Just let us play our characters please!

The other day I finished the Glassmaker storyline in Warframe. I’d been looking forward to the big finale quite a lot, as this was the first Nightwave episode that I really liked in terms of lore as well as gameplay.

The investigation part played out as usual, and while the last item gave me a bit of grief because it was really hard to spot I still enjoyed it overall.

Then came the inevitable boss fight.

Dude, where’s MY big-ass sword??

I’m not a big fan of boss fights in general – multiplayer games usually being the exception – though this one, while a forced 1 vs 1, wouldn’t have been too bad were it not for one huge design “twist” that all too many game devs seem to be so very fond of using – taking away our weapons and/or abilities and replacing them with something else.

So here I am facing off a 50-foot monster, having equipped my most efficient, highly powered tools of destruction, the acquisition of which has taken much effort over the course of months – and I can’t fricking use any of it.

Instead, I have to dodge lumps of glass the baddie is throwing at me (when he’s not busy swinging his one-hit-kill sword), then pick them up and throw them back at him. I’m not even kidding!

Did I still whup his ass on the third try and got my rewards? Sure. Was it fun though? Hell no.

Game devs use this weird design crutch again and again – and that’s what it really is, isn’t it? A crutch. Beating this particular boss would’ve been a cakewalk had I been able to use my regular weapons and frame abilities, so they just didn’t let me.

*sigh* Alright…let’s do this!

Ok, sometimes it might not be that. When The Secret World takes away our powers so we have to punch our way out of the baddies’ underground lair with bare fists it’s for lore reasons and also for, well, fun, I guess. That whole mission chain is one big homage to the Indiana Jones movies after all.

And it is fun…for about two minutes. Unfortunately it gets old really fast, but the cultists keep on coming. By the time we got out of there on our very first playthrough I was determined to never do that mission again.

If this is what the afterlife’s like I want no part of it!

Over in Transylvania another quest tranforms us into some sort of wraith – and again all of our familiar abilities vanish from the hotbar, to be replaced with two simple, rather underwhelming attacks and one self-heal once more. The following fight was…not pleasant.

I sure hope you will, because I fucking can’t

Of course Everquest II did it too. I guess over the span of 16 years it was bound to happen at some point. Being a rat was good for some laughs at least, I’ll give them that.

Look, I get it. Stuff like this probably seems like a good idea on paper.

It gives players a diversion from their usual gameplay – which can get somewhat stale when you play an MMO for long enough, no argument there – and might also serve as an unexpected twist or even comic relief when done right.

I do not think that the benefits ever outweigh the drawbacks however.

You see, dear devs, by the time you throw this stuff at me I’ve most likely long made my choices. The class I play or frame I use, the abilities or skillsets I’ve picked and the weapons I wield – all of this makes up the character I want to play. You know, because it’s the combination I have the most fun playing.

Letting us pick – or, more often than not, work hard for – our favourite toys and then, out of the blue, being all like “Nah, you can’t use those now; here, have a dull teaspoon and some cotton balls instead” is, honestly, kind of a dick move.

I can’t be the only one feeling that way either. Actually, I know that I’m not. Bhagpuss talked about really disliking it when several of Guild Wars 2’s Living World issues pulled that kind of stunt more than once, for example.

I feel aversion is quite a natural reaction to this, because, again, we don’t play the characters we play by accident. We do because we like them just the way they are.

What my Bruiser’s hotbars normally look like…

Of course the fact that whatever it is that our familiar gameplay loop gets replaced with in such cases is, more often than not, objectively worse and less fun doesn’t help one bit. But that’s not really a surprise, is it? The core gameplay of every MMO, even a freshly released one, has usually been years in the making. How could some ‘gimmick mechanic’, only meant for one event, one quest or one boss fight ever match that?

So, dear game devs, please stop doing that kind of stuff.

My favourite restaurant doesn’t serve an old loaf of bread instead of the meal I ordered for the sake of ‘variety’ or ‘surprise’ – or just because it’s easier and cheaper to do – either, does it?

I’m doing it again! I need help…or do I?

First of all, our vacation was very nice and relaxing, so sorry but not really for the long pause since my last post.

Anyway, on to today’s topic. What is it, exactly, that I’m doing again? Having brand new content for my current main games at my disposal and not actually playing any of it, that’s what.

Warframe’s latest expansion, Heart of Deimos, launched just over a month ago. It includes a new open world zone (albeit a smaller one compared to the first two), so in theory it’s right up my alley and I’ve been looking forward to it quite a lot, and yet I haven’t returned there since I finished the few story quests that came with it. Then there’s ArcheAge’s Garden of the Gods update, which was released in fricking June, and I haven’t so much as gone near that new region either.

Looking back upon my history with MMOs I’ve realized that I’ve almost always done this.

For example, when Everquest II’s Rise of Kunark expansion launched in November 2007 I continued to do whatever I was doing at the time for another month or so, despite my main already being at the previous level cap and ready for the new content. This ultimately led to a mad scramble on my part trying to catch up with my guildmates later on, which turned out to be quite stressful.

It’s definitely not a conscious decision I make every time, it just kinda happens. But why? How come I always put off playing new content for a while before finally plunging in?

For one, I’m an extreme creature of habit. Being in familiar surroundings and doing familiar things just makes me feel comfortable. On the other hand however, given how much I like to explore and go on adventures, this surely can’t be the main, let alone only reason.

Another, more important one is that I always dread the redundancy of old content, old gear etc. that often comes alongside the release of new MMO expansions. You made me work for that stuff and learn the zones inside and out, and now you expect me to throw it all away and move on like it all never happened? I really don’t like it, and I think by not leaping at new content right away I’m kind of trying to delay the inevitable in such cases.

Then there’s the question of whether the new content is actually any good. I mean, it might be crap, right? If I just don’t go and see I’ll never know and consequently not be disappointed. It’s silly, I know, because even if it turns out to be crap I can still just go back to the old stuff. Regardless, I think this is also something that plays into this on an unconscious level.

Of course there are other, more rational and tangible reasons for not playing new content right away too.

Bugs and design flaws, for one. Using Warframe as an example, every largish update is followed by at least half a dozen hotfixes over the course of two weeks or so. It’s usually not exactly unplayable without those, but I’ve found the overall experience to improve by waiting for a bit.

Apparently a great many players aren’t fazed by any of the above at all, and as soon as new content for their favourite game is released it’s swarmed by the hungry masses. Some might like that buzz, but personally I’ve never been terribly fond of having to stand in line for quest mobs to spawn and stuff like that, so keeping some distance by waiting until the bulk of the playerbase has moved on suits me just fine.

Last but not least, having new content still ahead of me means always having something to look forward to. Once I get bored of the things I’m doing now I can still go ahead and check the new stuff out, whereas, had I rushed to the new hotness right away, I would only have “old stuff” to return to whenever that gets dull.

And there you have it. By itself each of the reasons I stated might hardly be worth mentioning or even somewhat silly, but when I add it all up I don’t actually see any reason to forcibly alter my habits when it comes to newly released content for the games I play.

So I guess I don’t need help after all, but thanks for asking anyway.

The Handy Guide to Rare Mods in Warframe

When I wrote my beginner’s overview of how mods work in Warframe I knew that, up to that point, I’d barely scratched the surface.

At the very least I’d grasped the system of mod rarity – bronze for common, silver for uncommon and gold for rare – or so I thought. Turns out though that many mods don’t just drop anywhere. You can play the game for months and still not own even a single copy of a specific mod, even though it might be a supposedly ‘common’ one.

The reason for this is that almost every activity in the game has its own reward table, which means that in order to obtain specific stuff you have to do the right things or you won’t ever get it.

First you have to actually be aware of the various mods’ very existence and which ones to aim for though, which isn’t easy to figure out either when you’re still new to the game. Of course I could just point you to the game’s excellent wiki, but since I’ve already done the legwork I figured I might as well spare you the hassle.

So without further ado, here’s my little guide to rare mods in Warframe, rare in this case meaning You need to know how to acquire them, not necessarily that the mods are of gold rarity (many of them are though). Keep in mind however that not every mod will be on this list, not even close; these are just the ones that any Warframe player should aim to get – in my personal opinion – because they make life much easier and/or enable builds or tactics that aren’t possible without them. Click the images to enlarge.

Corrupted Mods

All corrupted mods have in common that they enhance one stat, usually by quite a lot, while lowering another to compensate. Especially the frame-mods, of which there are five as seen above, are must-haves for any frame that benefits from huge amounts of a certain stat while not really needing or even not actually wanting one or more of the others (Nova comes to mind, whom I usually mod for maximum Ability Duration and as little Ability Range as possible).

You can only find these in Orokin Vaults, special treasure rooms that spawn inside all Deimos missions (formerly known as Orokin Derelict) except for Defense, Assassinate and the Cambion Drift. Keep your eyes open and search every nook and cranny as they are quite well hidden at times. You know you’ve found one when you see this fancy looking door:

In order to open it you need to have the correct Dragon Key equipped. The blueprints for these are researched in the Orokin Lab of your clan’s Dojo, the keys themselves are built in the foundry.

Each key considerably lowers one of your frame’s stats: your max shields, health, damage or movement speed, respectively, are cut by 75% (50% in the case of speed). Working together with other players and spreading the keys out obviously makes things easier, but I’ve found it perfectly viable to farm them by myself. I use Inaros for this and equip all keys except Hobbled (slow) at once. I always run the Capture mission (Horend) as it’s the easiest and quickest objective and doesn’t get in the way of searching for the vault.

Which one of the 23 corrupted mods you get is random, so good luck.

Nightmare Mods

Once you’ve beaten all missions on a given planet at least once, every eight hours one of them gets randomly flagged as a Nightmare mission. Enemies are tougher here and one or two environmental modifiers are in place to raise the difficulty further, like Health Vampire (you constantly lose health and restore it by killing foes) or Energy Drain (you’re permanently out of energy, basically).

The first time you beat one of these each cycle you get a random nightmare mod as an additional reward, which don’t give the biggest of bonuses, but increase two stats each instead of just one. More importantly, they enable you to use one more mod with a certain stat on it, so just like corrupted mods they can help to push that one desired stat up really high. You can see the ones I use the most above.

Combined Status/Damage Mods

This isn’t really one cohesive category of mods in terms of acquisition, but as they all serve the same purpose I’m lumping them together.

When used with the right weapon a high status chance can deal an absurd amount of additional damage. In order to achieve that without losing too much raw damage these mods, which increase both status chance as well as a certain damage type, are indispensable. They don’t have the highest of capacity costs to boot, which makes some of these builds achievable even without investing multiple Forma.

As the game doesn’t treat these as one single category the means to get them differ a bit, so here’s an overview:

These drop from Corrupted Vor, which is a mini-boss that has a chance to spawn in Orokin Void missions of level 40 and higher. I usually run the Survival mission (Mot) and stay until after the 10 minute mark. That way he spawned about three out of four times for me and I got all four mods relatively quickly.

Open all three caches in one of the following Spy missions for a chance at these: Cambria (Earth), Unda (Venus), Suisei (Mercury), Arval (Mars), Shklovsky (Phobos).

Open all three caches in one of the following Spy missions for a chance at these: Bode (Ceres), Amalthea (Jupiter), Valac (Europa), Dione (Saturn), Pavlov (Lua).

Open all three caches in one of the following Spy missions for a chance at these (as well as Hell’s Chamber, which is also a very good Shotgun mod to have): Rosalind (Uranus), Nereid (Neptune), Oceanum (Pluto), Kappa (Sedna).

Open all three resource caches in Naeglar (Eris) for a chance at these. Note that the caches are not the mission’s main objective, but an optional task just like the caches in sabotage missions.

The last two are only sold periodically by Baro Ki’Teer for 300 Ducats and 150k credits each when he visits every other weekend. As he only ever has a small range of his stock on offer it might take a couple of months until you get a crack at one of these though.

Primed Mods

These are alternate versions of various, (relatively) common bread-and-butter mods you’ll have most likely acquired through regular gameplay after a while, the difference being that the normal ones have a maximum rank of 5, whereas the primed mods can go all the way up to 10. Which means that they’re just stronger (not necessarily twice as strong though) for a higher capacity cost.

With a few exceptions these can only be bought from Baro Ki’Teer, which again means that you might have to be patient until you can get a specific one, and especially when starting out the Ducat cost can add up quite a bit too.

They aren’t mandatory, but obviously very nice to have. For starters I’d save up my Ducats for Primed Continuity as more Ability Duration is really great for most frames. If you like using shotguns or melee weapons buying Primed Point Blank or Primed Pressure Point, respectively, would also be a good idea.

Miscellaneous Mods

These last couple of mods don’t really fit into any category, I’m just including them because I feel they’re very good to have for the stats they offer.

Augur Message and Augur Secrets provide an additional way to increase Ability Duration and Ability Strenght, respectively, which is always great. They also belong to the same mod-set, meaning that using both enhances their secondary effect. You can get them by doing various Bounty missions on the Plains of Eidolon. The reward tables rotate every few hours, so check which mission, if any, rewards these before accepting.

Slash procs are great, and using Hunter Munitions on a weapon that doesn’t do a lot of slash damage but has a high chance to crit ensures that you still get these procs often. You can acquire it by doing Ghoul Bounties on the Plains of Eidolon, which are tied to a recurring event that’s active every few weeks.

And there you have it. Again, this is but a small fracture of all available mods, but if you’re just transitioning from being a beginner to a more advanced Warframe player these are the ones I suggest you try to get.

I like having stuff to do, but I hate dailies

Dailies1

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been very busy in Warframe – in a good way. Almost a year ago I praised the fact that the game gives me specific tasks to achieve specific things, which I much prefer over just doing whatever and hoping for the RNG gods’ blessing.

Despite having played for quite some time already there was still a whole lot of stuff I hadn’t done yet, so I set myself an array of goals and got to it.

For example, there’s a plethora of advanced modifications for frames and weapons players can and definitely should get their hands on. Especially those frame-mods enable highly specialized builds that are very powerful and couldn’t be achieved any other way.

Dailies2
Who would have known that less strenght can be a good thing?

So I ran Spy missions with the specific intent to crack all three data vaults (because the mods in question can only drop from the third), did Nightmare missions, hunted for Orokin vaults, purged the Plains of Eidolon of a ghoul plague and beat some puzzle rooms on Lua.

In order to get rid of my annoying Kuva Lich sooner rather than later I also ran mission nodes occupied by his thralls to gather intel, and Kuva Siphon missions to get my hands on more requiem relics.

Sometimes the stars align and I can even combine two or more of these tasks into one, for example when a Spy mission I want to do anyway is temporarily flagged as a Kuva Siphon mission, giving me the chance to nab a desired mod and a requiem relic in one go.

Dailies3

What I like the most about all of this, as I’ve come to realize, is the fact that with very few exceptions I can do everything entirely at my own pace.

You see, almost no mission in Warframe has a cooldown or other form of time-gated restriction to entry. Ran a mission and didn’t get what you want? Just run it again if you like. And again. And again.

Of course that can get boring, and maybe also frustrating if you still don’t get your desired price after your umpteenth run. To circumvent that I try to mix it up. My play sessions in recent weeks mostly looked like this: run two or three spy missions, then a couple derelicts, followed by a bit of stuff in the open world zones or maybe a Kuva mission or two. If I still have time and desire to play after that, rinse and repeat.

As I use different frames, and thus different playstyles, for most of these activities it doesn’t get boring at all, and it’s oh so satisfying to tick one goal after the other off the list, even more so when the rewards enable me to make my favourite frames and weapons considerably stronger.

Dailies4
Or just my hoverboard…err, K-Drive faster

What’s all of this got to do with the fact that he hates dailies? I hear you ask.

Well, that I don’t like ’em much isn’t exactly news, but having so much fun while ‘working’ towards my goals in Warframe – and the process not actually feeling like work at all – made me compare this experience with the other game that had me busy trying to progress in recent months: ArcheAge Unchained.

There’s still much that I love about AAU, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that upgrading your gear is pretty much hard-gated by daily and, to a lesser extent, weekly activities really sucks the fun out of it after a while. And that’s coming from someone who has not religiously done them each and every day, not even close.

Dailies5
I’ve done my fair share though, because there’s just no other way to achieve this

In my opinion the problem with dailies in general is twofold.

One, the amount of progress you can make on any given day is capped, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Have a day off work and want to knock yourself out? Well, sucks to be you I guess.

Two, and this is the biggie, miss a day and you’ll never get it back. It’s no wonder that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), a term I’d never heard until maybe two years ago, is used in context with online games quite often nowadays, because daily tasks or quests are the very embodiment of it.

Ask yourself this: how often have you logged into a game while not really feeling a desire to do so, but because you felt you kind of had to? If your answer is “never” you have much more self-restraint than I do, and kudos!

Now, what do I propose? After all, criticizing without having suggestions for improvement doesn’t help matters, does it?

Ok then, how about removing the timer from repeatable content? Let me do it as often as I like. And while you’re at it, make all content repeatable, not only a select few quests, and spread rewards out more.

Not only does this work well in Warframe, The Secret World has shown that even a proper MMORPG can benefit greatly from this kind of design. Ok, quests in TSW do have a cooldown, but it’s short enough to do the same quests at least twice a day, and – and this is the kicker – there are so many quests on offer that it’s just not necessary to do the same ones over and over.

Dailies6
However, some quests I just wouldn’t want to do again. Ever! Again!

Of course I do realize that this might cause balancing-problems as there will always be activities that are ‘worth’ more measured against the time they take than others, and it also greatly benefits folks with a lot of free time on their hands.

Well…so? It doesn’t happen often, but for once I agree with MOP’s Eliot when he posits that balance in MMOs is overrated.

Especially in PvE-centric games, who the hell cares if other players progress more quickly than I do? Frankly, I couldn’t care less. PvP-heavy titles are obviously a different beast, but those should be much more skill-dependent than gear-dependent anyway – which is a discussion for another day though.

Dailies7

MMOs need repeatable content, that much is obvious. Even I, as far from being a ‘hardcore gamer’ as I am, have proven time and again that I can consume content much faster than developers can provide it – much like reading this has taken you but a fracture of the time it took me to write it.

But dailies, login-campaigns, rewards on a time-logged-in basis…all this stuff that has nothing to do with us having fun playing your games and everything with MAUs and other such crappy statistics you can proudly present to your shareholders…that kind of shit can’t go extinct soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

Time flies when you’re having fun

CakeThree
As per tradition: moar cake!

Hard to believe, but today marks this here blog’s third birthday.

Had you asked me back then whether I thought I’d still be writing blog posts three years down the road…I really don’t know what my answer would have been.

One thing I do know for sure though. Had you told me at the time that I would publish 187 posts with a total of 156 thousand words, and still no end in sight, I’d called you crazy. But here we are.

The main reason, of course, is that it is a lot of fun. Much more so than I would have imagined. It’s also an ongoing learning experience. When I compare my first couple dozen posts with more recent ones it’s almost as if someone else had written the former. It’s remarkable how quickly human beings can learn stuff that’s rather alien to them and become at least somewhat proficient just by doing it over and over.

Along the way I’ve even learned a bit of HTML-code – I didn’t want to, but WordPress made me – which may come in handy…or not.

What didn’t happen was blogging becoming my true love and/or main driving force. Towards the end of Blapril Bhagpuss said that he’d rather write about games than actually play them, at least at the moment. To me actually playing the games is still much more important, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. After all the desire to chronicle my gaming adventures was and remains far and away the main purpose of this blog.

3rdBirthday1

Speaking of which, this third year has indeed been quite an adventurous one, not least due to the release of ArcheAge Unchained in October. Sucker for sandboxes that I am I’ve been deep-sea fishing, building a family empire with friends, trading, making music and generally goofing around quite a lot since then.

3rdBirthday3

Warframe was last year’s new addition to my gaming library, and a really great one. While it’s obviously neither an MMORPG nor a sandbox it has a surprising number of gameplay elements on offer that aren’t just about killing stuff. I’ve built a custom gun, went mining and fishing, composed deadly tunes, played Guitar Hero In Space and tried myself at parcours.

3rdBirthday2

The third game I’ve spent a lot of time with was EVE Online. I went back to nullsec, experienced my first Keepstar-kill, saw a faction Fortizar blow up and went to fight inside wormhole space. In April we would have finally made a trip to Iceland and attended the EVE fanfest too, but of course that didn’t happen. Maybe next year.

Finally, about a week ago Lakisa asked me, quite unexpectedly, about an MMORPG we hadn’t been playing for a couple of years. Honestly, I’d had heavy-heartedly made my peace with the fact that I’d never play it again some time ago, what with the reboot it got in 2017 that, in my opinion, was totally uncalled-for and ‘improved’ an outstanding game very much for the worse. Turns out, though, that the original version can still be played and even has a couple handful of players.

So yeah, we’re back.

3rdBirthday4
Looking stylish as ever…

Don’t be surprised to read some stories about a supposedly dead game around here in the near future. Year number four, here I come.

I built a gun out of scrap and fish entrails

Warframe_Kitgun0

I know it sounds weird, but that’s exactly what I did in Warframe, and I’ll definitely do it again. MacGyver’s got nothing on me!

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

My first impression of the game’s crafting was that it’s basically non-existent. Sure, you collect blueprints and resources for weapon- and warframe-parts all the time, but once you have everything you need you just go to your ship’s foundry, click the thing and wait until it’s finished. The crafting process itself doesn’t require any thought or effort, and you can’t influence the outcome in any way either. That’s not really what I’d call crafting.

Since many aspects of the game aren’t very intuitive or self-explanatory I’ve read and watched a lot of guides over time though, and one type of weapon that’s being recommended over and over is Kitguns. These are a special kind of secondary weapon that have to be assembled from different parts, with each part adding its own set of properties to the end product. By mixing and matching those components you can build a gun that fits your personal playstyle like a glove. They’re also said to be quite strong to boot.

Despite this sounding really good I still hadn’t gotten around to work towards getting one until recently though. I’d had just too many other things on my plate.

When pkudude99 of Nomadic Gamers reminded me of his great post about kitguns in one of his comments, which I’d read before but promptly forgotten afterwards (I think I didn’t even play the game yet at the time), I finally buckled up and looked into the process of building one.

Warframe_Kitgun1
Looks more like a tool Tim Taylor patched together

A finished kitgun is an assembly of three parts: chamber, grip and loader.

The chamber is pretty much the gun’s primary component as it determines the base damage type(s) and, even more importantly, the kind of stuff it shoots. Want the weapon to fire a continuous energy beam? Can do. A ball of energy that explodes in an AoE? Also possible. Auto-fire hitscan? No problem.

A kitgun’s grip determines the amount of damage it deals and also its rate of fire. Of course those two stats behave inversely proportional for balancing reasons, so you’ve got to decide whether you like slow-firing, hard-hitting guns or vice versa (or something in between). If you’ve chosen one of the energy-type chambers the grip also has an impact on the gun’s range.

Last but not least the loader lets you choose magazine size and reload speed as well as crit- and status-chance, again with each pair behaving inversely proportional.

I’ve always been what FPS-experts would probably call a spray and pray-kind of guy, so I knew from the start that what I wanted was, coincidentally, exactly what pkudude99 also prefers: a very fast-firing hitscan weapon with lots of crit chance so it procs Arcane Velocity often and fires even faster.

Unfortunately pretty much everything you can do in Fortuna – just like Cetus on Earth – is gated behind a faction rep grind. To be able to buy the blueprints of choice I needed to do some legwork first.

Luckily for me there are open world activities on offer that I like and which are even more effective for raising your faction standing than running missions: mining and fishing.

Warframe_Kitgun2
Gimme those shinies – the mining-minigame is quite relaxing

Of course mined gems and ore are needed for crafting too, but you can also exchange them for faction standing. So I spent quite some time in the caves of Orb Vallis, which ain’t so bad as they’re a far cry from the dark, dank places you probably imagine when you generally think of caves.

Warframe_Kitgun3
Looks more like a Spa, maybe I should stay and charge admission fees

Fish, just like gems, can be sold to increase your standing. Alternatively you can dismantle them for scrap and other parts – fish in the Orb Vallis are actually machines, called servofish – some of which are indeed required to build kitgun components.

Warframe_Kitgun4
I assume servofish entrails aren’t quite as disgusting, so that’s a plus

At this point I got sidetracked for a bit, as I got the idea to dedicate one of my orbiter’s aquariums solely to servofish and to only have one of each species in there.

Warframe_Kitgun5
Definitely more interesting to look at than Picard’s lionfish

By then I had risen the ranks enough to buy two of the three blueprints I wanted. For my optimal loader there’s still some more work to do, but I figured what the hell, I’ll just go for the second best and build that fricking gun now.

Warframe_Kitgun6
I hope I won’t hold it upside down or something

What can I say, it’s every bit as great as advertised. The default rate of fire isn’t quite as high as I’d expected, but as soon as Arcane Velocity procs the stream of projectiles rivals even that of a minigun. When fired in controlled bursts it’s also pretty accurate even at a distance, and now that it’s ranked up and modded properly it shreds enemies in a heartbeat.

As soon as I’m allowed to buy the better loader I’ll go ahead and build the perfect version of this kitgun, and maybe I’ll also try a variant that shoots those exploding energy balls. The possibilities are endless.

Oh, and now that I’ve acquired a taste for do-it-yourself weapons I’ll probably look into those Zaws I’ve heard so much about…

Warframe_Kitgun7
Now THAT’S an assortment to my liking

Blapril 2020 post count: 6

Operation: Scarlet Spear isn’t that bad

Although it’s obviously a well-known truth that people’s opinions and standpoints on any kind of topic can and do differ wildly, I’m still flabbergasted from time to time by the amount of rage such innocuous things like a new event in an online game can cause.

Enter Operation: Scarlet Spear, an event that’s running in Warframe right now.

Warframe_Scarlet1
Event-themed loading screen included

The event started on March 20th, and saying that the community isn’t satisfied with it would be a huge understatement. The gameplay is much of the same, the rewards are crap, it takes too long, it’s buggy…you name it, I’ve heard it.

To be fair, it was pretty buggy at release, and it still isn’t perfect. Digital Extremes haven’t been twiddling their thumbs though; until now they’ve released ten (!) patches that, as far as I can tell, squashed most bugs, at least the obvious ones. They also buffed payouts of event-currency significantly and prolonged the event by a week to make up for the less than ideal start. Needless to say though, many folks still aren’t happy.

Me? I’m pretty satisfied. The gameplay is ok and actually quite fun and efficient to run with Mesa (what a coincidence), and the rewards are tremendously generous from where I’m standing.

Warframe_Scarlet2
Ground-mission’s big bad…one of ’em, anyway

You see, despite having played the game for quite a while now I’m still far from having achieved, leveled and done everything. Very far indeed. I guess that affects my perception of how rewarding the event is quite a lot.

First off, there’s the event currency itself, Scarlet Credits. Players can buy two new weapons, a bunch of fluff items and arcanes with those. The weapons are not very good (or so I hear) and fluff doesn’t interest most progress-oriented people. Which leaves the arcanes.

Arcanes are augments for your warframes which, until now, could only drop from Eidolons.

Warframe_Scarlet3
These little fellas…

Hunting those is one of Warframe’s endgame-activities, if you will. I assume many high-end players have all the arcanes they’ll ever need. In contrast, I haven’t killed or captured even one of the buggers yet, hence I didn’t own any arcanes whatsoever before Scarlet Spear. Some of them are really strong though, so for me it’s a godsend that I can just buy them now.

Warframe_Scarlet4
My Mesa Prime’s mod section, arcanes on the right

I’ve talked about mods and Endo before. To upgrade the former to the highest ranks you need huge amounts of the latter. Whatever you’re doing in the game, mobs sometimes drop small amounts of Endo – to the tune of 15 or, if you’re lucky, 50 or 80. Some missions reward 200. The biggest single source is the sale of Ayatan sculptures, but those are rather hard to come by.

Each wave or phase of Scarlet Spear’s ground missions rewards something at the end. Usually it’s a tier 1 or tier 2 relic, but there’s also a chance of about 25-30% that you get this:

Warframe_Scarlet5

That’s a lot of Endo for not a whole lot of ‘work’.

You can do up to 17 waves per ground-mission before you have to extract, which takes a good group about 25 minutes, and every time I take two to three thousand Endo home with me. That’s huge.

Those relics I mentioned are great too. Even if their loot tables don’t contain Prime blueprints that I want, one can never have enough Ducats (another important currency), which they can be sold for.

There are even more drops and currencies that these missions yield, like sentient cores and lots of Focus, but suffice it to say it’s very worth it for me to do them.

The gameplay, like I said, is ok in my opinion. I’ve heard people dub the ground-mission a ‘glorified mobile defense mission’ (a mission type that’s been very long in the game and thus nothing new), and there’s some truth to that. No one needs to carry an item around though, which is a big plus in my book. And, well, you basically shoot and hack and slash until everything’s dead, then you move on. If you don’t like that gameplay loop, well, Warframe isn’t really the game for you, is it?

Warframe_Scarlet6
Ground- and space-squads hard at work

There’s also a space mission, which I haven’t done yet. The event’s big and advertised novelty is that the ground-squads need to cooperate with the space-squads to get things done. In practice you don’t really notice it much though. There are on-screen messages informing you that you’ve done your thing and that player xy’s squad can now do their thing, but that’s about it. Since I’m not in a clan I’m quite fine with that to be honest. The thought of having to somehow coordinate two pick-up groups of four makes me shudder. I can really do without that kind of stuff.

So, let’s draw a bottom line. Is Operation: Scarlet Spear the best thing since sliced bread? No, it’s not. To me it’s definitely fun enough to play a round or two a day though, and the rewards are huge at my current point of progression.

If you play the game and don’t consider yourself to be a have-it-all, done-it-all-player I highly recommend not listening to the naysayers and giving the event a try. It runs until April 28th.

Blapril 2020 post count: 4

Do you feel lucky, Tenno?

Warframe_Mesa1

This badass-looking gal is Mesa Prime, my very first self-farmed and -built Prime frame.

Yep, I’m indeed back to Warframe. The release of ArcheAge Unchained in October pulled me away for a while, but a couple weeks ago I started to feel the urge for more action and a faster pace in my gaming diet again, so here we are.

I’m still playing ArcheAge though, as well as EVE Online. It seems like I’ve finally given up on finding The One Game to devote every bit of my gaming time to for long stretches, and I’m slowly starting to realize that that’s actually a good thing. I don’t miss out on quite so many great games that way, it keeps things fresh and prevents burning out on any one game (which happened to me more than once in the past).

I think I actually was relatively close to burning out on Warframe before I took that break, mainly because I’d hit a brick wall of difficulty that I seemingly couldn’t get past. Yet in the relatively short time I’ve been playing again I’ve progressed so much in so many ways that it’s kind of hard to fathom what kept me from doing so before.

Warframe_Mesa6
Kill Lephantis (aka WhatAnUglySonOfAMother): check!

Maybe the hiatus has helped me get a fresh perspective on things, because I changed my approach to play the game in two ways without really thinking about it.

One, I’m way less reluctant to spend my resources. For example, there are so many different mods in Warframe that you can’t possibly rank them all up to the maximum right away, so you have to prioritize. Whenever I have difficulties to make such a decision I often choose not to decide at all because I’m afraid I might regret it later. Hence I was playing with sub-par mods while having about 25k Endo lying around unused for quite a while, which obviously held me back power-wise. I’ve now spent a good chunk of that and things look vastly different.

Warframe_Mesa8
Finally build an Archwing launcher: check!

Two, I use co-op matchmaking more often.

The first time I played with a group last year was a quite surreal experience. Those other players seemed to be playing a wholly different game than me. They were moving so fast and all mobs dropped dead instantly, before I even knew what was going on the UI informed me that the mission was done and three other players were already waiting for me at the extraction point. What the heck?

I very much like to play at my own pace, and I certainly don’t like the feeling of being carried, so I chose to play mainly solo from then on. Save for some exceptions the game’s much easier with a group though, and now that I’ve amped up my gear and have some more experience I can group up without feeling like the proverbial fifth wheel anymore. Well, sometimes anyway.

Warframe_Mesa5
Build a drydock and start reconstructing an old Railjack: check!

Which brings me back to Mesa Prime. Not long ago getting my hands on any kind of Prime equipment through normal gameplay seemed very unrealistic to me. The necessary blueprints for a Prime item – usually three for its sub-components and one for the finished thing – have to be farmed via the relic system, meaning that you have to repeatedly run relatively high level missions for at least one or two of them.

Not only is this much easier with a group, you can even choose between your own relic’s reward and that of any one of your teammates at the end of the mission, which drastically increases the chances of getting something good.

So after I’d run a bunch of those with the group finder’s help I took stock of my spoils and noticed that I already had three out of four blueprints for Mesa Prime. Of course I immediately consulted the game’s excellent wiki about from which relic to get the last one and concentrated my efforts on that. I ran out of the relic in question without getting the blueprint, but fortunately a couple of runs later another random team member used that same relic and hit the jackpot.

Warframe_Mesa7
It’s always those damn Argon crystals that are missing…

So I built the components, then the frame itself. I even coughed up some platinum to cut down the last step’s 72 hours-long waiting period because I couldn’t wait to try her out. And try her out I did.

Her gunslinger-like looks aren’t deceiving as she’s all about shooting at stuff with pistols, and she’s faster than her own shadow indeed.

Her passive increases her fire rate while dual-wielding two pistols or her reload speed when using a single one. Her active abilities all fit the theme one way or another as well.

Warframe_Mesa2

Ability 1 sounds good for killing especially tanky monsters or bosses. In practice I don’t feel it’s necessary though, and I’d rather spend my energy for the other three.

2 and 3 are both really great, and I try to have them running at all times. A permanent damage boost and near-invincibility against ranged attacks? I’ll take it! To accommodate for that I have modded her for as much additional ability duration as I can. (Shooting Gallery’s description doesn’t actually say that the damage boost also applies to myself, but the wiki and several guides insist that it does)

As with most frames ability number 4 is basically her ‘ultimate’, and boy does it feel like one. When you activate Peacemaker she holsters all other weapons, pulls out her Regulator Prime pistols and basically becomes a stationary gun turret. It looks a bit like McCree’s Deadeye (an Overwatch hero’s ultimate), but instead of firing only one bullet at each target you can hold down the left mouse button and spew an endless stream of lead.

Warframe_Mesa3
It’s basically Equilibrium’s gun kata on steroids

No need to reload, no need to cool off, she just keeps on shooting as long as there’s stuff to hit and her energy doesn’t run out. She mows down everything in sight in no time though, so I never ran into that problem until now.

Although she uses her Regulator pistols only in conjunction with Peacemaker they are a distinct weapon that can (and should) be modded independently, which is where some of my excess Endo went.

Warframe_Mesa4
Now I need to use some Forma on them for additional capacity

She’s really fun to play and also quite strong. When I feel dishing out lots of damage at range would be beneficial for a specific mission I know which frame I’ll choose from now on.

So that’s where I’m at right now. There’s so much to do in Warframe and so many different ways to play, it’s astounding. I’ll take my time and just enjoy the ride though.

That being said, we’ll have a week and a half off starting next Monday and would have made a trip to Iceland, had COVID-19 not drastically changed our (and everyone else’s) plans. So I see a lot of additional time for playing games on the horizon.

Always look on the bright side of life, right?

Pumping up the jam

Warframe_Octavia1

Meet Warframe’s Octavia, the most unique and fun class I’ve had the pleasure to play in any video game ever. This may sound like hyperbole, but I’m serious.

After finishing the great Octavia’s Anthem quest I set my mind on farming the three required blueprints to actually build this frame. With a bit of luck I’d already managed to do so by Tuesday, but since building frame components takes 12 hours and a frame proper three days it wasn’t until late Saturday that I could finally take her out for a spin.

As the quest strongly suggests she’s all about music. Her abilities’ descriptions confirm as much:

Warframe_Octavia2
Click to enlarge for better readability

To make it easier to tell them apart and also stay within established Warframe-lingo I’ll just call them by numbers, so 1 is Mallet, 2 is Resonator, 3 is Metronome and 4 is Amp.

So what does all this actually look and sound like? Let’s see.

Warframe_Octavia3

Your 1 drops a little ball to where you’re aiming. It’s indestructible and stays there until its duration expires or you recast it elsewhere. Enemies within its range (depicted by a pulsating sound wave as seen here behind me) attack it and have their damage reflected back to them. This is doubly great because not only does it draw enemy fire away from you, it kills even the strongest foes with ease as it’s their own damage that kills them, not yours. I assume this doesn’t work on bosses though.

In terms of music and visuals it emanates a drum beat, and those volume bars coming out of the ability’s center point pump rhythmically to it.

Warframe_Octavia4

The 2 by itself is nothing to write home about. This ball just rolls around seemingly at random and makes enemies run after it. It plays a bass line, other than that it’s not of much use like this. Combine it with 1 though…

Warframe_Octavia5

Cast 1 then 2, and the beat latches onto the ball. Disco ball for the win! Now it makes the baddies follow and shoot it, thus killing themselves, and covers a larger area since it’s moving. This might not always be desired as it sometimes leaves your immediate vicinity before all foes are dead, but it works great for clearing out a level in front of you while you’re still looting or scanning stuff. The drum beat and bass line play in unison when doing this.

The 3 plays the song’s melody. It isn’t screenshot-worthy because it just makes some lines appear on the ground moving towards you, one for each note. This is supposed to help you find your rhythm, because you indeed have to crouch, jump, fire or melee to the beat (to the melody, to be precise) in order to activate the various buffs. It’s very worth it to do so; who doesn’t like to have speed and damage buffs running while being invisible at the same time?

The 4 does exactly what it says in the discription. It gives your team and your 1 a damage buff, and the louder it is around you the stronger the buff. Shooting and slashing do count into it (I think), but to get the most out of it just activate all of Octavia’s abilities at once and enjoy the show.

Warframe_Octavia6
While listening to the complete song in all its glory

Let me tell you, if you have any love for music this is pure joy. When I play this frame my face starts to hurt quickly because I’m grinning the whole time.

It also changes the way the game is played quite a bit. I imagine that if you can make her abilities strong enough you actually don’t need to bring a gun to most missions anymore. Of the frames I have at my disposal right now she’s arguably the strongest by quite a margin.

But this ain’t everything yet. No, I’ve saved the best bit for last.

A couple of times now I’ve mentioned “the song”. It’s the music you hear during Octavia’s Anthem, and it’s quite nice. But this is only the default song the mandachord, Octavia’s instrument, can play. You can actually compose your own!

Warframe_Octavia7

Holy crap, so Digital Extremes release a new frame (in 2017 that is), and not only do they give her a really great set of abilities and unique way to play, they also give us this? For free? In my opinion this is above and beyond what a good F2P title can do for its players. Thank you DE, and take note everyone else!

Anyway, as you can see the notes you can scribe are divided into three categories for your abilities. Your 1 has three different notes (bass drum, snare or clap, hi-hat), while your 2 and 3 get five notes each. Unfortunately this means that you can’t use the full musical scale. For bass line and melody the notes you can use are D, F, G, A and C, from low to high, so just short of one octave in range (ironic, what with her name being Octavia and all). The game doesn’t tell you this, by the way, I had to figure it out myself. You also can’t change the tempo (about 115 BPM), the meter (4/4) and the song length (four bars) after which it repeats.

This means that you can’t compose or replicate just any song (like I had so much fun and success with in APB Reloaded), at least not perfectly. But as it turns out many known, catchy tunes are indeed so simple that you can make it work.

As a big football fan my first idea, for example, was of course Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400 (the part you’ll probably rercognize starts at 0:41).

Except for one note I was able to recreate this pretty well I think. I obviously chose a passage with beat and everything, namely the four bars starting at 1:29. Now I get to hear “my” football hymn whenever the Rolling Disco Ball of Death shreds everything. The mandachord-screenshot above shows the first bar and a bit of the second, but if you play the game and would like to have the whole thing just send a whisper to Mailvaltar.

For it to sound just right I bought a couple of additional instruments for platinum though, so I guess it’s technically not quite correct that they gave us everything related to Octavia for free. However 50 platinum for a set of instruments (one drums, one bass and one melody) isn’t all that much, and I was more than happy to give DE a bit of support for this truly awesome frame (and game).

Now, if you dislike looter shooters in general this probably isn’t enough to make you like Warframe – especially as it takes a good while to unlock her – but if you do like this kind of game and also love music you really owe it to yourself to experience this.

There are stories behind those doors

Warframe_MidProgression2

Warframe continues to amaze me on a daily basis. There’s so much to do and see, it boggles the mind.

Up there you see me on my hoverboard, cruising the mountaintops of Orb Vallis. I’m still getting the hang of riding it, but it’s a lot of fun and also blazingly fast compared to traveling on foot. This is ‘only’ the vanilla version of it too; in time I’ll build my own one, custom stats and all.

Disclaimer: from here on out there will be spoilers if you haven’t finished The Second Dream and subsequent quests yet, as well as some other story bits, so be warned.

Still here? Ok then.

When you go down one of the ramps right behind the arsenal in your orbiter there’s a corridor leading to three doors, all of which are locked initially. By now I’ve managed to open them all.

Warframe_MidProgression1
Ordis is right, this is disgusting!

A couple of days after I’d played some missions teamed up with strangers I noticed some kind of cyst growing on one of my warframes’ neck. Turns out there’s a virus going ’round, and someone had infected me with it. It’s fully grown one week after the infection, and then the frame in question can enter this room. As of now the only function available here seems to be to cure the frame, but Ordis says that this entity, known as Helminth, serves the warframes and the ship, so there might be more upcoming.

Instead of curing the infection one can use the ship’s incubator unit to drain the cyst (yuck!) and grow a special kind of Kubrow (= doggo) from it, so choose wisely.

Warframe_MidProgression3

This is the last part of the Octavia’s Anthem quest, which is all about music. Naturally I loved it, although the finale is pretty heavy on the jumping-puzzles, so you better limber up before going in. Unfortunately the quest doesn’t gave me access to the finished Octavia frame as I’d hoped, I only got its blueprint. Getting all blueprints for the subcomponents will take another while.

Moving on to the big story quests and the remaining doors.

When starting out in Warframe the player doesn’t know much about what a Tenno actually is. Where did they come from, what’s the source of their powers, why do they even exist?

The Second Dream and The War Within delve into that and answer some of those questions. I won’t spoil the stories and revelations in detail, but suffice it to say at the end of The Second Dream I at least had a pretty good idea about who’s inside of my frames…because I had to actually create him (or her, if you so choose).

Warframe_MidProgression4
That’s a first: character creation after having already played for dozens of hours

From that point on every frame has a fifth ability, which makes the operator (he still has no name) leave the frame for a couple of seconds and shoot a big fricking laser beam at his foes.

He “lives” in the second of the three eponymous orbiter-rooms, and his appearance, equipment as well as a whole new progression system of active and passive skills are managed here.

During The War Within he learns more about his past and how to control his powers, making him capable of leaving the frame indefinitely and fight with some powers of his own.

Warframe_MidProgression5
Now that’s what I call an out-of-body-experience

In my opinion these quests as a whole are very well done. The end of TWW was also a pretty strong emotional moment, storywise as well as visually and audibly.

Warframe_MidProgression6

One of its rewards is access to the third and final room, which is the operator’s personal quarters. As I’ve talked about before you can place decorations anywhere in the orbiter, but this room is designed specifically to make it your own and feel at home.

Warframe_MidProgression7
What would a capatin’s quarters be without Jean-Luc Picard’s aquarium?

It’s not huge, but pretty nice. There’s a large pedestal in the middle to install another, bigger aquarium, or one of several vignettes depicting the various planets. I’m using the Plains of Eidolon, mainly because it’s accompanied by very soothing outdoor sounds.

I haven’t played around much with the room yet, but I intend to knock myself out and make it into something special over time.

The first item on the agenda was getting some fish for the aquarium of course. So I grabbed my fishing spear and off to the Plains of Eidolon I went.

Warframe_MidProgression9
There’s always a bigger fish…

The room also provides a jukebox of sorts, the somachord. Actually using it is unlocked by completing the Octavia’s Anthem quest mentioned above.

Warframe_MidProgression8
Seen in the bottom right. The urn on the left was rewarded by another quest

Nothing’s easy in Warframe though, so I have to find and scan some more fragments to unlock songs before I can actually use it. That’s fine by me however, because I intend to play the game for a good long while yet.