2011, PSO2 and You

Well not really about you. No one cares about you, sorry. This lengthy entry will be recapping the entire year’s worth of PSO2 news and announcements.

We’ve come a long way this year, all starting with the initial announcement of PSO2 in September 2010 where all we got was a picture of the PSO2 logo and a trailer which told us, well, that it exists.


Yes! PSO2 exists! Sonic Team were indeed working on something beyond PSU,
somewhat confirming our suspicions that a lot of the features added towards the end of PSU’s lifetime were in fact experiments for features they planned to use in some kind of sequel.

Well while the video didn’t go into much detail, it did drop quite a few buzzwords out there, among the more interesting ones being:

  • Global support

Oh exciting! Remember when PSO had global support? You do? I don’t cause I didn’t join PSO until Blue Burst, but I can imagine the excitement PSO veterans had when seeing this. So what do they mean by “Global Support” this time? Well as of yet, we still don’t know.
To get this out of the way early on, there is still no word on exactly what they mean by global support but here’s some things to consider: First, there has still been no word from Sega of America about the game. Second, there has been no word on a release of the game outside of Japan (despite Sakai’s trip to Korea). Hope is not lost, but unless we hear otherwise this game could well be a Japan exclusive.

  • Thorough racial balances

Yeah I’ll believe this when I see it. I’m not going to spend too much time talking about the complete joke that is the racial balance in PSU, but trust me there’s good reason to be cynical about them delivering on this. Well, to be fair there’s decent reasons to be cynical about a lot of the things Sega says.

  •   Arkz

Wait, Arkz? That’s those chaps from PSO:Episode 3! That crappy card game that no one played! Yeah it was later confirmed that there is no canonical link between the groups, they just happen to have exactly the same name. To remind you, the Arks in PSO2 are like the Hunter’s Guild of PSO and the Guardians of PSU. They’re the faction your character belongs to.

Curiously, shortly after announcing the game, they also posted a job advert listing 3 available positions. This raised some eyebrows given that they had been allegedly working on the game for some time as they seemed to be relatively important positions to be empty.

After this initial announcement, there was nothing. Quite a whole lot of nothing, in fact. Sakai even stated that we shouldn’t expect much and he delivered! Sega are quite professional at delivering nothing.


January 2011

So we come to the beginning of this year. Shougai PSO posted about the setting and development of the game. It was here we learned that PSO2 will not be taking place on Ragol although there may still be loose ties to previous planets. Also Sakai said to expect some kind of announcement in April, which brings us to…


February 2011

Wait, that’s not April! How observant of you. This was the month where the first alpha tests were announced to be beginning in the summer. Entries would be determined by a lottery. How do you enter this prestigious lottery? You need to either have been a player on the Japanese PSO:BB servers or have bought a copy of Phantasy Star Portable 2: Infinity. Or just be subscribed to PSU on certain dates. Oh yeah and you also must be a Japanese resident.


April 2011

Hey, this is April! Your observational skills astound me yet again. And Sakai made good on his promises, as on the 24th a new trailer and a bunch of screenshots had been unveiled.


This was the first time we’d seen anything. Concept art, in-game screenshots? You name it, we didn’t have it. Well ok we had the logo. It was also the first time we heard any of the in-game music. So we went from nothing, to suddenly being bombarded with imagery, not all of it particularly flattering, such as those nasty ground textures. But hey, we can jump!


July 2011 – August 2011

July was the month in which this blog was born! Hurray! It was in these months that we ___, as well as a selection of _______ featuring _____, but we wouldn’t really know what they meant until _____!

Yeah the PSO2 newsletters took on a unique style to try to tease the fans with information. They seem to have dropped this tactic recently.

This was also the time in which the PSO2 Media Briefing took place, which can be summarised by the image below.
It was the first time we got to see the character creation in action and honestly I was impressed by it. This is coming from a guy who used to play Aion, the character creator in PSO2 is honestly an impressive piece of work and I’m sure its flexibility will be demonstrated when Sakai shows off the characters created at Akihabara. Until then, enjoy some character creation.

Character creation wasn’t the only thing revealed, in fact a whole lot of stuff was revealed. We had “Photon Sensitive Effect”, a bunch of race/class concept art, equipped units affecting your appearance, large party areas (think raids but not raids), random interrupt events during runs, “Jump Action”. Actually speaking of that last point, a new trailer was revealed during this time.

Still for Windows PC, you’ll note.

So we now knew the three races of PSO2: Human, Newman and CAST. No Beasts!

This time period also gave birth to the PSO2 Facebook page, on which Bonkohara even posted in English to show appreciation for their foreign fans.

  • Datamining

Ah yes, it was about this time when dirty cheaters got their hands on the alpha client and laid waste to the community by looking at the data in the files. Much harm was done. A PSO2 developer even caught wind of it and shared their disapproval about it on their twitter, which Shougai noticed.

Nothing tremendously harmful was even found, really. Planet names, the existence of Dark Falz, Technic names, the same word censor list that was in PSU. Guild functionality was also unearthed in the game’s strings.


September 2011

  • Official Videos

To celebrate the end of the alpha tests, or perhaps just another excuse for Sakai to get in front of the camera, a series of three videos were released which talked about various aspects of the Alpha test. The “Special Internet Program”, which can be found here, showed us a number of things we otherwise weren’t allowed to show due to the NDA. As such it was the first official time in which we saw the volcano planet Amduscia, the Vol Dragon being fought and various other things.

  •  Tokyo Games Show 2011

We didn’t have to wait long for potentially new information to come out after those videos, for the Tokyo Game Show was around the corner. PSO2 was present and playable at the show and two presentations were given. Sadly, not a whole lot of new information was actually announced and it was more like a further demonstration of the things we’d already seen. One of the things that was new however was a trailer, which also showed off a new area set in a ruined city.

Alpha Test Results

Thanks to EspioKaos for the translations.

Yeah there were a bunch of graphs that were posted towards the end of September, showing off various statistics of the Alpha Test playerbase. The short version is everyone wants to be a girl.


October 2011

The 2nd Alpha test was announced! And that was pretty much it for October.
The only other thing that was mentioned, I really do mean just mentioned, were MAGs. A solitary picture and the briefest of information was given on sega’s newly created blog for most things PSO2.


November 2011

About as thin as October in terms of news. We learned more about PSO2’s setting, however!

To recap, your character is a member of the Arks, who live on the Arks ship! You’ll be exploring various planets because why not and the universe seems to be infested with critters known as “Darkers” which you’re also gonna have to do something about.

Towards the end of this month, new character outfits were also revealed which filled in the remaining race/class types, with perhaps the exception of RAnewm and RAnewearl.


December 2011

Contrary to the previous months, a fair amount was announced. To start off, CAST face morphing was revealed as well as CAST boob morphing. CAST morphing all around, in fact! So yes, as a CAST you won’t be denying yourself the creative flexibility that the meatier races are granted, which is nice to know.
Much of this month was dedicated to discussing things which would maybe appear in the 2nd alpha tests. The “My Room” feature was revealed, which is a customisable abode for your character. MAGs were talked about in slightly more detail, revealing that you could feed them which would cause things to happen. Revealing. And finally the item lab which revealed you can still punish yourself by trying to grind weapons, although it’s not as punishing as it used to be in Phantasy Star Universe.
Finishing off December, PSO2 was at the Akihabara Games Festa 2011. During which, I stayed up to ungodly hours on the 23rd to catch a pair of presentations. We did actually get to see some new things, however, including the PSO2 opening movie.


Aside that were some brief details about what would take place during the 2nd alpha, as well as showing off the item labs and newer features of the character creation (paying particular attention to the new CAST morphers).


So that’s the timeline of PSO2 happenings this year. A couple of noisy periods sandwiched by times where a whole lot of nothing happened.

Recap of the Major Features
To recap what the major features are (please feel free to message me if you think anything else needs to be included)

  • * PSO2 is Windows PC ONLY. There are no plans to release a console version.
  • The three races are: Human, Newman and CAST. There are no beasts
  • Clothing is NOT attached to class or race.
  • All races can use morphers to customise their appearance
  • Any race can be any class
  • The three classes are Hunter, Ranger and Force. There are no advanced classes.
  • Character levelling is done through class levels.
  • MAGs are in
  • Customisable rooms are in
  • Item grinding (more than weapons this time) and item fusion are in
  • Player shops are in (and are accessible outside of rooms this time)
  • Missions are accessed from a singular counter like in PSO, rather than multiple like in PSU
  • Missions can be interrupted by random events
  • Bosses can be fought both in and out of arenas

Alpha Test 2
The 2nd Alpha test is set to take place some time in early 2012, with the registration period ending on the 17th of January. The details can be found elsewhere, but I’d like to finish this post with information about what will and what will not be included in the tests.

What is in:

  • All features of the last alpha test
  • My Room
  • Player shops
  • Item Labs
  • New character models and CAST morphers

What is NOT in:

  • The city area shown in trailers
  • MAGs

Towards the Future
And so ends the longest post I’ve written for this blog. I hope it’s helped put this year of PSO2 information into perspective. Who knows what information will be revealed in the coming months, with the 2nd alpha client on the horizon as well as the closed beta tests having been announced. Never mind that the game it scheduled to release in 2012, so somewhere in there, I assume, is an open beta. Will foreigners be allowed into it? Probably not, but I still think that even if the game is only released in Japan that they won’t mind foreign players on it.

Finally, happy new year!

Sources: PSUpedia, Bumped, Shougai, PSO2 Official Blog. PSUmods
Thank you all for your continued effort!

Hey! You! Do You Like Charts?

Cause if you do, you’ll love this page: http://pso2.jp/game/ There are charts as far as the eye can see! Charts of many kinds! Bar charts, pie charts, charts for all people! There are charts on this page is what I’m getting at.

Couple of things I happen to be able to understand are that female humans are the most popular race/gender combo at 29% and 71% of the characters created in the alpha tests were female. Somewhat surprised that female Newmans were less popular given what happened with PSU, but the fact that most people created girls of some kind was expected. You know what else isn’t a suprise? The least created race/gender combo? Know what it is? You know it’s coming. Yes, that’s right. Male Newmans, at a flaccid 4.8%. Told you, no one cares about male newmans.

Final Episode of SPECIAL INTERNET PROGRAM

Took few days for them to release it, but here it is in all its dragon smashing glory!

  • The video shows 2 encounters with the Vol Dragon, with the first being in a multi-party area.
  • The dragon spawns in the stage rather than its own arena. It’s treated like an interrupt event, it seems boss battles are “Code: Duel”.
  • We finally get to see the Volcano Caves area in action, which is nice given how the alpha testers who leaked videos seemed to avoid the area entirely.
  • The player is a Caseal throughout the entire video.
  • The pool you jump into on the Camp Ship changes colour depending on the area the quest is in.
  • Lava is still hot.

Rumourmill: Character Stats

Well OK characters do have stats, that’s not the rumour, but what is are the values of the stats themselves. In a thread on PSO-World, user WBmike posted this image which he found on some Chinese blog:

What We Know
Not a whole lot! They weren’t something that was talked about officially nor were any screenshots leaked by alpha testers.

Thoughts
Well, if that chart is accurate then once again CASTs have the highest offensive stats for both Hunter and Ranger. This seems to fly in the face of the official site’s summaries of the races which indicated that humans would be top attackers and CASTs top defenders.
Of course there are two potential flaws with these stats, first is that even if they are genuine they may only remain genuine to the alpha tests. Second is although there are statistical differences it’s not really known how much those differences will even matter, or how much they’ll deviate from each other in the higher levels (I’m assuming these stats refer to the first few levels). Of course, one last thing is this time CASTs don’t have their “I win” buttons that were SUVs in Phantasy Star Universe.
I’ll end this post by saying that stat differences between the races to make the differences go beyond skin deep seem cool, but if handled poorly all it does is punish players for picking the wrong race/class combo. If playing a CAST Force gimps you severely, then why even let people play one? Same with Newman Hunters, or potentially Human anything. Of course, stat differences alone don’t contribute to this, the actual usefulness of each stat is also really important for balance and could even negate the stat differences entirely if done right.

SPECIAL INTERNET PROGRAM Episode 2

The second of a series of three official videos discussing the alpha tests has been uploaded. Reposting here:


The video demonstrates some quest gameplay. Some things to note:

Multiple Interrupt Events
During the video, 2 interrupt events happen at the same time. Namely, “Code Attack” and “Code Arrest”. One did not over-ride the other, both were completed successfully and were rewarded one after the other.

Caseal Gameplay
For a brief moment we actually saw some Caseal gameplay! Is kind of strange how little of the Caseal we’ve seen in leaked videos given how popular they are.

Unit Drops
What appear to be 2 units dropping, going by what I can understand. The screenshots are low quality because I captured them from the above feed.

Auto-Word

During the video(about 11:30), the player opens a menu where you can access your chat shortcuts. One of the options is “Auto-Word”, which is a feature that was introduced in Phantasy Star Portable 2. In that game, there were a list of conditions you could set your character to automatically say something to, like for example when taking damage or being close to death. It appears to be set up somewhat differently in PSO2, but I lack the JP reading skills to discern what’s new. There’s fewer fields to put Auto-Words into but that’s likely unique to the alpha client.

Towards The Future

Bonkohara has posted on both the official Facebook and on Twitter with regards the end of the alpha tests.

One thing is that the NDA has been loosened up now, which means that talking about the alpha anywhere is fine. Pictures and videos are still prohibited (and yes this would mean I’d have to take the pictures I’ve found down if Sega asked me to). She also said that the tests were completed with no major flaws. Another thing she hinted at was the possibility that they’ll create an official PSO2 blog. Will it be the end of the facebook page!? Probably not, no.

In one of Bonkohara’s tweets, she also asked people to uninstall the alpha client. I’m guessing from this that the alpha will not patch into the beta, instead it will be an entirely different client. As of yet, there is no set date for the beta test to begin.

In other news, bumped.org posted an interview between director Satoshi Sakai and Famitsu, with regard ideas for features. I won’t repost this in its entirely, I’ll just repost bits I want to share thoughts on as usual.

Your character’s name has no effect on playing, so it’s not entirely the same as section ID. But they may do something similar to it. They haven’t decided on if it should be related to drops, but something similar to fortune telling could be a possibility.

SectionIDs, as they were in PSO, were a terrible idea. For those who don’t know, the game would pass the letters of your name through some equation that would determine your sectionID. Your sectionID would then determine what items monsters would drop. This ended up with some players who simply could not get class-appropriate gear (and worse, PINKAL) and some who could potentially get gear that was high in demand, that only they could get due to their ID. It made drop tables needlessly complicated, even if on paper it does seem like an idea that would encourage trade.  I can’t really comment on what they mean by it affecting fortune telling, but I do hope they don’t consider punishing players for choosing the wrong letters in their names again.

Having a situation like you stop ______ today because there’s no Super Holy Light is something they don’t want it to become.

Yes I have to agree with this. Holy Light, or simply “luck” as it was known to PSU players, was a mechanism that essentially rewarded you for happening to log in on the right day. Every race/gender combo has a luck value which is somewhat randomly assigned. This luck value could affect other RNG things, like weapon grinding, drop rates, perhaps other things I forget. The inherent flaw is you feel like there’s no point playing on days where your character’s gender/race has a luck value of 0 that day, so it’s good to see the developers seem to feel the same way.

Official Videos

 According to a tweet by Bonkohara we may be getting official videos of the alpha tests released soon. So I’ll be able to actually post videos here which are guaranteed to stick around, which is nice!

Here is the tweet in question:

また、本日はさらに、公式「αテスト報告動画コンテンツ」作成のため、どこかで撮影が行われますっ!皆さんとのパーティープレイの模様などを撮影させていただきますので、いつも通りやさしーくしてあげてくださいっ。この模様は、後日公式チャンネルなどで公開される予定です!#PSO2

And yes, that is a singing Rappy. More specifically I believe it is a singing “Rapico“, which was some kind of promotional mascot for the Phantasy Star Portable games.

As of writing this post, there are now only 2 hours remaining for the current alpha test. Still no videos of the Volcano Cave area or of the Vol Dragon, but given some of the fun pics that have been leaked there may be good reasons for this. A screenshot of the Vol-Dragon  has been leaked however.

Yeah, those environment textures are very low-res. A common theme in this game so far, which is odd given that the textures on characters and enemies look fine. Perhaps they’re not the textures that will make it into the final game. No idea what’s up with the random lava pool in the top left of the minimap, however. The Vol Dragon doesn’t seem to be in an arena, either, which again could just turn out to be something unique to the alpha test period.