hackers out there, how ethical do you think it is to release a similar game on North American market?
The game is a simplified overview of computer hacking – in fact it’s more a series of logic puzzles with a hacker theme. As you’ve said already, it takes a considerable amount of skill and decades of study to be a good computer hacker. A basic book on computer networking would offer much more information to a wannabe Hacker than Uplink.
Many if not all professional hackers believe that hacking is the search for knowledge, which they do purely to learn how operating systems and Internet operate. They condone the so-called 'commercial hacking' which includes industrial sabotage, credit card fraud and other illegal activities made mostly by poor individuals from foreign countries or 'script kiddies'. Do you not think you are doing a disservice to this community by portraying the average hacker as a malicious and dangerous individual to the public?
Many people already hold a stereotype of Hackers, and it would be impossible to prevent some people coming to play the game with this attitude. For those that are unsure, Uplink does offer two routes to completion of the story-arc; one where you play a malicious role to help destroy the Internet, and one where you help to prevent this. Of course, which route they choose is more a reflection of the player’s ethics...
We wish the best to Strategy First and Introversion Software with Uplink. And for sure we can't wait to play it!