Hot on the heels of the release of Black Desert's Eternal Winter expansion, we had some time to chat with Jesse Joo, head of Black Desert Online's game design division, and see just what the team had in mind when they introduced some new ideas into the MMORPG and where the game was headed from here.
MMOBomb (MB): Thanks for spending some time with us today. Before we get started can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about what you do day-to-day as the head of game design? How do players see your work in what they play?
Jesse Joo (JJ): Hello, my name is Jesse Joo, and I am the Head of Black Desert Online's Game Design Division. I am involved in developing a variety of content ranging from lore to Conquest War and so on. Recently, with the help of Pearl Abyss Executive Director Daeil Kim’s strong leadership and Black Desert Executive Producer Jaehee Kim’s full support, we have been working on the “Black Desert Narrative Improvement Project.” In addition, I planned the concept and overall direction for the Eternal Winter region. Having developed a new type of questing and progression for Black Desert compared to before, I can't help but be intrigued about our players' feedback and experiences.
MB: It’s been a little over a year now since Pearl Abyss took over the publishing of Black Desert Online in the west. How has the transition been? Were there unexpected challenges or feedback from players that the team didn’t anticipate?
JJ: Since it was our first time publishing in North America and Europe, it wasn’t easy. But we were able to apply the experience we gained from operations in Korea, Southeast Asia, and other regions. We especially tried our best to ensure we could welcome the huge influx of players that would join once the servers opened. But although we tried to prepare enough manpower and responses in advance, it took much longer than expected to process the massive number of player inquiries at the start of our service transfer. While the time it took was not ideal, I want to thank all our players for their patience.
For our service, we tried to get more in touch with our NA/EU players with various activities such as the Arena of Arsha and Tuvala Cup tournaments which gave us a way to directly interact with players. We also had calls with players to discuss and receive feedback about class balance and improvements, which we used to help implement changes for our class reboots. And more recently, our Game Masters (GMs) and Community Managers (CMs) have been actively meeting and interacting with players in-game. I think that these actions show our desire to grow closer to our players in the North America and Europe servers.
MB: Eternal Winter drops us right into the thick of it with 4 new chilly monster zones. Tell us a little about what players can expect from these zones and the wildlife they encounter.
JJ: Let me explain about the Okjinsini first. “Okjinsini” means “Snow monster” (Snow Dokkaebi) in Korean. There’s an old folk tale that when Dokkaebis die, they turn into will-o'-wisps. Okjinsini, too, turn into will-o'-wisps when they die, releasing a powerful explosion that damages their surroundings. Players who make good use of this "explosive" mechanic will find the PvE combat to be more dynamic and exciting to experience.
Next, Murrowak’s Labyrinth. Murrowaks are an insect species that, at the behest of the dragons, dig up ore from the large mineral vein underneath the Mountain of Eternal Winter. Like ants, the Murrowaks live in colonies with a queen named Vercedes who becomes furious if her hive is disturbed. Once the queen awakens, players can venture into her chamber and work together to defeat her, earning themselves valuable loot.
As for the Dreadwinter Tree Fossils, monsters that look like angry polar bears and snow leopards will emerge to attack you, really giving players that feeling of “wow, this really is a winter region."
Lastly, there is Erethea’s Limbo. To enter this place, you must first fulfill its unique conditions. Even after you gain entry, monsters armed with various mechanics will continually challenge you. As you battle them, the path to the next chamber will open. If you manage to overcome all the trials to reach the treasure room, you will be well-rewarded.
MB: The new frostbite mechanic mixes a traditionally survival game element into BDO and players will have to make sure they keep warm as they head up the slopes of the Mountain of Eternal Winter. How has the team made sure this mechanic is interesting and engaging and not a “well I have to sit at this fire for a bit just because the game says I have to” mechanic like we’ve seen it become in other titles?
JJ: We want to emphasize the importance of player preparation. Physical limitations based on factors such as cold weather are an important element to enhance how realistic a game is. But if you have to stop what you’re doing to go sit by a fire every time you face such limitations... Sure, some might find that realistic and enjoyable, but others might find that to be too realistic and therefore rather bothersome. So we thought that we needed a middle ground. As long as you have items prepared ahead of time, you can use those items to overcome such debuffs. But you must bring the appropriate items for each situation. For example, for heatstroke, you have to bring along some refreshing Purified Water. To overcome hypothermia, you have to prepare Star Anise Tea. For a long sea voyage, you must prepare Chowder to revive your sick sailing crew. These items can be obtained by using in-game mechanics like cooking or alchemy. And of course, you can also purchase the items directly from the Central Market using silver. It's pretty simple, right?
MB: We’ll also see a new item with Labreska’s Helmet, but we’ll have to earn the materials to build it. Why will players want to make sure they score this gear?
JJ: Because it makes you stronger. In an RPG, becoming stronger can be a means to tackle different content, but sometimes, becoming stronger is simply the goal in itself. We do try our best to avoid locking content behind a certain minimum gear score as we want our players to freely choose whatever content they wish to enjoy. Of course, there are expectations such as Atoraxxion, Elvia Realm, and Conquest War. However, we try to minimize the “fear of missing out” by avoiding having separate or limited rewards for such content that players can't experience yet.
MB: What’s the deal with tree fossils? Should we be scared a little?
JJ: I briefly mentioned it earlier, but I think that when you play it for yourself, you’ll be surprised by how cute the monsters are. Once you use 100 Energy to summon the monsters, you need to continuously battle them for about 15 minutes, so it's a good idea to be prepared mentally and physically before getting started. Since there are two difficulty levels, we recommend starting at the normal difficulty if you haven’t familiarized yourself with the mechanics. From time to time, you will also encounter the powerful boss, Erebjork, so you'll have to make sure you’re fully prepared for battle.
MB: Tell us something about the expansion that our readers can only learn here in our interview? Any easter eggs long-time fans should keep an eye out for?
JJ: Jordine’s story will reveal a lot of hints about Black Desert’s future updates. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s theories and discussions about these hints.
We'd like to thank Jesse Joo for their time and hope you look forward to new adventures in Black Desert Online's Eternal Winter.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As part of this interview, we did ask two questions regarding Black Desert Online's monetization and if the team has ever thought about taking the MMORPG fully free-to-play given that the game is sometimes free to grab and often sold at very deep discounts. The team at Pearl Abyss declined to answer any questions regarding their thoughts on the current monetization of the game or any plans they may have been/be considering for the future.
About the Author
Mike “Magicman” Byrne has been a part of the MMOBomb family for years and serves as the site’s current Editor-in-Chief. His love for MMOs and gaming in general has led him to covering games for numerous gaming websites including Gamebreaker TV and XIV Nation where he proudly displays his fanboy flag for FFXIV:ARR.More Stories by Michael Byrne
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