About long term goals in MMORPGs

As you know I’m currently busy building an Epheria Frigate in Black Desert Online. I think it’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on in an MMORPG.

Much effort went into this already, yet there’s still a long way to go

Not that this deters me, I like having long term goals in the games I play. This wasn’t always the case though. At one point a couple of years ago I’d played mainly SW:TOR and The Secret World for quite some time. When I started to play ArcheAge afterwards I was a bit shocked and also disappointed by the large amount of resources necessary to build fairly basic things like a clipper or a small farm cart.

After a while I got used to things taking longer and learned to appreciate effort vs reward again, something I seemed to have lost while playing the aforementioned games.

As a consequence I was pretty proud and happy to finally get this

Not all long term goals are created equal though. I’m not talking about the reward I get in the end, a purely cosmetic one like a really nice looking mount can motivate me just as much as a powerful item with actually measurable benefits. I’m talking about how much time and effort need to be invested, and how much restrictions or obstacles the game puts in my way.

To me it’s very important to be quite free in how I work on achieving my goals, and that doing so is actually fun and doesn’t feel like actual work too much.

The latter is obviously a very subjective thing, so developers won’t be able to please everyone in this regard no matter what they do.

Let’s have a look at the ‘how’ then. Imagine you have set your sight on a specific goal which requires you to invest, say, approximately 60 hours of play, and you’d like to achieve it within two months for some reason. So on average you’d need to work on it for about an hour each day.

Depending on how the game in question is designed this can leave you with a couple possible scenarios.

One: The maximum amount of progress you can make each day is pretty limited, for example because doing a handful of daily quests is the only way to progress. This means that you probably won’t be able to achieve your goal within two months no matter what you do. You’ll also likely feel forced to do these dailies each and every day so you don’t delay completion any further. I know I feel that way in these situations.

Two: The maximum amount of progress per day is still limited, but not quite as harshly. Here you’re able to reach your goal in your set timeframe and are probably ‘allowed’ to take a day off every now and then. You still need to play and work on your goal almost every day though.

Three: there’s a pretty high limit to progress per day, or none at all. Do one hour per day, two considerably longer sessions per week or each whole Sunday, it’s up to you.

Unfortunately (for my taste) many games fall into the first category. Most instanced dungeons, for example, have a lockout timer of 18 hours or so, meaning that I can do them and get rewards only once per day. Consequently, if I want to maximize my chances for the drops I need I have to run dungeons each and every day.

Another example. Back in SW:TOR I wanted to reach the highest reputation rank with the Gree to get this sweet mount:

I can’t help it, if something looks like it’s taken straight out of TRON I have to have it

Unfortunately a bunch of daily quests were the only way to increase one’s reputation, and those weren’t much fun to me. My only options were to either do them anyway or forget about getting the mount. To make matters worse the Gree event was only ever available for a limited time before disappearing again for weeks or months, so I felt doubly pressured to do the dailies every day while the event was active.

I just don’t like that kind of design because it can lead to a spiral of constant repetition very quickly, especially with limited available playtime. You log into the game after work and know that you kind of ‘have’ to do a whole bunch of things first. If it doesn’t all go perfectly it might take even longer than anticipated, and before you know it your time’s up and you haven’t done anything other than your daily chores once again.

That’s why I’m really happy that I don’t feel forced to do any specific thing pretty much ever in BDO. The only task I’m kind of compelled to do regularly is brew beer before my workers have used it all up and stop working. Other than that I can do whatever I feel like and still make progress towards at least one of my goals.

For the Epheria Frigate there’s different kinds of gathering, processing, hauling stuff around, keeping production rolling and managing nodes and workers to be done. On some days I gather materials with two characters back to back until their respective energy pools are depleted, sometimes I only do a bit of processing or don’t work on the frigate at all while still making progress because my workers keep at it. If I didn’t like a specific kind of gathering at all I could even try to buy that stuff on the marketplace instead.

I really like that freedom and wish more games would handle it like this instead of forcing me to do the same stuff every day in order to reach specific goals.


Lots of progress made and still going

Lifeskill clothing aside I hadn’t done any gear upgrading whatsoever in Black Desert Online for almost a year. I just couldn’t bring myself to endure the headaches and disappointments its RNG-heavy enhancement system tends to torture me with.

I had a Dandelion awakening weapon lying around since new year’s day though – don’t ask me why the fiercest, most powerful weapon in the game is called dandelion of all things – and the foes my current main story quest sent me to fight made me feel a tad underpowered indeed. I had lots and lots of upgrade materials gathering dust too, so there really wasn’t all that much reason to cop out any longer. More importantly, a couple of weeks ago a pretty huge change went live: the game now displays the exact chance of success for an upgrade, failstacks included. No more relying on supposedly datamined and/or ‘tested’ success charts like the one in the first post I linked above.

So on Thursday night I finally sat down and got going. I didn’t pay any attention to how much it cost me, I just put my head down and charged through. My goal was to reach TRI on the Dandy and upgrade a couple of armor pieces to at least DUO along the way while playing the failstack-dance.

I reached those goals, but as usual the RNG gods weren’t particularly in my favor.

Notice that downgrade warning? Downgrade it did before this happened. Four times.

After failing the first four tries for TRI, falling from DUO back to PRI each time, I finally hit it with the fifth. Not great, but it could’ve been worse still.

On the upside, I fared much better with the other parts. In the process of building the right amount of failstacks for the weapon attempts I got my helmet from PRI to TRI, shoes from PRI to DUO, gloves from +15 to DUO and even my off-hand from DUO to TRI. My gearscore made a pretty substantial leap due to that, especially in the defense department.

Ok bad guys, you were saying?

The difference is very noticable and I advanced the story without much problems. I hope this’ll be enough for a while though because I think I need another year-long break from enhancement now.

In contrast, a project I was actually looking forward to a lot was the Epheria Frigate’s manufacturing process. Gathering and processing the needed materials, while a mammoth task in itself, is only the beginning. I needed to rent the shipyard in Port Epheria and set workers to the task. For each and every single piece of material one cycle of work has to be completed.

When the required work count doesn’t fit the game window you know what you’re getting yourself into

Fortunately you don’t need to have all materials on hand to begin production. I actually only had about 350 Pine Coated Plywood, 200 Timber Squares and 14 Frigate Designs when I rented the shipyard, but I was able to start the first work cycles immediately. Since it’d take forever with just one worker I hired a couple more, and also connected Epheria all the way to Calpheon so I can send additional workers from there.

30 tasks finished already, yay! Only 3845 more to go…

I have six workers permanently working on it now. If aquiring the materials goes faster than anticipated I will send a couple more, but for starters this should suffice.

I gotta say, until now I never made any kind of progress this slowly in an MMORPG and still loved every minute of it. I don’t feel the slightest bit of impatience, just pleasant anticipation. And I know that I’ll be proud as a punch when I first set sail with that ship.

Once production was rolling it was back to questing. After I’d defeated the aforementioned baddies for my Striker’s main story I was told that I needed to help my black spirit find its true form again. In order to do so I was to seek out and examine some strange entities in the desert.

Posing with my new gardbrace on…oh, look, I think I found one

If that thing looks huge to you that’s because it is.

Felt like Shadow of the Colossus all over again

Fortunately I didn’t need to fight any of them. Color me surprised, just for once examine wasn’t a euphemism for kill.

After that it was back to the alien-like caves from last week. This time around I managed to open the strange device at the bottom and got to meet an old…guardian…or something. I don’t know if it’s the translation from Korean or the story itself, but I still find it pretty convoluted and hard to follow most of the time. Anyway, the visuals were quite awe-inspiring.

Uh oh, I’m leaving already…what’s that, you don’t want to kill me?

I couldn’t recount what exactly he told me if my life depended on it. Among other things he was pleased with my achievements and basically told me to carry on doing what I was doing. Thanks, would’ve done that anyway.

The black spirit indeed got its ‘true form’ back in the process.

I don’t know what to say…I’m sorry?

Actually this was the first bit of story that was at least somewhat interesting and surpsising, and it seems I’m finally on the verge of finding out what the black spirit actually is. Hence I was eager to continue right then and there. Instead I now need to run completely unrelated errands for several folks in Valencia City for some reason. I can’t even talk to the spirit about what happened, it just hands out dailies and stuff as usual.

Oh well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough.