Hello survivors of Lumia Island.
This is a letter from the developers of Eternal Return.
This dev letter will touch on a lot of things that we’ve been working on since Early access, our plans for the future, and everything else.
Recently, we looked back at some of our early plans that we had in place before our launch into Early Access.
It read that our starting goal was 2,500 concurrent players, followed by:
5,000 in 2021.
10,000 in 2022.
20,000 in 2023,
It was noted that we should make a game that grows year after year. Although the beginnings may be modest, if we could double our playerbase, we could reach 1.28 million players in 2029, and 2.56 million in 2030! When we finally launched on Early Access, the team was floored and rejoiced at having 3,000 players!
Every day following the release brought a series of incredible moments. We were stunned by the unexpected interest from players, but we never thought that the reception would be this incredible.
However, we received so much attention, it exceeded our actual capabilities, resulting in anxiety among the team that it would collapse.
ER Players face 3 cliffs when playing:
[First Cliff, Barrier of Entry]
The first cliff you encounter is a barrier of entry.
Eternal Return is tough from the beginning; even after reading the explanations multiple times in the tutorial, players would see the yellow triangle on an item in a box and still not pick it up!
The tutorial also tells players to throw away some items that do not have the yellow triangle whenever your inventory is full or go to another area because there’s nothing to get in here. If there’s too little explanation, it results in confusion, and too much explanation feels like homework.
We’ve had suggestions like whenever you get an item with a yellow triangle, it makes a sound and goes into your inventory, or whenever your inventory is full but you try to get an item, an item in your inventory which is not needed would turn red and ‘shake’ in your inventory. Make the location of items that are needed more noticeable on the right.
Not only with words but also with UX changes, the first cliff, the barrier of entry, would be less steep.
After passing the difficult first entry barrier, the magic begins.
Starting with learning the fun of combining items, and looking at the feedback left by players at this point, our team members felt the greatest happiness!
[Second cliff, when the novelty wears off]
However, after playing one character for about 200 hours, you will find yourself playing a “routine” game at some point.
For the sake of example, let’s look at the life of a player who fell into Lumia Island: beginning to end.
Step 1: Prepare for early fights by making weapons equipment in 2-3 zones.
Step 2: Go around the remaining areas, get the gear you set from before the game started
Step 3: Prepare for the late game by hunting wild animals, making food and traps, searching for random drop items such as meteorites, force cores, and mithril.
Step 4: Final fights in the last restricted area.
Repeating the gameplay loop will start to make it feel “not new”. This is the second cliff.
Unfortunately, at this time, Step 3 is a “bear/wolf hunting game”.
There are sources for food, traps, and random drop items, but there is a lack of variety of strategies to make food and traps, or random drops from hunting.
With meteorites, a strategy of using force cores might become more prevalent. There will be more legendary items with exciting effects, expanding the selection of equipment, too. Items that have special skills, not just stats, allow for various strategies and variables for the end game to emerge, and the thrill of control and independence will increase!
Note in step 3, we could change characters or weapons to feel new in steps 1 and 2. However, it is difficult to switch characters from a player’s perspective.
Playing a new character means learning a new route, learning a new strategy, optimal items, etc. For players who do this new learning, the current route system does not help that much.
First off, it’s hard to find a good saved plan or route. Frankly, the system that distinguishes saved plans is not that good. As many players have suggested, it is urgent to introduce a system of recommending saved plans via voting or feedback.
Additionally, the shared saved plans feature lacks in some aspects. Simple things such as skill order cannot be captured by the author’s intent in the saved plan.
It is difficult to understand the strategy because it shows only the targeted items and routes. You cannot learn strategies, like when to fight or run, what are the important items, and which characters you should avoid. There should be a system that allows the author to write down these parts in a brief description.
When the game starts, accessibility to recommended routes is also suboptimal. If you want to play a new character, you have to set the route first – but you haven’t even used their skills! It would be much easier to use a new character if a good plan was filtered by the recommended score, and automatically used when the game starts.
There is another way to find newness without changing your character – team modes. Duo and squad modes offer a new gameplay completely different from solo.
There’s a friend system to enjoy those, but… not really.
Without Discord and or messaging services, it is hard to play games with friends.
It is difficult to make friends with people you meet in the game unless you’re already friends — if you don’t have their contact info, you can’t even send a message of good luck to your fellow survivors who have overcome hardships together!
The system is inevitable, but it is a large undertaking. As the skin system was pushed forward earlier than planned, we are going to do our best to build our own friend system right after.
[Third cliff, final restricted area]
Players who passed those two difficult cliffs will face the last cliff: the final restricted area. Our current system is incomplete, making it difficult for players to accept defeat when they lose the game. Issues that have arsen, like Teaming or Rating, motivate us to significantly change the system.
It is difficult to solve the issue when there are 3 people left, resulting in a “1v1v1”. The basic framework is to put several safe zones in the last restricted area so that the fighting can disperse.
Creating a safe zone system is our current goal, and will organize this and upload to the Roadmap. Due to its impact on balance, we are testing it through a seperate beta, and making it better to satisfy all players.
We explain these most important parts as “cliffs” – but in fact, those aren’t the only problems. Besides these three cliffs, there are also large crevasses and deep pits. Even the imbalance of spawn points have been pointed out, making the game unfair. We hoped that the latest update improved on these fundamentals, and we will continue to keep an eye on the deficiencies and make improvements.
Initial and early game strategies are fun, but meeting other players who are “thirsty” for you in the early game – i.e, just chase you and fight and fight, kind of detracts from your experience overall.
We will also need to develop more Quality of Life improvements as well, such as issues with failure to match, long waits for the actual game to start, problems with looting overlapping dead bodies, and priority targeting when attacking/attack move players, etc.
There are a lot of issues that are not written here, but we are doing our best to make improvements on what we have written. Our goal is to resolve half of them before Spring comes. (The other half will also be resolved before it gets too hot outside)
Naturally by then, we’ll get new feedback and once again, we’ll have a new to-do list similar to today’s.
[Making the best possible game.]
It’s a miracle and honor to have the love from our players with this poor game. A lot of players have joined, yet we are not as good as we should be. In some way, it’s heartbreaking, but we are finding our way.
However, the fact that there are many problems is that there are many things that can be improved. Thanks to you, the players, we have a chance. We are increasing the size of our team, so we will be able to do more and more! The only reason why they joined, including those with a lot of experience in the industry, those who left big companies, former professional gamers, and influencers, is to make a game that they enjoy and are passionate about. They want to make a game that is a GAME.
If it collapses, the players will leave first, and many of the team members who joined after seeing this dream will follow. The updates that we will be doing in the future will be challenging, and there will be a lot of trial-and-error – but that’s where our team’s smaller size and huge undertaking come into play.
Eternal Return started as an indie game, and it is still a game created with the spirit of making indie games. However, we want to dream beyond indie games with our ability. We want to be loved by more people – we will be professional and improve in every way. Team members who love the games, especially Eternal Return, will fill the pits and dull the cliffs much faster than ever before, so the enjoyment and quality of the game will get greater and greater. One day, Eternal Return will be a game that deserves the amount of players it has.
We dream of Eternal Return becoming a kind of game that players will think is a good game to play, and a game where the best players of Eternal Return can hold world competitions in cities like Seoul, Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Paris and can cheer together happily.
To everyone who always keeps us in check and helps us remain focused, to everyone who cheers us on and encourages us, we would like to express our sincere thanks to you. We promise that this rough path will lead to the best game that it can be.
Thank you from everyone at Nimble Neuron.
Note: This was originally written up by the developers to touch on some things that the Korean community had issues with. Myself (Aesop) and GM Kicker thought it nice to share it with you all as well. We try and be transparent with you all as frequently as possible and take your suggestions into consideration whenever we make changes. We’ve heard you in the past (remember Quantum Blink?) and we are very open to making sweeping changes based on your input. We will continue to work hard on the game – taking everything you guys think up into consideration – and try to make Eternal Return the best experience possible for you all.