A community blog by Retrofraction
As part of September’s Bloggers Wanted prompt Down the Rabbit Hole, long-time Destructoid reader Retrofraction writes about how Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis broke through and clicked in ways that other MMOs have not. It’s a neat perspective for a neat game. In a past life, I was definitely an MMO merchant too. —Jordan
These past two months, I have been playing a game: Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis.
I don’t really remember ever starting an MMO when it first launched, and NGS is no different in that it took me a month to even consider playing the game. I typically go for action-adventure games or RPGs are my first choice in games because I like to master concepts and then reach an end game and be done with an experience.
There really hasn’t been a time where I was not hooked on video games as the pastime of choice. Given my own knowledge of myself any personality I typically went out of my way to avoid MMOs as generally they seem to lack an ending which makes it hard to determine progression.
[Image credit: MobyGames]
I had played other Phantasy Star games and version 1&2 on the Sega Dreamcast. All of which in the single-player experience. Sega Net in the town I lived in was an added expense and with all of the “stories” going around town, my parents thought it would be better not to have internet connection in a video game console. Which to be fair, by the time it probably would have been worth doing so, Sega would have already canceled the service.
The Dreamcast version of Phantasy Star Online is completely playable in solo format, but the world and even the central hub of the game gave off the feel like there was much about the game that was not accessible solo.
I don’t usually take MMOs seriously; I previously played Guild Wars 2 and Warframe, and while I enjoyed playing them, they were more of a fun social thing and I never bothered macro-ing out the time spent into the most optimal paths. Even if I did bother reading something, it would be a guide made by some person who played through the majority of the content in advance.
I feel like Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis really gave me the first opportunity to be one of few who started out early in an MMO.
MMOs are interesting games, they can be a second job, life, and social hangout. Starting up a new game is very much like being born into a digital world and while the benevolent developers have dropped starting bonuses of cash and items… you really have no idea what you should be doing with those items.
Much like every Phantasy Star Online game, the first thing you will do is create a character. Sega is generally fantastic when it comes to character creators, and the Phantasy Star Online series really has set the bar high when it comes to customization and options. So after a few hours, I was ready to jump into the digital world.
After completing the light story intro, the world opens up completely and I was able to do pretty much anything I wanted. Much like in Warframe when you get the Star Chart, the developers kick you off the edge of a cliff to see where you fall.
Phantasy Star Online New Genesis currently respects players’ time to a detriment. Many other games have content blocked off by story progression, time gates, and or actually having some sort of energy system.
All classes are unlocked after a tutorial, all weapons are easily obtained in shops, and the only thing player “have to” do is level up each class to 20 to get a power bonus but all the skills are unlocked after completing challenge rooms that only have to be completed once per character.
It is entirely possible to unlock all the skills in 5-10 hours of starting the game. Which has had some interesting effects on the community base.
MMOs again are kind of an interesting take on living in an alternate reality where you can live and do whatever you like. (Within reason.) I had a lot of fun in Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis figuring out what I wanted to do.
There are like three major activities that happen in New Genesis: Farming, gathering, and trading.
At first, I spent a long time just farming — I wanted to get both my class and subclass to level 20 so that I could go on the Urgent Quests. Urgent Quests are random quests that pop up and allow the players to party up in eight-player teams on a small raid that ends up on a boss fight with one of the regional bosses.
After getting access to that, I had come to my first conundrum:
Now that I have access to everything and there is no more story content to consume… What do I do now?
This is an issue that every MMO has, even stuff like New World, where eventually there is no more content to consume. Generally, I end up at this state much later than most players because I do not obsess about stats or getting the best gear. But in terms of Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis, it simply is very easy to get to the endgame because the developers didn’t pad out the game with hundreds of filler quests to do.
So, I took my previous experience with Warframe to carefully consider the best action moving forward.
Inflation is a constant problem in MMOs, in that currencies can lose value due to the player base grinding out more and more currency every day. One of the largest controversies is that players felt like they were getting less currency per kill from farming in Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis. There really was not anything stopping a player from playing 24 hours a day and constantly grinding, but progress would only be 75,000 N-Meseta Per hour if you really knew what you were doing.
So after building a spreadsheet to find the theoretical maximum amount of money the most dedicated player could make… I thought it would be better to invest in a different currency.
Most MMOs have paid for currency; PSO has Arks Cash or AC for short. AC is not a tradable commodity, unlike some other games.
But PSO has the “Player Trading Market,” and in that market players are allowed to sell Augments, Weapons, Armor, and AC Scratch Ticket Items. New Genesis has raffles for cosmetic items that are independent (meaning you can get the same item more than once). Players can choose between trading that item for an AC Recycle Badge or selling that item on the market for… N-Meseta.
So that is when I decided I wanted to be a merchant.
Grinding to get N-Meseta so that I could buy AC Ticket Items for cheap. This strategy was simple to implement. Buying AC Items that would always appreciate on the market and then selling them at a later date when inflation had settled in.
I have also spent real money in-game to get AC Ticket Items to outright sell to then fund the buying of more AC Items.
Which, the more I reflect on it, it really seems like it was the first time I could participate in late stage capitalism when it came to investments and trading. I was buying low, with the intention of selling higher later.
AC Raffles change every month or so, which means that besides market inflation demand for the items will go up eventually. So any item purchased will certainly have a return on investment, but some items will be more profitable than others.
So every ticket raffle that goes buy I simply purchase one of every item I can find for a low price and then simply see the investments return.
Because AC Items do cost a bunch of N-Meseta, I have had to find other routes of getting the money to buy them. So I created a gameplay loop that I think works the best for me right now:
- First I complete any of the daily quests; it’s basically free XP and Money.
- Then I mine for minerals across the entire map. While I do that I kill all the enemies in those areas as they will drop capsules which then I can use the minerals to trade up for better capsules.
- After that, I will roam the maps looking for veteran monsters and maybe grind in a find area and do a couple PSE bursts for the money and XP.
Lastly, I go back to the central hub area to do all the trading that I need to get done with all the new resources that I have acquired. By then it’s been 1-4 hours (3-4 if I do everything) and I stop for the day.
Japan is pretty good about wanting people to have a balance between gaming and their real-life activities. And I really do appreciate that most of the content is gated in such a way that it’s better to only play a maximum of four hours a day and then have the rest of the day to do something else.
Perhaps that is not the way that most players in the west like their style of MMO. But I am still pretty casual when it comes to MMOs or gaming as I typically only have 1-2 hours per day that I really can dedicate to playing.
I have fun playing the game currently; it’s not a riveting story or adventure game. But I do like the open world and having several jobs to complete to keep up a wide variety of valuable items to sell to the community.
The biggest controversy is the lack of content. I agree that the world is mostly empty of NPCs or Dungeons, and some sort of system of adding them to the game would be fantastic as it would add another layer for people to enjoy the game in a different way.
Though the people asking for such things point to PSO2 for reference, and it makes me wonder if they simply would want something like Cradle of Darkness, where players get huge rewards for a repeatable quest.
Just how I have seen things implemented, it seems that if Sega did add such content, it probably would have the rewards reduced to the point where it’s the same as doing any of the other current activities for that period of time.
[Image credit: PC Invasion]
Another controversy is the lack of free passes to the Player Shop, which is where players go to sell their items on the market to other players.
While I do understand that in the past Sega did allow such things to take place and grandfathered over any remaining passes to Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis from PSO2… It does make sense that for a game that does not have any base cost, they would need some sort of incentive to have players want to pay for something in their game.
It costs $7 to get a 30-day pass to sell items in the Player Shop.
Obviously not everyone sees value in the same places, and for some, this is a large price to pay. I typically don’t pay for subscriptions, but for where I am at right now, paying $7 a month when I want to sell items is not a problem for me.
Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis has opened up a lot of things to me about the nature of MMOs. I think that the MMO is a fun and interesting type of escapist genre as you are sort of living a second life and doing hard work in that world. But it will be interesting seeing the game change over time instead of watching from afar for eight years.
But yeah, I am going down the rabbit hole with this game.