The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, August 27, 2021 – First contact

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemans. It is Friday afternoon, and thus it is time to delve deep into our bulging sack of mail and pull out some interesting bits and pieces from the community in the hope of constructing a new Rice Digital Friday Letters Page.

Don’t forget you can always get involved with this every week — just click the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right-hand side of any page on the site and you can submit us a letter with no personal information required other than the pen name you want to submit your letter under.

We’ll get back to you the Friday after you send your letter. So get writing — we love to hear from you, whether it’s tooting your own horn on something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of, or asking us questions in the hope that we provide you with some sort of meaningful response.

Let’s get to this week’s letters, then!

Letters page

A great start

Dear Rice,

I am a pe every

Donnelle


I… don’t know what this means, but someone made the effort to write it and submit their name as “Donnelle”, so presumably this is from an actual person. Or perhaps I’m just being too much of an optimist. Perhaps this is a bot.

Or perhaps this is a bot struggling to achieve sentience, and its first attempts to communicate with us all are through the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page.

If that’s the case, don’t we have a responsibility to nurture and support Donnelle as they attempt to figure out exactly how to form the words that we humans use to communicate? Isn’t it important that we ensure that our first contact with what could potentially be an entirely new form of life is a kind and respectful one?

Welcome, Donnelle, you are among friends here. Several of us on the Rice Digital staff are also a pe every, and we think it’s very brave of you to admit that you are one of this oft-misunderstood group. Truly, those who are a pe every are among the most commonly misrepresented people online — when they are even acknowledged at all.

We’d like you to know that you have a home here at Rice Digital — as does anyone else who is also a pe every. It’s important to feel like you have a place where you feel like you belong, and where you can express yourself as you see fit. We believe in you, Donnelle, and we have faith that one day you’ll be debating the deeper philosophical implications of role-playing games with the best of them one day.

For now, be proud of being a pe every, and we hope to see you again soon.

Looking into the abyss

Dear Rice,

Do you have advice for people wanting to start playing FFXIV? There’s so many choices to pick from when you start.

Abstract


Hello, Abstract, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. A great question — one that I would probably normally answer in our regular The Returner column, which focuses on Final Fantasy XIV, but since I’ve had barely any time to play recently that’s on hold for the moment. It should hopefully be back next week now I’m free of certain commitments!

Anyway, yes, jumping into any MMORPG can be a daunting process for a newcomer, particularly if you’ve not played one before. But the nicest thing about Final Fantasy XIV in this regard is that you’re not tied down to anything specific — changing your Job is as simple as changing the weapon that you’re holding, so at any point if you find you’re not getting on with a particular character type you can always switch to something new — even in the middle of the main story.

Bear in mind, of course, that said story is level-locked, so if you get to, say, level 20 in the story and decide you want to change Job, you’ll need to level your new Job to 20 before you can continue the narrative — or go back to your old one. Thankfully, FFXIV has systems in place that mean any Jobs you level after your first one get bonus experience (this is referred to as the “Armoury Bonus”) so you should quickly be able to get back to where you were.

Letters page: Final Fantasy XIV

That still leaves an important question, though: what do you pick first? Well, basically your choice comes down to one of three things: do you want to “tank” (be up front in the party absorbing the majority of the damage and also often acting as the de facto party “leader”), so you want to heal, or do you want to deal damage? And if the latter, do you want to do so up close or at range? While making this decision, bear in mind that your choice of race has very little effect on stats in the long term, so simply go with whatever you like the look of; everyone loves a Lalafell tank.

If you want to tank, your choices at the start of the game are Gladiator (which later becomes Paladin) and Marauder (which later becomes Warrior). Gladiator is a tank that focuses on protecting itself (and, later, allies) in various ways, while Warrior is a tank that overwhelms its opponents with damage output, the ability to self-heal to a certain extent and simply soak up more hits.

If you want to heal, your initial choices are Conjurer (which becomes White Mage) and Arcanist (which can become either Scholar or Summoner, the former of which is a dedicated healer). Conjurer is the most “traditional” healer in that you have abilities that simply help people get health back. Arcanist actually acts as a damage dealer up until level 30 or so, though it has a few healing abilities to support the party. When it becomes Scholar, you’ll move on to protecting the party with shielding and temporary hit points as well as direct heals.

Letters Page: Final Fantasy XIV

Damage dealing is probably the most “low-risk” job for newbies, but bear in mind a couple of things: you’ll probably be one of the squishiest members of the party, so you’ll need to pay particular attention to fight mechanics so that your healers aren’t too overworked, and also because there are so many damage dealers out there, your queue times for instanced content (such as dungeons and the “Trials” — large-scale boss fights) will be quite a bit longer.

Pick whichever of those roles sounds the most appealing to you, and play for a bit to see how you get on. Bear in mind that most Jobs change their overall “feel” quite significantly as you progress through the levels, so give them a chance even if you don’t find yourself hitting it off with the role immediately. And be sure to stop by the game’s “Hall of the Novice” — this provides you with a variety of solo scenarios that will help you practice your role’s most important responsibilities without the pressure of real players being around.

Finally, remember that it’s an inherently cooperative rather than competitive game; it’s in everyone’s best interests to help newbies, because that means more people to play with! If you’re not sure about anything, ask someone; there’s even an in-game “Novice Network” chat channel devoted entirely to asking beginner-tier questions, so don’t feel bad if you don’t understand something.

Letters Page: Final Fantasy XIV

As for the really important decisions, like your character’s name and their hairstyle… I can’t help you there, I’m afraid. Just remember that your character’s name will appear in some quite serious cutscenes over the course of the narrative, so if you feel like calling yourself Moistened Bumsneeze will adversely affect your immersion in the story, maybe think of a more “serious” name — or use the in-game randomiser to generate a lore-appropriate one for you!

More than anything, enjoy your time in Eorzea and beyond — you’re about to take a very special journey, so I and all the other FFXIV players out there hope you enjoy yourself a lot!

Pusspusspuss

Dear Rice,

As a cat lover, I like to play games with cats in. What are some of your favourite games with cats in?

Megan


Hi Megan, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page — and the very specific question. I feel you, though; cats are great, and I do always enjoy seeing an interactive cat in a game, even though I have two real ones that spend most of their time complaining at me.

I’m sure I could go on about this subject for hours, but I’ll limit it to three for now.

First up, it might not be the first place you’d think to find an awesome cat, but the horror game Night Delivery by Chilla’s Art has a pretty awesome cat in it. Initially, it’s there to block your path to a dumpster that has an important clue in it, but one of your deliveries rewards you with a can of cat food that you can give to the cat. The cat likes you after you feed it, just like a real cat, so you can get into the dumpster.

Chilla’s Art games have very good sound design, so the sound of the cat eating after you feed it is surprisingly satisfying. I’m not entirely sure why I like the sound of cats eating because I have intense misophonia when it comes to being able to hear other people eating. But I really like it when I can hear a cat eating; I think it’s because I can associate a distinctly “human” idea — enjoying food — with the cat. Because we all know cats are little people really; they just don’t know very many words.

As for other cats… hmm. The upcoming Kitaria Fables has some pretty good cats in it — though they’re anthropomorphised cats with swords and farming implements rather than just, y’know, cats. The game looks cool, though — there’s a demo out now on Steam, and the full game is coming to console in early September. Definitely one to watch if you enjoy comfy games with a bit of depth — it features both farming and action RPG elements, plus cooperative two-player action, which should be fun!

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Nekopara at this point. While technically the game features catgirls rather than actual cats, anyone who has played Nekopara will be able to tell you that creator Sayori very obviously knows cats. The behavioural tendencies that Nekopara’s catgirls exhibit on a regular basis feel very authentic — it goes a lot deeper than just adding “nya” to the end of your sentences!

As such, the Nekopara games are ones I would recommend without question to cat lovers — and remember, if you’re not entirely on board with the 18+ aspect, which some people aren’t, there are all-ages versions available, too. Absolutely charming stuff.

Oh, here’s a bonus one if you’re a retro gamer: Alley Cat. Still a great, addictive and monstrously difficult game — though a big middle finger to those damned spiders.


That’s your lot for this week, then! Get involved for next time — click on the “Write to Rice!” widget on the right of any page and send us a message; we’ll get back to you the following Friday. You can do this any time, from any article, so don’t be shy — we love to hear from you!

In the meantime, have a thoroughly fabulous weekend — we certainly will.

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Pete Davison
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