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Finally, a news update.

Hi there. I haven't posted a news update recently.. we had some billing system outages and a rather extensive economy discussion, all of which left me a bit distracted from the regularity of newsposts that I've been trying to maintain. Anyway, hopefully I can get back to doing this weekly, again.

What HAS been happening...

We've made some significant improvements to the server-side performance of capital ships and content related to capital ships. I've mostly illustrated this usage for Border Skirmish, but this is really a much larger picture than simply Border Skirmish or Dynamic Warfare. The improvements we've made are going to make it far easier to have capships as user-owned items. The problems that plagued Border Skirmish would not have been any easier with a bunch of player-owned capships, so hopefully you can appreciate that the development steps we've taken in that direction should have long-range impact. We're now wrapping up this "optimization" period, it largely has been wrapped up for awhile, but we've still had other testing going on in the background while we debugged a few outstanding issues. If all goes well, we should roll out LuaJIT on all sectors this week (Fri) and push Border Skirmish back to being a "normal" sector instead of a specialized test-case with its own dedicated server. This also lets us get on with expanding Border Skirmish gameplay and moving towards the Dynamic Warfare concept we've been discussing.

We've also made some big changes to the way new players are handled in the game, specifically creating the new "Training" sectors and forcing those regions to be newbie-only. There has been some controversy over these choices, but we believe that having a relatively-protected early training environment, where a new player can get a handle on the game, without being "griefed", is critical. This initial training period can be quite brief, for those who wish to skip it when making alts, but can also be lengthy for those who really wish to take their time and learn how to fly and shoot before venturing into the "greater galaxy". This also fits into my long standing plan for changing how newbies are handled within the game, and I think will make a much better experience for new people, while keeping an acceptable tradeoff for most of our veteran players. Of course, I can never please all of the people all of the time, but I am quite certain that these changes are in the best interests of the game as a whole.

Relating to the billing system. Our recent outage was not our fault (our credit-card processing site went down); but we have decided to make our billing back-end more robust to these kinds of outages. This requires some tradeoffs on our end, but they should be transparent to the subscriber, which is our goal. Since we're touching on Billing-related functionality anyway, we're also going to try and build some improvements into the interface itself. It should become far more informative and helpful, while still retaining the simplicity and functionality that (aside from a day or so, recently) it has been known. We're also still looking at rolling in the independent PayPal payment methods, and some other changes, but those are not necessarily going to appear on the same immediate timescale. Hopefully we should have billing improvements in place by this coming Friday.

What's GOING to be happening...

I'm doing some marketing-related work, setting up some promos with a few sites, and things of that nature, and haven't had a lot of time for untangling some knotty design problems we face (one of which: our faction system, the vast inane mess that it is). Completion of the the faction/FF redux is, aside from billing-outages and server-performance-problems and other unpleasant things, our highest official priority. However, since I'm kind of stalling that development until I finish with some Business stuff, I've pushed people off to other projects that I think will be.. appreciated.

As a result, Ray is now working on making multi-player ships a reality in the near future. I can't say how near of a future, because we don't know yet; but if all goes well.. as early as this Friday, if not, then next week. This is a critical stepping-stone as we move towards the goal of Player Capships. In the near-term, you can expect some sort of small "heavy" that has the potential for turrets, such as a Behemoth. This functionality has been planned for a really, really long time, but there may still be some issues with the mechanics as we put this into place, so please have patience with any issues that crop up. Despite the possibility always being there, we've never actually done this before.. which is why dockable capships are always NPCs, and dev-flown capships have never been dockable. Of course, for the first version we'll just be focusing on smaller ships, as I said, where the owner of a given multi-player-capable ship may "invite" other players to join his vessel, while docked in a station. Dynamically joining and leaving these sorts of ships, outside of stations, will not be possible.. you'll have to wait for capships with docking bays for that to happen. Anyway, I think this'll be really cool, and open up a lot of potential for gameplay possibilities. As I said, the mechanics are still in flux, so things like grouping will have to be done independently of which players join which ships. If people want to take grouped missions as multi-player vessels, then they'll need to group themselves as a separate stage.

Michael is also working on a new system to allow scheduling of Events and coordination with a volunteer Guide, which will hopefully let us host and organize more events, and have the information clearly available. Hopefully we'll have some version of this by Friday, but I don't know if we'll make it visible or not, we may yet do some testing with the Guides.

That's all for now..

Please continue to give us feedback about the game, particularly the Border Skirmish sector. Hopefully we'll have that sorted out fairly well by the end of the week, and "Border Skirmish testing" will be over and done with.

Thanks everyone, for your patience. I hope you're as excited by some of this stuff as I am.

- Incarnate