Riven Mods and their impact on Warframe

Modding is the most integral mechanic of Warframe. No weapon is good enough on its own, and as any veteran player would tell you, mods maketh the player.

Modding has also undergone some serious overhauls and reworks over the years to work out flaws and bugs, nerf stuff into oblivion (poor Maiming Strike) and buff niche or underused builds. All things considered, mods were pretty straightforward, for example, you had damage mods, elemental damage mods, critical damage mods etc.

Seems fairly simple up until now right? You worked out whether a weapon supports a crit focused build, status hose, or a hybrid of both, and modded it accordingly.

Yet, one day DE decided not to keep it simple, and in came Riven mods.

Core Concept

All other mods except for Rivens, have a specific function. As mentioned before, they improve damage, multishot, critical chance etc., but with riven mods you have no fixed role. 

Normal mods are generalized for a whole group of weapons. Rifles have their own mods, shotguns their own and so do melee etc. Riven mods though, are extremely specialized.

Basically, once you get one, whether from sorties (high level missions) or from events etc. you’re given a challenge of varying difficulty, which when completed gives a Riven which only works for a single weapon, or a couple of its variants.

Then, you’re once again at the mercy of RNGesus, which determines what stats are going to roll on the Riven, out of quite literally, thousands of possibilities.

The values for the stats are according to the Riven mod’s ‘disposition’. It is like a scale of a weapon’s usage and ranges from 0.5 to 1.5, and shown in-game as 1 to 5 dots. Weapons which see a lot of usage by players have a low disposition, and thus roll low values for the Riven’s stats. Underused weapons thus have much stronger Riven stat values.

A fair example for disposition is the Rubico Prime and Lanka (strongest snipers in Warframe). They started seeing a lot of usage when eidolons were introduced and have consequently had their Riven mods nerfed by quite a lot.

Similarly, the Scoliac, a melee whip with long range but very mediocre stats, saw a huge influx of demand for its Rivens as people discovered its strong Riven mods coupled with pre-nerf Maiming Strike made it a very long range and effective room clearer.

So in concept you have a lottery-like, high cost, high capacity mod that has the potential to completely change a weapon’s playstyle and/or damage output.

Rivens, when rolled can have any one of the following combinations:

  • Two positive stats, no negatives. Average values for both stats as per Riven Disposition
  • Three positive stats, no negatives. Lowest possible values for all stats as per disposition.
  • Two positive stats, one negative. Highest possible values for positives and negative, as per disposition.
  • Three positive stats, one negative. Average values on both positives and negative.

Impact on Gameplay

Riven mods unlock a whole new potential dimension for weapons. Nearly every weapon in warframe is made with some pros and cons in mind. 

For example, the Supra Vandal, a personal favorite, is a bullet hose that holds 300 rounds per mag, has semi-decent crit chance and high status chance as its pros. For its cons, its projectiles have flight time (very annoying at range), long reload time and an IPS distribution more skewed towards puncture damage.

(IPS means Impact, Puncture and Slash and these are the physical damage types in Warframe. Slash is considered the best while Impact and Puncture are meh)

For the given weapon, quite a few combinations offer different advantages due to the weapon’s flexibility. For example, a status chance roll can remove the need for putting in 60/60 status mods and allow for increased elemental damage.

Similarly, a Riven mod that increases crit chance can make the weapon more critical damage focused, while a Riven mod that provides increased projectile flight speed can rectify the weapons’ projectile flight time. 

All in all, the right Riven mod can even change the weapon’s playstyle to better suit the player.

Thus, Riven mods become the last step towards perfection with dedicated players going through absurd lengths to achieve their perfect build.

Power creep

Warframe is a game plagued by power creep. Power creeping basically means that every new weapon, warframe etc. is made slightly more powerful than the pre-existing ones, to make it more popular and to get people to spend on the game.

This leads to older weapons being severely outclassed by newer releases. Riven mods were supposed to be a partial solution to power creeping, by keeping underused weapons relevant, but instead, they have become a part of the problem.

The potential power spike from the right Riven mod can make any average weapon an absolute beast. This leads to players absolutely slaughtering enemies at nearly every level. 

Around 3 years ago, facing level 100 enemies felt like a real challenge and squads would need to coordinate their loadouts to maximize their chances of survival. Now with stronger weapons and Riven mods being a common aspect of the game, nearly everyone with a half decent build can cheese through the supposedly ‘hard’ content like Sorties.

Solution

DE have come-up with a semi-solution in the form of Steel Path to battle power creep, but it is still more of a band-aid than a solution.

A more thought out solution would require them to completely overhaul the enemy AI to make the ever-elusive endgame actually difficult, rather than relying on gimmicks like increased enemy armor and health.

It is wishful thinking right now, yes, but I sincerely hope that DE actually go through the trouble of overhauling enemy AI as we currently still have mediocre 2013 AI, that causes enemies to run in conveniently straight lines, queued up to be obliterated.

Impact on the in-game economy and trade chat

Warframe’s economy is quite simple to understand. Whenever a weapon is released or given a better variant, prices for its Riven mods skyrocket. If it’s a new release, supply is very low because the Riven mod influx is kept in check by its limited acquisition methods.

Then, there’s the actual chance that the Riven mod actually rolls for the given weapon. So, you have about a 1 in 200 chance of rolling a Riven mod for the desired weapon. These can then go for thousands of platinum (the in-game currency).

This causes a very high level of volatility as you have whales (players hoarding thousands in platinum), who actually pay absurd amounts for choice Riven mods.

In effect, with every update the trade chat floods with people listing their mediocre Riven mods for absurd prices, while others try to scam new and unknowing players off of their Riven mods.

The prices do stagnate a bit once supply catches up, but the state of trade chat always worsens. 

For the majority of players, the trade chat becomes a wall of blue and white text being spammed by a few players every other minute. It becomes very difficult for new players to get the hang of trading on their own.

Warframe, by itself is quite overwhelming for new players and without convenient access to trading, it goes up a notch. It’s easy to see newer players stumbling in different chat channels trying to get someone to help them out.

Solution

The amount of effort and time needed to roll Riven mods is the root cause of their high prices.

Rolling a Riven mod is a Sisyphean task, where you’re as close to the destination on your hundredth roll, as you are on the first one.

The high kuva costs ensure that rolling Rivens remains a luxury afforded by few. The kuva costs for rolling Riven mods also keep increasing uptil 10 rolls, where a max cap of 3500 kuva per roll is implemented.

To give you perspective, a 30 minute kuva survival run yields ~3500 kuva without any boosters. This 3500 kuva can then either be spent to roll an unrolled riven thrice or once for a high-rolled Riven mod.

Thus, a booster becomes somewhat of a necessity when farming kuva. Then there’s the need for time to be sunk. So you’re left with options of 

  • Purchasing Rivens at high costs for specific stats.
  • Forgoing Rivens and being underpowered for high level content.
  • Or spending huge amounts of time farming kuva and risking burnout.

A simple player-friendly solution would be for DE to either increase the amount of kuva output from its sources, or to reduce rolling costs. It can ease the intensive amount of grind needed, and DE lower the risk of losing players to burnout.

Another commonly proposed solution on Reddit and other forums is the ability to lock in stats. Basically, you can lock in a desired stat on Riven mods for a cost and when you roll the Riven again, it does not randomize again.

As for the trade chat dilemma, a simple divergence into two different channels can make things easier. A normal trade chat for selling parts and mods, and a separate Riven mod trading channel for players to spam their specific mod needs.

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