Cymatic Bruce playtests a preview of Darknet, E McNeill’s evolution of 2013’s VR Jam winner Ciess. Plus, Ben Lang shares his thoughts on his time with the game.

Reclaiming Cyberspace

Cyberspace, 90s style. Oh dear.
Cyberspace, 90s style. Oh dear.

I’ve hated the term ‘cyberspace’ since the death (or perhaps forced hibernation) of virtual reality in the 90s. The word was seized by mainstream media early on and derivations of it were plastered across just about everything loosely related to computers—be that the early days of the Internet or video games. The term became almost meaningless and at the same time (at least for me) epitomised everything that went wrong with VR back in the day. It was used by Hollywood to exploit the

Fast forward to the present and developers like E McNeill, the mind behind last year’s VR Jam Winner ‘Ciess’, are making good on the promise of 90s Cyberspace. Darknet is a strategy puzzle game set in the world of computer networks and pitches you against the system. You’re a hacker for hire, earning a quick buck taking down security systems using your exploits, viruses and of course your l33t skillz.

Cyberspace, Darknet style. Much better!
Cyberspace, Darknet style. Much better!

We mentioned in a previous article that although very little of the Darknet’s aesthetic had changed, it’s been tweaked and sharpened, polishing further the look adopted by the already accomplished Ciess. Once injected into cyberspace, gazing upon the glowing, pulsating world is a real treat. That level of polish is evident throughout, from the slick transitions to the concise help prompts, Darknet screams class.

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McNeil was kind enough to forward us a short teaser of Darknet, so Cymatic Bruce took it out for a spin as you’ll see in his video playtest above. In addition, Ben Lang shares his thoughts on the demo he had a chance to play at the MIX indie developer event, hosted by IGN a their HQ in San Francisco.

Ben’s Darknet Impressions from MIX

Darknet has been revamped since Ciess won the VR Jam last year. As well as tweaked visuals it includes a new voice over by Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem, among many other videogame voice roles.

Developer E McNeil told me that while its predecessor, Ciess, was good for a VR Jam entry, it lacked the depth needed for a full game. Once you knew the ins-and-outs, McNeil said, the game became fairly cut and dry. With Darknet, McNeil is bringing a deeper and more meaningful experience, one that is deserving of a game that will be ready for the Oculus Rift consumer release.

ciess darknet hacking system comparison
Out with the old, in with the new: Ciess (left) and Darknet (right) hacking systems compared.

While the spirit of Ciess is certainly intact, Darknet has enhanced graphics and a new hacking system that behaves much differently. Instead of an open space for your Exploits to try to grow against each system’s Countermeasures, there’s now a grid upon which your exploits will spread. The Countermeasures comb the grid like spiders in a web, attempting eliminate your Exploits, but they can be outsmarted with good placement. While the old hacking experience ramped up challenge by adding more Countermeasures, the new experience not only toys with the number of Countermeasures, but also dynamically generates the grid upon which your Exploits can take hold, meaning that each hacking event is unique.

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McNeill also told me that he had some ideas in mind for the positional tracking that will be included with the Oculus Rift DK2 and the consumer version, but we’ll have to wait until he has his hands on the DK2 to see if those ideas pan out.

Darknet is planned to be released with the consumer launch of the Oculus Rift and is expected to cost $10-20.

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