Among many RPG fans, Sega's Phantasy Star series has been highly revered since its introduction on the now-ancient Master System. The highly anticipated Phantasy Star Online, which is being co-developed by the Sonic Team and the original Phantasy Star team, has been shrouded in mystery until recently. At the Tokyo Game Show, Sega presented the game to show attendees and brought to light some new information concerning the game's online features.
Although Phantasy Star Online's main feature is its multiplayer aspect, it isn't "massively multiplayer" like games such as Ultima Online or Asheron's Call. The game will allow players to be a part of a four-character party. These characters can be either human players on the network or CPU-controlled "bots."
Phantasy Star Online's real-time universe will be measured in "BEATS," a standard time measurement system developed by watch manufacturer Swatch. The BEAT system, which divides each day into 1000 BEATS, will make communication between players in different regions much easier, because the system is universal and displays the same time worldwide, regardless of time zone or location.
Phantasy Star Online will make use of the Dreamcast keyboard, and messages will appear above players' heads in caption bubbles. Since gamers in North America will be able to play online with European and Japanese gamers, players will be able to communicate not only by typing original messages and using visual icons, but by choosing from a variety of pre-written statements that will automatically be translated to the language of each user's system, similar to the online chat system of Chu Chu Rocket.
Communication will play an important role in Phantasy Star Online, as teamwork will be needed to overcome many puzzles and obstacles. Several examples of necessary player cooperation were shown at the presentation, including a large obstruction that required two players to push it together and a pair of switches that had to be activated at the same time. If a character dies, the remaining players in the party must all agree to bring that player back into the group. Therefore, gamers must work together and be courteous of each other, as a trouble-making player can be denied access into that particular party.
Phantasy Star Online is already very impressive in its still early state, with its breathtaking graphics and multiplayer features. The game is planned for a simultaneous release in North America, Europe, and Japan sometime later this year. Phantasy Star Online may revolutionize the way we think about online RPGs, so stay tuned to RPGamer for all the details concerning this exciting title.