PSOW: Unlike PSO, Phantasy Star Universe is going to have a large, story-driven offline RPG component that is separate from the massive online component. Is this your way of providing the best of both worlds to fans of the original Phantasy Star RPG series, as well as fans of the more recent Phantasy Star Online series?
Takao Miyoshi: Yes. The simple answer is yes. (Miyoshi-san smiles).
PSOW: As a game designer, would you like to steer the franchise further towards an offline, epic story-driven game, or do you feel that the perfect balance between offline and online play has been struck with Phantasy Star Universe?
Takao Miyoshi: In terms of balance between offline and online, I put the same weight on both elements. I feel that it would be nice to play the story-based offline mode first and then go online. That would be the way to play it, and I feel it is more fun to play that way. I think there is currently a very good balance between offline and online play in PSU.
PSOW: In a way, is Phantasy Star Universe the realization of what you wanted Phantasy Star Online to be, in terms of completeness in offline and online modes?
Takao Miyoshi: To some extent, there are some features in Phantasy Star Universe that I wanted to implement in PSO.
PSOW: There are a number of new features that have been introduced in Phantasy Star Universe. It's a much larger game and there is a lot going on in it. One of the new features will be adventuring in story mode and extra mode with AI-controlled NPC allies. Is there currently any feature that allows you to customize the behavior and tactics used by these NPCs?
Takao Miyoshi: There is currently no customization feature [for the behavior of NPC allies].
A variety of allies will join you in your offline adventures.
PSOW: Another new and interesting feature is the addition of race-specific special abilities, such as Nanoblasts and SUV-Weapons for Beasts and Casts. What was the inspiration behind these features? Also, will there be any such abilities for the Human and Newman races?
Takao Miyoshi: Well, you know, in class Japanese anime, or any mech-type hero animation, the characters kind of dream of transforming into something else. With that idea, I wanted to add more skills and abilities that would allow such features in PSU. As for Humans and Newmans, we won't be adding any special abilities for these two races.
PSOW: Another important new feature is the addition of player-controlled vehicles in the game. How important of a role will vehicles play in PSU? Will there be any areas specifically for vehicles, such as a driving level?
Takao Miyoshi: There are many vehicle scenes that you will find in Phantasy Star Universe and there will be some specific areas for vehicles. There is a water-ski bike and tanks that can be used to attack opponents. You can actually change the acceleration of the water skis and vehicles and can also do a lot of customization with them.
PSOW: That sounds great. What are some of the different vehicles in PSU? Will there be any player-controlled airborne vehicles?
Takao Miyoshi: (smiles and starts counting down on fingers) Jet skis, tanks, and dinosaurs that shoot fire. There won't be any player-controlled flying vehicles, however.
PSOW: Another big feature of PSU is the "Partner Machinery", how have these evolved from the MAG concept found in PSO?
Takao Miyoshi: In Phantasy Star Online, MAGs were used more for combat support. For Phantasy Star Universe, Partner Machinery will be more like a house-sitter. Where-ever your area is, they will basically house-sit, or area-sit. You can also compound, or mix, items using your Partner Machinery to make weapons or other items.
PSOW: Is there anything else you would like to mention about the offline mode in PSU that we haven't covered yet?
Takao Miyoshi: There is a lot that is new, so it would take a long time to talk about it all. In addition to the main story, there are some missions you can play that are like side adventures, or side quests. These will be very interesting to play. There is also Extra Mode, which allows you to create and customize your own character.
PSOW: What is your favorite feature in Phantasy Star Universe?
Takao Miyoshi: I really enjoy riding around on the Lunga, it is one of the new animals that can shoot fire at enemies and attack them. That is what I really like.
PSOW: Let's talk about the online aspect of Phantasy Star Universe for a bit. How many players will the online cities, or lobbies, support?
Takao Miyoshi: Basically, about 1,000 people are ported into one server, or the lobby as you may call it.
PSU replaces lobbies with giant, multi-level cities!
PSOW: Will we see any kind of free roaming in PSU that allows players to explore the areas, or will they need to start a mission in order to get out to the different zones? For example, in PSO a player can go straight to the forest area and explore.
Takao Miyoshi: Yes, there are some similar types of areas in PSU. Players can go into the lobby and go straight to levels or areas that they have previously explored. There are more variations of areas as well.
PSOW: In online mode, will we see the return of any features such as Battle Mode or Challenge mode?
Takao Miyoshi: At this time, there is no Battle Mode or Challenge Mode. However, we may be able to add modes like this in the future. As for right now, no.
PSOW: Will we see some of the online special events that we've seen with PSO, such as holiday decorations and special missions like Maximum Attack?
Takao Miyoshi: Yes, we will have special events online and there will be decorations for Holidays such as Easter, Christmas, etc..
PSOW: With the new downloadable missions and content, will players with the US version of the game have the same content and update frequency as players with the Japanese version of the game? To give you an idea of what we're talking about, there was sometimes online content in PSO that only was available only for players on the Japanese servers.
Takao Miyoshi: At this time, the servers are going to be separated for the US and Japanese versions of the game. Unfortunately, the release dates will be very different between Japan and the US. However, we are thinking of updating everything equally for players in both Japan and the United States. The updates will probably be based on the release dates. So, say Japan receives the game three months before the United States, updates will be on an automatic three month delay for the US version, or something along those lines. We can't give you the exact intervals for how long the delays will be just yet.
PSOW: Let's talk about the different platforms that PSU will be available on. It was recently announced that PSU would be released for the Xbox 360. We found out shortly afterwards that the plan was to have the Xbox 360 servers separated from the PC and PS2 servers, which have already been confirmed to be linked. Has this decision been finalized?
Takao Miyoshi: It is actually something that is not finalized.
(At this point, we expressed our concern over having the community split up between platforms. Miyoshi-san seemed to understand the concern. We felt that it was good news that this decision has not been finalized yet, as it indicates that they may be reconsidering their previously revealed stance on the Xbox 360 servers. However, we didn't receive any further information on this particular topic.)
PSOW: Having the game come out for the Xbox 360 opens the door for certain Xbox Live features, such as voice chat. Will voice chat be a feature that is exclusive to the Xbox 360 version of PSU?
Takao Miyoshi: Yes, that is exclusive to the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Stop to type while fighting this guy?! Not on the 360!
PSOW: Are there any plans to bring Phantasy Star Universe to other platforms, such as the Nintendo Wii or Sony's Playstation 3?
(The question seems to get a laugh out of Miyoshi-san and his translator, and we have a feeling it's due to the new name of the system formerly known as the Revolution)
Takao Miyoshi: We are not thinking about it for the Wii or Playstation 3 at this time. I think we may take a closer look at those platforms after we get some feedback from you guys in regards to how you will be able to play on those platforms and what would make the game enjoyable on them.
PSOW: Would you like to bring the game to these platforms?
Takao Miyoshi: (smiling and making sword striking gestures) Yeah, it would be a lot of fun to play the game with the Wii controller. You could do it with the PS3 controller also (imitates playing on a motion sensitive PS3 controller, appearing to have lost control while tilting left and right rapidly and making loud exclamation noises). It would be nice to play a driving area with a controller like that, maybe something that snakes around on the ground.
PSOW: Is there anything you can tell us about the maximum levels or leveling speed in Phantasy Star Universe?
Takao Miyoshi: There are some limitations on leveling, similar to Phantasy Star Online. However, since I place the most importance on balance, it is kind of hard to know what the maximum levels or leveling rate will be just yet. There are also job levels, which will go up to level 20 and be separate from your actual character level, meaning there are two separate types of leveling in Phantasy Star Universe.
PSOW: Do you know anything yet about the release date or montly fee for Phantasy Star Universe in the United States? Will there be a simultaneous release of all three versions?
Takao Miyoshi: I've heard Fall of this year for the Xbox 360 release, but I don't have any further information on exact release dates or pricing at this time. I don't think anything is finalized yet, so we should not guess.
PSOW: The Japanese closed beta test of PSU recently came to an end. Is there going to be a beta test for the English version of the game?
Takao Miyoshi: (laughing, as if he knew this question was going to turn up) We are willing to do a closed beta in the United States, but that is another question that our PR department may be able to answer.
PSOW: We are really curious about the future of Phantasy Star. Where do you see Phantasy Star Universe and the Phantasy Star franchise going from this point? Will we see full sequels down the road, or perhaps episodes similar to PSO?
Takao Miyoshi: We are definitely looking into making a sequel. I am thinking of this as a very long project, so things like episodes or sequels will be considered in the future. Nothing has been finalized yet.
Will we see Ethan and company return for a sequel? Perhaps!
PSOW: As a designer, what is your vision for the future of Phantasy Star Universe?
Takao Miyoshi: This is quite interesting. When I came up with the idea of Phantasy Star Online, the vision we had was that operations may only last about two to three months, nothing too long. It ended up becoming an operation lasting more than five years. For Phantasy Star Universe, we are in this for a long period and I envision this as being a long project. We will be planning for the future and you may see some evolution of the current story.
PSOW: Jumping back to online play for a moment, what kind of anti-hacking or anti-cheating measures will be implemented in Phantasy Star Universe?
Takao Miyoshi: We plan to use nProtect Gameguard. Also, the networking department is implementing a lot of new technologies for the servers. I think they have been making many small fixes and changes to the servers to raise the level of security. I think it's going to be very very strong.
PSOW: Most of our questions in this interview have come directly from members of our site who are big fans of the Phantasy Star series. I think we speak for all of them when we say thanks for taking the time to answers these questions. Is there anything else that you want fans to know about Phantasy Star Universe?
Takao Miyoshi: One of the recommendations I have for the fans is to play through PSU's story mode first so that you can really enjoy the game. As you progress through the story, the characters can be customized and you'll get to know more about the playability of the characters, as well as the other elements and features in the game. After you've done story mode, go online and play, it will be much more exciting. When you go online, just enjoy the experience of exploring all of the storylines and features. As mentioned, I think of PSU as a long project, so enjoy the game as long as you can.
A huge thanks to Miyoshi-san for taking the time out of a very hectic day to sit down with us and talk about Phantasy Star Universe. We hope this interview produced some interesting new info for everyone to read about. We'd also like to thank all of the users that submitted questions for us to ask (sorry we couldn't get to them all!!).