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Note: this is part two of a three-part retrospective. The introduction may be found here.

Vendetta Online Universe Map

The month that came to be known as Beta was an interesting time to be a Vendetta player. Earth and Beyond had finally been shuttered by Electronic Arts and Vendetta was flooded with refugees in the aftermath. The guild system had just been implemented, allowing players to officially organize around common causes, and a sizable portion of the userbase were flying around with the [EnB] tag prepended to their usernames. Logging on, channel 100 was scrolling with messages almost too quickly to read.

The universe had been reforged into a much larger place, although recognizable. Asteroids of familiar shapes and sizes were scattered across the 7000+ sectors in modal configurations; the belt, the cluster, the plane. Some of these contained basic ores such as Carbonic, Silicate, Aquean, Ferric, some less common such as VanAzek or Ishik, semi-rare Xithricite, Lanthanic, Apicene, and the truly rare Denic, Heliocene, Pentric, and Pyronic.

Vendetta Online Ion Storm

A Storm Radar Extender renders asteroids beyond visual range in wireframe during an ion storm

Ion Storms were a fairly recent innovation that would pull players out of warp into a sector containing asteroids, and maybe some powerful, hostile bots. These came to be known as “The Hive” (Hives, properly), and were ostensibly the primary adversary of new player-characters; a kind of “grey goo” on a macroscopic scale: mining robots that had gone rogue and turned against their creators.

The twitch combat was epic. Nothing else like it existed. Players became known for their fighting styles. Rivalries emerged, alliances were forged, pacts broken, betrayals common. It was Street Fighter in space; instead of punches, kicks, jabs, and sweeps, there were blaster exchanges, flight-assist toggles, flare throws and recoveries, strafing patterns. Weapon loadouts were constantly experimented with, valuing derived statistics such as damage-per-energy or mass-per-ship-thrust.

Vendetta Online Raptor

Vendetta Online, as it was now properly known, stood apart in the MMORPG scene of 2004 for following this combat model. Today the phrase “action combat” carries an almost caricature-like quality as so many RPGs, MMO and otherwise, proudly wear the label. Vendetta is somewhat different from this generation in that it isn’t “action combat” per se, but “twitch combat”. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it highlights what I feel is an important difference: in the simplest of terms, it’s about the way you play over and above the equipment you use.

Compare the combat in Vendetta to a game like Dragon Nest. In Dragon Nest, success in combat partly depends on player reactions, but the emphasis is on cycling through progressively better gear and more difficult dungeons, a process colloquially known as the “gear treadmill”. In Vendetta, there are far more intangibles that depend directly on the player: the way a spacecraft’s nose twitches when approached, the the lazy roll of someone that falls into a strafe-dodge. These are unique to “twitch combat”. In this regard, Vendetta holds more in common with Quake 3 Arena than it does with other action combat titles. A few may grasp what it means to be able to identify a player not only by a nameplate above his/her avatar, but by the subtle motions in which the player reacts.

As more player groups were organized I was conscripted into the Vipers, a guild dedicated to hunting pirates. Also present were nationalists, miners, and pirates, among others.

The avenues of combat had changed. No longer was there a capture-the-flag contest continually running between the Red, Blue, and Gold nations; this had been replaced with a border conflict between the Serco and the Itani nations in the Deneb system, with the UIT sitting idly by or joining either side as they saw fit. This border conflict went through many iterations, and has been evolving to this day.

Vendetta Online Constellation Transports

Constellation Heavy Transports file in during a convoy

Across the game’s universe, in the galactic south, “gray space” comprised a number of relatively lawless territories. A “Capture the Cargo” contest emerged, with convoys belonging to the Itani and the Serco departing hourly from designated gray space stations, bound for national space. The convoys could be ambushed or protected by players, and the cargo they carried might be redirected to the opposing side. At the end of every week, whichever nation had accrued more of this special cargo (“Purified Xithricite Ore”) allowed its players to purchase a special weapon. The losing side got to keep 25% of the cargo it had collected as a sort of handicap head-start on the following week.

Time progressed, and the game community began to hit its stride. One of the more interesting developments not long after launch, relatively speaking, was the advent of the Player Contribution Corps. The devs had hinted at a mission editor for several months, bringing the power of Lua to bear on the Vendetta universe within a separate, test server. They were not going to make this editor available to just anyone; to apply to the Player Contribution Corps one must have logged at least 25 hours of game time and written a 500 word essay on maturity, trust, and involvement.

Vendetta Online Station Lights

Having been an active member of the community up until this point, I remember thinking ‘I was born to do this’; no stranger to modding, I had spent several hundred hours developing plugins to Ambrosia Software’s original Escape Velocity that involved three dimensionally rendered sprites of ships complete with lighting and texture models. I was also an avid consumer of science fiction, enjoying authors such as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. D., Neal Stephenson, Jules Verne, and William Gibson. The prospect of contributing here was somewhat different than any of my previous attempts as Vendetta had already become a live MMORPG; I felt it was an entirely separate league.

I gave it the proverbial college try and was accepted into the PCC. The mission editor was available via web browser which gave the endeavor a modern feel for the mid ‘00’s. Through trial and error I was able to work up several proof-of-concept demos on the test server and went on to begin writing my first mission tree. The seeds germinated from basic gameplay experiences: who were these people giving out tasks and assignments? What was it like living in the 45th century?

This was prior to the ‘official’ launch of the PCC, so after submitting the first few missions in the tree I heard back from one of the devs directly.

...this series is concluded in Vengeance, Connected: A Vendetta Online player's retrospective, part 3.

Vendetta Online   Retrospective   Twitch Combat   Space Sim  

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