At the start of this month, I declared Warframe was a great game that sounds better with headphones. Now, without warning and in a moment of exciting coincidence, the game’s latest behind-the-scenes Devstream this past Friday focused on the game’s sound design.
Although this look into the current state of Warframe’s sound was a little more basic than I was hoping for as a weird audio geek, it was still great to see.
Devstream #138 + TennoCon 2020 Save The Date!
Warframe - Devstream #138 + TennoCon 2020 Save The Date! - Warframe - Twitch
Right above is a link to the archive of the video on Twitch. You can also watch it on YouTube, though in a profoundly ironic twist, that particular version currently has a small audio sync drift issue.
If you’ve never seen a Warframe Devstream, it’s a fun live show giving players a behind-the-scenes look at the on-going development of the game. Digital Extremes has an incredible and intense show production framework in place for their community, and I love them for it. They produce multiple live shows each week to keep fans updated about the constant flow of content coming into their game.
In spite of Warframe’s excellent sound design, it’s been about two years since they made a Devstream focused on sound. The video isn’t just behind-the-scenes looks at sound editing, layering and positioning, but it also prominently features new content coming in the next two updates. The peeks into the sound design process barely scratch the surface of Warframe’s complex sound systems.
Still, it was great to get a look at the many different and weird layers that go into each individual sound in Warframe, and also the array of software and hardware systems used to manipulate those sounds. There’s a brief mention of a new studio space that will be fully equipped to create and mix Dolby Atmos sound, which will be wonderful for the future of the game considering Microsoft’s current native support for spatial audio on PC and Xbox, and Sony’s vague commitment to supporting 3D audio on the PS5.
In addition to introducing some members from the sound team and showing some tantalizing glimpses at the sound creation process, the stream announced that TennoCon will be on July 11th this year, and shared some early looks at the next two major chunks of content coming to the game.
Protea is the new frame featured in the Devstream, and she uses a mix of deployable drone-like gear that flies off her belt to replenish her resources, and a cool power that allows her to strike out with a bunch of offensive actions and then quickly rewind time for herself and return to her starting location.
My favorite part of the stream was a brief glimpse at a prototype technology to play the sounds during this time reversal in real-time, using sounds captured from the game engine. They could have just implemented a generic whooshing noise during the rewind, and indeed they repeatedly mention that the code behind the special real-time effect is a prototype that might not happen, but I hope it makes it into the game.
I’m looking forward to playing both of the new pieces of content teased in this video. I’ve injected myself back into Warframe in a big way recently, after taking a year or so off from the game, and I’m impressed at how much work goes into updating it. I’ll be posting every so often with my thoughts as I keep playing.
I’d love to see the audio team come back after their new studio is complete and talk about all the different ways they’ll use it to expand the scope of the game’s sound as we hurtle towards a new generation of hardware.
Warframe has always set a high bar for game sound design and auditory player feedback. It’s great that they’re likely going to ramp that up in the future, and that they’re putting a bunch of effort into audio design in an industry so obsessed with graphical improvements.