I’ve always been somewhat enamored with the concept of hacking. For a bit of a layman in terms of that world, the idea of being a hacker that can use these various computer tools to locate different machines on the internet and break in to find some sort of dirt or bring down an evil corporation is exciting. It’s almost like a real-life super power – at least to regular folks it kind of is. Granted, it’s jazzed up and much more glamorous in movies and TV shows than in real life, but it sure does look cool. I don’t know how anyone could watch a show like Mr. Robot and not be simply thrilled with the concept. There are mysteries to unravel, and hacking through these computers is the only way to solve them!
That’s where World Wide Hack wants to come in. It’s designed around the idea that gamers want to have a taste of the intrigue and mystery from solving online puzzles… but without all the fines, lawsuits, and overall legality of actual hacking.
Gameplay is based on real terminal commands
Now, I’m no stranger to hacking games. Hackmud is another game I found myself enjoying significantly in the past. I found there are a lot of similarities between World Wide Hack and Hackmud, but they do serve different purposes.
Of course, if like me you also only briefly learned those commands when you were trying to install some less-reputable software, then the game acts more as a learning tool for how to really use the terminal. From Lotus Innovations’ website, it is apparent that teaching players how to navigate a terminal window was one of their goals.
It works really well too! Mostly because the commands you’re using are the real terminal commands. You’ll type “ls /home/secrets” to list out the files in a user’s secrets folder. You’ll “cat” the text file that contains information about a target you are trying to discover. You’ll use all these real commands while playing the game to the point that you will learn how to handle yourself in a terminal in real life, like it or not.
On top of that, as far as this rube knows, you’re also learning the most rudimentary general processes that a hacker might go through when hacking in real life. Maybe the best way to explain that is to use an example from the game: Players will look at logs to see the recent IP addresses that have connected to a machine. Then you’ll use nmap (which I understand to be a real life tool) to view open ports on that machine. Next, you run a password cracking tool that brute forces and guesses passwords until it opens the machine. Once inside the machine, you’ll navigate with the various commands until you discover the clues you need to solve the case.
The game lets you feel like you are browsing through and hacking a real world
There were several moments during play when I began to feel as if I was actually hacking these machines and uncovering their secrets. It’s a similar feeling I got while playing Hackmud, but different because of the way the game’s world is presented.
Hackmud’s world is a sort of cyberpunk, futuristic place where most humans have probably left or been lost. You’re told early on, but in passing I believe, that you’re basically an AI that has suddenly gained some level of consciousness, and you must be tested before escaping the firewalled network you’re found in. Your entire world consists of simply the other external networks that you exist and interact with. (I think there were some quests that gave the impression of controlling machines, such as delivery vehicles, but I don’t recall completely.)
That’s a far cry from the world of World Wide Hack. In fact, this world is essentially just our real world. The game begins as if you found yourself on some corporate website’s internal login page. Immediately, you receive a chat message from someone going by “jhack,” and suddenly you are playing the tutorial. In fact, the first thing you have to do is hack into a manager’s account by answering his security question, which is learned by going to an actual website with your browser and reading up on the manager. It’s a very clever way of beginning the game, and the tutorial, as the devs have placed an aspect of the game in the real world. Of course, when you’re in the game and connecting to networks, it is totally in the game’s world, but I like the crossover.
However, one of the downsides to this is quests that might seem in poor taste thanks to real-life parallels. Lotus Innovations appears to be a Slovakian company, which explains some of the game’s typos and awkward grammar, so perhaps it hasn’t fully thought through how disturbing a quest about bribery related to a cop killing an unarmed civilian actually is to many of its players around the world. The intention was likely to further make the game feel real, but this is probably not the parallel most players would want.
While the gameplay is primarily text-based, as in Hackmud you are not limited to just the terminal screen and a chat window. The game’s interface has a tiny GUI window in the left where documents you open, and even webpages, can be interacted with. There is also a nice network map so that you can pan around and see just how far and wide your network map has grown.
After completing the tutorial, you are able to enter the game proper, but there is still a bit of hand holding. It doesn’t appear that you are totally open for scamming by other players right away. Instead, additional messages from a new group appears to direct you toward completing quests, which will ultimately guide you toward joining one of two factions. Judging by the way the quest text is written, I assume you can switch between the two groups, but it will reset your reputation or progress with that faction, whatever that is worth.
I haven’t had enough evenings with the game to progress into the more direct PvP scene, although the game claims it is out there. I suspect once I’ve completed a few more faction quests, the game will open up further, enabling more interactions with other players. One of the first commands you learn is how to access and transfer coins from one machine to another. So I’d venture a guess that with the right level-exploiting tools, you’ll be able to hack other players’ machines to transfer coins out.
Before wrapping up, I should also mention that there is a more tangible story thread here when compared to Hackmud. It’s all part of the secrets and mystery of being a hacker in this world as you try to find clues about what is really going on and unravel the story one quest at a time.
So if you’re out there and you enjoyed games like Hacknet or even Hackmud and you want to try something new, you should definitely check out World Wide Hack. The game is on Steam, and there is a demo available. It’s still in early access and you can see some of the seams, but I’ve enjoyed my game time – and you might too.