By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG/MMOHuts General Manager
Last week I wrote up a brief overview of our E3 2013 interview with Brian Oh, Pearl Abyss’ CFO, on Black Desert. Well now that the rush of E3 is over I had a chance to upload a massive series of new screenshots (sorry Firefox viewable gallery only. We’re working on it!) along with a more in-depth look at the features that combine to make Black Desert one of the most unique looking worlds ever brought to the MMO sphere. By the time you’re done reading, you will understand just why Pearl Abyss is the developer with the vision to change everything!
Introduction to Pearl Abyss’ World Vision
For starters do you know anything about Black Desert? If not it’s key to know this game is aiming to be the definition of the often used yet almost always improperly labeled “Next-Gen” MMORPG. Console level graphics, smooth action gameplay, and huge castle raid PvP battles set the stage for a game that introduces elements such as real estate management, item manufacturing, dangerous transportation of goods, and plenty of other elements to make the world feel vibrant and realistic. However don’t confuse realism with tedious gameplay elements as many sandbox titles before it have failed to understand. Players will be able to hire NPCs to take care of some of the less enjoyable elements of crafting while they focus on the action and fun!
In terms of combat itself, it’s important to understand that quite a few members of the Pearl Abyss team were involved with developing C9. As such you can impact real impact to follow attacks with a physics engine capable of rendering these animations in real time in an open world setting, rather than C9’s instanced system. This action physics combat system is obviously very cutting edge and wasn’t even a possibility during C9’s development era.
Now if you’re worried that by the time Black Desert reaches the west (an understable concern since sometimes it takes up to four years after Korean launch for some MMOs to hit stateside and even longer in Europe), there’s a key element that will leave you waiting for Black Desert. This isn’t another Unreal 3 or CryEngine MMORPG pushing FPS engines into the MMO realm. Pearl Abyss built a custom engine from the ground up to allow for their large scale castle siege system to take place smoothly in a persistent world. Their current challenge now is scaling the engine to run smoothly on lower-end PCs without ruining the beautiful experience that high-end PCs can currently experience in the game.
One of the primary limitations so far seems to be limited to land-based combat only. Though Pearl Abyss won’t count out future water or air combat systems, they currently are focused on trial and error tests to get the core combat system up to the “Next-Gen” level before even considering it.
Roleplayers and those that prefer to know what kind of story exists for the setting can expect some rather typical elements such as ‘two nations’ and ‘endless war.’ This exists between the spiritually focused citizens of the Kingdom of Valencia against the materialistic Republic of Calpheon. These two nations have recently begun battling for control of the world’s most powerful resource, Black Stone, found within the expansive desert that separates the two nations. However where you would expect players of these two nations to be locked in endless faction war, Pearl Abyss seems to hint at plans that taking sides between the two nations might not be as black and white as one would expect. Yes Pkers that means open PvP is included with assuredly some limitations involved. Overall the focus on warfare between guilds will be the primary storyline of the game, created by the players – for the players.
Pearl Abyss is aiming to set their title in a world not unlike the period of transition from the middle-ages to renaissance in Europe and western Eurasia. This is well represented in the cultural differences driving the two nations apart as well as the technology, fashion, and siege weaponry you’re going to come across in your travels. The choice of placing the majority of the world within a vast desert was done for the purpose of capturing an atmosphere of harsh mystery and ancient ruins waiting to be discovered. Combined with the addition of magic and war over resources should strike the playerbase and send chills down your spine as great treasure or murderous foes might wait behind each sand dune.
Customization and Character Creation
While Brian Oh revealed to me during our E3 interview that various classes would be locked to set races, it’s good to know that this likely won’t be the case for gender. Beyond just aesthetics, they intend to have subtle differences between how male vs female versions of the same class play out, though it’s so early in testing that nothing definitive can be offered.
As for actual facial and body customization to differentiate your appearance, Pearl Abyss is willing to give players as much freedom as possible without distorting their vision of Black Desert. That means you can count oblong heads, distended arms, and other unnatural oddities out. It’s worth noting that until they lock in regional publishers in the west, they won’t know for certain if the character creation will remain the same as its intended version in Korea.
PvE, Progression, and Mounted Combat
In terms of party balance, you can expect a similar philosophy to C9 in that the dedicated Trinity is off the table. They believe all players should be focused on dealing some sort of damage while using skill and smart placement to survive long enough to overcome their foes. They’re also not fans of stealth mechanics in a siege focused PvP title like this but are listening to player feedback and might consider testing it if demand is high enough. Though its hinted that some classes will be superior at blocking or have more skills related to dodging, so that may play some part in considering who is on the frontline vs hiding in the shadows when it comes to fighting major monsters in the game.
Surprisingly for a title pushing the envelope in so many areas, Pearl Abyss seems to be taking a more modest approach in actual character building options. Players will progress and learn more about the endless war through a series of questlines that will level them up while opening up various class-based skill trees to learn new abilities from.
Beyond standard quests, you will be able to stumble across plenty of challenging instanced dungeons as well as open ‘field dungeons’ more commonly referred to in the west as public quests since they’re essentially dungeons with no loading time or player number limitations when gaining access. It should be noted that a variety of dungeon styles will exist from the simplistic kill and conquer dungeons to escort missions and even some totally off the wall concepts like saving cats stuck in trees or catching fleeing bandits. Through these means and other undisclosed options, players will eventually hit the soft level cap of 50 (ETA 1-2 months). Dedicated players can continue to obtain new skills beyond this but at a more exponential experience curve.
When transitioning these skills into actual gameplay, they believe in avoiding an overly tiresome Action system akin to fighting games since an MMORPG will likely require longer hours of gameplay compared to a title like C9 where you just need to jump in for a quick scenario. As such dodge/defensive skills are mapped to Q, E, and R by default and have a much more forgiving window of dodge/invulnerability compared to C9. Stamina limiters will be rare on these defensive skills (I’m assuming this means you’ll be more concerned about cool-downs than needing to choose between offensive vs defensive skill use), in an attempt to keep the action combat system less complex for users. Fighting game style combo systems will be toned down versus C9 as well to prevent ridiculous 50+ juggling systems in exchange for more blunt and powerful hit vs miss skill shots.
In our recap article I mentioned that mounted combat would be a huge part of the game that could be individually leveled up and mastered given enough practice. Now it seems that bonuses to your standard abilities can even be attained from higher levels of mastery such as knock-downs/stuns. Given castle siege will involve breaking through enemy barricades and defensive fortifications, it will be vital for members of your guild to master high speed mounted combat to utilize hit and run tactics to break these barricades down with minimal casualties. Though due to the high mobility these mounts offer, the hit box measured on ranged attacks will be more forgiving than some other titles in the action MMO genre. Granted with enough numbers you can just pull ladders up to your enemy’s walls and scale right into the archers’ sniping spots.
Housing and Guild Systems
Being a sandbox title, it makes sense community will play a huge part of your experience in Black Desert. This comes primarily from the housing and guild system.
Guilds come in three formats, namely Militaristic, Religious, and Trading. While details on the religious faction are still pretty scarce, the militaristic factions will focus their resources on improved castle siege mechanics while trading factions will be involved in delivering goods for the auction system and producing more efficient crafting stations.
And yes you read that right. Large material purchases must actually be delivered by caravans that can be intercepted by less scrupulous players looking to make a quick buck. This is likely where having a few good mounted combat specialists is going to make the difference between a happy customer and a negative complaint on your trading company!
In terms of guild housing, this ties directly into the housing auction system. Every 3 months players can bid to own property in one of the many cities of the world. With this housing site you can choose to establish a guild hall, or outfit the building into one of various merchanting shops with specialized equipment to produce finer crafts. This will combine with a player’s personal crafting mastery to decide success and processing speed of building various items. Players can also choose to circumvent caravan transports by hiring NPCs to sell goods within their shop directly to visitors. And when you log-off just lock up your shop’s doors to keep your wares safe till you return.
Though be warned housing is not for everyone. They’re looking to provide between 1k and 2k total houses per server which they estimate will only be 25% to 30% of a server’s population. Those looking for extra storage will need to set up mobile campsites. Again, details limited and still being tested on said mobile campsites.
Needless to say, Pearl Abyss is pushing the boundaries of what most MMO gamers considered possible. Can they pull it off? What would you like to see included? Feel free to visit our community forums and ring up a conversation with others on this fascinating upcoming MMO.