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> Matrix Rules Debate, What's your take on the matrix rules?
Konsaki
post Jun 22 2007, 02:09 AM
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As the Emergence thread was derailed by the rules debate on the matrix rules and then needed to have Moderator intervention, I decided that this important debate, in my eyes, needed it's own thread to continue. For the this first post, I will be quoting posts from the Emergence thread, hopefully continuing the debate in a less derailing manner.

QUOTE (Rotbart van Dainig @ Jun 21 2007, 06:11 PM)
Perhaps I didn't manage to make my point clear:

As it is now, the matrix rules have serious bugs that make them pretty much near unusable in normal play without heavy handwaving.
Thus, playing a matrix centered campaing without debugging the first in one way or another seems a bad thing to do.

QUOTE (synner @ Jun 22 2007, 05:48 AM)
QUOTE (Rotbart van Dainig @ Jun 21 2007, 07:20 PM)
Again, this is just the way the matrix works by RAW.

This is the way the Matrix works under the basic rules and the basic rules are just that. You are making the erroneous assumption that they reflect global picture.

For simplicity, space, and ease of play, the core book simply assumes the nodes people will be hacking (using the basic rules) work on the same principles and rules as personal commlinks - just like it assumes basic level players don't want to jump right in with multilayer and dual-key encryption when they're just getting the hang of the rules. This need not be the case with the advanced rules and these need not contradict any of the existing rules, just expand upon them.

The restrictions and limitations of commlinks and small networks will undoubtedly be different from those of servers, networks, and distributed grids. The advanced rules covering these will be introducing in Unwired.

And now back to your regular broadcast.

QUOTE (Moon-Hawk)
QUOTE (Synner)
For simplicity the core book assumes the nodes people will be hacking using the basic rules work on the same principles and rules as personal commlinks - this need not be the case with the advanced rules.

The restrictions and limitations of commlinks and small networks will undoubtedly be different from those of servers, networks, and distributed grids. The advanced rules covering these will be introducing in Unwired.

This incites me to post.

But we're playing now, and would like a working system now. You're defending the basic rules with imaginary advanced rules. They may exist for you, but they don't exist for us, and will not until Unwired is released.
It's not that servers don't make sense in only the basic rules, it's that they don't make sense in the only rules that exist.

If one person can't figure out the matrix it's probably because they're an idiot. If many people can't figure out the matrix it's probably not because the rules are perfect and they're all idiots.

I don't mean to come off as overly negative, overall I like SR4 and I can't wait until Unwired comes out and answers all these questions. I certainly understand why there aren't rules for unusual systems. But a server: any host capable of connecting to more than 12 things at a time, is so integral and fundamental to the game that I can not fathom how the "advanced" rules for making a simple host function haven't at least appeared in a FAQ as an "Oops, I can't believe we left this out of the core book, here's the rule for hosts until Unwired comes out." Or perhaps a "No, no, that's not what a subscription list means at all, it actually means..." Or a line in errata that says "The System x 2 limit does not apply to large servers. Nevermind how they work, we'll address that in Unwired, but rest assured that megacorporate hosts aren't run off someone's commlink, so the limit doesn't apply"

QUOTE (Rotbart van Dainig)

QUOTE (Synner)

This is the way the Matrix works under the basic rules and the basic rules are just that. You are making the erroneous assumption that they reflect global picture.

It's hardly my error to go along with the published rules - which lack the disclaimer 'Only good for small networks'.

QUOTE (synner)
No, IMHO your error was in assuming advanced rules would not nuance the existing basic rules or that the existing rules were the full extent of the rules.

The basic book has magic working the same all over the world, but when you pick up Street Magic you discover (and knew going in) that in certain places magic works better and in some places magic works worse. The basic book did not introduce background count though it fundamentally affects the way magic works.

Good advanced rules are perfect plug-ins. They are fully compatible and they do not contradict existing rules but rather expand and extrapolate from them.

QUOTE (Rotbart van Dainig)
QUOTE (synner)

The restrictions and limitations of commlinks and small networks will undoubtedly be different from those of servers, networks, and distributed grids. The advanced rules covering these will be introducing in Unwired.

So basically, you state that hacking into any real corporate network/browsing the matrix requires the extended rules as the basic rules never intedned to cover it - so let's wait until the last book of the current publishing cycle appears.

QUOTE (synner)
Actually I did not state that. I never stated that the "basic rules were never intended to cover it". The basic rules are intended to cover it. What I said is that they're basic rules, they're intended to be accessible, easy to use, and keep things simple. The basic rules don't cover "small networks" they cover pretty much any decentralized secure networking grid.

Want to hack a wifi security network of cameras and alarms, the basic rules work. Want to hack a night club system, basic rules work (just daisy chain two or three networks). Want to hack an office system during an intrusion, the basic rules work. Want to hack a security rigger's network with a half dozen perimeter drones, the basic rules work. Want to reproduce a local corporate server but are having problems with the limit on subscriptions, make the node a server hub connected to the server rather than the server itself, the basic rules work.

Does this mean the basic rules are perfect and complete? No. Do they hold up well on the high-end? No. Does everything make sense if you assume they are the be all and end all of rules? No.

They are intended to reflect hacking as used by shadowrunners while shadowrunning. They are meant to be quick and simple.

Want to hack the UCAS Government system, slipping in through the Seattle Metroplex Administration network by accessing the ACHE's local environmental control system, things start to get complicated but you can still use the basic rules.

Want to duplicate 10 thousand copies of your favorite combat agent and wage e-war on Renraku, the basic rules are not so good but still doable (if you don't mind making that number of rolls for both sides).

What the basic rules are not meant to do is cover all the nuances and all the angles (heck, not even advanced rules do that). To use the analogy above technically the basic Magic rules don't even cover a magician casting a spell in parts of the Barrens and yet they function and do their job (with a little "hand-waving" as you put it) or playing a houngan.

And yes, if you can't make do with the basic rules, if you're the type of gamer who prefers to play all the nuances and wants all the details of the Matrix then Unwired is for you. Just like Street Magic was essential for anyone wanting to play any possession tradition or use background count as an element of the game.

While your personal preference might be a higher priority for Unwired (and everyone is entitled to an opinion), making it the last of the core books to be released is simply good business sense and good development. No matter what importance we want to give the Matrix2.0, realistically there's only so many books that can be produced at a time, there are books that have wider target audiences, and there is the need to make sure that when something like Unwired is done it is done right.

Furthermore we knew from the get go that we intended to expand on technomancers and the other things before we got to Unwired. We knew Unwired, unlike the other core books, would involve very little updating of old material. We knew Unwired was going to take more work than most of the other core books put together. And we knew that Unwired needed to be as complete as possible So the simple answer is that Unwired will be the last book in the current production cycle exactly because because all the elements and concepts we want to cover need to be in place.

Unwired is under development and this is the last comment I'll make on that book until primary writing is wrapped. Back to Emergence.

QUOTE (FrankTrollMan)
Serbitar has more priviledged information on this than some, but I agree that his tactics are unhelpful.

---

The deal with the Matrix stuff currently published is that it is contradictory. It is an opinion-laden value judgement to say that any of the ideas presented are good or bad, but it is merely factual to state that they are incompatible. You seriously must ignore portions of the basic book simply to follow other portions of the basic book. To that extent, those who maintain that the system cannot be played without using handwaving technologies are completely correct.

However, asking it to come out quickly is honestly what got us into this mess in the first place. Even the basic mechanics of whether hacking into a node is performed by rolling Logic + Hacking (as stated on pages 124 and 223) or Exploit + Hacking (as stated on pages 221 and another part of 223) is completely up in the air. That's a really fundamental question and it's answered positively in incompatible ways in two different parts of the main book.

What Serbitar is referring to is the mandate that Shadowrun Developement has set for themselves to not contradict the Basic Book in Supplementary Rules Material. That's a laudable goal in general of course, but in this specific instance the basic book includes both A and ~A as definitive statements. This means that really anything you say is going to contradict something in the Basic Book, leaving the devs the option only to fail in the mission they have set for themselves or to be deliberately deceitful.

Game Companies have a strong tendency to err towards the latter choice unfortunately. Many times Andy Collins and those lovable scamps at WotC will issue a hedged statement that is so wishy-washy and unclear that it is supposed to jive with two incompatible statements in the rules so that they can claim that they somehow aren't contradicting anything that the rules say. This is certainly a danger with Unwired as well. It is certainly possible that the authors will pull a D20 or a White Wolf and make a book that is incomprehensible and contradictory so that they can claim that they aren't contradicting any currently existing rules (even though those rtules contradict themselves). It's possible of course that they'll show some nuts and come clean with the viewers and write something that cuts the bullshit and moves on - I'm betting on something in between that fixes some problems and leaves some others untouched.

--

Serbitar can be forgiven his skepticism, since Unwired is an awful long time in coming out and Peter won't admit publically that there are problems that need to be fixed (of course he won't, that's his job - he's supposed to spin things as positively as he can). Honestly, I can't say that he's wrong to hold that view.

Here are some things that need to be fixed in Unwired (off the top of my head):
Agent Smith (There is no meaningful upper limit on how much assistance you can levy out of duplicates of agent programs running on various nodes).
Hacker Dicepools (Logic and Programs should both be important, as is one or the other is useless depending upon which part of the book you believe).
Servers, Matrix Cafes, and Hubs (Subscription limits are way too low to have any meaningful matrix society, the limits written for drone rigs simply don't allow for libraries or shopping catalogues to exist).
And Peter's statements about how there is no problem - geared to reduce panic amongst those less familiar with the game - actually cause panic among those who definitely know about these problems. Quite hilarious that.

But take a step back for a moment: of course Peter knows about these issues. He fucking well editted Street Magic. And while there are some fubars that fell through the cracks (Aspected Magicians and Blood Spirits), the book on the whole is very high quality and addressed a lot of the issues people had with the magic system of 4th edition. There is no way in hell that he's going to come out publically and say "Yeah, the rules don't actually say that there's any meaningful limit on how many piratted agents you can have in alternate nodes running continuous Medic commands on duplicates of your icon accessing different nodes, thus allowing you to regenerate your entire matrix condition bar every combat turn. There's no listed flavor reason why that wouldn't work either. Oops." - one can be certain that he actually has had his attention drawn to this fact.

-Frank
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Konsaki
post Jun 22 2007, 02:15 AM
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Personally, my thoughts are with Frank, Serbitar and others who think the matrix rules need a good rewrite. I've been quiet about this for a long time, my last rant going on back in Feb I think, but with Emergence coming out and this debate heating up, I figured I would throw my own voice in the frey.

I've played a Technomancer character for the last year as my main character. I've also played other types ranging from mages to bio sams to unenhanced people. The rules for everything else in the book make sense when read through, most of them at least, but the one area in the book that really contradicts itself is the Matrix section.
How this section of the book made it through playtesting eludes me. It's almost like they failed to even make a character as almost every character in the game has some stake in the matrix realm.
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hobgoblin
post Jun 22 2007, 02:38 AM
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some of the issues i have never noticed, some i have disregarded, and more often then not, it has helped me to apply common sense and ochams razor to figure out the rules in a way that works best for me.

so all in all i dont have much problems with the matrix rules. hell, its a game, not a accurate simulation of a future computer network. go for fun, not physics ;)
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Garrowolf
post Jun 22 2007, 02:47 AM
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Well I think that the first thing that needs to be decided on is what the Matrix should be like in the first place.

Some people favor the Fluff and want the rules to reflect that. Others want the rules to just be less clunky but still mostly work the same. I personally want to look at the foundations of the Matrix and rethink a lot of it.

once people state where they are coming from then their arguments would be clearer.
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Aaron
post Jun 22 2007, 02:49 AM
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We've been using the hacking rules as written for well over a year, and we've never had any problems with them. Seriously.
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WearzManySkins
post Jun 22 2007, 03:13 AM
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QUOTE (Aaron)
We've been using the hacking rules as written for well over a year, and we've never had any problems with them. Seriously.

Interesting I guess others have a different and as valid point of view.

We agree to disagree. :) Seriously.

WMS
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hobgoblin
post Jun 22 2007, 03:26 AM
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and the matrix rules, as they stand right now, allow for that disagreement.

but i wonder, how many of those that have a problem with the matrix rules work in the IT biz on a daily basis? or have people in their group that does so?
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WearzManySkins
post Jun 22 2007, 03:34 AM
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<Holds up Hand> I am in an industry that deals with wireless, IT and other important issues. No it is not technically the IT industry. We were here before the IT industry was even a byte. :)

I am also very familiar with the encryption technologies or yesterday and today.

I have also military training that dealt with Electronic Warfare in all aspects also.

So Yes I have different point of view on alot of things regarding Shadowrun, but I also understand the line between playability and futuristic.

WMS
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Abbandon
post Jun 22 2007, 07:51 AM
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People just need to keep making a list of questions they have for matrix rules and store them in the same place as other people's matrix questions and then the Devs can answer them hopefully.

After hearing some of that stuff from Synner i get the feeling that Unwired is going to eventually come out and answer none of the questions people have about the matrix and it will only add more to the confusion which is really stupid. Your going to end up using totally different mechanics if you play with different GM's.


Its like construction, if you make the base out of alignment even a little the top is going to be completely fubared.

I just want a clear set of rules with examples of each thing being used before i ever care about emergence or unwired. Why would I spend money on extra rules when they didnt even get the basic information right??
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deek
post Jun 22 2007, 12:21 PM
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I'm in IT and so are all my players...but I don't think we have a problem with the matrix because of that...I think the RAW works just fine, its just to us, we didn't like the complete ignoring of the Attribute + Skill mechanic...so we changed it.

Honestly, that is the ONLY issue I have ever had with the matrix rules...granted, we don't use TMs at all, and I see a lot of issues coming up with that...

Ok, I take that back...switching between AR/VR seems a bit clunky as well...so I have had two matrix issues, but both of them we "figured out" and have gone merrily on our gaming way!
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Blade
post Jun 22 2007, 12:28 PM
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I'm quite comfortable with the actual matrix rules.

Sure it took me a lot of time to read them, to try to understand how things work, to check if anything contradicted my interpretations, and so on.
Sure I use some houserules, but just a few of them, without modifying the whole system.

The thing is that I prefer to consider the metaphor and to play it that way, using specific programs and skills according to the situation. For example, if the hacker sees an ICE and wants to sneak past it, we will use the stealth program, just the way the player would use his infiltration skill in the physical world. He can also try to outsmart it, using spoof just like he'd use con to convince a security guard that he's supposed to be here...
Of course, there are some tricks you can only do in the Matrix.

I think that this kind of "open" way to consider the matrix helps ignoring the problems you could have by strictly following the rules while making it more interesting for the players than just a succession of dice rolls.

EDIT : By the way, I study Computer Engineering/IT and I don't have any problem with the rules. Of course they aren't totally realistic, but if you accept some assumptions (that aren't that hard to accept), there's nothing that suspends by belief.
And by the way, for all those who think the idea of mobile agents that travel between nodes is totally stupid and impossible: mobile agents already exist and are quite similar to what you can find in Shadowrun. It only means that they found a way to make it secure enough (which is the biggest concern) to deploy it everywhere.
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Dashifen
post Jun 22 2007, 12:42 PM
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QUOTE (Aaron @ Jun 21 2007, 09:49 PM)
We've been using the hacking rules as written for well over a year, and we've never had any problems with them. Seriously.

I'm going on two years with them and I've also not had a problem with them at all. And, for what it's worth, I'm a software developer.

Edit: Blade's post above made me want to mention, too, that I have experience programming distributed agent networks and, like he said, they actually do work somewhat similarly to SR's vision. Not exactly, but there is an exchange of data from one computer to another as distributed agents move throughout the network to get their work done. Granted, the network is usually a pre-established group of computers, not an arbitrary, nebulous set thereof, but the analogy holds water in my personal experience.
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Aaron
post Jun 22 2007, 12:49 PM
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QUOTE (WearzManySkins @ Jun 21 2007, 10:13 PM)
Interesting I guess others have a different and as valid point of view.

We agree to disagree. :) Seriously.

There's nothing with which to disagree, seriously or otherwise. We use the rules with no problems, others apparently do not, either because they don't like them or don't understand them.

Now, if you were to say that they sucked, then we'd disagree. But you didn't.

Some folks are saying that Attributes (usually Logic) must factor into hacking. I can't agree. The Matrix is about leaving your meat body behind, and that means one can't use Attributes. Consider, if you will, Case from Neuromancer. He's a brilliant hacker, but never does anything that demonstrates he's got a particularly high Logic. So then why is he the best around? And why do they spend so much time and energy looking for the right program to use against the Tessier-Ashpool ICE?

EDIT: Oh, and I'm a programmer, and also teach programming and networking.
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Serbitar
post Jun 22 2007, 01:07 PM
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QUOTE (Aaron)
We've been using the hacking rules as written for well over a year, and we've never had any problems with them. Seriously.

Ask yourself: Isnt that true for any rule set that leaves most of the desicions to the GM?

The matrix rules are playable, yes. But every ruleset is payable. The GM can always fix and improvize. But is it a ruleset that is good ( copared to other rule sets.)
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Serbitar
post Jun 22 2007, 01:08 PM
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QUOTE (Abbandon @ Jun 22 2007, 08:51 AM)
People just need to keep making a list of questions they have for matrix rules and store them in the same place as other people's matrix questions and then the Devs can answer them hopefully.

This has been done. Most questions were not answered.
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hobgoblin
post Jun 22 2007, 01:12 PM
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QUOTE (deek)
switching between AR/VR seems a bit clunky as well...


this makes me thing that the matrix rules are a joing of 3 rules sets.

there is the AR rules, there is the VR rules and there is the TM rules.

the first is new as a concept in SR. that you should be able to do matrix and physical action at the same time, and that a computer can overlay partial sensory feed rather then take full control.

the second part is the old style, with updated stats and actions. it often still behaves the same way.

the third is a mixing of magical rules with a updated otaku concept.

where some people seems to have problem are where these 3 systems overlap and appears to contradict each others.

also, the matrix chapter is clearly written as AR centric. the VR parts are most likely supposed to behave like old style VR for familiarity, but use as much of the basic AR rules as it can get away with.

in the end, its possible that all 3 parts are correct, within their own context. but when taken as a whole ends up contradicting each other.

there is subscription, clearly a AR concept born out of a direct 1 to 1 connection. but when applied to the matrix as a whole (more of a VR concept) it starts to get into trouble. this is because VR dont deal with connections, it deals with a virtual entity traveling between virtual places.

there are sprites, that share concepts with agents, but have some details all their own.

the agents them selfs can be a issue. that is, if you read the text as if its a sheet of C code ;)

i think someone, when SR4 first came out, posted that he had the impression that the matrix chapter could have been a book all its own. i can understand where that impression comes from.
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Serbitar
post Jun 22 2007, 01:14 PM
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A question for all those who have no problem with the matrix rules:

How does hacking with IC work? Consider a comlink that has 4 agents with analyze runnig. How is this handeled? This is a very basic thing (if not extremely important, IC is an integral part of the matrix), so it should be covereed by the basic rules (and it somehow is) but still, what would you do as a GM?
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Dashifen
post Jun 22 2007, 01:19 PM
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I don't understand the question yet, Serbitar. When you say "with IC" do you mean using Agents to assist a hack as a teamwork test? And, in the second question, is it 4 Agents with Analyze or is it a Commlink with Analyze and 4 Agents (i.e., 4 Agent programs on the Commlink each with an Analyze program running or 5 programs on the Commlink, 4 of which happen to be Agents)?

I don't ask for clarification to be an ass, but rather to avoid a hojillion posts before we realize that there was a misunderstanding at this point.
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DireRadiant
post Jun 22 2007, 01:21 PM
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QUOTE (Serbitar)
A question for all those who have no problem with the matrix rules:

How does hacking with IC work? Consider a comlink that has 4 agents with analyze runnig. How is this handeled? This is a very basic thing (if not extremely important, IC is an integral part of the matrix), so it should be covereed by the basic rules (and it somehow is) but still, what would you do as a GM?

The Commlink with 4 Agents is the target of a hackers? I assume you mean the agents are actively running analyze and are given instructions to attack unauthorized intruders?
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Konsaki
post Jun 22 2007, 01:22 PM
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QUOTE (Dashifen)
And, in the second question, is it 4 Agents with Analyze or is it a Commlink with Analyze and 4 Agents (i.e., 4 Agent programs on the Commlink each with an Analyze program running or 5 programs on the Commlink, 4 of which happen to be Agents)?

I think thats a good example of a question that got a crappy cryptic answer in the FAQ and nothing showed up in the errata to add it into the BBB itself. It makes a huge difference in the ammount of agents you can run on your commlink before it craps out due to the load.
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Dashifen
post Jun 22 2007, 01:24 PM
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Exactly, hence the my request for clarification from Serbitar. If it's the first way, then the commlink is probably running a little slow because, as I understand things, each Agent is using an Analyze program and that makes 8 programs. But, if it's the latter, then we only have 5 programs (4 Agents, 1 Analyze). That being said, the hacker characters I've seen run tend to have between 4 and 8 programs up at all times so we're not outside the realm of believability yet.
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Blade
post Jun 22 2007, 01:29 PM
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For me the node with 4 agents with analyze running is patrolled by 4 ICEs looking for intruders (or other kind of problems).
They'll show in the metaphoric representation and I will handle them more or less the same way I'd handle surveillance drones in a building.

EDIT : As for the amount of programs running, according to the FAQ, if the program is used by the agent, it affects the Response. So in that case, we have 4 agents + 4 programs (and I guess +1 for the analyze program of the node itself) which amounts to 9 programs running at the same time.
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hobgoblin
post Jun 22 2007, 01:29 PM
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I just noticed a interesting wording on the topic of subscriptions. The text talks about the persona maintaining a list, not the node. So a node without a persona may very well operate with no subscription list, and therefor a unlimited number of connections. The devil is in the details. Or in this case, the persona...
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Konsaki
post Jun 22 2007, 01:36 PM
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QUOTE (hobgoblin @ Jun 22 2007, 10:29 PM)
I just noticed a interesting wording on the topic of subscriptions. The text talks about the persona maintaining a list, not the node. So a node without a persona may very well operate with no subscription list, and therefor a unlimited number of connections. The devil is in the details. Or in this case, the persona...

Or you could say that without a personna, the node 'cant' have a subscription list and cant work properly with drones and other nodes. It's a grey area like all the others in the matrix section, each of which lower the quality of it.
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Dashifen
post Jun 22 2007, 01:44 PM
Post #25


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QUOTE (Blade)
EDIT : As for the amount of programs running, according to the FAQ, if the program is used by the agent, it affects the Response. So in that case, we have 4 agents + 4 programs (and I guess +1 for the analyze program of the node itself) which amounts to 9 programs running at the same time.

Yeah, I can't tell, yet if it's 5, 8 or 9 programs running in the example, but I agree. I would handle it like patrolling IC in any node. Depending on their instructions the Agents may use Pilot + Analyze to detect hacking or probing to gain access (this could be left up to the node itself) or they might just be programed to analyze key systems within the node (e.g., specific files, systems, etc.) and will use Analyze to detect problems within those areas (e.g., unexpected file access or system slow-down) after which -- since they don't seem to have offensive programming -- they'd probably alert the owner of the commlink or the spider in the network as to some funny stuff going on.
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