The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, February 4, 2022 – Needy Streaming

Good afternoon once again, everyone — we’ve made it to the end of another week, so like that one insufferable person in the office who goes around singing “Happy Friday!” and prancing like a right pillock, we’re here to celebrate the continued meaningless of existence by marking yet another arbitrary milestone on our inevitable path to complete and utter destruction at our own hands. And that mark, as always, is the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page.

On a cheerier note, DEMONDICE has a new EP out, so if you’ve been feeling a bit cranky recently, I highly recommend giving it a listen and taking some of its messages to heart. I don’t know if I’d describe it as making me feel “better”, but it certainly made me feel like I wasn’t alone in feeling some… things about existence in 2022.

And you’ve all been feeling some things, too, it seems — nice link, huh? — so without further ado I think it’s time to plunge our hands deep into our bulging sack and pull out some juicy nuggets of correspondence from the slightly damp innards.

Wait, why is it damp, who’s been–

Fanart by Natsu. Source

On the menu

Dear Rice,

I’ve been thinking about Conor’s article on games that offer canon romance options versus the “pick your waifu” approach. I think a lot of the pick your waifu approach comes from visual novels — there’s a lot of crossover between a lot of modern RPGs and visual novels these days, and visual novel players are more than happy to play through a game multiple times in order to see all the story routes.

There’s a difference, though: in RPGs, the main story tends to be pretty fixed, and your choice of romantic partner doesn’t usually affect the overall outcome all that much. That kind of eliminates any reason to go back and replay the game for alternative waifu/husbando options for me — unless the game has some sort of mechanical reason to keep me coming back, like a good New Game Plus mode or something. What do you think?

Tom S. Arseid

Hi Tom, no need to ask who your Cold Steel waifu is, I guess. Anyway, yes, you have a good point here: while relationship mechanics in RPGs do tend to feel like they have a fair amount in common with visual novels and how they proceed down different routes according to how you’ve interacted with the cast, in practice it doesn’t really work that way. I’m struggling to think of the last RPG I played that actually had discrete “routes” that corresponded to individual characters — routes that were mutually exclusive, I mean.

There are a fair few games like the Atelier titles and some of the Neptunia games that have character-specific endings, but the main narrative tends to proceed in the same way. Nippon Ichi’s The Witch and the Hundred Knight had an interesting approach where the game’s “bad” ending was actually the hardest one to accomplish, went on for a lot longer than the others and proceeded down a markedly different narrative path, but that was still kind of a long ending rather than a completely separate route.

Letters page: Trails

Perhaps there’s a market for this — I think it’d be genuinely interesting to have an RPG where the latter half of the game changed significantly according to who your “waifu” or “husbando” was. Oh, wait, I just remembered the last game I played that actually did do this: it was Gust’s Ar Tonelico games. Each of the three main installments did this to varying degrees, but pretty much all of them have stuff it’s only possible to see on one specific playthrough. At least, as you say, you can New Game Plus your way to the others, which makes for less grinding and less difficulty with battles!

I guess part of the reason this isn’t done more often is that composing an RPG is already a mammoth undertaking — and unlike pure visual novels, in a multi-route RPG you’d have to do mechanical, map, dungeon and encounter design for each route too. You’d effectively be making multiple full games — with no guarantee that one player is going to sit down and play all of them.

In an ideal world, of course, we’d have multi-route RPGs, they’d be profitable and we’d all have time to play them through completely. Sadly, as the last few years have made abundantly clear, the world in which we live is anything but ideal!

For now, I suspect we’ll continue to see approaches like what Cold Steel does, where the relationship events are unique to a particular playthrough, but which don’t affect the ending, or what Blue Reflection: Second Light does, which is where you can do all the relationship events and use your own interpretation to determine for yourself which one is the “one true pairing”, as it were. (Ao x Uta for life, for me.)

Streaming down my face

Dear Rice,

I’ve started streaming recently and I’ve been quietly, slowly but surely building a small following. I haven’t been spending all day making TikTok and YouTube videos and whatnot, so most of my viewers are there because they want to be there, I guess. I’m also not here to promote myself, so please leave my name off this letter.

I’ve been feeling a bit put out by how widespread Needy Streamer Overload is just recently — don’t you think it’s needlessly cynical, particularly with regard to those who are doing streaming as a hobby and getting along just fine?

[Name withheld by request]

Hi [redacted] — I get your feelings, I do, but I think the important thing to remember about Needy Streamer Overload is that it’s taking aim at a very specific type of person: that is, the sort of person who feels like turning to streaming is their last and only resort in a world that feels otherwise hostile to them; the sort of person who feels like streaming is going to be some sort of “quick fix” that will solve all their life’s problems; the sort of person who thinks that becoming a huge success in an increasingly crowded — some might say oversaturated — market is an easy process. The sort of person who is, in short, struggling — and who has unrealistic expectations.

From the sound of what you say, you don’t fall into that category at all, so you certainly shouldn’t feel threatened or attacked by Needy Streamer Overload. The fact is, though, there are plenty of Ame-chans out there struggling with mental health and looking for perhaps implausible, unlikely “solutions” to their problems — and their general wellbeing is a very real concern that I think it’s important to address.

Letters page: Needy Streamer Overload

Streaming — and VTubing in particular — has exploded in popularity over the course of the last couple of years, and I don’t think its real impact on certain parts of society has really been taken in properly as yet. There are people who are suffering in silence, who don’t feel like they have anyone they can talk to, because no-one really knows the answers — and they don’t want to give up for one reason or another.

Those are the people Needy Streamer Overload is drawing reference to. If you’re out there broadcasting to a few people who you’ve come to consider friends and just having a lovely time without feeling any particular pressure to get your numbers up or whatever… yeah. You’re not the target of what that game is satirising — but I do think the messages of that game are worth bearing in mind. I personally have seen a few people who started off doing this “for fun” but, in more recent months and years, have started feeling inordinately stressed out by at least partially self-inflicted pressure to “perform” and “grow”.

Not everything needs to be monetised and commodified. And in this age where it’s tricky — and sometimes unsafe — to spend time with our friends, streaming can be a nice way to just virtually hang out with others with no pressure. You wouldn’t charge an admission fee for your friends to come hang out in your living room while you played games, would you?

Proud legacy

Dear Rice,

Is Sol Cresta any good? I saw Limited Run has it up for preorder this week.


Hi ShmupFan, we don’t know yet ’cause it’s not out and there aren’t any review copies out there! I would be very, very surprised if it turns out to be bobbins, though, because PlatinumGames and Yuzo Koshiro is a freakin’ dream team.

PlatinumGames might not be the first developer people think of when it comes to shoot ’em ups — but if you played Nier: Automata, you’ll understand. There were quite a few shoot ’em up sequences in that game, and they were really solid. In fact, I distinctly remember while I was playing through 9S’ route for the first time, I said to my friend “man, I really hope Platinum gets the chance to make a full-on shoot ’em up one day”.

Letters page: Terra Cresta
This is not Sol Cresta, but it is Terra Cresta!

Well, now they are. And hopefully it’ll be worth the wait! In the meantime, don’t forget that the two predecessors to Sol Cresta, Moon Cresta and Terra Cresta, are available as part of the Arcade Archives series on PlayStation 4 and Switch. We wrote about them both over on our sister site Retrounite recently — here’s Moon Cresta and here’s Terra Cresta.

Here’s looking forward to 22/2/22 right along with you!

And that’s your lot for another week. I hope you all have a delightful weekend and don’t, like, eat too much cake or something. That would be awful. Me, I’m going to start Shadowbringers, play some retro games and try not to think about NFTs. Sounds like a plan, non?

Happy weekend, and we’ll see you next week!

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