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Skills, Plat Use, and WarFrame Thus Far.


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On Black Friday, there was a sale on the Mass Effect Trilogy for Origin for $24. I previously refused to use origin, because let's face it: it's basically a less relevant form of Steam, which I already have a ton of content on. Well, it’s been about 2 months since then and I can say with complete certainty that the multiplayer in ME3 is glorious. Being a TCG player, I enjoy the aspect of packs, but all around the squad mission game play it offers is rather fun. So, when I heard about WarFrame from my roommate, I was rather excited. So far, I am enjoying the beta, enough to have contributed to the founder program. There are a few things that I would like to bring into the open (not that they have not been discussed before, but my general opinion on some of the mechanics and features in the game).

First and Foremost, the Skills and Energy in Warframe seem rather strange, from a design perspective. To elaborate, I think that skills (in this day and age) are a vital part of games. They are what set First Person / Third Person Shooters apart from games with substance (No offense FPS Fans). People play games with skills in them because they enjoy more than just the shooting aspect of these games (otherwise why not just play CS / COD / Halo). Now, it is clearly not fair of the community to have expectations of WarFrame, a game in its closed beta stage, to have a polished skill system like ME3 or other games of its nature, but looking at the current design choices, it appears that there is a clear direction we may be headed with this system. My use of ME3 as a comparison is simply a forward look. Again, I am happy at this stage of the beta with the game as a hole, but looking at the community and learning / using parts of successful games has been important for a very long time.

Let's break it down:

A: Each of the Warframes currently has 4 unlockable skills. These skills, in the instances I have play tested, have no real synergy. This is not the case for all of the warframes, but with many of them it does seem rather prevalent. As a comparison, there are 3 abilities unlocked by most of the classes in the multiplayer section of ME3, and in the majority of cases, they have some sort of synergy (or at least squad synergy). In ME3, the skills have slight cool downs and their cool down duration is used balance them. I have no real issue with four skills over three, but with our current trees, the inability to see what each does specifically (or what the boosts do when you add them) makes it very hard to know what is worth using in tandem with our current energy system.

B: Skills each have an energy cost: This mechanic on its own, is a fine thought. The problem that appears in WarFrame is that the energy system seems poorly conceived. There are a couple of good reasons I say this.

1st: Abilities generally cost a great deal of energy. Once you reach the later levels of a frame, you do end up getting a substantial boost to your pool size, but currently @ Level 30, the maximum is quite low (200 for most frames). This can severely limit the usefulness of very interestingly designed warframes (like Loki / Ember), which rely on energy as an important part of their play style.

2nd: How energy is obtained is rather hard to deal with. The drops seem all to frequent when you are not using any energy, but when you use but a single skill, you find yourself wishing a locker would have just one orb in it. Now, in the games that I have played with friends / others, I notice when one person loots an orb it disappears, so playing with a group of people all vying for the same resource turns people off to the game a great deal. Party synergy at this point is having the person with the worst weapons play the frame with the best abilities, because frankly, each player using skills is a waste.

Through Reading these forums, and thinking about experiences I've had in games, there are a couple things I can think of that might improve this system. 1: Design some form of kill incentive. For example, a mod that could be placed in weapons that grants an amount of energy when killing an enemy (1-10 energy perhaps). War Frame mods that actually add regen. You don't need to make it something everybody has. Some people actually enjoying shooting more than using skills, so they could focus their frames on things like armor / shields. 2: Just use ME3's system, and not just for skills, but for enemies (to balance out).There is nothing wrong in admitting a game has done something well. ME3 is easily the most fun / polished game in its series, and having cool downs on skills is actually pretty fun. Sure, some of the classes are a bit more skill based than others, but for the most part there is a good amount of both gunplay and skill use in ME3's multiplayer. The balance to this in Mass Effect is the aggressive behavior of certain enemies. I can already tell that you have begun to move and upgrade the aggressive behavior of enemies in recent patches (example: Infested in the Earth missions I'm currently on are nothing like the ones in Venus or Mercury. There are WAY more of them and they are relentless.). This sort of programming allows for abilities to have cool downs.

Next, I believe that there are a good deal of players worried that the "Pro" system in this game will alienate people who are a very important demographic in F2P games. The current community outcry is "Pay to Win = bad". Although I tend to agree, there are a handful of things that could be changed to affect this system in a positive way.

1st: It is important to actually incentivize purchasing things. Let's face it: you are a business and need to make money. So having something like spend plat to get pro versions of things, or unlock them early is an acceptable choice. My personal favorite thing to spend plat on is instant crafting. What an awesome idea. Anyway, adding some form of mission that unlocks once you reach a maximum level (pre-pro) would mean you could do a couple of different things with the entire Warframe system, also making purchasing more relevant (these changes could tie in quite well with an overhaul of the energy / skill system).

1: If only 2 of a classes abilities were unlockable in its normal form (say the worst 2, or maybe 2 that don't synergize very well), then purchasing pro early would allow for you to go straight for abilities that benefited your play style or your teams needs earlier. This would allow for F2P users to stick it out until later, and would further incentivize early purchase of a pro tree with Plat.

2: Keep more than half the mod slots in Pro versions of weapons. If each weapon or WarFrame has 5 mod slots at max level, put 2 on free and 3 on pro (might be what it is right now). Mods are very powerful, and a great way to get people to spend money.

3: These missions would be rather straight forward and could even involve some form of story: at level 15, you need to raid some ship for blueprints for a special upgrade to your armor, or current weapon type. Maybe you need to capture (using the current capture method) a high ranking personnel in a company that makes these weapons, because he has some form of prototype information. There are quite a few things you could do with it. You could even make the missions scale with your level (for instance somebody leveling a new weapon at max level could have much more challenging missions when upgrading).

2nd: Create leveling Milestones that allow you to earn platinum. Every 10 levels you ear x plat, every time you complete one of the random missions inside each normal missing (30 assault rifle kills, 10 melee kills, 3 kills in 10 seconds), maybe you get 5 plat for one of those. It only takes 20 plat to go pro on things, so that would not be unreasonable. Other possibilities could be adding in weekly missions or something, which would allow you to gain it in other ways. Also, many games (Example: Guild Wars 2) have a currency transfer system. if you eliminated the plat cost for things, but just had some form of purchase credits for money setup, you could make it so most things cost some ridiculous amount of credits, which would take hours of game play, or a couple of minutes with a credit card to achieve.

In closing, I really do like where this game has the potential to go. Compared to Mass Effect 3, I think this game already has far superior controls. When playing, I feel truly in control of my character. I like the gunplay, and am looking forward to seeing all the weapons that you add. One thing I would like to see is the ability to do something with mods (upgrade or craft them or something). My friends have great luck with them, and I seem to keep finding the same ones over and over. But I digress. I really do enjoy this game. Keep up the good work.

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These skills, in the instances I have play tested, have no real synergy...

I agree with this. There's no real incentive to combine skills. And with the energy cost to do so, it's pretty hard to do anyway. As you said, 4 people using 1 resource gets pretty crazy, and unless you're playing with friends your Trinity isn't getting all the energy pickups to fuel her energy powers. Funny you use ME3 as an example, because I thought this was how ME3's multiplayer levels should have been instead of a tiny area you just run around in like some circus animal.

On a side note, ME3 was the best gameplay wise. Everything else falls short to me.

...players worried that the "Pro" system in this game will alienate people...

It will. And not just because of the system itself, but because of the community. You see it everywhere, in just about every game. Most people hate carrying others, and I can almost promise for every Premie player there is, there's two who don't buy much or are completely free. Basically what you are doing is segregating a community simply because no money. Its not so bad now at lower levels and this early on, but when you get to the higher levels, every bit of power you can manage is necessary.

There will be free players joining high level games and playing through, doing poorly just because they haven't spent anything on 'Pro' and it's going to &!$$ off Premie players.

Say they all avoid this by only playing with their friends or other Premies. Then it still alienates non-payers and you may as well be running a free only server and premium only server.

Think of it this way. In ME3, Who would you rather have on your team? People with one half-upgraded active power, half the passives on the skill tree, and unmodded weapons? Or people with all skills and passives at the best they can get them and everything is modded to hell?

Because if you pay-gate things like that you're going to get that.

2nd: Create leveling Milestones that allow you to earn platinum...

While a good idea, you still are only talking about the 'Pro' side of things and forgetting the rest of the marketplace. And I hope you're talking about frame levels. Because Ranking up is just ridiculous. My volt's 18ish and i'm still a R1 Initiate.

On second thought, frame levels is pretty exploitable. All you'd have to do is just mass produce frames so you get one of three each day and play it up a bit, sell it, then rinse and repeat. And you can do this while grinding parts for the next couple of frames..

On rank ups, though.. I have what, 10 hours of play-time and i'm still Initiate: Going by the bar, i'd estimate I have another 3-5 hours of playtime being one. After that much time on the first tier, getting 10 plat to rank up to two seems like a bit blah.

I don't see them letting five plat fly on the random missions either. One or two, maybe. Five would mean they're pretty generous since those missions happen a bit. Still, it'd be cool to see.

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