Hello Prospectors and welcome to another one of our dev diaries!
It’s been a while since our last entry, as you can imagine our attention was fully dedicated to both Closed Alpha sessions we’ve held in the previous weeks. Many of you have taken part in these and we are very grateful for all the feedback you’ve all been leaving on the game survey and our Discord server. Keep it coming, we can’t wait to get into the next phase with you!
After sifting through all your thoughts and suggestions, we decided to have a closer, more personal talk with all of you and a roundtable was held on Thursday, August 13, starring RickDekard, our Executive Producer, and Daze, our Creative Director. This was the perfect opportunity for players who took part in the Closed Alpha sessions to jump in and ask questions about the reworked version of The Cycle and its future.
Please find below a few of the questions and answers that have been provided on that day, restructured for your reading convenience. Our Community Lead Feralus was hosting the talk and we want to say thank you to our moderator VeryGreatFrog for taking notes. Of course a big thank you goes out to everyone in attendance and to everyone asking questions!
Q: Do you have any general thoughts about Closed Alpha 1 and Closed Alpha 2?
A: Daze: One of the main feelings we are trying to convey through the game is tension. Taking part in these Alphas made us realize how much tenser it was to play with “real” players as opposed to colleagues we know. It was good to hear that we had managed to create an experience that players perceived as “high tension” while also having a lot of fun.
We are happy to have received tons of helpful feedback for all of our teams, it’s fantastic!
RickDekard: I was incredibly happy to see the positive trend we’re having in the metrics that we track and the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). How long people play, how they feel about the game, if they would recommend it – these values went up from CA1 to CA2.
We’ve also received a lot of feedback from the community, the kind we’d been needing for quite a while. Some of it was very similar to the feedback from other parts of the team. Knowing that will allow us to look at things in a different light.
Q: Anything else you want to mention before we start with the questions coming from the community?
A: Daze: It is awesome of you folks to join us and ask questions. Thank you for taking the time to be there!
RickDekard: It has not felt good to have this kind of silence, from Daze and me, for a while.
We did it because, due to the nature of development, things were often shifting, and stuff always moved forward. We knew in what direction we wanted to move the project, but on the way, there were often changes in the “how do we achieve X or Y” that then also impacted other parts of the rework. Of course, the COVID situation also impacted the whole situation a lot.
We needed time to properly bring our vision to life and now we are glad to get back into the dialogue with our community.
Q: What are the development milestones you are looking to achieve in the near future?
A: RickDekard: The next test is a Closed Beta. It is not that far away. The way we are doing development is a “Gate Process”. Key Performance Indicators are measured and if we pass a gate, meaning we hit the KPIs that we have set, we move to the next milestone.
If we do not pass them, we have another test session and use the player feedback to get closer to achieving said milestones, instead of moving on because someone said so. The important thing for us is that we want to deliver the best possible quality for the kind of game that we are currently making.
Q: What are you aiming for release date-wise? Which new features can we expect in CB?
A: RickDekard: A lot will depend on the gate and data approach that I mentioned earlier. We do have a release date in mind if everything goes super smoothly, but I do not feel comfortable sharing it right now. Things might change and I don’t want to disappoint anybody.
We do have longer plans but if the goals that we set ourselves are not met, we will continue working on them until we pass that gate.
Daze: The Crusher is the next monster that is going to stomp around. It is a kind of mini-boss, the first of a series of more challenging monsters.
We are also working on Crescent Falls, our second map, as you surely have seen on our social media channels in recent weeks. We want to give it a full revamp and make sure it receives the same kind of love we’ve injected into Bright Sands, our first map used during the Closed Alphas.
We are also working on a type of contract that will be completed soon!
RickDekard: We are also looking at a boss version for the Crusher.
Daze: Like an “alpha” version of the creature that would serve as really challenging end-game content!
Q: Is the story for the rework going to be the same as for the current Cycle?
A: Daze: Mostly the same. The difference is that we can lean into it more and make it richer. The basic premise is the same and will stay the same.
RickDekard: The stories used to be told through specific story missions. We do not want to feel restricted by those anymore, so we’re not sure that will happen yet. If we go for those again, we want to aim for higher quality than before. If we need to adjust certain parts, to make the story fit better, then we will surely do that as well.
Q: Do you plan on giving as much attention to the lore as you did for seasons 1 & 2 or would you rather stay focused on gameplay?
A: Daze: Good question.
One of the things we really want to lean into is the fantasy of being a Prospector and the immersion that comes with that. That means spending more time on the planet itself, carefully dealing with the dangers of Fortuna III. We were not quite happy with the story missions in the old Cycle. They need some adjustments, like we mentioned before, and some more elaboration.
RickDekard: One can tell Bright Sands is much more focused on visual storytelling. You walk into the mining area and see that they were on strike, easy to imagine what happened here. The atmosphere as a whole is also becoming a bit more mature, as visible by the skeletons of miners that died on the planet or did not evac in time.
This visual storytelling has been a big focus of the last 12 months.
I can totally see us adding story quests into the game but not at the moment. Right now, we want to do things right. Daze: Crescent Falls is developing great with a high focus on visual storytelling as well.
Q: Will there be dialogue with NPCs and will there be NPC driven quests?
A: RickDekard: Same answer as with story missions. Hardly anyone played these, which was a real disappointment for us, as we thought they were a cool feature to build on.
Story missions are super expensive to make too, so we had to stop making them. The new game is a better fit for NPC-driven questlines, even if not all players are interested in lore. It benefits the community because the people who are interested in it tend to spread it around and talk about it, providing a richer experience for everyone.
Daze: NPCs with more voice lines, interacting with you. Also, more contracts representing the personality of the factions. Lots of improvements we can make here, compared to the old game, because those things definitely fit the rework better.
Q: Will there be wipes and/or seasons like in other games?
A: Daze: Yes, the plan is that there will be economy wipes.
You will of course keep any cosmetics you’ve acquired and there will be items that you can take over from one season to another. But your stash will reset on a seasonal basis.
RickDekard: We’ve talked internally about how other games do it for the longest time. We’ve discussed a lot of different ways to handle this, then also checked games that use this as an opportunity to change gameplay mechanics. It is like a reset but with a twist, not just the same game again. We have been thinking about that in particular and this is what we want to achieve with the resets.
Q: What is the goal for a player/max level/max gear. When will you, as the developers, be happy with the game you created? What about money/players/twitch etc.
(About devs) We ended up making quite a cool game with the old Cycle but it was very niche and unfortunately, not a lot of people liked it. We do not want that anymore. We had over 2 million folks play the old game but almost no one stayed regardless of our marketing efforts. It was simply too niche and would have needed many, many changes to make it exciting enough to retain a lot of players.
This was not what we wanted it to be and not what we want going forward.
We want to be in the top 100 games on Steam, with a game that has higher chances of reaching that goal. It will take a lot of work, but we really want to get there, which of course includes reviews once it is live as well.
The game must be cool for players, not just us devs, which is why we also have to listen to feedback – between testing sessions of course, but also after release. We, in parts, did not do a great job in the past, but we want to do better in the future.
Daze: (about players)
We want players to experience a tense and tough progression journey to the end game stuff. We want you to feel stronger with new unlocks and want to create challenges that you wouldn’t be able to tackle in the beginning.
Q: I checked this old document called project DNA. I was wondering if the vision you guys came up with originally is what you are working on for the rework. What happened to end up at the current Cycle?
A: Daze: Nice question, it is more similar to what we are making now.
The original pitch was not about winning a match, more about personal quests and such. It had an in-game MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) like progression, that we do not want to pursue now with the rework. It was simply that one thing led to another and then to another. Just take a look at the old concept artworks, they definitely have the vibe of the rework.
RickDekard: So, we did this pitch called Prospect, as Daze described.
It won the internal pitch jam (a pitch jam is a session where game ideas are presented and then evaluated) because we loved it. We made a prototype that did not have a winner of a match. It was fun and compelling. It was not 100% convincing though.
When we went into production there was hardly any time to make a game because we had just around 7 months instead of the usual 2-3 years you could expect to produce a game.
That is what happens when you just rush things, because you are excited for folks to play it, instead of taking your time.
We did a creative reset. We also lost the original creator of the pitch.
We went through this stressful period where we had to make it in 6 months, and we got tunnel-visioned. We screwed up and did move away a lot from the initial idea but we got a small, dedicated community that really loved that version. We thought “OK, people like this though it wasn’t the original vision, what’s next?”
We might have a chance with this. We tried to make it work but looking at the numbers it was deemed too hard to make this a big enough hit.
We then went back to the original pitch called Prospect because that was what we were really excited to make.
A lot of players are excited about this kind of game. Emergent social drama and stories that are told during your time on the planet. In the end, the rework of The Cycle is much more like the initial vision of Prospect than the current version of the game.
Q: The current Cycle has creatures like the Howler. Any plans to bring them to the reworked Cycle?
A: Daze: So, for now, we shelved the old creatures. If they make a comeback, we want to make sure that they are deadlier and more fitting to the new gameplay. One of the things we have been evaluating recently is the Howler, since it already looks and sounds threatening in the old game. I’m sure we can find a good spot for it in our creature roster. Of all the old creatures, Howlers are definitely the ones with the most potential to be brought into the rework of The Cycle. After all, ticks are already in!
Q: Will Co-Bots be back?
A: Daze: Yes, we want to evaluate how they come back in the game, but they’ll fit well. It is very likely that they will make a comeback. They could be carrying weapons that you can loot after defeating them. A real risk-reward situation.
RickDekard: Turning on a power station could activate all the Co-Bots in the area. That would be cool and threatening enough that you’ll want to plan ahead. In general, we do want to explore adding Co-Bots back. As with all things though, we want to make it right.
Q: Any plans to bring back old ways for mobility like suits or new ways?
A: Daze: There are some loose plans in our teams that include additional movement options, but I do not see us bringing back the old frantic movement.
We may want to itemize some movement options since it is a looting game now, but that of course limits the usage and helps with the readability of the situation. There are some sweet ideas flying around that we are going to test because, in the end, Sci-Fi stuff is cool.
Q: Any plans for Directional-Warp/Cloaks?
A: Daze: Similar answer as above. Some of the old abilities make sense as consumables. We want a good set at the start to allow for different playstyles.
RickDekard: About the Directional-Warp, well, we do not want to have a get out of jail free card in the rework. Something like that would be too rewarding without having any risks attached to it. As Daze mentioned though, we want to explore some more ways to move around.
Q: Are there plans to make the PvE side of the game more essential / is it intended to be able to have a PvP-only experience?
Players can drop with no intention to get loot and completely ignore the PvE aspect of the game, making it feel incredibly disjointed; less of a PvPvE and more of a PvP vs PvE.
A: Daze: If you want to compete with better gear in PVP you need to jump through some hoops to get there. Unfortunately, we have not gotten that right in the Closed Alphas just yet.
RickDekard: In the next test?
RickDekard: In what way?
Daze: There has not been much power progression/reasons to get stronger in the Alpha tests. We want some more significant power progression like monsters you could not beat early on and areas that you could not go to at first. We also want you to be able to compete without that. It is a sweet spot that we must hit here, but we want you to be able to enjoy the game in various kinds of ways.
And that’s it for today’s entry! We do have more questions and answers to share with you all and we’ll gladly do so next week.
Until then Prospectors, take care of yourselves and make sure to tune in for our next entry!
Make sure to also check all our previous entries if you haven’t already!
- Part 1 – New experiences in The Cycle
- Part 2 – Everything about crafting
- Part 3 – Fortuna III and map design
- Part 4 – Impressions from Fortuna III
- Part 5 – Events, Current Season & Veteran Rewards
- Part 6 – User Interface
Don’t hesitate to share any feedback directly with us on our Discord server! https://discordapp.com/invite/thecycle