The Roles of Affinity in Warframe

Affinity is a staple element of Warframe. Affinity has served as the measure of progression within the game since its initial Open Beta release and has grown in importance since. When you gained affinity you would benefit by improving your mod capacity for your equipment and ultimately increasing your Mastery Rank for your account as well. A simple system with simple outcomes and intuitive to most as a form of an EXP element for the game.

Over the lifespan of Warframe, Affinity mechanics have seen several tweaks and adjustments.

  • In the “Hotfixes 5” update, Affinity Boosters were adjusted to affect Affinity generated from non-combat actions.AffinityBooster
  • In Update 6.2, Affinity orbs would now be picked up per player as opposed to one drop for the whole squad.
  • Update 9.4 featured the first ever quad-affinity booster; the result of purchasing an Affinity Booster stacking with the effects from an event which would also provide double Affinity natively.
  • Update 12.0 introduced the new elite units (later named Eximus in Update 13) which reward significantly more affinity on kill than their standard counterparts.
  • Update 12.6 included several changes to affinity, including:
    • Increased affinity from completing Challenges.
    • Changed the distribution of Affinity from Challenges and Orbs to behave similarly to benefiting from teammate kills.
  • Update 15.13 brought Stealth Bonuses to Affinity generation as well as Spy 2.0 changes to Affinity rewarded upon objective completion.
  • A variety of adjustments to individual unit affinity values across various patches as well as the introduction of various game modes (such as Interception in Update 12.0).

Initially, Affinity was solely used as a measure to increase the rank of your equipment and ultimately improve your account’s Mastery Rank as well. Over the years, Affinity has seen several new systems latch onto its functionality. Excluding PvP:

  • Forma, added in Update 8.0, provided a new way to invest into your favoriteForma Install pieces of equipment by adding a new mod polarity at the cost of resetting their respective ranks to 0. This created a need to re-level equipment and became the first way to utilize Affinity in a way which would not improve your Mastery Rank.
  • Dark Sector missions, added in Update 13.0, would provide players with a boost to Affinity gains on the new missions.
  • The implementation of Syndicates in Update 15.0 created a new use for Affinity as well. In this case, Syndicatesit was more of a value added situation. You could generate Syndicate Standing regardless of the rank of your equipment and virtually with any loadout. After its initial stages, the Affinity-to-Standing rates were dramatically improved.
  • In addition to Syndicates themselves, Syndicate Augments (Update 12.0) for weaponry, as well as Syndicate weapons themselves in Update 15.5. Generating enough Affinity with these equipped would result in a burst of damage to enemies around you as well as a syndicate-specific buff for yourself.
  • Cephalon Simaris came with Update 16.0 and along with him was yet anotherSimaris pseudo-affinity system. Unlike any of the other additions here, the Simaris system only relied on affinity on a basic scaling. Scanning an enemy with the Synthesis Scanner would provide standing for the new Simaris Syndicate system. The more Affinity a target was worth, the more standing a scan would generate. No killing necessary.
  • The long-anticipated Focus system arriving in Update 18.0 included perhaps the Focusmost demanding Affinity-based system yet. You could install a Focus Lens from one of the five possible schools to generate Focus on. Focus would only be generated from affinity you gain with that individual piece of equipment, meaning you would not benefit from being in a squad and many objective-based affinity would be lackluster sources of Focus. A normal Focus Lens would convert 5% of Affinity into Focus and a Greater Lens would convert 7% into Focus.

Ultimately, Affinity has been used as somewhat of a simple solution to a simplistic problem of finding a way to conveniently scale rewards for these new systems. The lower the level of an enemy, the less Affinity you gain. The higher the level of an enemy, the more Affinity you gain. Likewise, the higher the level of the mission the more affinity you gained for completing it. Affinity is, for all intents and purposes with Warframe, the core system associated with progression.

The glaring problem is that Affinity is most efficiently generated via killing. Or, more to the point, you will receive dramatically less rewards over the same amount of time if you choose to play the game in a way that is considered standard, normal gameplay. Particularly with the Syndicate and Focus systems, you are given a daily incentive to maximize your affinity gains in order to reach your maximum possible daily gains for the respective systems by utilizing highly efficient gameplay options which do not fall within the scope of what players consider normal. Through standard gameplay, you could reach these maximum daily gains within 90 to 150 minutes, pending which missions you choose and just how much of an emphasis you place on kills. That is a dramatic difference from the 20 minutes it takes when using an efficient kill-farming method.

To address any measure of balancing Affinity, an important question needs to be asked:

How much time should it take to __________?

How much time should it take to rank your equipment from 0 to 30?

How much time should it take to re-rank up after installing a Forma?

How much time should it take to reach your daily cap of Syndicate Standing?

How much longer should it take a MR22 (23,000 daily cap) player as opposed to an MR10 player (11,000 daily cap)?

How much time should it take to reach your daily cap of Focus gains?

How much time should it take to complete a Focus school?

With the assumption of a “base” value, meaning that there would not be a booster (such as an Affinity Booster) which could double your speeds. It is important to address these questions because ultimately this is the investment you are asking of the player.

Until very recently, it was possible to reach your daily Focus and Syndicate Standing caps within 20 minutes of hyper-efficient gameplay which requires a very specific setup (new testing and methods will arise for Focus with the Convergence feature). However, standard play times are much longer than that and range between two and three hours (assuming you are able to generate Focus along the way if you choose to do public matches). This is a result of a multitude of factors, but the key points are that not every mission emphasizes kills, not every mission generates enough enemies to get a substantial amount of kills, and specifically the way Focus gains work while in a squad.

To tackle the problems Syndicates and Focus have created, I’ve worked out some suggestions geared toward addressing their dependency on affinity.

Mission Bonuses

As the game is right now, you receive a small bonus amount of affinity for completing a given mission type. These gains are abysmal relative to gameplay, which is fair enough for the purpose of generating Affinity. However, these end-game bonuses could provide a solution to generating Syndicate Standing and Focus gains. A change to have these missions reward a flat value for Syndicate Standing and Focus, completely detached from Affinity, could dramatically improve the player’s ability to reach the daily caps through standard gameplay. The bonus could be set at a base value and scale with mission level. For Endless mission variants, a flat bonus could be provided at each rotation A, B, and C. For example, the base values would have Rotation A, or R(A), be worth 1,250 Focus per R(A) completed, R(B) worth 5,000 Focus per R(B) completed, and R(C) worth 7,500 Focus per R(C) completed. A typical 20 minute Survival would reward you with 15,000 Focus whereas a 10 minute run would only be worth 2,500. The values would scale with mission level using the same Affinity baseline which Cephalon Simaris utilizes.

Ideally the weight would be focused around being able to cap out on Syndicate Standing and Focus within 60-90 minutes of gameplay. As long as a daily (or weekly) cap system exists, the weight of the balancing can be tuned to account for those caps.

Unlimiting Player Loadouts

Quite simply, this would be a convenience change for Syndicates. Much like the recent Conclave Standing change in Hotfix 18.2.3, Syndicates should no longer require sacrificing player vanity for the sake of generating Standing. Likewise, it would remove the tedium of having to adjust your cosmetic loadout every time you switch to a different warframe. Instead, players would choose which Syndicate to represent from their Landing Craft (or similar Relay option), and proceed from there. To account for this change, Syndicate sigils would no longer provide a bonus to Standing generation and instead be purely cosmetic. Instead, by simply owning a sigil from the appropriate tier, even if not equipped, the player would then receive increased gains up to 15%. Actively representing a Syndicate could result in an increased chance of syndicate assassins appearing in your mission (ideally without affecting Stalker/G3/Zan spawns).

For Focus, this is more of a necessary change. Though the idea behind installing a Focus Lens on an individual piece of equipment is a nice way for a player to further invest into their favorite pieces of equipment, the reality is that you are limited by the daily Focus gain cap as to which equipment you can use unless you are willing to pay an extreme premium to install lenses on all of your equipment. To put this into perspective, let’s assume each standard lens is worth 10 Platinum (Greater Lenses are on the Market for 40 Platinum). The $4.99 USD Platinum pack gives 75 Platinum, the $19.99 USD Platinum pack gives 370 Platinum. That means a single standard lens has a base value of $0.70 USD and a Greater Lens has a value of $2.80 USD for the base pack or $0.60 and $2.40 for the latter pack, respectively. Currently the most effective setups require 2 lenses, though many make due with one. Multiply those values by how many installations you plan to make across your warframes and weapons.

The solution for Focus would be to change the Lens system to be an account selection, not a specific gear selection. Have the Operator literally wear the Focus Lens as a cosmetic aboard the Landing Craft if it helps sell the immersion aspect. To that end, here are a few specific suggestions for different options on how to achieve this:

  • New Operator Menu option: Select Focus Lens
    • Allows you to equip up to two Focus Lenses from the same school per slot.
    • Generates Focus for that school for any Rank 30 equipment used in a mission.
    • Every player starts with 2 slots, gain an additional slot at MR10, MR 20, and eventually MR30 for a maximum of 5 slots. Can purchase additional slot for 20 Platinum, up to a maximum of 5 total slots (including earned ones).
  • New Arsenal option: Select Focus
    • Focus Lenses no longer have to be installed and permanently locked to an item and instead can be activated individually per piece of equipment in the same way a mod is equipped. Essentially functions the same way as it is now, but without being a permanent installation.
    • When you switch to a different piece of equipment it will retain whichever lens you had previously associated with that weapon.
    • Similar to when you try to equip the same mod across Sentinel weapons and your own weapons, a warning and auto-sort prompt will show up if you attempt to use the same lens across multiple equipment.
    • Would ultimately require changes to acquisition methods of standard lenses and adjusting sortie rewards; Perhaps not the best solution from the developer’s standpoint.
  • Focus generation no longer dependent on school lens
    • Replace all school specific lenses with a generic Focus Lens. Installation is still permanent.
    • Accumulate Generic Focus which you can then spend freely on any school

Transitioning to Weekly Caps

A recent Reddit post on the Warframe Subreddit features a list of Daily Warframe Tasks and the estimated time it takes to complete them (the updated post with Focus included can be found here). Presently, we have about 8 hours of content we can participate in each day until the next reset.

To help accommodate the goal of setting a time frame for how long it should take to reach your daily caps on Syndicate Standing and Focus, it could help to transition one (if not both) of these systems into a Weekly reset as opposed to a Daily one. A similar such system exists already in the form of a weekly quest for the Clem Clone. Standing gains and costs could be adjusted to reflect such a transition.

Specific Changes for Focus

At long last Focus has seen changes since its introduction in December 2015. Such changes were promised/planned to arrive in “early 2016” (source: https://forums.warframe.com/index.php?/topic/579083-u18-spoiler-system-eta-on-changes/) and made it into the game in the form of the new Convergence system. However, as of the time of this post, we still lack the ability to generate Focus at a meaningful capacity in a squad.

Secondly, and just as importantly, Focus gains from non-combat Affinity need to be improved. Presently, the non-combat option of stealth vault completion in Spy missions will reward players with a high Affinity gain, but almost no Focus. The heavy reliance on kill-only affinity creates a necessity for high-efficiency farming options which the developers have made several steps to cull in the infamous “Vivergate” and “E-Gate” incidents, as well as more recently with a flurry of Stealth Combat changes (many of which were not documented initially or at all) in the wake of Update 18.

And, finally, Focus costs for school trees could stand some adjustment. Though this is getting more into an entire topic of it’s own, I’ll leave a snippet of it here for consideration:

To put things into perspective, The Zenurik school tree has a total of 6,947,500 Focus to invest into it in order to unlock every node at the maximum rank. An additional 5,147,992 estimated Focus is required to unlock the 68 Focus Pool Capacity necessary to have every node active at max rank. Alternatively, if the Focus Pool Capacity has a maximum size of 50 that would be 2,638,586 estimated Focus. That brings you to a total of either 12,094,492 or 9,586,086 Focus. It would take around 121 days (roughly 4 months) to completely finish the Zenurik school. The grand total is about 3 years to max out all 5 schools due to the daily 100,000 cap (raised from 75,000 on February 11, 2016). For a system that is being used as a Beta, this puts a heavy limitation on the ability of players to get around to using, let alone testing, various aspects of the different Focus schools.

In Closing

It is my opinion that the time has come to detach affinity from some of these meta gameplay systems. Killing enemies is, and most likely always will be, the most rewarding aspect of gameplay. It’s how you find most mods, it’s how you generate most affinity, it’s how you actively participate in the game. However, Affinity does not have to be the only system used to measure player activity. Especially in a system where there are caps and limitations set on a controlled, daily, basis. Syndicate Standing and Focus gains could afford to be much more liberal with how much you can gain per mission as long as a cap system is in place.

Unfortunately, the only way to get away from using Affinity as the go-to system would be to make a variety of back-end changes to support it. That’s likely to require development time, resources, and money sunk into building a more robust system which would allow more options for progression systems.

The benefit would be in the newfound versatile options for working on your progression for the meta systems such as Syndicates and Focus. Reducing the burnout/turnover could potentially be factored in to the benefits though I do not have any metrics available to comment on that. What I can say with confidence is that one of Warframe’s greatest strengths over the last few years has been the ability to modify your loadout as you saw fit without any restrictions aside from a few tailored Tactical Alerts and Events (and now some Sorties conditions). Limiting player options either by a more direct means such as the way Focus Lenses are installed or by creating a system that needs specific gameplay styles to achieve a daily goal will eat away at that versatility.


This is the first editorial piece on the site. The current format I’m using will just include sources at relevant points within the post. Let me know if you think it would be more helpful to include sources at the end of the post as well.

Written By TGDM

Overly sarcastic video game enthusiast.

4 Comments on “The Roles of Affinity in Warframe

  1. BigDrinkCup

    March 10, 2016 at 10:13

    Intense article. Turned adblock off. I’m new to warframe(because apparently 100 hours in you still don’t know what the fuck you are doing) but definitely looking forward to this as a much easier way to assimilate ‘Tenno Culture’.

    • TGDM

      March 10, 2016 at 10:15

      There are no ads on this site and that’s the plan unless I have to do serious hardware upgrades.

  2. Ashnal

    March 10, 2016 at 11:44

    Nice new site! This is a well written editorial too!

    I will say a couple of things though. All of your proposed changes to focus lenses ignore one of their purposes, which is to provide consistent rewards for Sorties. Sorties being designed to get higher ranked players to play daily when there is no new content. In order for there to be a use for the multiple lenses sorties reward, you must require more than one of each kind (or 4 for greater) in order for Sorties to fulfill their purpose.

    While we as players don’t really care about things like player retention, in order for a design to be viable for an F2P game it has to at least work a little towards retaining players and making money for the game.

    Most of the other stuff is pretty good though. Increased affinity for mission completion and objectives would help.

    Caps are an interesting subject. Should they be able to be finished by a casual player who plays 30-60 minutes a day at most? If they were easily able to be finished it gives nothing for players who spend more time in game to do. Ideally I think caps should be higher for players who play a lot and take a while during the day to max. This way more casual players and hardcore players can progress without limiting those who want to play more. Limiting your players who want to spend more time on your game is not a good thing in my eyes. However the caps need to be such that they still gate how fast you can progress even if you do spend a lot of time, since the game needs to retain players and keep them playing. I feel like caps are fine right now. With the current values in the tree you can easily get 2-3 nodes to rank 1 and 2 and unlock the defining features of the system. All of the levels after (with their crazy costs) are small buffs that aren’t really necessary, except in a few cases. I don’t think it’s really fair to be outraged over millions of focus needed to max a tree because the tree wasn’t designed to be maxed at all. It was designed such that you take a few nodes you like the most, unlocking them easily, then improving them over a long period of time.

    That being said, I think a weekly cap would be great, because it allows those people who play on a weekly schedule to devote more time in on specified days than others while still progressing.

    • TGDM

      March 11, 2016 at 12:42

      I’m not sure if player retention is even a factor when it comes to having the Focus Lenses as a Sortie reward. Aside from the initial release of Focus when players were trading lenses for absurd amounts of Platinum (which ended quickly after the Greater Lenses were added to the market for 40 Platinum). Now, the Lenses are more often than not met with disappointment. They are worth less platinum than getting a pack of 25x R5 Cores, for example. It may have a slight influence over conversion rates, but that’s not very probable what with the GLenses available on the market directly. Generally speaking, Warframe’s retention strategy relies heavily on providing constant updates to the game with new carrots on the proverbial stick. If any of the Sortie rewards is a factor for retention, it is most probably the Legendary Fusion Core.

      Beyond that, the heart of the issue is how Lenses effectively limit your loadout options. Initially, you may struggle to get more than one Lens and thus will want to play with whichever equipment you have the Lens installed on. When you eventually finish unlocking an entire school with your favorite loadout, you have the option to either destroy and replace those Lenses or pick a new loadout. It sounds fine in theory, but the reality is that you have an incentive to just stick to the same equipment each day until you cap out because it is impractical to install a Lens on everything.

      And on the topic of retention, to address your concern of players having nothing else to do, I think you missed this! https://www.reddit.com/r/Warframe/comments/3x9wvn/u18_edition_of_warframe_daily_tasks/

      There are over 8 hours of daily-reset content available. Each day. Every day. And as I allude to in there, there’s still always the option of farming more R5 cores if you managed to complete all the daily cap tasks, all the Mastery Rank fodder ranked up, etc. The important thing is giving players a free choice of what to do each day. Every day you do not reach the 100,000 Focus cap is essentially a day lost that you can never get back for Focus. A transition to Weekly Caps would help with that a bit.

      By the way, it’s still absolutely possible to reach the 100,000 cap in under 20 minutes after the barrage of changes to Stealth gameplay. Those hardcore players know how to get work done!

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