No Longer the Open Beta!

The official site was updated today with this page, which sheds details on the content that’s coming up upon release.

  • The open beta is scheduled to be over on the 3rd of July, 11:00am JST.
  • The release begins on the 4th of July, 2:00pm JST.

To summarise what’s coming up:

  • New Field: Tundra - The snow-covered areas of Naberius will be added, along with new bosses and monsters, as well as variations of the planet’s natives (reskins).
  • New Bosses: Snow Panther and Snow Banshee (possibly a duo boss), De Malmus and King Yede – King Yede may or may not actually be a boss, while he seems to be big enough to be one, in videos there is no event on screen that suggests he is in fact a boss or mini-boss.
  • 3rd Stage Mag Evolutions. – You can find images of them here. Mags need to be lv100 to evolve to the third stage.
  • Level Cap Raised to 40.
  • Time Attack Quests.
  • 3 New Chapters Of The Story – Venture to the snowy tundras of Naberius, investigate Lilipa’s small furry natives and actually try to talk to the dragon tribe you’ve been slaughtering the members of.
  • Cash Shop Open – Details of how to actually buy Arks Cash should surface when it’s available. The cash shop itself will open for business on July 3rd, 3:00pm JST.

With the cash shop opening, new items will become available to players, including Lisa’s outfit, Xeno’s outfit and Echo’s outfits. As well as the wedding dress and suit displayed below. All costumes are available through Scratch and can’t be bought directly. Sucks, but if you want them you’re either gambling for them or buying them from player shops.

Sega also uploaded a video to YouTube, but most of it is footage you’ve seen before if you’ve watched other videos from them. The Time-Attack Quest footage is however new I believe.

Didn’t think they’d wait too long to roll this out, though I did expect a bit more notice than 2 days!


Towards the Future

Well that’s PSO2’s future set, at least on the Japanese side of things. On the western side of things there is still no word, unfortunately. The @phantasystar Twitter, Sega of America’s official Phantasy Star Twitter account, has gone eerily silent. They only had Phantasy Star Portable 2 left to go through before whatever it was they were gearing up to announce, so seems something might have gone awry there. Of course it feels pretty certain that they were going to be announcing PSO2 in some form, so I am eager to see what they were set to say. Hopefully that silence won’t be permanent.

No Longer Early Days of the Open Beta

It’s now been a week since PSO2’s Open Beta has begun. Today there is a 27 hour long maintenance which should end in roughly 10 hours from making this post. To remind you anyway:

  • 29th: 6:00am UK time (BST)
  • 29th: 0:00am CDT
  • 28th 8:00pm HADT.

If you feel like you’re struggling to work the game out, don’t worry because most people are. Information on certain parts of the game and how things work is still fuzzy. Feels weird playing a game like this when there’s no wiki to refer to as well, but one is on its way…


Level Cap

I’ve been having a great time with the game so far, playing almost non-stop this week. I hit level 30 within 4 days, thanks to my experience from previous tests and thanks to this obscene amount of free time I have at the moment. Many hit 30 before I did and the first wave of level 30s is still growing. Hindsight tells me I did not pick the most EXP efficient route to 30,  but I’ll go into detail about that later.

Related to that, I hear people’s concerns about how it’s too quick to level. Yeah, you remember how long it took to go from 1-30 in PSO? Or how about 1-30 in PSU (about a day)? Ok it’s not the most fair of comparisons, as after all they weren’t the release caps of either game, but I can’t help but find myself wondering why people want this game to be a longer grind. Do you really want to be stuck in lowbie content for too long? Personally I felt it dragged a bit in places, particularly the lv20-25 range, but otherwise given that the final level cap could be as high as 200 I think it’s a reasonable rate so far.

It’s nice at 30 at the moment. There are 3 free-field quests that are available to level 30s on hard-mode that all contain monsters that are higher level. I don’t think this trend will continue, sadly, as I imagine the level range of future free fields will be staggered a bit. However, remember this isn’t like most MMOs where being a handful of levels above or below content means it’s not worth running. It’s going to feel that way now when the level cap is so low but later on the differences should become increasingly marginal if it works like PSO and PSU did. Monsters a fair few levels below you could still drop relevant gear for you. It should be noted however that fighting monsters that are too many levels above you will incur an EXP penalty.

Hard Mode

It’s not really all that hard, is it? Well it depends. First, if your units aren’t up to scratch then you will die very fast in missions where the enemies are above lv27 or so. Even with very good units you will find hard-mode Vol Dragon a tough fight for now if you’re soloing. Overall, it isn’t hard but neither was hard mode in PSO (or B-rank in PSU).

Honestly, given the history of Phantasy Star online games, I think you’re in the wrong place if you want something to be challenging. These games have historically only had 2 difficulty settings: easy and bullshit hard. There’s never really been an in-between. Not outside of an actual challenge-mode anyway, which may or may not be happening to PSO2.


PSO2 on the Internet

There’s been a link to this site on my blog for ages, but it’s only actually recently opened up to the public. PSO2 Project is an image uploader site which you can, funnily enough, upload your screenshots to. You do not need to register to do this. The site also supports tagging and can even generate images from character creator files sent to it. The website author, “kp”, is currently looking for feedback about the site.

Giant Bomb has also recorded an hour-long playthrough of PSO2 with commentary here.

Meanwhile @phantasystar, Sega of America’s official Phantasy Star twitter account, has continued to post images of games with the latest being of the Nintendo DS game Phantasy Star Zero. As they’ve posted a game a day and only PSP2 is left of the Phantasy Stars that got released stateside, there’s speculation that an announcement concerning PSO2 may happen this Friday. Which is er, tomorrow. Coincidentally the same day that the extended maintenance ends, but that really is just that: a coincidence.


See? I have the knack.

I hit 30 by grinding in the 3rd Desert mission, the one which ends in a Code: Collect where you have to activate drills. It’s great EXP due to the enemy levels and how tightly packed they are in their spawns. While it was great for levelling, there is a better mission for it. The first Desert mission is currently considered the best. Like the previously mentioned mission, it has good spawn density but it also has 3 guaranteed Code:Attack events as part of the mission itself that reward a sizey chunk of EXP each. It’s also a short and very easily repeatable mission. It’s also good for any machine enemy or Darker related dailies you may have.


Towards The Future

So looks like the preview text for the next issue of Famitsu states that PSO2’s official service start will be some time in July. I imagine it will be early July, as I can’t imagine them not being eager to open up the cash shop somehow.

Apparently, the issue itself also reveals that the Subterranean Tunnel, the 2nd area of the planet Lilipa, will also be released some time in July. I don’t know if that’s release content or not, however. The Subterranean Tunnel will include new robot enemies, a new miniboss named Tranmizer and a new boss named “Big Barda” (there is pretty much no information about this boss at the moment).

As far as areas are concerned that leaves us with:

  • Naberius – Forest, Tundra
  • Amduscia – Caves
  • Lilipa – Desert, Subterranean Tunnels.
  • Arks Ship – Urban

The next area that’s likely to be released would be set on the floating islands of Amduscia (internally known as DRAGONLAND), which would bring the planets to 2 areas each. There is no information yet on any future planets.

It also seems that Sakai will be appearing on TV for an interview about PSO2, on what I think is a Japanese TV show by the name of “Game Maniacs”. The interview will be broadcast on July 7th, 23:00 to 23:30 JST.

[Sources: Shougai]

Early Days of the Open Beta III: Lagless Edition?

Sadly, since the start of the test almost every day has seen a maintenance period as Sega continued to wrestle with the lag issue. However, for the last two days the servers seem to have been coping an awful lot better, with me personally not experiencing any lag (and I gather it’s not just me). Amusingly, Ship 2 Block 20 (the main importer location) crashed last night, but there were otherwise no major problems that I heard of. There wasn’t even a maintenance last night but this doesn’t mean the problem is fixed, as Sakai explains in his post here. The problem appears to be being caused by the sheer number of requests being sent to the database server. As such, an extended maintenance period has been scheduled to take place on the 28th of June that will last 27 hours in order to make some adjustments to it.

Scheduled Maintenance:

  • JST: 28th June 11:00am  – 29th June 2:00pm
  • BST (UK): 28th June 3:00am  – 29th June 6:00am
  • CDT 27th June 9:00pm – 29th June 0:00am

You’ll live.

Other information in that official blog post seems to include that the number of simultaneous connections is almost double the size of the pre-OBT. The pre-OBT had a peak of just over 41,000, just for perspective.

Meanwhile over at 4gamer are a selection of 3 videos, each essentially a demonstration of the classes.


Story Time

PSO2 has a story, at least I think it does. I guess it must do because a PSOW member named Kion has taken on the task of translating it here. Check it out if you want an idea of what’s going on in your character’s world at this point in time. Naturally, spoilers.


Adam Jensen’s Weapon Training

Credit goes to Mewn for this one. Adam Jensen, er sorry, Joseph gives you Client Orders that involve you carrying out a task with a specific weapon. So for example you will have

  • Partisan Training I
  • Partisan Training II
  • Partisan Training III
  • Etc, for each weapon type your current class can use.

You unlock further Client Orders in the chain by completing the previous ones.

I wont be telling you how to do them in detail in this post, but I will say to be aware of the 4th Client Order he gives for each weapon category. He wants you to use the basic weapon for the entirety of the hard-mode Nab-Rappy arrest mission (4th Forest quest). It states so in the yellow text which explains the mission’s conditions. It won’t count if you use any other weapon. Also be aware that switching a weapon during the run may cause it to fail.


See? I have the knack.

Seeing as the game is (pretty much) out now I think some useful tidbits regarding playing the game itself wouldn’t go amiss here. Towards the future then, I’ll be sharing whatever good advice I come across.

You can actually raise other classes without ever entering a mission as one. Simply complete Client Orders as your main class and then switch to a different class when you go to hand it in. The EXP reward will go to the currently active class. I probably wouldn’t go using up any one-time Client Orders for this trick, but you may as well with repeatable dailies, particularly if you’re capped.

Beware, however, that a Client Order’s reward is scaled to your current level. So that Client Order that gives 10,000 exp will only give 700 if you switch to lv1 Force.

Early Days of the Open Beta II: Lag Edition

Yesterday’s maintenance was only to remove the cap on character creation, however today’s maintenance is intent on fixing the lag as well as fixing some bugs. Well, good luck to them. Said maintenance could well be over by the time you read this post, as it’s due to end about 5 minutes after this post was published. So, the future, I have a question for you. Did they fix the lag?

Also, is it me or does the lag actually seem to get worse when Japan goes to sleep? It certainly seemed to be when the worst lag spikes hit for me, at least.


Hard Mode: Observations

Well now I’ve gotten to play around in hard mode a bit there’s a few observations about it and other general bits of the game that playing on a higher difficulty allows us to see.

You only need to unlock quests once.

Seems a given, but saying it just to remove any doubts you may have. When you unlock quests on normal, you’ve unlocked them on hard.

However, missions are not uniformly distributed by level requirement. Being lv20 doesn’t grant you access to all the quests. lv20 will grant you access to all the Forest quests and the first Caves quest. lv25 will grant you access to the rest, or up to the 3rd Desert quest anyway. To access the hard mode versions of the Free-Field quests you’ll need to be lv30, annoyingly.

Essentially it’s a blend of PSO and PSU difficulty. The PSO part is due to it being called “hard mode” and requiring you to do things to unlock it. The PSU part is the level requirements on a per-mission basis, making it functionally similar to “B-rank” versions of missions in PSU.

Items are tiered.

You may have noticed that the weapon with 4* rarity is actually weaker than the weapon with 2* rarity. In fact that awesome looking 7* weapon is statistically similar to a 2*. It appears that rarity is not directly related to item power this time and that the items themselves are arranged into tiers. It works something like:

  • Tier 1
    • 3 1* weapons, with clear stat progression. We’ll call them 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3.
    • 1 4* weapon.
    • 1 7* weapon – Statistically as powerful as 2.1 weapons, but has a much lower requirement to equip it
  • Tier 2
    • 3 2* weapons, with clear stat progression. We’ll call them 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3.
    • 1 5* weapon
    • 1 8* weapon – Statistically as powerful as 3.1 weapons, but has a much lower requirement to equip it?

This is the theory for each weapon type.

It’s possible it goes on like this, but this is only an early theory based on observation. The 7* and 8* weapons may not actually be included in this tiering system and behave by their own rules, at this point it’s not really certain as we’ve not seen enough examples yet. I can say though that you may want to re-consider splashing out on 7* weapons, as you’ll likely replace them quickly.

Update: Well after playing a bit more I see that there are in fact multiple 4* weapons for each type. See how quickly these early theories can unravel? There still appears to be some tiering involved, however.


Possible localised PSO2 announcement incoming?

Sega of America’s official Phantasy Star twitter feed, @phantasystar, seems to have moved on from PSO and is now posting PSU screenshots. This only leaves the portable Phantasy Stars before PSO2 (Phantasy Star: Portable and its sequel), which could indicate that an announcement concerning a localised version may be imminent. This is of course, just speculation.

Open Beta – Early Days

It’s gone better for Sega with PSO2 tests in the past, with the exception of the early closed beta. Like the early closed beta, players are experiencing huge lag spikes during JP peak time (and curiously the odd spike during non-peak time). Despite them fixing the closed beta issue, which held firm even during the 45,000 strong simultaneous user peak during the pre-OBT.

It appears that the player-base of the OBT may be far larger than Sega had anticipated. Not entirely unusual for an MMO launch, really. This is evidenced by the fact that, sadly for the importer community, Sega locked down character creation on Ship 02, only an hour or so after the test began. In fact, Ships 01-06 were also locked down, as were 08 and 10. Yes, that leaves only 2 ships out of 10 that were not in a state of lock down before the maintenance. This certainly does appear paint the picture that the servers were just simply overwhelmed by the influx of players. You only really needed to look at the block list while online to get an impression of how many people were on. Ship 02: Blocks 20, 21 and 22 were consistently full and I don’t think I saw a single block below 75% full. I don’t know how many players a block can host so I can’t really estimate any raw numbers from it.

Update: The character creation restriction has been lifted for now.

For those who were a little late to the party and wished to roll on Ship 02, hope is not lost. The lockdown is only temporary. However I understand that many people have decided to roll on other ships and I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted in this situation. If you don’t intend to stay there,  know that there are no server transfer services announced yet. You can still just delete your character and start it again if you really want to be on Ship 02 later. It sucks that you’d have to lose that time, though. What also sucks about this is I imagine it’s fractured the importer community some what, which is a shame.

Unlocking Hard Mode

Not as horrible as I thought it would be. Given how the quest unlock orders that Kofi hands out tended to involve farming random drops or time attack (in missions which are random..) I fully expected unlocking an extra difficulty would be painful. As it turned out, it was just a straight forward kill quest. The quest is highlighted in the below image.

All you have to do is kill Rockbear, Caterderan and Gwanada 5 times each. The mini-bosses of Forest, Caves and Desert respectively. There is no time attack or ranking requirement and it counts if you encounter them in the wild or in their arenas. The best way to do this is in a full party if you can arrange it, as the minibosses will spawn in 3s (2 initially, 1 after one of them dies). That way you only need to do 2 runs of each mini-boss mission to unlock hard mode. NPCs do not count as a full party.

You’ll unlock this quest at lv17, but of course to complete it you’ll need to unlock Desert Free-Field. If you’re familiar with Kofi’s orders up to Free-Field Caves, you just need to kill Vol Dragon once. If not, I’ll try to have a more comprehensive guide later. This will unlock a Client Order from Kofi, which wants you to S-rank the Free-Field Caves in under 20 minutes. This will unlock the first desert mission.

Complete it and the next missions they unlock. The 2nd one ends with a triangular teleporter, you need to wander the area looking for crystals. Pick them up and deposit them in the teleporter. You should be familiar with the final one if you were in the pre-OBT, but if you weren’t just mash the E key or whichever button you use to interact with objects when the drills are glowing. Upon completing that, Kofi should give you another Client Order. You should know the format, complete the last 2 missions with S-rank within the time-limit and collect 2 things. When you complete that you’re now ready to work on unlocking hard mode.

Lead Up To The Open Beta

The open beta begins tomorrow! Ahh, it’s gonna be a long night tonight…

Surprisingly there still isn’t a new patch out. If there is going to be one, they’re leaving it awful late. Update: There is now a patch, it’s quite a small one at that. Open your launcher and click the 3rd button to perform a file check. This will get the download started.

Skill Tree Simulator

A great new tool has been created by PSO-World member Gardios, also known as RyuHiroshi on his website. It’s a skill tree simulator, which allows you to plan out your builds. If you’ve used talent calculators for other MMOs you’ll know roughly what to expect. You can find it here, although be wary about adverts (closing them will open a popup). Skill descriptions do not work in Firefox.


Reminders

Reposting the schedule from the previous post:

The Open Beta is scheduled to start on the 21st of June, at 16:00 JST.

In other time-zones:

  • 3:00 EST, 21st June
  • 2:00 CST, 21st June
  • 0:00 PST, 21st June
  • 8:00 BST, 21st June (United Kingdom)
  • 21:00 HADT, 20th June

There has been no stated duration of the test just yet.

Importer Ship

Reminder that the main importer ship will be:

  • Ship 02:Ur. Block 20
    (overflow: Block 21)

However it’s more important that you make sure you know where the people who you intend to play with are headed. Remember characters are bound to a ship and you only get to make one character for free. You can change between blocks freely.

Eligability

If you signed up for any previous tests, you automatically qualify for entry into the Open Beta. If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so with this guide here. Despite being labelled for an older test, it will work just fine still.

Character Creation

Remember that characters created with the character creation tool will work with the upcoming test. You’re running out of time to make any free adjustments (well short of re-rolling I suppose). If you’re unaware this tool even existed, you can grab it here, as well as a translation patch for it here.

Some more reminders:

  • The client will update to OBT through to release, so don’t uninstall anything!
  • There is as of yet, no announced date for release.
  • The player cap is 30 during the OBT, but will be raised to 40 on release.
  • As character data won’t be wiped, the OBT is more like a soft release of the game.
  • The cash-shop will NOT be available during the OBT.
  • You will be able to access My Room and My Shop features for free during the open beta.
  • Available areas will be:
    • Naberius – Forest
    • Amduscia – Volcano Cave
    • Lilipa – Desert
      • Possibility of new enemies?
    • Arks Ship – Urban (Emergency Quest)
  • You can access Hard Mode versions of the above after reaching lv20 and completing a certain Client Order. Details when they’re known.
  • The Naberius – Frozen Tundra area won’t be added until release.
  • There is no need to do Matter Board quests to unlock Client Orders!
  • You can acquire a Mag from lv5. You can find a guide here.
  • Mags will reach their 2nd stage of evolution at lv30 instead of lv50.
  • You can now select “Virtual Full-Screen” as a display mode.
  • The planned video capture feature has been dropped.

To help understand various aspects of the game I’ve started putting together a selection of guides in the new manual section of the site. I will be expanding on it after launch and into the future as new things arrive.


Towards The Future

Basically a guessing game as to when PSO2 is going to be out. The test could be a week long, could be two weeks long, the actual release may be a while after the OBT ends, who the heck knows. It might well be announced on the day the test begins or a scrolling message in-game in a few days.

Unreleased Enemies

We know from the 2nd presentation at the 2nd Media Briefing (as well as through datamining) that there are more enemies to come. Shougai points a few out in this blog entry here. One of the unreleased enemies is the Tranmizer (pictured below), which is a miniboss that’s was revealed during the presentation. Also among the images are enemies that resemble Sinow Beats and Canadines (enemies from PSO). There is no information yet on an enemy only known as “Big Barda”.

Of course, they all seem to be in an as-of-yet unannounced area of Lilipa, which means we may not see any of these enemies. It’s not impossible, either, as after all the special desert mission in the pre-OBT may not have had every enemy you can encounter there.

@phantasystar’s Tweets

You may have noticed the @phantasystar twitter getting all cryptic lately, while posting screenshots from classic Phantasy Star, as well as more recently a screenshot of PSO. Some are speculating that they’re hyping up for a western PSO2 announcement but I would advise cautious optimism at best. Now before, I would have said that because they’ve only shown screenshots of the classic series that they might have been gearing up for some classic re-release instead (or re-re-release I suppose?), but this was before they posted the screenshot of PSO. Because of that, I think now there is a chance that maybe they’re going through the history of Phantasy Star to lead up to an eventual PSO2 announcement, maybe. If so, the next game they could post screenshots of could be PSO Episode 3, or they may count that as part of PSO and skip to PSU. That’s if the “going through the history” idea is accurate, if it isn’t then who knows. I will say that if there is going to be a localised version of the game, I think the best case scenario from a personal standpoint would be for it to share the same servers as the Japanese ( but obviously using a translated client).

Skill Trees

On a final ponder, the Force talent tree seems to be missing some talents. There are attunement-type talents for 3 elements; fire, ice and lightning, but there are no such talents for the remaining three. I would say it’s because Techs for these elements aren’t out yet, but we do have light-element techs. Perhaps they’re being saved for the first talent-tree expansion, which should coincide with new weapon types being released for Hunters (and their respective gear talents). Not sure what Ranger would be getting in said expansion however. In some ways I’m more surprised that the Force skill tree doesn’t have any support talents, yet both Hunter and Ranger do. This is strange given that Force is also the only class with any heals and dispels.Those are light-techs I guess, so I wonder if that will change if/when Forces get new elemental attunements. I also rather hope that if there are such Skill Tree changes on the way that free skill reset tickets are involved somewhere…

Also,Concept Art

OBT Date Announced

And so another test has come to an end. With this ending however, there is a new beginning. A genuine new one. Don’t worry I’m not about to post some classic Phantasy Star screenshots while going all cryptic on you. I’m not that cruel.

During the 2nd pre-OBT session a GM message scrolled across the top of the screen, announcing the date and time that the Open Beta would begin.

The Open Beta is scheduled to start on the 21st of June, at 16:00 JST.

In other time-zones:

  • 3:00 EST, 21st June
  • 2:00 CST, 21st June
  • 0:00 PST, 21st June
  • 8:00 BST, 21st June (United Kingdom)
  • 21:00 HADT, 20th June

There has been no stated duration of the test just yet.

It was also confirmed that although the data from the pre-OBT will be wiped, the data from the OBT itself will carry through to release.

This time, the importer community decided to end the test with an impromptu jumping party.

So turned out that leaked date was accurate after all. It was still likely a date they scheduled under the assumption that things would go smoothly, which then accidentally got posted. As it happened, things did indeed go smoothly according to Sega. The maximum number of simultaneous connections peaked at 41,500, which is by far the highest number yet. I personally experienced no connection issues whatsoever (not even a random lag spike), so it really does seem like the servers are now officially ready to host for the player base, come release.

Do not uninstall your clients! The pre-OBT client will patch through to OBT. I’m pretty certain that it is in fact the release client, as well.


Closing Thoughts

It was nice to see that there were some minor improvements made since the closed beta. For one thing, you no longer need to do Matter Board quests to start doing Client Orders, removing what was an arbitrary barrier to progression. Obtaining your first Mag is now a lot less painful than it used to be, requiring items from a monster that seems pretty eager to drop them.

For better or worse, they altered a rather infamous cut scene in the first story mission. Your avatar no longer gives Alfin that look. It’s just not the same…

There are other small things as well, such as NPCs contacting you or you being informed some other way that they have Client Orders for you to do, if you want. Matter board quest completion no longer requires you to enter the lobby for them to be completed, it’ll happen as soon as you board the camp ship.

This is Theodore. You may have met him during the pre-OBT. You may have met him many, many times in fact. He would appear a lot if you hadn’t met the requirements to encounter other NPCs. Sega are aware of this issue.

There are a few things they need to fix still, for example some odd infinite spawn bugs as well as a problem where the Gilnas cores wouldn’t spawn in their interrupt events. Certain flaws with the new Desert map seem to indicate that it isn’t quite finished yet, which is a little concerning given that they’re planning on effectively releasing it in a week.

In any case, personally speaking,  I’m ready for it. From a purely selfish point of view, I just want to play this thing now, even though in the back of my mind I do worry about this sneaking feeling of incompleteness the game has about it…