IGN Interview with Takao Miyoshi

Interview Data:

  • Interview Date: 12 September 2005
  • Interview Topics: Phantasy Star Universe
  • Interview Source: IGN external.png

The full word on the PS2 title and the future of the series from producer Takao Miyoshi. Plus, inside Sega!
by Anoop Gantayat

Sega's back, and in a big way. With games like Ryu Ga Gotoku, Tenka-bito, Sega Rally 2006 and Initial D, the company's upcoming lineup looks so hot that we're having flashbacks to the later days of the Saturn and the early days of the Dreamcast where quality titles under the Sega brand were in abundance.

Leading the pack is, appropriately, Phantasy Star Universe . Having already gotten the world addicted to Phantasy Star Online, the Online spinoff to the classic Genesis and Master System Phantasy Star RPGs, this next entry takes the series back to its roots, offering a massive single player experience. This story-driven RPG mode is the main focus of PSU, but Online nuts needn't worry, as Sega has also put together a full-fledged Online mode that takes the gameplay found in Phantasy Star Online and — if you'll excuse the phrase — welcomes it to the next level.
Phantasy Star Universe will appear in its latest form at the Tokyo Game Show later this week, but prior to that, IGN was given access to Sega's Tokyo headquarters for a one-on-one interview with Takao Miyoshi, Creative Manager at Global Entertainment R&D Dept #3, aka Sonic Team. Here's what transpired. We've also included some pics from around Sega's HQ at the end of the interview, so be sure and read all the way through.

sonic_2005_sep_12_a.jpg

The interview took place at Sega's headquarters near Haneda Airport

IGN: Phantasy Star Online came out on GameCube, Xbox and PC. Why have you decided to bring Universe to the PS2 instead of the GameCube or Xbox?
Miyoshi: At the time of PSO, when considering whether to develop for the PS2 or GameCube, we felt that we could release something of higher quality on the GameCube, and so we made GameCube the main platform. And then, we ported the GameCube version to the Xbox. However, for PSU, we felt that we could reach a wider audience by moving over to the PS2 and the PC.

IGN: PS2 doesn't have a network program in place like Xbox Live. Has this caused any problems?
Miyoshi: Xbox has stronger online capabilities for sure — there's no question about that. It might be okay to launch PSU on Xbox for the US market, but not for the Japanese market. Knowing what Final Fantasy XI has done in Japan with Online gameplay, I feel that the user base is there, so I feel strongly that PSU will appeal to the PS2 audience. In addition, PSU offers a tremendous amount of Offline content. Even with PSO, a lot of people played mostly Offline mode. I would say something like 20% or so played Online. However, for PSU we put a lot of emphasis on Offline to make this a standalone Offline RPG — that's the core of the game. In addition to that, we added the Online features.

IGN: So is there an Xbox version under consideration?
Miyoshi: There's no plan yet. Although if we did it, it would be on Xbox 360 and not Xbox.

IGN: [rubs hands together in anticipation…]
Miyoshi: There are a tremendous number of Xbox users in America, so we would definitely like to do it, although nothing is decided yet.

IGN: Will the PS2 and PC versions of the game be released at the same time?
Miyoshi: If we can.

IGN: Specifically regarding the PS2 version, when can we expect to play it?
Miyoshi: No dates have been set yet, but in general we will launch the Japanese version first and the US version second.

IGN: So no chance for a Christmas release? Pretty please?
Miyoshi: It hasn't been decided yet.

IGN: What advantages will the PC version have over the PS2 version?
Miyoshi: Phantasy Star is, of course, a console brand, and it's known as a game that you play with the game controller. PSU was created with the controller in mind, so it feels natural when you play using the game controller. As for the PC, you can also plug in a game controller so you get the same experience. In addition, you will get better graphics and higher resolution.

IGN: Will the content be the same between the two?
Miyoshi: Yes, the content will be the same.

IGN: In terms of downloads and updates, will you take advantage of the PC's hard drive, or maybe even the PS2's hard drive?
Miyoshi: In general, we'd like to keep the content same as the PC. There will be downloadable quests, but as far as new maps or patches or things like that, we're not planning that.

IGN: Will the quests, then, be saved to your Memory Card?
Miyoshi: They will be downloaded directly to your PS2's memory before play.

IGN: Can PC players play against PS2 players?
Miyoshi: This is often asked, but I can't say for certain yet. Technically, it's possible, and if we can, we'd like to do it.

IGN: The PS2 has one advantage over the PC — the PSP. Will it be possible to connect to the PSP? Or maybe even Phantasy Star Online for the PSP?
[ Miyoshi laughs ]

IGN: If you tell us off the record, we won't tell anyone…
[ Miyoshi exchanges lots of talk in Japanese with the Sega of America representatives making IGN wonder what in the world they're chatting about. ]
Miyoshi: No plans as of now.

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Mr. Miyoshi outside the securely locked Sonic Team development lab.

IGN: Moving on to gameplay, what is the most important change you made to Phantasy Star Online when creating Phantasy Star Universe?
Miyoshi: The biggest difference that we made for PSU concerns the lobby structure. The structure in PSO was just a lobby where you would go to chat with other members, but in PSU we've created an entire city whose sole purpose is to meet up with other people and to communicate. In a way it feels like a MMO (massively multiplayer Online game) where you have a city with tons of people roaming around, exchanging items, chatting and hooking up with parties to go on quests or head out to dungeons.

IGN: How many people can exist in this world at the same time?
Miyoshi: Somewhere around 100.

IGN: And then you'll have separate servers, of course…
Miyoshi: There will actually likely be more than 100 because the city itself will be divided into divisions or sections — you know, different floors.

IGN: Floors? So can you take an escalator or an elevator or something to go between these floors?
Miyoshi: There are both escalators and elevators.

IGN: Are the floors different servers and the escalators and elevators jump between them?
Miyoshi: The floors, escalators and elevators stay on the same server. There's another terminal that allows you to jump to a separate server.

Each floor has its own function. The first floor will have people hanging out, like a park area. The second floor is structured more like an airport, with transportation. Third floor will have shops. The fourth floor will be the guardian headquarters. Guardians, by the way, are the main group that your character joins.

Turn the page for a closer look at the PSU battle system.

[page 2]

IGN: Can you go into depth about the duel wielding system and the combat system in general?
Miyoshi: The biggest difference between PSO and PSU in combat style is the duel wielding system. You can now carry a gun in one hand and a sword in the other. This adds another layer to the strategy element. For PSO we used an Action Palette. In PSU, we have taken the Action Palette into each individual weapon so that each weapon has its own palette system through which you can improve the weapon as you play.

IGN: We assume combos feature heavily in the game…
Miyoshi: In PSO, you could have up to a three hit combo. In PSU, you can build your character to master up to six hits.

IGN: Can you use different weapons in mid combo?
Miyoshi: You can't change weapons during combos.

IGN: What's the deal with SUV weapons and Nanoblasts?
Miyoshi: I can't talk too much in detail about that at this point, but SUV weapons are a type of race that exists in the PSU world. Nanoblast is a part of the beast race, within the four races that exist in PSU. Nanoblast allows beasts to transform.

IGN: What kind of structure does the Offline mode have? Does it play out like a real RPG or is it mission based?
Miyoshi: The structure of the Offline mode is story based. We placed an emphasis on the story element of the Offline RPG. For a good RPG, story is an essential element. We basically went back to the roots of what makes a good RPG and wanted to create a solid, strong Offline RPG as a foundation and add the Online mode after that. To be honest, that was lacking in PSO. It had a great, fun multiplayer Online mode, but the story element was lacking for it to be considered a classic RPG.

IGN: Do you travel around from town to town and go through dungeons and what not, just like in the old Phantasy Star games?
Miyoshi: Not just towns, but the scale takes place in the universe, so you get to travel between planets — it's really big.

IGN: And, of course, you've revealed that the planetary system is new.
Miyoshi: It's brand new, although we've taken the concept from the original Phantasy Star of having three planets. The idea of the number of planets came from the original Phantasy Star, although for PSU, we've also added Guardian's Colony, which is like a planet of its own. In reality, there are four worlds that you can travel to.

IGN: Does the Offline mode have a level-like structure? Can you go back to older dungeons once you've cleared them?
Miyoshi: The basic story mode doesn't have that kind of style, but we are making it so that the player has a lot of freedom without getting side tracked from the main story, as we really want the users to experience the story. We have yet to decide the details of the game modes yet, but it's not the case that you definitely won't be able to do that [replay older dungeons].

IGN: Are the dungeons and stages in Online mode based off the Offline mode stages?
Miyoshi: The world itself is the same as Offline, but the level of the enemies will vary.

IGN: In Online mode, can you chose to go to any part of the world with your friends as a part of missions or quests?
Miyoshi: Yes, you can select which planet or world you want to go to based on the quest that you pick.

IGN: Can you describe the team system in Online mode. Will players be able to form guilds and teams?
Miyoshi: There won't be a team system or guild system like in PSOBB (Blue Burst — a recent PC update in the series). Just like PSO, you can save a guild card and send out party invites to your friend.

IGN: As a last question, what are Sonic Team's plans for the next generation of Phantasy Star after Universe?
Miyoshi: We're planning something, but we haven't determined what system or anything like that at this point.


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