Last year the developers of free-to-play third-person-shooter Warframe made some bold changes to its core level design when they introduced the Plains of Eidolon expansion. The new open-world environment was a pivot from the game's level-based design, but it was a gambit that paid off. Warframe even won Shacknews' Most Improved Award for the accomplishment. I had a chance to correspond with Digital Extreme's Live Ops and Community Director Rebecca Ford to get some details on the latest Shrine of the Eidolon update and find out what the future holds for Warframe's expanding universe.
Last year your team introduced Plains of Eidolon. How long was that in development before you revealed it? What were some of the major challenges you had to overcome to integrate it into Warframe? And where do you go from here?
Plains of Eidolon was conceived in March 2017. We had talked about a variety of ideas at the end of 2016, but work really started in March 2017.
There were all sorts of challenges! Before Plains of Eidolon, our tech hadn’t been used to generate the square mileage needed for the Plains. We hadn’t used real-time lighting in a constant diurnal/nocturnal system before. We had never collectively created an open world game before. So, we had to challenge ourselves to rethink how to create Warframe in this newer, bigger world. We had to rewrite our engine code to accommodate the new size, new lighting, and activity we planned for Plains of Eidolon. And then once we delivered it, we hot-fixed it a few times, added new content such as events and minor updates. And then we fixed it some more.
The future is planetary! Specifically, Venus. If you liked Plains of Eidolon, we’re creating an open world playing experience similar to it on that tumultuous, violent cloud-filled planet. I can’t say much more than that, but you might find some speculation on our forums about it.
You recently added two new Eidolon into the environment. What's the process like for developing new Eidolons and what steps are taken to keep each a unique experience?
With the two latest Eidolons, we started with the angle that these would be variants. While we do have a completely new flying Eidolon in development, the two we released with ‘Shrine of the Eidolon’ are bigger and more dangerous variants of the
Each is unique in its own way. The Gantulyst is similar, at first, to the first Eidolon, or
Another feature that's been added recently is customizable living quarters for Tennos. Where did this idea come from? Was it something fans had been asking for?
We added player ships years ago and had these locked off doors that we’ve slowly been opening over time. This last door, now that it’s revealed, brings a more habitable side to the place we call home in-game! We’ve added a lot of player requests to it, like fish tanks, as well as a bit of an Easter Egg for higher-rank players with a quest prologue. Right now we’re trying to balance this room for both free and paid players since customization can strongly favor those who spend Platinum! Perhaps the new Eidolon variants have a secret drop for players to use in decorating…
One thing I've always loved about Warframe is that character designs aren't afraid to get abstract and really go beyond the somewhat boilerplate customization options of other games. Has there ever been anything too abstract to make into the game? Are there any more creative designs heading our way soon?
To be quite honest, we’ve kind of freely embraced the abstract. The hardest thing to do (SPOILER) has been to integrate Tenno characters, which are distinctly human-looking children, into this world. We have some of the most imaginative artists in all areas working on Warframe which has somehow allowed us to have cohesiveness in the abstract. The environments truly support what characters we have. Each Warframe is distinct to their theme too, even with all the customizations! There are some pretty incredible character designs coming in future quests and Warframe offerings.
What's been the key to attracting new players who might not have necessarily known about your game before?
To be more concrete, a few of the keys to making Warframe “fun” for new and experienced players alike comes down to its fundamental gameplay. We would like to think the game feels good in your hands. Your Warframe’s ability to physically zip around the room, corkscrew through the sky, slide while slicing enemies legs off – that control over the Warframe’s movement is super important to us. We would like to think that new players would immediately like to explore all the moves across all of the 34 Warframes – there is a lot of variety, a lot of Warframes that suit a range of player combat styles. Playing with three other friends is also vital to us. Warframe is a 1-4 player cooperative game, and in our minds, playing it with friends makes it more than just fulfilling objectives. It’s about experiencing the game. The amount of content we output is heavy, and that would attract me if I were new to it! Plus, hey! It’s free. That makes it hard to really ignore. Why wouldn’t you sit down with three other friends and play this unique looking space ninja game for free?
You recently announced Tennocon 2018 for July 7th of this year. Can you share any plans for events or panels that fans can look forward to?
Good question, and it’s something that we cannot reveal just yet because it’s all in the works – still being mulled over. What I can say is that now, in our third year of