Ess: Hey all, and welcome to the very first issue of Running on Italics, stimhack.com’s new flavour review column! We’re your hosts Ess and Cee, and we shall only be known by those enigmatic initials.
Cee: I’ve been told that’s all the rage at Duggar’s these days.
Cee: We’ll be kicking things off by heading to The Valley; today as runners, next week as corps. Shall we get straight into it?
Ess: Please keep your financial instruments inside the ride at all times. No punching, kicking, or scorching, but all other forms of violent retribution are kosher.
Cee: I mean. It’s a clot?
Ess: It’s totally a clot.
Cee: The art is just really uninspiring. I usually love Doyle’s work but this is literally just a boring clot. I can’t quite figure out the analogy in the cyberpunk world here either. What’s up with the other… black vein thing across the front?
Ess: Since we’ve had Clot rumoured and quasispoiled, I’ve been wondering how it’s meant to actually work. I was expecting some elegant flavour text, some evocative art. I wanted some idea of how this is actually meant to gum up the corp’s gears!
Cee: It’s totally a denial of service attack, right? Clotting up the key router in your network topology. Some sort of, oh, let’s just slam random packets at their intranet, delay their emails, or at least just make your devs throw up their hands and say, WELP, I guess I can’t load up my work today.
Ess: I’ll intra your net.
Cee: Please don’t.
Ess: The DoS interpretation makes sense, but I still feel a card as key and influential as this deserved some more love. Christ, look at Medium. Just two, short lines of flavour text, and it fully justifies its power and potency in the meta.
Cee: That’s true. And cards like Siphon manage it without flavour text, even, just by being clear about what they do. Clot is just disappointing in comparison.
Ess: I am a fan of how that just is Astroscript yellow in the actual clot, though. Overall, I’m happy to give it a C+ or so. Appropriate, too, because the moon has seas.
Cee: Shut up. But yes, C+ sounds right for something that should be a lot clearer.
Cee: This could possibly be a Charmed reference; two of its characters are named Paige and Piper. And if you squint, she sorta resembles one of them? But I can’t see how the card or effect or flavour make sense of the reference, here, though my knowledge of the show isn’t exactly encyclopædic.
Ess: It’s not like FFG have been wary of referencing popular culture before. You gotta pay the trolllll tolll to get iiiin~
Cee: FFG have also based connections, or even Runners, on employees at FFG and their interests. We could just have a fan of the show on our hands.
Ess: The Valley is obviously Silicon Valley, with all of the collegiate atmosphere and hitech companies that implies. Her flavour text, then—“littered with good ideas”, “discipline to execute”, “incubator”—makes Paige sound like an angel investor.
Cee: But she’s clearly not just straight up injecting funds into the Runner, right? She seems more interested in discarding the ideas the Runner might have had, instead…
Ess: Paige, then, gets you to assess your ideas the first time you have them, but then not waste your time on trying them again. She wants you to have that one idea that explodes, and so she wants you to have as many different ideas as possible.
Cee: You could also read her as pushing the Runner to think. Every successful concept is built on the ashes of a hundred failures, right? Paige helps you explore that design for a code paintbrush fully when you first have it, instead of three weeks later when you’re on that Diesel high.
Ess: And then she makes you discard them and move on, because she wants the Big One—but the Runner can find use for the nifty little things she’s long since moved beyond.
Cee: They’re both using each other, aren’t they? The Runner really has no interest in becoming another friggin’ startup, and Paige would probably report you if she knew what she was helping with.
Ess: And is that not cyberpunk in a nutshell? ^_^ Parasitic Runner/Connection relationships are basically my favourite pieces of flavour in the game. A+ on my end.
Cee: Eh, I’m less fond of it than you, but sure, B from me.
Ess: Okay so I know we have some sort of an order to follow and I’m sorta skipping ahead but HOW THE FUCK DO YOU TRASH SOMEONE’S BLOOD.
Cee: You know, gene therapy is a …
Ess: Trashing resources has always been weirdly placed in many ways; it means so many different things in different scenarios. You’re scaring a connection away from supporting the runner. You’re kicking the runner off Wyldside’s guest list, you’re firing your compromised employee, you’re patching the hole in the borrowed satellite.
Cee: It’s actually kinda reasonab…
Ess: But then, somehow, as a giant megacorp, you can trash someone’s motivation? You have enough access to kill the little sacrificial construct they have on their desk? You can somehow kill their ability to do the same old thing?
Ess: AND NOW YOU CAN TRASH THEIR BLOOD.
Ess: HOW. HOW DOES THAT WORK. PLEASE TELL ME.
Cee: Gene therapy would be a lifelong process in the Android universe, though. I mean, I’m assuming the CRISPR/Cas system or any similar one-off treatments got locked down on “consumer protection” grounds, by which I mean protecting the business interests of gene vendors.
Ess: So… I can have Enhanced Vision, but only if I keep making my regular monthly payments of $99.99?
Cee: Wouldn’t want those potential side effects to hit you, would we? I’ll pencil you in for next Tuesday.
Ess: …huh. That’s… actually really neat, then. That makes sense of basically everything about how these are meant to work, including how you can retroactively make your Genetics better by finding a Shoppe.
Cee: Yep! You’re just filling out your existing… “prescriptions”? at a slightly seedier joint, and they’ll see what sick new sequences they can dig up for you!
Ess: Major +points for “Shoppe”, too. I do also like how “Adjusted Chronotype” is deliberately reminiscent of “chromosome” and “phenotype”, here, but I’m not a fan of how Symmetrical Visage is not just HEY YOU THERE BE PRETTY NOW.
Cee: Apparently “chronotype” actually is a word; it’s how your body’s circadian rhythms function. Though, I find the art super weird, even a bit off-putting. I guess we’re making breakfast? Because we woke up early? I didn’t think this cyberpunk future had room in it for such ‘60s ads.
Ess: I don’t think you’re qualified to comment on the concept of us humans having breakfast.
Cee: I like Enhanced Vision’s art more, though I’m not sure exactly what’s enhanced about her vision? Maybe she’s got her cutlery out because she already sees the shark as sushi? It’d explain why it looks so terrified.
Ess: I quite like how all the Genetics cards are literally ads from the ‘60s, actually. They seem to be some sort of commentary on … hopeless technopositivism? In the sense that the ads look beh to us now because we know now how the promises of that era were bunk, but in the Android universe the culture’s cycled back towards this sort of completely trusting acceptance of the corporate overlords’ messages. And it’s not like the artstyle is new, either; classic PAD Campaign pioneered this particular little wedge of the world.
Cee: I could do without this much of it. Though, our little marathon running heart on Synthetic Blood is fricken adorable, he gets a ribbon.
Ess: I think I can give the whole Genetics suite a solid A for flavour. Nice work seeding this into the world, guys!
Cee: I’ve been staring at the baby and I think he wants to eat my soul oh god um okay can I just give the suite a C and move on
Cee: So I only got into A:NR seriously quite recently, and I’ve still never even seen Zu.13 or Creeper played. So when Spike was spoiled, I was under the impression the Cloud subtype referred to the +1 strength ability.
Ess: …that would have made so much more sense. Something something cloud computing…
Cee: But yeah, as is, I don’t understand what it’s meant to be doing. It somehow gets better at fracting… when lots of other unrelated programs are also running on your rig?
Ess: Does it just integrate heavily into some sort of generalised breaker API? Hey, Gordian Blade, how do I shot web?
Cee: I’m just super uninspired by this. It’s boring. I’m bored. Can we move on?
Ess: Sure. Flavour D, try harder next time.
Cee: I have no idea what the art is doing. Flying cars! Above a city! Doesn’t look particularly jammed. I suppose it’s pretty, I’d definitely have it on a mat.
Ess: The effect doesn’t particularly make sense either. Is it another janky network topology analogy? If so, what on earth is the difference between clotting up and jamming up the data?
Cee: Maybe it’s traffic as in traffic analysis. Collecting and collating packet metadata and traffic patterns from the corp servers, and using them to… what?
Ess: I guess if the runner’s been watching while NBN wrote on the moon, he or she could have figured out which particular servers and services are key to disrupting something similar in the future. If you saw how they mobilised the construction explosives and got them shipped to moon via the Beanstalk, you could fudge, say, bureaucratic delays for the lunar explosives use clearance?
Cee: NBN just uses a giant space laser.
Ess: A giant spa—
Cee: Yes, a giant space laser.
Cee: DO NOT GET BETWEEN ME AND MY GIANT SPACE LASERS
Ess: …so a C- for flavour then.
Cee: Yerp. And that puts us at done, for today anyway.
Ess: We’ll be heading back to The Valley in a few days as corps, but there’s plastic surgery, buying new identities, DNA resequencing… You know, the regular stuff.
Cee: Papa’s gonna see if he can get his hands on a space laser.
Ess: We hope you’ve enjoyed our romp through what the Runners are getting, and we hope you’ll join us next time!
Cee: Until then, may all your runs be—
Cee: Flavourful. May all your runs be flavourful. We say “flavourful” in this column, Ess.