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Debugging and bug-fixing.

I haven't written a proper newspost in some time, for which I do apologize, but it's been an interesting few months. We've been plagued by some significant bugs, as well as actual physical "bugs" that reduced my ability to do my job by a non-trivial margin (for around a month, total). Just last week I had a fascinating bout with viral pleurisy, an experience I don't recommend, although it does make one appreciate simple things like "breathing".

Back to game development. We've added some pretty cool and somewhat unexpected new features over the last few months, like radar occlusion and more appearances of capships (in convoys and the like). Unfortunately, this uncorked a whole slew of bugs, big and small, which we've been diligently tracking down and squashing:

- The multi-threaded occlusion code was causing some sporadic crashes (probably due to a mutex issue somewhere), so that was temporarily reduced to single-threading last week, until we can address the underlying problem (probably next week).

- We improved the pathfinding system for the AI significantly, along with various other things, which both aided the navigational ability of bots (part of why capships are in convoys) and also reduced the server-overhead of that behaviour. However, this may have also introduced some strange corner cases that have made sectors occasionally stop working and time out. They're automatically restarted, but in some cases it's been pretty annoying for people, and we've put a lot of recent time into both making that (and any future issue) self-heal more quickly and reliably, as well as finding the core issue causing the problem.

So, clearly, the game client crashing (albeit, rarely) and individual game sectors crashing (again, infrequently) have been pretty damned important to us to track down and fix; we take considerable pride in our game's overall stability record. There have been a number of other issues, as well, and various fun with things like the billing system, but I'll spare you the details. It is sufficient to say that we've had a lot debugging work cut out for us, on mission-critical aspects of the overall game, which have taken some time away from the usual "forward progress" that we had been planning. That, combined with my absences over the last few months (or, at least, relatively low levels of functionality) has combined to not see a lot of New.

Certain things, like asteroid occlusion (which was planned) were actually moved up in priority, since they required little design or project oversight and I could just task them off to people and then go back to being ill. Such is the life of balancing project management. One does what one can with the resources available, to keep everyone occupied on something worthwhile, even if it really wasn't originally the A1 priority.

Now that I'm (hopefully?) back, I expect to be digging into some of the areas I promised not too long ago. I have some new sectors on Test with very high density asteroid fields, and I'd like to roll some of those out in Deneb sometime soon (in that case, ice fields). That will also function as another test-case for some of the new-and-improved NPC pathfinding code; having something like a Small or Medium skirmish in or near a dense field should provide some interesting insight. Obviously, the eventual goal of these new high-density fields will be the "Universe Redux" and redistribution of mineral/ore resources throughout the galaxy.

The economy is (still) sorely in need of some work. I'm aware of the convoy issues and other areas. We'll get back to that as soon as we can. Fundamental game instabilities (crashing) takes priority.

We've also half-implemented the AWACS concept, actually over a week ago. But we ran into some implementation issues, and then had a bunch of ugly bugs appear and take priority. So, you can expect we'll get back to that as soon as possible.

The station bar and various NPC and PC related interactions are also coming, although I'll only advance on that when time is available (waiting for completion of another project area, etc), as the economy, universe redux and faction systems take priority. The latter groups sounds like three separate things, but they're tied together enough to make things complicated.

We're quite jazzed about the HD game trailer being recently posted by Apple. We'll also be pushing it to YouTube sometime soon. So, if you have any friends curious about the game, feel free to have them check out the trailer. Which brings me to..

The Vendetta Online Five-Year Anniversary!

In November it will have been five years since we launched the game. Honestly, it was my plan to have a lot of the major issues above (faction, economy, universe redux) finished before this. But, this has not been a very kind year, and that's life. Still, we've made some cool progress, and I'm hoping to do some 5-year celebrations for those who are interested:

- We'll be running a promo with a major gaming site, giving away trial-only keys that also include access to some sort of special content/item. This "special" content will have properties identical to some existing content, but will look different (perhaps a ship?). This is the first time we've done this sort of thing, so this is really a test-case. Hopefully it'll go well. In the meantime, I don't really want to annoy our existing users by only giving the "new" stuff to some trial n00bs, so we will be coming up with ways of giving existing users access to the same content. It'll be based on some amount of un-interrupted subscription, like having been subbed for the last 3 months. It will also include people who have pre-purchased time that hasn't yet been used, such as a 3-month subscription. We really need more effective game mechanics for doing this sort of thing, as having completely separate ship types with the same properties but different appearance is going to become a problem. We'll eventually add some sort of "skin" system to the ships, that allows use of specialized "looks" and the like. For now, we're going to make do with what we have. If all goes well, you can expect more things like this in the future.

- I'd like to do some cool Events, but we haven't yet determined what type of events or when to host them. If people have ideas on that, please post about it on the forums.

- I will be sending out another Newsletter to announce these things, when they're a little more concrete. You can also expect to see it on here, our Twitter feed, our Facebook Page, etc.

This 5-year celebration thing will last at least through November, and possibly through the holidays.

That's all for now! There should also be another bugfix release coming tonight. As always, thanks for your support, and we hope to be adding a lot of cool new changes in the near future.