Hello Prospectors!

I am Noise, the Lead Game Designer for The Cycle: Frontier.
I know that my name is not as fancy as some of our coolest team members (looking at you here, Marvelous Breadfish) and that you most probably never heard of me before.
It’s because I'm *that good* at hiding around on Fortuna III.

Now that Close Beta 2 has ended, we felt it was important to discuss our teachings from the CB2 and draw a picture of the future lying ahead for The Cycle from a design perspective.


WHAT WAS OUR INITIAL APPROACH?

Let's talk a bit about how we approached this beta on the design side.

Thanks to Daze's wonderful work, we had a lot of commitments and a very clear creative direction about where we wanted to bring the game to.
I won’t go into details here because that would be way too long; to keep it short, let’s say that we wanted wondrous feelings of exploration on a completely alien planet, tense uncertainty, unexpected adventures & outcomes, surprising events, and of course friendships and betrayals made along the way.
In that regard, we firmly believe that we achieved all the goals that we set for ourselves within this given time frame.

But now with CB2 rolling out, many of our hypotheses were put to the test.
With a combination of business intelligence, community sentiment, and player feedback, we have a much clearer picture of what we need to do next – all this thanks to you folks!

From now on, we will be able to focus on making the game better in every way, starting with the worst offenders and moving from there to smaller topics that we still consider worthy of note.

SO, WHAT DO WE PLAN TO DO FOR RELEASE?

Right now, we are concentrating our efforts on several crucial points for release:

  • Power progression

  • Weapon balancing

  • Campaign

  • Matchmaking

  • Dungeon

  • Social

And who's best to speak about those changes, if not our experts on those topics?

Let me introduce to you Kril and Rumble!

WEAPON BALANCING AND GEAR POWER PROGRESSION

Hello,

I am Michel aka Kril, Game Designer in charge of our lovely creatures and our deadly weapons, among other things. I will do my best to walk you through our reasoning for the changes we plan to make regarding our PvP combat.

During our Closed Beta 2, we gathered a lot of great feedback from all fronts. Some of them we addressed with our weekly patches which allowed us to better figure out the impact of our changes almost instantly.
Now that the BETA has ended, we are taking the time to look at the feedback and the data we received from our different patches in order to evaluate the best course of action for release regarding our PvP.

Here are the different topics regarding weapon balancing and power progression that we feel were the most important:

Power Progression

The fact that the power progression curve gives a big advantage to better-geared players was a big point of frustration for most of you.
We understand that it doesn't feel good at all to lose all your gear without a chance to be able to fight back, or rather that fighting back feels pointless.
We also want the best gear to feel like it is worth the investment to get it and to deploy with it at the risk of potentially losing it.

In short, we are looking to find that sweet spot where you always have a chance at fighting back even when facing the best gear, while making sure that deploying with the best gear is worth the risk.

Our Closed Beta 2 allowed us to make a few iterations in that regard (adjusting the economy, the penetration vs armor curve, and individual weapons) and although none of them were satisfying enough, each iteration moves us closer to that sweet spot.

So based on your feedback and our teachings for CB2, here are our intention for release.
Please note that although we are confident with these changes, nothing is set in stone and we will make sure to take future tests and feedback into account for our final changelog:

  • More diminishing returns on our penetration vs armor formula: the best gear (epic and exotic) will not be as powerful against lower-tier gear (common, uncommon, and rare)

  • The progression in armor and penetration values on shields and weapons now also have diminishing returns: upgrading from common to uncommon will give more armor and penetration than upgrading from rare to epic.

These two changes will make it so upgrading to uncommon or rare gear should be really significant while epic and exotic gears should feel more like luxury improvements for prospectors that can afford them: they still give you a significant enough advantage in PvP to potentially make a difference but not so much that you can't be challenged by lower-tier gear.

On a parallel topic, during Closed Beta 2 we reduced the armor value of the higher tier helmets. The initial intention was to allow players that are skilled enough to land more headshots to be able to more easily take down better-geared players. But it also had the side effect to reduce considerably the time to kill in exotic vs exotic situations for example. When we did the modification, we thought it was a desirable side effect: having a lower time to kill for the best gear adds to the tension and increases the requirement of having good awareness of the surroundings, which are skills that we expect players to develop as they progress through the game. But most of the feedback we got about time to kill and combat in general was that it felt good, although still perfectible, around common to rare tiers while gunfights are over too quickly at higher tier

So we decided to revert that change and come back to using similar armor values for Helmets and Shields, in order to have a similar time to kill at all power levels.

Weapons tuning

One of the points that came very often when reading the community feedback was that SMGs were too potent in too many situations during the Closed Beta 2. They overshadowed Assault Rifles in particular because they had a similar effective range but a higher damage input.

The main reason for that was certainly that we didn't have any damage fall off on our weapons: no matter the distance you were shooting your target at, your weapon always dealt the same amount of damage.

We didn't want to use damage fall off at first to tune the range effectiveness of our weapons for 2 main reasons:

  • To allow players that wanted to specialize in a specific weapon to be able to use it in most situations if they learn and master its recoil pattern

  • As we don't have any damage number showing on hit, we wanted to have consistency regarding the damage output of our weapons. So if players know that they need 10 hits with a specific weapon to kill someone with grey armor, that amount of shots wouldn't vary much depending on the situation and they can rely on this knowledge.

To make it so different weapons are more effective at different ranges, we then used different tuning parameters with recoil being in the end the parameter that has the most impact for automatic weapons. It is harder to land a shot on a target that is far away with weapons that have a high recoil value. To that effect, we tuned most SMGs to have more recoil than Assault Rifles for example.

In the end, it didn't prove to be enough to differentiate the several types of weapons we have as we also potentially wanted to have SMGs with relatively low recoil like the ASP Flechette Gun, and that made them compete with Assault Rifles too well.

So the first and most important change we want to make regarding our weapons is to make their damage fall off with distance. All weapons except Snipers will now be less efficient if shot from further away than their intended effective range.

Another related change is to reduce the damage input of all SMGs in order for other weapons to be able to compete with them at the same range.

On top of that, we think our recoil reduction mods were too strong and allowed to compensate too easily for the high recoil value of some of our weapons so we are tuning them down a bit.

Finally, we are working on individual changes on weapons in order to make more options viable, based on your feedback and the data we gathered, by tuning down the weapons that we felt were too strong (such as SMGs) while improving the weapons that underperformed. (yes, the advocate is getting some love)

In conclusion, these improvements should greatly reduce frustration coming from fighting at a disadvantage while allowing for more weapons and different combat styles to shine on the planet. And we are impatiently waiting for you to be able to experience this new combat tuning and to share your thoughts on the matter.


CAMPAIGN PROGRESSION ADJUSTMENTS

Hi Prospectors!

Rumble here, in charge of the Activities on Fortuna 3 as well as Jobs and Missions. 

Just dropping by to say a few words on the topic of Faction Campaigns, one of the main new features introduced in CB2.

The main goals of the Campaigns were to provide players with a sort of red thread to progress along, motivate them to go outside of their comfort zones on a regular basis, and, of course, also to offer those of you that want it a bunch of nice pieces of story and worldbuilding to dig into. 

Good news first: the campaigns delivered on those things pretty nicely! Players in CB2 always had something to progress towards, were forced into new areas and to face bigger and bigger threats, and could dive into a lot of the backstory and motivation of the three factions, while unlocking some cool new stuff along the way.  

But of course, a feature as huge as the faction campaigns with such a massive amount of content is bound to have some flaws when it first goes player-facing. So what did we learn? And what will we do about it? 

Grindiness vs Challenge 

One common point of criticism that kept coming up in your feedback on campaigns, again and again, was the fact that some missions were just too grindy. I received complaints about having to go to the same area, again and again, to kill creatures there, or searching the same areas for loot items with low spawn rates again and again, until it became boring or even frustrating, instead of a fun challenge to overcome. We wholeheartedly agree with the complaints and have already done multiple tuning passes to make sure it will feel better next time you get your hands on the game. Bear with us, this stuff is very tricky to get 100% right on the first try while we don't yet have a lot of data to look at as a basis for balancing. 

Unclear Hints & Guidance 

Another unnecessary source of frustration that we heard a lot while hanging out in Twitch streams and Discord channels was the confusion that came from players not being sure where to look for certain items or mission locations. My favorite example of this was us asking players to recover the Meteor Reactor Notes from the "Power Plant on Crescent Falls", before realizing that "Power Plant" was the internal name, and players only know it as "Geothermal Plant". We of course made sure to correct any discrepancies or unclarities that we were aware of, so please keep the feedback coming on this! 
Also, the hints on the Missions telling Prospectors where to look for certain items were not clear enough about the tiered nature of Loot Containers. Missions will now indicate whenever an item can only be found in a certain container type in an area of a specific difficulty or tier. We hope this will make it more straightforward!

Mission Rewards 

When going through the feedback that our lovely Community Team accumulated for us, we realized that we were being unnecessarily skimpy with the Mission Rewards. We want the Faction Campaigns to be motivating, worth the players' time, and something that encourages Prospectors to keep going to get their hands on more and cooler stuff! 

Because of this, we have added more items to the Mission Rewards. Next time you play through the Campaigns, you will receive more Shields, Helmets, Guns, Backpacks, Consumables, and every now and then even Keycards for your efforts! Please let us know how this feels. Missions and Jobs asking you to stash certain items have also been tuned to always be worth doing, whatever the investment. 

Unique Missions

This last point does not directly come from criticism or complaints, more like something I have noticed and I thought I would let the Prospectors know: You all really really seemed to enjoy the Unique Missions! You know, the ones that send you to recover unique items or send you to unique locations. 

Initially, we intended to just sprinkle a few of them into the Campaigns in order to make the Missions feel less generic and repetitive, but my current thoughts are that they actually enrich the game a lot for players. For this reason, we would like to increase the frequency of Unique Missions in future Campaigns that we will create, as well as maybe even add a few more Unique Missions to the existing Campaigns. No clear timeline on that yet, but let us know whether you agree with this! 


For now, if you want to help out, please just keep the feedback coming (ideally in our Discord https://discord.com/invite/thecycle) and stay tuned. We have awesome stuff planned!

Cheers and see y'all on Fortuna very soon,

Rumble 

MATCHMAKING & DROPPING ON THE PLANET

With both our data and the community feedback, we are now in a place where we feel we can make changes to how our matchmaking formulas work.
We heard all sides of the equation here, and believe we can come up with something that will please most of you, if not all!

So here is what we planned and implemented:

  • We always had the intention of protecting new players. While we did try to do so already, we felt we could have done better on this, so we extended our steps to make sure we protect new players for a bit longer and give them a smoother onboarding experience when entering the "real game".
    In our opinion, onboarding during the CB2 was not smooth enough, and it should now be way better.
    We want new players to have the time to figure out what the game is about, how to behave with AI, and at least get a better sense of where to look while deploying on Bright Sands. 
    We use our own specific protection method here, which will disappear once we feel we are confident enough that you will be able to tackle the dangers of the alien planet on your own.
    It's also worth mentioning that that method will not protect returning players that learned the game, as we felt we would do a disservice to new players joining us later on by doing so.

  • We have also decided to go with a Bucket approach for our matchmaking purposes.

    • What it means for you is that now the player base will be divided into much larger buckets allowing for more encounters along the way.

    • We are also dividing those buckets in a way that catered to both our technical needs and the needs of our players (keeping the smooth beginner experience in mind). 

      • At least one of those buckets is dedicated to beginners only, while the other ones are centered around player progression and overall experience.

  • But also, we are taking feedback to help us do some live balancing along the way.
    We certainly gave it a lot of thought already and figured out ways to make most of you prospectors happy, but we needed more tools to fine-tune this experience along the way, and we are aiming to have what we need for that around the release.


We really hope that you will enjoy what we created here, and we can't wait for you to test it once it goes live!

DUNGEON

We are also going live with our first dungeon!

To explore it, you will have to complete the Osiris Campaign in order to unlock the Orbital Cannon Beacon needed to open an entrance.
Expect to find darkness, difficulty, and rewards for your trouble, but be wary of whoever could enter behind you!

We can't wait to have your feedback on this as this is our first dive into high-end PvE content.

SOCIAL

On this front, we have good news: we are bringing back the Multiplayer Station!
Next time we’ll meet there, you will be able to witness the splendor of our new goods and customization options for all Prospectors.

There are some fantastic eye candies waiting for you right at the corner so that you can finally backstab unwary prospectors while dripping with style.
Of course, as for many other topics, there are several other things in the works in that regard, but we are not ready to comment on them yet :)

Map Changes

Hello prospectors, Tesuji here. Senior Level Designer on TCF. I'd like to take some time to talk about what's been changed for both our level because the changes are quite big.

Loot and Creature Tier changes

Before I go into the changes, allow me to go over the state of the levels during CB2.
We saw a lot of things happening in our maps, some bad, some good. Things like people getting stuck in spaces, being able to shoot through walls, oddities in ledge climbing, and even using said system to get up on spaces you're not supposed to get up to (looking at you Spuddy). However, what's more, pertinent to this post is what we saw happening in the Jungle of Bright Sands, and pretty much the entirety of Crescent Falls.

In the jungle of Bright Sands, we saw players running the jungle over and over and generally avoiding Crescent Falls unless they absolutely needed to travel to that level. The players that did travel to Crescent Falls, were almost exclusively traveling to Green's Prospect, Starport Admin/Warehouse, Pinnacle Labs, and the High Desert. These players also found the creature density in Crescent falls to be off-putting. This led to the general sentiment of why bother going to Crescent Falls when players could do everything they needed in Bright Sands. Furthermore, since there was only one decent section of Crescent Falls, players were being compressed into a smaller area, thus exacerbating the issue with solos vs squads. A squad camping Warehouse, for example, was going to make things very difficult for solo players from getting any work done in the High Desert.

In order to understand why this was happening, I need to talk a bit about Loot and Creature Tiers.

First, consider the game's difficulty/looting experience expressible as a range from Tier 1 through Tier 5. For loot, the higher the tier, the more likely you are to find rarer items such as Portable Labs or Autoloaders. In fact, some items such as Autoloaders can only spawn above certain tiers (T4 and up in this case).

In CB2

  • Bright Sands contained Tier 1 through Tier 5

  • Crescent Falls contained Tier 2 through Tier 5

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You can probably see why players were avoiding Crescent Falls if they could.

Both levels have had their loot tiers and creature difficulty adjusted.

For Release

  • Bright Sands will be Tier 1 through Tier 4

  • Crescent Falls will be Tier 3 through Tier 5

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You may also notice that a greater emphasis on POIs was made. Instead of bumping up or nerfing the existing zones, we wanted to make traveling to POIs more memorable. For example, if you're looking for Indigenous Fruit but don't want to risk running to the T5 Nutron Processing in the South of CF, you could travel to the T4 Nutron Warehouse in the North West.

Locked Rooms and Weapon Crates

First, all locked rooms can be considered to be 1 Tier higher than the zone they're in. For example, the locked room in the swamp camp is Tier 3. Powerup Rooms also follow this logic. Though, since there's no T6 (yet) Locked rooms in T5 zones will be especially juicy.

Second, I think in CB2 we were a bit too generous with weapon crates. It was too easy to run to jungle camp or pinnacle labs with a knife and loot several weapon crates. For release, we've placed a heavier emphasis on placing weapon crates and spawns behind locked doors.

Okay, but what about creatures?

Like with loot, the creature spawns can be expressed as Tier 1 through 5. The possible spawns are

  • T1

    • Striders, Rattlers

  • T2

    • Striders, Rattlers (same as T1, just more numerous)

  • T3

    • Striders, Heavy Striders, Rattlers, Mature Rattlers, Marauders

  • T4

    • Striders, Heavy Striders, Rattlers, Mature Rattlers, Marauders (same as T3, emphasis on elite spawns)

  • T5

    • Striders, Heavy Striders, Rattlers, Mature Rattlers, Marauders, Savage Marauders

  • Crushers are manually placed and exclusive to Crescent Falls

For the Eagle-Eyed prospectors, you may note that we didn't exactly follow these rules during CB2. The jungle was filled with Savage Marauders and there were marauders and creature elites everywhere in Crescent Falls. This has been changed for Release, specified creatures will spawn according to Tier changes listed above. If you see something contrary to that, send us a bug report or DM me in Discord 

What can you expect?

At a high level, we want to push players out of Bright Sands and into Crescent Falls once they hit a certain point in their progression. We still want players coming back to Bright Sands every now and then, but Crescent Falls should be the map that players spend most of their endgame in. Secondly, we want to make sure that all parts of the level are viable and we're not putting people off with creature density or player density.

So, here's what you can expect

  • Bright sands will be more defined as the 'easy' map and Crescent falls will be catered towards the end game

  • Loot Tiers have been adjusted across both levels, see above images

  • Most weapon crates and weapon spawns have been moved behind locked doors

  • Loot behind Locked doors and powerup puzzles exist 1 Tier higher than the zone they're in, with the exception of Tier 5 (there's no T6)

  • A better emphasis on POIs rather than sections of the levels being devoted to a certain Tier.

  • The Jungle has been nerfed quite substantially, but not entirely.

    • Focus Crystal runs as well as jungle camp and crashed ship are still viable, but less lucrative

    • Much lower creature density in the jungle.

  • Savage Marauders no longer spawn in Bright Sands and only in T5 zones

  • Overall creature density has been lowered. Some areas such as Green's Prospect have had a substantial reduction in creature density.

  • Focus Crystals have been added to the South West forest of Crescent Falls

Finally, if you're curious about when you might make the switch from running Bright Sands to Crescent Falls. I personally think that once you're comfortable fighting Marauders, you can dip your toes into Crescent Falls.

Bonus...

In addition to the loot and creature difficulty adjustments, further enhancements to the routing in Crescent Falls has been made.Beyond the looting experience, the most common complaint about Crescent Falls was the amount of running and funneling happening on this map. We've decided to open up the routing a bit more so players don't have to run around huge negative spaces to get anywhere. These aren't all of them, some of these routes are up for you to discover and utilize. After all, one of the high level goals of Crescent Falls is to reward Map Knowledge and route planning 

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In addition to the route changes, we also went ahead and softened up the chokepoints. Going forward with future maps, we want to make sure that we retain chokepoints but turn them into fun mini-arenas to fight in. Rather than having a one-way door, I want to have little spaces where you can outsmart your opponent.

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Back to Noise:
And that's it! (…for now at least)

Try and find us on Fortuna III if you can!
It won't be that hard to find me – I'll be the player with the fanciest suit.

Who knows, maybe you will learn some secret cool stuff about the game while teaming up with one of us?

Also, I definitely won't shoot you in the back as soon as the Evac Ship lands, I promise.

See you all sooner than you think!

Any feedback? Please share it with us in our discord server

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