Black Desert Online is an ambitious and complex game. I’m not a guide writer, but there’s a few things I have been paying attention to as I start out. I want to write this post as much as a note to myself as to help others who are looking to get started in dizzying world of BDO.
Mind you, this is not a “play by numbers” kind of explanation that most guides offer. I’m striving for comprehension with a dash of guidance, and will leave it to you as to how you choose to spend your playtime.
When you start out, you’ll be directed to Olvia Town.
Olvia Town is not a large metropolis, but it’ll give you your first taste of what you can expect from towns or cities: tracking people down.
Olvia Town is a good place to learn about the knowledge system and how to use it because there’s two sets of knowledge to collect: villagers and merchants. You unlock knowledge about NPCs by talking to NPCs. Each NPC belongs to one knowledge group or the other (some might span multiple groups, but I didn’t check on that). The two groups co-mingle in the game world, and since there’s no “marketplace” where the merchants hang out, tagging each and every NPC you need is going to require some leg work around town. You can check your progress on the Knowledge UI (“H”). This screen contains all of what you know in BDO, and spans all characters in your family. If you open the map (“M”) you can hover over icons to identify the location of many of the key NPCs, although this is not going to be available 100% of the time; The Olvia Fisherman isn’t in town, but you won’t see him out by the coast unless you explore out that way to uncover the area on your map.
The goal of collecting NPCs in your knowledge codex is to give you options for using the conversation system. Most of the time you’re going to need at least five NPCs in your knowledge codex of a particular kind (depending on the venue) in order to strike up a conversation. If you think of it less like a game system and more like a social system, then the kinds of NPCs you’ll need depends on the interests of the NPC you are conversing with.
You start your mini-game by clicking the “Conversation (#/#)” button. If you haven’t collected enough knowledge that the NPC is interested in, it’ll tell you that you need X more entries before you can converse. The “(#/#)” indicates how much energy you need-slash-how much energy you have…yes, conversing takes energy (as any introvert can tell you!). Also on the NPC’s “main menu” you might notice the “Amity” value in the lower left corner. Amity and the conversation system two work in tandem to allow you to “schmooze” the locals. Some Amity circles will have icons around the periphery. You’ll need to advance the Amity meter to those points along the arcs in order to be granted access to what those icons represent — additional missions, or maybe the opportunity to purchase some special gear.
In a conversation, you play “knowledge cards” from the arc in the lower right corner. Each card has an interest and a favor value. The Interest is a measure of how…well…interesting the card is to the NPC. You’ll notice that the NPC you’re talking to also has an Interest level. In order to increase your chance of a success at each node, use cards where the Interest level exceeds the interest level of the NPC you’re talking about…most of the time.
There’s at least three ways to play, and the goal you’re given is random each time you strike up a conversation:
In order to gain Favor, you play cards whose Interest exceeds that of the NPC and if successful, you’ll add a range of Favor specified by the card you played. Continue to be successful and your gained Favor will add up.
If you want to spark Interest, you need to succeed with each card more times than the requirements state. But if you have to fail to spark Interest, you want to ensure that you fail more times than the requirements state. You can do that by using cards that have an Interest value lower than what the NPC is sporting. Mind you, that’s not a guarantee; I’ve “won” rounds even though I played cards with lower Interest values. Some cards have modifiers that allow you to carefully manage things like Interest and Favor based on where they are placed in the execution order. One example is “after 5 turns, Favor will be reduced by 1 for 1 turns”. Where you play a card on the board may have a bearing on the effects of the process as a whole.
Finally, conversing freely just means throw in any cards you want — you can’t fail.
The purpose of this endeavour is to gain Amity and unlock bonuses for you with the conversational NPC. Completionists and those who want access to the special goods that NPCs lock away behind Amity will want to spend a good amount of time chatting with the locals. If you succeed in your conversation, you’ll be able to ride the wave up to three times without having to pay additional energy for subsequent attempts. If you fail a conversation, you lose all cumulative Amity that you gained during that session and will need to pay more Energy to start another round.
Western Guard Camp – Contribution Points
After you complete the little bit of story in Olvia, you’ll be sent to the Western Guard Camp. The main focus here is on gaining Contribution XP. You will gain CP by completing quests for the camp locals as well as certain exploration tasks. CP XP is shown in the rewards window as a gold medal and ribbon icon.
Contribution XP gains you contribution points (duh) which are used to invest in nodes (among other things). My previous post about how nodes work wasn’t accurate: I stated that contribution points were limited to the town in which they were earned. That was false. CP exist not only on your character, but on all of your alts, and it’s a cumulative pool. 4 characters with 5CP each allows any one character to access 20CP. But because it’s a pool, spending points takes away from all characters.
CP is important for buying homes, renting equipment, and investing in nodes. Although investing in nodes helps with NPC trading, loot drops, and gathering, one reason to earn and invest CP early is the Marketplace. The Marketplace is BDO’s version of the auction house, but with a few differences. First, prices are fixed, and are visible as highs and lows on the descriptions of the items in your inventory you are able to sell through the Marketplace. Second, if you haven’t jumped through some specific hoops, anything you sell via the Marketplace is going to take a 30% hit to the selling price.
The first place you can start earning CXP is in the Western Guard Camp. The NPCs there have a whole lot of tasks for you to complete, including killing wolves and imps as well as advancing the main plot of the game, but will later segue into some crafting quests (predicated by harvesting and crafting tutorials). If you want to start selling your items at their maximum potential, then the Marketplace is the place to go, but you’re going to need to accrue some CP in the WGC before you return to Olvia to Do Commerce.
If you want to sell through Lolly the Merchant in Olvia, you’ll need to have spent CP on unlocking the Olvia and Olvia Coast nodes. You’ll get the Olvia node unlocked by…doing things. I think it might be completing your knowledge of the items available in town, although it could be some other mechanism. Long story short: I didn’t do anything specific to unlock Olvia. But Olvia Coast will require CP investment. To make things more difficult, in order to unlock the Coast, you’ll also need to unlock the Casta Farm node which will allow you to link Olvia Town to Olvia Coast. This complete process will require at least 2 CP, which means you’ll have to spend time doing missions in Western Guard Camp to earn two levels of CXP in order to unlock the two nodes that will give you the best prices to sell to the Marketplace in Olvia Town. Now, I don’t think there’s a Marketplace merchant in WGC, but there’s probably one in Velia which is the next stop on the trip down the road (and a subject for another post). That Market will have it’s own requirements for getting the full price of sale, so properly managing your CP is a massive feature of BDO.
This is where I have to leave you. The game spends a whole lot of time getting you ready for combat, so I’m not even going to bother going over any of that. I haven’t bought housing or attempted any trade routes, so I can’t speak to either of those with certainty either. There’s also some other aspects of these systems which I didn’t get to — like spending Energy to “level” an unlocked node — which I’ll have to get to at some point when the topic is more directed at such aspects.
One Node At A Time
I am spending a whole lot of time hanging around these starting areas because it’s kind of necessary to ensure that I don’t miss anything. At some point I should be able to move goods via NPC between Olvia and Velia, so I’ll need to unlock all of the nodes in between the two, and also some production nodes. To do that, I’ll need to gain contribution points, enough to unlock nodes and to rent lodging for my NPCs. If this sounds complex, it is, and we’re only talking about the span between the starter towns. I can imagine (and cringe at) what kind of effort it’ll take to create a region-spanning financial network: all the nodes, all the CP, all the knowledge that will need to be unlocked, and all the NPCs that’ll need to be cultivated.
For a game that’s being sold as “mostly PvP”, I think these systems are getting a really raw deal by being omitted from the marketing material. I know a lot of people who are shying away from BDO because it’s being sold as a PvP game, or because of the cash shop valuation, or because it’s an Eastern game. To be honest, I would have overlooked this for at least two of those three reasons alone, but I’m really glad I opted to give it a shot and to spend some time learning about these systems. In many ways I’m seeing a depth of non-combat systems that I haven’t seen since the Star Wars: Galaxies and Istaria days. That gets me irrationally excited not just because it elevates these mechanics to a worthwhile experience, but because there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of things to learn.