Unlike desktops, field consoles – also known as “decks” – have a limited number of processing cycles available to it (default 20). Running any program – including icebreakers – will consume a certain number of the deck’s cycles; once a deck runs out of cycles, its processor burns out and may no longer run any program until the processor is replaced with a new one back at the decker’s workbench.
Decks also have a limited amount of Memory Units (default 4), making it difficult for him to bring an Icebreaker of each type. Instead, he must choose to load up only on the ICE that he expects to encounter and risk facechecking all other types of ICE.
In addition to its Memory Unit requirement, every program also has a cost associated with it, representing the number of processing cycles it ties up when it is installed. A program with a cost of 7c will therefore tie up 7c until it is uninstalled. Once a program is uninstalled, its cost will be immediately refunded to the deck.
Icebreakers also have a base strength, representing the strength it encounters each ice at. An icebreaker’s strength must be greater than or equal to an ice’s strength before it can break the ice. Some icebreakers have the ability to boost their base strength somehow (usually by spending cycles), but not all do, so beware.
When a decker jacks into a datajack, his deck will immediately inform him if the server is ICEd and, if it is, how many pieces of ICE is protecting the server. At this stage, the decker will still not know what type of ICE there is out there, what strength they are at or even how many subroutines are on the ICE: all he will know is how many ICE there is.
If he decides to continue, he will encounter the first piece of ICE, whereupon the ICE’s strength and subroutines are immediately made available. If he so chooses (and is able to), the decker now decides how many subroutines he wishes to break, spending processing cycles and/or other resources as necessary. Remember that an icebreaker can only break ICE if the icebreaker’s strength is greater than or equal to the ICE’s strength.
The decker must now encounter any subroutines that he has not broken and suffer their effects accordingly. If there is no unbroken subroutine that ends the run, the decker continues to the next piece of ICE and so on until he completes the run.