Yager had to kill a good game that few cared to make an accessible sci-fi Tarkov that’s already a hit

The story of the German developer Yager you don’t see that often in the gaming industry. Most people know this name from his seminal 2012 work: Spec Ops: The Line, a game with its own history of struggling to balance the politics in its art with the demands of a publisher looking for a piece from the Call of Duty cake hopes.

But we don’t remember all of that when we think of Spec Ops: The Line. Instead, it’s the game’s view of war through the lens of video games, its understanding of player agency, and its commitment to having something to say at a time when games were just beginning to experiment with embedding messages in their narratives. who are most really thinking about when the game is coming.

Since then, few people have kept up with what’s going on at Yager, in part because the developer gave up the spotlight of AAA development and took matters into his own hands, deciding to focus on interesting prototypes and make them happen . These weren’t always successful ventures, but they set a theme for Yager that the studio would pursue for years to come. For me, it’s an opportunity to put aside something that’s not popular and move on to a new project in a completely different genre.

In 2019, the studio got off to a quiet start The circulation, a revolutionary online shooter that was among the first to make sense of PvPvE, something that later became another twist on multiplayer. In the years since, The Cycle has received numerous updates, a new map, deeper progression systems and its gameplay loop has been overhauled several times.

But few cared. Despite being free to play and offering a fair monetization system, being tied to the Epic Games Store hurts its chances of reaching a wider audience. It also never made it to consoles. While finding a populated game from The Cycle was hardly a challenge, Yager tells me that it was just too niche to support an entire studio.

So the team had to do something they’ve gotten pretty good at: reshoot. Only this time it won’t be as drastic as the journey from Spec Ops to Dreadnought and later to The Cycle. Unfortunately, this also meant that the original version of The Cycle is dead, as the size of the team at Yager doesn’t allow for two live games to be maintained at the same time.


“Honestly, the choice was [between] keep banging your head against the wall and probably fail – like a lot of game developers do when the market isn’t quite right for it, or be brave and turn the game around,” says Jonathan Lindsay, Executive Producer.

We are witnessing the birth of a new style of multiplayer shooters with battle royale roots and traditional MMO/server-based concepts. We haven’t found a suitable term for these games yet, although Extraction Royale seems to be the most common.

For those of us who don’t care about precise video game terminology, comparing new games to other, more established games remains the easiest way to describe them. The cycle: limit was called Tarkov-lite and Sci-Fi Tarkov. In fact, Frontier borrows as much from Escape from Tarkov as The Cycle does.

It’s a shooter where players load onto active servers to obtain cached materials, mine ore, and hoard all sorts of items. The ultimate goal is to claim an extraction and go in one piece so you can later sell some of your loot, use some for upgrades, and donate the rest to complete quests that sent you there in the first place.

You will always encounter AI monsters and animals, as well as other human players who share the same goal as you. Lindsay tells me that Frontier was designed so that passive players who want to avoid engaging in PvP can be just as successful as the killing machines who play these games to ruin someone else’s day.

The result is a more approachable, friendlier version of Tarkov. Frontier retains a few unforgiving elements like losing your gear on death, short time to kill, realistic weapon ballistics, limited inventory space, and more. But it also whittles down the dozens of ammo types to just five, offers basic gear insurance, and is generally not afraid to improve player quality of life with helpful tutorials and a plethora of UI options that Tarkov hardcores would scoff at.


While playing The Cycle: Frontier, I’ve found that the game addresses most of my Tarkov issues. While friendly fire remains, for example, there’s an easy way to identify teammates that doesn’t involve wearing matching arm patches and the occasional wiggle. Frontier also has a world map, and it’s clear to see where you are and where to go to call an evacuation.

The extraction location varies, but you will always have other players going to the same location as you. The developer tells me that these locations are balanced to keep Chads from making life difficult for new players. Matchmaking is another element that works behind the scenes to send you into matches with players of similar skill, something Tarkov lacks.

The best thing about Frontier is that it doesn’t discard the years of work and refinement that went into The Cycle: this is still a satisfying shooter with solid mechanics all round, just in a different package. The team has instead spent its time making the concept of Extraction Royale more interesting for players who either can’t or don’t want to get into Tarkov.

Faction campaigns – a new feature in this beta – provide clear direction for players looking to dig in, and plenty of meat for everyone else to chew on. Passive Income is another mechanic where players can invest part of their income in their Quarters to expand character inventory, generate the game’s premium currency, and make many other upgrades.

Frontier may seem like a reinvention of The Cycle, but it’s actually closer to Yager’s original vision for Prospector – the project’s working title throughout its development.

“We thought, okay, this is an opportunity to turn to something that might be more in line with the original idea of ​​the game, which was being a prospector. this [was] the pitch in 2016 that we honestly lost sight of,” explains Lindsay.

This mantra also dictates Yager’s approach to solving problems inherent in Extraction Royale. Tarkov, for example, has to clear all inventories every few months to force all players to start on an equal footing. Frontier will use the same solution, but the developer wants to tie it to seasonal updates and the launch of a new Battle Pass, something The Cycle players should be familiar with – let alone anyone who plays live service games.

Because of this, matchmaking primarily considers players’ ability to extract with valuable loot, rather than their marksmanship. This allows different playstyles to thrive, as long as the ultimate variable is the ability to get out alive with a good catch. Frontier even goes one step further, creating sheltered brackets for new (and struggling) players to make it easy for them to get used to the different systems or to recover from a slump. This is achieved, for example, by reducing the number of players in a session and placing extraction points closer to the drop zone.


Creative Director Dan Banefelt says that all of these elements evolved from previous prototypes and testing, so it’s not unreasonable to expect some of them to change again, making the game either friendlier or harder. Another interesting point of feedback was the lack of a player-driven auction house, which Lindsay adds to prevent the game from revolving around the economy and assigning a clear value to everything.

From the looks of it, The Cycle: Frontier’s high-level systems have clearly found a good balance, proving that Pivot was the right decision for the team. Moment-to-moment gameplay also benefits, achieving what Banefelt calls “tense uncertainty”.

The players also seem to agree. While no sponsorship deals are offered for streamers, closed beta Twitch viewership has organically reached the platform’s top 10, averaging 5,000 to 10,000 concurrent viewers, with a respectable peak of over 99,000 in October 2021. Steam’s concurrent numbers are similarly impressive for a restricted-access test, with peaks of around 16-24,000 concurrent players.

The Cycle: Frontier has had two closed beta tests so far, the second of which has been running since mid-March and will remain active until April 19th. Over 100,000 players have been granted entry, but many more are yet to be invited. Yager was surprised by the response to the second closed beta and has been working to upgrade its systems to support these higher concurrent numbers.

Those who can’t get in now can wait for the official launch sometime in the second quarter of this year. Until then, there is always a Steam wish list. Yager had to kill a good game that few cared to make an accessible sci-fi Tarkov that’s already a hit

Fry Electronics Team

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