Pearly Abyss had its first Fanfest called “Into the Abyss” at the Regal LA LIVE Stadium 14 during E3 2018. While I may not be a core Black Desert Online player, I’ve played the game for a few levels, kept up on some of the PvP news, and somehow was lucky enough to represent MMOGames at the festival this year. CEO Robin Jung hopes this will be one of many, as the company certainly wishes to grow beyond a single PC game.
One of the nice parts about the festival was that it wasn’t just the team giving itself a pat on the back. Yes, we were given some interesting information, like a representative from Samsung saying the mobile version of Black Desert Online is one of the top data-eaters on people’s cell phones in Korea, up there with Facebook, and it’s currently the #1 mobile MMO title (which means something there). The game has apparently been translated into 12 languages and is available in more than 150 countries. It’s neat information, but the series of collected fan questions answered was meatier.
For example, the company name: Pearl Abyss. The idea is that it’s light in the darkness. Something precious from the deep. However, it’s also just a “gorgeous name.” It’s funny to see the developers go from something serious and deep sounding to admitting that their name just had a nice ring to it.
For those wondering why the game isn’t big on instanced dungeons and raids, it’s because Pearl Abyss didn’t think they felt right. They actually had over a hundred dungeons before they realized they wanted a living game world in a persistent space. It wasn’t an executive decision, but something everyone had a chance to express their opinion about before they reached a consensus to ax their babies. It’s naturally hard to make a great game with a single “voice” with so many developers and so many of their own passions, but the fans come first. Hidden caves felt more fun than another static pocket in the world.
The other part here is that by talking these things out, the team can avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again. There’s a certain balance between realism and convenience that the team straddles, and communicating this and trying to keep everyone on the same page ensures that the company is developing content for its actual audience.
Raids are a similar issue. It’s not that outdoor raids are impossible to craft, but they’re certainly more difficult, which is why Pearl Abyss chooses to put manpower elsewhere. Like in its mobile game. While not exactly a 1-to-1 recreation of the original BDO, there’s enough in common that people who played on the PC should feel at home. The same idea is mostly true for the upcoming Xbox version of the game. I was told the console version is 99.9% the same in terms of familiar aspects of the game, like classes, attacks, fishing… the 0.1% is only to account for error, supposedly.
Part of this includes the fact that the game needed a control and UI overhaul. While it’s physically possible to just shove the console players together with PC fans, it creates problems. Using the PC UI on consoles would be rough, much like with mobile being, well, literally smaller. Changes need to be made not just to fit the machine, but audience expectations. For example, you can’t maximize text windows outside of the PC game, but looting is handled differently. PC gamers have their mouse and incredibly versatile keyboard of many buttons. Phones have a small touch screen while console has buttons. While you could just have a lot of combos, changing the UI to do things like having an option wheel helps greatly. Sadly, it’s not enough to close the advantage gap between PC gamers and console controllers, so don’t expect to see cross-platform play.
However, Pearl Abyss also said they want the game to be available on every platform. No names were dropped, but it’s not like there are too many consoles to imagine (unless Pearl Abyss also wants to create games for pagers). Focusing on the present, however, you’ll have to remember that Black Desert Online isn’t launching on the Xbox One, it’s starting a beta this fall. That beta is there because the team knows there are bugs to fish, optimizations to make, and a UI to tweak, all based on what players find in the beta. That’s what it’s there for! The hope is that the beta won’t last too long, but it seems to have an understandable goal even an EA leery vet like myself can appreciate at face value.
Console is just another long arm of Black Desert though. While this will be the third platform for the game, the team does feel their world has so much more it can share. There are some ideas and projects related to spinoffs that would also take place in the Black Desert world, but there was nothing specific to mention at the time. With that in mind though, the team also doesn’t want to pigeonhole itself. They’re working with Counter-Strike co-creator Minh Le to create an unnamed FPS. We’ll have to wait and see where that goes in the future.
Hands-on With Black Desert’s Mobile Self
To be completely fair, I really haven’t enjoyed any core mobile MMOs. The genre generally doesn’t feel like it lends itself well to the smaller screen for me. I dislike the 2.5 perspective they use. Automating a lot of the work is boring. Black Desert’s mobile version does a lot of this but, somehow, works. Part of it may be because our characters were pre-leveled and equipped. Spamming buttons made things die, and that can be highly satisfying sometimes, especially when you’re feeling casual.
In the video, we saw group content, farming, pets, and other very “MMOy” activities. We were told we’d have guilds, 20vs20 guild wars, and duals in shared gameworlds. No asynchronous lies, but actual multiplayer. And I saw it, at least in 1v1 duels. Win or lose, several of us gave up some gourmet sounding food to just smash buttons and kill our digital co-festival-goers for far longer than we reasonably needed to in order to get a basic feel for the game. It’s embarrassing to write that, but true.
Unlike in the above picture, everything I saw was in understandable English, though admittedly I was mostly doing combat. You move with a virtual left control stick, then attack via “hotkeys” on the right-hand side, with dodge being in the lower left-hand side. It doesn’t feel precise at all, but attacks felt wild and wide enough to mostly hit the general area I wanted to be hitting anyway. I did a little gathering for fun, but no major quests, crafting, or anything non-combat, which is generally my focus. It could be the lack of sleep, but the spammy attacks were fun enough for a while, and I started to “wake up” and play for real after some of the other attendees started to get some wins against me. I think that’s a good sign.
Normally I’d be more cautious but one big thing struck me: the game was running live. On servers in Korea. This wasn’t something running off a local version of the game, which happens a lot at trade shows (online games really do get the shaft when it comes to showing themselves off in public displays). This was a specific build, yes, but a build populated with at least some other people. We could interact with each other (even if it was mostly murder). It just kind of clicked.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you all to get ready to download BDO Mobile when it (hopefully) comes out next year. I will say, however, that Pearl Abyss was wise to bring it, and that players should consider giving it chance, especially if they’re already enjoying Pearl Abyss’ world
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