Since its release back in 2013, Warframe has steadily grown out its palette of content and expanded upon the universe with new planets and spaces to explore. Today, the online action/RPG featuring a variety of ninjas in space is among one of Steam’s most popular games, and has built a healthy and loyal following of fans. During Warframe’s official fan centric event, TennoCon 2017, in London, Ontario, Canada, the developers behind the game showed off new footage of the planned future for the game, and it all starts with letting players go back to their roots and explore the places unseen.
In addition to a new story expansion Umbra, bringing in a new narrative quest centered around special gear that was once inaccessible to western players, the developers debuted a live demo of their most ambitious expansion to date–open world exploration for the upcoming Plains of Eidolon update. Both set for release this year, live ops and community producer Rebecca Ford spoke with GameSpot about the growth Warframe has seen over the years, and what players can expect in the future from the increasingly popular free-to-play title.
"Its original beta launch was back in March 2013, and it had a very small selection of characters to play, and maybe six or so environments," said Ford. "We’ve grown considerably since then, adding new frames, new places, a dozen more unique environments–so we’ve taken what works and expanded upon that. Now, we have 33 unique characters, added cinematic quests which are hours long–we built on what worked, and then added what we thought would be cool to have in the game and that people would like. It’s like this evergreen tree, and around it is this forest of content that’s been growing along with it."
In the years since its release, Warframe is sitting comfortably among one of the most played free-to-play titles on Steam, and with launches on PS4 and Xbox One, the fan base has expanded exponentially with the game over its year after year growth. This recent TennoCon, which was the second event held by Digital Extremes managed to have "exceeded expectations every way" said Ford, even putting up consideration for moving next year’s event to a larger location or spreading it out over multiple days. In addition to cosplay contests, panels, and meet-and-greets with developers, TennoCon also hosts a special developer livestream debuting new content for the game.
The upcoming Plains of Eidolon update, which made its debut in front of a live audience, looks to be the most ambitious expansion to the game to date. Players will finally be able to explore an open world setting on Earth, as they protect one of the last colony’s civilians from enemy raids and other hostiles. Seamlessly transitioning from the social space to exploration, your characters will take on quests, acquire crafting materials for the new weapon crafting system–allowing players to create their own unique weapons–explore the many caves and outposts of the open world, and even take part in fishing when you have some spare time.
"What grounded it all was the fact that you never really see the people you are protecting," said Ford. "If you’ve been playing Warframe for so long, you tend to wonder ‘who am I fighting for?’, and that question has maybe been answered in one string of lore or in a quest, but there’s never been a sense of tangible feeling of who are these people in the universe. We want to make the culture real. The town is a piece of that culture, which will eventually lead to a broader understanding of the world and the universe of the game. By going on quests and interacting with these characters, you’re essentially getting a whole new experience as a player."
The new update looks to be a nice change of a pace for the game. While Warframe has gone through a number of gameplay overhauls and updates over the years, Plains of Eidolon is the first big expansion to break away from the conventions of the game’s instanced and fragmented design, which will no doubt be a refreshing switch up for fans. While they’re still keeping more details close to the vest, the new day and night cycle system, which alters the atmosphere and ambience of the world, will also introduce new challenges and opportunities on the fly.
Looking back on what Warframe was back in 2013, the developers and their title have come a long way. It’ll be interesting to see how this new update pans out in the long run with fans. Will this end up being a new beginning for Warframe, serving as a statement for all future updates? They weren’t at liberty to say, but the developers are clearly happy with what they have now with a loyal fanbase and steady community online, which they credit to their choice of sticking with the free-to-play model.
"The free aspect to it all is what’s been working for us, and we always try to distribute content in a way that a free player can get it, and a paid player feel good about spending money on it. The reaction to what we’ve shown has never been such a harmony of schools of thought–for the free and paid players–it really feels like we have an opportunity to solidify for the last time that we are free to play and we’re doing it fairly."