You arrive to the wilds of Population Zero. You have seven days to live. Go. That’s, in an extremely unrefined nutshell, the basic gameplay loop around the survival sandbox’s 168-hour gameplay cycle, which is meant to give players of Population Zero something of a carrot to chase in lieu of simply wandering around without any overarching objective.
According to a recent dev blog posted on Steam, this 168-hour cycle is meant to combat several common complaints of survival sandbox MMOs, including a lack of objectives, the inability to achieve long-term goals, and a generally unfriendly new player environment. With Population Zero’s seven day loop and overall character progression system, however, players should have a more focused sense of progression in both the short and long term; seven days is promised to be more than enough time for players to achieve goals like resource farming, crafting, and battling mobs and other players without one group overpowering others, while wider account progression lets players unlock new mechanics, modes, and cosmetics, granting rewards whether they’re successful in a cycle or not.
Ultimately, there are four ways for players to finish a cycle: Complete the main objective and survive, fail to make an objective in time and lose, get turned into an alien monster and die, or deliberately end a session. However a cycle ends, players will get experience points for finished quests and activities to level up their account.
The account progress system will also help ensure players of similar skill levels are matched up, as new cycles will bring players of a similar account level together. The system will also let the devs introduce new survival characteristics and survival conditions to make each cycle feel fresh.
As of right now, sessions will run for 168 hours and allow a maximum of 200 players, but the length of a default cycle and the number of players on a map could change. For now, though, this 168 hour-long session limit is an interesting wrinkle in a sub-genre that’s otherwise painfully similar from one game to the next.