As humans, we quickly forget how big the world around us really is. We live in bubbles that we fill with our own logic and entertainment, where expanding past what you already know is limited to specific ideas that are relatable. That is what TennoCon is to me. As someone who played Warframe almost religiously back when it was initially released, I eventually splintered off to other titles as I don’t really have the luxury to stay entirely dedicated to a single game. Since then, Warframe has taken off exponentially, becoming one of the most continually played free-to-play games on Steam and consoles. It not only has a dedicated player base, but that player base is willing to travel hundreds and thousands of kilometers just to attend a convention purely for the fast paced shooter.
We were invited to attend Digital Extremes’ second annual convention last week, TennoCon 2017, and were left astounded by the sheer excitement and joyful glee the fans projected. Getting to London, Ontario Canada (yes, if you didn’t know, we also have a London), the small city was overrun by blue shirts and badges as people from all around the globe (mostly from North America) had come to experience this one-day event. Even coming up to the convention centre, the people waiting in line just to get in wrapped around multiple blocks – and it was a toasty 27°C with a high humidity due to the thunderstorms the previous evening. These fans were dedicated, and they ranged from teenagers to the elderly, and mothers with their children in strollers. As with any likeminded group of people, everyone was friendly and sociable at the event, with some coming up to me to talk about where I was from and what brought me to TennoCon. It was a relaxing, yet overly exciting convention to say the least.
The event itself was surprisingly large, fitting the little over 2,000 attendees, nearly doubling of last year’s record, in the London Convention Center. The main attraction was no doubt the panels on the second floor, as Digital Extremes held various talks throughout the day. These ranged from having their artists and sound designers up on stage to go over the process of bringing third person shooter to life, to a special panel with TopCow writer Matt Hawkins speaking about the newly introduced Warframe comic book. These panels were filled with people as they were not only watching the discussion on stage, but participating in the Q&A as well, even though they always seemed a little strapped on time, only getting in a couple of questions per panel. They were filled with laughter, cheers and people shouting suggestions.
In addition to the panels, there were Workshops on the first floor, showcasing how the Digital Extreme designers work on the complex Warframe. There were even meet and greets for YouTube and Twitch personalities, along with more designer-level workshops. These included hands-on time with the Evolution Engine, breaking down weapon designs, creating the languages of Warframe, live animating and so much more. These were smaller rooms, but they were jammed pack throughout the day, with people standing and seeping out the doorways every time I ventured down there. No matter where you went, there was something for everyone.
Outside of featured attractions, there were also various games and opportunities to have fun with. For starters, there was an Archery Room, an Escape Room, and a Syndicate Search, all of which allowed Tennos to test their skills in various means, somewhat representative of the game’s mission designs. There was even an autograph table where fans could meet their favorite Warframe celebrities. It was a joyous time all around. The biggest line, though, was the merchandise booth, which broke off from its weaving guided ropes and wrapped around to the main entrance of the second floor. Fans really wanted to get their hands on t-shirts, collector statues and the various other merchandise there; and who could blame them as it was the perfect opportunity to get some exclusive material that they could show off to their friends with. Suffice to say, there were a lot of activities to partake in, despite some of the attractions having very sizable lines.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Warframe convention without the actual game. While they didn’t have the upcoming update out to be played, as there were a few kinks that need to be ironed out before fans could get their hands on it, they showed off fully supped up characters, not to mention highlighting the most recent update, Chains of Harrow. There were stations all across the second floor, most of which were for PC, with a few dedicated to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. Fans were even encouraged to sign their name on a giant planetary map, leaving their mark in Warframe and Digital Extremes history. Finally, for those who just wanted to just relax and take it all in, there was the Twitch Broadcast area, where giant beanbag seats were spread out, all readying for the next and most important part of the day.
At the end of the long day, everyone was treated to a live announcement of the biggest Warframe news since the game was announced: Plains of Eidolon. Having seen a demonstration earlier in the day, myself and the media were very impressed, but it paled in comparison to the response it received from fans. The cheers were absolutely livid. Having been in the crowd during Sony’s E3 2015 Press Conference, I can say that the Plains of Eidolon announcement made the Final Fantasy VII Remake announcement feel insignificant. There were three points in the demo that stood out: the weapon crafting, the open area reveal and the Archwing section as everyone in the auditorium were absolutely losing their minds, and rightfully so as this is a significant step for Warframe as a whole. It was like nothing I had seen before, and was so glad to experience it.
Going to TennoCon 2017 put things into perspective. It’s hard to believe that an independent developer such as Digital Extremes, one that has had its far share of not-so-favorable contract work in the past, would grow so large in such a short amount of time. Warframe is less than five years old and yet this experimental free-to-play release has become so large that thousands of people travel to a small city (around 350,000 large) to celebrate a wonderfully evolving game for one day. Digital Extremes has become in itself a celebrity developer, as they interact with their core audience in the perfect manner, and even base what they develop next on direct feedback from their players. Having met with the some of the developers, their passion towards Warframe goes well beyond what you’d expect, only wanting to please their fans. They go meet with their fans directly, take photos with them, talk with them. TennoCon represents Warframe well, as it’s truly an experience like no other.