Warframe of Mind: Should Digital Extremes ditch RNG in endgame loot drops?


Here’s a question for you: Should a game that eschewed random loot boxes at the request of players use RNG loot drops for rare endgame items? Does it make sense to strip the hated randomness from one aspect of the game but leave it in elsewhere? This is the situation we are looking at in Warframe today.

Early in Warframe’s development players made it abundantly clear that they were not one bit happy about RNG in their store purchases, even for something as small and inexpensive as a dye color. So Digital Extremes pulled these types of items then, and pulled more again as recently as this past week when the essential mod bundles replaced the random mod pack. Now lootboxes in game and random packs in the store are non-existent. However, when it comes to collecting cosmetics and important components for frame building in the endgame, RNG still rules the roost — and it frustrates players.

So is there a better way? I think so.

Where the RNG hurts

So it might seem really weird to ask to remove one of the most fundamental aspects of MMO play: random loot. But this isn’t really a request to remove all RNG everywhere; it’s fine to have in the regular resource hunting as you play through missions, but it is not good for the specific, hard-to-obtain endgame items.

Where is the RNG the most painful? Consensus seems to be that the ephemera cosmetics are one sore spot, as are the Korrudo weapon, the Aura Forma, and the Wolf of Saturn Six. With the exception of one ephemera, Bleeding Body, the drop rates for those items are between 1.01% and 5%. And that’s not even counting the RNG of the necessary boss/mob showing up in your instance! Poor Smoking Body not only has a low drop rate coupled with a low chance of the rare enemy showing, but you also have to deal with the low RNG chance of getting the Ash Systems from a rare enemy in order to build it! Yeah, I’ll never see that.

The new Korrudo weapon has a 5% or less chance to drop only from killing a high-level variant of a Tusk Thumper on Plains of Eidolon, which in itself is beholden to RNG to even spawn. The blueprint and items from the Wolf of Saturn Six are in the same boat — but this boat sprung a few leaks! Not only is it rare for the boss to appear (and there’s only a 2% or 4% chance for the items to drop), but this fight needs more specific weapons and loadouts in order to kill this boss — loadouts that were likely not in use because they were geared toward the mission at hand instead! Can you just imagine going weeks without seeing the boss, then the one time you get him to show you can’t even come close to killing him? Talk about frustration!

The Aura Forma seems to have the best chances, as it has a 1.5% chance to drop during the first wave of Arbitration, then increases to 4.5% in each wave after the third. One is even a guaranteed reward from the Operation: Hostile Mergers event that is currently running until June 3rd.

How to change

It’s exactly how the Aura Forma RNG is being done right now that gives us a glimpse of how this can all be done better all the time. And as noted above, Digital Extremes has already set a precedent for ditching RNG, first with the dye packs and more recently with the Jovian Concord Update that included the removal of random mod packs. The studio also listens to player feedback and frustrations, already offering some adjustments to the RNG dilemma, such as the Aura Forma event, having the Wolf of Saturn Six event that made the boss a guaranteed show for a short time, and making some ephemera like Spring Step and Fae Path more widely available. I applaud that the studio is responsive to players and feedback, but I don’t think this is quite enough. I think DE could do a bit better.

As mentioned before, I think that the RNG to get most basic building materials as you work through the various missions is fine. The grinding itself does not feel bad on the lesser items because you know with time you will gather what you need at a fairly regular clip. However, there are certain items that players need to collect that can take forever — if you are lucky enough to actually get them to drop! It’s that final grind of epic proportions for specific goodies that drives players insane. When farming crosses the line between “endgame activity that keeps folks playing” to “frustration inducer that drives players away,” it’s a problem. And overly punishing RNG, such as in these instances, is problem. Then you are getting the exact opposite of what you set out to do.

So let’s look at how the Aura Forma looting is set up. One, it has a guaranteed reward for an achievement. I think players would be much more receptive to having the items be tied to an achievement instead of RNG. I don’t mean to say to make it easy. You could probably make it a set “kill 10,000 enemies” task and people would like that better than fighting that many and getting nothing. For bosses that rarely appear, make it a lower number of killing them for the achievement, or for completing the relevant instance a certain number of times. The events that make the boss a guaranteed spawn is nice, but that’s just a short-term band-aid. Instead, make it so after running the instance so many times (with or without the random boss spawn), have the next instance the guaranteed spawn.

Sure, some folks are extra lucky and could maybe gather all they need in the first 500 they kill. However, how fun do you think it would be for those who — like myself — are so unlucky that they wouldn’t find a piece in the entirety of that grind? None at all. There seriously are few things more disheartening than spending weeks, even months, grinding out something to try to get “the thing.” You feel hopeless, and you start to resent the game. So make getting access to these rewards based on repeatable achievements, so that after a certain amount of time and work players know they will get the reward.

But that’s not all. What if they could get that reward and then some?

Best of both worlds

Maybe you are that lucky person who finds many awesome items thanks to the RNG and you make a living off fueling the economy with your finds. Don’t worry, my idea isn’t to leave you and your 12 die of Luck of the Universe out. I think you can have the best of both worlds (I mean, if you ever could use the term “best” in regards to RNG). While we’re lost in the grind, DE should go ahead and reward folks with those random extras. Keep the RNG in the grind as well, just make sure there is also the guaranteed prize at the end so folks can truly feel that all that effort will pay off. I think that encourages folks to continue farming and reduces the frustration of never being rewarded.

What do you think? What’s the most frustrating farming grind you’ve done in Warframe?

Pick a ‘Frame, any ‘Frame! The Warframe galaxy is in danger, Tenno, and Space Mom needs help to combat it. Are you in the right Warframe of Mind to join in? MJ Guthrie has enlisted; she suits up in her favorite ‘Frames biweekly to fight the good fight, blasting the Grineer and Infected into smithereens.
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