Remastering System Gateway

Over the past month, we’ve been working hard to get the Remaster project underway. Unlike Downfall and Uprising, our more recent releases don’t generally need a lot of updates to match their rules text to our most up-to-date style and terminology. So in hopes of getting these cards into your hands as quickly as we can (to the extent possible without slowing the release timeline for Parhelion), we’ve been focusing on compiling all the changes we want to make for the remastered System Gateway.

With review of the set nearing completion, we’d like to share with the community the exact list of changes we have planned or are considering. These changes are not yet “locked in”, but they will be finalized within the next 1-2 weeks as we continue to move forward in the production process. We’re sharing this list now because we want the Remaster to be the definitive version of System Gateway, and we know that many players are invested in this project. We want to keep you informed about what exactly we’re doing, and we want you to have an opportunity to let us know if there’s something we missed! If you’d like to share feedback about these proposed changes, please write to rules@nullsignal.games.

Without further ado, here’s the list itself.

Set-Wide Changes

  • Remove “NISEI” from all card backs.
  • Change “2021 NISEI” in the credits line of each card to our new name (announcement coming very soon!).

Ancillary Card Changes

  • Front cover to follow Midnight Sun’s layout instead of having “NISEI” in title position.
  • Update other references to NISEI with the new org name.
  • Update nullsignal.games URLs and QR codes.
  • [still under discussion] Tweak formatting of various ancillary cards to improve readability.
  • [still under discussion] On the “Stop!” card, add an explanation that starter deck games should be played to 6 agenda points initially, and 7 agenda points once the additional 10 cards are added to each deck.
  • [still under discussion] Rewrite “Beyond the Basics I” and “Beyond the Basics II” rules helper cards to improve explanations.

Flavor Text, Graphics, and Illustrator Credit Changes

Rules Text & Type Line Changes

  • [still under discussion] The Catalyst and The Syndicate: Add “Starter game only.”?
  • Botulus and Tranquilizer: Add reminder text to first ability, and add the trojan subtype.
  • Mutual Favor: Remove “program”, since our style usually allows the “icebreaker” subtype to stand on its own.
  • [still under discussion] Red Team: Can we find a better way to phrase the “server you have not run this turn” restriction?
  • Unity: Change strength-boost ability to use “+X strength” for better clarity.
  • Diviner: Rephrase subroutine to more explicitly connect the damage to the trashed card.
  • Malapert Data Vault: Update “from this server” to “from the root of this server”.

Some Explanations

Many of these changes are correcting an error or otherwise self-explanatory, but some of them merit further discussion, so let’s talk about those.

Trojan

New players sometimes struggle with the concept of hosting programs on ice. We wanted to make this mechanic easier to learn, so we’re adding some new reminder text to Botulus and Tranquilizer. Tentatively, the first paragraph on these cards will now read: “Install only on a piece of ice. (If the host ice is uninstalled, this program is trashed.)” We’re also creating a new subtype, trojan, to more explicitly group together cards that work this way.

For many years, programs that host themselves on ice were fairly rare, but this is a design space we expect to continue visiting regularly (scoops: you will see it in Parhelion!). In conversation with the Design and Development teams, and looking at some similar historical examples from other games, we’ve come to the conclusion that giving a name to this group of cards would entail several benefits: it helps with teaching and learning about them, it gives a more explicit mental hook that helps players remember to count their memory cost, and if our Design team ever wants to make cards that interact with the mechanic directly, it will make it easier to write those abilities. (No, you will not see this in Parhelion.)

In the field of information security, a “trojan horse” is a piece of malware that masquerades as something innocuous. We feel “trojan” works well for a general concept to fit programs that host themselves on and interact with particular pieces of ice. We don’t feel the need to be super strict about this or constrained in how we can concept future cards: you can expect future trojans to be roughly as (in)accurate to real-world trojan horses as Netrunner’s viruses are to actual computer viruses.

In addition to Botulus and Tranquilizer, expect to see the trojan subtype on Egret and Chisel when we get to the remastered versions of System Update 2021 and Downfall, respectively. We also plan to add the subtype in future Card Text Updates entries for Parasite, Trypano, Ika, Kyuban, and the four Caïssa.

“From this server”

This one is a more technical change that most players won’t ever need to think about. But for those interested in the nuances of card text and the details of the Rules team’s work, I’ve got a bit of a deep dive for you. If you don’t want to read that, all you need to know is that Malapert Data Vault is getting a text change to reflect the latest developments in our house style, but it won’t behave any differently except in one corner case interaction with a card that has long since rotated out of Standard.

When we changed the use of “root” in Comprehensive Rules version 1.5, one of our goals was to make phrases like “in this server” and “in the root of a server” consistent across all servers. But we’ve since realized that there are other phrases that still don’t quite line up. In particular, there are a few cards that use “from this server” to refer to cards moving from “in or in the root of” a server to somewhere else. It would be more natural for “from this server” to match the usage of “in this server”, and for effects that worked with cards moving out of a server’s root to explicitly say “from the root of this server”.

Malapert Data Vault is one of the cards that used this inconsistent “from” construction, but it has an additional wrinkle: technically, for complete accuracy to its original functionality, an update to its text would need to say “When you score an agenda from this server or its root”, but agendas are almost always scored from a root. The only way to score an agenda that is “in a server” is for the Runner to access Plan B. This corner case presented a dilemma, because it only appears with an obscure card that many newer players won’t ever have seen. Since System Gateway is our entrypoint to Netrunner, we don’t like having rules text on its cards that seemingly serves no purpose. “When you score an agenda from the root of this server” is clean, avoids raising any questions that will never matter in the Startup or Standard card pool, and achieves the objective of using “from” the same way we use “in”.

The Rules team puts a lot of careful consideration into cases like this. When we update card text (either for physical reprints or just for releases of the Card Text Updates document), we try to balance clarity and consistency of the way we write abilities against the desire to avoid unnecessary functional changes to existing cards. We take many factors into account, discuss them at length and in consultation with the Development and Organized Play teams, and make our decisions according to the needs of the particular situation. We feel this change is a worthwhile improvement over the alternative wording.

There are a handful of other cards affected by the change to how we’d like to use “from this server”, and those will be handled in an upcoming release of the Card Text Updates document. Arella Salvatore has a similar ability to Malapert Data Vault, so we are considering handling it the same way for the sake of consistency. The other six relevant cards will receive the “from this server or its root” wording, which means their functionality will not be affected by the change in any way.

What’s Next?

In the coming week, we’ll be finalizing all of these items and passing along the text changes to the Translation team. We currently anticipate that the remastered System Gateway will be available in October 2022.

Author

  • Jamie is the Rules Manager for Null Signal Games. They live in Somerville, Massachusetts, where they have a reputation for putting Snare! in every Corp deck. Their latest project outside of Null Signal is the upcoming card game Worldbreakers: Advent of the Khanate.