Gearing up in Black Desert

As I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of chance-based crafting or gear upgrading in MMOs in general. I don’t get a rush by pressing that button and hoping for the desired outcome, at least not a positive one. It agitates me more than anything.

Many players argue that “it’s just mathematics, man” and that I only need to calculate how much upgrading all my gear will cost on average. That’s not quite accurate though, is it? After all I won’t upgrade hundreds or thousands of items, so chances of it all evening out over time are pretty slim. I’d rather have higher but fixed costs for each step, so I’d always know that investing X will get me Y.

That being said, BDO’s system (called ‘enchanting’) isn’t nearly as punishing as for example ArcheAge’s, at least in terms of upgrading weapons and armor. These items can’t be destroyed by failing an upgrade, and falling back a tier can only occur from trying to hit enchantment level 18 (of 20) onward.

The game is also very generous with login-rewards, limited time events and such. Even if I hadn’t done anything other than logging in once per day and maybe doing a quick quest or two for the last couple of months I’d have quite a stash of silver and upgrade materials by now.

Black Desert Rewards
Goodies galore.

This all combined with the fact that I really want to experience everything this wonderful game has to offer meant that I couldn’t (and didn’t need to) ignore this part of it for too long.

To prevent making costly mistakes I tried to learn as much as I could beforehand. This video is the most sensible and comprehensible guide I’ve found, it helped me a ton. The author has made some more guides about other aspects of BDO which are equally good. Thanks man!

Since I weren’t keen on having to start over a couple of times I wanted to pick the ‘best’ items to enchant right away. Based on Morrolan’s and some other guides I decided that I’d go for a Liverto Gauntlet, a Leather Vambrace and three pieces of the Heve armor set plus the gloves I was already wearing. I would enchant and wear all of these until I got pieces of boss gear (which are all Best in Slot, but rare and expensive).

I didn’t actually have to wait until I got lucky and looted the pieces I wanted off mobs. Not only is most gear in BDO tradable, it’s auction house works with a fixed-price system. Every item has a minimum and a maximum price. They fluctuate a bit, but not by orders of magnitude. So even if an item is sought after and the supply can’t meet the demand sellers can’t charge ridiculous amounts of silver for it. Hence I could just buy the items I didn’t have yet off the market, and it didn’t cost me a fortune. Not the most satisfying way to get one’s gear, but at least I know someone else pried them from the cold dead hands of some monster.

Then I was finally ready to start enchanting. Here’s the datamined and considered-to-be-accurate chart of success chances:

Black Desert Enchanting chart
This is for weapons, the one for armor isn’t much different.

A failstack is generated when an attempt to enchant an item fails. As you can see, those stacks are an immensely important part of the process if you don’t want to fail too often. The chances for success go up again from +15 to +16 (called PRI ingame) because from then on you need more expensive upgrade materials, the item loses more maximum durability with each failure (which has to be repaired by either consuming copies of the same item or using a considerable amount of a relatively expensive special item), and above DUO you fall back one tier when you fail.

What this means is that you have to do a delicate dance of building failstacks on cheaper items and only working on expensive ones when you are relatively close to the maximum number of effective stacks for the level you’re trying to reach. A successful attempt consumes all failstacks of course.

Getting items to about +11 is easy enough, after that you start to feel the chance of success dropping off considerably. I kept at it though, and before long I had reached +14 on my gauntlet, the most important but also most expensive piece of my ensemble.

I decided to build 20 failstacks before trying to hit +15. This would give me a measly 12,5% chance of success to begin with, but it’s generally not recommended to start at the effective maximum because the additional failstacks from failing a couple of times would be kind of wasted. The first five failures would give me another failstack (and thus 0,5% more success chance) each, then I’d give it another 3-5 tries at max effective stacks (while still building more total stacks). Barring success I’d then save that high amount of stacks for a later try at higher levels and switch to another character.

This was the plan. On the very first attempt though…

Black Desert Liverto15
RNG favouring me? A cold day in hell indeed.

This, of course, is why many people seem to like these chance-based systems. It sure feels nice to hit the jackpot once in a while. I know that by hitting +15 right away my gauntlet’s value has increased by much more than it has cost me to get there.

Thusly motivated I continued to enchant my other pieces as well and even dared going for PRI and DUO on gauntlet and vambrace after a while. I had mixed results, but got there. Some levels needed numbers of attempts above average, some below. Overall I believe I’ve been neither especially lucky nor unlucky.

Then some unforseen things happened. A couple patches ago the set bonuses for the also very popular Grunil armor set were changed, making using two of those instead of Heve the superior choice for me. I didn’t fancy having to start over enchanting though, so I bought Grunil helmet and gloves already at +15, and sold my corresponding Heve pieces at +14. Because of the fixed prices it wasn’t much of a loss in terms of silver, if at all. I also got a pretty good chest piece by questing, so I also sold my +15 Heve chest, having lost the set bonus anyway.

Black Desert Equipment
My gear as of now. Pretty satisfactory overall.

The accessories I’m wearing are a different story. Those are looted off mobs (except for the belt, which is quested like the chest) and neither tradable nor enchantable. For where I’m at in the game right now they’re pretty solid, I’ll use those for a while I guess. Farming them was actually quite fun, killing mobs until they dropped just like in the old days.

At the moment I’m quite content with the whole system. I’ll continue upgrading by getting the other armor pieces to DUO next. When (or if) I can muster the courage to do an attempt for TRI though…we’ll see.

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Doing a bit of everything and loving it

I’m still playing the heck out of Black Desert Online. I’m very happy to have found a game that lets me play it just the way I want – even when I want to play it completely differently from one day to the next. It really feels more like a virtual world to me than any other game I’ve played, which makes it so much more than the sum of its parts (of which there are many to boot).

Some play sessions I dedicated to following the main quest lines with the Striker. At first I had to do some backtracking because the quests led me to areas I had already visited while leveling. This wasn’t bad though, since there was still much to discover.

Black Desert Treehouse
Like this village of treehouses in the southern Calpheon area. Great view and thankfully no Ewoks.

A village called Trent, which I had visited before, all but drowned due to the most pouring and realistic looking rain I have ever seen in a game.

Black Desert Downpour
A still doesn’t do it justice really. I had to crank up the brightness a good bit too, it was much darker than this.

Of course I had to kill hundreds of mobs for the various quests, so I snatched quite a bit of loot. I replaced all my accessories during the last couple of weeks and even got some pretty good armor pieces. The Striker doesn’t need the latter anymore, but any future alts I might play will start pretty well equipped (no level requirements for any kind of gear in this game and no bind-on-pickup or bind-on-equip either).

I even looted some boss scrolls. I guess I was quite lucky since I got three in the course of just two days. From what I’ve heard they are pretty rare. Two were for the goblin boss Giath, whom I hadn’t fought before.

Black Desert Giath
The bigger they are…

The helmet he’s wearing is actually the piece of boss loot he can drop, imaginatively called Giath’s Helmet. No luck with that though.

I also got to explore a completely new region, Mediah. I think it’s supposed to look and feel mediterranean, and it kind of does I guess.

Black Desert Mediah
It actually reminds me a lot of some parts of California or Arizona.

In any case, I quite like it.

The largest town of the area is Altinova.

Black Desert Altinova
Admittedly I haven’t seen something like this in California…

It’s nice, I won’t set up shop there though. I feel more at home in the medieval ambience of Heidel or Calpheon.

A couple days ago I hit level 56, which means that I gained access to the ‘awakening’ of the character. I did the requisite quest chain and now have a second mainhand-weapon, a monstrosity called ‘Gardbrace’.

Black Desert Gardbrace
Fisto’s got nothing on me!

A whole bunch of new skills are also available to me now, though I haven’t taken a closer look at them yet.

Of course I also wanted to continue with crafting, gathering and farming, so I didn’t only play the Striker. I’d estimate the Witch got about a third of my total playtime.

In addition to the mainstays beer brewing, carrot farming and meat acquisition I explored some new ventures here too. I had read that Olvia is a great place for Alchemy, so I went back there after quite a while of absence. Indeed there are a lot of Alchemy quests on offer, but there’s more. I also found some quick and easy cooking dailies, and most importantly lots and lots of gathering quests. Those are really great because not only do they give a good chunk of extra gathering XP, when finished I get to keep everything that I had to gather for them, incidentally supplying some of the materials for the cooking and Alchemy quests.

Oh, and I learned how to milk cows. I kid you not.

Black Desert Milking
Even the Striker had to try it. I hope he remembered to take off that Gardbrace first…

I also researched a bit more about workers. I had already noticed that they come in different tiers of quality. What I didn’t know was that lower tier workers can take a promotion test every ten levels (level 30 is the maximum, so no more than three tries per tier). If he passes the test he gets promoted by one tier and resets to level one. Since levels 20 to 30 take considerably longer it is recommended to level workers to 20, then have them try the promotion test twice, and fire them if they fail both. Only one worker can take the test at a time, and it takes 24 real time hours whether logged in or not.

Black Desert Workers
Another way to progress which I quite like. It’s somewhat comparable to collecting trading cards, and just as addictive.

I’m really happy about how progression is handled in this game. There are countless ways to progress, so many XP bars to fill and stuff to level and/or tier up. What’s great about it: the ceiling for most things is so high that even hardcore players won’t reach it anytime soon, yet nothing is useless or worthless even at the lowest levels. There are so many MMOs where, once a couple of weeks have passed after the game’s release, you have to grind your way to the top before you can do anything substantial, anything of value. It’s so much more satisfying to be able to do useful stuff from the beginning while knowing that you will get continually better and better for a very long time.

Lastly I finally managed to tame a tier 5 female horse, which means that I now have horses of both genders at the highest tier to be found in the wild. I will train them to at least level 25 each and then do a breeding attempt. A breeding calculator I found claims that there will be a chance, albeit small, for a tier 8 horse, which is the maximum tier as of now. Fingers crossed!

It’s already a big upgrade as it is though, because the female has learned the skill Sprint while leveling, which my other horses didn’t. As the name implies it makes a horse run faster. A LOT faster. It’s level 10 now and runs much faster than my level 23 male without Sprint. Imagining a tier 8 horse with this skill…hell yeah!

I’m sure I forgot some odds and ends, but these were my last couple of weeks in BDO in a nutshell. I’m lovin’ it!

More jump field shenanigans

Last Monday’s public fleet was the last hurrah for our Wolf doctrine, at least for now. CCP has reworked Assault Frigates and we will do some testing with different boats during the next couple of weeks.

Hence Captain Cean was more than willing to take us into a big fight should the opportunity arise. Why let all those Wolves gather dust in our hangars when they could die in a blaze of glory instead.

After our Scouts caught a lone Arbitrator and an Algos for our first kills of the evening it looked like our wish would be granted. We spotted a mixed gang of Cruisers, Battlecruisers and even an Armageddon supported by two Guardians near Nennamaila. Unfortunately I didn’t save the D-Scan, but I think they were about 20 pilots. We were pretty sure that they’d be willing to fight us.

Alas, for some reason they were not. Before we could catch them at the gate through which they arrived in our system they warped off to the NPC station and docked up. What the hell? We weren’t willing to give up just yet though. We positioned ourselves right at the station’s exit and waited for anyone to undock and hopefully break their invulnerability before docking up again.

EVE Station Exit
Everyone orbiting Cean and waiting to be booshed off together with our prey.

When someone undocks they are invulnerable as long as they don’t do anything (like lock someone, stop their ship or change direction for example). If they don’t stop they keep flying in a straight line though, until they eventually leave docking range. Which means that they have only so much time to decide what to do. Checking if someone’s still invulnerable is as easy as trying to lock them. If you can lock them, they’re fair game.

Some of their pilots would poke out their head for a moment to check the situation every now and then, but they were smart enough to dock up again while still invulnerable.

That is, until a Cerberus undocked that we hadn’t seen before. He seemingly wasn’t part of that fleet and had no idea that we were there. He obviously didn’t know what to think or expect of our presence, or he just panicked, either way he became lockable. Cean fired his jump field generator right away. Whatever the pilot had done to break his invulnerability couldn’t save him, and he found himself 100km off station surrounded by an angry swarm of frigates and destroyers. As sadly is often the case the loot fairy said no, but a nice kill anyway.

Meanwhile though some pilots of the other fleet seized the opportunity to undock and warp off. In the course of the next 45 minutes we chased them around the neighborhood. We were going to get our fights, whether they wanted or not.

First we caught a Myrmidon and his pretty expensive pod, a Caracal was next, then a Gila and an Oracle. During these events we used our jump fields in ways we hadn’t used them before (at least I hadn’t), sometimes to great effect. Whenever we chase someone who manages to warp away just in time we try to see where he went and warp after him. But did he warp to zero? Or to 100km or something in between? Normally we all warp at different ranges so that hopefully at least some of us land within tackling distance. This time around we all warped to 100km a couple of times, and when we saw that our target had warped to zero we used a jump field to jump us right on top within seconds. Pretty effective.

The Caracal kill was especially cool. When we arrived at the combat site he was in he had already pulled about 150km range from the beacon and still kept burning out full speed ahead. Cean and I aligned to him and fired our jump fields in relay, as we have done numerous times before. Between aligning and spooling up both jump drives this took about 10 seconds total. Which meant that by the time our second jump was finished he had burned another 40 or so kilometers and more or less bumped right into us when we landed. Even he had to laugh about that.

By now we had a good bit of loot in our cargo holds and it was time for a bio break anyway, so we docked up in a freeport Astrahus in Hikkoken.

EVE Lava Planet
Astrahus sitting above a pretty but rather inhospitable planet.

We weren’t satisfied yet though. Next up we caught a VNI, then a Devoter, a Brutix and one of the Guardians (loot fairy still didn’t like us).

Then an EVE University fleet of Catalysts and Griffins crossed our path. I guess we were in total-carnage-mode by then because we didn’t even think twice about taking prisoners. Three Catalysts, two Griffins and a couple pods fell quickly. Sorry guys!

Things quieted down a bit after that, until Spike reported a Daredevil that he might be able to tackle. He was two jumps out from us, but Cean told him to go for it and we gave chase. Our second scout, Waleri, was in between and would arrive ahead of us.

Indeed Spike got him and managed to stay out of webbing range at first. His task was to not let the guy escape until we arrived while staying alive himself. A Stiletto is no match for a Daredevil in a one versus one fight. The Daredevil pilot knew his stuff though, and maneuvered himself into web range after a few moments. Bad news. As feared he killed Spike shortly after, but by then Waleri was almost there, and the rest of us close behind.

He managed to warp off, but made the mistake to warp to a medium site where we could all follow. Finally Waleri hard tackled him and our fleet caught up. With several logis on the field there was no way he could be a threat to us anymore, so we just held him down. We wanted Spike to reship, return to us and get in on the kill. Suitable vengeance.

EVE Tackled Daredevil
Daredevil warp scrambled, webbed, target painted…doomed.

The guy didn’t want to wait that long and initiated self destruction though. Unsportsmanlike conduct, 15 yards penalty! Ahem. Spike didn’t make it back within two minutes. Fortunately he’s still on the kill mail since the Daredevil didn’t leave system after their encounter, so all is good. Finally the loot fairy decided to be on our side for once too, probably to reward our great camaraderie. Almost a hundred million ISK dropped, more than twice the cost of our lost Stiletto.

The evening still wasn’t over. We killed some more small stuff, and, our last kill of the evening, another Brutix. Spike tackled him sitting right at a gate. He hadn’t seen the rest of our fleet, yet decided not to jump to (assumed) safety after Spike aggressed him. Instead he started shooting back. Of course we all jumped through and killed him. A few minutes later a friend of his convoed one of us. He stated that the Brutix had been quite expensive and he deemed it unfair that a bunch of “unskill people” in “crap rifters” killed him. And that we should “repay his ship”.

I’ll leave you with the sound of our reaction to that and a closeup of my Magus and a couple fleet members.

EVE Magus

 

Player-made music in MMOs

Music is very important to me. I love music since I was little. I became a musician myself relatively late though, I started playing the guitar when I was sixteen. A couple years later the drums became my main instrument.

Although I’m not the most creative person when it comes to composing music, expressing myself through music has been a part of my life for a very long time.

So you can imagine my excitement when Star Wars Galaxies came along in 2003 with a pretty sophisticated system for player-made music.

It didn’t actually allow players to compose music themselves though. Instead it had eight (I think) songs to choose from at launch, and five instruments to play them. Among those songs was the Mos Eisley cantina song of course, but also a couple of new compositions. Each instrument had up to eight musical variations, called Flourishes, for each song. For every bar of music one of those could be chosen while playing. Additionally some lightshow effects could be triggered every now and then.

This was already pretty nice when playing alone, but it was obvious that the system had the potential for greatness when played as a group.

Hence I didn’t hesitate for long to start looking for a band. I found two guys looking to start a new band on my server, Gorath, on one of the german SWG forums. We met ingame and talked about our ideas and visions and decided we were a good match.

We started meeting regularly to practice. We experimented with different combinations of instruments for the various songs, and which Flourishes sounded good together. We even practiced solos for single instruments, which meant all other musicians had to use one or more ‘Pause’-commands at the right time. Since this was before voice chat had become a common thing we had to coordinate our efforts via ingame-chat, which was trickier than it probably sounds.

Practicing a vocal composition in the sunshine of Corellia.

When we felt that we were good enough to play in front of an audience we started looking for opportunities. Since Gorath had a pretty large and lively roleplaying community that didn’t take long. Soon we were booked for our first gig, at a player wedding no less.

SWG Wedding 1
Playing the song ‘Ceremonial’ as a substitute for the Wedding March while Groom and guests wait for the Bride.

It was great. I have to admit that the roleplaying stuff was a bit over the top for me, I’m just not into these things. But being there and playing for an audience of real players, being cheered at and asked for encores was a gaming experience I’ll never forget.

SWG Wedding 2
Rocking the wedding party in a guild hall…
SWG Wedding 3
…and on the beach at night followed by fireworks.

We were joined by additional musicians and a couple of dancers over time, rehearsed even more sophisticated shows and wore more elaborate stage outfits. I wouldn’t say that we were the best or most famous band on Gorath, but we were definitely playing in the top league. It was a fantastic time.

SWG Enabran Tain
Entertaining the crowd at a local crimelord’s palace. We were very glad that he liked it…

After I quit SWG I had to wait for about six years until I played a game with player-made music again. This game was All Points Bulletin (the reboot, APB Reloaded, that went live some time after the original game tanked is still running and I play it from time to time). A MIDI-like editor can be used here to compose 5-second long themes or whole songs.

Recreating Marilyn Manson’s title theme from the first Resident Evil movie.

I never saw a reason to do whole songs because the game supports using one’s own music library to be played by car stereos ingame anyway. Also the available sound libraries aren’t really that great.

The themes are where it’s at though! Every character can equip such a theme, and whenever you kill someone it gets played to your victim. If the game bestows the MVP title upon you at the end of a match it’s even played once to all players on both sides.

Because people are people I don’t really have to point out that there are lots of folks who use a theme that’s basically just noise and as annoying as (in)humanly possible. Fortunately blocking a player is but a few klicks away, and then you don’t hear that player’s themes anymore.

However there are also many players who want to have a nice, high quality theme that suits their style or taste, so a talented theme-maker has not only lots of potential customers but can also earn quite a sum with his craft. I made millions of ingame Dollars selling the themes I made, I even did a couple on request.

It feels really great to receive a whisper after killing someone and not be called a cheater/dickhead/whatever for a change, instead getting: ‘WOW what an awesome theme, did you make it yourself?’.

The third and until now last game with player-made music I played was ArcheAge. Here a somewhat peculiar notation system is used to compose songs. It takes some time and effort getting used to. Apparently it’s taken from an earlier game, Mabinogi, which I never played.

Composed music is written down on special paper that has to be crafted first, and these song sheets are then used to play the song with an equipped instrument. They can also be traded or sold. The amount of notes that fit on one sheet are determined by your Artistry skill. Songs can have up to three voices, which is kinda cool because you can make even wind instruments play three notes at the same time this way.

Playing a pretty cool looking and sounding lute on my balcony.

The important thing that’s missing though, at least in the EU/NA version of the game, is band support. Playing all alone is quite nice when you have some good sheets and a couple of instruments on hand, but playing with a band would be a world of difference (see SWG above).

Lord of the Rings Online seems to have a very good system with bands and everything. There are even big festivals, like this one just a couple weeks ago. I’ve never played LotRO though, so I can’t speak from my own experience about it.

Now, I fully realize that there are without a doubt many players who couldn’t care less about player-made music in their MMOs. So every developer team has to weigh the cost-benefit ratio when deciding if their game needs something like that. There are also games where it just wouldn’t fit thematically of course.

Generally speaking though, if you want to make a game that’s more than just a treadmill of quests, gear and combat, instead offering a rich and varied virtual world to explore and experience, a good system for player-made music can be a massive enrichment and a real asset to your game.