Analysis of Resource Costs

Warframe is a game built around the concept of collection. From picking up items to crafting new equipment, almost all of Warframe‘s many progression systems are based on collection. Resources in particular at the heart of the crafting systems within Warframe. Over the years, Digital Extremes has made adjustments to resource acquisition methods as well as inflating resource costs. In a game which has used the same resources for years, a problem inevitably presents itself: How do the developers maintain an environment in which the collection and use of these resources remains meaningful?

Resources are items which players collect in missions and then use to craft new equipment and are divided into the classifications of Common, Uncommon, and Rare which influence their acquisition rates. Each resource is assigned a different planet system (ex. Earth, Phobos, The Void) where they can be obtained by eliminating enemies, by looting storage containers, or cracking open resource deposits.

There are a few rare cases with certain enemies dropping resources not associated with their location. ex. The Grustrag Three can drop Neurodes regardless of which mission they invade and the Raptors can drop Neural Sensors despite that resource not being available on Europa. There are also cases where a resource can be acquired on any planet system, but only from specific enemies or objects such as Oxium and Cryotic.

Resources are the key to progression within Warframe — Crafting is how you obtain new equipment and subsequently increase your account’s Mastery Rank. The alternative to crafting would be to buy an item directly with the premium currency of Platinum. The free-to-play (F2P) model being used in regards to Platinum-based acquisition of new equipment is that of instant gratification; you can pay to unlock a new piece of equipment right away, or you can collect the resources and then wait for the necessary time it takes to complete crafting. There are also rewards and equipment in the game which can only be obtained through crafting such as Team Restore gear items and “sacrifices” required for Syndicate rankings. Resources are an essential ingredient for the overall Warframe experience.

There are also a few other items within Warframe which utilize a similar model to the resource system, though are not necessarily related. Though Endo is acquired in a similar fashion to most resources and is consumed upon use, it is not considered a resource. Kuva functions as somewhat of a hybrid between a crafting-based resource and an sub-system resource for cycling Riven Mods. Other items, such as plants used for Apothics, are not considered resources though their only use is within the crafting system as well.

For all intents and purposes, these are the resources this article will be covering:

Common: Alloy Plate, Cryotic, Ferrite, Nano Spores, Polymer Bundle
Uncommon: Salvage, Circuits, Oxium, Plastids, Rubedo
Rare: Argon Crystal, Control Module, Gallium, Kuva1, Morphics, Neural Sensors, Neurodes, Nitain Extract, Orokin Cell, Tellurium
Research: Detonite Ampule, Fieldron Sample, Mutagen Sample
Crafted: Detonite Injector, Fieldron, Mutagen Mass

1Kuva may be considered a “Common” resource as well; the classification does not follow the pattern of other resources for drop chance or quantity.


Managing Resources in Warframe

Over the past three years, Digital Extremes has not permanently removed any resources from Warframe, but they have added new ones over time. Though some resources had been relocated or had their acquisition rates adjusted, ultimately each resource is just as valuable now as they were three years ago. There is not a limit on how much of a given resource a player can own and players can freely stockpile as much as they see fit.

Toward the end of 2015, I put published a log of all of Warframe’s equipment research costs. The log was inspired by the release of the Knux in August 2015. There was a trend for newer equipment releases to have escalating Resource costs associated with them, so I dug in and put together this tool to help players keep track of resource costs. The sheet has since evolved to encompass all equipment research and crafting costs associated with Mastery Rank. You can view it here: “Warframe Resource Cost Log“. The log also includes a timeline of all updates which affected resource acquisition and tracks when new peaks are reached for research costs of a given resource.

Warframe currently has 26 different types of Resources which are commonly required for its crafting system. Originally there were only 14 resources in the game’s early stages of Closed and Open Beta. Update 5 brought about some significant changes to the distribution of these resources across different missions, but it wasn’t until Update 8 when new resources were added to the game. Here’s a quick recap of the changes made between the initial Closed Beta launch and introduction of the Clan Resources:

  • Update 5 – “Resources are hidden in different regions”
  • Hotfix 5.0.5 – “Fixed Neurode components not available. These rare resources are now found in the Earth region.”
  • Update 7.7 – “Changed general resource pickup model”
  • Update 7.8 – “Aborting missions now forfeits any obtained credits, mods, resources or blueprints, earned XP is still rewarded”

For the most part, the resource system is simplistic and does not require nuanced balancing as changes are made to the game. It has been one of the few staple aspects of rewarding gameplay and tracking progression since introduced to the game. To better understand the way resources are managed in Warframe, this article will take a closer look at when new resources were added to the game, what changes were made to gameplay which affected resource acquisition, and how resource costs fluctuated over the years.

Note that resource costs for research scale depending on your Clan’s size:

Clan Research Cost Scaling
Ghost Shadow Storm Mountain Moon
1x 3x 10x 30x 100x

 

The History of Resources in Warframe

Introducing New Resources

Update 8 was the first time since Warframe‘s Open Beta launch when Digital Extremes would add new resources. The update introduced a whole new level of Clan activity: Dojo Research. 9 new weapons were added to the Dojo with a wide range of requirements utilizing the new resources. Fieldron Samples were in the highest demand in this update and Clans scurried to farm for these new resources and unlock all of the new toys. Seemingly to add a bit more complexity to resource management, there were also crafted resources introduced in this update: Detonite Injectors, Fieldron, and Mutagen Mass. You could only obtain these crafted resources by researching them in a Clan Dojo, replicating the blueprint, and then crafting them. Additionally, this update introduced the Forma which unlocked a whole new world of modding possibilities for your equipment. Forma, like crafted resources, were required to craft some of the new research items introduced in the update though it functioned more as a hybrid resource.

Fun Fact: The Flux Rifle from Update 8 was the most expensive research item for Fieldron Samples at 23 until the Staticor arrived in Hotfix 18.4.7 which required 30. The Flux Rifle still holds the title of highest Circuits research cost to this day.

Update 10 introduced Nav Coordinates used for crafting Orokin Derelict Keys and later the Cicero Crisis in Update 11.5 added in a new type of crafting material as well (plants for Antitoxin), but neither of these are used in crafting equipment related to Mastery Rank. The acquisition method of Nav Coordinates was limited to only being found from containers and the plants for Antitoxin could only be obtained via the Codex Scanner.

It would not be until Update 11.9 when the Operation: Oxium Espionage event began that Warframe would see a new resource: Oxium. The new resource could only be acquired from the new Oxium Osprey enemies or from container objects at a much lower rate. Once the event ended, the Oxium Osprey and Oxium resource remained as permanent additions to the game. The event was used to introduce players to this new resource and guide them to places where they could acquire it, but there was no actual use for the new resource until Update 12 which added Zephyr as a research item in the Dojo. Though the new resource dropped in very low quantities, the event had given Clans an opportunity to begin stockpiling before a resource sink was added.

The next resource to be added was the Argon Crystal in Update 13 which could only be found in The Void (and later in quest-based missions). This resource is unique in the sense that it cannot be stockpiled; it will be removed from your inventory after a set amount of time (you can read more on their decay rate on the wiki). A novel design which allowed for the developers to experiment with a method of keeping all players on a similar playing field regardless of their overall account progression. Argon Crystal crafting costs have remained relatively tame over the years likely as a result of the lack of potential to stockpile. Like with the Cicero Crisis, this update also introduced a new crafting material in the form of Beacons which were required to obtain Hydroid. The randomized Beacon items only dropped from specific Prosecutor enemies.

Fun Fact: To this day, the Nikana is the only equipment type of research item which requires Argon Crystals. The cost is 1x. Phase and Cosmic Specter research also require 1x each.

The introduction of Cryotic in Update 14.5 as part of Operation: Cryotic Front was similar to that of the Oxium event: It introduced a new resource to collect and gave Clans a reason to work together while completing the event. There was a bit of a difference, however. First, the Glaxion was made available immediately as a way to spend Cryotic earned as a research item in the Dojo (as well as requiring it for crafting). The other difference being that Cryotic was no longer obtainable once the event was over. It wasn’t until one month later that Cryotic would be obtainable once again in Update 14.10. Players who had missed out on the event could not contribute to their Clan’s research requirements or craft the Glaxion in that time. The Glaxion was not an event-only weapon, but had a similar feel due to this.

Returning to the Update 8 approach, Tellurium was added in Hotfix 15.7.2 to directly introduce a new set of items. Specifically: the Itzal Archwing. Only acquirable from playing Archwing missions, this new resource was quite elusive due to the nature of drops in those missions being harder to see and spread apart in free-floating space. Sometimes even carrying momentum and flying away. By only be acquirable through Archwing missions, Digital Extremes gave players a new incentive to return to those missions.

Similarly, when Nitain Extract was added in Update 17.12, there was not an event or introductory period. This resource can only be acquired through random Alerts assigned throughout the day. Typically the Alerts are about 4-5 hours apart and every day there are between 4-6 different opportunities to collect the resource. Much like the crafted resources in Update 8, Nitain Extract is heavily time-gated for acquisition. However, unlike the crafted resources, you cannot control when the opportunity to collect this resource arises. It is entirely possible that a player who plays for 1 hour every day at the same time might only be online for 1-2 of these Alerts per week.

The latest resource added to the game is Kuva in Update 19: The War Within. More of a hybrid between a crafting resource like Cryotic and system resource like Endo, Kuva was immediately required in the research and crafting of new equipment added in the update. Kuva acquisition is unlocked by completing The War Within quest and has been adjusted several times already since its initial release. Though The Silver Grove had also introduced new plants required for crafting gear items and completing the quest for Titania, the plants were not used in crafting the warframe itself.

Digital Extremes has experimented with different ways of introducing resources over the years. Without being able to look at internal data, it would be difficult to assess which of these would be considered the ideal method of introducing a new resource. Argon Crystals address stockpiling in the long term for a single resource, but any time a new resource is added it effectively solves the same issue. The majority of crafting items following the release of a new resource in the past two years required the new resource.

Changes Which Affected Resource Acquisition

The first significant change to resource acquisition in the Open Beta was the Survival Weekend event with Update 9.7. The Survival missions were bound to a single tile (like the ones used for Defense missions) and featured a constant stream of enemies for you to fight and collect rewards from. As long as you survived the first reward rotation, you could retain all of the rewards accumulated over the course of the mission. This was a sharp contrast from Defense missions where if you fail the objective at any point you will lose all accumulated rewards. It was a lucrative option for farming thanks to the constant stream of enemies in a condensed area. Survival missions were added as a permanent feature of the game in Update 10 with a few changes such as using non-endless mission tile generation.

Fun Fact: The quantity of enemies you encounter on certain mission types (such as Survival) are influenced by squad size.

Survival missions were considered a great new feature, but that wasn’t the only good news in Update 10. The addition of the Nekros warframe introduced a new gameplay mechanic to essentially gain additional rolls for loot, including resources, on enemy kills. Desecrate could be cast any time there was an available corpse and would roll every corpse within range (or each corpse part for enemies split in two by Slash damage) until the corpses despawned. It became common practice to take at least one Nekros warframe to maximize a squad’s yield of loot. Though the players who brought Nekros got stuck mashing a single button for the entirety of the mission, many were willing to put up with the monotony for a significant improvement in resource acquisition.

However, Update 10 wasn’t all sunshine. Mutagen Samples were removed from all missions on the Star Chart (Eris and Jupiter) and locked behind key-based missions in the Orokin Derelict. At the same time, several new research items were added to the Dojo which required significantly more Mutagen Samples than ever before (more on that can be found in the next section). Much like how Neural Sensors were only available from Jupiter, Mutagen Samples were now locked behind a single mission hub. It would not be until nearly a year later that they would make their way back to Eris, but only as a rare drop.

Fun Fact: If you want to learn more about the history of Mutagen Samples specifically, I wrote an article on the /r/Warframe subreddit about it: “Fun facts about Mutagen Samples“.

In that time, several other changes were made in regards to resource acquisition. For example, enemy tier levels were reworked a bit in Update 10.3 which influenced where players would go to farm. Enemies have the same drop chances for resources regardless of their level, so lower level missions are often preferred when the spawning algorithm is unaffected. The faster you kill, the faster you gain rewards. Update 10.5 introduced the new Invasion system as part of the Gradivus Dilemma and was later added as a permanent feature in Update 11.3. Invasions became a way to earn crafted resources such as Fieldron without having to craft them.

Yet another endless game mode option was introduced in Update 12: Interception. Following the introduction of Oxium, this new game mode fused the failure/victory states of Defense and Survival. There was not a failure state tied to a static objective in the mission, but you could only claim rewards by completing a round and choosing to extract. However, Interception was not regarded as a viable farming option due to the wide spread of enemy spawn points and objectives as opposed to the adjustments made to Survival which allowed players to funnel in enemies to a collection point. The potential of utilizing the instant enemy spawning algorithm was not realized until the much later introduction of Syndicates.

Much like how Interception proved to be an unlikely source of farming efficiency, the changes made to Nova’s Molecular Prime in Update 13.4 introduced a new and useful mechanic for farming. Now you could make the enemies come to you at a faster speed thanks to the interaction with a negative Power Strength from Corrupted Mods stat on Molecular Prime. Popular strategies to farm resources in Survival missions benefited greatly from this new mechanic, though it came at the cost of vaporizing corpses which could result in potentially less chances to Desecrate.

Finally, in Update 14.1, Mutagen Samples were added back to Eris as a rare drop. It had been nearly a year since Mutagen Samples were locked away in the Orokin Derelict and the rare drop chance on Eris ultimately did not remedy that situation.

Though a minor change in the grand scheme of things, Oxium and Argon Crystal Alerts were added in Update 15. Argon Crystals obtained through Alert missions would still decay the same way any acquired from a drop would, though. The more important addition in this update was that of the Greedy Pull Augment Mod for Mag which allowed players to pull in all drops anywhere from the map (within their range) to where the caster was. Interception missions saw their first glimpse of being a viable option for farming resources due to the development of Syndicates requiring players to look for ways to generate high amounts of Affinity. Because Affinity is tied to kills and subsequently drops are acquired from kills, Mag proved to be useful as a way of generating Energy by collecting Energy Orbs… and resources. There were also adjustments made to enemy levels on the Star Chart which shifted around some of the efficient farming locations.

After the events known as Vivergate took place, Digital Extremes responded to the AoE killing meta by introducing a new enemy type on Corpus missions (and Void missions soon after as well) as an undocumented feature in Update 15.5. Nullifier Crewman units would protect allies from AoE damage meaning that kill potential was effectively reduced on Interception missions. Players shifted toward Grineer missions for Affinity, but returned to Survival for Corrupted and Corpus missions when farming resources. This update also introduced the Boiler enemy type for the Infested faction which effectively created more spawns for more rolls of loot as well.

With the introduction of Tellurium in Hotfix 15.7.2 also came an improvement to Oxium acquisition rates. Initially Oxium only dropped in quantities of 1-2 and this changed increased the range to 7-12. Later, in Update 18, it would become possible to use Nekros’ Desecrate ability to roll for another drop on an Oxium Osprey corpse.

Building on top of Nekros’ Desecrate mechanics and the newly added Syndicate Augment Mods for warframes, Update 15.16 introduced the Pilfering Swarm augment for Hydroid. The struggling ninja-pirate warframe finally had a chance to shine in the spotlight as increasing its Power Strength substantially improved the yield of drops from slain enemies. The meta shifted to accommodate both Nekros and Hydroid for hyper-efficient farming.

The escalation of acquisition methods reached a tipping point shortly afterward. In Update 16.11 Greedy Pull was adjusted to only pull items for the caster and Excavation missions were adjusted. It’s also worth mentioning that Update 15.9 introduced an AFK detection timer which would prevent players from picking up loot if flagged after 60 seconds of “inactivity” (you can read more about it in the patch notes). The AFK flag could often punish players who were actively playing Survival missions in a “camping” style where they funnel enemies into a smaller tile for easier killing and collection.

Seemingly as a bug which has not yet been addressed, the introduction of the new Submersible Archwing missions in Update 17 added a way to acquire Tellurium outside of Archwing gameplay. It appears that the only requirement for Tellurium to drop is to have Archwing equipment loaded in to the mission. Now players could utilize Hydroid and Nekros to increase their potential Tellurium yield against Drekar units. Additionally, Drekar units had a separate chance of dropping rare resources (Gallium or in some cases Orokin Cells) on top of their standard roll for a generic resource drop (this was removed in Update 17.3).

Hydroid’s spotlight dimmed out a bit shortly after Update 17, however. Possibly due to the new mechanics introduced by Equinox, Hotfix 17.0.4 changed Pilfering Swarm to no longer be affected by Power Strength in regards to the quantity of drops generated. On the bright side, the Augment Mod was also changed to reward extra drops as long as enemies were killed while held by the tentacles, not only if the tentacles killed the enemies. Players have reported mixed results on this change due to the random nature of the tentacles. It is still advised to let Hydroid get the kills to ensure more drops.

Update 18 introduced a new faction and mission hub (Lua) which essentially duplicated Earth’s resource tables in addition to the changes made to Oxium Ospreys mentioned earlier. The Sentient enemies introduced with the update had a high chance of rewarding a rare resource (Neurodes in this case) as well as a few other incentives for hunting them down. More importantly, the update introduced a way for Clans to downsize by removing inactive players and reducing their tier. For example, a Mountain Clan (max. 300) could remove 200 users and downsize to a Storm Clan (max. 100). A welcome change after the recent introduction of Nitain Extract being a randomized Alert-only resource. Later, in Hotfix 18.4.3, Alloy Plate drops were removed from The Void and replaced with Ferrite.

Substantial changes were made to Cryotic acquisition rates in Update 18.4 as a result of some testing a Digital Extremes staff member had conducted with Excavation missions. Drills would now spawn further apart (no longer up to 4 on a single tile), start with less energy, require more Power Cells to sustain, as well as a few other adjustments were made. Theoretically a well organized group could achieve the same Cryotic values in a similar time frame as before the changes, but pick-up groups not adhering to an organized meta and solo players in general would find it more difficult to defend multiple drills at the same time. These changes did not include fixes to the spawning bugs in solo play or address concerns with drill health not scaling with base mission levels.

Specters of the Rail shook up the Star Chart once more and reassigned enemy levels and mission hub locations, as well as switching Phobos and Mars for the Grineer and Corpus. Additionally, The Void no longer required a key to enter any of the missions and Prime equipment had been moved to Void Relics and Void Fissures instead. This update also introduced the Smeeta Kavat which had a chance of applying a new type of Resource Booster effect through its Charm ability. Additionally there were changes made to Interception missions which affected the spawning algorithm for quantity of units, types of units, and Eximus spawns. This update branch also included the Nekros rework in Specters of the Rail: U2.1. Desecrate was now a toggled passive ability, but would remove a corpse after the first attempt to roll for extra loot and can only roll one corpse at a time.

In a novel change of pace, The Silver Grove: Update 3 introduced a new type of container item: Resource Objects. The addition of these new objects came without a cost to other existing methods of acquiring resources and offered a new way to find rare resources. There are Resource Objects available for all 14 of the original resources with the addition of Argon Crystals. They were also made available as Orbiter decorations available for Platinum.

Which brings us to The War Within. After completing the quest, players gained access to the Kuva Fortress which at long last added a new location for acquiring Neural Sensors. Kuva cannot be acquired on the Kuva Fortress tile set, however. Though Kuva is more of a hybrid resource, it’s worth noting that adjustments were made to its acquisition in several updates. Most notably in Update 19.1.0 which changed the way Kuva Siphon missions would spawn across the Star Chart and Update 19.2.0 which added the Kuva Flood missions.

Other minor changes along the way which are worth noting to some degree:

  • Update 9 introduced Nightmare Missions which would override a mission node. It would not be until much later when players were offered the choice to run the standard version of the mission instead of the increased difficulty of Nightmare mode.
  • Update 11 introduced player trading which allowed for the free exchange of Platinum.
  • Update 13 introduced Dark Sectors which became a lucrative way of farming resources on certain planets. Further adjustments were made in Update 14.
  • Update 15.14 changed Defense objectives to have scaling HP based on mission level. Similar treatment was given to Mobile Defense missions as well.
  • Update 16 introduced Rare and Reinforced Containers which would drop faction-related crafted resources. Rare Corpus containers drop Fieldron, rare Grineer containers drop Detonite Injectors, and rare Orokin containers drop crafted Forma. There is not a rare container for the Infested faction.
  • Update 18 introduced the reworked Login Reward system which made it possible to randomly acquire resources or even Resource Boosters and Resource Drop Chance Boosters.
  • The rework of Archwing movement systems in Specters of the Rail resulted in greater difficulty of finding resource drops scattered in free space missions.

Though not always as direct as increasing the drop rates (as done with Oxium), resource acquisition rates have been adjusted several times over the years. For the most part, the track record shows improvements being made to acquisition with a few major exceptions (such as with Mutagen Samples).

Resource Cost Creep

Resource Cost Creep refers to how prices to research and craft new items continues to increase over time for each individual resource type. For example, let’s look at the total crafting costs for Alloy Plates over the years:

Alloy Plate Crafting Costs
Year Most Expensive Item Average Cost Year Total Cumulative Total
20131 Akbronco2 – 2,400 533 34,060 34,060
2014 Gammacor – 2,500 536 12,320 46,380
2015 Sonicor – 6,500 853 19,600 65,980
2016 Sibear2 – 50,080 7043 161,980 227,960

1Includes 2012 for sake of simplicity.
2Crafting costs for items which require another item to craft combine costs.

The increase in cost for an individual item is what we will be looking at in regards to Resource Cost Creep. The average per year is also indicative of an increase over time, but requires more clarification such as how many new items were added. The data discussed in this section of the article is pulled from the “Warframe Resource Cost Log“ which provides necessary clarification and notes for evaluating averages and totals.

Rather than analyzing every single resource as I did with the Alloy Plate example, we’ll be taking a look at some key points where Resource Cost Creep appeared in Warframe in mind of the other sections which highlighted when new resources were added and when changes were made to resource acquisition.

The Mutagen Migration

Update 10 had removed Mutagen Sample drops from Eris and Jupiter and was now only available through Orokin Derelict missions. At the same time, 4 new research items had been added to the Dojo, all with significantly higher costs than the other Mutagen Sample requirements prior.

  • Update 8: Acrid, 10x Mutagen Samples.
  • Update 8: Torid, 10x Mutagen Samples.
  • Update 10: Djinn, 60x Mutagen Samples.
  • Update 10: Dual Ichor, 25x Mutagen Samples.
  • Update 10: Embolist, 30x Mutagen Samples.
  • Update 10: Synapse, 65x Mutagen Samples.

The costs of course scaled with Clan size. A significant jump was made in the cost whilst the supply was simultaneously reduced. Additionally, the crafting costs for these new items were dramatically higher than any other crafted resource (such as the Supra which requires 7 Fieldron) for both Forma and Mutagen Mass. The high costs were attributed to the popularity of the Defense mission Xini, Eris which was the hotspot for farming Affinity, Banshee, and some elusive mods.

Update 10.1 addressed the crafting costs in response to the community’s outcry:

  • Djinn: 15 Mutagen Mass + 3 Forma reduced to 6 Mutagen Mass + 2 Forma.
  • Dual Ichor: 10 Mutagen Mass + 2 Forma reduced to 4 Mutagen Mass + 1 Forma.
  • Embolist: 7 Mutagen Mass + 2 Forma reduced to 5 Mutagen Mass + 1 Forma.
  • Synapse: 11 Mutagen Mass + 3 Forma reduced to 5 Mutagen Mass + 2 Forma.

These items also marked a significant leap in Salvage crafting costs. The most expensive Salvage cost prior to the update was the Supra at 7,000. The Dual Ichor and Embolist required 15,000 each while the Djinn and Synapse required 30,000 each. The total Salvage costs for crafting had doubled from 87,850 before Update 10 to 177,850 after. The Salvage costs were not adjusted in the latter update.

Sucker Punched in Space

Archwing had introduced a completely new gameplay system which was almost entirely detached from all progression made outside of the new game mode. Aside from the collection of Fusion Cores (now Endo) used to rank up the new mods and the quest required to unlock it, Archwing rewards were exclusive to Archwing gameplay. Initially, the Archwing would scale with your warframe’s stats, but that was quickly changed.

Nearly a year after Archwing was added, the Knux arrived in Update 17.2 as a research item in the Dojo. The costs were orders of magnitude greater than any other research item that had come before it.

Resource Previous Record Holder Previous Total Cost of All Research Knux Costs
Cryotic Glaxion – 2,500x 2,500x 20,000x
Polymer Bundle Scoliac1 – 8,000x 18,650x 10,000x
Plastids Banshee or Volt Systems – 500x 3,675x 5,000x
Tellurium Itzal (Blueprint) – 2x 5x 10x

1The Scoliac itself was also a massive leap from previous items by a factor of 5 such as the Flux Rifle which costs 1,050.

Though Glaxion was the only other Cryotic-based research item, the Knux had significantly inflated all research resource costs related to it aside from Polymer Bundles. By comparison, the crafting costs for the Knux were quite tame. At the time, it was not possible to downsize a Clan to adjust for these costs.

Chilling Goals

Following the changes made to Cryotic acquisition in Update 18.4 came the Sibear. Described by Digital Extremes’ Community Manager [DE]Danielle as a “stretch goal” with a reassurance that this would not be commonplace, the Sibear’s crafting costs of 50,000 Alloy Plates (+80 for crafting the Magistar) and 30,000 Cryotic nearly doubled the entire crafting costs of all other Alloy Plate and Cryotic items combined.

However, the Sibear was not a research-based item and thus the cost was completely put on the individual rather than a group. Players were shocked by the dramatic escalation in costs and the explanation offered by [DE]Danielle was the only official comment on the matter. The costs remain unchanged.

Stealthy Archwing Changes

In an undocumented change as part of the Specters of the Rail update, the Elytron was added alongside the Itzal and Amesha to the Dojo for research. Previously only available by collecting its parts from the Archwing Interception mission on Caelus, Uranus, players welcomed the opportunity to acquire the Elytron in a more direct manner. However, there were a few more undocumented changes made in regards to Archwing.

The Itzal’s research and crafting costs were increased in this update. Starting with research costs:

  • Itzal Harness: 500x Ferrite increased to 5,500x, 20x Oxium increased to 250x.
  • Itzal Systems: 700x Salvage increased to 72,500x, 30x Oxium increased to 3,750x.
  • Itzal Wings: 600x Ferrite increased to 6,400, 5x Oxium increased to 3,750.

Next, the crafting costs:

  • Itzal Harness: 300 Oxium to 180.
  • Itzal Systems: 200 Oxium to 3,200, 800 Salvage to 8,000.

Digital Extremes addressed the issue in Specters of the Rail: Hotfix 11, but only adjusted the crafting costs of the Itzal Systems to reduce the Oxium cost down to 320 (not down to the original 200) and Salvage back down to 800. A script was run to refund those who had crafted the Itzal prior to the hotfix.

To this day, Digital Extremes has not offered official comment as to why the research costs were increased and why they have remained as is. The Itzal had been in the game for over two years at this point. Though it is true Oxium drop rates were improved in the same hotfix the Itzal was released, it seems strange to only have adjusted the prices for the Itzal and not other items such as Zephyr. As a result, newer clans face a much higher cost than those who had been around two years longer.

However, it is worth mentioning that the Odonata saw reductions/adjustments in its crafting costs in Update 18.5 in mind of newer players and again in Specters of the Rail: Hotfix 13 in mind of changes made to the Star Chart.

The War Within: Javlok and Hema

Following the release of The War Within in Update 19 came the Javlok and the Hema. The Javlok, arriving in Update 19.4, was an entirely new class of primary weapon: a speargun. It was available for research through the dojo and had relatively average requirements aside from a shocking leap to 1,000x Detonite Ampules. For contrast, the cumulative total prior to the release of the Javlok for all research was 110 Detonite Ampules. However, the community did not seem to react to this despite the fact that Detonite Ampules only drop in quantities of 1, likely due to the popularity of Grineer missions (in which they are found) for farming Affinity, Syndicate standing, and Focus over the years. Newer or casual players would certainly struggle with accumulating enough for the research.

More recently, Update 19.5 introduced a new Clan research weapon with what can be objectively described as having high research costs. The Hema rifle requires 45,000x Nano Spores, 10,000x Plastids, 50x Neurodes, and 5,000x Mutagen Samples for research. These costs scale with the tier size of your Clan:

Resource Ghost Shadow Storm Mountain Moon
1x 3x 10x 30x 100x
Nano Spores 45,000 135,000 450,000 1,350,000 4,500,000
Plastids 10,000 30,000 100,000 300,000 1,000,000
Neurodes 50 150 500 1,500 5,000
Mutagen Sample 5,000 15,000 50,000 150,000 500,000

Every one of the resources required to research the Hema are substantially more expensive than any research costs prior. To put this into perspective:

Clan Research Cost Record Holders
Resource Previous Record Holder Previous Total Cost of All Research Hema Costs
Nano Spores Djinn – 9,500 65,150 45,000
Plastids Wukong – 9,000 29,090 10,000
Neurodes Shaku – 10 15 50
Mutagen Sample Synapse – 65 390 5,000

The Mutagen Sample cost of the Hema is 12.8x greater than the previous total of all research items combined. Likewise, the Nano Spores, Plastids, and Neurodes costs are significantly greater than any other research cost and are have significantly impacted the overall total costs.

The acquisition of Nano Spores and Plastids were somewhat improved over the years thanks to Dark Sector missions like Akkad providing a bonus to resource drops. To a lesser extent, Neurodes were more readily available thanks to the addition of Sentient enemies in Update 18. However, Mutagen Samples are still essentially locked behind the Orokin Derelict which now no longer provides Prime equipment and has become isolated in the Star Chart once again. Eris’ drop rates for Mutagen Samples are too low for consideration.


 

Why Does Resource Cost Creep Exist?

Simply put… I don’t have an answer for that. I can suppose and assume, but that would be an opinion and not fact. Digital Extremes has not made any official comment directly to the point of macro scale increases of resource costs as of yet, but they have addressed individual cases on occasion. It’s also worth noting that resource costs do not escalate with each new item, it just so happens that there are more jumps upward than downward relative to the original starting point. Some items saw large jumps years ago but have since served as an effective ceiling for certain resources. For example, the Scoliac’s Nano Spore crafting cost of 15,000 has not yet been passed, but it has been used on several other weapons: Mutalist Quanta, Paracyst, and Mios are all 15,000 as well. There have been several items with lower Nano Spore costs in that time.

Significant improvements have also been made to acquisition methods for most resources since they were first added to the game. That inflation, combined with the limited number of times a player will need to craft equipment, leads to stockpiles of resources being formed. From a player perspective it is easy to fall into the assumption that higher resource costs are meant to deplete those stockpiles, but in reality it is an ineffectual way of doing so. Adding in a new resource, such as has been done before, can render a stockpile moot. The intent to deplete stockpiles may play a part in assigning new costs, but does not appear to be the deciding factor.

Another interpretation would be to assume that stronger weapons have higher resource costs, but this is often not the case. For example, the Stradavar requires Mastery Rank 8 to use and has a moderately high set of resource costs, but is roughly on par (in automatic mode) with the Boltor which only requires Mastery Rank 2 and substantially less resources. Likewise, the Grattler is on the average side of Archwing weaponry with a very high Oxium cost. There is a more clear correlation with Prime warframes, starting with Trinity Prime, having a significantly higher crafting cost than other warframes, but all new warframes in general have seen inflated costs in recent years. Resource costs are not always indicative of power.

Ultimately, there is only one assumption I’m willing to make in regards to Resource Cost Creep: Resource costs are assigned in a way to encourage players to purchase a weapon. On Devstream 85 the developers spoke to the point of the Hema’s high research costs and how they were mindful of it as a sales point (Devstream 85 – 18:21). The language isn’t so sinister as to imply a paywall was purposefully constructed for the Hema, but the developers made the decision that ultimately the Hema is approachable enough to warrant its high costs.

Digital Extremes spoke about the conversion rates later that same day when recording The Second Stream Podcast: Episode 8. As of the time of the recording, it was reported that a nearly equal amount of players had crafted the Hema as had purchased it. The dilemma every F2P game developer faces is how to introduce new content which can be obtained for free through a time investment or paid for to have instant access. It stands to reason that over time the resource costs would grow in order to make the jump to each new weapon a bit further away and subsequently add more appeal to purchasing it instead.

On a micro scale of looking at each individual item, I assume the developers can look at internal data to estimate how approachable a certain level of resource costs would be for the majority of players. The challenge is then assigning a resource cost that feels fair for the average player, consumes some of the stockpiles veterans have accumulated, and at the same time creates an enticing option to purchase that new weapon. When it comes to warframes and weapons, the conversion point is built around immediate access. You can farm up the resources and wait for the crafting timers, or you could purchase something right away to start playing with. A similar model used in other F2P titles as well. On a macro scale it can become quite daunting to see just how many resources are required in total to obtain all weapons and alternatively how much money it would cost to purchase everything.

A game like League of Legends, one of the most financially successful F2P games available on PC, has also scaled quite high in potential costs. Three years ago /u/A_Sham put together a rough estimate of how long it would take to unlock all available characters at the time or how much it would cost. It was estimated that nearly 3,000 hours of playing the game was required to earn the necessary currency used to unlock the available characters (Influence Points – IP) or alternatively around $588 USD to purchase them directly.

Either option is a steep investment for the player to make and those values have only continued to grow over the years as more and more content was added to the game. Over time, Riot Games (developers and publishers of League of Legends) has addressed this concern by lowering the prices of older characters and slowing down the pace at which they would release new characters. Additionally, newer characters now have a higher IP cost for the first week which can cut into the stockpile of veteran players or create an enticing conversion point for those who wants immediate access.

At the very least it’s safe to infer that the increased resource costs for newer items relative to older ones are an intentional design choice.

 

What Alternatives Are Available?

Depending on the goal, there are a few alternative options Digital Extremes can explore in regards to acquiring new equipment via crafting with resources. If the goal is to drive sales, they could explore options to make the purchasing points more appealing. If the goal is to deplete stockpiles, they could introduce new ways to consume resources. If the goal is encourage players to play the game to collect more resources, they could create new incentives to direct them to certain missions.

Betting Your Bottom Dollar

A free-to-play game will always struggle with creating interesting purchasing options for players. The initial draw of a free game is the opportunity cost — the only investment you’re making into the game is the time you’re willing to spend playing it. If you don’t like it, you can stop playing and don’t have to deal with the sense of buyer’s remorse. One of the key principles of successful F2P titles has been to reward the investment of time by giving players a sense of progression and offer enticing options to purchase as they come to understand the game.

Warframe offers a variety of conversion points in regards to the acquisition of new equipment: Inventory slots to store equipment, Orokin Catalysts and Reactors which permanently improve your modding capacity, Resource and Resource Drop Chance Boosters which can be purchased for Platinum for those who want to earn more as they play, instant unlocks of new equipment for Platinum (or money for Prime Access items), and bundles on the Market which combine several new items at a discounted rate.

The main appeal of purchasing a new weapon directly from the Market is the instant access factor. You can bypass the time spent farming and crafting by purchasing a new item directly from the extremely digital manufacturers. The pre-installed Orokin Catalyst and complementary weapon slot are more of a cherry-on-top in most cases. If the goal is to improve conversion rates, it would be helpful to track the purchasing behaviors of those who usually craft rather than build new things. Are they buying cosmetic items? Are they only using the Platinum to trade? Have they purchased Platinum or are they stockpiling from trades? Learn more about their behaviors so that a more enticing option can be created.

They could explore offering specific Market coupons as a possible login reward which encourage the purchase of a weapon you do not own (and have not mastered) or even cosmetics, new bundle options which encourage bulk purchases of items (such as warframe animations), or creating new “catch up” bundles designed for new players to unlock older weapons at discounted rates. Maybe something as simple as adding new alternative texture-only skins on a weapon’s release would encourage more purchases of a weapon over crafting it.

Analyze the data collected over the years about player behavior and craft conversion points around them. If equipment purchases are consistently lagging behind, invest in what has been working well instead. Generating conversions on equipment purchases is still a goal to keep in mind, but the priority should be to build upon what has proven to be reliable for revenue. The equipment options in Warframe have nearly always felt approachable to all players and the only friction with unlocking more weapons and warframes as you play would be to unlock additional inventory space or installing Orokin Catalysts and Orokin Reactors.

Player trading has also complicated matters in regards to Market conversions. If players find that they can acquire Vauban Prime for less than 300 Platinum via trading with services such as warframe.market, why would they want to purchase the statistically inferior Vauban from the Market at 300 Platinum? Likewise, if a player managed to acquire substantial amounts of Platinum by trading, they would likely not purchase additional Platinum with money. Though it is worth considering that players must purchase Platinum in order to trade it in the first place.

If something is perceived to be an aggressive attempt to get players to spend money, users may eventually feel as if they’re being pushed away from the game. One of Warframe‘s most appealing features is the way the new content is delivered frequently and for free. The struggle to remain profitable and maintain the atmosphere players expect can prove to be difficult, but if that atmosphere is what sustained the game through the years it’s likely the right one to maintain.

Dealing With Stockpiles

Ultimately, because Warframe has utilized the same resources for over three years, stockpiling is an inevitability even for players that only started playing recently. Once players finish crafting what is available now (even the new ones still catching up), all of their excess resources will continue to accumulate as they play. The other inevitability is that new players will always struggle to catch up with costs which are inflated to address stockpiles as the cumulative totals continue to rise.

When a single new item doubles the cumulative cost of a given resource in a single bound, it can be overbearing. In crafting, this has only been a rare occurrence in recent years but has happened more than once (as addressed earlier in this article). Each new item adds to the cumulative total that new players have to catch up with to unlock equipment, but usually in a gradual manner. The attempts to disrupt stockpiles by introducing new resources worked to some degree, but ultimately have fallen victim to the same issue. Now that Nitain Extract has been available for over a year, some players may have stockpiled hundreds of which they have no use for.

There are currently 28 items which require Nitain Extract to craft (excluding combined parts for a single item: 20). The cumulative total of Nitain Extract crafting costs is 103. If a new item was introduced which required 100 Nitain Extract, there would likely be hundreds if not thousands of players who could begin crafting the new item just as quickly as they could purchase the blueprint. However, those who had not stockpiled or are are new to the game would be looking at a huge investment of time for 1 single item versus acquiring 20 different things. How would you make 1 item feel as worthwhile as 20 others combined?

Clan research items have often been viewed by players as a way to deal with stockpiles. Veteran players have an opportunity to pay significant portions (if not the total amount) of the research costs for the benefit of everyone else in the Clan who might not have resources to spare. When looking at research costs for the year 2016, it comes as no surprise that Alloy Plates saw significant increases in cost despite Alloy Plates being removed from The Void in 2015. The popularity of Draco, Ceres as an Affinity farming location had likely continued to pile on top of the collections players had already built from The Void in the years prior. The Javlok’s requirement of 1000x Detonite Injectors could likely be attributed to that as well.

One of the most interesting issues to address when dealing with stockpiles is that the acquisition rate remains the same for a given resource regardless of the level of the enemy slain. You are just as likely to obtain Rubedo on Everest, Earth as you are on Minthe, Pluto. The only difference being the quantity of enemies encountered is typically lower on Earth than on Pluto. The only resource which can be attributed to high level enemies is the hybrid Kuva which spawns exclusively on Kuva Siphon variant missions with enemies above level 25. All of the other resources are only limited by the missions they are found on. Technically Mutagen Samples are higher level resources as well because the Orokin Derelicts are 25+ and Eris is 30+, but this was not always the case.

In addition to acquisition rates remaining constant, the use of these resources is somewhat constant as well. For example, 38/46 out of the available warframes (including all Prime variants) requires at least one Neural Sensor for crafting their parts. Neural Sensors have been and likely will remain a key resource in crafting Neuroptics in particular. Though the quantity required might fluctuate for certain resources, all 26 resources were used as crafting requirements for new equipment in 2016.

There are a variety of possibilities to explore in regards to dealing with stockpiles. Cosmetic items could be implemented as a way to consume resources through crafting, new community-wide goals could be created such as rebuilding Relays, a new tier of resources could be introduced which does not use any of the current 26, or they could simply be left as is. Adding in a new resource every few months could serve as a speed bump for acquiring new equipment as well.

If pursuing the cosmetic route, crafting the Orbiter resource decorations could be an appealing way to spend resources. It may raise concerns for those who purchased the items for Platinum, but a high enough resource cost could keep the choice to pay appealing. For example, the Rare Resource Blueprints have exorbitant crafting costs to create a single new resource. In the time a player could accumulate 50,000 Ally Plates, 50,000 Nano Spores, and 25,000 Salvage they could have found dozens of Neural Sensors, Neurodes, or Orokin Cells. Instead of paying 100 Platinum for these blueprints, a player could instead invest in a 3 Day Resource Booster for 40 Platinum and obtain significantly more in the same time. With that in mind, the crafting costs of the decorations could be set at a steep premium with a moderate time gate to maintain the appeal of purchasing them for Platinum instead.

The Ghost Town Effect

Though perhaps a bit understated, resources can be a powerful incentive to revisit areas you might not have otherwise gone to. For example, whenever a player needed Neural Sensors they would have to go to Jupiter to acquire them until the recent addition of the Kuva Fortress. Cryotic requirements result in Excavation missions being repopulated, Kuva requirements result in Kuva Siphon missions being repopulated, and so on. The trickier part is funneling players into a specific mission as there are many available options for them to choose from across the Star Chart.

In part, matchmaking is to blame for the ghost town effect. Organizing a group for resource farming would best be done through the recruitment chat channel which can be a mess of fast-scrolling text. The probability of entering a mission and being matched with a group of players for an optimal farming experience is certainly abysmal. If players could more reliably form a squad through the user interface of other random players with similar goals, it would likely breathe life into missions which are rarely populated.

More to the point of resource acquisition, however, if the goal of a high resource cost is to get players active on certain missions, Digital Extremes should be mindful of the issues with matchmaking. With the recent friction in regards to the Hema, players quickly discovered the rare drop rates for Mutagen Samples on Eris were insufficient for collecting hundreds, let alone thousands, of the resource. Unfortunately, the only other alternative is to run the Orokin Derelict missions which are locked behind a key and cannot be publicly joined. With such high resource costs, players funneled in to the Orokin Derelicts to collect the resources. If the goal was to revitalize the Orokin Derelicts, the Hema was a brute force method of accomplishing this task.

However, the Hema came at an interesting time. During the 2016 PAX East Panel and again on Devstream 73, the developers spoke eagerly about launching more Clan-oriented events (also known as “Operations”) in 2016. One such Operation was planned to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2016: The Index. It was announced on Devstream 81 along with some insight as to what to expect from the new Clan-oriented event. Unfortunately plans changed and on Devstream 84 the developers announced that the Operation version of The Index had been cancelled and re-purposed as part of the Nidus quest. The developers spoke a bit more on the topic of how Nidus’ introduction was a bit rushed and reused The Index on Devstream 85 after its release.

The Hema’s extreme research costs could be viewed as a Clan activity of sorts, though not as organized as an event would have been. The resource costs were so high that it demanded Clans put time aside to farm for the necessary resources and players could heed the call or, as some had grown accustom to, wait on others to complete the task for them. The limited time nature of an event is a compelling reason to log on and participate whereas a very high resource cost can become an exhausting one. Another issue with the Hema’s high costs was that casual players and Clans found themselves in an impossible situation.

I am in a Mountain Clan which caters to a large group of casual players who are in scattered time zones. It’s been difficult to find the time to work together on completing the Hema by farming resources. Usually veteran players like myself would foot the bill, but this unique situation cannot be reasonably managed by the few veterans we have. The Clan will be removing anyone inactive for more than 2 months in the near future to reduce ourselves to the Storm Clan tier and issuing a message for the 200+ players who are removed to notify them of the situation.

It’s an unfortunate situation, but there are options available to us. Players who are inclined to have the Hema right away can abandon their Clans to find new ones which have completed the research already. Inactive Clans can downsize in order to manage the costs. However, it feels like unnecessary friction which splinters parts of the community rather than build them together. An event similar to the Oxium or Cryotic introductions would have been a preferable option to what we are currently facing. Events funnel players together to certain missions to work towards earning rewards. They also provide a compelling reason to log in which is always beneficial for Digital Extremes.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that recently the developers have been pushing to revitalize the entire Star Chart with new time-limited event-like alerts. Void Fissures, Kuva Siphons, Invasion reworks, Nightmare mission reworks, and unlocking The Void were all welcome changes to the Star Chart. The changes opened up the Star Chart in a compelling way for players to quickly find groups through public matchmaking. Though there will still be times when a player will find themselves alone while playing on public settings, the overall experience has improved significantly to funnel players into missions together.

In regards to collecting resources, a similar style of limited time alerts or bonuses could encourage players to funnel into specific mission nodes and remove some of the friction in finding a squad. Preferably in a form which encourages taking your favorite equipment without creating a need for scaling protection such as a the necessity of taking a Frost to a high level Defense or Excavation mission.


 

Closing Thoughts

The recent uproar in regards to the Hema did not surprise me. The escalation in cost was significantly higher than any other research item which came before it and not just for the Mutagen Samples. Digital Extremes has made it clear on the official forums as well as on Devstream 85 that the costs are intentional and here to stay. I’ve spoken my piece about the matter elsewhere and do not want to detract from the information provided in this article, but I would like to point out that the Hema is not the only item which has seen an exorbitant level of Resource Cost Creep.

Resource Cost Creep was an inevitability. Digital Extremes has not gone the route of a loot treadmill for Warframe and perhaps that is the key to why nearly all resources are as valuable now as they were years ago. There is no level 30 crafting resource just like there is no level 1 crafting resource. Many other games utilize crafting systems with tier-based resources which render older resources obsolete over time, but in Warframe your 5,000 Rubedo is just as useful now as it was nearly four years ago. There are just more options on what to use it for now. If Digital Extremes ever went the route of introducing tiers or levels of Rubedo that could shift things significantly, but it seems unlikely as a possibility. Overall, Resource Cost Creep has been relatively tame for crafting equipment. Research is mostly where the friction lies.

While Clan downsizing was a welcome change at the end of 2015, the entire Clan system, in regards to resource contributions, could stand to be re-evaluated. If a small group of players consist of 12 friends, they must upgrade from the Ghost tier to the Shadow tier in order to invite the 2 remaining and are then subject to the x3 multiplier for a clan size cap of 30. Likewise, if a larger Clan finds themselves with more than 300 active users, they can only accommodate them in a Moon tier which allows up to 1,000 players and subjects them to the x100 multiplier even if they only have 301 total members.

Adjustments could and should be made to scale costs in a smarter way based on current Clan members, not caps. For the most part, research costs have seemingly been made in mind of not having every player in the Clan contribute, but the Knux, Javlok and Hema have certainly challenged those expectations far greater than Zephyr, Glaxion, Itzal, and Wukong ever did. Additionally, high resource costs are not necessarily a negative. A high resource cost might push a player to make a purchase just as much as it could push them to get a group together and play the game. Finding a balance is the key.

Over the course of 2016, Digital Extremes’ staff has quoted Mark Rosewater several times from his GDC talk “Magic: the Gathering: Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons Learned“:

“Lesson #19: Your audience is good at recognizing problems and bad at solving them.”

I admit that I only have limited information available to offer criticism with. I can react to the information and data accumulated over the years, but I am not privy to the internal discussions or struggles Digital Extremes faces when assigning resource costs or makes decisions in general. The focus of this article has been to carefully articulate “where it hurts” (as Rebecca Ford would put it) so that Digital Extremes might empathize with the player’s concerns.

Finally, I would like to encourage Digital Extremes to heed another one of Rosewater’s lessons which seems to have taken a back seat in 2016:

“Lesson #14: Don’t be afraid to be blunt.”

To clarify: in Rosewater’s blog, he describes a situation with game design where the intended use of a new item was eluding the users. So, to solve the problem, he changed the new item to force the intended action to happen. The key to his point, however, was that sometimes subtlety doesn’t work. Sometimes the developers have to be blunt to get the point across. Even if the truth might seem negative or unexpected, sometimes it’s best to just be direct with the players. With Rivens, with Hema, with balance changes, with bugs… Sometimes the players just need a direct message to understand what is going on. Beating around the bush often results in more frustration.

Written By TGDM

Overly sarcastic video game enthusiast.

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