There were all kinds of amazing reveals for Warframe this year at TennoCon including Umbra and Hydroid Prime, but nothing else quite lives up to the Plains of Eidolon expansion. The demo teased things like weapon customization, open landscapes, and massive Sentients, but in order to dive in a little deeper we discussed the update with Warframe’s creative director.
Could you please introduce yourself for our readers who might not be familiar with you?
Absolutely. I am Steve Sinclair. I’m a super old crusty guy and I work as the creative director on Warframe here at Digital Extremes in lovely northern Canada.
While at TennoCon 2017, you unveiled the Plains of Eidolon expansion for Warframe. Can you give us a brief overview of the new content?
The Plains of Eidolon demo is a really huge leap for us in many ways. We wanted to do a whole bunch of things with this so I’ll just ram them off. We wanted to create a more open game. We wanted to have landscapes in the game. Before,traditionally playing Warframe, it’s all like a rat in a maze and feels a bit like a dungeon crawler. For this we wanted to have mountains and sun and clouds and day/night cycles that are continuous.
We also introduced a civilian culture. Everything we have in Warframe up to date tends to be on the other side of the gun, as an enemy. This is people that inhabit this world that you’re kind of fighting to protect. We have Cetus, which is their town, and in there you can get missions and craft modular weapons. There’s a lot of stuff in this update, it’s kind of crazy. You can seamlessly transition out of the town and into this open landscape that I hope will drive our players crazy because they’ve never seen anything like this.
What type of technical challenges and visual improvements are going into this expansion?
It’s been one of the craziest challenges. Usually we draw about 500 meters in front of the player and now it’s 3000 meters. We’ve never had real-time day/night cycles. Handling the directional lighting. We’ve also upgraded our renderer to raise the quality bar of the game. We’re here at TennoCon so it’s like our goal is to thrill, surprise and delight these people to keep them playing for years.
You’ve got this crazy new feature: spear fishing. Is there going to be any functionality to it, such as quest requirements, material gathering or mounting fish on your wall?
Yes, actually. A fishing trophy, that’s a great trophy. There’s a little bit of depth there. When we first starting talking about the demo, we had this gorgeous lake and people kept saying ‘we should add fishing to the game.’ They were being sarcastic, but I was kind of like ‘we should try it.’ We didn’t have the cast and reel thing; it wasn’t ninja enough. So of course we added the spear fishing instead.
It’s a resource. There’s a lot of resource collection in Warframe. There’s a lot of crafting. So we’re kind of integrating that into it. For a certain type of player, this will be really fun and sort of interesting to figure out where the best fishing spots are and what the best time of day is to catch specific types. But it started kind of as a goofy joke.
While we’re on the topic of crafting, can you go into a bit of detail on the new weapon customization system?
Usually, in Warframe you have a whole bunch of mods, which are interchangeable or type specific. You have secondary mods that only work on your secondary weapons. There’s hundreds of these things. There’s a ton of interesting customization space but the weapon just looks like and is named the weapon.
For Plains of Eidolon, what we’re doing is there’s an Ostron and it’s Hawks Anvil. He will, if you bring to him components of Ostron weaponry, reconfigure them in all these different permutations. I don’t remember if we’re up to hundreds of permutations, but the idea is that the strike, the grip, and the balance combine to create the statistics, look and handling of the weapon. We think it’s really interesting that players are not just modding their weapons anymore but building them from parts. And the best part of it is that you get to name them, which is such a simple thing but Warframe is so much about that customization. Every aspect of decorating is really important for our players.
During the day the plains are accessible to anyone but powerful beings come out at night. What type of requirements will players need in order to have a chance against these Spectral Sentients?
The design for it is kind of out there. During the day, new players come in and experience the landscape features, fighting Grineer camps. As the sun sets, the half-destroyed ghosts of the Sentients emerge. They’re a multi-stage boss battle. They have very specific weak points and abilities. Our design for that is that you need to be very deep into Warframe. You need to be ‘War Within.’
Without going into spoilers, but there’s a specific type of character that emerges when you get that far into the game. That character, when we have Plains of Eidolon, we actually be able to weaponize themselves and build armor from these same monsters they’re fighting. What’s interesting about that is the Warframe becomes almost like a tag-team with this character. It’s very high-end play. We’re here at TennoCon, I’m meeting all these players who’ve been with us for four years. We really kind of owe it to them to give them a crazy challenge they’ve never faced before.
Player feedback regarding Warframe has generally expressed concern for a lack of challenging PvE endgame. Is this one of the steps to remedy that issue?
Yeah. This is why this exists, it’s to speak to that. ‘We want a challenge, we need something difficult.’ So Plains of Eidolon, as the sun sets, this is for them.
Even though Plains of Eidolon is still 4-player co-op, do you have intentions of creating new open zones that bring even more players together?
We do. Without putting a guarantee on it, we have a feature called Trials in the game, which can be with 8 players. One of the problems is that type of gameplay is so high end and specific. We’d like to expose that size of squad to more players. I think the landscape is the perfect opportunity for that. What we’re going to ship as soon as possible won’t be that. My expectation is just like you say, our players will want more. ‘Open it up.’ Absolutely, that will be something we’ll be working on.
Personally, what is your favorite part of the new content?
Well, it’s a very simple thing. It’s just running through the landscape and seeing the sun come up, and hearing the change in the sounds and change in the lighting. And running through and seeing the Grineer walking through the grass. It’s familiar and yet feels so different. Then the sun sets and the broken moon comes up. All the sounds change and the effects change. It just feels like a breath of fresh air when you’re in that more open space.
If you missed the live demo at TennoCon 2017, you have view it in its entirety above. The MMOGames team would like to thank Steve, and the Digital Extremes team, for giving us a first-hand look at this exciting new content.Related: Digital Extremes, Interview, Shooter, TennoCon 2017, Third Person Shooter, Warframe