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The Joy Of Being Overwhelmed

Lewis Burnell Posted:
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It pains me to admit that Black Desert Online is the first MMO I’ve ever played that I’ve had to Google guides and solutions. There’s rarely been a time playing when I’m not loading a YouTube video that shows me how to do something. In the past I’ve often found it bizarre just how frequently people will use guides for the most trivial of content or things that are frighteningly obvious. But when it comes to Black Desert Online, it’s almost mandatory unless you blindly stumble upon how to do something.

At times it can feel suffocating and I fondly remember logging into the game thinking to myself “OK, now what on earth do I do?” without the slightest inclination as to how its systems worked or how I went about something as simple as fishing. In all the years of playing MMO’s I’ve never asked so many questions that only lead to more. In fact, it’s reached the point where I’m almost embarrassed to keep asking - my friends must be sick of me at this point.

Although my questioning was worse at launch than it is now (naturally) I’m still regularly confused and that’s great. I can’t remember the last time an MMO made me think about how to do something, rather than it all coming naturally. I’m not suggesting Black Desert Online’s systems are overly complex or that they’re intentionally difficult, but they’re distinctly different enough from the “norm” to challenge the average player. The first time I took part in a conversation with an NPC, I can honestly say I’ve never been more confused. Amity, Energy, Knowledge, the conversation mechanics, its UI: all highly confusing and I had absolutely no idea what to do.

That’s a feeling I’m not used to experiencing, especially when - seemingly - the genre and its developers are convinced we all need our hand holding (with the exception of EVE Online). Black Desert Online isn’t friendly for those new to the genre and it’s challenging enough for those of us who are highly experienced.

In part I suspect some of it is due to its eastern origins and although the regionalization is good, it isn’t exceptional. There’s also the fact that many modern MMO’s are so accessible that you aren’t expected to have to learn to do something and instead, it should all be instantly understandable. I can fully appreciate that as no one likes convoluted systems, but there’s also nothing more rewarding than trying to figure out something by yourself.

I remember fondly trying to discover the recipe for my Legendary weapon in Guild Wars 2 only for people to think me bizarre that I didn’t simply look it up on the Wiki. I could have at any time but part of the fun was in the learning and trying to understand the approach ArenaNet had taken. Admittedly most of my attempts to make anything failed miserably, but by sharing what I and my friends had discovered we eventually succeeded, without the need for a helping hand.

While I might have stretched for outside help with Black Desert Online (specifically regarding Horse Taming and Breeding) most of my time has been spent as part of shared learning with friends and guild members. It’s been incredibly refreshing to ask for help and give advice to others. I’ve never really done that in Guild Wars 2, WildStar or even Warhammer Online. It never felt necessary because so much, so often, was obvious.

Obviously there will come a time when I’ll know just about everything there is to know about Black Desert Online but I’m so grateful for the steep learning curve. The game's popularity demonstrates that there’s a player base out there who don’t want everything handed to them on a plate and on the horizon, games such as Camelot Unchained seem to be taking a similar approach by developing systems that are both different and challenging. I think for the genre, that’s a very good thing.

What are your thoughts on steep learning curves in MMOs? Are many too easy? Do you enjoy a sense of discovery and learning? Is such a steep learning curve more of a hindrance? Let me know. 


Lewis Burnell

Lewis has played MMOs since Ultima Online launched, and written about them for far too long.