With Phantasy Star Online enjoying a healthy run of success in Japan, and having been recently released in North America, Yuji Naka, CEO of Sonic Team, continues to be of great interest to the gaming community. In a recent interview with Gamespot Naka had a number of things to say about online gaming, as well as his plans for the future. Below are several excerpts from the interview.
GameSpot: When did you begin development on Phantasy Star Online? Was it during the development of Sonic Adventure, or afterwards?
Yuji Naka: Right after Sonic Adventure was done, we started experiments for the network. So, including the experiments that began right after the completion of Sonic Adventure, Phantasy Star Online has been in development for two years.
GS: What challenges did you face in developing a networked game like Phantasy Star Online?
YN: As far as creating a network game for the Internet--you can basically connect to the Internet from anywhere in the world--the first challenge we faced was that of language. So, the first thing that we tried to figure out was how to get across the language barrier for everyone connected to the Internet.
GS: Why decide to do an online role-playing game in the first place, instead of a traditional RPG?
YN: What we set out to make was a game that would get people to communicate with each other and cooperate. In order to do that, we had to take it online. So, that is why it is online. From the Phantasy Star series we borrowed the worldview and the fact that it is a science fiction role-playing game, but that is pretty much where our influences from Phantasy Star end. We decided not to bring the storyline or any of that across.
GS: So, are there plans to do a more traditional role-playing game?
YN: You mean not online?
GS: Yes, perhaps not online, but with a more traditional Phantasy Star story and with the characters. Is that something you would
want to do in the future?
YN: No, I don't think I'll make that. If I make something similar, it will probably be something new.
GS: The success of Phantasy Star Online in Japan, as an online game, does that encourage you to make more networked games?
YN: I think that Phantasy Star Online is doing really well in Japan now, in terms of people coming together over the network--communicating and cooperating. I am really looking forward to that happening on a worldwide level from here on out. So, if that does happen and Phantasy Star Online is a success, then I am looking forward to making other games like that as well.
Naka and Sonic Team are currently working on Sonic Adventure 2, so any prospective RPGs will be in the somewhat distant future. The full interview is available here, and video coverage of the interview is also available at Gamespot.