We've reworked the way faction relations work. In addition to the relation points, there are now 4 distinct states, that you can slip in and out of, and that majorly define how AI factions interact with you. For example, AI ships will no longer always start attacking on sight when relations are bad; you need to be at war with a faction for that to happen. We also reworked faction traits and how they impact gameplay.
This is the initial state for all newly met factions on the map. You can interact normally with this faction's stations and ships, except for a few privileges, you must be allied. If your relations with a faction become too bad, that faction may declare war. In order for War to be declared from 'Neutral' you must commit an act of war (destroying, raiding, boarding a ship). War won't be declared for minor issues like smuggling.
No questions asked. Shots are fired. But you can negotiate a Ceasefire.
A Ceasfire is similar to Neutral. Here you can show that you are really serious about improving your relations. But be careful: A single act of war is enough and you're back in a state of war.
You get access to the best equipment of your allies. You suffer only half the reputation loss for aggressive actions, but raiding and boarding an allied ship is considered an intentional act of war and ends the alliance on the spot. But who wants that? After all, you can now call on allies for support in battle.
Faction traits have been reworked and are now more effective. You can also pay tribute to factions to improve your relations. The relation status rating has been reduced from eight to five (Hostile, Bad, Neutral, Good, Excellent).
And of course there are many more improvements and fixes. To get a list of all changes, check out the patch notes of the beta branch updates: