2012, PSO2 and You

lisa_npc_of_the_yearNah no one cares about you this time either, sorry.

2012 was the release year of PSO2, but it was also the year in which the testing phases began in earnest. This was the year that we got to experience the game for the first time. As such, many players have seen the game grow in a number of visible ways and fans close to the series have had the pleasure (as well as some discomfort) of seeing this game evolve. Some areas of the game grew faster than others and some parts disappointingly didn’t grow much at all.

This post, much like the equivalent for 2011 will take a look at this past year’s happenings with PSO2. Much like last year this post is also huge. As such, this time I’m actually going to use one of those “more” tags so you’re not scrolling forever to get past it on the main feed, so let’s just place that here.

Continue reading “2012, PSO2 and You”

PSO2 News Tidbits

Pre-Open Beta Registration News

The official site has been updated, presenting a new registration campaign for the pre-OBT.

Participants of the previous tests will be receiving a Rappy Mini Doll room decoration, as well as those who registered for the pre-OBT before the 31st of May. The decoration itself won’t be distributed until the OBT itself, however. You can also get it if you at least registered for the email magazine. There is no level requirement mentioned.

I think I’d rather have the FOnewearl as a room decoration, myself.

The pre-OBT registration campaign ends on the 20th of June. This is not a release date, but it is square in the region of what many would consider to be “late June”. You will no longer qualify for the Rappy room decoration if you register after this date.

I’m not certain if this is separate to the prize for participating in the pre-OBT, expect this bit to be edited later at things become more concrete.

If you haven’t registered, you can find a guide to the process on this site here. If you don’t need a guide because you can read JP, then you can go straight to the registration site here.

We still don’t actually have a slated date for the test, yet, but it is still scheduled to take place in late June.

Sega sure likes rewarding us with room decorations, don’t they? Participants of the 2nd Alpha gained the Weapon Hologram room decoration and participants of the CBT gained a potential total of 1000 FUN points (which mostly reward room decorations). It’s like they want us to spend money on premium features or something. Ok yeah, you can get room access ticket from the FUN Gacha as well, so even if you never spend a penny you can play with your room from time to time anyway.


PSO2 Guidebook

A guide for the game is being released, spotted on Enterbrain’s website by G-heaven. . The book will be released on the 27th of July and comes with a DVD-Rom as well as something called an “ID Envelope”. Like previous guides for Phantasy Star games it’s pretty much guaranteed to be useless after a very short while, but perhaps it will better explain some of the game’s mechanics at least. The contents of the ID Envelope are unknown.


NicoNico Adverts

NicoNico adverts have been sighted. Not exactly stunning news itself, but it’s nice to see them advertising the game over there. The only one I caught was the RAcaseal one, there are apparently other variations out there.


Item Codes Usable in pre-OBT

According to a tweet from the official PSO2 twitter, Item codes will be useable in the preOBT. However as the preOBT data will be wiped, if they’re used there they will need to be re-entered to use them in the OBT onward. If the codes are used in the OBT, there’ll be no need to enter them again as the data will not be wiped.


Wallpaper

In a recent email, Sega distributed a wallpaper. No, it’s not a calendar. They seem to have stopped doing those. Have a low-effort Photoshop job instead. Bonkohara, I am disappointed.

[Sources: Gheaven, PSO2 Official Site, Sega ID email, Bumped]

CBT Report and OBT Announcement

So after a delay, the report was finally posted up. You can find the full report here, as well as the latest official blog entry here.


Pre-Open Beta Test

Sakai announced that there will be a pre-Open Beta held some time in late-June. Details are somewhat thin on that at the moment, aside that registrations will be opening for it tomorrow and that registering will permit you access to the Open Beta as well. People who participated in any previous tests should automatically qualify, but I’m not certain regarding people who registered for previous tests but didn’t get in..

Participants of the pre-Open Beta will be rewarded, but it isn’t specified how.

I wonder if pre-Open Beta character data will carry across? Update: Confirmed, the data from the pre-Open Beta will not carry through to the Open Beta.

So When is Open Beta?

If the pre-Open Beta goes well it’ll happen soon after it finishes.

So I guess they’re calling it pre-OBT instead of CBT2 as there’s no stated upper limit on the number of people they’ll let in. In any case, with a late-June date for that and the Open Beta possibly happening soon after, where does that put the possible release date? Depends on what they mean by “soon”, as well as the gap between OBT and release. Perhaps around early August at the earliest if I were to guess.


User Stats

  • CBT client was downloaded 147,000 times.
  • Total number of people who logged in at least once: 131,000.
    • This is 70% of the accepted testers.
  • The highest number of simultaneous connections was 23,500 on April 21st
  • The average number of logins per day was 63,000

The highest number of simultaneous users in the 2nd Alpha was 23,097, which means CBT outperformed there despite servers being up 24 hours rather than 7 (spreading the user base more thinly). A healthy selection of numbers overall.

Have a chart.

Blue is the maximum number of simultaneous connections for that day, where as red is the total number of players who logged in throughout the day.

To finish off this section:

  • Players created 228,000 characters
  • 76,000 users got a character to at least level 10
  • 38,000 users got a character to lv20.

Game Stats

The races, in order of popularity:

  • 38.5% of characters were Humans
  • 31.6% of characters were Newmans
  • 29.5% of characters were Casts

The genders, in order of popularity:.

Brace yourself for a surprise.

  • 71.2% of characters were female
  • 28.8% of characters were male

The men of PSO2’s universe are somewhat spoilt for choice..

So how does that work out for each race/gender combination?

In order of popularity:

  • 26.9% of characrers were female Newmans
  • 25.1% of characters were female Humans
  • 19.1% of characters were female Casts
  • 13.8% of characters were male Humans
  • 10.3% of characters were male Casts
  • 4.8% of characters were male Newmans

Unless the species can interbreed, Newmans are pretty much doomed it seems.

Classes in order of popularity:

  • 40.8% played as Hunters
  • 31.2% played as Rangers
  • 28.0% played as Forces.

Here is a graph breaking down classes and the levels that characters got to.

If I were to hazard a guess as to the lv1-5 anomaly with Forces there it’d be people trying the class and then getting bored of it quickly.


Player Feedback

Players sent in thousands of opinions and requests, sending in more bug reports than were sent in during the 2nd Alpha (owing to the larger playerbase I’d expect). 37,000 people filled in the feedback questionnaire.

1-5 Scores

Ricardo at Bumped translated the usual 5-rating feedback graph that comes with these reports. You can find it here, which was posted originally on his blog here.
Players were most displeased with Tekking overall and I couldn’t agree with them more. Tekking, in the state it was in the CBT, was nothing more than a waste of time and meseta. Special weapons really should just be limited to rare weapons and even then not be quite so common. It’s possible of course that the rates were jacked up during the beta so players would get plenty of opportunities to try Tekking, but I know I left countless weapons un-Tekked in my storage. For those who don’t know what Tekking is, it’s a similar concept to unidentified weapons in other games.
Aside that, the results were about as positive as they were for the 2nd Alpha. People seem to be largely satisfied with how PSO2 is shaping up.

Will you play PSO2?

The above chart is the feed back to whether they want to go on to actually play PSO2 when it releases.

  • 61.7% responded Yes, but I don’t know if I’ll use the cash shop
  • 21.6% responded Yes and I’ll use the cash shop
  • 10.1% responded Yes but I will not use the cash shop
  • 5.5% responded I don’t know
  • 1.1% responded No.

So we have 70.1% of the response indicating little interest in the cash shop vs 21.6% who expressed definite interest in it. I think that’s pretty good, as free to play games tend to be funded by the minority in any case as far as I’m aware.

Things players want to see in PSO2

This I was eager to see. Broken down by popularity:

  • 20.3% want more weapon categories
  • 11.1% want more PAs, skills and other ways to fight
  • 8.8% want more options in the character creator
  • 8.1% want more ways to play with more people
  • 7.1% want more map variations
  • 6.9% want improved character actions
  • 6.8% want more weapons in each category
  • 6.2% want more things to do besides combat
  • 6.1% want a better story and improved game world
  • 5.9% want a better chat system
  • 3.5% want improved enemies
  • 3.0% want pets, or something besides player stats that can be raised
  • 2.5% want PVP
  • 2.0% want better graphics
  • 1.7% want improvements to My Room functions

Agreeing with the top entry, certainly. This game needs more than 8 weapon categories on release, even though I understand that as you add more categories you increase the occurance of redundancy.
As for PVP, the number of people who want it has grown slightly since the 2nd Alpha (where 2.1% wanted PVP). Given how much of the combat is client-sided as well as numerous other stat-based issues I have no idea how PVP is meant to work in PSO2. Despite this, some players are very vocal about their wish for it. I wouldn’t mind if they added it, personally, I just can’t see it not being absolutely terrible.

I’m a little surprised that no mention of balancing issues came up, given how much more damage Rangers can pump out compared to any other class at the moment. This is mostly thanks to a combination of the Weak-Bullet skill and the Launcher weapon type, allowing players to inflict well over 1000 damage an attack (I’ve seen a screenshot with over 3000 damage for 1 attack). Maybe there are other gameplay factors I’m not taking into account though, I don’t know. Somewhat difficult to comment too much on game balance until sub-classes are added anyway I guess, assuming they’re going to be added.


Platforms

When asked which platforms they might play PSO2 on:

  • 61.9% responded that they will play only on PC.
  • 14.6% responded that they will play on both PC and Vita.
  • 11.2% responded what they will play on PC and Smartphone
  • 7.8% responded that they will play on all three.
  • The remainder specified “other”.

That’s all for now, however this post’s contents may well change as other information surfaces.

[Sources: PSBlog, Official CBT Site, PSO-World, Bumped]

More 2nd Briefing Information – Closed Beta 2?

4gamer posted up a few photos from the 2nd part of the presentation, which was not broadcast to the public.


New Miniboss: Tranmizer

A new enemy was revealed during the secretive presentation:

It has melee capability with something that looks like claws and I’m going to guess those rockets aren’t just for show. It spawns in an area that hasn’t really been revealed properly yet, but it is part of the newest planet, Lilipa.

As with other minibosses, you will end up fighting more than 1 at once if your party is over a certain size

Seems we’re going to have a fair selection of mini-bosses on release, assuming this underground content is going to be present. So far we have:

  • Rockbear – Naberius forest
  • Caterderan – Amduscia caves
  • De Malmoth (the emergency code has 0/2, minibosses spawn in pairs for groups of 4 players). – Naberius snowfields
  • Gwanada – Lilipa desert
  • Tranmizer – Lilipa unknown area (looks underground)

Of actual bosses, so far we have

  • Vol Dragon – Amduscia caves
  • Dark Ragne – Where-ever the fuck it pleases, but has an arena in Arks Ship – urban area.
  • Snow Panther/Banshee – Naberius snowfields.

Should note those are not the official area names outside of Forest and Desert. Datamining loosely implies there may be one more miniboss and boss


Another Closed Beta?

According to Bumped here, the staff are considering conducting another closed test. The purpose would apparently be to serve specifically as a stress test to ensure the stability issues during the first CBT have been fixed.

Now, this paragraph is pure speculation, but I don’t expect this 2nd CBT, if it happens, to last all that long. They do seem intent on making sure this game still comes out on schedule, after all, plus as they’re only interested in testing the servers under stress a shorter time window would potentially cause more people to log on in at once. I also expect that as they want as many people on as possible, that they’ll choose a weekend to do it. If the staff really feel like they could use another test, that’s perfectly fine. I’m sure people wouldn’t mind a more stable product and LET ME PLAY.

Rumour also has it that the data from the 2nd CBT, if it were to happen, would carry through to the Open Beta. Will have to wait on an official announcement about that to be sure. The data from the CBT will still definitely be wiped.


Weapons

Sakai and Kimura confirmed that double sabers and knuckles are weapons that will be added to the roster, as well as mentioning that more will be coming. In fact one of the NPCs in the story footage (namely, ゲッテムハルト) was in fact wielding knuckles.


I rather hope, given that weapon gears (a sort of charging ability that has various effects on Hunter weapons, depending on the weapon) now have to be unlocked through the skill tree, that free skill tree resets are handed out when they add said weapons.

Anyway so this is the weapon roster so far. Weapons that will be present on release are in bold. Weapons that are datamined but not confirmed weapons are in italics:

  • Sword
  • Wired Lance
  • Double Saber
  • Knuckles
  • Twin Daggers
  • Gunslash
  • Rifle
  • Launcher
  • Twin Machine Guns
  • Rod
  • Wand
  • Talis

[Sources: 4Gamer, Bumped, PSO-World]

2nd Fan Briefing Videos and Information

This post is gonna be mostly sharing videos captured from the 2nd Fan Briefing just earlier, as well as sharing a little of the information that was revealed.

Thanks to YouTube user XtremeStarfox, aka Vashyron, for uploading these videos.

New Weapons, Mags and Snowy Mountain

This video reveals a number of new weapons, many of which are creature themed. The tradition of monster parts being turned into weapons continues, then. It also shows off various new Mag forms.

The new snowy area of Naberius looks rather suspiciously like they just coloured the forest area white, at least in some areas. It’s not too nonsensical seeing as it’s the same planet but still on first impression comes across as quite lazy. Other areas of the snowy mountain seem different enough.

Two new bosses in the video as well, Mammoth (Malmus? De Malmus? Malmoth?) and Snow Panther. Both of whom, as you’d expect, reside in the new snowy area. Datamining suggests a non-snowy version of the panther exists, so perhaps the forest area will be getting a new miniboss as well. We shall see, I guess.

New Planet: Lilipa

The newest planet to be revealed is the desert world Lilipa. It’s crawling with mad machinery, being invaded by darkers (like everywhere else so far..) and is also inhabited by little rabbity Ewok type things.

Aside the robots that are clearly reskins of Dagans. I’m not really all that opposed to re-skinning as long as the behaviours of the reskins are different enough, which from what we’ve been shown appears to be the case.
We’ve also got the return of what look like Gilchics/Dubchics from PSO but re-imagined.
Also showcased is a new mini-boss, namely Gwanada. Gwanada actually first appeared in the benchmark, where it got shot in the face by a RAcast. It appears to be based on an antlion larva, going in particular by its large mandibles and its penchant for burying itself in the sand.

New Story Content Teasing

This video teases us with upcoming story content. Main thing I can really take away from it, given my lack of Japanese language skill, is that the native lizardmen (aka Dinians) of the volanic planet Amduscia can talk. Well we knew they could talk kind of, or at least they screamed when we killed them in the CBT!


Other Tidbits

  • The closed beta’s lag issues were apparently caused by a faulty network adapter. Fun stuff, but I guess it may mean they don’t have as much to fix as was thought, potentially.
  • The closed beta client was downloaded 147,000 times
  • The test had a total of 131,000 participants, a fair amount more than the 100,000 they were going for. Not bad!
  • There was an average of 61,000 logins per day during the tests. Again pretty darn good.
  • The most amount of simultaneous players at once was 23,500. For reference, the peak during the 2nd Alpha was 23,000. This is pretty good too, given that the CBT had relatively unlimited playing hours.
  • There’s a chance that there might be another test period before the OBT begins. In any case the Open Beta is apparently delayed due to player feedback, but they still want to aim for an early summer release. Good luck to them, I guess.
  • “Time Attack Quests” – Details are nonexistent as of now.
  • The Open Beta will be capped at lv30, as well as granting access to hard mode (lv20 requirement).

You can watch a complete recording of the 2nd Fan Briefing here, uploaded by YouTube user RemiusTheAwesome

Finally, you can find a selection of high-quality screenshots of the new content on 4gamer here and a bunch more on Gpara here.

[Sources: #egs IRC, Vashyron for videos, Bumped]

Closed Beta: Debriefing

The closed beta has ended. This post will serve to go over a few things to act as a sort of debriefing/recap as well as a reminder where the game may be going in the future.

Testers: Don’t Uninstall Your Clients!

In previous tests you were advised to, but this time you’re going to want to keep it. The client you have can allegedly be used in the upcoming open-beta test, according to Mike of PSO-World. It seems likely that this is after all the release version of the client we have installed, which is convenient and not too surprising given that the client installed in /PHANTASYSTARONLINE2/ this time (the alpha client installation directories had names specifically linking them to their tests). I’d expect them to roll out some patches before the open beta begins of course.

There is currently no announced time for the open beta.

The data from the closed beta is going to be wiped, but the data from the open beta will be carried across to release.

Survey!

Sega would like you to fill in a survey concerning the test. You can find the survey here and a translation of it here. You have until 4pm JST on the 7th of May to complete the form. Completion of the form is not mandatory.
The data gathered from this survey is almost certainly going to appear on the official site at some point in the future, as it did for the alpha tests.

Rewards!

Reminder of the rewards you may have earned during the test:

  • If you made it to lv10 you will receive a Weapon Hologram decoration for your room.
  • If you made it to lv20 you will receive a FUN 500 Ticket
  • If you made a character on Ship 06 and raised it to lv10 you will receive a FUN 500 Ticket.

So at most, you can begin the Open Beta with 1000 FUN Points and a free room decoration.

Importer Information

A number of you used a translation patch to make things easier and a whole truckload of kudos to a select few members of PSUmods who made it possible is due. However it should be known that there is no guarantee that such a patch will be available in the Open Beta and beyond. Use of such client side modding does also carry a risk, so my advice is to be careful with such things. If you are going to download it however, do not download the patch from anywhere other than on PSUmods.

The main importer hangout is still Ship 02, Block 20 as it was in the 2nd Alpha Test. I don’t imagine that will change much going into the future.

The tests ended with an impromptu dance party in the importer block. So many player models were loaded that the graphics engine started to glitch out.

Closed Beta Videos

In the big ass writeup I did for the closed beta, I felt like throwing videos in there might have been overkill. So instead, I’ll be sharing a few videos here of various new bits and bobs from the closed beta. All videos were recorded by YouTube user XtremeStarfox, aka Vashyron.

Urban Area – Ranger POV
A complete run of the new urban area, which was only available during random periods of the day.

New Code: Protection variant + PSE Cross Burst
A new variant of the Code: Protection event where the party must protect some crystals from monsters. The crystals seem to spawn in waves and the party must split up to protect them all. If 2 crystals are destroyed by monsters, the event fails. If you succeed, however, it seems to significantly raise the chance of a PSE event happening.

Double Boss Encounter
Bosses spawning randomly in Free-Fields is a thing we knew could happen already. Two bosses at the same time can also happen, however! It’s extremely rare but… you know what, just watch:


Incidentally, as Vol Dragon is counted as a Native type and Dark Ragne a Darker, the bosses can potentially aggro onto each other and duke it out.


Closing Thoughts

It’s been a fun week, I’m going to find it a bit sad that it’s gone but I had exhausted the content that was available and then some and I’m sure many of you did. My gear was likely far better than any lv20 in their right mind would want to invest in on release, making the available content an absolute breeze even when soloing.
As fun as the chaos in the Caves Free-Field was, I was getting a bit tired of the scenery and would just pop into Free-Field Forest just for the heck of it.

Content!

We have got more content incoming. We’ll be seeing some of it on May 3rd with the 2nd Fan Briefing on NicoNico here, starting at 13:00 JST and 15:30 JST. You will of course need a NicoNico account to watch the live broadcast.
Datamining also strongly suggests some more content is heading our way. I still don’t expect an awful lot of content on release, but be assured that we’re not going to just be running the Closed Beta content til lv40. Some datamined info does also disturbingly present some opportunities for Sega to drip-feed content, but we’re entering somewhat presumptuous territory now. We really don’t know how Sega is going to actually handle new content releases until they do it, of course.

FUN

The FUN gacha is actually better than I expected it’d be, randomly granting you a lot of items I would have expected to be cash-shop only. Things like extra accessories for your characters, extra lobby actions, shortcut items, mag devices and even access to your room. This combined with the fact you can sell most of the items you an acquire from the cash shop in the player shops (you can buy items from player shops for free don’t forget) means a player who has more time than money to spend shouldn’t be disadvantaged all that much afterall. Quite a pleasing outcome, in my opinion.

Hacking!

There have been some hackers on the servers, but so far there haven’t been any dangerous hacks/exploits uncovered that I’ve heard of. I really wouldn’t get worked up about simple xyz hacking, walk through walls, levitation or other combat hacks as they don’t really directly affect you all that much (aside the marginal hit to the economy or if one of these people joins your multiparty). There is the potential for it to ruin rankings later, however.

As for how Sega might react to them, I wouldn’t worry. Sega is not going to IP block all foreigners, as all this would do is prevent all legitimate players from playing, whereas hackers would be able to easily bypass such a block. Plus, don’t forget, foreigners give Sega money. Sega likes money!

「画像は『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』クローズドβテストにおいて撮影された実機画像です。
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/

[Sources: PSO-World, PSUmods]

Closed Beta – The Big Writeup

So the closed beta is long underway now, I think I’ve had enough time to formulate an opinions post. Like last time, will be talking about what I like and what I dislike about the state of the game in the current test.

Now, there are a number of things that remain the same from the 2nd alpha test, so I won’t be talking about them here as a result.

This is a very long post.



Table of Contents:

  1. State of the Beta
  2. Progression
  3. Story
  4. The Matter Board
  5. Client Orders
  6. The Urban Area
  7. Dark Ragne
  8. Mags
  9. Arks Cash
  10. Symbol Art
  11. Bugs and curiosities
  12. The End Of This Long Post
  13. Towards The Future


State of the Beta

At the start of the tests attempting to play during Japanese peak time was an exercise in frustration. Players were greeted by an unplayable, laggy mess of a game. Lag was also a big issue during the 2nd Alpha, but it was many magnitudes worse in this test. Ok you have to consider that there is now a maximum potential of 100,000 simultaneous players, versus the 50,000 or so in the 2nd Alpha. Even still, the lag shouldn’t have been as bad as it was.

Then, 7 days into the test, Sega performed a server maintenance in which they upgraded and reconfigured some hardware. The latency experienced during the JP peak time has all but disappeared, so good job! Hopefully this fix will hold up towards the launch and beyond.
^Top



Progression

One of the biggest changes is how you actually progress through content. In the 2nd Alpha you used to have to run each mission once to unlock the next one along. This time you will need to do a variety of things, including Matter Board objectives and Client Orders. I’ll be talking about both of those things in a separate section.

You can still unlock missions the normal way, but the progression will halt at points and its at these points you need to do the other things needed. As a player from the Alpha this left me a bit confused, as when I arrested the Rappies successfully I was expecting to go toe-to-toe with Rockbears in the Free-Field, but no such luck!

So what do you have to do? Well you need to complete the 3rd Matter Board node, which wants you to talk to an NPC to receive a client order, which wants you to go kill some wolves, which then unlocks Client Ordersin general. Then, after clearing the 4th mission at least once and being beyond a certain level (lv5?) you need to get a client order from another NPC who wants you to do that mission again as well as another mission within a time limit as well as collecting some rare drops. THEN you get to do Free-Field!
You then need to do a client order to unlock the next planet and its first mission, after which you’re back to unlocking them by just running the mission. You’ll hit a similar Client Order requirement when you want to unlock the Caves Free-Field.

Overall, I would say this approach has a danger of overcomplicating progression or stretching the content frustratingly thin, particularly when progression objectives include collecting certain drops from enemies. I can see what they were perhaps attempting to do, maybe they wanted the player to get a bit more involved in the world and plot in order to advance missions. Maybe they were making sure that players could level up with the story? Nothing hugely wrong with that, I guess.

Honestly, the objectives so far haven’t been too bad and can largely be completed passively anyway, given that it’s not unusual that you’re going to be doing multiple runs of a mission. Players who are in a rush are going to feel the squeeze however and PSO2 is going to offer impatient players very little while they’re waiting for quest items to drop.
^Top



Story

The story is presented in a relatively nonlinear fashion, what little of it exists so far. All cutscenes so far are fully voice acted, with the characters fairly well animated, too. The cutscenes in the lobbies and fields themselves (that you can encounter seemingly randomly) actually remind me a bit of how cutscenes used to look in Mass Effect. You know, if Mass Effect were also incredibly anime.
I doubt many interesting things are being said by the characters, but I do admit that I somewhat lament not being able to understand what they’re saying.

I have no idea what Alfin is saying, but I hate him
This small girl remembers who the player is, but the player doesn't remember her. That smirking probably isn't helping ease her frustration.

^Top



The Matter Board

Given to you mysteriously by the mysterious Shion because she’s really freaking mysterious. .

So what actually is it, then? Well the board is a series of nodes with each node having some objective. Completing the objective will unlock access to the adjacent nodes around it, with golden nodes being relevant to the story in some manner. The objectives vary from seeing certain events in missions, collecting items from enemies, completing certain missions as well some other similar bits.
Ultimately its main purpose is supposed to be something to advance the story with, while I suppose making the world feel more involving. It somewhat comes across more as a means to artificially stretch out the content, however.
^Top



Client Orders

Client orders are given to you by the various NPCs wandering about the lobbies. They grant passive objectives just like the Matter Board, so you’ll be expected to collect items, do missions, etc. The difference is that Client Orders are mostly a means to earn experience points, with some quests giving out quite a generous amount (in particular one of Echo’s quests). Some Client Orders are also dailies.

This is Koffie. Her quests unlock new areas, so you'll want to become aquainted with her quite quickly.

You can take on many client orders at once and just complete them as you go, so there’s really no disadvantage to taking every order you see. It’s a passive boost to your levelling, really, plus they do make the lobbies feel a bit more interactive. It’s using old-fashioned MMO approaches, however, such as collecting x of a monster drop where not every monster will drop one (birds that don’t have feathers).

Attempting to rush these quests will probably be a frustrating experience, but given that one of them are really necessary I don’t think they really do the game ay harm. A flimsy justification for them existing, I know, but that’s really the best opinion I can make about them. They’re not really needed, but I don’t mind them being there either.
^Top



The Urban Area

As I guessed, the new urban area was only available during emergency quests. Makes sense, it would be rather alarming if monsters were attacking the colony constantly. When an emergency quest is announced, you have something like 15 minutes before the quest itself begins. The ship’s terminals will update to reflect this, as well as announcement will be scrolled at the top of the screen. The quest itself is time-limited in both availability and when you actually start the quest. The quest is available for 1 hour, and you have 25 minutes to clear any instance of it. Naturally this means that the most efficient thing to do is to just rush straight to the boss, whose entrance you can’t miss seeing as it’s a giant dome set against a sea of rectangular buildings.

The area itself is filled with various static hazards, including cars that will explode a short while after you hit them. These explosions can hurt friend and foe alike and it is possible to kill other players with them. Difficult, but I’ve managed to pull it off once, as well as getting myself killed trying to. Burning wreckage will also deal considerable damage to you if your gear isn’t up to scratch. It also has the chance of lightning storms, but these offer little in the way of danger to players.

The enemies are exclusively Darkers, with one new type of flying darker that will do swift and powerful attacks to unprepared players. However this barely matters as you’ll be rushing by them to fight the boss. Speaking of which:
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Dark Ragne

The new boss of the test, as well as the boss that appears in the opening movie. Not only does it reside in a large stadium in the urban area, it also has a chance of spawning anywhere outside of it too, including on other planets.

The mechanics of the boss are rather straightforward when compared to the Vol Dragon. His main weak point is on an area between his head and main body at the back of its neck. Accessing it while it’s moving about is tricky, but you can bring it into the open by breaking its legs. Deal enough damage to one leg and it will begin to crackle. Hit it some more and eventually it will break, causing Ragne to faint for a short while. Breaking all 4 legs will cause him to faint for an extended period of time.

Its attacks vary from easy to avoid to somewhat tricky. It’ll regularly fire a series of red discs in from of it, which are easily avoided if you watch their patterns. You also avoid them entirely by being at its side. It will also do a short-range area-of-effect ability that will knock you back if you don’t block or get away from it. Ragne will also perform a leg sweep, which looks a lot easier to dodge than it actually is. Dark Ragne also has an absolute ton of HP, at least in the closed beta, so if you’re undergeared or underlevelled or both you’re going to have a rough time defeating it within the time limit.

Being trapped in a webbed cage with one isn't the most pleasent experience..

Overall, another fairly easy boss. I found it a lot easier to get used to than I found Vol Dragon, certainly. Mind the lack of difficulty could well have something to do with how overgeared the player base is at 20 in this test.
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Mags

Yeah I know I’ve lambasted Mags before, disliking the idea that I would forced to have it following my character whether I liked it or not. Having played with them now, I know I was basically making a mountain out of a molehill. Besides, after shoving a few weapons down its throat and watching it grow up and then learn to headbutt my enemies, I’ve kinda grown attached to the little scrapper.
Will say that feeding them is still the same kind of chore as it was in PSO, but if you didn’t mind it back then you’ll be right at home with the way they are in PSO2.

Holding down the Photon Blast button will allow other players and even NPCs to chain with yours. The result is a simultaneous and longer lasting Photon Blast. And yes that is a clone of my character.

Incidentally, the bar above their stats is actually their hunger meter. If it’s over 67% or so, you can’t feed it another item (each item raises the bar around 33%). When your mag performs actions, such as headbutting, shooting and healing, its hunger bar will deplete. It’s possible this could be abused to make Mags hungrier more quickly..
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Arks Cash

Well the beta has let us know which things are definitely rental:

  •  Access to selling items on the player shops
  • Access to trading
  •  My Room Access
  •  Extra Storage

Already gone over this, however. We sadly already knew that PSO2 was a freemium game parading as a free-to-play. What’s new and frankly unsettling is the number of other things that you need Arks Cash for:

  • Getting new talent trees
  • Respeccing Talents
  • Extra Mags
  • Resetting Mags

Yes, resetting your skill trees will cost you money. You better damn well hope that either you don’t pick a build that sounds cool but is ultimately gimp, or ed up picking a tree that gets heavily nerfed down the line. I can not believe that they’re charging money for what amounts to newbie mistakes or even factors that are completely out of a player’s control. But there you have it. Make a mistake? Cough up, chump.

  • Clothes outside of the one you pick at character creation

There are a tiny number of outfits that you can buy with Meseta, only the default outfit + colour you see for each race/class combo on the race selection screen. However, clothing is tradeable on the player market, so you potentially wont ever need to spend cash to get any particular outfit. I expect some colour combinations to be hilariously expensive on some items, however.

The Gachas also drain your AC alarmingly fast, even though each spin costs 10AC and players got 1000AC or so. Players who gamble on them when the game is released may want to seriously keep an eye on the amount of money they’re spending, unless you want me to laugh at you when you turn up the news.

Personally speaking, there’s also something kind of teasing about arks cash items being stuck into various menus. I guess it’s there for the convenience, but for example if you’re defeated at any point the menu that pops up is literally asking you if you want to drop some cash to revive there and then. Related to that, incidentally, it won’t help you in boss arenas as it’s automatic failure if the party is defeated.
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Symbol Art

Symbol art is the evolution of a feature that was popular in PSO, which was then dropped from PSU for no good reason. I was wondering what kinds of pictures people could create with them and was eager to have a go myself. It allows people to create far more intricate pieces of artwork than I imagined possible. Here are some examples of what I made:
And some other people made. I do not know who the creators are, otherwise I would give credit.

Symbol art is a tool that you can use to make potentially impressive pictures with, but it’s far from perfect. For one thing, the colours that you set in the creation window don’t seem to match up at all with the colours on the transmitted symbol. Another problem is arranging symbols into more intricate shapes is fiddly, approaching impossible when the UI can’t seem to decide which of the various anchors you’re trying to click on. This issue could be subsided considerably if they allowed us to zoom in 500% like they do when we’re creating team flags. Aside those faults, I’m really impressed with the toolset they’ve granted us with.
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Bugs and Curiosities

  • Beta testers will have noticed all the 1* weapon drops, despite the weapons clearly having some sort of statistical progression. Don’t really know what’s up with that.
  • The Matter Board had some progression issues for some players, where they’d be left unable to progress any further. Sega is aware of the issue.
  • Some players were able to fall through the camp ship.
  • Beize and Gawonda, two enemies from the 2nd Alpha Test, were nowhere to be found in the beta.
    Update:Beize is in fact in as a random encounter in the Forest, albeit a very rare one. Proof:

    Sorry for not getting a better screenshot. Although you can't see it, as the UI is disabled, Beize does in fact have a health bar now. This is a good change as players had almost no feedback at all that their attacks were actually doing anything to it.
  • A sound glitch during the Dark Ragne fight in his arena seems to randomly cause the background music to become a fair amount louder than usual.
  • A glitch in partner-character AI would cause Ranger characters with a specific photon art to crawl infinitely in one direction.
  • A glitch allows partner characters to be duped, allowing for insanely large parties of AI characters to be formed (who could also allegedly follow you into the lobbies).
  • There is a glitch that’s existed since the character creator was released that allows characters to be in their underwear.

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The End Of This Very Large Post

I like PSO2. Just as well seeing as I’ve written a blog about it, but so far PSO2 is doing everything I want it to. Yes there are some definite creases in the overall design, some more major than others. The client does seem to have some definite areas where the game could be better optimized, like one particular area of the Caves caused considerable performance drag, as well as opening the options menu in the new urban area. But among the things I love are free-field areas, which have a wonderful chaos about them (particularly in the caves) which I hope continues into future free-fields.

Of course, this game continues to offer little for hardcore gamers. The game is very, very easy, with the only challenge being to learn the attacks of each boss (and you will learn these very quickly). Sure, there’s the chance that the game’s difficulty could increase later on and we’re only playing the introductory levels right now. There still doesn’t seem like there’s going to be anything for people who used to do time-attacks in PSU. The game is just simply far too random for them and there’s been no official hints at a time attack mode of any kind (of course.. in the datamining….).

It is also of course a little worrying how much of the game is permeated by the cash shop and how badly this will impact a player’s experience. Although this is a Beta and thus it’s not really scientifically sound, I played with the intention of not selling items through the player shop or using any premium features. Seemed to work out just fine for me, although I know I’m going to feel it when a friend acquires a rare item that I’m after and he cannot trade it to me. This problem could well become amplified in the higher levels..

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Towards The Future

The beta tests will come to an end on the 30th of April, which means there are less than 48 hours remaining as I finish off this post.

On May 3rd, there will another pair of fan briefings which set out to demonstrate where the game is going. It will include new features, new areas and other new things to come in the future. It’ll be broadcast on NicoNico again, but like last time I’m sure someone will upload it to YouTube if not Sega themselves.

The presentations will start at 13:00 JST and 15:30 JST. The 2nd of these presentations will feature a live demonstration of one of the new fields to come. I’m going to guess it’ll be the desert or mines field myself, but we’ll have to wait and see!
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「画像は『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』クローズドβテストにおいて撮影された実機画像です。
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/

Closed Beta Briefing and Recap

The closed beta testing period is set to begin in less than 24 hours now. This post is to serve as a reminder of the features to expect as well as other information regarding the tests.

Tester website: http://pso2.jp/cbt/

Unofficial Importer Ship: Ship 02
This is the currently settled upon ship in a poll on PSO-World, which contains the largest portion of the importer community. This may not reflect which ship most of the importers will be present on in the release version. There is no unofficial block picked at the moment. Your character is not bound to a block, however. They are bound to a ship, so that as much is important if you want to meet other players.

There is a non-disclosure agreement, You can find it at http://pso2.jp/cbt/rule/copyright/
It is essentially the same NDA that was present in the Alpha tests, which means that yes you can share screenshots and videos.

  • Posting Images
    • You will need to place a (C) SEGA somewhere on your screenshots
    • On the page you post them you will also need to include the following notice:

      「画像は『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』クローズドβテストにおいて撮影された実機画像です。
      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/

  • Videos
    • For 2 seconds you will need to place a (C) SEGA notice at the start of the video.
    • In your video description you will need to put the following notice:

      「『PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2』クローズドβ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/

    • Aside the editing the NDA requires you to do, you are not allowed to do any editing.


Schedule

Unlike the previous alpha test, there are no planned maintenance sessions. Ideally this means the test should be one continuous session, but realistically speaking I would expect random issues to occur, issues that may require a maintenance to sort out.

This is when the tests are due to start:

  • 8:00AM, 19th April, GMT
  • 3:00AM, 19th April, EST
  • 2:00AM, 19th April, CST
  • 1:00AM, 19th April, MST
  • 12:00AM 19th April, PST
  • 9:00PM 19th April, HAST
  • 4:00PM 19th April, JST

Changes to Features Since They Were Announced

As the subtitle suggests, not all things have remained the same since they were announced.

  • Character class level cap is now lv20, instead of lv30
  • Despite the client displaying 10 ships, there will only be 5 available during the tests.
  • The prices of Arks Cash items has been adjusted, so players will be given 1,000 AC to spend as they like instead of the previously announced 10,000.
  • All Arks Cash items are currently set to 10AC.

To me, it sounds like they’re using the tests to see what items would be in most demand so they can set the release prices appropriately..


Feature Recap + New Features

Here’s a general list of things that will be in the Beta

  • Planet Naberius and Amduscia, with their Forest and Volcano Caves areas.
  • The new Urban area,which will be available during Emergency Quests
  • Emergency Quests
  • New Interrupt Events
  • Client Orders
  • Story content
  • Tutorial missions
  • Matter Board functionality (required to unlock some quests for some of the above categories)
  • New Photon-Sensitive-Effect variants have been added. PSEs have also been rebalanced.
  • Inviteable NPCs, both story NPCs and NPCs of your friend’s characters (Partner Friends).
  • Boost enemies can now spawn
  • Lower level enemies have been nerfed
  • Bosses will now spawn boxes on death
  • New ranking system, including Interrupt Rankings and Weekly Rankings
    • Interrupt Rankings will be announced randomly, setting some aim that players will be ranked with. This could be “Kill as many of X monster as you can” withi an hour.
    • Weekly rankings concern themselves with many other actions, such as the number of times players entered another room or the number of rare containers destroyed.
    • The top 3 players of either ranking types will be awarded with FUN points for their efforts.

  • Selectable races are Human, Newman and Cast. This is also the same selection that will be available on release. (Datamining suggests that there is at least one more race to come…)
  • Character data from the Character Creation Demo/Benchmark is compatible with the closed beta client. So make your final adjustments while you have time!
  • Like the demo, created characters can be saved and loaded.
  • Limited to one character only, unless you buy additional slots with Arks Cash.
  • Players who reach level 10 will receive a Weapon Hologram decoration in the Open Beta.
  • Mags are in.
    • Can be raised through feeding them items
    • Their stats are the same as the player’s
    • Their stats can influence player stats
    • At lv50 they can start using Photon Blasts
    • Photon Blasts can be chained.
  • New weapon types are available
    • Partisans for Hunters
    • Launchers for Rangers
    • Talis/Cards for Forces
  • New Photon Arts are available for all weapon types, old and new.
  • New Techs are available
  • Items are now bind on equip.
  • Players can now change their class in game
  • Skill trees have been completely revamped
  • Use of Scape Dolls is optional on death.
  • New character outfits
  • Outfits can be equipped through the equipment menu, like your Units.
  • New lobby animations
  • Character Data from these tests will be wiped

  • New Arks Lobby. The old one is gone!
  • New shops and facilities
    • Medical Counter – Where you can buy temporary buff items of various flavours
    • Title Counter – Collect and track your titles/achievements
    • Team Counter – Create and manage your guilds
    • Costume Shop – Buy new clothes and parts
    • Makeover Shop – Alter your character in various ways. Some features cost Arks Cash
    • Tekkers – Identify SPECIAL WEAPONS.
  • Various Gachas will be placed around the lobbies
  • New items to manipulate your equipment through the Item Lab have been added.
The shopping basket icon displayed here is how you access the Arks Cash shop.
  • Arks Cash system
  • You can not purchase Arks Cash during the test, you can only use the free AC you’re given!
  • The ability to sell items in player shops is confirmed as being a rental feature.
  • AC shop and Gacha items are limited, the release versions won’t be the same
  • Purchaseable “Premium Pack”, which unlocks player rooms, trading, selling through player shops and expanded storage. It also grants access to a special lobby block just for premium users. The Premium Pack lasts 30 days.
  • FUN points system
  • The UI has been slightly reworked
  • Virtual Full Screen mode has been removed (LIES).
  • An option has been added to disable auto-words in chat logs
  • Increased the maximum number of displayed player characters to 160
  • Added many formats for screenshots
  • You can now whisper other players
  • Symbol Art is implemented

This list doesn’t cover all of the changes and features coming up in the tests, but does list what I think is significant or interesting. As anything else surfaces, I’ll add it here.

[Sources: PSBlog, PSO-World Mike, Bumped]

Closed Beta Client Observations

So with the announcement of the closed beta and emails being sent out, the client was also made available.

Of course, people who’ve gotten it have had the chance to try out the client in various ways and certain observations have been made:


GameGuard is Present

I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise, given that it’s an asian free to play game and they all seem to come with some variation of a GameGuard-like software installed. Voiced my dislike of this software enough.

Incidentally, it seems that GameGuard and the Steam UI now get along. So you can now play the game through Steam if you wish, without the game crashing or accusing you of cheating!


Full Screen Mode

In the alpha client a fake full-screen mode was used, which a number of users found convenient. This is because they could alt-tab to do other things while playing, without causing the client to crash. Real full-screen mode was implemented in the character creation demo, unfortunately the same crashing problem resurfaced with it.

In the beta client, real full-screen mode is still present but they actually seem to have managed to prevent the game from crashing if you alt-tab or ctrl-alt-delete. Finally! It only took them eleven years to sort this issue out, but I’m glad they did.

Virtual full-screen mode is still in the client, incidentally. You can only activate it through a config edit, however.


 Video Recording Formats

A new option in the settings area allows you to set which codec to use for video capture. Codecs include Microsoft Video 1, Cinepak, Xfire Codec, Intel IUYV and a fair number of others. It actually seems it might just pick up on the codecs you already have on your system. What isn’t known yet is how you actually capture the video in-game.


Ship Count

There appears to be 10 different ships this time, as opposed to the 2 available during the alpha. A reminder that a “Ship” is the same as a realm or server in most other MMOs.

At current, a main ship for the importer community hasn’t been settled on. That’s still being discussed, but as soon as a consensus seems to be coming about I’ll post it here and update the importer community page appropriately. Remember you can only roll one character and said character is tied to one ship, so I think it’s important for english speaking players to know where most of the others hang out.


Towards the Future

Beta-access emails are still being sent out in waves and should continue to be sent out up until the day of the tests. If you haven’t gotten an email yet, you still have a chance. It should also be noted that emails to all those who automatically qualified due to their participation in previous tests have now all been sent.

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]