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A Holiday Gift to our Past Subscribers

Continuing with our tradition, this year we are once again offering free play, from December 24th through January 1st, to any previously subscribed account that expired *before* October 1st of this year. This includes anyone who has ever subscribed, whether this year or eight years ago. We look forward to some of our older gameplay veterans stopping by.

New Art Content!

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Over the last six months we've been working hard to update our art content, covering everything from major nation and corporate faction logos (which are scattered throughout this newsletter), to explosion effects and 3D game assets.

The new faction logos add more immersive coherence to the game universe, plus providing an immediate visual cue when docking with a new station. We've also created new "category" and "class" icons for missions and stations respectively.

Be sure to drop by and check out the totally-revamped mining effects, as well as new individual explosions for Sun, Star, and Iceflare rockets. The overall goal is for each major weapon type to be visually identifiable, which will have a greater bearing on gameplay as we push towards our goals of increasing the complexity of weapon damage.

Factional Mutual Exclusion

Faction standings are now mutually exclusive in cases where the factions are in direct opposition (for instance, the Serco and Itani). While triple-PoS has been removed, the intensity of mutual exclusion is not as strong as some might expect or want, and this is an area that is still due for more changes moving forward. At least, however, we have the framework for the system in place and functioning. Altering numbers at this point is not nearly as time consuming as having to re-write sections of the faction-standing code.

Mutual exclusions will play strongly into some of the planned next-generation features for the game, like expansions on Dynamic Warfare that involve corporations in grayspace. It has long been my intent that the relationships of many of these corporations would be dynamic, fluctuating based on many factors, including economic and player-based influences. Wars between these groups would not last forever, but would break out and be settled weeks or months later. These shifts in political climate will help drive aspects of future gameplay; and how a player chooses to take advantage of changes in circumstance, or remain neutral, will impact their risks and opportunities. The upshot being, you can expect more challenges related to standing and mutual exclusion as we move forward.

All Missions Available.. Everywhere

In a huge departure from the way the game has existed for the past decade, earlier this year we re-structured the mission system to make all missions visible from all locations (with reputation still being a factor). This, combined with our existing dynamic missions for battling Xang Xi Logo the Hive or participating in conquest of the Deneb system, is notable as a stepping stone towards our goal of a vibrant and dynamic mission architecture that will help enable our gameplay goals. This includes examples like user-owned stations (the next step of our current user-conquerable stations) being able to post custom missions for delivery of raw materials or items needed for player Manufacturing. Or, conversely, as corporate faction alignments shift with the planned expansion of Dynamic Warfare, the universally-visible mission system would be the logical place to find new espionage, smuggling, protection and assasination jobs that would be triggered by these changing alliances.

An added benefit of the new system is that it makes the missions contributed by our Player Contribution Corps that much easier to locate, where before they tended to be hidden off at some obscure station that only a fraction of people would visit. The PCC has been hard at work over this past year, building new missions, including an epic 39-mission tree only launched a few weeks ago, spanning all three major nations and drawing inspiration from classic science fiction authors.

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Technically speaking, this mission system change has not been trivial, and we've put in a lot of work, even in the last couple of months, to make it fast and stable across all our usage situations (including mobile players on high-latency connections). Work will continue, both to make the system as powerful and expandable as we need it to be, as well as improving the interface to help players discover the sort of missions they're looking for at any given moment.

Security and Game Engine Changes

We revamped our login security recently, bumping our password lengths up to 64 characters, and drastically increasing the CPU "cost" of password processing to reduce the chances of passwords being brute-force attacked, even by someone with cloud computing resources. These updates, combined with the delays we added previously to mitigate brute force attacks, should provide a substantially improved security standard to carry us through the next few years. However, you must change your password to be covered by the new system, we recommend increasing your password length at the same time. For instance, using random words as provided by this XKCD-inspired random password generator. Serco Logo

We've also substantially re-architected our game engine this year, adding support for DirectX 11 as well as heavy multi-threading to take advantage of the latest multi-core CPUs. This work was subsidized somewhat by third parties who also wanted our game to run as well as possible on their platforms, and the improvements have been considerable in some cases. Physics performance alone can jump by around 60%, going from single to multi-threaded, a big help in large space battles. All of this will play into our ability to add next-generation gameplay features, while keeping them fast and accessible across a variety of platforms. The threaded engine is still in early distribution testing only on limited platforms, but will be rolled out more widely as we become more confident in the stability of the new codebase.

Platform and Mobile Updates

We launched early this year on the Kindle Fire (and now also the Kindle Fire HD), and we've followed that up with a launch of Vendetta Online for Windows 8 and Windows RT. That's right, you can now get the same space MMO experience on new Windows RT devices like the Microsoft Surface, making our game one of the few complex native-code games to support the new platform. It's also possible to use the game's touch interface on Windows-8 enabled convertible Ultrabooks with touchscreens.

We're also happy to announce that Vendetta Online is compatible with the new Android-based bluetooth game controller from PowerA, called the "MOGA". This controller can be used on any Android (2.3+) device with Bluetooth (phone, tablet, whatever), and conveniently clips onto most phones, making your smartphone into kind of a handheld console. We aren't really in the practice of advocating for any particular hardware unless we Vendetta Online on MOGA genuinely think it's cool, and I have to say that the MOGA with my phone makes for about the best mobile Vendetta Online experience I've had yet. It has enough buttons to cover the common tasks, and enough control resolution to make physics mode combat work pretty well (directional plus strafe). Don't expect to be crushing all the PC players, but it goes a long way towards closing the controller gap between mobile and PC, at least with our game. We have no financial gain in promoting the MOGA, we just thought it would be of interest to our mobile users.

I should also mention that we've improved our support for certain types of Android devices, including those based around the ARM Mali GPU. However, for various reasons the game is still not available on the Play Store for these devices, so users will need to install it directly via our sideload install.

Various Other Changes

Recounting everything we've changed since the last newsletter would make for an excessively long email, but here are a few other updates and bugfixes that may be of interest:

  • Windows audio compatibility has been improved, especially for multi-channel hardware. This is less of a "fix" for anything broken on our side, and more of a "hack to work around broken drivers", but it seems to have helped in a lot of cases.

  • Default graphics enhanced on Kindle Fire HD and the latest Adreno-320 equipped Snapdragon devices (Nexus 4).

  • Touchscreen interfaces (Windows 8, RT, Android) now support touch-to-select. Be sure to enable the desired targeting mode by holding down "target" to be able to select asteroids and such.

  • Players docked to another player-owned capship are now auto-launched if the ship to whom they are docked should become unavailable.

  • More standard USB joystick configs for Android (Logitech F710, etc).

  • Trade Reparation missions now recover "Dislike" standing for 20 million credits.

Our Next Priorities

I usually spend a paragraph here talking about our coming focus for the coming months. In this case, however, I expect to be announcing goals with a lot more specifics sometime in January, so I'll ask you to wait and watch for that. We'll do another brief newsletter at that time, so keep an eye out!

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