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Digital Extremes

Making a AAA-level space ninja game with an indie attitude

Digital Extremes has had a tremendous journey. The company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, and its team has been involved in a lot of games in that time: Unreal, Unreal: Tournament, darkSector, and The Darkness 2.

So, they really understand what it takes to make a AAA-style game, and they have what it takes to make one. But they wanted to explore a different way of working, one with more independence and flexibility than the traditional AAA model.

That’s why Digital Extremes decided to forge its own path with its current offering, Warframe.

So, what is Warframe?

Warframe has ninjas. It has sci-fi. It has fantasy. It has fierce gameplay and PVP action, it evolves over time based on player feedback, and it is free-to-play. Which is a good thing, since you might have to play it to understand completely.

With Warframe, Digital Extremes can add characters, weapons, and enemies at any time, and then immediately revise all of those based on player feedback. This process helps the team members evaluate characters and gameplay designs and make updates far more quickly than before. Working with the player community and trying to be this responsive require a very tight artistic pipeline for quick content creation and iteration. 

Gaming’s changing landscape

The middle tier of games is disappearing, and small, independent studios are closing down left and right. So, how is Digital Extremes staying alive? By creating a great game based a fun, new premise and working directly with players to explore and test new game elements.

Warframe gets regular updates that add new content all the time. The best part? Digital Extremes works with its players to make sure they get exactly the content they want. The team listens to this dedicated community and makes changes based on player input. This process is admittedly a huge challenge, and the team could not have imagined just how deeply players would engage with the game—their levels commitment and dedication have been impressive. 

Gamers don’t always think highly of free-to-play games, but Warframe seems to have struck the perfect balance. In these videos, the Digital Extremes team explains why it chose the free-to-play model for Warframe, how it dealt with the risk, and how the company has learned and changed along the way.

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