Thanks DE, this is very much a step in the right direction. I am certainly in favor of any kind of augment rework because anything at all in this direction would be an improvement! For me personally, I would say that I only use about 10% of the available augments. Not because they aren't cool or interesting but because I simply don't have room. 9 times out of 10, other mods will be better choices than the augments. For this reason I don't think simply buffing existing augments is a long lasting or complete solution. I think the main problem with augments is not their power level but the fact they that they are mods.
Therefore, I propose that we take this opportunity to undertake a complete overhaul from the ground up. This is certainly more of a long term project that requires a lot more discussion, but I do think there is a ton of potential here. With a well thought out overhaul you could address many issues at the same time.
THE PROBLEM: Augments generally fall into 1 of 3 categories: "patching weaknesses", "perks", or "power multipliers" A. augments that in my opinion should have been a part of the ability to begin with (Ice Wave Impedence) and so generally don't feel worth it because the ability itself already feels fairly weak, B. augments that although nice, aren't at all necessary (Ore Gaze) and are more of a perk, and C. augments that are pretty much mandatory to use (Despoil or Regenerative Molt). These "good" augments make up 10-20% of the ones available, while the other 80-90% are not worth slotting in over another mod unless you just enjoy them. They might be fun to use but are generally not worth sacrificing increased power strength, duration, survivability, or range for.
It's worth noting here that the "perks" category of augments don't usually boost damage or survivability directly. Therefore they don't create powercreep. They are also some of the best candidates for inclusion in an alternative system and would be best realized not as mods.
The "power multipliers" should either remain augment mods as is, or be incorporated into the below systems as higher-tier perks. I think many of these types of mods are fine as is because their power level justifies a mod slot.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: There are several directions in which we can take the overhaul, and I'll break them down with some of my own ideas.
Incorporate augments into weak abilities by default.
I feel that many augments were created to patch weaknesses of existing abilities. For abilities that see very little use or are underpowered, why not simply add the augment effect into the ability by default? This would be a relatively simple balance pass across all frames. Some examples of augments that should be incorporated into the ability by default: Bullistic Bullseye, Shocking Speed, Soul Survivor, Hallowed Reckoning, and Insatiable. There are many others but these are some of the ones I personally would love to see incorporated.
While this is certainly an easy fix, I think it also doesn't adequately address the opportunity before us, and I will elaborate below.
Skill tree progression for each Warframe.
With this overhaul, former augments become unlockable perks on each Warframe's skill tree. Rather than just handing out power like candy, why not let us earn that power? Augments for warframes become a part of player progression. A warframe skill tree could look very similar to our existing Focus Skill Tree.
Although this would be a drastic overhaul, if done correctly, I feel that it could really add something to the game. The current system feels very rinse and repeat. You level a warframe a few times to add some standard polarities and you are done. The vast majority of customization is cosmetic. Yes, there's a fair bit of flexibility in mods, but generally, after playing the frame for a while, you arrive at the same conclusions as everyone else. I wouldn't go so far as to say that warframes are cookie cuttings, but sometimes it can feel that way.
Something I've never understood is that the skill progression for a warframe is completely automated other than your choice in mods and polarities. For example, each time you level your frame with affinity your base stats are boosted and your abilities unlocked at the same point each time. Why is this progression automatic in first place? Don't we want to encourage player choice?
A system like this would also allow a player to use multiple augments at once, which is something I've always wanted to be able to to do, but because most augments aren't that powerful they just take up too much modding space. Changing augments from mods into perks eliminates this problem. More powerful augments should still take up more capacity and be more difficult or time consuming to unlock.
A skill tree model of progression allows for some really creative customization options and would reward players for sticking with a particular frame for the long haul. This approach views each Warframe as a unique character with whom our operator can learn and grow. According to lore and quests each operator appears to have had a very intimate and unique connection with a specific frame. They weren't just a "master of all" or a collector of frames. They mastered a specific focus school and a specific frame. Not to say we can't branch out, but my point is that mastering a specific frame should take much longer and be much more involved than it currently is. When I say that my main is Oberon, I want it to mean more than that's the frame I use most often. It should reflect weeks or even months of training, knowing his abilities inside and out and generally maxing out his potential.
This skill tree could be very involved, but I will shoot out a few additional thoughts:
Much of the skill tree could follow the existing automatic stat progression from an unranked to rank 30 frame, however instead of the game system automatically buffing my abilities and stats each time I level the frame, I would get to choose what gets buffed. I would like the possibility to give a bit more health to a warframe at the cost of another stat, say max energy, at least while I'm ranking it up.
There would be additional nodes on the tree for most of the existing warframe augments. For example, you might have the Phoenix Renewal augment as a node on the tree for Oberon's 3rd ability, and it takes a given amount of affinity and/or resources to max it to, say, rank 3.
To keep things balanced, developers could do a few different things: Unlocking some augments might require a rare resource (say an eidolon shard). Some augment nodes might be Mastery Rank locked. I think you will definitely have to re-balance some of the augments so that they can be used simultaneously without making frames too overpowered. Alternatively, for a given frame, you might only be able to use a couple augments at one time, limited by some overall capacity. But the more than you pilot and level your warframe the more of its skills and abilities you unlock.
It gets a bit complicated when you are polarizing your warframe. Re-leveling shouldn't completely undo your progress on the skill tree, but it should give you a chance to re-allocate your affinity. Maybe each time you re-level a frame you gain additional points to spend overall. This would make it more rewarding to re-level. Perhaps you are able to unlock and use an additional augment node each time you polarize up to say a maximum of 3 or 4.
I realize this skill tree progression adds a lot of complexity to the game for newer players. It's possible that this content should be locked behind a quest that has a few different requirements, as much of the other content of this nature is. Once the quest is complete you might need to obtain a certain item to unlock the skill tree for each of your warframes (similar to an Orokin Reactor)
"Void Channeled" abilities
As an alternative to a warframe skill tree, you could add the augments as perks on each focus skill tree instead. The ideal is probably an amalgam of this idea and the one above. Not quite sure what it would look like though.
Something that continues to feel under-explored is the relationship between operator and warframe. Most of the time, due to the sheer power of my maxed out warframes and weapons, I rarely use my operator unless there is a specific reason to do so: for example, stripping shields from eidolons. Many of the Focus tree perks go unused, simply because they are unneeded when all I need to do is spam E with a giant sword and press 4 every once and a while. This strategy works for 90% of warframe content. Any steps toward remedying this problem will be welcomed. One way we can begin to tackle the issue while simultaneously offering a solution to the augment problem follows:
Something that could be incorporated either into the above skill tree idea, or implemented on its own is to be able to "void channel" a warframe ability. Channeling an ability consumes your operator's void energy to augment it. Mechanically, you would hold a modifier key while pressing your ability key at the same time to void channel. Think of this as a parallel to channeling a melee weapon using your warframe's energy pool. The warframe is the operator's weapon after all.
Each ability would be capable of equipping a maximum of one "void perk". These perks would previously be augments, albeit balanced to fit within this new system. So, if you void channeled Rhino's 1, Rhino Charge you would also activate the Ironclad Charge perk if you had that perk unlocked and selected. These void perks could even be tied to specific focus schools and unlockable through that school's Focus tree. Because most warframes have a mix of damage, support, or mixed abilities, only specific perks would be tied to a given school. For example Oberon's Phoneix Renewal perk would likely be tied to Vazarin (support) while his Hallowed Eruption augment might be Madurai. Alternatively, each school would directly govern specific warframes and all of that frame's augments.
Augment mod slot.
I am ultimately not as much in favor of this idea as the above ones but it should be discussed. I know the upgrade screen is getting a little cluttered now, but I think we have visual room for one more slot, if the aura and exilis sots are shifted over. The fact that any additional slots will use that much more mod capacity I feel automatically balances this pretty well, especially since this new slot would only allow augments to be fitted in. It would just require a couple more polarizations and probably not allow Umbral Builds unless you had an Umbra Forma.
Allow augments in the exilis slot
Another solution would be to allow augments in the exilis slot (just like Mesa's Waltz). While I would be less happy with this, it would still be an improvement over the existing situation. There are tons of augments I wish I could use, but using them would simply be worse than not using them. There are also a limited number of exilis mods that are worth slotting in - these being Handspring, Enemy Sense, Power Drift, Cunning Drift, Rush, and a couple others. For many frames I would rather have a useful augment over these.
Future augments should allow frames to fulfill a niche.
When you as developers are designing new augments I think that augments that either fall in the "patching a weakness" or "perk" category will almost always be misses within the existing augment system. I believe that successful augments either allow the frame to do completely unique things or bolster the warframe's strongest ability. When I think of the augments that I actually do use and are able to find room for, Despoil, Regenerative Molt, Mesa's Waltz, Hushed Invisibility, Chromatic Blade, Resonating Quake, Fatal Teleport, Pilfering Swarm, Negation Swarm, Infiltrate, Phoenix Renewal, etc... they fit this criteria.
Warframes that see the most play do things that no other frame can do or do it so well that they are simply the best choice available.
Here is an example of an augment that I would personally love to use:
Garuda's Blood Altar: Blood Altar's radius is tripled. Garuda's blood altar siphons a percentage of kuva resource for all squad members within its radius. (percentage of Kuva gain is proportional to Power Strength)
Garuda as a character is petty awesome, however I feel that she is generally outclassed by other frames at what she does. An augment like this gives her a purpose, similar to a frame like Nekros, Saryn, or Trinity which everyone loves to see in a squad comp. Kuva is a resource that we can never seem to get enough of. Running out of Kuva? Slap this augment on Garuda and go to town!
Here's another one:
Vauban Bastille Augment: On cast, mechanical enemies within bastille's range fight for vauban instead and attract aggro from enemies for the duration of bastille. (Number of enemies affected and their damage boost is affected by power strength. Damage boost affects all mechanical allies as well including sentinels and moas.)
Giving specific frames augmented effectiveness toward certain factions is a good idea. This augment makes vauban one of the best choices for defense against Corpus.