Technical Concepts of Phantasy Star Online, Universe, and Portable 2

I was contemplating whether to write this post, you see it's on the technical side of things and there's a few concepts that are hard to understand.  The first part goes into how Sega developed the character creation system of PSU and how it was adapted to PSPo2. The second part will outline the network aspects of how Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe handles positioning data.

To start this post you need to understand 2 concepts. The first is linear interpolation. Think of this like the in-betweeners of animation. It animates the movement of an object from one position to another. So a basic example of this, if you had a ball rolling down a hill, you would place your first scene at the top of the hill, and the second scene at the bottom of the hill. The computer then animates what happens in between both scenes through linear interpolation (But of course I'm no expert on this..) The point is for the computer to make the animation smooth between two points!

The second concept is server/client model. Clients are basically the Dreamcasts, Gamecubes, PC, PS2. Server is Sega's computer which you connect to for online gameplay.

(My own commentary will appear this way)

PSP2 Plastic Surgery

The left is the face shows a model from Phantasy Star Universe, and the right show's its equivalent in Phantasy Star Portable 2. If you played the demo of PSpo2, you may have noticed the facial slider no longer appears in the Character Creation screen. At the CEDEC, Sega developers gave a little insight on the technicalities of the PSP to explain why the slider was removed.

In Playstation Portable, the resolution is very low. Characters lose distinct details of the face when viewed from far away. The team decided to construct new faces that are clearer and easier to identify on the PSP.

In the example shown above, the eyes were made much larger so that one can identify her character from a far distance.

With this compromise, it allows the game to transmit less data for the character's themselves. The lecture continues to show how to implement cost cutting measures when designing characters for an online game.


Reducing Production Costs

Cost efficient measures were applied to the new default outfits for the races. When you develop whole outfits, (instead of the separate tops and bottoms like PSU has), the production time is greatly reduced.

The main star of these cost efficient measures are the hairstyles!


In this example above, you have two characters, A and B who both have the same outfit and facial features. It is determined that A and B are different individuals because they each have different hairstyles.


In this second example, if you have two characters with the same hair but change their outfit, it would be considered the same character.  (Personally I don't agree with this line of thinking. In some games, changing your hairstyle greatly changes the identity of your character. Yet in this game, I still feel that I have the same character even if the hairstyle has drastically changed.)


Even having such a slight change can attribute to character variation. The picture above show two characters with similar hairstyles. Their impressions are different because one has longer hair than the other. This changes the overall outline of her face. That modification took around 10 minutes to create, making this very cost efficient.


All 3 shots in the example above use the same face, and eye color. Comparing this picture with the one above it, their faces appear to have decreased in size.  However, these hairstyles do not change the model of the face in any way.

Since online games demand a large amount of character variation, having characters produced this way becomes very efficient. This efficiency isn't just to cut production time, but it also reduces network traffic since you aren't keeping track of many features (like the facial slider).  So with this concept in place, it allows many characters to gather in a lobby without increasing  loading times.


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Phantasy Star Universe: Differences with Gamers

Shougai linked to the second part of Sakai's interview. Here we see some interesting comments regarding us foreign players.

Gamebridge: The latest game have both a domestic and foreign outlook, what do you think is necessary to consider by making Phantasy Star appeal to foreign countries (outside of japan)?

Sakai: For now,  the game wasn't really directed towards foreign countries. Originally, "Phantasy Star" was a popular title abroad.  But now, that feeling seems to be gone. Maybe it is because of  the failure of PSU. Now when you create Phantasy Star (games) "Things that the Japanese players will accept," is valued. Yet, we are also put in a position to make something that foreign countries will accept. This is because our company's policy is to make games for a global audience.  So I do try to aim for a global audience, but there is no use creating something that is not accepted by Japanese players. "When you make something in Japan, will the rest of the world embrace it?," is a hugely important thing to think about. […]

Generally there isn't much of a story in online games. How do you introduce a story then?  [Inserting a story] was truly the experiment for PSU. [Regarding online games in general]: Is it difficult to have one person developing into the hero?  In PSO, "the view of the world" is the main premise behind the game, it was a story where you could see the mysteries, little by little. In the future,  I think that it would be good to head back towards that direction.

I guess in comparison, taking a look at PSU's story, the game presents with "you" as a character participating within story events and shaping the world. So you become famous in your own right among the main characters.  The characters actively acknowledge you and may remember you from previous episodes. In PSO you were merely taking part in events that seemed to happen around you. It wasn't really much of a game to play for the story. I'm still not even sure what the heck happened in episode 4 after beating it so many times. 

Gamebridge:  What are the differences between the Japanese and Foreign gamers?

Sakai: "You can do everything"  from the start is a concept for foreign games. In Japanese games, it was good to say "How do you make it fun within limitations."  But now that hardware has evolved, "You can do everything," is now the reality. The Japanese players are very passive, the foreign gamers are pretty active. For example within events, the Japanese players don't give out much feedback, do they…

Ok? Are we too vocal about events then?

[via shougai]

Phantasy Star Portable 2: Moyashimon and Jump Mission

Well we have several new features coming up this week. This includes the Moyashimon Visual Unit and 邪王降臨 collaboration mission.


What's New?

The "Jump 邪王降臨" mission follows the theme of "friends saving friends." In this mission, you rescue the three Naura sisters! As you play there will be several gimmicks to impede your victory! At the end of the mission you will fight the rare boss "Olga Dyran."  It appears this mission will play similar to "The Big Push", where you must protect the sisters from receiving damage.

This mission will be very difficult, but Sakai describes it also as DELICIOUS, because of the rare drops! It appears the previous Shonen Jump collaboration weapons will drop in this mission. Now you'll be able to obtain those weapons with different elemental percentages. Download this mission on 2/24/10.


Moyashimon World
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The Moyashimon World Aura Unit will release on 2/23/10. You can obtain it by inputting a special password in the Vision Phone located in your room!


Blog Updates

  • Several new Evangelion DLC outfits will release sometime soon
  • Obtain your 3 Extend Codes by playing Maximum Attack's Exchange Mission in Story Mode.
  • Server Maintenance 2/24/10


Whats Next For Sakai Part 2 *

Shougai PSO posted a minor minor update about the next game in the Phantasy Star Series. In a recent Dengeki article, Sakai comments, "Phantasy Star Portable 2 can be seen as a compilation of the Phantasy Star Universe Series. Therefor, I think that next [game] will be a new "leap" for the series. As for [making] the Phantasy Star Series, "challenging" is one of the concepts. So there's an opinion that we should just make a console version of PSP2, however, I think that this [new] thing should be something more different from that. I want to not only draw in new players, but also deliver a game that older fans can approve of."

Shougai PSO speculates that a brand new game for the Phantasy Star Series is in development. They speculate the new game will not be the "Gurhal" series of PSP2, since he stated it will be "different thing" but may draw upon the flow of PSO's "Ragol Series", since he stated it would be a game the older fans approve of.

I would say from all of  this, this next game will be completely new, just as PSZero was, but may follow some older traditions that we've come to love throughout our years of playing Phantasy Star.

[via shougaipso]

* Will move to next new blog post in the future.