Warframe is getting an open world, MMO-like area, here's everything you need to know

Warframe's Plains of Eidolon update is out now. We'll have more information and impressions in the coming days. In the meantime, here's what we learned from Digital Extremes back in July.

Warframe's second annual TennoCon convention is today, and developer Digital Extremes had some exciting news about its next big update. Titled Plains of Eidolon, it will add the game's first large, open world area called a Landscape. Unlike Warframe's regular procedurally generated levels, Plains of Eidolon will be a hand-crafted environment complete with a day-night cycle and an NPC town called Cetus where players can take on quests.

In a similar style to the first Guild Wars, an instance of Cetus will support up to 50 players, before you then venture out in the usual groups of one to four. Even still, this is a massive shift in the typical gameplay loop of Warframe. Staying loaded into an area to take quests wasn't possible before, making the game closer to a traditional MMO than it's ever been.

You'll even be able to seamlessly equip your Archwing and fly around to support allies from above, which you'll likely need to do come nighttime. While you fight the more traditional Grineer during the day, enormous creatures called Eidolons roam the plains at night—another first for Warframe. There's a lot going on in Plains of Eidolon (including a brand new weapon crafting system, as well) and Digital Extremes tells me more Landscapes could come if players end up liking them.

I put some questions about both the intent and the specifics behind this update to Digital Extremes' Live Ops and Community Producer, Rebecca Ford. Read on to hear more details about Plains of Eidolon and the new direction Warframe is heading.

PC Gamer: How large is Plains of Eidolon relative to other Warframe maps?

Rebecca Ford: Something we worry about constantly is how to keep things fresh after four years, not fall into a comfort zone, and to continue to take risks. We built Warframe with a procedurally generated map system that encompassed indoor and outdoor closed environments to help elongate play and keep players entertained while we continue building new content.

Now, we're introducing Landscapes for the first time and in its first iteration in Warframe. Landscapes is what we call an open zone, not quite the size of what you'd expect of open world in other games but still sizable, that offers a new kind of player freedom through interaction with NPC characters, flying over the plains using your Archwing, encountering new enemies during the day and at night. It's our first introduction of this new mechanic so we're nervous but really excited to see how players react and will continue to build on it as it grows.

This sounds a lot like Warframe is becoming more like a traditional MMORPG, at least in part. Was that the intent behind it?

If I were to hop into a time machine and travel back to 2012 to tell my younger self that we'd be at a point of introducing content like this to a game that started out as a third-person shooter with cool parkour—well, I'd say you're just crazy! And sure, creating an open landscape like this could be compared to a lot of genres, adventure games, open-space action games, MMORPGs. But the intent since day one was to take leaps, create and add to the game in an organic way where we listen to and surprise our players, so in a way the game has evolved into a mash of genres that we didn't necessarily plan specifically but so far we've managed to make sense of. 

What sort of missions or quests are there to complete, and what kind of rewards do they give?

Right now we are filling out the Landscapes with quests and mini-quests through NPC characters that you meet in the village of Cetus. There's a continuous day and night cycle, where you'll see the sun gradually go down at night and slowly rise in the morning, so it creates a feeling of being there, that’s also new to Warframe. 

In the day, you will experience the Warframe you know and love—kill Grineer, get resources, build awesome stuff, get stronger. This could be an endless loot experience if you aggressively upgrade and customize and look to trade off your finds with others. But we’ve added something much deeper, surprising—we’re adding weapon crafting to Warframe’s first Landscape. While we've had great customization before, using our Mod system, this is an entirely new system where you build Ostron weapons from components! Each component allows you to create a new style of weapon—and of course, you'll get to give it your [own] name for once!

And that’s just the day. At night, this is when even the Grineer flee. This is. what we want to be, some of the hardest content in Warframe. At night, the Plain comes alive with massive, five-story high monstrosities that ascend from the water and roam the landscape in search of Warframes to destroy and consume. Where before you've battled one against many, these Eidolons will require a sustained, coordinated team approach if you have any hope of bringing one down at all. 

Does it have any procedural generation, or is it all pre-made and the same each time you explore it?

Good question. There will be random combat encounters in Plains of Eidolon with the geographical layout remaining consistent. To give you a better sense of what I mean, enemy encounters and combat are randomized every time you play as well as a continuous day and night cycle that affects how enemies operate—adding even more variety and excitement to Landscapes. 

How many players can be in an instance of the area at once?

The Ostron Town of Cetus is introduced to players in Plains of Eidolon and this first introduction can have 50 players in an instance. This town then leads to the Plains where combat and quests take place where you continue with your standard one to four-player squad.

Are there any load screens or other transitions when exploring or switching to the Archwing? Similarly, will players be able to see others flying around in the sky above them?

There are no load screens or transitions when calling on your Archwing to equip it to your Warframe. It’s a seamless process. Equip and fly! And, yes, absolutely, other players will see their fellow Tenno above them as they provide air support, or just fly off to investigate something! 

Are Landscapes something you've been wanting to do for a while?

Very early this year there was a collective understanding we wanted to try something different. The fact that this has come together the way it has speaks to the craftsmanship among our extremely devoted team. Doing it now was important because Warframe has been developing a world with characters and experiences that matter through our previous lore-driven updates, and we needed to build up areas that speak to that. A town full of civilians is something that we have only heard about in the storylines, but never seen. 

Is this a sign of things to come for Warframe updates? Should we expect open world exploration areas to become the norm from now on?

If our players like our Landscapes as much as we do, then YES, you can expect more!

Tom Marks
Tom is PC Gamer’s Associate Editor. He enjoys platformers, puzzles and puzzle-platformers. He also enjoys talking about PC games, which he now no longer does alone. Tune in every Wednesday at 1pm Pacific on Twitch.tv/pcgamer to see Tom host The PC Gamer Show.