168-hour Cycles and Account Progression

12 March 2020

Population Zero lands on Steam Early Access on May 5th. You can add the game to your wishlists right now!

When starting the game for the first time, players will be challenged with surviving not only against Kepler’s environmental hazards, ferocious beasts and basic necessities. The time itself will throw down a challenge!

  • The very first cycle starts in a special instanced Drop Zone, a single-player Tutorial level
  • Game cycles last 168 hours, or 7 consecutive days – a light day on Kepler
  • You have more than enough time to complete the main objective, explore the planet, engage themselves with building, resource gathering and crafting, battle mobs or other players
  • Each cycle rewards players with account experience necessary to unlock new modes, mechanics and further enhance the gameplay
  • Win or lose – you still get rewards and experience according to your progress during a session
  • When joining a new session players will be matched according to their current account level

Today we would like to share more details on Population Zero’s key features: 168-hour cycles and account progression. 

Another world – New rules

Multiplayer survival games are often criticized for:

  • the lack of a clear objective besides goals a player sets for themselves
  • the inability to achieve a long-term goal in a realistic timeframe
  • a steep learning curve for newcomers

After a few hours, having accustomed to the rules and feel of a game, players have to come up with their own set goals and activities for the rest of dozens and hundreds of hours. However, should a game have a clear objective or a win condition, only the most hardy grinder is capable of completing it. Those who are new to the genre are often put off by the difficult nature of survival mechanics and constant threat from the more experienced survivalist.  

Having taken these points into consideration, we included 7-day cycles and meta progression into Population Zero. The 7-day time limit does not imply that gamers have to play all week long without taking breaks.

We give our players enough time to explore the planet and farm resources, build their first shelter and craft some awesome gear, get familiar with the storyline, slay mobs, and battle other players.

Time in Population Zero is just one of the obstacles players will face and have to learn to overcome. For instance, an experienced, lucky, or player joined by a group of friends, will be able to successfully reach the endgame much earlier. 

7-day cycles in Population Zero:

  • set a clear goal and define rewards for achieving it
  • offer a number of story trials combining the narrative and the survival mechanics
  • prevents one group of players take over the game due to weekly server resets
  • unburdens players but let them decide how to manage the time frame

In its turn, Account Progression:

  • allows the developers to experiment with session characteristics and offer new exciting survival conditions
  • rewards player for their achievements within a cycle
  • reveals the story giving pieces of lore bit-by-bit
  • gradually unlocks new mechanics teaching newcomers the basics and intricacies of the survival genre
  • inspires gamers to return to Kepler time and again trying new modes with different rules of survival

7-Day Cycles & Meta Progression 101

Having escaped death in Kepler’s orbit with a hibernation pod, you find yourself in a new surreal world full of mysteries and dangers. Soon, you reach Humanity’s last refuge, the remains of colonists’ space ship Artemis. There you learn the shocking truth – you only have 168 hours left to survive before the mysterious energy transforms every human on Kepler into a creature of nightmares. It is truly said, Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

However, there is a way to escape extermination. Colonists have to repair one of the Artemis’ remaining generators to power up hibernation pods as they do not transmit any radiation. In order to do so, each player has to go through a set number of primary quests tied to each of Kepler’s biomes, and eventually complete the main objective. 

There are 4 ways to finish a game cycle:

  • complete the main objective and survive;
  • fail to make it in time and lose;
  • get turned into an alien monster and die: frequent respawns increase colonists’ mutation level which will eventually lead to a complete character transformation – the very first death in the form of an alien creature ends the session;
  • deliberately end the session.

All four methods give experience points according to the number of finished quests and activities, and necessary to level up the player account. New account levels unlock new modes, mechanics, regalia and cosmetics. Specifically, Account Level 4 gives access to Building Tier 1 whereas Account Level 5 rewards players with their own Cocoon, a personal respawn point. 

Plans for the Early Access period

When Early Access begins in May, sessions will last for seven consecutive days or 168 hours which matches the length of a light day on Kepler. 

One session will accommodate 200 concurrent players. In the future, the duration of a default cycle and the number of players per session might change.

At the start of the Early Access period, players will not be able to transfer gear, perks, and learned technologies to new sessions – when players finish a cycle all internal session progress will reset. Later on, such an opportunity might be added but will have certain restrictions. However, the owners of Population Zero founder packs will begin each new cycle with all the features their set includes. 

Once we launch the game on May 5th, there will be a limited number of sessions’ variations available to players. These additional modes may have more aggressive fauna, harsher environmental hazards, full loot drop, permanent death or disabled function to do damage to other players which focuses the cycle towards PvE. We are still looking for the right balance of conditions to make the player experience tense, fun, challenging and rewarding. 

We hope that this article clearly explains our new gameplay additions. We look forward to your additional questions and feature requests when the game launches in Early Access. Together we will make Kepler a truly exceptional world to inhabit and explore. 

We will be sharing more details on the game in the new dev blogs.