Some of you may recall hearing about the Vendetta Test, some of you may not. Vendetta Online is the product of that endeavor. It’s a “twitch based” space-flight MMOG, playable on Windows, Macs and Linux, where piracy is a reality and military heroes are a necessity, with an evolving story line that has players front and center controlling the outcomes and having their names known throughout the massive game universe.
The concepts behind this game intrigued us, and so we decided to find out more. We had the pleasure to interview John Bergman, Managing Director at Guild Software, with a few questions that peaked our curiosity.
Gamergod: What are the inspirations behind Vendetta Online?
We drew from a lot of different sources. The classic single-player space-combat games of the past (Wing Commander, etc), movies we liked (Blade Runner, Cowboy Bebop), classic science fiction from Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Herbert, and the like.
Gamergod: In PvE, will the lone, rogue soloist have a viable option for combat, or is the game more focused on squadron-based combat?
By all means, the lone soloist can do quite well. Grouping has advantages, but it’s really up to the player to define their play style. We try to leave as many options open as possible.
Gamergod: Are the Universe’s PvE encounters generated by a player’s presence in the area, or will they exist in a static way? (note – static meaning persistent, not stationary)
It depends. In some cases there are very generic NPCs (AI Drones) that can be attacked by the player in particular sectors. These are spawned based on player density. Other types of NPCs, such as the NPC Traders (much closer to actual “Characters” than the AI Drones) maintain a persistent presence in the universe.
As another example, some special-case NPCs are spawned by missions, when the player with the mission enters a given sector. Other special-case NPCs are continually persistent and wandering, but may still be a mission objective or character of note in the universe.
Gamergod: What are the risks and rewards that make PvP enjoyable for all players?
The risks primarily are the loss financial loss of your equipment (ship, weapons, etc) and the impact on your reputation (faction standing) with whom your opponent was/is affiliated. Some regions of space are considered “Guarded”, meaning the local NPC Defense Guard will not take kindly to any hostile behaviour. Other regions of space are “Monitored”, meaning the authoritative faction will take note of any hostile action against their members (and NPC Guards will also be sent to the location if any KoS player arrive). Finally there’s “Unmonitored” space, namely.. you’re on your own, everyone for themselves. Most “Guarded” space exists around busy metropolitan centers, stations and the like. Monitored space is usually around newbie combat areas and places of strategic importance. Unmonitored space makes up the bulk of the universe.
Killing other players in locations where their faction is aware of your behaviour will reduce your reputation, eventually to a Kill On Sight level. It is possible to become KoS with virtually every faction (including your own), except for a few morally-questionable factions who cater mainly to pirates. Recovering faction standing is possible, but difficult. Rewards for PvP can vary widely. In the case of piracy, killing a trader would yield up their cargo. Taking a single/group PvP mission, to defend a particular area or stage an incursion into enemy territory.. could be rewarded in a wide variety of ways. Monetary income. Reputation gain with your own faction. Advancement in a particular mission tree (such as a “military” tree). Medals and merit awards. Improved skills and equipment. Etc.
Gamergod: Similarly with Guild PvP, what advantages would a Guild gain from entering in these activities regularly?
Guild PvP is still in the works and I don’t want to comment on it as of yet.
Gamergod: It’s said that kills and damage will be moderated and sanity-checked by the server. What does this mean exactly?
Given that our game uses a “twitch” model, it’s not really possible for us to make absolutely certain that every single shot came from A and went to B and hit the person in such-and-such a way. Doing so would require us to simulate all collisions and other data server-side, which would incur too much load on the servers and would make latency problems more apparent. Consider why most Quake servers were limited to relatively small numbers of players, everything was server-side. Sanity checking, on the other hand, is basically having the server do a passive “bounds” check on the general activity occuring in a given sector. In other words, while the server will not simulate every individual shot collision down to the last millimeter (or the final polygonal intersection), it will do a basic “sphere” or other simple check to make sure it’s in the right “ballpark” (say a few feet instead of an inch). That is much easier on the server CPU, and still takes care of 99% of the cases for cheating.
Players won’t be able to make themselves faster or more maneuverable without the server noticing. Shots will have to be sufficiently close to the target as to make cheating not really worthwhile anyway. Plus, in cases where we’re not quite “sure” if the user is cheating or not, a flag will be flipped in their account, causing the server to begin scrutinizing them in greater detail. If sufficient data is collected to prove that they are cheating, we can suspend or ban their account. Thus, a user who is attempting to stealthily exploit the game may never be sure of whether he’s succeeded or not, until he abruptly hears from us.
Gamergod: Will you be able to hire NPC ships as escorts or mercenaries?
NPC wingmen will probably not make it into the retail release, but this is entirely a server-side development and will be available at some point after release.
Gamergod: When I hear the name Capital ship, I envision something like a Star Destroyer slowly humming by. Are there any plans to have ships of massive size? And will large enough ships contain squadrons of fighters to defend it?
Yes, we will have a variety of large ships, up to very large ships. We intend for many of them to be carriers, and for users to be able to dock within capital-class vessels that they own. Part of the hope being that guilds and other powerful, affluent organizations could make use of these vessels for conveying their members to major areas of conflict and for other high-level gameplay purposes.
Gamergod: Being part of an official squadron demands a certain something to make one stand out as a member. To what extent will guilds be able to customize their members’ looks?
We do have plans for special “ship livrey” (skins) to be available as users progress past certain high-level missions or gain affiliation with special subfactions. We’re not certain how much of this configurability will be available to guilds at retail launch, but it’s something we’ve had in mind for a long time.
Gamergod: With such a vast amount of space, how do you plan on setting up “boundaries” so players can’t fly beyond the intended limits, if there are any?
There aren’t any, per se. I think we may have instituted a hard boundry at some very long range, strictly for server asset-management purposes, but you’d have to fly for days to reach it. Our philosophy is based around the idea of “let the user do what they want, and give them interesting things to do”. We generally don’t try to institute limits unless we absolute have to (like the speed caps in the universe, a requirement of basic gameplay).
Gamergod: What are the key benefits to exploring the galaxy and finding new Wormholes?
Wormhole exploration will not be in the first retail release of the game, this will come in a post-release addon. This was originally slated for the initial version, but had to be cut and pushed back early this year. Unfortunately, we missed a spot on our website that mentioned it (sorry to mislead).
In general, exploration fits in with a number of other skills and gameplay that will be implemented at the same time. Mining for minerals, among other things, ties into this. Locating new wormhole areas can open up new trade routes to existing space, or whole new systems. These may have any number of new available resources, including raw materials and new types of NPCs.
Gamergod: With more and more female players providing a bigger chunk of the MMORPG cash flow, is there anything in Vendetta Online that will specifically appeal to the female side of the playing population?
We didn’t create any features with the idea that they would only to appeal to a given gender. The developer team is entirely male, so it would not be unexpected to have that fact reflected in the gameplay we create. However, we’ve had quite a few female testers in our open beta who have been avid players and stuck with us for years. So apparently there is some common draw. I hope that our game has appeal for anyone who loves science fiction and the idea of exploring the unknown.
Gamergod: Are there plans for any ships that take several or even many players to operate–such as a ship that takes piloting, navigating, and gunners in several stations?
We will have player-manned turrets in the capital ship addon. Large ships will probably still be piloted by a single player, but can have many players aiding in its defense. Other roles may also evolve, in large capital-class freighters and mining vessels.
Gamergod: Will there be complex missions, even epic in size, that take many days, weeks, or even longer to achieve? If so, what is a possible example of a worthy reward that would make someone want to work weeks on to achieve?
We are developing multi-part missions. Progressing through these missions could conceivably take quite awhile to complete. Results could be pretty varied. Completing a special mission like that would give you an “accomplishment” flag in your character. It might be visible, in the form of a medal or ribbon, or invisible, used only server-side to determine availability of other items/equipment/missions/etc. The new equipment or missions or gameplay options that we made available would be suited to the level of the mission completed. At the highest level we envision things like users achieving high rank or stature within a military system and being invited to join special sub-factions. We also plan to use the mission system as a means to facilitate storyline progression, bringing individual users to fame in the galaxy for having made particular achievements at certain times. However, much of this high-level endgame is still in development, and will continue to be expanded for as long as the game exists.
Gamergod: Is there a traditional crafting system in Vendetta? If so, can you explain how crafters work, gain their resources, and sell their wares?
No, we do not have a traditional crafting system. We will probably have some limited aspects in the near future, in that a user may be able to bring certain components to an NPC, and have them create a special object or piece of equipment. Beyond this, we envisioned a form of crafting being implemented with the use of player-owned stations, which would have optional “factory” components, capable of manufacturing and selling items that the players researched or defined. However, this featureset has had to be pushed back to a post-release addon.
Gamergod: When a ship becomes damaged, can it be fixed on the fly? In the middle of a battle? Or will repairs require having the ship docked at a space port, or similar area?
As I write this, it’s only possible to repair at space stations. We have had repair bots in the game at various times, however, and will likely reintroduce them.
Gamergod: Will all weapons be a form of laser, or will there be rockets or some other innovative weapon types? All of the above?
Weapons categories break down into “energy”, “projectile”, “rocket”, “missile” (guided), and “mine”. There are a wide variety of each basic type, with some crossover between types. Energy weapons cover the obvious gamut of “lasers” and the like. Gatling cannons and railguns fall under “projectile”. Rockets are unguided, fire on the fly and hope for the best. Missiles can lock in a number of ways, and range from single-missile heat seekers to frightening clouds of swarm missiles. Mines include proximity detonation explosives, as well as energy-discharge mines, concussion mines (have a blast impact effect but almost no damage) and other types. The Avalon Torpedo is currently the largest and most devestating weapon: a slow, unguided type of large rocket with a devestating blast radius and area effect. It was originally created to take out our test capital ships at long range. Weapons, like everything else in the game, will be continually expanded after release. There are still a lot of unusual weapons that we would like to make, but haven’t yet had the time to experiment with.
Gamergod: How will “loot” collection be handled? Will it be possible for a pirate ship to board a merchant ship and take it a prize? Or will the only option be to destroy it and scoop up whatever items remain floating in space after the explosion?
Boarding and capturing a ship may be possible with the capital-class addon (it should be). With small single-player fighters and cargo vessels, the option is to force the trader to jettison their cargo (under threat of death), or destroy them and pick up what remains.
Gamergod: A sensitive issue with players is owning multiple characters. Will a Vendetta Online account have multiple character slots? If so, what is your stance on “twinking?”
We have six character slots per user account. Twinking is kind of.. difficult. It’s possible to give your newbie user lots of money, but that’s not really all that useful. Equipment is made available mostly on the basis of faction standing (reputation) and skill/license levels. It isn’t possible for a rich new user to acquire much more than a poor first-time newbie. Other repurcussions are possible, but we’re not very worried about “twinking” per se. One way or the other, we don’t think it will greatly impact gameplay.
Gamergod: With the release of Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed coinciding closely in genre and release, what, in your opinion, makes Vendetta Online stand above it?
Our game was designed as a pure space game from the very beginning. JTL seems to be more of a space-combat addon to an existing, very different sort of game. I can’t honestly say what the differences will be between our titles, as I’ve only seen a limited amount of information about JTL.
However, I saw some of it at E3, and it looks graphically beautiful, but I got the impression it isn’t quite oriented towards the same sort of gameplay as Vendetta Online. Our universe is very large, and our game is based on the idea of lots of different missions and activities taking place in all sorts of different locations. Border skirmishes and blockade running, espionage and piracy.
I was disappointed (who can make a space game and not be a starwars fan?) to hear that JTL was limited to only the regions above the original (9?) SWG planets. That seemed like an awfully small space universe to me, but I may have misunderstood the scope of what they’re creating.
Vendetta Online also offers a couple of different flight models, the more advanced “physics” model making all six degrees of freedom available. This makes PvP combat in our game kind of unique, and a bit more complex than the traditional “flightsim” model (which we also make available). It can be pretty intense to fly backwards through the close-quarters remains of a shattered asteroid, engaging a target “behind” you, then spinning around to engage a new target in front.
I hope that this, along with other gameplay aspects more specific to our game, will make it appeal to those who are space-flight purists at heart.
Gamergod: It was a great pleasure speaking with Vendette Online, and we will be sure to continue this coverage as this game evolves. We hope you enjoy the interview as well.