MMORPG: Vendetta Online has a rich history among MMOs that dates back to 1998. Can you tell us a little about how the project has grown and shifted in recent years?
John Bergman:I’m proud that we’ve pushed in a few new directions over the years, which I’ll try to briefly recap. Back around 2006 we started building a system to manage our AI on a massive scale, not just on the individual-scripted-response level that’s common, but as factions and nations, upwards of millions of NPCs battling other factions and nations over weeks and months of time, and reacting to the actions of players. We’re still expanding this and I’m excited to see it bringing another level of unpredictability and realism to our world.
In 2008 we added the Player Contribution Corps, allowing users to form a community dedicated to creating new content for the game, and giving them access to a web-based mission editor. The community mainly manages itself, and when they believe a project has come to fruition, they bring it to our attention. They’ve created some great mission trees, inspired by classic science fiction, and all canonical within the game’s backstory.
Finally, in 2010 we started bringing the game to the Android platform, finally launching on mobile in March of 2011. As far as I know, we might have been the first 3D PC MMO to make that leap, with a completely native port of the game and complete functionality. Mobile has always been a long-term play for our game; I’m fascinated by where it may take us, and how the concept of online gaming may continue to evolve as these platforms converge.
MMORPG: You are planning to launch Vendetta Online for the iPad. Can you tell us what adapting the game to the iOS was like? Seems like a bit of a long road, and a difficult one at that.
John Bergman: Having already brought the game to Android, and spent over a year improving that version, along with our launch with Windows 8 and Windows RT (Microsoft Surface, etc), the idea of bringing our title to iOS was no longer quite so daunting. Our game has always been strongly multi-platform; even back to when the game first went online in 2002, we had downloads for Windows, Mac and Linux. This history helps us move to new platforms more easily, but the biggest challenge on mobile is not so much the technical aspects, as it is the user-interface and platform-policy issues. Replacing a mouse and keyboard with a flat pane of glass is a pretty big hurdle to overcome, especially for a “twitch” combat game like ours. Beyond that, some platforms like iOS and WinRT do not allow complete self-updating of the game, which makes patch rollout more of an issue.
MMORPG: You mentioned you would be linking the game and iPad version in one seemless universe. This is a great step for any online game. Can you tell us what it will be like for players new and old alike?
John Bergman: The core idea is really to free the player from the restrictions of a desktop, and to allow them to comfortably interact with their friends and community in the game universe, from wherever they are. That has been my vision for mobile all along, and I’m excited to see the ongoing evolution in that space.
To my mind, each platform basically represents a “window” into the game universe. Some might be more capable windows than others, giving a better view through better performance, but the important thing is that they each let us interact with that universe and the people within.
To date, Android has been a big success with my users, many of whom went out and bought phones or tablets to use the game in a more mobile fashion, and I expect iPad support will be similarly welcomed. We have one user who plays from his Android tablet during a bus-commute through the jungles of Thailand. I think that kind of thing is fantastic.
Beyond this, the mobile versions have also been a great way to introduce our game to a whole new marketplace. There have been challenges with bringing a PC-grade MMO onto a platform with super-casual expectations; but overall the experience has been really positive, and we’ve been seeing an increasing demand for deeper games on mobile.
MMORPG: With 1.9 you’ll be taking steps to improve Dynamic Warfare. What design elements are you enhancing for players?
John Bergman: The biggest short-term enhancement to Dynamic Warfare will be expanding it to impact larger areas of territory within the game. Basically, as a construct, it serves to give a means for contention and conquest of territory; a model that can be applied both to users and guilds, as well as the large-scale AI factions I mentioned earlier. We started testing this model pretty simply, with a weekly contest over a single system of 160-some sectors, to get a handle on how the mechanics might behave and what issues we would face. Now, in this second stage for 1.9, we’ll be expanding the affected regions to much larger areas of the galaxy, and then tying the alignment of sectors into the “supply” side of the economy in those areas. So, basically, if a station should have all its surrounding territory conquered by hostile factions, that station may cease to offer locally-manufactured items. It will still carry traded goods, but local manufacturing may have to shut down. This causes contention with PvE NPC factions, plus it also enables a lot of opportunities for related gameplay like privateering, smuggling and espionage.
Even this is still only a staged rollout of the eventual gameplay, to help us see how these mechanics work on a larger scale, and test them with the player community. The final goal (VO 2.0, in 2014), is to allow free-form player conquest and ownership of territory in space, allowing players to own stations and deal with all the supply/demand ramifications that come with building their own factions and nations within our expanded galaxy.
MMORPG: There will also be updates to the economy with 1.9. How will that impact the player-base specifically?
John Bergman: Aside from the supply-side areas I mentioned, we’re also going to be re-working much of the galaxy, increasing the density of asteroids and at the same time increasing the number of raw materials that can be prospected and extracted from these asteroids, and changing where they are the universe. Our users have spent a tremendous amount of time mapping out the resources of the existing galaxy, some guilds have pretty elaborate databases of information and custom applications to help them with this, so I suspect this is going to be a pretty big change for some of them. At the same time, they’ve all been very supportive on this topic; they really like where we’re headed, and they’re more about the exploration than the advantage of knowledge. We have a great community.
MMORPG: How will the iPad version of the game work with your mobile plans? Will it be the same as the Android versions?
John Bergman: At the moment, it looks like the iPad version will probably be identical to the Android version in terms of plans and access to the game. We will likely roll out the iOS version at a very minimal cost in the App Store, while also including a significantly extended trial, much as we did when we first launched on Android.
MMORPG: Will players be able to access the Vendetta Online universe anytime or anywhere?
John Bergman: Yes, absolutely. That has been the goal from day one, and we intend to continue in that direction.
MMORPG: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers about Vendetta Online for the year 2013?
John Bergman: Stay tuned! We have so much going on right now, I suspect we’ll have some additional announcements a little later in the year.
Be sure to swing by the Vendetta Online Kickstarter page to find out more about how you can get involved!