Chapter 03 – A foot in both Worlds
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This chapter is actually pretty important to me, and I’m not sure if I give too much detail, or not enough about the world and its various races and nations. On one hand, “Show don’t Tell”. On the other hand, knowing what a Galka is not immediately useful to the story. But I think that it’s important for the readers to understand the range of choice, and the things that the main character hesitates about, as well as those he cares deeply about. Also, I have so far written the first three chapters with not much feedback to go on. Some people seem to like it, others tell me that I need to improve. Well, I’ll keep writing, and perhaps I’ll improve this way. I sure wish I had more concrete suggestions of what to fix, though.


     I click the “Create Character” button. After a short fade to black, a new strange interface shows up. It’s actually not a simple list as I would have expected. It’s actually… a big rose-like flower made of crystal. There are clear divisions, similar to a stained glass window, showing smaller shards, which all seem to follow similar shapes. A quick inventory shows that there’s… twenty possible races, and 4 different Shard types. Let’s see. The center and biggest shard has a unique design, reminding me of a hexagon. Putting the cursor over it indicates that this is the “Hyur” race. Standard humans, then. 


     I assume the size of the shard is some kind of indication of the spread of that race in the game world. Humans made the game, and humans are the most prevalent race in the game. No big surprise here. The only other unique shard shape is actually sitting outside of the main rose, slightly off to the side of the screen. It has a rhomboid shape and is of a decent size compared to the others. I am curious why it’s so obviously different and split from the others. Placing my cursor over, it reveals that this is the “Galka” race.


     Ah, those guys. They were the “big” characters in Final Fantasy XI, or in the world of Vana’diel. Physically, their greenish-gray skin tone and lizard-like tail always made me wonder what they were supposed to be based off. They have very wide shoulders, relatively short and small legs, and long arms and big hands. They make for very impressive-looking Paladin and other tanks, because their shields and weapons are super-sized when compared to the shape of their body. They’re unique, because they are agendered. They don’t reproduce, they reincarnate as young Galka after they die. 


     According to the lore, nobody really knows where the children come from -- they just appear at some point after the old ones die. And the new Galka retain no memories of their past lives. Their “Talekeeper”, however, remembers the stories of every Galka, as well as their own, up to two centuries past. Talekeepers are burdened by tradition to become the leaders and symbol of their people. Most Talekeepers do not actually die of old age, instead they succumb to the pressure put upon them.


     Interestingly the way their background is established means this race’s population should have never increased or decreased significantly since their creation. The fact their shard is one of the biggest one hints that before humanity multiplied in the last few hundred years, Galka had been the most populous (and likely, powerful) race on the world of Vadæl’n. That also means that whenever a Galka is held prisoner or dies in a more permanent death due to twisted magics or curse, the race is forever weakened. It seems they are on a downward spiral that can only ultimately lead to the destruction of their entire race.


     Next is 6 big triangle- or petal-shaped shards, circling around the Hyur’s hexagon. I check them one by one, and recognize them immediately. They are the main races found in Final Fantasy XIV. “Miqo’te”, the catgirls, “Elezen”, the elves of that franchise, “Lalafells”, the super deformed/cute/loli characters, “Vieras”, the bunny girls, “Roegadyn”, the big characters who replaced the Galka from FFXI when they made XIV and “Au Ra”, the scaly dragon characters. Okay, so those are all very familiar to me. And now to check out the 12 remaining small shards. 6 of those shards are found between the hexagon and the petals, and the remaining 6 shards are found between the petals, connecting them all together. I quickly move my cursor over them, and confirm my suspicion.


     Hybrid Races. People have been clamouring for the ability to make those for years! I’m glad that they have finally decided to open that floodgate, especially since they introduced hybrid characters in the main story of both 11 and 14 -- Half-Elezens being the most notable ones. I’m immediately thinking of Hilda in XIV, and Lilisette in XI. After all, being able to have pointy ears and not having the Elezen body shape is probably very high on many people’s wish list. The elvish races in Final Fantasy 11/14 are not the classic D&D or Tolkien vision at all. They’re somewhat tall, long-necked, with longer than normal arms, and look a bit off or alien. Some people may like that aesthetic, but the survey does show them with a fairly low percentage of representation compared to the cuter races.


     Okay. Twenty races. I know I will stick around the “Miqo’te” quadrant, however, because of my plan to create this new fluffy white-haired catgirl, or recreate Cloe, the later being as “Vanilla Miqo’te” as you can imagine. The three neighbouring (or hybrid) races are the Hrothgar, a race recently added in Final Fantasy XIV, actually. Those should immediately familiar to anyone who played Final Fantasy X -- they’re the Ronso, basically. So crossing a Roegadyn and Miqo’te leaves us with a pretty big, buffed and hairy lion-man or girl apparently. Pass! Neva and Cloe are tiny and cute, not tall and buff. 


     So there’s the half-miqo’te, which pretty looks pretty close to a human with slitted eyes and pointy, hairy ears. They remind me of the “Beast” race in Phantasy Star Universe, and therefore remind me of what Nei looked like in Phantasy Star 2. That’s not bad at all! No tail, and far less expressive but still prominent ears. Cute -- I’ll remember them. And then there’s the Miqo’te/Lalafell hybrid. That is guaranteed to be a cavity-inducing cute-as-all-hell sugar rush. And yeah, moving over, they’re even more so than I expected. Little fox-people, with ridiculously fluffy tails, super-sized animal ears, and nearly super-deformed body shapes, but slightly more proportioned than Lalafells. God, they’re adorable, and feel like they belong to Blade&Soul or some other Korean MMO. I can certainly see that race taking over the top of the charts.


     I end up picking the Miqo’te shard for starters. Let’s see what I can do with the baseline! The rest of the flower fades into stardust as the camera approaches the “petal”, as I called it before. Oh, it’s asking me to pick a subrace. I’m familiar with four of them. The “Seekers of the Sun” have slitted eyes, and are generally living in prides, akin to Lions. A single male (the Nunh) is leading and mating, and the females are the warriors, gatherers, hunters of the tribe. Their skin is usually well-tanned, as they normally live in or close to deserts. Their naming conventions are fairly patriarchal too, and includes the name of their pack’s spirit animal. “S’lavie Imon” would actually translate to “Lavie, daughter of Imon Nunh, of the Zu clan.” 


     On the other hand, the “Keepers of the Moon”, have normal eyes, but cat-like fangs. They are forest-dwellers and tend to have pale skin, and sometimes actually really odd coloring, ranging from gray-blue to almost pitch black. Keepers are matriarchal. Their first names are fairly normal, and their last name is based on their mother’s family name. Males don’t even get a proper name -- they get their mother’s exact name, stitched with an extra syllable representing what is their birth order. Cloe was a Keeper of the Moon, so if she ever had a son, he would be actually called Cloe’a. If she had a second one, he would be Cloe’to. In her backstory, Cloe had actually been given an Elezen family name, because she was born and raised there in the Thalassocracy of Limsa Lominsa, a pirate nation. Therefore, her family name, Delisle, meaning “of the Island”, is not a typical Keeper family name.


     The third subrace for Miqo’te was actually the “Free Mithra” subrace. This is what any player of Final Fantasy XI would have played, for lack of any other option back in those days. Mithra was the only catgirl subrace in that setting, and Windurst was the city where you would normally start with them. According to the lore, all Mithras found in that city were mercenaries or descendants of mithras who had left their homeland. Many of those settled in those new lands and raised their families there. Only female mithras were available to play back then, which seem to indicate that they left their country to wage war and act as mercenaries while already pregnant! According to the lore, some of them would sometimes travel back to their homeland for mating purposes, and return to their chosen countries to raise their families -- males were far too few and weren’t allowed to leave the protection and watch of the homeland Sin Hunters. Their naming convention felt like a mix between the Keepers and Seekers.


     The final subrace appealed to me the most. They were called the “Agrarian Mithra”. I was not directly familiar with that term, as they were a creation of this new project. The blurb on screen seemed to indicate they were Mithras that didn’t come from the Homeland, nor were they from either Seekers and Keepers families -- all of which have migrated to the continents where the bulk of the story takes place. Agrarians are therefore native to the current areas. Since Neva is technically inspired largely from Siberian cats, which are for all intents and purpose still wild animals (unlike other cats who have been domesticated for thousands of years and living with humans, Siberians are forest cats. People can still domesticate them, but their instincts haven’t been bred out like other species), I felt that sub-race was going to be the best match for her. 


     I picked it and finally saw a character on screen. Already the default character model was cute, and oh my, that tail was much fluffier, and the ears were bigger than I was used with the other sub-races. I was feeling slightly uneasy at the state of near undress of the character, but there weren’t many other ways to see what you were doing while customising your character... The second thing I noticed was that the gender option was greyed out. Similar to the old Mithra rules from XI, it looks like they do not allow for male Agrarian Mithra. I wonder what’s the reason for this -- they certainly have male Miqo’te models, so it must be for lore reasons.


     Oh. The second option right after “Gender” is “Age”? They added THAT option too? I mean, it always annoyed me that characters in games were forced to be adults in body and face, especially since, like hybrid races, they kept throwing under-aged characters in the story. It’s a very anime-esque or Final Fantasy thing, after all, to have a twelve-year old swing a giant sword and defeat injustice. But it was always something that you would have to be a spectator to, since your character was always the adult in the story. Clicking the option reveals that my “template” character is currently set to 18 “humans year” old (I suppose it makes it easier for races like Elves that are a bit more timeless to use a single measure for age/maturity). 


     The slider allows a decent range downwards, and a wider still upwards. I start pushing the slider up slowly, and keep my eyes peeled for the subtle changes on the model. It doesn’t take very long that the silhouette the character casts takes a rather mature and almost overly sexual shape, making me rather uncomfortable when she reaches close to 30 years old. I comment out loud “Oh my. That age slider is. Ehrm. Something else.” “Yeah, it’s crazy how it interacts with the rest of the sliders. Have you poked with them at all yet?” “Nah, I’m going in order. But yeah, that is… Next generation for sure.” I return to the age slider to the default, and I already feel much better. I think I’ll poke the rest of the sliders from this “default” age point first, and come back later to pick the age afterwards. Rythea interrupts my thoughts.

“By the way, I found they have a Winter Bunny Girl race!”  
  “Oh, nice. Let me know what’s their starting area, I’ll see if I can pick the same.”
  “And I guess that means you’re going to be Viera again?”

      I look down below Age at the third option, “Character Height”. I open the menu and see a single slider. Since the character is set to eighteen years old, and from my earlier observations, the height on screen at the moment represents the tallest she’ll be, as there was no height change by pushing the age beyond 18. I assume that making your character younger will set it to a fraction of that value. Miqo’te and Mithra seem to range from 4’11 to 5’4, from shortest to tallest. 


     Lianda, my first mithra ever, was as tall as possible, being about as tall as the shortest male humans. Cloe was as short as possible. Neva is based on Siberian cats, which are fairly big, almost rivaling Maine Coons in size. So based on that, I pushed the slider to the max. 5’4 is still fairly small. More than half of the races in the game will be de facto taller than she is, simply based on race height. Next is skin color. It’s already not too bad, fairly light skinned, but being an indoors person, and lover of freckles (“A girl without freckles is like a night without star” -The Internets), I am okay with this. I check the various settings and take note of the default one, poke a few others to see if anything speaks to me more. I settled for a single tone darker, but it’s really hard to tell the difference.


     The following option is “Tail Shape and Length”. I spin the model around so take a good look at her current tail. It’s already rather fluffy as heck, compared to what Cloe (rather bushy) and Lianda (short-haired) had in the past. I wonder what crazy range of options will be hidden in there. Oh wow. There are a lot more choices than I expected. You can essentially choose the length, width at the base, width at the tip, and shape of tip of the tail. From a quick exploration of the sliders, the average length matches the length of the torso (from shoulders to back), and allows for roughly +/-20% over that length. The width can, at most, make the tail appear as large as the waist. I maximize all of those sliders for total floof. I play around with the various tail tips until I get one that reminds me of the way Rune’s tail looks when he’s happy -- which ends up being a fairly rounded tip. There’s no color choices or pattern selection here, so I assume it comes together with another option. The hair, likely.


     Speaking of, “Hair Color & Style” is the next choice. I open the submenu, and expect the usual 8 to 20 choices that I’ve become accustomed to in most MMORPGs. But it looks like they took a page from more modern games like BDO and Code Vein. So while they kept those easy presets, they have a ton of extra options for color highlights, length, control as well as more minor tweaks to the bangs, hair extensions and accessories. I lose myself for probably over forty minutes playing with all the different options, often commenting to Ry how ridiculously deep the hair menu is this time around. He agrees totally, and we exchange a few tips after we start grokking the limits of the system and how to circumvent them.


      I swear, some players could probably play barber as their main job in this MMO, and I’m sure they would make a killing on the RP servers. After what feels like an eternity of messing with Neva’s hair, I look at the result with pride. She now has really long, slightly curvy white hair (and tail~) with rather discreet darker stripes. Around eye level, the stripes get noticeably darker, inspired by the masquerade coloring pattern she is named after. Looking at it, her hair kinda reminds me of Shiro in No Game No Life. She probably was my biggest inspiration for it. Result, however? Cute as hell, especially with the added lynx-like ears and fluffy tail.


     The following menus are much simpler fare. Face structure, Nose, Jaw, Eyebrows, Mouth, Lips and so on. I have a fairly good idea of what I like for all those options, so I can actually go really fast. Small cute nose, Click. Average to small lips. Click That one. Thin and slightly curved eyebrows. Click. Slightly pointed chin. Cheekbones and forehead, they’re good on the default. “Facial features and Tattoos” are next. “Less is more” is my motto usually when you get those choices like this. So many people go overboard and just keep adding more and more of those options. 


     I start digging through the options, because I know it has to be in there somewhere. Freckles, freckles where are you? Ah! I finally found the option, and I am completely glad to notice that they actually have more than a single pattern! And wow! Some of the patterns actually cause the freckles to cover not only the face, but down to the shoulders and arms. Some even cover the majority of the body! Well then. I pick that option, because some people in my family are very freckled (I’m not that lucky) and I have always been jealous of it. The UI expands and now there are sliders for density, and more to adjust the minimum and maximum size of individual freckles, as well as their pigmentation. I tweak the color, size and density until I get something that makes me feel fuzzily good when I look at her. That’s a lot of freckles, but it makes me so happy! I have to say, though, just who built this character creator? I can’t imagine the resources that went behind it.


     Lianda used to have tiger stripes in the face, which really helped her ferocious vibe, perfect for her in-your-face punching tendencies. Cloe had next to none, which worked perfectly for her “Crafting-main” and support playstyle (She was almost exclusively a Scholar for the first year of playtime). Also, Cloe had totally been a glasses-wearing type of cat, so I didn’t want to overload the face with too many conflicting lines. I think Neva will be fine with just the army-of-freckles as her thing. Her tail and mane of hair are already painting a rather distinctive long-range silhouette. That settled, there were only a few options left to go through -- “Eye shape and Color” is next! I already know I have a thing for asian-styled almond-shaped eyes, so I find the closest match to my favourite.


     Serendipitously, I absent-mindedly start playing with the day/night cycle button, and notice that Agrarian Mithras seem to have slitted eyes when there’s a lot of light, and round, human-looking eyes in darkness. That’s actually quite logical, and that means they have a better night-vision than Seekers, and better day-vision than Keepers. But logic aside, it’s a  great boon! It means she’ll be able to sport the “cat” look when in the wilderness, but also look more relatable / human-like in other or more private settings. And as much as heterochromia is a common trait in white-haired cats, Siberians actually are known for the striking blue eyes. I set the eye color to Azure blue, which feels to me the closest to what it should be. That’s when I notice the emissive slider beneath the color picker. Technically, eyes shouldn’t be “Emissive” by definition of the word (that would mean they’re like flashlights, and emitting light!), but if you put some slight amount of emissiveness to them, it should cause them to look like they glow in the dark. 


     With those settings, I spend the next few minutes slowly fiddling with the ambient light from nighttime to daytime back and forth. focusing on the effect on her eye color and eyelids, but also try to understand the effect on her global appearance, rotating the character slightly, and having her change to different idle stance. It’s actually quite possible that I got lost for over fifteen minutes doing so. In short, I am utterly mesmerized by the result. I do a quick inventory of the options left to visit. “Muscle Definition”, “Breast size”, “Body Shape Adjustments” and “Voice”. 


     Checking Muscle Definition, I move the slider to both extremes to test, and return to something slightly more defined than the default -- I don’t actually care to see the abs and other muscles, but I do like when there’s a subtle hint of muscle mass. “Body Shape Adjustments” allows to fine tune the thickness and length of most body parts -- legs, thighs, hands, feed, waist, torso, hips, neck, and so on. That’s a dangerous place to tweak, because it can probably lead to the Uncanny Valley really fast if you don’t understand what you’re doing. I tweak lightly the feet and hand size upwards, since Siberians paws are unusually large. I make her legs a bit thicker and longer, since that breed is known as powerful tree-climbers, and have noticeably longer rear-legs than fore-legs. I end up cutting slightly in the torso length, to compensate and keep her the same height she had before.


     “Voice” is next, and I sure hope they let me pick from a number of voices or presets, because I would hate to actually have sliders to pick timbre, pitch, patterns and such… I mean, in a way the customization would be amazing, but I don’t feel like I know enough about vocal cords and sound to navigate through a scientific deconstruction of the human voice. Turns out, like most other options in this crazy generator, they allow for both options. I start by listening to all the presets, and isolate three out of the twenty that appeal to me the most. The seventeen others were either too rough, hoarse, nasal or high-pitched to me, and were easy to eliminate. 


     The last three are all fairly average in pitch and tone, and have soft, heart-warming laughters and giggles. No malice at all in those voices. I switch to checking the way they sound during emotes like nodding and shaking their heads, as well as the way they sound during combat. Combat, especially, helps me narrow down to the single option that is perfect for me. The last pick is not very vocal during combat, keeping her voice mostly to subtle inhales and exhales, rather than outspoken “kiai”. Her damage taken combat barks are all very short and discreet as well, avoiding the loud and sometimes near-orgasm-sounds you get in some games. Thankfully, because that’s always so embarrassing! Well, that’s one other option settled then.

  “Hey Ry, we’ve been at this for a while now, huh?”
  “I feel like I could spend twice as long as not have gone through all the options.”
  “I have work tomorrow. You think we can finish and at least log in the game before I fall asleep / unconscious?”
“Mmhmm. Did you see the icon for the things you can change in-game?”  
  “Huh? I haven’t noticed anything special.”
“Yeah, there’s this scissors icon next to the category for anything you don’t need to spend an eternity tweaking now -- you’ll be able to change those at the aesthetician in-game, likely.”  
  “Damnit, Clo’s brain. Why you keep doing this to me today?!”. Ry simply chuckles at this. “Well, I’m nearly done, I think. I have two more options before I’m done with the physical appearance.”
“I could be at this for days. I’ll try to catch up to you shortly.”  
  “Right. Don’t rush, worst case, I’ll poke some emotes around the spawn point and log off. It’s.. Oh crap, already half past three?”
“Clearly you mean half past one!”  
  “Yeah yeah. For your silly Prairie people, maybe!”

     Right. I have skipped over it and avoided it long enough, but I should at least go through the infamous Boob Slider... If my observations of people’s behaviour isn’t too far off the mark, games could pretty much remove the slider entirely, and replace it with a Boolean (True/False) checkbox. Because it seems like people either don’t touch it, or crank it to eleven. And honestly, in FF14, even at max value, it isn’t ridiculously sized like it’s so common to see in 2D Ecchi/Hentai art. Layer some armor or outfit on top, and the slider’s effect starts becoming more and more subtle. The current default is set to 25% of the slider, and I have grown used to the preview character’s figure. I’m really not an expert in sizing them, but the game gives the bust measurements in CM on screen as you edit it. 83cm. Some math wizard actually did the calculations for some reason and posted a whole google doc on Reddit about it. According to them miqo’te’s default bust size is 33C (With a default figure of 33 - 24 - 34). The more you know.


     Scrubbing the slider down the minimum and then towards the maximum, I rapidly settle on a comfortable spot that lays at around 33%. Depending on the character, I sometimes will favour near 0%, and proudly run around shouting silly internet memes like “Flat is justice!” However, if I’m totally honest with myself, I still do love the curves and eye candy. Similar to muscle mass, I just don’t want it to be at the center stage. Pondering the result, I assume that puts the new size between 34~36 D or DD? I really don’t know, but that nice internet person’s document has a lot of numbers and explanations, so I feel like I can make a bit of an educated guess of the real-life counterparts of those values. I suppose I am at least trying to keep abreast of the subject. Thank you, thank you. No need to show me the door, I’ll see myself out.


     Time to revisit the age selection, then. It is currently still set to 18 “human-years”, and I therefore have a really good idea of what kind of young adult Neva will turn out to be. But I’m super curious to see what she would have looked like on the way there. Slowly removing years, I try to reverse-engineer the stages of her evolution. 17 and 16 are almost the same as 18. Very minute facial structure changes at most. Turning it down to 15, there is a small but visible height difference. So it seems her puberty ended sometime between 15 and 16. Going down further in age, the height-delta-per-year ratio remains steady until 11. That would mark the start of her puberty, then. And it looks like the game’s ultimate limit is at 8 years old. I push it back to 13 for now. I don’t mind the idea of young girls being badass in games and anime, but I am also not attracted to the usual image of the gothic lolita. For starters, I tend to prefer my girl characters a bit more on the high-energy, tomboyish and practical clothing side of things. 


     I hesitate in front of the character model for a long while. Should I lower it to 12? Push it up to 14? Keep it there? I swap back and forth between all three values, and repeatedly click on the random emote button, change the lighting/background and camera angle to try and figure out which of the three options speaks to me the most. After all, unless they allow characters from actually getting older in the game, I’m going to be staring at a teenager for probably the next five or so years of my life. At least, when I play this game. This argument is what pushes me to finally settle on Fourteen. I search through the many different emotes and have her give me a thumbs up, confirming that she approves of my decision. I notice the facial expression she takes at the end of that emote, such a confident and happy-looking grin. Her eyelids are mostly closed, and --oh my-- her tiny cat fangs make her smile even more adorable! Be still my melting heart. I have her repeat the emote, and close up to her face, snatching a screenshot. 


     I paste and crop the screenshot in Paint and send Ry a message over Hangout “Neva customization complete!” with the cropped image attached. At the same time I click on the “Accept character customisation” button, and move to the next step of Character Creation. I hear the alert on Ry’s phone through Discord and he answers quickly “Awww, she’s adorable!” I imitate those overly excited Japanese anime characters and gush out a simple “Deshō?”. (It translates pretty much to "Isn't that right?!")


     The game prompts me for non-physical details. Name? “Neva Masquerade”. Birthday? I translate the equivalent of February 23rd to their in-world jargon -- 23th sun of the 1st Umbral Moon. Place of Birth. “The Republic of Bastok”. Bastok (colloquially known as “Lastok” because it was often the weakest nation in FF11) has always been my favourite nation in that game. Even though it’s a place filled with Racism, exploiting the Galka as not much more than Slave Labour. The segregation by wealth is very obvious. The town is led by corrupt rich politicians, and even the Governor cannot act without consulting his ministers first. When you finish the story-arc of that nation-state, you realize that it’s not all dark and oppression. It is, at the end, the city that is the most welcoming to adventurers and people looking to start new businesses. It is a city of opportunity, and it will test the value of your ambitions and character. It is also a city that empowers heroes, adventurers and risk takers.


     Unexpectedly, the Place of Birth seems to alter the clothes that you start with. I make sure to roll the mouse over each of the nations, to see if Bastok will stay my choice. The Elvaan kingdom of San d’Oria makes you start with what looks like a mix of noble and musketeer red outfit. I know a lot of people who will go nuts for that starter gear! The Federation of Windurst provides a very fine looking academic gown, in greens and yellows, complete with optional black hoodie that can cover one eye. Loss of the mundane sight in exchange for the ability to perceive magic is a rather common trope, and a cool looking accent. I wonder if Odin realized he’d set such a long-lasting trend, all those years ago. I’m expecting that piece of equipment will stay undoubtedly popular for all Black mage fans. 


     I skip quickly over the lesser nations, only stopping when I find ones that stand out. Kazham, a jungle island nation, has some pretty sexy and minimalist tribal wear. The forest nation of Gridania has this very natural theme. Feathers and leathers. But mostly, their iconic wooden mask. Gridania is a nation in the dead center of an enchanted forest protected by powerful elemental spirits. The outfits they wear are designed to protect them from the accidentally attracting the wrath of those spirits, and are made with the utmost respect to the creatures and plants they had to kill or carve to fashion them. It’s a very interesting backstory, that sadly, nobody but the NPCs from that nation really had to deal with. The Thassalocary of Limsa Lominsa, the Pirate Nation, also features a pretty cute outfit. A pair of kecks, a cloth skull cap and open linen shirt, it is the very image of the classic deck swabber, and on a catgirl, I find that outfit so darn sexy. The kind of thing to wear on Halloween. I’ll have to remember that.


     Bastok’s outfit, in contrast to all the above, is very functional and minimalist. It reminds me of Nessa, the water gym leader’s outfit in Pokemon Sword. Almost skin-tight shorts and shirt, small shoes, fingerless gloves. The outfit follows the nation’s primary colors, aquamarine, black, gold and white. Since the area surrounding the city of Bastok is mostly barren ground, workers are found in mines, or on boats. It looks like the outfit they start with is meant to be practical clothes that are suitable for either profession -- not likely to get torn or stuck on sharp rocks, and easy to swim with. So yeah, it’s probably essentially some sturdy swimwear.


     Alright, next option. Your guardian deity? Well, that’s easy, ever since EQ taught me about Erollisi Marr, goddess of Love, I have been looking for her equivalent in all games. And looking at the 12 names, they’re simply the same ones I know from FFXIV. That means Menphina is the one I’m picking. Goddess of the Twin Moons and love, governing over the aspect of Ice. She shares her rule of Ice together with Halone, the Goddess of War. When it comes to picking the starting class, I don’t hesitate one second and pick the third job from the top -- Monk. Neva’s outfit gets upgraded with some extra light armor -- greaves, shoulder and elbow guards. In her hands, she’s now holding a pair of weapons that reminds me of Katars, except they have multiple blades. Three-pronged Jamadhars, maybe? That’s certainly the name that comes to mind. Her torso, hips and face are still as unarmored as before, but that’s the aesthetic of Final Fantasy Monks. Punch things! Defense? What defense…


     The game then prompts me to add a bunch of [Tags] to my character. That’s a neat idea, I suppose. [DedicatedFan] was already selected and greyed out. Looks like I can’t remove that one. Let’s see. [Roleplayer], sure. [Immersive RP], that also sounds nice. I wonder what the difference is supposed to be between those two. I make sure to stay away from [eRP] and [MRP]. [Solo-Artist], hell yeah. [Perma Party], albeit mostly only with Rythea, but still. [Trailblazer], that also works. [Adventurer], [Crafter], [Gatherer]. I finish by adding a few funnier ones [Please say hello] [I don’t bite] [I’m a bit shy...] [Let’s have fun!] [Let’s do our best!] [Nice to meet you!]


     “Please choose your Starting Location” the game prompts me after I confirm my class. That’s another unexpected change. In XI your race determined it, and in XIV, your class did. I check the world map, and have to try to unlearn some of my prior knowledge of geography. Combining both worlds in the same one seemed to have moved things around a bit more than I was expecting. I focus on the northern territories, however, since Ry and I had agreed to start in Snow-filled areas. It doesn’t take very long that I recognize the name of some regions, and discover that a village of Vieras is a valid starting point for me, in the Valdeaunia region. The village is known, in short, as simply Llanfair, but I can’t believe my eyes when I see the full length of the name.


     Most of the interface fades to black, leaving Neva in the center of the screen in a dark, star-less sky. A spinning circle appears at the bottom of the screen. “Download 27% complete.” “Downloading Pso’Xja location data.” Huh? Pso’Xja? That’s the name of a dungeon in the northlands, but in the Fauregandi neighbouring region, if I remember. Perhaps that’s where the intro cutscene for Llanfair-characters starts?

  "Well, Ry, it looks like I’m still downloading a lot of data before I can pop online, so I might as well get some sleep before work tomorrow.”
“Awww. Alright, we’ll probably test emotes and stuff tomorrow after work, then?”  
  “Sounds good! G’nite Ry!”

      I kill the Discord connection, turn off my monitors, and slowly make my way to bed, upstairs.


     I have to get up in about two and a half hours. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get a wink of sleep with how excited I am about playing this. But I suppose I can at least try to get some shuteye. I don’t even bother turning the lights on as I climb the stairs and enter my bedroom. Rune shoots past me, as usual, and jumps on the bed. I drop all my clothes in the dirty clothes basket, and slip on my PJ bottoms. Of course, with my computer monitors turned off and on the first floor away, there was no chance I could notice the status update as the download progressed slightly further.


     “Location Data Download Complete.” “Unique condition triggered. [Immersive RP] with [DedicatedFan]. You are about to be transported to Pso’Xja and experience a journey in Vadæl’n like none other before. We hope you have a wonderful experience as Neva!”