Choose My Adventure: Black Desert should have gotten MMO of the Year

    
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I can admit when I’m wrong. It happens often enough, that’s for damn sure, and part of learning from a mistake is admitting that one was made in the first place. That’s definitely where I am with regards to my feeling about Black Desert and how many of our readers (and two of our staff) felt it should have gotten 2019’s MMORPG of the Year award, which is effectively part of what spurred my choice for this month’s Choose My Adventure.

I recall writing a fair number of news stories for Black Desert over the course of 2019, so it certainly was a game that was on my own personal radar. At the same time, I admit that I was holding on to a lot of old prejudices about the game beforehand. I recall a game that was fun enough and certainly flashy enough. I recall a pretty good active combat system. I recall the world being pretty. But I also recall some boredom with the gameplay, general indifference to the classes I had chosen up to that point, and a wholly forgettable world from a lore standpoint.

That said, I also was paying attention to the sheer regular number of updates that Black Desert seemed to be making over the course of the year, and how generally happy players of the game seemed to be, both of which indicated an MMORPG that’s in good health. Those thoughts were foremost in my mind, and the time I spent with the mobile version of the game for this very column pretty much forced my hand forward, and I’m glad I was able to give it more of a chance.

I admit that I’ve done a few things wrong with this game even with the focus for this column. I also am not wholly convinced most of those mistakes are entirely my fault. For example, while the very brass tacks basics of playing Black Desert are pretty well spoon fed, the actual meat of the game’s activities are really not layered on very well. I’ve had to pester our BDO columnist Carlo with absolutely dumb questions and had to suffer YouTuber video guides (“What’s goin’ on guys, Gamer Mike here with another HAWT tip video…”) in order to even get an opening step on some of the more intriguing things you can do.

In fact, I dare say that Black Desert needs to take a lesson from itself; the mobile version of the game peels back the onion layers in a fantastic and rational way, and also has a variety of UI elements that alerted me to things that could be upgraded, completed, turned in, or otherwise done. I’m not exactly advocating for a cluttered UI, but at least a few cleanly arranged things to help me along a bit.

What’s positive about all of that, though, is that I felt like I made the barest, most cursory steps in those directions. I don’t mind figuring out deep and complex game systems if they’re interesting enough to actually do, and nearly every extra activity I was pointed towards in Black Desert was legitimately engaging, engrossing, or otherwise made me curious enough to want to learn more. Fishing, for example, is way more fun than I had ever anticipated it being. Active fishing, anyway — I understand there’s AFK fishing that can be done, which is probably more efficient but also just sounds spectacularly boring on paper.

And then, of course, there’s the meat and potatoes of Black Desert for me: the combat. My goodness the combat. Or, more specifically, the Lahn combat. I really wish I had tried this class a lot sooner, because everything about the Lahn is a huge deal of fun for me. Moves flow from one into the next in such a seamless and creamy way. Learning my combo paths (yes I’m still looking at this game’s combat like a fighting game) has been a delight. And on top of that, everything just looks badass, which is just as important to combat for me as being numerically powerful. What’s the point of having big stats and new gear if the attacks your lashing out with don’t feel and look great?

The game is certainly not without some issues, onboarding aside. I kind of wish it was a bit more optimized when entering a crowded area, I really wish the story was actually interesting in some manner, and I can totally get where this game can likely seem grindy and turn into a time sink. I kind of want that, though. I don’t mind grind if it’s pleasant and enjoyable enough. There are times when you just want to hit buttons, smash faces, and get a bit closer to an ultimate goal (Diablo III seasons, anyone?). I think the biggest complaint I have about Black Desert is that it’s so dense, so rich, and so full of things to explore that I worry I won’t be able to balance my time between it and Final Fantasy XIV very well. This is a pretty comfortable problem to have, ultimately.

So, yes. You’re right. Black Desert should have gotten my vote for game of the year. I was wrong, I admit it, but boy am I having fun learning this now.

We’re moving on for the purposes of this column, though, from Black Desert to Albion Online as voted by you fine folks. Of course, that means figuring out exactly how to get started, and that means polls! Both of them are perhaps kind of obvious questions, but they must be asked regardless. Otherwise this turns into a personal blog and nobody wants to just read that. So, with that in mind, let’s figure out the first poll: Which build should I try to focus on?

Which weapon should I try to build for? Choose My Armament!

  • Swords/Daggers. Something something pointy end. (27%, 40 Votes)
  • Staff. Wizard time! (33%, 48 Votes)
  • Blunt Weapons. Bonk them in the head. (23%, 34 Votes)
  • Bows. Keep your distance and pepper things with arrows. (17%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 147

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The second poll is another perhaps obvious question, but I figured I should ask it anyway: Should I try to make my way into a guild, or just take my first steps solo? Yes, I am actually asking. Stop laughing at me.

Should I find a guild or hop in solo?

  • Go it alone. Let's see how far you get by yourself. (54%, 78 Votes)
  • Find a guild. For the love of Pete, please, find a guild you huge numpty. (46%, 66 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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Like usual, polling closes at 1:00 p.m. EST this coming Friday, March 6th. In the meantime, I’m going to see if I can figure out more things in Black Desert without resorting to YouTube video guides. Wish me luck!

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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Damon Anderson

Good luck in Albion, It’s a lot of fun and is very soloable if you haven’t played it before. Hint faction capes.

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Bluxwave

I dont care what anyone says… ive played most MMOs and BDO is #1 by far and has made only decent changes.

Current play time for me is from beta all the way to today….. with only about 9 months off the game.

Love me some Kuno!

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Brown Jenkin

I’ve always found the disdain for BDO puzzling. Like obviously different strokes for different folks, but the core of my argument against BDO has always been the never-ending grind and progression system, both of which *most* MMO players seem to actually enjoy. Visually the game is stunning. The systems are rich (non-combat systems), and combat is imo best in class for the genre.

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tykytys

I just returned to the game after 1.5 years or so and so I’m back in the honeymoon phase. I’m getting a handle this time around on what I enjoy, what I don’t, and what absolutely turns me off about the game.

I’ll practice avoidant behavior and simply ignore stuff like RNG enchantment and AFK lifeskilling. Instead, I’ll concentrate on exploring and levelling up alts and once that becomes boring, I’ll set the game aside again.

Sure, I won’t be “efficient” since I’ll “waste” a lot of enchanting items to guarantee that my weapons and armor will increase in power (and/or I’ll “waste” in-game money to buy enough of these items to make that happen). And I won’t become rich from leaving my computer on overnight fishing. Good enough for me.

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Brown Jenkin

Yep that’s definitely the way for me to enjoy BDO. So long as I ignore everything about potentially being competitive in the game, its damn-near perfect for me. I essentially can’t play it as an MMO rather than an Action RPG to play with friends.

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Loopy

ITT: people trying to persuade other people that their likes/dislikes are wrong.

I personally don’t play BDO, as i can’t stand its nonsensical storytelling, poorly localized dialogue, and nonexistent tutorials for various crafting systems, but i don’t go around telling others not to play the game. It’s not my place to try and persuade somebody who enjoys the game that they’re wrong to have fun.

Gamer community is so hellbent on ensuring that everyone exclusively shares their interests, and the amount of gatekeeping is just staggering.

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Zero_1_Zerum

Does BDO have non-consensual PVP? Yes? Then it can’t ever be Game of the Year.

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John Mynard

I’ve played the game on and off for several years and haven’t ever really had a problem. I just avoid the Node War servers.

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traja

There is only so much unhappiness that you can find in the active player base of an older MMO that isn’t WoW. Because of course those who were really unhappy left long ago and those still around will be the ones that weren’t that unhappy. It’s the MMO equivalent of the anthropic principle.

WoW is the exception because that game has a huge base that will never leave it no matter what. They will keep playing while actively hating the game.

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elenie

As someone who can take or leave combat, BDO continues to be a huge disappointment (to me). I really wanted to get into horse/pet breeding but it’s so much RNG (like seriously, more RNG than Blizzard’s games) and in addition you’re expected to run the game afk for many hours a day to skill up horses…

Adding to this the issues with story and community, to me the game is clearly inferior to games like ESO and FFXIV (my pick for GOTY and I was really surprised so few seemed to share my view on this). Still, glad a lot of others are enjoying the game and if one day they cut down on the RNG and mandatory afk-grinding I may well be back.

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tykytys

These have always been my exact concerns, and I’ve been playing on and off (mostly off) since NA launch in like 2016 (pre-ordered and everything). This go-around, though, I’ve decided to politely disagree with the game on its RNG and AFK foci and just accept that I won’t be as rich or as powerful as others who engage in those behaviors. Instead, my immediate goal is to reach lvl. 56 on a Shai and get an improved donkey mount…baby steps, I know.

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Bluxwave

you can run BDO in the background while you play ESO and FFX

And lvl horses if you wish?!

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elenie

I tried that for a time – but it’s just not fun for me to run the game AFK for days just to have a better chance of a good outcome of one or two breeds.
I like to actually play the game and love going out catching wild horses, for example – I guess I’d be more ok with setting the game to train horses while I’m logged off (or let me give them to an NPC to train over a few hours/days regardless of my online status).
In the end BDO didn’t feel like it fit my (somewhat unusual) playstyle, whereas ESO and especially FFXIV cater to a lot of different people. That said, clearly BDO does have a lot of fans who like what the game can offer them and that’s great.

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rafael12104

Hmm. So, I’ve been playing BDO on and off since launch. I’ve been playing ESO on and off since launch as well. And as it relates to this topic I believe both were deserving of MMO of the year.

It is not a cop out. They both have traveled similar roads and have come out the other side through hard work and determination.

In short both had rough starts, ESO much more than BDO, but despite the issues, some valid, some not, they both had the backing to hang in there.

They both worked hard to realize their MMORPGS, (BDO Combat and Graphics, ESO Crafting, Dungeons, Graphics) and both deliver great MMORPG experiences.

Are they perfect? No. Not by a long shot. BUT they are true MMORPGs and that is important. They aren’t hybrids, they stayed true to the RPG elements and are truly vast expansive worlds.

So, sure BDO should get a shout out. But ESO is deserving as well.

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Arktouros

Also you :)

Hmm. Nah, it’s not ESO. It’s close but I can’t give ESO the nod.

I returned to ESO in full force this year and had a blast. Where the game is now as compared to where it was a few years ago is night and day. ESO is thriving and almost everything has been improved.

Almost everything…

The activity finder issues can not be ignored and drove me and several other players away. With Mega-servers in place there is no excuse for 2 hour waits in activity finder. They haven’t been able to come up with an efficient way to match players up. And it really hurts when you are relying on group runs daily.

So, no. ESO is a great MMORPG but a few seemingly inherent problems will keep it from the top spot.

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rafael12104

Ah, the old activity finder issues. And they are old too. There is no denying it, activity finder is a big sore point. I hate that after all the hard work they have done they can’t seem to deal with activity finder.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

how generally happy players of the game seemed to be

Oh Chris. It is perfectly ok to say that YOU like the game. It is not ok to lie about what others think, especially such false generalizations. “Generally happy”? Take a look at this thread by actual players, there are plenty of unhappy people, including the person who posted text in screenshot:

Is he right? (BDO) from MMORPG

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Arktouros

I would argue those people aren’t players anymore. The rest of us actually playing are reasonably happy. I mean you’re always going to get grumbles out of people playing a particular game of course, but we’re still playing the game. This wasn’t always the case, and there was a long period where PA/Kakao could do no good (looking at you 2017 era BDO).

However most of what that person typed up is pretty much nonsense or things people actually playing the game don’t worry about. Like saying the PvE/end game is non-existent isn’t really accurate. What the game lacks is scripted PvE content such as dungeons, raids and otherwise. That’s because this isn’t that type of game. It’d be like complaining that I can’t play World of Warcraft exclusively as a crafter and there’s no end game crafting content. I mean, okay? But that’s not what the game is trying to be nor is BDO trying to offer some sort of scripted game content experience.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

I would argue those people aren’t players anymore.

But they were players at some point. And this still doesn’t change the fact that plenty of people are unhappy with the game, whether they stopped playing or continue playing. There are still plenty of unhappy players who keep logging in from time to time to do fishing or pet breeding or some crafting because the game is free to play and they just do not want to give other games a try or just did not like other games or are waiting for the other MMO to release a new expansion (one of the greatest flaw of PvE MMORPGs) – I know this because I have few people in various Discords who do that. Should their unhappiness also be disregarded? ;-)

But that’s not what the game is trying to be nor is BDO trying to offer some sort of scripted game content experience.

Sure, but that does not make the complaint about lack of such content invalid ;-) A good game should always strive to satisfy the preferences of as many players as possible.

This is like with EVE Online: the game does have forced PvP by design and a lot of people who do not like forced PvP have a perfectly valid reason to criticize it for that even though this is “not what the game is trying to be” ;-) It also has A LOT of unhappy players who still play it because of same reasons I stated above (they are too lazy to try something else, or have tried many other games already and were not satisfied with them, or playing it because they are finished with all content in other MMORPGs and are waiting for new expansions in those games).

Also, here is a funny screenshot related to your own false assumption that “people who are unhappy with game are not playing it anymore”:

bdo.PNG
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Arktouros

However again Chris’s point was that of the people who are actually playing the game most of us are pretty happy with it. Does that mean I’m 100% satisfied and have nothing to grumble about? Of course not. Then again I don’t think it’s possible to find any game where you can’t find some player in the game grumbling about it.

Also 1000 hours isn’t shit. I know it seems like a lot, wow 1000 hours! My AFK fisher character has 354d 8h 31m played on it. By “played” I mean I sit there AFK for 16+ hours a day AFK fishing rather than actually playing. In total I’m long past the 20000 hour mark on my account, I think I have a pretty good grasp of what the game is all about. More over just because he mostly AFK’d for 1000 hours doesn’t mean he’s still actually playing the game so your “hilarious” screenshot doesn’t show anything you think it does.

Sure, but that does not make the complaint about lack of such content invalid ;-) A good game should always strive to satisfy the preferences of as many players as possible.

No. That’s objectively wrong. Most games out there are constantly derided as trying to be everything and ultimately nothing to no one. WOW isn’t a bad game because I can’t play as a crafter as a fully supported play style. CS:GO isn’t bad because it has no selection of Pole Arms to melee opponents with. That just isn’t valid criticism. What that shows is a person who is unwilling to take responsibility for their own decisions in deciding to play a sandbox like game with open ended objectives and then when they didn’t want to play that kind of game they blame the game instead of themselves. That’s entirely on them, not the game.

But I’ll remember your argument next time you bring up bitching about New World and your stance that they should always strive to satisfy the preferences as many players as possible which you clearly don’t believe.

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Steven Williams

You’ve jumped through a lot of mental hoops to defend this game, man.

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Arktouros

Just trying to keep up with the circus act before me throwing out platitudes like games should try to satisfy everyone when anyone who can think through what that statement means for 5 seconds knows that’s literally impossible.

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NecroFox4

Why bother with the mental gymnastics?

Some people dislike the game. Some people like the game.

Dislike it? Cool. Voice your opinions to the devs; maybe they listen, maybe they don’t. Sick of playing it? Also cool. Go take a break, or play something else. It’s your life, you consume the entertainment however you want.

Like it? Cool.

I like it. Would be cooler if everybody did, but to each their own.

Not sure how you can read so much into a fully qualified statement like “…generally happy players of the game seemed to be…” – but hey, whatevs. Do your thing. I’ll be fishing near Velia or something.

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Bluxwave

I’m afraid people just want more more more more….

And then when they get it they go, what no potato with it?

BDO is a beauty and fine.

So are many other games. I like study and talking via txt to mates and doing writing. while playing AFK BDO

Cant AFK ESO, or GW2 or many others.

In fact right now I’m going to AFK EVE and AFK BDO at the same time.

Brilliant!! and I still have time to type this while playing 2 games at once!

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Absolutely not. Last year was the year of ESO, hands down. It wasn’t just the many game updates, though they were a big part of it. It was the community features outside of the game that they went so above and beyond with last year too.

There is no question that we got it right. 2019 was absolutely the year of Elder Scrolls Online.

We voted and picked that, by a very big margin. 781 votes to Black Desert’s 156. You let us pick and we made the right choice. I get that this is an opinion title, but considering the landslide that ESO won by, it feels sort of weird for you to contradict so many of us and the choice we made.

Black Desert should not have won, the right game did win. Heck, Black Desert didn’t have many more votes than Guild Wars 2, which by all accounts had a pretty bad year last year.

If you wanted to debate that Final Fantasy XIV should have won for some reason, you may have had more of a leg to stand on. A lot of people were into that this past year as well. But it wasn’t close to the year of Black Desert.

If ESO didn’t win, I really would have felt there was something seriously wrong with the voting considering just how beyond they went this past year. They didn’t just deserve it, but deserved it fairly obviously. I swear I almost feel like you’re trolling us :P

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Sorenthaz

Still wish I could get into ESO and stick with it for awhile. Every time I do it’s easy to get lost in what to do and I just stop hopping onto it.

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Arktouros

Using the population of people here as a metric to measure the popularity of a game or how well it’s doing is faulty on many levels primarily of which you’re talking about a poll that consisted of a little over 2000 people in a genre of millions.

Every game had major updates throughout the year. That’s the nature of every MMO business model. In the GOTY thread there you can see the laundry list of major updates deployed to BDO in 2019 and they basically dwarf ESO’s sporadic updates. No other game updates their game as much as BDO does. Period. Every week you have a new release rolling out changes and updates to the game. And we’re not talking about 10 line updates, actual game updates with new systems, new overhauls and big changes constantly coming.

If anything this CMA shows exactly why a game like BDO doesn’t get the credit it deserves, because it’s so involved to get into. Even the main BDO writer (Carlo) doesn’t know enough about lifeskills cause of their depth and complexity to them. It’s very easy to play the game, not have your hand held through some “you are the chosen one” storyline, and walk away with a bad impression. When you look at most of the criticism of BDO it reflects that.