Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Number 5, Lynch Ranch, Serendia : Black Desert Online

I played more Black Desert yesterday than usual but I'm not sure I got much more done. The morning began with an attempt to clean up my quest journal. It was groaning at the seams, giving me the old "You can't take any more quests" message, so it was about time.

Questing in Black Desert is underrated, I think. The nested, organic approach, where more and more quests keep popping up in places you thought you were done with, from people you thought you'd never speak to again, feels quite original to me.

Don't make me go meta. You wouldn't like me when I'm meta.

The way different sequences open up, according to which NPCs you play the Conversation Game with or what nodes you invest in, makes the whole process feel unpredictable, even chaotic. That probably drives more organized people than myself to the edge of madness but I love a little semi-organized chaos so it works well for me.

The Conversation Game itself is a real unexpected pleasure. It deserves a whole post of its own. It vaguely resembles Vanguard's much-missed Diplomacy sphere. Diplomacy was designed to be a full character progression path on a par with adventuring and crafting and it very nearly was, too. Conversation in Black Desert doesn't have quite those ambitions but it does share some of the mechanics and a good deal of the fun.

There's a plot in here somewhere. I swear there is.

Dulfy has a fantastically detailed guide that focuses heavily on the underlying mathematics and makes the whole thing sound far more daunting than it actually is. In practice what you do is quite straightforward.

You go around speaking to everyone you meet, clicking on any objects you can, killing all the monsters and wildlife you see and poking your nose into every nook and cranny in town and countryside. That way, you build up a portfolio of "Knowledge" in the hope that someone, somewhere will find some of it interesting enough to want to talk to you about it.

Every NPC is interested in a range of topics. You get to pique that interest for fun and profit. By spending energy to get started and then parlaying your information appropriately you build up "Amity" with that NPC (and only that NPC). As your relationship becomes chummier so the NPC begins to share his knowledge with you, adding to your store of things to pass on elsewhere. It's a gossip mill, let's make no bones. I imagine EverJane will be a lot like this, only with not so many goblins.

Sorry, I didn't think to take any shots of the Conversation Game. Here, have a picture of my horse. He's coming up later on.

As your Amity builds you might also get extra quests and at around 500 points some NPCs decide they like you so much they'll start taking your money. Only selling to people you really like is the dream of many an independent retailer. In Black Desert that dream is real - if you're a non-player character, at least.

As I was out questing to clear my journal, so there'd be room in it for more quests, I found myself climbing more than just a metaphorical mountain. Some guy I met had a fantasy about owning a sheep farm (no, me neither) and I'd foolishly said I'd negotiate the sale, the way you do when satisfying every passing stranger's whim offers an opportunity to grab five small health potions.

That must be the guy. I hope this trip's gonna be worth it.

It turned out the farm was at the top of a mountain. My horse was game for the clamber, which surprised me. I think I was more worried about him breaking a leg than he was.

Oh yes, I didn't mention that, did I? I have a horse now. I looked into the whole "taming" thing, with the sugar lumps and the rope, and thought, you know what, life's too short; so I bought one from the Stables.

The mail must get through!

I've ridden quite a few horses in quite a few MMOs but I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable. The mounting and dismounting is smooth, swift and elegant. The horse handles with just the right degree of inertia and momentum to feel solid but without so much that controlling it becomes a trial of patience.

The speed of this basic breed is possibly a tad slower than running but not so much that you'd notice. Any possible discontent at the slight downgrade in travel time is entirely discounted by the very significant upgrade in visual delight. Watching your character riding is just much, much more entertaining than watching her running. Or plodding.

How can a dozen potatoes weigh this much?

Plus the horse comes with its very own jazz soundtrack! Every time I ride it feels like I'm in the credit sequence of a 1970s cop show. I spent quite long time riding from town to town for no better reason than to watch and listen to myself doing it. That's what I call entertainment. Your mileage may vary.

So, there I and my horse were, at the top of a mountain, talking to a man about selling his farm. I did most of the talking; the horse just listened. It transpired that the farmer had moved up the mountain to get away from the imps who'd burned down his last farm and all he wanted was for everyone to leave him alone. He absolutely did not want to sell his alpine retreat to anyone.

Seriously, I'd live here. Wouldn't you?

When I went back to tell the prospective buyer the bad news I pointedly did not mention that I'd fallen so in love with the place that I'd grabbed it for myself. The farmer might not have been willing to sell but he was more than happy to rent. I already have two residences, one on the coast at Velia and one in the city of Heidel, but just one look at the roaring fire, stripped pine floor and good, natural light in this "shepherd's cottage" and I was sold.

A bear skin rug would go just right about...here.

Black Desert has an admirable solution to the perennial "how can you give everyone a house in the world without the world turning into a trailer park?" debate. Every house has an external physical structure but an instanced interior. It works brilliantly.

It also means I've looked around a lot of houses, trying to find somewhere that suits. Most are too dark, too cramped or just too shabby. This one was the best I'd seen by a good margin. Of course, it's at the top of a mountain, ten minutes hard ride form any kind of civilization, but the views are to die for! As are the falls...

You can't really say you own a house if you haven't stood on top of the chimney stack.

With that I took a break and played GW2 until the evening. When I logged back in and appeared in my lovely new home I realized it was a little on the unfurnished side. As in I had no furniture at all.

How are the movers going to get a wagon up that trail?

The basic $30 BDO "box" comes with your choice of three pieces of furniture but I'd already chosen mine and installed them in my Velia residence. I could have moved the bed but instead I decided to buy.

First I looked at the Marketplace to see what players were selling. Not much, it seems, and I suspect a lot of what they are trying to offload are quest rewards that I'll end up getting for free. What real furniture there was seemed to be on the expensive side so I rode down the mountain to Heidel to visit the Furniture Merchant.

The bed! Just sell me the frickin' bed!

He's a picky fellow, that one. There's not much he'll sell you if he doesn't like your face. I wanted at least to get a bed to lie down and recover my energy at night (animation, game mechanic, roleplay - all the functions in one handy piece of furniture) but for that I needed to hit 500 Amity.

It was touch and go but I made it. It really did remind me a lot of playing Diplomacy and although the subtleties of the system still escape me I felt I knew a good deal more about what I was doing after half an hour of wheedling and coaxing. Plus now I had a bed.

They always bite at dawn.

And that was my Sunday in Black Desert. Oh, except I killed about a hundred Altar Imps and died about a dozen times doing it. I really need to spend some of those 45 unallocated skill points. I was trying to see how long I could go with just the basic skills and I think I might have found out the answer: level 18.

The day ended when I found a great fishing spot and caught a crystal that sells for around 200k on the Market. I was so eager to get my hands on the silver that I rode back to Heidel and put it up for sale right away, which meant that, since by then it was heading towards one in the morning and I needed my own bed, my character never got to sleep in hers after all.

Sometimes that's just the way it goes.


  1. I kind of wish I'd chosen to not spend my skill points as they came in. Now I have a bunch of skills that a) might not be the right skills for my play style and b) I never use anyway because I can't remember them all.

    If/when I roll an alt I'll definitely hoard skill points at least until I have a good understanding of the skills I was 'born' with AND know what weak points I need to address via adding skills that address those deficiencies.

    1. That was part of my motivation for hoarding them, although I have a tendency to avoid making decisions at the best of times. I read something about the possibility of gimping your character early on so I tried to read up on builds but I couldn't make much sense of any of them and just pushed the decision down the road. Not sure I can avoid making the choice for much longer.

  2. I also just hit level 18 last night. Since I've got to the farm, I noticed things are getting tougher to kill, so I upgraded some of my most used skills to see if it'll help.

    I also got a quest about a farm on the mountain. I haven't been up there yet, but I'll check the house out. Any house with a built in fireplace is so much better than the dark houses I've tried to live in so far.

    1. Since I bought that house I found an arguably better one on one of the farms - I think it might have been the Loggia farm. That one also has a fire but it has a proper open window (no glass) that gives a great uninterrupted view. It's also in a more convenient, if less picturesque, location. If I find it again I might rent it as well and drop the one in Heidel which I haven't been back to since I took it.

  3. You definately can get a bed via a quest reward, but I have also gotten 2 or 3 furniture drops from mobs (not chests of drawers, but like a pot or trophy - it all adds points towards your residences score).

    1. That's great! I have had several vases and plates of food from quest rewards but nothing from mobs yet. Some goblin ornaments would make a fine talking point in any home, I'm sure.

  4. BDO is quickly reaching EVE status for me... not sure if I ever want to play it seriously, but really enjoy reading stories produced by other people playing it.

    1. That's supposed to be what sandboxes provide - stories - although I really don't see that much difference between what I'm doing in BDO and what I do in most other MMOs.

  5. Also just figured out my residence in Heidel has windows that I can open or close. If you build it, they will come....

    1. Oh that's interesting. Have to try mine!

    2. Most residences have a window or three you can open!

  6. I love the way they solved housing, even if most of them are very dark inside. What fixes this is just having your lantern equipped.

    In terms of spacious houses with great structure (and high ceilings, thats important to me) Velia 2.3 is my clear winner. Heidel 7.5 is great as well. Check them out sometime!

    1. Heh! I haven't had a working lantern since the starter one ran out on day 3. I bought one but it expired before I even used it so now I just go without.

    2. General goods vendors sell them ;) oil too!


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