TennoCon 2023 may be long over, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of mind. This year’s convention was significant in a number of ways; not only was it the first live event since 2019 (thanks a lot, Covid!), but it also helped herald the 10th anniversary of Warframe. So what if I can’t quite let go yet? It was a great memory, with things to look back fondly on and things to look forward to.
I have attended every TennoCon — live or digital — since its inception. I’ve watched it grow each year, and just when I thought it couldn’t expand anymore, it did. While I haven’t compared attendance records (that’s a bit unfair considering the toll of the still-present plague), the venue itself expanded, as did the the number and variety of offerings inside. I will never regret attending, I can only regret not getting to experience everything!
On top of Warframe, there was also a small focus on Soulframe. Who knows, maybe with its own growth, Soulframe will be big enough to command a day of its own next year and we’ll finally get a two-day event! I can certainly hope. Until then, I’ll have to wistfully think back to this year’s event.
When I think of 10 years of Tenno, my first thought is how many years I missed! I didn’t personally play Warframe back at the beginning, only starting after attending the very first TennoCon in 2016. I feel lucky to have started right after the introduction to the tutorial as it helped me to get a tiny feel for the game before subjecting my newbiness on others in a group mission. I also found the action to be crazy intense and exciting. My first shots pinning a Grineer to the wall with arrows was a rush. But that first year was still mellow. My Warframe adventures continued to reach new heights.
It was in 2017 when my feelings for Warframe grew. Who knew that an addictive feeling would set in as soon as I got my first Frost Prime frame thanks to TennoCon 2017! I keep telling folks, it is all about finding the frame you mesh with. That same year also brought the first open world area with Plains of Eidolon, an aspect that tugged at my MMORPG-player’s heart and gave such a sense of freedom while playing.
In preparation for 2018 Tennocon, I got into the cinematic quests, delving into The Sacrifice. Then in the fall of 2018, I finally equipped the Gram Prime heavy sword and somehow turned into a melee maniac! Who would have thought I’d find such joy in melee slaughter? No one who knew my preference for ranged and love of the bows and sniper rifles, that’s for sure.
And then come 2019, I experienced the deeper story introduced with The Second Dream.
So now we’ve got an engaging tutorial, some open world adventures, cinematic questlines, a cool story with twists… how can Warframe not grow on me? Add in more fun warframes and primes (even for free!), more open areas, more story, space missions with railjacks, and you can see how my devotion to Warframe expanded. My Warframe adventures spurred regular bi-weekly livestreams on The Stream Team, the Warframe of Mind column, and of course, eager attendance at each TennoCon.
And all that started from one TennoCon.
TennoCon then and now
It’s no secret I was very impressed with the first TennoCon; after all, I said as much! It was a sold-out event that first year and prompted the venue to expand. First, it moved to taking up the whole first floor. Of course, the tickets kept selling out for each TennoCon, so more room meant more space for folks and of course more things to offer. Next the con expanded to part of and then all of the second floor. I was pretty curious exactly where was left for the latest TennoCon to expand to, and I got my answer: outside.
For 2023, Digital Extremes added the whole “back yard” of the event center to the convention, decking it out in a very creative and fun way. Outside became an open-air Cetus Outdoor Marketplace, modeled after the stalls on Cetus in game. Besides merchants, there was the Dog Days Beach Bar, seating, and even food trucks (the one modern addition – or at least I haven’t seen any on Cetus yet!). What’s left for next year, the roof?!
The outdoor market wasn’t the only impressive addition. On top of an expanded museum with new items and an upgraded photo op area with the three starting warframes, DE added a simulacrum shooting gallery and an entire Zen Room filled with flowing waterfalls, massage chairs, and relaxation equipment for all Tenno who needed a break from the hustle and bustle. This room, presented by Lovesac, was a blessed oasis to take a breather and escape the noise when needed. The fact that DE took measure to help folks in this way, with a purposeful mind toward players’ mental and emotional health, was incredibly moving to me.
Showing the importance of and love for those who represent all things Warframe in a physical way at the con, DE also created a cosplay ready room, complete with dressing places and an area for repairs special for the cosplayers. And let me tell you, the cosplayers were amazing! I could have a massive gallery just for them, but sadly I can’t fit in everything.
Soulframe even had a scavenger hunt to find the little statues throughout the venue, and bringing picture proof rewarded folks with a card and apparently a pin. (Sadly, my envelope was unsealed and pinless; I didn’t notice this until I reached home and discovered it didn’t have one *cries*).
Built Ford tough
Speaking of TennoCon then and now, I’ve spoken with two folks each year, Steve Sinclair and Rebb Ford. Up to 2022, their roles were the same, Creative Director and Director of Community and LiveOps, respectively. But come February 2022, those roles changed: Rebb Ford became Warframe Creative Director and Steve Sinclair became CEO of Digital Extremes while leading the development of Soulframe. Every year I have been so impressed with what Ford has accomplished with the TennoCons; they started out fantastic and somehow managed to get better every year!
But this year was different. Because of this change in titles (and respective responsibilities), 2023’s TennoCon was the first time Ford was no longer in charge of all things for a live TennoCon. At both the first and second TennoCons, I spoke with Ford about what the experience of the first con was like and then what things she learned for the next one.
This year, however, she approached the con in a completely different capacity. It was her first time not running the show of the show. So how was it different? Ford told me, “It has been the weirdest year of my life.” She explained that the creative director seat was entirely different from the community director seat: “[It uses an] entirely different part of my brain that I didn’t even know existed. I can’t care about things like ticket logistics. It was a very different experience for me.”
“It feels incredible to only focus on the game. My favorite part of past TennoCons was demo rehearsal, despite all the other work involved. And this year only really being involved with the development of the demo and the game has been… well, like I said, I’ve awoken a part of my brain that didn’t exist in prior years I think.”
Ford summed up her feelings, stating “Last year it was, ‘Are they going to have a good time at the event?’ and this year is, ‘Am I going to kill Warframe?’.” I think we can agree that she killed it in the fun sense of the term – but not the game itself!
In honor of the 10 years of Warframe survival, Digital Extremes launched a couple of celebratory cosmetics. First, there are special Dex and Operator cosmetics that players can log in to claim all the way until the end of 2023. Then, there’s are the first-ever limited-time heirloom packs. DE brought Warframe’s original art director Michael Brennan back to create these special new looks for Frost and Mag.
It was love at first sight when I saw these new skins. No joke, they are beautiful! Unfortunately, as excited as I was to get these super cool new looks for my favorite frame Frost as well as for Mag, the prohibitive cost (for me) precludes that. Of the three heirloom collections, the first for $29.99 — called Risen — includes a Deca Sigil, a glyph, an emote, an accolade, a color palette, and 800 platinum. Only the next two include the actual skins: the Celestial pack for $69.99 and the Zenith pack for $89.99. The latter two both also include regal aya, which can be used to instantly purchase the prime versions of both Mag and Frost. The Zenith pack is a combination of both the Celestial (the skins and primes) and the Risen (accessories and color palatte).
For those who can swing it, the packs are available for purchase all the way until December 31, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. EST. At midnight, they’ll go poof and disappear into the void.