A joke from years ago has been permanently etched into Warframe. Here’s why players are still faced with the Taylor Swift lyrics that lit up the billboard charts back in 2014 every time they grind for loot on Mars.
Warframe’s star map is a lot like the one in Destiny You choose a planet and then zoom in and select a specific location on or around it. On Warframe’s version of Mars there’s a place called Kadesh that’s great for grinding. Fly down to the surface and you can play a horde mode online with other players. Before you get there, you have to click on Kadesh’s icon from the star map, at which point Swift’s nauseatingly catchy chorus from “Shake It Off” pops up as the description.
Seeing “Cause the players gonna play, play, play. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate. Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off,” sitting next to things like the recommended player level, credit reward, and experience multiplier is unusual even for Warframe, a game where people dress up in kinky space suits before slaughtering aliens. However, stuff like this also helps to spotlight just how charmingly bizarre and impenetrable the game can be, especially for new players.
One such player put it bluntly on the game’s subreddit a few months ago, “New to Warframe. Why are Taylor Swift lyrics on my screen?”
The answer to that question is multilayered and remains somewhat incomplete, with parts of it lost to time. Digital Extremes has been continuously evolving Warframe ever since it released in 2013. One of the bigger updates from April 2014 added a new meta player-vs-player mode where people could build connections to new map locations, like Kadesh, and then tax whoever used them. If other groups of players tried to build their own connecting route, referred to as a Solar Rail, a limited time conflict would ensue, and players could complete an activity there against AI opponents on behalf of one of the two sides. Whichever side got more support and more victories would get or keep control of the area and continue to collect taxes from it.
In addition to the money, however, they also got to add their own unique flavor text to the locaton’s description, and so “Mars - Kadesh (Shake It)” was born. Left there by the Coup d etat Alliance, the Swift lyrics weren’t Kadesh’s first player-authored text but they did end up being the last.
Warframe has dabbled in a number of Eve Online-lite mechanics, some of which, like Dark Sector Rail Conflicts, didn’t pan out. Players found ways to exploit the system, trade Rails back and forth, and lead the metagame to become more trouble than it was worth. For example, players could create bounties for other players to entice them to work on behalf of their Alliance and its Solar Rail Conflict objective. Often though the bounty would be set outrageously high just long enough for lots of people to join in only to set it back down near zero, in effect manipulating the player base and causing it to lose faith in the market surrounding Dark Sector events.
As a result, Digital Extremes continued to rework the PvP meta game and ultimately decided with Update 16 in 2015 to create what it called an “Armistice” period which would effectively shut down Solar Rail Conflicts. Players could still complete missions on these maps and grind for resources, money, and XP, but they could not longer war over them, set tax rates for using them, or, most importantly, add new flavor text. In the weeks, months, and years ever since, Kadesh has remained in the throes of a now dated pop song.
Warframe’s small but prolonged fan affiliation with Taylor Swift it just one of the many charmingly weird things about the game. But it also gets at Warframe’s experimental, interactive elements that have helped players leave their mark on its solar system. And of course it will no doubt change in the future, if and when Digital Extremes decides to dissolve the Armistice and shake things up again.