Warframe pregnancy: A PC Gamer special report

 The latest warframe, Jade, wearing optional Choir cosmetics.
Credit: Digital Extremes

Before I begin, quick disclaimer: This article will feature major Warframe spoilers for story quests including The Second Dream, The Sacrifice, and the recently released Jade Shadows. If you're interested in maintaining the impact of those reveals for yourself, stop reading now.

In my eleven years playing Warframe, I've been forced to ask questions. Some I've wondered out of terminal lore-brained curiosity: "What drove the Tenno, the player characters, to overthrow the Orokin space empire before entering a centuries-long slumber?" or "Why do their warframe exoskeletons seem to have individuality or historical identities?"

Other questions, like "Why do a lot of these magic robot ninja suits have pronounced secondary sex characteristics," I've wondered just long enough to decide that it's a mystery for hornier people than me to ponder. When Digital Extremes CEO Steve Sinclair jokingly reads a question from chat during a dev livestream asking whether warframes can get pregnant, as he did seven months ago, I was content when the answer from creative director Rebb Ford was "So far they haven't. We don't know." I'd seen DE devs trolling before. A hypothetical warframe's pregnancy is none of my business, I thought to myself, and resubmerged into a vat of lore-relevant proper nouns.

But then DE made it my business. Last week saw the release of Warframe's latest story quest, Jade Shadows, and without knowing why, I was seeing posts about pregnant warframes bubbling up onto my feeds. Suddenly, Warframe pregnancy wasn't just niche kink content. Warframe pregnancy was a matter of public record—a public record that demanded clarification. I spoke with Rebb Ford about pregnancy in Warframe, and to ask for a definitive answer to that same question from the November 2023 devstream: Can a warframe get pregnant?

But first, you might be thinking, "Hold on, isn't this a game about robotic space ninjas wearing robot suits that let them shoot lightning or whatever? How would an exoskeleton even get pregnant?"

Well. It's complicated. To talk about warframe pregnancy, we first have to talk about warframes.

Before I go any further, once again, there will be heavy Warframe spoilers ahead.

Okay, so: Warframes. What's the deal?

This is the deal with Warframes

I'll try to be brief.

Over the years, our understanding of warframes has seen major revising. Warframes aren't really robotic exoskeletons, because they're not exoskeletons. Also? They're made of meat. They were created centuries ago by Ballas, a high-ranking member of the dystopian Orokin empire and history's greatest bastard, who had infected imperial subjects with a mutagenic virus called the Helminth to create supersoldiers for the failing war effort against the Orokin's rebelling machine-servants. These "warframes," while powerful, were unfortunately impossible to control. Oops!

A warframe, Nezha Prime, sprints past a line of Corpus enemies, leaving them ablaze in its wake.
A warframe, Nezha Prime, sprints past a line of Corpus enemies, leaving them ablaze in its wake.

Luckily the Orokin hit the jackpot, if the jackpot was a shipful of young teens who were suffused with unfathomable cosmic energies during an interdimensional colony ship accident. These Tenno warlock children were able to mindmeld with the frenzied warframes through the power of shared trauma, astral projecting into them and piloting them in combat to turn the tide in the Orokin war. Unluckily, the Orokin then hit the opposite of a jackpot, because the warframe-equipped Tenno decided they weren't super on-board with the whole "despotic empire" situation, and murdered the Orokin ruling caste in a frenzy of void magic and mutagenic biosteel. The Tenno then went into centuries-long suspended animation, awakening as amnesiac player characters who'd rediscover through years of quests that the warframes they're building are 3D-printed, armor-plated meat golems that they're piloting remotely over brain Wi-Fi.

Some of those quests also revealed that it wasn't just Orokin soldiers who'd been transformed into warframes. Others were dissidents and political enemies who were transformed as punishment. While most warframes lost their sense of their previous selves, some were forced by Ballas to maintain them as part of their punishment—like Umbra, an Orokin warrior-turned-warframe whose memories were left intact, including the memory of killing his own son during his transformation.

This is the deal with The Stalker

Now that we've completed the introductory section of our Warframe pregnancy primer, let's talk Jade Shadows. Warframe's newest story quest delves into the history of The Stalker, a fan-favorite Warframe fixture. He's basically the player's very own Shadow the Hedgehog: an edgy, red-and-black enigma who'll occasionally pop uninvited into your missions to try and murder your squad, declaring an undying hatred for the Tenno. He's been thrust into major story quests over the years: sometimes as an assailant, sometimes a grudging ally. And with Jade Shadows, we finally learn about his history.

The Stalker, the edgy dark mirror to the Warframe player.
The Stalker, the edgy dark mirror to the Warframe player.

Played from The Stalker's perspective, the quest reveals that he was originally Sorren, an Orokin guard who'd had an unsanctioned relationship with a woman named Jade. It was discovered that Jade was carrying Sorren's child, in violation of Orokin law. Like Umbra, both were punished by being transformed into warframes. During the Tenno uprising, warframe-Sorren tried and failed to protect the Orokin, and was rescued by warframe-Jade when the Tenno turned their sights on him. Jade hasn't been seen since.

Centuries later, between his vengeful jaunts out to hunt Tenno, The Stalker has been protecting an ailing Jade. She's been suffering a mysterious illness that's gradually grown more severe. At the end of the quest, it's revealed that, despite her transformation into a warframe, Jade is still pregnant. Jade dies during childbirth, leaving The Stalker with their warframe infant.

This is the deal with Warframe pregnancy

So, we've seen a pregnant warframe. It's possible. Seems decisive. But for the sake of historic and scientific record, I wanted definitive answers about warframe pregnancy from Digital Extremes itself.

So I asked. People answer all kinds of emails.

In an interview with Rebb Ford, I asked just how far along production was on Jade Shadows when she was confronted with the fanbase's gift of prophecy. "The frame was fully completed," Ford said. "We knew."

The Stalker cuddles his newborn Warframe hybrid infant.
The Stalker cuddles his newborn Warframe hybrid infant.

Steve Sinclair, former Warframe creative director, current DE CEO, and devstream chaos agent repeat offender intentionally read the question, Ford said, to both troll his fellow devs and seed inevitable psychic damage. "It was a calculated question," Ford said. "Everyone on the couch at that point had read the script, seen the art, seen the frame, seen the blockouts. Everyone knew."

According to Ford, it's hit and miss what the viewers of Warframe devstreams will latch onto. "It could have gone either way," she said. "People could have forgotten about it completely, or it was so off-putting and off guard that they remembered it seven months later, and the latter happened. And now here we are."

Off-putting, Ford says, wasn't the goal with Jade's design. "It's such a constellation of truths when we're dealing with this subject matter. Big picture, very clearly when dealing with a pregnant warframe as a concept, it's like, what the hell, this free-to-play grindy MMO added a pregnant hero. That's the burning star in this constellation, but that's not why we did it."

Instead, Jade was the product of what's become a design philosophy for Warframe's dev team. Jade's development, Ford said, was motivated by aesthetic enthusiasm for her pitch: that a pregnant, light-filled, glass warframe was, fundamentally, cool. From there, the design would be treated with the same commitment and sincerity as any other warframe. "If someone has an idea, and we think it's weird but it fits Warframe, we need to take it seriously, play it straight, and commit."

Ford noted there's plenty of fair criticisms for their portrayal, in particularly the fact that Jade didn't survive the quest—something she acknowledged as "the cardinal sin," even if Jade can later be reconstructed and embodied by the player. Still, Ford said she was proud of the team's commitment to the subject matter. "We put this art out into the world and we can't control how people react," Ford said, "but we can control how seriously we took it."

And of course, for the sake of historic and scientific record, I was obligated to ask, once again, that crucial question: Can a warframe get pregnant? "All we know so far is that if Ballas were to use the Helminth on a pregnant woman, be it as punishment or otherwise, they would remain pregnant," Ford said. "So the question does technically remain."

Damn. Well, hopefully we're content with a public record showing that, while we may never know if a warframe can get pregnant, they can at least, officially, be pregnant. I'm going back to my nouns.