Histacom is a freeware "hacking" game for PC that follows the adventures of a protagonist (named by the player) through time after befriending a mysterious chat room member who refers to themselves as "the Hidden Hacker" and, with their help, subsequently discovering an in-development Windows 95 program known as "Time Distorter" hidden on the personal site of an inconsistently evil software developer called 12padams. Each level of the game takes place in a different version of Microsoft Windows which would have been in common use for the time period, and ends with the player using the Time Distorter to warp to another year. 12padams is initially the antagonist of the story, taunting the protagonist while attempting to remotely trash his computer in retaliation for uncovering the Time Distorter, but after the player escapes using the program, he has a year to calm down and quickly befriends the Hidden Hacker and the protagonist, asking them to help him with further development of the program.
The game was originally developed and released by Philip Adams alone from 2010 to 2013, ending up unfinished. No fewer than four teams of fans have taken over its development since then, each with the blessing of the last, most deciding to start from scratch, and none to date managing to release a game any closer to completion than the original. The game's development is currently 'deprioritised'. Phil later created a Spiritual Successor called ShiftOS, which had a similarly murky development history.
Histacom contains examples of:
- And Now For Something Completely Different: Rather than the Internet trawling, chat rooms, and "hacking" from the previous levels, the Windows 2000 level consists almost entirely of the Game Within a Game, Survive The Day.
- Author Avatar: 12padams is both the name of one of the three main characters, and also the username which the developer went by on the real Internet. The fictionalised 12padams is a literally unbelievably talented developer and hacker who has somehow written a piece of software which transforms any computer in existence into a working time machine.
- Bad Future: The Y2K bug in Time Distorter 0.2 sends the protagonist to a version of 2002 where the entire Internet has been destroyed. The Hidden Hacker then sends the protagonist back in time to avert this.
- Blatant Lies:The Hidden Hacker:Hey 12padams... I was scanning your website and i found well i don't know.Do you have some type of hidden software on it because i can't find to find the matching software the has the same code as i saw...Whats the hidden software?12padams:Hey How dare you ask me about that I am blocking your ip right now from my website... And for the record don't waste your time theres nothing hidden on my website!!!
- Calling Your Attacks: While you're waiting to time travel for the first time, 12padams and the Hidden Hacker have a sort of duel where the former tries to disable the Time Distorter and the latter tries to allow it to continue. Everything they do is announced in their chat window shortly before it happens.12padams: OK NOW YOU HAVE DONE IT!!!!Stop Timer12padams: Bet You didn't see that one coming...The Hidden Hacker: Oh but i did...The Hidden Hacker: I converted the stop function to the hide function when i first logged on...12padams: THATS IMPOSSIBLEThe Hidden Hacker: Oh Is It? Well watch this!!Show TimerThe Hidden Hacker: Oh and heres one more command for you to learnDisconnect 12padams12padams Has been Disconnected...The Hidden Hacker: Good luck Windows 95 user... Ill see you in the future!
- Cut the Juice: This is rain49's immediate response when 12padams remotely disables their Start button.12padams: ... scared Yet?rain49: No... because i can just turn my computer off at the powerpoint...12padams: I would not do that if i were you...rain49: Oh yea... just watchrain49 Has Logged Out12padams: lol All your Computers are infected with a virus which makes them unable to boot.
- Department of Redundancy Department: At one point, the Hidden Hacker and 12padams ask you for your real name. For a while after you tell them, they start using it a lot. (Not in the place of pronouns either, as they'll still call you "he".)12padams: Is there anything you want to say to (name) now just before (name) is gone?
- Depending on the Writer: Before beginning work on the new engine, the third developers briefly tried to maintain the existing VB.NET version of the game, and jarringly rewrote two small sections of the existing dialogue.Old version:12padams: Well anyway... 0.1 is now useless since it only works if the year is 1998 and it will only take you to 199912padams: 0.2 is much different however12padams: well not much different... it works the same except it works in all time periods and it takes you to 2000New version:12padams: Anyway, 0.1 is useless because it only worked if the year was 1998 and it will only take you to 1999.12padams: 0.2 is much different however!12padams: Well OK, that was a hyperbole; it's not that much different in terms of functionality. It works the same way but now it works in all time periods and it takes you to 2000!
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: One of the few ways you can lose in the game is by sticking around in a chat room where somebody posts a pirated copy of Skindows 95, 12padams' only paid piece of software.
- Disproportionate Retribution: When the Y2K bug causes one of the protagonist's journeys to go wrong and land him two years after his intended destination, 12padams refuses to believe that his software has failed, and thus assumes that the Hidden Hacker is hiding the protagonist as part of a conspiracy. Even though the whole point of the trip was to test the Time Distorter for this very bug. His response? To create a virus so powerful that it somehow destroys nearly the entire Internet.
- Dueling Hackers: See Calling Your Attacks above.
- Exact Progress Bar: There is never any fluctuation in speed when downloading files - they always download at 8 KB/s, and the progress bar moves forward at a constant speed as a result. All of the files are also exactly 100 KB.
- Game-Breaking Bug: All over the place, since the game was never finished.
- If you close a chat window after 12padams removes your Start button, nobody can show up to revert it, since the chat is no longer running. You need the Start button to launch any program (with the exceptions of Internet Explorer, HWCV, and software installers, none of which can revert the issue). You can't even properly quit the game without it, forcing you to kill the game's process.
- Game Within a Game:
- 12padams' site always features some version of "Guess the Number".
- On the Windows 2000 level, 12padams makes the protagonist play his new Choose Your Own Adventure style game, "Survive The Day", before he'll let the Hidden Hacker and the protagonist download the latest version of Time Distorter.
- HeelFace Revolving Door: 12padams. At the beginning of the game, he attacks the protagonist for finding the Time Distorter. One year later, he has calmed down enough to befriend the other characters. When the protagonist fails to arrive in the year 2000, 12padams gradually becomes suspicious, and eventually unleashes a virus that nearly destroys the entire Internet.
- Hollywood Encryption: On the first level, the protagonist will end up stumbling upon this "data log", which really speaks for itself.12padams.com Data Log1996: www.12padams.com created1997:Lots Of software added to 12padams.com1998: ###############WARNING 1998 log file is encrypted and unreadable.Rest of log stored on hotmail account...Username: email@example.com notePassword: projectdeath
- Hollywood Hacking: The entire game. Although it calls itself a "hacking game" and "ultra realistic", most of the player's actions don't even try to resemble hacking and the scenes which are actually relevant still display extremely limited knowledge of how computer security works.
- The player discovers the Time Distorter based on a tipoff from the Hidden Hacker which is for some reason displayed to them when they try to make an empty Google search. This directs them to 12padams' site, where they are supposed to click "the thing you would least expect to click". Upon clicking the copyright notice at the bottom of the page, they are for some reason shown 12padams' Hotmail address and password. Using those details, they are able to download a program delivered as an attachment, known as the "Hidden Website Content Viewer". Using this on the 12padams site reveals the download button for the Time Distorter. It doesn't get any more realistic from there.
- Info Dump: The entire Windows XP level is reading the Hidden Hacker explain what happened. You can't do anything except wait for them to finish and then move to the next level, because opening IE here will cause the game to end.
- Jerkass: 12padams; see Disproportionate Retribution above.
- Large Ham: 12padams, when he's angry.12padams: I Have Caught you!!!12padams: Your both experienceing a lethal virus which i like to call (death)12padams: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR DOING!!!12padams: HOW DARE YOU INVADE12padams: OK NOW YOU HAVE DONE IT!!!!12padams: THATS IMPOSSIBLE
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
The Hidden Hacker: Yay it worked perfectlyThe Hidden Hacker: The time travel from 1999 to 2000 worked without getting stuffed up by the y2k
- After the player is accidentally sent to 2002 and opts to travel back to 2000 and pretend nothing happened:
12padams: Um whats your name 'windows 98 user' just type it in the chat now. I recommend less then 10 letters
- When 12padams wants to know your real name:
12padams: I don't want to disturb you, but what is your name? What you type in the chat now, is what we will refer you as. I suggest less then 10 letters for better flow!
- The modification from the third developers (see Depending on the Writer above) makes this even more explicit:
- Manchild:12padams: Don't worry you will both time travel... just not nowThe Hidden Hacker: Why not NOWWWWW!!!!!
- The Many Deaths of You: Almost every choice in Survive The Day leads to a cheap death. (The rest don't do anything at all, since the game is impossible, except in Histacom 1.87.x, the second developer's version.)
- Millennium Bug: Explained poorly on 12padams' site in 1999. It turns into a plot point.Many of use are looking forward to the year 2000 but there are also others dreading and fearing this event. This is because computers today currently have a date system which displays "19" then it displays the the last 2 numbers of the year.Now the problem is that the first 2 digits "19" will not change on the new year. This means many computers may suddenly display 1900 instead of 2000.The reason dates are so important is because computers and programs are always using dates which controls the way that they run. An Example of this is at a bank. The bank computer may be printing you a check in the year 2000 and it will not look at the "20" and instead will just put "19" so the bank check will be completly messed up.All deposit and withdraw logs Will be messed up and this will cause incorrect bank readings since the bank computer will think its 1900 and will not know that you even existed... This will cause the bank to lose all the money and people it had stored in the system.To Prevent this from all happening we are changing 2 digit dates to 4 digit dates which will stop all possible errors. The problem with doing this is that some people may be using older systems such as Windows 3.11 (an operating system made by microsoft used around 1993).Hopefully all computers can be successfully converted to 4 digit dates to that this global crysis never happens.Article By 12padams 1999
- Non Standard Game Over: You can lose right at the beginning of the game without ever finding the Time Distorter. This occurs in a lengthy cutscene in which the protagonist gets caught by 12padams while attempting to pirate his only paid piece of software, Skindows 95. He slowly removes elements of Windows 95 from the protagonist's computer to turn it into a replica of MS-DOS. The game then ends with the message, "Game Over... You lose because you are using MS-DOS from the early 1980's and its 1998... Serriously what were you thinking??"
- In the third developer's version, this becomes Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, because the Hidden Hacker will show up and revert 12padams' changes for you, making the entire scene pointless.
- Our Time Machine Is Different: Any Windows 95 computer can travel through time with the right program.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: To hide their identity while using 12padams' "Web Chat 1999", The Hidden Hacker adopts the name of "The Known Checker", although they revert to their original name as soon as they find the protagonist. They get caught.
- Puzzle Game: Subverted. The first level comes across as a puzzle game of sorts, but once you befriend 12padams, he pretty much does everything for you and you just have to read him and the Hidden Hacker talk for a while, then time travel to the next level.
- Read the Fine Print: 12padams' EULA is satirically onerous, and poorly spelled. You don't actually need to agree to it.By Installing this software you agree that you will not try to try to reverse enjineer it in anyway or take it as your own work.You agree that you will not try to spread this software or and of its components to other companys without rightful permission from the owner.You agree that if you bought this program that you own it and that nobody else is allowed to use it on your computer or on there computer.You understand that trying to upload this software online or any other forms of spreading this software will resalt in the FBI coming into your home and killing you with knifes.You agree that taking a picture of this software and sending it to someone will cause you to get 15 years in jail for software exposing.You agree that if you tell someone else about this softwares features that you will wake up dead in the morning because the owner would have killed you in your sleep.You know that Using this software will alert the maker of it and then cause him to monitor every moment of your life after you install this software.You agree to all of the above and will not commit any of the crimes otherwise you will got to hell
- Right Under Their Noses: The Hidden Hacker tries this, waiting for the protagonist with the ridiculous fake name "The Known Checker" in 12padams' own "Web Chat 1999". They get caught pretty quickly.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: The original Histacom is full of misspellings; for example, see the quote from Read the Fine Print above.
- Unwinnable: Reaching the Windows Me level will cause downloads to stop working, making the game impossible. (They're actually going to the Windows 2000 desktop, which you can't access, in the background.) There isn't anything more to do, anyway.
- Histacom 1.87.x was supposed to feature an extra level after Windows Me, but you can't even reach Windows Me anymore because the version of Time Distorter which would send you there now crashes the game.
- Histacom 2.x stops immediately before the Windows 2000 level with a non-responsive Time Distorter.
- Ur-Example: This 2010 window-manager-as-game predates more successful takes on the idea, like Pony Island and Hypnospace Outlaw.