2nd Alpha Test Report

The report for the 2nd Alpha Test has now been uploaded to the official website here. I’ll be posting translations of the statistics here.

Table of Contents



Participation

50,811 people participated in the test, which is 73% of those who got in. I wonder how much of this stat is warped by people who got in with multiple codes?

40,245 participants got their characters to at least level 10, qualifying them for automatic entry into the closed beta tests.

^Top



Characters

Race and Gender

  • 37.3% of characters were Human.
  • 31.6% were Casts
  • 31.1% were Newmans.

This is surprisingly evenly distributed, but humans are still dominating the player base overall, which hasn’t changed since the first alpha test.

What about gender?

  • 72.0% of characters were female
  • 28.0% of characters were male

Insert some kind of comment on the culture of MMO gamers here.

Heres how it breaks down with regard race and gender.

  • 26.5% played Newman females
  • 25.2% played Human females
  • 20.2% played Cast females
  • 12.1% played Human males
  • 11.5% played Cast males
  • 4.5% played Newman males

So unlike the first alpha, Newman females are now the most common, but only just. As for Newman males, I mean, do I really need to say it at this point?

Class Distribution

  • 41.8% of characters were Hunters
  • 29.5% were Rangers
  • 28.7% were Forces

Height Distributions

I have no idea why they felt the need to share these statistics! The bar charts summarise it well, however.

Males on the left, females on the right.

Completely unsurprisingly, males peak on the maximum height and females peak on the minimum height. Overall, females were shorter than males.

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Player Feedback.

In my opinion much more interesting than a lot of the fluff stats presented by the report is how the players felt about the test.

First, a 5-point scoring survey of various features in the game. Translated by Mike of PSO-World, image edited by myself.

It’s overall an improvement over the previous test, whose feedback chart can be found here. It’s not exactly a huge improvement though in the higher scores, I must say. However the scores below 3 have reduced considerably, so it’s heading in the right direction. Once again the most hated thing about the game was the user interface, followed closely by communication.

Player Requests

Finally a list of things that the playerbase have requested that Sega either work on or think about including:

  • 16.3% want more weapon categories
  • 11.7% want more Photon-Arts and skills
  • 11.6% want more detailed character creation
  • 10.3% want better character actions
  • 6.9% want something to raise besides your character, like a pet
  • 6.6% want more and better ways to play with more people at once
  • 6.5% want more immersion and story (MY IMMERSION!!!)
  • 5.7% want more map variations (thanks Mewn!)
  • 5.5% want more weapons overall
  • 5.3% want something to do outside of combat
  • 5.2% want better communication options
  • 2.8% want better enemies
  • 2.2% want better graphics
  • 2.1% want PVP
  • 1.3% want more “My Room” functions.

Thus ends the report! You can find other statistics by going to PSO-World here
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The RAnewearl

Finally, concept art for the only remaining class, race and gender combo has been released. Reposting here.

The RAnewearl! Only a little less naked than her melee counterpart.

I’m a little disappointed with it. It’s cute, sure, but I was expecting something more in line with either a gun-slinger or a military type, not a swimsuit with armor bits tacked on.
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Facebook Post

Finally a message from Bonkohara on the official Facebook page. The original post can be found here.

Hello, everyone:D
I am sorry for late post a comment.I was checking user`s ,questionnaire ,opinions ,requests and bulletin board after done α2test. Also Thanks you for gave us a lot of “support`message”. Producer Sakai also said in a blog,Thanks you so much to give us great opinions and report. We are cheking it all. I am glad to α2 test has been much better convenient than before that user said for us. Finally, We showed you the public the “α2test Report”.We posted a report such as status of implementation , results of questionnaire ,average height ratio and race. Please check it out !
http://pso2.jp/alpha2/

I was happy that “MYSTERY EGG” and “SEN-TAKU-KI” is the top 3 of my room.
actually I left a lot of “MYSTERY EGG” in the Producer Sakai`s room. hahaha!!(jajaja):D

I was playing game during α2test with some user. It was fun to playing together as a “party”. Member was really nice and nice to talk.
I could find some new idea and get real opinion that was really valuable.

Oh well, but stuff said please work your Job.
but playing game is also call “working” Do not you think ? hahaha!(jajaja):D

Now I back to really disk work today.

^Top

[Sources: PSBlog, PSO2 Official Site, PSO-World]

Concept Art and News Incoming

Sakai updated the official PSO2 blog a few days ago, on which he shared 2 more pieces of concept art. Sadly not of anything we haven’t seen already, but regardless reposting here. The RAcast, followed by the HUcaseal.

Butt-spike

According to Bumped’s interpretation of the post, we’ll be receiving weekly announcements regarding PSO2 starting from March. Let’s hope that much of that will be some further explanations on some features that they’ve as of yet, not really talked about. In particular it would be nice to hear how MAGs work, or how the sub-class system functions as well as what purpose the Quest-board serves, maybe some more information about guilds. At the very least let’s not just talk about the features we already know about.

The "Quest Board", which as of yet has no explanation. Not to be confused with the "Quest Counter"

Still eagerly awaiting that report on the player feedback, but it should be with us before March so not long to wait now. Incidentally, once the player feedback has been analysed the 2nd Alpha Test site will be taken down for good.

2nd Alpha Test Recap

This post is really just a recap of the tests, as well as a collection of any news tidbits since then.

Table of Contents



Friday

The first day of the tests. So much anticipation, so many lost hours of sleep. Many of us were expecting the servers to buckle under the pressure but amazingly all went well. In fact throughout the entirety of the test session things were remarkably stable, wasn’t even all that laggy. The population peaked at around 19,000 simultaneous users.

Saturday

This day was by far the most populated, with a peak of 23,000 simultaneous connections. The lag was rampant and blocks were even crashing under the load/ However to the client’s credit, enough of the combat was client sided that it didn’t impact the gameplay as much as it could have.

Wednesday

The GM announcement system crashed the servers, resulting in a two-hour extension to the test time. From here on out, the GM message ticker was silent. The population peaked at 21,000.

Friday/Saturday

One random maintenance without explanation, 1 hour extension. There are seemingly no population stats for this test.

Overall Population

Of those who entered, 80% actually participated in the tests. Of those that participated, 73% made it past level 10 which is the requirement to qualify for the closed beta. That really isn’t all that surprising, given that reaching level 10 took at most 30 minutes or so.

[Statistics and other information taken from PSblog]

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What Sakai Said

A whole lot of not much, so far. He was very apologetic about the server lag and said that they would be doing something to address this before the closed beta period, stating that it may be difficult to fix. He considered the tests a failure. Failure enough to warrant further alpha testing? Well that has yet to be seen. He was however pleased to announce that they think they know the main cause of the lag (something to do with the way players start quests if I recall correctly) and they isolated the issue that was causing blocks to crash (which again iirc was something to do with players moving to and from their rooms).

Honestly the lag issues are kind of a big deal, because while the population was reasonably large (at least for an MMO series this obscure) I expect the population on release day will be considerably larger. You only get one chance to make a first impression, or so they say, so hopefully that issue is sorted to give the game a more solid launch. Because seriously, they could a use a decent launch after the train-wreck that was Phantasy Star Universe’s.

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The Client

This section will talk about the client as it was during the 2nd alpha.

  • The client still uses Nprotect Gameguard. So it’s looking like that pest of a program may well be staying, unfortunately.
  • You can use the mouse to interact with the user interface. The interface itself however is not customisable beyond a scale setting in the launcher.
  • You can adjust graphics settings in-game. No longer will you need to restart the client to get to the options screen in the launcher. convenient, yes, but naturally some changes will only be apparent when you do restart (the client informs you of this).
  • Full-screen mode is still technically windowed, which means that you can happily alt-tab to other programs while playing PSO2 on full-screen. Why not actual full-screen? Well players of PSO and PSU may know why, but in case you don’t if you switch windows while in full screen the game will terminate. It’s not because it assumes you’re a filthy cheater like a lot of people believe, it’s more to do with the fact that the game’s world ceases to exist when you alt-tab.

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Foreign Support

As of yet, still no word. However, the results of data mining do seem to suggest that they’re continuing to work to at least give PSO2 the option of localised versions, beyond what was seen in the previous client. This is by no means a certain sign that it will happen, just that they’re at the very least working to keep that card on the table.

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Phantasy Star on Console

No this does not mean that PSO2 is coming out on a console you CHUMPSTICK. I’m referring to one of the questions that was asked in the player feedback questionnaire, namely:

Q14. Using your character data from the PC version, which other platform would you like to use it to play the Phantasy Star Online 2 “Series”.

This may well be a similar deal that occured with PSU and the Phantasy Stat Portable games, in which you could transfer character data from PSU to them, at least in a limited sense. We may not hear much more on this until some time after the release of PSO2 (I’m thinking a year after, at least). This is not related to the tentatively titled “Phantasy Star Victory”.

[Translation of Question 14 taken from Bumped]

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Towards the Future

Some information on future events as well as news that is expected soon!

  • A full report on the 2nd alpha tests, including detailed player feedback and maybe some cool charts. Really eager to find out what players considered the biggest issues of the game (presuming they’ll be presented to us this way of course).
  • The closed beta test will be happening “before it’s hot”. Which presumably means before the summer, which could also place it any time during spring.
  • Character data from the open beta will be carried over to release. This may seem unusual, given that most of the time in MMOs all data from any test periods is wiped, for various reasons. Sega have done this before, however, on the lead-up to Phantasy Star Universe in Japan and I believe they did this with PSO:Blue Burst JP as well. Essentially they seem to treat it more like a demo mode than the traditional idea of a beta.
  • Details about the billing procedures will not be announced until after the closed beta and before the open beta, so said Sakai in an interview. Not that this has stopped a torrent of fiery opinions damning any sort of free-to-play model.
  • Some cool concept art of the RAnewearl, hopefully! But sadly this hasn’t actually been announced, nor do I expect it to be. It will be a random surprise as the RAnewm art was.

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Video Roundup: 2nd Alpha Test

A collection of various videos I thought were worth sharing. Throughout the tests, there was a LOT of video footage of gameplay that was uploaded and I expect there will be more to come. Many of them are literally hours long however, which is not something I’d want to link someone to if theyre thinking of checking out the game. Because of this I will be restricting this post to smaller videos, in particular ones which show off smaller aspects of the game rather than a complete playthrough of an area.


Class Gameplay

First, have some videos that demonstrate the gameplay of the three classes.

Hunter
HUcast gameplay. This is a multi-party area in which there are 2 * 3-man parties joined together. A “PSE Burst” happened during the run, which greatly increased both the spawn rate of the enemies and their droprate.

Ranger
RAcast gameplay. This video is also in a multi-party area, but unlike the previous one it’s a random multi party as opposed to pre-arranged.

Force
FOmar gameplay. The player is teleported into a cage by an interrupt event, “Code: Rescue”. In it, the kidnapped player and the rest of the party must attack the cage in order to free them. The event fails if the player dies.



Boss encounter videos

As the title suggests, here are videos of all the boss encounters in the 2nd alpha tests. Incidentally, whilst these particular videos show the bosses in their arenas, you can encounter them randomly during a run. You can even encounter more than 1 type of boss in the same run, which can lead to fun times.

Rockbears
This boss can hit low level characters for an awful lot of damage, but his attacks are overall pretty easy to read and avoid. Use your dodge move to get out of the way, as this will cause its attacks to miss and make it stumble. Be aware that it won’t stumble if you block its attacks.

Kyatadoran
If you’re playing as a hunter you will find this boss incredibly annoying to fight the first few times. Again, after you learn its attack cues it’s pretty trivial to time your blocks right to avoid most of the damage it can dish out. Its weak points are exposed when it’s in the stretched-out state.

Vol Dragon
The most complicated boss fight in the alpha. Has a large pool of moves at its disposal and 3 different attack phases which it can switch between by burrowing into the ground. Most of his attacks can hit very hard and you’ll have the random lava spouts of the environment to worry about. It has a number of weak points that players can attack (though all of them are covered in its most deadly phase)

[Thanks to Vashyron for the videos]

That’s all for now. If you uploaded some videos you think it’d be helpful for other people to see then feel free to link them to me so I can repost them.


NDA Stuff:

「『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』α2テストにおいて撮影された実機動画です。
開発中のため、正式版とは異なる内容であり、今後改良される可能性があります。」

『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』公式サイト
http://pso2.jp/

Phantasy Star Online 2 2nd Alpha Test”, since this game is currently under development, the contents may not reflect the final version. Additionally, such contents may be improved upon in the future.

Features and Concerns

A note about this post. This post concerns features of a game that is still heavily under development, so anything I write here does not necessarily reflect upon the final product. This is discussing specifically the alpha version of the game and my thoughts and concerns with it as it is now. All images used in this post are (c) SEGA Phantasy Star Online 2 a2 Test Version. That should be the NDA terms and conditions satisfied, so on to the post.


Features

Elemental Feedback

This effect occurs when you hit fire-weak enemies with a fire-element attack

Something that players of Phantasy Star Portable 2 may remember is an effect that would display if you hit an enemy with the correct element (example, hitting enemies that are weak to ice with an ice element attack). Well it seems to be present in PSO2 as well, giving you some visual feedback to go along with the bigger numbers!

Drops

To remind you, drops are per player in PSO2. As in only you can see your own drops. This of course makes loot ninja-ing pretty much impossible. Now as for what drops you get, there are a few things have been observed.

First, the regular items that monsters drop appear to be based on the individual player’s class, party leader or not. This doesnt appear to be the case for rare drops from monsters, however. I was in a party where Yasminkov 3Ks were dropping, where the party leader was a ranger. Both the leader and another member, who was a Force, were seeing that particular rare as well,so it appears that rare drops from monsters may be determined by the party leader’s class. Update 04/02/2012: The hypothesis regarding regular drops beingbased on character class is confirmed. However, the hypothesis on rare drops based on the party leader’s class has been debunked upon further play sessions.

It's a box

What about boxes? Boxes seem to drop whatever they like, regardless of you or your leader’s class. However the colour of the box may indicate what type of item it will drop.

No more burninating for this guy..

What about bosses? Well bosses are too low level to drop anything decent yet, I’m sure. For now the only thing I’ve see Vol Dragon drop is Trimate. As a result it’s not really possible to tell if their drops are based on anything special.


Concerns

Don’t get me wrong by this section, this has so far been a really enjoyable game for me. However there are some genuine concerns that I hope the developers address before release (I’ve found ways to make sure they see this feedback in some form on their test forums).

Talent Tree Respeccing

At the moment, you can’t re-invest your skill points after you’ve spent them. There’s been no official word on wether or not they will implement some kind of re-speccing mechanism later on the game’s development but I sincerely hope they do. There is no room for trial and error with the system in its current state, potentially locking new players into gimped builds which they mistakenly thought would be useful. Or, you invest in useful skills only to be later gimped by the inevitable rebalancing patch, with no means to un gimp yourself.

Quest Clear Music

Oh god, make it stop.Whoever thought of putting this incredibly annoying 15 second tune on repeat needs a slap.

Colour Selection for Non-Casts

My one issue with character creation is the limited colour selection that non-casts get. Casts can choose multiple colours from the entire spectrum for their outfits (and even their skin!). Non-Casts get to choose 1 colour from a selection of about 10, which only affects one part of their outfit. I don’t get why they don’t just give all races the ability to choose their outfit colours from the entire spectrum, myself.


Wednesday Test Session

Due to a technical fault, the servers had an emergency maintenance for 1 and a half hours. To compensate, the test period will be extended by a further 2 hours.

[Thanks to Mewn for the drop observations]

Thoughts on the 2nd Alpha Test

The first 7 hour session of the 2nd alpha tests are over. I have to say I was actually really satisfied with what I got to try. I don’t really want to say more than that with regard my overall reaction as I don’t personally want to be responsible for over-hyping the game, so I’ll just go into the meat of this post and start telling you about the various aspects of the game that I liked.

A fair warning, this post is lengthy. As part of the non-disclosure agreement and to be fair to the developers, remember that this is a game that is still heavily in development. So the things you see and the things I talk about in this post don’t necessarily reflect what will be in the game by release. Also all images are (c) SEGA Phantasy Star Online 2 Alpha 2 Test Version. With that said, let’s begin!


Combat

A slightly important feature of the game, seeing as you’re going to be spending most of your time killing things. It definitely feels a lot more fluid than Phantasy Star Universe and there is much more visceral feedback from your attacks than before.

Melee

In PSU, the only attacks worth using were photon arts, which meant ignoring the normal attacks entirely. Normal attacks are now a major part of your damage and can even be weaved between various parts of your photon arts now, allowing you string together long combos. That extra feeling of control over your attacks was pretty neat, however I did find it a bit difficult sometimes to know what attack would be coming next. I’d find myself having to count the current combo in my head to predict the next attack in the chain.

You also now get a visual indicator on your character to pull of Just-Attacks with. When you press an attack button while this red circle is around your character, you will perform a Just Attack. Successfully doing so will make your attack hit harder as a result, which means pacing yourself properly can maximise your damage.

One old aspect of Phantasy Star’s combat that’s persisted since PSO was the 3-hit combo, with a delay before you could attack again. That limit is essentially gone now, as long as you keep hitting that button you’ll keep on attacking.

Incidentally, using the Wired-Lance grapple photon art to leap into the air and kick birds in the face is the greatest thing.

Ranged and Tech

Now, I only played melee. So, sorry ranged and force lovers, I wont be able to give as complete a picture as I can give for melee. However I can share some things you might like to know.

First off, the Just-Attack mechanic that melee users have had since Phantasy Star Universe is now available to both ranged and tech users, with all the same benefits.

Specific to ranged, you no longer need to continuously tap the attack button to fire your weapon. You can now just hold the button down, however doing so will deny you the damage bonus from properly timed attacks.

Nurses, not Forces! Actually I've heard that attack techs are a lot more fun to use this time around. I didn't try them, myself

Block, Stupid!

On a final note regarding the combat, when you get hit it actually feels like it was your fault. May not sound like much but this means that if you die, you were the one who fucked up. You weren’t screwed over by an unfair or rediculously hard mechanic. You can block, you can dash out of the way, heck you could just simply run out of the way. Point is you have plenty of opportunity to prevent damage from enemies and while some attacks might be harder to avoid than others, so far it’s mostly a case of know your enemy. Now, to be fair, this is accurate only to the low level content. We won’t get to see the difficulty curve likely until the game has been released, so a full representative opinion can’t be formed on this for now. So far so good, still.


Latency

Now, yes, it was a stress test, so I know I can’t fairly grade the performance of the servers with regard latency (especially as the server coding isn’t even complete). How the game performs under lag is however an important thing to know. One very good thing is the combat itself is largely client-sided, or at least the more interactive parts are. This includes enemy state-altering attacks such as launches, knockbacks, knockdowns, interrupts etc. The damage calculation is still carried out server-side, so you’ll certainly notice the lag there (as well as with jittery movements of fellow party members). One of the biggest downsides to PSU’s combat was being unable to interrupt attacks if your latency got high so this is a sorely welcome sight.


Environment

On the minimap, the brightness represents the height of the terrain.

It’s actually pretty strange how much interactivity the simple act of being able to jump adds to an environment. Not only that but it seems to have allowed the level designers to get a bit more creative with the layouts of the stages in general. Hills, slopes, ledges, cliffs and even the more decorative geometry make the stages feel leaps and bounds more interactive than the environments we saw in Phantasy Star Universe. The presense of these things also helps to make the stages feel less linear, however they could definitely do with putting fewer dead-ends into their stages.

Beyond jumping, you can also cut down tall grass, fell trees and get caught in the current of a river.

The weather on Naberius can change on the fly.

The environmental hazards were also a nice touch. On Naberius, if the weather changes to stormy you will now need to watch out for lightning strikes (which give you plenty of warning ). On Amduscia, you have lava pools, fiery vents and falling stalactites to worry about. Something that goes beyond the visuals of the planet to differentiate it, as well as the local fauna, is appreciated. Of course, cross-planet you also have explosive traps and poison wave traps.


Interrupt Events

STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM

The party I ran with ended up with numerous interrupt events. Attack, Duel (although we have yet to see a boss enemy), Arrest, Protect and Destruction. They seem to vary in difficulty and in a 4 man group, protection events can get really hectic. They can get even more intense if you end up with a protection event combined with an attack event spawning some larger enemies!

A "Protection" and "Attack" interrupt event happening at once

Un-named random events were quite nice too , with passing gunships lending some air support by either firing an assault cannon or a barrage of rockets at the enemies you’re fighting. They can also drop support such as healing devices.


Enemies

The enemies seem to be pretty well designed from what I’ve seen. What I appreciate more is they’ve attempted to mix things up with their mechanics this time around. Some enemies will actively (sometimes passively) block your attacks with a shield, which will interrupt your current combo. Others have weak spots which must be exposed in various ways or are constantly accessible either behind the enemy, or having to jump onto the enemy to access it. Basically I just like that you will need to physically interact with your enemies beyond just hitting them with big glowing weapons.

You have to jump onto this enemy's abdomen to deal any significant damage to it

The little details in some of the enemy behaviours were quite fun too, I thought. From the monkeys who would pick up a rock to hurl at you, only to melee you with it instead if you got too close, to the lizardman hunter-types who would block your attacks with their shields and follow up with a shield bash (though I must say, the other two lizardman types have so far been pretty ineffective). Heck the monkeys in the forest area will just be swinging about in the trees, then they hurl themselves down at you when you approach.

You will need to attack around this enemy's large shield, or else it will deflect all your attacks

Final Note

So I said I wouldnt over-hype the game at the start of this long post and I’m not beyond realising the possibility that I’ve done just that. I hope I didn’t imply that this game is flawless or anything silly like that.

Remember as well that with these kinds of games it can take a little while longer to really get to know its faults. It is however, so far, a very enjoyable game for me. If they continue this level of care throughout the rest of the game’s development then we may well be looking at something special here.

Alpha Test 2 Schedule

Those who got into the tests can now download the client. You can find the client on this page here. Naturally that link only works for testers.

The schedule for the 2nd tests is also up! Originally tweeted by Bonkohara here. Thanks to Ricardo at Bumped for the EST PST times, and Bahn for the HST times.

Alpha Test 2 Start Dates JST

  • January 27th, 16:00 to 23:00
  • January 28th, 18:00 to 26:00
  • February 1st, 16:00 to 23:00
  • February 3, 15:00 through Feb 4, 23:00 (32 hours continuously)

Alpha Test 2 Start Dates Eastern Standard Time

  • January 27th, 2AM to 9AM
  • January 28th, 4AM to 12PM
  • February 1st, 2AM to 9AM
  • February 3rd, 1AM to Feb 4th 9AM

Alpha Test 2 Start Dates Pacific Standard Time

  • January 26th, 11PM to 6AM
  • January 28th, 1AM to 9AM
  • January 31st, 11PM to 6AM
  • February 2nd, 10PM to Feb 4th 6AM

Alpha Test 2 Start Dates GMT

  • January 27th, 7AM to 2PM
  • January 28th, 9AM to 5PM
  • February 1st, 7AM to 2PM
  • February 3, 6AM through Feb 4, 2PM

Alpha Test 2 Start Dates HST

  • January 26th, 9:00 PM – 4:00 AM
  • January 27th 11:00 PM – 7:00 AM
  • January 31, 9:00 PM – 4:00 AM
  • February 2, 8:00 PM HST – February 3, 4:00 AM