Glassmaker – A Symphony of Poor Design Philosophy
I know this doesn't matter, I know it won't mean anything, I know the chance of anyone important reading this is near zero, and I know there are better ways to reach Digital Extremes. I'm not doing this strictly because I believe I will be seen or heard, I don't. I'm doing on the miniscule chance that I might be and because I felt like doing it.
I know I have overdone, overthought, and overanalyzed this. I'm aware. I did this because I wanted to. Berating me for my thoughts being too complete, too long, too involved, or too strong is simply not going to mean anything to me at all. This is how I see things and how I feel about the game right now and I wanted to share that experience.
You can disagree with me all day, we are a large community, we are bound to have differences of opinions. I'm not trying to build a bullet proof case against DE. I'm not going to cite proof of the validity of my opinions or views because that isn't what this is. This is a rant, that's all it is. I just finished Glassmaker and I hated it and I wanted to articulate why in a way that ties all of these long term frustrations into the core design of Warframe and why it's become what it is.
I am expecting the vitriol, trust me. I know what is going to happen when I hit post here lol. I'm going to post this, turn off notifications for this post and forget I ever made it because that is the kind of community this subreddit tends to be. Dissent is not tolerated because all of you are so afraid that Warframe is still sitting on that fragile precipice that it was born on that you fear any negative feedback could bring your beloved game crashing down. Warframe and Digital Extremes are not that weak anymore. They have earned the criticism fair and square and they can handle it. You don't have to white knight for them. DE doesn't need a simp army, it needs honest players who will contribute honest and meaningful feedback. If you don't ever speak up then you can not complain when you are not listened to.
Failing From The Start
(A player's perspective on the design and development philosophy of Digital Extremes as it pertains to Warframe)
What is the premise of Glassmaker? The gameplay premise I mean, the idea that "investigating" is fun. Ok, I'll bite, sounds interesting. Where do you start on the path to incorporating the feel of player discovery and investigation into Warframe? Well, according to DE it starts with abolishing the very notion of the kind of game Warframe is.
The Glassmaker is built with a set of gameplay mechanics that fail to make even the smallest bit of sense in the world of Warframe. Movement is restricted to a crawl, you can not jump, you can not slide, you can not dash, you can not crouch, you can not use your operator, and you have no access to your Warframe abilities. This is Warframe right? Someone, probably many people, at Digital Extremes sat down, talked about this, thought about it, tossed it around and some how landed on the premise that the most engaging way for players to interact with their new investigative content would be to strip them of everything that makes Warframe what it is, lock them into a borderline on rails experience and slow gameplay down to a literal crawl.
This is ironically intrinsic to Warframe gameplay though isn't it? Almost every piece of new content we get absolutely defecates on the core of the Warframe gameplay experience and it seems to be a lesson DE refuses to learn. Archwing, Lunaro, PvP, Operators, Railjack, "Heavy Weapons", K-Drives, Liches, Deimos… one sin after another continuously compounded by the weight of DE's inability to understand that its players want to play Warframe. Not Tony Hawk, Not Call of Duty, not World of Warships, not NBA 2K11, and not Monster Hunter World. We want to play Warframe and despite continuously releasing systems that see high traffic day 1 that quickly plummets to barely being what you could consider "participation" they just keep coming up with new ways to make gameplay experiences that are everything but Warframe. I'm all for changing it up every once in a while but DE you gotta learn the lesson here… We love Warframe.
Design Philosophy, or Lack There Of
The choices that were made after the core gameplay was established are more confusing and offensive to me than the gameplay it self. It is as if someone brought in Delores Umbridge and told her to make this as unfun as is possible.
How appropriate I guess. Every single new experience that has come to Warframe since I began playing 7 years ago has been plagued with "This would be great if they didn't ruin it by doing this-itis" Archwing would've been great if the controls weren't terrible. PvP would've been great if it was even remotely possible to balance. Heavy Guns would've been great if they came anywhere near approaching the power levels of Melee weapons. Operators would have been great if their movement and health made it nearly impossible to survive for more than a split second. I could go on for days about everything that has just been completely in opposition to it self as it launched cough Scarlet Spear cough but I won't. Suffice it to say that DE proves time and time again that it can't release a piece of content without crippling it to the core first and sapping all the potential fun out of it first. DE is too afraid of the players breaking content that they won't even risk letting their players have any fun any more.
Hide and Seek
The player must search for objects, objects that are small, hidden, difficult to see, carry no indicator of where they might be until you're already staring at them, have color schemes and patterns that blend them into the muddle color pallet of the game spaces they are placed in, and who's placement follows no kind of logic or design pattern.
This is heavily indicative of DE's tendency to design things that work but just don't make a lot of sense. If I had a dime for everytime I've run up against a problem in Warframe and went "Why isn't this just built like this instead" I'd be retired and not ranting about Warframe
RNG, the only thing players hate more than Knock Back
To make matters even worse, what the object is AND where it is located are essentially random or at best, not predictable. So these incredibly difficult to locate objects are hidden in such a way that you can't even Youtube or wiki a guide to finding them if you're struggling. What purpose did this serve other than to frustrate the player?
I can't count the number of times the Warframe devs have had to get on Dev Stream and apologize for implementing unnecessarily punishing RNG into the game. You think they'd learn… RNG is a necessary evil it is not a good gameplay mechanic. It is designed to punish players who do not sink time into the game to encourage players to sink time into the game. It should not be relied upon to tell stories, encourage player engagement or gate content progression.
The Radar Is Jammed
As if to add insult to injury the player is given what by all rights should have been an indicator to the location of these objects, a pulse of light that emanates from the player every few moments as if to emulate sonar or radar of some sort however the joke is on the player as this emanation serves absolutely no functional purpose (or if it does, it was broken for me on every single Glassmaker story step because it did nothing).
I don't actually have a way to tie this to a pattern in bad gameplay decisions DE is making except to say it is in and of it self an example of confusing, contrarian, expectation subversion for the sake of subversion that I just can not wrap my head around.
Proper Investigation Is checks notes Uneducated Guessing?
Given that there is no predictability to which object you will be searching for, where it might be located, that there is no indicator to help find them, and that there is no design logic in their placement the player is left to literally wander aimlessly around the room feeling lost and hopeless with no way to reason out where to go but simply hoping to stumble upon these objects.
This is a good example of DE going "We wanted to give players the feeling of being an investigator and uncovering a story" and then doing the exact opposite of that. You can see this constantly in Warframe designs… Volt the Warframe meant to be all about electricity was primarily just a speed Warframe and the god damn speed Warframe they released is predominantly a stationary crowd control frame. I could just go down the list of every Warframe that was sold on a premise they don't and can't fulfil but we all play the game. We all know. We just stopped talking about it because DE has proven over and over again that they just don't care.
This Will Be On The Test
Not only must the player find these randomly placed, difficult to locate objects but the player must also commit to memory features of these objects that becoming increasingly vague and difficult to discern as the story progresses. In the most recent Glassmaker part 5 for example several of the objects have absolutely no indication as to what about them you are meant to remember. The Legem comes to mind. It has a symbol but unless you already know that symbol is not unique then you are looking at an item with no highlights, no indications, no evidence what so ever that would point to the feature about the item you are meant to remember, which would be fine had Digital Extremes not spent the previous 4 story missions highlighting in bright colors the things you were meant to remember about the objects. DE was responsible for setting the expectation that the player would have some kind of indication and then strands the player without them.
Many of you will not remember a time when Warframe did not have even 10% of the in game info that it has now but Warframe was born into the gaming universe as a game that made it's fan maintained "wiki" a necessity for gameplay. You simply could not play early Warframe without the Wiki because most of the information you relied upon to make good decisions or any decisions simply wasn't available in game or was so incredibly inconvenient to find that the Wiki was the better choice 100% of the time. Worse than that, the Wiki is often actually more accurate than the in game info represented inside Warframe (I'm looking at you Shotgun status calculation). DE's reliance on the Wiki to serve players information that should be in the game has gone from being a quirk of having a complex game to a simple sin of laziness. I pray for any new player who tries to play this game without the Wiki up on a second screen 100% of the time.
No Time To Explain
At no point, during any of this, even the very first part does the game actually explain any of this. All the way up to passing the investigation, navigating the platforms, and killing the boss. Not a single thing is explained by any source in the game. This would be perfectly fine if this gameplay followed in logic, pattern, or style anything that had ever been put into Warframe in the past but obviously it does not so fumbling your way through this and failing repeatedly until you give up and google it is basically the expectation here.
I could just refer you back to my previous statement about how Digital Extremes relies on the Wiki to delivery nearly 100% of all necessary gameplay information to it's players but I'll go a step further and say often when information is included in game it's either accidentally or intentionally incredibly vague. I'm betting on the latter.
We Don't Play Our Own Game
I am convinced, 100% convinced that DE does not consistently play their own game, or if they do, they do it completely differently to how their players do. The "boss" fight for Nihil is a perfect example of this. You enter this fight (with no explanation, no indication that it's even a boss, and no obvious mechanics of course, and you are presented with an enemy shooting at you and FINALLY you have your movement back at least. Now, this is DE so obviously you can't Warframe the dude to death because screw you this is our game and you'll play it how we want you to, but you quickly pick up on the idea that you have to dodge these relatively difficult to see projectiles that will slow you into oblivion. Sure. No Problem. I'm a Warframe with slide and bullet jump and aim glide and dodge and ooooooooooooh whoah slow down there buddy. Getting a bit ahead of our selves aren't we? See these projectiles (that you have to dodge while not looking at them because it's impossible to aim glide backwards, dodge forwards, watch this projectile, and land on the platform) they can actually hit you while bullet jumping/dodging at full speed. In fact they will hit you 50% of the time. I tested this. The first shot misses, the second hits. Every time. In actuality what you are supposed to do is stand still. Yeah… stand still.. because get this, despite the fact that the projectile can hit you moving in air at full speed you can actually side step them incredibly easily and it dawned on me… this is how they intended you to play and I realized this because he will destroy the platform you're standing on so you're meant to stand still, wait, dodge, wait, dodge, wait, dodge to another platform and rinse and repeat this incredibly boring slow paced infantile excuse for a boss battle.
I've seen this time and time again on stream.. DE Megan rolling around like a pill bug with A.D.D. or Reb slowly aim gliding her way through the air like nothing is actually dangerous (it isn't, she plays with god mode on). The problem is well this is the worst, least efficient, least effective, least fun way to play this game. No.. if you watch a real player play (and by real player I mean literally anyone else. Just pick a rando on Twitch or Youtube, doesn't matter, they all play the same) then you'll quickly see Warframe is a game about extreme speed movement, dodging, clever repositioning, winging backwards shots at enemies as you fly by them, racing to objectives, and completing missions as fast as humanly possible. I know DE wanted to create a space "ninja" fantasy stealth game with cover and slow paced thoughtful combat and all that shit but face it DE, that's not what you made. That's not what Warframe is.
I love Warframe. I hate pieces of it with every fiber of my being, but Warframe.. what Warframe is supposed to be at it's core is amazing and that's what keeps me coming back despite my developing distaste for it's development team, messy releases, community patronization, and low effort unimaginative "innovations". (Except you DE Steve, keep that shit up, Warframe is beautiful and I still get excited hearing you talk about graphics improvements just for christ's sake stop making jokes we make about you like they aren't about you. When you look at the screen and go "Soon, right hahaha like DE soon or real soon" it makes me want to stop playing for weeks at a time. You don't get to be a part of the joke when you are the joke. Fix things and then you can get in on laugh but it just feels bad to hear you laughing at our expense and make no mistake it is at our expense)
Digital Extremes… please stop trying to turn Warframe into everything but what it is and get back to making Warframe better, more stable, and more fun or admit to the community that you don't want to make Warframe anymore. That's all I'm asking for. Give me a reason to hope for the future of the game or disappoint me now so I can leave Warframe behind me.
P.S. Keep in mind that after the Tencent announcement you are on thin ice for a lot of players. Many of us are waiting for anything that even smells like the intrusion of Tencent's toxic presence into Warframe and we are ready to jump ship to stop our selves from supporting directly or indirectly the single largest cancer the video game industry has. Now is not the time to make mistakes you plan on apologizing for later because I imagine there won't be a lot of forgiveness to be had if you start becoming the evil that players are afraid Tencent will make you.
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