“This isn’t public knowledge” Jesse Joo, Head of Game Design Division for Black Desert Online, spills the beans on the Magnus.
BDO Abyss One: The Magnus - An Insight-Packed Interview With Jesse Joo
Following the release of a mysterious new instanced adventure, Abyss One: The Magnus, we sat down with Black Desert's Head of Game Design Jesse Joo to try and unpack the enigma and what it means for the narrative and gameplay of the popular Korean MMORPG. Enjoy! ## 1. How does the Magnus fit in Black Desert's evolution? Is this something you've been planning for a long time as part of a broader narrative, or is it more of a fun diversion?
Wow, what a first question. This isn't public knowledge, but long story short -- the Magnus will continue to play an important role in the world of Black Desert. Thanks to the incredible support we've received from our players, Black Desert will soon enter its 9th year of service in our domestic market. Our goal in the Black Desert Studio is to adventure alongside our players for many more decades to come, so we're always looking into the future of the game -- and the Magnus is a part of our future plans.
For instance, there's a character who will play a central role in our upcoming region: The Land of The Morning Light. We'd been mulling over for quite some time how we'd introduce this character, and the Magnus ended up being the perfect chance. Going into any further detail would be a serious spoiler, so I hope you'll try playing the Magnus yourself to discover who it is.
2. Parallel worlds and multiverses are all the rage in pop culture right now. What led you to introduce similar ideas to Black Desert?
We weren't really following trends, but it's understandable how the characters and scenarios you encounter while exploring the Magnus may lead you into thinking, "Isn't this a parallel universe or a multiverse of Black Desert?". In truth, the Magnus is simply another "space" rather than either of these concepts. Evidence of this is the simple fact that the Magnus is directly linked through wells that you can find scattered across major cities of the Black Desert world.
While we were developing the Magnus, we ended up creating it as a separate, independent "world" to ensure the best possible gameplay experience and maximise our players' immersion. But we're incredibly proud of Black Desert's vast open world, so we wanted to make travelling to the Magnus as seamless of an experience as possible. And so, we developed a unique way to present this "time travelling between worlds" by showing players' characters "falling" through space into the Magnus rather than simply having a loading screen that would break their immersion.
As for more details regarding the nature of the Magnus itself, you can uncover some of the mysteries by progressing through the story. On a final note, however, I do think Wuju, one of our characters, describes the relationship between Black Desert and the Magnus the best -- "water and oil in a bucket".
The stillness of the floating Magnus, the seemingly endless sea, and a lone rowboat with your cat companion still inspire me to this day.
3. The Magnus has decidedly extra-terrestrial vibes. Was that your plan all along or did it evolve into that form as you progressed?
The Magnus is a project we've been working on for quite some time. When we first saw the original concept art of the Magnus by our Art Director, Oh Yun-Taek, the only word out of everyone's mouths was simply "wow". And then. when the 3D model was shown, it was "this is it!".
*As the Magnus began with the concept of being the hub of the Abyss where countless Abysses would be born, we wanted the Magnus to feel like a mysterious and bizarre place, unlike anything in the Black Desert world. I think the rather "dream-like" music by our audio team perfectly complemented this kind of ambiance, which in turn probably brought about the feeling of being in outer space. Looking back like this, it does seem that the concepts behind the Magnus gradually evolved during the development process. *
4. You've decided on Level 15 access and no gear prerequisites to enter the Magnus; is this because you wanted to introduce a different sort of challenge or because you want to continue Eternal Winter's ethos of using updates and expansions to appeal to new players?
Although we had both in mind, the core elements behind this content ended up favouring new players. We tried to avoid too many prerequisites for questing and gear, and we even set gameplay at a level of difficulty anyone can easily clear.
From our perspective, we thought that new players who were starting Black Desert after seeing an ad for the Magnus would probably try to jump right into the Magnus even before they were familiarised with the controls. We were worried if they had to solve difficult puzzles or challenges at this point, they would have a negative experience. That's why we created the Magnus in a way that anyone can easily play it.
And when players clear the Magnus, there are many valuable rewards awaiting them. These rewards include new skills, the ability to access storages of other regions, and fast travel between cities, which are meant to give players a sense of accomplishment. After the Magnus was released, we were thrilled to see how excited players were as they progressed through the story and content without having to struggle with the difficulty.
5. From dark and ghostly Martian landscapes to hyper-futuristic structures with Final Fantasy X vibes, the Abyss's challenges are visually impressive and greatly varied. Which is your personal favourite? Is there one challenge the team was particularly proud of?
If I had to pick one for visuals, my pick would be the first Abyss: Peaceful Vagabond. Ever since I first saw its original concept art, I knew that this Abyss would end up being the visual representation of Abyss One: The Magnus. The stillness of the floating Magnus, the seemingly endless sea, and a lone rowboat with your cat companion still inspire me to this day.
For the Black Desert Studio as a whole, I think every single Abyss would qualify as the one that we are most proud of... or is that a cliched answer? I did a quick poll around the office and there wasn't a clear favourite. Some of the commonly mentioned ones were: Where the Dragon Sleeps, Look Before You, Scarlet Thread, Southward Travels, and Stormy Hills. We're incredibly passionate about our creations, but you can probably imagine how everyone has a different idea of "fun".
In the end, it was Look Before You that received the most votes by a one-vote difference. Its riddles inspired by Korean proverbs and responsive gameplay culminated into something that was enjoyable to play, earning it the number one spot.
6. Awesome, thanks for polling. What can you tell us about the new large-scale PvP and cross-territory tournaments?
Unfortunately, there isn't much I can say right now. Our team is working hard to develop future content, and we'll announce it at one of our player gatherings or through our Global Labs once it's ready.
7. Introducing fast-travel between cities is useful, but we're glad you've kept it difficult to reach more adventurous destinations. Why was now the right time to introduce fast travel?
We're immensely proud of the seamless, vast open world that is Black Desert world. But as the Black Desert world has become bigger and bigger every time we added a new region, players had to spend more and more time on the road travelling. We tried to address this by adding other means of transportation, such as the Sky Balloon and Griffon, but it wasn't quite enough.
In the future, the Black Desert world will grow even larger with the release of our upcoming new region, the Land of the Morning Light. We realised we could solve this problem by tying the Magnus, which was in development, with a fast travel system, introducing a quick and efficient way to travel.
8. If you could describe Black Desert's design philosophy in a sentence, what would it be?
Our philosophy has always been to develop unique and innovative games that offer new, exciting, and unforgettable adventures, and we'll continue to develop games with this kind of motto in mind.
Since its release, Black Desert Online has received praise for its modern graphics, sound design, and action gameplay. We've also taken major steps forward with our graphical and audio remaster in 2018, and our class roster reboot project in 2021.
And recently, we've tried to go further beyond our realistic and immersive gameplay by introducing more advanced narratives and storytelling elements such as the Magnus, which offers a completely different type of gameplay. We're always trying to set the bar high and surpass our limits.
9. Our theory is that Wuju is a benevolent alien. Are we close?
For now, I think your theory will have to remain just a hypothesis. We hope you'll look forward to unravelling his identity and figuring out what kind of role he will play in the world of Black Desert.
10. What do we have to look forward to next in terms of major content updates and future expansions?
More fun and exciting adventures. That's always the goal the Black Desert Studio is striving to achieve. We're currently developing the third act of our Atoraxxion co-op dungeon named Yolunakea. You can expect to see more complex monster designs and lore about the Black Desert world's ancients. And as mentioned before, we're also working hard to develop the Land of the Morning Light, a new region inspired by mediaeval Korea. We hope everyone will look forward to our future updates.