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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
ManastuUtakata

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

Samhain92
Guest
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
Guest
Samhain92

zyrusticae Gender locked classes don’t help anything either.

DavidBrown2
Guest
DavidBrown2

That fact that they put 99% of the visual armour options behind a paywall after hailing how customize-able characters were is the single dirtiest move Daum has done.   The Sorc looks like she’s wearing a potato sack, and no amount of tweeks to be basic armour changes that fact that it will ALWAYS be a potato sack unless you drop 30 bones in the cash shop.  If the want to sell fancy armour in the cash shop fine, but you have to give players some other  options.  We already payed money to get in, but the game has the F2P cash shop and doesn’t even have the option of selling costumes on the market like they do in the F2P version elsewhere.

Styopa
Guest
Styopa

Boardwalker Styopa You don’t consider:

1) pay $30 for costume
2) devs patch game, change costume
3) people asking for refund or change back to the costume they bought
4) Daum says no refund

= “screw y’all”?

And simply doing things all at the same time isn’t necessarily “doing them together”.  When’s the last time you gave another player some item that they needed for, say, crafting?  Or got a drop they could really use so you gave it to them?  Oh yeah, that’s impossible.

Xijit
Guest
Xijit

No.
Fucking.
Shit?
You can COOPERATE with other players in combat?!?!?
Holy fuck, I should update my description to include “Co-Op” in it …

Xijit
Guest
Xijit

As much as I agree with the scorched earth on botters, I would like to have a guild bank where I can dump extra gear and materials for other guild members to use … Maybe guild stables where guildmembers can trade and breed horses … The ability to loan out a spare wagon to a guild member so that they can use it on trade missions … Being able to send workers to help other guild members build fishing boats since everyone having a boat helps the guild … Hell just the simple act of being able to hand off gathering tools that I have crafted would be a godsend on guild missions.

shaw sbst
Guest
shaw sbst

Styopa I thought multiplayer meant having many players at the same time, not that they did all have to cooperate on the same thing.

shaw sbst
Guest
shaw sbst

disUserNameTake arktourosx Xijit What else did you want, take baths as a group, sleep together, go to church as a raid?

disUserNameTake
Guest
disUserNameTake

arktourosx Xijit So….bosses and a few guild missions is the extent of the group content?  Not so impressed, myself.

zyrusticae
Guest
zyrusticae

arktourosx “That said people generally have similar tastes.” 
You have to specify “within the same cultural background”, because what someone in Japan finds appealing is going to be VERY different from what you find appealing. 
Tamer is the only character model I like, but one class out of the entire roster isn’t good enough for me (and besides that, I don’t play pet classes). So no go here.

zoward
Guest
zoward

Nice to see Desert Nomad back in the rotation!  Welcome back, Matt!

zyrusticae
Guest
zyrusticae

“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.”
NAILED IT. 
Seriously, wtf? They can’t talk about “individuality” and then force every single character of each class to have the exact same base character model. Such nonsense! The way they handled character creation alone single-handedly ruined any further interest I had in the game. To put it simply, they blew it. Too late now.

karmamule
Guest
karmamule

I salute your ability to bounce back from real life’s equivalent of RNG and write something this spot-on. I personally am glad to see variety in builds, and having some *limited* elements of randomness introduced along with player choice, but if you are going to make it possible for a character potentially disadvantaged by pure randomness, then you damn well better make the leveling up experience as repeat-friendly and interesting as possible.  As an alt-aholic that’s something I think ALL games should do, but in this case doubly so.

In any case I hope this sense of encouraging individuality leads them to opening up things like character appearance and equipment appearance choices as a way to bring it out into the visual arena as well.

Welcome back!  o/

Bionicall
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Bionicall

Welcome back Matt!

Boardwalker
Guest
Boardwalker

Styopa I participate in group activities every day, have no problem with the cash shop prices, and never saw them say “screw ya’ll”. It’s like we’re playing two different games. Or “played”, in your case.

FacelessSavior
Guest
FacelessSavior

My complaint with the industry as a whole, and one of the main reasons I haven’t tried BDO yet.

Mallein
Guest
Mallein

This actually seems like an applaudable stance for Daum to take. To state that they intended and designed a specific way, and they intend to retain that focus.

I don’t see why an MMO ought to insist that everybody run identikit builds, before the character can be considered viable. (although,, I have no problem with developers designing differing tiers/styles of content – that’s great and necessary to let the game grow and prosper – it’s more “the community” comedically hoisting stat charts around like a book of law that thoroughly grates.
Lamenting being unable to create as unique of a character as he wants is fine, but then under the present system it is possible to create more individual of a character, thanks to the mechanics at play, and in a way that has a greater effect in the game.

As for Matt pointing out that he’s no fan of talking trash about games he otherwise loves, I think that’s just a great practical qualification for writing dedicated columns. You can’t well reflect upon something you’re unquestioningly besotted with.

arktourosx
Guest
arktourosx

Xijit Except the daily boss scrolls.  And weekly boss scrolls.  And world bosses.  And Guild Missions.  And Guild Bosses.  And the upcoming Node Wars.
Almost like there’s group content, and solo content.

arktourosx
Guest
arktourosx

As a mechanical guy, I hate this mechanic because it leaves you out of the loop when it comes to character choices.  It’s like making a fight in D&D campaign but every time you roll your HP it’s 1.  While you may have some fun with it in that pen and paper environment, the warrior who always is dead or almost dead, it’s not exactly what you’re looking for a potentially competitive environment that pits you against other people who may roll maximum HP every roll.
For most part, however, I ignore it because there’s far greater issues with the game like the rich-get-richer with things like boss drops and soul crushing RNG gear upgrades (looking at you, accessories).
Looks have never bothered me.  Honestly there’s a russian website that is a database of character looks (http://vk.com/presetbd) that you can scroll on nearly endlessly to see an endless amount of different looks and displays people have come up with.  I’ve used quite a few off there in fact for various alts then tweaked them to what I desire.
That said people generally have similar tastes.  These tastes translate into similar character design.  My Musa is far from uniquely designed but all that really matters was I was able to come up with something I personally enjoy which is all I can ask for.
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melissaheather
Guest
melissaheather

I agree that the game “doles out equipment slowly”. I’m not terribly bothered by anything else, but hey?  It’s because I don’t care about PvP.  There is nothing for me to win or lose.  Nobody can have an advantage over me in any other way that I know of, and if you take that off the table then “advantages” don’t really exist. So how many of these hot button issues would be avoided by no PvP?  Lots of them.  Just my opinion, YMMV.

squidgod2000
Guest
squidgod2000

I’m still enjoying the hell out of this game, but some issues have started to surface as we move beyond the first few months. Some of them are typical—people on the forums are absolute shitbags, communication from the publisher is practically nonexistant, customer service is abysmal, etc—and some are quite damaging to the game. Chief among them these days are field bosses and their loot system. Basically they’re a bunch of 1-shotting damage-sponges that give extremely valuable loot….to the top DPS dealers. This creates a system where the rich get richer (being top DPS requires expensive gear) and only a few classes really have a shot at getting any loot at all. People have begun leveling Rangers and Wizards just so they can compete on these mobs and funnel the loot/silver to their mains. Even people who take advantage of this clusterfuck of a PvE content system the most are calling for it to be nerfed.

deleted_84169608_deleted_84169608_crackfox
Guest
deleted_84169608_deleted_84169608_crackfox

Lol. Very old school. Reminds me of rolling a 1 for HP in AD&D and begging the dm to let me re-roll. Maybe they could introduce some sort of cash shop potion to allow players a second throw of the dice?

Xijit
Guest
Xijit

Styopa 
This game is decidedly an open world co-op single player RPG.

squidgod2000
Guest
squidgod2000

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.

I remember also reading that the hidden stats increase by variable amounts as well, and that less hp/mp gain per level means higher gains in the hidden stats. Of course we just have to accept PA’s word that hidden stats actually exist (and actually function properly) since they can’t be seen or tested.

Dnote
Guest
Dnote

Styopa This pretty much drove away my friends and I as well. The game on the surface seems to be a sandbox dream with a touch of themepark, and plenty to build a great community around. The reality is, every system is designed to be played by the individual, and at it’s heart, all those sandbox elements are actually just more themepark content that they expect every player to do for themselves.

Lethality
Guest
Lethality

I loved this when I found out about it.

It’s about time that RPG characters are differentiated, and as the players learn about their differences organically, they can augment weaknesses or compliment their strengths through other means available in the game. Play the game without obsessing on numbers to tell you what to do.

It’s really not a problem and the over-reaction generation is in full-force.

ihatevnecks
Guest
ihatevnecks

dwhisper ProfessionalNoob Unfortunately in this game, not much else is equal either unless you have two people with the same exact time played. Otherwise the gearing/’leveling’ system, and class imbalances, cause such massive disparities in power that the bonkers random HP/MP system barely ends up being a factor.

Styopa
Guest
Styopa

Massively Solo Online Role Playing Game.

Seriously: they have some TERRIFIC mechanics and some clever ideas, but the unbelievable barriers they throw around people (who are ostensibly supposed to be cooperating) makes this little more than ES: Oblivion populated by online moppets in the background.

Couple that to astonishing levels of cash-shop greed (it doesn’t affect me, I will *never* in my life pay $30 for an outfit for an online character; dropping that to $5 wouldn’t change anything), and a customer-response unit whose reply template seems to default to “SCREW Y’ALL” simply doesn’t inspire me that this is a company with which I want to invest my time and effort.  

I’ve left it installed, and may well come back and check it out (as I have left installed TSW, DDO, RIFT, and a couple of other games), I’m not focusing my effort on BD until it actually becomes an MMORPG, not MSORPG.

woolydub
Guest
woolydub

I love when developer comments fly in the face of their design. I mean, it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

xpsync
Guest
xpsync

OK to celebrate your return, I’m installing tonight!

Wratts
Guest
Wratts

Welcome back Matt! Absolutely agree that as a customization it’s curiously ineffective, and the fact that it’s ‘hidden’. Are you really unique if no one can tell?

Kanbe
Guest
Kanbe

Wow didn’t know about this and it doesn’t make me feel unique at all, it makes me feel gimped.
For feeling unique I can see what skills your using and I can see your appearance but the little number inside your hp/mp bar? I will never notice and even if I did that wouldn’t make me feel unique at all, just either lucky or unlucky.
As for the armor, I agree to a point about there being decent non cash shop options. Here’s where my issue comes in, I found some armor that I think looks cool on my tamer. Unfortunatley, it’s armor and bonuses are horrible for actually taking it outside of the city. So I have the age old choice of like how I look and die a lot or get decent armor that’s just meh looking. This is an old MMO issue that should not be rearing it’s head =/
Now if they let you put normal armor in the costume slots (without any of the bonuses) I’d be much happier about in game armor choices.
And glad to have you back! Though you won’t see me on much unless I’m ask until the end of June.

dwhisper
Guest
dwhisper

ProfessionalNoob It does feel like the D&D system for it, but the problem is that D&D is effectively a “PvE” game, which makes it possible to absorb small variations over the aggregate like that. But in a PvP-ish game like Black Desert, it means that a player, through no fault other than bad luck when everything else is equal, can be objectively “worse” than another player. 

And that just sucks.

FacelessSavior
Guest
FacelessSavior

Love the Idea of Randomized HP and MP! That’s an awesome way to remove some of the min/max hell MMO’S have turned into.

hugmonster
Guest
hugmonster

Great to have you back, Matt!
Hugs!

Bannex19
Guest
Bannex19

How about helmets?

Iver Goertz
Guest
Iver Goertz

ohh, there you were. Welcome back. Looking forward to your future articles.

ProfessionalNoob
Guest
ProfessionalNoob

That’s the old DnD Hit points roll system. You a warrior? Rolle a d10 for hit poitns, might get a one, might get a 10. I’d say it wouldn’t work well in an MMO especially for pvp since folks might feel they are being hamstrung in a fight. If there are endless levels though that might make the point moot.

Alsocomment image

Give me Pink armor, or give me death!

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