News

May
18

Vendetta Online 1.8.484-485

VO 1.8.485 (yesterday) includes:

- No-Fire-Zone TempKoS is now applied to players who self-destruct and damage others.
- Added options to enable dynamic lights and shadows for OpenGL ES 3, currently disabled by default.
- Improved performance in Daydream VR using a hybrid monoscopic rendering technique.

VO 1.8.484 (last week) included:
- The Windows version uses a new multi-threaded rendering back-end that scales better with more CPU cores. This is a really major and significant release, from our perspective, although our hope is that you "won't notice anything is different", as that's the best possible outcome. This is a big step towards next-generation content, however.
- Improved anisotropic filtering in the DX11 driver, which now defaults to 8x (note, there is apparently a bug where this isn't properly defaulting to "on" with existing installs, we're still investigating).
- Updated Windows Vulkan driver.
- Removed DirectX 8.1 support.
- Background detail settings have changed to include a quality setting and a resolution setting, "resolution" is not used if quality is "high".
- Audio limiter on the Windows version no longer affects music, only sound effects.

It should also be noted that we've made some other substantial changes to the Android version, and pushed out new "full install" APKs to the Play Store, for both the "HD" and "Free" versions. This includes a major re-work of the Android "permission" system that allows the game to be as minimally invasive on permissions as possible, requesting only when something is only absolutely required. So, for instance, you will be asked for Microphone permissions when you actually enable Voice Chat, but as it is disabled by default, you won't be asked on installation or startup.

Similarly, we've been doing some background work to elevate the performance of the Android version, with the ES3 and threaded renderers, and make it more of an "equal ground" build, compared to the PC versions. This includes many of the higher-end shaders, like dynamic lighting and shadows, which are now available on Android, but disabled by default. Android device performance is drastically increasing, and we may start to enable some of these graphical enhancements by default on hardware that can handle it.

The flip-side, is that we're also trying to make sure the Android version is fast enough to handle some of the next-generation "Universe Redux" content that's our overall end-game in much of this technology work. Making major, fundamental engine and shader changes on Android is kind of an arduous process, because it's such a fragile and fragmented ecosystem. Thus, we have to ship a lot of small changes, every week, and "see what breaks" (usually on some specific, buggy hardware) and then try and fix that. We cannot ship a single "big" release, as that makes the number of variables too great, and the bugs become harder to track down.

The reason why I explain this, is to point out that while we're publicly releasing for Android a lot lately, that actually has not been the primary focus of our development time, and that will start to hopefully become evident before long.

Thanks for your patience, please keep the Bug reports and Suggestions coming, we are actively reading them, even if we're too busy to be very directly communicative lately.

Have a great weekend, everyone!
May
04

Vendetta Online 1.8.483

VO 1.8.483 includes:

- The regular non-HD Android "free" version now includes OpenGL ES 3 driver and performance enhancements for densely populated sectors, such as debris fields, on devices that support OpenGL ES 3. It is used by default on new installs, but existing installs will have to switch to it in Options -> Advanced -> Video -> Change Drivers.

More changes in the works, but some last-minute bugs prevented shipping some new updates for Windows and elsewhere.

We highly recommend that existing Android users switch over to the ES3 renderer, on compatible devices. In heavy sectors it can make for a 7x performance difference, or more.
Apr
17

Vendetta Online 1.8.481-482

A bit of a composite update, that started back in march, and was only finalized a day ago:

VO 1.8.482 includes (recently):

- Enabled multi-threaded rendering on all Android versions.
- New collision sound effects.
- New jettison sound effect.

VO 1.8.481 attempted to include (back in March). Everything in here was released, except the threaded rendering was reverted at the time:

- New mission tree "Salvage Your Goliath", allows players to break their Goliath capital ship back into constituent parts. There is a cost involved in utilizing this mission, and the salvage process does incur some degree of loss, so not 100% of the contents are returned. However, this is still an effective way to recover most of the capital ship components.
- Missions that transfer cargo content to players will now allow the player to temporarily exceed their station cargo limit, for the sake of preserving everything that comes from the mission, such as manufactured components. No additional cargo may be manually added to the station, until it is reduced below the limit. Other costs and limitations may eventually be added for those who exceed the station storage limit.
- Sectors will now require full game-client load of all newer-style debris and dynamic objects before spawning the player. This may cause the perception of longer load-times for a few sectors (Pirate Stronghold, etc), but gameplay performance will not be marred by "loading" while in-sector.
- The multi-threaded renderer is now enabled by default on both Android regular and "HD" versions. This enhances the performance of CPU-intensive sectors, like the Pirate Stronghold, across all device types.
- Android players should be advised, however, that the best performance is from the ES3 renderer that's currently only offered with the "HD" version, because this version specifically requires newer and more capable hardware for installation. The more modern hardware has special features that improve CPU efficiency, which can make the ES3 version twice as fast as the ES2 version, on the same hardware. This is particularly true in CPU-intensive sectors, like the Pirate Stronghold. We will eventually make the ES3 renderer available in the Free version, but we will have to develop more logic to detect whether the device has entirely stable capabilities for using the newer renderer; it may be some time.
- Improved sector load times across all platforms.

Updated explanation:

Basically, this multi-threaded improvement was intended for mid-March, but ended up having some unforeseen stability problems. This caused us to revert and hold the release until we could really thoroughly run it through testing on a wide variety of systems and cases, and make as certain as possible that everything was completely stable, before releasing it again.

Android players using both the "Free" and "HD" versions of the game should see a noticeable performance bump from this update, and there will probably be more to come. We have a lot of plans for Android updates, but Android is also our most-challenging platform, in terms of driver stability and other issues. Thus, we prefer to release a long string of many "smaller" updates over a period of time, and see how each update works "in the wild". That way, there's a more limited number of possibilities if something goes wrong, and issues are quicker to resolve.

Android devices have become much faster, on average, since the last time the game was optimized for them, but also much more "capable". It's a little ironic, but as newer hardware emerges, it's usually not only faster in a generic sense, but also has architectural options that can make rendering far more efficient (and thus, faster, or less power-intensive). It's ironic, because one would really wish the "efficiency" features had been in the older chips that needed it more, but that's not really how i

So, over the next couple of months, we'll probably be making the Android version quite a bit more efficient, and possibly updating graphics and other areas as well.

To non-Android players, understand that this isn't "months of development time" that we're putting specifically into Android. These are features we already have, and we've had for years. We're going to be doing staged Android releases, over several months, but largely of existing changes.

These changes couldn't be released previously, in the standard "Free" version, because the OS drivers tended to be too unstable. Thus, we had to wait for Android 7 and 8 to become more pervasive, with their included updated drivers, before we could realistically ship some of this.

Other changes:

We have a lot more in development than just "Android maintenance tweaks", but it's sufficiently broad development that it's all taking some time to ship. Any time you make a lot more changes, it requires a lot more testing. Bear with us a little longer; you should see some new technology testing on the PC soon, as well as a few other things.
Apr
06

Work in Progress

The last month or so has been very busy, with a lot of intense development, as well as the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco soaking up our time. Despite a lot of tweaks and changes being made during this period, our reduced availability has made testing and Q/A for releases a big challenge, leading to a lack of recent patches.

This should be coming to a close in the near future, however. We don't know exactly what will be in the next patch, or precisely when it will ship; but it's likely we'll take another run at Android performance issues, as well as perhaps some new sound effects and other small modifications.

Bigger changes are still in the works, but the bigger the change, the more complex and lengthy the release process to make sure the game remains stable (across 5+ native platforms, not including VR). Thanks for your patience in the meantime. Once we have something more concrete to announce, you'll likely see it emerge in the next Newsletter.
Mar
09

Vendetta Online 1.8.480

VO 1.8.480 includes:

- Improved Trident texture: Across all systems and platforms, the Trident texture resolution has increased 4x. On PCs with reasonably recent GPUs, using at least the DX11 or GL4 renderers, the resolution has increased 16x.

A lot of other changes are in the works, including development to bring all the recent engine changes back to a state where we can release them into production, and start actually using them (and testing for next-gen content goals). Hopefully a technology release next week, if we're lucky? Stay tuned!
Mar
02

Vendetta Online 1.8.479 - Server side

VO 1.8.479 addition now includes:
- Power Cell Blaster Turret: A variant of the standard PCB may now be manufactured to mount on vessels with turrets.
- The masses of power cells have been re-defined for all non-capship power cells.

Both of these are from recent Suggestions Forum threads. Please report any issues on Bugs.

Otherwise, development has been on-going, but promising. If all goes well, we may be able to start pushing major architectural changes into production before long, to stabilize them, in advance of making larger content changes.

We may also have some interesting announcements, later this month.

Have a great weekend, all!
Feb
16

Vendetta Online 1.8.479 - Server side

VO 1.8.479 now includes some other server-side changes:

- Ships that have been damaged more than 25% now require powercell energy equivalent to their damage to make any kind of jump. For instance, a ship damaged 50% now requires a 50% charged powercell to jump.
- Teradon turbo max speed increased from 140 to 160.
- Power Cell Baster auto-aim improved from 0.995 to 0.85.
- Revenant MkI turbo energy drain reduced from 50 to 48.

Server side updates from the last few weeks, along with the new powercell / jump requirements from last night. These jump-requirement changes stemmed from a Suggestions forum thread, that was largely well received. We'll see how the changes work in practice. If it becomes a problem, we can revert them, but it seemed like an interesting idea that could help improve a number of historically problematic situations. It likely has benefits to traders and may make piracy a little more challenging (if the trader makes efforts to defend themselves), but it should make the entire situation more "interesting", which is the overall goal.

To clarify the change: there are no changes to jump behaviour at less than 25% *damage*. You only start to see this if you're down to 75% health. To jump at 60% health, you would need 40% charge in your powercell. To jump at 10% health, you would need 90% charge in your powercell. Etc. It makes jumping increasingly more energy-consuming, if you have taken damage, which changes the nature of "chasing" people across the galaxy (both for the pursuer, and the pursued).

As always, feedback is welcome. See the Suggestions Forum for the specific thread.

Other changes are still in the pipe. We're working on the same set of goals we set out in the last Newsletter in December, but one project has taken over a month longer than expected. This happens sometimes. Engine development can be really complex, especially when you're trying to scale across lots of CPU cores, there are a lot of things to keep synchronized, and a lot of performance/architecture trade-offs. Game engines do not "scale" easily, compared to other workloads, like video encoding or serving web-data, where there are much fewer timing and synchronization requirements.

But, the results are tentatively pretty optimistic, and we'll have more to say about that in the near future. Having a new engine will go a long way towards making the "Universe Redux" plans a lot more interesting from both a "visual" and "gameplay" standpoints, and modernizing the look of the game in general. This will be extremely relevant across all platforms, and all types of systems, from big gaming PCs down to mobile and mobile-VR. In all cases, we'll be able to use the available system resources a lot more effectively, which is really important to next-gen content.

We intend to spend more time on content as soon as we can, but we have to get through the engine project before we can start "dividing" our head-space. This project is complex enough that it requires really dedicated focus.

Thanks all, have a great weekend!
Jan
18

Tweaks and Development Updates

A few small changes have gone into place tonight, including:

- Power Cell Baster auto-aim improved from 0.995 to 0.85
- Revenant MkI turbo energy drain reduced from 50 to 48

These changes are in place now, but will appear in the patch log for the next major release.

We've been very busy recently, working through the holidays and the weeks since, to try and finish up some of our technical and engine development.

We discussed our goals in the December Newsletter, and we're still pushing hard to make them happen. Some aspects of engine development have taken a bit longer than expected, but the work is going to be really critical for our next-generation content goals, so we're happy to see it moving forward in general. This has impacted delays on rolling Vulkan from Beta into Production, but we're moving as quickly as we can on that.

We've also rolled out new server capacity over the last couple of weeks, with the additional systems coming online this past Wednesday. This isn't "cloud" capacity, but rather more of our own "metal" (physical servers). These systems are not intended to run the game itself, but rather to provide better performance, redundancy and security for the website and other services that are needed to keep everything running. This has definitely absorbed some "development" time as well, but it's really important stuff to do; hopefully before an inevitable outage, when it's actually "needed".

Work is on-going on policy and NPC tweaks we mentioned in the last Newsletter. There have been some bot invasions into grayspace, as we experiment with the performance impact of larger quantities of enemies. Thus far, the optimizations we've made on the server have been holding up really well.

That's all for now. Once the Vulkan updates are shipped, we'll likely make some further announcements, along with an updated newsletter. For now, have a great weekend, everyone!
Dec
10

Vendetta Online 1.8.479

VO 1.8.479 includes:
- Launching from a personal capital ship will no longer cause homing missiles targeted on that capital ship to "lose" their lock, and the missiles will continue targeting your capital ship.
- The firing field-of-view of the Capital Rail Cannon has been reduced from 180 to 160 degrees. This may help mitigate its value as a forward-facing "assault" weapon. The FoV of all other capital ship turret weapons have not been changed.
- The Centurion Superlight may now be purchased (if it is in-stock) in Latos N2, by pilots who have completed the Hive Research mission with Corvus. Prices for the Superlight may fluctuate considerably.
- Deneb battles are now off-limits to players who have not joined either the Itani or Serco Militaries, and who are not taking the Mission related to the specific battle sector. Un-aligned "neutral" vessels will be attacked, including un-piloted capital ships.
- New Weapon: the Corvus Ultra Positron Blaster, a small-port, 18-grid, de-tuned variant of the MegaPosi. It is available in Corvus stations to tri-KoS pilots at 8/8, who have passed the "Hive Research" mission.
- The performance of server-side Physics interactions, in large capital ship battles, has been improved significantly.

We've been trying to ship this release for almost two weeks, so we're happy this is finally out. I'm sure it will have some controversy, so let me touch on a few points..

The change to the Caprail FoV has been in process since September. I was concerned when we made the turret FoVs 180 degrees, that the caprail specifically would be overpowered, and that I had no real way to balance its value as a "single turret" against its new value as an "unified assault weapon". The FoV change was the simplest additional mechanic, but it actually took quite awhile to implement, because the FoVs of turrets were deeply hard-coded.

This change was not made because of any specific player, or usage, as I said it's been in-process for quite awhile. But it should be understood that Capital Ships are not yet in a place where they are configurable enough, from the developer side, to be rolled out as assault-craft. Basically, they can't be "balanced" very well yet. It's very easy to make such an "assault" level capital ship quite over-powered, which means they need to be mitigated with concepts like finite ammo, tradeoffs with energy versus shield strength (or choosing temporary shield shutdown) and other factors to make them intriguing, yet properly-integrated into the game. Capships should (sometimes) be awesome and fearsome sources of high-grade firepower, but also vulnerable to a greater variety of Torpedo class weapons, and with their own set of challenges and factors to mitigate their capabilities.

We have plans for all of this, and letting people use "turrets" as offensively-aligned weapons was just a quick tweak to see how it would work, and what the ramifications of fully-automated turrets might be. It's been interesting and helpful for this. But, there are very few aspects of Vendetta Online that are not subject to on-going tweaking and adjustment, based on testing.

Some people submitted tickets about the turret FoV change, which changed back on November 30th, as "bugs". Those tickets went un-answered because, frankly, we kept thinking the release was going to ship every day, which would clarify the issue, and it kept not-shipping. Sorry about that.

The changes to Deneb will hopefully improve the battles. If spectating is desired, we might add a "spectator" mode that one could take as missions from one of the nearby Stations. We'll likely be introducing other balance changes to Deneb, in general, and also greater ramifications to the side who wins or loses. But in the meantime, this mitigation was a starting point.

We intend to keep expanding the value and usage of the Latos N2 prototype economy, and fixing things related to that. Much like the Capital Ships, it actually needs more developer-side tune-ables before it can go fully prime-time. We are working on that. In the meantime, things like the Superlight are an interesting test-case, and we're open to hearing more about other challenges and enhancements of the system, via the Suggestions Forum.

The improvements to server-side Physics are quite significant, and will hopefully allow us to continue to expand the scale and scope of the game, and should have a long-term beneficial impact on both player and NPC capital ships.

That's all for now, Happy Holidays everyone.
Nov
17

Advancements in Server Architecture

We've been making a lot of changes lately, quietly behind-the-scenes and without shipping any normal "patches".

These changes have been primarily on the server, rather than the game client. As we discussed in the October newsletter, we've made a lot of recent changes to the game client that have really enhanced performance and efficiency, and some of these changes also make sense to apply to the server itself.

You see, the performance of a given sector is a limiting factor on what kind of content can take place there. How many bots can be flying around, or what they can be doing. The number of asteroids and debris floating to and fro, the complexity of station or mission mechanics; all these things are controlled by the Sector Daemon, that process that maintains authority over a particular area of geographical space.

Vendetta Online's server has always been fairly efficient, but in the interest of adding a lot of complex new gameplay, and giving us more opportunities and options to really scale-up some intriguing new scenarios, we wanted to work on enhancing the performance.

Thus far, we've managed to see some big gains. The measured increase in performance depends on what kind of work-load is being run, but so far we've seen improvements between 2x and 10x. This is thanks to a couple of major developments: big efficiency changes in our own code, based on profiling and testing; as well as moving the Sector Daemon's internal Lua programming language from standard "interpreted" Lua 5.1, to LuaJIT, a high-performance just-in-time compiled version.

Although there have been some differences and issues we've had to track down as a result of these changes (which made for some quirky problems last weekend), the final upshot is that we can now handle a LOT more activity within a given sector, on the same amount of Server CPU, while actually using less Server RAM. Similarly, Sector Daemons can now more-efficiently utilize large numbers of CPU cores, if necessary. All of that is a good thing for everyone, and particularly for next-generation gameplay.

Have you ever wondered what it might look like if every Collector Drone in a sector decided to attack you at once? Drop into Latos F-12 and see 300 Artemis Collectors that will all attack you on-sight. This unique, static test-sector exists just to see how things work with larger numbers of enemies, and what problems or ramifications emerge for players. The sector could handle more than 300, but this is a reasonable test-case for now.

This simplistic test-case does NOT mean we're aiming to have huge clouds of Collector Drones roaming around for no reason. But it does mean that we can make more reactive and interesting gameplay under some circumstances, and aim for much larger space battles, complex station-city environments, more complex AI, and the like. Ever seen a movie with thousands of ships in a massive real-time battle, and wonder what it might be like to fly through that? We'd like to see that too.

Vendetta Online has a lot of inherent capability in its custom, tightly-compressed network protocol, which dates from an earlier era when bandwidth was in far shorter supply. As a result, we've had some success with testing of "very large scale" situations, with only relatively modest bandwidth requirements for the players and server. There's still a lot more testing to be done, particularly with players in "the wild", but thus far we're pretty optimistic about our results.

With some luck, we may be able to build something that no one has ever seen in an MMO before..
Oct
20

Vendetta Online 1.8.477

VO 1.8.477 includes:

- Rescaled VR cockpit to a more realistic size, for the Oculus Rift.
- Fixed crash when using Vulkan driver.
- Added a reporting system for framerate issues. If you are experiencing unusually low framerates, open a support ticket and we can tell you how to use it.
Oct
06

Vendetta Online 1.8.476

VO 1.8.476 includes:

- Fixed lua error when attempting to change dead zones of controllers.
- Fixed lua error when attempting to save HUD settings in VR mode on Android.
- Fixed crash when switching to new Vulkan driver.
- Fixed flickering issue when using Vulkan driver in full-screen mode.
- Fixed bug with not properly reusing font cache under certain conditions.
- Reverted some recent changes to track down performance loss.

If you experience any unusually bad framerate behaviour (test with "/fps"), please post about it on the Bugs Forum. We've had some intermittent reports of framerate issues, but we have not yet reproduced any actual problems on any devices in-house.
Sep
29

Vendetta Online 1.8.475

VO 1.8.475 includes:

- Fixed issue with mining beam effect not staying connected to ships.
- Fixed memory leak.
- Goliath powercell grid changed from 125 to 55
- Hive Queen top speed increased from 140 to 180
- Hive Queen turbo thrust increased from 1640 to 16400
- Hive Queen braking thrust increased from 1290 to 12900
- Stronghold-specific Hive Queen blaster powercell drain increased from 80 to 160
- TPG Goliath description changed to remove the term "freighter", as all VO ships are multi-role.

Still a lot of technical work going on in the background, major changes and improvements to the physics engine, which could have far-reaching implications for future large-scale gameplay.
Sep
21

Vendetta Online 1.8.474

VO 1.8.474 includes:
- Windows version is now using new experimental multi-threaded job system.
- Windows version now includes a Vulkan graphics driver. To try it out, go to Options -> Video -> Change Driver.

Tonight's Windows-only release is the first public test of a long-running project to re-architect the Vendetta Online engine, and bring it up to a point where we can deliver the kind of next-generation content required from many of our goals.

From our benchmark testing, we've seen about a 15% performance improvement over the previous version of the game, across the board. The new engine is only partially utilized at the moment, so we expect things to continue to get better from here.

We'll discuss this a bit more in the next newsletter, but basically, the new engine should make much better usage of systems with many cores, while still being very efficient on systems without them. Even low-power devices have a lot of cores now (8-core phones, and the like, and new Windows-on-ARM laptops), so multi-core scalability is increasingly important.

Similarly, we're very excited for the future of our new Vulkan renderer, which has been in development for quite some time. At the moment, you should not expect major performance improvements for using Vulkan over DirectX 11, as we're still in the process of re-tooling the greater engine to make better usage of Vulkan's advantages. However, we still encourage you to try the new renderer, if you have a reasonable Intel, NVIDIA or AMD GPU with recent drivers. Please post any issues to Bugs, and revert back to DX11 if things don't work for you. Basically, expect this to be a "beta" renderer, right now.

To those not on Windows: Yes, the improvements will be coming to you as well. As always, our world is very cross-platform, and one of the big benefits of Vulkan is the potential to use a single API across both mobile and PC.. unlike the need for DirectX, OpenGL, and OpenGL ES. On Apple devices, there are translation layers to allow Vulkan renderers to work via Apple's "Metal" API.

We released this only on Windows, as it's better to have a narrower test-case when the code is still relatively "early". We'll expand the engine testing onto other platforms, once we're a little more confident. If something goes awry, it's a lot easier to debug the process on just one platform at a time.

As always, please post any issues on the Bugs forum, and have a great weekend!
Sep
21

Vendetta Online 1.8.472-473

VO 1.8.473 included:
- Stronghold Queens are now more dangerous.
- Added numeric entries to joystick axis dead zone menu.

VO 1.8.472 included:
- Fixed crash when a drop-down list control's selected item is set to nil.
- Fixed crash on Android when searching for gamepads too many times.
- Fixed crash on Gear VR when the Back button on the remote control is pressed too many times.