1) The players playing for a year how will I ever catch up to them?
2) Am I going to be behind forever?
3) What is endgame?
4) How much of the game is P2W?
5) What can a new player do in War?
These are common questions I see a lot and knowing that Black Desert is enormous as a game in general with little to no guidance or path structure it can be pretty overwhelming and confusing to any new player.
So to try and answer some of these concerns there are strategies and things involved that are built into the game to help new players quickly catch up.
1) In terms of level you can catch up really quick, top players are at level 60-61 currently, Introductory level cap is 50 and soft cap should be considered at level 56; a class's awakening.
New players have access to the Olvia channels for a month which grant +200% EXP(also accessible to returning players gone for over 30 days), on top of that the newly introduced fame system also grants new characters from levels 15-55 an extra +20/40/60/80/100%(dependent on house fame) bonus on top of it, as well as a daily grinding buff that can be triggered to grant another bonus 200% exp for 30 minutes or 100% exp for 60 minutes(Take the 60 minutes since you'll be moving from area to area quickly). If you have all buffs you can speed this up an extra +15% from splendid elixirs of experience +8% from milk tea food and also +50% combat scrolls you may get from level up rewards(save those). There are even more EXP boosts involved but those are the main common ones if you're looking to accelerate your adventure even further.
On EXP weekends you're looking at up to a total increase of 100(bonusWeekend)+200(olviaChannel)+60(Daily15-55)+100(60minDailyBuff)+15(Exp Elixir)+8(MilkTea) a 483% EXP Boost in total that is easily obtainable.
If you have friends who'll gift you a game package that's another way in. The attendance rewards and level up rewards also grant you a hefty amount of silver(~90-110mil) for you to quickly gear up. I highly suggest purchasing gear off the marketplace as high level players will constantly be posting weapons and armor they use for failstacking thus always providing a market for lower new players. It'll save you a lot of money and grief over early RNG enhancing troubles in the current game situation.
If you are straight grinding Level 1-50 should take you anywhere from 2-12 hours depending on focus and knowledge of where to go and what you're doing. The map is marked with monster levels these days so its much easier to gauge where you should try leveling.
Beyond Level 50, 50-51 is like going from 1-50 and 51-52 is like going from 1-51 and so on. EXP limit doubles every level beyond 50.
However your level doesn't mean much either, your gear in tandem with level is what should be accounted for. You can have all the gear in the world as well but if you don't have combat skill points either you'll hit like paper compared to one who has grinded and fought much more.
The only thing you'll have trouble catching up to people are in Life Skill ranks.
2) You won't be behind forever if you're regularly/infrequently playing(obviously!). You'll be a few steps behind some of the top end players due to high-end upgrades cost magnitudes of silver ranging from 400mil to 2billion.
Those upgrades are in the digit ranges of +2~+5 boosts. It's not very much unless they have their full set of gear upgraded to that level which is about 8billion+ beyond yourself. Yourself would be a few steps behind for about 1/10th of that price or 1/8th even and yes you will still be able to fight them, they will have an edge understandably but they won't be impossible. Making to TRI level gear armor is about 500mil-2billion, to TET its about 2-6billion and to PEN its about 15 billion.
3) Endgame is a concept I don't think is something that really applies to BDO. It does NOT follow the traditional themepark linearity of mainstream MMORPGs.
You can play the game in multiple ways that are all pretty much self set objectives. This isn't the game where you run instances repeatedly for that rare drop, the rare drops can be obtained multiple ways.
The question you should pose yourself is are you in BDO for the Combat? Life Skills? War? All 3?
The game separates itself heavily into these 3 categories at the top level mainly. Doing all 3 is a massive time sink.
4) The game isn't pay to win IMO it's quite clear everyone has a different definition of what is P2W and it's about as good as discussing politics which is highly toxic. The realm of context I'm describing P2W here is that you cannot absolutely survive or access content without it. There aren't purchases in BDO where "you can't survive" without injecting money into the game so I don't consider the game to be P2W. If you have different definitions of what is P2W then this description will not adhere to your perspective and that is okay.
To also dispel the rumor of being able to sell cash shop items getting yourself heavily geared is also false. There is only maybe a handful of players with PEN armor/weapons. They do not even yield PEN accessories yet. Swiping your card repeatedly thinking you'll get the top-end maximum gear is also unlikely when you sell 5 items a week at 25mil each(yielding 125mil total at a cost of about $150 USD) is quite inefficient and really is a small boost to funds especially in high-end upgrades. A Failure of enhancement at +17-18 and +18-19 is about an item value loss of about 300mil or more and you have 13 gear slots so good luck with that. You'll be waiting years.
You'll progress much faster simply playing.
There are things that I consider that would be pay to win are pets only, players can sell them to one another but good luck getting it off marketplace since hundreds and thousands of players are seeking to purchase them off market as well. It's highly unlikely you'll get one but if you do congrats.
That is the ONLY thing I consider to be closest to P2W and still not really required because I know others who don't grind just chase bosses all day and make anywhere from 5-100mil a day. (Livertos, boss boxes, gemstones 1.8mil, auras +1mil) etc.
The game has given out 3-4 free pets in total to date(Jan. 26, 2017).
Those early into the game's launch and marketplace selling of cash shop items have already capitalized on the pet listings prior to server merge into one large server. The game's population certainly hasn't dwindled.
It's been nearly a year, more content has been added more bosses have been added and they all are dying at faster time frames and even more people show up regularly. (Except for Kutum lol).
The rest of things are really convenience item purchases, not really required. Essentially if you are going boss chasing you don't need pets to loot 1 monster.
Things that greatly help combat grinders : Pets - To pick up stuff for them
For Life skillers : Inventory & storage - due to the hefty amount of items one needs to store and hold.
Weight limit helps both but can be alleviated with some inventory management w/ a mount.
This is all within the realm of PvE only. For PvP you don't need any of those.
Loyalty points for playing the game daily and for x time frame is extremely valuable can't get enough of them.
5) Thinking you're a new player and you won't be essential to war? That's highly false if you know what you can do.
Most of war fighting frontliners are heavy hardcore players and people gearing up constantly, players like that will always exist much like casuals. So what can a casual can do? If your guild is smart about it they'll have you man flametowers/hwachas/cannons to help with sieging enemy forts and bases. Those roles are CRAZY IMPORTANT, you may not like the role but it is the option available to you to grant your efforts to have an impact upon a war. You can be naked on a flametower/hwacha/cannon and wipe out 60+ people in a fight without suffering a death.
Low gear score players can help with workers early on in raising a fortress prior to war beginning, you can also take in medkits to war(300 silver each; penny change) and help resurrect your frontliners, its a 5min cd but even resurrecting them is much better than them sitting there having an extended respawn time increase further and further as more deaths occur.
Defense and scouting is essential during early war times in spotting and merely finding enemy bases. Repairs on barricades and defenses is also something casuals and new players can attend to. Obviously your role won't be a frontline fighter and killer but you can also assist in frontliners killing people by attempting to CC(stun/knockdown etc.) enemy targets for your team. Certain classes like witches/wizards are hyper useful with % heals and speed buffs and others can help harass buildings with ranged or DP debuffs against AoE targets or movement speed slows.
There's a role for everyone and you will need both. The situation for top guilds are different since they are filled with 80-100 hardcore players but those people are after Territories most of the time since they yield the most rewards out of anything.
Here's a video quickly going over the things mentioned in a shorter format.
Hopefully this dispels falsities and rumors about the game if you're interested or curious.