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.

9 comments

  1. I was playing D&D 3.5 last night, and some of this reminds me of a lot of what I see there. That’s a game with a lot of warts, oddities, confusing wording, and a need to hit google to figure out how stuff works. There’s no lack of games that don’t have those problems, including newer versions of D&D. And yet, it endures very strongly.

    All the warts? They add personality. The confusion gives people a reason to talk and share knowledge. Once you figure out how it all works, the amount of stuff you can do expands massively beyond what you thought you could do before. System mastery matters, and it’s rewarded.

    Is that newbie friendly? Not really. It gives veterans and newbies a reason to talk, though. Pathfinder came along and gave all those players a clear transition path with a bunch of new stuff to master but inside a framework they already liked, and it did really well too. (Compare to 4e, which did not, and 5e, which backs up to try and recapture some of the old magic.)

    A lot of the newer games try to simplify things and eliminate “wrong” options. That’s a noble goal, but the side effect is exactly what you said: people show up and almost immediately everything is old hat. They already understand it all, there’s nothing new to master. After that, it’s all just grind with a different coat of paint, and how long does that stay interesting for?

    1. Indeed. I think it’s a balancing act between interesting difficulty and just a broken, frustrating game. Even randomness is something I personally endorse. It’s okay if stuff is hard to figure out and hard to control, as long as there’s a redeeming and motivating side to it.

      It is definitely not beginner friendly but then, I wonder what’s more important in the long run: a solid playerbase that stays intrigued and tells their friends to hang in there, or one where everyone jumps in and loses interest after three months.

  2. That little quip of yours about the grave on BDO reminded me of one of the quirks that I loved about Ultima V back in the day.

    If you wanted to harvest Nightshade to make some potions, you had to go to a specific place in the middle of the continent of Britannia and wait until midnight. (You learned about the place from talking to people, and the same thing about the midnight waiting.) When that happens, you can attempt to search/harvest herbs and voila! Nightshade appears.

    So while I knew you were fooling around on that tweet, in my experience that possibility does exist out there.

  3. You hit the nail on the head for why I’m such a fan of BDO. All of the MMOs I’ve tried out recently were “mastered” within a couple of hours. Skyforge had some interesting unknowns for a while too but was much more simplistic and ultimately more repetitive than BDO.

    Getting down the amity game, figuring out my worker empire, trying to understand how node investments really affects things, trying out financial investment (hint: don’t do it), determining how to ideally farm money vs. levels, etc. have all been a very satisfying learning experience. A month later, and I’m still excited for new discoveries, even the ones that aren’t necessarily beneficial (seriously, don’t do financial investment in this game).

    Checking out the forums and reddit every so often to see what new and exciting things people have discovered or hypothesized is a positive IMO. Brings us gamers closer together, which is good considering the no trade thing splits people up.

    1. Aye, the game does quite a lot of things to keep players apart, which I don’t like. But at least there’s this social side-effect to figuring stuff out together and knowledge sharing. I would be pretty bad if it was all easy peasy.

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