MMOs are Here to Stay. And: Black Desert Online’s Singleplayer Experience

The last week wasn’t an enjoyable one for MMO fans and much more devastating for developers. Between Wildstar’s layoffs and Everquest Next being shelved for good, people worry about the future of the genre as we know it. I am using that phrase very consciously because massively multiplayer online games will always be a thing – we just don’t know what thing. Or in Scaurus’ words: “we are old fogies holding onto old definitions”. I am pretty sure that the fascination of chasing virtual dragons (or zombies) with other people is not particular to only my generation. MMO angst has gone from an annual bloggers favorite to a quarterly one and yet somehow, we are still here. I’ve been called overly optimistic about the genre before; I decide to remain so until proven otherwise. The fact is when we look back on MMOs an awful lot of things have gotten better over the years, and some have gotten worse or just different. Every time the wheel turns there’s what we leave behind but there’s also what’s yet to come.

And so I came across Russel Shanks giving an interview on EQN’s cancellation over at MMORPG.com, with particular note to this segment:

MMORPG: Do you think the genre of MMO, MMORPG, MMOG, or whatever you want to call it is just in a different place these days? There are a handful making a lot of money, and plenty of smaller niche titles carving out their own fanbase. But where you do you see the genre headed, as a company and as a fan?

RS: I believe the magic of MMORPGs and MMOs in general has not been diminished.  In fact, games like Destiny incorporate many of the compelling elements of classic MMOs, which expose them to a new generation of gamers.

Good MMOs bring players together. The activities within the games provide social opportunities, as well as challenges and achievements that build lasting friendships, camaraderie, and long-term enjoyment.  These elements, combined with scale, differentiate MMOs from most other forms of entertainment.  I don’t see them going out of style, ever.

Moving on to playing Black Desert Online, right now I have a few minor gripes from within the realm of polish: the fussy submenu handling and mouse cursor switch, the weird auction house, not being able to buy multiple items without choosing a separate buyer’s option and then confirming choices over and over (YES okay??), overly complicated dye management…and so forth. Am sure these are fairly popular annoyances with hopefullly fixes down the road.

Black Desert Online's singleplayer experience

“You have to enjoy solitude to be a friend of the sea.” ..quoth the sea otter.

If we are thinking more longterm however, there is one thing on the forefront of my mind since the beta: BDO is very playing alone together. There is not just very little opportunity to cooperate with other players, the game actively discourages player-to-player interaction on several levels:

– Restricted ability to speak in global channels (due to goldspam)
– No player to player trading other than potions (due to goldspam…it didn’t work because the shop allows gifting)
– Experience penalties for grouping up above five levels difference
– Guild size capped at 100 people
– Guild leaders having to afford all fees/money costs themselves
– No shared nodes / looting in FFA
– No way to share housing or crafting installations

Given there is also little traditional cooperative PVE content (not complaining), it would be nice if there was at least the basic social experience of you know, sharing your resources or housing with somebody else or within guilds. It’s also not exactly easy to group up without EXP penalties or meet new people in the game, although I have that same complaint for FFXIV which doesn’t even offer global channels. I fully understand publishers trying to fight the goldseller plague but the player base is paying a very high price for it considering it’s not working?

I realize this isn’t an issue for everybody. To me, cooperation is still to some degree a core mechanic of MMORPGs and it feels like a more sandboxy title should allow for that and not actively penalize it. Random acts of kindness between strangers go a long way. Maybe I am missing something here. All I know is further down the road, Black Desert Online’s singleplayer experience might get real lonely pour moi.

10 comments

  1. I tend to play most MMO’s as a single player game now that i’m older (will be 46 this month). Primarily because I want to do what *I* want to do during the time I have in game without trying to meet up with other people’s schedules. Part of me wants to group with others and miss that aspect, but ultimately it’s all about my own time and how I want to spend it.

    This game is incredibly complicated IMO. SO many systems to learn. It isn’t like the old days where you could have each alt do a different crafting profession, or one character for that matter. There is really no way to outfit your entire fleet of toons from your own account. That crafting aspect I probably miss the most. I’m going to tackle cooking and see where that gets me.

    1. I’m in exactly the same boat, in my late 30s with a young kid and a wife who likes to see me now and again. I do enjoy some of the social aspect, but much more for the “hang out” factor than the “do things together” stuff. I’m years past having the time to raid or run scheduled content… and honestly okay with that. I like playing games on my own terms, and being able to pick up or put down when I feel like it.

      There seem to be a lot of nifty little things in BDO, and I’m just starting to dabble (resource gathering, crafting, and decorating are my normal hot-buttons), and a year or so ago I joined one of those multi-game guilds so have some built-in people to go hang out with.

    2. Yeah the beginning experience takes time, that said there too I was greatly appreciative of having a guild to ask all sorts of questions on TS: I totally get wanting to control your own playing schedule, I wouldnt want ‘appointment gaming’ myself; I would like the simple pleasure of grouping up with anyone though or helping someone out.

  2. It was only this afternoon that it occurred to me to wonder whether BDO actually has any group content at all. I assume people group for the siege-based PvP but even that’s an assumption. I don’t think there’s any group PvE content at all, is there?

    While I was slaughtering 100 goblins (plus another 50 for good luck) I also began to wonder what’s the point of having any PvE combat outside at all. I have literally no idea what I am doing but I can run into a group of a dozen goblins, hold down the right mouse button, hit 4 a few times for potions and they all die. There are some called Elite but they die the same as all the rest. I haven’t even spent any of my skill points yet.

    I’m enjoying BDO but it is a very odd “MMORPG” with no need to speak to another human being even to trade with them. Because of the gold spam I tend to switch to an empty channel that just has system messages and NPC chat within a couple of minutes of logging in and after that I forget all about communicating with other players. Imagine if BDO was a true sandbox and there were no quests. You’d never have to type or read another word.

    1. It is weird, although I expected this would appeal to you especially heh. I feel like I am being cut off by a thick wall and I don’t enjoy it. I am not talking PvE content so much in the sense of appointment gaming but really the basic social interaction between human beings. Grouping up, trading a sword the other could use. It’s bewildering I can’t do this.

  3. In my late 30’s as well and i don’t think i have it in me to play another solo centric MMO. The players i play with make the genre for me. There are times i like figuring stuff out alone but for the most part i like to group for everything.

    1. That’s interesting, when you started the first sentence I expected it to go all “I don’t have another cooperative MMO in me” haha. This is the response of so many players these days that prefer alone together. I am sort of in between, I want to choose my own gametime without obligations but I also want to be able to socialize, as you say. It seems harsh the way BDO restricts this.

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