Black Desert Online #1: Strange But Cool

By Shamus Posted Thursday Apr 19, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 180 comments

It’s been a while since I played an MMO, hasn’t it? And I’ve never played one quite like this before. I’ve mentioned Black Desert Online a few times in the past and nobody really took much of an interest, so I suspect most of you are indifferent to this thing. But I’ve never let indifference interfere with my blathering before, so we’re going to spend a month with this game.

Over the past couple of weeks I had a blast in Black Desert Online, and then I stopped having a blast and the whole experience felt more or less like a waste of time for reasons I’ll get into later. But first let’s talk about what drew me to the game.

Familiar Yet Strange

White people in Medieval clothing on cobblestone streets with Tudor architecture and a temperate climate. This is about as European as you can get.
White people in Medieval clothing on cobblestone streets with Tudor architecture and a temperate climate. This is about as European as you can get.

Black Desert Online is a Korean MMO and almost everything about it is strange to me. The design is strange, the release schedule is strange, the business model is strange, the setting is strange, the interface is strange, and the dialog is strange. I can’t tell how much of the strangeness comes from the developers and how much comes from its home culture. Note that in this context, “strange” does not mean “bad”. It’s just, you know, unexpected.

I understand that Korean games are ridiculously grind-y by reputation. When I hear something described as “grindy”, I think of the ancient past of 2002, when I played Dark Age of Camelot and the most expedient way to level was to stand in the same spot and farm the same cluster of mobs for an hour. Black Desert might be grindy, but it’s not that sort of grindy. Maybe it’s grindy by the standards of kids today, or maybe it breaks from the norm set by other Korean MMO titles, but it’s not a grind in the sense of killing the same monster 60 times in a row.

The strange thing about the release schedule is that they didn’t immediately target the North American market. They went for South Korea first (which is pretty understandable) in 2014, but then in 2015 they released in… Japan and Russia? They finally got around to North America and Europe in 2016 and South America and MENA in 2017.

This isn’t a complaint or anything. It’s not like North America is automatically entitled to get stuff first. It’s just an unexpected choice because NA is often thought of as a very lucrative market so developers like to target it as soon as possible. Conversely, Russia is often a low-priority market because it has a reputation for being a difficult place to operate. I wonder if this unorthodox release order means the usual conventional wisdom is no longer true. Is Russia an easier place to do business? Is North America not as lucrative as it used to be? Or does Publisher Kakao Games have other practical / logistical reasons for pushing NA and Europe off for a couple of years?

The Basics

This is everything I explored on my way to level 50. So far it's all forest, no desert.
This is everything I explored on my way to level 50. So far it's all forest, no desert.

Even the title itself is a little strange. It’s called Black Desert Online, but the overwhelming majority of the gameworld is generic European forest. There are places that are swampy and places that are a little rocky, but it’s all the same color with the same trees so none of it feels particularly distinct. More to the point, I played all the way to level 50 and I never saw anything that looked like a “desert”. According to the wiki there is one eventually. Shame it didn’t came sooner. The relentless green was pretty but it got kind of same-y after a while. Imagine if World of Warcraft was designed so that the entire continent of Lordaeron looked like Elwynn Forest, and the game was called “Outlands Online”. It’s just… odd. I wonder if something is getting lost in translation here.

Above I said the setting was strange, but the thing that makes it strange is the fact that to us westerners it’s completely mundane. When it comes to climate, architecture, clothing, proper names, religion, technology, and government, the world of Black Desert is distinctly European. Which is strange, given the fact that it was made by Koreans.

Imagine you’re a Japanese gamer. You play a lot of MMOs, and the vast majority of them are focused on Samurai and Feudal Japan. Then a new game comes out of North America. So you check out this new MMO to see what strange wonders those crazy foreigners managed to come up with, and it turns out they decided to make yet another game about Samurai warriors in Feudal Japan. It’s not wrong per se, but doesn’t it seem like a missed opportunity?

If you're adverse to games where the men wear hulking armor and the ladies wear off-the-shoulder silk, then this game is probably not for you.
If you're adverse to games where the men wear hulking armor and the ladies wear off-the-shoulder silk, then this game is probably not for you.

While the world itself feels like a tenth-generation Everquest knock-off, the player character designs are distinctly Korean. Each class is locked to a gender, so if you’re a Witch or a Sorceress then you’re a woman, but if you’re a Wizard or a Striker then you’re a dude. All but one of the 16 character classes are designed to look like Korean magazine models and K-Pop stars. Everyone has a youthful look.

The stereotypical western character design favors men that look ~30 and women who look ~18. This extra age for the men means the male characters get more of the square-jawed “rugged” features that don’t develop until the late 20s, and we often have a lot of focus on giving them a large variety of beards and mustaches. In Black Desert, both men and women look like they fall within the 18-to-20 range, with one or two of the female designs dipping down into the mid-teensThe face designer is so robust I suspect you could fix this by moving the features around. The game allows you to put age lines on your face if you want to be old, although I was never able to get it to look right. My attempts to make a grizzled old war vet always looked like a young man wearing old-person makeup..

The point is that a large part of this game is focused on giving you very pretty characters. This ties into the business model: They give you the Barbie doll for freeEr, not “free” as such. I mean, the game still costs money up front., and then charge you for the outfits and accessories.

The Combat

It's hard to get a picture of MYSELF in the middle of a fight, so here's some sort of ninja-type character going to town on some cultists. Doesn't this look like fun? (For the ninja, I mean. I don't think the cultists are into it.)
It's hard to get a picture of MYSELF in the middle of a fight, so here's some sort of ninja-type character going to town on some cultists. Doesn't this look like fun? (For the ninja, I mean. I don't think the cultists are into it.)

The evolution of the modern MMO has been a long, slow process of making combat less of a chore. Everquest was lots of grinding and lots of downtime. World of Warcraft took that system of babysitting hotbar buttons and sped it up a bit, and gave the player a regularly-shifting backdrop of environments to do it in. It was more interesting by virtue of being more varied, but there was still this uncomfortable distance between you and your character. You’d hit a number on your keyboard and your character would begin an animation that would eventually create a particle effect that would someday result in a number appearing over your foe’s head to let you know you’d hurt them. The game might hook you with its vibrant colors and bold (for the time) character designs, and it might pull you in with its skinner box based reward system, but it was not kinaesthetically pleasing.

You could use the movement keys in a fight and dance around as much as you wanted, but the enemy would still hit you because positioning didn’t matter. The combat was designed to be playable on dial-up, and there was lots of slop built into the system so it wouldn’t turn into a mess of jankyness and rubberbandingRubberbanding is when you (or another player) move some distance in the game before the server realizes that where IT thinks you are and where YOU think you are do not agree. So you are snapped back to where you “should” be, like a rubber band snapping closed after being stretched too far. during the inevitable moments of pronounced network latency. Back in those days, being able to backpedal away from an enemy to dodge its attack would have been an exploit, not a strategy.

The striker is a martial-arts type guy. He's my favorite class in terms of cool spin-kick type animations, although he lacks the ridiculous NUKE EVERYTHING powers of the Kunoichi and Witch.
The striker is a martial-arts type guy. He's my favorite class in terms of cool spin-kick type animations, although he lacks the ridiculous NUKE EVERYTHING powers of the Kunoichi and Witch.

But then the network got faster and packet delivery became more timely and dependable. So then it was possible to mess around with the mechanics and figure out how we could make these games more responsive and action-oriented. I liked Champions Online at the time because it closely tied the hitting of a button to the dealing of damage. It felt less like directing an actor around the stage and more like controlling a character directly. Then Guild Wars 2 came along and suddenly Champs seemed sort of stiff and muted. Now we have Black Desert Online, and Guild Wars 2 seems sort of one-dimensional.

We need a word for a game that incorporates “Fighting against large groups of foes with heavy attacks, light attacks, and stunlocks, with well-telegraphed enemy attacks that reward consistent dodges, counters, and blocking.” Because I’m tired of saying games are “Like the Arkham games“. Like calling all shooters “Doom clones”, it points to a gap in our nomenclature. People (including me) also call them “brawlers”, but then we end up mixing them in with stuff like God of War and Bayonetta, which isn’t quite right. There are a lot of ways you can sort these games and I strongly suspect a lot of us are using the same words to describe very different things. Maybe when I say “brawler” I mean a game with counters and combo meters and when you say “brawler” you mean “game with punching”.

I think the Witch is pretty OP when it comes to the PvE content, but it's still fun to obliterate waves of hapless mooks.
I think the Witch is pretty OP when it comes to the PvE content, but it's still fun to obliterate waves of hapless mooks.

Regardless of what we call it, Black Desert Online has it. Every class is different, but they all have a variety of abilities that focus on fighting waves of cannon fodder. Some classes get moves to close distance and do burst damage. Some get moves to dodge out of the way. Moves to stunlock. Moves that hit everything around you. Moves that focus on outmaneuvering foes so you can hit them from behind and do extra damage. Moves that knock foes down so you can do bonus damage. And so on.

Every class has a really unique feel to it and aren’t just the same basic powers with a different outfit and set of particle effects. The combat feels good. It’s fast and responsive. It stays interesting as you levelOr WOULD, if it was balanced properly. But we’ll talk about the leveling problems next week.. The bad guys flinch, stagger, and otherwise react visibly to your hits. It looks cool. It works in the context of an online game.

I’m not saying this game is Street Fighter or Batman: Arkham Feudal Age, but this is the closest an MMO has come to that kind of button-mashing fun. You can play this with a controller, and it actually feels pretty good.

All of this is really hard to do. I don’t know enough about online games to say that this is the first one to really nail this sort of fluid combat that can rival a single-player game, but it’s the first one I’ve ever played. If there’s anything else that feels like this out there, please tell me.

The Black Spirit

This is Black Spirit at the start of the game. Sort of reminds me of a Soot Sprite from Spirited Away.
This is Black Spirit at the start of the game. Sort of reminds me of a Soot Sprite from Spirited Away.

The rest of the game might look European, but Black Spirit is very much a Korean idea and he’s easily the most interesting character.

When you roll a new character, Black Spirit welcomes you to the world. Apparently you have just struck a bargain with this guy. He’s offered you power, and in return you gave him…? You don’t know. You’ve got amnesia, which was apparently part of the deal. The Black Spirit is your main quest-giver throughout the game. You can summon him at any time, and he’s always encouraging you to gain more power and use it recklessly.

This is such an interesting idea. In most games your tutorial buddy is a friendly but irrelevant NPC who is quickly forgotten the moment you exit the starting town. But here he’s arguably the main character and he’s got this interesting and mysterious relationship with you that comes off as mildly adversarial.

His design is striking and he feels fresh and intriguing. I’ve spent my whole life soaking in fiction that drew its supernatural elements from western traditionsI’m not into literature myself, but I guess a lot of this stuff can be traced back to Dante’s Inferno and Paradise Lost?. Demons are always horned bipeds, angels are usually idealized human with feathered wings, and there’s typically some sort of abstract struggle between good and evil with Earth at the center.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that stuff, but after a few decades I feel like I’ve seen it all. Some dying peasant staggers into the village square, talking about how High Priest Nefarious has opened a “portal to the Netherworld” and that the lands, “Will soon be covered in darkness forever, unless we can-(coughs, dies)” As soon as I hear the bit about the portal to hell I start nodding my head, “Yeah. Okay. Another one of these. Got it.”

My you've gotten big. What have you been eating?
My you've gotten big. What have you been eating?

But I have no cultural context for Black Spirit, which makes him intriguing in a way that (say) Diablo is not.

Also, his in-game voice is this spooky warble that you’re not supposed to understand, which means his dialog didn’t need to be localized, which means he doesn’t suffer from the horrible problems that afflict all the other voiced characters in Black Desert OnlineI’ll talk about the English vocal performances next week..

He starts out as a little floating shadow with two red eyes, but the longer you work with him (and the more you level up) the more he grows. He starts out with this fun little “mischievous trickster” vibe, but by level 30 or so he starts to look downright menacing. The design changes gradually as the story goes on, which makes for a great reveal. While playing the game I was always eager to see the next step in his evolution.

I don’t want to oversell him. I played all the way to level 50 and I never encountered any sort of reveal that hinted who this guy is, what he wants from you, who you are, or why you made a deal with him in the first place. As far as I got, he was all hook and no payoff. But by the (admittedly low) standards of MMO characters, he’s remarkable.

Character Designs

The characters are designed to look youthful. You can try to make them look old by adding faint lines to their face and turning their hair white, but you're stuck with clear skin, boy-band haircuts, and no male-pattern baldness. I wanted to make a really old martial arts guy, but this is the best I could do.
The characters are designed to look youthful. You can try to make them look old by adding faint lines to their face and turning their hair white, but you're stuck with clear skin, boy-band haircuts, and no male-pattern baldness. I wanted to make a really old martial arts guy, but this is the best I could do.

The character models in this game are incredible. Not just because they’re gorgeous and incredibly detailed, but because they have an extreme amount of customizability. Where one game might give you a selection of haircuts and colors, BDO gives you the ability to fine-tune the length and wave different parts of the hair, adjust the overall shine, and apply a different dye to the roots, the strand, and the ends. You can adjust the voice and facial expression. It’s amazing. Sure, everyone is sort of crafted to look like a supermodel, but if popular culture has taught us anything it’s that people don’t get tired of looking at supermodelsActually they do, but on an individual level. Culture-wide, young attractive faces are always an easy sell..

(There’s actually one male character specifically designed to play into the “Hulking Warrior” stereotype rather than the “boy band” look all the other dudes have going for them. I tried him out but lost interest because his movement felt sort of ponderous to me.)

I wouldn’t mind a little more variety that takes us out of the 18-24 range in terms of age, but if you like crafting and customizing a character then you can have a lot of fun here. And yes, it’s possible to go full on Monster Factory if that’s what you’re into:

Gah. That one's going to haunt me later. For the record, this one isn't mine. I encountered this one in the wild.
Gah. That one's going to haunt me later. For the record, this one isn't mine. I encountered this one in the wild.

I mean, if you want to make a really ugly character then this probably isn’t the best game for that sort of tomfoolery. But maybe you like playing against the intent and expectations of the developer. Whatever. It can be done, is what I’m saying.


I found an outfit I like for my Striker, and I don't have to worry that I'll find another outfit in 10 minutes that has 10% better stats but looks ridiculous.
I found an outfit I like for my Striker, and I don't have to worry that I'll find another outfit in 10 minutes that has 10% better stats but looks ridiculous.

The other thing the game has going for it is that it breaks away from the tyranny of level-restricted gear that’s plagued numbers-driven RPGs since the beginning. You’ll never see a piece of equipment and think “Oh, this looks cool. Too bad I can’t equip it for three more levels.” Aside from some perfectly reasonable class restrictionsObviously my kung-fu guy can’t use a wizard staff to cast spells., anyone can wear anything.

This means you don’t have the usual continuous turnover of gear, where your outfit changes every 20 minutes because you keep finding new gear with very slightly higher numbers on it. I took my witch all the way from level 1 to 50 without ever needing to change gear.

Instead of dropping new gear, the loot in the game is based around upgrades for that gear. You find gems that impart bonuses and you put the gems into slots. You find upgrade stones that have a random chance to boost the numbers a bit. I like this because it means if you find a look that you really like, you can take that outfit and turn it into epic gear through upgrades.

The process is dense and poorly documented, but it’s there.

So What’s The Problem?

You can make your face this pretty, but if you want an outfit this pretty you'll need to pay extra. We'll talk about the microtranactions next week.
You can make your face this pretty, but if you want an outfit this pretty you'll need to pay extra. We'll talk about the microtranactions next week.

So here we have a gorgeous world with lots of customization options, an interesting hook for your character, and combat that surpasses anything that’s come before in the MMO space. This game should be my MMO for life. I’ve leveled three characters into their 40s and I’ve loved all of them. There are still 13 more classes for me to try, and hundreds of little details and sidequests I haven’t explored.

So where did it all go wrong, and why did I stop playing? What could the developer do to persuade me to quit when I’m having this much fun?

The complaining begins next week.



[1] The face designer is so robust I suspect you could fix this by moving the features around. The game allows you to put age lines on your face if you want to be old, although I was never able to get it to look right. My attempts to make a grizzled old war vet always looked like a young man wearing old-person makeup.

[2] Er, not “free” as such. I mean, the game still costs money up front.

[3] Rubberbanding is when you (or another player) move some distance in the game before the server realizes that where IT thinks you are and where YOU think you are do not agree. So you are snapped back to where you “should” be, like a rubber band snapping closed after being stretched too far.

[4] Or WOULD, if it was balanced properly. But we’ll talk about the leveling problems next week.

[5] I’m not into literature myself, but I guess a lot of this stuff can be traced back to Dante’s Inferno and Paradise Lost?

[6] I’ll talk about the English vocal performances next week.

[7] Actually they do, but on an individual level. Culture-wide, young attractive faces are always an easy sell.

[8] Obviously my kung-fu guy can’t use a wizard staff to cast spells.

From The Archives:

180 thoughts on “Black Desert Online #1: Strange But Cool

  1. Cybron says:

    I’m interested. I’ve avoided it because of the grindy reputation of Korean games, so I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts.

    1. Jennifer Snow says:

      “All of this is really hard to do. I don’t know enough about online games to say that this is the first one to really nail this sort of fluid combat that can rival a single-player game, but it’s the first one I’ve ever played. If there’s anything else that feels like this out there, please tell me.”


      A lot of people play LOTRO and assume that DDO is like that because, well, they’re both made by the same company. THEY AIN’T. Aside from sharing a certain amount of graphical style because, well, they’re made by the same people, DDO is a RADICALLY DIFFERENT game.

      It’s not a true “brawler” (I generally call this “action combat”)–some of the combat movement stuff is clunky. But you use your abilities in a complex situational way instead of watching cooldowns, and you do a LOT of moving around in combat. It’s like half to 2/3 between MMO and an action game, and it has something that I consider absolutely vital to proper action game feel–you can’t move through enemies as if they were ghosts. And they can’t move through YOU. Well, unless they’re LITERALLY ghosts, which do exist. (Watching my housemate casually walk right through a boss in WoW made me want to roll around on the ground and scream.)

      Probably why I’ve been playing the silly thing since 2009. Seriously, if you get some free time and want to give it a try, look me up. We could do a stream or some stuff.

      1. Dev Null says:

        I was a big fan of DDO back in the day. But when I tried to go back a year or two ago I discovered that they had completely rebuilt the mechanics, and my character sheet looked like a spreadsheet for tracking corporate tax havens, or something equally engaging like baseball or Eve Online. Even knowing that there was a fun game underneath all that somewhere, the barrier to entry was just too high for me; can’t imagine what it would feel like to a brand new player.

        1. Jennifer Snow says:

          It’s actually a lot simpler than it looks, the problem is that the display of information leaves much to be desired.

          But, seriously, I run a guild specifically for the purpose of helping newbs and returning players orient themselves. The user-friendliness of a lot of game features have improved immensely since I started playing in 2009.

          The hardest thing is just finding people to run with who are prepared to be patient with you. DDO has an unusual game feature (reincarnation) that is at the same time really cool and really awkward. It’s cool, because it means that veteran players are constantly restarting their characters from level 1, so the “newbie” areas of the game are never unpopulated. It’s awkward, because it means that newbies struggling to learn the game are in the same areas doing the same things as 10-year vets who know EVERYTHING and aren’t super-patient about it.

          That and the combat being more actiony, the combat speed is unforgiving and you can die so fast you’re not even sure what hit you.

          1. Zagzag says:

            My favourite feature of the game back when I played (the best part of a decade ago now) was the very well integrated in game voice chat that people actually used, which almost no other MMO since seems to include. Knowing that you were playing with real actual people really helped avoid a lot of the frustration of struggling through long instances.

            Another nice bonus were the times you’d run into someone on their fifth true reincarnation playing a perfectly optimised self healing Warforged sorceror, or something absurd along those lines, who was entirely capable of soloing anything level appropriate, knew exactly which ledges you could jump off to skip a third of the instance, and would make use of the voice chat to make sure the rest of the group got through too.

            It was really interesting to see an MMO that never appeared to care too much about character balance, but didn’t actually seem any worse off for it.

            1. Jennifer Snow says:

              The integrated voice chat is THE BEST FEATURE! Granted, the volume settings on it are bizarre. They’re just bizarre, like, if you set out to intentionally create a system with this particular wonkiness, I’m not sure you could do it. But, seriously, when I play a multiplayer game and people are like “you have to join our 3rd party voice server” I just want to choke them to death. I don’t want to have to run some obnoxious program in the background and listen to people’s stupid jokes, chewing noises, random belches, screaming kids and barking dogs just to communicate with people. What. a. joke.

              They care about character balance these days in the sense that they kinda want everyone in the group to at least have SOMETHING to do. They also added a new feature called Reaper difficulty where if you’re having such an easy time that one player can steamroll the quest, you can run it on increasingly higher difficulties until it’s basically TROLOLOL difficulty. So you aim for a difficulty where it’s challenging and everyone can contribute but where you aren’t playing Fastest Fingers with the rez scrolls. Well, unless that’s the sort of challenge you like.

          2. Dev Null says:

            I’m sure it’d be better if I just started over from scratch. What gets me is the intimidation factor of logging in as my level 16 hyper-specialized longsword monk, with a pile of abilities and gear picked especially to go with them that I understood 8 years ago but notsomuch now, and being told to pick 16 levels worth of advances out of a collection of abilities and even stats that I’ve never heard of before I can start playing again. Twice in the last few years I’ve sat through the enormously backed-up patch process just to login, stare at the screen for 10 minutes, logout and play something fun.

            Its not really a DDO problem, mind. Same thing was true the one time I tried to go back to WoW and the first thing I had to do was re-spec all of my characters…

            1. Jennifer Snow says:

              Actually, the easiest thing would probably be to jump on somebody’s TR train, crush out levels 16-20 (a quick process these days, and you can do easy content like wilderness explore zones if you want to), then TR back to level 1 so that you can do a total character rebuild without losing all your accumulated stuff.

            2. Michael says:

              Usually, when I come back to an MMO after a long absence, I’ll roll up a new character and start from scratch, before jumping back on a main.

              Not sure how that will work for me with ESO, if I take another long break from that, though.

      2. Rack says:

        Sadly the developers sabotaged DDO pretty early after release. They decided using skill to get past combat encounters was an “exploit” and changed the timing so that attacks registered at the start of animation rather than the end. This meant it was impossible to block or dodge an attack by blocking or dodging it.

        1. Mephane says:

          One of the most important aspects of any action combat system (I like to use that term, too) is that what you see is what you get. If I sidestep the enemy’s blow with their axe, I damn well expect to not get hurt.

          (Which is also why I hate the “chip damage” element in For Honor. So I successfully blocked the enemy’s strike with my sword… yet I am still hurt anyway. WTF?)

          1. Nimrandir says:

            My understanding is that For Honor is a fighting game at heart, and chip damage is a long-standing tradition of the genre. Without it (and throws), matches boil down to the first hit, since the lander of said hit can now turtle up until the timer runs out. Not sure if For Honor has match timers, but I can’t imagine ‘guard forever’ garnering good buzz in the Internet age.

            There’s also a bit of verisimilitude in some expenditure of resources being required to prevent a Viking from burying his axe in your skull. Perhaps stamina is a better representation of that, like the Souls games (which also drain health on block if you don’t have the right shield).

            1. Saltruist says:

              Chip damage was actually patched in specifically because the “defense meta” was too strong. The game isn’t really fast enough to have no cost for blocking.

          2. CloverMan says:

            Well, crudely blocking a powerful attack would still hurt a bit, as your arms would absorb the force of tje blow, so chip damage is not entirely unrealistic. And skilfully parrying and attack, redirecting the energy of the blow, doesn’t come with chip damage.

          3. Michael says:

            Probably worth remembering, HP is an abstraction in most games. It’s picking up a mix of injuries and exhaustion. In this case, blocking attacks will be tiring, so chip damage may make sense conceptually, depending on your approach. (Unless the game already has a fatigue and exhaustion system. I haven’t played For Honor.)

      3. I was going to mention DDO as well, but you beat me to it!

        When it was released in 2006, its “click-to-swing” mechanic was pretty revolutionary. I agree with Rack that Turbine sabotaged it a bit by changing the timing of the attacks, but it’s still one of the few instanced MMOs that provides true interactability with the character and with the environment.

        I’ve been curious about Black Desert for a while, but during my days of playing every MMO on the planet and writing about it, I got pretty burned out on Korean MMOs. Especially after Tera Online made me puke a bit with its hyper-sexualized pre-pubescent girls.

        1. Dev Null says:

          Wow! That is one creepy screenshot!

        2. Jennifer Snow says:

          I love that you have a drow wearing the DDO signature ridiculous cuboid straw hat on your MMO blog.

          That hat tells you more about DDO than you probably wanted to know. XD

        3. BlueHorus says:

          I love the concept of Naked Man*, your City of Heroes avatar.
          Was/is it one of those MMOs that always displays your character’s name in text over their head?
          Because if so, there must have been quite a few Dead Dove Do Not Eat moments for other players when the words NAKED MAN flew past them.

          *Did that come out wrong, or did I just come out? You decide!

      4. GTB says:

        The BEST part of DDO for me was the “dungeon master” voice over narrator. What an awesome storytelling device. Also, rogues are super useful instead of just being glass cannon dps like literally every other mmo ever.

      5. Steve C says:

        How much does DDO cost to play? (Note that is a different question than how much the box retails for in the store.)

        Ditto for Black Desert Shamus. How much does it cost to play?

        1. Jennifer Snow says:

          You can play all of DDO except the three expansions completely for free, although you will need to spend some time making characters on all the servers and grinding out favor to unlock content. It’s somewhat time-consuming but not insane. Basically you just do quests on Elite difficulty and you gradually earn points to spend on buying content. I ran the math and if you work at it you can get all of the non-expansion content via one character per server, so it’s really not bad.

          I think just buying a few months of VIP (which unlocks everything except the expansion content) is faster–you still earn points at the same rate, so you can save up your points and buy everything after your VIP expires.

          If you get the expansions on sale you can get all three of them for about the price of a regular game, and they have occasional BIG sales. Plus all the expansions come with other goodies.

        2. Michael says:

          BDO costs something in the range of $10. (At least on Steam.)

          Near as I can tell, that’s pretty much the only mandatory purchase. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but the game does have an unbound cash shop, so you can (potentially) buy cash shop items for silver (in game currency). I’m skimming over a lot of factors here about how the in game economy works, but, the basic idea is, no, you can actually play without paying extra.

          (Also, the vast majority of the cash shop appears to be cosmetic. Though, I may be missing some detail that pops up later.)

          Now, that said, I didn’t get particularly far. I think my highest level character was only in the mid 20s, so it’s possible there’s something about PvP balance that seriously screws things up.

          Also, the game’s endgame is PvP. Once you hit level 50 you’re permanently flagged for PvP combat.

          There’s a lot of interesting systems in BDO, but I can’t really recommend it. Still, $10 isn’t too painful for taking a look, or waiting for it to go on sale.

  2. baud says:

    I like this because it means if you find a look that you really like, you can take that outfit

    In SWTOR, you can do that with multiple outfits, while having a separate equipment tab. I think a good chunk of the time I spent in that game last year was designing outfits. You also have outfit upgrades, but only on certain equipment

    1. Rick C says:

      Guild Wars 2 lets you salvage armor, which gains you a skin. You can reskin armor as much as you want within certain limits, so if you find boots you like, salvage them, and when you get a better boot, just reskin it with the old one.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, separating visuals and effects seems to be the accepted method nowadays. Personally, I think having camouflage and disguises should cost at least a few points of magic, but having the visuals free is better than having them locked to random stats.

    3. tremor3258 says:

      City of Heroes (RIP) was great about this early on; costuming being completely distinct from mechanics.

      1. GTB says:

        I miss COH/COV so MUCH.

    4. Nimrandir says:

      I got a bit confused at first, because LotRO has a ‘cosmetic outfit’ setup, and I know Shamus knows about that one. On further reading, I gather the novelty is in the Materia-slot system that obviates the need for such a setup.

      I presume that you start with a relatively small number of upgrade slots and have the option to expand as you progress. That sounds like a good place to stash sweet, sweet microtransactions.

      1. baud says:

        Oddly enough, for SWTOR, the outfit slots were available without going throught the cash shop, at least the first 4, if I remember right. But I didn’t buy more than that, so I don’t know.

        By outfit slot, I mean full outfit, not just an equipement slot like helmet. So you can have different outfits available at the same time.

    5. Michael says:

      ESO’s outfit system works like this as well, now. Though, granted, that did take a couple years before it got added.

  3. Christopher says:

    Cool, I’ve been curious about Black Desert Online. I feel like you did a post about it a long time ago, and I’ll probably repeat what I said back then: I’m still waiting for that Playstation 4 version. Last I checked it was a timed Xbox One exclusive. I downloaded the character creator trial they had, and it’s an amazing thing. Combined with the real-time, actually good-looking combat it really looks like the first MMO with reasonably fun 3d beat ’em up gameplay.

    In the time since that last post though, I did try a minute of Warframe. Now my biggets fear is that it might suffer from whatever that game suffered from. I can’t tell if it’s the motion blur, camera movement, some uneven framerate or what. But playing that game, I got a headache in no time, and I can only imagine it’s the online nature of it combined with the fast-paced combat.

    In other news, I think them basing this on European fantasy stuff is downright merciful. I’ve watched some K-dramas, and I think Korean is reasonably high up on a list of languages that I just can’t pronounce or “get” even when I see the words written down. It’s not like Japanese, where the ways you pronounce the stuff is basically the same as Norwegian.

    1. Miguk says:

      Yeah, the way it’s transliterated into Latin characters is not very close to how it actually sounds. A lot of the sounds in their language just don’t map cleanly to ours. Like they have one that’s between D and T but not quite the same as either, for example. When I try to read it, I’m never confident that what I’m hearing in my mind is what I’m supposed to be.

    2. Felblood says:

      It’s been several year since I played a Korean MMO, but back in the day the settings came in 4 basic flavors, in addition to the WoW clone, which is a folly that transcends cultural barriers.

      1. Mushroom Kingdom: Did you like Ragnarok Online or Maple Story? Then get ready for a legally distinct retread of their most iconic classes and monsters, but in THREE DEE! Chibi knights fighting mushrooms is like a neon sign that says, “I am Korean and I have no original ideas.” Bonus points if everyone is driving a tank, or the mushrooms are replaced with Dragon Quest slimes, at least.

      2. Feudal Korea, but with lots of spiky hair and random fantasy elements. Occasional bits of Medieval England and Sengoku Japan are usually thrown in, along with lots of Kung-Fu and the kitchen sink. Prettier flowers than the others, but rarely manages to achieve it’s own aesthetic identity. You’ll be lucky if there is a player race that isn’t just, prettier humans.

      3. Medieval Fantasy France, but with spiky haircuts, and occasional bits of feudal Korean armor thrown in. You will probably meet an angel before completing the tutorial, or even be an angel.

      I guess it makes sense that they’d see Christian mythology, rather than Tolkien’s as the quintessential mythos of Europe, but expect more Sacred 2 meets Milton than Revelations or Ezekiel.

      You’ll be lucky if there is a player race that isn’t just, prettier/fetishier humans. Bonus points if you can, at least tell the dark elves, demonfolk and dragonfolk apart at a distance. Is that a succubus, a dragonborn lady, or a drow in a spiky Tiara? Answer: Who cares?

      (I took one look at Black Desert’s screenshots, sorted it into this bin, and forgot it existed until this post went up. I’m interested to see the usual angel replaced with a demon, and it sounds like they’ve put a lot of work into that angle.)

      4. Cyborg strippers on hoverbikes. I don’t know how this trend got started, but they must have made a fistfull of cash selling “Lingerie Unsealers” in their cash shop, because the trend chasers are out in force. (Before you judge me, know that proofreading that sentence made me throw up in my mouth a bit.)

      Breathtaking cyberpunk cityscapes and Tron military bases make up the starting cities, but it seems they rapidly give way to generic forests full of evil, cartoon mushrooms. I guess the whole budget goes into animating the player characters.

  4. Jabberwok says:

    I’ve been playing Closers in the past month or so, a Korean MMO. Combat feels snappy like a fighting game. Everything is instanced missions, though, so I dunno how that compares to Black Desert. I don’t think I ever would’ve tried Closers if it weren’t free, and I’m probably bored enough now to be done playing it. But I’ve never been an MMO person. Especially for the Phantasy Star style of instancing, everything is just too repetitive and samey for me.

  5. MadTinkerer says:

    It’s called Black Desert Online, but the overwhelming majority of the gameworld is generic European forest.

    It’s possible that the title is a play on words that just doesn’t translate. Like The Black Eye. As an example going in the other direction: “????” and “?????” do not start with the same characters at all, so the alliteration is completely lost.

    EDIT: Also, apparently the submission box displays Japanese characters just fine, but they were all changed to question marks after I submitted. What I had copy-pasted was what Babelfish gave me for “dungeon” and “dragon” in Japanese.

    1. Shamus says:

      “but they were all changed to question marks after I submitted”

      That is SUPER annoying, since I KNOW spambots have left those sorts of characters in messages before. Apparently WordPress scrubs extended characters, but only if you’re not a spambot.

      1. Mephane says:

        So it does this intentionally? And what does it do if you happen to, say, run a Chinese blog for a Chinese audience? Does it only accept Pinyin then instead of Chinese letters?

        1. Shamus says:

          I’m wondering the same thing myself.

          1. Mephane says:

            Let me test some strings:


            ??????????? ?????a???

            1. Mephane says:

              Bottom two were the country names of China and Russia copied from Wikipedia in their respective alphabets.

              The outcome looks just like what you’d get if you run the stuff through conversions from Unicode to codepage 1252, by default WideCharToMultiByte replaces characters not represented in the codepage with question marks.

              It’s quite strange why WordPress would do such a thing, however. And by strange I mean facepalm-worthy.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Unless my memory is faulty(which might well be the case),this seems like a new development.Since I seem to remember that there were some posts with chinese letters some time ago.So the new update decided to…localize writing?Reduce load?No idea.

            2. Matt van Riel says:



            3. Matt van Riel says:

              lol… just tried testing some kanji, post didn’t even get through. Looks like the spam filtering is a little ‘too’ strict.

    2. Miguk says:

      That’s what I was thinking too, so I looked it up in a dictionary. It’s ?? (Black) ?? (Desert). The “black” part might have some other connotations, but apparently the “desert” really is just a desert. False advertising!

      1. Phill says:

        Could desert have a stronger metaphorical meaning in Korean than in English? I’m thinking in terms of English phrases such as ‘dark night’ (shortened from the religious phrase ‘dark night of the soul ‘). I’d guess that an MMO called dark night would be widely understood by native speakers to referring to some degree to the mystic sense of a spiritual wilderness, and expect a certain atmosphere of existentialism to permeate the game. While a Korean reading a literal translation might wonder why it’s called ‘dark night ‘ when the nights are usually well lit by the moon and it is day half the time.

        So maybe there is some shared cultural / literary undertone to the Black Desert name that carries certain connotations to a Korean (that ties in with the spirit guide npc) that is lost in translation.

    3. Wooji says:

      There is a decent amount of Desert a couple of levels after 50 and further to the east. I gave BDO a new try a few months back but also gave up some levels in to the desert areas.

      The desert is still only around 20-25% of the game world and almost exclusively focused on endgame, and as far as i saw its not black =)

  6. Dev Null says:


    I’m going to make myself sound really old here. And shallow. Which I guess is appropriate, but anyways…

    I’m really sick of 18-year-old supermodel faces on weird-looking bodies like that last image, whose main characteristic seems to be “each of my breasts is a perfect anti-grav sphere individually larger than my head.” I’ll bet there are lovingly-crafted jiggle physics too.

    I don’t really mind being _able_ to make my character sexy, and if it spins your proverbial wheels to follow a digitized Playboy model around in her underwear then more power to you, but if a game is going to be as focused on appearance as this one seems and I can’t be something a little more human-shaped? Or else something obviously non-human? I’m probably not going to be able to take it.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Alternately, games with much more non-photorealistic graphics avoid this problem. A perfect face and huge bosom wouldn’t look out of place at all on Jessica Rabbit in a game. Still, there’s the problem of monotany; If some of the classes in this game were an ogre, a hunch-back wizard, an asexual beetle-person, or lizard-person, it would all still be fairly European in terms of mythology (except for the beetle; I like beetles, OK? :), but have much more variety for people to play with.

      1. Viktor says:

        Im sure it’s down to skeleton, which is annoying. There’s a ton of different body types and character designs that you can go with in a fantasy setting even if you’re just limited to humans(Wizard who floats around on a magic chair, old retired knight with a beer gut, 10 year old magical prodigy, etc), but every one of those would need a different skeleton and new animations for stuff like idle and sit. It’s easier to just make 2-4 basic body types, reskin them, and save the unique animations for the class-specific moves.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          You could get pretty good with reverse-kinematics to do basic re-kajiggering of the animations, for fat, skinny, old, etc body types. It wouldn’t be perfect, but if you combine that with some wizard robes or non-human (but still humanoid) types like a lizard-species, the animation quirks probably wouldn’t be noticable at all.

        2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Actually, no, you’d need just one skeleton, it’s just a matter of scaling the different bones to have the different body parts change (if you’re interested, look up UMA in Unity).

          1. Echo Tango says:

            LoL. Yeah, OK, of course somebody’s already made a basic system for this, and put it up in a marketplace for game assets. ^^;

          2. default_ex says:

            It’s more than just skeletal scaling that is needed. Fields of influence need to change or your get weird glitches that break illusion and/or immersion. Spent a couple years at one point trying to work out a good way to dynamically rig bodies of varying builds. Got pretty far with the basics like rescaling a skeleton, applying a series of transformations to the field of influence for each bone, even began to dip into modeling fat/muscle distribution to reproduce jiggliness of different combinations of tissue types. Ultimately gave up on the idea because after a couple years studying a lot about how the body works from an outward perspective in respect to movement and tons of time spent trying to translate that into something that could be done in real time. It still looked really bad in some not too uncommon scenarios your likely to find in just about any video game with people in it.

            There are some half decent systems out there that do pull off “good enough” results. Unfortunately they are just that, “good enough” with a lot of careful tricks dropped in to try and take focus away from their short comings. Probably be awhile before we have hardware capable of solving the kind of math needed to really create a nice universal skeleton.

            Until then artist need to learn how to design and animate more body types.

            1. Felblood says:

              The Old Republic tried to get around this by giving you 3 basic models to tweak, so they could accommodate a wider range of tastes.

              Unfortunately the three body types they opted to model were Underwear Model, Steroid Abuser and Jabba the Hut. *facepalm*

              One would think that a Kerry Fisher type figure, at least, would have been included. –leather and gold bikini strictly optional.

        3. Jennifer Snow says:

          This is one of the other things I like a lot about Dungeons and Dragons online (there are MANY).

          There are 11 basic races, each with 2 genders (well, “male” and “female” warforged are identical, but, cmon, they’re ROBOTS), and almost all of them (drow and elves are palette-swapped, and half-elves are slightly shorter humans) have significantly different body types and animations.

          We’re not talking super-high quality graphics here, the game is 13 years old after all, but the underlying core of the DESIGN work is very good.

      2. Guest says:

        Games with non photorealistic graphics still end up in this zone though. A lot of these games put a lot of effort into their character creators and it’s really impressive. It’d be nice if they allowed for the same diversity in age and facial features that are maybe more “Character Actor”, as they do finely tuning your tattoos and hair.

      3. Dev Null says:

        Yeah, part of what I was trying to get at was that it’s not just the sexy that bugs me _that_ much (though I do find that a bit weird.) It’s also the Uncanny Valley effect of clearly _trying_ for “sexy” and missing “human”. When they do dumb things to non-humans, like the invevitable breasts on the snake people, at least you can write it off with “well they’re not actually snakes, they’re the imaginary race of S’xiiS’naakL’diiz; who knows how they work?”

        That and the lack of choice.

        1. Jennifer Snow says:

          I was delighted with DDO when they elected NOT to put breasts on female Dragonborn (unlike That Other Game I could mention) but still have enough of a morphological difference between male and female Dragonborn that you can tell the difference and hardcore “I only play girls” players like myself can actually like playing the race.

          (This is strictly an aesthetic preference of mine and has nothing whatsoever to do with politics, but it’s a VERY strong one, and I don’t like playing the poor Warforged because they all look like huge male bodybuilders.)

      4. Awww, you just reminded me of the homebrew TTRPG setting I was working on ages ago, which was set on a desert world populated by satyr-people (culturally they had a lot in common with Australian Aborigines), bipedal lizard-folk (they looked like giant thorny devils), a hive-minded insect race (much like ants), an avian-ish race and humans (‘cos humans, the lil beggars, get EVERYWHERE). Economies tended to be water-based and there were giant dirigible blimp-critters.

        (No, I never read/played the D&D Dark Sun setting.)

  7. Fizban says:

    LRR had a stream of Black Desert on a while back. And a guy at work’s super into it. And it sounds like it should be right up my alley too, at least until the heavy PvP stuff kicks in later. I’m looking forward to seeing Shamus’s thoughts on what went wrong, since it seems probable I’d run into the same issues.

  8. Bob Case says:

    No particular insight to offer, but I played Black Desert back when it first came out in North America and had the exact same experience: loved it and was way into for around three weeks, then just stopped playing.

    If I had to give the short version I think it was that it got repetitive. Leveling was very slow (my altitis didn’t help) and back then at least when there was the initial new player rush you had to do things like compete with other people for mob spawns. The best grinding spots were all overcrowded.

    However I also very much liked the combat.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      If they want players to spend a certain amount of time in game, and need to keep everything balanced, can’t games
      experiment with removing the actual grind? Just give players X points to spend for areas requiring X-level players, and time-lock stuff per day, like mobile/Facebook games. Leveling would just be limited by what zones you play per day, rather than spending X hours. Would be a lot better for many players, rather than forcing grind on everyone. Would come with the pitfalls of daily check-in that those games require, but I think it would be an improvement.

      1. Guest says:

        It’s still a grind. If anything, by not allowing someone to continue to get ahead, it’s more about habituation, which is if anything more exploitative and annoying. And you’ve still got a slow levelling progress just locked by days instead. Hang in there! You’ll get to more stuff soon!

        It sort of kills your joy for a game when you keep logging in for the login benefits, biweekly drops, and farming.

        1. Felblood says:

          Yeah, this really killed Gumballs and Dungeons for me.

          I love doing the dungeons, but the way the game expects me to log in every day and fuss with 30 different bits of tedious BS is just exhausting.

          Just looking at the icon makes be feel bored and frustrated, instead of excited to dive down deep, face some over-leveled bosses and find some 7 star loot.

      2. Dev Null says:

        I would think you could do something with this idea by combining it with zones and procedural generation. If you could only visit a given zone once a day, and it was different every time you played it, it would be a lot less grindy. The problem is that the world of microtransactions _wants_ the game to be grindy; then they can give you the option to pay to skip the grind. If it was fun to play, why would you pay to skip?

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Yeah, I guess my argument was made with the assumption that this was a games company who wanted to make enjoyable games[1], rather than wring money out of its customers. I mean, a lot of the garbage in games comes from treating customers as obstacles to money, rather than people who you’re trying to create an enjoyable experience for.

          [1] And part of an enjoyable game can be / is, having tough choices to make. An RPG where you’ve cheat-coded to get a million points in all stats gets boring after the power rush wears off. Allowing that occasional cheat-mode is still important, though. :)

          1. Daimbert says:

            I’m replaying Persona 3, starting from a New Game + with a level 99 MC and almost everyone with max gear. This lets me skip most of the boring combat — I only need to make sure I can level up my party enough so that they don’t get curb stomped by the battles — and also allows for the really, really cool times of “Oh, I have to face the big full moon boss? *Stab* That was easy …” and facing down three really powerful enemies, summoning Thor, and blasting them with one shot. Probably about as close to a power fantasy as I ever get [grin].

      3. Mephane says:

        and time-lock stuff per day

        I loathe daily/weekly mechanics. Yes, i know they are done to throttle the players with the most amount of time to play and somewhat normalize it between casuals and hardcore players, but it generally devolves into a chore sooner or later. Like, hey, a new game released and you played that for the last two weeks instead of ours, here’s how much of you missed forever with no way to recuperate.

        No thanks.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yes, i know they are done to throttle the players with the most amount of time to play and somewhat normalize it between casuals and hardcore players

          It doesnt even work in doing that.Some with free time will be able to log in every day and get all the rewards,then switch to a different game and do the same.Someone with no free time will log in sporadically,and thus get only few dailys.Worse,if they manage to get a day with more free time than usual,they will quickly see what a chore this system is and find something less restrictive.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            You could also do the levelling on a per-gaming-session basis. Imagine a game where the zones / maps / encounters are like playing a campaign of Left 4 Dead. They vary in length and difficulty, but in general can be completed in the range of an hour to an afternoon. When the players are starting, they choose their levels, skills, stats, and armor based on a pool of points they get to spend. Imagine a regular RPG, where one player got insta-levelled by the GM / admin, to level X, and then had to spend all their points to catch up with their friends / party. Or imagine it like the purchasing phase of a Counterstrike match. It would be a bit more work for the players every game, but no grind.

          2. Dev Null says:

            Hmmm. Speculating wildly here; could you lock instances to x times / level? So if you want to level fast by playing 20 hours a day you can, but you have to do it by playing a variety of content, instead of just griding the same fight? Or not even lock the content, just have an xp system that gives diminishing returns for fighting the same guys?

            The problem with all of these ideas is that, if you’re going to do anything at all to reducing grinding, then you’d bloody well better be supplying a _ton_ of content. The whole point of an MMO is to keep people playing the game, so if they’re not grinding you have to give them something else to do.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              The original Guild Wars had a ridiculously low level cap (I’m wanting to say 20) and built its mechanics around its PvP content. I never actually got that far into the game, but it felt like the PvE quests were probably going to generate enough experience that I would hit that maximum level without substantial instance grinding.

              Now getting desired gear was probably a whole different kettle of fish . . .

              1. FluffySquirrel says:

                Guild wars was kinda similar to the ‘stop at level 6’ style of pathfinder/D&D play. You hit the level cap early, and then you don’t outright gain in power directly, you instead get to do stuff like just learn lots of skills, find synergies between them and make builds out of that, essentially

                You also had to specifically go out of your way to capture Elite skills from special miniboss enemies on the maps, which could be quite involved in some of them. The elite skills tended to be the capstone of most builds, so that gave you a lot to do

                As well as that, there was always gathering materials to upgrade armour if I recall correctly, and dyes to make it look pretty

                I really liked GW1 .. they actually made playing an MMORPG as a solo player fun and interesting.. if you build your NPC heroes correctly, you could do pretty much all of the game on your own really

                You’d only very occasionally need to team up with some other players if you were having difficulty with a particular mission or boss

      4. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Better idea: scrap the idea of leveling as something that needs to be gotten out of the way and make it an actual, enjoyable part of the game.

        One of the things I don’t like about a lot of the modern MMOs I’ve tried is how much of a rush they’re in to get you to higher levels, and how over-streamlined the game and progression is. I remember the early days of WoW when just going to a new zone felt like an adventure. I remember having to get to the Scarlet Monastery as a Horde character. I remember those early dungeons actually being difficult, and there being tension in fighting your way through them.

        The leveling system is important as a general goal to put the rest of the game into context, but it shouldn’t be the end unto itself. It’s fine if it takes a long time to level if the content and mechanics are dynamic and engaging. I’d rather only get through one dungeon a night if I have to coordinate well with my party and use strategy, and if the dungeon itself is interesting and immersive, than get ten times the exp facerolling ten of them in a row and not even having a chance to look at the scenery because the tank never has to stop moving.

        I think that MMOs could learn a lot from the survival genre (game like ARK or Empyrion Online). Make leveling something that happens as you play the game and do cool things rather than something that the game is stripped down to the bones to make happen as fast as possible.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Perhaps surprisingly, The Old Republic was always like this for me. Even in the early stages, I was gaining enough levels and XP — especially with Rest XP — doing all of the missions/quests in an area (except the heroics) so that my model was rarely “Go out and get XP” but was instead “Do all of the missions”. After the revamp, I could do that just doing the character and planet story arcs, which definitely made it “Level while doing the story” instead of “Grind to get levels to be able to move on to the next story”.

          It was so bad that even though I had a few characters who WOULD do the space missions, I never did them because I had enough XP without them (and outleveled them before I could try them).

    2. GTB says:

      I don’t remember exactly why i stopped playing this, but I know at least part of it was when I discovered the game had an “automatic run to quest marker” button. I’ll pass on a game that plays itself for me, thanks.

      1. Michael says:

        Some of the grind is very specifically, “let the game play itself while you do something else with your life.”

        Things like fishing and training mounts expect you to set up the internal automation tools, and just walk away.

        Crafting is a similar situation. Crafting and other worker tasks only progress while you’re logged in (they’re carried out by NPCs you hire, but you need to be online for them to actually do their job). In the case of making a fishing vessel, you need to be, literally, online for five or seven days (I forget which), for each boat. That was where I checked out.

        To be fair, you are, basically, expected to never log out, but the whole thing is nuts.

  9. Scerro says:

    Having gotten into Final Fantasy 14 recently, I’m very curious what you’d think about it. So you know, maybe in the future…

    The nice things about FF14 is that it solves my issue I had with WoW, as in you eventually got to multiple characters and lost character investment as leveling and gearing got easier. Also, FF14 has a main storyline quest (As in there’s an actual planned out story) and I’m curious as to what you’d think of it.

    1. Guile says:

      Ahh, Final Fantasy 14. The most beautiful, engaging MMO I’ve ever played for 6 months and then dropped like a brick.

      1. Scerro says:

        Yeah, I’ve done the WoW thing before. I know it’s easy to lose interest completely. I just like how I can play all the classes from a single character. Without social pull, I know I’ll get bored and stop.

        It’s also why I’m not pushing the MSQs hard at all. I’m early SB and not really trying to go through it all in one go.

      2. Phill says:

        That sounds like my FFXIV experience too. Played it. Loved it. (Loved the crafting system particularly ). Then just stopped playing at some point. Not in the usual logging in less frequently or busy not doing much and slowly letting it go. I just one day stopped logging in and never went back.

    2. Mephane says:

      I tried it a bit (i.e. trial account), but quickly dropped it. It’s essentially a Final Fantasy reskin of World Of Warcaft. Same combat mechanics (so dull), same endgame.

    3. MelTorefas says:

      I have friends who play FFXIV and I loved running Palace of the Dead with them (I tend to <3 roguelikes so proc-gen with "permadeath" was right up my alley). I had a blast for awhile, but I just could not stand actually playing anything else in the game.

      One issue I had was the content of the story quests and the fact that they are absolutely mandatory for progression. I didn't just dislike the story, I found it actively gross and exploitative, as well as incredibly predictable in standard JRPG fashion. Being forced to do it to unlock new zones/features was awful.

      But I might have managed to get by just skipping all the dialogue and cutscenes if it weren't for the biggest issue I had with the game, which was that I have never played a game that seemed so hell-bent on deliberate wasting the player's time. I eventually hit a point where I had YET ANOTHER quest that was literally nothing but running back and forth talking to the same npc/set of npcs, and suddenly went "what the hell am I doing". I unsubbed I don't think I can ever bring myself to play it again.

      I hate quest-based progression in games as a rule, but at least in WoW I could generally just ignore it (Legion made that harder admittedly). FFXIV has the distinction of being the only MMO whose questing is *actually* painful for me.

      On top of this stuff is all the weird arbitrary restrictions in the interface about which windows you can open when, the way all your bars disappear when you are interacting with something, and the way you have to be at a full stop to interact with something or the game won't let you touch it. Plus really long global cooldowns in combat, the incredibly linear combo system, and a bunch of other such weirdness which just makes the game feel janky as hell.

      All of which is a shame because the game is really pretty and was the most fun I have had making character outfits since I finally gave up on Champions Online. Plus interesting enemies and really varied zone designs. I made it to Stormblood (by purchasing a Jump potion to skip all the end-of-expansion story stuff), and the Yanxia zone was my favorite zone in any MMO.

      1. Ilseroth says:

        This is exactly my issue with FFXIV as well, I played it for a while, I was able to finish the “main campaign” and then they got into the in between content that bookends the original stuff and the first expansion and it was just the worst. People kept telling me “yeah that stuff is bad, but the expansion stuff is good” and I’m just thinking

        “Fuck. This. I just want to do dungeons and I can’t because I have to do this dumbass main quest line in order to unlock them!”

        Eventually I got into the expansion and it was just as boring and I couldn’t take it anymore. Stopped playing and haven’t gone back. I mighta considered but the monthly subscription cost acts as the final nail in the coffin keeping me from trying it again.

      2. Scerro says:

        It is painful to have story quests which are fetch quests, I agree.

        The thing, quests are synonymous with fetching/killing things. If you expect something magical and that not to be the case… I can’t help you. MMOs are pretty much by definition quest driven. I learned all those lessons from WoW. That’s why I approached FF14 with a super casual approach. End game is actually my enemy.

        Expecting the game to be any different than Wow was a mistake. Unless an MMO is radically different in set up (cast bars are a dead give away that it’s just WoW with a different skin), it’s all just the same. Even TERA is the same back end skin, despite combat being radically different.

        Getting a skip potion to get past Heavensward is a little bit sad. Because that’s the only story that’s actually good in the game. It pretty much throws away Minfilia and that crew and focuses much more tightly on Alphinaud and Isgard.

  10. Lachlan the Sane says:

    A few of these characters look suspiciously like Bart Simpson. I mean, toe to tip, they are a Bart.

    1. Felblood says:

      It’s a little known fact that the ancient Koreans invented mousse, gel and hairspray. ;)

  11. Heather B says:

    Have you tried Elder Scrolls Online? It’s been my main go-to game for about ten months now. Combat has the fluid quality you’re talking about, with heavy and light attacks, block, roll dodge, stun, knockback, etc. Great looking customizable characters who aren’t the usual bethesda potato faces. Hugely detailed costume/outfit system that shows what you want to wear regardless of gear equipped. Best solo gameplay of any MMO I’ve tried. Really only downside is it’s not free; you have to pay for the base game (although the base game is technically free right now if you buy the upcoming Summerset expansion).

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      So, wait, the Elder Scrolls game with the most fluid combat is the MMO?

    2. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      While I agree that ESO is very good game in terms of characters and story (especially compared to latest Bethesda products), other aspects of the game have some problems. I played it for a year, and dropped it completely after Morrowind expansion.
      Combat features looks good at start, but obligatory exploits ruined it for me (example – animation interruption with block or light attack).
      Classes and abilities looks more suitable for MOBA game, and battlegrounds(arena in ESO) proved it.
      Math behind the skills is weird and stats don’t directly show anything (you can make same damage with higher weapon damage stat, because skill scaled from your stamina, but there is no in-game tip for that).
      Also, playing stamina and mana characters mechanically very similar. You either a staff-mage or a swords-and-bow-mage.
      And the main problem, after you reached 50 level and gained 160 champion points game became different and not in a good way. Dungeons became too repetitive, trials require grind for gear and min-maxing approach and high-level PVP has balance issues. As result, if you not into hardcore PVP or PVE, there’s not too much to do in game.

    3. Ooh, another ESO fan! I’m not a huge fan of active combat (I miss lotro/wow style play), but man, I love wandering around and exploring. Can’t speak at all about anything above level 16 or so (and I’ve been playing on and off since launch), but I adore the gathering and crafting and the subscription perk that keeps all the gathered stuff/crafting stuff in a bottomless bag all to itself.

      One of these years I’ll make it out of Morrowind or the various former starter zones (entire game is now level-scaled), but I’m in no hurry. Plus, who’s going to catch all the fish and find all the tombs and pretend to be Morrowind Batman if I hurry to endgame?

  12. Miguk says:

    I watch a lot of k-dramas, so I thought I’d check this out just to see what a Korean fantasy world would be like. I was disappointed to say the least. I played for 24 hours and apart from the Black Spirit, I didn’t see anything in the setting that was taken from Korean or Asian culture. They must have consciously decided to avoid that. Were the afraid it wouldn’t do as well internationally if it had stuff that wasn’t already familiar to the audience? Or were they making it primarily for Koreans, and Koreans are tired of their own culture and want something exotic?

    Whatever the reasoning was, it’s too bad. The Black Spirit was the only thing in their world that I found interesting. As much as I liked the combat, it felt meaningless in such a boring world.

  13. Eric says:

    Here are some other MMOs with kinesthetics-oriented (American spelling) combat:

    – Elder Scrolls Online: a bit contentious, given that Skyrim’s combat wasn’t all that kinesthetically pleasing itself, but it’s definitely closer to Dark Souls than it is to WoW–at least, from appearances. I haven’t actually played it.
    – Dragon’s Dogma Online: again, I haven’t actually played it, but it is based on Dragon’s Dogma, which itself had very satisfying combat feel (even if the game systems undermined it a bit).
    – Vindictus: this I have played (many years ago; details are hazy). From what I do remember, it’s probably a bit closer to traditional MMO combat than the other games here.

    There are a handful of MMO-like games with good combat feel, such Destiny and Warframe, but these aren’t melee-oriented and deviate pretty far from normal MMO format.

    1. Sectant says:

      Warframe is fantastic, although the new player experience can be a bit confusing. It has the problem a lot of long-running MMOs seem to get where they end up with a hundred different systems and currencies stacked on top of one another. It also takes a while to get to the interesting story bits, but the gameplay is good enough to carry it until then.

      1. Mephane says:

        Yeah, Warframe is a fantastic game which every time I check out what has happened since I played it the last time, has become even more daunting to dive back in than the previous time I checked (and also decided not to play again).

      2. Majikkani_Hand says:

        I want to like Warframe, I really do. It has the bones of a nice game somewhere under there. But with how complicated it is, and with how little explanation for anything there is (even the freakin’ UI!), all the smooth, beautiful fighting and parkour in the world can’t draw me in. Not even with pretty design choices. I hit some sort of timing-based mission, could not get more than 1/4 of the capture points to stay captured no matter WHAT I did, and just…had to give up on it. I couldn’t figure out what to do next to progress even with a guide. I had to beat that mission, and I couldn’t. No idea what I was doing wrong. No idea where to even start looking for solutions. Just…no path forward.

        Clearly enough people have been able to bypass that mission that the game has a real following–in fact, one of my friends is past that mission, although hell if he can troubleshoot for me. I feel, though, that being able to completely confound your players during a series of missions that appears to stand in for a TUTORIAL to the point where they not only are not progressing, but don’t know where to even start, is a substantial flaw that absolutely needs to be addressed.

        1. Canthros says:

          Playing an interception mission solo is going to be pretty difficult. If you’re still just bebopping around the star chart, though, you can probably wait a little bit for 1-3 other players to join in.

        2. Felblood says:


          You’re going to have to find a party to do an Interception mission, unless you are just massively over-leveled for it. They are designed so your team has to split up to defend the 4 comms towers, but still manage to support each other as needed.

          You just unlocked the ability to make friends and invite people to parties, at the end of the previous mission, but the tutorial doesn’t invest enough time in explaining this most vital function of your new Communications Module.

          Obviously 4 people is best, but even 2 have a real shot at victory. One just doesn’t.

          It should be enough to set your matchmaking to Public, select the node and wait 1-3 minutes.

          Send friend requests to Twoscythe. I’m not on as much, now that I have the kids at home, but I’m happy to help out with almost all levels of content, from the tutorial to boss blitzing, to Sorties, to Teralyst hunts. (Trial dungeons are for crazy people, though. I don’t need arcanes badly enough to socialize with 7 people that hardcore.)

          1. Sectant says:

            I disagree; I’ve done plenty of interception missions solo.

            The winning strategy for a solo player is to always be capturing a point. When you finish capturing a point, immediately parkour to the closest enemy-controlled point as quickly as possible and capture it. Don’t try to stand and defend anything unless you control all four points. If you do it this way you should be able to capture the points faster than the enemy can reset them, at least for the first few rounds (and you only need to complete one for it to count as mission completion generally).

            Of course if you’re having trouble with a particular mission you can also just set matchmaking to public.

            1. Felblood says:

              Yeah, it’s not impossible, but it isn’t something I’d ever advise a struggling newbie to attempt.

      3. Felblood says:

        The big problem for Warframe, which they are aware of and are struggling to address, is that it doesn’t do a great job of separating the stuff you can do, from the stuff you need to do and care about.

        It’s nice that every enemy in the game drops some kinds of crafting materials, based on what planet they are on, in addition to money and XP, but it can be a bit overwhelming for new players to be informed that they’ve received 6223 ferrite, 1223 nano spores*, 1200 polymer bundles, 360 circuits, 1 morphic materials, 1 oberon helm blueprint, 1 seer blueprint, 1 orokin cell, 1000 Hexus, 500 Steel Meridian, -500 New Loka, -1000 Perrin Sequence, 10,000 rifle affinity, 12 pistol affinity, 300 warframe affinity, 666 melee affinity, 552 pet affinity, 230,000 credits, and 650 endo.

        Improvements to the mission progress/mission summary screen have made it a little easier to take this all in, but there are still a lot of resources you will encounter before you have a firm grasp on what you might want them for.

        Focus on one immediate goal at a time, and only worry about the crafting resources you need for that job. It won’t hurt you to collect Cryotic gas, Mutagen Samples, Maprico fruits, and Tellerium ore, if they happen to fall into your lap, but you’re probably going to want to ignore that stuff until you are high enough level to use it.

        *Nano Spores can be particularly problematic because their item description just tells you they are a crafting material, and that you should handle them with care because they are actually spores of the Technocyte Infestation Plague, and you should never ever ever let them touch human skin, unless you are trying to start a zombie apocalypse.

        This is some important lore, but it’s quite unhelpful when you’re just a newbie, trying to figure out why in the name of Executor Ballas you are storing industrial volumes of this nightmare fuel in your home.

    2. ccesarano says:

      Dragon’s Dogma Online is still Japan only, though, right? I loved Dragon’s Dogma and have wanted a sequel desperately, or at least an announcement of a Western localization of the MMO. I just wanna climb some monsters and stab the back of their heads!

    3. Boobah says:

      I can only think that you’re confusing Vindictus with some other game since Vindictus is a lobby-and-instance game like Dungeon Fighter Online, only it’s 3D instead of a 2D sprite game.

      I suppose it’s possible it’s more like WoW than ESO or DDO are, neither of which I’ve played, but even if that is the case it’s a really weird comparison to make.

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    I’m surprised to hear praise for the game’s combat, because my experience with it was… not even bad, just weird. The combat was really easy. That doesn’t get it across, because easy implies some nonzero challenge. The combat was like mopping the floor. The tutorial told me to perform a three hit combo and I literally couldn’t because I never found an enemy with enough health to survive the first two hits.

    I spent maybe an hour gliding through the opening series of “collect ten bear asses” quests, growing increasingly baffled: most games start easy, but Black Desert was downright surreal. I would have quit sooner but I was so confused, surely if I played just a little more, the videogame would start. Even now as I recall it, I can’t shake the feeling that I somehow did something wrong, because surely what I got wasn’t the intended experience.

    So uh… is the tutorial zone just really, really easy?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Maybe you accidentally picked the one class or gear-set that is a bit OP in the early game?

    2. sadfsadfsadfsadf says:

      About half a year after initial release they rescaled everything (increased leveling speed, free items received during quests, etc). There is almost 0 chance of a new player dying outside of intentional incompetence up to around level 45, and for a twinked character (of which it is possible to level to 50 in about an hour to two hours), until you get to the titular desert in the mid 50s.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    The complaining begins next week.

    For Shame, Shamus! I expected better from you. I wanted the complaints now!

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Now now,young man.You cant dig into the complaints until you finish all your praise.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This sounds exactly like that korean mmo that got all the praise way back when guild wars 2 was a thing.What was it called?…Ah,tera.So what you describe seems par for the course for a korean mmo.

    1. Phill says:

      Sounds equally applicable to Blade and Soul. Or Aion.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Maybe the game was supposed to be called black dessert online,and that guy isnt a spirit,but actually a black pudding.

    1. Phill says:

      Black pudding isn’t a dessert.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats the joke.Or,at least part of it.

  18. Ivan says:

    I guess, at least, there’s no pedo-race in this game?

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    We need a word for a game that incorporates “Fighting against large groups of foes with heavy attacks, light attacks, and stunlocks, with well-telegraphed enemy attacks that reward consistent dodges, counters, and blocking.”

    People (including me) also call them “brawlers”, but then we end up mixing them in with stuff like God of War and Bayonetta, which isn’t quite right.

    But that description matches both god of war and bayonetta rather well.

    1. Syal says:

      I’m sure there’s a name for it already, but I vote we call them Slash-Em-Ups.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I remember hearing someone refer to them as ‘spectacle fighters,’ but it’s pretty clearly not standard.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          That would be TotalBiscuit.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            Somebody else must have borrowed it from him, then, since I’ve only ever watched one of TotalBiscuit’s videos (and that time he played King of Tokyo on TableTop).

            1. Mattias42 says:

              Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation coined the term spectacle fighter in his ‘MADWORLD’ review.


    2. ccesarano says:

      This was one of the points I wanted to comment on, because his description of the mechanics had me thinking of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, and he was thinking of a completely different genre than I was. Personally, if I were to describe the Assassin’s Creed or Arkham combat by a different name, it would probably be a condescending “Quick-Time-Action” or “Quick-Action-Event” system, since the prompts and feedback feels like it follows a similar logic with freedom of timing. It focuses more on being a rhythm game than the intense awareness of Ninja Gaiden or Bayonetta.

      You could always differentiate it with a J, like JRPG, despite actual country of origin (as plenty of indies have been making “JRPG-style” games for… well, actually, Sudeki predates the whole indie movement, doesn’t it?).

      To be more generous and less condescending, I suppose you could just approach it with sub-genres. They’re all action games, but Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, and God of War are Intense Action Games and Arkham and Assassin’s Creed are… hrm. Saying “Crowd-Based” isn’t right because Ninja Gaiden is all about surrounding you with lethal mooks. Perhaps “Hero-Based”? Not like super hero, but the game’s systems are intended to portray the character as being, like, level 90 from the start and working his way to level 99. In hindsight I might then suggest “Skill-based Action Game” for the former genre, but that opens up potential arguments and pretension. So “Intense Action Game” and “Hero-Based Action Game” seem to most accurately portray the intentions of the mechanics and designers.

      That’s my mental process, at least.

      1. ccesarano says:

        Or maybe just “Free Flow Fighting” like Lars says further down the page.

        That’ll teach me not to read all the comments before commenting myself.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Arkham games are rhythm games, and there is some skill in them. And they arent dias as with actual qte games, because screwing up the rhythm just makes thefights tougher, not impossible.
        Asscreeds are ubisoft games and that makes them just fine. They resemble far cry games more than any action fighting games. Which is fine.

  20. Mephane says:

    I played this quite a lot, but eventually certain design issues and the overall direction of the game turned me off.

    Certain quests reward skill points. However, some quests or quest rewards are mutually exclusive i.e. you choose between completing objective A and B, with different rewards each. Due to the way skill points work, especially at max level, the the “correct” choice is always whatever awards you a skill point.

    A few skill points are awarded in a once-per-account fashion to the currently played character. I wasted a couple of them on a throwaway character that I played only until my intended character class (Maehwa) was released, because at the time I kind of expected every character gets these individually.

    I put in a lot of effort into ensuring I always chose the correct, i.e. skill-point-awarding, option, but eventually screwed myself over at some point. A quest was like “kill some of these beasts” and the alternative option is “tell me what you learnt about these beasts”. I turned in one of them and the other disappeared before I could check it out, and only consulting some wiki or whatever told me that I just lost a skill point reward and got instead, like, a some gem that I wouldn’t even use. I even contacted support whether they can reset the quest for me, to no avail.

    This was the start of the decline of the game for me. Everything after that felt wrong, like I accidentally and permanently nerfed my character. I eventually quit, however, not due to this, but due to two other things.

    First, and the smaller aspect at the time (I don’t know how big an issue it is now), was that while the game devs claimed it was 100% free of any P2W elements, that was not exactly true. Certain things from the shop gave you an actual gameplay advantage. Usually not by increasing stats or whatever, but in more insidious ways. For example, there was an outfit that hid the floating name above your character from other players, even if they have the feature set to “always show all names”. It was the perfect tool for PKers and gankers, because it effectively granted you a modest level of stealth otherwise unattainable.

    Another costume in the shop granted you extreme swim speed, to the point where you wouldn’t need a boat. The thing about boats in the game is that they degrade over time, permanently, and eventually you have to make a new one. I hate mechanics like these with a passion, and in fact outright refused to participate in this. The fact that the cash shop sold a “now you can swim as fast as a boat” outfit was infuriating.

    Eventually, around the time I left, they started adding pets with more significant advantages than merely a bit faster loot collection speed. Normally pets can collect loot for you while you fight, at specific intervals, a little bit of convenience. But a new zone arrived where there was some survival mechanisms where you’d suffer from heat or cold (not sure which was it) and had to recuperate by holding out in certain safe areas, drink certain potions, etc. And one pet in the cash shop outright reduce that survival mechanic, so you’d have to drink or hide far less often. It doesn’t precisely make you more powerful, but it greatly reduces a really frustrating game mechanic that can kill you, so it goes beyond mere convenience.

    The other thing, and a much bigger issue, ultimately made me leave. Let’s get back to the following two paragraphs:

    This means you don’t have the usual continuous turnover of gear, where your outfit changes every 20 minutes because you keep finding new gear with very slightly higher numbers on it. I took my witch all the way from level 1 to 50 without ever needing to change gear.

    Instead of dropping new gear, the loot in the game is based around upgrades for that gear. You find gems that impart bonuses and you put the gems into slots. You find upgrade stones that have a random chance to boost the numbers a bit. I like this because it means if you find a look that you really like, you can take that outfit and turn it into epic gear through upgrades.

    I am this type of player, to the point where this is my #1 aspect an MMO must solve, otherwise I will not touch it. Let me pick a look and keep it, period. I don’t mind grinding for bigger numbers so long as my look and style stays intact. Some games have dedicated style slots – the best solution imo – that override your stat-giving gear, for example LotRO and Wildstar. Some allow you to either transfer the look of one item onto another, e.g. World of Warcraft (though it took them a long while to add this, they started with a stance explicitly against this) and Diablo 3, Other games turn this on its head, letting you choose gear based on its looks and then modify and upgrade the stats as you please. Destiny 2 does this, as does Black Desert.

    Before I bought the game I checked out how the system worked and decided it fits my needs. Essentially, any piece of armor or weapon you have can be upgraded by consuming black stones (or whatever they were called). The higher the level of the item, the more stones the process takes. There is an optional RNG component, i.e. you have a chance for a successful upgrade (failure means the stones are lost and the item remains unchanged), but for a higher cost you can “force upgrade” with a guaranteed success. I always, exclusively did that. There was an entire meta about optimizing RNG upgrade success chances that could reduce your overall consumption of black stones, but I found that utter bullshit and was just glad I had the option to do direct, non-RNG upgrades.

    But then the system was changed. Or rather, the maximum item level was increased, but the system for the new levels was different. Now suddenly instead of using the black stones you can loot from slain enemies, you have to use different, special stones that you have to craft, using special, rare materials, and of course your crafting skills.

    Now while the crafting system in the game is quite decent, indeed one of the better ones, I just don’t like crafting beyond “you can dismantle anything to get mats, then press a button here to get some new item”. As soon as I have to grind crafting levels to be allowed to make what I want, or manage piles of materials used in intricate systems of crafting in-between components used to make more components used to make the actual item, I will tune out. I am glad these systems exist for those who like that, but it’s just not for me. I am here to slay monsters with swords or magic, not to manage a production and even – yes – staff.

    So naturally I had tuned out of crafting, too, and just resorted to collecting materials to sell, and buying stuff with the profits.

    But these special upgrade stones could only be crafted yourself. You couldn’t even purchase them from other players, and even if you could you’d be at the mercy of a massive amount of inflation due to the never-ending demand by players with ingame pockets much deeper than mine, as these things usually go.

    So I’d have to spent a massive amount of time and endure all this hassle of the intricate crafting system just so I could keep using my gear. When I made the extra effort before buying the game to ensure that the system which allows me to keep the gear I like was without such a massive hassle.

    But it gets worse even. The new upgrade system for the higher levels did not feature the “spend more for guaranteed success” element. It was now mandatory RNG. And to add insult to injury, above a certain level a failed upgrade would make the item lose levels, too!

    So I noped out of the game hard. I am still sad about this change in direction, because I really, really liked the game and the combat system, which so far is still the best MMO combat I have ever experienced. I could even accept and ignore the issues with the semi-P2W cash store, so good was it. But that new item upgrade system was exactly the kind of thing I went out of my way to avoid.

    P.S.: Soon I might be facing a similar issue in Destiny 2. Item upgrades so far allowed me to keep my gear, but the next raise in maximum item level is happening next month and it will go to 380, while currently most items in the game claim that they can only be upgrade up to 360, which is oddly specific considering that the maximum attainable now is 330. Plus, there’s a bit expansion near the end of the year and Destiny 1 also did an item reset with their first expansion, so even if they raised the 360 limit to 380 next month, the threat remains on the horizon until they declare ones and for all that the only item reset happening will be at the start of Destiny 3.

    I wouldn’t even begrudge them so much if at least they came clear early, and would not leave us hanging in the dark. If they’d just say “first expansion does not let you infuse your old gear any further, go farm new stuff from scratch” I could just make peace with it and uninstall the game now as opposed to after wasting months on it between now and the expansion…

    1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

      That levelling system sounds absolutely infuriating. And I actually kinda like crafting.

      I was honestly interested in this game, but these sort of shenanigans would rapidly kill any interest I have in it.

      And the fact that they patched it in afterwards is just the angry cherry on top of this frustration cake.

  21. Phill says:

    I’d have said that WoW’s combat was one of the biggest things where it improved over what came before and did better than most of what came after too. None of the other tab-target style games managed the same immediacy and responsiveness of WoW: the other games I tried always left me with a sense of disconnect between my button presses and the actions.

    GW2 kind of had it, but I didn’t like the more action combat direction it went. The importance of individual dodging and damage avoidance was one of the things that made group play an unenjoyable clusterwomble of over-the-top particle effects.

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      I still prefer WoW combat over bad action combat. At least managing cooldowns is something that I have to think about, as opposed to just mashing the attack button.

      One of my biggest problem with a lot of the action-combat MMOs I’ve played is how fast the enemies go down. There really isn’t enough time for interesting mechanics to come into play to make it feel like a real fight.

    2. MelTorefas says:

      100% agree with this. I actually really like the combat in WoW, which is not something I can say about basically any other MMO of that type. The dodge-roll implementation in GW2, and the way every character is essentially a glass cannon (especially in the endgame zones where you literally die in one hit a lot of the time) have pretty much entirely killed the game for me. Which sucks because it does ‘questing’ in a way I actually found tolerable, and has a lot of unique and interesting ideas going for it.

      (Though to be fair, all the microtransactiony stuff wasn’t doing it any favors either.)

      1. Doomcat says:

        As someone who still plays GW2, I both agree and disagree with this, the problem the game has is, really, that the “Meta” pushes everyone towards glass cannon, when you *really* don’t need too be. Unless you’re doing raids or end-game group content, there’s gearsets out there that makes you somewhat tanky and still able to solo most of the game’s content just fine (Stuff like Marauder, Soldier’s, or Trailblazer’s gear.)

        The microtransactiony stuff, however, is a valid concern. It’s…I guess, the cost of not having a subscription fee to your MMO. >.> However, I still think the game is very worth playing.

    3. Felblood says:

      I would agree that WoW really dominates in terms of hotbar/cooldown combat systems, but I think that’s also part of the reason that WoW style combat has such a bad rap.

      WoW is a very finely tuned game, and once you’ve tasted the best, no cheap imitation is going to pass muster.

      If an MMO is going to succeed, it needs something to set it apart from the pack. “Like WoW, but not quite as good,” is the most damning of faint praises.

  22. Kamica says:

    A friend of mine and I have a youtube channel (bear with me, this is not a shameless plug =P), and in it we at two points ended up playing an MMO (two different MMOs). And both were exceptionally (for our channel) popular amongst Russians. So I suspect that the MMO market is really strong in Russia at the moment?

    1. Kylroy says:

      I remember a comment that Russia and Eastern Europe tend to lag a decade behind the US and Europe in what’s hot in pop culture (in terms of what the US and Europe export to them, at least) – maybe that’s happening in PC gaming, too?

    2. Tonich says:

      I’d say it is, although as far as I can tell MMOs are on a bit of decline now, at least among youngsters (I work as a school teacher, so I’m at least partially aware of what kids play these days, haha). A few years back there was a huge World of Tanks craze, and I still remember Lineage II being so hot it would often get into non-gaming media.

      1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

        Fortnite seems to be the newest rage.

        I guess the new generation has a lot less patience for the sort of numbers grinding and time-wasting that MMO’s often partake in? Or maybe they’re just interested in different genres.

  23. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    In my experience with Korean MMO (TERA online, mostly, but others, too), the grind isn’t to get to max level (that should be painless), it’s to get the best gear (or even relatively good gear) once you’re max level.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Isnt that the case in all of the mmos?

      1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        Well, I don’t have much experience with western ones, but it seems Korean MMOs are worse, from what I hear.

  24. Redrock says:

    Over the past couple of weeks I had a blast in Black Desert Online, and then I stopped having a blast and the whole experience felt more or less like a waste of time for reasons I’ll get into later.

    Isn’t that applicable every MMO ever? Sorry. Not a big fan of the genre.

  25. Mephane says:

    Shamus, earlier today I’ve posted a lengthy comment on Black Desert, then when I tried to fix a typo, I was notified that it was marked as spam. Now it has disappeared. The thing had only one link and was otherwise pure text.

    1. Shamus says:

      I checked the spam filter and it’s not in there. :(

      I am sorry.

      1. Mephane says:

        Now it has reappeared.

        Go home WordPress, you’re drunk. :D

        1. Wordoresss says:

          m not dtunk yoiur facqe is drunk.. you go hoome1 shut nup

        2. Mephane says:

          Okay, now it is still shown for me, but with the remark that it is awaiting moderation. What the…

  26. Lars says:

    We need a word for a game that incorporates “Fighting against large groups of foes with heavy attacks, light attacks, and stunlocks, with well-telegraphed enemy attacks that reward consistent dodges, counters, and blocking.”

    The fighting system used in the Arkham series is an improvement of the original Assassins Creed fighting system, wich goes back to Prince of Persia Sands of Time Triology.
    PoP named that fighting system “Free Flow Fighting”. So How about Triple-Fs?

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      They have similar attributes, but they’re not really the same. They’re also made by different developers from different teams in different parts of the world. Do you have a connecting link, or is that just how you see it?

      1. Lars says:

        Of course, they are not the same. That is why I said Arkham is an improvement to Assassins Creed. Like the Combo Counter which makes Bats faster and enables him to use Special attacks. AC itself had a more “realistic” touch than Prince of Persia. Each entry in the Sands of Time trilogy (Forgotten Sands doesn’t count) has a different approach to combat. Where Warrior Within I liked best with its different weapon styles and combos.

        But all the fighting systems had similar elements:
        – Blocking/Evasion has priority to attacks – so attack animations stop and counter animation starts.
        – You are fighting large groups of enemies. Where some are immune to different attacks, cannot be blocked, evade your standard attacks or something like that. So the player has to vary his repertoire.
        – An artistic style – The Prince jumps over enemies, dives through legs. Bats jumps into the air to let Baterangs rain. Slow Motion included.

  27. BlueHorus says:


    It’s Shamus…
    …writing about an MMO…
    …And it’s not a series of comedy articles involving a character with a silly name, mocking the game’s story?

    Okay, that’s…fine, I guess…

  28. MaxEd says:

    Russia is a prime market for Korean MMOs, and has been for a long time already. It used to be that Western MMOs all relied on subscriptions. And a subscription to a MMO is… a bit too much, when you convert from dollars into roubles. Steam has regional pricing (3-4 times lower) for Russia, but none of MMORPGs done that, so a lot of Russian gamers were wary of paying that much every month. Especially given the long tradition of pirating games that Russia had before Steam more or less conquered it (barring a few high-profile releases that try to sell at the full price in Russia).

    But Korean MMOs went F2P pretty quickly. Their home market loves F2P, China loves F2P and Russian players loved the idea of a free MMO too. Since then, Korean MMOs are quite popular here, and are often operated by a local company which manages translation and other adaptations (with varying success).

    1. Lars says:

      And Russia is more likely to accept Pay2Win gameplay. For example: The Crytek game Warface didn’t last long in the European or American market, because it was clearly Pay2Win. But it was quite successful in Russia.

  29. Joshua says:

    Dark Ages of Camelot was my first ever experiences with MMOs. I picked it up because some friends I knew played it and I….didn’t like it. I think I only got to level 10 or so as an Eldritch (I think?), and the combat was extremely boring. The below is my vague recollections from the experience 16 years ago:

    Advertise in the chat to find a half dozen or so other people around your level so you could kill monsters to slowly grind your level. Of course, you had to spend a lot of time waiting for the group to meet up and find something to kill. There were some quests I guess, but you had to go up to random NPCs and type /quest or something to see if they had something for you to do, and it might just be go kill some guy. Get some XP killing a few mobs, and then find out someone in your group had to go, and spend more time waiting to get a replacement.

    I never played it past its free first month, and decided I wouldn’t play any more MMOs until they got to the point of actually being as enjoyable as a single-player game. My next (and main) MMO after that wasn’t for 5 more years with LOTRO, which had an enjoyable single-player experience made better with other people. I guess WoW did this too, but I missed out on that due to my reticence with playing MMOs so soon after DOAC.

    1. Daimbert says:

      DAOC was my first MMO, too, but I mostly soloed it, grinding out some mobs carefully and running some quests. I grouped a couple of times. It … wasn’t that easy to solo, but what really caught my attention was the world, because it combined three of my all-time favourite legendary/mythical realms. This meant that I had SEVERE altitis, especially since different classes and the different realms played differently, so it was always far too tempting to start over with a new character or class or realm.

      The same settings with a more solo-friendly environment would produce an MMO that I’d probably never stop playing …

  30. Aeillien says:

    A little googling and random research doesn’t really clarify the whole “Black Desert Online” thing. I’m inclined to think that it’s “this is a cool name!” on one level, but perhaps its also “the desert of the real” sort of metaphorical/figurative desert.

  31. ccesarano says:

    I can’t really comment authoritatively on the subject, but my understanding from my brother’s time living in South Korea is that they love Western video games. It’s kind of the opposite of Japan, where Western games seem to struggle to make a blip on the radar among the greater market. I mean, it’s pretty widespread given StarCraft and jokes about some twelve year-old Korean kid wiping the floor with you, but it extends beyond that.

    I don’t know if I can gather any preference for Western settings, then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that enjoyment of Western games had lent itself to the choice to make an MMO with Western fantasy elements.

    What’s interesting is that… see, I dunno how much I want to speculate since I’m only familiar enough with both cultures on a superficial level. I know that there’s bad blood between South Korea and Japan. However, the two certainly have a lot of shared DNA, and the two still have influence on one another’s culture. So what makes South Korea fascinating to me is that it is perfectly positioned to do what Japan struggled with ten-to-twelve years ago with the Xbox 360 and PS3 era: blend Western and Eastern game mechanics and aesthetics into something with global appeal.

    I’m curious to see where the future of Korean game development will go. Right now it seems to focus on a lot of free-to-play stuff – or at least what makes a splash over here in America. Similarly, there’s an indie developer from Shanghai getting a lot of attention for Lost Soul Aside, an action game inspired by FFXV’s aesthetic and developed by… well, it started with just one guy, but I think expanded to some additional assistance. Regardless, Japan, I think, is going to start getting some serious competition in the Asian game development market over the next decade or so, and as someone that has a fondness for Japanese media… well, it’s a massive topic all on its own.

    1. Christopher says:

      About the setting, I just wanna pop in and say that Japan also makes a ton of games inspired by western fantasy tropes. I think both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, the most influential JRPGs, were originally inspired by Dungeons & Dragons? And you’ll find that stuff in a ton of JRPGs, from Tales of Vesperia to Golden Sun to Dark Souls. The games that take place in a mystical Japanese setting certainly exist, but I’m not sure if the Personas and Niohs of the world actually outnumber the western ones.

      So it’s not weird to me at all that Black Desert Online uses a western fantasy setting and does it in their own Korean way with stuff like the character designs.

      1. John says:

        I’m not sure how much direct influence Dungeons & Dragons had on early JRPGs. I know that there was a great deal of indirect influence as the early western RPGs–Wizardry, for example–that were relatively big hits in Japan cribbed a lot from D&D.

        1. ccesarano says:

          I really, really wish I could find the link of it, but there’s a comparison of all the original Japanese names for the monsters in the NES Final Fantasy and how the vast majority were ripped right out of the D&D Monster Manual, just with some visual reinterpretation for them. It included Black Puddings, Beholders, the Sahagin were pulled from D&D… sadly I cannot find the link now.

          Regardless, Christopher brings up a good point that taking influence from Western media, history, and myth is nothing new for Japan either, though it’s… it’s a bit less directly taken from Western media now and more taking influence from its own history. Japan’s entertainment industry is in a weird spot right now where everything is a cycle of influence, between anime, light novels, manga, and video games. They’re all influencing and inspiring one another with an emphasis on a lot of tropes, and while I think we see a lot of efforts to break through – more in the games industry than manga and anime – it’s been more influenced by anime and JRPG’s that themselves were inspired by Western media. If that makes sense.

          If you look at Japan’s pop culture of the 80’s and early 90’s, though, it’s clear there was a lot of influence from American entertainment, but with a unique cultural flair. These days… not as much, though again, that’s changing.

          I wasn’t really thinking about it when I made my post, though, so perhaps what we’re seeing in South Korea and their inspirations is closer to what was going on with anime, manga, and game creators in 1980’s Japan.

          1. Asdasd says:

            Not only trope-heavy, but often highly self-referential regarding the tropes. These tropes are then enshrined and venerated by the audience, to the point where a work that doesn’t include clichéd character trait X, or overused world building element Y, will be considered to have done so deliberately, and may receive criticism (or praise) for being radical or provocative.

            It all gets a little tiresome. Not that Western pop culture output is exactly drowning in originality – how many dozens of superhero films have we seen in the last decade? – but I think the difference in Japan is in the level of codification of their tropes, which almost supercede the place we reserve for genre in the discourse.

            1. ccesarano says:

              Yeah, my brother occasionally visits MyAnimeList’s forums and most of the viewers are young and demanding of these tropes. It’s not exclusive to Japan, and we’re starting to see it in Western media as well. Just look at how The Last Jedi plays with a bunch of potential character pairings, as if teasing all the ‘shippers on Tumblr with any potential number of possibilities. We’re reaching a super post-modern time where scripts are written to appease fans in specific, manufactured ways.

              Sure, you can argue it’s better than forcing a young teen male to accidentally trip right into a woman’s bosom, but how long until we have equally cringe-worthy and repetitive tropes just so they can be made into GIFs and memes?

          2. Aaron says:

            I always find conversations about how Japan does or doesn’t adapt Western tropes weird.

            Like, it’s sometimes as if a Japanese (or South Korean) game is rated on how westernized it is, the more western the better. And if it’s not western enough then it’s too “anime”. It makes the impression that Japanese games are expected to all but cater to western gamers in order to be considered a quality product. Western games meanwhile don’t seem to have such expectations, being considered the global default.

            I mean, what would a fully non-Westernized Japanese or South Korean game that isn’t anime-ish look like?

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              There are plenty of westerners who actually prefer too anime over westernized.In fact,even though I prefer western rpgs I do think that injecting some stuff from jrpgs into them(easternize them?) would be a good thing.

              1. Aaron says:

                It’s just that I often see commentary of Japanese media over how they’re received in the west with little commentary over how they’re received in Japan. For instance, does anyone in Japan complain about the “chosen one” and “power of friendship” tropes as we do?

                In fact,even though I prefer western rpgs I do think that injecting some stuff from jrpgs into them(easternize them?) would be a good thing.

                Something I’d like to see is a game with western gameplay but eastern aesthetics. Imagine Final Fantasy 7, but it’s gameplay (combat, quests and dialog, world design) is The Witcher 3 (does Final Fantasy 15 count?).

  32. Darren says:

    Yes, Dante’s Inferno and Paradise Lost–really any work from that period–has dramatically influenced the modern interpretation of demons and angels. If you look at something like Atlus’s long-running Shin Megami Tensei, which draws more heavily from the original mythology and folklore, you’ll find much crazier versions of strange creatures from Christian belief, as well as distinctly Japanese perspectives on Western theology.

    1. Viktor says:

      Yeah, I get that “Pale dude with wings and a sundisk” and “Dark-skinned dude with horns” are the shorthand that western culture has adopted, but that’s just evidence that no one actually reads the bible. I wish people would actually go back to the source and base their angels off of biblical descriptions, that would at least be something we haven’t seen before.

      1. Darren says:

        Well, Atlus has been doing it in Shin Megami Tensei–including a massive web of spin-offs such as the Persona series–for almost thirty years now.

      2. Kathryn says:

        The first thing every angel says upon meeting a human? “Fear not.” They must be f’n terrifying. I don’t care for the chubby baby depiction. (although…judging by that LP I read of Drakengard, “fear not” COULD be an appropriate exhortation…)

        (Also – I was rereading A Wind in the Door recently. Guess what the very first thing Blajeny says is?)

    2. Bubble181 says:

      To be fair, the devils in Dante’s Inferno don’t look anything like “dark guy with horns”, either.They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
      And only some of the lesser angels are depicted as humans-with-wings. Most are “beyond description” or “so bright one cannot look at them”.

  33. acronix says:

    I’m looking forward to the next entry, because I played the game for about 50 hours in total before abandoning it. Mostly because I couldn’t understand some of the systems (and because the people who are in charge of the South American version are a bunch of doofuses who break the launcher every other patch).

  34. Cilvre says:

    I loved BDO and still log in on occasion rather than trying to play constantly, that may be why I don’t mind it so much. I will have to share some of my characters with you on twitter Shamus, cause I have a wizard that clearly looks old and a warrior that looks middle aged.

  35. Jeff says:

    Since the Black Spirit intrigued me, I went and tried to dig out details in Google. Apparently the Black Spirit (along with your background) is explained at the conclusion(?) of the Valencia main quest line, which looks to have gone live roughly a year ago.

    It looks rather interesting, and does seem to have a bit of pay off there.

  36. Phantom Renegade says:

    We have to wait a week for the griping?!?

    But that’s the best part!

  37. Paragon19 says:

    I’m kind of appalled you could mention and link Monster Factory, but not specifically link to the Bart Simpson episode.

  38. Vi says:

    Oh, this game! Neat! I was curious, but couldn’t tell much about it besides how fancy the graphics are.
    About livelier combat mechanics, I’ve been playing Wildstar Online lately. I don’t know if it’s objectively good (especially since online commenters keep insisting the game died years ago and nobody cares about it anymore), but the combat is at least deeper than I’m used to. I’m used to simple “kite until it stops hurting you” or “punch it until one of you falls over” mechanics, but now I’m hopping around my enemies constantly and trying to synchronize my hotbar presses to what they are doing. Sometimes my hand hurts. That’s supposed to be a good omen, right?

    1. ThaneofFife says:

      I played Wildstar during the beta. I can’t remember if I ever bought it, but I think I probably did (which means I basically just wasted money).

      That said, I never made it past the 2hr mark on any character in Wildstar. It reminded me of all the reasons I’d previously quit WoW (the first time)–character movement was too slow, points of interest were too far apart, wayfinding was too difficult, early leveling was too grind-ey. To be fair, WoW subsequently fixed most of that, and was pretty amazing during Wrath of the Lich King, but I didn’t feel like waiting around to see if Wildstar was going to do the same. Life is too short to play a boring game.

    2. Steve C says:

      I played Wildstar in the beta too for only a weekend. I got turned off hard by the boring starting environments.

  39. Lun says:

    Well, Shamus, your comment about North America not getting this game before other countries made me smirk. I know you didn’t realize it and even claimed you don’t pretend that NA automatically should get stuff first. I know that, but the truth is, you’re perplexed only because you’re used that NA always gets the stuff first.

    Europeans don’t question getting stuff later only because they’re used to it. Americans don’t question getting stuff earlier because it’s good for them but also because they’re used to it.
    When the opposite happens, suddenly it’s perplexing.

    Anyway, I have zero interest for grindy Korean mmorpg games, I’d rather play a generic soldier-filled fps, and that’s saying something. But I tend to like reading your articles regardless of the subject.

  40. Aaron says:

    The stereotypical western character design favors men that look ~30 and women who look ~18. This extra age for the men means the male characters get more of the square-jawed “rugged” features that don’t develop until the late 20s, and we often have a lot of focus on giving them a large variety of beards and mustaches. In Black Desert, both men and women look like they fall within the 18-to-20 range, with one or two of the female designs dipping down into the mid-teens.

    When it’s put this way I do prefer Black Desert’s implied gender parity in character designs (other than the part where female designs dip into the mid-teens while male designs apparently don’t).

  41. aradinfinity says:

    I’m honestly really happy that you’re covering Black Desert, Shamus, because I am never, ever, ever going to play it, and I like knowing what things are like.

    I’m going to be up front, here: there is no way you can convince me to partake in this game. Well, that’s not quite true; the devs could, by taking away my major gripe with the game. (I’m also broke, so I can’t play pretty much any game that isn’t FTP.)

    That major gripe is simple: that character classes are split by gender. Personally, I can’t play boys in video games, because I’m a trans girl and it triggers my dysphoria; that means that half the classes in the game are locked off from me for no good reason, which halves the content I could get out of Black Desert. Doesn’t matter how pretty the graphics are, how kinesthetically pleasing the game is, that makes the hard-earned cash I have available need to stretch twice as far in order to be worth it.

    I’ve heard that a majority of classes are just the same class, but with a few ability differences; in that case, why make them different classes at all, and not just offer those choices in game? Like, Idunno, talent trees or something? What are you gaining by splitting that gameplay choice up into different classes?

    I’m not certain on this- because, again, I haven’t played it- but looking at the classes of the feminine persuasion, I have no idea which specialize in more tanky builds that like to go toe to toe with enemies. Valkyrie, maybe? Or Maehwa, whatever that is? The rest of them sound like they prefer to be at range, or the roguish type that dances around opponents. That’s fine, but I really like to be the plodding, unstoppable juggernaut; a Warrior or Berserker seem like natural components of that, but they’re also boys. And what about ranged weapon combat for boys? Is that a thing?

    The only way I could see justifying this is if they were specific characters; like in FFX or whatever example you have- I haven’t actually played very far in it, forgive me for getting things wrong- you can build your Tidus in a few different ways, but he’s still gonna be Tidus. Another MMO does this well; Elsword. (It’s also pretty kinesthetically pleasing, in my experience, but that’s neither here nor there.) Every character is their own class, and is referred to in the singular, but looking at the description of the Mystic above, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Mystics are apparently only girls, for some reason.

    So, that being said, I’m looking forward to this series. You can play this so I don’t have to, and I can still get the ideas from it for use in any games that I eventually get out of my head and create, if I ever do. Win win. And y’all write in a way I’m personally fond of, so there’s that, too.

  42. Tever says:

    It’s not wrong per se, but doesn’t it seem like a missed opportunity?

    Well, no. Because those NA devs didn’t make the game for me, a gamer from Japan. NA gamers see games about the NA all the damn time. Something fuedal Japan inspired probably seems like a breath of fresh air. I, a gamer from Japan, was an afterthought in their marketing. The fact that I see games like this all the time was not a factor in their decision-making process.

    I can see being disappointed, sure. But I don’t see how it’s a missed opportunity.

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