Free-to-play Warframe Follows its Own Destiny
Jul 29, 2017

Source: MMOAH

Digital Extremes manager Steve Sinclair likes to tell a story about the early years of Warframe. He was exhibiting at PAX East in ancient 2013, when a little group of guys from Bungie dropped by the booth. 

Warframe had only gone into open beta. Bungie's Destiny had recently been announced, though details were scant.

"They explained that they loved playing Warframe," remembers Sinclair. "I'm a large Bungie fan, so that meant a lot to me personally."

Both games are commercially effective and popular with large numbers of players. (Destiny is first-person while Warframe utilizes an over-the-shoulder camera.) In both matches gamers upgrade themselves, their clothes and their firearms via experience.

Both games rely heavily on cooperative play against squads of enemies together with factions playing a notable role. They both take role-playing and MMO elements, but with an emphasis on player-vs-environment gameplay.

Destiny is made by a much bigger studio compared to Digital Extremes, with much more financial backing. And though there are those who will fiercely debate the relative merits of each, there may be no doubt that Destiny is a far more beautiful game.

Second, it is free-to-play, and while there is a lot of grinding, the payment model is pretty easy going. Anything players can purchase, they could earn.

Some time later this year, Warframe will introduce the most recent in a long line of upgrades and upgrades. For the very first time, players will have the ability to research an open area where they can team up with friends, and take on enemy squads.

Warframe has generally taken place indoors, on space-ships with a great deal of corridors, stairways and platforms. With the introduction of the Plains of Eidolon update, it presents its original outdoor, open play area, branded as Landscapes.

As Sinclair says, "it's not The Witcher 3" with regard to size, but it is still enough room to shed yourself. The landscape is lush and pretty. Players can roam, fish and seek out components for new weapons and outfits.

There's a day / night cycle, as well as a wide variety of new mission types which are better suited to the wonderful outdoors. Players can also explore a city to be able to do some trading. There are hoverbike-type transports.

This is the sort of item that Destiny has been doing for ages.

It's interesting that both games endured a rocky start, prior to making the adjustments that made them much more popular and critically acclaimed. When Warframe came at 2013, Polygon's inspection characterized it as a typical third-person shooter offering competent gameplay and a good loot system. We gave it a five out of ten.

But the game has gone through numerous developments in recent years since. It is always in SteamSpy's top ten, according to playtime, and contains 30 million registered users. Sinclair explained that about half of its playtime comes from the console versions.

He confesses that "nobody is as surprised as I'm" that the match is still doing well, but that continuous change has been the ever-present challenge.

"We've had to prevent stagnation," he says. "We can't let our players to get tired, or even our own workers. If we don't make changes, they will get tired".

He states that moving the game outdoors has been a significant design challenge for the team, but that fresh open areas are likely to be introduced onto other planets. "We start small and then we send new ideas quickly," he adds.

It is a really different strategy to that used by the behemoth that is Bungie, but it appears to be working. "We're fans of each other's job," says Sinclair. "As demonstrated by Bungie employees falling by our earliest ever PAX Booth and giving us props."

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