Desert Oasis: The problem with Black Desert’s season servers – and how to fix it

What did the tomato's dad say to his son when he started falling behind? "You need to ketchup."

    
11

Black Desert’s had some exceptional growth over the past year. What I’ve always liked about this game is that it’s never tried to be what it’s not. It’s always been a grindy MMORPG where killing mobs is the primary way of getting stronger. So most of its major content updates include more grindspots and better loot. Over the past year, Pearl Abyss has introduced a variety of grind spots for players to make their cash so they can fund their next PEN attempt or purchase from the central market. Most recently, the studio released more difficult versions of some low-level spots for those with the gear to handle it.

But while PA continues to churn out more and more interesting grindspots to loot and pillage, a new issue is making itself obvious: Too few players are strong enough to even get to these spots. This has actually been a festering problem with BDO for a long time now. In order to stay relevant, players need to dedicate a lot of time and energy to ensure their characters continue to grow. And because of the RNG, progression is not always a guarantee. There’s always a chance of failure, and players will have to grind out in the same spots all over again. Basically, getting to the new spots in BDO requires more than just a little luck.

The Maehwa has been my go-to class for season servers. I don’t know if I can make another one. I hate deleting characters

Pearl Abyss has made multiple attempts at getting players caught up, and its most successful attempt came in the form of season servers. But out of nowhere this week, PA announced that there won’t be a spring season. But why? Why is the team suddenly stopping after only three seasons? Weren’t things going honky-dory? Well… kind of.

Season servers as they currently are

Remember how I talked about how great those season servers were when they first came out? Well, they’re still great, but by the third season, I just didn’t have it in me to do another round. Let me quickly explain how they worked: Four servers became special season servers with PvP turned off, with an experience boost, and they could be played only by special seasonal characters. These characters got special gear that’s easier to enhance than boss gear but is just as good. At the end of the season, players had a character that’s powerful enough to grind in higher-end spots. It was exactly what BDO needed at the time. I got a major power boost thanks to these servers.

This is what the early days of a season looks like.

So why suddenly take a break if things are going so well? The problem is that it was getting stale for veteran players. While this was great for many new players, those players who did not do the servers were missing out on some great rewards. The first few times were fine – roll a character, rush through the storyline, finish the season pass, profit. But after the third time, the thought of having to push my way through a crowd of players to finish the 10+ hour storyline was a slog. And then there was the enhancing, which can still be a pain depending on how well the stars aligned on any particular day. It was starting to feel like Groundhog Day.

The core problem was that the rewards were awesome, but the gameplay didn’t change for veteran players. We had to run through the main story quest and rebuild our Tuvala gear. I don’t mind rebuilding the Tuvala gear. The problem was just having to run through the main quests again. It was literally unavoidable. Some parts of the season pass required story progress, and that caused players to get “funneled” into many places. It’s what creates the overcrowding. Having only four servers with no PvP adds to the crowding as well.

BDO’s early just grindspots cannot handle that many players in one space. Mobs die easily in the early zones and take a while to respawn. Players will need to make large rotations in order to maximize on their time on a grindspot, and that’s not usually possible on season servers since players can’t kill each other (unless a guilds declares war on another guild, and that’s just petty if you have to do that in the PvE server). By the third season, I was pretty set on spending as little time on those servers as possible. It just didn’t feel worth it to me, even if it meant missing out on some sweet rewards. And this was supposed to be fun!

How can they improve?

Lets look at Diablo III for a moment. It’s got a new season coming April 2nd. The seasons have been pretty well-received by actual players over the years, in spite of the game’s reputation in the wider gaming world. It has two game modes, the main story quest and the adventure mode. Adventure mode unlocks after players complete the story on their accounts once. Since the inception of those seasons, I’ve probably participated a handful of times, and it’s always been in adventure mode. I like starting over, but I especially love the freedom. As soon as I roll a character, I’m running nephalim rifts or those mini quests. Both ways are rewarding ways to progress, and players feel some agency in how to go about it. I wish Pearl Abyss would take note of that.

This spot is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most fun places to grind in! Just an example of what players miss out on

Here’s what I think would be a great way to adapt that for Black Desert Online: After players have gotten one character to a certain point in the story or gear score, they could access a season server for veteran players. Characters they rolled could begin at level 58, have a full set of TRI Tuvala gear, and begin grinding out the time stones to get their Tuvala gear enhanced. In order to give players the space needed, this server could increase all the Serendia, Calpheon and Balenos grindspots to require 150+ gearscore and drop a special item that sells well at the merchant.

I know all of this is possible. Why TRI? Well, after players complete the Mediah storyline, they can trade in their PEN Naru gear for it anyway. With the introduction of more difficult grindspots in Serendia and Balenos, we know it’s possible for Pearl Abyss to tweak mob strength. And 58 is where I feel the game “starts.”

There’s so many ways the studio can improve it, but at the end of the day, these servers need to exist so players can start playing the more difficult grindspots and start spreading out. If a player quits while he’s still grinding at blood wolves, then he won’t ever see how the combat changes from a design where players are madly dashing from one mob to another to one where players have to carefully approach each mob and be mindful of their moveset rather than just facerolling everything.

Blood Wolves.

I think it’s a good thing Pearl Abyss is taking a break from season servers. The first three were successful, and a lot of players were looking forward to the newest season. But it’s just as important to leverage the needs of players who need the help to get into higher-level content – and not bore everyone to death with repetition. Here’s to seeing the new and improved season servers for the summer!

 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! Got questions or comments? Send him a message or drop by his Twitch channel to hang out while he’s streaming the game!
Advertisement

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Chaos Engine

Actually it DID try to be what it’s not: A battle royale game.

But that concept flopped and got removed from the game and packaged into a spin-off.

Reader
Natalyia

The killer for me is the higher-end gear enhancement. The entire process is at best not fun, and at worst it’s soul-crushing.

The cascade failures past TRI, the accessories that just go “poof” on failure, the craziness of building “failstacks” and having *that* fail and then the back-and-forth to start again?

None of it’s fun. I put up with it once on the season server where the odds were much better to succeed, you got thrown resources to help, and I had the hoard of stuff I’d squirreled away since launch, and I *almost* got a full set of Pen Naru gear. One glove short.

I have *zero* desire to do it again, or try to go farther with even worst odds on anything else. The lure of the newer areas is real, but I’d much rather take another character through the 1-58 story than sit there banging my head against the keyboard as another item fell all the way back to DUO while I ping-ponged between characters with the right failstacks and all that nonsense.

When gear past TRI was “uber” and nobody needed it for the world? Making that a chase-goal was fine. But making it a requirement to go play in the new areas? Nope. Not interested. The rewards in the new areas are what – gear that I can throw even more resources at the miserable enhancement system? Not happening.

BDO is a gorgeous game, but the high-end of the gearing system has always been just ludicrous, and no matter how much free help they give you? The actual process of trying to do it isn’t fun. That’s what they need to fix. They could start by just giving up on the “failing makes things worse” idea for enhancement.

Reader
Meanie

This is pretty much my experience but I tapped out far earlier than you may have. There’s few MMORPGs that I’ve been able to stick through the long haul with but BDO was one of them. As soon as I hit the point where I started needing to excessively generate “fail stacks” across multiple characters I just gave up. I’m not even into super grind games but they had drawn me in and then completely lost me when it turned into an absurd RNG fest

Reader
Ironwu

I was considering returning to BD when I found out about the ‘Season Servers’. I immediately discarded that idea when research told me that your characters get booted off the Season Server at the end of the season and onto regular a regular PvP server.

No thanks. Call me when they have permanent PvE servers with ‘Flag Only’ PvP.

Reader
Katzvariak

Then you woudnt be playing BDO for foreseeable future.

((Edited by mod to remove trolling. Please review the commenting code.))

Reader
Ironwu

Your advice is very good!

I will certainly have my gaming time and my purchases on games other than BDO. :)

Never tried Hello Kitty Online. I am sure lots of folks like it, but probably not for me.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I made a character at the end of this season a few weeks ago. I haven’t really played the last few years. I LOVED it. I was only sticking around so I could make a Sage for next season which I was hoping was soon. It’s too bad.

You know what they could do seeing as 3 of the 4 servers are PvE season servers? Do it like GW2 and have shared EXP and loot if you tagged a mob regardless of whether you are in a party or not.

You know what else is true about the Season Servers? 3 of the 4 are ALWAYS full whilst the lone PvP season server is not.

They need to just add permanent PvE only servers. It’s what people want. PvPers should only be concerned with PvPing vs. people who also want to PvP anyways. In the year 2021 can we do away with non-consensual, trolly ganking please? I was over it in 2003.

People on forums used to LAMBASTE me for saying a PvE only version of Conan or an MMO works. Valheim proves it works in games like Conan and BDO is literally only a few steps away from being like GW2 if they added shared EXP and loot on a permanent server. You know how much less toxic chat is in non PvP(lol its not PvP its gank servers)servers? It’s SO much less toxic.

Hey MO makers: Stop catering to trolls and caustic morons out to ruin peoples’ free time.

Reader
Meanie

Maybe I’m unfamiliar with if there are really large servers but how does Valheim solve this issue as it seems to house no more than like 10 people?

BDO is an MMORPG and Valheim is just a MO, doesn’t seem fair to equate them nor use valheim as some shining example of a solution. Plenty of MMORPGs have offered opt in PVP in the open world, BDO is just not one of them so far.

Reader
styopa

Grind is bad enough. Some people maybe like it, but I find it mindlessly boring.

I play games to be distracted from the cares of daily life, not to do something so mundane and repetitive that I have to watch netflix in a pip window to keep from getting bored.

And then to play a game in which the “rewards” from that grind aren’t actual progress (in the Skinner-box analogous endorphin-rush of improved gear that is the MMO paradigm…) but the merest chances of progress in an RNG gear-improvement system that doesn’t just offer you failure but PUNISHES YOU FOR TRYING ?

So many levels of “hell no”.

I’m surprised people find that fun, when the voices against things like xp death-penalty in games is so universal.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

BDO does a lot of things wrong, but it does do a few things right. A huge part of any MMO is progression and BDO has in loads. Its definitely a brutal and RNG heavy progression that is annoying and frustrating to an extreme extent. But they maintain a very healthy player base because the things that BDO does right, life skilling, combat, classes and just the way the world is built to flow from one biome to the next feels like an actual world. It keeps people interested.

Things like EXP penalty on death is not as universal as it might seem just because a large portion of MMO players have barely stepped outside of WoW or FFXIV. Death penalties have been a major “feature” of a lot of MMOs. Do people like it when they die and lose something? Of course not, but it creates a risk there that a lot of people might not directly enjoy – not the same way some might say hey that was fun.

Things add up to create a certain experience and death penalties can lend itself to that environment. It can create a purpose to what you are doing. A lot of MMOs these days you can just throw your body at whatever it is you are doing. In BDO you can’t do that, you need to plan and think about what you are doing or you get punished.

Its really sad to me that BDO has come so close to being “THAT” MMO for me and a lot of others. But it falls short because of the things it does wrong. RNG in every aspect of the game. Every class is a DPS and gender locked. No trading between players. No real challenging PvE. Everything being predominantly solo oriented. BDO could have been a way bigger MMO than it even currently is, if PA knew their player base better.