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Phantasy Star Online: Network Trial Edition

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Post  Aleron Ives Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:51 pm

For those of you who don't know what the Network Trial Edition is, it's basically an unfinished release of V1, and as such it contains may differences from the retail version of the game. I've jumped on the NTE bandwagon, so I thought I would share my experiences with people. (Are you ready for a wall of text? Very Happy)

If there's one thing to take away from the NTE experience, it's that we've never given Sonic Team enough credit for what they accomplished with PSOv1. We often give them a hard time for V1 being so buggy and unfinished, but the NTE was compiled on October 25 of 2000, and JPv1 was compiled on December 6. Considering how unfinished the NTE is, ST must have been working really hard during that last six weeks to finish the game. I'm going to try to note every single difference that I can, so I'll separate them by topic. Some of these observations have already been made by other people, but I wanted to make a somewhat comprehensive list. The differences in this list are made in comparison to V1; for each item in this list, if I don't state how a particular behaviour changed in the final game, you can assume that V1 has the opposite behaviour of how a particular feature behaves in the NTE (assuming you don't already know what the behaviour is in V1). Here we go...

Starting the Game

Spoiler:

Lobby

Spoiler:

Pioneer 2

Spoiler:

Character

Spoiler:

Menu & Chat

Spoiler:

Techniques

Spoiler:

Items

Spoiler:

Mags

Spoiler:

Areas

Spoiler:

Enemies

Spoiler:

Sound

Spoiler:


Technical

Spoiler:

At this point the biggest obstacle to further NTE testing is that the server still uses full random map sets when generating NTE teams and consequently often picks layouts that don't exist in the NTE. Even if you manage to get a Forest 1 or Cave 1 map that works, you're likely to find that Forest 2 and Cave 2 are empty, so reaching the bosses is a challenge. Even if you bring Telepipes, you can't return to the lobby, so you have to log out and connect again every time you want to try for a new set of maps. On the bright side, I have now documented which maps the NTE supports, so a future Sylverant update will cause the server to always pick maps that exist, and thus you won't have the empty map problem anymore. Very Happy

Of course, one of the greatest mysteries surrounding the NTE is the question of whether Forest and Cave are all that the disc contains. As Treamcaster discovered, it's possible to get into Mine 1, but is there anything to do there, and even if there is, what about Ruins? Furthermore, if the other areas exist, then why did Sega try to hide them? I took a peek at the disc's files, and lo and behold, the NTE contains files for Mine 1, Mine 2, Ruins 1, Ruins 2, and Ruins 3. Still, the question remained: are the areas playable? After a bit of tinkering, I discovered the answer: Yes. Very Happy

Mine and Ruins are fully playable in the NTE! The areas are less finished than Forest and Cave, which is probably why Sega didn't allow people to play them (that, and the purpose of the NTE was reportedly to test the server load moreso than the game itself, so Sega wasn't really looking for any opinions of the game, since they were well aware that it wasn't finished yet and probably wanted the final levels to remain secret until launch day). After a bit of tinkering to unlock Mine and Ruins, I spent over four hours documenting these areas and how they differ from the final game, too. Cool

Are you ready for round 2? OK, then let's get started!

Mine

Spoiler:

Ruins

Spoiler:

Of course, perhaps the biggest question surrounding Ruins is... can you fight Dark Falz? Well, the answer is yes... sort of. Dark Falz is at an alpha stage of development, so while he technically exists, the fight is quite boring: none of his forms have functional attacks (although some of his attack animations and AI is in place), none of his forms can hurt you, and all of his forms die in one hit. The arenas also aren't finished: the garden has no butterflies or birds, the wasteland has no ghosts, and none of his forms have intro or outro movies. The camera is much closer to your character during the Darvant phase, but the Darvants can't seem to hit you. As with Vol Opt, Dark Falz has a standard Ruins teleporter, rather than a boss teleporter (and his arena is actually named "Dark Falz", rather than "???", as in the final game). Even though you're in Normal mode, you do get to fight form 3, but there are no boxes to break, and unlike Vol Opt, there is no teleporter to escape the arena, so your only option is to log off after acquiring your epic prize of... 0 EXP. Wink Finally, as with "You Have Nowhere To Go", "Cry, For Idola The Holy" is a synthesised demo of the orchestral track used in the final game.

Of course, none of the Mine and Ruins content really reflects what Sega wanted people to see in the NTE, so it's not exactly "official" to use these areas or fair to judge Sega for content that they didn't even intend for us to play. Even so, it provides a fascinating look at how PSO's development was progressing a few months before the final game came out and gives us some insight into some of the ideas Sega shelved until future releases or scrapped entirely, as well as some of the things they wanted to do graphically but decided the Dreamcast hardware was too weak to handle.

Finally, the NTE works perfectly with GDEMU, which is also the reason why I was able to bring this Mine and Ruins information to you. Very Happy

That, folks, is what I've learned about the Network Trial Edition in the ~15 hours I've spent playing it so far. I hope it was interesting.

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Post  mistamontiel Sat Apr 27, 2019 8:21 pm

STUNNING What a Face

Thanx for sharing!
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Post  zharima Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:32 am

Thank you for this comprehensive report! Very interesting indeed, is the disc hard coded to Sega servers?

Also regarding the non orchestra versions of the boss music, do you have any recordings?
I have downloaded the demo and tried to use the tools from http://snesmusic.org/hoot/kingshriek/ssf/ but ended up with 200 files and cannot convert the MLT into DSF, need someone smarter than me to figure this one out. Rolling Eyes

Would love to see a video play through! Thanks again!

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Post  68k-dude Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:35 pm

Hello zharima o/

You can play this on the Sylverant server.

I've made a couple of NTE chars now.

The Server doesn't let you join teams at the moment so you'd have to solo it if you get it.

I managed to get my copy from eBay. JP seller.

Best regards

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Post  Aleron Ives Thu Apr 23, 2020 5:53 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9IGTfGiPFs

This guy has a playthrough, but he can only access Forest and Cave. All the music is in ADX format, the same as the retail release. Only the SFX are in DSF, and the only way to play DSF is an old Winamp plugin, to my knowledge.

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