Are Warframe Nerfs Pushing the Community Away?

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by Ashley Kemp

Warframe is a free-to-play third-person-shooter that released back in 2013 to a small-ish audience. Since then, the community has grown quite large and Digital Extremes is even hosting its second-annual “Tenno Con” this summer. The problem with this and many other free to play titles is keeping the player base happy and engaged. Warframe is no stranger to the struggles of player drop-off and the community is always very vocal when it comes to feedback. Which is why this Warframe forum post doesn’t really surprise me.

The post, titled “Nerfs are not the right answer to the problems in the game”, references a Youtube video detailing the reasons why the player believes that weapon and frame nerfs are pushing the community away. The general consensus of those who replied to the post seems to be that these changes are needed, while those that replied to the Youtube video say they find most of the in-game nerfs annoying and unnecessary. So which is it? And is this really why people stop playing Warframe?

Warframe Limbo

First, let’s take a look at why Digital Extremes nerfs weapons. The usual argument against any changes in power is that the game is predominantly a PvE experience so there’s no need to nerf anything. However, that’s entirely not the case. As another Warframe forum post very eloquently puts it: “Why have options when one thing just destroys the viability of the other things? Balance.” I seem to recall a time where nobody used anything other than the Soma Prime as their primary weapon. It was the best gun in the game, so why use anything else?

As the game updated, more weapons came out and the Soma naturally progressed further and further down the list of used weapons. Some weapons got buffed, others got nerfed, and the cycle of meta gameplay continued. If Digital Extremes were to leave the weapons as they were, the game would inevitably become tedious and boring. Nobody would grind for new weapons or frames because the ones they use now are simply unbeatable. And if they just make everything else more powerful, well, then you’re looking at a game many players already say is too easy getting even easier. 

Warframe Inaros Dessicate

So are these “nerfs” really the reason players drop off the game so quickly? Personally, I don’t think so. As a regular player of the game, my main complaint is that there is very little to do outside of the regular grind, and what there is, is largely unfinished or thin in terms of content. While there is a growing number of quests in the game, they are sporadic and often fall short of expectation. Concepts like Archwing are brought in, worked on, broken, and left unfixed for sometimes months on end. The developers seem to be so busy trying to feed players content to keep them interested, that the content itself just isn’t up to the standards we’ve come to expect from this great game.

The question now seems to be: is this fixable? Well, yes. Player drop-off is an inevitability for a game like Warframe, but I believe it can be minimized largely in the same way that the Youtuber and OP talk about. Currently, Mastery Rank in Warframe is of very little consequence. During the lower levels you unlock the use of certain weapons and the higher you go the easier it is to mod your weapons. If every weapon was tied to a Mastery Rank and better weapons unlocked at higher tiers, we wouldn’t see so many players getting to Mastery 5, using the Tonkor, and ultimately getting bored in a month. If people are rewarded for playing the game then people will continue to play. In addition to this, fixing some of the pre-existing content and elaborating on the quests and lore would certainly keep me around for longer. But of course, this is only an opinion, and I’d love to hear yours!

Do you play Warframe? Why or why not? And what do you think the developers could do to keep their player base strong?

Be nice and share!
Filed under: Discussion, Featured, News, Warframe
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  1. We have to consider that game is in (perpetual) beta; they can change and update game elements as they wish and are constantly making upgrades and changes to game that is in a playable, finished form. And that is good. We are constantly getting more content and variety to the game which is really needs.

    The video has a great idea with the Mastery Ranks dividing clearly what is powerful and what is not. After hitting MR13, you can just acquire any weapon or frame you want, because there is no locks for MR 14-23 (23 is the highest possible rank currently). > Writer referenced this forum post from 2013 and in 3 years a game like warframe has had many, many big changes (2013 update 9, 2017 update 20..). The other forum post from 2013 is still a viable argument though and I agree with it.

    Apart from that, yes, DE struggles with providing content for end-game players and 3-4 year veterans that have already seen everything, but widely that is only a part of the community. In the far future one of their goals is to make warframe a larger scale mmorpg. And as a 4 year veteran myself, I actually havent seen everything yet, so they have to be doing something right.

    clrz on April 9 | Reply
    • The whole idea of a perpetual beta is one that frustrates me. If I had included my thoughts on it the article probably would have been twice as long, haha! While I’ve only been playing for about 2 years now, I’ve found that DE often leans on the fact that it’s in beta a little too hard. The released the Helminth charger as a Grinner-melded infested charger because its “in beta” and only recently came out with an, admittedly amazing, new model. If the content isn’t finished, don’t put it in the game.

      Not only that, but there is very little actual evidence to the game BEING in beta, which is frustrating. When you first create an account you see a little message pop up telling you the game is unfinished but nowhere (at least nowhere visible) on the website or on steam does it tell you of the game’s current stage. In addition to this, in my personal opinion, once players are able to pay for things in a game then that game should no longer be in or be called a beta.

      While I’ve only been playing 2 years, and I haven’t seen everything, I’ve certainly seen everything I WANT to see. A lot of the side content is boring or gives very poor rewards when compared to the work you put in, and that wouldn’t be the case if DE would just focus a little bit more. BUT! That’s just my opinion.

      Thanks for your comment ^.^

      Ashley Kemp on April 9 | Reply
  2. I am a founder and have picked up, and subsequently put down Warframe for years now, and It is my belife that DE have become so obsessed with making the player grind for gear that without the NRG element the game would cease to exsist. I have always belived that an engaged player base that makes changes based on the efforts as a whole is the best way to approach the game and something that DE now must consider the way forward for the game. Linking Dojos, Archwing. Relays and Sorties and adjusting how the enemy factions react to the tennos assaults on missions would be a good way to start. DE is caught in a spiralling web of grinding that the rightful name for the game should be WARFARM, i hope that the development team have the courage and confidence to forget the grind and move forward to engage in new ways.

    Kominous on April 9 | Reply
    • Personally, though the grind can sometimes be maddening, I support it. Because Warframe is a free-to-play title it is one way for the devs to sort of put up a “paywall”, but any player willing to put the time in can still get the content for free. I don’t know if they’ll ever pull away from that aspect of the game but that doesn’t mean they still can’t move forward!

      Thanks for your comment ^.^

      Ashley Kemp on April 9 | Reply
  3. wrote this as a response to a dude who posted a video about nerfs and lack of content. I think it’s relevant to this.

    Here is the thing. It really is simple when you break it down. It’s about money and “don’t try and fix something that isn’t broken” I can think back to when I was new to warframe. The game to a new player presents itself as a complex deep universe filled with endless challenge, depth and progress, and it does this very well.

    The result is the new player gets excited, buys platinum to buy his next warframe or rushes a build etc because he/she has dreams of meaningful content at the end of the rainbow. This is the bread and butter for DE – The new player who doesn’t know better and gets excited by seeing fashion frame rockstars with min/maxed gear looking cool and rocking it on a low level nitain alert. “I want to be that guy” so I too can do high level end game and be a rock stat like this guy = chi ching plat.

    Also, The veteran player knows the game inside and out, he will not buy plat for almost anything in the game outside of some trinket that cannot be farmed. DE knows this, which is why they don’t care about you. Even if the Vet gets so bored and frustrated that he/she decides to quit, the next generation of Newb turned Vet is waiting in the wings to continue to supply the eye candy power rockstar carrot to the new “new player” down the latter, and so the cycle continues….

    Consequently, Why would DE spend the time and resources to create new content with all the risks of screwing things up balance and community wise when it will have zero pay off to their bottom line?

    Look at all their nerfs….. It’s not about the community crying. It’s simply about the community bringing some things to their attention because DE is too inept and disinterested to even know what’s going on in their game. The ners are just calculated moves to remove things that unbalance the new player [plat buyer] experience. WHy? Because Vet/ POwerplayers don’t just stick to high end content. The way the game is set up anyone and everyone can be anywhere at the same time, not to mention that the majority of players like to show off to newbs as a rule of thumb.

    If all Vets were like you and used their gear for endless runs, rest assured nothing would ever get nerfed. But the reality is you see the power creep trickle down into the entire star chart and DE can’t have that be out of control.

    You don’t want a new player [the plat buyer] excited to use his new “serration” mod and his new Mk1 Braton on the new planet/mission he just unlocked to all of sudden watch everything get nuked without being able to fire a shot. So we see nerfs to stuff with a lot of aoe/nuke potential/clearing and staying power.

    What you are frustrated at is that they can’t even do what I described right as their nerfs lack a degree of consistency and even sometimes logic beyond some lazy wave of the hand like removing a fruit fly off your banana – which further suggests how little they give a crap.

    The truth is sad. Warframe is designed to sucker in the innocent, bright eyed and unsuspecting hopeful’s for money, and until they somehow screw that up too, nothing will change.

    MARLON on April 9 | Reply
    • This. This is the opinion I have always had about DE/nerfframe. They are focused on new players who spend lots of plats initially and then stop buying plats when they have all they want. Then, the new player gets in and gets excited after seeing all the OP stuff and wants to get it faster and buys plats. So, the cycle continues, just as you pointed out. I just login and logoff nowadays. Not even playing after U18.3 when they nerfed the poster-boy.

      sHASHANK on April 19 | Reply
  4. i always thought their (perpetual) beta was silly, the game has been playable for what 4 years now and still in “BETA”

    Notorios on April 10 | Reply
  5. The “veteran player mindset” frustrates me sometimes. Players who were once super excited and happily enjoyed this free game for years…YEARS, are now doing the same thing every other veteran player does on other groundbreaking games like COD or Battlefield: complain about a lack of content, accuse them of being money trappers and basically asking the developers for a whole new experience but within the same game. Believe me, I get it but this is unfair to DE. Is it a flawless game? No game is but it’s pretty close in my opinion. The real problem is the game IS awesome and the veteran community ultimately wants it to be new again while somehow allowing the collected content and stats to somehow remain, the “rush to win” plat purchases to be justified and the game world to be insanely large. It’s just not possible… it’s never possible. I’m on my 3rd year of Warframe and I’m still quite far from being bored with it. There are still lots of content and rewards to gain, playstyles to master, warframes to build and learn, etc., I’m happy with the game and look forward to the updates when they come. I know eventually I’m going to hit that veteran players plateau but, seeing DE struggle with countless contradicting complaints while still getting crap for trying to please everyone is ridiculous enough for me not to ever complain.

    Greg on April 10 | Reply
  6. I think that DE is making this game not fun anymore and when fun ends, players get away. They will nerf limbo for the 5º time and that’s not funny it is annoying and for me time to move to another game.

    Dosalei on April 14 | Reply
  7. so if the game is still in beta then the could legally and morally sell excaliber prime founder pack for they never left the beta which is the makings of a game ie. still not a true game.

    ed on May 21 | Reply
  8. Balance is a tricky thing in video game design. When Warframe first launched, all the guns were mostly balanced and the content felt challenging, although extremely repetitive. Back then, when releasing a new weapon it needed to be better than others or else what was the point? If you release a god-tier weapon and then release one that is total trash, why would any players but the time into crafting the trash weap? Therein lies the dangers of power creep. With each new weapon, the power of the weapons rose and Warframe as a whole felt… different. Instead of a balanced fight against difficult enemies, it became easy and people would see who could complete missions faster rather than seeing if they could win at all. This in turn led to Digital Extremes reworking how damage was calculated in the game, so that elemental weapons could no longer just stack all the elemental mods on there to get an insane damage increase. So many guns that players had pumped time and effort into making the best thing ever were now nearly worthless and a ton of players left the game. Now this power creep has started to return with critical damage and status chance builds easily melting even the highest game content and the best solution to the problem is unclear… Players tend to resent it when you make it more difficult for them to achieve their goals as it takes them more time to do so, even if it does provide a more rewarding experience. DE has tried adding content to combat the power creep weapons, such as various enemies that become resistant to whatever element you use against them, which may seem good as it suggest you swap to multiple different elements to take them down, a strategy that would feel rewarding… if not for the fact that it is much more efficient to just use an insanely strong weapon to one-shot said enemies before they can resist your damage type. So where should DE go from here? Well, they have recently started adding weapons with special features that make them entertaining to use rather than being crazy strong, so that is a good start. Adding more end-game content could be good, although that seems to require much more effort. Whatever direction this game takes, I am just happy to be along for the ride.

    Minifig3D on June 13 | Reply
  9. I played Warframe for years and I did end up quitting due to the nerfs. It wasn’t because the game was perpetually beta or too grindy. It’s because the time I spent grinding was wasted on stuff that would be changed by people who have a flawed sense of game balance. Making a good weapon into a trash weapon made me angry. And after Synoid Gammacor, Excalibur, Tonkor, Synoid Simulor, and other nerfs… I knew I could make a choice to put my foot down and delete the game. Or keep playing knowing more of the same idiocy would continue on the part of the developers. The quests are short and usually boring and grindy. What I think kept a lot of veterans playing is the fun and overpowered stuff. Take that away and the game lost its value to me. It remains among my deleted games that I don’t intend to play again. Get your act together DE or your game is going to fail once people realize it’s a glass house.

    QuitWarframe on September 17 | Reply

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