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On Flow In Warframe (Narrative/skill/sound Feedback)


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TL;DR - Feedback proposing increased emphasis on narrative technique, sound/visual feedback and a skill based rating system on levels.

    I'm a relatively new Warframe player, Steam says 156 hours played in about 3-4 weeks, and to my relief the intensity of the time I'm spending on it has plateaued. Firstly I want to share just how good I think the game is, and to say thanks to the developers for their hard work in making something this ambitious, and for doing so with a spirit of open-ness with the community. I've been gaming for long enough now to recognise and appreciate a healthy relationship between developers and community,  and right now Warframe has that sensation of cresting a wave, the start of something exciting that has the potential to grow, like early WoW or CS pre-1.4.


    To that end the feedback process whilst it's still in beta is crucial, and it's obvious with the Q and A's, forums and reddit that the devs take this very seriously. There's already a ton of high quality feedback amongst the inevitable cries from those with a sense of entitlement, and I think there's a lot of smart players that want to see the game improve focusing on progression, class and weapon balance, and functionality in general. To me personally I think it's more interesting to focus on a different area, which is the flow of the game itself.


    It's important for me to point out I primarily use an Xbox controller to play (though hacking, item use, rolling, sprint being a toggle rather than a modifier all need iterating on), and that can have a fundamental impact on how the game feels, highlighting different concerns to PC controls. On a joypad precision of control is sacrificed with regards to orientation, reflected in aiming, but you gain tremendously in movement flow, which greatly helps in melee. I play Ash and Rhino on a pad, and Banshee and Volt on mouse/keyboard. Using a pad can highlight elements of the game where flow is lacking, and could be easily bolstered without necessarily adding new content, which I feel would enrich the game, and I'm going to focus on three areas.




    In my opinion narrative's importance in providing context, and therefore immersion in the game world, can't be overstated. Elements are already in place in Warframe but feel inconsistent and disjointed, asking a lot of us as players to bridge the gaps you've left. Some of that lends itself to mystery, and that definitely works for something like the orikin, but enough of it happens at the base level to hurt the core experience. The problem seems to be that there is an intended story, but its not currently being coherently communicated across the game.


- Plot points like the Tenno/orikin origins, the grineers background and conflict with Lotus, reasons for the infested existing etc. are intriguing, but vague. Characterisation still seems too broad and generalised, giving way to cliché and irreverant humour rather than capitalising on the personality the game already has with a sense of conviction.


- The idle speech of the grineers, the  boss taunts, Stalkers mysterious appearance, the relationship between a Frames ability to an orikin designed environment, the difference in personality of the factions tilesets - these all communicate the world to me and lend a depth to the game that I appreciate, fostering that personality.


- Missions feel repetitive and mentally get broken down into objective/faction vs. time/farming efficiency, totally undermining any impact or immersion in the setting. An easy solution to this I'd suggest would be to expand on planet maps, not just so we have a sequence of lines and dots, but an actual planet maps (maybe even spherical) where we can see the tangible relation between missions in a given environment (mobile defence at 'crossroads' works, but why not ice/fire missions on ice/fire planets?). On top of this I think there needs to be increased individuation of each level itself, rather than just the boss levels.


- With regards to item descriptions all you need do is look to Dark Souls. Right now those little item text boxes ability to convey/suggest huge amounts of embedded story and intrigue, and their placement within the world, is not being fully exploited. Doing so would lend a sense of context for each weapon, and incentivise collection of these and foster a community effort to dissect and explore the embedded story, which is exactly what happened with the Dark Souls community (shout out ENB).


A coherent narrative frame and implementation echoes throughout a games whole design, and I can feel it lurking at the moment in a state of ambiguity, where I want it to be expanded and embedded within everything I do, providing context for all my actions and creating a reason to pay attention to every element/asset.

Rating System


    Continuing the notion of reinvigorating existing content rather than simply providing constant new content (a race eventually lost against a big community imo) is where a rating system would fit well. I don't mean a personal score, I mean a score for each mission which matters, like seen in games such as Devil May Cry. There's a tremendously good sensation of flow and skill to the core combat in the game, and yet there's no incentive to push that in absence of PvP. The game could still be PvE focused and do that by giving us challenge 'modes' to existing content, with rewards to give us incentive (like WoWs eventual achievements in instances).


    A simple idea would be to create a skill assessed system focusing on the core mechanics already in place, that would contribute to a 'rank' at a missions end which would confer a certain reward (not just credits, more like a void key/potato for S rank all mission on a planet?). The game is already fun to play and has an arguably high skill ceiling, and I want an incentive to push for it. Challenging our skill as well as our time investment should breathe new life into the game, and give us something to work towards that isn't just incentivised by constant loot novelty. As a player who prides myself on skill I will want an 'S' rank on every mission if the difficulty is balanced well, and if this conferred some kind of visual reward or distinction reflected on my frame even better (medals?).


Suggested criteria below;


- Damage Dealt/Style/Combo
Extension upon the properties of attacks to make them chainable, and all have a specific use. Right now jumping attacks and charging attacks dominate, with little discernible use for dash attacks and executes. Make us chase a combo ranking that keeps us attacking/pressing forward at all times.


- Kills/Detection/Time
Not sure about time on this one, as stealth should be a slow, considered affair as much about patience as skill imo. Standard stealth stuff; bonus for no kills or detection, ghost status.


- Time/Style/Combo
Probably the most obvious to the design, a speed rating centered around momentum would fit this game perfectly. Give us points for tricks/style, for efficiency of movement and make that wave dash like a manual to maintain the combo!


    Prey on peoples instinct towards personal pride of achievement, not just in acquisition of loot but also in their effective utilisation of it (especially at max rank balls to the wall play which is currently about the most fun you can have in Warframe - go fast or go home), and you encourage a different response. Make us maintain a consistent performance across a mission, chained together into a singular sense of flow, whether that be combat, stealth or speed based. Give us a melee combo counter, some stealth feedback and maybe use something like wave dashing as a 'manual' from THPS2 to chain together speed runs/tricks. In co-op make this cumulative over the players rather than competitive, thus encouraging group coherence. Challenge us to get better at playing your game, and we will.




    The last area I think has been somewhat overlooked is in the visual/audio immersion and feedback, at least to some extent. The visuals in this game can be stunning, and there are some amazing artists working at DE, that much is obvious. If anything I think it's currently the visuals which make the game so distinct, and the recent clan dojo and orikin additions only served to highlight how talented the team are. Having said that...


- Visual feedback could be extended/linked to the rating system, i.e if you maintain a certain levels of speed you start to get 'trails' like the excalibur superjump bug where the effect would remain. If you remain in stealth the screen could take on a blue hue as seen in games like Chronicles of Rid$&*^, and if you maintain melee combat for long enough your blade could start to glow red/get trails.


- The sound definitely needs work to lend immersion imo. The sound effects are incredible, props to the sound guys (firing the Hek and Lex alone make this worthwhile). The voices of the factions are distinct, and work. I think the main trouble here is in Lotus herself, and her phenomenal repetition which means you almost immediately turn her off. Those unique phrases spoken by the enemies are appreciated and frequently make me laugh, which inherently gives the game/enemies personality, and I hope to see more of that ("I'm bored out of my mind here" - seconds before death is always funny).


- The music needs work in my opinion. Currently there seems to be a good idea poorly implemented, that is to say a fusion of tribal/technology which sits in line with the Tenno and overall feel of a combination of archaic and modern. At the moment it's clear the cues for the raising and lowering of tempo aren't very fleshed out, and improved this would create a better singular flow. I want to need the music, and to appreciate how it lines up with the tone and context of the on-screen action, to lend depth to the experience in a way anyone whose played a Rockstar game will know. I personally listen to/mix a lot of dubstep which is a genre that dominates the tribal sound (

) and the machine sound (
), and in comparison Warframes current soundtrack just appears to need a little more influence/expansion, which would make me want to immerse myself in the moment to moment play, rather than doing constant resource calculations in my head.


    I think sound is often overlooked in terms of importance to the depth of a game, which serves to make those games that do work hard for it all the more appreciated. Make me want your OST.



    I want to make it clear that I already love this game, that it's the first free to play I've ever paid money towards, and that I feel a great sense of investment with it already. The open-ness with the community, the fact DE are independent and the smart design which combines statistical complexity with excellent gameplay all fill me with a sense of hope and confidence about the future of Warframe, and I think DE deserve recognition for those decisions. Most of my criticisms are born of the frustration that I want the game to be the best it can be both for myself as a player, and for the developers that are clearly deserving of success.


    DE have demonstrated thus far that they're worthy of our trust in terms of content design and expansion, and the community already seems to be all over feedback into iterative balance changes. Personally I think if they want to expand and maintain the audience they've got to make us want to play for more than just constant loot upgrades or they'll go the way of WoW where it eventually became absurdly transparent, devaluing the experience and ultimately undermining the joy of playing the game itself. It's obviously a balancing act, but right now it feels like the game has working model of new content/incentive to acquire items, but not enough incentive in terms of enjoying existing content/personal skill development.


    Reinvigorating existing content would re-shift the focus away from being so heavily centered on the menu screens and back towards the moment to moment of the game itself, where the immersion in the world itself actually occurs, and where things like audio feedback, momentum and narrative serve to keep you enjoying the game rather than worrying about where your next item is going to come from.


Thanks if you bothered to read all of this, and thanks to DE for Warframe!

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