Black Desert went cross-play earlier this year, bringing Xbox One and PlayStation 4 players together in the MMORPG. Doing something like this isn't easy, especially considering the Xbox One version was out long before the PS4 and there wasn't parity in the content as a result.
Recently, we had the chance to talk to Black Desert's Lead Producer Jaehee Kim about bringing cross play to the MMO, equalizing the content between the versions and more.
MMORPG: So what prompted the decision to go cross play with console? Especially when you consider the fact the PS4 was so far behind at launch compared to the updates on its Xbox Counterpart?
Jaehee Kim: The original intention of cross-play was not to stoke competition between consoles, it was about uniting the players from both worlds and letting them enjoy the adventure together. The key message we wanted to deliver through cross-play is ‘Adventure As One.’ We have so many things to show in the future for Black Desert, and want users to pioneer together.
We feel that our players co-create the experience that is Black Desert, and we do not want to have too many boundaries. Additionally, there were only 5-6 months difference between the two versions of Black Desert, and PlayStation 4 quickly caught up in terms of content on the Xbox One version.
Prior to releasing the cross-play feature, we closely checked level-distribution between the two platforms. Now it is quite similar, and as such we feel that we currently provide an equal experience.
MMORPG: Was there a mandate to equalize the console updates by a certain point and was cross play always a goal?
Kim: The PC version of Black Desert has a weekly update schedule, which is being rolled out globally. We updated the console version at a faster pace to catch up as quickly as possible with the vast amount of the content PC version added for the last 5 years.
This is also the reason why we could have content parity between PlayStation4 and Xbox One in such a short timeframe.
MMORPG: The Xbox and PS4 versions – even on the enhanced consoles – do have some drastic performance differences. How did you balance that to ensure neither player feels disadvantaged, especially in a PVP setting?
Kim: We are always working to create a comfortable playing environment for our users, regardless of the platform. The number of users for Black Desert on console is far beyond our initial expectation, and we are often contemplating ways to improve the experience, especially after cross-play.
We have been doing our best to optimize the Xbox version since it was launched in March 2019 and continue to update and improve the performance. Some of the optimization enhancements were successful, but we have faced technical difficulties as well. We will, however, continue our efforts to make it the best experience possible for everyone.
MMORPG: How early on was Sony and Microsoft on board for this move? Was there any initial pushback on this front by either gaming company?
Kim: We reached out to both companies early on to let them know that we wanted to implement cross-play. Both of them were open to it, but Sony said that they would provide the information once the development was solid. Later we received more information from Sony and started cross-play development. There was no pushback and both partners have been very supportive and helpful all throughout the process.
MMORPG: Will we ever see the day where Xbox/PS4 and PC players can play on a united server?
Kim: There are no plans at the moment. However, we are always thinking about what is the best for our players. When thinking about console and PC cross-play, we need to ensure we can provide a great experience to all users, regardless of platform. If this can be guaranteed, we will pursue it.
MMORPG: This was new territory for your team – how was the process learning how to make something like this work, and work well?
Kim: We have learned so much through this process and we are still learning a lot as we move forward. It was a new challenge for us, and we are happy that we succeeded in the end. I can say that the whole process was a valuable learning experience. By succeeding with this challenge, we can see all new possibilities for the Black Desert franchise!
MMORPG: Were there any major challenges your team had to overcome to make this work?
Kim: Meeting the requirements for both platforms was not easy, but we were able to pull this off thanks to the support from Microsoft and Sony. Of course, we had a strong technical base to achieve the goal as well. We are very happy with what we were able to achieve, and excited that we can bring the cross-play experience to all of our fans.
MMORPG: With the merging of PS4 and Xbox Players on cross platform servers, is there any thought to allowing EU and NA players more easily link up in the game?
Kim: It would be physically difficult at the moment, but we are looking into it. If we have a chance to make this happen, we want to try.