Interview: Chang-wook Kim discusses Black Desert Mobile's Land of the Morning Light expansion

Interview: Chang-wook Kim discusses Black Desert Mobile's Land of the Morning Light expansion

Black Desert Mobile recently received a new expansion called Land of the Morning Light that introduces new characters, locations, and bosses, all of which draw inspiration from Korea's Joseon. With so much new content, it seemed only right we spoke to Pearl Abyss about these new changes. So, we sat down with Chang-wook Kim, the Executive Head of the Black Desert Mobile Division, to learn more.

Can you introduce yourself and your role on Black Desert Mobile for our readers, please?

Hi, my name is Chang-wook Kim, the Executive Head of the Black Desert Mobile Division at Pearl Abyss. I am thrilled and honoured to be part of this interview, thank you.

Can you tell us about the journey of this expansion from the first idea to the release?

Earlier this year, Pearl Abyss first showcased Land of the Morning Light on PC and consoles. We were of course eager to infuse our Korean heritage into Black Desert Mobile as well.

We deliberately decided on the name "Land of the Morning Light" by taking cues from the rich history of the Joseon Dynasty – the final reigning dynasty in Korea. "Joseon" literally translates to "Land of the Morning" or "Morning Mountain," symbolising a nation situated in the east, where the sun rises early in the morning. "Joseon" also refers to the kingdom governing the northern territories of the Korean Peninsula and its eastern regions from prehistoric to ancient times.

The narratives within the "Land of the Morning Light" encapsulate not only mediaeval tales but also enduring stories, transcending time and generations through oral tradition. The expansion is full of exciting and thrilling stories that are inspired by Korean folklore, which will be both refreshingly unique and universally relatable for players.

This expansion boasts novel-like literary richness and wit, featuring fully voiced dialogues delivered by experienced voice actors alongside complementary illustrations and cinematic cutscenes to immerse players in the story. We hope you enjoy the expansion to the fullest and have a fantastic time.

What part of the development did you and the team enjoy the most?

There were several funny stories during the development because of the content’s relation to Korean culture. One of the bosses in Land of the Morning Light, Songakshi the vengeful ghost, is known to be quite terrifying for Korean people from a young age. As the boss’ design developed and sound was added to it, our team started to actually get scared! Sometimes, they can focus better in the dark, but they had to work on Songkashi with all the lights on full brightness.

Also, Bari has a unique concept of being a Mudang, a traditional Korean shaman. I think we put a lot of effort into designing her “Salpuri” movements – Korean dances performed in Shamanic ceremonies to expel evil spirits – cutscenes, sound effects, and background music, with the hope that players from other cultures would be able to fully immerse themselves in the atmosphere around her.

I think bringing the Korean culture we’re familiar with to the game was not only great fun, but also gave us a greater sense of duty while working on it.

What were the biggest challenges encountered during the development and how did you overcome them?

The actual terrain of Korea has rolling mountain ranges, and these backdrops are the things that make the beauty of Land of the Morning Light come alive. But because of this, the elevation differences in the terrain were even bigger than the previously released ‘Everfrost’ region, which made it difficult to implement the region into a mobile environment.

We used the original terrain as a reference and redesigned it for a mobile environment, then we kept refining it to find the best results within the limits of what was allowed.

The detailed expression in terrain required a lot of client computation so we focused on optimising the code and resources to improve the quality of the game even further.

Are there any differences between the PC and the mobile version of the Land of the Morning Light?

Despite the limits of a mobile environment compared to PC, we have optimised various aspects of the game to ensure that our players can experience the game in the same way. And thanks to the aforementioned resource optimisation, we have also implemented Choga houses (thatched-roof traditional houses in Korea), Hanbok outfits (Korean traditional clothing), and even the small props held by NPCs, alongside the level design. The new characters have been created to have more natural movements to depict life at that time realistically. This includes old men smoking short pipes, workers weaving reeds, and even people stumbling around drunk!

Furthermore, the expansion required a lot of attention to detail, not only for things you see but also for things you hear. For the first time in Black Desert Mobile, all the dialogue in the region was fully voiced over without simplified lines, to create a more immersive experience for the players. We also carefully reconstructed the rhythm of Korean traditional music using computer music to match the theme of various cutscenes and boss battles.

With these changes, we hope that players will feel like they are walking around a beautiful village in Korea when they enter the Land of the Morning Light in Black Desert Mobile.

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What can players look forward to in terms of quests, characters and enemies?

First, players will be able to play four stories that are inspired by the folklore from the Joseon era. These stories can be played in any order that players wish. During the questlines, players will find themselves at various crossroads where they can make their own choices, which ultimately will affect the ending of each storyline.

In addition, we have prepared a separate menu called “Tale Collection” where players can collect the stories they have completed during their adventures in Land of the Morning Light. This function will allow players to easily follow the stories in the game and also provide a chance to revisit each story after completing their journey.

Lastly, for players who crave a challenge, the Black Shrine awaits, presenting a formidable test. Here, players will confront daunting boss adversaries in customised difficulty levels, each demanding unique mechanics and strategies for victory. Vanquishing these bosses will reward players with valuable materials for crafting new, top-tier end-game equipment. Prepare to face the ultimate trials and reap the rewards of victory!

What about the difficulty? Is it open to every player?

Black Desert Mobile is a world where you can fully indulge in your desires. Immerse yourself in thrilling battles alongside captivating characters and partake in a myriad of activities ranging from fishing, gathering, cooking, alchemy, hunting, trading, and more, all waiting for the participation of intrepid adventurers. So even new players can simply create their character and complete the early questline to enter the new region.

One of the major characteristics of Land of the Morning Light is that there are no regular monster zones. Instead, players who complete the main questline will be challenged to battle against boss monsters in Black Shrine. In it, players can choose different Calamity (difficulty) levels for each boss fight and Calamity 1 can be played even by the new players.

Plus, we implemented the new ‘Energy’ system so both new and veteran players can experience the content similarly. In Black Shrine, a player character’s intrinsic combat power will account for only 10% of the performance in the battle, and the rest will come from the stats and effects gained from the Energy system. Depending on what character stat they invest in, players can strategize their combat according to their gameplay style and the boss monster they are against, and players will be able to rely less on their current character stat. Through the Energy system, we hope to provide exciting gameplay to both new and veteran players.

Some places in the expansion are inspired by real places in South Korea. How did you decide which places would be in the game?

We thought that incorporating as many Eastern elements as possible would allow our global adventurers to experience a new fantasy world that they haven’t set foot in before. So we moved away from the mediaeval European fantasy and focused on buildings and places that have significance for the Joseon Dynasty era and represent the timeframe properly. In terms of architecture and fashion, you can see Choga houses, Hanbok outfits as well as small props that were used during that time. Furthermore, we took inspiration from beautiful places and sights found throughout Korea and iterated them upon the general topography in the game.

For instance, Nampo Harbor is the first place you visit when you enter Land of the Morning Light, which is inspired by Cheonghae Port, which is situated in Wando County of the South Jeolla Province. This place holds the remnants of Jang Bogo, the so-called King of the Sea in Korean history. A second example is Beombawi Valley, which radiates the presence of Taebaek and portrays all four seasons vividly within it. This place was inspired by the Geumgang Mountain that lies in the Gangwon Province in Korea. Byukgye Island with its tall islands, verdant trees and clear ponds was inspired by the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in the Busan region.

Which part of the expansion are you most proud of?

We have invested considerable effort into localization. Since the expansion is set in the Joseon Dynasty, we deliberated extensively on how deeply we would delve into translating the meaning of various terms in the game, recognizing that the cultural context may be unfamiliar to our global adventurers.

For instance, consider "Gowoon Maru," which translates to "Beautiful Bluff" in Korean. However, the inhabitants of this place endure challenging lives, giving the name a paradoxical twist. While offering an explicit translation could offer a deeper insight into the background, it might potentially dilute the unique allure of "Land of the Morning Light." In this scenario, we opted for "Gowoon Bluff" to accentuate the beauty of the landscape. However, for elements crucial to grasping the meaning, such as "Cheonjedan Alter (altar for heaven king)," we boldly pursued a straightforward translation.

The narrative in Land of the Morning Light draws upon Korean sentiments while weaving in universally resonant emotions, like affection for foster parents or long-cherished unrequited love. Our dedicated effort ensures that our global adventurers can readily comprehend and empathise with the story through these universally relatable emotions.

What are your plans for the future of Black Desert Mobile?

We will be releasing more Land of the Morning Light story content and keep on improving the game with interesting features and further updates. Even though it is difficult to provide a specific schedule at this time, we will listen to the players’ stories and do our best to make the adventure in Black Desert Mobile more enjoyable, as we have done so far.

Want to learn more about Land of Morning Light? Check out our recent article.

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Charlène Tavares
Charlène Tavares
Charlène n'a pas eu à chercher bien longtemps le métier de ses rêves : amatrice de littérature et de jeux vidéo ? Journaliste jeux vidéo ! Malgré tout, son trop grand amour pour les RPG japonais nuit un peu à sa vie sociale. Tout comme son amour pour les jeux Nintendo, d'ailleurs. Mais ne lui parlez jamais du Temple de l'Eau, elle en ferait des cauchemars (brrr).