Four? For this gourd?? It’s worth ten if it’s worth a shekel!

I hadn’t engaged in Black Desert Online’s sea content – or the game period, really – in quite some time until about a month ago, which means that I completely missed, among other things, a pretty big overhaul of said content.¬† The Great Ocean update, released in October 2019, added new islands, quests and ships, a crew system for the bigger vessels, and a completely new way for mariners to make money: a sea-based bartering system.

BDO is a complex game though, and it took me a while to reacquaint myself with all the different systems and layers. However, once I felt comfortable with the day by day gameplay again I couldn’t wait to board my trusty Epheria frigate and try the new stuff out.

Going ashore on a yet unexplored island

As it turns out there’s a lot of additional stuff to do. My ship, the cream of the crop back when I finished building it, basically ranks just one step above ‘cockleshell’ nowadays, for example. Especially for bartering it’s barely adequate as its cargo hold can’t carry all that much weight. It’s a start though, and as most of the materials needed to upgrade the ship further are earned via bartering and defeating sea creatures anyway this seems to be working as intended. I’ve got to work my way up, as it were.

And that really doesn’t bother me at all, because frankly, once I’d finished building the frigate and crafted the corresponding gear almost two years ago I lost interest in the whole sailing thing rather quickly. My big goal was achieved, and at the time there actually wasn’t all that much to do out at sea beyond that, at least not for solo players.

Now I have another long term goal to pursue, and I also know that there’s an actual use for it once I’ve reached it.

This is a carrack. Look at that beauty…and all those cannons!!

As for the bartering system itself, I think it’s pretty neat. In a nutshell, you trade certain ‘normal’ goods like raw or processed materials for Level 1 trade goods at one place, then take those someplace else to trade them for Level 2 goods, and on it goes up to Level 5. With some exceptions low level goods serve no other purpose than to exchange them for higher tiers, while tiers 4 and 5 can be sold to NPC merchants for hefty sums of silver or a special currency used to buy various goodies.

Trade goods are very heavy and need to be in the ship’s cargo hold in order to barter with them anyway, so getting a bigger boat soonish is definitely advisable.

Seems like a good deal…I guess? (click to enlarge)

What the system doesn’t entail, despite this post’s header, is any kind of haggling. What can I say, I just can’t resist an opportunity to use a Python quote. Anyway, I’m actually pretty glad that there’s no negotiating involved, as the game’s onshore trading already has something like that, and I really don’t like it.

Which doesn’t mean that there’s no RNG involved however, because of course there is. This is BDO after all. You can reroll the trade routes a couple of times per day, and from what I can tell everything about it is completely random: which land goods are required, which Level 1’s you get for them and what you can trade those for in turn, where everything is etc. Not rerolling at all isn’t an option either as every trade route runs dry after a certain amount of barters.

Grilled bird meat? Hell yeah, I can do that!

Consequently, to make efficient use of your time and resources you need to carefully plan which routes to take, how to optimize your available cargo hold, when to reroll and even what to trade and what to keep – that Level 2 piece you’re about to give away might well be needed at a later point to exchange for ship upgrade parts, for example.

I will say that it all seemed a bit tedious at the beginning, but the more barters you’ve completed the more routes open up, which reduces the need to regularly make overly long trips for just a single exchange by a lot. It’s actually starting to be quite fun now.

I also really like that I finally have a meaningful use for all those land goods. Ever since I play the game I’ve had workers accumulating all kinds of resources for me, and while I’ve obviously used up some here and there the majority has just been collecting dust in my warehouses. Of course I could’ve sold any surplus to other players at any time, but I didn’t want to – I might still need that stuff at some point, you see. Yeah, I’m a hoarder when I play RPGs, sue me. And, what do you know, at some point is actually now. Ha!

Yep, bird meat up the wazoo. Care for some eggs or mushrooms too?

The new questline also introduces players to sea monster hunting. I’ve done quite a lot of that back in the day to collect materials for my frigate’s cannons, sails etc., but I’m still glad about the refresher because the damage- and hitpoint-numbers have apparently been tweaked since then, and it’s actually feasible to shoot them with my cannons now instead of trying to ram them to death (!).

This is definitely much more fun, and it also makes me look forward to getting the upgrades for my frigate even more – not only will those have more cannons to shoot with, I’ll even be able to fire broadsides right from the steering wheel instead of climbing down, manning a cannon and firing it manually, then climbing back up to change the ship’s potition, and so on. Can’t wait!

For the moment this works well enough though…BOOM

So, yeah, if seafaring is your thing and you’d like it to be just one aspect of a proper MMORPG – instead of playing something like, say, Sea of Thieves – I can wholeheartedly recommend giving Black Desert a shot. Just be aware that pretty much everything in this game is a marathon rather than a sprint. Don’t expect to be cruising around in your carrack within a week or two.

Personally, I like it that way. Finishing the frigate felt like a real achievement at the time, and I feel those are rather hard to come by in most modern MMORPGs.

Sidenote: if you’ve played BDO in the past but don’t right now you might have missed the memo about Kakao Games handing over publishing duties for the game’s western version back to Pearl Abyss pretty soon. You need to transfer your data over to a Pearl Abyss account before the end of May, else you’ll lose everything. Naithin and Bhagpuss have all the details, should you need them.

Events done right – Genshin Impact

Yep, I’m still playing Genshin Impact every day. As great as the game is, I honestly didn’t expect it to have this much staying power in my gaming lineup, what with the likes of Cyberpunk 2077, EVE Online and ArcheAge Unchained vying for my free time, and as if those still weren’t enough I also longed for some more adventures in Black Desert Online around mid-December (as per usual), so I’m playing that one again as well.

Even so, the thing about Genshin Impact is that its developers, miHoYo, definitely do not rest on their laurels – nor their piles of Dollar bills, probably high enough to make Uncle Scrooge blush. Quite the contrary. Frankly, I haven’t seen such a high cadence of new and interesting stuff to do in an online game, like, ever.

Now, granted, in terms of what’s usually referred to as content patches we “only” got two since the game’s release at the end of September, with update 1.1 being rather smallish (yet pretty epic) and 1.2 giving us a whole new region to explore and lots of other cool stuff. Not too shabby overall for just over three months’ time, especially given the current circumstances.

However, what really makes all the difference, at least to me, are the events – lots and lots of events.

Always accompanied by these really nifty charts to guide you and track your progress

It certainly feels to me like the periods of time with at least one event up and running exceeded those without any by quite a bit. Impressions can be deceptive though, so let’s check.

Here’s an overview of all ‘proper’ events we’ve had until now (stuff like Gacha banners, test-scenarios for new characters or login-campaigns don’t count, obviously):

    • Elemental Crucible (October 12th-19th)
    • Marvelous Merchandise (October 26th-November 2nd)
    • Stone Harbour Treasure Journal (November 13th-22nd)
    • Unreconciled Stars (November 16th-30th)
    • Gliding Challenge (December 4th-14th)
    • While it’s warm (December 11th-18th)
    • A thousand questions with Paimon (December 18th-20th)
    • The Chalk Prince and the Dragon (December 23rd-January 5th)

The game was released on September 28th, which was exactly 100 days ago at the time of this writing. If I didn’t miscount (which is entirely in the realm of possibility though) 65 of those had at least one event active, which means that my gut feeling was indeed accurate.

Yummy…I’d rather have kept these for myself to be honest

Having events running constantly is all well and good, but of course the deciding factor is whether they are actually fun to do, isn’t it?

Unfortunately the very first one, Elemental Crucible, wasn’t all that good. It was forced Co-Op, meaning that bad pings or other players not doing what they were supposed to could really mess things up. It was also pretty grindy, and to add insult to injury the rewards weren’t even worth all that hassle. I didn’t have high hopes for any future events after this one, to say the least.

Clean sweep, gold medals all around

I don’t know whether it’s because folks at miHoYo actually took player feedback to heart or if they just needed some time to get into a groove, but in my opinion each and every event that came after the first was much better in every regard, and they still keep getting better yet.

As for technicalities, they’re less grindy, Co-Op is always optional and the rewards are decidedly on the generous side now. More importantly though, they’re really fun to do, and there’s something there for everyone.

Gliding Challenge, for example, was all about…well…gliding challenges (which Lakisa hated, but I had so much fun doing them that I earned all the gold medals on her account too). While it’s warm tasked players to deliver food from one place to another within a certain time frame, always with some caveats like not being allowed to sprint, glide and/or climb or take damage. Stone Harbor Treasure Journal was more like a browser game than anything, but pretty fun too.

Also definitely more on the silly side, this one

Of course combat-loving players weren’t left out in the cold either, especially the two multi-week events provided lots of it. If I have one criticism about the last one, The Chalk Prince and the Dragon, it’s that the repeatable boss fight that made up the fourth and last stage of the event was actually harder in Co-Op than alone and rather annoying in general. Other than that though I was really happy with this one too.

What’s more, the next three events are already announced, all coming in January.¬†Lost Riches will run from 8th to 18th, Hypostatic Symphony from 16th to 31st, and the second run of Marvelous Merchandise from 23rd to 30th.

This is what astounds me the most: until now absolutely no part of any event has been reused for another, it’s all been brand-new every time.

Just look at this one, it’s almost a piece of art

Of course there are also two possible downsides to miHoYo’s approach.

One, it certainly seems like a lot of developmental time and effort spent on something that’s only in the game for a week or two. One might argue that this much effort – we’re talking multiple chapters of story including fully voiced cutscenes in some cases – should rather be spent on content that stays in the game permanently. As it is now, if you haven’t played the game while the events were active you’re simply out of luck. Unless they bring them back at a later time you won’t be able to experience them.

And two: fear of missing out. If you play the game more casually, maybe not even every day (imagine that!) the time-limited nature of the events combined with the generous rewards they offer may well make you feel like you have to log in and do them regardless. I know that Lakisa would much prefer the events to come at a much slower cadence than they currently do.

Free character? Hell yeah, I’ll take it, even if it’s a nutter like this one…

Personally though, I’m pretty happy with how things are going. Again, the gameplay is mostly fun, the rewards are great, and it isn’t actually all that much to do every time either. On average I’ve probably spent about twenty to thirty minutes per day on event stuff while any were active, and with few exceptions it was absolutely possible to take a day or two off and still finish everything. Seems like a pretty good balance to me.

The most important bit though is this: I have always stuff to do, but it’s pretty much always something new. This is so much better than running the same dailies over and over and over, and I’m tremendously thankful for that.

So, yeah, as far as I’m concerned look no further than Genshin Impact for ‘events done right’. Keep ’em coming!