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New Year Progress

Hello again, and welcome to another edition of "Incarnate Writes A Newspost". Tonight we'll be discussing some of the work we have in progress, and what it all means. And, as usual, I'll probably be apologizing for not writing newsposts often enough. Moving right along..

- Station Conquest. This was widely requested not too long ago, spawned a variety of posts and an RFC thread (don't post to that thread, start a new one if needed), etc. We had a few irons in the fire already, at the time, such as implementing the now-available PayPal direct payment system. Beginning next week, we will be looking at, hopefully, having some sort of simplistic conquerable-station scenario, in production, during the month of January. However, like all great goals, this is uncertain and entirely dependent on what issues crop up. You guys know we can't make promises, but this is what we're trying to do. I don't know what form this initial conquest scenario will take, probably something along the lines of a handful of new "conquerable" stations scattered around grayspace. But, we shall see. We'll start small and Make It Work.

- Static Bot Redux. We've been using the same fundamental mechanics for non-Kourier bots for a long time. A scarily long time. Longer than Blizzard has been making MMOs. Due to continual maintenance and tangential improvements to other, connected areas of the codebase, somewhere along the line the static bots stopped working properly. The Kourier stuff still works as intended (albeit always with room for improvement), but the static bots have been fundamentally dumb for awhile. Michael is currently tasked with re-writing this system, and bringing it up to date to serve a variety of long-desired functionality. This will, at the very least, address issues like Collectors failing to ever become aggressive, or Queen escorts sitting idly by while the vessel they're escorting is destroyed. Hopefully this will make for a more engaging environment for new players, as well as for older players seeking new drops on some of these static bots.

- The Universe Redux is still ongoing. We have some high-density test sectors in the central ring of Deneb, as you are all probably aware. We're still working on optimizing a couple of areas of the game to make these sectors work as efficiently as we need, with the many thousands of added asteroids and other objects. Work on this will probably slow a bit, as we spend more resources on Station Conquest, but it will be ongoing.

- The Return of the Avalon Torpedo (and the general family of torpedo weapons). Ray has been working on making this a reality. The big critical factor has been constructing a new targeting system for capships, allowing their turrets to prioritize incoming torpedo ordinance. I expect torpedoes to have a lot of limitations: they'll be big, expensive, slow, heavy, and probably have a fixed absolute speed along with a minimum arming distance (so they can't be accelerated by the launching ship, and they'll need some flight time to arm themselves). Even with all that, they should inject another much-needed "bomber" component into our capship battles, and potentially into station conquest and other general scenarios as well. So, this is in the works, but no ETA, as again.. station conquest is the current priority.

- Other Short-Term Changes. Coinciding with the desire for station conquest was a general list of other "wanted" items, with a related thread. We've added a bunch of the suggested content: Cargo scanners/blockers, AWACS, re-acquisition of occluded radar targets, etc. There'll continually be more work going into these sorts of items when we have time or when it's appropriately simple due to some other related development. Later tonight, in fact, you should see:

* Dueling Badges - Four levels of badges available based on the Duel Rating of the individual character. Each badge level replaces the previous one, and they include: "Duellist" (1600), "Master Duellist" (2000), "Grandmaster Duellist" (2400), and "Legendary Duellist" (2800). Keep in mind that the Duel Stats Page only lists those who have dueled recently. Older veterans fall off after awhile, if they haven't fought under the Duel framework in the last couple of months. So while no currently-ranked player rates the Grandmaster status, we do have two veterans who do, unsurprisingly Ghost and martin. The possibility of Legendary duellists is one for the future.

I have not tied the duellist badges to any items as of yet, although I think that would be cool to do at some point (some special-looking ship skin, perhaps). I definitely want to add more regularly-scheduled gameplay that brings player duels together in a weekly, monthly, and even yearly (best of the best) competition. Rather than relying on an Event to do this, we'll probably do some custom development to make it an automated function, and then add in some interesting prizes and things for major winners. One-on-one PvP has always been one of the most fascinating and unique aspects of our game, completely unlike any other (that I've experienced, anyway), and I'd like to do more to celebrate that aspect if possible.

* Race Track winners. Placed around the galaxy in various locations are a few Race Tracks. We're changing this up a bit by resetting the "best times" every month, and giving the character with the fastest time (per track, per month) a special badge and reward. Then the best monthly times will be exported to a webpage, so everyone can see how incredibly fast you are at a given track.

That's about all I have for now. We are still going to improve the economy and fix the faction system. Really. Honest. I'm also going to make the damned Trac thingie public, so our developmental flounderings are visible to all (yay..?). I had really hoped to get most of the Big Stuff Fixed in VO during 2009, that was kind of my master plan. Unfortunately, we had a massive unforeseen setback occur that I haven't publicly discussed, but at least things are more-or-less back on track again now. So, time to focus on the future and all of the Awesome we can bring to the game. I hope you've all had a fantastic holiday, and I wish you the best in the coming year. Thanks again for all your support and patience.