The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, September 3, 2021 – See You Space Goddess

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

EDIT: September. It is September. Thank you, Smiley.

Gimme an “F”! Wait, no, that’s not a good start to anything, is it, particularly as I’ll have to follow it up in short order with an exhortation for you to provide me with a “D”. Let’s just forget this first paragraph ever happened and get on with this week’s Rice Digital Friday Letters Page.

Don’t forget you can be part of the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page each and every week simply by clicking the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right-hand side of any article on the site, then leaving a pen name and a message for us. We’ll get back to you the following Friday, so you can feel free to quiz us about anything you want — or share something you want to get off your chest, pimp something you’ve been working hard on or… well, anything really. Within reason.

We’ve had some great letters this week, so come on, Future Letters Page contributors — see if you can top this lot with your wit, charm, inquisitiveness and general loveliness. Let’s get to it!

Letters page

Space is big, really big, but not quite big enough

Dear Rice,

After less than two weeks of streams, I’ve already become a massive fan of HoloEN’s adorable space goddess, Sana. She’s so talented and obviously putting in a ton of work, it’s been kinda sad to see her lagging so far behind her gen-mates in terms of subscribers and viewers. I guess my question is how do I stop myself from worrying about the numbers?

C


Hello, C, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. This is a good question, and one that any fans of any vaguely “popular” online entertainers have probably struggled with at one point or another. It’s something VTuber fans in particular tend to feel quite strongly about due to the rather personal-feeling parasocial relationships the very nature of VTuber content tends to engender in people.

Anyway, I’d say the most important thing to remember is that “the numbers” are not your responsibility, however much you might like your favourite streamer. All you really “need” to do is make sure that you’re showing your support in the best way you can and to as great a degree as you feel comfortable with.

And I don’t necessarily mean financially; just doing your part to help out Sana with the dreaded “algorithm” by liking and commenting on her videos is a big help, as is simply showing up to her streams or watching her VODs.

In other words, you’re not her manager; it’s her manager’s job to worry about “the numbers”, and in the grand scheme of things she’s doing absolutely fine, anyway. Although comparatively speaking she’s somewhat behind her peers in terms of subscriber numbers, 143K (at the time of writing) isn’t anything to be ashamed of at all — particularly since a number of her videos are actually showing more viewers than she has subscribers.

Her Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise video, for example, has had more than 240K viewers to date as I type this, which is like the entire population of Wolverhampton showing up to a stream.

Put those numbers in perspective, too; as you say, she’s barely been streaming for two weeks and has already picked up that many viewers and subscribers.

Compare and contrast with Nijisanji EN’s six lovely gals, who have taken way longer to pick up roughly the same number of subscribers, yet I don’t think anyone would consider them to be having difficulty; they’re some of the most beloved English VTubers out there, judging by the amount of fanart and memes you’ll find online that feature them.

I think there’s the expectation here that Hololive must always be the biggest, the best, the greatest… and that’s understandable, given how long they’ve dominated the VTuber space — but I think it’s much too early to be concerned about Sana just yet. She’s still defining herself, her audience are still getting to know her — and new fans are still rolling in a bit at a time.

My best advice for now is to simply enjoy what she does and, as mentioned above, show your support — whether it’s through supportive comments on her videos and on social media, or through contributions such as Super Chats and membership fees if you’re open to the idea of opening your wallet. Remember the latter aspect is absolutely optional and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t want to or are not able to fling money at her, though; just by being there you’re helping her out!

Oh, and tell your friends. You know how the Internet works these days; people are much more likely to listen to a recommendation from a trusted friend than a stuffy old website or a bluecheck on Twitter!

Hope that helps you feel a bit better. Our space goddess will be just fine, don’t you worry!

Getting creative

Dear Rice,

I’m interested in learning how to make a game, but I don’t have a clue how to get started with programming so stuff like Unity and Unreal Engine scares me off a bit. If I wanted to make something fairly simple like a visual novel, do you have any recommendations on how I could get started?

Ebisumaru


Hi Ebisumaru, and thanks for your contribution to this week’s Letters Page. You’re describing exactly how I feel on a semi-regular basis — I love the creativity of making games, but I absolutely suck at the technical side of things. My limit of programming skills is Atari BASIC, and there’s not a lot of call for that these days.

Thankfully, there are a bunch of “programming-free” options out there for people like you and me — and don’t think that these are in any way “lesser” tools, since there are some absolutely fantastic, commercially released games that have been made using these pieces of software!

The first, and perhaps most obvious, is RPG Maker. We actually did a feature on all the different versions of this a while back, so check that out if you want more details. RPG Maker, despite its name, is actually a good means of putting together a visual novel, too, since it has straightforward built-in functions for text boxes, displaying images and all manner of other useful things. I can personally vouch for its ease of use; I’m a complete idiot and I still know my way around it.

Letters page: RPG Maker MV

You can optionally extend the standard functionality with scripting and plugins, too, and you don’t even need to know programming yourself, since there’s a ton of community-created content out there to do all manner of things. But if you’re just getting started out, start small and try and finish a simple project using just the built-in stuff. It’s easy to get overambitious!

For something specifically aimed at visual novel making, there are several options including Ren’Py and TyranoBuilder, but my personal favourite is Visual Novel Maker. This has a bit more of a learning curve than RPG Maker but offers a lot of flexibility; you can make everything from a simple kinetic novel with no choices to a full-on point and click adventure with this software. You don’t need to know any programming, but you do need to be willing to think things through logically and methodically.

Another option out there that isn’t specifically designed for visual novels, but which has a proud heritage behind it is Clickteam Fusion 2.5. I mention this because its predecessor from about 20 years back, known as Klik and Play, was one of the first game-making tools my friends and I ever used — and Fusion, although a tad more complex and pricey than KnP, remains very true to the “programming-free” dream that Klik and Play offered.

With Fusion, you develop games by using a system of logical triggers and actions — “If the player presses the A button, shoot a bullet”, that sort of thing. You’d be surprised what you can achieve using this seemingly simple software; the absolutely fantastic indie platformer Freedom Planet was composed using Fusion, for example.

Those should get you up and running! Let us know how you get on — and once you get to grips with one or more of these pieces of software, consider joining a game jam such as the ones hosted on itch.io — they’re a great means of focusing yourself on completing a project as well as getting some helpful advice from fellow designers!

Physical is dead… again

Dear Rice,

I saw an article doing the rounds the other day about the author having owned a PS5 for a while, and that they hadn’t bought any physical games for it whatsoever. As such, the site declared that “physical games may be done and dusted”. Do you agree?

LagMonster


Absolutely 100% definitely not, LagMonster, and I’ll tell you for why: there’s never been more interest in video game collecting than there is right now — and that goes for both modern platforms as well as classic platforms.

While modern physical releases have their own issues (that we’ve discussed before in these very pages) the rise — and continued popularity — of limited-run boutique publishers as well as publishers who take great pride in releasing even their more niche stuff physically (companies like PQube and ININ Games spring to mind here) demonstrates that there’s absolutely still a market for physical releases of games. Indeed, I always buy physical games by preference and have some absolutely heaving shelves that will attest to this.

Personally, I like having “things” because it’s easier to associate happy memories with them; everything on my shelves right now either represents fond memories that I already have, or those that are yet to come in the case of things I haven’t had a chance to play yet.

Consider, also, that last year played host to the launch of a new console that takes exclusively physical games — the Evercade — and that it’s been doing perfectly well for itself ever since. It’s even getting a new generation of hardware later this year, making the jump from handheld to 1080p TV-connected console. Not only that, it’s bringing some games home for the first time ever — in officially licensed physical form! Bet your 1993 self never thought you’d own a copy of Glass.

The rise of Microsoft’s Game Pass in particular has made a lot of people more open to the idea of a digital-only future, but people are still wary. And so long as those people are wary — and the option exists — we’ll continue to see boxed games on our shelves. It will be a sad day when we no longer have those to enjoy, for sure, but I don’t see it happening for quite some time yet. So hold on to that first-print 3DS copy of Senran Kagura for now!


And that is, once again, your lot for today. Have a wonderful weekend, you lovely people, and we’ll see you again next week!

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