Core Magazine Interview with Yuji Naka

Interview Data:

  • Interview Date: 2000? (approximate date)
  • Interview Topics: PSO, Design
  • Interview Source: Core Magazine at Y2 external.png

(Transcribed by Andreas Tunek)

PSO ~ Core Magazine

Question: Phantasy Star Online will be a network title for the Dreamcast. Will there be one main character?
Naka-san: Yes, but I wouldn't say a 'leading character' exactly. Rather, players will 'make' their characters by assigning them certain jobs or tribes.

Question: Having seen all the video footage, one real question remains; will the battles take place entirely in real-time?
Naka-san: There are many subsystems in the actual 'battle system,' but essentially it's real-time. We wanted to create a game where you could act cooperatively in real-time, including battles. For example; when fighting the dragon, he's easier to beat if your partner shoots him and then you attack with a sword.

Most network titles focus on fighting between players, but we want to emphasize cooperation. In most RPGs today, players take on bosses and fight entirely by themselves. In Phantasy Star Online, you can't beat the game without help from others.

Question: So players need to cooperate in order to win?
Naka-san: In most RPGs you control the main character yourself, and therefore you control the flow of the battles. However, when others take on the roles of members if your party, things change. You can't control everyone and how they react in battles. I think that's the fun part, conversely. I think it will be fun to discuss plans with your party members, thereby everyone agrees to take roles.

Question: Will players need to recruit team members in towns?
Naka-san: Yes, you can find companions in towns.

Question: So can players schedule meetings with friends to create teams?
Naka-san: Yes, absolutely.

Question: But what if thousands of players are online playing at the same time, wouldn't it be complicated to find people?
Naka-san: We want to add an interesting feature which will allow players to search for friends. For example, you could setup an ID number which could be searched. Also, you can enter a request like 'I want to fight the Dragon today,' and people could join your team to help.

Question: So people could join teams anonymously?
Naka-san: People could join together who have similar goals, even though you don't know each other. You could eventually exchange ID numbers so you could meet online another time. We're planning to incorporate systems like that.

Question: So in other words, the more time you spend playing, the more acquaintances you can make?
Naka-san: Yes. We want to create a new level of drama. For example, when I go into a cave and open a treasure chest, I'll have to decide whether to say 'I'll take the sword,' or 'You take the sword.' There will be a need for communication between players.

Question: Will these conversations take place in a form of chat?
Naka-san: We're planning to incorporate the typical form of chat, and another system which uses symbols, or a 'universal language' to convey basic ideas. We'd like to release the game around the world simultaneously, so being able to communicate must be easy.

Question: Can you describe the symbol system, 'universal language' more?
Naka-san: Communication would be held through symbols, and the combination thereof. Symbols could stand for things like; 'Go in this direction,' 'Item,' or 'Exchange Items.' Chu-Chu-Rocket is playable online worldwide, but there's still the language barrier. So we're devising a basic system which will alleviate these problems.

Question: Could someone play the game entirely by themself?
Naka-san: We're still discussing that aspect. The game is meant to be played on the network, so we're trying to add as many things as possible to make playing online appealing. Ultimately, we hope everyone who buys it, plays online.

Question: Can you tell us about the storyline?
Naka-san: The story takes place within the world of the 'Phantasy Star' series. A migration group is developing arable land on a distant planet, when a huge explosion occurs. A second team is sent to investigate, and the players assume the roles of the second team members.

Question: Interesting. We see a city in some of the early footage, does this city survive the explosion on the planet?
Naka-san: Actually, that's inside the ship. The ship is meant to carry people migrating to the planet, so it's huge.

Question: I assume the storyline is essentially finished, but what percent complete is the entire game?
Naka-san: Considering it will be network compatible, it's not far along, maybe 30%. We're planning to release it sometime this summer, but it maybe delayed until the fall. I mean, nobody has ever released a console RPG based online before. So, we're uncertain how long adjustments will take afterwards.

Question: That's understandable, any last words?
Naka-san: We, the Sonic Team, are trying to explore this idea of 'live entertainment' this year.

Question: Is that the team motto?
Naka-san: Yes, 'live' in the sense of communicating with others on the Internet in real-time. Samba
de Amigo, which was released the other day, also has that 'live feeling.'

Question: Yes, both are 'live entertainment,' but Sonic Team seems to be exploring many different areas of development. Do you agree?
Naka-san: Initially, we just wanted to make 'new' games, but this is what became of our development. Making something new can be fun, but it can also be painful. [laughs..]

- Translation Asst.
Akira Miyauchi
(SB Hamamura-san)


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