Monday, July 9, 2018

If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Bridge... : Warframe

I have no reason to be playing Warframe. For starters, it's a space-based shooter, a two-for-one combo that misses me coming and going. And anyway, isn't it five years old or something? I've managed to live without it until now. You'd think I could just carry on the same way.

It's not even as though Warframe had slipped under my radar somehow and I was just now discovering it. Several bloggers I read have mentioned it in passing. One or two have posted on it extensively.

Over the last few years I've skim-read a lot of impenetrable detail on the game, most of which I neither understood nor tried to. I've looked at endless dull screenshots of suits of armor, each indistinguishable from the next. Glanced at pages of incomprehensible statistics, briefly, then moved on.

If you'd asked me, which why would you, since I've never even mentioned the game, I'd have said, vaguely, that I thought it was some niche, indie thing that hadn't found an audience. I'd have been wrong. Often am.

Hi! My name's Generic Alien Overlord #179. You may remember me from, well, pretty much anything.

A week or two ago I read somewhere that Warframe is very popular. Like really popular. It surprised me. Keen apparently read the same thing and it surprised him, too, because yesterday he asked "Why Do People Play Warframe?".

Supposedly they do. It's not Fortnite but it's popular enough to have its own convention, Tennocon. I don't think any MMOs I play do that, not any more.

In the comment thread to Keen's post, several people whose names I know and whose opinions on gaming I respect popped up to praise Warframe. One of them was Jeromai, who also posted on his own blog, Why I Game, to reveal he was up at six a.m. on a Sunday to get a Warframe freebie from Twitch.

So I downloaded the thing. I mean, what the hell, why not? If it's worth waking up at 5.30am for... And anyway, it looked as if it might be a bit like Firefall and I liked Firefall, even if I never really got that far with it. Warframe is F2P, after all. Even if I download It's not like I have to play it.

Making an account was quick and painless. The worst I can say is they did seem a bit over-zealous in getting me to re-enter the password at every opportunity. Well, three times. Maybe it was twice. Okay, probably not worth mentioning.

To quote Darren and Emma, "Look at what you can't have now"

I was surprised to find a full set of Beta terms to sign up to. Five years and still in beta? Is that right? I scanned the text. It seemed okay so I accepted it. Then there was an EULA. Skim-read that. Seemed standard, clicked it.

The download took about twenty-five minutes. I passed the time doing some quests in EQ2. When the PLAY button lit up it was really time I should have been heading to bed but I don't work Mondays so I logged in.

Making a character took a minute, if that. Nothing to do but pick one of three choices as a starting Frame. No appearance to ponder, not even a color scheme. One of the choices was flagged perfect for a new player so I went with that.

From there it was straight into an all-action Tutorial that reminded me very much of the original DCUO introduction. Run through tunnels and rooms with disembodied voices either yelling at you or cajoling you. Click on this, shoot that, crouch, jump, fumble. That last one was just me.

Yeah, y'think so? Or maybe just not bother?

It was one of those tutorials where you can't fail, I think. Or die. I was about as deft on the keys as a gannet playing the clavinet but I got through somehow. It  didn't feel like it took all that long but I didn't enjoy any of it.

Several times I had that familiar feeling of anger against the game, where what I most wanted to do was hit Escape, log out and uninstall. I often get that in new games, though, especialy when the controls are unfamiliar. I know to ride it out.

I came closer to quitting for real in the peace and quiet of my own ship. There were precisely two interactable items in the closed and locked craft and I wasn't able to interact with either of them. If I suffered from claustrophobia (as many gamers do) I would have quit there and then. Would have had to.

Instead I tabbed out and googled for a solution. Some results suggested I'd run into a known bug (well, it  is Beta, after all). Nothing suggested an answer to my problem. I tabbed back in and tried again. Still nothing.
If at first you don't succeed, hit it with a hammer.

And then by sheer luck, as I tried the same thing that hadn't worked the last twenty times, I happened to do it differently. When the game says "X Install Segment" in that specific location, apparently it doesn't mean "Press and Hold X", which is what you do earlier in the Tutorial (and as I discovered later in the Missions). Oh no!  It means "Lightly tap X and then get your finger the hell away from the key as fast as possible".

Once I did that it all started happening. With Communications up and running I was able to set out on the next stage of my great adventure. I looked longingly at the planetary options. Jeromai quite correctly surmised I'd have been happier trying the newly-announced "open world" content but one doesn't just stroll into Venus.

Instead I did Missions. Starter Missions. Choice of one. Did that. Then another. Did that. More running through tunnels. More shooting people, more being yelled at.

I ran and got a thing and ran back and stuck it in my ship. I broke a guy out of jail and he gave me a blueprint for another thing and told me to make it. I haven't worked out how to do that yet. There's a lot of plot and it's staggeringly unoriginal but it rocks along. There's a lot of voice acting and it's equally unoriginal but it's also kinda rockin'. Not bad at all. My own character seems flavorless in the extreme but the NPCs have style.

Insert "What a Cat Hears" meme here.
I'm not sure if this is still the Tutorial. I think it must be. It seems almost infinitely forgiving. I still have no idea what I'm doing but I didn't seem to be anywhere close to failing either of the missions. My boss/operator/owner/fan club keeps telling me to do things a certain way - don't get seen, don't trip the alarms - and I ignore her and rush in like a berserk robot and it still seems to go my way. The bad guy keeps threatning me. I ignore him. Ditto.

Thus far I would not say that Warframe isn't fun. It is fun. It isn't my kind of fun but it's the kind of fun I can recognize when I see it. I might even be able to have some fun like that - in very small doses.

I thought Warframe might be a bit like Firefall and it is. Actually it isn't. It's a lot like Firefall. I liked Firefall. Well, I liked some versions of Firefall. The problem with Firefall was that it was never the same game two log-ins running. Red5 kept changing it and mostly they made it worse.

Jeromai says of Warframe "It’s been improved since it first’s gone through a number of layered iterations..." so maybe it's the anti-Firefall. A game that gets better the more the devs work on it? I guess it could happen.

Fade to cyan

Anyway, I haven't unistalled Warframe and I'm not going to. I'm past the "I don't know how to do this and it's frightening me, Mummy, make it stop!" stage. Now I'm in the "I don't know how to do this but I reckon I can wing it" stage. If I keep playing, which is unlikely, I'll eventually hit the "Y'know, I really should learn how you're supposed to do this properly" stage at which point I'll be pretty nearly hooked.

I think what I need is a Frame or a build that lets me use nothing more than WASD, Left/Right Mouse and maybe two other keys, preferably F and X. That's about the limit of my action gaming skills. Okay, maybe Number Keys 1-4 for special attacks provided all they do is extra DPS so I can just hit them randomly in a panic once in a while.

That, in a nutshell, is how I play DCUO. If I could play Warframe that way I might indeed play Warframe. Now and again. Once in a while.

I do quite like it so far...


  1. Speaking of Firefall, Mark Kern had this to say of Warframe recently:

    1. Interesting! I'd forgotten all about the awkwardly named Em8er. Another one to keep an eye on.

  2. Seeing as they haven't even created the update for the announced Venus content yet, that'll take some doing to get there. :)

    Warframe is kinda like GW2 in the sense that it doesn't really guide you towards anything and leaves you to figure out what you want to do on your own.

    I'm still squarely in the "I don't know how to do this and I have no clue how to start, why are there no current updated guides I can understand?" stage for most things myself. Warframe is pretty darned esoteric that way.

    I'd suggest you should at least aim towards checking out Cetus/Plains of Eidolon - which should be located somewhere on Earth - before dropping the game. That's the 'new'-ish Landscape that feels somewhat different from the more claustrophobic tilesets.

    1. I definitely won't drop Warframe - any more than I've dropped the last fifty MMOs I was playing but somehow haven't logged into for several years...

      I just googled how to get to Plains of Eidolon and apparently all I need to do is complete the first questline, Vor's Prize. I looked at the walkthrough for that and it seems fairly short so I should be able to do that, I reckon. I like the graphics in the tunnels - th erain and water effects are good - so outdoors ought to be worth seeing.

  3. According to my Steam achievements, I created a mod for a weapon on Nov 27th, 2013. I assume that must've been after whatever kind of tutorial there was back then.

    My next achievement, "play for 2 hours", is marked March 24, 2016. I get "play for 10 hours" in June 2017.

    At this point I've put 50 hours in but I still really don't understand the game. Unlike you I go in very stealthy, so it takes me around an hour or so to clear a single mission. I chose what I believe must be the worst suit in the game to start, so I probably didn't get that "good for new players" mark. I have a huge slew of "mod" cards, which I don't really know how to properly use. I have fewer weapons than I'd really like, and most of them seem rather ineffective. I signed up with a corporation of merchants, and now a different cell of ninja seem to think I'm actually Satan in disguise because they keep sending people to kill me mid-mission. I made a hang glider that works in space but every time I deploy it I die almost instantly.

    Warframe is fun but please don't expect it to get MORE understandable.

    1. In theory I like games and settings that explain little and let you work it all out for yourself. Or I used to. I don't seem to have quite the patience for it that I once did. I definitely prefer it to a lot of expository dialog and a forest of tool-tips though.

      The suit I chose is The Excalibur. I almost took The Volt because it looked like a ranged option but in the end I decided to go for the one that looked closest to easy-mode. Seems to be working so far...

    2. I ended up taking "Mag", which has the abilities to pull people over onto the floor, root them, lower their shields, or pull people over but harder this time.

      In practice I've found surprisingly few situations where gosh I really wish that dude was on the floor right now, although there was a mission with tower-based snipers where it was terribly satisfying.

  4. The only times I've truly enjoyed playing Warframe was doing so with a group of friends. The solo play of the missions is fine. The group play with strangers is fine. But they both make yearn for better content (such as a single player game or pure co-op).

    However, with friends all of the Warframe combinations kind of feel like League of Legends with all of our different abilities at work. With the team aspect, it gave me more of a drive to shoot for certain combinations (and playing different Warframes is IMO critical to the enjoyment of the game).

    I can see how others would enjoy it as a standard solo or PUG MMO, but that was what got me the most mileage.

    1. I got auto-teamed with another player in two missions yesterday, which confused me. I hadn't realized that was a thing. I had to drop the squad before I got pulled into the third mission because my partner was going so much faster than me and I wanted to explore. I can see the potential for group fun though.

  5. I was a bit surprised to see Warframe in the top rankings for Top Sellers and Most Simultaneous Players in the stats announcement that Valve did at the end of the Steam Summer Sale. But then I went back and looked at Valve's Best of 2017 list ( ) and it was there as well. Seems to be surprisingly popular five years in. I might have to look into it once the currently commencing WoW binge fades.

    1. Yes, it seems to be a bit of a sleeper hit. We don't see too many of those in gaming.

  6. I have a friend who's played it off an on for several years. I didn't even know what it was, never heard of it other than when I saw Steam saying he was playing it, and he was always pretty casual about it, saying he liked to pop in few a few minutes a couple of times a week to "run a mission" for 5-10 minutes.

    Last December I was in "maintenance mode" on FFXIV and decided that since I had to take a week off work to burn out my vacation time for the year I had a lot of free time, so I figured "why not give this game Jason plays a try?"

    I was prepared to buy it as an early Christmas present to myself, but found it was F2P. This me think it was gonna suck -- I've never really liked F2P games. It took me about a week after I downloaded it before I finally gave it the college try and found I was in a shooter.... which type of game I've never really cared for either.

    And yet here we are now and I just got my 200-day login reward, I'm MR23 and still enjoying the heck out of the game. Somehow it grabbed me but good.

    I'm pkudude99 in-game (pc master race, of course) so feel free to send me a friend request. I'm on most evenings, and I'll be happy to play with you and show you things, toss a few mods at you that can help you early on, that kind of thing. If you want, of course. If not... I hope you like it and keep playing, but if not, that's how the cookie crumbles, right?

    FWIW, here's my 1st Impression post I made after playing it for a week or so, if you care to see what I though of it back then.

    1. Thanks for the offer. I'm not finding much time to play Warframe right now although I definitely like it enough to keep trying. I'll keep your kind offer in mind if I get stuck, which is pretty likely to happen. I certainly like it a lot more than the beta I downloaded yesterday and may or may not get time to post about this weekend. Of course, that one hasn't had the benefit of being in beta for five freakin' years!

      (Way to go on putting a working link in the comments! Really good if people can do that - I always think I should go back and edit the links in when people include urls but I rarely get around to doing it).

  7. I've read a lot vicariously about it. I even downloaded it back in February but only played it the once. It's very slick to play, lots of movement and nice controls, but I'm not sure small-team pug gameplay is for me - same issue I had with Destiny. If I had a solid group of friends to play with I'd probably be all over it, but my usual group aren't into first-person shooters.

    I just played it again now for only the second time and was at the "go do stuff" stage post tutorial. So I joined a couple of different coop maps. Actually the defence one was particularly good fun - simple objective and increasing difficulty with each repeat run. That said, from what I've read via Nomadic Gamers' blog, it sounds like a very grindy endless-gear-up game - so not my thing long term.

    1. The PUG missions really remind me of DCUO. I feel confident enough there to do them but I wouldn't say I enjoyed it. In Warframe it's going to take a lot longer than a couple of sessions before I feel comfortable hot-grouping with people. Probably not going to put in enough hours for that to happen but you never know...


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