Vendetta Online 1.8.360

VO 1.8.360 includes:

- Improved quality and efficiency of the glow effect.
- Windows version now requires SSE2 support. It should be faster as a result.
- Removed the loading progress bar under the Guild logo on startup
- Fixed ice crystal rendering error when changing resolutions in DirectX 11 mode.

One important change here is that the Windows/PC version of the game now requires support for the SSE2 instruction set. This has been a feature of all new computers for over a decade, so we don't expect it to be a problem for anyone. Still, if you have a particularly old machine and still want to run the game, we recommend installing Linux, and running the 32-bit Linux version of Vendetta Online. You can also read more about this change, and comment, on the related General Forum thread.

This system requirement has NO impact on any other platform. It is purely a PC-Windows specific change.

We have been doing a lot of work on an update of our beta Oculus Rift support, which also mandates some graphical and performance optimizations, to try and yield the best possible framerate.

However, the Oculus development is still in testing, and we wanted to get some of these other changes out more quickly, so we rolled a separate release. Aside from the speed increase from SSE2, we've changed from our own modified-Gaussian filter to a Kawase filter for glow, with the overall effect of better fidelity at a higher framerate.

If anyone has any issues, please post to the Bugs Forum and let us know. Thanks!

Vendetta Online 1.8.359

VO 1.8.359 includes:

- Modifications to Livery system to allow more dynamic addition of new ship skins.
- Mitigated issue related to Hive Queens disappearing from the game universe.
- Key IDs are now shown in key lists.
- Key lists are now sorted by Key ID.
- User keys now default to IFF and can-dock access.
- F2P specific: Crystal limit on bot-kills is doubled to 20 crystal per day.
- F2P specific: Some Hive bots now give increased crystal rewards, from 2 crystal for Assault-class bots, up to 5 crystal for Hive Queens.
- F2P specific: All ship addons/weapons at or above level 3, in any license, now cost 1 crystal each.

Several changes for Free To Play users, allowing them to gain more Crystal through daily bot kills, while also adding long-planned Crystal costs for addons and weapons. The Free To Play game balance will be changing over the coming months, including potential improvements to level limits and the like.

The "Key" changes, for keys related to capship and station ownership, were suggested by the player base easier this week, and integrated to help lower the hassle-factor in key management. As always, we'd appreciate continued feedback on how this is working.

Beyond that, we intended this release to also debut the next-generation beta of our Oculus Rift support, but after some testing we chose to defer a little longer and make sure things are solid (probably until next week). We initially only expected the Rift to be disabled for a week or so, but Oculus also released their 0.8 SDK in the same timeframe, so we chose to update and optimize for that, in addition. The upcoming release will still be very "beta" for Rift support, the game needs quite a few improvements to help polish the VR experience, but we think early Rift adopters will still enjoy it in its interim state.

As always, thanks for your patience and support!

Vendetta Online 1.8.357-358

Deneb Run this weekend! Check the in-game Event Information!

VO 1.8.357-358 included:

- Fixed rendering issue with fog on Android.
- Added setting to toggle fog blob particles on Android. The setting defaults to on for Android 5 and above, and for higher-end Tegra and Snapdragon devices. The setting is at Options -> Advanced -> Graphics -> Show Fog Blobs if the effect is too slow on your device.
- Specialty development for an upcoming OEM promotion, across phones, tablets and TVs.
- Improved UI navigation with gamepads and remotes.
- Rearranged some hotkeys for Capship PDA tabs.
- Attempt to improve issues with ANR (Activity Not Responding) errors on Android.
- Reduced black screen time on startup on Android and slower PCs.
- Fixed issue where selecting the Livery button during the initial in-game ship purchasing tutorial would cause the tutorial to restart.
- PatchStorm Update Server cloud has new nodes in Dallas, Texas and Sydney, Australia.

Usually our development is based on a "soft" schedule (defined by us, internally), and sometimes we're trying to work around "hard" dates defined by an outside party. In the case of this past week, we were offered an opportunity by a major OEM (electronics company) to help them test some new promotional channels to their millions of users. That bumped up the priority of related development that would make the promotion possible, and quickly tweak/improve the game on the respective devices.

We expect to return to our internally-driven development goals next week, and continue the push towards VO 1.9. Thanks for your patience, everyone. Have a great weekend!

PK Farming wrap-up.

This is a final note that we are, for the moment, wrapping up our investigations in historical "PK farming", or the process of cheating to increase the PK stat by repeatedly killing a drone "alt" running on another account (in some cases, thousands of times). This practice is not welcome in Vendetta Online. The PK stat has little inherent value in gameplay; but it still carries a perceptual value within the community, as an indication of experience and skill.

After concerns over the issue were raised by people within the community, we started the research process in our logs, and found half a dozen or so suspicious cases that merited further investigation.
The fact that we found a number of cases of different individuals meant two things:

1) The issue was common enough to require a "policy" response. We couldn't just deal with one person quietly, or even two: we had to create a response we could apply more broadly and fairly to a larger group of people, and potentially maintain moving forward.

2) The individual cases still required considerable time to investigate. People kill each other all the time in VO, and there are a lot of factors to consider in identifying this kind of behaviour. We wanted to be absolutely sure we didn't punish anyone inappropriately, so some depth was required.

Because this process was so time consuming to research and correlate (and we're already busy), some people were "punished" before others. This only resulted from the "luck" of who was in more recent logs, or had cheated on a grander and more easily-verified scale. The order and timing of our actions was simply based on when we came to some certainty from log data.

While investigating the individual cases, we found some people had been doing this kind of thing for as far back as we had logs (about a year). This presented a conundrum: for these players, we couldn't really provide any realistic count of the person's "actual" PKs vs their "fake" PKs. So, in fairness to the apparently overwhelming majority of players who don't engage in this kind of activity, we zeroed the PK stats of the people who had been definitively cheating.

This wasn't a step we took lightly, some of these players had been with us for a long time. Regardless of how this issue came to light, we probably would have come to the same conclusion on the appropriate minimal action. It seemed to be as fair as we could be; if we had had older log data available, we might have tried to do more to mitigate the punishment, but that simply wasn't possible.

Above and beyond this, some individuals really kicked up a controversial mess in regards to the "cheating", with the issue basically being used by different factions to troll one another, both in-game and on the forums. This further elevated the level of controversial hysteria over the problem, and gave everyone a headache. So, above and beyond their stat resets, two people also earned week-long mutes (now well expired).

In some cases that were suspicious and not conclusive, we've elected to continue monitoring the respective individuals. In a few smaller inconclusive cases, usually "newbie" types, we also sent out email warnings; but the lack of receiving a warning doesn't mean we aren't monitoring.

The level of controversy and player-consternation over this issue was really not warranted by the problem itself. This situation definitely used a lot of developer time, and inspired considerable irritation in the lead developer (me). But, my final administrative actions and choices were not without methodical logic and forethought, while trying to take the minimum corrective action that I could, that was the fairest to the overall playerbase.

I do wish I had delayed until we could apply all administrative actions at the same time, across all the involved players. Although this might have drawn out the controversy, it would have at least defused any accusations of "reactive action" based on the timing of various punishments. Instead, we just took action as we found certainty in each case, day by day, week by week, which led some to believe we were reacting to the requests of different factions. This was not true, and there is another simple reality to keep in mind:

We never, ever take administrative action without verified information from our own logs. We welcome player reports and tickets on issues, but they are considered "advisory" only. Specific times and dates help, as it allows us to more quickly zero in using the server logs. But, to put it simply, beyond the first report of a problem.. the number of factions writing tickets has no bearing on what actions take place. Once the ball on this issue started rolling from our initial investigation, we would continue until we had verified every case we reasonably could.

Moving ahead, we are doing more rigorous monitoring of this kind of activity (and other cheat-driven activities), as well as extending the total length of our logs, along with the type of data they store.

In closing, we ask that people try to enjoy the game as it is. Especially if you want to see the game evolve into something better. We simply don't have the resources to dedicate to this kind of issue on a regular basis.

If you genuinely have a concern about player-cheating, bring it to us, quietly. That's the best way to address the issue. Chances are, we may want to quietly enable extended monitoring on that individual, and you splashing accusations across the public forum may reduce the chances of our detecting definitive cheating.

Finally, a situation where half a dozen people over a given year, were exploiting a situation that resulted in little or no gameplay impact, does not imply we have much of a "cheating" problem as a whole. But, we remain vigilant to the possibility.

That's all for now, have fun everyone.

- Guild Software, Inc.

Vendetta Online 1.8.356

VO 1.8.356 includes:

- Fixed a server crash caused when too many hive skirmish missions were created at the same time.
- Fixed player online status information leaks.
- The automatic guild disband timeout that is started when there is less than 5 council members has been changed from 48 hours to 7 days.
- Guild Commanders can now limit display of current-login status of their members, via interface on the website.
- Improved server resilience to certain types of potential cloud issues.
- Improved server status, emergency monitoring.
- Fixed a server-side bug related to tracking of reloaded swarm missile ammunition, and a few other cases.

We did some critical work this week, and it appears that we have drastically improved the stability of specific server-side components. We've also strengthened our monitoring, and also updated and improved our ability to roll-back from a faulty release, should one occur (always a possibility).

So, obviously this is a lot of infrastructural work and not "exciting gameplay changes". But all things considered from recent experiences, these were pretty important issues to resolve and improve.

If all goes well with stability over the weekend, we intend to swing back to our previously-interrupted development schedule next week, and move forward with some planned game improvements. The delays of the last month have put us up against another hard-deadline at the end of next week, for a particular game partnership/promotion, which will also be taking some dev time (albeit just a few days).

In other news, we have some seriously new environmental content in the works, intended to demonstrate how we're changing some areas of space, and give some notion to the kind of "scale" we'll be rolling out in our game universe. It should be noted: these are purely graphical improvements right now, and are not delaying gameplay changes at all; but rather they will play a very important part in the forward evolution of the game, through version 1.9 and beyond.

Also, be sure to stop by some of the new player-organized Events that have hit the schedule lately! I'm sure they'll be a lot of fun.

Thanks for your patience, everyone, have a great weekend!

Outage and Related Development

We had an unplanned game downtime on Weds morning of this past week, and this post is intended to fill people in a little on what's been going on.

The basic problem was the "Kourier" AI subsystem, which controls the Hives, going a little bonkers and trying to create over 32,000 hive-NPCs at once, in a single sector. This then caused cascading failures elsewhere. The root issue, however, turned out to be quite complex, and not even a "new" issue, but rather something we've been lucky to avoid in the past.

Because of this, we've spent some effort over the last few days, to clean up and re-work the "Kourier" system, to make it more robust. This should also eliminate some of the other related problems that have plagued us for some time, like not-enough or too-many missions appearing for certain types of dynamic gameplay.

We did not plan for this development to be happening now; but now that we're aware of the problem, it has become the top priority and we've allocated our resources there. This has further pushed back other development that has been in the works. Such is the life of building a live, online game.

A lot of our planned gameplay improvements will also hinge on this same codebase (dynamic territory ownership with conquerable stations, a better Deneb War, etc), so there are other benefits to our doing this work, but it's still inconvenient timing.

We don't expect this issue to delay other development for more than a few days to a week, but, obviously server stability is critical. So we appreciate your patience in the meantime.

Vendetta Online 1.8.355

VO 1.8.355 includes:

- The Windows version now defaults to DirectX 11 on initial install.
- Oculus Rift support has been temporarily disabled, until we can complete our update to the 0.7 beta of the Oculus SDK. Rift support will likely return next week.
- Fixed crash bug when changing certain Video options and multi-threaded rendering is enabled.
- Increased the font size of the list of available liveries on mobile.
- Fixed hotkey for the 'Livery' button to be 'i' instead of 'p'.
- Changed game-pad help placeholder text to say '(none)' instead of 'Stuff'.

Those Windows users who want to try the auto-detected DX11 settings can rename their "wgaf.cfg" and "config.ini" in their install directory, and re-run the game. We welcome feedback and bug reports (Bugs forum) on DX11 problems. Thanks!

More was planned for this release, but we've spent a great deal of time dealing with administrative issues surrounding people farming for statistics (and still working on it this weekend). Hopefully by early next week we can get back on track.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Gameplay Exploits and Enforcement

It's been some time since this was last discussed, so it seems a refresher may be in order.

There have been those, lately, who have espoused the opinion if that if some gameplay mechanic within the game is exploitable in some way, then it must be "fair game", because "it's the dev's fault that it exists, until they fix it!". Allow to me clarify that notion:

Exploitation of a bug, flaw, or inherent issue in this game, always comes with the potential for an administrative response. The more egregious the exploit, the harsher the response, up to and including being permanently banned from this game.

Everyone knows we have very limited resources, all of which are spent trying to improve and administer this game. Our response to any given situation is at our discretion, and may happen whenever we choose, be that days, or weeks, or months later, based on our availability.

There are also some gameplay rule-lawyers who similarly want us to administratively respond to every small infraction, and batter us with their inflamed sense of self-righteous indignation. We are not receptive to this either. If there is a real issue, simply report the specifics (by Support Ticket), and move on. We'll apply an administrative response to those situations that we believe warrant it, in a manner and time of our own choosing.

For those who ask "but how will I know what is not allowed?": try applying common sense. Those who egregiously and repeatedly exploit a known issue, for their own benefit, particularly on an industrial-scale level, are those individuals who are the most likely to receive an administrative response.

Similarly, our response may be proportional to the amount of our time that you waste. Again, we have limited resources, and wasting our time with stupid stuff (be it dumb exploits, or excessively inflamed injustice over someone else's dumb exploits) is not going to be well received.

This is the reality of administrative response within Vendetta Online. It has been like this for 13 years. It is not likely to change any time soon. We spend quite a lot of time (every week) privately talking to players, telling them to be more polite, or to stop testing the technical limits of our patience. We do this quietly, and non-dramatically in the background, and we have no interest in public floggings. While many parts of the game, abuse-reporting mechanics and other systems will continue to change, the quiet way we handle things is not going to be one of them.

Please keep this in mind, for the future.

John "Incarnate" Bergman
Guild Software, Inc.

Vendetta Online 1.8.354

VO 1.8.354 includes:

- Enabled multi-threaded physics engine, defaulting to 4 threads.
- Fixed rendering issues for ships with liveries applied to them.
- Livery is no longer applied to the Anniversary Edition Vulture.
- Fixed issue with livery setting not being saved in ship presets.
- Fixed issue with not saving /alias commands correctly if they contain double quotes.

Several issues conspired to delay development this week. For one thing, we were notified of a maintenance that will impact our web-server next week, which prioritized some re-organization and administrative work on our end.

Similarly, we hoped to launch the DX11 engine into production this week, but we found a threaded-renderer bug at the last minute. By the end of the evening we pretty well resolved that issue, but chose to delay release until next week, to allow further testing. So it goes in the world of development.

As always, thanks for your patience, we have to get these things done to make 1.9 happen.

Have a great weekend!

Vendetta Online 1.8.353

VO 1.8.353 includes:

- Fixed DirectX 9 display problem of new configurable Ship Liveries.

Please keep us posted about any problems you see with the new Ship Livery system. We want to make sure it's 100% solid before shipping out the new specialty livery from the EverSpace Kickstarter promo.

Beyond this, we've had a lot of time soaked up by some big projects this week, but hopefully we'll be seeing some more involved updates next week.

Vendetta Online 1.8.351

VO 1.8.351 includes:

- Vendetta Online adds independently configurable "Ship Livery". This new type of skinning system will allow a variety of different aesthetic ship "looks" to be available. Ship Livery may have diverse requirements, including faction standing or affiliation, purchase with credits or crystal, or be related to an accomplishment or badge of some sort. Any mission outcome could result in a special Livery, and may eventually be something that can be picked up as Cargo. The "Livery" button can be found in the Ship Purchase menu, near the color-picker. (Livery only available for the Vulture, so far, more are in the works).
- Commodities and ship lists now retain their current scroll positions when the station interface updates.
- The rotating ship view no longer resets its orientation when changing ships.

Vendetta Online 1.8.350

VO 1.8.350 includes:

- 21 new missions added by members of the Player Contribution Corps! These new missions tie together and further extend a number of existing mission-trees. They also result in some interesting rewards, including limited creation of capship components. Credit for this new content goes primarily to Phaserlight for writing the new missions, along with Meridian for extensive editing, as well as further testing and feedback by Mr_Spuck and Darth Nihilus. Be sure to thank them for their efforts in bringing new content to the game. If you've never played any part of these mission trees before, you might start with "Hazardous Site Investigation" (UIT), "Lesson Among the Stars" (Itani), or "Errant Transports" (Serco). If you're interested in creating missions for Vendetta Online, check out the "PCC" area of the Vendetta Online website!

Vendetta Online 1.8.349

VO 1.8.349 includes:

- Trident capship-owners may now message basic commands to their ships ("/msg"), while they are un-docked. The "follow" command will cause the player's trident to follow them, as best it can, within the given sector. The capships will not yet follow across jumps or wormholes. The "park" command causes the given ship to park in its current location. An expanded command-set will be coming in a future release. Only the ship's owner may issue commands at this time.
- We've made several changes and updates to the Voice Chat system over the last few weeks, including some major fixes that may resolve the long-standing "channel-leaking" problem. We'd appreciate it if people on supporting platforms (Windows, Linux, and Android/ARM, but not Android/x86) could try using the voice chat system, and let us know how it's working. Please post any on-going problems on the Bugs forum. Thanks!
- We have mitigated and resolved a server-side issue that was causing brief moments of connection issues (~20 seconds) every night around 12:30 central time.

Vendetta Online 1.8.348

VO 1.8.348 includes:

- New prototype dynamic economy in the Orion Mining station located in Latos N-2. Locally produced goods are now manufactured at a fixed rate, and can be depleted; non-local goods arrive only by NPC Trade Convoy or Player Trading. Any commodities, ships, and addons sold to the station become available for purchase, but currently retain the common pre-requisites for the respective item (Level, Faction Standing, etc). As the quantity of an item increases, the price drops, and vice versa. Custom items such as event trophies cannot be sold to the station at this time.

Please keep in mind that this is very much still a prototype economy model. We're tweaking pricing and a number of other factors. Yes, it will eventually spread to other stations, but we have a lot of tweaking and measurement to do before it becomes the dominant economic system of the galaxy.

As always, bug reports and feedback are greatly welcomed! Thanks all, have a great weekend.

Level3 Communications Backbone Network Problems

For the last day and a half, the Level3 Communications network has been experiencing major problems in the Midwest area. Although our game is served from four different transit providers, of which Level3 is only one of them, this is still impacting a lot of players. They are a common transit path for many providers, as they've historically been one of the better Tier-1 ISPs.

Level3 is actively working on the issue, but we don't have an ETA at this time. Problems you experience in the game, related to various forms of "lag" are probably going to be related to this.