The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and the Legacy Server Question

In the wake of the much discussed Nostalrius server closure, Gamespot published an interview with Blizzard’s Overwatch team about the great failure that was Titan, as part of a history feature for Overwatch. Titan having been this great hush-hush project for so long, with only a single Kotaku article shedding some light on its demise at the time, I found both the timing and takeaway of this new interview quite fascinating. It is rare for a developer of Blizzard’s caliber to come out and talk about screwing up projects of such magnitude in candid fashion, with notable commentary by Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen. Yet if youtube comments are anything to go by, it was another smart move on their end in terms of marketing Overwatch and generating some more trust and curiosity within the player base.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

What the Titan interview is too, is a rather ironical look at the long-lasting after-effects of the monster that was created in 2004 – World of Warcraft, proclaimed hero and villain of mainstream MMORPGdom depending on whom you ask. Over the years many a case has been made against WoW for hijacking the creative diversity of the genre, causing a plethora of unfortunate clones or ill-budgeted AAA-titles crashing in one treacherous MMO bubble. What isn’t discussed nearly as often however are the negative side-effects of WoW from within, for a company and creative enterprise. WoW may be the best thing that ever happened to Chris Metzen and Co. but it “happened” to them in the same bewildering, unforeseen and uncontrollable way it happened to the entire market; a child of chance and momentum as much as creative genius and industry know-how. An alchemy that defies simple re-creation.

That fortuitous chain of events led the team at Blizzard through the same process it would lead anyone that could not be prepared, from a time of unstoppable force and hubris to a place of shattered dreams and identity crisis when it came to Titan, crushed under the real MMO giant that remains World of Warcraft. The irony is strong in this one. WoW casts its long shadow to this day and left the staff soul-searching and scavenging Titan’s remains to come up with Overwatch, a completely different, much smaller game to complement their genre palette. Thus a team used to the dizzying successes of the past stood humbled, as Chris Metzen points out in the Gamespot feature.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

Among MMO bloggers there goes the saying that “there is no WoW killer other than WoW” and indeed, nothing can seem to affect this title’s weight, not even the next Blizzard MMORPG. This must create a challenging emotional ambivalence even among those closest to WoW and most blessed by its many rewards. And I can’t help but think it also plays a role in Blizzard’s unaltered disregard for WoW legacy servers; something that surely makes sense business-wise and in terms of fan service. But if we then consider a crew of people who are simply tired of old WoW and eager to create new experiences, experiences not continuously outclassed by a 12 year-old zombie that just won’t stop rearing its insistent head, well then we can empathize more with that decision.

You run legacy servers when you’re actually happy to keep the past alive. At this point, I don’t get the feeling Blizzard are content to be defined by the successes of WoW’s heyday and this weighs heavier on their mind than a couple more subscriptions.

Black Desert Online Status Report: My Top 10 Gripes

Black Desert Online has been out for over a month and I’ve had an absolute blast so far. I am nowhere near max level yet, nor do I wish to be as I continue this fantastic journey through vast and beautiful lands. These past weeks I have explored, crafted, traded, decorated, fished and killed a few things. Mostly, I have taken screenshots and sighed in awe at the scenery. All that said, there are also quite a few things getting on my nerves by now, so following in Bhag’s footsteps – let’s talk about that!

Black Desert Online Top 10 Gripes

Naturally, there will never be agreement over the things we as players regard as priority issues in MMOs. One month in, my list of pet peeves has grown but my top concerns need not be the next person’s; it all depends on play-style and focus. What everyone can probably agree on is that Black Desert’s UI is clunky and the game could do with more polish in many areas of micromanagement and basic functionality. Given the title’s been out in Korea for two years however, I have serious doubts we’ll see much change anytime soon. So for what its worth, these are my Black Desert Online top 10 gripes as of now, in no particular order:

1. Marketplace Functionality

Let’s face it, the marketplace in Black Desert Online is the worst. The search function lacks basic criteria, many items are assigned to the wrong category (wool is now a plant!) and the fixed pricing system really doesn’t work so well. Also, don’t get me started on the onerous process of listing your own items, I have stopped counting how many clicks are necessary until my stuff is finally up – halp!

2. Inventory Management

While I am okay with the general bag and storage space in the game, inventory management itself is quite the nightmare. The list goes from not being able to re-arrange your items as you see fit or split stacks, to missing vendor options such as “sell all trash”. Even with plenty of bagspace, you feel like you’re constantly overloaded on trash items as well as the many byproducts from crafting with no way to separate these from gear and more important items. Eugh.

3. Double and Triple Confirmations

Do I want to sell? Do I really really? And how many?….It is beyond me why I am pressing so many buttons in Black Desert Online when trying to sell or purchase items or put them up on the marketplace. Given there is a buy-back window at every vendor, I do not understand why the game needs to babysit me for every choice I make. And can we please just right-click sell and buy, pretty please? What’s with all the different buttons?

4. Always-Online Mode

There are quite a few ways in which Black Desert Online encourages players to go AFK or keep the game running in the background. Energy replenishes faster while lying in your bed, crops don’t grow while you are offline and workers won’t perform their assigned gathering tasks, although for whatever reason crafting in workshops seems to be the exception. While I understand motivations behind some of these design choices, I simply don’t believe it makes that much of a difference; players will let their PCs run if must be but same as for Eri, it’s neither an ecological nor agreeable choice for me personally.

5. Gear and Costume Choices

The game needs more of everything, okay? Also a better cosmetics tab, please!

Black Desert Online Top 10 Gripes

6. Housing Ratings

The rating system for houses is completely broken. This is grating on me personally because I put a lot of effort into interior design and making my home look unique and shiny – yet I don’t even make it into the listed top 20 because dumping several furniture sets from the store will give you the highest rating possible. Cash shop bias, much? I’ve visited listed houses plenty of times now and nine times out of ten, you’ll find store furniture dumped in a corner or alternatively, 100 flower vases and turban shells stacked on top of one another. This is why only players should be rating houses in MMOs and not some highly flawed decor bonus system!

7. Friendlist Management

Have you ever noticed your friends logging on into Black Desert Online? – Well, me neither! The friend list is a horrible mess, there are no sound notifications that I could remember and no prompts for received tells either. I hate how complicated and difficult it is to add and contact people when it really shouldn’t be in a massively multiplayer game?!

8. No Floating Combat Text

Far be it from me to require DPS meters in MMOs but the fact that I haven’t got a clue what damage I am doing (or not doing) to mobs while grinding and questing is highly irritating. I just upgraded my gear to Grunil and I really would’ve liked running some comparisons but somehow, you’re not supposed to know exactly what difference all this upgrading, enhancing and gem socketing makes. There are basic character stats of course (some of which are bugged too) but hitting things in the dark without any type of combat log is not my cup of coffee. It seems an incredibly weird design decision that I don’t recall encountering anywhere else.

9. Dyes Suck

Black Desert Online really wants you to suffer when it comes to dyeing armor which is sadly the only way to make your character look a bit more unique. The terrible dye window deserves its own rant section but what really gets to me is that dyes aren’t only cash shop-only in this game, they are also random (within a greater color range) and one-time use! This makes it a ridiculous system that deserves being boycotted….I’ll be stuck with the few dyes I receive from loyalty rewards every now and then.

10. Playing Alone Together

Black Desert Online punishes player interaction in various ways. Looking back on four weeks of playing, the great majority of my time was spent alone. Joining a friendly guild has slightly improved this situation as far as chatting and guild missions go but it’s still far from a social gameplay experience for the most part. Considering that Pearl Abyss seem to have lost the war on gold sellers, it feels like the community is paying far too high a price in all of this. I’d like to see cooperation and interaction penalties removed from the game and also features such as shared housing and guild banks become a thing.

Black Desert Online Top 10 Gripes

And there I already ran out of 10 points to list when I could have gone on. For the sake of completion, I’ll mention that auto-pathing in Black Desert Online is pretty bad, to the point where weird detours and bumping into everyone and everything makes me grind my teeth at times. Other than that, there’s plenty of small things that could use more polish but aren’t exactly frontrunners; it’s amazing how we adapt to a lot of things in MMOs after playing for extended periods of time. The UI didn’t make the list for this reason, despite frustrating me to no end during the first few days of playing in the beta. Guess am over it.

What urgent issues would you like to see addressed in Black Desert Online as soon as possible?

Dual Wielding LFG Edition: Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

About two weeks ago I got into a lengthy twitter conversation with fellow bloggers Mersault and Ironweakness about good and bad ways of forcing or facilitating group play in MMOs. I believe Black Desert Online might have steered us there, being this very playing alone together experience so far. As more voices joined the conversation, we decided to re-visit this difficult topic on our blogs individually as part of an ongoing inter-blog tradition between Mersault and Ironweakness, which they call “dual wielding” on their respective blogs. I am actually quite fond of this idea and so I was happy to chime in for this one.
Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

Forced Cooperation versus Fostering Community in MMOs

I usually feel trapped in a dilemma when talking about group content in MMORPGs: on one hand I am a big fan of the cooperative aspect of the genre and would call it one of its most defining factors – on the other hand, I value the freedom of playing when and where I want to without games forcing party and setup restrictions down my throat all the time. There’s a time for all things I suppose, today I am fed up with appointment gaming. And I’ve never actually believed that some of the restrictions/requirements forced upon raiders in early WoW, for example, made for particularly good as in genuine and lasting cooperation. Raidguilds were based around common goals for sure, yet as soon as those goals were removed or someone left the community, people and relationships faded away. Game mechanics do not actually hold the power of connecting people; only people can connect to people. What games can do better or worse is set the stage for interaction.

And interaction may or may not occur more depending on whether an MMO “requires” coop. BDO is an interesting example in so far as actual game mechanics discourage many forms of social interaction (partying penalties, trade and chat restrictions) and yet, despite all of this has created a playerbase in desperate need of their fellow comrades’ knowledge. That’s what hardship can do, bring people together to share information and cooperate. The beauty is that it can happen in completely unforeseen, possibly slightly unflattering ways for developers. This could be an opportunity to talk about how MMOs can be too polished or too convenient, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

So how do you get players to play together in MMOs, assuming that’s what you want, and what’s the preferable way of doing so? My personal answer is less clever than I would wish; naturally you do it by creating content and challenges that are balanced around group numbers, be it dynamic FFA grouping or traditional partying. That doesn’t necessarily mean dungeons and raids either, it includes questing, shared crafting, trade, building effort and guild progression. The all important distinguishing factor to me across all these activities is access and this is where MMOs vary greatly in execution.

Bad examples of facilitated group play come down to a majority of linear, gated content that’s enforcing group play in a certain inflexible way – or else face the consequence of all progress coming to a halt. I would call out all of WoW’s early endgame here; it was difficult to find and set up groups outside your guild and even running successfully with guildmates required considerable logistic effort. Yet run you must, attunements needed to be followed and exact numbers met. This worked for about 2% of the playerbase back then, so not that great. Everyone else was leveling alts and complaining on forums.

What WoW did was exact punishment in form of restricted access unless all criteria were met. The rigid regimen didn’t just cause discontent outside the few hardcore but caused considerable amounts of pressure for guild recruitment too as well as downtimes from hell when trying to set up balanced raid groups. I would therefore call this a malus-system for group play. It did very much kill communities as much as the other way around, so hardly a winner in fostering community, either. The great hardcore vs. casual divide was born in vanilla Warcraft and our spoils and victories were all satisfaction, rarely fun. Not a brilliant way of handling group content and cooperation.

Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

What I generally like to see instead of mechanics that punish players who won’t meet grouping requirements, is systems that will reward them for doing so, as in bonus-systems. Whenever you are awarded more loot, experience or reputation for grouping up with others in an MMO, that is one example of a bonus-system at work. Players should feel motivated to cooperate not because they fear failure otherwise, but because it makes for the better, more rewarding overall gameplay experience. This may be a small difference to some, yet it matters greatly to everyone flying solo and to bigger, more diverse communities that operate on the premise of individual freedom and respecting real life. And no one likes to pay for a game that’s denying them access to either content or one another as soon as they can’t party up or meet exact requirements.

Thinking of FFXIV’s story dungeons here, I believe we’re in somewhat of a grey area in that particular MMO. While the game clearly dictates everyone run a dungeon at least once with others, it also makes the whole process easily accessible. The 4man dungeons generally aren’t very hard, queuing is simple and the great majority of PuGs in the game are surprisingly friendly (my experience anyway). This seems like a compromise to me, in a game that already features a lot of social engineering done right via bonus systems (newcomer bonuses in parties, wide range dungeon roulettes etc.). If players are presented with feasible tools and solutions, I can get behind an enforced dungeon run every now and then.

The Real Thing is still on us

As for actually fostering community and people hooking up in MMOs, I’m afraid to say I don’t believe any game can achieve this for you. The best and worst games have brought people together and probably produced MMO babies somewhere around the world. Social games may set an accessible stage for meeting others but the magic spark, the moment when we cooperate for no reason at all other than enjoying someone else’s company, that’s not something we can expect to be “facilitated”. Nor do we need to – being social is a free choice that’s up to the individual and fortunately it is one we can always revisit. Cooperation opportunities in MMOs should therefore be an invitation – a door that is always open, either just for a run or whatever else we want it to be.

Off the Chest: MMOs are too cheap, Battle Bards Anniversary and my Black Desert Crib!

off the chest

There are too many small updates today, which is a perfect excuse for a quick multi-topic post!

After much consideration and more payment model debates over the past few weeks, I decided I really haven’t had enough of this yet – which led to this post on Camelot Unchained and Subscriptions (and MMO pricing) over at MMOGames. The recent MassivelyOP interview with Mark Jacobs tied in perfectly and from there, it was impossible not to take another look at MMO-specific free-to-play models. I don’t know how many more times this topic is going to occupy my mind, I suspect it will in 6-12 months time like all the other MMO evergreens, but am definitely holding on to this one: MMOs are too cheap and payment model shenanigans are here to stay as long as that’s the case. Solutions are easier said than done, but I would rather see higher pricing for buy-to-play / lifetime sub MMOs than what we’re currently seeing in terms of payment model hybrids.

The Battle Bards Podcast is turning 3!

After 72 episodes and many an MMO music argument, the podcast by Syp, Steff and myself is turning three years old, hooray! This is pretty wild and an occasion to celebrate because we never really expected to last this long, without an end in sight. We’re also getting back to some listeners requests on this special anniversary episode which was a very fun event to return to.

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Casa de Syl in Black Desert Online

As Bhagpuss pointed out in his post of today, BDO is seeing content and seasonal events added at lightning speed ever since launch and with that have come additional housing items to decorate our cribs for more shiny! I’m starting to feel pretty happy with my home in Velia 2.3 which is why I decided to take a brief fraps the other night and take a tour. The basement isn’t nearly where I want it to be….but hey, I’m not in a rush, right!

I really look forward to what else will get added over time, as the furniture options in the game have started to feel fairly limited. The recent Mediah patch introduced a new, fairly ugly set of furniture in the cash shop and looking at the market place, there’s not much else to get right now. I should probably start crafting some of those curtains and pillows for myself and find out where to get that blasted owl cage from!

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

Somewhere between Black Desert Online’s learning curve madness and getting the hang out of sending my workers to craft for me in exchange for beer, I’ve come to know a great satisfaction from creating my own gear, furniture and horse armor in the game. I mentioned few days ago how I’m not a crafter in MMOs but BDO fulfills some itch I didn’t know existed without asking me to get super-hardcore about things. I’ve heard the game being compared to EVE Online’s infamous beginners difficulty but I doubt it’s a very apt comparison. Black Desert for all its little inconveniences, requires more in terms of perseverance than actual skill. Or in other words: keep calm and play on, it will all be okay!

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

What adds to the enjoyment of creating useful things for myself is the simple fact that I now know “how to”; the rabbit holes goes deep and I’m on my way. The fact that BDO is far from beginner friendly, comes with a fussy UI and informational gaps, results in a type of satisfaction that’s not to be mistaken for “fun”. For a run-down of these two definitions, I like to refer to this excellent post by Psychochild which I return to whenever the subject of MMO fun pops up.

Dealing with bad translations or unintuitive interfaces (of which there are many in BDO) isn’t fun but it allows for that “grim” satisfaction that kicks in once you’ve conquered and mastered something tricky. All MMOs do this, although preferably by design rather than not/bad design. Grind is one example of something rather unfun but potentially satisfactory in a game. Either way, once difficulty or complexity have been conquered the outcome is always the same: I feel glorious victor!

Learn, Master, Move on

Good or bad design, intended difficulty or not, what makes the early MMO experience such an enjoyable one is knowing nothing and learning everything. These past few years, I’ve lost nearly all sense of newbie progression when trying out new games: nothing surprised me anymore, everything was overly familiar, following the same design “gold standard” both on the formal and content management end of things. Now to be clear, polish is important and BDO could certainly use more of that here and there. Yet, the game has forced players to collaborate in unexpected ways when it comes to knowledge sharing and its alien handling and shutting up about stuff has made for many a great story and shared laugh on forums, channels and social media.

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

A little fun on April’s Fools

Naturally, I was kidding in above twitter conversation but then, we’re talking about Black Desert Online which means you never know! I get both confused and delighted by the game’s internal logic at times, so it’s definitely forcing me out of my comfort zone. I am faced with new things in an MMO – what’s going on??

I suspect that I am currently not alone in feeling quite forgiving about some of BDO’s greater flaws for the above reason. More than that, these perceived flaws add to my personal enjoyment of the game, by virtue of bringing a little satisfaction to an otherwise very fun experience (which is important: the game overall is also a ton of fun). I need both for an MMO to enthrall me more long-term.

“…before all so-called progress, what we really want is variation. We yearn to learn things, master things, then move on to different things. Not just new; it needs to be new and different.” (source)

What many an MMO review, blog battle and twitter discussion have taught me over the years is that I don’t want the same one thing from the games I’m playing. Yesterday, forced grouping seemed like a good idea – today it doesn’t. Maybe it will again tomorrow, after tiring of today’s lessons. It borders on the unfair but when switching between titles, the biggest breaking point may simply be novelty and variation. Is a new game repeating expertly what has been done right before or is it entering uncharted territory, failing gloriously in places? Is it maybe just bringing back something we’ve forgotten by now which therefore feels equally refreshing?

There’s nothing more to learn in the familiar, yet as players we yearn to learn. So right now, an MMO that’s pushing me to do just that, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed, sounds like the perfect poison. Purple mastery will come soon enough – for now, let me bask in the sunlight of green beginnings.

Black Desert Online Mediah Patch is live! And: The Joys of not being a Frontrunner

A month into official launch Black Desert Online already released the Mediah patch today with all sorts of goodies, ranging from new quests and items to a 30% world map increase. You might have guessed that last point makes me especially happy and I itched all day to jump into the game and ride around for hours chasing genies, collecting cherry blossoms and getting my screenshots fix. It rocks being me – Black Desert Online is already my game of the year!

Black Desert Online Mediah Patch Altinova

Altinova Entrance

Black Desert Online Mediah Patch Altinova

Because there weren’t big cities in the game yet..

While the official BDO forums are still trying to come to terms with an expansion so shortly after original release, because you can have too much to do in an MMO or something, I had a blast so far exploring Tarif and Altinova. As most of the town names and NPCs in Mediah suggest, players heading East from Heidel are in for a veritable pilgrimage to the Black Desert’s Middle East (or alternatively North Africa) – exotic magic, camel caravans and shishas included. Heck, there is even an innkeep lady stationed in Altinova with my real life name, that’s one MMO-first for me!

Black Desert Online Mediah Patch Altinova

I need a camel mount!

Black Desert Online Mediah Patch Altinova

It’s the orient, alright.

It is a bit surprising Daum decided to launch this first expansion as quickly as they did but then there’s absolutely no reason why anyone outside of the most hardcore circles should feel rushed just because Black Desert Online got even more content. Maybe we shouldn’t even think of it as ‘content’ but rather treat it like an actual place; a world that’s vast enough to remain mysterious to the average player for a good while yet. I take comfort in that. Without endgame or linear progression, worrying about your individual pace, the best competitive gear or alchemy gems need not be a thing. And for those on the self-imposed fast lane who are ever a millisecond away from boredom, more frequent updates should seem like a boon too…but then this wouldn’t be an MMO if a vocal minority wasn’t unhappy with the way things are done, would it.

I am still nowhere near level 45 and now I really need to figure out how to buy a camel. Also, this thing creeps me out! –

Black Desert Online Mediah Patch Tarif

Uuuuuhhh…..??

P.S. Daum published a Mediah patch trailer without corny voice overs this time, let’s be grateful!

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV’s Combat Music

I will love MMO music until the end of my days. It is the only thing about MMOs that has consistently made me happy over the past 16 years and has never let me down. Games come and go, so do posts, blogs, people – but the soundtrack is here to stay. It is a constant source of wonder and joy for me. Battle Bards, the MMO music podcast I share with my friends Syp and Steff, is turning 3 years old this April 2016 and we have a special anniversary episode upcoming next week. These three years, I have not missed a single recording and I regret not the times when I re-scheduled appointments or popped another pill so we could record together across the pond. Above all the things that I do in connection with gaming, the podcast has become my number one priority.

We recently did a second show on FFXIV on Battle Bards, with focus on the Heavensward soundtrack.  While slightly smaller in scope and narrower in focus, Masayoshi Soken has once more hit it out of the ballpark with Heavensward. The music celebrates everything that Final Fantasy means to people, treats its legacy with great respect and comes with a large variety of tracks for both day and night time. And as usual, the combat and boss music knocks you off your socks!

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV's Combat Music

King Thordan is very serious about kicking your butt.

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV’s Combat Music

Combat music is one of the most overlooked themes in most MMO soundtracks which is weird considering how often we do it. Many games don’t have any or only for special occasions, great raid bosses and such. Other games are so terrible at them, you get fed up after the first three times of hearing them. Only FFXIV cannot seem to respect its battle tunes enough; there are a total of 40+ tracks dedicated to different combat/grind/dungeon/raidboss occasions and even the standard field combat themes vary from greater region to region. Fates, leves, guildhests, exploration missions, dungeons….they all get their own dedicated music. As for primal fights, they are bewildering, unique arrangements players will either love or hate but never feel indifferent towards.

But enough gushing, let the music speak for itself. Here’s my very selective list of amazing combat tracks from both ARR and HW for you!

1. FFXIV ARR: Tenacity (Leve theme)
My favorite battle track from ARR, this gets you pumped from the first second and never ever gets old. Leves can be a grind but when Tenacity is on, I couldn’t care less. If you keep listening, you’ll even hear a bagpipe show up!

2. FFXIV ARR: Minstrel’s Ballad (Ultima Weapon theme)
Ultima Weapon is back and don’t let the choral intro to this track fool you, for it takes off at the 1:20 mark. This special story fight was the first time I lost my composure during my ARR journey – just how much more epic can a fight get thanks to the music?

3. FFXIV ARR: Good King Moggle Mog!
If this track isn’t a direct hommage to Jack Skellington and Danny Elfman’s “Nightmare before Christmas” soundtrack, then I don’t know – I’ll eat my hat!

4. FFHW: Ominous Prognisticks (dungeon boss theme)
If A Realm Reborn had great dungeons and raid bosses, Heavensward has taken everything to new heights both in terms of gameplay and music. This particular track comes up in various dungeons for boss encounters and is one of the greatest pieces of music in the entire expansion. I cannot sit still when I hear this!

5. FFHW: Heroes Never Die (Thordan Extreme theme)
The Thordan encounter is one of the most intense multi-phase challenges the game has seen up to now. I have only beaten this boss on normal so far and have been awestruck as he reigned down fire from the heavens while everyone was dying like flies. Such sweet death to such wonderful music packed with familiar FF cues!

6. FFHW: Ravana’s Theme / Thok Ast Thok
Unlike with so many other primal fights, there are only two phases to the Ravana fight as far as the music goes but boy, was I not prepared for that transition after 05:30! This boss fight is a condensation of what only Final Fantasy has mastered time and again, all at once: to be both grandiose and martial while very goofy and unserious at the same time. All hail Ravana, master of roses and death!

Looking for more? Thanks to the tireless work of Mekkah Dee on youtube, you can find a playlist of every single FFXIV combat track here. Enjoy and spread the love!

The Guy that wins the Internet..

…or maybe just Black Desert Online alright, but this bloke standing around in Heidel really made my day:

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Hilarious lols

The infamous pay-2-win, shop-only ghillie suit dyed pink and turquoise made me laugh hysterically at the irony of it all. Probably no intentional meta-mockery, it displays perfectly what goes wrong in so many debates around specific cash shop items in MMOs: your pay-2-win item is my convenience item is his cosmetic item.

Priceless.

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

There’s something very rewarding about crafting in Black Desert Online and I’m saying that as somebody who never crafts in MMORPGs, like ever. Crafting never made a lot of sense to me in the past; it was either too tiresome to gather materials due to skill gating, too frustrating and punishing in terms of output-RNG (hello FFXI *fizzles*) or simply not effective or required because everything could be bought in the auction house without hassle.

Crafting doesn’t feel irrelevant in Black Desert Online, maybe due to the game’s many trading constraints or just its more complex, crafting-centric gameplay. In hindsight I can say that there is an enjoyable learning curve to the whole contribution-investment and workshop process that let’s you craft pretty much anything in the game for yourself once you understand building progression. There’s none of the usual recipe or schematic hunt involved which I find incredibly liberating. You can gather everything too just by “doing it”, assuming you got the right tools for the job. Then it’s time to explore and learn where the best nodes and resources are located on the map; I know where all the cotton is hiding and I’m not telling!

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

I made this horse armor for myself and dyed it Azeroth Alliance style!

There is an enjoyable balance struck between the time it takes to gather and process basic mats and achieving the more longterm goal of crafting a serious upgrade or nice piece of furniture. It is not hardcore by any stretch – it is just about right for someone like myself with an average tolerance for downtime shenanigans. And yes there is the auction house too, yet for most basic mats you have to put in the time yourself and manage your alts accordingly. There’s great satisfaction in crafting something bigger and actually useful for yourself!

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

Moar gear for Syl!

Black Desert Online’s Approach to Housing

Maybe an even greater accomplishment is how Black Desert handles its housing. I will go as far as saying that the game features by far the best and most skillfully realized housing mechanic in MMOs since always, without going down the always sub-par instanced road. Two particular reasons:

  • A perfect compromise between instanced and outdoor housing
  • Easily accessible and affordable housing for everybody!

MMO housing isn’t just a highly enjoyable opportunity to individualize one’s own virtual world experience, it’s an important feature when it comes to player retention. Carving out your own little space, collecting and hanging trophies, these are activities that add glue to our relationship with games and make us want to return. It is pleasant to come home to something we call our own, no matter the illusion.

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

Loving my flat in Velia.

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

I have a big door!

Now I agree UO-style outdoor housing was great but let’s face it, comparing today’s titles with Ultima Online is far-fetched to say the least. We’re not dealing with isometric pseudo-3D worlds any longer that house a few thousand players at most. I have experienced server lag and continuous disconnects in Landmark and it wasn’t pretty. I have also been through annoying “land grabs” or faced the usual “inaccessible because ludicrously prized”-MMO housing plenty of times in other games, enough times to know they are neither enjoyable nor fun. And I frankly have no time setting a phone alarm every few days to go and refresh some plot because it disappears if I am playing a game too casually or go on holidays. Come on!

No thanks to all of that! Housing is just too awesome a feature to turn it into a maintenance nightmare or exclude the majority of your playerbase. Now to be fair, Black Desert Online’s housing is far from perfect where interior design is concerned: the furniture placement tool is pretty awful right now and the game needs a lot more options in wallpapers/flooring, general items and lighting especially. Possibilities feel too restricted, similar to my room in FFXIV. Still, BDO beats all competition by a landslide when it comes to its execution of  seamless “phased outdoor housing”. That split-second of loading time aside when entering my door, I cannot tell I am not actually located in the outside world. Heck, I can even open my windows and see the streets outside.

Black Desert Online let’s you have up to 5 residences anywhere on the world map where nodes allow for housing options. The layouts of every house vary a great deal, so exploring options is its own reward. And thanks to the effortless way contribution currency can be invested and withdrawn at any time without repercussions, it is simple enough to pack one’s bags and move to another city or town or farm. I call that awesome housing mechanics in an MMO!

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

7.5 is a very roomy house in Heidel

BDO Progress Report: I made stuff and Housing is awesome!

So much space to decorate!

In case you’re interested where some of the “best houses” are located in the game, in my humble opinion:

  • Velia 2.3 (2 floors, 3 rooms, 2 doors, 2 fireplaces, very high ceilings!)
  • Heidel 7.5 (2 floors, 4 rooms, big stair, high ceilings)

I am stationed in Velia 2.3 myself at the moment but will probably require a more central flat to stay at very soon. Let me know if you find anything nearly as roomy anywhere close to Calpheon so I can book that U-Haul!

BDO Travel Log: At first I was like “Oh, little Ents”…and then I ran!

So I decided to get some map progress in Black Desert Online last night and hit the road equipped with naught but my trusted horse, some carrots and a lantern for when that scary time comes along at 22.00. I had not yet discovered the south-eastern parts of BDO and parts of the south-western border were still clouded in mistery. Aware of the general direction, I soon toggled off the UI for better screenshot measure and feels. The feels got real real fast.

ohmanbdo01

The adventure is real.

I am starting to think there’s not a patch on that huge world map that doesn’t hold some sort of secret, a hauntingly beautiful vista, a quirky new race, or a fake wall to crawl under and reveal a deep cavern beyond. These actually exist; they’re not obvious to see but there are fake walls with cracks leading to Tomb Raider style treasure hunting, so always look for the telltale signs.

Speaking of other IPs, it seems someone at Pearl Abyss is madly in love with the Lord of the Rings. It’s not just hinted at in the main story but screams at you from so many details in the world. Naturally the elves live in Lothlorien too in BDO but before I get ahead of myself: I also found the Ent Forest.

At first I was like “ohh little Ents”, when all the shrubbery around me came alive to get a bite off my horse –

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Harmless Mini-Ents

…Charming! Escaping the hungry underbrush I ventured deeper into the forest and lo and behold, “bigger Ents!” –

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Still harmless medium Ent

…that was all fine and dandy before a deafening sound just behind me pierced the air like a hundred dying trees, followed by a large “THUMP” in my general direction. “Oh shit, a REAL Ent!” –

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Time to gooooooo!

I couldn’t even photograph the whole sucker. It cast a high shadow among the tallest trees and yes, there were several tree herders in this forest. Time to run and see the elves before Papa Bear kidnapped me to the Entmoot!

Ever the aestheticians, the elves lived up beautiful trees with spiral staircases going ever up and up. There was a lift too for the lazy which I promptly accepted. The highest platform on the chief tree was only accessible by ladder and from high above the view was stunning right before sunset. There is housing here to be rented too, albeit not a very roomy option.

The adventure could have stopped here. Surely it should – it would be greedy to ask for more. However I had barely turned my back on elfland, when a giant Cyclops started chasing me in massive leaps across the map. Apparently this corner of the world is all about big things intent on killing you. On the bright side, escaping the cyclops is how I found Crio Village, home of the Otters. I am not going to spoil it too much –

I didn’t even know this was a thing! The game keeps doing that, it keeps surprising me around every other corner. The world of Black Desert Online feels very real at first, almost “too real” running danger of getting boring – but no so. Who needs heavily themed patchwork-zones in an MMO when you can have a seamless world that despite its pretty realism is packed with reward and whimsy? Or as Bhagpuss puts it: this land is vast and wild and filled with wonders. If you seek them out, you will find them.

highadv

The world is as beautiful as you see it

Happy Friday everybody! Enjoy these early steps of MMO exploration, they’re precious!