Past. Present. Future. State of Cycle Frontier with Creative Director Dan Banefelt

Yager describes this game as a “competitive quest shooter” with a unique “PvPvE” playstyle featuring a combination of player versus environment and player versus player.

The game focuses on a group of humans living on a space station called the Prospect Station. Players take on the role of prospectors; mercenaries tasked with the job of landing on a dangerous planet called Fortuna III. Players compete against each other, as well as the unforgiving environment, scavenging loot and completing quests before extracting.

The Cycle Frontier’s next season will be launching soon, introducing new content and features into the game. As before, Season 3 will also include a progression wipe that once again offers a fresh start to every player. However, one of the most notable changes and an important milestone in the continuous development of the game is worth pointing out: this upcoming wipe will be the final mandatory and ultimate server-wide restart for every player of The Cycle: Frontier.

Interview quick hits

  • Season 3 launches March 29th, 2023
  • Final mandatory Server wipe
  • Major changes to Anti-cheat since the launch
  • New PVE flying threat called the Howler
  • Huge economy overhaul making it easier for new players
  • Changes to the gear system add more risk and reward acountability
  • Load out pre-sets
  • Discord community link here

G-LYFE Nation: Being from Germany I am assuming the company name Yager comes from the wonderful German alcohol Jägermeister?

Sebastian Beiler: Yes, Yager is pretty much pronounced like Jägermeister, but it was actually the name of the very first title that our company released. So, the game Yager almost 20 years ago inspired the name. Our general manager decided to stick with the name and use it for the company.

G-LYFE Nation: Initially released on June 8th, 2022, Cycle Frontier was introduced as a Free-to-play PvPvE extraction shooter. Can you give us your take for people who have not played the game on what that exactly means?

Dan Banefelt: Cycle Frontier is as you say a PvPvE high-stakes extraction shooter which is kind of this newly emerging genre. And what that means for gamers is that you play a prospector that goes down to a very beautiful but also extremely dangerous alien planet on the hunt for loot. On this planet, you will find valuable materials, better gear, and so on. In your way stand alien monsters, environmental hazards, and of course other players looking for the same resources.

The goal is to make it back out alive, extract the loot, and complete as many missions as you can, hence the genre name “extraction shooter”. If you do manage to get out alive, you get to keep all the loot and materials you found during that drop but If you die, you lose it and other players can take it as they, please. The reason why we’re so interested in this style of gameplay is mostly because of the immersive and often dramatic intense multiplayer experiences that it can create.

G-LYFE Nation: Would you say there are similarities to Escape from Tarkov or going back even further to the dark zone in The Division?

Dan Banefelt: Yep, Yep.

G-LYFE Nation: As it stands now Steam shows a 61% positive response overall out of 3800 reviews and a 58% positive response in the last 30 days. Can you tell us what your general approach has been in response to the community feedback so far?

Dan Banefelt: We of course want a better review score than what we have at the moment and I think we have a game to do it with.

We were heavily damaged by cheaters in season one, I think we were a bit naive about the protection that went out at launch. I think we have improved a lot in that department since then, but it will take a while to rebuild that trust with the community. We read everything, we look at the Steam reviews every day, we read discord, we read Reddit and we also talk to our players. So, our approach has been to read everything, talk to our players, and find out what it is that frustrates them the most, but also what they like.

Then we bring that to the designers to have them really dig into problem-solving based on what is currently frustrating the community. We just take on one issue at a time from there. Cheating was definitely the biggest issue we have had in the past, but we have made a huge push to improve on that.

We also have issues like gear not mattering enough which we took to the developers, so we have improved on that also. Now I think the current challenges are perhaps the opposite of that making sure that new players don’t get stomped by players the with really good gear.

We want the gear chase to feel really good when you get a better gun. It’s something that should really drive you but on the other hand, we can’t have new players feeling like they have no chance to win.

G-LYFE Nation: Can you rewind a little bit to the cheater subject? Tell me a little bit more about that and what specifically has been done so far to prevent cheating.

Dan Banefelt: We integrated additional anti-cheat measures like sophisticated hooks and measures that track who should be banned and who shouldn’t. But I think some of the most meaningful stuff that we did was change things that make it a bit harder to annoy other players with. We implemented ping restrictions so you can’t just use a VPN to hop onto any server in the world.

Another huge thing for us is what we call trusted matchmaking. So, because we are a free-to-play game, that means that cheaters can just get banned and make a new account. Now smack they are right in there again, making the lives of other people really difficult. So, what we did was implement this system which has worked really well for us. If players don’t have trusted status, which is based on certain conditions of their Steam account they will end up in a special queue with most of the other cheaters.

G-LYFE Nation: Was there any sort of ban wave that went out? Do you know the number of accounts your team banned?

Dan Banefelt: Oh, I don’t know the number, but a ton. Yeah, absolutely. It’s a challenge for us to make it as difficult as we can for them, you know. We can’t just have players be able to make a new account and be in there again immediately, because that’s what we saw in season one.

G-LYFE Nation: As far as the cheating subject goes, where do you feel the game is now at this current patch? Moving forward, are there more plans to develop new systems that will help keep cheaters away?

Dan Banefelt: Absolutely. So, I would say that I am pretty happy with where we are right now, but we also know that this is a battle that never ends and is impossible to win. So, what we’ve done is created an anti-cheat team whose full-time job it is to make the anti-cheat measures more and more sophisticated. That’s all they work on all day.

G-LYFE Nation: So, I was looking at the patch notes and reading through all the updates. From the release on June 8th to now, there have been 10 patches released. Overall how do the mechanics, gameplay, and content, feel as a whole in the game’s current state?

Dan Banefelt: Yeah, I think it must have been more than 10 patches. I’m not sure, but quite a lot. I mean there’s of course a lot more we want to do. And there are things that we have to improve on but also things we just are dying to add to the game. We’ve come a long way and I’m really happy with the world that we’ve created so far. So it’s of course about quality updates but also the content depth where we have of course a lot of ideas and plans. We are not going to be satisfied until we get to do a lot more of that.

G-LYFE Nation: Is there anything specific you can highlight that you guys are really excited about that you’re allowed to share with us?

Dan Banefelt: We are working on a seasonal basis. So right now, we’re deep in implementation mode for season 3. While we haven’t talked about everything that comes with that season, there are some things that we’ve mentioned loosely at least that I’m really excited about. So, one of them is we’re finally adding a new major PVE enemy. And it’ll be a flying monster called the Howler. So this will change the way that PVE works pretty dramatically because so far it was only players and ground monsters you have to keep your eyes on. Now you also must be aware of what goes on in the skies above you. And it’s a really scary monster at that!

It’s Going to be cool, but then there is a lot more we’re doing including improvements to the early game to make the game a bit easier to get into. You know, we’re really after that easy-to-learn and hard-to-master philosophy. We are also doing a huge economic overhaul to make the game easier to get into for new players, but also deep which will create interesting choices to make in end-game play that we are really pushing forward. Also making progression milestones more interesting.

We’re also adding a new way to play the game with sponsored loadouts, so you can drop in without using your own gear. So maybe you have a simple mission you don’t need to go in with the gear you really worked hard on and not put your own gear on the line.

G-LYFE Nation: So this new flying enemy that you are adding is going to be something that you encounter fairly often or sparsely spread throughout the world?

Dan Banefelt: Fairly sparse in that regard, but you know it’s pretty big, high up in the sky, and makes a lot of noise. So, I think you’ll feel its presence, but be careful in your decision of when you choose to engage it.

G-LYFE Nation: Is it going to have raid boss-like encounter mechanics?

Dan Banefelt: I wouldn’t call it that, maybe more like a mini-boss perhaps, an event mini-boss I would call it. We are adding new quests that will challenge you to face this monster as well.

G-LYFE Nation: So back to the patches. When you initially put your road map together during the development process compared to where you are now are you close to where you thought you would be?

Dan Banefelt: That’s a good question. I mean, it’s definitely a balance, right? It’s a live game. You need to be able to react quickly if there are game-breaking bugs, balance issues, things that frustrate the community, or even just room for improvement, you got to be able to react fast.

And on the other hand, you need to have time to work on the big content updates. So, I think overall we’re getting better at finding that balance in a way that doesn’t kill the team because it’s pretty hectic.

I will say that one thing that set us back because I think we were a bit naive was the cheating topic where we launched with insufficient protection. I think the push to improve was insanely good. But of course, I wish that we could have used that time to just make the game better. But it’s free to play shooter game in 2023. We’re not so lucky.

G-LYFE Nation: Yeah, I understand that. Is there anything specifically you can think back at that you would do differently aside from that?

Dan Banefelt: I think we’ve also learned to find that balance where I think originally, we perhaps didn’t set enough time aside, especially after like a huge release. We had some stability issues and our servers exploded because we hit a really high CCU, much higher than I thought we would which was amazing, but on the other hand, our servers exploded.

It’s a good problem to have, but it also forces us to go into emergency mode and have our engineers work around the clock to fix those issues. And of course, obviously, in hindsight you wish that we were better prepared.

G-LYFE Nation: So, let’s rewind back to the gear subject we touched on a little bit ago. Making items more accessible to new players, can you shed some light on that?

Dan Banefelt: We are making a lot of improvements to the early game overall by explaining the game better but also protecting new players better and just making the game’s true value easier to find. What I will say about the gear system is that we are and I’m really excited about this rework for season 3, we’re really reworking the economy majorly. The vision there is really that, running a really good loadout should be something special. It’s not something that just because you unlocked it you should have infinite access to all the time. It should be something special that you really take a risk when you use it.

I want it to feel as if when you fight someone and you die and if that player has an exotic weapon, it should make you think “holy crap this person was crazy enough to bring in an exotic weapon out that’s insane” How did he even get that?

And right now, it’s the economy that does not support this kind of longevity, is not robust enough. So, it’s something that we are reworking really majorly, and I’m really excited about it. It may not sound as exciting as the new amazing visceral flying PVE monster, but I think in terms of making the game better, this is the most important thing that we’re working on right now.

I want game highs like that where you know you might get lucky every now and then and kill a geared late-game player and get out with a loadout that is otherwise completely out of your reach. I want those moments to be there because they feel amazing.

In the end, that’s what the game is about Risk and reward. And right now, there isn’t much risk for that player because once you unlock it, you can just get a new one. So I think if we have ways to make it feel better for both sides, where its risk-reward scenarios are much clearer for everyone involved.

G-LYFE Nation: Let’s talk about some major goals. So, it’s 2023. You got a fresh year. No, we got some patches behind us. I know you said you’re working on the season three launch. What are our goals this year? What’s on the bill?

Dan Banefelt: I mean for season three, what we’re really looking into is kind of what I touched on. We’re looking into making the game a lot easier to get into and find the value while also being something that holds up long-term play much better. So, more depth, more variety, and more interesting challenges for the end game players. So, it’s at the season 3 release it’s all about that easy-to-learn and hard-to-master mantra.

G-LYFE Nation: You spoke about questing too. Where do you see questing going from here? Do you still like where it’s at or do you want that to expand on it even more?

Dan Banefelt: We are expanding on it step by step, so we’re adding a lot of different new quest types to season three. More interesting types of missions with more variety throughout the whole campaign. And we are also working on more types of end-game quests. So, for the players who are really getting into it, they’re going to get some really difficult challenges to achieve in end-game play.

G-LYFE Nation: And how will the rewards be from these difficult challenges?

Dan Banefelt: It’ll be really braggy vanity so that when you see someone on the station who has completed them you go like “holy crap, they finished the late game questline, that player is crazy. They must be insane”.

G-LYFE Nation: And then moving forward, we talked about your concept with the way you’re balancing community needs, content, and bug fixes. Do you plan on keeping the same philosophy moving forward or are there going to be changes in the way you look at all your different tasks as a whole?

Dan Banefelt: So like I said before, I think we’re getting better at finding that balance. I think we know now how to save time for when we do release a major patch to react fast and that’s great. I also think that we have a lot more of the groundwork done now, in terms of service stability and cheat measures. So, I think the type of tasks we would work on more now are in-game bugs or balance issues. We will then be ready to jump on them much faster if they happen. We’re also getting a lot better at testing stuff before it goes out, so we’re working closely with our community. We have a focus group that tests pretty much anything we update now, which is great.

We want to keep up that fast pace where we can both produce content for the big patches but also react fast if something does go wrong. We are getting better at being able to do that while also catching the issues before they actually go live to our broader player base.

G-LYFE Nation: That focus group you mentioned, is it something players can get involved in, or is it a team that you already have all set in stone right now? Can people sign up to get involved in those types of testing scenarios?

Dan Banefelt: To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the criteria is but for anyone interested in giving feedback to the developers and helping out I recommend joining our discord As I said earlier we read it all.

G-LYFE Nation: Is there anything else you think we didn’t cover that you know that we can talk about that’s not top secret you can share?

Dan Banefelt: We are also working on things that I hope make it into the season 3 release. If not, we will patch it in, and that is tons of quality-of-life stuff. A big one requested by the community is loadout preset so you don’t have to run around and purchase each individual piece of gear after you die. You will be able to just click your preset and get back in the queue. I think in terms of quality of life that is by far the most requested feature of the community. So, this is something we’re working on.

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