Desert Oasis: Understanding and critiquing Black Desert’s RNG systems

    
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One of the main critiques readers made about my first Desert Oasis column last month was that I did not mention Black Desert’s random number generator at all. I appreciate that feedback; I should have at least alluded to the system, but we’ll amend that today as we dive into the world of RNG

When players note the excessive use of random chance in BDO, it’s not mere hyperbole. Need to enchant your weapon? There’s a chance it will fail and go down an enchantment level. Need to upgrade an accessory? There’s a chance you’ll break it. Need to teach your horse instant acceleration and drift? It’s not a guarantee. Need to gain S-level knowledge on a particular world boss? There’s a chance you’ll learn only B-level knowledge on it.

There are so many RNG-based systems in this game, and we’ll talk about them in future articles, but today I want to focus on enchanting gear specifically. I’ll categorize the criticism of the RNG system in two ways: “plus” and “delta.” Why not just stick with “good, bad, and ugly”? Some of you might be familiar with this style of feedback as a way to critique a meeting. I’m adapting it for this column because if we’re going to talk about the random chance, it needs to be a collaborative and growth-focused conversation. A plus does not imply perfection; it’s a step in the right direction. The deltas are focus areas for growth and improvement.

A quick rundown on how to enchant

This is complicated, so bear with me for a few paragraphs. There are 20 enchant levels for weapons and armor. The first 15 are just numerical, +1 to +15. Beyond that are PRI (+16), DUO (+17), TRI (+18), TET (+19), and PEN (+20). Anytime an enchantment fails, the item suffers semi-permanent durability damage. It gets more difficult the higher players go. Going from DUO to TRI, players also risk downgrading gear.

Enchanting gear really boils down to using four materials: black stones, black crystal shards, concentrated stones, and memory fragments. Each comes in two flavors – one for enchanting weapons and the other for enchanting armor. Black stones are used for enchant levels 1 to 15. Crystal shards are combined with two black stones to make a concentrated stone. The concentrated stone upgrades the items to PRI and beyond. So if I wanted to upgrade my +15 Rosar longsword to PRI, I’m going to combine two weapon black stones and a sharp crystal shard to make a concentrated magical black stone. That stone is what’ll be used for getting the longsword to PRI.

I mentioned semi-permanent max durability damage. To repair that, players can do one of two things. The first method is to buy multiple copies of the item and have the blacksmith repair 10 durability points per copy. The other way is to use memory fragments. Depending on the item rarity, memory fragments will repair a set amount. It’s best to save it only for boss items. Memory fragments only restore one max durability for boss items. Even though using copies of the boss item is possible, it’s not a good idea. It’s too expensive; it’s best to use memory fragments.

Accessories go from only PRI to PEN. They do not need materials; a copy of the accessory is all that’s needed to upgrade the item. The caveat is that both items break if the enchantment fails.

If all that made your head spin, you’re not alone.

Plus: Your chances are transparent

A recent patch finally revealed the chances of an item upgrading. I like this change. It gives players the chance to decide on their own enchant methods and procedures. At least players can control their own personal enchant method.

Delta: Not enough opportunities to gain necessary enchant materials

With Shadow Arena coming down today, we’re losing a big source of memory fragments. Shadow Arena was the place to collect memory fragments. I’ll have to watch the central market if I’m wrong about this, but Shadow Arena’s big draw was the memory fragment reward. We’re going to need something else to replace this; I hope Pearl Abyss and Kakao eventually choose quests.

Delta: You have to use CCs, and I don’t mean crowd control

It’s super tempting to cleave that credit card through the cash shop in this game. Cron stones are items that people can use to prevent items from downgrading or breaking upon a failed enchant attempt. Depending on the level, players will need more of those stones. It gets very expensive. Players can buy them from the blacksmith, but melting costumes from the cash shop is one of the best ways to get them in bulk. There are also artisan memories; they quadruple the amount of max-durability damage restored by memory fragments.

This is a big one, and I want to double down on my above recommendation: quest rewards. After the player gets a second weapon at level 56, an accompanying quest-line should be there to provide a complete set of blue-rarity TRI gear. This will allow a decent reward for loreseekers and a baseline set of gear for the playerbase.

Delta: Increasing your chances to enchant is also based on RNG

Every failed enchantment will increase the success by a small amount represented by a numerical amount dubbed a “failstack.” The higher this number gets, the better the odds. Upon a successful attempt, the failstack resets.

High-level enchanting will need high stacks. Since failstacks are tied to the character and not the item, people build failstacks with one item and use the stacks on another. There are risk factors; every tap of the enchant button increases the chance of enchanting an item a person doesn’t want.

A recent quest-line, Bartali’s adventure logs, did reward players with 100 failstacks, and we need more of those. One commenter in my last article mentioned that repeatable quests are part of the endgame loop. Reaching quest milestones and awarding a hefty stack is an excellent way to get more players to quest and branch out from grinding.

I know pretty much all my recommendations were on quest rewards, but sometimes a simple solution is best. When Pearl Abyss introduced adventure logs, the players enjoyed the family-wide benefits. I really think they should consider it for their items as well.

And now for the bonus category…

Painful: Getting banned suddenly became based on RNG

Getting banned became an RNG event in the last two weeks. The widespread hacking in Shadow Arena led to bans, many of which were false positives. There was no way to tell who really deserved the ban. This ultimately led to Shadow Arena’s removal. It might sound strange coming from a Black Desert fan, but I’m happy Kakao and Pearl Abyss made such a decisive move. It’s far better to cut their losses and focus on the actual game. Let’s just say they’re building failstacks for the enchantment, eh?

I’m really looking forward to hearing from everyone’s input. And I encourage you to do an analysis of the other RNG systems in the game. Fear not; there’s still a lot to say about the game’s obsession with random chance!

The Great Valencian Black Desert is a dangerous place, but thankfully there’s always a chance for respite. Join Massively OP’s Carlo Lacsina every other week for just that in Desert Oasis, our Black Desert column! And don’t worry; he promises he won’t PK you. Got questions or comments? Please don’t hesitate to send a message!
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Robert

Thanks for posting these columns. It’s one of the things I appreciate about Massively – going beyond just “gaming news”.

I really enjoy BDO for all of the things other than the RNG. And I think many people can also enjoy it while avoiding most of the RNG. Yes, I’m a “whale”, so to speak. I don’t spend crazy amounts of money, but surely a bit more each month than the average subscription/premium/patron fee you normally see in a game.

This game is high quality. It looks great and plays great (for me, with a decent rig). It’s open-world. It has tons of content aside from the PvP. I don’t think I’ve explored 25% of the world yet (currently level 56). The crafting / worker empire aspect keeps me busy and actually stops me from advancing. There are just too many systems to complain.

And that’s the funny thing about this game. Read comments here, check out Reddit, check out Discord…not many of the comments are about the core aspects of the game. They center around RNG and P2W for the most part. Yes, there are other (possibly valid) complaints, but those seem like outliers and anecdotes. You won’t see a lot of complains about the graphics (except if you can’t run the game – is that really the game’s fault?); or about the open-world; or about crafting/workers/contribution points; or about progression; or about questing.

You can avoid the RNG in one of two ways. Just don’t participate (I don’t much) and either spend money to get silver (Pearl Shop trades) or earn the silver in-game (grinding, crafting, trading, etc.) to buy what you need.

I get that some people are drawn to RNG (whether they like to or not, and whether they admit it or not), but I for one would rather trade that $20+ outfit for silver rather than “melt” it to better my RNG chances.

Oh, and I forgot the one way you can totally obviate the RNG, although it’s a SLOW and LONG way to go about it – Caphras Stones. You need a metric shit tonne, but I imagine as time goes on they will become a bit easier to come by. Although, TBH, it shouldn’t be easy to get to PEN no matter what you do.

That’s why I just stick with TRI.

Godnaz
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Godnaz

Lovely explanation. I get so triggered when reminded of this game’s progression mechanics.

In order to play the PvE only portion of the game up to its current maximum state, you need full DUO armor with TRI weapons. Un-enhanced rings/accessories would let you grind in most places except the end grind spots. Enough to level to 60+. Don’t even think about PvP in this gear though.

This is why private (rogue) servers exist. Archeage has a private server community that does extremely well because the ruleset is fair, infact support and stability all around is far better than the developers have been able to provide.

BDO has a private server community as well. Black stones, black crystal shards, concentrated stones, and memory fragments have what’s called Bad Luck Protection (guaranteed drop rates) meaning drop rates and failstacks are roughly 5x more successful compared to retail. Pearls are a part of drops (No cash shop. You earn cash shop items ingame), EXP for leveling, life skills, horses and fitness are also 5x, Player to player trading is enabled, Elite Respawns are 5x faster, Selling cash shop items are disabled.

Again, the operators of this community are doing it illegally but provide a far superior service and experience than you can find in the official version and this is the frustrating part of gaming when the playerbase can tell the developer how to make a product better, with a consistent revenue stream to where its a win/win for everyone… and they don’t care to listen or have an agenda for thier own product.

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Robert

While I wouldn’t disagree that the private servers provide members with a different experience they might consider better, I wouldn’t agree that it’s a far superior service. First, let’s recognize that the game needs to be monetized. We can all disagree about how that should be done, but a company that is successful won’t bother being a part of that discussion. Second, this creates a sort of “slippery slope”, because most people who got something free would agree it’s a far superior service to anything that is paid for (even if that service lacks quality).

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Eugene Valentino

I can go all day about this, for example even there marketplace to get elusive items was rng. Hence people trying to snipe items at certain values.

But, with the new marketplace and the vast availability of boss items at certain levels, those looking avoiding to skip the rng can. You just have to earn the coin.
Well at least til the high end or softcap progression.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I adore this game but really wish there were a version of this game with western sensibilities as far as RNG and the cash shop go. I have about 8 months left on my self imposed year break.

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Matt Comstock

You might make mention of how the caphras stones work to help increase item power and ultimately guarantee an enhancement level. For boss gear, it takes an inordinate amount of caphras stones, and caphras stones take an inordinate amount of time and/or money to acquire. I like your quest idea better, though.

IMO, progression should be more grounded in playing the game than in RNG. Yes, the more you play the game, the more money you can get to buy cron stones and the more memory frags you can get from scroll runs to mitigate the inevitable losses to the RNG. But even with all of that playing, which can be an insanely extensive amount of time, you are still not guaranteed to get that enhancement and progression you’re looking for. The RNG can easily snipe all that hard work and time away, as if it had never occurred, and perhaps even set you back an enhancement level.

RNG is why I can typically only take about 1-2 months of BDO at a time, before I tire of the grind, or simply feel I’m not really getting anywhere. I’d have to admit the turf wars over grind spots becomes tiresome, and after I’ve been pk’d enough while minding my own business it is too easy to move on when I feel I’m not progressing.

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PanagiotisLial1

Interesting read. It reminds me enchant systems of old korean and chinese games, although in most chinese games when failing you lost just the enchantment whereas in old korean games you often lost the item

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Arktouros

Rest assured if you fail accessories in Black Desert it just straight up deletes them as well.

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PanagiotisLial1

Yes so a bit of hybrid system, but are accessories as expensive a loss as gears would be? curious on it

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Yoshi Senpai

Yes, easily.

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Witches

I’m an explorer so gear is not important to me, but i really don’t think this is something that can be fixed.

Players finish content much faster than devs can produce new content, so they need a artificial way to keep them around for as long as possible, without rng, that type of player would just leave after reaching max gear, and when a player leaves there’s always a chance he will not return when new content arrives.

This is one downside of not having strong crafting and a player based economy, with those they would have a group of players that aren’t going through content faster than they can handle.

The biggest problem with newer MMOs is how they are over-reliant on combat.

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Ironwu

Wow. I am so happy I walked away from this one. I just wish I had not spent as much for the initial client. Oh well.

I guess lots of folks like the game and its systems. So at least there seems enough interest to keep it going. Just wish it had launched as a free client game since it has ended up firmly in the RNG P2W arena it would seem.

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Yoshi Senpai

I wouldn’t say people like it as it is almost universally hated, but there are a lot of people who will put up with it.

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Arktouros

This pretty much sums up every opinion I’ve gotten about the system. Everyone hates it. People who hate it so much they can’t stand with it quit the game (which is pretty much everyone I’ve ever known who has tried and ended up leaving) and the people who are willing to suffer through it.