News

Apr
25

Vendetta Online 1.8.334

VO 1.8.334 includes:

- Fixed turret leadoff indicator color when target is outside the field-of-view.
- Temperature Scanner now properly obeys its range limit.
- Added Retina support for the OpenGL 4 driver on OS X.
- Fixed touchscreen virtual keyboard issues when using plugins on Android.
- Fixed double-press issue when going into the Nav menu from the HUD on Android.
- Fixed issue with the Auto-Aim Advanced Game Setting being set to Disabled when touchscreen mode is disabled and a gamepapd is being used on Android.

We're expecting some bigger changes next week, and we're approaching some major announcements. As a result, we've been spending time to build out and improve our server infrastructure:

A new "update server cloud" will be launching next week, including new patch servers in Los Angeles and Europe. A combination of BGP Anycast and GeoIP DNS will make sure you receive the update server closest to your location, while careful monitoring and automated failover of the individual servers will minimize the impact of any outages (which are very unlikely anyway). Even if the entire new cloud should fail, the game update-client itself will fall back in a few seconds to our current, long-running Midwest-US service. As time goes on, you may see us expand our patch cloud into other locations, like Asia, Australia and Brazil.

It should be noted that this new proprietary global patch network will not actually improve your "ping times" within the game. They are purely to improve the distribution and resilience of the game patches, although your patch downloads should be faster. Beyond this, we are also working on other changes to the fundamental game infrastructure, which we think will be a big improvement for most players, but those changes are still a little ways out.

In the meantime, a lot of game content is in development, including new Capship Station Components that will allow Trident docking at most Capitol stations. We think this will usher in a new relevance to the Trident, and its usage as a platform for trading and other activities.

Have a great weekend, everyone!
Apr
18

Vendetta Online 1.8.333

VO 1.8.333 includes:

- Raptor UDV gains integrated Cargo and Addon scanners (2000m range), as well as Mineral and Temperature scanners (300m range).
- New Training Neutron Blaster MkII is available in all capitol stations. The same stats as a Neutron MkII, with only one damage.
- Training Sunflare Launcher also added to capitol stations. Same stats, but 15 damage.
- The Windows Updater now waits until the game is finished starting up before exiting. This is an attempt to fix the issue with DirectX 11 sometimes not entering full screen on startup.
- Fixed freeze when alt-tabbing back to the game after taking a screenshot with the /dump command on Windows.
- Added a setting to the Mac OpenGL 4 driver to try to get it to choose the discrete GPU instead of the integrated GPU.
- Android touch inputs that start while in space, and end in the station, will no longer activate any station buttons. This should avoid situations like accidentally triggering the Launch button just after docking.

Many more changes coming in the near future. Please report any problems you find. Have fun everyone!
Apr
18

POLICY REMINDER: No Administrative Nation Changes!

POLICY REMINDER: As of October 24th, 2014, we are NO LONGER offering administrative character nation changes, until further notice. Previously, we were happy to do this on request (dating from an earlier time in the game), but it ended up being heavily exploited by a number of individuals, as a means of gaining specialty nation equipment. The player base became quite vocally upset, and we resolved the community issue, for the moment, by promising to stop doing nation changes (which we had already halted when the exploitation was reported).

On a technical level, we currently aren't in a position to do this, as we haven't yet built the tools needed to make specialized nation changes while also selectively-wiping, or limiting, a character's inventory. The only way to do this right now, is "by hand" in the database; and even if the player purges their own inventory, developer time is needed to validate the degree to which this has happened. Character data is complex, and not trivial to manually modify. We just don't have the time to do this for people, not the way it is now.

All things being equal, we would much rather be changing character nations, and making people happy, as we always have before. But this present situation has evolved, and we're making the best of what we have, resource limitations and all.

So, until you receive further notice from us, please do not expect character nation changes. You do have a number of character slots, we recommend making the most of them.

- John "Incarnate" Bergman
Guild Software, Inc.
Apr
11

Vendetta Online 1.8.332

VO 1.8.332 includes:

- New higher-definition asteroids for Verasi I5 (and elsewhere), on PC versions.
- Lifetime manufacturing limits for the Teller-Ulam Mine have been removed. Daily limits still in place.
- Concussion Railgun mass reduced from 4000 to 2000.
- Turret auto-aim field-of-view has been set to match the limitations of the turret object.
- Further improved billing robustness for various mobile platforms, updates still being released on a platform-by-platform basis.

Still more critical debugging and bug-fixing, in advance of a major release intended for this month. Next week will probably involve a bunch of important rendering-API fixes that are required to take the new DX11/GL4 renderers from "beta" to "final/production". We'll hopefully also see some gameplay tweaks at the same time.
Apr
04

Vendetta Online 1.8.331

VO 1.8.331 includes:

- Improved High Drain Power Cell has been buffed to 50/sec generation and 18 grid power.
- Extreme Drain Power Cell has been buffed to 52/sec generation.
- Auto Aim for Turret weapons has been changed to use weapon stats rather than a fixed AA threshold.
- Major changes to improve the robustness of billing support on Play Store and Amazon, which will require installation of APK updates from those stores. Please report any new billing problems as soon as possible.

These billing improvements took up quite a bit of time, but are critically important, especially if we see a big influx of users from being "featured" on a mobile platform. We have a lot more cooking in the background, but until then, have a happy weekend everyone!
Mar
27

Vendetta Online 1.8.330

VO 1.8.330 includes:

- Raptor UDV thrust increased from 215 to 225.
- Renamed "Gatling Turrets" to "Gatling Cannon" MkII and MkIII.
- New "Gatling Turret" created for actual turret usage, by small vessels with turret capabilities.
- Fixed problems with collision hulls for recently-updated, high-def asteroids on PC platforms.
- Fixed Voice Chat menu size issue on Android.

A couple of belated enhancements based on Suggestions Forum threads from earlier this month. The new Gatling Turret is only available in a couple of sectors. That may be controversial, but it's easy enough to expand availability later.

We have a lot more major development going on in the background, which should come to light before long. In addition, we're in the midst of completing a pretty major network migration for our office, which we've managed to make largely invisible to the game itself (does not change the servers), but does have a huge impact on our development. So, getting through that migration has been pretty important, although also time consuming.

Thanks everyone. We hope you'll stop by on Sunday for the Nation War event! Take care.
Mar
21

Vendetta Online 1.8.329

VO 1.8.329 includes:

- One set of asteroids (tan, shattered rocks) have been updated on the PC to a new "high definition" standard, with greatly increased polygon counts.
- Fixed dynamic lights and shadow shaders for OpenGL 4 on Mac and Linux.
- Fixed issue with DirectX 11 driver sometimes not restoring the correct screen size when alt-tabbing while in full-screen mode.

We've been very busy this past week, with a large amount of unexpected infrastructural and server work, as one of our ISPs is going through some transitions. This cut into development time for this build, but we hope you enjoy the changes we were able to ship. Hopefully some cooler content next week.
Mar
13

Vendetta Online 1.8.328

VO 1.8.328 includes:

- Fixed rendering errors when switching to the OpenGL 4 driver.
- Fixed glow effect showing through objects.
- Fixed shadow rendering errors.
- Alt-tabbing should be more robust for the DirectX 11 driver.
- Fixed inventory list and other tree-controls jumping around when selecting items.
- Fixed Google Play Achievements being given at the wrong time.
- Updated account creation process on mobile devices.

A slightly belated announcement on this version, as I was out of town last week at the Game Developer's Conference.

Most of this version continues our process of cleaning up and debugging the new GL4 and DX11 shaders and related code. We still have some more fixes to drop in, further fixing some Linux renderer problems that have appeared recently, but those will have to wait until next week.

Big announcements are coming soon, describing more specifics for our plans for 2015. In the meantime, you'll also see some newer "HD" assets appearing on the PC version, and other tweaks intended to polish things up prior to the Steam launch. Further enhancements to our VR support are also planned (Oculus, Leap Motion, etc).

Have a great weekend, everyone!
Feb
28

Vendetta Online 1.8.326-327

VO 1.8.326 and 1.8.327 include:

- Fixed issue with not being able to type in chat while jumping and warping.
- When alt-tabbing out in full screen DirectX 11 mode, alt-tabbing back will return to full screen mode.
- The wireframe radar extender effect is now visible in DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.
- The Windows executable binaries are now signed with a certificate.
- The DirectX 11 version now uses a different shadow technique (Poisson PCF with slope-based depth bias), also implemented across all OpenGL 4 versions.
- Very experimental, optional OpenGL 4 driver added to MacOS X. Switching drivers is a little strange, and a full game re-start may be needed to avoid graphics corruption. We're still working on it, this is an optional early-access, use at your own risk.
- Fixed the capship shield effect not rendering properly.
- The glow effect should now work on the experimental OpenGL 4 driver.
- A plugins/ folder is now automatically created on first run for the Android version.
- Changed the default active button for the EULA menu.
- The 'Play' button is now automatically made the active button when changing characters.
- When a menu is closed and it doesn't have active focus, the current active focus control no longer gets unfocused.
- Fixed a couple of lua errors.

Obviously a lot of changes being made in the past week, as 1.8.326 dropped on Monday, followed by 1.8.327 on Friday. The biggest news here is probably the experimental GL4 driver for the Mac, which will finally bring our new rendering engine across all our major PC platforms (Windows/Mac/Linux).

There are still other changes coming to the new rendering engine, before it will be considered "production ready" and actually become the default on supporting hardware. But, we are making good progress, and in the meantime, we greatly appreciate people testing things and reporting any issues via the Bugs forum. The more feedback we get, the more solid the new graphics engine will be.

Many other fixes and tweaks in the works, with much more significant gameplay changes intended to follow this period of graphical/engine work. Stay tuned!
Feb
13

Vendetta Online 1.8.325

VO 1.8.325 includes:

- Improved experience of using the UI with a gamepad on Android.
- Fixed flickering button in touch-hover mode on Android.
- The /givemoney command is no longer case sensitive.
- Successful /vote mutes now last for two hours.

Beyond our release from Sunday night, this actually fixes several additional problems that faced players trying to use a D-pad type gamepad to navigate the game interface. We've improved a lot of the scenarios to make D-pad navigation much easier. There are still some areas that could made better still, but we think those with gamepads will find this helpful. It should be particularly beneficial for those on the FireTV, the NVIDIA Shield, OUYA, GameStick, Moga Pro, upcoming AndroidTV, and other similar hardware.

Improved controller support also has long-term benefits for use cases like VR (Vendetta Online being one of the first titles to officially support the Oculus Rift, back in 2013). Playing the game on a mouse and keyboard can be optimal, but tracking key-positions while "blind" (wearing a VR headset) is challenging for a lot of people. To them, it's more accessible to play with a game controller, and a small number of tactile controls that can be trivially identified without looking.
Feb
09

Vendetta Online 1.8.324

VO 1.8.324 includes:

- Increased usability of gamepads to navigate through the UI using mostly just the D-Pad and A button. The D-Pad now performs a key repeat for quicker scrolling.
- D-Pad Left/Right no longer scrolls up/down. Instead they switch to the previous/next control.
- Changed the default mouse-over/focus highlighting of buttons and tabs to be more noticeable.
- Reduced the number of votes to mute someone to 10 votes.
- Increased sound falloff of new ship and swarm explosions.
- Added a reminder that chat channel 1 is only for Help questions and to /join 100 for main chat after every fifth time you chat in channel 1.
- Experimentally tweaked Crystal acquisition rates, for upcoming improvements to level caps and other F2P barriers.

A whole array of minor gameplay tweaks, intended to improve the game in a number of cases, including Controller Improvements enhance playability on the Amazon FireTV, OUYA, GameStick, and other "10 foot experience" platforms (ie, where you're 10 feet from a TV and only have a game controller). This will also improve upcoming AndroidTV support, as well as gamepad-centric experiences like the Moga Pro and NVIDIA Shield.

Beyond this, administrative tweaks to help us manage our growing userbase, as well as some tweaks to Crystal balance. We've been very busy for the last couple of months on rendering updates, you can expect a lot of small changes and adjustments to the free-to-play business model, as we approach our major iOS update (again, those who want to be a part of testing for ios, should check out vendetta-online.com/ios).

That's all for now, expect more graphics updates, and other tweaks, in the coming week!
Jan
31

Vendetta Online 1.8.323

VO 1.8.323 includes:

- Added new sound effects for small ship explosions, swarm missile impact; also updated and improved existing capship explosions.
- Added dynamic light sources to additional "neon-style" signs and station floodlights, visible in the prototype DX11 and OpenGL drivers.
- API enhancements for Android and AndoidTV.

Only three lines in the update log, but a lot more happening behind the scenes, and changes "under the hood", so to speak. We've done a lot more engine development and tweaking over the past week, but nothing that's ready for exposure in the game yet. Assets and visual effects are being updated, etc.

Beyond that, we also have some time-sensitive development going on, relating to necessary updates of certain platforms, as well as support for emerging systems like AndroidTV. Support for AndroidTV may not be that exciting to everyone, but it has taken very little time for us to support (as we already helped launch the FireTV, OUYA, and similar devices), and opens up the prospect of playing Vendetta Online natively on your next-gen SmartTV from Sony, Sharp and other manufacturers. Set-top boxes like the Nexus Player are not the intriguing long-game for us, but rather integration of the AndroidTV experience into millions of SmartTVs. That has the potential to be a market share worth pursuing.

We expect more graphics updates next week, but we'll try and make some game changes as well if we possibly can. We have a whole backlog of changes that I've been promising on Suggestions.

Until then, have a great weekend everyone!
Jan
24

Vendetta Online 1.8.322

VO 1.8.322 includes:
- Added prototype shadows to Linux OpenGL 4 driver. This implementation differs from the DirectX 11 version in that it uses a Percentage Closer Filter with a Poisson distribution to anti-alias the shadows.
- Added dynamic light sources to more "neon-style" signs, visible in the prototype DX11 or OpenGL drivers.
- Decreased the font size of the account conversion menu for mobile devices.

Getting closer to wrapping up our work on the renderer, we should hopefully have just a bit more related work, and then be done for awhile.

Shadows are kind of an interesting set of challenges, as each algorithm comes with its own set of visual problems (artifacts) that need to be mitigated. We're using 4X anti-aliased variance shadow maps (VSM) on DX11, as we appreciated the smooth shadow edges we get from anti-aliasing, but we don't love its inherent problems with thin-object shadows "fading in" near their origin.

Thus, on OpenGL (for Linux, not yet for Mac) we're testing an implementation of traditional Percentage Closer Filter (PCF) shadow maps using a poisson disc to smooth the edges. This has the added benefit that it can be implemented on mobile by packing floats into RGBA, where this is not really possible (or is at least highly problematic) with a numerically-unstable variance algorithm. It may also be a little faster on older hardware (and uses less memory); but really, shadows have not been a big speed hit for us, compared to dynamic lighting and other factors. Unfortunately, PCFs also come with their own set of visual problems/artifacts, issues like shadow acne, a kind of flickering of maps appearing on certain surfaces, that have to be optimized with specific bias settings. There are particular challenges with rounded rotating asteroids. But on average it looks pretty good (which can be said about either algorithm).



In both cases, the maps are placed on a single texture atlas for all four cascade levels. Cascades being shadow maps rendered to cover various distance-ranges, so you get high resolution close to you, but lower resolution off in the distance. Because of our huge view distance (20km or more), we're probably going to need another set of cascades to achieve the desired "final" fidelity on PC, but it's not bad as it is.

So far, these algorithms have all been implemented for relatively fixed, "directional light" shadows coming from the primary lightsource (the nearest star/sun), but we intend to also add another couple of cases. Omni/spot lights under some situations (short distance shadows that don't travel far, cast by ship engines, for instance) will add a lot of nice effect with movement; a capship flying near a station or asteroids, for instance. Similarly, a special shadow map on your own ship (for 3rd-person views) will add a lot higher fidelity to self-shadowing than what we can achieve using the cascades-covering-20km.

It's very common for game engines to use several different types of shadows for different environments and effects. Variance shadow maps can be easily blurred in hardware, for instance, where PCF shadow maps cannot. Thus, if we want to create heavily softened maps for omni lights in a fogged sector, for instance, that might lend itself to VSMs. Or, even with all directional and omni lights in unfogged scenes using anti-aliased VSMs, we might still use a PCF for self-shadowing your ship, so that all small details are sharply shadowed and defined (even when the shadow-caster is relatively small or thin, like a winglet or turret).

As always, game development is a series of calculated tradeoffs to try and achieve a desired effect. There are few ideal solutions, mostly it's based on what works best for the specific kind of game, content, environment, desired experience, etc. This is one of the reasons we've been happy to have our own in-house engine. While we may spend time on this kind of R&D, where shadows might simply be a "check box" on an available middleware engine, we're doing the best implementation for our specific situation. Most engines are built for first-person shooters and/or lightweight "casual" games, not for open-world space MMOs with galactically-gigantic universes. Even at triple-A studios who are actually making first-person-shooters (many friends of ours), they often end up spending practically the same amount of time heavily-modifying and "hacking" the middleware engine to do what they want, a sometimes-ironic set of tradeoffs.

Of course, back when we started in the mid/late 90s, there practically were no middleware engines anyway, let alone the free ones of today (the quake1-test debuted about the time we were building network code, and by the time Unreal shipped, VO was recognizably playable). But even so, being able to implement our own optimal solution to our specific set of challenges has always been a strength, and the game is better for it.
Jan
17

Vendetta Online 1.8.320-321

VO 1.8.320 and 1.8.321 included:

- Added dynamic light sources to many of the "neon-style" floating signs, visible in the prototype DX11 or OpenGL drivers.
- New sound effects: Avalon Torpedo impact/explosions, queen and capship explosions, and special Heavy Assault Cruiser explosion effects.
- Preliminary dynamic lights have been added to the docking and launch bays.
- Fixed the glow effect so it isn't so over-bright.
- Shadowmap cascade levels are consolidated into 1 texture atlas
instead of 4 separate textures.
- Tweaked the shadow cascade transition to be more subtle.
- Tweaked render state changes in the DirectX 11 driver.
- Ice asteroids and solar panels now receive shadows.

Improvements continue to the rendering engine, and the assets to help enable them. Plus, some new sound effects, and you can expect more to appear as well.

It's hard to convey the impact of lighting our signs dynamically, and having them influence their surroundings; it adds a tremendous sense of "presence" to the environment. Our "floating neon" signs flicker on and off, and change colors as they always have, but now they illuminate nearby objects and ships as well. This may seem like a subtle change, and it is, but I'm really enjoying the overall effect:

Jan
05

Vendetta Online 1.8.319

VO 1.8.319 includes:

- Fixed long blank screen pause when switching video drivers.
- Fixed performance issue for DirectX 11 driver when not rendering the station behind the station interface.
- Improved and tweaked shadow settings for DirectX 11 driver. Shadows are now anti-aliased and the darkness of shadows has been decreased further.

For those who are interested, and can't yet see the new DX11 changes, I've made a little before-and-after demo screenshot of the current state of the engine. Please bear in mind that this is a very preliminary screenshot, and not indicative of anything remotely final.

In fact, we're still deep in development on the DX11/OpenGL 4 renderer. There are some particular challenges that we face as an open-world game set in space, with sectors of unlimited scale. Shadows maps, for instance, have a set resolution and need to cover the entire viewable terrain. For most games, even some recent "open world" shooters, that's still relatively modest compared to even our (current) view distance. Since 2002, we've had a 20 kilometer far-Z, which (for reference) would let any current player's view encompass about 3x the entire gameworld of Skyrim. This adds challenges to stretching shadow maps over such a large area, while making them "look good" up close, and not using a tremendous amount memory.

On top of that, we're looking to drastically increase our visible Z range (due to extremely large capship-stations and other objects coming in future versions), perhaps to "near-infinitely" through the use of multiple Z ranges along with imposter rendering. All of this makes for a lot of R&D and testing, to find something that works "best" for our particular usage.

Usage is key, as each effect implementation, and rendering architecture choice, has its own set of tradeoffs. Different algorithms come with particular artifacts, and a lot of this kind of research is figuring out what looks the "best", while also giving you the desired flexibility, framerate and overhead that you require.. and that's going to vary, game-to-game. We're a space title, so "soft" shadows aren't really our thing, except as a special case (ion storms, mining-debris fog), as we generally don't have the kind of environmental atmospherics that provide this sort of "soft" diffusion. So we're currently testing some effective sharp-edged (anti-aliased) solutions that scale well over long distance.

But what's most important is how the effects will be used. Eye candy is nice enough, but it really needs to justify its existence (and impact on framerate) through value in storytelling, and in the immersive experience. It's these environments that I find the most exciting, the most inspiring of game design. Situations that might fill a player with genuine fear, or awe. Images that might let us each tell how we've "seen things you people wouldn't believe.."

I can't wait to show you what we have coming.