Daze here, the Creative Director of The Cycle: Frontier.
Thank you all a bunch for being an active part of this awesome community, and for all the incredibly valuable feedback you've provided us with so far.
We read and discuss it in the dev team every day, and frankly, we wouldn't be where we are without it!
No surprise here, but probably the most debated topic about our last 2 betas has been: solo players vs. squads, and the fact that these co-exist in the same instances.
This blog post is meant to shed some light on our internal thinking in the dev team about the topic, and the things we're looking into to alleviate some of the frustration that many of you feel at the moment.
First things first: while we are not hell-bent on the mix (more info on what we are planning in terms of matchmaking below), we think there is a lot of special value in mixing solos and squads in the same instance.
The Cycle: Frontier is so much about tense uncertainty, drama, and not knowing what waits around the corner... and the unpredictability in who has a friend and who doesn't can add heaps to this (if done right), and even teaming up with strangers (if you dare to trust them).
We also think that if we do get the balance right (we're not there yet), the knowledge that you as a solo player COULD take out a whole squad and get out with their loot can be incredibly rewarding.
We want Fortuna III to be full of surprises, uncertainty, tension, and drama!
Many of our favorite moments in the beta so far involve taking down unsuspecting squads as a sneaky solo player or even getting friendly with a 3-man over VOIP who provided protection while moving to evac. These are moments and stories that you don't have in many other games, and that we would hate to lose, as they can make the game and its player stories rather special.
We also like the current choice between "danger as a solo but keep the loot for yourself", or: "safety in numbers but sharing the loot with a group", and the risk-reward scenarios different groups present.
This said, we're not there yet and realize that the current setup is causing frustration.
So, what changes are we looking into, and where are we headed?
First of all, we feel squads currently have too much of an easy time communicating and coordinating in the heat of combat, without making much of an effort.
To combat this, we want to, first of all, replace the HUD player pings with a diegetic "over there" VO line and pointing animation.
We think the instant HUD ping comes with a couple of issues:
It allows squads to communicate, instantly and with perfect accuracy, the location of a sneaky solo player who might be planting an ambush. We feel that this communication is something that should require some effort, using the compass and describing actual geometry to your squadmates.
It feels "gamey" and immersion-breaking. We are not a simulation game, but we do take immersing yourself in the game world seriously, and making sure most of our features appear as believable in-world actions, and HUD markers like these go against this vision.
We feel that a more diegetic "over there" command will still allow squads to communicate where they've dropped meds or where there might be loot that their mates need, without causing an imbalance in the heat of combat.
We will also reevaluate our current squad outlines. We'd like to be in a place where you can know who is your friend (so you are not totally confused when someone who just happens to look like a twin of your squad-mate appears), but without providing perfect wallhack info in the midst of combat.
Perhaps showing the outline only as you aim at a squad-mate, not through geo, or something in this direction?
We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!
We see many solo players asking for a separate matchmaking queue for solo players, and/or a way to opt-in or out of matches with squads.
While we see why - and we also see the benefits of this approach - we also see some big downsides: a loss in unpredictability, tension, drama, while opening up our maps to be gamed in odd ways (with player density in each map looking totally different depending on the queue).
This is why we are looking into a kind of middle ground version, that involves an update to our current matchmaking.
Currently, we match players based on the median value of the loot they get out from Fortuna III with.
Evac a lot and with lots of high-value loot, and it increases.
Get foamed a lot, or evac with only a small amount of loot, and it will stay low or go down.
Squads currently get the rating of their highest-rated player.
We want to change this so that squads are rated higher than individual players - with the rating increasing per squadmate.
What this means is:
We keep a good dose of unpredictability and drama, but we can tune away, especially in the worst case, which is low-scoring solo players versus the best squads.
Average squads will be somewhat more likely to face squads overall.
In a way, it goes in the direction of separating queues - but without actually doing so.
Rather, we get a tunable variable that dictates to what extent they are separated, that we can keep tuning based on feedback from you - our community.
With CB2 we implemented a brand new audio occlusion system.
While this is great... as often happens in game-dev when you introduce something new, we perhaps overdid it. :)
This lead to sounds like footsteps or gunfire not being audible enough even though close to you, due to being occluded by geometry.
This in turn dilutes what is meant to be one of the major drawbacks of playing in a squad: you usually make a lot more noise, so much that solo players get an idea of where squads are moving,
and can choose what to do with that information.
We're looking to improve this bit by bit in each patch within the next weeks.
TTK & TOOLS
We want solo players to have the tools and ability to - if they invest in this direction and play smart and skillfully - be able to A) avoid squads, and B) take them out if they outsmart them.
We think this requires another look at time-to-kill, with a first general slight decrease (depending on gear) that went out with the latest CB2.2 patch.
Let us know how it feels!
For future releases, we want to add more tools, consumables, and gear, specifically aimed at solo players, giving them more ways to avoid, counter, and outsmart squads.
SPECIFIC SOLO PERKS
Rather than penalizing squad play, we are also talking about perks for playing solo. One of the more popular ideas so far in the team has been to increase the number of evac spots if you play solo. We'd love to hear the community's thoughts on this topic!
This is what we currently are thinking, and the things we'd like to try out moving forward.
Some of these things we are trying out already in CB2.3, some of them will come later.
Our goal is an immersive world full of surprises, drama, and stories - but also one that is easy to get into and learn without feeling like there is no way you can avoid getting stomped - and the way to get there is by collaborating with our player base.
Let us know what you think! https://discord.com/invite/thecycle
Lastly: Big thanks to you, our community, for going on this incredible ride with us.
Any feedback? Please share it with us in our discord server