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Grandia Online (グランディア オンライン Gurandeia Onrain?) is a Japanese free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by Game Arts and published by GungHo Online Entertainment for Microsoft Windows as part of their Grandia series. Although originally announced in 2004, the game was beset by a number of delays and lulls in development, eventually gaining an open beta test period in August 2009, with a final retail release scheduled sometime before the end of the year. It is the first online multiplayer game in the series, as well as the first to be initially developed for the PC, yet retains many features seen in previous Grandia games, including visual themes, characters, and a similar combat system. The game utilizes the BigWorld Technology Suite to render its vast world, and features music from series veteran Noriyuki Iwadare. Although the game does not require a subscription fee, optional in-game items are only available through paid microtransactions.

Acting as a prequel to the original Grandia, Grandia Online's story takes place many years beforehand during the "Age of Genesis", a time marked by adventure and exploration. Players can create a character from one of three race: the adventurous and adaptable Humans, the childlike, bushy-tailed Coltas, or the imposing, war-like Ralgas, as they travel the world to unlock the mystery of a strange petrification that has claimed their home village. During gameplay, players interact and battle with others, as well as with computer-controlled partners.

Gameplay

File:Grandiaonline.jpg

Grandia Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game presented using completely three-dimensional environments and characters. Before playing, users must first create a GungHo ID from the game's official website, as well as register an account to be used to log into the game's server.[2] After registration, players must download the game client from either the official website, or install directly from a retail disc. After logging in, players must create a character from one of three available races, whose appearances can be customized in a number of ways, including face, hair, eyes, gender, and initial statistics, which determine a their specific strengths and weaknesses.[3] When entering the game world, a character's appearance may further be customized by obtaining new equipment and using special dyes to alter their color.[4]

Characters are controlled from a third-person perspective, with the camera being completely movable by the user, and basic movement consisting of walking, running, and jumping. The game's user interface contains a text box for chatting with other players, as well as a mini-map for navigation that shows the location of objects and building in the vicinity of the character.[5] All actions are performed by using a combination of keyboard shortcuts along with the mouse, and players may customize macro commands for single-click movement, communication, or combat abilities through the game's configuration menu, which can be placed on interface's hotbar for later use.[6] A player may interact with static, non-player characters found in towns or throughout the game who expand the game's story and may offer quests that can be completed for helpful rewards.[7] In addition to a main character, players may also be joined by a single, computer-controlled partner using the game's Partner System, whose actions can be customized by using the appropriate menu.[8] Players may also group with one another to form a party of up to eight individuals, who each share access to a special chat channel and are able to view each other's current status. With each player able to have their own computer partner, the total group size can reach a maximum of 16 characters.[9]

Combat

Combat in Grandia Online takes place in real-time and retains many similarities to previous games in the series, including the Initiative Point (IP) Gauge, which is used for the game's Ultimate Action Battle System.[10] The gauge, represented as a circle, contains icons representing each character in a player's party, as well as each enemy monster currently engaged. The icons move across the gauge to its end, which allows the player to accumulate combo points that can be saved to unleash powerful combination attacks along with other party members. Special combat abilities called Just Commands can be learned by continually using an equipped weapon, and occupy their own specific hotbar that can be quickly used during battle.[11] As players defeat enemies, they gain experience points which go towards gaining levels, allowing a character to become stronger and face progressively more difficult opponents. The number of individuals in a player's party, as well as the use of computer partners and high level differences between characters can all adversely affect experience gain.[9]

Plot

Grandia Online is set in a fantasy world that occupies the same universe as the original Grandia video game, and is set many years beforehand during the fabled "Age of Genesis".[12] All players begin their journey as an escapee from a village that has been mysteriously overcome by a dark force, becoming petrified and unlivable. Meeting with a powerful sorceress named Liete, the player learns that similar events are happening across the world, and an investigation as to its source is taking place.[13] Venturing into the game's world, players travel across the land interacting with playable and non-playable characters to expand the game's story, leading them to numerous locations including the Pulse of Gaia, a blighted land believed to be the source of the corruption, and the homeland of the ancient Icarians, a race know for their prowess with magic.[14] GungHo games plans to introduce new plot points that expand the story of Gaia and the Icarians through regular updates.[13]

Players choose a character based on one of three races who inhabit the world: Humans, a small, bushy-tailed raced called the Coltas, and the imposing, tribal Ralgas. Other inhabitants of the world include the diminutive rabbit-like Mogays, who acts as merchants and guides, and numerous species of monsters and animals that serve as the game's primary enemies. Ruins from past civilizations appear as additional areas, and include opponents such as automatons and robots from a bygone era. As the player venture further into the game, they encounter progressively more difficult enemies and boss characters who require large groups to defeat.[9]

Development

Grandia Online was first announced by Game Arts in late 2004 as a collaborative effort between their company and GungHo Online Entertainment under the codename "Project: GO".[12] The game was first revealed during a GungHo Games panel at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show in Tokyo, Japan, where the company announced that they would be working with Game Arts to bring their Grandia role-playing game series to the PC as a "real adventure-themed MMORPG."[12] Development for the game began shortly after completion of Game Arts' previous endeavor, Grandia III, released earlier that year in Japan, and was overseen by GungHo president Morishita Yoshikazu and Game Arts producer Yoshitada Iwata.[12] Inspiration for the game came from Gravity Corporation's Ragnarok Online, as well as to fill the need for "Japan's increased demand for online games."[12] The following October, one month after the game's announcement, GungHo announced plans to become a majority shareholder for the Game Arts corporation, turning the company into a subsidiary and making Grandia Online an in-house production.[15] A open beta test period was originally planned for the first quarter of 2006, with the game's final release following later that year, which was pushed back to the following September, and then an undetermined date due to development issues.[16]

GungHo would remain quiet on Grandia Online's progress until early 2007, when Game Arts announced that the title had been sold by GungHo to online software producer Online Game Revolution Fund Number 1 for ¥2.6 billion, and that development would continue under the game's new name, Grandia Zero.[17] Game Arts would later re-acquire the game's production rights some time later, as well as return the game to its original title, yet development activities remained undisclosed for several months. During this period, industry rumors began to surface that the game may have been cancelled.[18]

In April 2009, news of Grandia Online's progress was finally made public, with the launch of an official countdown website that opened on April 21, revealing that the game was not only still being produced, but that a new open beta test would be launched the following July.[18] To celebrate the occasion, Game Arts announced they would be re-releasing the original Grandia on Sony's PlayStation Network download service, as well host a limited, 60-person public test period for a demo of the game the following may in Tokyo's Akihabara district.[19] The game is to utilize the BigWorld Technology Suite, which was previously used in GungHo's Hokuto no Ken Online, and "promises a development solution specifically for scaleable next-gen MMOs and virtual worlds."[1] The company had planned to release the game commercially by the end of Summer 2009,[20] with a final release still pending due to an extended beta period beginning in August.

Audio

Background music for Grandia Online was written by series veteran Noriyuki Iwadare, the composer for all previous Grandia titles.[13] The game also features voice acting during certain story sequences that the player will encounter during play, which are provided by several prominent anime and video game actors including Kikuko Inoue, who reprises her role as Liete from the first Grandia.[21] Player characters are also voiced, with sound clips used during combat and certain emotes, and vary by the character's race and gender.[22] Grandia Online's official theme song, "Earth Trip" by Minami Kuribayashi, was released as a single in July 2009, alongside a limited edition version that contains a code which can be redeemed for special in-game items.[23]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Alexander, Leigh (June 9, 2009). GungHo, GameArts License BigWorld For Grandia Online. Gamasutra.com. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.
  2. ID登録 (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  3. キャラクター作成 (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  4. システム解説:装備アイテム染色システム (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  5. 画面説明:インターフェイス (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  6. 基本操作:キーコンフィグ (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  7. ゲームデータ:街のNPC紹介 (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  8. システム解説:パートナーシステム (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 パーティー機能:システム解説 (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  10. システム解説:アルティメットアクションバトルシステム (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  11. 基本操作:ジャストコマンド (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 ガンホー、新作タイトル「GRANDIA ONLINE」を発表! (Japanese). Game Watch (2005-09-16). Retrieved on 2009-11-06.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Winkler, Chris (2009-05-21). RPGFan News - GungHo Finally Details Grandia Online. RPGFan. Retrieved on 2009-11-06.
  14. システム解説:スペシャルマップ(ガイアの鼓動) (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  15. Gantayat, Anoop (2005-10-17). IGN: GameArts Goes GungHo. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  16. Bramwell, Tom (2006-01-24). Grandia goes online News / PC / Eurogamer. Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2009-11-03.
  17. Winkler, Chris (2007-12-30). GungHo Sells Off Grandia Online. RPGFan. Retrieved on 2008-12-14.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Des Barnes, Nick (2009-04-21). Grandia Online To Be Revealed May 20, Grandia I Comes To Japanese PSN. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  19. Shawn (April 22, 2009). Grandia Online Coming Exclusively To Playstation 3. Gaming Union. Retrieved on 2009-04-22.
  20. IGN:GungHo/GameArts Formally Announce Grandia Online. IGN (2009-06-09). Retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  21. ゲームデータ:キーキャラクター (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-03.
  22. 世界観:種族 (Japanese). GungHo Games (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-03.
  23. Discography / 栗林みな実オフィシャルサイト (Japanese). Minami Kuribayashi Official Site (2009). Retrieved on 2009-11-15.

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