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Sunny's Guide to Programming and Deckbuilding

Introduction (aka, I try to convince you just to pay someone else to do it)

Hoi Chummers.

Had a lot of you asking me about how I program and the like. Programming is important if you do want to be the novahot matrix cowboy/cowgirl. That's true. And the benefit of investing in the skills and equipment to do your own programming and deckbuilding is that you will always be able to access what you need to jack into the matrix, without relying on others. Even an experienced decker can have their proggies shredded by IC, and having the ability to bounce back by just cooking some new chips can be what saves you from looking like an utter bakebrain in front of your team.

However, a warning: Deckbuilding is time-consuming and expensive. If you do not have a good computer to do the program and are inexperienced with deckbuilding, you can spend DAYS working on just one part. 1) And as you will see, a custom deck is requiring many parts to function. In life, the saying “time is money” is so true. Depending on ones goals, it can be just as profitable to buy a storebought deck. And if you are having friends, reaching out to another netjockey to see if they have a hand me down can be a legit way to acquire a hot ASIST deck without building it yourself.

…but if you're reading this, you're already thinking of sinking your time and money into this. So, choom.

Let's begin.

The tools of the trade, explained.

If I was to list the pros and cons of every different computer and encoder that are on the market, we'd be here all day. Instead, I've just summarised Computers and Encoders as a category.


What Comments Price range
Optical Chips You need these for programming, but also for the program components of deck parts when deckbuilding. Buy at electronics stores. LegalVaries.
Decking Parts You need these for deckbuilding only. Buy at electronics stores. Legal.Varies
Computers You need a computer (laptop, desktop, datacenter, etc) to install your programming designs onto. The higher the rating, the faster you can program. Also, large storage sizes recommended. While you can successfully write a program on a computer that has storage absolutely stuffed full, you will find it EASIER and therefore FASTER if your computer's available storage is more than TWICE whatever you are programming. And the larger the program you are coding, the more storage you need. Legal.Varies, from 10,000 nuyen to 350,000 that I've seen.
Programming Suite I am noting this here as something which is really mandatory if you are going to do any programming at all. You want as high a rating Programming Suite as will fit on your computer, while leaving enough room for you to create a program.. and then some extra. Not for sale / this is not something you can get in stores.
EncodersYou need this to COOK your programs onto optical chips once you have finished programming them. Higher ratings cook your chips faster. Legal.10,000-20,000 nuyen.
Microtronics WorkshopSome parts of a cyberdeck can be made with a simple kit, but the most important parts cannot. Legal, but hard to acquire. Probably an 'ask a fixer' item.30,000~nuyen.

Ready. Set. Program? (An explanation of the skills necessary)

They say that the design phase is optional. I say skip it at your own peril. If you skip it, it will make the programming phase harder. And if the programming phase is harder, that can translate into days, if not weeks, if not years of extra work.

The 'optional' design phase

If you've done any formal sort of matrix studies, you would know that there are 5 major skills involved in just the design phase. Operational, Special, Cyberterm, Defensive and Combat program design.

 (from help program design:)
 This set of 5 skills (Operational, Special, Cyberterm, Defensive and Combat 
 are used in the optional design phase of programming cyberdeck programs. 
 Extra successes in the design phase lead to easier programming tests later on. 
 Program Design (Cyberterm): This skill is used for any programs needed for 
 cyberterm construction and persona progs.
  Program Design (Special): Programming Suites, Sleaze, Track, Compressor 
  and Battletac all fall under the special category.
  Program Design (Combat): This covers all attack programs.
  Program Design (Defensive): Cloak, Lock-On, Medic and Armour are covered 
  in this category.
  Program Design (Operational): All other programs not covered by the 
  previous categories.

The program phase

Settle in, Omae. This is where the bulk of the work is.

This uses your training in Computer B/R, and it can take days or even weeks for the bigger programs.

Creating or buying a programming suite from another programmer and installing it on your computer will speed this up, as will using a better computer… or being a better programmer - an easy prospect if you just use skillwires.

Cooking your completed program

If you want to be able to install your finished program onto your deck, you need to cook it to an optical chip.

This is where the encoder comes into use. Just make sure you have enough optical chips lying about, and just smack it in there like your parents smacked you: with love, Omae <3. You don't even have to watch it while the encoder works its magic. Again, just like your parents with you!

Making Data Babies (a programming walkthrough)

N.B. As previously mentioned, programming on a device that has a programming suite is easier/quicker. The only downside to having a programming suite installed is that they take up space, which can be a problem if you are using a cheap drek computer. But you wouldn't do that to yourself, would you, baby? More storage = easier to code.

  1. CREATE program. This is where you start fleshing out your idea, naming the program, deciding what you want it to do, and deciding what rating it will be. This is going to be your baby, so treat this step with care. Look at how much it is going to cost in tuition optical parts.
  2. Make sure your computer is turned on and that you're not cuddling it. (OOC: DROP whatever computer you're using)
  3. (SKILLWIRES USERS ONLY) Make *SURE* you have the correct skill jacked. You'll fail, otherwise, Omae.
  4. SIT down and settle in. This is going to take a while.
  5. INSTALL design on computer. (OOC: INSTALL <plan name>)
  6. LIST to see installed programs
  7. DESIGN plan name. You can use PROGRESS to see how this is going. If you want to stop, at any stage, stand up.
  8. PROGRAM plan name. You can use PROGRESS to see how this is going. If you want to stop, at any stage, stand up.
  9. (OPTIONAL:) COPY your completed program
  10. COOK your completed program by cooking it in an encoder. (OOC: COOK <program name> <encoder name>) You can check the progress by LOOKING at the encoder. You do not have to watch this stage, you are free to program other things, or even leave your house like a normie weirdo.
  11. UNINSTALL the completed program from the encoder. (OOC: UNINSTALL chip <encoder name>

And then you're done. You can INSTALL the completed program chip onto your deck. Don't forget to set the program to default, if you want it to load automatically!

Programming list

Please see Sunny's Guide to Decking for a cheat sheet on the various utilities and what they do while I finish working on the below:

NumberNameNecessary for hardware part?Associated Matrix actions?
1 BodYes: Bod Chip Part
2 EvasionYes: Evasion Chip Part
3 MaskingYes: Masking Chip Part
4 SensorYes: Sensor Chip Part
5 AttackNo.RUN attack. For use against IC. Destroying IC raises detection value.
6 SlowNo.(NERP)Slows IC down, potentially shutting them down. Does not raise detection value.(NERP)
7 MedicNo.RUN medic. Heals your icon. Loses effectiveness with each use, potentially requiring the decker to unload and reload medic.
8 SnooperNo.(NERP)Assists with Analyze Operations.(NERP)
9 BattleTacNo.(NERP)Use your comlink program to assist each other in the matrix!(NERP)
10CompressorNo.(NERP)Potentially compresses files, making them load/download faster. (NERP)
11AnalyzeNo.Allows ANALYZE actions (host, security, subsystem, paydata, file, icon ) to succeed. LOCATE IC and uses the Analyze utility! (NERP: Locate Slave, which is used to find security cameras and other slaved devices uses the Analyze utility)
12DecryptNo.DECRYPT access, files, slaved subsystems.
13DeceptionNo.Crucial for LOGON and graceful LOGOFF.
14RelocateNo.(NERP) Defeat IC programs that have begun location cycles against you.
15SleazeNo.Average of Sleaze program and Masking Chip = how hidden you are.
16ScannerNoLOCATE Decker/ SCAN Decker
17BrowseNoLOCATE host <keyword>/LOCATE File/Trace MXP
18Read/WriteNoUPLOAD file. DOWNLOAD file / DOWNLOAD paydata. (NERP: Edit File, determine if a file has been tampered with)
19TrackNo(NERP: A trace program used against hostile deckers)
20ArmorNo Protects your icon. This reduces the power of damage against a decker's icon by the rating of program. It does NOT protect your meat against killer IC.
21CamoNo Gives you time before the Trace IC locate your meat, Omae. (HTR currently do not get dropped on deckers, so there's no real 'threat' from Trace IC)
22CrashNoUsed to CRASH the host. The nuclear option. (NB: Host shutdowns do not happen immediately. While a host is crashing, all IC have their ratings reduced by 2.)
23DefuseNoDEFUSE Databomb and Pavlov IC hidden in paydata.
24EvaluateNo*Created with your data brokerage skills, and pretty crucial if you want to LOCATE paydata.
25ValidateNo(NERP?) Used to make it easier to perform administrative level changes, access system logs, etc.
26SwerveNoAbort Host Shutdowns.
27Programming SuiteNo*Recommended install on your programming computer.
28CommlinkNoMake a CALL within the matrix to a commode number. (NERP: Tap Commcall)
29CloakNoEvade an IC you are in matrix combat with.
30Lock-OnNoHelps us in matrix combat, and stops IC from maneuvering against us.
31Cold ASIST InterfaceYes.Protects your meat, but slows you down. OOC: You cannot use hacking pool in Cold ASIST.
32Hot ASIST InterfaceYes.Experience the matrix, raw and unshielded. Better than any BTL, baby. OOC: Allows you to use hacking pool.
33HardeningYesProtects your meat against biofeedback damage.
34ICCM FilterYesIncreases chances of jacking out successfully when under attack by Black IC.
35Icon ChipYesHow good this determines how good you look in the matrix, Omae. Some deckers keep a library of icon chips, each designed for a different situation.
36MPCPYesThe higher the better. No persona program may be higher than the rating of your MPCP. Further, the sum of all your persona programs cannot exceed 3 times the value of your MPCP.
37Reality FilterYes Filters the matrix to conform to iconography and style as preferred by the user. This allows a decker to react faster. (OOC: Increased reaction and initiative. The downsides (-1 MPCP) for Reality Filters are not implemented!)
38Response IncreaseYes The matrix equivalent of wired reflexes. A deck can only support 3 points, and Response Increase cannot exceed MPCP divided by 4. NB: Only usable in hot ASIST.

Ready. Set. Build? (An explanation of the skills necessary)

BUILDing a deck involves using your understanding of Computer b/r, but also some parts of cyberdecks require software. This will require you to design, program and cook the relevant software (as above) before BUILDING the part into your cyberdeck.

The following assumes that you've managed to purchase yourself a microtronics workshop, and that you have SET it up, and that you've gone ahead and got some cyberdeck parts and bags of optic chips stockpiled.

While I don't suppose there's any law preventing you from just setting up a workshop just anywhere, 30,000 nuyen's a substantial bit of creds to just lose when the first ganger walks up and takes it from you. Set it up in your APARTMENT or even a GARAGE, Omae.

(OOC: DROP the workshop from your inventory and SET it up. Takes 5 OOC minutes to SET up or PACK up workshops.) (WARNING!!!! Objects dropped outside of player housing are LOST if/when the server resets or crashes.)

Baby's First Cyberdeck

  1. CREATE your cyberdeck. Name it. Decorate the chassis. 3)

Baby's First Cyberdeck PART

  1. If you haven't yet, CREATE your cyberdeck. Name it. Decorate the chassis.
  2. SIT down because you're going to be at this for a while, Chummer.
  3. CREATE your first part. (OOC: create part) For this example, the MCPC.
  4. As you create the first plan for your part, you will be able to see how much it will cost in parts and chips.4)
  5. Once you are happy, quit planning and start doing!
  6. Some parts MAY require you to design, but others may not. The MCPC requires a design. 5)
  7. The MCPC also requires software. Follow the programming steps (see above) to CREATE, DESIGN, PROGRAM, and then COOK a MCPC chip that is the same rating as your plan.
  8. Once you have the COOKed program and the completed DESIGN plan of the part (MCPC in this case), you can BUILD <part> <deck>.
  9. In order to have a a working deck, repeat this process with all of the parts noted as 'required' as per below. You will also likely want some optional parts, but the minimum for a deck that will turn on are the parts listed as 'required' being built into the deck.
  10. If you realise that I wasn't joking and that this is a massive undertaking for someone new to decking, don't be afraid to shelve your project and come back to it when you have a better grasp of programming, a better computer that can have a higher rating programming suite, or turning to the more experienced deckers within the community for help.

Parts list

Many of the optional parts aren't exactly optional (go up against black IC without any hardening and you probably won't be able to tell me about it later), but when I've listed a part as “required” that means that it is one of the minimum components necessary for a deck to even turn ON.

“Programming Required” means that you will also need to design and program and cook the related chip, making sure that your part plan MATCHES the programming plan.

##Required or Optional deck part?Part NameProgramming Required?What's it?Comments
1 RequiredActive Memory No Back in the olden days, the oldtech term was “RAM.” Your deck's active memory limits the utility programs it can run at once.Loading a utility into active memory does not remove it from the storage memory. You can set utilities to automatically load by DEFAULT, too. 6)
2 RequiredStorage Memory No Your cyberdeck's harddrive. You can't download something that's larger than your available storage memory, duh. Loading a utility program into Active Memory does NOT remove it from Storage Memory. You install and uninstall things to your deck's storage memory OUTSIDE of the matrix.
3 Hot ASIST Interface You gain the ability to choose between hot and cold ASIST modes. 7) In hot ASIST mode, you can use your hacking pool and (if installed)response increases.Your squishy decker meat brain is unshielded from the matrix, leaving you vulnerable to grey and black IC and greater injury from dumpshock… However, you can choose between the two modes. So a Hot ASIST Interface is definitely superior. Cold ASIST mode limits the damage to you, the decker.
4 Cold ASIST Interface Cold ASIST mode limits the damage to you, the decker, from grey and black IC.All store bought decks and cyberware use Cold ASIST interfaces. You cannot choose to use hot ASIST mode with a Cold ASIST interface. In Cold ASIST mode, you lose the ability to use your hacking pool and there's no point in building and installing response increases.
5 OptionalHardening YesA collection of internal deck programs designed to reinforce your deck’s resistance to invasive code such as viruses, gray and black IC, etc. Each point of hardening reduces damage from Black IC to your deck's icon or to YOU, the actual decker. It also makes it harder for grey IC to damage your icon.Recommended, if you like your brain unbaked.
6 ICCM Biofeedback Filter This is important if you run into sparky or black IC. It allows a decker to attempt to logoff.
7 RequiredIcon Chip YesYour mind is represented by your persona icon, which can have any appearance you wish, Omae.Make it a wiz one, yeah?
8 RequiredI/O Speed Input and Output, baby. I/O's are like those old modems that connected terminals and computers back in the dark ages. All uploads and downloads are always at the full I/O speed of your deck.
9 RequiredMCPC YesThe Master Persona Control Program, the master operating system of a cyberdeck. The Cyberdeck's OS. The MPCP Rating is the central value for cyberdecks. The MPCP Rating multiplied by 3 equals the maximum total of the deck’s persona programs. No single Persona Rating may exceed the MPCP Rating, and the maximum value for utility programs is equal to the MPCP RatingYou want as high an MCPC score as possible, Omae.
10RequiredBod Chip YesBod is the decker's resistance to damage and is used primarily in combat to prevent damage to the deckers icon from White and Grey IC. Bod does not prevent against damage to the Decker.For use in Custom Decks only. Different to the store bought version, can't use store bought in custom decks. You need to build in a bod chip.
11RequiredSensors Chip YesSensors are used to detect icon movement within a host. It is the decker's eyes and ears when he is logged on. High sensors can help detect IC before they attack, giving you the opportunity to maneuver yourself to a better position.For use in Custom Decks only.Different to the store bought version, can't use store bought in custom decks. You need to build in a sensors chip.
12OptionalMasking Chip YesMasking helps a persona camouflage itself to its surroundings. It is one of the most useful persona programs in a decker's arsenal. Coupled with the Sleaze utility program it determines your detection factor. The higher your detection factor is, the more difficulty the host (and IC) have detecting your presence. Your detection factor is the average of both your masking chip and any sleaze utility program loaded on your deck.For use in Custom Decks only. Different to the store bought version, can't use store bought in custom decks. You need to build in a masking chip.
13OptionalEvasion Chip YesSometimes even the best decker gets caught out. When this time comes they need the evasion persona program. It helps not only in combat maneuvers but to help avoid Trace IC from locking onto you.For use in Custom Decks only. Different to the store bought version, can't use store bought in custom decks. You need to build in an evasion chip.
14NERP Ports (FUPS) No Allows you to plug in speakers, battery packs, cameras, chip and or credstick readers, disk drives, display screens, keyboards, and so on and so forth. A deck can have up to two times MPCP rating accessories plugged in.
15Optional*RAS Override Stops a decker from flailing about in meat space. While a deck will turn on without the RAS Override, you will want one. As decking is so much harder because you are constantly distracted by meatspace. (OOC: Massive TN penalties for decks without RAS override)
16OptionalReality Filters Yes Increases reflexes in the matrix by filtering all the iconography so that the display is standardised for the user. (OOC: there is no -1 MCPC downside)
17OptionalResponse Increase No Helps your reflexes in the matrix. Like wired reflexes, only in the matrix! You MUST be running in hot ASIST mode to utilise this.
18RequiredMatrix Interface No Allows you to interface with the world data network, the matrix, via a datacable connecting your central nervous system to a jackpoint. A wired interface.
19NERP Maser Interface
20NERP Cellular Interface Yes*Uses radio trancievers to connect directly into a cellular network. *A cellular link utility is required to use this.
21NERP Laser Interface Yes*Uses a laser tranciever to transmit data via the infared spectrum to another receiver connected to the matrix which is within line of sight. *A laser link utility is required to use this.
22NERP Microwave Interface Yes*Uses a microwave tranciever to connect to a microwave transponder which is connected to the matrix. Additional fiberoptic cable can be used to set the dish further away from the cyberterminal. *A microwave link utility is required to use this interface.
23NERP Radio Interface Yes*Uses radio transmissions to connect directly to a radio network. *A radio link utility is required to use this interface.
24NERP Satellite Interface Yes*Uses high-spectrum radio waves to connect to a satellite transponder. *A satellite link utility is required to use this interface.
25NERP Signal Amplifier No A signal amplifier is a device used to increase the flux rating of a wireless interface. Used with any interface other than the standard matrix interface.

OOC Tips and hints

I wrote V1 of this guide closer to when Awake CE started being a thing. Since writing, people have written some easier quickstart guides.

If you just want to know a recommended build, Khai's Guide to the Amateur Decker gives a really good overview of that.

I've tried to make the information contained within accurate to Awake's systems, but if something is wrong please do let me know.

Evaluate utilities (used in finding pay data) will decay periodically. Evaluate programs decay by 1 rating per OOC day IF the game server has been up that long, so it is useful to be able to make this yourself. These use paydata brokerage to determine the max rating possible to be made.

You do not need a microtronics workshop UNLESS you plan on making a custom deck.

If the computer being used has double the required memory, it provides a -2 target number to the computer (programming) test. If you have a smaller computer, you can UNINSTALL programs to make room to lower the difficulty on the programming test.

OOC: Using the starting computer to do my programming, it took me 12+ OOC hours to finish my first MCPC. Accordingly, I wouldn't recommend doing deckbuilding until you have better gear and stats.
OOC: If the server crashes or resets, you will lose anything dropped outside of a player home or car
OOC: CREATE deck brings up an editor where you can name your deck, this will be what it looks like in your inventory and if you wear / hold it. You can use colours. My personal preference is to keep strings to 40 characters, because Awake has a 79 character limit including colour codes, and I love putting heaps of colours in my items. But beware, colour codes inside words in item names break keywords. Eg, 'a cool clicky ^MCy^Gber^Mdeck^n' will output a a cool clicky Cyberdeck' with the word Cyberdeck being coloured, but you may not be able to use the word 'cyberdeck' when referencing this object to do things. If this didn't make sense, don't worry. The TLDR; colour codes inside words break keywords.
1) Name: Test MPCP, Software Needed: YES,2) Type: MPCP,3) MPCP Designed For: 6, q) Save and Quit, Parts Cost: 1260 nuyen, Chips Cost: 144 nuyen
OOC: design <part name>
OOC: DEFAULT <program name>
OOC: In the Matrix, having a Hot ASIST Interface allows the use of the command 'ASIST'
sunnys_guide_to_programming_and_deckbuilding.txt · Last modified: 2022/08/21 00:31 by sunny