Vague Patch Notes: Phantasy Star Online 2 might be in a better place than you think

Sometimes, knowing a lot about things means knowing very little

    
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Vague Patch Notes: Phantasy Star Online 2 might be in a better place than you think

A couple years back (this being the definition where “a couple” means “I can’t remember precisely how many”), I was talking with a friend about Phantasy Star Online 2. This, obviously, was well before its localization was announced, and said friend was firmly of the mindset that even if it were announced, it wouldn’t matter. As she saw it, everyone with an interest in the game had already tried the translation patch and played the game on the Japanese servers, and no one else would care.

Fast-forward to now, and while it’s far too early to call the localized game a success (it’s still not actually out, for example, and we haven’t seen it on PC), there’s a whole lot of positive buzz. People are excited about the game. And that got me thinking about how the formula really does exist for the game to do far better here than you might be inclined to think based on age and delays… and in a larger scope, about the ways in which existing communities can sometimes have an echo chamber without intending to do so.

So why do I think it has a pretty solid shot? Well, for the majority of its target audience, this is not only a new game coming out but a new game that has already done the awkward fumbling that every new MMO goes through. It’s launching here now with those balance issues and early jank smoothed over, complete with a huge backlog of content that will ensure that a reasonable rollout schedule offers players new things to do for roughly half of forever.

It also has a distinct visual style, it’s science fantasy rather than pure fantasy (it’s no coincidence how much of it plays up the science fiction elements), and it’s an action game; that last point makes it much easier to pick up for newcomers. Whether or not you necessarily like action combat more or less than more sedate gameplay, it’s easier to understand “press X to attack” than “here are two dozen little buttons with your abilities and you need to learn all of them to hit things.”

With the right marketing and good support? Yeah, this is a game that could easily refine itself into a solid hit, especially with the rumor that Final Fantasy XIV will be joining it on the Xbox One (making it an easy “lighter and softer” companion to that). It’s not an absolute slam dunk just by putting it out there, but it certainly is positioned to do well.

“But it’s old news,” you protest. “Anyone who would be interested is bored of it.” And to that, I point to an obvious counterexample in me.

I have, obviously, known about the game all along. I’ve known about its development, launch, original plans for localization, the stalling of same, the quiet removal from obvious channels, and so forth. I was following the theories about why the game had never been localized, knew about the English patch, and so on.

I still never actually played it despite all of this.

This one didn't require a patch and it still took me years to decide to play it.

It wasn’t for lack of interest, either; the overall Phantasy Star series sadly hasn’t reached quite the level of cultural penetration of series like Shin Megami Tensei, Final Fantasy, and the Tales franchise, but it’s still a delightful experience and has some titles which are either masterpieces or flawed-but-memorable games just the same. (Just mark me down if we ever get a Phantasy Star III remake.) No, this was purely a case wherein the amount of work needed to get the game into a playable state didn’t feel rewarding enough.

At first, it was one of those cases wherein it would be easy enough to check it out once it got localized. As that looked increasingly unlikely, it instead changed to being a case of entering a very closed community reliant on rules of behavior which were unfamiliar with no larger group to access. It was, in short, unapproachable.

And I would stress here that I’m one of the people who knew about this game. There were a lot of people who no doubt heard about it for the first time when it was announced for this side of the pond, meaning that I imagine the majority of its potential audience might not have even known it was a thing until recently.

You might think this is all an extended way of winning a disagreement with a friend several years later, but here’s the thing – at the time, I was agreeing with her. I thought she had the right of it. After all, who cares about the game any more? If I knew about it but couldn’t be bothered to play it, why would anyone else be interested if it actually came out?

It turns out that based on a thoroughly unscientific glance at the overall hype level, the answer is a surprisingly large amount of people. Or, in another sense, a not-at-all surprising number of people once you realize that the sample size being used as the basis for surprise is not actually indicative of a general audience.

Yes, this is the important part, folks.

Please come out here and please be good.

The reality is that the enthusiast side of any hobby is a pretty small group of people. Most people do not do a whole lot of research and reading about something they have only a cursory interest in. Your cousin who used to play World of Warcraft isn’t no longer playing MMOs because they failed to latch on to one aspect or another that usually involves making them harder to play; she stopped playing because in her mind, she never played MMOs. She played WoW until she wasn’t having fun any more, then she didn’t.

You are almost certainly aware that, say, most of the people you know are less interested in MMOs than you are. But it’s hard to know exactly how broad that disconnection is from an internal perspective. Do average audiences at this point even know or care what EverQuest is? Do they even want big group content? The best you can do is try to guess about these things based on sales trends and player anecdotes, and even then that’s somewhat speculative.

About all you can say with certainty is that people want to play games that are fun and they like playing those games until they’re no longer fun. Period end. And even when your job is literally thinking about these games, observing them, and placing them in a larger context, it’s very easy to lose track of the fine details in light of all the other superfluous noise that is inevitably and constantly flying around at the same time.

So yeah, I think PSO2 has pretty good odds when it finally releases; it’s launching on one unpopular but potentially fertile platform and one popular platform (assuming the Steam launch happens as planned), and there are a lot of people who either weren’t aware of it before or were peripherally aware but will be more interested with an official localized release. It may be an older title now, but it’s not going to read that way to much of the target audience, and in a way that matters more than knowing it’s a little bit older.

Heck, it has better odds than Bless Unleashed.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.

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Chosenxeno .

It’s a great game. Been playing the JP version. Switched to Dungeon Defenders Awakening for now but I’ll be playing PSO2 NA PC. All the polish is there. There’s a ton of Content. I like the artstyle.

Eric E
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Eric E

I can’t wait for PSO2 to release. I played the JP version few years ago and I loved it. I had given up hope that it was ever going to come to NA.

I played the closed beta and it went perfect. You can tell it’s almost ready. I do hope they draw out the content as I don’t want to play through it all in one month. I want to be able to enjoy it for years to come. The beta had plenty of content to keep someone busy for months on end.

What I noticed the most about the beta was there was a LOT of new people trying the game out for the first time. They hadn’t known about the JP patched version. Most of the new people I ran into loved the game and will be playing it once it releases.

I think this game will turn out to be pretty successful in NA. I’m sure SEGA will kick themselves for not releasing it to our market much sooner.

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StonerMk2

Im definitely one of those people, though i did know about the JP release and the English patches and whatnot. Cannot wait for this game to launch.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

The game has a whole lot of years of content development. Hopefully, that means we won’t be getting some bare-bones game that you can zip through in a day or two.

I don’t know if maybe they’re going to do some kind of delayed content release in the West or not but I’m hoping that it right off comes with all the content they’ve developed over the years.

I saw some videos of the game recently and was daydreaming about playing it a bit the other day. I don’t know if others are like me, but I get in different gaming moods. I recently had one where I needed to play a builder type game. I often will be in one where I need story-rich gamplay. Right now I’m in the mood for a co-op action RPG light on story, perfect for the type of game that I see PSO 2 looks like.

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Sorenthaz

PSO2 will almost definitely do well in the West despite its age as long as SEGA doesn’t royally screw it up with bad choices regarding monetization and such.

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Spencer Baird

PSO2 will absolutely do great with the localized version. The closed beta alone still has players (new and old) talking about it two weeks later. When the CBT first opened with only 1 server, it filled up within the first 5 minutes and forced then to open a second server. The unexpectedly large player base crashed the CBT for several hours, even with both servers open, but after it was fixed, the servers ran extremely smoothly, with little to no lag. My point is, the game already tested extremely well, the developers immediately addressed any problems and communicated with players on social media the entire time about the problems, and there’s already a well established community of CBT testers and gamers that weren’t able to make time for it that weekend and we’re all very hyped for full release that’s still 1-4 months away.

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y cant metroid crawl?

I played the patch a bit but it could never really be complete and there are a ton of weird hoops to jump through and I couldn’t play on a console unless I was ok with foregoing the patch. While overall I still enjoy the original PSO on an actual gamecube the most (and we’re still kickin’!), having a full translation and just… there on a console will get me to actually dive into it. Heck, I even got an xbone to check out the beta (then got sucked into neverwinter because it’s an action rpg mmo that is pso2 but dungeons and dragons whoops)

Indeed part of the reason the english patch, while impressive, doesn’t feel complete is that PSO2’s biggest flaw is that you spend 90% of the time menuing (that was my beta experience at least) and while what wasn’t translated was minimal, the beta taught me that no, those last few things not translated don’t suddenly make the wacky intertwined systems and weird weapon and armor upgrades make any immediate sense. This is why ultimately I enjoy PSO the first more, you spend more time hitting things than in menus, and it’s a shame because PSO2 combat is very fun but for every 5 minutes of it you spend 55 minutes debasing yourself in menus. I hope it gets better as I learn what I’m doing, but I’m not holding my breath.

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Chosenxeno .

I’ve been playing the JP version. You are correct. The game has a lot of Vagueness in regards to progresion and various systems.

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Castagere Shaikura

I have mentioned here before that my old clan of MMO players has given up on the genre for board games. But this game all of them have been waiting for years for this to come west. Every single one of them wants this badly. I’m talking about 17 people that I used to play with. They even made plans of having a guild of all us and some 35 + year old only players that will go through testing to get in. An old-timers guild. I will be dumping every other game for this when it comes out.

And from what I’m hearing Microsoft better be ready for this when it hits. All games have launch issues but this one could be epic if they are not ready for it. The Xbox beta ended with a concert for crying out loud. People are going through withdrawals already. I can’t wait for the MOP MJ stream for this. The options in character creation will make her head spin. It might be better if she creates her character off-screen first.

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David Blair

Wouldn’t the problem be that the game is almost 8 years old now and newer things have come out since then that have improved quality of life and other components in this genre?

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y cant metroid crawl?

Like what? The only thing I’ve played that compares are ffxiv and neverwinter, which are both roughly as old.

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David Blair

So FF14 being a good comparison. They just released a new patch with QoL improvements. When was the last time PSO2 was patched with new features to keep it inline with the status quo?

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Chosenxeno .

I wouldn’t pick FFXIV. For one PSO2 version of the Trust system is vastly superior. I would say it’s closer to Kritika and Soulworker than FFXIV. He’s correct. QOL in the style of game PSO2 is has greatly improved. That, said. PSO2 is pretty solid and it seems less P2W than Soulworker, Kritika and Vindictus with superior stages(there’s Dynamic Events).

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Sorenthaz

There hasn’t been a AAA MMO released in awhile and PSO2 offers a unique style of gameplay. Best it could be compared to is maybe Vindictus or Monster Hunter World in terms of format.

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David Blair

Interesting. Not having seen it in action I assumed it was a graphical update to what PSO1 Ep1 & 2 were doing.

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Ian Wells

Game play is very different from EP 1 & 2 and Blue Burst. Vindictus is a very good point of reference, in terms of general game play type.

Character progression is pretty standard with levels and skill points, with FXIV’s approach to classes wherein one character can level all classes to max independently. Unlike FFXIV though, subclasses are a thing. Stats are applied automatically, as I recall, with a portion of the subclass’s stats being applied to your main class. You also get access to all the passives and photon arts (active skills for non-magic users) of the subclass’s tree. Using Force or Techer as a subclass can give any class access to magic, which can be useful for solo leveling as free means to heal themselves and get buffs.

That said, skill points are VERY limited though and free players can only have one build template per class meaning they have to know what their main class will be more or less from the start so they know how to apply their skill points as they level each class so as to best augment or support their main class when a certain class is set to be the sub.

Leveling certain pairs of classes about half way to max level will unlock other classes (eg. Force + Braver = Techer). The resulting class is a completely new class that cannot make use of the perquisite classes’ skill trees unless they are set to subclass.

Skills and magic (aka ‘Photon Arts’ and ‘Techs’) are mostly gained and leveled by finding discs that contain those skills and spells as drops from specific mobs and bosses. A good amount of grinding can be necessary to get the skills and spells you want, depending on spawn rate of the given enemies that can drop the spell at the level you need it.

Gear upgrading is basically like any mobile game you every played. You feed less valuable drops into your preferred gear to level them or enchant them with some of the component items’ boons (eg. feed several weapons with a spell cast speed enchant on them and get a better chance of getting a spell cast speed enchant on the weapon you are trying to enchant). Its a little convoluted to explain, but is pretty intuitive in practice. The gist is to never NPC any gear you find unless you are absolutely certain you have no use for it. There is pretty ample bank space available to horde things, but it can fill up faster than you might think.

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Sorenthaz

Nah as Ian went into, it’s quite different. I’d say it’s kind of an evolution because there are sort of core aspects that are indeed familiar if you played PSO1 Ep1&2/Blue Burst, but it expands quite a bit and the pacing is much faster/action-oriented.

It also took some elements from the in-between series, Phantasy Star Universe which was basically a spiritual successor to PSO.

Veldara
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Veldara

I decided to fire up the game on the JP server and so far it’s been a great time. You can definitely see where games like Warframe, FFXIV, GW2, and Destiny have taken inspirations from this title. It’s nice to go and play the game that revolutionized so many mechanics and inspired so many game developers.

For those that want to try it out in full now here’s a video for you to get set up in the JP server.

Word of advice from me: Ignore the part about not downloading from the recommend option and make sure you join Ship 2 server. That’s where all the english speaking players are.

https://arks-layer.com/

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John Kiser

Ehhh I wouldn’t realistically say that FFXIV is really inspired much from PSO2. I’d say they took more inspiration from FFXI and then shoved some more themepark mmo elements into it.

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y cant metroid crawl?

Correct. Also PSO1 (which was mostly inspired by Diablo) was the main source of inspiration for Monster Hunter. You see it a lot in the Dragon fight if you play it at level, and there’s a couple of fights I got to play in the PSO2 beta that very much seem to have then, in turn, taken some notes from Monster Hunter, not the least of which is the PSO2 version of Dragon

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Utakata

Goodness…I am surprised he didn’t ask us to do the Hokey Pokey while doing on that. o.O