Friday, March 11, 2016

The Bloom Comes Off The Rose : Black Desert

Last night I logged into Black Desert with a plan in mind. I was going to build myself a boat. Well, a raft, anyway.

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.


  1. I haven't played Vanguard or EQ2, so with that in mind: it amazes me that MMOs don't have crafting systems that require actual player skill, with the quality of items you can make being dependent on that skill.

    I don't really know how it'd work, but I'd love for crafting to be something you actually have to practice to be good at. There's balance issues around this, of course, and it'd need to be the kind of activity with a very high skill cap, but I love the idea of players being valued for their skills in making things, not just murdering things.

    Getting some arbitrary number up to 500 just isn't the same.

    1. Vanguard had a relatively high level of required player skill for crafting but it was oddly front-ended, making crafting quite challenging when you started but very easy once you got a fair ways in. EQ2's version has been made much easier over the years but what the two did have in common was that you had to actively "play" the crafting game all the time as you made things and your skill could have a direct effect on the quality of the items you made.

  2. A raft is on my list of things to do. Still need to collect enough CP to buy the house though, but I'll get there. I just do a little bit each day. I have 3 copper mines and an Ash farm going mostly to sell stuff. I don't really AFK though, so it is slow.

    1. It has occurred to me that I might be better off just to earn money another way and buy the crafted items I need. Fishing seems to make money very readily. When I looked for boats on the Marketplace last night though I couldn't see any for sale at all. Might have been me not knowing how to search properly though.

    2. The AH is the worst thing I've ever seen rofl....
      You have to search within the correct tab to get results AND it's case sensitive! First letter must be a capital, unless it's an item that has many variants in which case lower letter will yield all the different types.

    3. The patch they are releasing today fixed the case issue, not sure about the tabs.

    4. I just re-checked the AH. I found the boats alright - in the greyed out section of things no-one has put up for sale. Is the Marketplace location-specific like the Trade vendors are?

  3. BDO is a lot like ArcheAge in that you definitely have to make a long-term plan to make big stuff.

    I don't know what kind of logs you need for your boat but it might be faster to get them from trees and process them yourself, if you have the necessary skill level. Using workers is generally the slowest way to make things I've found.

    1. Hmm. Hadn't occurred to me to process the logs myself. I'll look into that when the server comes up - thanks.

    2. Pretty sure you can't process them on your own for the boat, but I'm not 100% sure.
      However, just FYI, you don't have to process them individually. If you have enough stuff in your warehouse, and your worker has enough stamina, you can do them all in one order. You go to Manage Crafting > Pick what you want, then before processing, pick "change quantity" (I think is the button, but something like that) and you can tell it how many times you want to do the process.

    3. Yeah apparently you can queue worker jobs ....I havent figured out how yet myself lol. Half of the time I find my own ignorance of how stuff works in the way and google is just not too helpful atm either.

    4. Even knowing where it is, half the time I forget to set up the queue.

    5. Thanks for that tip. I have set my worker to keep making logs until he passes out from exhaustion. We'll see how many he manages. Meanwhile I'm afk-walking my first trade pack from Velia to Heidel and playing GW2. Odd game.

    6. The worker function you're looking for is "repeat." So long as their stamina and your materials cache holds, they can repeat as many times as you want.

    7. Just make sure the trade packs are ones you are making yourself. There is such a low return from buying tradepacks and selling them one town over. With items you gathered with a worker or yourself, crafting a tradepack is the only way - those 'Trade' quests from the Trade npc's are a waste of time.

    8. Yes, I did one last night to see what would happen and I couldn't see the point. If they don't open up some skill or knowledge or reward then clearly they're a complete waste of time. Actually, compared to the money I make every time I fish, everything else seems to be a waste of time when it comes to making silver...

  4. The worker system is a means of having *some* progress on crafting, while investing your time elsewhere. Whatever the workers do, you can do (some things require specific skills and tools however). Occasionally you will have to gather while your workers gather the same stuff as well; the fishing boat requires 2,500 logs of Birch and you really need all the help you can get with that.

    Tip: use one of the houses you bought (that were required by the shipyard) to make a refinery. Then at the raft recipe you'll be able to process Black Powder from Rough Stone. Use anything else as Storage, because you can never have enough.

    1. Apparently you can also refine the powder from heap crystals you can buy on the Market. I'll look into that when i get to Heidel.

  5. I think I'm torn on the mid-term thing right now. First of all I realize that half of the time, I am still doing things 'wrong' or rather, I am not doing them as effectively as I could. The fact that the raft should take as long as you say is daunting; but then, one week into launch some players already have rafts right? Even ships? How does that work? There's something I must be missing here (and a week to make a ship is not very long imo).
    So I wonder how it will look like further down the line, with more energy, more money, more contribution points. The problem is BDO's starter experience is by far the worst. Everything inventory space included gets better later and DO use alts! Their energy is vital to crafting, I let all of them do my cooking prepwork for example.
    The early days are significantly made worse by lack of info - game is terrible at teaching you anything involved. That's why I joined a guild to be honest, I need halp.

    There definitely needs to be a motivating balance between time spent on crafting and outcome. On the other hand I've been way too fast in WoW, GW2 or Wildstar in getting everything I always wanted. I do kinda appreciate the punishment in BDO and that you need to 'work for it'. The work itself should be enjoyable though, at least some of it but then I'm not well-versed in MMO crafting systems myself. I never found one I liked lol.

    1. Learning the new systems in an MMO is a big part of the early attraction for me. It's one of the reasons I play so many for short periods. Mrs Bhagpuss is the polar opposite - she absolutely hates learning new controls which is probably the main reason she sticks with the MMOs she does learn for so much longer than I do.

      As far as BDO is concerned, the problem really isn't the learning curve - it's that I find it very difficult to imagine what use I'd put that knowledge to once I'd acquired it. I would like to decorate some houses though, and tame a horse and get a boat large enough to go island-hopping. I just think that's going to take more like a couple of months than a couple of years and after that I really can't see what else I'd want to do.

    2. Agreed. Since the game has neither the big coop component nor endgame content like other MMOs, it will depend on how often PA release new areas and things to do. There are expansions already lined up at least with Valencia coming for example....we'll see what happens next. It's nice in a way that BDO has been around 2 years before coming here.

    3. It's funny how people look for such different things in MMOs. For me, BDO seems like it has a loooong life ahead of it as far as I'm concerned. I yearn for open worlds that feel like worlds and not theme parks like most MMOS of late. This is the game I wanted Vanguard to be and just exploring and learning the stories of all the people around is what I really want from the game. That will keep me busy for a long time to come.

    4. It reminds me a lot of Vanguard, too, but it doesn't have any of the resonance, somehow. The landscapes are much more detailed and yet they feel designed in a way Vanguard's seldom did. The music is nowhere near as good at building an atmosphere, either.

      I have a post in mind about "feel" or atmospherics that I was pondering as a result of playing both BDO and Blade and Soul. It often doesn't come down to what there is to do an MMO so much as how you feel about doing it and that's going to vary wildly from person to person.

  6. "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."

    And this paragraph right here is why I enjoyed my couple of hours in BDO on a guest pass, but have absolutely no plans to ever log into it ever again. I have a life in the real world that I'm playing games as a diversion or escape from it. I don't want to replicate my real life in a fantasy setting.

  7. It takes a lot of planning to make boats. I made a ship in about two days starting from no materials at all, but that was a lot of bumbling and making mistakes. A few suggestions:

    1) Remember that you can assign multiple workers to each part. Say, you build a raft in Velia which takes 25 logs and 3 black powders. That's essentially 28 pieces. If you somehow had 28 workers in Velia (you can't), you could do it in one shot which could take you even 25 minutes. Each worker makes one part, and it takes a full work rotation for them to do it. In Heidel, I did this way quicker when I figured out I could assign more than one worker to the project.

    2) Do your gathering quests. Yeesh. Had I only done this, it would've saved time on gathering timber, processing into planks, and then into plywood. I could've done plywood myself... although I'm not quite sure when that happens? Still figuring that out myself.

    3) Know where you can get what you need. I had a worker down in Glish mining Lead. Those are fairly hard to find at first (there's a place near Calpheon you can mine it, but I'm not really there yet) so if you can stockpile in Glish early on, it could be helpful if you ever want a ferry (it's a rowboat. Let's be honest here).

    My ultimate suggestion for you, since I'm someone who usually hates crafting in games, is to pick at little tiny bits and be ok with not making everything work! I decided I wanted a boat, asked some guildies, and finally was able to put together my ship that I got today! So don't be discouraged. It's a strange approach to a game, but it's amazing. So much exploration and immersion that you can almost get lost. Play around with parts of it, make sure to use your alts for their energy for gathering and processing too, and do things piece by piece.

    I hope that helps in at least some way!

    1. It does - thanks! I think I might go and hire another worker and see how that goes. The one i have on the job is leveling up, too, and I notice it now takes him a couple of minutes less per log.

      I'm also very aware that all this stuff that seems so confusing and overwhelming now will seem trivial and not worthy of comment in a very short time. That's how all MMOs start. I'm enjoying the confusion while it lasts.

    2. Doing the quests at first really helps build knowledge about the systems. I'd watched a bunch of videos too, but it wasnt until just jumping from quest to quest that I learned how the sustems work. Its complicated but feels worth it in the long run. No one can cheese this system whoch I like.


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