Can an MMO be too grindy?

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

For the last six years the MMO Warframe has gathered over 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 downloads. It’s a global game with players in Russia and China. It’s won many awards as a game. The gaming media have celebrated it as an underdog success story. YouTubes on Warframe typically have 1.3 million views per week. Still the total playtime is averaging 107 hours with a median of only 6 hours. That’s a positive skew of playtime which is not a good sign.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Steam stats show that of all players only 63.7% have solved a cipher. This is one of the first things you do in the game, which means at least one third of those playing on Steam stopped playing before even starting. Steam also reports that 40.9% have played for at least two hours, meaning most players on Steam aren’t even cracking two hours of game play before getting bored with it.

Atlas Prime was just released this past October 1st by Digital Extremes. Warframe YouTuber Tactical Potato recently put up his Atlas Prime Build. It only took him two days to level this warframe up three times to level 30 since its release. Meanwhile, I’m still working on this Nekros Prime that Digital Extremes gave out during a Twitch drop for TennoCon 2019 back on July 6th. Anyway, let’s see how grindy his build can be.

The Mods, Forma, and Warframe Sources

This is a breakdown of game sources as best as I can determine from the Warframe wiki.

Steel Charge Mod Source- Nightwave or trade

Umbral Fiber Mod Source- The Sacrifice Quest or trade

Cunning Drift Mod Source- Orokin Moon Test or trade

Adaptation Mod Source- Arbitrations or trade

Umbral Vitality Mod Source- The Sacrifice Quest or trade

Umbral Intensify Mod Source- The Sacrifice Quest or trade

Rage Mod Source- Various Enemies or Orokin Tower Containers or trade

Flow Mod Source- Various Enemies or Orokin Tower Containers or trade

Continuity Mod Source- Defense Missions, General Sargas Ruk, Orokin Tower Containers or trade

Arcane Energize Source- Eidolon Hydrolyst Capture (135 captures nearly a guarantee), trade or Nightwave Rank 25 provides one

Arcane Grace Source- Eidolon Hydrolyst Capture (135 captures nearly a guarantee) or trade

Umbra Forma Source- Nightwave Wolf of Saturn Six Rank 29 and Nightwave The Emissary Rank 26

Atlas Prime Source- Vault for 79.99 USD, or Specific Relics (LithD1, AxiA6, MesoE3, NeoA3)

Out of all these Mods, the easiest to come by would be Rage, Flow and Continuity because of their sources being so widely distributed. The rest require you to complete either a series of quests before reaching the needed quest, be present during certain events, or have kickass weapons and be part of a team to do those missions (Eidolon captures are one of the hardest challenges, requires a well put together warframe team and lots of patience as night time on the plains comes after 100 minutes of day).

The Costs of All This

I will only look at the mod fusion costs to give you readers a sense of grind in Warframe. The gathering costs of some items are harder to determine as the game bases them on drop odds which boils down to a variable playing time. Digital Extremes publishes its drop rates unlike many game publishers. This is ironic because the State of Nevada has similar requirements for slot machines. Not that I’m saying Warframe’s drop tables are nothing more than a slot machine, but some odds are better with a slot machine in comparison.

The total fusion costs to raise these mods to maximum level is as follows- Endo 152,870 and credit cost is 7,383,621.

I figure it would take roughly 14,952 hours or 21 months of straight free game play to gather up that much credits based on my own game play. I pay for a credit booster, so it cuts my real hours in half. The number I’m giving is double what I would experience.

If you wanted to buy all this fusion and Atlas Prime, it would cost you 419.95 USD. That’s not a microtransaction by a long shot, and more expensive than a lot of paid games. For that price you could easily by four Play Station 4s.

Comparatively 14,952 hours of free game play works out to 3 cents USD per hour. Talk about slave labor to keep a game propped up in high usage.

Is it a Grindfest?

You bet. That’s what any veteran Warframe player will tell you. The problem is with such a high grind it will take most starting players at least three to five years of periodic to constant game play to gather all the needed materials, mods, warframes, etc. to make all these wonderful builds you see on YouTube.

This is one of Digital Extreme’s main marketing ploy. Using veteran players to show off the game. You watch the vet jump around easily killing enemies. As a gamer you say to yourself, “I can do that easily.” Only to pause the YouTube video at the build scene and then look up each mod on the Warframe wiki to figure out where the hell that veteran got all those mods. Then you realize it will take you forever to get all that stuff. That’s when you say “To hell with this! I’m going back to Smash Brothers.”

This is Warframe’s biggest flaw. The grind is very heavy as MMOs go. In fact, the grind may be too heavy for its own good long term. The only thing really keeping the game running is its core of dedicated veterans and the Asia gaming market.

So Why Do I Keep Playing?

I play this game because it helps me with my migraine symptoms. I’m not after being on the leader boards or striving to do a lot in a short amount of time. I still haven’t completed a lot of the quests, nor do I care. I play solo and have one friend I play with from time to time. Yes, I pay for the boosters, but this gives me a game feel I’m more accustom to as a player. Hell, I don’t even play like a Warframe veteran who use their warframe powers a lot and fear Corpus Nullifiers. I tend to spam my melee attacks a lot and do extermination missions on Mars because they are fun.

If you want to avoid the pain of the grind, let go of the reason you are playing. Ignore the challenges to build this or that. Ignore the desire to complete every mission or quest. Just play the game and go around the best you can.

As GRYOnline.pl said, “Warframe isn’t anything special. It’s not revolutionary, exceptional or timeless… If you need a new opportunity to slaughter aliens, you should try Warframe.”

Gaming Tip for Warframe

If you want to play public on Warframe, set the Gameplay Region to Asia. The Asia server has the greatest number of open teams typically per planet node than any other server 24/7.

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Seth Underwood

54+ autistic, undiagnosed dyslexic, sufferer of chronic migraines, writer of dark science fiction, player of Genshin Impact and Mike Pondsmith Fan. Race- Human.