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GM Notes [GM Note] Behind the Scenes of the Secret Quest Challenge
Black Desert 2020-09-23 09:40
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In 2018, we tried to figure out what kind of event we could make with the motto: “let’s create a special event that you can only experience in Black Desert.” And with Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” igniting the hearts of countless gamers and fans in the spring of that year, we also decided to take the time to watch it as a group.

 

We couldn’t help but be deeply impressed and inspired when we watched scenes straight out of the imagination such as the Gundam and Godzilla duking it out, and the movie’s protagonist riding a DeLorean from “Back to the Future” and solving the riddle-like challenges to become the eventual winner. Thus, that is how Black Desert’s Secret Quest Challenge, an event which sometimes brought together adventurers worldwide in cooperation and other times in thrilling competition, was born.

 

This Challenge reached its third season this year. This time, we promised to provide a fair contest by ensuring fairness regarding information. With this intent as our basis, we designed it in the form of an “international competition” to maintain a reasonable amount of suspense by putting the honor(?) of each region on the line with rewards that were even shared with adventurers who did not participate in the Challenge, so adventurers would actively share information and move forward cooperatively, diminishing the discouragement from the intense competitive stakes.

 

We also put a lot of effort into the story. Last year’s quest was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, depicting the love between the Princess of Balenos and the Prince of Calpheon, and the fall of the Balenos empire. The story this year was an homage to “King Lear”, another one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and “Ran”, a film by director Akira Kurosawa.

 

The phrase "Fear and praise the sun and moon becoming one" that you saw when interacting with the worn alchemy tool was a subtle hint to the quest being an homage. We expressed our respect to the director by mentioning his name Akira (明), made up of two characters, 日 (sun) and 月 (moon).

 

And so, the Challenge began on Friday August 21, 2020 at 9 PM.

My heart was really pounding. Although we tried our best to make the competition as fair as possible, we were afraid that someone might get through the prologue in only a few minutes after the event began. Just thinking about that moment is making my heartbeat speed up again. But thankfully(?), our Adventurers smoothly started to put the clues together.

 

 

The scene in the prologue was of Antonio Domongat, who became king, expressing his respect for Queen Roxanne, but at the same time holding a ceremony before going to war against his father, Crucio Domongatt. It was quite difficult to perfectly line up the transparent ghosts T.T

 

Soon after, an adventurer unveiled the secret of the royal family and the race began. We updated daily quests at the Stonetail Horse Ranch about a month ago in preparation, acting as if those quests had nothing to do with the event. As such, we prepared a lot in advance this year. Similar to how the information revealed early on seemed to say that the secret quest’s NPC was “Crucio Domongatt” but in the end, it had nothing to do with him.

 

Anyhow, adventurers put together various clues and arrived at the Stonetail Horse Ranch quite easily. There were many adventurers who handed over Horse Race Seals, but it was difficult to move onto the next stage as we made it so that 100 adventurers needed to gather together for the flower to bloom.

 

At first, we thought maybe we should make it 10 to 20 people to keep the pace up, but we decided to keep it 100 as we wanted our adventurers to know that the key point in this year’s event is “cooperation.” But in the end, it was only somewhat successful. After all of the hints were revealed, there were over 100 adventurers at the Stonetail Horse Ranch on a certain server, but the flower still seldom bloomed.

 

After the first stage was cleared, the next stages were cleared quite quickly... T.T Oh by the way, Daiki was near the Belfry telling Meimi and Seira that he’ll catch Saint Tail tonight, but unfortunately, nobody noticed. It was a cute homage to the Japanese animation Saint Tail. Also, there was a reason why the invisible stepping stones, which caused a lot of talk (?), looked that way, but nobody bothered taking on the challenge. But at that point, we realized how sharp everyone was, seeing that basically everyone already had wine.

 

And on “Tears of the Leaves” or “dew drops”, we based the in-game crafting methods of this item on “Soju,” Korean traditional liquor. We tried to replicate how Soju was made in real-life by using ingredients within the game, but we admittedly had some shortfalls. Global adventurers were keen enough to notice them, but rumors say Soju is recognized as a fancy drink in some countries. Hahaha (Awkward).

 

After that, our adventurers continued on to the riddles on Hunting (Lips of a Woman in Love), Trading (Cloud of Romance), Fishing (Breeze of the Quiet Lands) and finally came to the “Star that Stays True.”

 

To be honest, we didn’t expect this one to cause significant trouble. No matter how much we hid our NPCs, adventurers had always managed to find them. So, we decided to raise the bar by making our hints more ambiguous. Maybe it was because the peak was a difficult place to reach, or perhaps because we played this one close to the chest, but it took some time for the NPC to be found. That also seems to be how “Maestro’s First Piece” played out as well. It was quite a tricky hint regarding the location.

 

Moving on to the Duck...

 

 ...Before we continue, we owe an apology to our adventurers. We didn’t intend for this one to be as frustrating as it was. We had shortened the seagulls’ respawn time so that adventurers could find them more easily when searching individually. But most adventurers gathered around on a large boat to enjoy the sunset together and that was something we had not expected.

 

Next stop was the Owl. Many adventurers suggested that “Secret Quests should be made so that it can be solved with hints within the game,” and we tried to put those words into practice. We had prepared an ace to even up the scores on our mishap regarding [2673]. I was watching this particular event unfold on live from a stream. It was definitely a touching moment.

 

We initially aimed for this one to be discovered through searching the dialogues of King Antonio. But the riddle was solved in a way that none of us had ever imagined. Although half in surprise and half in misunderstanding, this puzzle became the most memorable moment for our adventurers, so we were happy with the results. By the way, the name of the owl… the answer was the mailbox of the wizard with the scar on his forehead.

 

 

Next up were the Sky Balloons. Before continuing on, we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize for any disappointment and inconvenience that the adventurers might have experienced during this puzzle. For what it’s worth, we were trying to hold the Secret Quest Challenge in conjunction with our console users. We had the Secret Quest Challenges tested in the PS4 slim environment and it successfully passed the QA test. However, we faced a lot of unexpected problems when it came to live due to differences in performances amongst different PCs.

 

We always felt the secret quests lacked individual participation because adventurers could complete them blindly by following the guides made by those who finished it. Therefore, we tried to set a different tone by allowing adventurers to think of a way to complete these puzzles in their own way. Everyone had their own unique network conditions so, developing further on that idea, we made the puzzles in which adventurers would land on the stepping stone by disconnecting.

 

 

The fangs and its hints were a very controversial issue as well. As all of you might have guessed, the image of the Valencian elephant standing on its two feet was a hint to the elephant constellation in game. 18/88 alludes to the Cassiopeia constellation that looks very much alike to the elephant. It’s the 18th sign out of 88 constellations officially approved by the International Astronomical Union.

 

Regarding α+β-γ-δ+ε+, the positive (+) and negative (-) signs represent the score you obtain when you place a sheep on the stepping stones that represent each star in the Cassiopeia constellation. TVXQ! is the initials for the fan club known as Cassiopeia as well. The riddle behind the Greek alphabets and underline was that if you permutate it to an alphabetical order, it ends right before F (for fans, noting the TVXQ! fanclub called Cassiopeia). 55 5…. is meant to mean 55 sheep and 5 people.

 

It seems like quite a difficult puzzle now that I’ve explained it. We were trying to create a hint that was hard to pin down or only a few adventurers would be able to notice. Things can get carried away like that.

 

It’s very difficult to create a puzzle that people can naturally work their way out of. Making it too easy will give away the answer and there is nothing worse than a giveaway puzzle. There are a lot of very smart adventurers in the world. Of course, we know this just sounds like an excuse, so we’ll try harder in the future.

 

 

The Fang of the Full Moon brought in the aerial stepping stones that were unfortunately(?) not included in the 3rd quest. Previous iterations of the stepping stones mainly involved vertical, up-and-down movements, and so we thought to make things more complicated by adding diagonal and horizontal movements, as well as circular animations to create a more varied course.

 

Additionally, the concept for the infamous W-shaped stepping stones was “Stepping Stones of Sacrifice.” Since when one thinks of sacrifice, one naturally thinks of the lamb. So, we designed it so that the latter parties who attempted this quest could benefit more from the initial parties’ suffering and efforts. Oh, at first, we planned to make adventurers carry the lamb in Serendia instead of the Prancing Lamb, yet we lacked the time to develop the jumping animation while carrying a lamb, so we axed that idea. I personally lamented over the fact that we couldn’t add that to the final version of this quest.

 

Plus… when you think of the Secret Quest Challenge, don’t the stepping stones come to mind first? Many may dish out some colorful language when hearing these words, but when I think of secret, I automatically think of the stepping stones. Oh, as a reminder, I don’t say these things just to make you mad and become the target of your frustrations. I’m quite a sensitive person, you know? T.T

 

Anyway, I was somewhat proud of the adventurers who gave positive feedback on the Sherekhan Necropolis part, especially the additional animation we implemented. Those in charge of production were particularly overjoyed to hear the news. And so, the producer in charge quickly came up with an idea to gift adventurers with an item that would appropriately commemorate the secret quest. Hence, we came up with the Black Spirit decoration. Originally, we didn’t plan for this piece of furniture. It’s quite cute, isn’t it?

 

Oh, I’d like to thank the adventurer who developed the method to pass through the final part with Lahn Succession. Thanks to you, I too quickly overcame that part. I suffered greatly as well when we were testing it.

 

 

Now the broomstick, which tied the axe and fire arrows in this year’s [2673] iteration… this was also about the wizard with the scarred forehead. Regardless, many adventurers tried their hand at the long-awaited 16th quest.

 

Truth be told, the 16th quest was one devised right after Season 2 had finished last year. We thought endlessly about how we could create a quest that could not be datamined prior to its release, and to do this, we realized that we needed an item unobtainable from within the game. It’s why we chose the coupon method as the way for the adventurers to acquire the item. For one, it could not be datamined in the text from within the game, so the hint was a drawing marking the placement of the coupon’s characters.

 

 

Also, to make evident how adventurers from all over the globe were taking part in the Secret Quests, we used different alphabet letters for each region. The word we chose here was Watchtower, the important setting to the story of this secret quest. We made the words into an anagram, then organized them in order of when Black Desert was released in each country. Between the start (A) and the end (Ω), we filled in the gap with what ended up as a coupon code.

 

 

This Watchtower is where the quest-giver Jordine’s youthful immaturity came to an end and the current, vengeful Jordine was born anew. And where his ties with his close friend, Al and his swordsmanship teacher, Cliff, came to an end, while also where Jarette’s love for Jordine began. Of course, it now only just serves as a barracks of the Shadow Knights.

 

 

Now that the hints have all been disclosed, we want to once again thank our adventurers for showing us such amazing deductive reasoning and enthusiasm. We would also like to thank the adventurers who regretfully waited an additional hour for using up all 10 tries in their admirable bravery for taking the first leap. 

 

It’s a fact that the final quest somewhat divided our adventurer’s opinions in likes and dislikes. The main reason being that even though the Secret Quest Challenge was a competition between regions, adventurers should’ve still been able to share information with other regions. “Information fairness” …As a result of focusing too much on preventing data from being unpacked/mined, it was something we couldn’t ignore.  On the other hand, we believe there were many adventurers that enjoyed it because of the fairness regarding in this season.

 

Item Name 

 

Lion’s Secret Letter 

 

And 2 weeks later, there was an intense solo competition for the Lion’s Ring, “the treasure given to the 1 final person who produces a secret within a secret.” As this solo competition could not allow any “datamining” under any circumstances, we exhaustively considered all possibilities in our preparations to ensure a fair competition.

 

After much consideration, we made it so the NPC location of “Fate’s Thread,” the most important factor of this quest, would not be saved both by the server or client, making it physically impossible to datamine. We based this method on how to prevent hacking, as the best way is to completely disconnect from the internet.

 

 

When proceeding with this quest, we summoned the quest NPC in a specific server and location at the start, and the riddle itself was not saved anywhere in the game but was sent directly by the GM via in-game mail.

 

For security-purposes, less than 10 people within the company knew how to complete this quest and the contents of the hint at the moment when the quest began, as well as the summoning of the quest NPC and the delivery of the in-game mail was all conducted under heavy supervision by those in-charge. In addition, since starting the quest in all regions at the same time would be disadvantageous to those in certain time zones, we prepared different answers to different questions for each region, and also scheduled it to be at the peak playtimes of each region.

 

 

We also sent the in-game mail an extra 3 minutes earlier to the top 10 rankers, providing an advantage for their hard-earned efforts. Again, for security-purposes, we had to manually send out the mail, which was quite the task, but we wanted to do things right for those first attempting the quest.

 

Twenty or so questions were the number we thought most appropriate at first, especially for security purposes, yet it’s also true that it could have negatively impacted the overall fun factor. The further an adventurer progressed through the quests, the clearer the hints we needed to provide to guide them to the answers. So, this point was when we threw in an entirely different concept altogether.

 

The 10 hints we provided alluded to answers that were frankly quite easy to solve. So, we decided to use the answers to those hints as another group of hints, which were designed to contain dual meanings. Although there were some varying levels of difficulty in the questions per region, we still carried them out in this fashion since we weren’t looking for only 1 adventurer across all our regions.

 

  

After a couple of hours, we had a winner and this year’s Secret Quest Challenge came to an end. Some adventurers may say “Why do you keep having this event when it causes so much trouble?” That’s what we also thought last year when it ended that way.

 

But when we think of adventurers around the world bringing their heads together, passionately trying to solve the riddles, this thought simply goes away. It’s surely an unforgettable experience. We can’t say for sure when the next Secret Quest Challenge will be held. It might not even be in the summer next time, it could be winter, it could be never. Looking at the order in which the stories were told, the tale of the royal family of Calpheon should be next, but this isn’t the only way to unravel these stories.

 

Finally, we sincerely thank you for enjoying the Secret Quest Challenge.

 

 

One last thing, the quest items also contain an easter egg for a new region. Where do you think it’ll be?

 

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