Desert Nomad: The misplaced individuality of Black Desert

Hello, friends, and welcome back at long last to another installment of Desert Nomad. I’m very sorry to have kept you all waiting during my impromptu sabbatical, and if it’s any consolation, the vast majority of it was spent dealing with aggro from the dread fiend known as Real Life. But I survived with my sanity more or less intact, and I’m once again ready to recklessly abandon the real world in favor of one in which most of my problems can be solved by swinging a sword, pickaxe, or other suitable implement at them.

Once I had recovered from dodging the barrage of curveballs that reality had so generously thrown at me, I immediately set to work trawling Black Desert’s forums and subreddit to see what had gotten the community abuzz during my absence. Needless to say, I had a lot of catching up to do. The Mediah content update went live, granting players access to a big new chunk of the world, which is accompanied by oodles of new quests, and opening up the Crimson Battlefield 40-vs-40 PvP deathmatch. Unfortunately, however, I can’t write about that yet on account of the fact that I have experienced none of it because of another major content update I missed: The classes I’d been waiting for, Blader and Plum, made their debuts under the new names of Musa and Maehwa, and since my return to the game, every iota of my attention has been focused solely on catching my dashing new Blader up to my former Warrior main.

As I struggled to figure out what I’d write about in lieu of my still-developing impressions of the Musa and the new Mediah content, I happened across this Reddit thread, which led me to this forum post wherein forumgoer JoergH claims that the amount of HP a character gains when leveling up is random. This claim was later confirmed by Daum Community Manager CM_Jouska, who reported that according to the game’s developers, “There is a range for how much HP and MP are gained with each level to add variety between characters,” adding that the developers “believe that no two characters should be identical and that these variations add to the game, making each character more unique.” Naturally, the reactions to this discovery have been all over the emotional spectrum — my own reaction, as is so often the case, is mixed — but more than anything, the statement from the developers made me wonder if they’re really aiming their attempts at encouraging individuality at the right targets.

Let me just go ahead and get this out of the way: All things considered, I’m not particularly fazed by the revelation. While I do try my best to ensure that my characters are at least somewhat efficient, I’m not one to lose sleep trying to figure out how to squeeze every last delicious drop of DPS out of my build. But I also understand that there’s a significant portion of the playerbase who consider that stat-wringing to be their bread and butter, and while the resulting differences in HP and MP from one character to the next may seem so minor as to be inconsequential, as the Reddit thread’s OP, /u/Outrage11, points out, even a small amount of extra MP (or WP, for melee classes) can make a significant difference in the long run. And while it is true that a character’s maximum HP and MP can be increased by leveling up the health skill, the fact remains that one character may have less total HP and MP than another character of the same combat and health levels purely by virtue of the fact that one player had better luck with the RNG, and that kinda sucks.

But the point is that I’m not here to argue whether the mechanic itself is good or bad. I decided to write this article not because of my reaction to the realization that my darling new Musa might fall short of his potential thanks to RNG, but because of my reaction to the dev team’s claim that the mechanic exists to “add variety between characters” in the interest of “making each character more unique.” My reaction was this: “Why start now?”

I almost hate to admit it — no one likes talking trash about a game he otherwise loves, including me — but the fact of the matter is that if the devs wanted characters to be unique and varied, there are plenty of other places where their efforts would have been much more effective, not to mention more appreciated. Character creation, for instance. It’s hard to feel unique when every character of a given class can be customized only within limited parameters, minor variations on the same mold. I think the Wizard is the most prominent example of this, since it’s borderline impossible to create one who isn’t a wizened old sage or, at best, a middle-aged man clinging stubbornly to his fleeting youth. It’s especially frustrating because, unless I’m missing something blatantly obvious, I can’t come up with one reason that it wouldn’t be possible to allow Wizards with the facial features of the Warrior, for instance.

And then, of course, there’s the (at least perceived) lack of aesthetic options in the realms of clothing and armor. Now, I’ve said before and I still think that there is a wider variety of armor appearances than people may commonly think, but I also couldn’t blame anyone who thinks that there are only a handful of options, either. The game doles out new equipment at a pretty slow rate, at least over the course of general questing, and in some cases the differences between one piece of armor and another may be so minute that players who aren’t on the lookout might not even notice the change, leading them to assume that if they wanna look good, they’ll have to shell out for a cash shop outfit. And, depending on your definition of “looking good,” that might be the case; I certainly haven’t come across any armor sets that are acquirable in-game that even approach the ornamental flamboyance of the cash shop costumes. I’m definitely not saying that players need to be handed a dazzling set of armor at level 10, but at the very least, players need to discover that they have options before they’ve grown resigned to the fact that their characters will be in peasant rags forever.

But I suppose one could argue that those aren’t suitable comparisons; after all, the randomization of HP and MP gains is more a matter of uniqueness in terms of mechanics, not aesthetics. While I personally hold both in roughly equal importance, it’s a fair argument, and one to which I honestly have no counter. Although Black Desert may lack (or may at first seem to lack) particularly diverse aesthetic customization options, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t provide players with plenty of avenues through which they can differentiate their characters in respect to mechanics. There’s no hard cap on skill points, which means one character could theoretically have access to every skill in its class’s tree, but realistically speaking, all but the most hardcore players will ultimately have to make some decisions that will to some extent define their characters’ abilities. This, combined with the nine different profession skills available for players looking to carve a niche for their characters, leaves me unable to say that Black Desert doesn’t provide players with a significant degree of mechanical customization options.

This has all been a roundabout way of saying that while there’s no denying that it’s important to players that their characters be different in terms of mechanics, playstyle, stats, and so on, sometimes it’s just as important that their characters feel different. I’m quite certain that Daum is more than capable of providing ample opportunities to do just that. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least admit that, even within the constraints of the current character creation system with its universally geriatric Wizards and curious lack of grizzled old Warriors, players are given remarkable control over the minutiae of their characters’ physical features, but for some reason their agency over the broader strokes, the ones that stand out even without detailed examination, is denied — or in the case of armor variety, excessively delayed. In a game that is all about freedom of choice in nearly every other respect, it’s frustrating to have so little of it in something so basic as customizing the way our characters look.

At any rate, thank you as always for soldiering through another meandering exercise in tangential relation, and I hope you’ll join me next time for another examination of whatever arbitrary facet of Black Desert happens to strike my fancy. Before I sign off for real, I’d like to take a quick moment to make a shameless plug: Massively OP’s official Black Desert guild is, despite my sudden and unexpectedly extended absence from the game, still alive and looking for active members. If you’d like an invitation, head on over to the guild’s freshly reanimated Enjin site. It’s sparse, I know, but it does the job. Just head to the forums and post in the Invite Requests category, and I’ll get in touch with you in-game ASAP. OK, plug’s done, column’s done, everyone go home! See you next time, Nomads.

Every other week, join Desert-Nomad-In-Residence Matt Daniel as he wanders the sprawling expanse of Black Desert to discover what secrets lurk beneath its enigmatic sands. Gather ’round the oasis as he figures out how to survive and flourish (or fail spectacularly) on his adventures.
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46 Comments on "Desert Nomad: The misplaced individuality of Black Desert"

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FeveredDreamer
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FeveredDreamer

So many things to love about BDO but the few things that suck really really suck.  All the same the game’s overall depth has me totally hooked for the time being, perhaps for the forseeable future, we’ll see.  Welcome back Nomad, look forward to reading your posts!

arktourosx
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arktourosx

Xijit Yeap it’s true!  Especially guild gathering missions and guild trade missions.  Lots of combat as you organize where you can get people to go to get them done in time.  Yes sir, super combat oriented.

I mean sorry you can’t trade…but that seems to be the bulk of the complaint.  It’s not an invalid complaint, but nor is it the entire game either.

korsobar
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korsobar

Even when it comes to the cash shop clothes, at least a plurality of the characters wearing them seem to have chosen what I call ‘the nightie’ so there is not a lot of variety there either.

Duffy13
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Duffy13

Mallein It’s due to a generally expectation of fairness in a setting where head to head or progression depends on your capabilities. All other things being equal the person with more HP is gonna have the bigger edge. While a small level up value by itself might not matter much, over the course of the characters leveling how big can that difference end up being?

arktourosx
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arktourosx

melissaheather While I can appreciate your distaste for PvP it’s rather irrelevant to the gear discussion.  You can see this because lets say, fiction story time, we removed PvP from the equation entirely…
The issue presented still remains because early on you get access Agerian (+3 Attack speed, +50 HP, etc) which when you upgrade it slightly (it has medium armor) makes it fairly competitive against the variety of mid-range suits you get (Tartias, Heve, Hercules, Fortuna, etc).  Now even if you’ve upgraded your armor to +1 or +2 by the time you start seeing these armors drop (early/mid 30’s) these new armor types don’t really look that good.  I mean lots of HP or some Accuracy and WP/MP.  I mean all that compared to Agerian looks not so hot.  I mean really it isn’t until much later, in Mediah, that you start seeing Grunil that switching armor isn’t a good idea.

Now that means you’re most likely to stick with that starting armor you got which, in turn, means you’re more than likely going to keep looking “like a hobo” which hurts that individuality part (especially because Taritas and Talis are a different look and Heve/Fortuna/Hercules are yet another look) since everyone’s using the same starting armor cause the game doesn’t offer better choices early on.

arktourosx
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arktourosx

zyrusticae I don’t think one really has to specify that anymore.  I mean with the Internet and global exposure many cultures are available and people can be exposed to them outside of their home culture.  We see this a lot in fact with asian ported games like BDO where people exposed to that culture and like that style of things.
However the group thing kinda goes without saying, hence people generally have similar tastes.  There’s a group of people who always put beards on their characters.  People who always make fat characters.  Who always make bald characters.  So on and so forth, it’s what they enjoy or find aesthetically pleasing or amusing (looking at you afro people).

So seeking individuality after a fashion seems like a self defeating purpose because chances are there is someone else out there with similar tastes and will design something similar to you.  Better then to look for options that you find enjoyable even if everyone else finds the same thing enjoyable.  If you can only find joy from being different, be prepared to be ugly as it’s usually the only thing people generally don’t make (and even then…there’s those people too haha)

Veldan
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Veldan

shaw sbst disUserNameTake arktourosx Xijit It’s not even just about group content, it’s about player interaction. Even in games with little group content, you can often cooperate in some way. Not in BDO. That’s what makes it a solo game, and is also the main reason I quit.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

This customization discrepancy kinda reminds of this somhow: o.O

Samhain92
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Samhain92

I really, really enjoy the combat of BDO.  I also genuinely adore that there’s trading, horse taming, horse breeding, player housing, ect. But they don’t particularly interest me. Perhaps I should just play Skyforge, since the combat is comparable, and there’s a fuck ton of non genderlocked classes. Hrm.

Samhain92
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Samhain92

zyrusticae Gender locked classes don’t help anything either.