The Tentacle Problem (aka why DE should start focusing on refining the things already in the game)

Warframe7 - The Tentacle Problem (aka why DE should start focusing on refining the things already in the game)

I want to preface this (warning: long) post by saying that I really like Warframe. I have enjoyed it for years and the scope of it over the years has been a joy to behold. DE themselves have said noumerous times that they expect and want criticism from their community, they want to hear us state our issues with the game. So expect the rest of what you read here to be that, a warning of sorts, cause I don't want to see this game come crashing down.

So, what's the Tentacle Problem besides a catchy title? If we look back to another space-themed game, Dead Space, there is a session where a giant tentacle comes out of a corner, grabs the main protagonist Isaac and drags him slowly to his death (unless the player does something about it). The issue is, during the game's development this proved out to be a huge problem that halted the team's efforts for 1+ month. Essentially the tentacle had to target the leg, then the animation has to play while it flips you in the air, then the sounds have to be timed to the sequence, etc. The team worked on all parts of what was needed but nothing was working. After trial and error for weeks, Glen Schofield (creative director of DS) realized that the fault lied in the way they approached the problem and thus started working doing one thing at a time (first you animate this part, then the next, then the other, then add sound etc). You can find a small documentary about this online but essentially this ordeal helped the team a lot, they now understood the value of working with layers.

To me this is current biggest issue with Warframe.

Half-ushered by the community to deliver new content regularly and equally by their own ambition (which is a good thing when you know to hit the brakes), we have gotten a pattern for a couple of years now: release a new expansion to draw in new players and attention from the playerbase, work on it to improve it until the new expansion demands more focus. If the new expansion is a heavy success it will get worked on more. If not it will be left to slowly decay. This issue is however expanded when it applies not just to the big expansions but nearly every other aspect of the game. We can trace many well known issues that have been brought to light 2 years ago(!) and they still exist in Warframe. Never mind that, sweep it under the rug, a new expansion is coming aren't you hyped?

We've now reached a point where the previous foundations of Warframe have started to decay. A few examples:

  • Enemy spawning is broken (this can be traced during the change of Extermination missions where you no longer had to kill everything, just a number). Enemies now spawn very inconsistently. Sometimes going through a tileset will feel like old Extermination, clear and move ahead. Sometimes enemies will keep spawning even if you stay in the same room. This is especially mind-boggling to me cause it still exists in the game, an enemy can "nothing personal kid" you out of nowhere with no indication or warning (compared to f.e. Fortuna). You can imagine how good that is in high-difficulty missions when you can die in one hit. Even the AI doesn't always know how to react to this, they might spawn and immediately attack you or they might not be aware of the fight around them and stay iddle for a good 5+ seconds. The spawns have become so broken that just today during a solo Sortie extermination I witnessed 4(!) spawns on the same spot as soon as the previous spawned enemy got Paris Prime'd on that spot, with no delay in between.
  • The difficulty has become inconsistent due to the nature of the game, or rather the unclear nature of it. Some say Warframe is a power fantasy, difficulty doesn't matter, yet the game will be difficult and throw challenging scenarios at you, even DE wants the game to be hard (as we have seen from multiple statements during and outside Devstreams). Is it a challenging game then, well not really because the powercreep has been left unchecked so most of the content gets trivialized. You cannot have overpowered mechanics to serve the power fantasy theme AND also want a challenging gameplay, this needs to be addressed.
  • This problem is heavily expanded due to the current enemy scaling. Or I should say, scalings. Because yes, Warframe has multiple difficulty scalings working sometimes against each other:
  1. Armor / Shield / HP scaling. Cookie-cutter stuff that make enemies dps sponges. One of the laziest scaling types one can implement in a game, by themselves they don't offer much.
  2. AI scaling. The enemy AI gets smarter and adapts (more offensive or defensive depending on the situation, use of tactics, new or expanded moveset/skills etc). Awareness can also ve included in this category (f.e. low level Grineer are kinda blind while high level ones can hitscan you from across the map).
  3. Enemy damage scaling. Usually implemented when the player has the means to fight it back or avoid it.
  4. The total number of enemies and/or harder/new ones (f.e. more Eximus units spawns).

    We can add more here but you get the point. Warframe throws ALL of the above at the player. This means that in high level missions you have the same enemies that you fought on the early planets, only this time they have higher effective hp, they rarely miss, they hit harder and bring upgraded/new friends along. You know how to fight the basic Grineer soldier, he is not using anything new at you, he just gets scaling on everything. There are only a handful of enemies that only spawn after a specific level with completely new mechanics and even they are subjected to the same scaling routine. However, because the players have been subjected to the powercreep, new mechanics don't really matter. You either kill the enemy, abuse an ability or get one-shotted. This has led to the majority of CC, status mechanics and player skillcap to stay benched. In fact, player skill gets rewarded more in the mid to high level missions rather than those higher above, cause at that point you shift to overpowered or borken mechanics (see any long endurance strategy).

  • Because of the current scaling system, a player cannot fully express their skill with a weapon or frame. This isn't a case of Pure Nail upgrade where you got into a situation that diminishes combat difficulty without your knowledge. Warframe expects that you will use all the broken mechanics and sets the bar accordingly. I mention this above but I have to really stress this issue: the game is balanced around the fact that it is not balanced. This is why player skill expression is higher in the mid to high tier missions. You can play around with different mod values and challenge yourself, hell you can equip nothing on your frame and use one weapon. There are very few examples of this once you go higher (like Savage Banshee).
  • The parkour system while fantastic has not yet been integrated into the melee combat system (4th time's the charm?). We have a mobility worthy of the legacy of our war machines that is selectively agile. You can dash across an entire room with one dash but if you kick an enemy with that much force you just tickle them. Instead of utilizing your movement to chain strikes and dashes you execute a somewhat fluid slide attack or worse slam your weapon into the ground (Seriously why would you do that? Warframes can break their fall due to their inherent power and maneuvers, just perform a diagonal slice when you attack from above instead and immediately chain that to a dash. Full movement and melee fluidity. Even better make the Parazon have a chain attached so f.e. you dash in the air, slice downwards diagonally, dash away, throw the Parazon behind on an enemy or surface, drag yourself backwards or swing for another slice using the momentum etc. Seriously, Hallownest bugs fight better than us).
  • New resources get implemented for the shake of implementation. There are multiple older resources that need sinks or new crafting paths. Some are downright useless (swim in Fieldron Samples but you can only craft a SINGLE Fieldron every 12 hours, have millions of Nano Spores and once you craft everything that requires them-as of now according to the wiki ~475k-they do nothing). New expansions come with new unique resources instead of integrating all of the older ones and combine the main game to the expansion.
  • Stealth as a gameplay mechanic is heavily integrated into the game. The tilesets are build in a way that support it. One mission type (Spy) requires it, kinda. But there is no incentive for it. Alarms currently arevery underwhelming, there is no real threat. Multiple Spy rooms don't need Stealth you can just dash your way to the vault (or use specific Warframe abilities and break the mission altogether. At some point the only thing most people connected stealth to was XP farm. Take a moment to consider how surreal this sounds, imagine if a friend told you "Yeah there are stealth mechanics in this game, you use them to farm XP!".
  • While also tied to the difficulty and scaling aspect of the game, I have to mention the co-op system. It's an entire new world when you play with friends but that applies to everything done alongside friends, I've heard Fallout 76 is also tolerable if played in this fashion. My main and biggest problem here is the resurrection system. See, normally a player gets 4 self-revives (6 with Arcanes, more if you use Wukong, infinite if you abuse your Operator powers). Operators do not lose a revive if downed, instead you go back to your frame, get a penalty and can use transference again (not even a substantial lock-out time penalty) and even negate the hp penalty through healing arcanes. You can also revive fallen allies in Operator mode while being completely immune. Yet for some reason when you play alongside multiple people you still get the 4+2 revives. In fact many people know how hard it is to die nowadays that they don't even wait to get revived, they just burn one revive. Most other players also don't bother to revive their allies because it's a waste of time, move on and finish the mission, the other person has 6 revives or more, whatever. You may think I am unreasonable if I was to suggest that revives get reduce by -1 for each player in the party (so in a 4-squad you get 1+1 max from Arcanes) but at the moment the revive system is not functional, it gets ignored. Why do we still have the revives then? Because of the scaling issues, the enemies are broken at higher levels and spawn out of nowhere, so the game still has to "compensate" for putting you into these shitty situations by giving you extra lives. It's not just this thing that gets broken by enemy AI and scaling, co-op also suffers. How many times have you seen people in a squad try to work together outside of farming or specific missions? Everyone does their own thing.

I can keep going but I think you get the idea. The game has multiple issues, some of which are very serious, that have been swept under the rug for way too long and at this point they have begun to fester. They affect multiple aspects of Warframe as well as the new expansions. Imagine a hidden paragon of frustration, something annoys you during gameplay but you cannot pinpoint it exactly. Sometimes you know what it is but cannot do anything about it. This is the current state of the game, multiple issues merged together in one large pile while we focus on the next 3 new expansions.

This is a personal request from me to DE. Halt the new stuff and fix what is broken in the game. At least split your workload into a 70% fixing those things and 30% working on new stuff. You cannot keep on designing and adding more roofs to a building whose foundations have become unstable. The new stuff may be interesting, they might introduce plenty new things, but no matter how far we Agro-launch ourselves we might not find anything on the other side. You know what the problems are. You have asked for feedback and players provide it every day. Act on it, instead of trying all those grand things at once work on the existing issues first through layers, one step at a time. Cause the pile under the rug is visible and doesn't smell well anymore.

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