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Vendetta Online is Free

We're making the game Free for a couple of months. Not "Freemium", we're actually giving the highest paid Premium Subscriber status to everyone, across all platforms and account types, until June 1st. Technically, the purchase and billing systems will still be present.. they just won't be needed. Here's how that will work:

  • All accounts of all types (new or existing), will be treated as full Premium Subscriber accounts, until the first of June.
  • This means that all accounts will be able to play across all platforms without level caps, construct Capital Ships, create new Guilds, and other Premium-specific activities.
  • This has no impact on underlying billing, or account status. When the Free period ends, the account reverts to the underlying state and limitations (Lite, Trial, Freemium, etc).
  • With Premium Subscriber status, accounts will not accumulate new "Crystal" currency, but will not need to spend it either.
  • For existing subscribers, we do appreciate your support. We are not changing existing billing (in some cases, we can't), so you will continue to be billed normally.
  • This special period does not add (or remove) the special Long Term Subscriber benefits, as it is not tied to the billing system at all.
  • To put it simply, we wanted to try and offer a bit of a sanctuary to our players, somewhere they can virtually go and be (politely) social, interact with others, and perhaps get a little respite from the chaos.

    Towards this end, we've also developed new tools to help us be more reactive to public in-game chat issues, like trolling, personal attacks, real-world politics, and others that don't foster the best game environment. The new tools are detailed later in this newsletter.

    Bot activitiy: We also request that people not flood the game with spy-bots, particularly during this period.

    List of Upcoming Events:
    • April 4th, 5pm Central (04/04 @22:00 UTC) - Developer Run - Flag Battle #4
    • April 4th, 6pm Central (04/04 @23:00 UTC) - Bus War
    (See Facebook for more Event details)

    NPC paths in Bractus P1

    NPC paths in Bractus P1

    Improved NPCs

    In our march towards a Universe Redux, we came to realize that the existing NPC AI was structured for really sparse, low-density sectors, and started to have serious problems as we increased the density of objects.

    One of the unique things about Vendetta Online is that our universe is largely procedurally generated, and is intended to allow dynamic change (visible player or event impact on sector layout), as well as unlimited expandability.

    We wanted to keep these features intact, to make greater use of them in the future. Plus we've had a number of related NPC bugs to address, so we dedicated some time with the following results:

    • NPCs are now much more efficient at navigating complex spaces, even in cases with large concave structures.
    • NPC activity, over time, will make all NPCs smarter to navigate any given sector, progressively refining behaviour.
    • On-going NPC activity will allow adaptation to layout changes in a given sector.
    • Defense behaviour and escort aggression has been tweaked significantly, particularly for Queens and other similar convoy situations.
    • Trade Convoys now stay together properly, when transiting certain types of storms and jumps, making Escort missions more effective.
    • Convoys are better at docking, overall, although there is still room for improvement with some stations and sectors.
    • NPCs more aggressively target mines if they're in the way, or the NPC has been damaged by a mine.
    • Lots of new analytics and graphs, to help us continue to monitor if/where NPCs are getting stuck, etc.
    • Bractus P1 test-sector (shown above) now includes a large number of NPCs who follow new aggression and group-behaviour types.

    Some of this is really important to forward-looking gameplay. For instance, we'll be better able to expand on the "Latos N2" supply-driven economy test, if we can reliably depend on NPC convoys to supply stations in real-time. We could have "faked" that, but doing so would have missed the point of keeping game-impacting content within the actual game in a reliable way (to be, potentially, interrupted by players or other events).

    There are a lot of other examples like this, but it suffices to say that that the ramifications are much more significant than the list above.

    Sector Loading Times

    We've made some drastic changes in how the game loads sectors over the network. Probably the most significant changes to the actual game protocol in the last 15 years.

    Historically, sectors with high complexity tended to be lengthy to load. This was worst for people on high-ping connections, like mobile devices in other countries. But, it plagued US broadband PCs as well, seen in load times for certain Deneb sectors, etc.

    This was a major barrier to the "Universe Redux" goal of drastically increasing the complexity of sectors.

    Since we made this change, all sectors now load much more quickly, especially on high-ping devices. This is particularly evident on locations like the Unaligned Pirate capship sectors, heavily populated with debris, or with the Bractus P1 high-density NPC test sector.

    It's also a step towards a potential Universe without Loading, and perhaps a different definition of what it means to fly through our galaxy. These are all long-term goals, and not a priority compared to near-term gameplay updates, but they are things we keep in mind for the future.

    Reducing Bad Chat Behaviour, Toxicity

    This is a problem as old as the Internet, but one which we've seen get worse in recent years. We had a really lengthy discussion with our community about it last year, regarding some tool improvements and policies to help mitigate issues, and encourage a healthier chat environment.

    Since that time, we've been implementing a lot of changes, which so far include:

    • Player Driven Report System

      Temporarily accessed with "/report (character)" from the game console (eventually will be added to the UI). This tool pops up a UI, and allows a person to select a line of text from whatever has been said by a given character on public chat channels (1 and 100), and define a category, and submit the issue.

      This tool replaces the old "/vote mute" system, which was prone to abuse, and eliminates some of the issues, as every single Report instance will be viewed by an administrator. Reports made by several people against a single person may result in an immediate mute, much like vote-mute.

      Additionally, each report will be determined as Valid or Rejected. Reports deemed Valid will probably have additional administrative action. People who receive too many validated Reports will lose their access to public chat, or worse.

    • Permanent Public Chat Muting

      This is now an administrative option. People who demonstrate long-term behaviour that includes too much spamming, trolling, personal attacks, real-world politics, and the like, may simply have their access to channels 100 and 1 revoked, permanently.

      It gives us a bit of a middle-ground between outright bans/mutes, and a never-ending number of temporary mutes that just don't seem to change some people's behaviour.

    • Mutes in Game Time

      This is now an option, instead of wall-clock time. Historically, mutes would expire after a certain amount of time had passed. This was a problem, for leveling administrative action against people in other time zones, or people who would simply troll until they were muted, and then log off for a few days.

      We're now shifting mutes to game-time, meaning, how long you've been logged in. If you get muted for an hour, that will take an hour spent in the game to end, not just logging off and waiting an hour.

    At this time, above all others, it's important to try and be nice to people online. A lot of people have lost their jobs, some may even lose their loved ones; people are scared and worred about the future, and they often have no way to connect with other humans beyond a glowing screen. So, let's be careful about what we write, and what we say.

    Plans for the Future

    We have a lot of development going on, but obviously the current Free Game situation is not something we were planning, back in January. We've been focused on longer-term goals, like trying deliver that Universe Redux in the relatively near future, or re-working the entire new-user introduction to the game to not be a terrifying wall of text.

    However, given the current situation, it's probably better that we put more resources into short-term development, for existing players, to add more content that people can use right now.

    We'll do what we can. Obviously, it's complicated game, and we always have development-resource limitations, but we'll see what we can do around certain goals, including:

    • New bot types in new locations.
    • New drop types, feeding into...
    • Possibly, additional high-level Manufacturing goal(s). (No, not the Capella)

    We're also evaluating other significant changes, beyond gameplay, but the details of which are still in flux.

    Update History

    Here's a recap of other updates, since the last Newsletter. As usual, this doesn't really represent "everything we've been doing", but it shows some of the player-visible changes that have been made:

    • Static queens are now more likely to attack capital ships, and remain aggressive.
    • Convoy traffic should no longer block docking queues under certain conditions, or choose jump-out positions that are unnecessarily far away.
    • Fixed rendering issues with the OpenGL Reference driver on Windows and MacOS, which were causing inverted CAPTCHA displays and other problems.
    • Keychain list now properly updates when access rights change.
    • Added Help menu information to Gunners tab.
    • Additional analytics and log data to try and debug the rare "dud avalon / missile" problem, reported on Bugs. Please continue to post specific (date/time) reports on that forum.
    • Mining smoke effects are no longer drawn when they are far away. This should improve Bractus P-1 rendering performance.
    • Added Interface options to disable reporting and displaying of location info in various chat messages.
    • Fixed bug with missions not cleaning up their internal timers when the mission ends.
    • Players no longer count as a kill if they self destruct in the Axia Must Die mission.
    • Fixed error in Offline Training Simulator when restarting the ring tutorial when using a gamepad.
    • Destroying Unaligned Pirate fighters and capships now rewards with Light and Heavy Weapon XP.
    • Unaligned Pirate fighters have a greater variety of occasional drops.
    • Lone Hive Queen escorts are now fundamentally more aggressive.
    • The keychain list now directly shows what content each key may access.
    • Added Audio options to disable engine and/or turbo sounds.
    • When a new livery is purchased along with the ship, it now notes this in the response message.
    • Fixed blank screen error when gamepad menu is closed on first run on Windows.
    • Gamepad menu should no longer show up for HOTAS setups on Windows.
    • Escort mission delivery NPCs now take priority over generic NPC traffic when docking to stations.

    Download the Game

    You can install the game client for Android, iPhone and iPad, Samsung GearVR and Oculus Go, Google Daydream VR, as well as find the game on the Mac Store. Or, you can directly download the game installation for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

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