Black Desert Online Day 2: Stuff I’ve learned

I promise I’m not going to write boring blog posts about Black Desert Online every day, but I did want to share some stuff I learned in case any other newbies stumble onto my blog.

1) Thanks to a friend of Stargrace I learned how to disable those annoying ‘banner’ announcements. In settings -> game if you scroll down there’s a big swath of checkboxes for Notifications. These are all “opt-out”; in other words you check the ones you DON’T want to see. I turned off most of them and now instead of seeing constant adverts for in-game stuff I don’t care about, I can see Black Desert Online’s beautiful world.

2) I finally noticed the “Edit UI” option in the main menu. In my defense it doesn’t seem to be there when you’re very low level, but I’m sure I’ve overlooked it a few times. That let me hide that odd palette of suggested key strokes that floats around the middle of the screen.

3) I took the time to write down controller button bindings because they are non-traditional (and yet work well). So for example one of the face buttons is bound to Left Mouse Button, but the left trigger is bound to Right Mouse Button. The right trigger is bound to Shift. Pushing in the left analog stick is the same as hitting the frequently used R key, while pushing in the right stick is Q. And so on. So my Heavy Attack that is performed by pushing both mouse buttons is X+L2 (on an Xbox controller) while I have some kind of shield charge that is Shift-Q which winds up being R2+Right Thumb Depress. It sounds odd but it all works pretty well since the timing isn’t super-precise.

Once I had these bindings written down so I could glance at them to refresh my memory, combat with a controller got really fun. For me, who is primarily a console gamer, fighting in BDO with mouse and keyboard felt like a random button-pressing activity and I didn’t care for it. But fighting with a controller, dancing around enemies and unleashing devastating (well, for level 10) attacks, is super fun.

Next I need to write down my skills and the combos needed to activate them. I still think they throw too many skills at you too quickly and I know I have some I just never use.

At one point last night (and I only actually played for about an hour) I was down to a single quest given to me by the evil black cloud (who has grown an alarming set of teeth) that had me fighting a level 15 mob with a group. I was level 11 and me+groups=avoid at all costs so instead of following the bread crumbs to my inevitable death, I set that quest aside and just wandered around practicing combat. Eventually I wandered into a village and all kinds of things opened up. I now have quests that will teach me about gathering and crafting, I got some storage space, and a bunch of other things I need to play around with next time I’m in game. I also spent my first Contribution Point unlocking (is that what you call it?) a farm that I recognized the name of from reading my friends’ posts. I guess I can grow some taters there.

(I have real problems with place-names in this game for some reason. The first two villages are, I think, Olvia and Velia and for some reason my brain constantly confuses them. So I can’t recall which one I was in, but there was a dock there and I assume lots of AFK fisherfolk.)

So things are coming along. I’m really happy that I tried combat with the controller. It changed the combat system from “Meh” to “OMG SO FUN!” for me. Now I feel like I just want to go hit things with my sword instead of doing all the crafting and farming that I initially signed up for!

Actually playing Black Desert Online

After my self-inflicted morning of pain trying to get Black Desert Online to run via streaming to the Steam Link, I finally got to play the game yesterday afternoon and evening. What a feeling of d�j� vu I had! Not because BDO is similar to other games, but because my initial reaction was just like that of so many other bloggers. I feel like I could steal someone else’s Day 1 post and paste it here and it would reflect my experience almost perfectly.

I was overwhelmed and kind of confused. The UI was an abstract painting done with letters and symbols splattered across my screen. The combat system confused me (still confuses me) but so far seems redundant anyway since you can just spam attacks and kill early game enemies. There was an evil cloud bossing me around making me feel like I was playing the worst kind of theme park MMO (y’know the kind of game where you never have to make a decision on your own) but it was dragging me through maps strewn with icons that have to mean something to someone.

Honestly if BDO was truly free-to-play AND I hadn’t read a lot of blog posts about it, I might’ve just given up on it. But everyone is now writing about quest logs stuffed full of things to do, and lots and lots of systems that completely ignore quests. I know this stuff is out there but I guess I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m only level 10-ish, and you go from level 1 to level 5 in your first 10 minutes or so of playing.

My new character is a warrior, which means (for now at least) sword and board. He’s learned a bunch of combat skills and as best I can figure, some of them get bound to hot keys and others are bound to key-combos. I say ‘as best I figure’ because I haven’t used most of them. Even his most basic attacks are bombastic spectacles of flames and sparks, and early game enemies are tiny woodland creatures. Usually I can’t see them or their health bars and I often keep attacking long after they are dead. Then I loot their corpses, one by one, hitting R to open the corpse and R again to take what is in it. No area loot feels so old-school. It’s like I’m playing BDO on my abacus!

My initial feeling is that combat looks badass but feels pretty trivial, though again, I’m level 10, and anyway I have a zillion MMOs with good combat. I didn’t come to BDO to fight things, I came to become a capitalist or something. I came for the crafting/strategic parts of the game that I know will show up before too long. Combat felt a lot more fun using a controller than the keyboard and I’m glad I have that option.

I did stick a toe into the Amity system since I was kind of at a loss as to what else to do when I got done button-mashing my way through beetles, foxes, wolves and imps. The Amity system is kind of like a CCG only the ‘cards’ are bits of knowledge you find through exploring and talking to people. It seems like something that will be quietly fun once I get a good collection of knowledge to work with.

I also need to use a Contribution Point (which I think came from questing) to unlock a Node. I’ve read a lot about Nodes but for some reason I can’t figure out how/where to go to unlock one. I thought I’d open the map and do it from there but the map intimidates the heck out of me. I need to come to grips with the iconography of it because aside from the icons of people on it, nothing makes a lot of sense to me.

One of my problems is I have no sense of place. You initially spawn into the game in a tiny village (I think it’s tiny), but the tutorial system has you almost immediately ‘auto-run’ to a quest. Surprisingly that quest takes you to the next town/hub/place and since I auto-ran to it I feel a little bit adrift. It’s like the difference between driving to a new place and taking a cab there. In the cab you’re just kind of idly looking out the window and not really paying attention to where you are. There were people in that spawn-in village so I guess at some point I should go back there, if I can figure out where it is. I didn’t take note of the name of the place but I think it’s NW of where I am now (the Western Gate something).

Another goal is figuring out how to turn off the ‘banners’ that pop up across the top of the screen telling me that two guilds I’ve never heard of have gone to war somewhere, or that something is for sale on a market I have no access to, and even more importantly find a way to turn off the random key prompts that constantly tell me I can use Q to sit down (as I’m running through a forest) or that CTRL switches between mouse cursor and movement (something you pretty much have to learn in the first 2 minutes of playing).

Anyway, there’s time. Now that I plunked down my $30 I can play forever without spending another dime if I don’t want to. Coming into it I knew BDO wasn’t going to be a game I mastered in the first day (or the first week or month, for that matter).

Oh! I almost forgot two super-important (to me) details. First, aside from gold spammers, chat has been decent. Not that I pay a lot of attention to it, but when I have glanced at it what I haven’t seen is people flaming each other over nothing. Second when you encounter another player there’s an option called “Intro” or something like that. I peeked at a few of these and twice what I found was an invitation to role-play! That delighted me. Not that I’m much of a role-player myself, but I’m something of a role-play fanboy. I’ll happily skulk around the periphery of an RP session just to hear what folks come up with. Crikey I’d almost forgotten roleplaying existed in MMORPGs, so I was really happy to see that.

This map hurts my brain!
This map hurts my brain!

Black Desert Online and Steam In-Home Streaming

Last week I ranted about how I wished I could play Black Desert Online on my TV in the living room. Then a few evenings ago I stumbled on a Reddit post about getting the game running through Steam and then using In-Home Streaming to pipe it elsewhere.

And so my willpower crumbled. Yesterday I purchased a copy of Black Desert Online. So far I’ve mostly had headaches. First I couldn’t get the store to work in Chrome. Switched browsers and bought the game. Then I started patching and left for the afternoon, and the patcher crapped out about 3 seconds after I walked away from the system, as far as I could tell. It was late last night by the time I got a chance to play. I built a Berserker who looked rough but OK in the character creator, but stumbled around like a muppet in game. So I deleted him, only to find out it takes a DAY to delete a character. He’ll finally be gone sometime after midnight tonight.

This morning I created a new character (at least they give us 4 slots) and got him logged in, then I set to work getting the game running through Steam following the steps in that link above. Unfortunately Step 2, “Make sure you enable the Steam Overlay. This is required to recognize the controller.” isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. I bounced around a bunch of links before I found a system that worked for me, outlined in another reddit post.

So at that point I could launch BDO from Steam, open the Steam overlay and close it again, and everything seemed peachy. Going back to reddit post #1 I proceeded to the final step. I started streaming from the Steam Link. I’d already attached a bluetooth keyboard, wireless mouse and a PS4 controller so I was set for controls. I minimized Big Picture and alt-tabbed over to BDO and the game was running. I could move around as expected but… I had no audio.

Three hours later and about 40 trips up and down the stairs, I still have no audio. I’ve found posts where people claim they don’t even really use Steam. They start the stream, minimize Steam and just launch BDO normally. That works for me too but still no sound. Basically Steam refuses to transmit sound to BDO or the desktop or, I suspect, any non-Steam game.

[Update: I should point out that when I stream bona-fide Steam games, sound works perfectly. It just seems to be when I get outside of the Steam ecosystem that I have problems.]

So I’m stumped. I’ve found plenty of posts from people who say that they have this working in a number of ways but I just can’t get it to work. When the stream starts, Steam mutes sound on the host computer and is supposed to pipe it to the client. It does do the mute thing, and I’ve even tried unmuting sound on the host but it doesn’t help. I just want a straight pipe to the Steam Link; I don’t care if audio continues to play on the host.

I figure there’s a setting somewhere that I’m not finding but like I said… 3 hours of trying different things. Life is too short. I guess I just flushed $30 down the toilet, at least until someone smarter than me comes up with a solution.

Anyone have any experience with this? So very frustrating (though in fairness I’m trying to do something not officially supported by Steam or BDO).

[SOLVED: OK this is embarrassing. I discovered the problem and it was all me. I mentioned I hooked up a wireless mouse to the Steam Link. When I did that, I picked the Link up to plug in the wireless dongle for the mouse, and I guess I jarred the HDMI cable loose. It FINALLY dawned on me, after hours of messing around, that the Link wasn’t making any clicks or anything while I was moving through menus, even before I connected to the host PC. Which finally led me to think about why it was totally silent and finally went to what should’ve been Step 1: check the cable connections.

Boy am I embarrassed but at least it is working!]

I curse you, Black Desert Online!

ALL my friends (OK, a few of my friends) are playing Black Desert Online, the new MMO from some company or other. I haven’t followed it much, wasn’t the least bit interested. Then they started talking about it.

And I’m intrigued. I hear about how complex it is, which interests me. That it’s Alt-Friendly and I love me some alts. That there are rewarding systems that go far beyond just combat. From the outside looking in, it seems to be the best ‘virtual world’ game available now if you want modern graphics. (And yeah, I like me some nice graphics.)

I held strong for a while because my friends tend to be very attracted to the new shiny. Blade & Soul was hot for maybe 10 days. Figured the same would be true with Black Desert Online. Plus there seems to be altogether too much excitement about AFK activities. The game literally plays itself I guess. That seems like an odd thing to be excited about but then, I haven’t experienced it.

But there seems to be so much to like about the game, and as a bonus it’s really pretty, at least in theory. I’m not sure how pretty it would be on my old machine, but it’s sure pretty on other peoples’ gaming rigs.

I came so close to caving and buying the $30 starter package (there’s no free lunch here, you have to buy something to get started).

But then I thought about spending hours sitting in front of my PC playing a game and I realized this was not the right move for me. I work from home. I sit in front of my ‘gaming PC’ for 40-50 hours a week working. Sitting here for another 20 just no longer sounds like fun. Most days once I ‘quit’ work for the day I walk out of the office and don’t return until the next morning.

Sadly I can’t even imagine a game as complex as Black Desert Online ever coming to consoles. So for now I guess Black Desert Online gets filed away with EVE Online; the kind of game I love to read about, but that I don’t really want to play. At least not until I get a kick-ass gaming laptop or some other way to play it in front of the big screen in the living room. Maybe it’ll come to Steam some day and I can play it via Steam In-Home Streaming….