I got the idea after my arduous trip to Luivano Island the night before. I had this quest to catch an octopus and the quest marker wanted me to stand on some lump of rock a hundred meters out to sea from the Veila coast for it. I fished for a long time.
I didn't get an octopus but I caught a Conger Eel and a couple of other rare fish. My bags were full of them and they looked to be quite valuable so I thought I'd sell them in town.
I already had a rough idea how the "Node" system works but I wasn't looking to get a big mark-up for selling my fish some great distance from where I'd caught them. I was happy to take the regular price in Velia. Only, when I got to the Trade NPC that handles this kind of transaction I discovered I hadn't caught them in Velia at all.
The rock I was fishing from turned out to be in the jurisdiction of Luivano Island. After a bit of googling and a close look at the handy map at BDOTome I worked out where that was, which just left the question of how to get there. Hobson's choice, really. I had to swim.
I'd already discovered that when you swim it depletes some bar that has no tool-tip but is presumably related to your stamina. If that gets low enough you begin to lose hit points and eventually you die. It's not drowning - there's different bar and a different death for that.
The hundred meter swim back from the rock almost killed me so swimming a mile or two out to the island was a daunting prospect. With the help of Google, once again, I learned that you can swig health potions as you swim to counteract the damage you're taking. I had about sixty on me. Surely that would be enough?
I worked out that the shortest sea crossing was from the peninsula to the north of Velia, where the brooding Crone Castle dominates the skyline. What I didn't know until I got there is that it's occupied by hordes of highly aggressive purple con soldiers.
Running back a second time, I managed to avoid them all. I scrambled down the cliffs, got as close to the distant island as I could and swam for it. It took me a few minutes and about a dozen potions but I made it safely. Onshore I found the Node Manager flaked out on the sand. Apparently he was in the grip of the existential ennui of the near-immortal (seriously).
Even though he had lost all will even to sit up straight he was still trading and he gave me the full price for my fish. It was then that I noticed a crude log raft pulled up on the shore nearby, beached by a player more advanced than I. Well, not for long, matey!
Black Desert reminds me of Vanguard in a number of ways. The Amity mini-game is like a pale shadow of Diplomacy and the clutter of sailing ships at the Velia wharf recalls the jumble along the harbor walls at Khal. Acquiring and sailing a sloop in Vanguard is one of the fondest memories I have from all my years of gaming. Anything that might give even a faint echo of that sense of satisfaction and sensual pleasure has to be explored.
When I say "explored", of course, I mean "googled". I'm not sure how far along in Black Desert I'd be if I was relying entirely on in-game information. Probably still just outside the first village, killing weasels. Working out how to make a raft took me about an hour, several guides, a couple of forum threads and three videos. I recommend the YouTube tutorials by Pvt Wiggles.
Even then I misunderstood how the Housing system works. I went to the Shipyard in Velia but because I didn't get a pop-up to buy it I mistakenly assumed it wasn't available. That's how I ended up on Iliya Island.
Iliya is an island city a lot further from the coast than Luivano. It has a Shipyard. I thought that might be available but there was no way I was going to swim there. Luckily there's a ferry (Google told me that, too). Waiting for it at the wharf gave me an EQ flashback - standing in Butcherblock, fishing off the dock, chatting to pass the time, hoping the boats weren't broken again...
The ferry in BDO is a lot more efficient than that. There's one every ten minutes or so and it moves smoothly and safely. It's a free service and you can fish off the side as you travel, so instead of it costing you silver you actually make money as you go.
It felt like it took about ten or fifteen minutes to get to Iliya, which suggests there's more than one ferry covering the route. I wasn't really paying attention because a) I was taking screenshots b) I was fishing and c) I was eavesdropping on an interesting conversation between two players (and trying to work out how they were talking in local).
Iliya turned out to be a mountainous island with one small port and a scattering of tiny hamlets and camps. By this time I had watched a video on Housing and realized that I was doing it wrong. Other than for a Residence - the house you can decorate and live in like a regular MMO home - you don't need to go to the building at all. You just buy it from the map.
To get a Shipyard I had to buy the two houses it was connected to. Don't ask why. Especially don't ask who puts a Shipyard at the back of the town, half way up a mountain, on the second floor of a building!
Once I'd bought my three houses, two of which I didn't need or want, for a total of seven Contribution points (which, fortunately, I will get back when I sell the Shipyard later) it had to be converted for use. That took two and a half hours, which gave me more than enough time to do every quest on the small island and chop enough trees to get the twenty-five logs you need to make a raft, plus twiddle my thumbs and alt-tab out. A lot.
I also hired a worker and then spent twenty minutes trying and failing to get him to do any work before I realized he wouldn't get off his fat, Giant behind until the Shipyard was up and running. By the time I was ready for bed I had a functioning shipyard, a worker and all the wood I needed. I was still missing three black powder but I figured I could buy those from the marketplace back in Velia.
All that was left was to give the order to start processing the logs, switch off and go to sleep. Oh, no. Oh, very much no. No, no, no, no!
If you want to make something in Black Desert you have to be there. Your character doesn't necessarily have to do anything. You, the player, don't have to do very much. Just give an order or two every so often. All the imaginary work is done by your workers. But that doesn't mean anything is automatic.
Remember those twenty-five logs that have to be prepared in some undefined fashion before they can be fitted together to make a raft? Each log takes twenty-five minutes to process. You have to give each processing order separately. If you log out the whole thing stops. If you go afk the whole thing stops as soon as the log your worker is working on is done.
It takes almost eleven hours to make a raft. I have made one of those rafts in real life. I lived by a river as a kid and we used to make them in the summer holidays sometimes. As a nine-year old boy I could make one of those rafts in an afternoon. It did not take me eleven freakin' hours and I did not have a ten-foot tall professional workman and fully-fitted freakin' shipyard standing by!
Watch Pvt Wiggles video on how to make the largest sea-going vessel currently available in the Western version of Black Desert, the Fishing Boat. He begins thus: "Be warned, building this boat was the most stressful time I've had since beginning to play Black Desert". Take that warning very seriously indeed. Granted, by the end he's gushing about how satisfying and thrilling it was when he finally got to plonk the thing in the water and sail away but I take all these "it feels so good now I stopped banging my head against the wall" stories with the barrel-full of salt they deserve.
Suffice it to say that, having made two of the twenty-five required logs, I was thinking wistfully of GW2, wishing I'd spent the last three or four hours wrecking around in WvW, not wasting most of an evening setting myself up for another ten hours of tedious busy-work the next day. As a harbinger of things to come it was a black stormcrow indeed.
The simple fact is this: I'm not interested in any kind of imaginary "job" or "craft". I have never in my life yearned to run a virtual business or spend hours pretending I'm an artisan. If I was going to spend hour after hour doing something like that I'd rather switch the PC off and go do it in real life, where I might make things I could actually use or money I could actually spend.
I love crafting in MMOs but what I love are the "mini-games" and the progression. I like to level up my crafters for the exact same reason I like to level up my adventurers; because it opens up new possibilities but, most importantly, because it's fun while I'm doing it.
Vanguard's crafting system, the best I have ever seen in an MMO, was a full RPG experience in and of itself. EQ2's is another. I can spend hours, days, weeks immersed in either of them. In WoW or LotRO or Rift even GW2 crafting doesn't have that degree of complexity but it has some, and what it lacks is offset by the benefit of being simple and swift. Yes, there can be a lot of repetitive grind along the way but it's the kind of repetitive grind I find relaxing and enjoyable.
Black Desert seems to me to fall heavily between two stools when it comes to crafting. It has none of the deep creative aesthetic of a game that permits full-scale, open world construction, like Wurm or Landmark, yet it requires a similar degree of time commitment just to perform tasks that are not in and of themselves either involving or interesting but exist only as a means to an end. Even at this early stage, the more I see of BDO, the more I suspect that will apply to most of its systems and gameplay.
The learning curve is so steep and the visual representation so impressive that the initial impact is overwhelming. It feels as though it's a game of vast depths and infinite possibilities. Once the shock wears off, though, it doesn't take long to wonder just how deep it really is.
With no interest whatsoever in the PvP end game, no desire to run any kind of trading operation and finding crafting off-putting almost before I've gotten started, it does make me wonder what I'll find to do once the intellectual stimulation of figuring out how it all works begins to falter. There's the world to explore, naturally, but with everywhere looking surprisingly similar thus far, even that is beginning to look a less appealing long-term project than I first thought.
When I went to log in this morning and found the servers were down for five hours I felt oddly relieved that at least I didn't have to do any more work on that blasted raft. That can't be a good sign.