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Phaserlight here, long time player to tell you a little about my experience with a cool feature of the Vendetta Online community called the Player Contribution Corps (PCC). What I've done through the PCC is write a series of missions following various story threads based on the backstory which have been reviewed by the community and implemented to the actual game server. As a creative minded individual this gives VO a sandbox feel for me, and I take a sense of ownership and greater involvement in the game world as a direct result.
Getting into the PCC is a process, requiring 25 hours of game time logged and a 500 word essay on Trust, Maturity and Involvement submitted to the dev team. That being said, anyone can apply to the PCC regardless of programming skills or developer experience, I only happened to be one of the early players to do so. Before you wonder if "I have to pay to develop this game?" the PCC is a purely optional feature of the community for those interested. Most of my enjoyment comes from watching others experience my work and discuss it on the chat channels at no additional effort to them.
The kinds of tools available to mission writers are numerous and powerful. I can spawn dozens of capital ships out of thin space, then watch them slug it out or explode one by one (of course doing so may not necessarily make a good mission). I can give the player 100's of cubic units of the universe's most valuable ore, or send bounty hunters after them each time they dock at a station. In fact the possibilities are so unbounded the danger becomes designing a mission that could potentially overload the game server, something I am constantly aware of after one of my missions began causing groups of vultures to hang around every major station taking pot shots at passers by.
That is why the process of community review is important. In my opinion the only reason VO is not truly sandbox is that the changes to the game world are not instantaneous, but must go through a process of playtesting on a separate server in which they are polished and brought up to standard. This generally lasts a couple months, and it creates a more cohesive experience for the new player. Rather than being presented with a hundred individual options of various quality like some open web based choose-your-own adventure, they are presented with missions that actually go somewhere and have been polished and playtested. It's a collaborative designer's haven.
After joining the PCC, you'll likely spend your first couple of weeks learning how to use the web-based editor (which is rather intuitive to begin with) designing simple missions. From there, you'll begin to see the true possibilities of the editor including multiple paths through the same mission, numerous completion or failure conditions, and linking series of missions in arcing story trees. Although it was released in 2002, I see VO as being in its early phases making this an exciting time to be involved in design. If you are a creative individual let me encourage you to check out VO and if you click with the game world join the PCC and lend your own talent to the course of this fascinating and evolving online universe.