Perhaps one of the most innovative and unique RPGs ever created, .hack’s popularity has grown immensely despite glaring flaws within the first volume, INFECTION. The dynamic premise aside, the first volume of .hack left many players unsatisfied. The game was primarily an introduction to the universe of the .hack phenomenon and more specifically, The World. Because of this, there was only minor development in regards to the plot, most of which was saved for the very last moments of the game.
However, it would seem that Bandai has an ace up their sleeve. As many already know, the .hack video game has been broken into four volumes: INFECTION, MUTATION, OUTBREAK, and QUARANTINE. In an interview with the game’s producer and one of the creators, new light has been shed about volume 2 as well as the rest of the series and its future, too.
So how was .hack created? What influences did the makers have that led to the game’s development? In RPGFan’s interview, it was learned that the makers studied long and hard, experimenting with many MMORPGs in order to get a feel for how that type of game works. Despite what many would believe, Hiroshi Matsuyama denied any inspirations drawn from Phantasy Star Online, saying any similarities were purely coincidental. Instead, games like Ultima Online and Diablo were their primary source of MMORPG knowledge. The creators envisioned this fresh, new idea that would simulate an MMORPG but contain a very anime-like plot, philosophically and metaphysically heavy. Like all good ideas, .hack’s birth grew to be a phenomenon all on its own, becoming a TV series, manga, video game and more. The rest is history.
Many have also been curious as to why the game was set up in four volumes, some going as far as speculating consumer rip off. Since the game is divided into four volumes, the total cost after purchasing all four would come to be over 200 dollars, instead of 52.99 for one complete version of .hack. There is, however, a justifiable explanation behind this. As it would seem, it is very customary for Japanese comic books to be set up in four volumes, each with a specific purpose. The first volume, naturally, is an introduction. The introduction is followed by a direct sequel, the second volume. The third volume is designed to introduce an incident or bring about some sort of major conflict, which is then resolved by volume four. It’s in this style that .hack was set up, further developing the artistry of the .hack universe.
As for the game? Unlike its predecessor, it is guaranteed that the emphasis of .hack//MUTATION will lie on plot and dialogue, particularly on the media aspect of The World. By the end of the game, an incident will develop that directly impacts and leads to volume 3, which the creators fervently believe will instill a demanding interest for OUTBREAK in players. In addition, more wallpaper, music files, and e-mails will be available for players to tool with/take advantage of. The depth of the e-mail system has developed to the point where players will be able to contact characters that weren’t reachable before.
OUTBREAK will be very similar to MUTATION in terms of emphasizing plot and dialogue. The story will further develop The World and its mechanisms, and will introduce a handful of minigames for players to enjoy. Many of these revolve around the lovable Grunties, and include the likes of Grunty racing and much more. The only features brought to the desktop will involve some sort of video clips, possibly from the game’s cut scenes. The aforementioned “incident” will begin to be resolved, and the conclusion will be brought with volume 4, which will end this incarnation of .hack.
And what about the series’ future? Well, as it stands, there isn’t much talk of a second series to be created. As stated earlier, the game series was designed in the same art style applied to comics, broken into four parts. Any continuation would not relate to the current series. Any continuation would also depend on how well the current series is embraced by North American gamers, as well as budgetary constraints. However, if the series’ popularity stays strong, a parallel series might be taken into serious consideration, and North American gamers might be lucky enough to see an MMORPG inspired by the game developed and brought into their market. So despite a rocky start, it would seem .hack has quite the promising future, and may very well become a new addition to the library of acclaimed role playing games after all.
For any and all interested, the entire interview was filmed for Japanese television. Afterwards, Chris and Nicole each were personally interviewed (or would “interrogated” be a better word?) about US views on Japanese gaming, as well as .hack. No information about where, when, or what station this would appear on was given, but anyone who peruses Japanese T.V. should definitely check it out.