Revisiting The Phantasy Star Series! (Part 1): Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst

The 20th anniversary of PSO is coming up on December 21st! We'll be looking back at the past online games. Starting us off is Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst.

PSOBB is a definitive edition of the first ever PSO title. It bundles together Episode 1 and 2, while marking the release of Episode 4.

 

Playing PSOBB Today!

The game is still playable today thanks to the hard work of fans. If you're interested in playing, I suggest joining the Private Server [Ephinea]. More info on Ephinea will be at the bottom of the post.

 

Classes and Characters

Choose between 3 Classes and 4 Characters per Class. The Character chosen will greatly impact gameplay, so you may want to do some research beforehand. There will be a few customization options you can make to the Character for a unique feel from other players.

Importance of Class and Character

Classes will have general Weapon Types they can utilize, but some weapons are can only be used by certain Races, Genders, etc. Characters stats will also greatly differ from each other.

 

Once completed with Character Creation, a Section ID will be chosen for the character based on your Character Name. Use the Section ID Calc on PSO-World to acquire the desired ID.

On the Ephinea Server, you can use a command to change your Section ID (This one has a cooldown of 3 months) and Character Name (Infinite use).

Importance of Section ID

The Party Leader's Section ID determines the drops that the Party can get.

 

Party Play

Players will start in the Lobby Area after loading into the game. Head to the Counter to join or create a Party. There can be up to 4 players in a party.

 

For the solo players out there, there is an Play Mode called [One Person]. Selecting it will scale the game for a solo adventure.

 

Combat Introduction

Weapons have a Normal, Strong, and sometimes a Special Attack. Special Attacks can range from causing status effects to casting unique attacks if the right conditions are met. Humans and Newmans will be allowed to use Technics, while CASTs can utilize Traps.

 

Ephinea Private Server

The Ephinea Private Server is a great way to enjoy PSOBB for new and old players. What makes it great is the quality of life changes made to the game to modernize it without taking out the old flavor to it. Read up on all the changes and new features they made here.

We took time to talk with one of the Admins of Ephinea to learn even more.

Check Out Ephinea!

 

Interview with Ephinea Admin Matt

-Ephinea has a lot of unique features, could you tell us about some of the best features?

If I had to pick a "best" feature for Ephinea, it would be the PSO2 Drop System (or an individual drop system). Sodaboy created this system for Ephinea back in 2015, and we believe it was most likely the feature that made Ephinea stand out amongst the other PSOBB servers at the time. In fact, due to its success, all other popular PSOBB servers have implemented this feature themselves.

I'm sure we all remember playing PSO back in the "good old days", yet if you wanted items, you had to watch out for "ninjas", play by the honour system, or just simply solo if you're after something extremely rare. On Ephinea all these worries are gone, as each player gets their own drops after killing enemies, meaning playing with others doesn't hamper your chances at getting something that has already dropped, and you can hunt in groups without concern, which is always more enjoyable than sticking to yourself all the time. It's a multiplayer game, after all!

Of course, we have various other features too, such as a shared experience system, meaning you no longer have to waste time tagging enemies and can play to your class' strengths, and the Hunters Boost Road which promotes the playing of older, less played quests amongst the titans such as Towards the Future and Maximum Attack 4, promoting some variety in play.

A notable mention is all the "quality of life" features that Ephinea has implemented as well, such as 32 character slots, the ability to have a section ID irrespective of character name, the ability to stack items such as materials and grinders, and it's these modern changes that really help bring the experience together, and could be argued to be just as important as major features such as the individual drop system.

 

-The Individual drop system is quite important. Were there any adjustments made to the drop rates now that everyone has their own drop pool?

Originally due to balance concerns, we ended up making it so that the individual drop system would lower the drop rates of all items dropped in the party. I can't remember off the top of my head, but it was something like this:

  • 1P: 100%
  • 2P: 81%
  • 3P: 63%
  • 4P: 54%

However, after observing how players reacted to this, we ended up just bringing the rates up to a flat 100% rate for any number of players, as essentially what this system did was tell people they're being punished for playing with others. While it could be argued your overall time/drop ratio was higher with more people, this isn't how it felt to players: What they saw is that having more people in your party meant that you are less likely to get what you want.

I think it makes more sense for no reduction in drop rates with more players, as if you think about other games, you tend to get bonuses for playing with other people, so why should you have a penalty for doing the same thing on PSO? In terms of the overall economy, people could just do 4 solo games and have 100% drop rate to themselves, but you want people to be playing together, there shouldn't be incentives for playing alone (but saying that, there shouldn't be penalties for playing alone either — it's perfectly valid to want to just do some things by yourself!)

While the system still improved the situation of people soloing all the time for hunts, it wasn't perfect, and after we raised everything to 100% drop rates, now you have a choice if you want to hunt in a group or alone — there's no perceived losses for running with groups anymore.

 

-Indeed, penalizing for playing together is never any fun. Regarding Game Balance side of things, how close is Ephinea to the Official PSOBB in terms of class and weapon balance?

Almost 1:1, we wanted PSOBB Ephinea to be a place where you log in and it's like you're back on the official PSO.

There have been some minor changes though, which include:

  • Ability to use Clio on HUnewearl (we felt like this was a SEGA mistake to not let her do it, just felt right!)
  • Ability to obtain Rambing May and Girasole with Hit, along with some handful of SEGA event items.
  • Some repurposed TypeMs to make them identical to the popular Charge weapons — these are just for the recoloured aesthetic!

There are no plans to make anymore changes, Ephinea is here for fans of PSO how it was, and we don't plan to extend the game per se. The game can be played infinitely without any extras really, considering the brutal Hit % system! There's always some piece of gear you can improve…

 

-It's nice to know fans of the game from 20 years ago can still play the same game, and new players can play it how it was. Going back to drop rates, there is an account type called Hardcore that boosts the drop rates. Can you tell us about it and where the idea came from?

Hardcode Mode was a mode that Sodaboy added — I'd have to ask him myself, but if I had to guess, the inspiration for the mode is from Diablo 3, as Soda is a pretty big fan of that game (and honestly, so am I! Been a while since I played though, Monk is the best class)

Hardcore Mode permanently kills your character if you are to die without a Scape Doll — this includes your inventory and character bank too, so if you're not careful, you could easily lose your hard-earned items. Anything in your Shared Storage is safe though, so you have somewhere to keep items you don't want to lose when not in use. Of course, there are incentives to playing Hardcore Mode, namely +100% EXP and +30% Rare Drop Rate; if you take risks, you deserve the rewards!

Due to this, Hardcore Mode players are unable to trade with Normal Mode players though, but you can still play with them providing that you have the individual drop system turned on.

 

-If I remember correctly, it announces your death to the server. Is that still present?

It sure is! Of course, it only does this if your character is at least level 20, as we wouldn't want people just remaking characters constantly for the announcements.

The banner will mention who died, their level and class, what killed them, along with whatever their last chat message was. Sometimes there's some great banners, such as level 200 players dying with messages such as "I have a Scape Doll, it'll be fine!" — not so sure it was fine!

 

-You guys recently just finished your Halloween Event, and held an anniversary event a little bit ago. I imagine you're preparing for a Christmas Event in December. How long does it usually take to create an event?

Depends on the scope of the event really. Officially, we consider ourselves to have 3 major events (Easter, Anniversary and Christmas), and 3 minor events (Valentine's, Summer and Halloween).

Each event is designed to be different to one another, so events feel unique and have their own feel, rather than each event being the same by either being extra items or boosted rates (although these things certainly do feature in the events, we like to be a little more creative with how they're handed out!).

I'd say that for each event, it perhaps took us a few days of discussion to come up with how they should work, then some days work from our talented developers, Sodaboy and tofuman, but now events don't take particularly long to prepare as we simply just use the previous year's base and add/change some items or rates depending on feedback. Generally now, it's just a case of changing the rewards, as we are pretty happy with our event schedule and mechanics, and don't feel they need any major changes anymore.

We are in the middle of preparing for Christmas 2020 of course as you say, so we hope that Ephinea players new and old are looking forward to that!

 

-PSO's 20th Anniversary hits quite close to Christmas on December 21st. Do you have any special plans for it?

Actually, I haven't even thought about it, in fact, it's only because you told me now that I know the 20th anniversary in December!

I suppose I will have to bring it up with the other staff members and see what they think, but I think it would be very nice to do something for the 20th Anniversary!

 

-Perhaps a Special Boost Day! Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

Honestly, I think it's quite amazing that people still love and play PSOBB to this day — not that I blame them! I find it quite touching that people are still interested, and I'd definitely advise anyone reading this to give PSO1 a whirl and check out Phantasy Star's first foray into the online world! Naturally, I would recommend you give it a try at the Ephinea PSOBB Server, which you can play at https://ephinea.pioneer2.net/, and we would love to see you there!

-Thank you for your time to do this interview.

 

The Series will continue with [Part 2: Phantasy Star Universe]. Check back later for it!

12 thoughts to “Revisiting The Phantasy Star Series! (Part 1): Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst”

  1. Really cool! Old PSO, especially Blue Burst, are really great games. It being so different from modern PSO2 has really helped it stay alive even after 20 years. Everyone should try this game, just once.

  2. PSO 1 did ONE thing better than pretty much any other games out there, PSO 2 included.

    It absolutely NAILED the atmosphere!

    It nailed it to such a degree, that you simply cannot find any negative, that you wouldn't be able to overlook, because of the atmosphere.
    It doesn't matter that you can't move the camera, it doesn't matter that the controls are so stiff and clumsy, it doesn't matter that you have to check each individual entry in the friends list to see who's online, it doesn't matter that some of the drop rates are so bad, you'd have to play non stop for decades to get them.
    None of these matters, because the atmosphere is so gosh darned good, you can't bring yourself to let it matter.

    1. +1

      PSO2 has had its moments too, but sadly the atmosphere and mystery (especially in the music) was nowhere near as intense as PSO1. You can tell that they tried to incorporate atmosphere in the first couple of episodes of PSO2, but the overall range of instrumentation is far too narrow to reach the same depths as PSO1. A good comparison would be to listen to the ruins music from PSO1 and PSO2 for anyone who has never had the opportunity to experience PSO from the beginning.

      By the time Ep4 came and went, PSO2 lost any semblance of atmosphere and dynamic range with the music tracks either being full on J-Pop songs or loud pumping electronic and epic orchestral pieces. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but for me this is where I feel PSO2 became disconnected from what made PSO1 special.

      The sense of exploration with eerie music and mysterious environments was a staple of PSO1 however this is nonexistent in PSO2 considering everything is showcased in the live streams weeks or even months ahead of the content hitting the game. Exploration took a hit since Ep4 with free fields being dumbed down to boss rush racetrack quest formats that have zero engagement with the players.

      NGS seems to be SEGAs fix for the lack of exploration in current day PSO2, but I'm keen to see if they will truly be able to reprise the PSO1 atmosphere in the process. Only time will tell.

    2. I think PSPo2 nailed the atmosphere as well plus the story was interesting. But yeah past EP4 PSO2 is content dry, it can be seen through free fields as MOI mentioned and any game mode that could have beneficed from new areas such as Challenge Quest and TA suffered from it. I really wish they kept those updated. One decision that I can understand but that didn't turn well in my opinion are EQs. They really should have put those bosses directly in the game, it would serve as a nice progression check and it just makes more sense overall. Especially now that the game is completed. They could keep EQs for events though.

  3. I just wish there was engine port of the game, similar to Diablo 1, that keeps all the assets and aesthetics, but let you play at high framerates and with better controls.
    I can absolutely appreciate PSO1 for its atmosphere, but since I missed it when it was relevant, it's almost impossible to play it after far superior control schemes of Portable games and PSO2.

  4. Pso2 past ep4 is really lost it's thematic feel, it for some reason started having an existential crisis with ep4 and started chasing bad ideas from other games.

    1. "Some reason" was Kimura going creatively bankrupt. I mean he wasn't much of an artist anyway, but guest directors really pushed eps 1-3 to excellence. And then they were gone.
      If KMR didn't hire Ysok for ep6, game would die by now.

  5. As much as I might have kept getting backlash for it for the few times I posted, the game play and immersion in the world of original pso series compared to modern are like night and day.

    As some mentioned, music goes a long way to bring you into the moment and convey a story without any dialog spoken. Wish the music in current pso2 wasn't, at the best of times, instantly muted and switched to personal Playlist.

    I think there was an idea awhile ago of using your in-game saved jukebox tunes for your NON-EQ mission music when you drop from camp ship. Would have loved the chance to play pso1 battle theme music like Trick Track while fighting as gunner in tunnels, or hear the actual Naked Sky music verse the butchered version we get in pso2 and those God awful "tension" parts we get too much of while exploring coast or Sea beds.

    Just to bring in a slightly better atmosphere, as someone already touched on.

    1. I agree with the part the music stops almost instantly. Your suggestion is very much appreciated and it's a good reason to buy premium again. Well you can hear the music from harddrive or youtube etc. but to use music discs this way – well let's say it this way. No one visiting my room – I I spend billions of meseta in this game because I like the music especially the old ones. But I cant hear them. Maybe I didnt get the point – well english not my native language anyway.

  6. Very awesome read! As someone who only plays PSO2 this was super cool to look at, wonder if you'd ever make another post like this but going into detail on how PSOBB end game possibly looks like? Either way cant wait to see more from these!

  7. Will you be talking about PSODC/PC and PSOGC and the best servers to play them today (Sylverant for DC/PC and Schtchack for GC episodes I, II and III)?

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