Fun Points! And Not So Fun Points.

Shougai posted some interviews from Dengeki which Ricardo translated the main points of here. The interview concerns itself with various cash shop functions as well as what to expect at the start of the game on release. Also yes, the FUN system was announced.

FUN POINTS!

The fun point system is kind of a reward mechanism for interacting with other players. You’ll get points for example by giving other players a “Good Job!” appraisal, the receiver will also get points. You send it by clicking on another player and selecting the appropriate menu item.

CLICK TO SPREAD FUN

So what’s stopping you from spamming “Good Job” appraisals to your heart’s content? Well there is actually an upper limit to the amount of Fun Points you can acquire per day.

You can also receive Fun Points by inviting a partner friend to your party. A partner friend is just your friend as an NPC. So, yes, you can receive points for NOT playing with other people too! Incidentally the person whose character you invited will also receive points.

Other actions that can net you points include:

  • Logging in
  • Logging in a lot (on consecutive days)
  • Game Ranking Rewards
  • Buying Arks Cash (FUN!)
Your reward for FUN

So what do you do with all these Fun Points once you’ve acquired them? Well you can spend them on a lottery, the “Fun Scratch”. Like the Arks Cash lotteries, you will get a randomly selected item. Among the prizes are things like room decorations and music disks (for your room’s jukebox). Seems rather cruel that two of the prizes belong to a function that players don’t actually have any access to without paying, doesn’t it? Well don’t worry, Sega has your back! You can also win a 3-day pass to your room, so for a short while you get to enjoy the other prizes you won. Aren’t they kind?

Other prizes include:

  • Tickets for accessories and hairstyles
  • Special devices for Mags
  • Tickets for extra lobby actions
  • Limited-time effect items (inferior to their Arks Cash counterparts)
  • Boost items (again inferior to their Arks Cash counterparts)
  • Grinders and Synthesizers

It really just seems like Fun Points are just there to act as an incentive to log in frequently and interact with other players. As well as it seems, rather sadly, as a mechanism to tease people with what they could be getting from the cash shop. Speaking of which..

Cash Shop

Are you having FUN yet?

So you recall from before that you’d have to pay for room access? Well it turns out it’s a rental fee afterall. You pay for 30 days of room access at a time. While not unexpected, the extent of the cash shop is starting to leave a bad taste for me.

Note: Information that this section concerns itself with is still surfacing. There’s still a lot that either isn’t known or is vague, so this section may change a lot.

Consider that you need to pay for:

  • the right to trade
  • the right to sell items in your shop
  • the right to communicate in certain ways
  • access to extra talent builds
  • access to clothing outside of the defaults (unless they’re tradeable)
  • and on a lesser note access to certain appearance editing options

Now I’m not really talking about the lotteries or the consumption items because none of them are pay to win so none of them really rub me the wrong way. None of these items are pay to win either, really. But I’m not sure that the system we seem to be being presented with is actually much more acceptable than a pay-to-win system.

Take for example the talent builds item. What if that’s the only way to re-do your talents? Suddenly a single mistake becomes potentially expensive. The combination of not being able to trade, use your room, sell items in your shop or even talk in certain channels without paying is also a pretty ugly combination, particularly as they’re all separate items. What if those are also rentals? How much is it going to work out to, per month? It could well be more expensive than a PSU subscription currently, which unlocks similar features in that game. They did of course mention earlier that there may be packs in which you can buy multiple system items for cheaper than the total of their individual prices.

Is PSO2 just going to turn out to be a freemium game with an obfuscated subscription plan in disguise as a free to play? Now naturally we don’t know all the details. Maybe only access to the room will turn out to be rental, maybe other services will be a one-time payment. Maybe there’ll be a function somewhere to reset your talents with Meseta. In general I still don’t like the direction the cash shop is going in. A free-to-play game without pay-to-win is no good if too many vital features of the game are locked behind the cash shop.

Update: So there’s a bundle package you can buy which includes all the rental features and a few extras. It’s called the Premium Pack. So, yes, this is a freemium game in disguise afterall. Again, the only truly confirmed feature that is rental is access to rooms. There’s been no official word on trading, selling, or communication features. There’s also no elaboration on what those “extras” even are.

Initial State of the Game

A part of the Dengeki interview concerned itself with the initial launch content for the game. To summarise:

  • The level cap will be 40
  • Missions will come with a hard difficulty that players can select (There will be higher difficulties later)
  • There will be 3 planets initially

So sounds like they’re gonna give PSO2 a similar kid of drip-drip content feed that we had for PSU. Ultimately it depends on what they’re actually releasing per update as to whether this is a bad thing or not.  Naturally I imagine that’s going to vary, but players have demonstrated their lack of patience with this kind of thing before. I couldn’t blame them, but back then they were also paying a subscription fee. lv40 also seems like a worryingly low level cap, but if there’s enough to do at cap then it might not be so bad.

Another thing mentioned was the intention to include larger bosses for 12man multi-parties. Raid bosses! Or at the very least bosses with the scale setting changed. We’ll see when any information is released about that I suppose, I’m at least liking that they seem to be considering content just for larger parties to do.

[Sources: Shougai PSO, Bumped, PSBlog]

Closed Beta Test Schedule Announced

A schedule for the Closed Beta test period has been announced, as well as a website for the test has been opened up.

The testing period will be:

  •  19th April 16:00 JST – 28th April 23:00JST

So beginning next Thursday! Emails have been sent out, but like last time they’re being sent out in waves so don’t panic if you haven’t gotten one yet. Incidentally you also cannot sign into the closed beta site just yet if you haven’t gotten an email. This also doesn’t mean you didn’t get in.

Those who can log in can grab the client downloader and begin downloading the client now.

 

Character Creation Demo

If you’re unaware, then the character creation demo has in fact been released. You can download it here, with no need to have signed up for the beta test or have been in previous tests. It’s essentially an edited version of the actual client, complete with tidbits of data that may or may not be discussed in a future post.

click the biggest button to begin! The button directly below that is settings.
The general flow when changing any setting. This will save any changes you made. The right-most button in the first screen will restore all default settings.

Windows XP Users- IMPORTANT INFO

The character creation demo installer may crash when you attempt to run it. There are rumors that the creator will install and run if you have at least Service Pack 3, but I cannot confirm this. Let me know if this is in fact the case.

So How Do I Make Characters?

After starting the demo you’ll be presented with the following menu:

Once again, click the big button to begin!

Once you’re past that, select the 2nd option on the title screen to begin making your freaks. You can find plenty of information in a mini-guide written my Ricardo here, but I will at least give you a summary on this blog.

First thing you’ll have to do is pick your race/gender combo. Examples will be presented to you as you hover over an option. Next you’ll be selecting a class, although this step is actually completely unimportant in this demo. It won’t affect the creation process and your save data is limited to race/gender, not class.

Speaking of saving, your character data will be stored in \Documents\SEGA\PHANTASYSTARONLINE2. The filename extension matches the race and gender of the character as so:

  • .mhp – Male Human
  • .fhp – Female Human
  • .mnp – Male Newman
  • .fnp – Female Newman
  • .mcp – Male Casts
  • .fcp – Female Casts

These files will be useable at least in the upcoming closed beta tests. Beyond that, I have no idea, but it would be pretty awesome if we could use the data in the release version as well.

Argh! I Accidentally Clicked Random!

Beware of the random button, highlighted in this image.

This is the most common issue, because it is incredibly easy to hit the random button without meaning to. However, nothing is lost! Just click on the undo button at the bottom of the window. This is good to know for any changes in the more fiddly areas of the character creator you may not be happy with.

This is what the undo button looks like. If I were you I'd get acquainted with it.

Is There An NDA?

No, but for some reason Sega still wants you to leave copyright notices in-tact on your screenshots and put copyright notices on your videos as well. Oh, didn’t you know? You work for Sega and are thus obliged to help them advertise their product. It’s always been a responsibility of a consumer to tell other potential consumers that the product they’re showing off is a work in progress and is copyrighted.

I’m not happy at all that Sega decided to give the software out and then claim ownership of all screenshots and videos, as if it were a closed test of some kind. I do not think people should have to do it, but you do jeopardise your chances of getting into the beta if you don’t.

So although I disagree with the necessity of it, here’s their copyright notice:

「画像は『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』キャラクタークリエイト体O版において撮影された実機画像です。」

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

They want you to post this on any page you post images to. Additionally you’re not allowed to edit your videos in any way beyond adding the copyright notice, so yes it’s the same agreement as in the 2nd alpha tests. You also need to add the following to your video description:

「『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』キャラクタークリエイト体験版において撮影された実機動画です。」

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

Benchmark Scores

I gotta say the scoring system seems a little tougher than I’d have thought. A score in the 5000 range is still essentially what you should aim for, for the smoothest experience possible, but honestly the benchmark seems to suggest that you only really need a score of 400 at least for the game to be playable. This isn’t the “everything looks horrible” kind of playable, the game will still look nice and run at about 30-50fps.

Your character wanders through the forest all Abbey Road with other default characters.

Incidentally if you want to see your character prancing about in the bench-test you will need to complete character creation and then give them a name. This will also create a save file, incidentally. Once you do that, your character will appear in the test, but only while you’re running the program. If you close it you will need to run a character through the creation process again in order for them to show up (loading them is not enough).

Criticisms

Before I start, this is a great character creator. MMOs, despite allowing you to make your own characters, have typically never really granted players all that much freedom in how they look. Not that there aren’t some insanely complex creation systems out there, but there’s few of them. Regardless, there are some issues with it.

For one thing the sliders themselves can be insanely sensitive. In particular the face shape slider can be very tricky to adjust without dramatically changing the shape of the face.

The colour choice for non-casts is still very limited on the outfits, severely limiting what you can do with them at least in the creator. I imagine the parts of outfits that you currently cannot change may have different colours as different versions of the same outfit, kind of like we have in PSU. However we’ve not seen anything to suggest this may be the case. If it isn’t or if the colour customisation ability of non-casts isn’t expanded then this will always feel like an extremely limited part of character customisation in PSO2, which would be a shame given how much the rest of it offers.

I do wonder if they’re ever going to limit what accessories you can put on your character, because as it is now you can wear 3 hats simultaneously, or 3 pairs of glasses. The accessory system is a far cry better than the system we had in PSU, of course, where accessories were bound to hairdos.

Regarding accessories, there seems to be nothing stopping players from using conflicting hairstyles with them. In fact the newest addition to the selection of hats, the RAnewm cowboy hat, is possibly the worst offender. Nearly every single male hairdo clips with the hat, severely limiting the options available for players. Outfits and outfit parts clipping through hairstyles is an issue with other combinations as well.

Looks like they implemented full-screen mode properly. A good thing, you may think, but there’s a significant downside to them no longer offering a fake full screen option. For one thing you can now no longer switch between windows in full screen mode without causing the game to crash. This has been an issue since PSO:BB, making full screen mode an undesirable option for anyone who wishes to do other things while playing.

Character Gallery

Well that’s enough criticizing! To finish this post off let’s have a gallery of character creator results.

Part 2 of the Closed Beta Test Features

Sakai updated the official blog today with further details on the closed beta.

This time he’s focusing largely on the story elements of the game, which were entirely absent in the alpha tests. Although I seem to recall Sakai saying before that in the alpha we would see a prologue movie before getting to create our characters. This of course never materialised during the actual tests, but it will apparently be present in this test however.

So where does adventure begin for the young Arkstards? Well the first planet you will visit will unsurprisingly be Naberius, in particular in the forest area.


Characters

The first person your newbie Arks will meet will be Alfin, who is clearly a female newman with a flat chest.

After meeting your training buddy you’ll be sent of to Naberius where you’ll start your adventures. You will be having to get rid of the Darkers, while also killing everything else that breathes.

You and Alfin are mere noobs in the ranks of the Arks. More senior members are introduced as well, namely Echo and Zeno. Voiced by Yōko Hikasa and Ryōhei Kimura, respectively.

All my friends are fake. :(

Assuming you meet the requirements, you will also be able to aquire a story NPC’s Arks Card and invite them to your party any time you wish.  This is of course, precisely the same as in PSU. I would advise for the sake of your reputation that you don’t attempt to strike up conversations with your NPCs..

And then there’s the mysterious Zion. She’s mysterious, you know. She mysteriously hands you the matter board which itself is mysterious. She also mysteriously sounds like a man.


So What is the Matter Board?

What is board? No matter. What is matter? Never board. HEHEHEHEHEHEHHEH

The matter board seems to be the mechanism to progress the story with. Each “node” on the matter board has a set of requirements that the player must satisfy in order to unlock. These conditions can vary from aquiring certain items to interacting with specific NPCs.

You can enjoy the entire story free of charge, however it won’t be all be out on release. The story will be released in parts, much like it was for PSU. Hopefully not too drip-fed, but not unexpected.


Tutorial

A tutorial mode will be included to help explain to new players what’s what. An NPC by the name of Hilde will walk your sorry newbie ass through the basics of the game. There’s really not a lot else to say about this, if you’ve played video games in the last 10 years you’ll know what a tutorial is.

Client Orders

Yes this is a thing that was introduced in Phantasy Star Portable 2. Essentially NPCs would give you a task of some kind, that largely resembles a generic quest in other MMOs. So NPCs might ask you to go kill 10 of a specific monster, or collect certain items for them. Something a bit extra to do while exterminating all life on each world.


That’s all!

Seems they’re going full steam ahead with the intent to drip feed content over time. I hope they’re careful about it, because it was something that definitely soured people’s opinions on Phantasy Star Universe. I’d say they should be fine as long as we have a decent amount of content to start off with on launch, however given the time frame before release (early summer) and how much of it seems complete at the moment I don’t there is going to be a whole lot. I rather hope I’m wrong, because it was a part of the reason the launch of PSU was such a disaster.

Seems there might not be any future posts about the closed beta features now. The rest we’re gonna have to wait til we get our own hands on them. If you haven’t registered for the Closed Beta Tests then you still have 12 days to do so.

Speaking of which, the character creation demo is scheduled for release tonight, somewhere in the region of 5 to 11 hours from me publishing this post. Or so they say.. Scratch that, Bonkohara tweeted to say that the creator will not be released tonight afterall. Tonight of course being Japan’s tonight, so for others in the world there is a chance that it will end up releasing some time during the night still. Later than expected!

Closed Beta Features

Sakai just keeps on posting! Today’s update is some details about the upcoming closed beta tests. It’s also just part 1 of said details so assuredly there’s more to come.

First off a high-quality video of the beta features:


There is some stuff to talk about in the video that doesn’t get mentioned in the blog, but more on that in another post.


SPECIAL WEAPONs Are Back
So yes, Tekkers are also back. Their purpose this time would appear to be a little different, however. For one thing SPECIAL WEAPONs are the exception this time, not the rule. This means that rare items will still drop with no need for the item to be identified by a Tekker. Not only that, but non-rare weapons also have a chance of dropping as a SPECIAL WEAPON.

Notice how they changed the rarity stars from a gradient to block colours that change every 3 stars. This is much easier to read.

Tekking an unidentified weapon will allow you to pick an element and one special effect for it. The weapon will also be granted an additional random effect. This is unlike before in PSO, where all a tekker could do is randomly influence the strengths of a weapon’s attributes and pre-set special abilities.

What’s pleasing about this to me is it would seem that finding a special weapon is now an opportunity the player has a degree of control over, rather than something you have to do for every rare item you find like in PSO.


Makeover Shop

As you might imagine, you’re able to change your face, hair, accessories as well as other aspects of your character. However, some features will be using Arks Cash.

I imagine it’ll be the more extreme makeover options, such as body proportions that will fall under Arks Cash if it’s anything like PSU.


The Costume Shop

Rather self-explanatory, here is where you can buy clothes and parts for meseta. You won’t find the cash-shop outfits here. You can preview the outfits from the shop, much like you could in PSU.

On the subject of outfits, unlike PSU you can actually change your clothes on the fly. There is no longer any need to go to a changing room of any kind.


Partner Cards are now Arks Cards

Shocking. Same as previous incarnations of partner cards, you can write some blurb text on it. What is new is you can also put a Symbol-Art on your card. It’s like a little forum signature.


Partner Friend

If you have friends and they grant you permission, you can invite their characters as NPCs in your parties. This is a feature which was implemented in Phantasy Star Portable 2: Infinity and was a feature I immensely enjoyed. Of course, it was cool on a portable platform as you couldn’t be online all the time with it, but it will still be useful to fill out parties with if your friends aren’t online at the time.

These NPC’d versions of your friends will also spout any auto-words which were set to them.

In Phantasy Star Portable 2: Infinity, you could also invite your own characters as NPCs, so you could plow through missions with a team of your alts. There has been no mention of whether or not we can do this in PSO2 so far.


Symbol Art

Your symbols can have up to 200 different objects in one picture, from a selection of over 300 different shapes. You can also assign a sound effect to them, as you could in PSO. Symbol art can also be used on your personal Arks Card and to create your team flag. I imagine the mouse integration into the UI will make the creation of Symbol Art much less fiddly than before as well.

I wasn’t around to play with symbol-chat in PSO so I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty with this, especially if I can create cartoony versions of my characters in it.


Teams

Teams are officially back! Confirming what was discovered before in datamining efforts (although back then it was simply labelled “guilds”). Teams are a concept from PSOBB and are for all intents and purposes, guilds.

Your character will need to be at least level 10 to create a team. You do so through the Team Counter, where you can also do other things such as specify a web site for your team. Joining a team will display the team flag above you character’s head. You can also see the team name and member rank. There will be team chat.

There are two team ranks visible in this picture. Namely, "Team Master" and "Visitor".

Team functionality will be included in the upcoming test.


Title Counter

If you’ve played PSP2 or PSU after the supplemental content update, then this is pretty much the same thing. Titles are just achievements, so they’re unlocked by performing a various range of tasks from the banal to the grindy. Like before, unlocking titles will reward you with various items. Unlike PSU, however, you can also display titles above your head, which is something you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played other MMOs.


The Medical Counter

I hope you know what's in that cup you're gulping down...

So remember when I said before you’d need to use the medical counter to heal up in lobbies? Yeah I was wrong. The medical counter will instead sell you various substances to grant your character temporary effects during a mission. Things like, decreased Power-Point usage (PSO2’s mana), increased attack power, increased drop rates (luck virus?) and others.

Mind, there’s something rather sinister if the effect is completely random like it was in PSP2. Pay some money and the nurse will give you a random drug to ingest? What could possibly go wrong?

Items in the medical counter will only cost you meseta, not Arks Cash.


Rooms

The number of decorations as well as the types has been increased. This includes things like shelves and putting objects onto other objects.

Regarding Arks Cash and rooms: You will have to pay Arks Cash to access your own room, but you can freely go to other people’s rooms.


Towards The Future

Well this was just part 1 of details, according to Sakai, so there is more information to come.

[Sources: PSBlog and PSO-World]

Character Creator Demo & Benchmark Details

So, Sakai promised details about the character creation demo and the benchmarking test and he delivered!

Even provided us with a trailer of the demo..


The Download

The creator and bench test will be a 450MB download. Just unzip it and click on the cute Rappy to run it. He didn’t say exactly where it would be made available.

After you press enter on the title screen, a demo plays. A demo within the demo. Demoception.

The Character Creator

To summarise the major points:

  • The creator works entirely offline
  • The creation options will be the same as are present in the closed beta tests
  • You can save characters created with the demo
  • You can use saved characters in the closed beta
  • The demo has print-screen functionality but it only saves as JPG (full game supports PNG and BMP)
  • There is no non-disclosure agreement, so share the shots to your heart’s content
  • The creator does not include character voices or the choice between running/hovering for Casts.
  •  The data for saved characters is stored in MY DOCUMENTS\SEGA\PHANTASYSTARONLINE2.
  • You cannot load a character that is a different race/sex/class combo than the character you are currently editing.

This demo will be available to everyone on April 5th, not just those who applied to the tests.

The new "creator data" menus, allowing you save and load characters.

I’m actually very happy that they’ve gone and done something like this, it’s not at all what I expected from them. Can’t wait to get my hands on it, as I didn’t really get to play with the creator much during the 2nd Alpha. This was mostly because the time period for the tests was so limited I felt pressured to get into the game as quickly as possible. Also, people, make those freaks! I want to see monstrosities!


Benchmark

The benchmark itself will be running a simulation of the game of sorts. You’ll see characters wandering about the new city area, with your own character replacing the default HUmar if you created one. At the end, you’ll be given a score based on how well your computer did. Want to boast about your HOOGE NUMBERS? Well you better know what those numbers mean! Well, aside that bigger is better.

Yes, it IS a competition. Why would you think otherwise?
  • 0-2000 – Oh dear, your computer is struggling a bit. You may want to hide that inadequate number in shame. Lower your in-game settings to help give you a smoother experience
  • 2000-5000 – Hey, you’re good enough for the game! Are you good enough for the judgemental eyes of the internet? Dare you brave it and find out? If you’re in the lower region of this score range you may want to lower some settings still.
  • 5000-99998 – Your PC is more than good enough to run PSO2, but more importantly it’s time to slam that e-cock on the forums and watch them quake.
  • 99999 – Well look at you.

Towards the Future

More news tomorrow, it would seem! Sakai will be discussing details of new features in the upcoming closed beta tests. That really is it, no more detail than that.

[Sources: PSBlog and Bumped]

The Cash Shop: Initial Details

The official PSO2 blog updated just recently with information concerning the cash shop, as well as a number of clarifications regarding the closed beta.

Also included in the post is a high-quality release of a new trailer that was shown during the 2nd Media Briefing.


Player Level Cap

The player level cap in the closed beta tests will not be lv30 after all. It’s now 20 again. This, I have to say, it a little disappointing. I was hoping to see how the classes would grow in those 10 levels instead of having access to the same set of skills as I had before. Am also rather hoping that the city area won’t be too difficult now, assuming it’s balanced for higher level players.

This is incidentally the only change. Everything else is still in-tact, which is good to know.


Arks Cash Details

First of, some of the key intentions regarding ths shop:

  • There will not be direct selling of items in any form
  • You will not be able to buy powerful items through the cash shop
  • There will not be a special level cap for those who pay

This, rather doesn’t rule out the possibility of indirectly selling items of course, but you won’t be able to just buy your way to the top gear either. The types of items that Sakai says that players should expect to see in the player shops are:

  • System things
    • Access to rooms – Update: It would this actually means access to more features in your rooms. You can go to your room without paying, apparently.Update Update: You can go to other people’s rooms without paying, but you need to pay to access your own.
    • Access to trade functions
    • Access to selling items in shops
    • Skill tree expansion (Not buying new skills, you’re buying essentially more builds as far as speculation seems to suggest)

These are more like add-ons for your account, so these are all one-time charges (updated information below). If you’re soured by this, remember that in the PSU free-to-play model you had to pay a subscription fee to do any of these things. Also remember that you’re not having to pay for the client this time (although PSU JP did drop the client fee eventually).
Incidentally, it seems some communication abilities may be locked until you buy some system items, which is apparently aimed at fighting bots, spammers, gold sellers and the other usual annoyances in MMOs. Of course, if subscriptions and client fees don’t keep them out (and they don’t), this certainly isn’t guaranteed to, but I don’t mind making life harder for them.
Update: Seems some of these system items will be timed, others will be permanent. There as no specifics as to what, however. That has the potential to be very bad news and I hope that Sega very carefully considers their options here.
I’m also hoping that they don’t intend on that skill tree extension item to be the only way to try out new builds, either. I want a means to reset my tree if I make a mistake.

  • Consumption Items
    • Scape Dolls
    • More powerful healing items
    • Other certain consumables

Scape dolls as a cash shop item? Oh dear. This will obviously impact soloers more than anything, as Moon Atomizers are purchaseable from NPCs (and will become dirt cheap by endgame) and Forces might get some form of resurrection skill at a later date. Remember however, that partying with randoms isn’t the handicap like it was in PSU. You’re not penalised for not getting the last hit in on enemies. You’re not missing out on drops as everyone only sees their own drops anyway, so by that logic playing with others is actually beneficial as monsters are dying more quickly, which means more rolls at obtaining items in less time.
Scape dolls were an item that I always felt impacted co-operation anyway. What is the point of helping team members back on their feet if they could instantly revive themselves as soon as they were incapacitated?

  • Efficiency, or Short-cut Items
    • Grind-rate Boosters
    • EXP boosters
    • Drop rate boosters

Standard cash-shop fare. I’ve already read reactionary posts getting upset about EXP and Drop-rate boosters. Would like to remind those people that said items were available in PSU even back when it had a subscription fee and client charge. No one gave a shit. Once again I’d also like to ask how exactly does it hinder you as a player? If another player is levelling up more quickly or is weilding better gear, it doesn’t impact your levelling rate. You are not competing with anyone in this game!

  • Character / Avatar stuff
    • Clothes, accessories and some hair styles
    • Some make-over options will be cash-shop

More usual cash shop stuff, really the more benign kind that no one really gets upset about seeing as it’s all vanity anyway.

There will be two lottery-style cash shop features, called “Arks Scratch”. The cheap version contains a larger variety of items including accessories, clothing and consumables. The more expensive one only contains clothing.

As a final note, many of the items acquired through the cash shop can be traded on the player market. Some can’t, but it seems all clothing is up for grabs at least.

So there you go, some actual information about the cash shop. It came in just after I criticised people’s concerns about the free-to-play system and it didn’t contradict anything I said. I see no pay-to-win in any of the items on offer, just the expected “pay to go a bit quicker” and “pay to dress up slightly differently”. Admittedly, some items may well give players who pay an easier time when soloing, but there’s little benefit to soloing in this game anyway.


Towards the Future

The very near future, at that! Sakai will be talking about the upcoming character creation demo due for release on the 5th of April.

The game’s release is still scheduled for some time early in the summer, but no specific date has been given yet. The smartphone version of the game is scheduled for release in the winter.

To finish off, a piece of artwork by Akikazu Mizuno.

[Sources: PSBlog, PSO-World, Bumped]

Road to Closed Beta – The Dengeki Talk

The live talk at Dengeki’s Niconico channel was broadcast yesterday. Reposting the most relevant section of the talk here, uploaded by Youtube user RemiusTheAwesome.

To summarise the video:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHH???
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHH!
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!
WAAAAAAAAH!

…Right, seriously…


The Arks Lobby

First of all, the new Arks lobby seems to be really big. It looks a lot nicer than the lobby we had for the alpha tests, so yeah I don’t think I’m going to be missing it anytime soon. The colours are vivid, the neons are bright and there are computer screens all over the freaking place.
I also like being able to see ships landing and taking off through the windows, it helps make the place feel more like it’s alive.

The central elevator!

It’s still split up functionally in much the same way as the old lobby, of course. You have the shopping and hangout area on one floor and the mission area on another. The two areas have fairly distinct visual feels to them. You travel between the two floors via a central elevator.


Partisans!

The partisan was demonstrated! She sure was twirling it. What’s the purpose of twirling? To charge the “Gears” gauge, duh! What’s the “Gears” gauge? Turns out it was that meter above the attack buttons on the UI that Hunters could see. Charging it would have various different effects, for example charging up the Gears gauge with a sword would allow you to use a sword’s charge attacks more quickly. Almost instantly with a full bar.


I never could figure out what the benefits to charging Gears for the Wired Lance was, but using a photon art would consume 1/3 of the bar (the gears gauge for Wired lance is split up into 3 segments rather than a whole bar as seen for swords).
Presumably, there will be some benefit to charging the gauge for Partisans, but I haven’t read anything that suggests Sakai or anyone in the video elaborated on that.
Similar to wired-lances, the partisan has a photon art that can grab onto an enemy and throw them about.


Launchers!

Launchers were demonstrated! Nothing much unexpected, you fire projectiles that blow things up. What is new however is you can actually jump onto your launcher and ride it! It carries you some considerable distance as well!

You ever take it off any sweet jumps?

Talisissieeisiess

Talis… Talises… Cards were demonstrated! The Talis weapon can be thrown to remotely cast offensive techs. In the video, the tech used to demonstrate this was Gifoie, an as of yet unreleased tech. Gifoie is an area-of-effect tech, so to be able to cast it remotely is going to be a really useful thing for techers to have.

What could prove a more interesting mechanic yet is throwing the Talis in different ways can be beneficial to different techs. While throwing a Talis into a pile of enemies is great for a tech like Gifoie, it’s not very effective for Gizonde, which has a greater area of effect the greater the height it is cast from. For Gizonde, you can just throw the card into the air. You’ll have to forgive me for the quality of these shots are they’re taken from the stream.

First, throw the Talis high into the air above your enemies. You can do this by switching to TPS mode.
Once it's up there, cast Gizonde! The area of effect is pretty wide when cast from that height

Photon Blasts
Photon blasts were demonstrated! As you see in the video, they’re still very short lived bursty-type attacks. In this case, the unicorn like thing will charge in a line through enemies, dealing a lot of damage in its wake.

The photon unicorn charges through your enemies, blinding you in the process

But mags can do more than blasting! They can now support you actively as well. How they support you depends on how you raised them (what items you shoved into their.. um.. whatever they eat with). Striking mags can headbutt your enemies, ranged mags will shoot, tech mags will fire techs. You can also adjust their active behaviours as well as I believe what actions they perform on their own accord or what they perform when triggered (this isn’t necessarily a manual trigger, it could be say when a boss enemy is encountered).

So yes, you can feed your mags. They can be fed unwanted weapons and armor this time, so more like Phantasy Star Zero than PSO.


Other bits

There was no date announced for the beta! That information will be presented during the 2nd Media Briefing (this wasn’t a part of it). Said media briefing should be coming our way towards the end of this month, so be patient! The info is coming!

It’s believed that Sakai briefly mentioned the possibility of a Tekker being in the shopping area off the Arks lobby. If you don’t know what a Tekker is, in PSO it was a NPC you would take unidentified weapons to be identified. Of course, it’s not known at all what purpose they may serve in PSO2, if they even appear.

The FOneweal seems to have some new techs on her bar. Shifta on 7, Deband on 8 (or Agtal and Defbal) and what could be Ryuker on 0. Does the possible presence of Ryuker indicate that non-forces will be able to cast techs? At this point there’s nothing but pure guesswork to go on.

[Sources: Bumped, PSO-World, Remius, PSO2 official site for screenshots]

The Road to the Closed Beta – Player Feedback

Sakai updated the official PSO2 blog today with a long list of responses to player feedback and suggestions. You can find a complete list here on Bumped. I will be using this post to share my thoughts on their responses and what their implications may be.

Before that, however!


Closed Beta Information!

The closed beta still doesn’t have a date, but we should be getting one by the end of this month. Sakai is going to be doing something like the media briefing closer to then, which will be revealing more details about the tests themselves as well as a schedule.

The FOmarl, going all Gambit on us. The Talis is one of the new weapon types that will be present in the upcoming closed beta test.

The limit for the closed beta is going to be set to 100,000 players. 40,245 players from the 2nd alpha test automatically qualified by raising their characters to at least level 10. This of course obviously means that there will be some way for other players to sign up, but there are no details at this time. Not only that, but there will be plenty of slots so if you want to get in for the test your odds are pretty good!

New content set to be available during the tests are the new weapon types, mags and the city area, as well as the renovated Arks lobby.


Responses to Player Feedback

  • Lag

During updates in Alpha Test 2, we improved the lag to some extent but it’s completely difficult to have no lag whatsoever. We will continue to make adjustments so you can play comfortably.

Seems they’re genuinely struggling with this one. Somewhat worrisome given how the launch population is likely to dwarf the testing population and the servers were struggling enough under that load.

  • Multi Party Areas

Since it was hard to understand the way you set up a multiparty quest, people generally didn’t cross paths with other parties. We’ll review this area and make it easier for you to meet them

Yeah, good, because it took us absolutely ages to figure out how to actually make a multi-party party. Of course it doesn’t help that most of us didn’t understand Japanese, regardless it definitely wasn’t all that intuitive. You had to basically create your party, then start a mission, then join another party doing the same mission (joining as party) and then you might just meet up with the other players in the multi-party block when you get there. Incidentally, you’ have to fight your way through a single-party area first! Among the importers I was with, we didn’t figure this out until the last hour or two of the final test period, which sucked.

  • Photon Sensitive Effect Burst

We’ll adjust the rate and duration a PSE Burst occurs so that it does not ruin the balance of the game.

Having gotten to see PSEs in action, where they end up breaking seems to be with regard spawns. A PSE will cause new monsters to spawn during the duration of the burst, but often these monsters will spawn in the exact same place. To keep a PSE burst going, you need to kill a certain number of monsters before you run out of time. This is of course much easier to do when the enemies are spawning on the same spot!

The aftermath of a typical PSE Chain..

This is made even worse when you add in a multi party situation where you can have up to 12 players carving away at this spot, practically killing all monsters that spawn instantly. I think Sakai might want to take this issue particularly seriously, given that due to the fact that drop rates can be heightened during a PSE burst and everyone is getting their own drops, a multi party could pretty much wreck the economy. This is of course rather assuming that the drop rates weren’t already raised for the purposes of testing.

  • Boss Drops

Drops don’t come directly from the boss enemies, a container will appear and after breaking it you’ll get the boss drops.

So yet another feature from Phantasy Star Zero will be making it into PSO2! I’ll be honest I wouldn’t have minded if bosses didn’t have a number of drops, but it’s nice to have that extra bit of reward for killing them I guess. What I don’t want to see happening is a repeat of PSU, however, where the only worthwhile drops came from bosses.

  • Breaking up enemies

I want it to hold more significance when you destroy a certain part of the body on an enemy.

Only for boss enemies, if you destroy a part of the body, you’ll get additional drops.

For regular enemies I guess this is fair enough. Many players who will have fought the larger dragon-kin on planet Amduscia may not have even noticed that you can break off their horns. I figured it had a tactical use, but the monsters were too low-level, thus dying too quickly, for any tactics to matter.

Sure you could break of a Nordillan's horn, but who cares!
  • DOO-DOO DOOO DOOO

When you return to the camp ship area, the quest clear music should stop and change to the normal BGM.

Ahahahah, yes. Seriously, yes.

  • Rare Item Trolling

Grinders and Synthesizers and consumption items less than 6 stars will now be shown as regular drops.

Could this finally be the end of getting excited over a red box, only to find out it’s a Photon Drop? Probably not, just that fewer items will be getting players’ hopes up than before. It’s made worse by the fact that a jingle is played when rare items drop, really.

Of course, items having categorised drop icons rather helps to limit the potential of rare-trolling in PSO2. Can you guess what this item is?
  • Bind On Equip

I want to make sure I don’t sell very rare items in shops and such.

We’ll make it so that if you equipped it once you won’t be able to sell a rare item in shops or trades.

This genuinely is surprising. I would never have guessed that PSO2 would be getting bind-on-equip functionality added to it. Will this even work in a game like PSO2?

Technically speaking, PSU and PSO both had bind-on-pickup items, though PSU featured them more prominently. In a game where items are doled out randomly to players, this could be infuriating as a friend could end up assigned a weapon you really need and they can’t use. Too bad neither of you can do anything about it!

  • Fake Full Screen

The game doesn’t really play in full screen mode. I’d like you guys to add a REAL full screen mode.

Due to some circumstances we had to do a fake full screen mode in the alpha test 2. but now we’ll change it so you can actually play in full screen.

While this is fair enough, I really hope they don’t outright remove “fake full-screen”. It was just so incredibly convenient to be able to play in full screen and be able to alt-tab without the client exploding. This has been a problem that’s plagued all online Phantasy Stars so far.

  • Photon Art Discs

I want the icons of learned PA disks in the Item Pack and Storage greyed out

We’ll do so.

Man, what? I really liked having to use every single disc in my inventory just to find out if my character had learned it already or not. Yeah this is such a rudimentary feature it’s a little silly that it had to be suggested to them.

  • Character Creation

We’ll add a function where you can save character creation data to the PC.

With a character creation system as complicated as PSO2’s is, this will be a very handy feature to have. Especially for those players who get really into making sure every detail of their character is as good as it can be. I don’t really think I’m one of those..

  • IT’S OVER!

That’s all the comments I felt were worth sharing thoughts on. To finish this post, there are some things I’m a little disappointed didn’t get mentioned. Things like colour choice for non-casts in character creation, class balancing, the difficulty of certain interrupt events. I know a couple of those things got mentioned on the forums, at least, so I’m hoping some of these things are at least being thought about. Guess we’ll see. It is of course encouraging that Sega are continuing to take the time to address tester feedback!