If I could have made a Phantasy Star game

PSO2 launches today in Japan. To both commiserate and commemorate the occasion and the fact it seems to be a bad sign that the developers and staff seem to take a 'Japan First and Only' approach again I'd been rooting through some old material I'd written back when Phantasy Star Universe was new.

The whole point of this document was me getting concepts out there to try generating some discussion on what people would do if given the chance as opposed to simply crying that x or y sucked.

This was also at a time when the PC version of the original Phantasy Star Online had been getting work so you could extract textures, models, and even view the level architecture outside of the game. My thought process was 'hey we have the tools. See if the community would like to do something with this new stuff.' Granted that doesn't seem to have happened, but I felt like sharing.

Think of this as my wishlist for a PSO2 as of 2008.

Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of coding, modeling, texturing, animation, or any real desire to start a project with the aim of remaking phantasy star online. This is simply a 'hey, wouldn't it be nice if...' sort of discussion.

PSO: Hypothetical

Let me explain something well after the fact. This question got added in just now because the original document makes lots of assumptions. The original goal was to take the content of Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst and try making something new of it on the concept that if you already have art, sound, models, and the like you could cut down on the number of problems and excuses a team would have for not doing something.

Why Swap Engines?
For one, considering that the community has to reverse engineer, cajole, and outright force anything they want to happen to happen given the current engine a change might help when it comes to making those much needed (or just plain wanted) changes. Additionally it would help to fix several annoyances in behavior that are currently lived with (the same-yness of enemy AI in ep1, how the classes are handled, and the speed (or rather lack thereof) which causes man people to avoid long quests due to simply zoning out in the longer zones (caves.) For another you'd have a return of client side saving. Yes this could, in theory, open the door wide open for hackers, but considering even in blue burst hacking is quite preventive that's something of a non-argument. That and if the client's data is selectively used depending on server flags you can (in theory) use even the most hacked to hell character in a 'legit' server and it conforming (to a degree anyway) to what the server expects.

Exibit A on Japanese Only Content
You then also have the chance at streamlining the storytelling aspect of the single player mode, thus for once giving people a chance to see the story in its entirety in one place as opposed to having to hunt and search through different games, offline media that was Japanese Only yet considered by the rabid fans to be completely canon and thus unignorable. You'd also be able to add to the story to fill in gaps, explore 'hey where did character x' go (Shino being a prime example, you only see her once then never hear about her again, several other characters you see in ep2/3/4 (Rupikia, Nol, you even see Matha Graves again, or at least her spoiled rotten brat in ep3.)

What are the disadvantages of this?
Well Lets see, getting developer interest would be a massive hurdle considering even with the resources there you still have to convert them into something usable by the new engine, and its hard if not impossible to get something like this off the ground when you have more people going 'omfg dood i r strtin awesome prject!' number in the thousands thus making everyone in the potential community jaded. Additionally pending the engine used you'd have to fight and cajole the code base to give you the features you want. Doing this would be insanely difficult, even with the required media on hand (though having the basic models and stats on hand to work with does help considerably).

Oh, did I forget to mention even though sega has turned a blind eye towards schthack as well as numerous other fan-created works there's the very real chance they might see this and go 'NO WAH! I SUE U NAOOOO!'

So why are you making a list of all this? Why not PSU?
1. Bad voice acting and characters I frankly don't care about because the biggest impressions I got from the whole lot was they were more or less Useless. Plus nobody likes it when their avatar/character sits and cries and whines and is emo about everything.

2. Gameguard, I don't need to elaborate there. However I will. It does not work! There is still hacking, there's still cheating. Two, all it really does is keep things windows-centric and I want to be able to play on other operating systems.

3: Oddly enough I Iike the idea of playing on a netbook, or a machine that's more than four or five years old without it blowing a gasket and half the hard drive full of stuff I'm not sure what it does.

Key Features

Da Basics: Similar 'basic' features of PSO (hunter's counter, ships w/blocks to keep each lobby from overcrowding, having the ability to 'group', etc).

Expanded Parties: Four people....feels a bit cramped, it'd have to be played with but the limit should be increased to six (eight's just a bit much in most cases, that and we're already copying other features off PSU, too many people are too many.

Reworked Exp: Partial exp awarded simply for being in the group (that way even if someone goes around killing everything, everybody else at least gets something out of the deal). Also support Classes would be awarded exp/given incentive to actually support. An idea would be having j/z would give double exp so people have a reason to play support classes even though they're all but dependent on a group.

Reclassing Classes: Forces split into two different classes. Heal/Support, and Nuke. Each class would still get the 'standard' spell list. However if you're, as an example, a nuker, you only get support spells up to level 15 and your main spells up to level 30. This way, even though you're not as good, you still can multi-task if there is nobody healing, or nuking, or s/ding, or whatever.

As for 'hunter' classes there really needs to be something done to the current setup so you don't have half the classes basically ignored due to having gimped stats (hucaseal I'm looking at YOU).

Controls: Using FPS type controls and things running at 'quake' speeds. That way, while you don't have auto-aiming, you also have an easier time moving about/dodging. While this would impact gameplay, this is how PSO was advertised in the first place, a MMO where you had to run and do rather than just hold down the attack button till either you or your monster were dead. EVP would probably have a small impact on strafing speeds (as opposed to run speeds, which would be set to a single universal value, perhaps would involve a difference in time on how long it takes to get to 'full' run speed). However EVP would largely be a 'parry' stat (much as it is in stock pso).

One could, I suppose, have it default to FPS behavior if you have a gun/shot weapon, and third person w/auto lockon for melee/slicer weapons so you aren't constantly dizzy by the attack animations spinning the view around.

Note: This is one feature that most people I'd discussed the concept with strongly disagreed on. I include this merely for the sake of discussion.

ATP/ATA/MST level by use: This way if your hunter uses swords more than guns his attack power increases faster than his accuracy (though ata DOES increase on its own, just much slower). Same goes for mst. fleashies that frequently use spells should have higher mst values than those that don't.

Typical Reaction to this idea was positive.
ANDROIDS GET HEAL TRAPS: Seriously. With all the cool stuff that we saw droids get in the oldskool ps games all they could think to give droids were stinking TRAPS?! Sure make a lot of it level dependent on being able to use, and make it so you could only equip one or two at a time or have the equippable slots go up as you level. A little variety wouldn't hurt so long as you made sure it was balanced as seeing a party of droids blitz everything with positron bolt would get disheartening if you're a nuke force.

Mags/Partner Machines: No idea on how feasible it would be for photon bursts, but the basic idea of something that tags along that acts as a general stat-booster doesn't sound like it'd be too terribly hard... or not, I don't know. However mag/PM units are a staple of PSO thus they have to be there in some form or another. Alternatively the 'mag' could be an actual weapon that you use and evolves depending on both your class and what you feed it. Unsure on how thematicly apropriate that would be, but so long as we're talking of alternitive ideas I suppose. Then again if you have something that evolves with you, why have other things? Maybe make it something that could go in the accessory slot but wouldn't be the only thing that could go there so you'd have some options if you weren't that good at or interested in mag raising.

Respawning Monsters: Put it on a 5/10 minute delay after a room clears so even if somebody 'blows' through an area all new people would have to do is wait till the next set of monsters shows up. Plus this makes level grinding a specific area feasible. Instead of 'kill forest, logout, remake game, kill again, etc' you'd have 'I'll stay in forest for a while killing stuff.

Note: Opinion was split on this one since some see this as a step in the wrong direction and others thought the idea would help when trying to find a specific drop, or if you wanted to level up before moving on.

Doorway Behavior: One, monsters would be able to cross/shoot through doorways. Two, if you've cleared a room, you'd be able to relock a door to keep monsters out (the 'user locked' doors would show up as yellow rather than red), thus allowing players a bit of breathing space if, for example, the phone rings, or somebody shows up, or something else forces one to have to make a quick momentary exit.

Offline Mode: Since even in broadband rich areas the internet isn't always assured, or desired, take cues from PSU and have a story mode. However, unlike PSU, there will be no crappy overwrought voice acting, just an offline story. Plus offline saving allows for the possibility of taking your character to lan parties, or transfer between servers.

Note: Below are a couple concepts/thoughts I had on the matter after the fact.

Server Side 'white' lists: These would list what's equippable for every class/racial combination, and if a character logs with something not on the list. It gets de-equipped and their name shifts from white (legitimate,) to orange (hack.) Ditto for people equipping weapons/armor that their stats don't allow for since this way you have a quick n handy way of visually telling people apart. 
Hackers wouldn't be automatically banned, but they'd be restricted to games other non-legit players create to keep the population segregated. Not the best of solutions I know as ye olde buddy's lan server might have a different list of allowable equipment and you forgot to de-equip that uber nice sword from your force before logging back in getting outright banned might not go over too well. However it would be up to the player to be aware of who's servers aren't running the default 'official' list of what's allowed and what's not to keep that from hapening and you as server staff have no responsibility over what happens to their characters. 
Lan Servers: You know, when you and your friends want a game, but don't want to either have to put up with lag, or just want privacy. Given that this is potential competition it could be limited to, say... up to five parties worth of people and wouldn't be automatically updated with the new quests (this would be up to the server-admin to do manually, and even then that's assuming that you'd make these quests downloadabe for privet consumption (no this would Not include the editor, just the finished quest files.) Naturally I'm of the mind that it should be allowed, but not something automatically bundled in so the lan server would only get the english 'official' quests when downloaded/ran, for example. Also, release of the new quests would always be anywhere from two weeks to a month after its up on the main servers to give people incentive to stick with the actual server, but not punish them for wanting to game with friends.

Cross Platform Compatibility: Games for Windows? Pfft, I want games for windows/mac/Linix!

Desired features that 'Would be Nice'

Offline Pausing: While it wouldn't be possible for online mode, there should have always been a method of pausing the game when playing solo for the above stated reasons.

Improved chat binds: What sega did in PSO was considered revolutionary for MMOS. However tribes has done similar, as do other FPS's now (team fortress 2 comes to mind.) Trouble would be getting VA's if we wanted to have voiced characters. However why would we need voices for this? As has been shown in many rpgs...having voice acting generally means either flat uninterested sounding characters, or over-wrought cheesy acting (PSU I'm looking at you) Plus it bloats the game's size.

Class Specific Abilities: Example would be looking at the old phantasy star games and taking some of the abilities Rune/Kyra had and giving them to 'nuke' forces, or taking raja's special abilities and allowing 'support' forces to use those. That way even though all fleashies get many of the same spells (pso's default spell list) you get class specialization, and forces having an actual leg up over non-forces in terms of ability rather than simply having higher spell levels.

Note: I'm posting the following suggestion someone made in response to the big long post that I honestly like. NOt my idea, but worth sharing.

About the class feature... Don't mix race with class skills. Rangers have a superior alcance to hit. Hunter is a jack-of-all-trades. Forces have access to two or three spells. But if you are talking in making more options to enhance our chars, well, this can be nice.

A hunter can unlock (with a special item) doors. Like Sue or Bernie chars in a quest. Or have special attacks, like you said. Hunters are the fighting type, this kind of idea a good thing. Hacking things like machines in the mines and have a "temporary ally" can be cool too.

A Ranger can throw a flare bullet to call support (wait, if the group are in the ground and the ship are in the sky... o.O;), making a random attack in the sky (not the sattelite beam, something less umber-power) or asking for PB energy for other members. Other way to give more features for a hunter is to make a "camoflage", like the enemies in the ep.2. Yeah, you hide, you hit...

About forces, they can use data pads to translate things in the quests, identify items, mix items (antidote+dimate = moon atomizer?) and other usefull things.

Crafting: A leg up from simple grinding, this would allow, for example, a hunter to take a stock and standard saber (or other non-rare weapon) and turn it into another weapon within that class (such as a db saber or the like in this example), or possibly use PSU's example and have templates that you have to use specific materials on (unlike PSU there wouldd be a generic weapon/armor/whatever template then a series of other ingredients that you'd have to add plus whatever skill you'd have to create...whatever). Probably would use either photon drops or photon clusters as well as pow/mind/def/etc materials in addition to store bought weapons to do the crafting, as well as other minerals/materials found on ragol. This idea is on the premise that people should be able to do stuff, and there are actually people out there that like crafting weapons/armor.

Note: Not a lot of support for the idea of full on crafting. However I had wanted this feature as a way for players to gain exp using all the yard trash they'd gather while searching for a specific bit of gear. A thought I've had since then is have each class have some sort of area where they are best at. This wouldn't mean characters of one class can't make other things, just that they would get bonuses to whatever is in their class useability chart.

Area Descriptions

P2 City:
Each 'block' will be roughly the same and the only block that you can visit offline and are split up by section (skyly, whiteal, pinkal, etc.) The NPCs will vary a bit depending on section ID providing services geared to that section (Example: pinkal would be somewhat force-centric, others would be hunter or ranger specific, and so on.

In this town you'd have your bank/healer/shop/tekker/and hunter's guild-hall (which would be more in-depth than the guild counter in the staging area.) In addition you'd have individual npcs with quests of their own, possibly time related depending on how far you've gotten in the single player game, that would range from simple 'fetch' quests in-town, or possibly something that wouldn't come into play till later.

P2 Training Area (uses the 'space ship' as its area template, takes up only one 'area'):
The first couple levels should be spent here, as it's somewhat easier, plus in the single player game this, instead of the mission with kireek, is the combat tutorial. Most people will never come back here after that, but there's always the chance that it could crop up again in a quest possibly as an endurance test that you'd then get ranked on (enemies spawn till you die, no piping out, and no item boxes, just what the enemies drop.)

P2 Staging Area/Principle's Office:
More or less the same as what you find in PSO currently. The major difference here is that while the town shops generally caries the full list of items regardless (but requires more time to go to), this set of shops is sitting right there, but the item list is somewhat up to chance on all but the basics; and even then its dependent on level which ones you'd see, much like it is now. The hunter counter here would only offer planet-side missions as opposed to guild hall having planeside as well as 'townie' missions, plus you have the principal's office where you an get government missions unlike in blue burst not all of them will have to deal with Rico's story.

A few different enemies back ported from ep 2/4 to give a little more variety will be one of the first things people notice here. Also dependent on if the existing maps get used or not their will be telepads to different, harder, sections that would be level dependent to activate (thus you could have branching paths to level 20 areas from the lvl 1 zones, and so on, naturally the lvl 100 area would have the ult enemies.) On the whole it'd have much the same feel, albeit a somewhat different layout.

Alternatively the 'stock' areas of forest could be used as something of a hub with telepads to other areas that aren’t a straight shot to central dome. Either way, its best to focus on getting the bare bones area up as proof of concept.

Central Dome (Only takes up one 'area', would need to be scratch built, but presumably would use many textures currently seen in M2 mixed with space ship and P2 textures):
This time you can go through the doorway leading into central dome, which takes you through the crumbled remnants of P1's efforts at building a permanent habitat. Lots of hallways and room searching mixed in with different 'public use' areas, that way you wouldn't always feel so claustrophobic. It should be noted that while everything appears on the verge of collapse, broken machines, etc, structurally everything is qite sound. In the 'post falz' game you'd have quests dealing with the people that're trying to move in and settle whether the government allows it or not, these people would mostly be hunters wishing to retire, or malcontents with being stuck on pioneer 2 that've managed to smuggle themselves out (as the planet would still be considered off limits since they don't know if more is still out there).

Need to check with established continuity EP3 sets down to see how viable this is.

Less on the copy pasta plz and this area would actually make sense. It'd start from inside the dragon's 'lair' (with a section of wall having given way revealing a network of caves). The overall theme in c1 is 'geothermal power grid' with appropriate window-dressing machinery to support this idea (in addition to 'raw' caverns that were hastily sealed (hence the doors). the suegway to C2 would involve a gradual transition from raw heat to crystalline walls and water partway to the end of c1 and partway at the beginning of c2 so it doesn't feel like such a jarring experience. Towards the end of c2 you get a slightly more developed look ending with the landing going to the barge you ride in the boss area.

One of two things needs to happen: One, the existing 'mines' area needs to have more 'kitsch' to show how the area functioned before things went to pot (or something explicitly stating that vol had rearranged things, then that would be something more fitting with L3). 2. Redo everything so it all makes a bit more sense (though that would mean needing to redo caves 3- current Mines 2.)

Laboratory 1, the current 'caves 3', retooled so the starting area is actually the transport barge seen on the de-lo-re fight and retaining the 'transition' feel that it has in 'stock' pso, complete with the occasional 'cave' enemy (slimes and sharks chiefly, but the occasional pan-arms) in addition to the robotic enemies. I'll stop here and mention it would be really nice if it were possible to have organic and machine enemies fighting each other, not if you're within either's line of sight, but something in the way of a secondary target (as while Vol has been corrupted and the like, it still has base programming it cannot wholly ignore, same as the drones. 

From there you go to what's currently M1, clean, pristine, everything looks in the same condition that p1 uncrated it in, except for the literal metric ton of automated security that's hell bent and determined to kill people, plus the occasional reference to 'WORKS' or some such still taking place, possibly survivors but revealed to simply be black-ops from p2 that's using the labs p1 had already set up. 

M2, like what's currently there, is literally smashed to pieces, the occasional dead body, or broken machine to drive home the point that this place is unsafe. Also what would be nice would be logs from the staffers at this point going from 'business as usual' to 'Vol is trying to kill us, we must stop it!' which would make mention of a jerry rigged telepad to vol's core chamber where it could be manually stopped (but all teams that've been sent down never made it out.)

The transition from mines to ruin's front steps should be somewhat straightforward in that once vol dies you get a cleared area of floor paneling you could slide through which leads into a ruins themed passageway ending in the sealed door (the one you would need the monuments to unlock.) It is somewhat tempting to have the temple area act as R1 at this point, however the ruins ship has had roughly a millennia to be buried, plus any survivors from the ship landing would've done what they could to hide the thing lest curious adventurers come by and free falz. Also it would be tempting to introduce, at this juncture, logs from the 'ancient' race that sealed falz away. Trouble in this thinking process would be how to do this in such a way that you piss off the fewest number of people possible.

However given episode 3 supposedly explained a lot of falz's back story a good hard look must be made there to make sure things line up enough so that whatever background explanation is given doesn’t completely throw a wrench in the established time line (as that's the biggest complaint I've heard from players, the fact that unless you dig and dig through everything you don't get enough of the story to make sense of it all). Given I haven't played ep3 I don't know what said background might be.

R1 should, however, have dead bodies in massed groupings, especially near the logs that mention pioneer 1 making a 'last stand' against the onrushing enemies. Additionally logs and or the like should be scattered here and there about Flowen's involvement in the initial expedition, as you don't get his story till ep2, yet he was here when the initial opening happened. Structurally R1 should be redone, as it just doesn’t' make sense except in the event of the designers wanted to make the place a maze (which would somewhat make sense if they wanted to make it hard for people to find the big bad locked away.) R2 should, if we can make it happen, have logs and the like from those that were piloting the ship out, just to give a small peek at the background history. At the 'big' room in R2 we'll find corrupted Rico as a mini boss. She'll, stat-wise, be somewhere in the mid forties for normal-mode, sixties or seventies for hard, level one hundred or so for vhard, and level 150 for ultimate (assuming we even do gradient difficulties.) As to behavior, she'll switch from using any and all of her 'red' weapons, to spell slinging (and healing herself) all while jumping around using hit and fade tactics. 'Killing’ her would end in her teleporting away, which would lead the party into R3. R3's atmosphere is spot on, just too many of the same rooms over and over again.

Regardless, the actual falz battle will start after you go down that long hallway with round two against corrupted Rico (Rico herself, then after you get her to one quarter health rico plus infinite monster spawn). Killing 'Rico' causes her to teleport away, which leads to the party at the monument, and an 'uncorrupted' rico standing there before being engulfed in black smoke that expands till there's enough to hide falz itself spawning. You'd have form 1 falz, which acts much the same as it does anyway, and at every difficulty past normal, form 3 falz (form2 we're skipping). Form3, however, will not have autohit grantz and level 'OVER 9000!' Megid, but instead will do a lot more bouncing around swinging at players, using a variety of techs in addition to what it does normally (including that soul bond thing.)


Online: same as always, except the 'you are the hero' text, which's kind of lame. However online you get the shot of the party then you get your telepad out.

Offline: You get a cinematic/in game render of your character picking up the red ring (as taking rico herself back would risk contaminating P2) back to Tyrell, a few shots of random stuff happening after the fact (celebrating your return?) ending with a meteor hitting Ralgol as a foreshadowing of ep4 and rupikia's ordeal.

Enemy List:

P2 Training Area:
Booma line, 'wolf' enemies, Rappies, Training dummies (think gillic's hit with a nerf bat), other low level hunters (npcs)

Enemies: everything in current forest (F1/2), Grass Assassins (f1/2), those insects from ep2 (the little ones as well as the OMFG huge ones)(f2), Lilies(f1/2), Nano dragons (f2)

Central Dome:
Booma/wolf 'line', Nano dragons, 'shark' line, Ep2 Bugs, Grass Assassins, security drones (somewhere between 'training' dummy and gillic), Dragon (boss)

Booma line (c1/2), Nano-dragon (c1/2), Pan-arms (c2), slimes(c2), Mini-dragon (miniboss, in both c1 and c2's 'big' rooms), A few of ep2's water-themed enemies (the frog looking ones especially)(c2), De-Lo-Re(boss)

The 'shark' line of enemies (L1), Everything you see in 'mines' currently (L1-3), the ep2 sinows(L2/3), several 'corrupted' cast-types (L3), Ricon Boxes/Rico(L2/3) WORKS guards (L2), Vol-Opt (boss)

What's normally seen in ruins, Del Rappies, 'corrupted' hunters (either they look normal, or slightly 'del-ified' (blackened with those neon stripes starting to form), Gillics, Del-arms (think pan arms with the 'del-y' look), Corrupted rico (R2)(Miniboss), Dark Falz (Boss)
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