AI War:Hacking

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This page is up to date for version 8.024


Definition

As the game go, players accumulate AI Progress (AIP), which in brief is a measure of how annoyed the AI is with humans. The more exposure they get to the AI, the more familiar they'll become with the AI's capabilities and vulnerabilities, which means they'll learn various exploits they can use against it. Players' ability to execute these exploits manifests as hacking points (HaP), which are accumulated at the same time and at the same rate as AIP. If HaP is never spend, HaP at the end of the game will end up greater than or equal to AIP. These HaP can be spent on a variety of different hacking types; players can go negative on HaP but the AI response is then very aggressive. Hacking gives players a number of ways to mitigate unfortunate random galaxy generation combinations, and functions as a sort of anti-RNG.

As of core game version 8.xx, almost all hacking gets done through the Hacker unit, which places immobile hacking devices in AI systems.

The cost of hacks increases by 50% per hack for each type.

Hacking Response

Hacking, in general, will lead to the AI deploying forces in or around the system where the hack is taking place to stop it. The strength of the AI response is affected by the following:

  • Each hack increases the response.
  • Past 100 HaP, having excess HaP reduces the response, but not below a minimum that increases with each hack.
  • Hacking at negative HaP causes the response to scale dramatically with how far in the red players are.

Some of the AI's options include:

  • Spawning ships at the command station or randomly at the edge of the gravity well.
  • Spawning a set of Raid Starships with an Exo-Wave style goal (Hitting some key-component of players' infrastructure).
  • Spawning on a connected AI World and attacking via a wormhole.
  • Spawning Guardians.
  • Firing a Tachyon Pulse to show all cloakers.
  • Launching waves at the planet or adjacent planets.

Most hacks also accumulate strength for a final pulse when the hack completes. The hacking response alert warns how much strength to expect; players should be careful not to write a check they can't cash! Different strategies like usage of beachhead or warheads may be called for.

Different Types of Hacking

Hacking Device Name Initial HaP Cost Duration (minutes) Game's Description
Covert Knowledge Extractor 30 for 3000 K 500 sec for 3000 K This device hacks into the AI surveillance net and data archives in the local planetary system to steal Knowledge. Be prepared for an AI response against your units on that planet and nearby. Must remain stationary for 15 seconds before it can gather knowledge. NOTE: Gaining a full planet's worth of knowledge this way reduces your Hacking-Progress by 30. Each full hack after that costs 1.5x the previous.
Research Redirector 35 10 This device hacks into an Advanced Research Station (while the planet and station are still under AI Control) if left stationary in the system with the ARS for 10 minutes. Once hacked, a selection of 3 types will be available when the ARS is captured (from the ARS tab of any science ship on the planet) instead of getting a random ship type.
Fabricator Hacker 30 5 Since AI fabricators do not store the full Master Data of their design, we can only build from that design while the fabricator remains intact. This device infiltrates the AI's local industrial network and corrupts the fabricator's design data. The AI's autocorrection then triggers a rebroadcast of the relevant Master Data. Our device will then helpfully intercept this transmission, enabling us to build that design from our standard Space Docks. This same device also works on Core Turret Controllers, giving you permanent access to that kind of MkV turret. Please note: once the AI loses control of a planet its security protocols will prevent any retransmission to any fabricator on it. Accordingly, if you wish to perform this hack you must do so BEFORE the AI's command station on the planet is destroyed.
Advanced Constructor Hacker 100 15 Since AI Advanced Factories and Advanced Starship Constructors do not store the full Master Data of their designs, we can only build from that design while the facility remains intact.

This device infiltrates the AI's local industrial network and corrupts the facility's design data. The AI's autocorrection then triggers a rebroadcast of the relevant Master Data. Our device will then helpfully intercept this transmission, enabling us to build those MkIV designs from our standard Space Docks (or Starship Constructors, in the ASC's case). Assuming we have the corresponding MkIII research, of course. Please note: once the AI loses control of a planet its security protocols will prevent any such retransmission to any facility on it. Accordingly, if you wish to perform this hack you must do so BEFORE the AI's command station on the planet is destroyed.

Design Corruptor 30 5 If placed on the same planet as one of the AI's Design Backup Servers, this device can corrupt that AI's copies of the design(s) stored there and prevent further fabrication for use in this galaxy.

Please note: if the command station is destroyed, the backup server goes with it. Also, hacking a server causes it to explode (which means you cannot Corrupt and Download the same design).

Design Downloader 50 5 If placed on the same planet as one of the AI's Design Backup Servers, this device can download master copies of the design(s) stored there and allow you to build them yourself.

Please note: if the command station is destroyed, the backup server goes with it. Also, hacking a server causes it to explode (which means you cannot Corrupt and Download the same design).

Sabotage Hacker 5 1 Only works on a planet with an intact AI command station, but hacks into that station's network to destroy an important AI-controlled structure on the planet. Eligible targets include fortresses, forcefields, ion cannons, mass drivers, warhead interceptors, armor inhibitors/boosters, blackhole machines, Zenith reserves, interplanetary munitions boosters, raid engines, alarm posts, radar jammers, gravity drills, troop accelerators, and AI Eyes. Destroying a unit this way does not trigger AIP-on-death or similar consequences.

If more than one eligible target is present on the planet, the one closest to the hacker will be destroyed. If multiple sabotage hackers are used, each will destroy a separate target.

Sensor Hacker 10 30 sec Only works on a planet with an intact AI command station, but hacks into that station's network to disrupt the entire local AI sensor net. This grants all human ships on the planet the normal cloaking ability and suppresses all AI tachyon sources. All normal "must recharge cloak after firing" rules still apply. In addition, all AI cloaked/camouflaged units are revealed for the duration of the hack.

The hack takes 30 seconds to start, and lasts for 35 seconds. Further sensor hacks during that time (by the original hacker or another one) simply refresh the duration, but also trigger the hacking-progress cost again.

Nomad Beacon Hacker 100 5 Only works on a planet with a Nomad Beacon and an intact AI command station. Hacks into that station's network to disable the AI's failsafes that normally prevent capture of the Beacon.

This hacking device is a special one, only available in games with the Nomad Planets minor faction enabled.

Exile Survey Hacker 10 1 Only works on a normal (non-nomad) planet that you have not surveyed previously, with an intact AI command station. Hacks into that station's network to try to trace the Exile signal's destination. If this planet is too far away from that destination you won't be given precise data.

This hacking device is a special one, only available in games with the Exodian Blade minor faction enabled.

SuperTerminal Hacking

This hack is very special. See the SuperTerminal page for full detail.

This hack doesn't require a hacker device but is triggered when the SuperTerminal system is captured and can only be stopped by destroying the SuperTerminal. No more being able to destroy the SuperTerminal because of the hack's response may lead to humans' doom, by overwhelming AI forces or processor implosion, depending on players' home defense and PC's power.

Each tick (around every 5 seconds) raises AIP by 1 and lowers AIP by 2, which has the side effects of giving 1 HaP and of raising AIP floor by .2 (on difficulty 7 or less) while decreasing total AIP by 1. Each tick also consume HaP: 1 for the 20 first ticks (that compensate the gain), and 1.5 times more each 20 other ticks (that start to really consume HaP).

Opinions About Value of Hacks

Fabricator Hacks

Hacking Core Fabricators is very popular, since hacking a fab means players don't have the capture the planet, so it doesn't induce 20 AIP increase AND it permanently allows players to build the unit and save the need to defend the fab. They're also rather cheap. Also works on Core Turret Controllers.

Factory and ASC

Advanced Factory and ASC hacks are pretty expensive as hacking both once require 250 HaP, but potentially worth it if they're in particularly indefensible spots. Also the B Core Shield Generator network is only on planets with Advanced Factory or ASC, so players will need to capture at least one, but with hacking, there is no need to defend it for long.

Design Backups

There is one Design Backup Server for every ship type the AI has unlocked, but a given backup can only be downloaded or corrupted, not both. When the AIs gain new designs as AIP raises, new design backups appear on AI controlled planets.

Design Download hacks are solid gold, if there's a very strong ship type available and players have the K to unlock higher marks, as they give an entirely new ship type. Their high price make few design possibles, so choice can be crucial.

Design Corruption hacks are nice if there are any ships that are powerful against ships players already have. This hack is most useful against ships that are a threat in waves; Eyebots are a good example. However, the corruption will not stop Mark V versions from showing up on the AI homeworlds.

It is strongly advised to handle Design Download/Corruption hacks on planets with multiple Backup Servers with caution. They are treated separately, so unaware players are likely to end up in negative HaP with matching AI response.

Research Redirection

ARS can be scouted with a MkII stealth science lab to reveal three ships' unlocks. If the ARS is captured without hacking, only the leftmost will be granted to players. The Research Redirector hack let players chose one of the three unlocks once the ARS is captured. This hack is rather situational because if the leftmost design suits the players' plans, redirection is pointless.

This hack doesn't spare the need of capturing the planet, but as long as ARS are on A-prime CSG planets, this is not a big concern.

Sabotage

Sabotage hacks are nice for getting past otherwise unwinnable defensive combos. A Guard Post under a Force Field and with a bonus against bombers (polycrystal) can be worked around by sabotaging the FF.

AI Eyes can also be sabotaged, saving the need of taking each guard post down. Ion/OMD combo can be broken by the sabotage of one of them (or both). Fortress sabotage can spare both time and metal.

A deployed Sabotage device shows its target at the bottom of its tooltip. If the target isn't the one desired, the device can be scraped, the hacker moved and a new device redeployed.

As sabotage hacks are short, tachyon sentinels may be removed to let the hacker work on its own, and spawned response ships can be dealt with latter, once the sabotaged threat is gone.

Sabotage is also useful against AIP inducing structures, like raid engines or alarm posts (but not warp gates or command stations), because it allows to get rid of the structure and paying HaP instead of AIP. The players should be aware that AIP not increased is HaP not gained, so the HaP cost of such hacking is virtually higher.

Covert Knowledge Extraction

Players should be aware that this hack doesn't allow gathering more than 3000 Knowledge per planet.

Knowledge hacking is a great place to spend spare HaP, because Knowledge can always be spent for something good.

This hacking is also useful to gather more Knowledge without capturing a planet and increasing AIP by 20. If a planet is worth only its 3000 K, covert extraction should be considered.

Sensor Hack

Many players disregard the Sensor Hack because no truly useful usage of it has been found. However, that doesn't mean that there is no usage of such feature.