Computing equipment uses two terms; CPU and Store. The CPU is the actual programming power of the computer and is the maximum rating of programs that the computer can use at any one time. Thus a CPU 3 computer could have three rating 1 programs running, one rating 3 program or any combination in-between. The Store is the computers hard drive and physical memory. It is (very roughly) equivalent to about 10 gigabytes of raw data.
Computers are cheap and easy to produce, however compared to plugs, they are very slow to use. It costs $500 per point of CPU of the computer and $250 per point of Store. There is no limit to the amount of Store that a computer may have but the maximum amount of CPU is 6. This is not only a physical limit but also a speed limit restriction - while computers can become more powerful than a user with a plug, they will never be as fast.
A typical home computer has CPU 1 and Store 2, while a data node will have low (or no) CPU and very high Store values.
Plugs aren't constructed like computers or viruses. Instead, a plug has a CPU rating of 6. Up to three plugs may be combined to give the user a total CPU 18, although they must obey the normal rules that programs have a maximum rating of 6. Plugs themselves don't come with a Store. Instead, that requires the user to have skill plugs. Each skill plug costs $5,000 and is the equivalent of 1 Store. A user can have a maximum of 6 skill plugs per normal plug for a total CPU 6 Store 6. A well versed plug hacker costs a lot of money.
Viruses are built slightly differently to computers and plugs. Instead, Viruses are a collection of programs strung together. As such, they have no CPU and a special Store and all programs that are built into them can be used at the same time. Viruses don't use Store in the normal sense, but they can use a limited Store simply for holding data that they hack. It costs an amount of dollars equalling the combined total of programs plus $1,000 x combined rating of all programs to write a virus (use 1 or 2 for replication programs). Store can be added at $500 per point, for a maximum rating of 6. In addition, when a virus is written the writer must describe what the virus will do, there is no such thing as a generic virus, they are all purposely written. For example, the virus might be instructed to stealthy proceed to a specific multicorps data node and retrieve all the addresses of the senior execs. Or it might be written to simply go to a minor routing node, shut it down and then stay and protect that node from all attackers (which would be multicorp trying to restart it).
A typical (non-subtle) virus might have hack-attack 3, armour 3, retrieval 1 and Store 3. It would cost $18,500 to write and be designed to penetrate a medium security multicorp, hack the data node for specific information and then return to a set point for data retrieval by the senders.
All the computing hardware in the world is of no good if you don't have the programs to be able to put it to good use. The following programs are commonly available.
All programs may have a maximum rating of 6.
Each point of armour absorbs one point of damage in hacking combat. Once absorbed, the armour is lost.
This is the main program for actually attacking and causing damage to other programs and hackers.
This is the premier defence program and will attempt to repeal any Hack-Attacks. Whilst it is a static program and will only defend a specific node, it can initiate attacks against hostile programs within that node, it doesn't have to wait to be attacked. It often linked to patrol programs which will detect intruders in the node and then the head-hunt program will leap into action.
A program used by operators to attempt to snare other hackers or programs when they pass through a specific node being patrolled. Patrol programs may not be used to attack, but are usually linked to either an alarm or to head-hunt programs which will then attack the intruders.
This program is available to viruses only. The idea of this program is that it replicates the virus, thus creating more copies with which to be able to complete the virus job. The reasons for this include the fact that many viruses may overwhelm the targets defences, especially if the defences are very tough.
Replication doesn't have ratings like other programs. The way this program works is that the virus must end up in a node which has a CPU, so something like a user node. The virus then spends the turn replicating, during which is may do nothing else, and if attacked during that turn will not replicate. At the end of the turn, the virus is now 2. The new virus has the same programs and ratings as the original - at the time of replication. One virus will then move on, leaving the other to spawn again if desired. The off-spring of a replication I virus cannot replicate themselves. The off-spring of replication II viruses can, and so can their off-spring, and so on.
Replication II programs can be very nasty as they can swamp a systems defences quite quickly, producing clone after clone after clone of themselves.
This program allows the user to get data from a user or data node. Each point of Retrieval allows 1 point of data to be shifted into Store per turn. Retrieval doesn't store data itself.
This program attempts to give the user the option to sneak past other operators or programs without combat ensuring.
Trace is used to find where a hacker has come from. A successful trace will allow the program to follow the hacker back to their origin. A trace will be blocked by any nodes which have Head-Hunt or Patrol programs running in them and that aren't from the creators of the trace program, but will transmit their route to the node that they were stopped at.
Writing programs requires three main things. The first is an idea of what the program is going to do. The second is the skill needed to write the program and the third is time.
The idea is important and should be described in a general form. This should be given to the gamesmaster and between the two, the actual rules for the program should be generated.
The writer needs the Computer Use to be able to write programs and cannot write a program with a rating exceeding their Computer Use skill rating. A program takes approximately one week per rating to write and at the end of that time, the writer may make a skill role to see if they have done so successfully. A failure means that there are still bugs in the system that will take another week to iron out - make another roll at the end of that time to see if the program has been successfully written. If ever a 1 is rolled then the program has been horrendously botched and the writer must start again from scratch.
Devious gamesmasters may want to make the Computer Use roll themselves and leave it up to the players to determine the hard way whether their program works or not...
Alternately, the program can be sourced out to a company or private individual to write. In this case, the program takes the same amount of time to produce but costs $5,000 per rating. Double this to get the job done in half the time. The gamesmaster should determine the Computer Use skill and make the roll in private so that players won't know if their programs have any bugs in them or not. It should also be noted that if a program is outsourced, then it might find itself on the open market in the future.