Should you play Black Desert Online as a PvEr?

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One of the lingering concerns from the final Black Desert Online beta is the very PvP-centric focus of the game. Given that we’re dealing with an MMO that comes with such a beautifully crafted world, complex gathering and crafting mechanics, interesting housing and farming features, horse taming, boat building and whatnot, it is understandable that there’s more than your average Darkfall crowd lining up for BDO. The biggest questions from PvErs are therefore twofold:

  • Can I turn off PvP mode for myself / will there be PvE servers?
  • What about classic PvE content, aka dungeons, quests, endgame..?

The first question is easily answered at this point: nope. While there are ramifications for player killing in BDO, once your first character hits level 50 (edited for correction: level 50 is not the level cap as BDO has none), you are available for PvP. There is no opt-out at the present time. This also extends to whatever alts you may create on the same account which will no longer benefit from any newbie moratorium. There is the misconception that “flagging yourself” for PvP in BDO means consensual PvP but that’s not in fact the case; flagging yourself is required to engage in PvP but it does not save anyone from being ganked whether they are flagged or not.

Now, from some of the replies I received to my early CBT2 impressions and also reading more related forum articles since, it appears that ever since the Korean launch PKing in BDO has been nerfed to a point where “it’s no longer fun for hardcore PVPers” due to hefty karma penalties. Indeed, there’s been a lot of  outcry over this. This may serve as some reassurance to all those who would like to try Black Desert without being continuously ganked by others; while you can be killed anywhere, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen an awful lot. BDO’s main PvP content is siege / arena / instanced PvP.


What about PvE servers and classic PvE content?

It is always tiresome to see how fast forum discussions on PvE servers get derailed and attacked by those who feel threatened by peaceful playstyles. Or rather that’s not what the PvP player fears: what he fears is the exodus of potential sheep for slaughter. PvP players know fully well that they are a minority. I guess from that point of view I understand their frustration – BDO was primarily developed with PvP in mind, so that audience considers it “their game”. Yet, it is simply a misconception that not having alternatives would mean everyone stays together. This is not the year 2000 where desperate MMO players stick around no matter their environment. These people will simply leave the game never to return. If you want outdoor PvP in any meaningful fashion in MMOs nowadays, it needs to be consensual while allowing everyone else to perform other roles. That said, for reasons already stated above I have my doubts PvE servers are even required.

Furthermore, it de facto doesn’t look like Pearl Abyss have any plans for PvE servers. In this, I believe some of the passionate PvP advocates on the official forums to be correct – it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to have PvE servers in a game with so little classic PvE content or endgame. It’s a sandbox MMO which is basically the opposite of getting themepark PvE content handed to you. And to drive this point home further, the developers have made it pretty clear in a very recent pre-release interview that they have no intention to turn BDO into a classic PvE game:

Q: Are there any plans to add instance based dungeons and or raids for end game PVE content?

A: Adventures and fierce guild wars in Black Desert are strongly established on an open-world system. Some special content might need to utilize an instance dungeon system, but we are not going to add a repetitive instanced dungeon, where the sole purpose is getting rewards.  Guild- and party-centric raids are already implemented in the game now, and we are developing more advanced kind of raid.

Q: Are there any plans to do epic quest lines for an in game reward. I.E. Extremely difficult quest lines that could take month+ to complete. Rewards could be unique high end weapons that have special characteristics, stats, or an extremely unique look.

A: No matter how hard a quest is, it can never deliver the same level of achievement or anticipation once it is cleared or a walkthrough is published. Most of the quests in the beginning stages of the game are simple and guiding, but as the player proceeds toward a later stage of the game, such as Valencia, desert and maritime quests demand long-distance travel and intense adventure. A quest in Black Desert should be an extension of the exploration of the in-game region, and can also assist players by making the exploration more convenient or helping with character growth.  However, we’d like to state that we do not prefer a type of quest that players feel obliged to complete, in order to become stronger or to gain rewards. Players should play freely and naturally in the game, and it is never fun to be pressed into doing something to get rewards. We do plan to add some difficult quests, but the estimated time of arrival is still not set.

I must admit, while I do not find outdoor PvP enjoyable personally (but I am willing to give it a shot based on everything I know), I love everything about the answers provided above. The devs have no intention to do what’s already been done to death elsewhere. If you want long questlines that everyone can go look up on a Wiki after two days, go elsewhere. If you want to repeat the same dungeons over and over for rewards, go elsewhere.

That’s not to say that there won’t be any types of repetitive grinds in Black Desert Online, I know there will be. But it sounds like there’s a clear vision behind this MMO and a decided focus on sandbox over PvE. And isn’t that what so many have kept asking for in the past? Personally, I look forward to see how things turn out. Should you play Black Desert Online as a PvEr? Let’s find out.


  1. I have a long ways to go to discern the foundations of the game, but my knee-jerk reaction is they disseminated many features and systems between Crafting and Combat, yet inextricably tied those factors together(I.E. you need to fight to craft and craft to fight).

    And I’m guessing an overall change the game is trying to make is to destroy the divide between what PvP and PvE always was traditionally.

    I’d liken it to 2 political parties and a new one emerges that is the previous two combined in such a way that it’s a new political party that does away with the two separate ones – creating a new era(so to speak).

    But a lot of this is my own guess-work. If that’s even a little bit true, then in this era of MMOs, it may be hard to hang-on to old concepts we currently have about PvP vs. PvE.

    Edit: Also there is plenty of grind and it’s pointed out to players. It’s tied to the grades you get for killing mobs. You can establish grades on mobs early, but you can also reset those grades later(by long distance travel or planting an alt in the area – because grades will be account-wide)

    Then in late-game, you’ll be grinding a ton for different reasons and the higher grade you’ve established aids you towards the amount of benefits-over-time you get in end-game.

    1. Myeah, for now I’m not sure how I feel about the EXP grind later on…will have to see how that turns out. Also, not having level-cap is scary?

      1. Wait, No level-cap. Okay.
        First: I thought level-cap was 50
        Second: I personally love the idea of no level-cap. Many games really need to just allow no level-cap.

  2. We come to similar thoughts on this game, though my excitement is significantly lower. I’m, personally, going to wait and see what happens when this all goes in to the wild.

    Last thing I need is another EVE Online experience…which case, if that’s what BDO ends up becoming, then so be it. I have other options as well as other sandboxy games that might suit me more.

    1. For now I have a feeling as if PA are still ‘sorta’ trying to keep the gankfest in check. But like you, I am uncertain about the mid-/longterm for the game and myself, it should run out of content fairly soon the way GW2 did. I am realistic when it comes to that, if it turns out to be a 3-monther for me that yields a few thousand screenshots, I am content. 😛

  3. The problem with pvp is its only as fun as the players make it – it has a depth that can be worked into by mechanics but at the end of the day it lives and dies by player participation and enjoyment.

    Ive seen this work well in moba (toxic community aside) but i doubt very much that it will work in a mmo – its a niche appeal and I cant help think that this game is going to be very short lived for the majority of people who try it.

    1. It might be that they’ve already compromised too much. If there’s no big appeal to PVErs, it begs the question why they wouldn’t make the PvP sandbox a real one, let them go nuts with outdoor PvP. At least that way you own the niche completely, which right now doesn’t seem like it.

      1. I hate to keep sounding argumentative with you, so I apologize for that, but I’m hearing a lot of positive response from PvErs with the production/manufacturing/node system, also combined with a price-limited auction house.

        But I am always suspect of any MMO. I’m burnt out, crabby, and grumpy nowadays. we shall see.

      2. Heh this is a place to discuss, so don’t worry. 😀
        I think we don’t disagree, although there might be a difference in how we use the terminology. PVE has nothing to do with sandbox imo. Both PvP/PvE the way we use them today are play modes that “can” come with sandbox elements but the sandbox as such stands on its own. GW2 for example has classic PvE (dungeons, events/quests, raids) but very little in terms of sandbox. But it really doesn’t surprise me that PvErs will like housing or better production systems, I have said as much in the opening paragraph. 🙂 Still, BDO is not going the classic PvE course, it’s going more sandbox.

  4. I’ll wait and see I guess. The account level flagging seems a bit crazy. Means I can’t even roll a series of alts to avoid an otherwise unpalatable “endgame” as I would in most MMOs. I’ve watched some video of gameplay and it looks fun to play for sure but this PVP issue gives me déja vu – my interest in Allods dropped to 0 when I reached the forced-PVP questing zone.

    1. It seems really harsh, I personally don’t understand the logic either. EVen if you are not technically a newb anymore, how fun is it to get killed by high-level players when your alts are way lower? /shrug It seems like one of their compromises that make no sense to either PVErs nor PVPers lol.

      1. The best PvP games are the ones that don’t have levels, like MOBA’s and FPS multiplayer games. The Killers fight for this model because they can’t get that “thrill” of beating down a defenseless toon in those “better” PvP games.

        Allowing ganking of your “non-combat ready” alts has been tried and failed in numerous games. These Dev’s either disagree with this assessment or haven’t really thought through the decision. Either way, it’s looking like I shouldn’t spend any money on this product.

      2. All I know is a benefit told me about having alts – and he seemed very receptive to it.

        And that’s about performing tasks at lower level that benefit you at higher level – and this concerns account-wide features/systems.

        The example was that to get grades on creatures at lower level are used at higher level – but the higher grade you get early on is beneficial. At higher levels, though, it is a major inconvenience to go back to reset a higher grade – unless you plant an alt in the early area. Load alt, reset grade to higher, re-load main, higher-level character and continue your main now with the better grade.

        It seems that either new players or new and old players alike place these conveniences much higher in priority than other actual gameplay elements. I blame the catering of meta-gaming in MMOs.

  5. “A: No matter how hard a quest is, it can never deliver the same level of achievement or anticipation once it is cleared or a walkthrough is published. ”

    I love this statement. It’s so true. As long as players are looking up guides for everything, which you know they do, what’s the point in creating challenge in the first place. Players that don’t use the easiest path to get the most reward are generally thought of as “playing wrong”.

    I have never minded “playing wrong”, but it is exhausting the amount of flak you get from others in the community for going against the grain.

    1. This is why I think the focus on challenge in the form traditional MMOs took it is old and stale. And it doesn’t matter if it’s PvP, combat or a puzzle. The journey should be fun.

      Unfortunately – a lot of that seems to rest on a dichotomy between meta-gaming and player-input. Minecraft for instance requires high levels of player input. Traditional MMOs do not and try to entice, feed, deliver and bribe

      What ends up happening is something like a lot of the systems that were introduced in Runes of magic: smaller housing, planting, butlers/maids, world-events, pets and more. All systems in RoM I thought were terrific, but to feed demand, keep players and make money, the devs had to undermine it all, make most of the systems results useless and inject 2-dimensional rewards at many small steps along the processes of completion.

      My point: on one hand this “problem” or issue can not be fixed. It will never be fixed. Because the responsibility lies enough on the players perceptions and desires more(desires that change and shift).

      1. I think you hit it in your opening paragraph right there… the journey should be fun. Really, MMOs are mainly progression based gaming. When adding so many people, progression becomes the easiest method of providing that feeling of accomplishment. Of course, this comes with grinds, levels, skills, etc. MMOs just aren’t MMOs without some form of progression, some way to compare yourself to the other players. But is that progression method *fun*. You could add all the levels in the world, but if it’s not interesting from the first mob to the last, there’s no point. It is *all* about the journey.

        One of the big reasons I think adventure games heavily stalled is that if you encounter a wall, the barrier of overcoming that wall is as near as a Google search. In the past when adventure games thrived, this wasn’t the case. It took a lot more effort to find answers, even as far as calling pay-per-minute numbers. Without using a guide, figuring something out on your own, you got a HUGE feeling of accomplishment. When you Google search it now… not so much. So developers have to walk this fine line of difficulty. They push players too much, they’ll go cheat. Too little, they won’t feel satisfied. Since it’s a personal decision where that line lies, you’re absolutely right… there is no real fix.

        But as long as the journey itself is fun, as long as each moment of progression is fun… they the actual progression itself feels like a bonus. 🙂

    2. This is also why I’d like to see this “minecraft” player-input, sandbox building aspect go retro a bit with questing.

      We have games that sprung up with tons of really fun content creation – but none of it allows players to create quests.

      Players will still turn to guides – like they would even with EQ2 dungeon building where some of the better dungeons became popular, but it’s a wedge into the system that has some success.

      I suggest it be a small system that doesn’t try to cover the entire game or be the point of the MMO, but just a system, like housing, pets, crafting, etc…

      This would work best in a game that allows a high degree of emergent-gameplay, but that’s also been worked out of most MMOs – so could be problematic.

      Just have a small system where players can create checkpoints to chain events and goals together to create a quest. There’s a number of problems with this though, but I’m not trying to solve those, just think of the direction that may work.

    3. @Ocho
      I am honestly very tired of this sort of questing, anyway. That’s where BDO appeals a lot but without engaging in PvP, I might find myself out of things to do longterm. We’ll see, all depends on the sandbox elements.

  6. From what I read so far, only thing that appeals to me from this game is its huge and beautiful world and some of the features it have (although I am not sure I understand how crafting work..I supposed to have energy that if I gather a lot it I cant just pick anything in my way, I have to be carefull and picky.. not sure if I like it or not)

    On the other hand, the pvp focus turning me away, well not exactly the pvp focus, but the absence of pve server… I see these types of games like trying to fool me with their immersive worlds, so I can be their “cheap content” for the gangers. And I refuse to be the content (in that way) instead of consume content.

    I also didnt like the combat. Probably I am getting old for that kind of combat (God of War / Batman). GW2 and ESO also have “action” combat but somehow I like them, they are not too “flashy” as Black Desert (and Blade n Soul too…).

    So, the only thing I can get from Black Desert is to explore the beautiful world and do some crafting and sailing… and that would be enough for me to pay to play this game, if I was sure I could do this “uninterrupted” (not ganged).

    PS. sorry for bad English

    1. In that we are the same then, for now exploration is my main reason to play BDO! I also so far do not enjoy the combat much.
      And your English is fine btw! 🙂

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