The Cortex

A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...

-- William Gibson, Neuromancer

The Cortex is a vast global information network, critical to the engines of crime and commerce that drive the world and the endless entertainment feeds that keep the average citizen complacent. Run on corium-powered backbones of hardlines, satellites, towers, and transmitters connecting webs of servers, data nodes, and personal terminals, the distributed network of the Cortex is often referred to as "the global mind made digital" or even a "shared hallucination." But more than just a network, the Cortex is a world unto itself; a world where the raw ones and zeroes of data become visual constructs, buildings, people, objects that can be interacted with using little more than the mind and the right interface. And in the hands of someone who knows the code, who understands how to manipulate it... the Cortex is limitless.

But like everything in the world, the Cortex is not without its darkness.

Stimulation of the right neural pathways means living in the Cortex can become an addiction unto itself. While the constructs are digital, the dopamine is very real, and "wireheads" wasting away physically while their brain chases a digital drug are no rare occurrence. Direct links between brain and network mean with enough power and precision, software can be programmed to fry a mind and kill a person over the wire. Psychotropic or hallucinogenic programs can trap a person in a seemingly never-ending digital hell, torturing their minds or brainwashing them while their body remains helpless in "meatspace". Its uses are limited only by the minds of those who can control it.


The Cortex is accessible in multiple ways. Basic Access is the type you would see on a holoscreen, television, desktop, or handheld PCD (portable cortex device). Basic Access covers voice and video communications, text and images, and non-immersive holographic projections. The user remains fully aware of the world around them. This is the most common type of access employed in day to day life by everyday citizens.

Augmented Reality is similar to Basic Access in that it is not fully immersive (the user remains aware of their surroundings). AR involves devices that project data into a user's field of view and adjust the data based on the user's actions and positioning. Visors, glasses, and cybereyes that employ a Heads-Up Display, scanner, GPS map, or SmartBridge weapons link are all considered AR.

Virtual Reality requires the use of a headset consisting of dermatrodes that interface with the electrical impulses of the brain and a visor that completely envelops the user's field of vision. The headset is connected either to a hacker's deck, or a specialized non-portable personal computer system. This allows access into the virtual reality of the Cortex. In this state, the user loses awareness of the world outside the Cortex. They are able to fully interact with the virtual environment of the Cortex and its constructs. This method of interaction can be used by non-hackers as well as hackers. The former simply use it to socialize in digital spaces, while the latter use it to access systems and data for their own ends.

Full Immersion requires a datajack (a brain-computer interface) and a specialized deck or terminal. The Cortex connection into the datajack in the user's skull means that all sensory information is transmitted directly to the user's brain, providing the most realistic experience possible. This is the origin of the term "jack in", and is most closely associated with the hacker community. Full immersion allows hackers to manipulate the Cortex with greater precision and react to events with greater speed due to the lack of input lag. Aside from hackers and tech-minded mercenaries, only the most addicted wireheads would bother to purchase a datajack for Cortex use. While jacked in, a user will lose all awareness of the outside world.


Constructs are the shapes, objects, buildings, and avatars that exist in Cortex space as representations of data. A construct can be anything; a login node to a system could be a door, a gate, an archway, the mouth of a cave. A security program could resemble a police officer, a guard dog, a drone, a robot. Users themselves become constructs, their avatars taking whichever form their imagination dictates - a cartoon character, a robot, an animal, or even just an idealized version of themselves. The Cortex is absolutely filled to the brim with constructs of every shape and size; a crowded, seething, glowing mass of confusion and activity, the largest and most slapdash-designed city you've ever seen, stretching on endlessly in every direction.

Every system is represented by a building construct. Corporate systems are massive and elaborate - towering arcologies, castles, pyramids, even space stations looming over the lesser systems below. Many corps employ "Cortex architects" who design the constructs for their public-facing systems, because a business's construct is just as important to its image as its real world headquarters. Physics are irrelevant. The size of constructs are relative to the amount of data and traffic they represent. More data, bigger construct.


In the beginning, the Cortex was an empty, infinite grid. Slowly populated by one system and then another, it branched out from closed test networks, linking with other networks, webs of connection growing and building. Then, the researchers observed, the Cortex began to form its own construct -- the nuclei of the system nodes connected to each other by digital axons and dendrite branches. The Cortex became the digital mind.

As the Cortex took shape, it was divided into corresponding Lobes. The Lobes were further divided into Areas, making navigation within the Cortex more logical. As the Corporations took over, they took control of entire Lobes for themselves, pushing the wild, free Cortex of the past into the fringes and filling the populated areas with advertisements. Within a controlled Lobe, the typical corporate setup involves priority treatment for users on corporate hardware or with corporate subscription plans while everyone else has to wait in line. They mine their subscribers for data, monitoring everything they do on the Cortex. Hackers employ various techniques to spoof corporate subscription status, block trackers and advertisements, and to create spaces for themselves free of Corporate control.

The Deep Core refers to these free spaces beyond the Corporate lobes. It cannot be accessed by ordinary means. It does not appear in searches or directories, and the average user can't just travel there. The Deep Core is a place for hackers, criminals, and even some wireheads to exist outside the notice of the authorities and the general public.


Short for Intrusion Countermeasures, ICE is the umbrella term for a wide variety of security programs in use in the Cortex.

White ICE refers to sniffers, scanners, and other surveillance and analysis programs used to monitor Cortex activity and detect threats.

Grey ICE refers to the legal security programs that isolate and attack threats and attempt to remove unauthorized users from a system.

Black ICE refers to illegal security programs that are capable of damaging users directly through the wire, causing biofeedback loops, neurological damage, and even death. Black ICE is normally only found in criminal, high level corporate, or top-secret military systems and will not be encountered by anyone other than a hacker.


Brain-Linked Immersive Sensory Stimulation is an entertainment experience wherein the user is given first-person access to the perspective of a celebrity or star character. BLISS stars engage in carefully tailored stories of adventure and romance, giving the downtrodden masses the opportunity to experience first-hand the glitz and glamour of a life they'll never have. Whatever the star sees, hears, feels, smells, or tastes is broadcast directly into the viewer's brain - filtered and edited, of course, for the most perfect experience possible.

Users generally watch official BLISScasts on specialized terminals within the comfort of their own home, though the BLISScasts can be accessed by ordinary decks and terminals as well, as long as they are equipped with an appropriate headset or datajack.

There are many unofficial uses of the BLISS technology. Pirate BLISS feeds are used to broadcast taboo and shocking scenarios, unedited BLISScasts, or scenarios the corps don't want the plebs to experience. They pop up just as quickly as they're shut down, so fans of the pirate feeds must spend time scouring the Cortex for the next one. Offline chips - known as BLISSters - can be slotted into chip-reader implants to provide sensory experiences far beyond safe thresholds, far beyond the moral event horizon, far beyond the law. BLISSter dealers move in the shadows, and even finding one will take a person through some of the shadiest locations Midcity has to offer. BLISSters are bootleg tech, and the risk is high of permanent neurological damage due to their use.

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rez rez  Jan 04, 2020 / 2:02 PM
art added to the races pages

guest guest  May 06, 2019 / 6:36 AM

rez rez  Feb 24, 2019 / 12:03 PM
hacking/theft rules and driving/vehicle combat rules are up! now on to crafting

rez rez  Apr 25, 2018 / 8:09 AM
Assorted updates have been posted. Check the forum for details!

Boone Boone  Aug 25, 2017 / 7:25 AM
shiny new sidebar!

rez rez  Aug 16, 2017 / 10:01 PM
duel rules done wheeee

rez rez  Aug 13, 2017 / 1:37 AM
added 2 new classes, operative and street preacher

rez rez  Aug 08, 2017 / 11:19 PM
combat rules are done (mostly). paladin class name changed to defender. paladin group description done. itshappening.gif

rez rez  Jul 30, 2017 / 1:00 PM
doing a big overhaul of combat rules. basically using D&D 5e as the framework and changing where necessary. much simpler than trying to start from scratch -__-

Boone Boone  Jul 23, 2017 / 1:23 PM
doot doot

chadamas chadamas  May 28, 2017 / 12:22 AM
Glad you had a good time! (And good bread and cheese.) Hope to hear more about it soon.

guest guest  May 26, 2017 / 2:03 PM
europe was excellent and so very full of bread and cheese

guest guest  May 09, 2017 / 11:27 PM
Have fun in Europe! -Chad

guest guest  May 07, 2017 / 12:56 AM
in europe atm. work begins again when i return -rez

Boone Boone  Apr 02, 2017 / 11:19 AM
he lives!

guest guest  Apr 02, 2017 / 1:41 AM
Yeah, this is Chad, btw :)

guest guest  Apr 02, 2017 / 1:41 AM
I'm still alive and am still working on this when I can! Promise to have more for you soon.

Boone Boone  Mar 29, 2017 / 8:23 PM
Slowly but surely picking away at the groups

Boone Boone  Mar 15, 2017 / 11:58 PM
No worries! Hope things settle down for you soon.

chadamas chadamas  Mar 15, 2017 / 9:41 PM
Nice! Wanted to pop in here and say that I haven't forgotten about this...just a hectic time right now. I'm still working when I can, though, and am hoping to push a few new things live as soon as possible.

Boone Boone  Mar 13, 2017 / 3:04 PM
started on the engineer skill tree

Boone Boone  Mar 11, 2017 / 10:55 PM
got channels registered on darkmyst, #vancity for IC and #2277 for OOC

Boone Boone  Mar 05, 2017 / 10:50 PM
awesome. I'm mainly working on organization and posting up all the rest of the stuff from the docs right now. I think maybe next weekend I'll see about getting the rooms set up. Should be enough info up to do some test RP.

chadamas chadamas  Mar 05, 2017 / 10:01 PM
Yeah, absolutely! I didn't really have any time this weekend to work on stuff, but should have time to dig back in probably around the middle of next week.

Boone Boone  Mar 03, 2017 / 1:53 PM
question: would it be possible to have a notification/link that shows up to unregistered users and directs them to the newbie/starter guide that I haven't written yet? sort of a "Hey, it looks like you're new, please go here instead of stumbling around in confusion" thing

Boone Boone  Mar 02, 2017 / 9:41 PM
haha, I was going to ask you how I could tweak the css for the blockquotes, but it looks perfect now. also I haven't finished the udemy course yet, still kind of getting through all the stuff I already know since it starts from the ground up, but it's really well structured so far. I signed up for a bunch of other ones to do after it. JS, Python, SQL

chadamas chadamas  Mar 02, 2017 / 8:22 PM
Also: I like the new dice page! Made a quick change to the blockquotes so your examples are more visible.

chadamas chadamas  Mar 02, 2017 / 8:20 PM
Btw, how was the udemy course?

chadamas chadamas  Mar 02, 2017 / 8:18 PM
OK, cool. Really, any time you want to should be fine. If you want to wait a little longer until more of the game-related stuff is ready, though, I'm good with that. I've been paying for this website forever and there has been practically nothing on it for years, so it's not hurting me any to keep it here as long as we need, haha.

Boone Boone  Mar 02, 2017 / 12:40 PM
btw, let me know when it's time to set up the real hosting and buy the domain and all that. i do have a free year of hosting that came with a web dev course on udemy, but i think it'll be a little pricier (to renew) than bluehost and also doesn't come with a domain.

Boone Boone  Mar 02, 2017 / 9:21 AM
ooo, shiny

chadamas chadamas  Mar 02, 2017 / 12:02 AM
Oh, by the way, there is another admin theme installed for Processwire if you want to check it out. When you're in there, click your name in the top-right corner, go to Profile, and then switch to Reno. If you don't like it you can always switch back, but I much prefer it :)

chadamas chadamas  Mar 01, 2017 / 11:56 PM
Thank you--I like the work you've been doing too! I went ahead and added a profile switcher in the sidebar as well. I could see scenarios where it would be annoying to navigate to an entirely separate page to switch accounts and then try to find your way back to where you were. This should switch you right there on whatever page you're viewing.

rez rez  Mar 01, 2017 / 11:53 AM
this profile switcher is snazzy

Boone Boone  Mar 01, 2017 / 12:19 AM
no worries! The game system isn't even finished yet, lol, so it's not like anything's being held up

chadamas chadamas  Mar 01, 2017 / 12:13 AM
One more thing that just occurred to me to mention: I know I'm spending a lot of time on the interface/player front, but I promise I haven't forgotten about the game itself. I am working on character generation, level-up functionality, shops, etc. as just trying to get a solid foundation here to build on as we progress.

chadamas chadamas  Mar 01, 2017 / 12:04 AM
Oh, the changes might require a hard refresh or cache clearing again.

chadamas chadamas  Mar 01, 2017 / 12:04 AM
Went ahead and uploaded some new stuff--mostly account page-related. You should be able to select your active profile directly from there now. Edit functionality is still in the works but should be coming soon. Also, if you're seeing the Admin Dashboard link in the nav next to Processwire, the Site Setting portion should actually allow you to change the site title and the homepage text for now.

chadamas chadamas  Feb 28, 2017 / 7:25 PM
Sounds good and should be fine. Anything and everything here will be exportable. Page looks good, by the way! Going to try to finish up a couple of things in the next day or so and then will push some more updates live.

Boone Boone  Feb 28, 2017 / 8:38 AM
google drive is blocked at work so I'm doing some updates to the race descriptions directly on here >.>

chadamas chadamas  Feb 22, 2017 / 11:33 PM
Cool...shoutbox still works :)

chadamas chadamas  Feb 22, 2017 / 11:33 PM
Just a test after some updates

Boone Boone  Feb 18, 2017 / 9:17 AM
Oooh, I really like that level up indicator! Also like the changes to the navigation

chadamas chadamas  Feb 18, 2017 / 12:05 AM
Haven't pushed a whole lot more live yet, but there are a few new UI-related things ready for review. Might require a hard refresh or cache clearing. Mostly just in relation to heading and form label fonts, subtle navigation menu changes, and sidebar updates. The sidebar shows one idea of how to show that a character has earned enough XP to level up and is ready to upgrade stats.

chadamas chadamas  Feb 15, 2017 / 10:30 PM
Yeah, I'm liking it too. Good suggestion! I've done some more work locally but haven't uploaded it yet. Working back and forth between an admin editor so that you can create/edit pages and a more robust character generator with stats included. Hopefully have more for you to see this weekend.

Boone Boone  Feb 15, 2017 / 10:11 PM
really digging the greyscale sidebar

Boone Boone  Feb 14, 2017 / 9:35 PM
sounds good. I can do something in Illustrator and scale as needed

chadamas chadamas  Feb 14, 2017 / 9:31 PM
For the logo size, not sure off the top of my head what would work best, but I'd go large initially if you decide to go ahead and start working on something. Much easier to scale down than up. To work in the menu for this layout, probably something with a greater width than height would work best.

chadamas chadamas  Feb 14, 2017 / 9:28 PM
Glad you're liking it and glad to see that you were able to successfully create a character account! Edit functionality is coming soon. I like the idea of the grayscale pattern with a thin blue border. I will give that a try!

Boone Boone  Feb 14, 2017 / 9:24 PM
this is so cool. also re: logo, let me know the size and I'll whip something up. As for the sidebar, maybe just a grayscale of that techy pattern with a thin blue border?

blah blah  Feb 13, 2017 / 11:13 PM
Also just discovered that there was a problem with sub-profile creation related to avatars. You should now be able to create new characters from the account page with or without a profile picture.

chadamas chadamas  Feb 13, 2017 / 10:20 PM
Think the navigation is looking a little better now. A nice logo to replace the "Vancity" text would probably bring the whole thing together. Wondering about that blue in the sidebar now too, though...not sure it's needed with a cityscape background in the header.

rez rez  Feb 13, 2017 / 3:35 PM

chadamas chadamas  Feb 13, 2017 / 1:13 AM
Oh yeah, and the navigation menu looks pretty bad right now. That's on my radar and will be pretty high on my to-do list.

asdf asdf  Feb 13, 2017 / 12:58 AM
It's all extremely rough, the stuff in the sidebar is static and non-functional (just as a placeholder) for now, but I think we're building on a solid foundation here. And hopefully having a live example that we can play with will let us collaborate more quickly and efficiently. See something wrong or have an idea? Shout it!

chadamas chadamas  Feb 13, 2017 / 12:53 AM
Eventually, many, many things (like this shoutbox) will load asynchronously, so that the entire page doesn't have to be reloaded.

chadamas chadamas  Feb 13, 2017 / 12:51 AM
Just here testing a shout.

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