Sometimes space ninjas want to take a break from shooting and killing. Instead, they want to create sweet music. The latest Warframe update gives players that ability, adding a fully playable guitar-like instrument into the game.
These new instruments are called Shawzin and they were added in the latest update that just hit PC this weekend. They appeared previously in the game as background items, but are now fully playable via an emote ability. Once purchased and equipped, players can start jamming almost anywhere in the game. Other players can hear your songs, or if you aren’t very good, they can be annoyed by your attempts to play music.
The in-game controls for the instrument are more impressive than you might think, even allowing players to change scales or activate a metronome.
One crafty player has actually created a real-life guitar-shaped controller they can use to play the Shawzin in-game.
Players can also record songs and share song codes, which lets other players actually play though the custom song complete with Guitar Hero-like notes and scoring. So yes, this is basically becoming Guitar Hero in space.
Warframe has quietly become one of the most popular online games on the planet, thanks in large part to how often the game is updated with new features, modes, weapons, suits, and missions. The community is also active, often happily welcoming new features or items. Like filling their entire ships with robot vacuum cleaners after one was added into the game earlier this year.
Currently, the update and the sweet new guitar are only available on the PC version of the game.
Adding fully-manned spaceships and space combat to a gargantuan online game like Warframe isn’t rocket science. It’s portal science. It’s also game development wizardry that makes my brain hurt.
Warframe’s upcoming “Empyrean” update will include space combat that allows players to do things like run around inside their ship while somebody else is piloting and even leap out and steal other players’ chrome-coated intergalactic hotrods. It’s an ambitious addition to a game that started out as a co-op PVE shooter starring space ninjas who, yes, could pull off impressive acrobatic feats, but who could not leap into outer space and soar around like god damn Gundams. However, while other space games like Elite Dangerous and (especially) Star Citizen fetishize fancy but oftentimes impractical simulations of outer space, Warframe’s variation on the idea is rooted in some absolutely wild technical trickery.
In an illuminating interview with PC Gamer, Warframe game director Steve Sinclair explained that he actually wanted to have these features in the game from the get-go when he first envisioned it over a decade ago, but technical limitations made it unfeasible. It would’ve been a huge hassle to math together a physics engine that—between players doing their own thing and ships hurtling through space at absurd speeds—would’ve accounted for so many moving parts. To realize Sinclair’s vision, players needed to be able to freely explore inside the ship without being tossed around like popcorn kernels in a microwave every time the ship jostled slightly as it hurtled through space. Ultimately, the idea wound up on the cutting room floor.
Now, years later, it’s about to be in the game thanks to portal technology. The ships that players are inside of, Sinclair explained, do not actually move. Rather, they exist in their own “little level” off to the side and are attached to separate ship models in a separate 32-square-kilometer space where everybody’s blasting each other with lasers and “yee-hawing” through asteroids. So you’re not actually inside the ship you’re piloting. You’re in a little box, like kids imagining they’re space captains.
The difference between you and those children—aside from their innate capacity to hope and see the good in people, I mean—is that you have a portal window into the universe you’re playing in. “Portal rendering,” as it’s called, works pretty similarly to portals in Valve’s 2007 game Portal, creating a window attached to another location in a 3D space and presenting a view from an entirely different perspective. This is how you will see into Warframe’s space map while existing entirely outside it. Your cockpit is basically just a big portal.
Ships, to be clear, do not move. “It’s fixed in space and we’re just moving the backdrop perspective,” said Sinclair. So it’s basically exactly like the Planet Express ship in Futurama, except Sinclair and company did it for real. Well, in a real video game.
On Twitter, Sinclair posted a diagram of all this, if you want clarity and/or to confuse yourself even more.
But it doesn’t stop there! Warframe still has to account for players leaping out into space and flying around. That, said Sinclair, does occur in an isolated pocket of the 32-kilometer map, but when players do that, they’ll only be seeing models of the ships that their friends are running around inside, not the ships’ interiors. Which aren’t there.
There’s a common and incorrect perception on the internet that game developers are “lazy” when they are, in fact, insane miracle wizards who will bend the rules of time and space just so people can run around inside their toy spaceships. All that in mind, I wonder how Warframe’s developers feel about bird necks.
Changes to quest structure and enemy behavior, ship-to-ship space combat, and a new, sprawling open-world area are just a few of the things coming to Warframe later this year and beyond.
Digital Extremes shared some new information and a bunch of trailers for the updates they’re working on at this year’s TennoCon held over the weekend in London. At the top of the list is the Empyrean expansion, first teased at last year’s conference, which will let players team up to control combat spaceships in a new type of mission. The studio went into detail about what Empyrean will entail with a new 44-minute demo.
The video shows three players in a customizable battleship called a Railjack setting off to explore the solar system in search of aliens to kill and loot to grab. While onboard, each player can help manage the ship’s shields, weapon systems, and special tools like EMP blasts. They can also disembark and get inside their Archwings, exosuits for flying through space that have traditionally been confined to a particular set of missions, to head out and board enemy ships. In the trailer, it’s reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed’s naval combat, but if the enemy ships housed mini-dungeons.
Digital Extremes says Empyrean will also have a new type of quest built around a feature called Squad Link. According to the studio, Squad Link will coordinate missions between different squads of players in different parts of the map. One group of players might pursue an enemy Railjack that’s protected by a powerful shield, while another group on the surface of a nearby planet then gets a distress call with the location of a limited-time objective to destroy the power generator for that ship’s shields. The expansion is also supposed to have overhauled graphics and updated enemy AI to make battles more dynamic.
There’s also a batch of smaller updates headed to game:
Making games is really hard and takes a long time. If you are like me and have never actually made a game before, it can be nearly impossible to understand just how hard development can be or how long it can really take. So to help save time, money and headaches, developers will often reuse assets in creative ways. But as Nelson also explained to me, reusing assets isn’t always a time saver and is a testament to how inventive developers can be.
While some gamers might see this as lazy, the reality is this is an important technique and helps devs finish your favorite games in a shorter amount of time. And some of the ways devs reuse assets are just as creative and interesting as the story or action found in their games.
Developer Jessica Ross explained that on one unnamed game, she had to animate a person having their heart ripped out of their body. However she didn’t have time to animate a heart so instead relied on some pastries. “I didn’t have time to model a heart, so I just took a baguette, scaled it down, and made it red.”
As pointed out by developer Ruby on Twitter, Warframe reuses many assets in various different ways. (To clarify: Ruby isn’t a developer on Warframe.) For example, as seen in the tweets above, some weapons are scaled up to and used to create new geometry on ships.
Another Twitter user, Carl Muckenhoupt, shared how Telltale reused a character model from a poker game to create an enemy in a different game. All it took was a name change and a mustache.
One of my favorite examples of reusing assets and content was shared by Kelly Snyder, who previously worked at Bungie. She explained that Aksis in Destiny 1 was just a heavily modified spider tank. “This is why 3 of coins doesn’t work on him- on the back end he’s technically not an ultra, he’s a vehicle.”
Some folks might see this reuse of assets as lazy. But Nelson told me this was not the case at all. In fact, while reusing assets can save time and money, it can also be even harder than making something new. “The problem solving needed to get a new solution from old pieces can take just as much effort, if not more, than just creating something new,” Nelson said. “Reused assets are a testament to developer ingenuity, not a willingness to cut corners.”
Reusing assets can happen for various reasons. Sometimes a project is low on funds and taking the time to figure out clever ways to repurpose enemies or items can help save money. But other times it can be a technical limitation. For example, a game getting too big for a cart and needing to reuse assets in clever ways to save space.
Nelson did admit that some games that are just straight asset flips do exist. These are games that are generally made very quickly using pre-built assets that are purchased on engine stores, like Unity. These games can be found on Steam and Google Play. But these are different from a developer reusing assets in a creative way.
“[Asset flips are the] equivalent of someone buying a Spider-Man costume on the internet and uploading their 720p backyard shenanigans as SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE. It’s not the real thing, and it wasn’t intended to be in the first place.”
In many ways, asset recycling is not unlike how many props get reused in TV shows and movies. The logic being, if you already made a set of space chairs, why make new ones if the old ones will fit in the scene? Especially if the chairs are barely seen in the movie anyway? Reusing assets in games can serve a similar purpose. If you already built a monster or sword for one game or level, why make a totally new one?
As games become bigger and bigger, with better-looking graphics and more complex systems, it will become harder and harder to make games in a healthy and affordable way without reusing assets. But this isn’t a bad thing. Reusing assets, if done correctly, will go unnoticed by most players and not ruin the game.
And it can lead to game development becoming easier, quicker and even less unhealthy. It can also help developers overcome budgetary or technical limits. And for eagle-eyed fans, it can provide a fun game-within-game, as they search for the source of that jetpack or building.
Warframe is an online game all about cool cyborg-ninjas, acrobatics, and weird aliens. However, something new was added in a recent update: Space Roombas. These small little cleaning-bots have quickly become beloved by the community, with players spending in-game currency on them and figuring out ways to create more of the little robots.
The new space Roombas, actually known as Domesitk Drones, were first seen in the Corpus Gas City. They are small robots who move around the area, cleaning it up. So yes, they are literally space Roombas. In the Jovian Concord, a recent large update to the game, these little robots became purchasable and players could buy a few and have them roam around their personal ship.
Players discovered that the drones also have cute and simple holographic faces, letting them smile as they work. One player posted on Twitter after seeing their drone smile that they now love them. And this player isn’t alone. Others have shared the cute faces featured on the drones, with one Reddit user commenting “I will buy a few of your brothers also,” after seeing a close-up of the cute little Roomba. Who can blame them? I don’t really play Warframe much and I want one of these things.
It’s like a herd of metal puppies and kittens. One thing to note is that each of these drones makes vacuums noises, which means the more you add the more annoying they all become. They sound like a giant herd of strange bees.
If you want a humming drone of your very own, a single drone costs 100 Platinum. That will set you back about $10. Is it worth it? That depends on a few different things.
First off, how cute do you find these Roombas? Secondly, how much spare Platinum do you have lying around. Finally, how serious are you about getting clean? Ultimately, I can’t tell you what to do with your money. But I know what I would do if I had some spare Platinum. (I would buy two. I don’t want one to be lonely.)
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
The Ropalolyst stalks the Corpus Gas City on Jupiter occasionally feasting on the metropolis’ machinery as if the place were made of worms. Part of Warframe’s latest update, the Jovian Concord, the gigantic bird comes from an ancient race of AI terraformers called the Sentient. It’s also one of the game’s best new boss fights.
The Jovian Concord includes a lot: a visual update, a package of additional in-game mods and equipment, and a new Warframe called the Wisp. This episode in Warframe’s deep and ever evolving universe takes the Gas City on Jupiter and reworks the visuals and textures to make the locale to look crisper, more detailed, and even older, as if it had existed for millennia before the player’s arrival.
The location’s overhaul comes with a new enemy type called the Amalgams, Corpus-Sentient hybrids, and a new mode called Disruption where players trigger conduits that produce random effects on the battlefield while fighting off waves of enemies. The Jovian Concord’s real draw is the Ropalolyst, though, which reinvigorates an old area with new dangers, mystery, and the promise of great new loot.
Before players can fight it, they have to complete a new quest called the Chimera Prologue. I won’t go into particulars to avoid spoilers, but it’s an excellent setup to the Ropalolyst, an assassination mission that opens up once the Prologue is completd. You can’t engage the Ropalolyst when it occasionally terrorizes the Corpus Gas City, but these spontaneous cinematic moments help make Warframe’s universe feel more alive and give the actual boss fight a bigger payoff.
I haven’t been able to successfully kill it myself yet, but the fight is an impressive multi-phase encounter that requires using the Ropalolyst’s laser-beam attacks to power up nearby conduit towers. From there, players need to deplete the beast’s shields and then eventually board it and ram it into one of the towers before proceeding to fight it on the ground. It feels epic despite growing out of one of the game’s more familiar and well-tread environments—or maybe even because of that.
Warframe originally came out on PC in early 2013. Back then, console players were still booting up their Xbox 360s, PS3s, and even Wii Us. Six years later, the game has come to each of those console’s successors, with updates spanning an entire console generation. It’s not surprising, then, that the game has begun to show its age in various areas. Rather than release Warframe 2, though, Digital Extremes has opted to steadily rebuild and improve upon the edifice that already exists, an approach whose payoffs have been made clear in this update.
There’s a history to Warframe’s futuristic version of our solar system, one made all the richer by the game’s own slow and methodical evolution. The Corpus Gas City was originally added to the game in November of its first year. It’s incredibly to see it filled with exciting new wonders all this time later.
Digital Extremes has overhauled the daily alert system in its free-to-play loot shooter Warframe, something that had been in place for six years, and replaced it with a battle pass system called Nightwave that weaves its reward structure into a larger story.
Nightwave is the name of a new radio station players can dial into on their spaceships. It’s run by a new character called Nora Night, who uses a pirated broadcast signal to share gossip and conspiracy theories about the rich, powerful, and dangerous. Every time players log on, she’ll have a list of daily and weekly challenges for them to complete in order to build up their reputation with her and earn Nightwave-specific rewards like crafting resources, weapon mods, and armor sets in the process. After a certain number of weeks, the entire thing resets and a new set of challenges and rewards become available, not unlike the seasonal updates already in games like Rocket League and Fortnite.
What’s extra cool about Nightwave is the way it’s subtly tucked into the rest of Warframe’s world building. Digital Extremes is treating Nightwave sort of like a radio play. There will be individual series that each run approximately 10 weeks, and inside each series will be a handful of episodes that slowly move the narrative along before resetting with a new arc.
The current series, called The Wolf of Saturn Six, focuses on a rogue Grineer criminal who managed to break out of a prison hidden deep within the planet’s gas clouds. Three other fugitives followed him, and now each has a random chance of spawning in any mission as a mini-boss. Defeat them and you build standing with Nora. Defeat the Wolf and he might drop one of the components necessary to craft the giant sledgehammer that he fights with. Nora’s daily and weekly challenges, like kill X number of enemies in Y fashion, each net 1,000, 3,000, or 5,000 standing with her, depending on the difficulty.
For every 10,000 standing, you reach a new rank going all the way up to 30, with a new prize at each tier. In addition, this first series adds a new currency called Wolf Creds which are awarded every few tiers and can be spent at Nora’s shop for other stuff like equipment mods, special skins, and new weapon blueprints. Once the series ends, all of this stuff will get replaced with a new set of loot themed around whatever the next storyline is.
It’s a lot, but also a huge improvement over the previous daily challenge system, which usually just consisted of going to a specific node on the map and repeating an old mission for a bunch of extra currency. It was mostly useless for veteran players and boring for newcomers. The new battle pass-style system not only provides a bunch of worthwhile rewards for logging on every so often to run a few missions, but also helps infuse Warframe’s universe with another level of fun intrigue.
“Greed. Brutality. Oppression. True stories, all, and the System is full of them,” Nora says at the beginning of her broadcast. “Dreamers? You listening? The System needs you performing your good deeds of the day. Nora needs it. Needs you to act. To change things. Hear the news, Dreamers. Hear it, or be it.”
Warframe has always struggled with feeling like a single, unified game with a clear overarching story, not because there isn’t one but because it’s spread out across the game in small pieces due to its fragmented structure. Who knows how the current series will wrap up or what the next one will be like, but for now, the start of Nightwave feels like a smart way to convey the mysterious mood of the game by pegging it to the incremental loot grind on which the core of it is based.