Daily Radar Interview with Yuji Naka

Interview Data:

  • Interview Date: 23 June 2000 (approximate date)
  • Interview Topics: PSO, Dreamcast Limits, Naka's thoughts on PS2, Dolphin and X-Box
  • Interview Source: Daily Radar external.png

Yuji Naka Speaks… - Daily Radar
Phantasy Star Online Details

Yuji Naka, the brilliant creator of Sega's official mascot, Sonic, and developer of such quirky, successful games as Sonic Adventure and Chu Chu Rocket, recently spoke to GameWEEK about the upcoming Phantasy Star Online and his latest project, Samba de Amigo. While we here at Daily Radar usually kick, scratch and claw our way into our own interviews, some of the juicy nuggets Mr. Naka discussed are too good to pass up.

Of the world of Phantasy Star Online, the narrator for the promotional video says, "Do whatever you want, whenever you want, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Phantasy Star Online… the door to the future… the door to freedom." While the overzealous voice might come off sounding a little melodramatic, everyone knows that Phantasy Star Online is going to be the biggest thing since the Beatles, the biggest thing since… well, not that big. But huge! This space-exploration RPG is primarily focused on online play and will have gamers teaming up with three other players from anywhere in the world to complete their missions.

The story of Phantasy Star Online will be similar to the previous Phantasy Star games, putting players on a team that is investigating the destruction of a migration group that was developing land on a different planet. Players will travel on a ship that is so huge, "there's a whole city inside it!" Naka said.

Naka said he's tinkering with three possible ways in which Phantasy players will be able to communicate with each other: through a simple text system that will allow them to communicate using standard icons (i.e. smiley face, frown) that mean the same thing in every language, a "keyboard-style chat that lets people type as they go" and a system in which players select certain words from a list to say to each other. The purpose of all of these communication tools is to encourage and facilitate teamwork. "One of the main reasons for my wanting to do this game was to give people the chance to meet up and work together," Naka told GameWEEK. And with three separate means of speaking with each other, and certain tasks that absolutely require more than one player, communication might finally become the center of the game, instead of an afterthought.

Pulling away from the hardly compelling style of turn-based battles that bogs down most RPGs, most of the battles in Phantasy Star Online will be in real time, and will also require cooperation from the entire team. "If you fight the dragon, for example," Mr. Naka says "it is more vulnerable if your partner shoots him from a distance while you attack with a sword." He stresses the focus on cooperation by adding, "You cannot beat this game without the assistance of others."

Despite published rumors, Naka says that the Sonic Team still hasn't decided whether or not the game will feature a single-player mode. Though the game is still far from complete, it sounds as if it will only be playable with others via the SegaNet. After all, why play with AI when getting online and joining other living, breathing players will only take a matter of minutes?

Since the first minimal release of screens and images from the game, thousands of fans nationwide have salivated for the real thing. In a surprising game industry move, it looks like we will finally get something that's actually worth the wait. "I don't know if we are going all the way, but I feel we are pretty close to the limit, graphically… I am using as much power as I possibly can. I am not sure if it is possible to go further than this, really," a Scottyesque Naka said. Originally slated to be released sometime in 2000, Naka let slip that the PSO release may be pushed back until winter. It is uncertain if Naka meant that the game will ship in 2001 or just the last days of 2000. "This is a very big project," he said.

Naka said the game is approximately 20 to 30% complete. He mentioned the game will feature full VMU support as far as saves but is unsure if any additional features for the memory card will be included. He also suggested that DreamEye digital camera support is impossible. "I would like to do that," he said, "but I am thinking we will not be able to add [camera support] in time." Breaking the silence from the Sega side about the onslaught of negative press and comments from competitors, Naka said, "I do not think very highly of the PlayStation2. There have been many problems with it." His comments on Dreamcast's other yet-to-be-released competitors (the Dolphin and the Xbox) seem fairly positive, though, despite the recent Dreamcast-bashing epidemic. Naka's final comments, however, are revelatory. "I love Sega and Dreamcast," he said, and asked why he would want to jump to another platform and develop games for it.

Garrett Kenyon


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