Update 25: The Jovian Concord – The Review

jovian concord update warframe

Every mainline update to Warframe brings several major changes to the game, whether in the form of new game modes, new warframes, new bosses, or whatever the case may be. Update 25, or the release known as “The Jovian Concord” was one such update. At first glance, it may seem like a minimal change to the game as a whole – essentially it began as a refresh of the tileset itself. Essentially a new coat of paint.

But it turned out to be so much more.

How you may actually feel about the content is up to you, of course, but realistically it can be evaluated from one of two perspectives – that of long- and short-term players. Although I fit well and truly into the long-term player mold at this stage of my Warframe career, I will attempt to review this new content from the perspective of both types of consumers.

Tileset Refresh

The old Jupiter tileset was one of the oldest in the game, and in some areas, it showed. The tiles lacked detail, and often included very simple structures (that were likely not simple at the time the structures were designed). It was also designed prior to Parkour 2.0, so there was little need to jump about the environment – it was very straightforward and enclosed.

The new tileset is very different – far more open, detailed, and complex. But not only does this open up the tileset to more acrobatic maneuvering, it also makes it feel larger and more oppressive.

Resembling the Cloud City from Star Wars, negotiating certain areas can be frustrating – for new and old players alike. Old players may like the challenge, but I expect that more than a few newer players will find the new navigation a little confronting at times.

In addition to all this, though, are a few new obstacles – laser doors that release gas when activated; gas canisters, which release gas into environment over a lengthy period of time; extendable platforms – there’s quite a lot to look out for, which makes it far more engaging and interactable for players.

However, in the end, it’s simply a new tileset. With the exception of Spy missions (which, for older players, are thankfully all new), they still play out much the same once you’ve played through them a few times. And with all-new painfully rare resources (Hexanon, I’m looking at you), farming Jupiter is more frustrating than ever – not only is Hexanon itself a pain in the butt to farm, but it almost feels like Oxium drop rates have reduced as well, or at least it seems harder to farm.

amalgam enemy

New Enemy Type: Amalgams

The Amalgams are precisely what the name implies – a mix of species. Essentially a cross between the Corpus and the Sentients, the Amalgam enemies are somewhat horrific in appearance, most of which resemble insectoid creatures or fleshy bugs. They have their own specific and strange attack patterns, but for the most part, they aren’t overly challenging in themselves. New players may find them challenging initially, but I don’t see that initial confusion lasting for very long.

New Game Mode: Disruption

Disruption is interesting – it’s a new endless game mode, which means that once the initial phase is complete, players can choose to either extract or continue. This is very welcome for more experienced players, especially because the mode is quite fun.

Playing out like a more complex form of Mobile Defence, players need to kill certain enemies (always Amalgam enemies), who will then drop a key that is colour matching to a local console (red, blue, white, or cyan). Taking that key to the console will kick off a Defence phase, along with a random buff or debuff. During this phase, players need to keep an eye out for a specific enemy called the Demolyst, which will hunt down the console with the intention to destroy it with an explosion. If it succeeds, the console is lost. This is repeated four times per phase, with rewards provided at the end.

Thankfully, the console Defence phases are relatively short, and teams that are vigilant for the Demolyst will smash through the phases quite quickly. Further, the buff/debuffs are really what makes this mode most interesting, and I do feel this is a very successful addition to the game – I’d like to see more Disruption missions available.

Newer players will be unable to undertake Disruption missions until they have completed Natah. And when they do, it’s likely to be a complex challenge for them, with enemies scaling relatively quickly in difficulty. But it’s not an easy mission to play without good communication.

On a separate note, Disruption released with an event and Clan Challenge as well – by playing for as long as possible, players were rewarded with new Vandal weapons (Glaxion and Something Vandal, which we’ll touch on later in this article). By playing this A LOT, players could also unlock a statue for their clan dojo. While this did give players a reasonable challenge, acquiring the weapons is not impossible should this event ever return, so I recommend giving it a shot.

wisp warframe

New Warframe: Wisp

Wisp is a frame whose Abilities don’t necessarily match her name – at least not initially. Some of her Abilities are plant-like in nature – with the ability to drop flower-like pods that can attach to allies to provide certain buffs. Others are far more “Wisp”-like – including an Ability to send an ethereal vision of Wisp off in the direction of casting, drawing enemy fire.

In addition, she has a stun that creates damaging motes for every affected enemy, and can channel… the Sun. Yes, she can open a portal to the surface of the Sun, frying all those that lay in her wake.

While these Abilities are somewhat disparate and strange when you initially come across them, it doesn’t take long for most players to come to appreciate them for the power that it provides them. Wisp is both an amazing Support frame and DPS frame in her own right.

Although she is content locked (i.e., you need to have reached a certain point within the game in order to be able to farm for her components), she is most definitely worth hunting down as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

New Boss: The Ropalolyst

The new boss on Jupiter is a brand new Eidolon – a flying variant that has been lovingly referred to as the Flydolon by the community since being originally shown off during TennoCon 2018. However, the fight mechanics are… very different. Rather than rely on players increasing their power in order to smash through a large bullet sponge, players need to work together to complete some very specific challenges that will destroy the Ropalolyst by use of the environment itself – for the most part, at least.

While this is really interesting, and an enjoyable challenge for new and old players alike, it quickly loses its appeal – players will really only need to tackle this boss enough times to collect the Wisp blueprints, and that’s about all… Still – it’s a really different boss fight, and very much provides several hero moments for players to enjoy.

New Mods/Mod Sets

The Jovian Concord brought with it a few new mod sets to play with, and you can read our initial thoughts on them here. From my perspective, though, most of them are somewhat gimmicky – none of the new mods really provide enough bonus to replace something potentially more important in a specific build.

However, I’m not really sure that’s what they are intended for. I get the feeling that DE is providing players with a tool kit for a sandbox – you don’t need to use these mods on long-term Survivals, but if you wanted to just have some fun and try something different, then there’s definitely something here for you.

For that reason, I don’t really feel as if these new mods have newer players in mind. Sure, new players might find them interesting and give them a shot, their limited understanding as to the nuances of certain Abilities may mean that these players miss their value. Older players, on the other hand, can probably immediately see the value in a mod such as Proton Jet, for example, which provides 120% increased Status and Critical Chance on Wall Latch.

For my money, though, the new Amalgam weapon augments are what I was hunting for – particularly the Amalgam Ripkas True Steel, which increases the Ripkas Critical Chance and Gore Factor (I know, right?), while at the same time increasing Reload Speed on Shotguns. I’m sold on that one, personally.

Still, even that mod is fairly niche, with the Ripkas themselves not really being a super popular weapon.

warframe gear

New Equipment (weapons, helmets, armour)

This update brought a whole bunch of new kit – from new weapons and armour, to the Nyx Deluxe skin, and more. However, if we look at the new weapons only (the amazing Fulmin, Komorex, and Cyanex), the Hexanon requirements alone are enough to put off new and old players alike – older players will understand the farming requirements perhaps a little more, while newer players may simply put these weapons off… straight into the “too hard” basket.

On the other hand, the new Vandal weapons (the Glaxion and Spectra Vandal) are much easier to acquire, provided you can get through the challenge set by Operation: Hostile Mergers. The Spectra isn’t really worth writing home about, in my opinion, but the Glaxion Vandal really has some potential to it. Still, I think with 5 new weapons, this was a solid update to the Tenno arsenal.

To be honest, the Jovian Concord added quite a lot of new content to Warframe, but I would probably argue that this is of more value to newer players. Older players, who have already farmed this section of the Star Chart, are definitely likely to come back and check out the new additions, but once they’ve gotten their fill of Disruption and the Ropalolyst (and unlocked their shiny new Wisp and Fulmin, I would suggest), it’s unlikely that they would come back again.

Still, I hold out hope that we will see Disruption modes added to other nodes on the Star Chart, and I especially look forward to seeing Disruption if and when it is ever added to Arbitrations.

Overall, a great addition to Warframe, but perhaps not enough to keep lapsing players from… relapsing.

Tenno Thoughts – The Shift to Cross-Progression

Gamers have long been able to witness the Video Game Multiverse. Initially we were bound within the box that was our console, but as technology has improved, so too has our ability to cross the digital divide. At first this was restricted to only like-for-like consoles serving as the end points, PC to PC, Gameboy to Gameboy, and the like. More and more though, we are seeing the walls between systems erode. Digital Extremes has recently hinted that these fissures in the “garden walls” may now be reaching our corner of the Internet void.

To set the stage a bit, we are about two weeks since the last DE Devstream, which was the last one before Tennocon 2019. During the stream, the team made mention the we Tenno may begin to cross the rift between our platforms through cross-progression. This news also comes at the same time that we are hearing from multiple other game developers that cross-progression and cross-play is either already here or coming. A sign, perhaps, that the platform gatekeepers are now lowering the drawbridges? For many Tenno, moving to cross-progression presents clear opportunity. A chance to make new friends or join those they had been separated from before. But for those of us that already exist on multiple platforms, what is to come and what should we expect?

Really quick to make sure we are on the same page: here is what I mean by cross-progression versus cross-play.
Cross-play I would consider to be the full ability for Tenno to play on any system with another Tenno from any other system. That is, you could start on PS4 and get paired with someone on PC. Later on in the day, you pick up your Switch, play with the same save file, but maybe this time your teamed up with someone on XBox.
For cross-progression, while on your PS4 you'll only ever be teamed with other PS4 Tenno. If you then later pick up your Switch, you login to the same account with all the same gear/progress, but now you'll only be teaming up with other Switch Tenno.

Given what cross-progression ideally represents, I’m going to assume that, once implemented, there won’t be any changes when you change platforms – with the exception of short-term windows for updates. More on that in a moment. This is more regarding the rollout and going from 2+ accounts down to 1. When Switch-Frame launched, PC players were able to copy their accounts in a one-time transfer. Full disclosure: this is the perspective I play from. Before transferring my PC account to the Switch, I made a point of completing all quests and farming most of the non-Prime frames before transferring. Of course, there are plenty of Tenno out there that have played through the whole quest line more than once, requiring a much larger time investment. It also means for the player having some of the same gear in both places. A straight merge of all your accounts would mean then having basically two or more copies of a lot of things. In some cases this could be beneficial, i.e., two Equinox frames, but in most, such as non-Rivened weapons, it just means a lot of extra gear that now won’t be used. Even with rare or one-time weapons – what would you do with two Azima? For example, I have an Arca on both platforms. However, because I have a Riven mod on one, requiring adding a Polarity that’s not used by it’s counterpart, they use different builds. If I suddenly had access to both, I’d probably still only use the Riven one, but do I then sell the other, which has had multiple Forma and Catalyst investments? Not an easy thing to sell, but to do so also means a freed up Weapon Slot.

Both the Player and DE Platinum Market will also see quite the shock. For starters, selling off a bunch of weapons and frames means a lot of slots are likely to be opened up. As a result, we would likely see a drop in the number of slots being purchased from the DE Market. There would probably also be ripples through cosmetics unless a multi-platform player bought the exact same palettes and skins. Any differences between the two now eliminate the need to buy the cosmetic on the platform you were missing it on. 

For the player side of things, you would be opening up the trade Market tremendously. Players would be able to go between platform markets buying and selling as the free market allowed. Right now, player market prices on Switch are way higher than the Switch’s older counterparts. But that can be expected, with a smaller player base and smaller window of time for players to have farmed items. In some cases, the only copies to exist are those that transferred over with PC players. Looking at Nekros Prime for example, which goes for around 350 Platinum on average at the moment on PC, while on Switch you’ll be at 800-1000 Platinum if you even find a seller. If these Markets are bridged, we can expect an increase in the part supply on Switch because of the player demand. The end result is that prices will come down on Switch, and over time we can probably expect to see more equal prices across the board between all platforms. (Editor’s note: NekrosPrime wil be available as a TennoLive Twitch Drop.)

One thing we’ll have to see is how Platinum purchases are handled. All systems will occasionally provide Platinum coupons as a login bonus, but they do not operate the same between PC and Console. On PC, this coupon serves as a discount on the actual purchasing of Platinum from DE with real-world money. For Console, it is a coupon for a discount on Platinum spent in the DE in-game Market. If there is no change in this system, a player could, in theory, buy Platinum at discount by getting a coupon on PC, then wait until one pops up on Console to make a store purchase, effectively getting a double discount. I suspect with cross-progression that this sort of mechanic would be stopped, which I personally find reasonable. One method to address thiswould be that Platinum purchases don’t cross between platforms, while another possibility would be for all Platinum purchases to move to the Warframe website instead of being Purchased through Console stores. Of course, it must also be said that this approach has, at times, met with resistance from platform holders when suggested by other developers. 

The current norm for games with in-app purchases is a revenue-share of the sale for the platform. If DE tries to move all Platinum purchases to their website, the platforms would lose this income stream. The shift of one game out of the platform stores may not have a big impact, but it would potentially have other game developers looking to do the same. This would increase their revenue at the cost of the platforms losing what helps keeps the servers running. If the coupon drops do not change, it would be expected that players would make a PC account just to get the purchase discount. After all, who doesn’t want to save money? 

Whether or not this would cause a problem with license agreements would fall to legal teams. There are currently games where the in-game premium is shared cross-platform, regardless of which one is it purchased on. If the platform makers have issue with the PC purchase discount, an alternative is for Platinum coupons to either all go to the in-game Market style used on Console, or – worst case – just go away entirely. Personally, I believe it would be more likely to go to the in-game Market. This would not affect the price of Platinum on console, as it’s not purchased with a discount there. It would make PC Platinum more expensive though, as many players hold out for the coupons before buying Platinum. The end effect is that this path would lower the revenue stream from DE’s largest player pool. In almost every case, DE will take a revenue hit by going to cross-progression. What is negotiated with the platforms, we’ll only see the end result of. Like most of this change, it will require the players to trust DE will do what is best for the community overall, knowing that, regardless of the final choice, they are likely to take a revenue hit.

A lot of this also depends on the assumption that our accounts will be merged with the rollout. There is no guarantee that this will be the case, and players may be required to pick one account to sync across platforms. The more time players have spent jumping between platforms, the worse this impact will be for them. Platinum is also an issue if it was purchased on different accounts. The player would then be leaving behind both invested time AND money. In my situation, my PC account has progressed further than my Switch, but post transfer I’ve made a point to try leveling different gear. For what was leveled on Switch, I plan to do the same eventually on PC, but that doesn’t mean that simply abandoning the Switch progress would be enjoyable. I’m also very aware that most of my Switch progress was from the transfer. Someone who started fresh or started on console then moved to another platform would be having to step away from much more. If/when DE is able to roll out cross-progression, we can be sure these are things they’ve considered. It may also be possible that even if DE wanted a straight merge, limitations from PC and the various consoles prevent it, putting the choice outside their control.

There’s also the Clan factor. Not every player and not every Clan exists on every platform. This may already have the groundwork laid out though. Starting up a second account on a different platform doesn’t require you to be in the same Clan. It would seem this system would continue, with your account switching Clan membership based on what platform you load on. Most likely easier said than done, but would seem the most likely path. Since we’re talking cross-progression, not cross-play, you would not be able to have cross-platform Clans at least as far as in the game.

One other big factor that we can expect to weigh into the decision making is: how many players does this effect? Likely if/when implemented there will be an uptick in multi-platform users since you can pick up where you left off anywhere. With about 50 million accounts out there, if multi-platform users comprise only 1% of the player base, that is still half a million players. Not an insignificant numbe,r but in the grand scheme of things it may be small enough that a straight merge, double Kubrows and all, may not be seen as a huge impact overall. In research for this article, I found around half the player base is on PC and it’s estimated this is followed by PlayStation, XBox, and then Switch. There do not seem to be published numbers on how many are on multiple platforms, though, so the numbers are based on anecdotes from Devstreams. If we’re 10%, 20%, 30%+ though, then this impact grows with an increased pool of spare Prime Parts, Arcanes, and other Player Market items. But the hurdles don’t end there.

Even after all the player gear, Market, and Platinum details, there is still more. Warframe is a living game – tuned, balanced, and overhauled through regular patching and hotfixes. Currently, DE has reduced the PC to console update separation to about two weeks. Though this delay means console players always get things after those on PC, the ability to roll out Hotfixes on PC allows DE to do a large scale test of the new content. Testing by DE’s team versus tens of thousands of players who will jump in on launch day are two very different experiences. It ultimately means console players get more stable updates to accommodate the certification process that the updates need to go through on those platforms. On PC, players might see a couple of updates per day with new content. This would be stretched out to weeks because of the third-parties between DE and the console boxes sitting in our homes. It may be possible for DE to load some of the content into console patches even if it’s not accessible right away. 

Switch-Frame released immediately after Fortuna launched, but Fortuna was not accessible on Switch at the time. Players who copied from PC, though, saw some of the content in their Switch files. A few mod placeholders and couple of gems and minerals were about the extent of it, but they were there (Editor’s note: I had ful access to my Kitgun from day one, although the Mastery Affinity didn’t apply). Then the update came and players who had transferred quickly found that Fortuna items  farmed prior to the account copy were restored. This even included Garuda Blueprints and Solaris United Standing Ranks. This benefit we received may be a double-edged sword, though. On one hand, DE has shown it is possible to pre-load content ahead of the main chunk of the update, though this may not have been an easy thing to do. Also, this was a one-time one-way transfer. How game breaking, in both the literal and figurative meaning of it, could it be? How hard will it be for the code to hide new gear, affinity earned with that gear, achievements, codex entries, and more  – especially when you consider that players could potentially switch between PC and console multiple times while the console patch is being polished and certified. And in the worst case, if something does break, a new console patch has to go through the console certification process again, possibly locking players out for an extended period of time. A situation that the current system of PC launch, hotfixes, and then console launch helps prevent.

Going to cross-progression would be a massive shift for Warframe. It would rival, if not surpass, any expansion we’ve already seen – at least in terms of complexity. For us multi-platform players, is it a case of hoping for the best but planning for the worst? At this stage,though, there’s no confirmation that this will even be implemented, let alone a timeline for it. At times it’s hard to ignore that time spent on my Switch may be abandoned. Then again, how many games do we walk away from at some point? Should it just be about enjoying the roller coaster ride along the way, knowing eventually we’ll arrive at the platform? Even if alt-accounts do have to be abandoned, my personal opinion is that I think it will be good for the player base in the long run. It will allow Tenno to try the other platforms without having to juggle main and alt-accounts. I do have concerns on the impact to DE, though, as by doing this they are potentially impacting revenue streams, which is a higher cost to pay than just the time we’ve spent playing. What I’m sure we can believe in now is that DE is tackling this sort of change methodically. A shift like this that will have to go through code restructuring, testing, balancing, testing, and more testing is not going to be done willy nilly. DE has a record of keeping players in the loop and conversing with the player base as well, so I’m sure our input will be considered. They’ll ultimately have to decide on what’s best for the future of Warframe, even if it means maintaining the current system. I’m looking forward to what’s to come, it will definitely be a journey to play.

Tenno Thoughts – The Man in the Wall [SPOILERS]

Please note, the following article contains spoilers for the main story of Warframe, starting at the Second Dream and ending with The Sacrifice

The Man in the Wall is first mentioned by Rell during the Chains of Harrow quest, but the idea of a sinister presence in the Void is not a foreign one to the universe of Warframe. The Orokin created the Sentients so that they could cross the Void without risking the same fate as the population of the Zariman Ten-Zero — the adults driven to madness (or worse) and the children changed by their proximity to the unknown powers of the Void. The Man in the Wall is as enigmatic as its place of origin, and the underpinning malice of its presence looms over the Operators, casting doubt on their perception of reality, hinting at and guiding us toward the coming conflict – reminding the Operators that while they are powerful they are not immune to the effects of their birthplace.

In-game Appearances

The Man in the Wall only appears in-game as a facsimile of the Operator, albeit with small alterations. Some Operators report that the eyes aren’t quite right, and the entity can be found engaged in activities like hand-stands, or sitting on consoles not intended for sitting.

Though the entity does not appear during the events of the War Within, the Man in the Wall speaks through the Operator as they explore the inner sanctum of their memories, and the reality of what the Star Children were to the Orokin. The entity’s nature is partially revealed when the Operator makes their decision regarding the Kuva flask, as it seems to be heavily in favor of only one option that the Operator can take (here’s a clue, the Man in the Wall prefers the Operators take strength rather than relinquish it).

As previously mentioned, the name ‘Man in the Wall,’ is first heard in-game when spoken by Rell at the end of the Chains of Harrow quest. It is revealed that Rell spent his life (and death) subduing The Man in the Wall; protecting the other Operators from its presence and therefore its influence. After the events of this quest, the Man in the Wall is no longer restrained by Rell and has been free to assert itself on the Operators, interfere with events, and push Operators in whatever direction serves its ambiguous goals best.

After the Sacrifice quest, the Man in the Wall speaks to the Operator and confirms that its intentions are still confusing. The entity verifies the information learned by the Operator, memories that are unsettling and speak to the origins of Warframes and the Operators themselves and proclaims only “Good.” before disappearing.

Existing Theories

The most prevalent theory of the Man in the Wall is that it is an embodiment of the Void brought to form by the introduction of the Zariman Ten-Zero and the Operators. The entity is a harbinger of the dangers of the Void whose only goal seems to be destruction and chaos. The entity adapted behaviors of the Operator’s father as a means of ingratiation with the Operator – a way of pushing their buttons and antagonizing them while also adopting a watchful presence.

Theories exist that the Man in the Wall is one of the major villains the Operator faces through the story, manifesting their intentions through the Void. The most prevalent version of this theory is that Ballas is behind the Man in the Wall, guiding the Operators down a path that would allow the Lotus to leave her post and kick off the events of the Sacrifice.

Personal Opinion

Personally, I believe the first theory is the more likely correct, albeit in a limited capacity. I believe the Man in the Wall as an entity is a psychological manifestation of the Operator’s need for a guide, as well as their buried survival instincts that would have been invaluable on the Zariman Ten-Zero. However, due to the Operator’s proximity to the Void, this manifestation has taken on a life of its own – similar to a thought-form often mistakenly referred to as a Tulpa. 

This thought-form manifestation of the Operator’s id would naturally have no motivation except to guide the Operator’s towards more power, greater knowledge, and strength. Rell would have held this manifestation at bay in order to keep not only the Operators safe, but also to maintain the safety of the entire solar system. Unchecked, the Operators could level the entire system, and become a second Orokin Empire to rival the first if they were to be constantly exposed to their own buried desires for power and conquest… their disorganized instincts to survive and become stronger. 

I theorize that the Man in the Wall is no more and no less than the result of the Operator’s being trapped in the Void long enough that their powers created a new being in their own image, with all of the characteristics of the Void imbued with the instincts and desires that the Operators try desperately to keep in check, lest they become what they are fighting against. In this way, the Man in the Wall is neither good nor evil, but exists as the antithesis to the control the Operators have gained over the years. The Man in the Wall is the voice in our ear telling us that we need to be stronger, no matter the cost.

The Man in the Wall is a significant figure no matter what it turns out to be in reality. It guides the Operators along their journey after the War Within, and has become more and more prevalent and intrusive as time has gone on. With the destruction of Rell, the Man in the Wall has been left unchecked and challenged only by the Operators that were previously kept from its influence. What this means is that the entity now has a much wider audience to influence, and the likelihood that one of those ears may be bent is much greater than before. The Man in the Wall has no discernable goal, but this may change in time. Perhaps the Operators will have a significant choice in the future regarding the Man in the Wall or perhaps the Man in the Wall will push us along so subtly that there will only ever be one choice that makes sense.

Tenno Thoughts – Who is the Emissary?

To set the stage, this is where we currently stand: Nightwave Series 1 has just concluded. For 12 weeks, we Tenno have been challenged by the Wolf of Saturn Six. He hit some of us hard, but when his fleet arrived in the skies of Saturn, we hit back and hit back harder. Very soon we will converge upon Alad V’s Gas City as we await the next transmission from Nora Night. We know she’s returning  soon and we have learned who it will revolve around, but exactly who is The Emissary?

One quick note, there may be some spoilers here for later game quests. I will try to avoid any major details but it will touch on some of the later quest details.

So, as of the time of writing, the details of Nightwave Series 2 have been kept under wraps. We know there is a character known as The Emissary who seems like they will have prominence in the story – similar to The Wolf in Series 1. Otherwise, the only main detail we have outside of mechanic changes is that it will be focused around the Infested (at least, this is what we believe to be the case). This is all that has been subtly announced so far, but these details have led myself and a few other Tenno to wonder – are we about to meet an Ambassador of the Infested?

Right now it is implied that the Infested are a Hive Mind. Infested leaders refer to themselves as “we” or “us”, not to mention the fact that an entire tile-set will become alerted when one Infested unit detects your Warframe. Additionally, we’ve seen how it can evolve both naturally and by intervention. With the creation of the Mutalist Strain, the Infested can not only take over robotics, but have even taken control of a Cephalon. As we see the Strain evolve, what if more individuality has crept in and has reached a point where the Hive Mind is starting to fracture? We know it is possible to be Infested without being controlled by it. Take the colony of Mycona, where they live in a kind of strange balance – they remain Infested but do not become part of the Hive Mind. Additionally ,we utilize Infested Warframes, leaving the Hive Mind to question why we would attack our own.

When in unison, the Hive Mind seems to have the goal of simply spreading. From consuming entire ships to even entering The Weave, between its natural and forced evolution – nothing is out of reach. If a fracture occurs within the Hive Mind beyond the few small cases already out there, that would seem to lead to two (or more) divisions. Assuming they retain some high-level control, we would then expect factions begin to operate independently of each other. I don’t see this as being a second Infested faction on the scale of the Grineer, Corpus, and Infested balance we have right now, more just a division in the lore of the Infested. 

For the most part, force has been used to spread the Strain. If we see a division perhaps one side will take a more “open arms”approach. We’ve been contacted by the Infested before, perhaps this time it will be from a more formal representative… an Emissary of sorts.

infested Charger

Where this would lead, only time will tell. If we did meet “friendly-ish” Infested, I wouldn’t expect it to replace the Infested we regularly encounter, unless DE has some secret master plan to replace Infested with Alad V’s Almalgams (or something similar), but to strip that much content from the game seems highly unlikely. It may not be too far of a reach to think that in Series 2 we may be tasked with stopping some Infested threat. Possibly something like the Fomorian or Razorback, where if we don’t stop some sort of massive force, it would mean the end of something important to the Infested. Perhaps along the lines of the Grineer purging the Infested from Mercury? Otherwise, why they would send an Emissary to us for help?

Continuing with the idea of the Infested “splitting”, how far might the new factions be integrated? They are sentient, and if their methods are different enough, what if it is left to us Tenno to decide the victor? And say we show our allegiance to one side or another by some sort of marking, -a sigil perhaps? The Tenno have already chosen different paths, ranging from supporting protectors in Steel Meridian to the purgers in Red Veil and those in between – even a Cephalon here and there. Would it be crazy to see a pair of Infested take the stage amongst the other Syndicates? Integration could be a little difficult, given that each Syndicate is Allied, Opposed, and Enemy to a trio of others, but these two could be independent to just each other. By adding a 7th and 8th Syndicate, they could be Enemies to one another and that possibly leaves the stage ready for two more down the road. Sure, this would mean a new rep grind, but it would also mean a new pool from which to pick rewards. As the other Syndicates already cover the existing Augments, Archwing parts, and the like,  exactly what these potential new Syndicates may offer may be limited if they don’t receive a mix from the others. No reason it couldn’t be limited in scope for now though, much like how Vox Solaris was for Fortuna Part I.

Of course, this is just one of many possible outcomes from The Emissary though. All factions would have a reason to reach out to the Tenno in the fight against the Infested. Several have thought it will be a Corpus representative, as they already have that structure of diplomats and merchants. With the release of the Jovian Concord, it could also be tied to the Amalgams or perhaps even the Sentients themselves. There is even some speculation this could be part of a prelude to The New War and that perhaps The Emissary will be an Orokin. 

How one of these might interact with the Infested we must wait and see and continue the fight on the fronts we know. New threats approach and many Tenno await not only the new the Nightwave Story but the new mechanics as well. 

As a final note: thank you to my fellow Tenno in the Cephalon Squared Discord for brainstorming with me.

Nintendo Switch Impressions

Switch login warframe

As you’ve likely seen, Warframe was recently officially released on the Nintendo Switch. While we need a bit more time to develop a more complete review, we’ve played enough of it to be able to provide a few initial impressions. Keep in mind I have played a LOT of Warframe on every platform (PC, XB1, PS4), so these impressions will reflect more my take of the quality of the port as opposed to the game itself. I will, however, look to cover the game in more depth in my review, which I expect to complete by the end of November. On with my impressions!

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of a completely portable Warframe. Given the limitations of the Switch, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect overall, really. However, on first loading the software after download, it became immediately apparent that this was simply Warframe on the Switch – the same game in a slightly different format. To be frank, this was a very pleasant surprise.

When docked, Warframe feels almost identical to the rest of its console family (while Xbox One X or PS4 Pro owners might try to convince you otherwise, there is no difference in performance or appearance on either of these advanced consoles). On Switch, everything looks almost the same – but the limitations of the system are evident if you look hard enough. There is less detail in the textures, for example, a shorter draw distance (especially evident on the Plains of Eidolon), and some minor slowdown when there’s a lot happening on the screen. However, for all intents and purposes – Warframe on Switch (when docked) is a virtually perfect port of the console game.

When in handheld mode, there is a noticeable impact on performance (when compared to docked mode), but from my current playtime I’d have to say it hasn’t had a negative impact on my overall enjoyment. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that even just the fact that I can play in handheld mode offsets any of this. So what is impacted? Rendering speed, for one, there can be a little screen tearing, slowdown, loss of frames and so on, but it’s not frequent, and in many cases, only minimal. To compensate, Panic Button appears to have slightly impacted either the resolution or texture detail, but given the screen size, it still looks crisp and clear.

I guess what I’m saying is – Warframe on Nintendo Switch is quite an achievement. While it isn’t quite “as good” as Xbox One or PS4, it’s good enough when docked, and completely portable when in handheld mode, and this is mindblowing.

The biggest issues? These really stem from the system itself. In handheld mode, the game can be clumsy to play given the layout and size of the JoyCon controllers. Of course, you can plug your headset in and chat directly, so this is a bonus, or you can disconnect the JoyCons and use the Pro controller – this is a great controller for Warframe. On the other hand, when docked, there is no way to plug in a headset for chat – unless you have an extra long cable. It’s frustrating – if I want to play with friends, I’m almost forced to use either handheld mode or a third-party chat service such as Discord.

Further – the store doesn’t seem to be working just yet, so anyone that WANTS to buy Platinum to start their fashionframe (or to grab the latest Prime Access pack)… well, they can’t. I’m sure this will be rectified soon, but it just seems strange to me to release without an active store.

I’ve also come across a couple of bugs – the main one being that my Mastery Rank changes from MR4 to MR3, which affects my mod capacity. I’m hoping this gets fixed soon, because of all the bugs I’ve come across, it’s the most annoying. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that I have a whole bunch of items on PC that aren’t available on Switch just yet…so perhaps this issue will go away once Fortuna releases.

It’s also slightly annoying that this update is NOT the last mainline, which brought a number of Quality of Life improvements to consoles and PC alike. This means there are some frustrating issues I need to deal with that have been fixed on consoles, but I don’t expect this to be an issue for too much longer.

Lastly – it’s not easy to add friends. On PS4 and Xbox One, if your friends are playing, they automatically show up in your friend list in game. On Switch, that doesn’t seem to be the case – you need to add them manually. Not a major issue, but enough to cause frustration.

Overall, the Switch port is massively impressive so far – there are a few minor annoyances, but most of these will be ironed out with time. While I have put in a fair amount of time already, I’d really like to get into some match-made sessions, as well as some parties with friends, just to test out everything I need to in order to make a more measured overview. Still, for a free-to-play game of this quality, it’s already very easy to recommend.

Opinion: What is “end game”?

Law of Retribution Trial

When you come to the end of a good, story-based video game, you know it’s over. In general, the storyline will come to a satisfying conclusion, and there generally won’t be much else to do in terms of content (although many modern titles have a “new game plus” mode that allows players to replay with increased difficulty and other modifiers). For MMOs and other persistent service-based games, though, how do you define the end (and I will lump all service-based games under the MMO umbrella for this article)? As a developer, do you want players to come to an end, or do you want them to keep playing your game? Of course, it’s the latter, but keeping players invested in your game when they feel as if they’ve exhausted all of your content is the most difficult part, and this is what many MMO players refer to as the “end game”.

A good MMO will provide players with multiple things to juggle – there’ll be character progression, weapon progression, jobs and crafting, story progression, and so on and so forth. Exactly where the line is drawn in the sand can sometimes be up to the player – for some, the end game may start once the story campaign is complete, and can consist of the grind through the various forms of progression. For others, the end game really only begins once a player has reached max level – and often across all areas in which progression can be achieved.

In reality, both are forms of end game. Some players have limited time available to them, and may only be able to put a few hours in per week, and they need a system to keep them coming back once the story is complete. Others have all the time in the world to complete everything the game has to offer – and for them, the end game is often slightly different (although still available to all players once a certain level has been achieved). Let’s take a look at both aspects (and a third that is essentially a combination of the two).

Progression Lines

quills standing

MMOs will always have multiple things going on – there’ll be a core storyline that is designed around maintaining a levelling grind for more casual players, so that when they reach the end of the storyline, they are guaranteed to be at a certain level. There’ll be side quests that players can complete to flesh out the world and the stories of the characters within, but are also there to provide more content to more dedicated players, and to allow casual players with something to do when they need to raise their level in order to progress along the storyline. There’ll be pop up quests primarily designed to keep players busy with minimal rewards that will appeal to players looking for something to do. And of course, there will be high-level dungeons/quests/raids/whatever-you-want-to-call-them that are designed for higher-level players and will dole out much greater rewards.

On top of all of this, though, there are deeper systems. All MMOs have a character levelling system, which will unlock capabilities along the way. These will also allow players to spec out their character according to their requirements, and often can include multiple paths. Some MMOs (such as Warframe) will include the capability to also level weapons, giving players the opportunity to build their favourite weapon into something that it may not be originally. Many MMOs will have crafting systems, so that players can become skilled (over time) at creating items in game – weapons, food, armour, clothing – whatever it may be. In addition, there will often be other ways in which players can grind for progression – faction allegiance, class-based levelling, region-based progression – and many more things besides.

What all of this boils down to is time. Often these are disparate levelling systems – while you CAN work to level multiple systems at a time, the requirements of each will be separate and largely unrelated. The grind for these systems is often long, and getting through all of these systems is what can make up a bulk of time for many players – often hundreds of hours on these systems alone.

For many, these systems are enjoyable, if somewhat unnecessarily delayed (many developers will put daily limits in place to slow progression). Often, on completion of these systems, players can have access to abilities that lower-level players will not, and this makes it all worthwhile. For many – this is achievement enough, but for others (i.e., those with more time on their hands), there needs to be a little bit more.

High-End Activities

destiny kings fall

I mentioned earlier that players often gain access to high-level content once they reach a certain level (such as the raids in Destiny). For many, these are the end game – in fact, there are many MMO players that forgo the progression lines in order to simply play these high-end activities. Usually, these require groups of players to tackle a more difficult challenge (for example, Destiny raids require 6 players, while the Trials that used to be offered in Warframe were for up to 8 players). They will also often require teamwork and cooperation, often to a degree far beyond simply working well together – timing and communication play an important role.

There needs to be some reason to play these activities, though, and often this will come down to the kind of reward on offer. Some titles will provide a percentage chance for a high-level item to drop – an item that can ONLY drop from that activity. Others will simply offer resources that are of value to higher level players. Some may offer cosmetics or a buff, or any number of different items, but the point is that they need to be special in that they only drop from that activity, or they need to appeal the needs of high-end players.

For many players, this is the goal – get good enough gear and ability to take on the high-level content. It’s fun, it’s a challenge, and it’s something to do with friends. Sometimes it can take hours (I have friends who spent over 10 hours in WoW raids), but the end result is generally worth all the effort.

However, there are some people with a different goal in mind…

To Be the Very Best

saryn prime build

There are dedicated players out there with lots of time on their hands (I’m not judging here). These players grind through all of the above – they progress through all of the abilities and factions and everything besides until there is nothing else for them to achieve, and they grind through the hardest content until they have everything. These are the hardest people to please. In fact, these are often the players that are most dissatisfied with end-game content.
For developers, it’s a tough choice – you definitely want to please your most dedicated players, but not at the expense of the rest of the playerbase. So you can’t really offer these players something that nobody else has a chance to get – this means rewards for these players are minimal, often only cosmetic, and sometimes more a case of a title or emblem more than anything else.

Besides this, there’s a second conundrum – how much development time do you dedicate to developing activities that would please these kinds of players? When you have a larger playerbase that is mostly happy with high-end activities or progression – who, I should add, also get bored of these same high-end activities and progression even though they may not complete it all – then you need to decide who to develop for. The best answer is “everybody”, but there’s no answer that will satisfy all.

In general, most MMOs choose to go down the path of increasing “difficulty level”. You remember those high-end activities? Let’s put a time limit on them and increase the enemy level scaling. Or add some other kind of challenge.

While this is a good option initially, it doesn’t take long for advanced players to find a way to blitz through the content. Realistically, the best thing to offer players at this level is a challenge – these players have everything, and they’ve likely min-maxxed it all (meaning they’ve built the stats towards the most effective method that will suit their playstyle). What they REALLY want to do is test themselves, and so often they will create their own game modes – speed runs are an example of this.

End Game Means Different Things to Different People

diablo 3 rifts

In the end, we’re all different. Many of us have different expectations from games – in fact, there are a lot of people out there that probably don’t understand the concept of “end game” – I mean, once you’ve finished a game, it’s done, right? For those of us that like to play in persistent worlds, though, we need to remember that we all do want to chase different things, and it’s not so easy for developers to please everyone. Some players are highly skilled and would THRIVE in a timed, highly difficult encounter – but the majority of players wouldn’t last a minute. Many players absolutely love raids and other high-end activities – but there are a few dedicated players that do these hundreds on hundreds of times, and get bored after the first few weeks. It’s a difficult balance, to be sure, but the next time you look to complain about the grind involved with progression in a certain game, just remember that it’s like that for a reason – what doesn’t necessarily work for you works well for someone else.