[G-Star 2019] A Deep Conversation with Black Desert Mobile PD Cho Yong-min

Black Desert Mobile has become a steady seller. Although it has received the grand prize at the Korean Game Award, sales have been decreasing. From time to time, BDM fell behind some games whose quality isn’t nearly as good. It’s for them to rebound back up, and they are aiming to do so with the Great Desert update.


In the alpha and omega of BDM, there’s PD Cho Yong-min. We spoke with Cho at G-Star.

BDM has high expectations, but it doesn’t seem that BDM is doing as well as it used to, and change is necessary.


I would be lying if I said that I didn’t mind the ranking and sales of BDM, but we’ve decided not to mind. If we cling to the sales ranking when running the game, we would only concentrate our business side to our users. Obviously, new games can be fresh and fun. However, there are a lot of content that BDM had accumulated over many weekly patches. If we continue to add the quality and quantity of the content, people would gradually come back.


Looking at the sales ranking, it seems that the game industry sales are a bit fixated now. It wouldn’t be good for us to rush anything. We’ll show what we have as Pearl Abyss with quality.

There have been many new games over the past two years. You probably saw many at this G-Star as well. What do you think the advantage BDM has?


The recent new games are concentrating on mass battles and high quality. BDM’s advantage is the non-target combo action that was from its original. I don’t think other games have this yet. BDM can also include the same things, but lowering the quality to have many users in the field would be relying on the number of users for fun. Developers should think of ways to give fun directly to our users. In that matter, I think there’s a lot more that BDM can expand.

There have been many updates this year. How would you look back at 2019?


The best update was Hadum. It was good that users can decide the flow of play. In Hadum, users can decide between knowledge and percentage to increase attack damage. We evaluate it positively that the monsters that have been in BDM are refreshed through the Hadum area.


It was regretful that the power gap was widening. We tried to resolve this by giving away full item sets to new and returning users. The content that wasn’t being used much was improved for more access. We designed the game so that new and returning users can join quickly by adding more things to enjoy for original users.


We also know well about the complaints on Black Sun. We will be improving it so that the users can get more exp according to the risks they take in nightmare mode.


▲ The Great Desert is coming soon.


How would be adding a new package dedicated to new users so that they can adapt quickly?


We know that there’s an entry barrier for new users, but making a BM for quick growth is the same as the strategy trying to increase sales. Purchasing a package shouldn’t be the same as playing the game. All items can still be earned within the game, but we just set it so that they can get them a bit quicker through the BM.


The era of the Great Desert is coming soon. We predict that the users will concentrate on the Hadum in the Great Desert. It will become a large portion of the Great Desert content; we will be fixing the problems.

Pearl Abyss announced four new games at G-Star, but there isn’t much news about BDM.


We have a big discussion session with users that have enjoyed our game for 2 years. I really wanted to meet users. It has become a bit later than expected, but I’m extremely happy that we can meet them with the Great Desert update. We’ll be listening closely to all they have to say. Most of the main developers of the game will be listening to the users’ voices.


There, the future plans for BDM will be announced as well. What I can tell now is that Great Expedition and politics systems are coming. Politics is a system where users can create a council so that they can create the direction of the game. For example, they can decide to increase battle reward or life reward, etc.

It took 1 year for the Great Desert to appear. Would the users need to wait for the Great Expedition for another year?


The BDM engine had many packages based on action, so it was structurally difficult to create the Great Desert. After solving the engine issues, it was easy to complete the content. The improved engine will be visible in the Great Desert. The difficult engine issue has been solved, so the Great Expedition would be out quicker than the Great Desert. It feels that we took care of a large project.


▲ Great Expedition is scheduled as well. (Image from BDO PC)


Would battle royale content like Shadow Arena be added to BDM as well?


I don’t think so. If it didn’t come separately from the original, it may have been available on the mobile version, but the reason Shadow Arena became a separate game is clear. When battle royale becomes content in MMO games, people don’t follow the original stem. They don’t enjoy adventures. Then, it is no longer an MMO. For the same reason, battle royale will not be added to BDM.

I saw Shai in the G-Star Pearl Abyss booth. Is it a new character coming to BDM?


Shai isn’t our next character. There’s something else prepared. We will be announcing it soon.

Is there news on the new character only available on BDM?


To create an original character, there’s a lot to prepare. Since there isn’t anything made, all animations have to be made. It takes a long time to create resources. For now, we’re working on the concept. We also want to hear from the users, which character they want. And of course, someday Shai will be updated as well.

How do you plan to resolve the power inflation?


That is one of the biggest questions for all MMORPG developers. It’s important to support the new and returning users so that they can adapt quickly. That’s one of the reasons we gave Abyss full sets to them. However, the original users may not like it, thinking ‘I went through so much to get that full set… but they’re just giving it away?’ We have to make sure to keep them happy as well.


I don’t think the game becomes no fun because of the power inflation. The fun from power is one of the main things of an MMORPG. However, if it was a vertical game, trying to raise the power level, now we’re trying to make it more horizontal. The Great Desert is the start.



As the game has been serviced for more than 2 years, it became more complicated. It could become worse if the Great Desert is updated.


The reason BDM got complicated is that there are many things to do, but mainly, I think we made too much. We’ll be restructuring the original content. We’re thinking of how we can improve the tiresome content. This was postponed a bit because of the Great Desert update. After stabilizing the Great Desert, we’ll be improving the conveniences of the original content.

There were changes in the PVP recently. It seems that users’ opinions are divided. Is more change to come?


There were people who enjoy the new style saying that it’s more fun and tense. On the other hand, some say that it got too difficult. To say the conclusion first, the ratio of arena users has increased. 


Our homework now is to find out how to resolve the complaints of new users about the power gap. A fair fight in an MMO is impossible, but we need to solve it. There will be a change coming soon, whether or not it’s the correct solution.

Is there a reason that the Great Desert update is divided into three parts?


There’s an order to enjoying the content. First is learning about the Great Desert where the adventures come as results. Users need time to have adventures in the large field, actively. They can wander looking for the Great Temple, and just take adventures out of curiosity. There’s also a realistic reason where developers can earn time to polish (Laughs).

How would the Great Desert appear in BDM? It would be difficult to create the original massive field on mobile.


The Great Desert is one of the main content that brought more popularity to the game. As much as it is, there are high expectations internally. We first installed it as it is, but it made us not know what to do about it. We didn’t have any guidelines.


On mobile, the Great Desert is in the format of solving hints. The Black Spirit may detect something or sandstorms can cause temple locations to change.


There were many users that said even if they’re going to stop playing, they’ll play until the Great Desert is updated so that they can stop after playing that. We’re doing our best to live up to their expectations.

You have had weekly updates until now. There should be pros and cons to that. Will you maintain the weekly updates?


There are users that trust weekly updates. We once had an update that took a fortnight, and they were really disappointed. Each weekly update requires about 2-3 days of development. The rest of the time, we revise and have QA. If there’s content like politics added, users would want a stable game. After the Great Desert update, we will modify the content update time. The quantity doesn’t change. Since we can get more time to revise, users can expect a more stable service.

How many developers are currently working on BDM?


Including QA, we have around 100. We’re having more ratio on quality assurance. The number of developers hasn’t ever decreased, it’s continuing to increase. The current manpower is the increased number of people needed for global service. People in Pearl Abyss say that we should never lose BDM developers to any other companies.



Lastly, how do you feel running BDM for the past two years, and how do you want to perfect BDM?


When we first started developing, we wanted to change the frame of all simple MMOs. We attempted many different things to change the mobile game market. The first goal was to change and overcome the momentum of the original mobile games.


The game philosophy of BDM was different. The rule was the game shouldn’t interfere with users’ actual life. So we made the Balck Spirit mode and made power-saving mode as well. We also started with a 2D map and changed it gradually into 3D. We always seek for the better. After seeing other games follow BDM, we feel that we were right.


Now, I’d like to have the world know about our game. When we introduced BDM in foreign countries, I had said, “Even when you’re out surfing, your character is growing in the game.” They gave a high evaluation on that. I’m honored to have been able to make such a game. This was all possible because there was feedback from high-quality users.


In the future as well, the BDM studio will be a development team that does not give in to the momentum. As someone who had once changed the frame, we’ll continue to make a good game. I think this is the only direction to go in the Korean game industry to make a difference.

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