Pearl Abyss talks about the future of its gorgeous MMO and what to expect on Xbox One.
Pearl Abyss’ Black Desert Online is a very MMO. It received a fair bit of fan-fare before launch thanks to its gorgeous visuals and action-packed gameplay. Afterwards, it seemingly faded into the background but the developer was still busy working on updates, adding new content and fleshing out the end-game even further. Black Desert would make its next big impact when it was announced for Xbox One and Xbox One X last year at E3.
With a 2018 release, GamingBolt managed to speak to Pearl Abyss executive producer Jae-hee Kim and COO James Heo to learn more about the game’s direction, progress on the Xbox One version and much more.
"Our utmost effort is invested to stay in close communication with our users, keeping our eyes and ears open for valuable feedback supporting us in fixing bugs, improve any inconveniences, while simultaneously serving our players with new content with each weekly patch."
Black Desert has undergone a number of changes since releasing. What can you tell us about some of the new content that’s been added over time?
Jae-hee Kim: Black Desert is an online service based game with weekly added updates and improvements. We firmly believe in evolving our game alongside playing users.
Our utmost effort is invested to stay in close communication with our users, keeping our eyes and ears open for valuable feedback supporting us in fixing bugs, improve any inconveniences, while simultaneously serving our players with new content with each weekly patch. This allows new and returning users to adapt to the game more quickly and comfortably, as well as adding something new for all users to enjoy on a regular basis. We believe in active growth and improvement of game elements that need optimization.
The recently added region, Kamasylvia, delivers hunting grounds not only the top users, but also for both early and mid-level users to enjoy. Users experiencing a hard time or a sense of boredom, may please themselves with a brand new type of content, Savage Rift, a defense game where players have to defend against a multiple wave of monster attacks. Additionally, our large-scale war system can easily be interpreted as a type of content only suitable for top-level players to enjoy, however additional systems such as flame tower, hwacha, repairing, and elephant, enable new players or players lacking sufficient and strong equipment are to enjoy this high-end content with their guilds.
As Black Desert Online continues its service, we are aiming to continuously create new content not only focusing on our long time players, but also creating a harmonious atmosphere where long term players and rookie players can connect as a community together.
When it comes to criticism and user feedback, how does the development team manage? How much of player feedback has an impact on future updates?
Jae-hee Kim: All player feedback is monitored in its raw and unfiltered state through our publishers. All data is collected in this process for analyzation. With questions such as ‘Why isn’t this perceived as fun’, ‘Why is this element experienced as difficult by players’, ‘What makes users respond with anger’ and “What are the elements users enjoy and why?’, we try to come up with the most optimized method balancing the requests and needs of our users and the technical possibilities within our patches. Simple issues can be solved within a week and complicated ones can take up to months. However, we are constantly analyzing all feedback with the willingness to resolve them sometime in the near future.
How have the Dark Knight and Striker classes panned out thus far? When it comes to balancing classes, what do you usually keep in mind?
Jae-hee Kim: Black Desert Online is a MMORPG that is played by various people with various tastes. In order to be of service to a wide range of users with various personalities, hobbies, favorite colors, and favorite food into one game, we need an extended range of experience. Currently there are 14 classes in Black Desert Online, each of which has an awakening. We are always contemplating on creating classes with different personalities and playing styles to allow users to choose a class suitable to their preferences.
Creating balance between the different classes while maintaining their unique qualities is a challenge we face on a daily basis and a difficult topic to discuss. We’re always interested in what type of balancing frustrates our users or what they experience a hard time adjusting to. Moving between maintaining the uniqueness of each class, optimal balance as well as keeping the gameplay dynamic is what we strive to create.
"As for our PVE contents, our basic updates consists of new hunting grounds, items, and new boss monsters, and we’re aware we’re still lacking in many aspects."
We’ve put in a lot of thought and effort in balancing out the Dark Knight, while maintaining its attractiveness, resulting in a balancing solution which allowed the character to stay entertaining simultaneously. It was a long and timely process causing the discussion and frustration regarding the class’s balance to continue for a long time. We sincerely apologize for any inconveniences caused for our users. From here on, when adjusting the balance between characters, we will do what is within our reach to maintain their characteristic and keep them enjoyable.
What are your thoughts on the PVE vs. PVP balance issues, which has been a constant problem for big MMOs like WoW and MMO-lite titles like Destiny and The Division?
Jae-hee Kim: We’re doing what we can to deliver a variety of enjoyable content since MMORPGs are played by different users with different tastes.
The basic playing style for Black Desert Online is hunting monsters to gain experience, with the goal of developing their character. Surely, you can develop your character through other methods such as fishing, gathering, trading etc., and still it remains true that these ways carry relatively less weight than hunting monsters. Black Desert Online’s PVP contents are consistently updated with reinforced rules or new added content. Currently, the PVP contents consists of Red Battlefield, Duels, Final Battle, Guild Wars, Node War, Territory War, Arena of Arsha, etc.
As for our PVE contents, our basic updates consists of new hunting grounds, items, and new boss monsters, and we’re aware we’re still lacking in many aspects. As a solution, we added new attack patterns for the bosses, Altar of Training, Finest Altar of Training, Guild Raid Bosses, specialized monsters for farming items, ocean monsters, etc. On some of the content we implemented ranking systems for competitive value. We also added new contents with a different approach, such as Savage Rift.
We will continue to put more weight on developing new and diverse PVE contents. In addition, we will strive to actively reflect on the feedbacks of our users and develop new contents.
Will Black Desert ever have servers in Asia (aside from Japan and Korea) or will it remain region locked for current territories?
Jae-hee Kim: The official website opened on October 31 in preparation for servicing in Thailand and Southeast Asia. With opening the website, users are able to apply for CBT and make pre-order purchases. The Thailand servers will be supporting Thai, while Indonesian and English will be supported for Southeast Asian servers. We’re planning to open the servers through OBT within the year after CBT on November 22.
How has the buy-to-play model panned out in Western territories compared to the free to play model in Korea, Japan and Russia?
Jae-hee Kim: Before opening Black Desert Online in another region, we’ll move through many analyzations and discussions, researching various methods unique to the characteristics of each region, universal methods or the ones that are well suited to Black Desert Online.
In addition, we’re working on increasing the user experience. We worked with publishers for a better understanding of the region and to find the best method for many users to come together and enjoy the game. Hence, as a result, the current service approach has been determined.
"Since Pearl Abyss is less experienced with the console system, we greatly value our partnership with the platform. We understand that Xbox, with their high understanding of our game and enthusiastic support for marketing, will be a great partner."
What are you currently working on in terms of future updates?
Jae-hee Kim: Currently, we are currently working on “Absolute (Jin, 진)”, the awakening of the main weapon. In the past, when a character was awakened, the awakening skills were so powerful that the main weapons were rarely used. This new system is developed to resolve this issue and players can interpret this new system as an upgrade of the main weapon skills. Even though the character will learn new awakening skills at level 56, users can upgrade the main weapon skills to the next level, which will be as efficient as the awakening skills. With this new system, users may choose whether to use the awakening weapon or the main weapon. Depending on the weapon of choice, users will be able to experience a variety of game play.
What motivated you to release Black Desert as an exclusive for Xbox One and why not for PS4?
Jae-hee Kim: Since Pearl Abyss is less experienced with the console system, we greatly value our partnership with the platform. We understand that Xbox, with their high understanding of our game and enthusiastic support for marketing, will be a great partner. Watching the Xbox representatives’ optimistic and active support, we know our decision is correct. We’ll be working together to make sure we deliver a high quality service for our players.
In terms of translating the game’s UI and control schemes to console, what challenges did you face?
Jae-hee Kim: Black Desert Online contains an enormous amount of information. We have invested a lot of time contemplating and creating the most optimal UI and control system for the console platform, while minimizing the amount of information.
Additionally, even though the control system for Black Desert Online’s unique character and skill actions is optimized for console, we are planning to provide a way for new users to be able to adapt and use the controls on console with ease.
Is there any chance the game may come to PS4 in the future?
Jae-hee Kim: As announced, Black Desert Online will be released first on Xbox through the exclusive partnership with Microsoft. We’re also in the process of preparing to launch on other console platforms after the Xbox release. We know many fans have been waiting a long time for the console version of Black Desert Online and we’ll do our best to make it available for the users as soon as possible.
The game will be receiving Xbox One X support. The game is in development but is native 4K and 60 frames per second on the cards?
Although it’s subject to change, our goal is Checkerboard 4K 30 FPS.
What is the target resolution and frame rate of the base Xbox One version?
Although it’s subject to change, our goal is 1080P 30 FPS.
"Through the dedication of a constantly growing and learning development team, we wish that Black Desert Online becomes a game where users are confident and believe that the game will continue to be enjoyable."
Black Desert features a beautiful open world game which makes it a perfect fit for the Xbox One X. The consoles features a 6TFLOPS GPU. What kind of benefits does it give to you while developing Black Desert?
We believe it’s helpful in making 4k resolution feasible.
How much time it took to port the PC build on the Xbox One X?
Porting the build doesn’t take much time, however, optimizing it to the console version and changing the UX needs more time.
The Xbox One X features plenty of RAM too. 9 out 12GB is available to developers…which is undoubtedly more than the average found in gaming PCs. How has this helped you?
It helps with extra memory for development or higher specifications. We need the game to run smoothly on XBOX One.
Is Microsoft helping you in anyway in understanding the Xbox One X SDK so that Black Desert is optimized for the console?
Microsoft is actively helping us with all technical support needed.
When can we expect the game to release?
We’re planning to release the console version during the first half of 2018.
Is there anything else you want to tell our readers before we let you go?
Jae-hee Kim: Black Desert Online is always in development. The BDO developers aren’t striving for a restrictive perfection, instead they work their hardest and push boundaries every day to make the game more enjoyable for more and more users. They are giving it all they got to make Black Desert Online enjoyable for any player who is a fan of MMORPGs.
Through the dedication of a constantly growing and learning development team, we wish that Black Desert Online becomes a game where users are confident and believe that the game will continue to be enjoyable. The feedback and interest of all users is of incredible value to keep Black Desert Online enjoyable and of high quality. We’ll continue to work hard to develop a better and more enjoyable Black Desert Online every day.
Will there be a closed beta for Xbox One players in 2018 and when can it be expected?
A closed beta hasn’t been confirmed yet. We will let the users know when we have a finalized decision.