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Angels of the Zariman is Warframe’s foundation to the future

We spoke to Digital Extremes about the latest Warframe expansion

Updated: May 23, 2022 3:00 pm
Angels of the Zariman is Warframe’s foundation to the future

The New War was the culmination of years, almost a decade, of storytelling. In its aftermath, Digital Extremes have begun to lay the foundations for Warframe’s future with the Angels of the Zariman update.

It’s the beginning of something new and to get a sense of where Warframe is and where it’s going, we spoke to Rebecca Ford, Live Operations & Community Director at Digital Extremes.

“We said to ourselves, The New War is out, it’s finally out, let’s follow it up with the most to do that a player has ever had offered to them in, effectively, a quest follow-up,” Rebecca says of their plans for Angels of the Zariman. It brought with it a new tileset, a new hub, new mission types, new quests, new weapon systems, a focused rework and customisable apartments. “It was definitely the biggest update on the heels of another update in recent memory. Which came with its challenges for us to support everything perfectly, I think the blemishes that came with this update we have to work through constructively…And we have another update coming out pretty soon, that we’re treating as the follow up to most of the thorough feedback from the initial launch.”

Balancing Angels of Zariman

Warframe Angels of the Zariman 2

But how does the team balance their intent for Warframe with the feedback they receive from its players? “[After] nine years of doing this, the one reality we always have is we’re never gonna get it right the first time,” Rebecca explains, highlighting just how long Digital Extremes have been shaping their game. “But if we have intention, we can better calibrate ourselves to make changes.”

It helps that the team have more tools than just reading players’ responses to gather feedback on updates. “A really good example of the difference between a “data” difficult and a “feel” difficulty, is the quest we released with this update. We could see the wall of difficulty for it based on fall off points for players that couldn’t get through the mission and that right there is a must solve hard date situation. And then there was the people pushing themselves to go further in the endless missions, in the more “feel” category.”

With Warframe fulfilling so many different things for a variety of different player types, some coming for story, others coming for the challenge of min-maxing end-game content, how do they weigh players’ opinions when making changes? “In [this] case it’s easier, it’s a single-player narrative experience and you know what you want that to be but then when it goes to the matchmaking, public squads, endurance runs, you need to somewhat spread the voices on a map in your mind, this type of player is an end-game min-maxer and this is what they want to see and then you need to see the other side of the map which is someone who just wants to collect everything and how is this too hard for them to try and give everyone an option. So in our case, we released with five mission types in this update and some are softer pitches, in a comfortable way.”

Despite the scope of the update in terms of new activities offered to players, the new story and quest itself is a bit of a reset after The New War and brings things back to a much smaller scale. It encompasses just a short simple story that introduces players to the infamous ship where the Tenno originated and what has happened there in their absence, information all the more intriguing in the wake of the Drifter twist from The New War. Though the team are aware audience expectations following that massive story update might have been riding high. “We always knew it was the equivalent of an open-world entry quest…there’s always a twenty to thirty minute “who are these people and what do they want” quest. We always knew it was that for this but when you tell people there’s a quest coming on the heels of The New War, we realised we probably should’ve clarified earlier what we’re dealing with.”

New characters, stories and Warframes

Warframe Angels of the Zariman 3

What of the new characters? Digital Extremes knew that the player would need someone to interact with aboard the Zariman for the purposes of story but the question was, how could anyone have survived this long aboard the doomed vessel? The ingenious answer was that perhaps nobody did. “There were a lot of paths getting us to what they ended up being…but we always knew we needed some version of survivors on the Zariman that were more than what they seemed.” So the Holdfasts came to be, Warframe’s sci-fi answer to ghosts, vestiges of the crew recreated in the void, made more human by the player’s presence, who can fill in the blanks of their memories. Should they drift too far from their sense of self and be drawn to the mysterious song emanating form the void, they become Angels, monstrous foes that exist in both dimensions, posing a proper new threat for long term players. 

On top of the new update itself, the game enjoyed its 49th new Warframe, Gyre; an electrical ballerina who has become one of my favourites. She feels fresh and for a game that’s been going as long as this, that’s quite the achievement. How do the team keep it up? “I think the secret ingredient to that recipe is there are no rules. And you can make electric-based frames that behave completely different from other electric ones.” The team also take inspiration from advancements in the game engine. “I remember when we first added cloth physics and we decided to find out what would be the first frame to get cloth physics and all these things, just because the game keeps growing. So for us, we’re able to have ideas that are supported by the advances that the game itself makes.”

For those eager to know what exactly is on the horizon for Warframe, they won’t have too long to wait. “Make sure that you’re logged in and ready at Tennocon for a fun player activity…because it’s a digital event, so we’re doing some digital things and you won’t want to miss it.”

The Angels of the Zariman update is out for Warframe now and Tennocon takes place on the 16th of July.

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