Sega's Executive Gamers Summit, a press event that occurred yesterday, proved to be extremely interesting as Sega gave a large presentation on their upcoming multiplayer console RPG known as Phantasy Star Online. This will be the first console RPG to be played via SegaNet, Sega's own gaming network. A playable demo was handed out to attendees, allowing them to get an idea of how the game played offline, as the North American Phantasy Star Online servers have not yet been set up. Eventually, a lobby system will be set up where players can meet other players and eventually create adventuring parties of four. It is expected that these Phantasy Star Online servers will be able to handle about a thousand users at a time.
The online and offline parts of Phantasy Star Online are integrated completely seamlessly. For example, after a player reaches a certain point in the offline game, that player could jump online, grab a few others from the same point, and fight as a team or split up to accomplish other tasks at the same time. As long as players stay on the world map, they can go wherever they wish, but the game is much more rewarding when played cooperatively. If players stay in the same area, they can trade weapons or items with the other members of their party.
Sega has overcome the language barrier using three communication methods. Players will select their language preference before beginning a game. While playing Phantasy Star Online with other players, a player can either type messages directly, assign key phrases to buttons on the controller or keyboard, or use a preset message assignment on the controller or the keyboard. When communicating with other players, the message will appear on their system as if it was in their native language.
Players will have a great deal of control over their character's appearance as well. When beginning a new game, a character creation screen will appear that will allow a player to select the character's face, complexion, outfit, and size. Three character classes will be available: human, neo-human, and android. However, a character cannot be changed in the middle of a quest. To change character properties, a new game must be started.
Phantasy Star Online will arrive on a single GD-ROM and will use a normal VMU to save games, but Sega has plans to release the 4X VMU alongside the game. It is currently on track for a January 26, 2001 release.