Warframe is a premium free-to-play game that is constantly evolving and growing as a living-and-breathing entity featuring millions of players around the world across three different platforms with the Nintendo Switch joining in soon. But what sets Warframe apart from the rest? Let’s talk about that.
Over the past few nights when I’ve not been grinding out reviews or previews in my spare time, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at Warframe by Digital Extremes; the Toronto-based studio that brought us Dark Sector among many other titles over the past 20 years.
However, one thing began to elude me as I searched for something I wasn’t quite sure that I understood: Why do I keep coming back? What can other developers learn from Warframe and how can they implement what they’ve learned to enhance their games on a technical level in order to drive players that have wandered away back to the game?
So last night, I finally took the plunge and dove face first into Destiny 2: Forsaken once again and there, it was finally there that the answer I was looking for began to reveal itself. It isn’t the fact the game has procedurally generated levels, constant content releases or an in-game economy worth real money value (platinum) that players can trade for in exchange for in-game items to buy real-money valued items.
Instead, the answer ran deeper, to the very core of what makes Warframe what it is. So off to Twitter I went; my answer began to come forth, drawing parallels between what I wanted to know and what I needed to know in order to cohesively bring it all together into one well-articulated answer.
“And off to Twitter I went.”
The answer, as weird as it was, isn’t something you’re going to find on the likes of Reddit or the forums, but rather the developers themselves such as Warframe’s director Steve Sinclaire. It’s the open communication with their fans, demonstrating pieces of the game that is currently in development and in consideration for the game.
Things such as the UI 2.0 were openly demonstrated across his Twitter page, Digital Extremes’ dev streams and even in responses to their fans. They’ve been open about the games ongoing development including the new open-world adventure fans will undergo as they travel across the once-toxic lands of Venus in the upcoming update called “Fortuna” where they will visit a Corpus-like city and visit its denizens as they take to the open world in search of new riches and adventures to be had. He even has gone on to discuss more technical aspects of their game as seen below.
The cost of this upcoming and massive content drop? Free. Yes. You read that right. Fans of Warframe are getting a massive content drop free of charge. It’s irrevocably different than that of how former Destiny 2 fans feel when realizing that they’ll have to spend over $170 USD to get the full Destiny 2 experience in both years 2 and 3 as they get underway.
If you were to compare Destiny 2 or any other game on the market and you’ll find that you can’t compare Warframe to any other game out there. Everything, even the Warframes themselves, can be earned free of charge or purchased at a nominal fee alongside items that can be used to customize them or the weapons a user has purchased.
“Everything, even the Warframes themselves, can be earned free of charge”
But something else stood out when I dove back into some of the games I had been playing such as Monster Hunter: World: I can customize my character, completely from the gender, to the face, to the hairstyle, free-of-charge. The only charge I had was unlocking the various customizations ranging from faces to hairstyles to garb for a nominal fee.
Unlike The Elder Scrolls: Online, I could change my Tenno to appear how I wanted to depending on my mood and the frame I used. While this seems rather extreme compared to how others would treat the game, the freedom to customize and continually shape the game to my own experience is at my fingertips whereas that isn’t the case with other triple-A titles I’ve paid for out of pocket or been offered for review.
If I wanted select customizations in Destiny 2 such as the premium armor from Eververse, I’d have to grind my little heart to death in hopes that RNG decides to lean in my favor or throw out my hard earned cash for a CHANCE to earn the armor that I want. Taking into consideration I can’t re-customize my character (which has been a gripe I’ve had from Day One with the original Destiny); I’ve opted for various armor sets and hiding her head with a helmet.
But this wasn’t just a Monster Hunter: World or Destiny issue. I even found this problem popping up on a plethora of games I’ve taken the dive into such as Black Desert Online, The Elder Scrolls Online and even World of Warcraft; all of which are premium titles with full-ticket prices in order to play. But why? Why would they want to charge an arm-and-a-leg when titles like Warframe and their developer have adopted a consumer-friendly approach to customizing your experience?
We already know Anthem from Electronic Arts and developer BioWare could very well be a rather expensive endeavor when it comes to obtaining “premium” skins and collectibles. Hell, even Ubisoft has found that rewarding players for their time with premium items through the loot boxes in Tom Clancy’s The Division is the way to go.
Sadly, it all comes down to greed and Digital Extremes has found being consumer friendly is the best way to go.
“But this wasn’t just a Monster Hunter: World or Destiny issue.”
Digital Extremes has – on a technical level – found that consumer friendliness is what works best for their game. The proof is in the game itself. You can earn everything. Literally, everything with just a bit of time and patience. Players can earn Platinum (premium real-cash currency used for in-game purchases) from one another by farming for items, trading to those who have had the less-fortunate chance of obtaining new mods or Prime weapons or Prime Warframe parts.
Something I’ve found impossible in other titles with the exception of Blizzard’s MMO World of Warcraft that allows you to pay for your time with in-game gold in order to keep playing instead of paying with your hard-earned money in order to play. The downside to this is how much time a single player will be clocking in on a daily basis in order to play the Auction House in order to sell their items as well as completing daily quests in order to save up their gold.
But that’s just one minor example of how games are (or aren’t) trying to adapt to a model that is more consumer friendly. Technicalities; I know; you’re tired of them. However, I felt something was missing when I began to drudge over all the facts. Something was still missing. What is it? What had I not taken notice of in the hours that I darted about Cetus or went bashing in the skulls of numerous Corpus?
It didn’t dawn on me until later as I stood in my – now empty – clans dojo looking about. Man does that thing need to be reorganized badly. It was inclusiveness. It’s the fact my friends and I had a place to call home. We had a place that was ours inside of this little digital world. A place that we customized to be our little “place in the void”.
It’s about making a game for the fans by the fans. It’s about letting them know they are heard and that their feedback is appreciated. Something we don’t often see in games like Overwatch, The Elder Scrolls: Online or Destiny 2. Sure, we have small things such as clans now, we have the ability to do missions on some of them together, but even then there’s a place for it all and Warframe took the risk of inclusion and delivered upon that promise.
On a technical level, there’s a lot of developers that can learn from Warframe in order to improve upon their games, to allow for their games to grow, and ultimately allow players to feel like they actually matter. On a technical level, Warframes biggest feat is that it’s for the gamers, by the gamers, and inherently, everything is free for players to earn with just a bit of time and patience.
Until then, it seems the industry has a lot to learn from Warframe and why the Digital Extremes-developed title remains so successful and constantly steps ahead of itself with every major update that includes various stories, bits of lore and major plot points as it evolves.
“It’s about making a game for the fans by the fans.”
Warframe is a premium free-to-play title that can be downloaded PC via Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One today. Some features may require an Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus membership to access.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.