For many fans, Warframe’s greatest moments are tied up in its music and its sounds. Each expansion solidifies what a sonically unique world they’ve created. Two people responsibl­e for a forging that identity are composer Keith Power and audio director George Spanos. Though they each worked at Digital Extremes many years before

Warframe, working together on

Dark Sector, they both go way back. “To our earlier lives doing music and audio for advertisin­g,” Power says. Spanos reckons they started working together in 2000.

“It’s more of a collaborat­ive thing, even at the start, of ‘What do you think Keith? What do you think this could be?’” Spanos explains. How did they find those initial, iconic sounds? “You had to be able to iterate quickly,” Spanos says, describing the nature of service games when Warframe began. “Early on, listening to player feedback. Taking that in and thinking to ourselves, ‘OK, how does that fit into the landscape we want to create?’” Warframe began with just two factions but they are still both a huge parts of the game’s character, in no small part thanks to their sound design. “Grineer are these mechanical, old world, oily type of sounding guys where as Corpus are more high tech,” Spanos puts it simply. “We recorded a lot of sounds in the studio, organic sounds, metal, clothing sounds, all that kind of stuff for the Grineer. And Corpus, a lot of it is made in the computer. Digital, processed sounds. That goes for the voices too.”


For Power, when he started on

Warframe, Spanos and the team had already implemente­d some basics for him to build upon. “There was a handful of pieces that were already in there. Some Taiko drumming, which was amazing. That’s probably the thing people think of when they think of

Warframe.” Collaborat­ion is essential but so too is change. “In the early days it was setting up a bunch of rules for ourselves then we’ve, quite literally, been breaking them with every quest.”

Those musical moments in the quests were something I was keen to chat about, since they helped elevate iconic scenes of The Second Dream or The War Within. “When Power wrote This Is What You Are, we realised we had something special on our hands. It kind of became the anthem of the Tenno.” The tune is a motif deployed with razor precision after it’s introduced, signalling the important steps in the Tenno’s journey. “I basically just try to make George cry,” Power says. “It’s a good indication it’s going to resonate with players as well.”

Perhaps the most iconic piece of music in and outside of the game is We All Lift Together, a workers song chanted by the labourers of Fortuna on Venus. “I’ve always wanted a hit song,” Power says with a laugh. To Spanos, it was a way to tell their story in a way that was both efficient and impactful. “When players hear this, they can relate to it’”

So what lies ahead for Warframe? Exactly a year before the time we spoke, Ford was made creative director. Something that felt like a natural fit to nearly everyone but herself. “I didn’t ask, I didn’t apply, we were looking internally at a leadership level,” she explains. “I hadn’t even considered myself at all. Truly, truly, did not think I had it.”

Sinclair, Crookes and Carter thought Ford was the obvious choice and essential in keeping Digital Extremes healthy. “If my old ass is stuck in whatever position, other people don’t get a chance to grow and try out things,” Sinclair says.

Starting as one of a tiny handful of women at the studio, Ford is now proud of how things have improved. “We’ve hired about 60-plus women, which is amazing for me to see.”


Taking over a “ten year old pseudo-MMO that was basically crowdfunde­d from the ground up” and taking it into a bold new future is something both exciting and terrifying for Ford. “I want to do a good job but I don’t know if I know how. So I just need to trust myself, trust my team and trust the community. We’ll figure it out together. They’ll tell me if I’m wrong. I’m not surrounded by people who are like, ‘OK boss, let’s do that idea.’”

And while

Warframe is now in exciting new hands, its old creative heads are embarking on a new journey with the recently announced

Soulframe. “I’m an old Star Trek guy, the mirror universe, the Terran Empire. So

[Soulframe] isn’t the opposite of

Warframe but some things are inverted,” Sinclair says. “Warframe is crazy fast, high agility, Soulframe is a bit slower, more casual. Warframe is about shooting, Soulframe is about melee more. But there’s a lot of shared DNA. With Soulframe I want it to feel punk rock a bit, you know? I wanna do something with only two people in the audience initially.”


It’s a tall order, with Warframe’s success shaping the industry in a big way. They struggled to convince their own team with Warframe, now they have people knocking on their door to experience working on a service game. “If [Sinclair] was doing that same presentati­on this year at an E3, there’d be more than two people in the crowd,” Crookes states. “It’s a much different developmen­t time to do this than it was when we did Warframe.I think Warframe shipped with eight warframes? And two small art sets? We’re going to be required to ship more when we launch Soulframe.”


For a game and a developer journey as storied as Warframe, looking back now, what were the highlights for the team?

There are a couple for Carter, but a big one was the unveiling of Plains of Eidolon at Tennocon, Warframe’s first open world. “In front of that crowd, hearing them erupt with their joy. I’m just a game developer, so now I get why Madonna is going back on world tour again to stand in front of people.” The surprise is a key part, he tells me. “It was something they all wanted, that they had no idea they were going to get.”

“I have this very strong memory from when The Second Dream came out,” Sinclair begins, telling me about a moment he won’t forget. “We were getting reactions and watching people play it and this one fan just broke down and bawled at the end. This was playing in our board room to our admin, James who started the company, who is very aloof, not very emotionall­y available, and the tears were rolling silently down his cheeks as he’s watching this player just losing their mind and gush with love about what an experience it had been.”

Ford’s is the moment she got offered the creative director role, a huge achievemen­t for someone who started at the company as an intern and now gets to steer the ship. “I feel like never again in my lifetime will I get an opportunit­y to tell someone our next creative choice and see it all come together, so perfectly, that I just want to make the most of it. I’m not gonna stare too close at the fear part of me, that knows how difficult it is to make games.” As always with Ford, it’s onwards and upwards. “I think it’s gonna be our best year yet.”

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? ABOVE: It’s a soundtrack worth appreciati­ng through some decent headphones.
ABOVE: It’s a soundtrack worth appreciati­ng through some decent headphones.
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Early concepts are not quite as biomechani­cal as Warframe’s designs.
Early concepts are not quite as biomechani­cal as Warframe’s designs.
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 ?? ?? ABOVE: What is a space opera without melodramat­ic villains?
ABOVE: What is a space opera without melodramat­ic villains?

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