Sega Talks Phantasy Star Universe
09.01.06 - 2:04 PM

With Phantasy Star Universe being available in Japan since yesterday, Japanese website GameWatch has caught up with the game's producer Takao Miyoshi and director Satoshi Sakai.

The duo first talked about the Premiere disc, a demo which had been available in Japan prior to the game's release. Sega distributed 10,000 of those discs in Japan. According to producer Miyoshi, 80% of those 10,000 lucky gamers tried out the game's online mode. Director Sakai added he was rather surprised by the high number of PlayStation 2 owners who went online.

Regarding the game's (offline) story mode, Miyoshi caculated that it will take a player more than 30 hours to complete. Asked about the implementation of the story mode's protagonist Ethan, the producer explained he wanted to do something he could not do with Phantasy Star Online. With Phantasy Star Online, the team's aim was to let the player become the protagonist. This high level of customization however did not allow for the implementation of a fixed character like Ethan. Miyoshi however believes, that there are two types of RPG fans: One group that enjoys a game's scenario and world, and a second group that wants to enjoy the game's systems. With Phantasy Star Universe, Miyoshi wants to satisfy both user groups and hence the implementation of Ethan. Asked about the story mode's main theme, Sakai explained it came down to a simple question: "What is it that you want to protect?"

While the Premiere Disc only let users play free missions, the finished product's online mode will also include story missions. These missions will become even more enjoyable after a player has completed the story mode. Sega promises to release a new story mission every two weeks and Sakai likened them to a serial drama.

Another key aspect of the game's online mode will be shops run by players. These user-run shops will also be open, when the player is not logged in. Thereby the team wants to create a feeling of a dynamic virtual world that keeps moving, even if the player is offline. Producer Miyoshi also explained that only basic items will be available in city shops, where higher level items can be only be obtained through item fusion.

As far the game's development and future plans are concerned, Phantasy Star Universe has been in developed for about three years. The biggest challenge in bringing the game to PlayStation 2 was the lack of memory.

The most important know-how the team had acquired from Phantasy Star Online was knowledge and data related to a long-term administration of an online game. Originally, Sega believed users would play Phantasy Star Online for one or two months, while instead it turned out to be six years. Hence, the company is now projecting Phantasy Star Universe to be online for at least five years.

As for bringing the game to other markets, Sega is apparently thinking about bringing the game to various Asian markets, in addition to already confirmed releases in North America and Europe. Since the story has become more of a focal point this time and release dates differ from territory to territory, Japanese users and their counterparts elsewhere will play on different servers.

Phantasy Star Universe was released for PlayStation 2 and PC platform in Japan yesterday. An Xbox 360 version is also in development, but has yet to receive an official release date. Phantasy Star Universe will go on sale in the US on October 24th.

Chris Winkler

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