Warframe’s The Deadlock Protocol Creation
Digital Extremes Producer and Environmental Art Director reveal their inspirations, insights, and design decisions behind the new Warframe remastering.
Sometimes in order to move on, we have to step back. To decide a tie between the board members, the Corpus, the cult’s enemy, and the money-loving faction, will be at the center of the next The Deadlock Protocol, yes, it will resurrect the past. In a way, that’s what we’re going to do.
Coming soon, we’ll be delivering a rigorously reimagined and remastered update featuring The Deadlock Protocol, Warframe’s first tileset. Digging into the content of Corpus Faction, originally released in 2013, we’ve revamped everything from graphics, story, gameplay, and presentation for players in 2020. This isn’t just a visual overhaul; the layers of a redesign, modernization, and adjustment run deep.
To give you a glimpse into the remastering design, functionality, and fun, producer Dave Kudirka and environmental art director Mat Tremblay have been happy to give us some insight into what makes this update work and why.
What makes The Deadlock Protocol different from other Warframe updates?
Dave Kudirka, Producer: We are reviewing the first Warframe tileset, which is already special. At the time of initial development in 2012, the entire Warframe team consisted of less than 20 people. Today, the development team has grown significantly (over 200 people), the Warframe universe has expanded, and we better understand the stories we want to tell. The expectation we put on ourselves was that the reimagining of the Corpus tileset (a term we use to describe randomly generated environments in an area) would include new enemies, challenges, and world-building that can surprise and delight new and veteran players. equally.
Mat Tremblay, Environmental Art Director: One of the best things about working on a game that’s been around for so long that you can review things. The game, our engine, our universe, all of these things have evolved throughout the life of Warframe. This means that the content and levels we made in 2012 can now benefit from what we know now in 2020.
The Corpus Ship set is one of the first tilesets we made, and its history was rooted in what we then knew of the universe. And now we can expand the narrative, making the experience more immersive for our players. We are introducing a new Warframe (Protea), a new Corpus character with a deep story (including a secret character to be revealed later), we have reworked many gameplay mechanics in the Corpus Ship set, revamped the AI , and reworked the boss fight. Jackal. All of that, and we’ve given the levels a facelift that brings them to the same visual standard we’ve worked on for the past few years.
What are some of the design principles that motivated this update?
Dave: Ideas for the Corpus set started with an enemy spec update, security system changes, and a new fight against Jackal. Furthermore, and in keeping with the themes of a Corpus “Cult of Avarice”, we introduced Granum Crowns, a unique form of currency with highly specialized use that is strongly connected to a charismatic and mysterious character who will be revealed in history, and the founding of the Corpus culture.
Once collected, the Granum Crowns can be deposited at different landmarks on the level to free captives, reveal the protected history of the Corpus, and perhaps most importantly: make an offering to the Void to search for the mysteries and rewards in it. The Deadlock Protocol update will introduce players to this new gameplay which will feature escalating difficulty options, new rewards, and our new Warframe: Protea.
What are some of the key visual design principles behind the level design in this update?
Mat: This remastering has been on the books for a long time and by all accounts, our ideas have had time to mature. For the remastering, we stayed true to the business and capitalist goals of the Corpus, but for the first time, we tried to connect the graphics with the Corpus cult of wealth.
During this development, we have also updated and developed old and new skyboxes [what players see in an internal environment through a window to an external scene], so we have made sure to include many opportunities within the ship construction to allowing space views, as well as allowing players to witness pitched battles in Railjack space when they are playing those missions.
When we developed the Infested Corpus Ship set several years ago, we came up with an approach that we used to give players a strong sense that they were inside an immense ship, and we used a similar approach applying the lessons we’ve learned since. It is worth noting that the style of movement and gameplay for which the original set was built is not the same as the movement and gameplay that exist in the game today, so much of the energy of the design was focused on adapting the old or on creating new experiences for our players.
What are some of the key elements that make Protea really come to life in this update both visually and functionally?
Mat: Visually, Protea looks amazing. Keith Thompson and Raymond Dela Cruz were two artists who created the concept and the model. The two of them worked on the graphics while Pablo Alonso (a senior designer at Digital Extremes) handled the design aspects.
Protea is coming with some really cool kit (eg weapons, armor, cosmetics), like the two alternate helmets and somewhat unique Abilities, including the power to rewind time. This is interesting because the features also play into the Protea Story Quest narrative that accompanies this release. Players are going to love this frame. I really hope to see some great Capture footage coming from our Tenno once Protea launches.
What were some of the particular technical hurdles related to the WFH, or that the development team overcame to make this update?
Dave: The remastering of the Corpus ship has been in development for a long time. Competing priorities have emerged, especially during the last TennoCon reveal where audience reactions shaped what we did next, open-world vs. procedural mazes, for example. But when the ‘Corpus Ship’ tileset started to show its age, looking older every time we released a new set or panorama, the team felt a growing urge to replace it.
The excitement for this tileset grew again when we saw how a visual update really lifted it up again. And the added theme of shrines and images of a Corpus greed cult injected a new life of narrative into this ensemble.
The global health crisis and the changes in the WFH are a great challenge for everyone, at work, and in-home life. We got off to a great start on The Deadlock Protocol, but there’s always a lot of work to bring the full package to the finish line. Our team remains extensively connected and dedicated to delivering this update, and we remain vigilant and respectful of each individual’s challenges and situations. The encouragement, understanding, and support of our leaders at Digital Extremes have been key to continuing to make Warframe.
Dave and Matt only scratched the surface of the profound new update The Deadlock Protocol. We don’t want to spoil the new Corpus story or reveal a lot of surprises. Following our release schedule, The Deadlock Protocol will release on PlayStation 4 shortly after launch on PC. Although PS4 players will have to wait a few weeks, they do have the benefit of fixed issues and more sparkle, generated from community feedback, to make the PS4 version shine. Pending more over the next few weeks.
Join us in the comment section and let us know what you are most looking forward to seeing in The Deadlock Protocol. Do you want some loot? We are waiting for you soon in Warframe, Tenno!