"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them
the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and
nobody thinks of complaining."
The global internet in Neon Twilight is called the Infosphere. It is
composed of literally billions of imbedded and independent computers,
from the smallest compad to the largest connector. The infosphere
was originally designed to be a robust self-organizing network (SONNET)
after the old internet collapsed in the chaos of the Pacific War.
Infosphere design was based on the concept of ecosystem equilibrium
and immune system defences. The System-3 specifications that are now
standard were built to allow movement and autonomy for program nodules, and
to allow the evolution of genetic algorithms. Special programs would
cruise the infosphere, eliminating rogue signals, eating garbage packets
and purifying the network much like a swamp purifies dirty water.
Hackers would be tracked down by reactive barriers and t-cell bots
would disconnect illegal users. At the time it was believed the process
could be controlled. Five years into the infosphere and spawn
started appearing. These were anomalous programs which had combined
from abandoned code blocks and free-floating bots perverted by malicious
crackers. Spawn soon spread and reproduced: herds of digital spreadsheet
macros copied themselves across servers; flocks of prismatic images
merged with viruses and swam through telephone feeds; cable television
signals were taken over by noxious pirate parasites which burst-beamed
hours of propaganda into a second. The infosphere seemed on the edge
of another meltdown.
The world has been arbitrarily divided into zones of influence called Domains or Kingdoms, which is a simple way for crackers and hackers (and Gamemasters) to keep track of international regions with a similar character. These regions are listed in a convenient table format here. The sectors described here are constantly shifting, and the GM can modify them as necessary to keep players off-guard; after all, the network's transformation curve is a lot steeper than the hacker's learning curve, cause the Net's alive, cutter.
The cyberspace of Neon Twilight is a lot less flashy than the pastiche-geometry wonderland described in many other games. The Webworks is a more sinister and secretive labyrinth of secrets and back tunnels, and it doesn't look cute or colourful except in the 'soft reality' (virtual worlds) nodes. In those areas it looks more like an impossible Escher or Dali painting, but the semiotics vary according to the user. Actually, the standard appearance of the webworks is somewhat irrelevant because hackers specialize in modifying the guts of the system, not the interface. Interface is for drones code-hacking is what it's all about.
There are no simsense interfaces or datajacks, so a hacker has to rely on fast keyboards and eye-motion laser scanners for quick input. But the speed of your interface makes no difference when you're competing against machines and Great Minds a trillion times faster in reflex and calculation than a human being. You just can't compete with an AI in real-time (something which always bothered me in other games), so a hacker mostly relies on cunning, patience, stolen/weaseled codes, paradox, human engineering, and powerful programs to invade computer systems. Infiltration is mostly a slow process that takes days or weeks, but reaps results within nanoseconds when that bank transfer to UBS is finally authorized.
The basic components of cyberspace are as follows:
Which brings us down to the smallest parts, files. Here is the
very detailed information about
files , which is most useful to a GM.
Files in most ways behave as they do today, except that they
have many more 'attributes' (such as place of origin, modifications,
and time stamps) and they are linked to untold numbers of other