Episode 2: Dewmans and Bullet Bows.

dewmans The 9th NicoNico broadcast took place today. They promised information on upcoming content and in particular with Episode 2 information and they’re delivering. In fact they’re still releasing information currently so this post is likely to change before the day’s out.


Videos

I’ll embed what videos I find here, though I’ll may talk about them in more detail in a separate post.

Episode 2 Content Trailer

Dewman Character Creation

Also contains footage of the new weapon types.

Planet Vopar Footage


Dewmans

We’ve known these guys were coming since the closed beta tests and finally we see them. So what is their race’s defining feature? Eye-patches? Ear-shape? That’s right, you guessed it! Horns.

Dewmans
Uhuhuhuh, they’re horny

Eyes with alternating colours as well it seems, otherwise they’re still albinos by default. The character creation screen there shows that they can customize their horns, though not sure if all male Dewmans have one horn and all female Dewmans have two or if that can be chosen. It also shows that Dewmans get a bit of a bigger choice of skin colour than they did before in PSP2:Infinity (which was white and REALLY white). In PSO2 Dewmans can be pale white, brown, red or blue in various shades. Regarding eyes, I’m guessing that given there are two windows open with eyes that player can customize them individually. Rumour has it that players will be receiving a free character slot when Dewmans are released. I’ve not yet confirmed this, however.


Braver WeaponsBraver was identified in the client fairly recently, with it being internally known as “swordarcher”. Katanas and Compound Bows were revealed, oh sorry, “Bullet Bows”. I guess Compount Bow might be pushing it in terms of name length, but Bullet Bow just sounds off to me. It seems Bullet Bows will have some kind of a charged action, perhaps similar to how some Sword and Partisan Photon Arts do. Fitting given how a bow is used, really. This does confirm that Katana and “saya” are part of the same weapon as well. The feeling was strong that this would be the case but the way the data was it implied they were separate weapons. How the pair function in combat is a bit of an unknown just now.

braver
As Braver is available on the character creation screen it seems safe to assume that there will be no requirements to unlock the class.

Coast CoastThe next field set to be added to the game and the first field that Episode 2 will add is the Coast field. That sure is a coast. The fountain landmark seems interesting, not something I expected to see. I can’t tell at that resolution whether it’s something technical or not just now. The Coast field is also confirmed to be set on the planet Vopar. new_enemiesWith a new field comes new enemies! Most of which were known about but certain details weren’t. It has a boss, the expected “MarineOarFish” which now has the official name of “Bal Rodos / Val Rodos” (Ricardo at Bumped / Mewn) and a miniboss which we thought was going to be “BirdCentaur” but it is in fact something I don’t think we’ve encountered in the data yet, named “Orgublan”. The field also seems to be populated by angry flowers (the big ones being called “Blumegalla”), but not the PSO-like Lilys that were expected. These enemies are all part of a new enemy category internally known as “Chimera”. I can’t tell if that name is mentioned on that image there. “BirdCentaur” might not be a miniboss, but it is still quite significant. It’s pictured in the top-right there, above the actual miniboss. Looks sort of Egyptian themed. It is in fact one of the 3rd type of Darkers, which is significant as it means that all the BirdSoldiers and the infamous BirdBirdCrow are also Darkers. Bird Darkers was a possibility that was considered, but upon looking at their models they didn’t seem very darker-like to us. Didn’t help that they were texture-less as well. I’m aware that the bosses there have their names in Katakana but I’m not confident in my localization skills. I’ll add the names more experienced people grant them later.


Support Partners: The Return of the Partner Machine

A newly announced feature is a small girl you can keep in your room…. aaaaagh

pet_little_girl
A pet little girl you can raise, clearly inspired by the roguelike Elona.

I’m not being serious with that caption. They appear to be reminiscent of Partner Machines  from Phantasy Star Universe. They were a bit like Mags, in that you raised them by feeding them items and what they’d evolve into depended on how you raised them. I don’t know yet if that’s how you raise Support Partners or not.  Unlike Partner Machines, a Support Partner’s appearance is completely customizable, it’s pretty much making a 2nd tiny character.

The 4th item on that menu is “Customize Weapon”, so you can potentially set their gear up too I guess. Wonder if it’s physically giving them a weapon or something? (Thanks to Mewn for that).

aggggggh
Like Partner Machines of Phantasy Star Universe your pet… little person.. can follow you into the field. The Japanese text at the bottom indicates that Support Partners are active when you’re logged out, but it’s not clear really what’s meant by that.

It just seems… weird to me. I mean, you’re raising a tiny character. I mean before you had at least a little comfort in it being a little robot but, here it’s a little person. It can be a robot if you make it a Cast, but otherwise it really is effectively a pet person. There’s something unsettling about that.

Support Partners can only be raised in a room, but it seems you won’t need Premium Set to have the room to raise one in. All characters will be given mini-rooms, which presumably becomes your default room when your Premium runs out.


Long Term Schedule schedule Episode 2’s release date is confirmed as happening some time in July, arriving with other things. I’ll list what I can with their respective month below:

  • July
    • Support Partner
    • Arks Road
    • Planet Vopar with Coast field
    • New race: Dewmans
    • New class: Braver
    • New weapon categories: Katana and Bullet Bow
  • August
    • Nothing!
  • September
    • New Field
  • October
    • New Difficulty: Super Hard (Formally known as Super Very Hard? Or possibly a difficulty before it…)
    • Level cap raised to 65
  • November
    • New Field
  • December
    • 12-man Quest Category
    • Update to the Item Customization System

Nothing at all for August it seems. Anyway, there are two more fields coming up, which are presumably the as-yet un-named “Lilipa3” and the unannounced “Seabed”.

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]

Rumourmill: No Arks, You Are The Dewmans.

PSO2 news has sort of slowed down for now, so this is a minor post of information and other things I felt like sharing.


When’s That CBT Report?

According to this tweet on Sega’s official PSO2 twitter, the report is scheduled to appear mid-May. No specific date has been announced.


Has a US/foreign version been talked about? Even remotely hinted at?

No.

There has still literally been nothing at all to suggest it’s happening from official channels. As fans, we’re left speculating based on datamined files in the client which show localization functionality at the very least. Sega of America still hasn’t really acknowledged that the game even exists yet, either.

With the official release time getting close now, the lack of any word at all is a little concerning for anyone hoping for a localized version. They could of course announce it afterwards, but the hope of a global release is all but gone.


What’s Sega up to?

Posted originally here by PSO-World user MrTurkleton. Seems all 10 servers are up, or at least the client interprets them as so. According to the original poster, attempting to connect would return an error message. No illicitly logging in for anyone with severe withdrawal symptoms, then.
It’s a little weird that the client can ping their servers still or that the test servers would be connected to the internet but there you go.


Base Racial Stats

A reader sent me an email asking how the racial stats are in PSO2’s CBT. In the thick of my study-time (almost over now!) I managed to miss it. Sorry there, internet guy.

So yeah, here are the racial base stat modifiers. Thanks to Agrajag of PSUmods for obtaining them.

Race/Gender HP S-ATK R-ATK T-ATK ABL S-Def R-Def T-DEF
Human male 105 104 103 100 105 105 100 100
Human female 104 100 103 104 106 100 100 105
Newman male 95 100 102 108 104 100 105 100
Newman female 94 100 102 110 104 100 100 105
Cast male 107 105 104 96 107 105 100 95
Cast female 106 104 105 96 107 100 105 95
Dewman male 95 106 104 103 106 97 97 97
Dewman female 94 106 104 103 106 98 98 98

Update 30/7/2013: Since Dewmans were actually released these base stats have changed.


Wait What, Dewmans?

Yes, Dewmans. The race of eyepatch wearing emo space pirates from PSP2:Infinity. The race has been mentioned in the client’s strings since the 2nd alpha tests, complete with base stats.
Does this mean PSO2 is getting Dewmans? Not necessarily, for all we know that could just be a placeholder. In any case they’re definitely not going to be available early on, as Sakai has stated that the game will be released with just 3 selectable races. He did also state that more could be added in the future and this find certainly supports that notion. It seems the client is at the very least capable of adding any number of races they feel like adding, it’s just that so far Dewmans are the only additional race hinted at.

Concept art of a male and female dewmans, as seen in PSP2:Infinity.

Even if they do add Dewmans, however, those racial stats may not reflect what they end up being when they’re officially released. There is also no guarentee on what PSO2’s Dewmans would even look like, but I think it’d be nice if they got a bit more creative than pale skin and eyepatches being their defining racial features.


So What About Beasts?

Yes, there has been mention of Beasts as well in the client, but this is less significant. The place in which Beasts were found lists the  order of the races as Human, Newman, Cast, Beast and Dewman. Everywhere else that mentions races goes Human, Newman ,Cast and Dewman. The theory is it’s simply a leftover file from a previous game.


Character Creator Glitches

Well out there in the hands of the public, someone was bound to find issues with the creation demo. One of the more famous ones (as well as one of the most viewed PSO2 videos to date) is this thing, uploaded by YouTube user turk645.

As hilarious as that is, it does pose a question. Would a character with bugged out boobs be accepted by the server? Will the open beta test will an assault of flapping mammaries everywhere? What other character creation limits can be broken through either glitches or memory editing? If the server just blindly accepts whatever character it’s given all sorts of monstrosities could be populating the future lobbies! I kind of can’t wait to find out.

Another somewhat related glitch is a nudity glitch that was discovered some time ago, at least for Casts. Well, as nude as you can get in PSO2 before you start tex-modding or something. Here’s a video uploaded by YouTube and PSO-World user Sizustar to prove that this glitch can carry over onto the live servers.

There is a separate glitch which allows non-Casts to get naked as well, but it’s less widespread than the naked Cast glitch. You can find more on this in the original thread here.

At the very least I hope that the server doesn’t accept as much information from the client as it used to when creating a new character. If it does, some actually harmful things could happen..

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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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]

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.

Boosted Enemies, Concept Art and Sakai at the PSvita Conference.

So looks like the theme of corruption established in the previous online Phantasy Stars will continue, as PSO2 will have altered versions of the critters that can be randomly encountered during gameplay. These critters, corrupted by the Darkers, will also be known as “boosted enemies”.

Boosted enemies are a concept that began with Phantasy Star Zero (as did a lot of the decent ideas that PSO2 is implementing), where every enemy would have a random chance of spawning with altered stats. With the stat increase, they also had a higher chance of dropping rare items. Boosted monsters were indicated by an aura emanating from the ground around the monster.

Probably shouldn't have fed it past midnight..

This time, the monsters will be uglier than normal. Nearly as ugly as you! They’ll also have a protrusion on their body, which is the core of their infection and is also their weak spot. It also looks tremendously uncomfortable growing out of that poor Udan’s eye there. Better get to stabbing it with your laser weaponry, for its own good of course.

We should be seeing these guys in the closed beta tests.

PSV PSV and Satoshi Sakai.

There’s going to be a conference for the PSVita (Phantasy Vita Game Heaven) and none other than Satoshi Sakai will be attending. The official site for the upcoming event is here.

The event will be taking place March 9th, 2012. 20:00 JST

Will we hear anything about the cheekily named Phantasy Star Victory? PSV, hoho, I see what you did there! It seems a little early to be announcing a portable game set in the PSO2 universe, so I doubt that PSV will be that console game that was previously announced. I’m pretty certain someone in Sega also mentioned that they were done with the Phantasy Star Universe… universe, so I also doubt we’re seeing a successor to the Phantasy Star Portable series either (I really can not remember where I heard this, though). I still can’t get over that name. PSV, Hah! Hopefully we’ll find out a little bit more on the day, however unless it is actually related to PSO2 I won’t be writing about it on this blog.

Concept Art

Just some more pieces of concept art. Not of anything we haven’t seen before in some capacity.

Finally

Oh yeah, this blog has also broken the 10,000 view count, hurray! Thanks for all the views and I hope my blog as been helpful to you.

[Sources: Bumped, PSBlog]