Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Bounty Bay Online / Voyage Century Online
Since the weekend I've been trying another MMORPG, called Bounty Bay Online (BBO), which is the European version of a game which is called Voyage Century Online in the US, which is a translation of a Chinese game called 航海世纪/王者世紀. I first tried the English language version of it, but that turned out to be very badly translated. So now I'm playing the German language version, where the translation is a lot better. The German version used to be with a monthly fee, but nowadays there is an Free2Play option just like the US or Chinese version has. I did spend a small amount of money on it, to buy a starter pack with some essential starting equipment, and a basic bank functionality. But I think I can live without most of the other things on offer in the item shop, so this should be cheap enough to play. And I like the idea that I choose myself how much I want to pay, and that I'm not paying anything when I'm not playing.
What attracted me to Bounty Bay Online is that it is pretty much the game I wished that Pirates of the Burning Sea had been. You can be a trader, a crafter, an explorer, an adventurer, or a pirate. But unlike PotBS you don't have to decide on a character class, because Bounty Bay Online is skill-based. You can have every skill in the game up to a level of 31, but only 7 skills plus navigation above that level. So I'm happily trying everything before probably deciding on some trader/crafter build. BBO is a lot more complex than lets say World of Warcraft, because fighting is only one option among many, it is totally possible to embark on some peaceful career. Getting into the swing of things is sometimes a bit difficult, especially since not everything is well documented. But at least there is a great tutorial about the first steps of every career on the website, telling you exactly what to do in the starting quests of each of those careers, including screenshots and everything. And I hope to find a nice guild on the Nordlicht server, where people don't mind me asking newbie questions.
I mentioned once that I didn't like the skill-based system of Darkfall, to which some commenter replied that I probably didn't like skill-based systems at all. That isn't true, I very much enjoy the skill-based system of Bounty Bay Online. The difference is that in Darkfall you would cast magic missiles at a tree to skill up magic, while in BBO you only gain skill if what you do is actually useful. Well, you can gain navigation skill by aimlessly cruising the oceans, but even that is useful by the discoveries you can make that way. But for example you get trading skill by selling goods at a profit, but how many points you get depends on the profit. If you sell at a loss, you don't get any skill gain at all. So I haven't found myself in a situation where I was doing something useless just to gain skill.
Bounty Bay Online certainly isn't for everyone. It has a typical quality of Asian games which is often described as "grindy". But the "grind" can usually be done without your input. For example mining is done by you clicking on a rock, which puts you into mining mode, and requires no input from you until your character is exhausted, his inventory is full, or his mining pick breaks down. Thus you can't simply go afk and let it run 24/7, but your input is required only occasionally. That is a design typical for Asian internet cafés. The game isn't supposed to require your undivided attention and constant input, because the player is probably eating, drinking, smoking, and talking with friends at the same time. That is a huge difference from games like World of Warcraft, which might require your undivided attention for hours during a raid.
At the moment that sort of gameplay suits me very well personally. When I play Bounty Bay Online, I can choose to do activities where I'm actively doing things, or if I want I can play in semi-afk mode and still gain crafting skill. That is a lot less stressful than classic Euro/US MMORPGs, where "downtime" is a dirty word. But the "downtime" in BBO doesn't feel wasted, and gives me time to chat, to do other things around the house, or read, or surf the web, or even play World of Warcraft in the background. Bounty Bay Online hasn't such a strong grip on my attention as WoW has, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Right now I'm having fun with that game, and that is all that matters.