Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Japan: More PSU Teased

(Information started on October 10th)

There has been much information out of the recent Tokyo Game Show about recent Phantasy Star titles, but one small bit sure stands out for PSU fans.

Director Satoshi Sakai tells fans to be on the lookout for an additional update.  Obviously there are already various updates and additions made to the game over time, so it's probable that they will soon be giving details on a new expansion of some sort.  If not, maybe it will at least be a major functionality patch (such as one seen around the release of AOTI).  It's been often speculated that there will be a followup to introduce some of the new items and such seen in Phantasy Star Portable.  It was mentioned in an interview once that they wanted to look into new ways of linking PSP with PSU, however that now seems unlikely based on recent announcements.  I'll have more on this in one of my next few posts.

General: Sega Server Trouble

(Information started on October 8th)

Attributed to hardware issues, there were some problems connecting to the PSU servers last Wednesday.  From then until Monday, the official homepage for PSU was down.

Both problems appear to be resolved for the most part now.  As far as their services go, it seems they've been having various issues crop up since they moved offices.  Hopefully they'll get past it soon.

General: Hal's Radio Broadcast

(Information started on October 7th)

A couple times in Japan, the GMs took messages from players to broadcast using the orange/black banner to the entire server. The idea finally gets a chance to fly here as a local edition of Hal's Radio Broadcast. The deadline for submissions has unfortunately already ended by the time of this post (it was October 12th), however they'll be displayed this coming Friday (October 17th).

The times are:

Morning Broadcast - 10:00 AM PDT
Afternoon Broadcast - 3:00 PM PDT
Evening Broadcast - 8:00 PM PDT

They should run for half an hour or less each time.

Official Announcement

General: Update for October 10th

(Information started on October 6th)

First of note is that Japan asked users to send in information regarding the recent lag that many players on our side have noticed since Sega moved offices.

As for the update:

- More items at The Collector (Located on Parum in West Holtes City)
* This includes everything listed at PSUP from PSU Disc 48 to Transfer: Neudaiz
* GH490 is also one of the big additions here
- Casino rotation
- New weapons

It appears there were a couple unmentioned updates. The recent update to White Beast seems to have made it in as well as some drops to be used in future exchange missions. I'll make an update when these are sorted out.

Here's an odd note: JP retroactively put this post up dated for the 4th even though it appeared after the English page was updated.

Update: Maintenance ended and no additional changes were listed.

JP 360 Latency Report
EN Update Page
JP 360 Update Page
The Collector at PSUP
PSOW News Article
PSOW Thread
PSUPf Thread
JP 360 Maintenance End

Japan: PS2/PC Update for October 9th

(Information started on October 3rd)

To quote EspioKaos:

Seasonal event
Halloween returns! From October 9 through November 6, decorations will be up and the Rappy Latans will be out! [PSUv1]

GBR: Moatoob Boost Road 2nd
Starting October 9 and running through November 20, the following missions will be part of the latest GBR.
* Desert Stronghold (new mission)
* Desert Terror
* Desert Goliath
* Rogues' Shortcut
* Stolen Weapon
Since the new mission is AOTI exclusive, PSUv1 players will not be able to increase their boost rate in the current GBR. (sth note)

New mission
Desert Stronghold C-S2 - W. Kugu Base Camp to Galenigare Mine area
A new RELICS site that not even the rogues knew about has been discovered in the far reaches of the West Kugu Desert. Destroy the Rygutasses who protect the RELICS and investigate the site.

New mission difficulties
The following missions will receive S3 difficulties.
* Desert Terror
* Desert Goliath
* Rogues' Shortcut
* Stolen Weapon
S3 is exclusive to AOTI players, so you must have the expansion to access this difficulty, even in PSU missions.

Mission adjustments
White Beast is being adjusted to further combat AFK leveling.

New items
Many new weapons, line shields, and room goods are being added.

Reform ticket (sth note)
The Halloween room decoration ticket will be available from October 9th to November 6th [PSUv1]

System updates
* Adjustments will be made to the Photon Fortune for all races and sexes. [PSUv1]
* Item drops for some enemies in AOTI missions will be changed.
So it would seem they are finally pushing out a new difficulty for various missions (S3). There are still actually a handful of 'normal' missions that don't have S2 ranks yet.  I'm guessing they'll show up in future GBRs.

It would seem the GBRs are getting longer.  This one happens to be six weeks.  I don't think that it's really necessary to give that much time for one myself (four might be long enough), but I suppose as long as content still arrives along the way it's fine.

Update: Maintenance ended and the client is still the same version.  Deljabans no longer use Megid when silenced.  This was a bug reported in an earlier posting.  Like a few others, I think the mention of this bug was not actually a mention that it was fixed.  From time to time, they will acknowledge that they are aware of certain issues and intend to fix them in the future.  They also mention that the copy of the terms of service that is viewed prior to entering the game has been updated.

Update: The change to the terms of service was mentioned in a posting.

JP Update Page
PSOW Thread
PSUPf Thread

Monday, October 13, 2008

Podcast: PSU Community Podcast Season 2 Episode III

(Information started on October 5th)

The interviewee this time around just happens to be Edward. This is the guy that handles much of the billing support for Sega. If you've sent in a support ticket for the PS2/PC version of PSU, you've probably already had some communication with him.

In other news, it seems that Iceman is moving again and they'll need a temporary co-host to step in for a bit. Send a message to PSU_Castor if you're interested.

Awhile ago I switched all the podcast related posts over to a new tag (Podcast instead of Community). The links haven't changed, so no need to update any if you have them. I meant to do this earlier on, but better late than never.

Season 2 Thread
Season 1 Archive Thread

Community: Fan Site Links on Official Homepage

(Information started on October 2nd)

chillaura has posted notice of a future community links page for the official PSU homepage.  A similar section had been started on Japan's PSU homepage awhile back and it's something that seems obvious enough to have.  For the full details (including where and what to submit), please check out the thread linked below.  Later in the thread it is mentioned that non-English sites will be accepted too.

I haven't submitted this site's details yet, but probably will sometime soon.  I never got around to getting together a site logo, so I may want to do something about that before making up a smaller version.

Update: The first version of the page is now out.  They'll be continuing to take submissions as time goes on, so make sure to submit your own if you have one.

General: No Maintenance for October 3rd

(Information started on October 1st)

There was no maintenance for either set of servers this week.

Japan: No Maintenance for October 2nd

(Information started on September 29th)

To start, there was a maintenance early in the week (September 29th) that took down the option to buy a GUARDIANS License using WebMoney for about an hour.

The normal maintenance period was skipped for October 2nd.

There was also a notice that a Phantasy Star Zero trailer was added into rotation on the PSU Live! homepage.

General: Downtime for October 11th and 12th

(Information started on September 30th)

SoA had planned maintenance of their electrical systems for this past weekend.  It was said to need about 15 hours and was scheduled to start at 9 PM Pacific on the 11th.  However, it has not begun as of yet.  I'll be sure to give an update when they manage to have the maintenance rescheduled.

This appears to mark my 100th General article (Japan is getting up there too).  I may look into how I can best split the posts up.

General: Mission Spotlight for September 30th through October 9th

(Information started on September 30th)

The most recent spotlight was featured at the Il Cabo Base lobby for the newest mission (Bladed Legacy).  Starting with this round, additional prizes (Casino Voloyal coins and rare items) were said to be available.  Universes 1 and 2 on Xbox 360 and Universe 2 on PS2/PC were focused on for the random giveaways.

Also mentioned was the intent of listing winners on the mission spotlight page.  In the future, community groups can also find themselves listed by getting involved with the event.  After a bit of organization with the GMs, they can chose to distribute prizes of their own.  More information can be found at the links below.  Contact RubyEclipse if you are interested in getting your group involved.

General: PSU Calendar Wallpaper for October

(Information started on October 2nd)

This month's English version of the calendar has been posted.  The normal changes (logo and credits addition) appear, however no changes were made to the highlighted holidays.  This means that while Columbus Day is marked, Halloween surprisingly isn't.

Japan: PSU Calendar Wallpaper for October

(Information started on September 26th)

October's calendar is now posted. Linked below you'll find it in various resolutions.  The marked holiday is in celebration of health and sports in Japan.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

General: Grinder Glitch Bannings Update

(Information started on September 27th)

The GMs have decided that under no circumstances will any more players be able to make a case against their banning during the grinder glitch incident from several months back.

As an additional note: If you are positive you know of someone that used the glitch to their advantage (and is not currently banned), you can send that information along and they'll look into it.

Japan: PSU Live!

(Information started on September 25th)

September 25th is the day that game keys were first able to be purchased online for Japan for PSUv1.  They could also of course download the client from Sega.  It seems that the team is getting behind it in full and doing some interesting events.  Possibly related is the start of a two week relaunch of last year's First Anniversary event missions.  Both of these were mentioned in prior postings.

Announced on this day were live Hal broadcasts from Gurhal.  Up until October 14th, they'll be streaming various in-game footage online.  The specific program is UtagoeLive100.  Many players (at least outside Japan) use a similar site (Ustream) to stream their own playtime that others can watch.  I wonder if we inspired them (even in the slightest).  There are commericals shown as well on the homepage (these appear in-between sessions).  These aren't only for Phantasy Star games, but also shown is a commercial for Internet Adventure (an online app).

Available by a link on the homepage is a PSU inspired flash minigame.  Use the Up arrow to jump, Right arrow to speed up, Left arrow to speed down, and Space bar to slash.  At the end of the game, there are a couple options.  The top one starts over, the middle one goes back to the title screen, and the bottom one opens the JP PSU homepage.

Also announced was a GM event starring the 'Welcome Girls'.  This ran from September 25th up through October 9th.  If you left a welcome message in your shop description, the GMs were supposed to come by and drop you a gift in an open room decoration spot.  A Sonic figure is pictured, although other gifts may have been given as well.  The GMs were even said to stay and chat a bit if you were available.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

General: Update for September 26th

(Information started on September 23rd)

Here's a summary of the updates for September 26th:

- Maximum Attack G extension reward delivery (more notes below)
* 10% Grinding Boost [PSUv1]
* Sange
* Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals
* Spread Needle/G
- Bladed Legacy C-S2 (Il Cabo Base towards Granigs Mine)
- Clothes 'n' Parts (in a room accessed in the back of GUARDIANS HQ, split into male and female)
- New weapons, armor, etc.
- New synthesis boards [PSUv1]
- New clothes and parts

The fireworks lobby has been taken down and the seasonal traps are no longer available.  Neudaiz GBR has ended as well.

Update: The JP page confirms that the grinding boost is available from September 26th to October 10th.  It also mentions that Rappy Tip and Treasure Chest would be distributed again to extension participants, however it was not mentioned why.  You can obtain them by logging in any time before October 31st.  A board was added to convert Vestaline to Vulcaline.  Also, all ore boards were updated to a production capacity of 20.  All of these are available at the synthesis shop at the GUARDIANS Colony.

Update: There was a Casino Voloyal rotation that was not mentioned on either update page.  The Modern set has been replaced by the Sweet/Berry set.  PSU Disc 37 has not returned yet.

Update: There was a maintenance extension notice (they estimated up to around 8 hours, but it ended at almost 9).  There was also an end notice.  Neither mentioned any additional changes.

Xbox 360: Live Downtime for September 29th

(Information started on September 23rd)

Starting just after midnight the morning of September 29th, there was a maintenance specifically for Xbox Live that took about 26 hours or so.  This was in preparation (but in no way a distribution) of the coming features for this fall.  None of Live was available and thus PSU wasn't either.

General: Server Outage

(Information started on September 23rd)

There were a few hours of downtime for the PSU servers as well as Sega's sites in general on September 23rd.  The cause was said to be hardware failure on the end of Sega's internet service provider.  It was said that there may have needed to be more downtime so that hardware could be replaced, although it was also said that that could occur during the maintenance later that week.

There was no maintenance later that day, however the normal maintenance later in the week was longer than usual.  It's probable that it happened then, however no further mention was made of it.

Japan: PS2/PC Update for September 25th

(Information started on September 19th)

Quoting EspioKaos:

New temporary missions
Holupe is at it again! Now he's fine-tuned his original training programs and re-released them for the GUARDIANS to test out. These missions will be available only from September 25 through October 9.

The Protectors α+ C-S2
I've made a few adjustments to the training simulator I'd developed for new Guardians. Show me what you've got!

The Protectors β+ C-S2
Just like with ver.α, I've made some adjustments to this version of the program, too. Help me collect some new data from the simulator!

Training Lecture
I've made some adjustments to my original Guardians training program. Come here for an explanation of what to expect.

As these are based on missions from the Winter Event, they will be available to players who only have PSU. The S2 difficulties, however, will be available only to AOTI players.

Mission update
New items will be added to The Arms Dealer.

New items
Numerous new weapons and line shields will be added to the game. Also, NPC shops will have some new items available for purchase.
Interesting to see modified versions of the First Anniversary/Winter Event missions return, especially only for a limited time.  Many of the current modified versions of old event missions are permanent.  These however have two bosses a piece, so that may have been a factor.  It appears some event boosts appear in the GUI on the screenshots they are using, but I haven't heard anything about multipliers being in this time around.

Update: There was another trial weekend following this update.  Link added.

Update: Maintenance is over and there was no client patch.  A mention was made of a correction that happened during the August 7th maintenance.  It appears to have been with the female clothing version of the Rappy Suit.

Community: Video Guides

(Information started on September 19th)

GM RubyEclipse is looking for people to help out in the creation of what appear to be video guides for PSU.  It seems he's looking for help on a variety of tasks needed for getting them together.  Visit the link below for more information and to get in contact with him.

RubyEclipse's Thread

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Japan: Takao Miyoshi at CEDEC 2008

(Information started on September 10th)

Takao Miyoshi: PSU Producer
CEDEC: CESA Developers Conference
CESA: Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association

Awhile back, I saw a very interesting article on PSO and PSU.  EspioKaos translated a good deal of it and posted it on a couple sites which are linked below.  The skipped information is mostly just side notes about PSO's critical successes and a few stories from fans.  I highly suggest a read.

The meat of the article lies in what the developers believed contributed to the falling numbers of PSO players and what changes they made to curb the same sort of drop in the number of PSU players.  The article is accompanied by some very interesting graphs.  One shows the userbase over two years of PSO versions 1 and 2 and another shows the PSU userbase split by server set since launch (also two years).

Much can be inferred from this last graph.  First, I should note that below the last graph it mentions that the developers found it surprising that the Xbox 360 version maintained its userbase so well.  I actually find there are a number of reasons why it would remain so stable, but regardless it has been pretty solid for something like 20 months.  The English PC/PS2 version had a fairly steady drop, but is also now somewhat stable.  The Japanese PC/PS2 version almost looks like a rollercoaster, but just as well has become stable in the past several months.  Regardless of the exact values (which weren't released), it isn't the doom and gloom that some players seem to assume.  If we continue along the path we're going, I think we'll be generally fine.  Obviously we'd want a few things here and there to try and spur some growth (or at least keep stability), but the situation isn't that horrible looking at all from what I see.

General: GM Live Support Time Changes

(Information started on September 11th)

The following is a current list of times for the GM Live Support sessions:

3:00 PM - 6:00 PM Pacific

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Pacific 
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM Pacific

I've been keeping these in a rather condensed form on the side bar.

General: No Maintenance for September 12th and 19th

(Information started on September 10th)

There was no maintenance for the remainder of Neudaiz GBR.

As an aside, it seems they did confirm the rare mission update was made available on June 6th.  More information can be found on PSUP at the link below.

Japan: No Maintenance for September 11th and 18th

(Information started on September 5th)

First, I thought I would throw in the article about a PSU Mobile maintenance that happened this same week.  For a couple of hours on the 8th, the Casino Voloyal poker game was affected.

The normal maintenance periods were skipped for the 11th and 18th.  The next maintenance would end the second anniversary event, so there wasn't anything else added as a part of it.

Xbox 360: Worldwide Price Drops

(Information started on September 5th)

Pretty much all regions (at least the major ones) have received price drops on all models of the Xbox 360.

America (September 5th):

Arcade: $280 -> $200
60 GB: $350 -> $300
Elite: $450 -> $400

The 120 GB harddrive also price dropped from $180 to $150.

Europe (September 19th):

Arcade: £159 / €199 -> £129 / €179
60 GB: £199 / €269 -> £169 / €239
Elite: £259 / €369 -> £229 / €299

Japan (September 11th):

Arcade: 27,800 yen -> 19,800 yen
60 GB: 29,800 yen (introduced)
Elite: 47,800 yen -> 39,800 yen

These pricing adjustments puts many of the models in many of the regions on par with each other.  I believe the Arcade model in many regions is now cheaper than the Wii by a fairly significant margin.

The sales increases seen in each have been very high.  This is true even for Japan (where Microsoft is known not to have very good following).  In that case, it seems to be a combination of the increased value along with the current wave of RPGs (which have also been selling well).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Other: Gates and Seinfeld

(Information started on September 5th)

For anyone that hasn't seen them yet, Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld are starring in a series of commercials produced for Microsoft.  There are two out so far and I think both are pretty hilarious.  I suppose it depends on the viewer though.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Xbox 360: New Xbox Experience at PAX

(Information started on August 31st)

I was lucky enough to attend the Penny Arcade Expo again this year (might comment more on this later).  Major Nelson/Larry Hryb was there showing off more of the NXE that had been shown at this year's E3.  It's still work in progress, but it's said to be coming in November.

This is a video that was taken (not by me) during one of the few showings that happened that weekend.  Can't necessarily say I was watching the same one, but the dialogue seems very close to it (even more so than your normal rehearsed/improv speech).  More videos have come out since, but they've mostly been to show off the new Avatar system and themes.

Interesting note: There were a couple 'No Filming' signs around the MS booth.  Major even held one up before presenting the NXE.  Then he said that there would probably be a video on youtube 10 minutes after anyway.  Well there you go.  While I'm normally very respective of NDAs and things like that, I can't expect that MS seriously believed it would be possible to keep everything they had on display on the showfloor under watch.  Nothing was 'behind closed doors' as it were.  They didn't seem to care at all though past the actual presence of those notices.  I'm sure they're well aware after attending these past years of who PAX is for and what goes on.  Anyway, I'm being much too serious here.  I'm sure they really wanted as much to get out there as possible (aside from the occasional software bug).

I also noticed Shane Kim in the audience (admittedly small, only a few rows of a couple chairs with some people standing near the wall MS's booth was next to).  It's too bad that Peter Moore isn't still around.  I don't believe he came for EA/in general, but I definately would be disappointed if I missed seeing him.

General: Maintenance for September 5th

(Information started on September 4th)

There was a maintenance for both sets of servers.  It seems that during the maintenance, the female parts were split up, but only at the Guardians Colony shop.  CV parts are on the left and normal parts are on the right.  PSO, swimwear, and yukata parts appear on both sides.  All other part shops are unaffected.  Jenkel Arms CV finally manages to return to the Xbox 360 shops.  This may have been a measure to take care of that.

PSU Disc 37 has not returned to Casino Voloyal as of yet.

MAG: More Leaderboard Disqualifications

(Information started on September 3rd)

As done in the original run of MAG and once before for the second run, cheaters have been taken down from the leaderboards in the time attack and killcount categories.  One of the biggest winners here had two characters pulled up into the top 500 (thus earning two Spread Needle/Gs in addition to one from the first run of the event).

General: Network Performance Feedback

(Information started on September 3rd)

After Sega moved the local PSU servers to their new offices, it seemed many players noticed a drop in the quality of their connections.  It's requested that players experiencing these issues send as detailed a report as they can to the Sega Support site.

General: PSU Calendar Wallpaper for September

(Information started on September 2nd)

This month's English version of the calendar has been posted. Labor Day is marked this time around.

Wallpaper Page

Japan: PSU Calendar Wallpaper for September

(Information started on August 29th)

September's calendar is now posted. Linked below you'll find it in various resolutions.

PSU Calendar

Japan: Second Anniversary Fan Art Contest Results

(Information started on August 29th)

As mentioned earlier, Sonic Team chose a variety of pieces of fan art to be displayed in the lobbies during the second part of the Second Anniversary event.  The top winner is shown above.  You can find the other lobby displayed entries (as well as many other entries) at the links below.  Quite a few were either high quality or entertaining (some even both), so I'd encourage a browse through them.

Japan: PC/PS2 Update for September 4th

(Information started on August 29th)

Japan's Second Anniversary event continues.  Update info care of EspioKaos:

Illustration contest winners exhibition
* Winning works from the 2nd Anniversary Thanks Festa illustration contest will be announced on this day and placed on display in various lobbies from September 4 through October 9.
* 1st place (one winner) work will be displayed in Clyez City.
* 2nd place (three winners) work will be displayed in the respective cities of each planet.
* 3rd place (three winners) work will be displayed in the field lobbies of each planet.
* Boys & Girls prize (one winner) work will be displayed in the field lobbies of the GUARDIANS Colony.
* Honorable mention (four winners) work will be displayed in the field lobbies of the three planets and Colony.

Event missions
* The second event mission, The Protectors δ, will be released and remain available until the close of the event on September 25.
* The prologue mission, Government Directive, will be updated to include information on the new event mission.

New items
* Many new weapons, line shields, etc. will drop from the new mission.
It appears this was it for the remainder of the event.  The fan art contest winners will be mentioned in a later post.

Update: There was a posting in the form of a letter from the team to the players in light of PSU's second anniversary.  They of course thank the users for their continued support and bring up the releases of AOTI and recently successful PSP as well as the franchise's 20th Anniversary.  They also mention the upcoming digital purchase of PSUv1.  The team will continue to work on future content for the game and they ask in the standard fashion for continued support as they expand the game.

Update: There is a post about a scheduled maintenance for billing on September 2nd for around a half hour.  Gameplay is still possible, but there may be issues purchasing a subscription with a credit card.

Japan: PSU Client on Digital Distribution

(Information started on August 28th)

A long time ago, the PSU client was posted online for players that had a valid game key (in Japan PSU uses download keys in a similar fashion to how PSO used to).  Now that download is being opened up to everyone.

After downloading (site features both direct and P2P), a player can buy a game key online for 1000 yen.  This enables them to play Episode 1 (Story Mode) and gets them a 10 day trial of Network Mode.  The offer starts on September 25th.  It seems to coincide with the close of the Second Anniversary event.  It appears they are also offering a bonus Amy statue to people that take advantage of the offer.

It isn't known whether the expansion will eventually be offered similarly or if either of the English versions will receive the same treatment.

Update: The release time was moved back two hours.

Update: The offer has opened (link to download site below).

JP PSUv1 Download Site (game manual also available)