When our creative director told me that this Warframe update was to be based on music, I knew the sound team was going to be challenged like it had never been before. After all, this was to be the first time players could create songs in the game.
This was the spec: “Octavia is to be a unique Warframe that’s able to play songs that the player creates. It will use elements of these songs as her power to fight enemies.” My first reaction was, “I have no idea how we’re going to make this work…” But, because this was such a cool idea, we had to figure out a way to not only make it work but make it awesome.
Our first major challenge was to make sure that if there is more than one player with Octavia in a game, that the notes will not clash when her powers are cast and to make sure that each Octavia was in the same key. So, we settled on D minor because that’s what key the Warframe theme “This is What You Are” is in. The tempo (the number of beats per minute) was also a key factor in her design — we wanted players to be able to jam with each other and have their music stay in time no matter what.
Once those two challenges were solved, we had to make sure the interface for the song creation tool was user-friendly. For inspiration, we turned to the concept behind many early music pattern machines called step sequencers. If players had limited musical knowledge, we didn’t want them to feel overwhelmed with a complex song creation tool. So we designed the Mandachord, a simple step sequencer that enables players to enter notes on a pre-defined grid. You won’t have to worry about wrong notes or misplaced beats — everything you put into the Mandachord will stay in key and will be on the beat. Oh, and did I mention that you can share your songs with your friends and even the whole Warframe community?
When you join with friends in your Dojo or in the Relays, you can make a much longer song than the basic four bars in length. How? Each player can start by playing back their four bars after the previous players’ four bars finishes — you can essentially string together many bars to create one long song. It takes a bit of teamwork but it can be done and demonstrates the flexibility of Octavia and her Mandachord.
The next big hurdle for the sound team was how to give players enough sounds to work with when composing their songs. So we came up with the idea to make song packs that each have different instruments in them with a default song you can load up to get started with and use in the game. We wanted to give players as many different sounds as possible, so they could make all different styles of music. We recorded electric guitars, bass, drums, electronic drums, and synth sounds. We also thought it would be great to record a choir and even some orchestral instruments. A local arts school helped and let us record their choir, strings, brass, and woodwinds for us. Another cool feature is that the player can mix and match different sounds from different packs. So, for example, you could have a distorted bass guitar, a synth, and Taiko drumming all playing together.
I’m really proud of how the Mandachord and Octavia turned out, and a big thanks must go to our UI and programming teams. But, as with anything, you never really know how players are going to respond to new updates in the game. I should admit there were many sleepless nights thinking about how to make Octavia work and hoping that she would be well received. This is the first time the sound department will give players the ability to customize how their own Warframe can sound in the game and we’re looking forward to seeing how Xbox fans will react.
I really hope you’ll check out the latest Warframe update and load up Octavia. I also encourage you to look at our in-depth Octavia tutorial on the Warframe website. I’m excited for Octavia’s Anthem to finally be available for Xbox One players as its their chance to put their personal touch on Octavia. I hope you get a ton of enjoyment out of creating your own songs and sharing them with your friends.