Digital Extremes' Warframe launched all the way back in 2013 as a free-to-play third-person action title for the PC and PS4 (Xbox One players joined in 2014), and since then has garnered a rather large and loyal following, with regular content being added as it's grown.
Since launch, the game has grown in popularity, and with this success has come the brand-new Plains of Eidolon expansion, which adds a plethora of new features. The update included a gorgeous open-world, new quests from the Ostrons, the ability to fly through the open landscape, new options to fish with spears and bait, as well as a new town filled with vendors. Alongside all of this is a new warrior, Gara, as well as various new weapons.
In the wake of this chunky content drop, we caught up with the Digital Extremes VP Meridith Braun, who not only offers her take on where the game is currently at, but who also tells us some interesting things her experience in the gaming industry. So without further ado, here's the latest in our Dev Stories series.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Firstly, can you give us a quick overview of the health of Warframe in general?
Hello, sure! We're approaching nearly five years of non-stop growth with Warframe. It's been an incredible ride along with our players. We're over 30 million registered users and consistently staying a top-ten game on Steam is quite a feat but reaching new heights with the Plains of Eidolon update that nearly doubled our player numbers has pretty much blown our minds.
That's excellent news on the recent numbers. Did they meet expectations?
The response for the update has been well beyond our expectations. We gained a good sense of the potential of this update based on the community's response to the reveal of Plains of Eidolon during our annual Warframe conference, TennoCon, earlier this year. The excitement we felt from the players there showed us we may have something special on our hands. Our previous large updates have performed well in the past so we were expecting similar results but there was no way we could have predicted it would do this well.
Plains of Eidolon is a big expansion, the largest one the studio has done. How long was it in development for?
As a games-as-a-service title, our bread and butter is to move fast and iterate often. Development for the Plains of Eidolon update started earlier this year in March. The first playable demo was shown at TennoCon on July 8 and the PC version was released on October 12, so all told, about seven months. Our team here never ceases to amaze on the quality and breadth of what they deliver on such a consistent basis. And, without missing a beat, they've been polishing up the console version to get it out in November.
The expansion brings a huge open area for players to explore. Warframe players are used to being in corridors or linear maps. What made you develop a vast open area?
It's been in the cards for a while. Development and the game design for Warframe started small with the hopes of growing over time. Procedurally generated levels initially helped us extend the life of our content while we continued ramping up the resources to tackle the more elaborate gameplay concepts. Building Landscapes was the most ambitious goal yet, but Steve Sinclair, our Creative Director, and the rest of the Warframe development team, were determined to see our Warframe ninjas beyond the confines of corridors and continue telling the story of the Tenno.
Will we see any more large open expanses for Warframe in the future?
The short answer is Yes. Our approach to Warframe development has been to experiment and take informed risks on bold new ideas that keep the game fresh. We try something new and expand on it when it's something we see resonating with the community. Once the console community gets their hands on Plains of Eidolon in November, we'll have an even greater idea of how well it's done and where it should go from here.
One of the things that you can do in the expansion is to create your own melee weapons. Will this be expanded on in the future, where people can make their own rifles and shotguns?
Great question, but I don't have an answer for you at this time.
One thing that many Warframe players find fascinating is the lore. What kind of things are there in the expansion that will please fans interested in that side of things?
Plains of Eidolon is an interesting piece of Warframe lore because it's one of the first times the development team has explored an area in the game's universe where the players are actually meeting some of the people, the Ostrons, the Tenno have been defending all of these years.
At nearly any point on the outside Landscape or in the town of Cetus, you can see a massive Orokin Tower standing up above everything else. Sentients once fought on the Plains in an attempt to destroy this Tower that the Ostrons now call home and the Sentients' defeat has been forever immortalised in this ancient graveyard. The most noticeable aspect of this ancient fight takes place when night falls on the Plains. A Spectral Sentient ascends from the waters and wanders in search of all it has lost, and, if you are well equipped and able, you can confront and defeat it!
Plains of Eidolon is already available for PC players. Is there anything you can share about the release date for the console versions?
The team is working hard to get the console version into certification with MS and Sony as quickly as possible. We're aiming for a launch date in November and will announce the exact date once we've passed cert.
Are there going to be any console-specific additions, or will it be the game as the PC version?
All of the content from the PC version will be in the console versions.
Head over to the next page where we leave talk of Warframe behind and find out a bit more about the developer behind the game.
Personally, when you're done making games at the office, are you a PC or console player?
I go back and forth depending on the game but I lean more toward console these days because my kids are just starting up gaming and the controllers are easier for them right now. We just bought a Switch and I'm now fighting for play time with them on Mario Odyssey.
Which types of games do you enjoy the most? Do you play stuff similar to what you make, or do you have different tastes?
I'm kind of all over the place for my tastes in gaming. I lean more toward RPGs generally because I love the customisation, the quests and the exploring like Diablo III. Warframe has become more of my type of game over the course of development which has been awesome to participate in. I also love action-adventure games like Last of Us, Resident Evil, Zelda, Eternal Darkness. One type of game I can sink the most time into though are sim and god games like Sim City. I think I was addicted to Sim City 3000 for six months on a daily basis, I had to uninstall it to get my life back!
What was the first game you fell in love with?
I'm going to date myself here but the first game I fell in love with and quickly mastered was Pitfall on Atari 2600, but I loved nearly every game that I could get my hands on back then - Vanguard, River Raid, Berzerk. Video games outside the arcade and inside your home was a whole new concept back then. I even enjoyed playing the Coleco head-to-head football handheld with my brother non-stop. It grew from there when we got our first Nintendo system - Mario will always hold a big place in my heart. I've played and finished every one of them on every system.
How'd you get started in the industry?
That's a great question. I was living in NYC well into a career in technology PR, but finding it boring and needing something that I could believe in. I was playing Myst: Riven in my spare time and loving it. The graphics had advanced so much over the years, it was incredible to see (mind you this is 1998 I'm talking about). I then got my hands on a PlayStation at a friend's house. He had Pitfall 3D. It wasn't a great game, but the look of it was amazing back then for a console game. Right then something clicked - I would love doing something, anything in the games industry. It had never crossed my mind that there might be a career in it until that point. I began researching the industry, the companies who made games, publishers, etc. I sent my resume around and got my chance with Infogrames, a small French publisher who had recently acquired Accolade in the US. That was the beginning of my career in the games industry. Over 18 years later and still loving it.
With the exception of Warframe, if you were only allowed to play one game for the rest of your life, which one would you go for?
Wow, that's a tough one. Only one?! If I must pick then I'd have to go with my man, Mario in Super Mario Bros. 3 for NES. Wait, no...Sim City 3000.