US/EU Servers Confirmed

In an interview with 4gamer, Sakai confirmed that PSO2 will have localised servers for their western audience after all. They will be separate from the JP servers and managed by SoA and SoE respectively. EU players and US players will be sharing the same servers, as they did with PSU. Given the wording of a member of SoA staff recently this didn’t come as a surprise.

What’s there to say? It’s disappointing news that’s for sure. As I said in a previous post, SoA has a long history of screw-ups and general incompetence. They are rude to their customers. As I also said before, the fact that PSO2 is actually a decent game and that it’s free to play will help it out. I don’t think the free-to-play business model will work as motivation for them to close the content update gap, however.

Here’s a list of things that they would need to do in order to address what I’m sure are the main concerns among the player base.

  • Close the content gap – The localised version will be released over half a year after the Japanese version. It doesn’t matter that the localised version is its own unique platform, customers will see that people elsewhere in the world have more to play with than they do. This will upset them.
  • React promptly to cheating – One of the major factors that contributed to Phantasy Star Universe’s demise in the west was the sluggish response by Sega to do anything about hackers and people abusing game exploits. No one cares which part of Sega as a whole is responsible for this, if people see the company running the game as powerless against cheaters it will destroy their confidence in the game.
  • Get the word out there – Blogs like Bumped and mine, things like PSO-world and various fan groups and topics on other websites already achieve this to an extent. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, certainly, but I’d hope that Sega wouldn’t completely depend on their fans to do their advertising for them. In particular I’m hopeful that they’ll spread the word into places that aren’t already set on playing PSO2. Places outside of the core fanbase, although it’s nice to appreciated sure.
  • Get on Steam – This is more a suggestion than anything, but being on Steam certainly seemed to help Spirals Knights. There are also a number of other free to play MMOs out on Steam at the moment. It’s not only a major means of digital distribution but Steam is also where a lot of people find new games so it’s a marketing platform too.
  • Get people on your support staff who care – I’m not suggesting that current staff don’t necessarily (although I am sticking to my ascertation that they can be quite rude to customers), but I am suggesting that future staff they employ do. A request like this isn’t really unique to Sega though I guess, you could apply this to practically any MMO in existence.

Yes, Sega does have a chance to get it right this time. Sure. They had this chance when Phantasy Star Universe came out. Oh and Phantasy Star Portable 1. Oh and Phantasy Star Portable 2. Oh and Phantasy Star Zero. Oh and Phantasy Star Portable 2: Infinity, oh that never came out. Every one of these times, people would come out of the woodwork to say “hey give them a chance, guys”. How many times do people’s trust in a company need to be betrayed before you will get it I wonder? Sega will probably not do any of the things I’ve suggested in this blog entry. Not saying they won’t necessarily try, but I have no confidence that they will succeed in any of it.

The only things you are guaranteed is that it will be free to play and it will be in English, French and German. That’s all you should expect out of them. Anything else is just setting yourself up for disappointment.


Other News

Ship lockdown to be lifted

To those who wanted to create characters on Ship 02 but couldn’t due to the lockdown, the restrictions will be lifted tonight in a special maintenance.

Maintenance times:

  • JST: 8:30 – 9:30,  17th July
  • BST (UK): 0:30 – 1:30, 17th July
  • EST: 19:30 – 20:30, 16th July

Related to this, despite the blocks being re-named to suggest level ranges (with b20-b24 being labelled the lv30-40 blocks), the main importer area hasn’t changed. Ship 2 Block 20 is still the main area, with 21-24 being spillover blocks. However I believe a number of importers did also adopt block 30. I can’t comment on other ships.

Response to hacking

Sega applied a fix that now means that NPCs can’t be shuffled about. However, they’ve also changed the Terms of Service in response to the cheating. You’re now not allowed to talk publicly about hacks, cheats or exploits of the game. Instead, you must report them to the administration team.

Given the storm that happened after people posted about the hacks I can understand why they felt this was necessary. However I doubt this is really going to achieve anything. People are still going to panic when the next exploit is found. It’s somewhat understandable, given the series has a less than stellar record with this stuff.


Towards The Future

The Subterranean Tunnels update is on its way, with only 2 days to go for it. Details here.

Soaring Crystal Dragon

It appears that the Soaring Crystal Dragon update may be arriving in early August, according to an interpretation of the longterm schedule. In particular the text “8月上旬より順次実装予定”, which translates literally to “first 10 days of August” but is just used to mean “early August”. This could put the patch at anywhere between 2-4 weeks from the addition of Subterranean Tunnels. So potential dates of the 1st, 8th or 15th of August.

Upcoming Areas

Speaking of the longterm schedule page, you may notice that there are images faded out in the background. Well someone did some adjustments to the images and these are the results:

The first area can only be the floating islands of Amduscia, referred to as DRAGONLAND in the client. There are strong suspicions about what the 2nd and 3rd areas are but they’re less concrete. The 3rd area does seem similar in appearance to how the Darkers look in general, doesn’t it? The 2nd area looks like it could fit into Naberius as well.

New Classes

Finally, I’m hoping that they elaborate on details about the 3 new classes to be added along with the 2nd area pictured above. Are they subclasses? What will their pre-requisites be? How will skill trees work for them? Gonna be a fun wait…

[Sources: Bumped, Mewn and EspioKaos for translation]

PSO2: Progression

Progression in PSO2 is mostly about your character’s class level, with Client Orders being a secondary mechanism for your character’s development. Levels make you stronger, give you skill points to spend in your talent tree, unlock new areas and the usual things you might expect. Client Orders also unlock content and features for your character, as well as raising your level cap.

For the large part, progression is ok. Levelling from 1-20 sees you unlocking a fair number of places to frolic about in, but beyond 20 there’s a sudden drought.

To illustrate this, here are the level milestones to unlock various things.

  • Level 1 – 3 Forest missions.
  • Level 5  – 4th Forest mission + Free Field Forest
  • Level 10 – 3 Volcano Cave missions + Free Field Volcano Cave
  • Level 15 – 3 Desert missions + Free Field Desert
  • Level 20 – Hard mode unlock. Access to hard mode versions of all Forest missions and 1 Volcano Cave mission.
  • Level 25 – Access to hard mode versions of the remaining Volcano Cave mission and 3 hard mode Desert missions.
  • Level 30 – Access to 3 Iceberg missions and access to hard mode Free-Field Forest, Volcano Cave and Desert.
  • Level 33 – Access to Free Field Iceberg. Access to an unknown number of Subterranean Tunnel missions.
  • Between Level 33-40 – Access to Free Field Subterranean Tunnels, Amduscia’s floating island field missions + Free Field.

Note: Iceberg is the field formerly known as “Tundra”. In Story Mode, the official names of areas are displayed, that’s where Iceberg came from (as well as confirming the names of the other areas). I’m not a fan of the name, but official is official.

Notice something odd about that? 1-20 has you unlocking Volcano Cave and Desert areas with their missions. 30-40 has you unlocking Iceberg, Subterranean Tunnels and Amduscia’s un-named floating island area. 20-30 unlocks.. harder versions of the same areas you’ve already played though.

The reason this happens because the Iceberg areas have no normal mode versions of their missions, which leaves a gaping content hole between lv20 to lv30 as a result. Not exactly sure why they elected to do this, as I don’t think anyone’s idea of fun is to be forced grind through the content they’re already familiar with just to access new areas. It’s made worse by the fact that up until lv20 you’re sort of constantly unlocking new things to see, so you really do feel that sudden drop off.

It almost feels like they originally wanted there to be a normal mode Iceberg. If you have access to it, take a look at your 3rd Matter Board. It concerns itself entirely with Iceberg content and enemies, yet you’ll notice the nodes require the enemies to be at least lv21. But the first Iceberg enemies you encounter are at least lv30, so why doesn’t it ask for lv31+ enemies? It doesn’t make sense. What also makes no sense is the 4th Matter Board then concerns itself with hard mode Desert content, again lv21+ and then the same with the 5th Matter Board with Volcano Caves. You’ll have unlocked those two areas before you’ll have even started on Iceberg content, so why does the Matter Board ask for it in reverse order? Another effect of this is your story progression is effectively also halted until you’re lv30 (despite the Iceberg story quest being labelled as lv20-30).

The decision to not include a normal-mode version of Iceberg content is a bizarre one to me, in my opinion it messes up the flow of content progression and I do hope they re-consider this approach in the future. While yes this would mean that enemy levels would cross each other in difficulty levels, this is really a minor concern compared to people being forced through the same content just to reach new stuff. 20-30 is however, so far, the only content gap. With Very Hard versions of missions being added later this year we’ll see if any other gaps arise.

Next Week: Subterranean Tunnels!

Sega put up the next update page, complete with:

  • Screenshots of the new field known as Subterranean Tunnels
  • Screenshots of new enemies
  • A page talking about the new interrupt events (including one where you need to protect the small fluffy guys of Lillipa, “Lilliputian Protection”. Also says there’ll be new Client Orders.
  • A page showing off the new costumes to be added to the Arks Scratch

The site also included a trailer, enjoy!

This update will be hitting the servers on the 18th of July.

A reminder that this update will not be raising the cap (nor will the next update for that matter).

The new area looks alright, but Big Varder (the warship boss at the end) looks downright crazy. Suddenly, PSO2 has an air of bullet hell about it. The video also really gives you a sense of scale of the boss itself. Mind, now we see it in action I do wonder if the top portion of the ship, or the more humanoid part, will actually be the part that can randomly spawn in the free field map? The one thing I’m somewhat surprised by is there’s no new story chapters with this new field.

Where Is PSO2 Going

Well at this current moment in time it isn’t going anywhere. Recently however the first long-term schedule for the game was posted up on the official site and then promptly translated by Ricardo at Bumped here.

This post will be mostly sharing my thoughts on upcoming content.


July Update

Naturally the most exciting thing is a boss by the name of Big Varder (known as Big Barder), a BATTLESHIP that transforms when you hop onto its deck. I mean, look at that thing, just look at it. It has stairs.

Looking forward to seeing how this boss pans out, the scale alone looks fantastic.  Mind, I wonder if it will spawn randomly in areas like other bosses do? Given the apparent size of the thing I’m not certain it’d be able to, particularly as the area it would spawn in (Subterranean Tunnels, or Mines) doesn’t appear to have wide open areas for it. To be fair, we’ve not been shown an awful lot of it yet.


New Area: DRAGONLAND?

The particular bullet point I’m referring to is:

Mid Scale Update: Soaring Crystal Dragon

Going by the name and the fact at by then Amduscia would be the only planet without a 2nd area I’m going to guess this is “Dragonland”.

Dragonland is an internal name in the client, referring to an unreleased area of the game. Suspicions are strong that this will turn out to be set on the floating islands on Amduscia. There are, as of yet, no images of this upcoming area. You can see the islands from the Camp Ship, however.

Incidentally, this update will require a more substantial patch than other updates so far,  as it will be adding content that is not yet present in the client.

The summer update is also set to add a new costume, the “Summer Yukata”, pictured below.


Level Cap Raised to 50

The level cap won’t be raised until some time in Autumn. Note that two areas will have been added before this, meaning there’s a fair amount of 30-40 content to come. Incidentally, as predicted, Very Hard could well begin at lv40. I imagine this difficulty level will cover lv40-80 if they go by PSO’s standards, with Ultimate unlocking at lv80. More difficulty levels have been spotted in the client beyond the 4th, however….


Towards the Distant Future

Beyond that, new enemies, bosses and fields, the things you’d somewhat expect. “Gigantic boss” is mentioned in the list, which is something I believe Sakai said they were going to implement for Multi-Party areas (bottom of this post). Could this be the beginning of PSO2 raiding? Probably not, but I am eager to see what it’ll turn out to be.

[Sources: Bumped, 4gamer, PSO2 Uploader]