Black Desert: The Knowledge System

If there’s one aspect of gameplay I’m most excited about in Black Desert, it’s the knowledge system. If this is as in depth and engaging as it sounds like it will be, this will be the thing that sets Black Desert apart from all other MMOs. So what is the knowledge system? Well, in three weeks when the second closed beta starts I’ll be able to provide hands on feedback but for now, here’s what I’ve been able to decipher.

Energy

Energy is a resource used for crafting, hiring workers, gathering, NPC conversations, and a host of other in game activities. Your total amount of energy will grow as your knowledge of the world grows (more on that later) and this energy pool size is shared across all your characters but not the energy itself. Each individual character can use the full amount and will refill their own pool independently. So for example, if you have a maximum of 100 energy, you may have one character at 20/100, another at 60/100, and two others with 100/100.

Energy is gained in several ways. First of all it regenerates over time at one rate while you’re logged in and at a slower rate when you’re offline. It can also be gained by completing certain quests that offer energy as a reward. Energy may also be purchased from the mileage shop, which is essentially a loyalty rewards system. Every day you log on you gain a currency called mileage and with that currency there are a number of items you can purchase including a bottle of 10 energy. However energy cannot be purchased from the regular cash shop with real money.

Contribution

Contribution is a resourced primarily used to purchase houses and claim nodes however there are a few other items that can be aquired with the resource. Unlike energy, your contribution pool is shared account wide however it is never lost, only invested, and everything you purchase with it will be accessible by all your characters. It’s pretty clear from this and other aspects of the knowledge system that Black Desert is meant to be played with many characters on one account working together toward common objectives.

Contribution is gained by completing quests, many of which will become dailies that you can repeat in order to continue increasing the amount of contribution you can invest. It will aid in your crafting and trading pursuits in several ways. First of all, contribution will be used to buy houses where you will set up crafting shops, establish warehouses, and house your workers. You can have up to five house at a time and you will need them all to accomplish your economic goals. It will also be used to buy nodes; think of these as connecting the dots between cities to establish trade routes. Without the dots connecting, you won’t make nearly as much money peddling your wares.

Knowledge

Knowledge is not a resource you earn in order to spend it on something else, but rather one that is used to improve your influence on the world around you and the NPCs that inhabit it. Knowledge will improve your combat skills, increase your energy pool, it will open up new quest opportunities that you didn’t have before, and I’m sure many other benefits that I haven’t discovered yet. Knowledge is gained by opening up new areas of the world map, fighting new mobs, talking with NPCs, from drops, trades, in game books, the surrounding ecology—everything you interact with in game will be a source of knowledge.

Central to the knowledge system is the importance of gaining influence with the world’s NPCs. When you first start playing, think of your character as someone who has moved to a new city with no family, friends, or networking contacts of any kind. As they explore the world and talk with NPCs, it becomes easier to interact with the people around them, they start to make “acquaintances” opening up new opportunities. This idea is played out as a mini-game which simulates the idea that the more people you know and local experiences you share, the better relationships you establish. Doing so opens up new quests.

Putting it all together

These aren’t three separate resources with no overlap, the acquisition and spending of each influences the other two. For example, you will use energy to gather materials and to hire the workers needed to refine those materials into something you can craft with. You’ll need contribution to establish the houses necessary for that process as well as the trade routes the nodes provide in order to sell the materials in other cities. To gain energy and contribution you’ll need to do quests and to increase the number or quality of missions available to you, you’ll have to increase your knowledge and influence with the NPCs. Greater knowledge expands your energy pool which allows you to gather or craft more items which will be processed in your growing stable of houses, which will require even more contribution and energy earned by the quests you’ve opened up—you get the idea.

This is the kind of MMO gameplay I can get behind. It’s immersive, expansive, and can be tailored in a myriad of ways to your playstyle preferences. If this system plays out as well as it sounds, Black Desert is going to be a unique experience where interacting with the world is the end game. I for one am looking forward to it.

A Treasure Trove of Trovian Treasures: Collaborative Multiplayer

Last week I wrote a post on 10 reasons why you should consider playing Trove, however as my notes on what I love about the game or the details I find interesting continues to grow, I don’t think a “top ten” article covers the game well enough. It’s not that I think Trove is the best game I’ve ever played, but I do think it is underrated largely because most of us don’t know enough about the game to risk giving it a try. With a market as saturated as the MMO genre, it’s understandable that we all want a little more information be it from the studio or via word of mouth before we dive into a new title. So rather than a “10 more reasons” follow up post, I’m going to do a series of articles that will hopefully paint a better picture of what the game is like in order to give anyone interested the intel needed to decide if this game is for them or not. For today I’d like to point out some of the multiplayer-friendly features that give Trove a nice “we’re all in this together” feel.

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Gathering Crafting Materials

When you are gathering materials for crafting, any player close by will receive duplicates of those same materials. For those of you who have played MMOs without shareable nodes, you’ll understand why this is such a jewel feature.  It’s even better than shared nodes because so long as you stay close you can tag team an area. I like this approach to gathering because it encourages players to stick together and there is no animosity if someone gets to a node before you. For example, there are these giant sunflowers you need to harvest sunlight bulbs from for the gardening profession. It’s a bit of a pain to do alone, but a lot of fun with a group of players. Instead of a race, you get a community activity!

And while we’re talking about gathering, I’ll mention a couple of other noteworthy conveniences. First of all, unlike Minecraft, you don’t have to go pick up the materials you gather, they automatically come to you. So if that bit of shapestone you just blasted with your laser falls off the side of a cliff, it will rebound right back into your inventory. Additionally, for several of the crafting mats like mushroom chunks, sunlight bulbs, bottles (which grow plant like in the open world), and enchanted wood, as long as you are mounted you can run right over them to gather. Same goes for anything you plant in your cornerstone as a part of the gardening profession.

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Lairs and Dungeons

Similar to the group-friendly status of gathering, when you reach a dungeon you may find that a group of players has already reached the boss, however even if you don’t make it to the final chamber in time you will still receive the XP, loot, and dungeon completion credit toward the daily quest. You’ll still need to physically navigate to the boss in order to pick up the loot (which is unique to your character by the way, no fighting loot ninjas for your rewards), but you don’t even need to tag the boss to receive credit. Yes, this opens up options for players to abuse the system and simply follow others around while they do the work but functionally I haven’t seen that happen. You’d have to be pretty engaged to follow people around (so no AFK) and so most players do the right thing and help each other out for the kill as much as they can. Overall it’s another design decision that favors camaraderie over competition and I for one am a fan of that line of thinking.

Trade

One of the more surprising choices made by the developers was to omit an auction house or even a universal gold-type currency from the game. Instead, a lot of the crafting materials are tradable and the primary currency used to determine an object’s value (flux) is itself a crafting mat. Basically the economy is a bartering system. Some of you might find this to be an inconvenience; I know I tend to prefer auction houses and as such I haven’t made much use of the trade system. However what I have observed while reading trade chat is that this system encourages players to interact with one another in the same way that group materials gathering, group dungeon crawling, and group shadow arenas do.

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Shadow Arenas

Shadow Arenas are Trove’s end game for those focused on combat skill. They are group instances with a high difficulty level that are accessed by portals that must first be found out in the open world in the Uber 1-5 zones. Gameplay involves fending off wave after wave of monsters and ultimately defeating a final boss to earn loot and shadow shards that can be used to obtain a variety of desirable items. The portals require a key to enter and the keys can either be crafted (which takes some time to amass the materials) or purchased with real money. Initially I was concerned about the keys being purchasable from the cash shop, and some of you may still fine this a bit too much “Pay to Win” for your liking, however I have recently spent a little more time participating in Shadow Arenas and I find the cash shop keys far less problematic now.

My concern was that players who purchased the keys would have an advantage in earning powerful gear and crafting mats for upgrades, however in practice it’s not really an issue because the Shadow Arenas are a group activity. Just having keys of any origin is a benefit to everyone. For example, last night I grouped with seven other people for a string of Shadow Arena runs. Four of us had keys available for the group to share and I never did find out whether they were crafted or purchased; it didn’t really matter. Eight people were able to get loot four times regardless of whether any of us used the cash shop or not. Additionally, I could have continued to run SAs all night without spending a dime as there was a steady stream of requests for people to join groups. Had I been focused on gearing up through SAs I could have easily done it by using shared keys. Because Shadow Arena keys benefit more than one person, the importance of whether they were purchased or crafted is negated. What matters is that keys are circulating; big spenders and F2P players alike benefit from the general pool of keys available in the game at any given time.

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Club Worlds

Despite the fact that I have spent a little more time exploring club worlds and even joining a Club myself (although I don’t think I picked a very populated one), I still don’t know a lot about them. What I can say is that Club Worlds offer another form of group activity by allowing players to work together toward creating an environment all their own. Some of the worlds I have visited are thematically consistent. Others look like a buffet of nerdy pop culture references. Whatever the group’s intention, Club Worlds provide an avenue for joint activity that is about creation rather than destruction, a welcome change to the traditional MMO end game content.

As you can see there are a number of features in Trove that promote a wide variety group activities. Whether you want to craft, build, trade, or take on challenging bosses, there is plenty of opportunity to do so with friends and strangers alike. Based on the design decisions behind these group friendly mechanics and features, I expect this trend to continue as a core part of the game. I certainly hope it does, it’s one of the reasons I find the game so inviting. There is a solid community vibe once you get properly oriented in the game.

I hope that gives any interested persons a good overview of Trove’s multiplayer functionality. Next time I’ll be looking at some of the progression systems in Trove. While the game may be perfect for short, casual play sessions, there’s also a lot of character development providing deep gameplay with lots to work on over the long haul. Trove’s end game is not for the faint of heart.