My name is Jacob Luttio (a.k.a. “Phaserlight”), and I’ve been a fan of the game Vendetta Online for a long time. Today marks 9 years since I signed up and I thought I would get a discussion going for those who are interested.
One of the things this game does differently is let users contribute to the direction and design of the game. There are a group of players called the PCC who have access to a mission editor which allow one to do some pretty detailed things. I’ve always been a fan of user-designed content; in any game where this is possible I relentlessly gravitate toward the level editor. What makes VO unique is that this happens in an MMORPG context. To get in to the PCC one must have 25 hours spent in game and write an essay written on English, Maturity, Trust, and Involvement. Another point of difference is the twitch combat. This is fairly uncommon in the MMO world; a game where one has full, realtime control over all of a ship’s thrusters, blasters, and navigation systems may be emulated in multiplayer games, but VO’s code is designed to allow thousands of players to interact in a single, contiguous universe. The devs are a very down to earth group of people from Milwaukee; I got to meet the lead developer John Bergman at a conference in Orlando last year, and I was impressed by his humility as well as his sharp answers to all my questions.
What has really kept my interest all these years is the level of detail that has been put into this game by a core few people. Despite appearing simple on the surface, the world has a level of history and immersion that would make Tolkien smile. As an example, there is a language developed entirely for the game, with its own alphabet, grammar, pictograms etc. You will see it on flashing neon billboards outside the stations, advertising commodities or slinging slogans. There is a huge backstory presented in the form of history with each entry taking place on such and such a year, beginning in the near future and leading all the way into the 45th century. It reminds me of something Isaac Asimov would do, although the devs have cited both the Star Wars universe and Neal Stephenson as influences in other places.
The combat itself is fluid, dream-like, and intuitive. Point, shoot, move, dodge: this is fundamental, however there is also a zen-like mastery of combat that comes over time. Certain players are known for their fighting styles, and are often sought after as masters by players wanting to learn excellence in a certain weapon or tactic. There is a touch of Street Fighter to the whole experience, against the backdrop of a space age MMO. Competition is fierce, and rivalries are common. In the larger context of the game world combat is a means toward territory control, blockades which affect manufacturing and the economy, weapon production, conquerable stations, and taking on the Hive. The Hive is a race of self-evolving NPC robots with its own hierarchy of breeds, each serving its individual function, that expands to take over areas of space that are rich in minerals. Players can band together by taking missions to push back the Hive in dynamic skirmishes, clearing up sectors of space to be mined for ore, or a savvy group might decapitate an entire branch of the Hive by killing a Queen or the Leviathan. In these quests, weapons might be found among the wreckage of the battle which can be retrofitted to one’s fighter, or valuable components which can be used to manufacture player-owned capship parts might be collected.
Despite being released over 10 years ago, Vendetta appears to still be in its early stages with many primary features planned for the future. I could go on and on about this game, but I think I will open it up for comments by anyone else who has had the chance to experience it.