My blade shall cleave your SOUL!

Hiiii! It’s this fool again! ๐Ÿ˜›

Hope things are alright with you! Still apocalypsing it up? ๐Ÿ˜€ Here in the UK, people are allowed to go to the pub now, or something. I think we’re also allowed to go to the shop without having to queue. Apparently all of this went very well and there were no problems at all, lolololol. ๐Ÿ˜› I dunno, I’ve not been watching the news, and the only reason I’ve left the comfort of my flat in the past 2-3 months was to put my rubbish in the bin. ๐Ÿ˜› No, I’m not scared of the Death Virus. The only reason I went outside before the outbreak was to go to work. Other than that, I have no real need to go outside, because computers are inside. ๐Ÿ˜›

So yep, still business as usual for me. Doing work, playing games, making renders, eating, sleeping, repeating. ๐Ÿ˜€ And on the subjects of renders and games, oh boy, do I have a render for you today! It’s my biggest, most ambitious one yet! And it’s based on a game! A game render! A GRENDER! ๐Ÿ˜† NO MONGMASTER NO! ๐Ÿ˜›

I’m not sure exactly what triggered it, most likely a totally random epiphany that happened while I was showering or daydreaming, but I had this sudden idea for a scene. It was inspired by Dynasty Warriors, probably one of the most polarising game franchises ever. You either love it, or you don’t enjoy hitting thousands of dumb peons with a stick for some reason. I’m the former. ๐Ÿ˜€ DW3 was the first one I played, and I’ve loved it ever since, although I wasn’t a fan of DW6, and I haven’t played DW9. I really don’t want to know what they did to get such an… immensely negative reaction. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve enjoyed games outside of the core series, as well: the Samurai Warriors crossover game Warriors Orochi was fun, the Monster Hunter-inspired Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce was interesting, and I quite enjoyed Fire Emblem: Warriors on Switch, too. My favourite game in the series is DW8: Xtreme Legends, though, by a pretty big margin. And even though I enjoyed the older games, I’ll admit, looking back, they were… much, much less good than DW7 and 8. ๐Ÿ˜› And the voice acting (well, most of it, some of the actors put on a surprisingly good performance) is still fantastically bad. But that’s part of the fun! Not as much fun as, say, the voice acting in Earth Defense Force 4, but still… ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, to help explain the idea I had, here’s a bit of background for those who might not know. ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s a character called Guan Yu: tall, bearded, wrecks face, eventually gets face wrecked at Fan Castle, spoiler. ๐Ÿ˜› He’s been my main man since DW5. ๐Ÿ™‚ In all games before DW7, one of his weapons was called “Blue Dragon”. It’s also the only weapon that I know of that is referenced in voice lines. In DW5, if you trigger a True Musou Attack while playing as Guan Yu, as the camera spins around, he’ll say “Roar, Blue Dragon!” before starting to pwn every fool in front of him. ๐Ÿ˜› He also uses the same quote in DW8 at the start of his Rage Musou Attack. (That link goes to a video I put together for reference. ๐Ÿ˜€ )

And that weapon was what got me thinking. “What if Blue Dragon was being swung by an actual blue dragon? While wearing Guan Yu’s armour? Holy crap he could be called “Guan Ryu“!” (“Ryu” being Japanese for “Dragon”). Stackin’ wordplay and references like a madman! ๐Ÿ˜†

I laughed to myself because I am sad. ๐Ÿ˜› But even though I loved the idea, I quickly went to dismiss it. “Nah… that would be amazing, but it’s impossible on so many levels.” I thought. “I’d need to rip assets from the game for one thing, and that’s probably not happening. Who’s gonna have written something that can rip assets from Dynasty Warriors games? Hell, even if that was possible and I actually did get the models out of the game and into a format DAZ Studio could understand, I’d need to fit a suit of human armour onto a dragon. That’s the most ridiculous ide… ah, wait, hang on… that thing I did the other day… maybe it actually is possible…?”

“Wait what the fuck don’t be stupid” I hear someone say all the time, but this particular utterance of the phrase manages to get my attention. ๐Ÿ˜› Yeah, it sounds totally stupid, but there is something I learned not too long ago. While dicking around and experimenting in DAZ Studio, I managed to figure out the purpose of a tool I never understood before: the Transfer Tool. It basically takes a “source” figure, copies its skeleton onto a “target” figure, automatically sets up weight mappings and everything, then fits the target figure onto the source figure as if it was a piece of clothing. Theoretically, this means that any item of clothing can be fit to any figure, provided that the clothing fits around the figure in the first place.

After realising this, before I knew it, I was at the computer looking for a way to rip assets from Dynasty Warriors 8. ๐Ÿ˜› I thought that would end up being the barrier, but surprisingly, I found a solution quite easily. There’s a tool called Steven’s Gas Machine (the executable is called “xentax.exe”, though, shrug) which can rip assets from a bunch of different games, a lot of them being Warriors/Musou games. It’s pretty much as simple as moving some files to a folder, answering some questions, then waiting for a while. There’s also Ninja Ripper, an almost-global solution which hooks into the game you want assets from, and upon hitting F10, it attempts to dump the models and textures loaded into memory at that moment. To view the ripped assets and get them into a usable form afterwards, there’s Noesis, a model, image, and animation viewer/converter. Its interface isn’t particularly great, but hoooooly shit it sure can convert. ๐Ÿ˜€

After seeing that it was potentially quite easy to get assets out of the game and into DAZ Studio, and that it was theoretically possible to morph a set of human armour to fit a dragon given enough time and effort, I thought “well, I might as well give it a shot, at least”, and began recording for the timelapse. It took absolutely friggin’ ages, and there were several times when I thought “crap, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to do this after all”. But I kept at it… and kept at it… and then, finally, 70 hours and 234GB of video files later… I actually completed this insane endeavour, producing something that didn’t resemble a gigantic poop! ๐Ÿ˜›

So, I very, very excitedly present to you… “Roar, Blue Dragon!”:

More flavours here, including an alternate version with a HUD! ๐Ÿ˜€
No HUD: (1080p) (2K) (4K)
With HUD: (1080p) (2K) (4K)

YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!! 2,000 KOs! TREMBLE BEFORE THE GOD OF WAAAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

*ahem*. So, ah… yeah. This… this went well. ๐Ÿ˜† Honestly, I’m still a bit shocked that I’m able to share it with you, because I thought this project was going to fizzle out as I was trying to fit the armour to Dragon 3. But when I finally got it morphed to the correct shape, and when the Transfer Tool just worked, I started to believe it might actually happen. ๐Ÿ˜€

Maaaan, I’m so, SO happy with this one! ๐Ÿ˜€ I think it’s my best render yet! I also think it’s a milestone for me, because it pushed my skills beyond their limits, and I did so much stuff to create this that I’d never done before, or never truly believed I could do. ๐Ÿ™‚ But hey, who cares what I think, I’m way more interested in what you think! Let me know! ๐Ÿ˜€

Before I go on to talk about the process, for those who just screamed at me, YES, I KNOW, the weapon he’s holding isn’t actually Blue Dragon. ๐Ÿ˜› It’s Heavenly Dragon (or Moon Dragon in Orochi 4). Getting hold of Blue Dragon would have required me to download Dynasty Warriors 6 (which I don’t own) and use Ninja Ripper to maybe get the correct weapon model. I didn’t really want to go through that. Besides, Heavenly Dragon looks way better than Blue Dragon. It’s actually blue for one thing! ๐Ÿ˜› I might do an alternate version with the correct weapon if enough people complain. So if you wanna see that, complain like crazy. ๐Ÿ˜†

And also, YES, I KNOW, Dynasty Warriors is set in China and the “Ryu” in Guan Ryu is Japanese. But hey, Dynasty Warriors is made in Japan, so mleh! ๐Ÿ˜› “Guan Long” would’ve probably been more fitting, but “Long” and “Yu” don’t even share any letters, maaaaaan! I’ve gotta take some concessions when it comes to Epic Wordplay. ๐Ÿ˜†

“And WHAT ARE THOSE THINGS IN THE SCENE?! HUMANS?!?!?!” Yes, I finally rendered those ugly things. ๐Ÿ˜› Hilariously, it’s the first time I’ve ever rendered a human outside of test renders. Hell, even in test renders, I’ve only rendered a human once! ๐Ÿ˜† I reckon they were necessary, though; without them, it would’ve been a bit less obvious that the image was a Dynasty Warriors reference/parody/tribute. ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, because quite a lot went into this render, I am going to ramble ALL about how I did it, mainly for my own reference, but I do hope it helps someone else at least a little. ๐Ÿ˜€ But don’t worry, people-who-don’t-care! I’ve got a very convenient TL;DR link which should hopefully skip you right past it. If you’d rather read more exciting things like the RENDER STATS, go ahead and click the link below. ๐Ÿ˜€ No, it’s not a link to Never Gonna Give You Up. Okay, it might be. Slightly. Mostly not. 96.5% not. ๐Ÿ˜›

Too Long; Didn’t Read!

The first step was getting the armour out of Dynasty Warriors 8 and into a format that DAZ Studio could understand. As mentioned above, I used a couple of tools for this: Steven’s Gas Machine and Noesis. Using Steven’s Gas Machine was simple enough, I just pointed it at the game files, and it did its thing, dumping all the assets into a folder. The hardest part was sifting through all these assets, because of course, they didn’t have any meaningful names (see screenshot). ๐Ÿ˜› I used Noesis to go through them, eventually finding Guan Yu and his weapons. It was around this moment that I realised that one part of my joke was going to fall over. Blue Dragon hasn’t been in Dynasty Warriors since DW7. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ As a result, I had to settle for the next best thing, Guan Yu’s ultimate weapon: Heavenly Dragon.

When I’d found the models, next was figuring out what format gave the most usable results in DAZ Studio. I tried FBX first, because it’s what we use at work and it seems to work well there. I’m pretty sure it’s a common format, so it surely has some decent support, right? Lmfao no! DAZ Studio did literally nothing when I tried importing it. No feedback at all. ๐Ÿ˜› So next up, I tried OBJ. This worked, but the model contained a single material group, meaning that it was going to be a li’l bit of a chore to get all parts of that single material to look good.

The last thing I tried was DAZ’s own format, DAE (Collada). Importing this format gave me no options and made Guan Yu appear as a MEGA GIANT, but weirdly enough, he was separated into many different bits. This made it extremely easy to remove the parts of Guan Yu that were Guan Yu, leaving just the armour. However, this was a trap that contributed towards the pain and frustration and swearing experienced later on in the process. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, so I just plodded on thinking “yay, easy!” ๐Ÿ˜› After getting the models and textures in successfully, I pulled in Dragon 3, creating a fun little “teaser” render for someone who gave me really useful feedback on Dino Disco. ๐Ÿ˜€

I wanted to increase the quality of the armour before starting to morph it to fit the Dragon 3, but this is where my respect for ZBrush kinda died a bit. ๐Ÿ˜› You see, I found that ZBrush, despite its power, has a pretty glaring flaw. It can’t handle multiple material groups. It claims it can, but really, it can’t. I sent Guan Yu’s armour to ZBrush. It had four material groups when I sent it. I then immediately sent it back to DAZ Studio as a new model, without changing anything. The new model had one material group. It just doesn’t seem to understand that a model can have several material groups. If you split the model into several parts and send that to ZBrush, each of the four “SubTools” (ZBrush’s word for “models”, no idea why because you tend to use tools to shape a model, not brushes to shape a tool, lmao ๐Ÿ˜› ) then have their own material, and you can allegedly combine them into a single SubTool but retain their grouping info inside “PolyGroups”. But when you do that, ZBrush DUMBBrush just kinda goes “lol fuck UV maps they’re stupid” and throws them away, so when you send that mesh back to DAZ Studio, even if all the PolyGroups have been separated back into SubTools again, DumbBrush gives DS completely bullshit UV information and you can’t reapply any of the texture maps! AAAAAAAARGH DUMBBRUSH YOU’RE THE LAST THING I EXPECTED TO SCREW ME OVER!! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So yeah. I couldn’t do jack shit with the model quality in the end because I had to choose between losing the material groups or losing the UVs. And they’re both kinda very important. ๐Ÿ˜›

But anyway, despite that annoyance, I’d at least gotten the model into DS. That was the easy part, though. The first major ordeal followed: getting the armour to fit Dragon 3. I understood the basic process: put the target figure (Dragon 3) in the zero pose at world centre, get the source figure (the armour) morphed so it fits visually, then transfer the source to the target using Transfer Tool. It’s just that the process of getting the armour to fit a creature that was definitely not in mind during the armour’s creation process was… very difficult. ๐Ÿ˜† To do it, I used ZBrush’s transformation tools, along with the “Move” and “Move Topological” brushes to stretch the model to fit Dragon 3, frequently exporting it and saving my progress as I went along. Thinking back… although it was time-consuming, it wasn’t too painful overall. The hardest parts were the ornament on his right shoulder, and his hind legs. The legs of the armour intersected with each other, and it was frustratingly difficult to pull them apart so they matched the Dragon 3’s T-pose. As for the boots, I just looked at them, brought D3’s foot next to one, said “heh, no way”, and promptly deleted the polys. I didn’t even want to try that shit. ๐Ÿ˜› Besides, I think he looks way better without them! ๐Ÿ˜€

The morphing process took around 6 hours in total, and I was terrified that the Transfer Tool wasn’t going to work when the moment of truth arrived. ๐Ÿ˜› But when it did, and when I applied one of the Dragon 3’s preset poses to test it, I totally felt like Success Kid. It was a true “thank fuck for that” moment. ๐Ÿ˜†

Of course, it wasn’t immediately a perfect fit (not like it ever fit perfectly ๐Ÿ˜†), as was evidenced when I broke in the outfit with a more suitable test pose, one based on Guan Yu’s run cycle. There were a couple of things that were ridiculously wrong, and a ton of other things that were less wrong, but still wrong. ๐Ÿ˜› The ridiculously wrong things were the shoulder decoration on the right shoulder and the medallion on the left. They were warped to a hilarious degree and needed separating from the main armour.

I imported a fresh copy of the armour, deleted the ornament and medallion on the morphed armour, and deleted everything apart from the ornament and medallion on the fresh armour. I used DAZ Studio’s built-in Geometry Editor Tool for that, which I wasn’t super-keen on at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to use, and I ended up leaning on it quite a bit. ๐Ÿ˜€ The other problems consisted of some polygons (mainly the bits of fabric that move in-game) poking through each other, making the armour look terrible. This is around the time I realised that something wasn’t quite right with the model, and when that easy solution I stumbled upon when importing the model came back to bite me. Some of the vertices on the model weren’t welded together. They occupied roughly the same point in space, but it was possible to move one but not the other, causing the model to “tear apart at the seams”. This plagued me for the rest of the project. It also made it impossible to apply subdivision to the model, so I was stuck with it at game resolution. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ I’m not truly sure what I could’ve done to prevent this. There was a couple of steps mentioned in Steven’s Gas Machine that I didn’t do, because I thought they were optional and I didn’t even have Blender installed and I don’t even know how to Blender. ๐Ÿ˜› Maybe they were critical to making the model less janky? I dunno…

Anyway, that was the first hurdle passed. Ah, but there was something with the textures, too. Guan Yu’s texture map was 1024×1024, which is okay for a game, but really quite low for rendering. The weapon texture was even worse: 256×256! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I wanted to upscale them, but knew that just making the textures bigger in Photoshop wouldn’t really do much. That’s when, after having a look to see if there was an upscaler that could upscale more better, I discovered the fantastically-named Waifu2x. ๐Ÿ˜† It’s designed for images with an anime-like art style (hence the name ๐Ÿ˜› ). It somehow supports photos, too, but probably not as well. Despite Dynasty Warriors having a more realistic art style, I thought I’d give Waifu2x a try and see if it could improve things. It ended up being more like Waifu4x, because I increased the texture size of Guan Yu’s armour to 4096 and the texture size of Heavenly Dragon to 1024. ๐Ÿ˜› I also used it on the normal maps. It made a pretty big difference. Definitely keeping that tool in my arsenal for the future. ๐Ÿ˜€

(I had an Image Compare widget/block thing here before, but it was useless because it didn’t let you zoom in, so here’s a gallery instead ๐Ÿ˜› )

Of course, no project goes from start to finish without DAZ Studio trying to shit all over me in some way, and this one was no exception! ๐Ÿ˜› Around the point I was splitting the medallion out from the armour, DAZ very randomly and very quietly decided to, oh, sextuple the size of my scene. Yes really. The scene was around 3MB, and then suddenly it was 19MB. I don’t know why. Maybe it was bored? Maybe it thought things were going too well and wanted to waste like an hour of my time? Shrug. I only realised there was a problem when DAZ Studio locked up when saving a bit later on, and then locked up again while attempting to reload the save before the one it just failed to save. It had literally shat out scene files that it couldn’t open again! Aaargh! ๐Ÿ˜ก It’s a good thing I save so much, because I only lost 30 minutes of work because of that, thankfully. Annoying, but at least it wasn’t hours of work. However, it did make me save the scene extremely frequently for a while afterwards as I tried to figure out what I did wrong. I never figured it out, because it never happened again. So I likely did nothing wrong at all. Thanks DS, you massive anus tart. ๐Ÿ˜‘

The second hurdle was creating the peons that Guan Ryu would smack. The minor soldiers that don’t do much other than get owned by you. I call them “peons”. ๐Ÿ˜› At first, I thought I’d just use a figure created by DAZ (Genesis 8 Male), but after realising that there weren’t any outfits available that matched the Dynasty Warriors vibe I was going for, I decided to bite the bullet, and began an attempt to rig the peon model myself. This was a massive first for me, because this is something I’ve been wondering how to do for quite a while, but felt that it was beyond what I was capable of.

First off, I had to get the peon into DAZ Studio in the first place. Not quite as easy as I was hoping it to be. ๐Ÿ˜† It turns out that Dynasty Warriors 8 randomly generates peons using various models for the head, body, arms, and legs, pinning them together and animating them on the fly. While there were full models of what looked like soldiers you see in-game, their textures were insanely low-res. I imagine they were guys you could talk to in the camp during Story Mode or Ambition Mode. I realised the peons were randomly generated when I kept finding various bits of a peon instead of a full model, and looked at one of my reference screenshots to confirm it. So, I just picked out some parts to assemble one, exported the whole scene from DS, then reimported it again as a single mesh. Job done!

Apart from that I wasn’t gonna fall into the same trap again as I did with Guan Yu! ๐Ÿ˜› I wanted to make sure the model was in good shape before I started rigging it, welding together the vertices to prevent the mesh from falling apart this time. I did this using the Auto Weld tool in the only modelling program I had installed at the time: Hexagon, also created by DAZ. It communicates with DAZ Studio, too, which is nice. Sadly, the program has gotta be about 283 years old, and it’s fucking horrible to use, too. All I wanted to do was weld all the vertices on the model to other vertices close by. But the way the UI works is so utterly, utterly stupid. It’s something like… you select the weld tool, and it immediately takes effect. Uh, I think. If you click anywhere on the model after doing this, there’s a chance Hexagon will just crash. But if you send the model back to DS after seeing the weld tool has done what you wanted, there aren’t any changes. That’s because the change you saw in the viewport is merely a preview! To actually apply the thing you want to do, you’ve gotta press the button over to the right in the Properties window (a button that is always there, even if you have no tool selected) that says “Apply”. No, wait, “Accept”! Apply? Accept? Which one is it again…? God damn. I just had to refer to the raw footage used for the timelapse, which I narrate to help me remember things. ๐Ÿ˜› “Apply” either does nothing, or shows you the new settings you chose. “Accept” applies the settings for reals and doesn’t allow you to undo afterwards. Wtf. It’s ass. Like 100% pure ass. I can only assume that the people working at DAZ are actually insane. I mean, this is kinda unrelated, but they did send me an e-mail yesterday saying that I could “Get all Michael base models FREE”. Of course, I quickly found out that they’re only free if you pay! Omfg THAT MEANS THEY AREN’T FREE!! Stop clickbaiting me you insane dumbfucks! ๐Ÿ˜ก

*calm*
After getting the model into a good state, I began creating a really basic rig. And it was so much easier than I was expecting. ๐Ÿ˜€ Sure, there were probably a bazillion issues with my rig, but it was good enough for my purposes. ๐Ÿ™‚ I used a couple of DAZ Studio’s built-in tools to accomplish this: the Joint Editor Tool and the Node Weight Brush Tool. Both are now in my toolbar. ๐Ÿ˜€ The Node Weight Brush is annoying, though. The controls aren’t obvious, and sometimes it refuses to let you erase some weight mapping you’ve done. But yeah, it was quite simple to do. Time-consuming, but simple. You basically create the skeleton using the Joint Editor, then for each bone, you paint weight mapping for each axis of rotation. It lets you copy one axis of rotation to other axes, which is great, but it doesn’t let you mirror weight mappings across bones, though. And that’s really annoying. It lets you mirror it over the same bone, but that makes no sense. Rotating the left hand shouldn’t rotate the mesh where the right hand is. ๐Ÿ˜›

But of course, this being my first time doing rigging, I fell into another trap. And it was caused because I’d welded the model together, this time! Argh! ๐Ÿ˜ฃ The mesh for the legs, just like Guan Yu’s, intersects. That is, the fabric on the left leg cuts into the right leg (and vice versa, of course). Because I’d welded close vertices together, I’d actually accidentally welded his legs together, and didn’t realise this until I’d almost finished the rig. What I should have done is figure out a way to exclude certain vertices from being welded, and made sure to exclude those between his legs. Since I was already 90% of the way through rigging, and redoing the model now would cost me about two hours, I decided to chav it and deleted a large section of his right leg. It was a dirty move and I’m sorry. Not sorry. ๐Ÿ˜› Screw you guys, I SAVED TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE! ๐Ÿ˜›

Weirdly, though, even though you weight map specific bones to specific parts of the mesh, there’s an extra dull-ass step you need to take before you can actually select these bones in the viewport. Of course. ๐Ÿ˜› You need to assign “Face Groups” to sets of polygons, and assign those Face Groups to actual bones. When you click on a polygon that’s part of one of these Face Groups, the bone assigned to the Face Group is selected. I’ve no idea why they require you to do this step. I have no idea why there’s no automated process for it, because I’ve already weight mapped the polys to the bones. But it was a fantastically annoying waste of half an hour of my clearly-DAZ-doesn’t-think-it’s-precious time. ๐Ÿ˜›

After the rigging was complete, I put a ton of them into a test scene with Guan Ryu, in a pose that was close to the final thing. Everything finally felt like it was coming together. This was the first moment when I genuinely believed I was gonna get this thing done, and I was SUPER excited by it! ๐Ÿ˜€

For some reason, though, there was a two month gap between doing that test render and continuing work on the scene. And I think it was because of the VFX, which was the final hurdle that I could see. I’ve done VFX before, sure. Some examples being the cauldron glow and volumetrics of Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, the volumetric disco lights of Dino Disco, and way back when I was still a noob, the fire effect seen in Shoryuken. But they were all quite simple, really, while the VFX required for this scene seemed really, really complicated, and it was making me nervous. I wanted it to resemble the moment I was trying to reference in my scene, the last strike of Guan Yu’s Rage Musou Attack:

And I wasn’t sure I could replicate that, or even get close to it. Definitely not with my 2D art skillz. ๐Ÿ˜› But anyway, I eventually manned up, and continued on. I was hoping to rip an environment from the game, but after a lot of searching through the game files, I just couldn’t find the terrain meshes. I imagine they they have some bespoke way of storing info about a map, and generate the terrain from an image, or something crazy like that. No matter, I ditched that idea and found an environment from the store that was a good match for the scene. ๐Ÿ™‚ I rearranged the peons, set up lighting, tweaked the pose, fixed more costume issues… things were going really well. But all the while, that feeling kept gnawing at me. “Ya gotta do the VFX sooooon! You might Faaaail It because Your Skill Is Not Enooooough!” ๐Ÿ˜›

When that moment finally came, I decided to refer to the game’s assets to try and figure out how they did it. Instead of searching through about 90,000 images and God-knows how many meshes to try and find the VFX, I used the excellent Ninja Ripper to target specific moments in the game, and managed to rip the VFX textures and meshes fairly easily. They were a lot simpler than I was expecting, so I just decided to pull them into the scene to see what I could do with them. After arranging them into a shockwave kinda shape, adding emission to the material, and adjusting the colour to be just right, I suddenly became all hyper-giddy at the first pass. The filename of the scene saved just after I got the effect in was “Roar, Blue Dragon! 233 – PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY NOW NOW NOW.duf”. ๐Ÿ˜†

So yeah, turns out I was worried for no real reason. Of course, something completely impossible and incredibly irritating had to happen anyway, because I’m me. ๐Ÿ˜› There was a problem with the VFX textures, where they were clearly very low-res. I’d upscaled them to try and fix this, not with Waifu2x, just a simple bicubic upscale in Photoshop, with a bit of Gaussian blur added on to soften the edges of the VFX. For some reason, this texture rendered differently to the previous one. It’d lost a lot of its intensity. I tried again but without the blur. Same problem. I tried again without even upscaling the image, literally: put image in Photoshop, save out as JPG. Same problem! I made a copy of that image just using Explorer, and the copy rendered the same as the original, but for some psycho reason, even when following the exact same steps I did to create the image in the first place, it rendered differently! It absolutely blew my mind! I didn’t hash the two files to compare them, but there must have been something different. But then again… it can’t have been that different! They were even the exact same size! Saved in the same format by the same application in the same way! Here’s the panel of my redlines I created after this occurred, hopefully it helps illustrate what I mean. It completely destroyed my head. ๐Ÿ˜›

I ended up fixing the low-res issue in post with lots and lots of blurring and smudging and motion blurring and radial blurring. So it was okay in the end. ๐Ÿ˜€ Aside from the swipe, the fire spirals and the hit effects, the only other VFX left to do was a dust shockwave. I first resorted to a pack of “shaders” which couldn’t get anywhere near the effect I wanted. In the end, I realised that I could achieve it very easily myself. All I needed was a primitive torus, a simple gradient, and the ground texture that was already in use. Use the gradient as the cutout, the ground texture as the diffuse, and tweak until nice. Simplez! ๐Ÿ˜€

So, after getting through the VFX, that was it, Luigi. ๐Ÿ˜› Got it rendered, applied all the postwork (mostly motion blur ๐Ÿ˜†), and finally, the scene I never thought was possible was aliiiiive! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ As for the HUD? That was easy; I just grabbed the HUD sprite atlas from the game assets, and spent some time matching everything up using a screenshot. ๐Ÿ™‚ Rendered a very quick portrait version of Guan Ryu, nothing complicated, stuck it where Guan Yu’s face was supposed to be, and boom, complete! ๐Ÿ˜€ I did try to convert the game’s charmap into an actual font file, though, like a .ttf file. I gave up after a little while because it was turning out to be way more effort than it was worth. I came across a promising tool called… uh, FontTrace, I think? Unlike the other tools, I’m not linking to this one because I don’t want you to waste your time. ๐Ÿ˜› It did nothing but write some useless zero-byte files. Even using the image it provided as a sample. Which was in a format the tool wouldn’t accept. Lmao. ๐Ÿ˜› It was a very old and crusty tool, to be fair, so it probably just broke at some point in time. Anyway, I ended up scaling the charmap up so it matched the letters in a screenshot, then just manually copied and pasted the letters I needed, arranging them into the sentence I wanted to make. ๐Ÿ˜€

TL;DR: I made a render where a blue dragon hits people with Blue Dragon. ๐Ÿ˜›

Whew… okay… that was the process. ๐Ÿ˜† I have a feeling that I missed something, too, but I’m not sure. ๐Ÿ˜› If you actually read all that, firstly, thanks for reading, and secondly, if there’s anything I did miss about the process that you wanted to know about, just give us a shout! ๐Ÿ˜€

I feel that this scene was accidentally well-timed, too, as I’ve very subtly referenced with an easter egg in the HUD version. ๐Ÿ˜€ Maybe you’ll see it if you’re an ultra-hardcore fan? I’m not, I didn’t even realise until I had an idle thought about it. ๐Ÿ˜† But the KO count I used for the HUD version, 2,083, references a special thing that Dynasty Warriors, or rather, Shin Sangoku Musou, will celebrate soon. Let me explain a little first: Dynasty Warriors 1, known as simply “Sangoku Musou” in the East, was a totally different game to the Dynasty Warriors we know now. It was a 1v1 fighting game like Street Fighter or Tekken or whatever. Dynasty Warriors 2 was the first hack and slash of the series, and the series has followed the same style ever since. Instead of them calling it “Sangoku Musou 2” in the East, they distinguished it as a different game by calling it “Shin Sangoku Musou”, or “True Three Kingdoms Unrivaled”. That’s why they’re one number behind the West (DW8 over here is called SSM7 over there, for example ๐Ÿ™‚ ). So when Koei/Omega Force celebrate an anniversary of the series, it’s based on the release date of Shin Sangoku Musou, because that’s when the series truly began. And 2,083? 20-08-03. The series celebrates it’s 20th anniversary on the 3rd of August 2020. ๐Ÿ˜€
Was the easter egg worth reading all that explanation? PROBABLY NOT!! ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, let’s get on with sharing the TIMELAPSE! And as you might imagine, it’s the longest one yet! ๐Ÿ˜› It might be a li’l bit more interesting than usual, though, since I did a lot of things I’ve never done before. Although… the length of it might pull things the other way and actually make it more boring than usual. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, you can watch it here, if you like! It’s only 17ยฝ minutes long! ๐Ÿ˜› (I should probably warn about epilepsy here, the video does flash a fair bit since as it switches between darker and lighter windows about 22,000% faster than normal ๐Ÿ˜› )

But hey, a longer timelapse means more music, and this time there’s literally no better way to alleviate the boredom than with some of the tunes from the awesome Dynasty Warriors 8 soundtrack! I crammed in seven of them! ๐Ÿ˜€ I kick things off with “Fan The Flames“, the music played during the ABSOLUTELY BAT-SHIT INSANE intro to the original Dynasty Warriors 8. I thought the Xtreme Legends intro was crazy, but holy crap, the original intro makes that look like a documentary. ๐Ÿ˜› (Highlight: Zhao Yun hits a boat with his spear after flying towards it surrounded by flame arrows, and the boat EXPLODES, then all the boats around that ALSO explode, then he gets on his horse while both him and the horse are FLYING THROUGH THE AIR UPSIDE-DOWN!! ๐Ÿ˜†)
After the intro music, I thought that “Welcome To China (DW 7th Mix)” would be appropriate next. I sent that track to my sister just before she actually went to China a while back. Also, whenever she sent some pictures back by e-mail, I always replied with a stupid Dynasty Warriors reference. She didn’t understand. ๐Ÿ˜›
Next up is “My Bad Fellow“, a classic from Dynasty Warriors 4, but it’s still part of the DW8 soundtrack, played during one of the hypothetical battles. I remember grooving to it quite a lot when first starting out with Dynasty Warriors. I think it was the track played during Pang Tong’s stage in DW4XL. ๐Ÿ˜€
Of course, I can’t not have Lu Bu’s theme in the timelapse, so next up is “Theme of Lu Bu (DW 7th Mix)“, the only character in the game with a bespoke theme. The DW 7th Mix isn’t my favourite arrangement of it, as they kinda messed with the classic main melody a bit too much for my liking, but it’s definitely got that familiar vibe. ๐Ÿ˜€
The penultimate track is the epic “Final Game“, played once during Story Mode, but most frequently during major battles in Ambition Mode. I first heard this track on the Dynasty Warriors 8 promo website when I heard the game was coming out, and it immediately made me want the game. ๐Ÿ˜›
“Wait, MongMaster, why is FINAL Game not the final track, you gorm?!” Well prawn, that’s because I wanted to round things off with my favourite song on the soundtrack, and in fact one of my all-time favourite pieces of video game music: “Heavenly Strike“. I love the way it fuses rock and traditional Chinese instruments so naturally and perfectly, I love the way it builds up several times as the song progresses, and when it reaches the chorus, I just can’t get enough of that epic lead melody. And it’s so Dynasty Warriors. If there’s one song that can describe the series, it’s this. ๐Ÿ˜€
I also snuck in “Victory Jubilee (DW 7th Mix)” right at the end, played when you win a battle. Because it’s apt, and I love that jingle. ๐Ÿ˜€ I used the seldom-heard extended version in the timelapse. It’s not in the sound test menu, and you can only hear it after completing a challenge in Challenge Mode, but it fades out. However, if you press a button while “Challenge Complete” is on the screen, it skips to the results screen without fading out the music, so you can groove to it forever. #themoreyouknow ๐Ÿ˜›

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough yammering about the timelapse, there’s one other boring thing that I want to say about it. ๐Ÿ˜› Normally, I have something in the corner saying how many days I’ve worked on the scene, but for this timelapse, I put the exact amount of time, instead. Well, as exact as I could make it anyway. Sometimes I stop recording to take a break, or to refer to something that happened earlier. ๐Ÿ˜› That’s why I know this render took about 70 hours to create. ๐Ÿ˜€ I did this because I felt that showing the days was slightly misleading before. Decorators didn’t take me six whole days, for example. Anyway, that timer was only possible due to some new video editing software I just recently discovered: DaVinci Resolve.

I normally use Adobe Premiere, but DaVinci Resolve is like a hybrid of Premiere and After Effects, with the critical difference that the basic version (which is ANYTHING but basic) is friggin’ FREE. What the actual hell. Why haven’t I heard about this program before?! ๐Ÿ˜› Apart from the interface being all different and requiring me to re-learn where everything is, and it being somewhat… unstable at times, it works quite similarly to Premiere, and can do pretty much everything Premiere can do. It did have a terrible start by crashing silently and forcing me to start from scratchโ€ฆ twiceโ€ฆ but it quickly redeemed itself and really showed its worth when I started playing with Fusion, the in-built visual effects tool. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, mine is a niche use-case, but I found the whole program super-accommodating for timelapses. ๐Ÿ˜€ After Effects claims it can only support compositions up to 3 hours long (even though I imported a Premiere project and it was perfectly fine with a 12 hour long one (shrug)), and while Premiere can handle sequences up to 24 hours long, that’s sometimes not long enough. As is evident by this 70-hour long one. ๐Ÿ˜† DaVinci Resolve? Yeah, it kinda just shits all over them both and can support both timelines and compositions that are as-near-as-makes-no-difference 256 hours long. ๐Ÿ˜› Although in the Fusion visual effects tool, I found that expressions break when you go past frame 1,000,000. Which is weird. Maybe I should file a bug report and give them a good laugh. ๐Ÿ˜› I fixed that by using multiple compositions less than a million frames long and setting the start time of each of them differently. ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, enough about the timelapse! Now it’s time for the RENDER STATS!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Amazingly, this render, even with the environment and lighting and peons, was only taking around 4 minutes to render in the early stages. That kinda changed after adding the VFX and upping the render quality and resolution. ๐Ÿ˜† Sooo, at 4K and Rendering Quality 2, rendering it took a GTX 1080Ti and a GTX 1070… 6 hours 23 minutes 38.32 seconds! So, not too bad. ๐Ÿ˜€ Although in hindsight, I have no idea how it went from taking minutes to taking hours. ๐Ÿ˜› Oh, and as for the portrait render done for the HUD version? I have the time for that one, too! It took 15.97 seconds. Lmao. ๐Ÿ˜† As for postwork? Aye, there’s a fair bit. I cleaned up some graininess, fixed a problem with Guan Ryu’s outfit on the left shoulder, removed two of the specular highlights on the gem embedded into his helmet, applied motion blur to the swipe effect, Guan Ryu’s right arm, and the peons in the foreground, added a fake bloom effect, and added some focus lines and a vignette. And of course, assembled the HUD for the alternate version. ๐Ÿ˜€

Ah, I nearly forgot: the progress history! It’s quite… tall, this time. ๐Ÿ˜† I ended up doing 5 test renders and 17 preliminary ones before the final render. Here it is, you’ll probably wanna click on it to be able to see it properly. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure why it’s so blurry before clicking on it, though. Probably WordPress’s fault. ๐Ÿ˜›

Zhang Jiao: Judgement Man

Since I know I can do this kind of thing now, if I ever decide to make a follow-up, and I’m not saying I will (although despite the duration and how much effort was needed, it was still really fun to do, and very satisfying ๐Ÿ˜€ ), I definitely know who I’ll be having the Dragon 3 cosplay as next. That goon over there. Zhang Jiao. ๐Ÿ˜€ Why? He’s my second-favourite character. ๐Ÿ˜€ I love how broken he is, gameplay-wise. If you equip him with the Throwing Knives (which are fully compatible and give him the maximum attack bonus), they can hit an insane number of times, filling 1 unit of Musou in a single combo if the group you attack is big enough. Then you can use that to fuel his secondary Musou Attack, which hits so many times that you can get his Rage from zero to maximum in a single attack. Then, if you trigger Rage and hit Rage Musou while his secondary Musou is still going, you can get to True Rage instantly. Repeat all this, and the amount of time he spends in Rage mode is ridiculous. ๐Ÿ˜† Not only that, his voice actor is a legend. ๐Ÿ˜† Here, I made a quick video to demonstrate. THE TIIIIIIIME FOR JUDGEMENT HAS COOOOOME!!!! ๐Ÿ˜†

Anyway, I think that’s all. Hope I didn’t bore you too much, and I really hope you like the render! ๐Ÿ˜€ I will finish this post with the following GIF. And by saying WordPress is shit. ๐Ÿ˜›

Back to the dance floor!

Aside

Just a quick(ish) one!

So, almost a year ago now, I finished Dino Disco, quite a rare render for me because it didn’t involve any dragons. ๐Ÿ˜› Despite the unusual struggles I had trying to fit it into the memory of a very high-end GPU, and the INSANE render time of 36 hours, I was stupid-happy with the result, and I still think it’s the best render I’ve ever done, although… mrghhh, it’s really hard to say that, actually. Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble came out so much better than I imagined it would, I loved Decorators in a different kind of way, and I was really happy with my most recent render, Hoarder, too. There’s something about Dino Disco, though. The insanity of it is just a slight step above the others. ๐Ÿ˜†

Damn it, Mongz, stop digressing and stay on target, this is supposed to be an aside. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, when I first showed it to someone at work, they quickly noticed something I hadn’t noticed in all my excitement: some of the dinosaurs, specifically the raptors and the rex, looked “shiny”, like they were sweating or something. And AFAIK, reptiles don’t sweat. ๐Ÿ˜› Since then, these shiny dinos have become a mini-joke which kept coming up every so often, and while I wanted to fix it, I didn’t want to re-render the scene because I thought it was going to take another 36 hours to fix it. ๐Ÿ˜›

The memory of that ultra-long render time has passed, though, so I thought I’d pick it up again and fix the damn shiny dinos. ๐Ÿ˜› After doing that and checking with the joke-maker, he also pointed out a few other things that I agreed could be improved. Sooo, I did all the changes, let my computer burn for a while, re-applied the postwork on the new render, and voila! Dino Disco v2!

More flavours here:
(1080p) (2K) (4K)

WOO! I think this looks a lot better than the original! ๐Ÿ˜€

So, aside from fixing the shininess of the dinosaurs, what’s changed? Well, it was pointed out that the central rex’s chest looked unusually white. I was about to pull out the “camera flash” excuse, but I couldn’t deny that it looked a bit wrong, so I dimmed down the key light and mixed in a few more lights to give her chest a bit more colour.

The disco ball also didn’t look right, which I knew about already, because I’d spent a while trying and failing to get it to look nice the first time around. Not sure why I was struggling, because I saw the problem almost immediately after going back to it and looking at the material settings, lol. ๐Ÿ˜› I also got some feedback saying the floor wasn’t supposed to be shiny, which I disagreed with, because some crap computer monitors (*cough* Mac *cough*) do still reflect light despite being lit from behind the glass, but agreed that it was a bit too reflective, so I toned it down. I was also given the great idea to add some scratches to the floor, so I added an overlay with various scuffs and claw marks on it. It’s very subtle, but I think it worked nicely. ๐Ÿ˜€

Also, I found that most of the dinosaurs had some stupid preset subdivision settings on their displacement maps, and on the models themselves. Knocking them down to a realistic level brought memory usage down quite a lot. This, combined with, uh… a very generous “loan” of another 8GB GPU (a 1070Ti), allowed me to render this scene in about half the time of the original: just 18 hours 19 minutes 40.55 seconds! My room was quite hot afterwards and there was this distinctive burning smell in the air and that loan wasn’t technically authorised, but hey! Speed! ๐Ÿ˜›

That’s about it, I think. Hope you like the improvements! And big thanks to Louie for all the feedback! I never get feedback, so that was nice. ๐Ÿ˜†

Fight to the death for the last toilet paper!

Heyooo! Happy Apocalypse, one and all! ๐Ÿ˜›

How’re you doing? Hopefully you’re using your mad Ninja Skillz and dodging all that invisible and ultra-deadly COVID-19 while at the shop only to buy bread, milk, fruit, and Cheesestrings. (cringe) ๐Ÿ˜› Me? Yeah, I’m totally fine, better than usual, actually! I really don’t get what all the panic is about. It’s no worse than the flu, right? We get that every year, but that doesn’t cause people to have a massive panic attack and buy 40,000 toilet rolls and hand sanitisers. ๐Ÿ˜› I dunno, I completely shut myself off from the news months ago, and Adbook not long afterwards. It’s all scaremongering and fake news. Sure, I’ll stay away from other people out of respect (even though I don’t have the virus, and even though I know they don’t have the virus, because if they did, they’d be at home dying, because apparently almost no-one recovers, lmao), but I’ll think for myself, thanks. ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ve not really had to adjust to the “always stay inside” rule because I do that anyway. ๐Ÿ˜› There are only two differences, the first being that I now have to work from home, which I greatly prefer because it’s quieter, because I’m an anti-social bumface, and because I don’t have to give the bus company that I hate ~ยฃ12 a week just to get to work. ๐Ÿ˜› But the second difference is that I now have to spend an hour and a half getting to the shops and back, and can only carry about one week’s worth of supplies, because everyone in the country is panicking and suddenly wants to use online grocery delivery and all stores are booked solid for three weeks and people are staying up past midnight just to snipe a friggin’ delivery slot for three weeks in the future. God damn really? ๐Ÿ˜‘ But yeah, other than those things, it’s business as usual for me; just staying inside with my best friend (the PC ๐Ÿ˜› ) and playing many many games. Although some spaz is trying to scare people out of that, too, by posting an unrealistic model of what gamers will look like in 20 years. Lol, 20 years? I’ve had my gaming PC for about 12 years now, and I’ve been gaming longer than that, but I still look pretty much the same as I have done for a while. So in about 8 years I’m apparently going to be fat only in the lower part of my torso and have a long head with a crevasse in it? Lmfao those “researcher” gorms need to get out. But when they do, they’d better stay 2m away from other people. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, yep, the world has gone crazy, but I’m still the same. Still crazy. ๐Ÿ˜› Despite me trying to ignore everything, I couldn’t bring myself to ignore the very appropriate but potentially tasteless render idea that appeared in my mind the other week. Because it was funny. And funny is good. Usually. ๐Ÿ˜›

It took some self-nagging to bring myself to get started on it because of what I thought was going to be a mahoosive pain. The idea required me to construct a mound consisting of many duplicates of a single object, and just thinking about doing it was boring. ๐Ÿ˜› I was also unsure about how it would turn out when I had done the really boring part. But nevertheless, I kicked myself up the arse, reattached my leg, and started work on it on Easter Monday. Then, just the next morning, I was greeted with THIS!

More flavours below, including a special, stylized, dark flavour!
Regular: (1080p) (2K) (4K)
Dark: (1080p) (2K) (4K)

Because OF COURSE!! Morons hoarding a ton of toilet paper got you down? Fix it with a dragon hoarding a ton of toilet paper! ๐Ÿ˜›

Hahaha, despite the mild pain that was the first 30 mins or so of creating this (and the moderate pain that followed), this was so worth it. ๐Ÿ˜€ Hell, what little pain I did feel while creating this render was pretty short-lived anyway, because this scene only took about 7 hours to make, which is the fastest I’ve been able to create a fully-fledged scene in quite some time! ๐Ÿ˜€ Hell, if you include the render time and postwork (render stats spoilers! ๐Ÿ˜› ), it only took about 9 hours, start to finish! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

So, that “mound consisting of many duplicates of a single object” I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that was all the toilet rolls. I ended up referring to it as Mt. TP. ๐Ÿ˜› I put a roll of toilet paper in the scene and created 100 instances of it, arranging them into the base of the mountain. To help, I created a sphere which vaguely represented the final mound, and very roughly posed the Dragon 3 so he was sprawled on top of it to ensure it was about right. Then I realised I didn’t need to create the “core” of Mt. TP, I just needed the shell, so I rearranged the toilet rolls so they followed the perimeter of the guide sphere. It wasn’t too bad when I got into the rhythm of it, and it wasn’t particularly hard. Just… dull. Needed way more than 100 rolls, too; the final scene ended up having 343 rolls in there. ๐Ÿ˜› It only took about half an hour to finish the basic structure, though, so that was good. ๐Ÿ˜€

The Mountain

After that, it was just a matter of posing the Dragon 3 on top, which took a bit longer because I couldn’t quite decide how I wanted him to lie. I wanted him to be sprawled out, but at the same time, I wanted him to look happy and cozy, so I settled on a hybrid of the two, where his upper body was curled and he was resting his head comfortably on his claws, but his hind legs were sprawled out a bit, accidentally kicking a couple of rolls off Mt. TP. But he clearly don’t care. He stupid-comfy. ๐Ÿ˜€

Dawwwww. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Deciding on an environment was a little tricky. In fact, I already had a shot at making this scene a few days before doing it for real. During that session, I managed to narrow my environment choices down to a few options, the last one being “make a custom cave”. About 5 minutes after experimenting with ways to do that, I quit, because everything was being a dick. ๐Ÿ˜› The rocks I was trying to use all had inverted normals so you couldn’t see them in the viewport without using negative scale, and instances of those objects with the same transform parameters were appearing in a different position for no reason. ๐Ÿ˜‘ Anyway, thankfully I didn’t have to resort to creating my own. I found a little nook in one of the environments I chose which was just what I was hoping for. ๐Ÿ˜€

I learned something pretty strange while doing this scene, though: a “solution” to the inverted normals problem I had. Let me explain a bit: each polygon on an object has a “normal” which indicates what direction the polygon is facing. If this is towards the camera, that’s okay. If the polygon is facing away from the camera, however, that’s called a “backfacing” polygon. Usually, programs save processing power by not rendering backfacing polys, but some programs decide it’s necessary that the user sees them, and do render them. DAZ Studio is speshiful, though. It does render backfacing polys, but instead of drawing the material on the poly as normal, it simply makes the poly solid black, regardless of lighting! Neither of DS’s core renderers (Iray and 3Delight) have a problem with showing backfacing polys like this; they render perfectly fine. But when all the viewport renderer bothers to show you is a silhouette of the object, it is a problem! A massive problem! ARGGGH!

I CAN’T SEE A BLOODY THING!

There’s an option in the preferences called “Backface Lighting”, but it appears to do shit all. But hey, it’s fine, cuz I managed to fix the problem by… heheh, God damn… sorry, I… I still can’t believe the way I fixed it. It’s so, so dumb. ๐Ÿ˜›
Okay, so… DAZ Studio has several viewport render modes, most of which are never used unless you’re really weird or have some kind of need for it. Two of those are “Wire Shaded” and “Wire Texture Shaded”. They’re helpful if you need to see the polygons of your scene, or, well… they would be useful, if they didn’t completely tank the viewport framerate. Seriously, it takes DS about 10-20x longer to draw the wireframes than it takes to draw the object on its own. ๐Ÿ˜› For some insane, impossibly stupid reason, though, in these modes, if you have the “Backface Lighting” option on, backfacing polys actually render properly. I just… why. WHY!

Texture Shaded w/ Backface Lighting ON
WHY!
Wire Texture Shaded w/ Backface Lighting ON
WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY!

Of course, if you do decide to use the “Wire Shaded” or “Wire Texture Shaded” mode with the Backface Lighting option on just to get around the problem where backfacing polys are black no matter what, you then have to deal with the ludicrously low viewport framerate. But hey, there’s a stupid way around that, too! If you go to the Draw Settings window and set the wireframe opacity to 0, yay! Framerate becomes normal! So uh… if I’m in Wire Texture Shaded mode but with no wireframe… WHY exactly does that act differently to Texture Shaded mode?! What are you smoking over there, DAZ?!

Wire Texture Shaded w/ Backface Lighting ON w/ 0% Wireframe Opacity
DS MAKES NO SENSE

Ugh. Whatever. ๐Ÿ˜›

I also poked dForce again in an attempt to get some stray sheets of toilet paper lying in the scene, dForce being DS’s solution for cloth simulation. It was my first time using it properly, and it’s, uh… shit? Yeah, “shit”, that’s the word. ๐Ÿ˜› Maybe it’s okay for clothes and stuff? I dunno, I don’t render humans, so I don’t render clothes. But seeing as how the following can happen sometimes when trying to apply cloth simulation to a simple plane, I can’t see how clothes would work any better:

PAPERSPLOSION!
W H Y

Maybe I was using it “wrong” or something, but seeing as there’s almost no documentation for this feature (yet again!), I’m not exactly sure how I can learn to use it. Maybe I should render a human with dForce clothing just to see if I can figure out how it works?

Anyway, I think that’s all I have to say about the process. ๐Ÿ™‚ Despite DS’s stupid brokenness and dForce’s stupid brokenness, everything went pretty smoothly, which is always nice. ๐Ÿ˜€ But now, it’s time for the render stats, which may have already been spoiled! ๐Ÿ˜› Despite all the toilet rolls, thanks to instancing (maybe), this scene didn’t need much memory, so both my GPUs were able to party this time! ๐Ÿ˜€ So, at Quality 2, the 4K render tooook… 1 hour 35 minutes 20.36 seconds! Pretty nippy! As for postwork, I covered up some poke-through on the toilet paper hooked onto the dragon’s horn, fixed some weird artefacts on a different sheet of paper, added motion blur to a few rolls of toilet paper, blurred out some noise that the Post Denoiser didn’t quite denoise, tried fixing some nasty-looking texture seams on the cave wall, added a very mild bloom effect, and added a vignette. ๐Ÿ™‚

I got a timelapse for you, too! Since the render didn’t take long to create, it only contains two songs this time, both by the very funny and very crazy comedy/metal band Psychostick. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m glad it only has two songs because I couldn’t think of a third. ๐Ÿ˜† Anyway, first up there’s The Dumb Song, because everyone is being dumb and hoarding craptons of toilet paper for no good reason. Hoarding it won’t stop you from getting the virus. ๐Ÿ˜› The timelapse ends with Fight To The Death, because of one perfectly appropriate lyric near the end of the song, which I also used for the post title. ๐Ÿ˜€ You can watch the timelapse here!

I also have the progress history below, and it’s very short! ๐Ÿ˜€

Only four preliminary renders before I felt like I could render the final thing! ๐Ÿ˜€ After the first preliminary render barely showed any issues, I got very suspicious and triple-checked it to be sure I wasn’t losing it. ๐Ÿ˜† It never goes that well! ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway… I think that’s all from me for now! Hope you liked the render. ๐Ÿ™‚ See ya later, don’t die and stuff, and enjoy your pasta and toilet paper casserole or whatever you do with those things that I can’t buy any more because everyone else is suddenly buying all of them. ๐Ÿ˜›

(in all seriousness, plz stay safe, you’re too cool to get owned by a microscopic virus ๐Ÿ˜†)

It’s Halloween! Celebrate with Pumpkin Hill!

(It’s not Jonah Hill or Winston Churchill!)

Hiii! Happy Halloween! Or All Hallows’ Eve! Or Allhalloween! Or All Saints’ Eve! Or Saints Row Eve! Not that last one! ๐Ÿ˜›

How’s your day been? If you’re a kid, I hope you obtained/will obtain many free sweets from creepy strangers! And if you’re an adult, I hope you successfully make it through your evening without any kids ringing your doorbell. ๐Ÿ˜€ Me? Well, I bought a box of treat-size sweets with the words “ideal for trick-or-treat” on it. And then began to eat them all. ๐Ÿ˜› Like hell am I givin’ out sweets to random kids that interrupt my evening! Not like anyone’s ever buzzed my doorbell on Halloween, anyway, and not like I’d answer it if they did. ๐Ÿ˜›

Ah, seeing as it’s Halloween, I’ve got a spooky story about something that happened recently. Well, it’s not really spooky. Or particularly interesting. ๐Ÿ˜› But anyway, for some reason that I can’t quite figure out, one of my videos on YouTube – just one – has seemingly gone viral, because the view count on it has exploded. It’s the last stage in my Streets of Goong series, Stage 8. I finished that series about 9 years ago now, and although it didn’t get a monstrous amount of attention, I was still really humbled by the response. It got far more views than I ever expected it to, around 5K-14K per video. However, all of a sudden, Stage 8 has gotten a monstrous amount of attention, achieving more views than all of my shitey videos combined: 636K, and it’s still rising. :O What shocks/scares/confuses me the most is that seemingly because of this, my subscriber count has jumped from about 100 (which I was genuinely amazed by) to 2,000 (which completely blows my mind), and it’s still going up! I don’t get it! That series is 9 years old! Why’d I get so many subscribers from it now? What’m I gonna do with them?! And why is everyone only watching the last video in the series?! That’s not even the best one in my opinion! ๐Ÿ˜›

Heh… typical, ain’t it? Back then, I had a ton of free time, so I used to post crap on YouTube fairly frequently, but it only got a relatively small amount of attention. Now I barely post one video a year, and suddenly I’ve got this massive audience for the stuff I posted ages ago. ๐Ÿ˜›

Y’know, talking about this viral explosion has just reminded me of another one I had a while ago, when a Starbound dev used one of my videos in a news post on their blog for a reason that didn’t really make any sense. The difference was that that ended up being very annoying, mainly because of the fanboyish comments I got which were directed straight past me as if it wasn’t even my video they were commenting on. Instead, most of the comments on the video were directed at the dev who shared the video, in a tone that falsely insinuated that they were bestest buddies, and in a way that made it sound that they believed the dev created the video or something. I didn’t mind much at the time, because I felt honoured that one of the Starbound devs thought my video was funny and random enough to share on their blog for a joke, but now I just get super pissed off when I think about it. Because Starbound, that borderline scam of a game that I backed when its first round of crowdfunding opened (with three others, and I was the one who suggested it, which made me feel bad when it was delayed to the point where we nearly forgot it existed), turned out to be a gigantic pile of turd and one of my most hated games of all time, easily described with words such as “slog”, “dull”, “untested”, “late” and “iwannaplayterrariainstead”. I know that last word isn’t a word. That just symbolises the developers’ lies. I don’t want anything to do with the shithead company who created it and if they shared any of my videos again I would immediately take down the video and re-upload it with external sharing disabled, like a kind of Chucklefish exorcism. Lmao “Chucklefish”, more like “Chucklefuck“. ๐Ÿ˜› I encourage everyone to pirate every goddamn thing that has their name on it, and here is a gif just for those shithead devs:

A looping, cartoon-style gif showing a middle finger being wiped over someone's face repeatedly.
PAY YOUR HARD-WORKING CONTENT CREATORS YOU TIGHTWADS

ANYWAY, off-topic, MongMaster, VERY off topic and very ranty. The readers don’t care because they’re too cool for that, so get back to Halloween. ๐Ÿ˜› Yes, despite the start of this post looking like some kind of trick, I didn’t come here to do that. I came to give you a treat*, in a kind of Soviet Russia-esque trick-or-treat! And that treat* is… a Halloween render! ๐Ÿ˜€

*your perception of whether this “treat” really is a treat may vary ๐Ÿ˜›

I didn’t do a Halloween render last year for some reason. In fact, I didn’t even realise I hadn’t done one last year until this year. ๐Ÿ˜› Maybe I didn’t have any ideas for it, or maybe I was busy. To be honest, at first, I wasn’t sure if I was gonna create one this year, either. I wanted to, but couldn’t think of any ideas for days. It was probably just because my brain was a bit fuzzy, cuz when I decided to get serious, sit down, and brainstorm some ideas, I got one quite quickly just by thinking of stuff associated with Halloween. ๐Ÿ˜€

I ended up writing down “pumpkins”, “the Moon”, “werewolves” and “witches”. I didn’t feel that a pumpkin carving scene was good enough, and I felt like I’d already used the Moon in my last Halloween render, Ghost Stories, with its “ghost stories under the moonlight” theme. I liked the werewolf idea, but decided to put that on the back-burner in favour of a scene based on witches. ๐Ÿ˜€ And of course, you can’t really think of witches without thinking of the famous “Song of the Witches” scene from Macbeth, which I ended up using as inspiration:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Blahdeblahdeblah.

I’d say it’s more of a “poem” than a “song”, and that’s only part of it; it goes on for three verses, which is about two verses too long, and the second verse (written above) is the least annoying and most readable of the three. ๐Ÿ˜› IMHO, of course. I really hate poetry like this, and I’m not a fan of Shakespeare and his broken English (yes I know how stupid and ironic that sounds ๐Ÿ˜› ), but I can’t deny that it’s a classic scene.

Anyway, so I finally had a solid idea in my head, but I still felt kinda unsure whether it would come out good or not. The mini-Arnold in my head said yelled “STAHP WHINING AND DOOEET NAOO”, so I picked a weekend (the only weekend left before Halloween :P), sat my ass down, accidentally stayed up until what was effectively 6AM (because of daylight savings ๐Ÿ˜› ) and came up with THIS!

A render of three dragon witches stood around a cauldron with glowing green contents. The central witch is stirring the cauldron and looking at the viewer. The left witch is holding a jar of newts' eyes and adding some of them to the cauldron. The right witch is referring to a book (presumably the recipe) with a confused look on her face.

As always, there’re more flavours here!
(1080p) (2K) (4K)

DRAGON WITCHES, BITCHES! WOOOOO! ๐Ÿ˜€

Ahhh, this one came out so gooooood! XD Honestly, I thought I was going to Fail It because My Skill Was Not Enough, but the basic composition of it turned out to be really close to how it appeared in my head. ๐Ÿ˜€ Beyond that, the little details and pose decisions, such as the jar of eyes and the right witch looking unsure about the recipe, just happened on the fly, as they tend to do. ๐Ÿ˜€

Not much went wrong during the process, this time. In fact, things went unusually well, which made a nice change after all the difficulties and indecisions I had while creating The One True Egg. ๐Ÿ˜€ Despite not having a clue about how to create textures properly and not having any of the tools for the job, I created a relatively decent (for me ๐Ÿ˜› ) texture for the eyes in the jar. Stacking up about 40 of them in that jar also went really well; it wasn’t too painful, and it turned out great, especially since I thought they wouldn’t show up very clearly in the final render.

After having the central witch stir the cauldron and the left witch add ingredients, I was struggling to think of what the right witch would do at first. I came up with two ideas, and posed both of them to compare and decide:

A screenshot of the first pose idea. It shows three dragons, the central one stirring a cauldron, the left one adding newts' eyes to it, and the right one looking shocked and surprised at what was being added.
My first idea was that the witch on the right was younger and hadn’t really done anything like this before, and so was a bit shocked/disgusted to see one of the others drop in some newts’ eyes. ๐Ÿ˜€
A screenshot of the second pose idea. Like the first, it shows three dragons: the central one stirring a cauldron and the left one adding newts' eyes to it, but this time, the right one is looking at a book, presumably a recipe book, and looking confused.
My second idea was that the witch on the right was a bit more sensible or experienced than the other two. As the newts’ eyes are added, she can’t help but check the recipe again, feeling increasingly unsure about its accuracy.

I ended up going with the second one, because I liked the pose more, it matched up with the rest of the scene a bit better, and I felt that it had a bit more humour to it, in a subtle kind of way. ๐Ÿ˜€

The only technical problems I came across were pretty easily fixed. The first issue was with the “Instancing Optimisation” setting, which I’ve had a problem with before, back when creating Monster. Hunter. (see right). For some unfathomable reason, when set to “Memory”, it mangled the texture of the Dragon 3’s left eye, even though both eyes used the same material!

Render of "Monster. Hunter.", showing a dragon with a completely black eye, a result of a problem I had with the Instancing Optimisation setting.

Turns out that this time, it was caused by having Instancing Optimisation set to “Auto”, whatever the fuck that means. ๐Ÿ˜› I would’ve expected that “Auto” would select between “Speed” and “Memory” depending on how much memory the scene was eating, but no, it appears that Auto does something completely different to the other two options!

An render of a dragon with Instancing Optimisation set to "Memory". It looks fine.
This is what you get when you pick “Memory”…
An render of a dragon with Instancing Optimisation set to "Speed". It looks exactly the same as it does when set to "Memory": fine.
… this is what you get when you pick “Speed”…
An render of a dragon with Instancing Optimisation set to "Auto". The eye is partially black.
…and this is what you get when you pick “Auto”. Wtf.

This “Auto” option seems to have been added in DAZ Studio 4.12.. or it might’ve been 4.11, but I never actually clicked the dropdown for that option in 4.11 because I never had a problem with it while using that version. Anyway, it was a minor annoyance. I just picked “Speed” and everything was fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

The second problem was that I wanted to try dForce, DAZ Studio’s cloth simulation, to get some realistic collision on the hats. I’ve never really used it before because I only render things that don’t wear clothes (that’s dragons, dinosaurs, and the occasional mammal, before you go and make a funny ๐Ÿ˜› ), but seeing as I got a dForce-compatible witch outfit so I could have the dragons wear the traditional witch hat, I thought I’d try dForce out. Turns out that the hat, despite being part of the “dForce-compatible outfit”… wasn’t actually compatible. Trying to make it compatible by Doing Stuff(tm) ended in a funny way:

A screenshot of a dragon with a collapsed and crumpled witches' hat lying over her face, captioned with "lol".

So, yep. I didn’t bother using dForce after all. ๐Ÿ˜€ I just placed the hats as best I could, and did some morphing in ZBrush where necessary. ๐Ÿ™‚ Part of me thinks I should have at least tried to dress them up in the witch robes, but it would’ve probably taken an immense amount of time to get right, and I only had one weekend to finish the scene. I can’t bring myself to pose after work; I feel way too tired and unmotivated. ๐Ÿ˜›

Also, I was originally planning to use an emissive material for the contents of the cauldron, but I actually found that using a point light and placing it inside the cauldron contents created a massively better effect. Probably because the emissive material just made the whole mesh glow with the same intensity, whereas putting a physical ball of light in the middle of the mesh caused some smexy refraction and stuff. It was a nice surprise. ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, now for the render stats! This was kind of an odd one. At Quality 2, the 4K render took 14 hours 14 minutes 28.57 seconds to reach its iteration limit of 25,000, getting to 73.11% convergence, which was about 22% shy of the target. That’s never happened before! Normally, a render at least gets close to the convergence target before it hits that many iterations, but this time, it was way off! I might have to do another render both overnight and while I’m at work to see if the outcome is any better, but hell, even at 73% convergence, it came out well! UPDATE: Before this post was scheduled to go live, I did another render, and this time it went on for about 27 hours before hitting a doubled iteration limit of 50,000, reaching a convergence ratio of 83.76%. It was increasing by about 0.01% per minute by the time it ended, and as convergence increases slower the higher it gets, it would probably take several more days to reach the target of 95%. ๐Ÿ˜› The result of all that extra GPU burning was a microscopic increase in quality that I only noticed by flicking back and forth between the old render and the new one, so I felt that it was pointless to update the final image. ๐Ÿ™‚

As for postwork, there was quite a lot this time. I added motion blur to the eyes falling into the cauldron, corrected a massive blunder with the front of the cauldron (there was a very obvious seam caused by the smoke effect from the cauldron, so I had to do some colour tweaks to mask it), did my best to try and make the dragons look more female (painting dark lines around their eyes, it was the only thing I could think of, and I really don’t think it worked ๐Ÿ˜› ), removed some nose horns and minor light distractions, added a subtle fake bloom effect, smoothed out some noisy areas, added a vignette, and did some levels and brightness tweaks. ๐Ÿ™‚

So… what do you think? Do you like it? Spotted something that looks off? Know an easyish way to make a Dragon 3 look more female? Lemme know! ๐Ÿ˜€ Honestly, I’ve done it before, but I don’t know how. I’m pretty sure it was a miracle that I made Emerald look as female as she did when I created Amai. ๐Ÿ˜›

As is now tradition, I created a timelapse of the process behind this render for you to peruse, set to vaguely relevant music. ๐Ÿ˜€ I had a hard time choosing tracks this time, because none of them would really “go” together. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, first off, there’s Pumpkin Hill by Sonic4ever, from their incredible #1 album Sonic Adventure 2 Greatest Hits Revisited. The post title is a reference to that song, by the way. ๐Ÿ˜€ After that’s warmed you up, you should be able to get through the next track, This Is Halloween, by Danny Elfman, from The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. No, it’s not the Marilyn Manson version; that’s even more annoying. ๐Ÿ˜› Don’t worry though, because I’ve added some metal near the end of the video: a cover of Aaveratsastajat, by Hevisaurus (Aaveratsastajat being a Finnish cover of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend”). ๐Ÿ˜€ I was gonna put Thriller by Michael Jackson in there, but I ended up dropping it because it was a bit too long, and I couldn’t bring myself to drop one of the others. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, you can check out the timelapse HEEAH! ๐Ÿ™‚

Hmmm… I’m not sure why I use OneDrive to share my timelapses. Maybe I should put them on YouTube… ๐Ÿ˜› Oh no no no, I know why, because if I put them on YouTube, I’d get slapped for using copyrighteted musics. ๐Ÿ˜›

Ah, also, as is also now tradition, I drew notes over my prototype and preliminary renders to keep my thoughts straight and to try and prevent me from forgetting anything, which makes a nice little history of how the render evolved. ๐Ÿ™‚ Here it is:

An image consisting of 13 renders complete with redlines, showing how the render evolved with each iteration.

Anyway, I think that’s enough from me for now. I hope you enjoy the render, and the rest of your Halloween! I’m off to trick or treat myself again. ๐Ÿ˜› Bye!

All praise the One True Egg.

OH NOES! IT’S ME AGAIN! ๐Ÿ˜›

‘Sup? Hope everything’s well on your end! ๐Ÿ˜€ Me, I’ve been somewhat busier than normal, as of late. My mum came down to visit a few months ago, and we visited London because we think Brighton is a boring shitehole. Yes, London is also kind of a shitehole, but at least there are things to do there. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, that was good, but then the month after that I went to London again with my friends. Then the month after that, my sister came down to visit, and we did an escape room, which we cleared with only 4 minutes left. ๐Ÿ˜€ We learned afterwards that it has quite a high failure rate, so we were pretty chuffed with ourselves considering there was only two of us. ๐Ÿ˜€ It was really awesome, and I totally recommend it if you ever find yourself in Brighton for some reason (have a look for Bewilder Box). Oh, and we rode on some bikes along the bike lane on the seafront, too. It’s been at least 9-10 years since I rode a bike, and I’ve never ridden one in public before, and it was genuinely terrifying, especially since the bike lane was about 4 inches wide in places and the bikes were god-awful. I constantly felt like I couldn’t control the thing. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, two weeks after that, I had another weekend with my friends, this time mainly just hanging out, playing board games and vidya games.

So, this excessive amount of human interaction, combined with work and lack of sleep due to the insane heatwave (it got so bad that I actually bought an air conditioner ๐Ÿ˜› ), means I’ve felt pretty burned out as of late. Uh, no pun intended. ๐Ÿ˜› Various bits of technology have decided to start being a dick to me recently, too. My printer randomly stopped working immediately after someone printed something with it last weekend, so I had to buy a replacement which happened to have the most irritating Wifi setup process ever. The new Windoze 10 update was near-impossible to install, and when I managed to do it, all it seemed to do was slow my PC down a lot and break Groove Music. And the Wifi on my router has randomly started plebbing out and refusing connections for no good reason. And my idiot firewall recently decided to ignore all its rules again, blocking things I told it to allow and allowing things I told it to block. It’s all so very, very annoying. ๐Ÿ˜›

To help myself chill out, I decided to book a week off work so I could sleep a lot. And it’s gone way too goddamn fast. ๐Ÿ˜› And I haven’t really used it to chill out or sleep as much as I planned, because I’ve spent more than half of it doing a new render. But this is a good thing! I like doing da rendarz. ๐Ÿ˜€

This time, I decided to make something based on a weird office meme that started recently, between me and a few others. The story goes something like this: one day, one of my co-workers said “Lewis, can you test my branch?” from across the office. Lewis, one of our QA guys, somehow misheard this to a degree no-one could ever have imagined, replying with “What, egg and be true?” Shortly after that, I drew the best egg I’ve ever drawn on the nearby whiteboard, and wrote “Egg and be true” next to it.

Aaaand that how we began a cult. ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ve been meaning to make a render based on it since then. I came up with an idea for it while bored and daydreaming during a totally unnecessary meeting, but never found the time to put it together. So, with this week off, I thought I’d spend a day creating it, but because of things, that day turned into like 3 days. But I’d say it was time well-spent, as it is a joy to honour the One True Egg! PRAISE BE:

A dragon sat in front of the One True Egg, claws positioned over his head.

More flavours here!
Original version (shown above): (1080p) (2K) (4K) (Character Focused – 2250×3000)
Dark version (shown lower down): (1080p) (2K) (4K) (Character Focused – 2250×3000)

Hahahahaaa I’m so dumb XD

Ahhhh, so much zen! ๐Ÿ˜€ This was a really fun scene to do, and the pose was interesting to create, too, but when I began, I wasn’t sure it was possible to do it with Dragon 3. Sure, he can stand upright on his hind legs, and he can look pretty good when doing that, but having him sit down on his butt is a totally different story. Not only does his tail get in the way of him sitting down, there’re bend limits on his legs which prevent them from crossing over like that, and I had no choice but to break them by a massive amount (they’re twisted about 130 degrees, which is 50 degrees more than the limit ๐Ÿ˜› ). It makes his thighs look really warped and weird, but I think I got away with it here because of the camera angle. His shins and feet block most of the problems, thankfully. ๐Ÿ˜› There were other problems too, like his left foot intersecting his right calf, and the fact that his biceps looked huge when raising his arms. I had to fix those by creating some custom morphs using ZBrush.

Oh, and speaking of the raised arms… that gesture the dragon is doing with his claws is our form of greeting to members of the cult. Originally, the dragon was holding the egg in front of him, but I thought performing our greeting gesture was more apt. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s performed by forming the top of a triangle with your hands and moving it over your head. The triangle represents the truth, and your head represents the Egg. The motion simulates the Egg piercing the truth. ๐Ÿ˜› Nope, that was the QA guy’s idea, not mine. ๐Ÿ˜›

Originally, I expected to spend an evening doing the posing and lighting, have it render overnight, and do the postwork the next day. Annoyingly, though, a lot of things went wrong, and I kept having second thoughts and random ideas along the way, so I ended up spending way longer on it than I planned. ๐Ÿ˜›

On the first day, I had the scene assembled and the pose was pretty much finished, although it took a bit longer because I had to re-pose his arms after getting the idea to use the greeting gesture. The lighting wasn’t going great, though, so I had to spend another day on it. On that second day, though, I started getting a lot of random ideas. I changed the candle holders to be black on one side and white on the other, I tried out making a gloss map for the dragon’s tail to show that it was wet from being in the water (which didn’t go very well for some reason), added rim lighting behind the dragon, and struggled with adding lights around the egg to simulate that it was glowing. That’s when I remembered seeing something called “Canvases” in the advanced render options, and thought that it would let me render different parts of the scene separately so I could do some things in post that I wouldn’t normally be able to do very easily. Lol no. ๐Ÿ˜› When rendering a Canvas, you can only render one at once, it seems to render them in a totally different way than normal, and it spits out some random garbled junk in addition to your render, which very, very vaguely resembles what I wanted to render:

yay whitespace I can’t get rid of, thanks wordpress, you piece of shit

A long time after rendering these, I realised that these are 32-bit images, which probably explains why the files were so massive. Really not sure why they display like that, but whatever. Converting them to 8-bit gives you something that looks better, but at the same time… no it doesn’t. ๐Ÿ˜› It looks awful. Like… all glowy and shit. And the background is gone, too. And judging by the fact that two of each type of candle rendered as a black silhouette in the left image, it seems that Canvases don’t support instanced objects, either:

wordpress is shit

And of course the Canvases feature isn’t documented. ๐Ÿ˜› So I gave up on it. It’s really annoying, though. It feels like this would help with things like motion blur, and open up a lot of post-processing possibilities, but nope, no documentation about it, and it’s impossible to figure it out by poking it like I normally do. Maybe I’ll fight with it again in the future.

Anyhoo, after ditching Canvases, I then had the idea to make the egg gold instead of silver… then as I was doing that and trying to decide whether I liked gold or silver more, I accidentally made the egg transparent and thought “AH, A GLASS EGG!”, so I did that instead. ๐Ÿ˜€ I think it turned out well in the end, but making the glass egg caused another problem which ended up costing me a lot of time. I first noticed it when adding a light behind the egg to re-create some nice-looking water reflections that I’d lost after switching the egg to be made of glass. Doing this made me discover a very… uh, interesting quirk with the Iray shader. If you set a light emitter to have geometry, and place it behind something that’s refractive… even if the light emitter’s geometry is set to be hidden, the refractive material will render it. Basically… you can see invisible things in refractive materials. ๐Ÿ˜› This meant you could clearly see a black circle in the egg, that black circle being the emitter I was using to get the water reflections around the egg cup.

Notice the solid black circle which only appears in the egg? That’s the light emitter which is supposed to be invisible!!

Trying to think of ways to fix this without cheating pretty much drained about 4 hours of my time. ๐Ÿ˜› I even went back to the Canvases feature in desperation, trying to figure it out so I could fix the issue I was having, but nope. In the end, I had to cheat and render the scene twice, once with the emitter on, and once with it off, and combined the two images in post to get the reflections without the black circle. It made me feel a bit dirty. ๐Ÿ˜›

After realising that cheating was my only option, and fixing some problems where the lighting changed completely when enabling the Caustic sampler, I was ready to go. But of course, I had to make two more foolish mistakes. ๐Ÿ˜› Firstly, I forgot to increase the maximum render time again. DAZ Studio has idiotic defaults where it will stop rendering regardless of the convergence rate if either two hours pass or Iray does 5000 iterations, and you still can’t change the defaults! It’s very rare for any of my renders to take less than two hours, goddamn it! (angry emoji) But my second mistake after that which was even more annoying? I trusted a friggin’ plugin I’d discovered a few days before. ๐Ÿ˜›

It’s a render queue. Basically, something DAZ Studio should have, but doesn’t, because they’d rather spend years adding “strand-based hair” and other much less useful shit first. ๐Ÿ˜› As you can probably tell, the render queue lets you render one scene after another without input. I was a bit skeptical, but in my tests, it actually seemed to work, so I trusted it with rendering these two scenes. When I came back to it the next day, it claimed it had finished, but I could only find one render. That’s when I realised that whoever coded this made two massive schoolboy errors!

My scenes were called something like “The One True Egg 45.1.duf” and “The One True Egg 45.2.duf”. What this idiot plugin does is look at the name of your scene file, find the first dot, and discard everything after it to get the render file name. Presumably, it does this to strip the file extension, but for fuck’s sake, this logic is completely wrong!! When you do that to the scene names above, you get “The One True Egg 45” for both of them! You’re supposed to check for the last dot and strip everything beyond that! I didn’t notice this idiocy before rendering because, as you can see in the screenshot above, the window didn’t show the full target path! I just assumed the target paths would be correct, because why wouldn’t I?! But after scrolling across the window after about 8 wasted hours of rendering, BOOM! That’s when I realised that the coder was a dumbass!

And hey, as if that’s not enough, it doesn’t even bother to check if the file it wants to save already exists before saving it! So the plugin just goes “yep just save with that file name I’m sure it’ll be fine” and shits all over what was already there without giving half a damn! Oh my God, why do you not check if the file already exists?! Both of these errors are so ridiculously basic that all I can imagine is that the author wrote the code, then never looked at it again! Never considered any kind of edge case! That just seems like an “I don’t give a crap” attitude, to me. So yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by this plugin at first, and was gonna keep it after I’d confirmed it working in a real-world situation, but hah, not any more! No chance. I just can’t deal with half-arsed plugins that waste my time. I’ve already asked for a refund. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway… I’m calm. I’m calm… FUCK YOU I’m calm. Come on, MongMaster, zennnn… sit like the dragon and praise the One True Egg… thaaat’s better. ๐Ÿ˜›

That was the last thing that went wrong, thankfully. ๐Ÿ˜€ After that, I re-rendered the scene four times (twice for the character-focused version, twice for the desktop version), and all was good and stuff. ๐Ÿ˜€ At Quality 2, with the Caustic and Architectural samplers on, the character-focused render (6.7MP) took 7 hours 6 minutes 20.2 seconds in total, which was much longer than I initially expected. And that was using both GPUs, because the scene was quite light on GPU memory. As for the 4K render (8.2MP), it took 3 hours 52 minutes 29.3 seconds in total, which makes NO SENSE. It has 22% more pixels but it rendered 80% faster! :S Maybe it’s something to do with the image dimensions? I dunno. Magic. ๐Ÿ˜›

As for postwork, that consisted of merging the two different renders together to get some nice light around the One True Egg’s eggcup without having a black circle within the Egg, blurring out some noise that the post-denoiser didn’t get for some reason, adding some glint to the dragon’s eyes, tweaking contrast, levels and saturation, and adding a vignette. Here’re the two different renders before postwork, so you can hopefully see what I mean:

The render without the water light.
The render with the water light. Notice the black circle in the Egg, and the shadow on the dragon’s legs.

fix your shitting editor wordpress oh my god

Continuing the recent tradition, I created a timelapse of this render, too, adding some mildly-related music behind the video. ๐Ÿ˜€ I really struggled for tracks this time, though, because for SOME reason, no-one wants to sing songs about eggs. ๐Ÿ˜› Still, I just about managed to scrape together enough egg-related songs for the video. First off, there’s “E.G.G.M.A.N” from Sonic Adventure 2, followed by “Do The Funky Chicken” by Rufus Thomas (sorry, not sorry ๐Ÿ˜› ), and finally, “Egg Shaped Fred” by Mansun. ๐Ÿ˜€ I was tempted to include “Tails and Dr Eggman Fight but Dr Eggman Dies In An Explosion” by Sonic4ever on there, but I thought I’d use Eggman’s theme instead. ๐Ÿ˜› You can check the timelapse out here, and watch me keep changing things and flail around with Canvases and slowly lose my sanity (not like I had much in the first place ๐Ÿ˜› ). Yes, I’ve tried embedding the video in the blog post again, but it’s still not working. And I don’t want to use YouTube because they’ll be all like WAAAAAAAH COPYRIGHTED MUSIC, even on unlisted videos, and even though I’m not profiting off using it. ๐Ÿ˜›

Oh ya, also, like I did with Dino Disco, I drew some notes over my preliminary renders that pointed out problems and things that were going well. I’ve found that this really helps keep my thoughts straight and helps prevent me from forgetting something that I need to fix before the final render. And when the render’s finished, it becomes a nice history of how the render evolved over time. ๐Ÿ˜€ Here it is:

I also thought I’d try doing something else new and dumb with my renders, for cheap lols important research purposes. ๐Ÿ˜› I’m not sure if you know, but Microsoft released something a while back called CaptionBot. It’s an AI which looks at an image you give it and tries to describe it, usually with terrible results. ๐Ÿ˜› So, I thought I’d feed CaptionBot my renders and see what it says it is. I’m hoping to be surprised at some point, but I’m mostly just expecting it to fail. ๐Ÿ˜› Here’s what it thought about this render:

Boooring. You could’ve at least tried to describe it. That would have been funnier. ๐Ÿ˜› But hey, it recognised that something was sitting down! Not sure where it got “cake” from, though. ๐Ÿ˜›

Oh, but there’s something similar to this that I’ve found really impressive, though: Clarifai. It does the same kind of thing, but instead of trying to form a sentence, it just spits out a list of words that match the concept of the image, along with a “confidence” value. It has all sorts of other features, too face detection, a colour breakdown of the image, and can even determine if it’s NSFW… and now I have a huge urge to try and break that feature for some reason. ๐Ÿ˜› Aside from the explicit content detection, I’m not exactly sure what kind of serious use-case all this stuff has, but anyway, there’s a section of the site that lets you try it out, and it’s amazing how close it can get:

“Meditation”, “Zen”, “Spirituality”, “Candle”… there’re so many accurate terms there, it’s crazy! :O However, it didn’t see “dragon” (slightly understandable) or “egg” (bit of a blunder there ๐Ÿ˜› ). And yes, it says it’s SFW with 96.8% confidence. ๐Ÿ˜› I might make this a thing. CaptionBot vs Clarifai! ๐Ÿ˜€ Ahhh, I’m such a gorm. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, I kind of went off-topic at the end there, but I hope you like the render! Let me know what you think. ๐Ÿ˜€ For now, though, I think I’ll stop writing junk and go and shoot some more giant insects on EDF 5, which thankfully came out on Best Console recently (thank you Sandlot/D3Publisher/whoever else was involved! ๐Ÿ˜€ ).

Egg and Be True, everyone! ๐Ÿ˜€

UPDATE!!
Firstly, many thanks for the likes! Honestly, it means a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚

A couple days after finishing and posting this render, I found myself thinking about it. To me, this scene represents light, and the good side of things… but what about the dark side? I wondered… could I pull a 180 on the atmosphere and make a dark, evil version of this scene?

To find out, I decided to revisit the scene, and began a corruption spree. I took everything I could think of, and flipped it around. White turned into black, sky blue became blood red… and before long, I found it: the Dark Side of the Egg!

So, so EVIL! ๐Ÿ˜€ I just took the words “evil” and “corruption”, and ran with them. The environment changes consist of the red lighting, the red “Dark Egg”, flipping the candle positions around and giving them red flames, as well as darkening the rocks and sand around the edges of the pool. As for the dragon, aside from the very obvious black scales, I made his eyes and wing membranes red, gave him new horns with a modified texture, made his facial expression more aggressive, lowered his arms, lengthened his talons, and gave him a bit more bulk. Good experiment, methinks! I had fun with it, at least. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ve added it to the Render Flavour List under the main render near the top of the post, but of course, you can see the full version by clicking on it above. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have the desktop version of the render in progress, and I’ll post it at some point tomorrow. I had an idea for a dual-monitor desktop wallpaper version of this, as well. Nothing special: just a simple compilation of both renders, side-by-side. If it doesn’t end up being a turd, I’ll post that here, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

As Ulala would say: staaaay tuned!

UPDATE!! (2)
I created the desktop versions of Dark Side of the Egg. You can get them from the Render Flavour List above, where the main render is. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also created a basic dual-monitor version, where both renders “blend” together slightly. However, I realised that it’s not going to work for everyone unless I make about a million different versions of it. ๐Ÿ˜› For two monitors of the same resolution, it’s easy, but if the monitors are different resolutions, it gets tricky.

I made Double 4K, Double 2K and Double 1080p versions, though. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also made a 4K + 1080p version to put on my desktop at work, and if you have a look at that version, I think you’ll understand what I mean when I say it gets tricky, and why I decided to stop there. ๐Ÿ˜› Having said that, if you do want a specific version for your monitor setup, just ask, and I’ll create it for ya when I get some time. ๐Ÿ˜€ Unless it’s triple monitors or something crazy like that. ๐Ÿ˜›

A night like this, 40 million years ago…

O haiii! ๐Ÿ™‚

I be speaking writing SPRITING (omg no) writing to you this time from the comfort of my (somewhat) new laptop! ๐Ÿ˜€ Aye, I got one for those occasions when I get in from work and all I feel like doing is eating some food before faceplanting my face on my bed, but don’t want to go to sleep immediately and don’t want to play games but still want to do something with my brain, like writing. Specific, I know. ๐Ÿ˜› I already have a cheaper, sort-of-laptop that I backed on Kickstarter a while ago, but it turned out to be pretty much the worst thing I ever bought and is now just stuffed in a drawer somewhere. I have a ranty post somewhere in drafts about it and my reasons for getting it, and I’ve been meaning to clean up and post that for ages now, but I never got around to it. Maybe I’m putting it off because it’s all ranty and negative and crap. Writing negatively is fun sometimes, but I understand that reading negative stuff is usually like “ahhh stfu no-one cares ya shartface”. ๐Ÿ˜›

Oh, as we’re on the subject of computers, another technomological-related thing that happened recently was that I realised that my Raspberry Pi server was kind of… massively overworked. It was working as a media server, web server, backup device and downloader, and I’m pretty sure it hated me for it. ๐Ÿ˜› So, I decided to give it a POWER UP!

It’s now the machine on the right of that picture. So… slightly bigger than a Pi, now. ๐Ÿ˜› It’s basically the leftover bits of my old PC build all stuck together inside a stupidly cheap case with a low-end power supply and tiny CPU fan. Cost about ยฃ80 for the missing parts, and it’s pretty much just like my old machine was before its last major upgrade (pretty nippy!). Like the Pi, it’s running Linux (Ubuntu), which is the world’s worst OS until you have it all set up like you want it, and then it’s great! Uh, not for everyday use, though. ๐Ÿ˜› I called the new machine “Shard”. Because it’s as if the Pwnage-O-Matic (my main PC, the giant thing on the left side of the picture) was upgraded and left some shards of its old self behind which then became Shard. Or something. ๐Ÿ˜› Ahh, maybe I should’ve called it Snakeskin… no, no no no, shut up brain, Shard is good. ๐Ÿ˜›

Yes of course I name my computers. ๐Ÿ˜› The laptop’s called Dragonflight! Because it’s an MSI machine, which has a dragon as its mascot, and it’s free to move around as it wants, and it’s quite powerful! Uh, but it’s a really hungry dragon. It needs to eat like every three hours. Friggin’ laptop batteries, man… ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, no, none of that was the actual reason for this post! ๐Ÿ˜› Ahh, but maybe I can work the fact that I’m writing on the laptop into the actual post topic, somehow! Ahem… “So, MongMaster, why’re you writing to me on your laptop?!” I pretend to hear you ask. “Are ya just showing off, you fartnose?!” Yes, I be a showoff! But I’m not showing off the laptop… I’m showing off a NEW RENDER! ๐Ÿ˜€

But, uh… as I’m writing this first section of the post… the truth is that the render isn’t… actually done yet. ๐Ÿ˜› That’s why I can’t use the Pwnage-O-Matic right now. It’s been locked up all day, burning the CRAP out of my EXPENSIVE 1080Ti in what is the most complicated render I’ve made so far. ๐Ÿ˜› I mean, I could use it if I really needed to, but things will be slow and I’m kinda scared I’ll click the wrong button or do something the GPU really didn’t want me to do, which would cause it to crash and lose all the progress it’s made, and that would make me very angry and depressed at the same time which would cause a strange rip in space time and cause the universe to implode which would kinda ruin the weekend I have planned. So I’m not touching it. ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ve done some estimations using ULTRA SCIENCE and a simple calculator and figured out that the render is probably gonna take most of tomorrow, too (as of writing). Of course, to be honest, if it’s not done by the end of tomorrow, I’ll become very nervous and very bored, so I’ll probably end up stopping the render at that point and accepting whatever convergence ratio it’s reached. I think it’s entering the overkill phase of render quality right now, so I’m sure it’ll still look good if I do that. ๐Ÿ˜›

For now, though, I think I’ll save this into drafts and come back tomorrow to finish it off. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hello tomorrow! Uh, today! Yesterday it was tomorrow, but today it’s toda- yeah, you get the idea. ๐Ÿ˜›

So, I never told you the idea behind this render yesterday. Today. ๐Ÿ˜› Well… it was inspired by two different songs, one which I heard a while ago, and one I heard recently which ended up being the catalyst for the idea. The first song, the one I heard a while ago, is Liskodisko, by Hevisaurus. Yes, I’m still listening to them, and yes I know it’s Finnish so I barely understand a word, and yes I know it’s supposed to be a children’s band, but… DINOSAURS? PLAYING METAL? HELLO?! ๐Ÿ˜› Honestly, I’d go so far as to say they’re my favourite band ever. They’re that perfect combination of unique, crazy, fun, and genuinely great. XD Anyway, as you can probably tell, “liskodisko” means “lizard disco”. Translating the lyrics of that song seems impossible for me, mainly because, as I said, I have almost zero understanding of Finnish, and partially because Google Translate just spits out total crap most of the time, but it’s pretty obvious that the song is about a bunch of dinosaurs or lizards partying at a disco and generally being crazy. I’m pretty sure there’s something in there about Herra Hevisaurus (vocalist) and Muffi Puffi (bassist) somehow falling over and getting tangled up after some kinda comic chain reaction, too. ๐Ÿ˜€

You might be able to tell where this is going already, but I’ll keep boring you with my explanations for now. ๐Ÿ˜›

The second song, the “catalyst”, popped up while I was listening to an online radio-station-but-not-really called DI.FM (not an advertisement, I hate ads, please use AdGuard on my site, I hate the shitty clickbait ads everyone is forced to see but refuse to give WordPress money to remove them ๐Ÿ˜› ). DI.FM’s great for me, because it’s focused more on genres and music shows, which I hugely prefer over specific artists or eras, and I like hearing a random shuffle of tracks rather than going through set playlists. Anyway, I was listening to the Glitch Hop channel one day at work. It’s quite a cool genre until a horrendous, ear-raping turd of a track comes up, but it sometimes plays really awesome, funky tracks that get stuck in my head for days. One of these songs was a glitch remix of a well-known song by Was Not Was, called Walk the Dinosaur. You probably know it. ๐Ÿ˜€ The track’s great fun until you read into the lyrics and find that it’s actually a insanely convoluted protest against the Cold War. Of course, being me, I completely don’t care about that and just take the song at face value. ๐Ÿ˜›

I found myself letting my mind drift a bit as I listening to the lyrics of that song, taking them literally. I even ended up mishearing a lyric, and it actually helped the idea (I thought “I walked the dinosaur” sounded a lot like “I was a dinosaur” ๐Ÿ˜› ). “Open the door, get on the (DANCE)FLOOR, everybody walk the DINOSAUR.” That, combined with remembering Liskodisko at the same time, was pretty much the moment where my brain went “AAAHAAAAAA! I HAVE AN IDEAAAAA!” and I had to stifle a laugh at the idea, cuz I was in the office and was supposed to be trying to figure out an incredibly irritating and boring bug I’d been working on for about a week. ๐Ÿ˜›

So… on a night like this, 40 million years ago, yeee-eah-heah the lizard disco’s starting! Everyone kick your legs in the air! This is the DINO DISCO!!

There’re some more flavours here!
(1080p) (2K) (4K)

YEAAAAAAAAHAHAHAAAAAHHHH!! DISCO DANCING DINOSAURS!! WOOOOOOOOO!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

Haaaahh… ahaha… okay okay… okay, I’m calm… I’m calm. Sorry. ๐Ÿ˜› I was just super-excited to share this one, because I think it’s my best render yet. ๐Ÿ˜€

Were you surprised? I mean, look! There isn’t a single dragon in there! :O That’s another reason why I thought this scene would be an interesting, fun one to do: I’ve never posed or rendered dinosaurs into a polished, “final” piece before. No, that one I did with the kaiju, “Monster Fight!“, doesn’t count. ๐Ÿ˜› Hell, even in my big cesspit of rough/test renders, I’ve only ever posed one dinosaur-like thing before. So making dinosaurs dance as my first real posing attempt? Sure, why not dive in at the deep end?! ๐Ÿ˜€ I mean, if I can help dragons break their boundaries and do things like play basketball or play chess or code at 1AM, why can’t I help dinosaurs dance the night away at a disco?! ๐Ÿ˜€

Gotta say, though… this scene turned out wayyyy more complex than I originally thought it’d be. At first, there were only about 5 dinosaurs, but when I noticed the scene looked a bit “dead” in my first preliminary render, I decided to add more… and it ended up having 10. That means it broke my record for the most number of unique subjects in a single scene (that record was previously held by Fast Break, with 9 uniques). ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m… glad the subject count stopped at 10, though, because this render was the first one since Monster. Hunter. that really made me want to punch DAZ Studio’s face in the face. ๐Ÿ˜› After adding all those different dinosaurs, the scene became so heavy that it stopped fitting in GPU memory. I have a GTX 1080Ti with 12GB of VRAM and it wouldn’t fit! I never thought that day would come, but aaaaargh it happened! And what does DS do when it can’t fit the scene in GPU memory? Why, it tries to render solely with the CPU, of course! And as I’ve said so many times, this is insanely irritating, because I always disable the CPU option under the render settings, but DS totally ignores that and tries it anyway! Yeah, the CPU might be able to render this scene, oh, in about a MONTH! And when this CPU render that I never asked for tries to start, it just takes so loooong to cancel because DS is stupid and dumb and ARRRGHHH! ๐Ÿ˜›

I fixed the memory issue in the usual way, by cutting the size of texture maps of things in the background, which somehow didn’t actually save that much memory, but it was enough. There was one other thing, though… I found that the Post Denoiser, the best thing DAZ added to DAZ Studio since Iray, sometimes turns itself off silently and without any warning. This seems to happen if you almost don’t have enough memory to render the scene. So, like automatically using the CPU when your GPU doesn’t have enough memory, this is yet another friggin’ stupid silent thing that DS does to “help”. Can’t they tell me when and why stuff like that happens?! It’s so annoying when it silently stops working and you have to fag around trying to figure out why!

Oh, this was the first time I tried out some volumetric lighting, too. DS doesn’t let you do it easily, of course, so I had to use an asset for it. Took a while to figure out and set up so it didn’t look like crap, but it worked well! It works by shining a stupid-bright light at a set of transparent planes with smoke textures on them. The “smoke” then catches the light and gives a volumetric effect. They seem to be quite expensive to render, though, and I had to do some postwork to remove some really ugly artefacts on one of the light sources, but overall, they turned out great, and added a lot of niceness to the final render. ๐Ÿ˜€

So… yeah, despite DS being annoying as usual when you push things right to the limit of what your machine can do, this all came together really nicely, IMHO. The thing I’m most proud of? Well… it’s gotta be that breakdancing raptor. XD I’m still not sure how I managed it. ๐Ÿ˜› What do you think, though? ๐Ÿ˜€

Now… time for some render stats! This was… by far, my longest render ever. At 4K, Rendering Quality 2 and with the Architectural sampler on, to reach a convergence ratio of 95%, it took… 1 DAY 16 hours 38 minutes 25.58 seconds!! Holy CRAP! :O And normally, I use something called the Caustic sampler, too, which increases quality of light refraction. However, when I tried to use it this time, it made the first three iterations take about three MINUTES. This render needed about 26,000 iterations! I ain’t got that kinda time, foo’! ๐Ÿ˜› It was probably the volumetric lighting that made the Caustic sampler hyper-expensive. As for postwork, there’s a fair bit this time. I blurred out some nasty, fuzzy artefacts in the background and on the red volumetric light facing the camera, covered up a blunder which resulted in a black circle near the raptor DJ (no WAY was I re-rendering the whole scene for that ๐Ÿ˜› ), added motion blur to different dinosaurs’ arms and legs, added a “fake bloom” effect (which is way better and more reliable than trusting Iray to do bloom ๐Ÿ˜› ), added a vignette, and did some vibrancy and levels tweaks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Also, I managed to create a timelapse video for this render, too! ๐Ÿ˜€ Let’s see… the WordPress editor appears to have changed very slightly, so let me try the OneDrive embed code again to see if it works this time…

Okay, it seems to work for me… but it did take 742 years to load. Oh. It stopped working for me, and suddenly says it’s blocked. And it’s suddenly working again. But you can’t make it go fullscreen. And now it’s forcing a redirect to the video page when it loads. And now it isn’t loading again. And now it is, but it still doesn’t go fullscreen. And now it’s blocked again. And it’s working again. UPDATE!!: NOPE, it’s way too unreliable, and doesn’t work in the mobile app anyway, so I’ve removed the embed. Fucking goddamn it, WordPress and/or OneDrive WHYYYYYY?! Sigh. Well, I guess my only option is a lame hyperlink. Click here if you want to watch the timelapse. ๐Ÿ™‚

Just like Fast Break, I added some music to it which (vaguely) matches the render’s theme. This time, the soundtrack consists of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, followed by the Crazy Daylight Refunk remix of Was Not Was’ “Walk The Dinosaur”, and finally, of course, “Liskodisko” by Hevisaurus… but while I love the song, I find that music video quite creepy. ๐Ÿ˜›

Also, one other thing (slightly) worth mentioning… if you do watch the timelapse, you might notice that I started writing notes over my preliminary renders. They pointed out problems I noticed, things that needed to change, and stuff that was going well. I’ve never done that before, but the notes really helped keep my thoughts straight, and I found it quite useful. Especially when I had a feeling that the render would take ages to finish. ๐Ÿ˜› And in the end, it became a nice “progress history” sort of thing, showing how the render evolved (and sometimes how it broke) after each set of tweaks. ๐Ÿ˜€ Here it is, if you’re interdasted:

Right… whew. I think I’m all partied out. Time for me to faceplant my bed again. ๐Ÿ˜› I hope you liked the render! See y’all later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Shootin’ some b-ball inside’a the gymnasium…

…when a ๐Ÿ‘ซ o’ ๐Ÿ‘จs, they were ๐Ÿ‘†โœŒ๏ธ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿ‘, ๐ŸŒŸ๐Ÿป makin’ trouble in my neighbourhoo– yeah, that. ๐Ÿ˜›
(I had to write that on my phone, cuz that’s where all the emoji that the kids use these days are. ๐Ÿ˜› )

Harro! How are you this fine weekend, or weekday if you didn’t read the post on a weekend? ๐Ÿ˜€ Me? I’m good, nothing particularly notable’s happened recently. Although I do need to phone Virgin Media because they “need information” about something or other. I’m upgrading to 350Mb from 200Mb after finding out that these titfaces have been overcharging me for pretty much no reason at all. I went onto their site the other day and found that I could upgrade to 350Mb for 13p more a month than I was paying for 200Mb. Shitheads. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, whine bitch moan no-one cares. ๐Ÿ˜› I do have something you might care about, though; a brand new, fresh, shiny, tasty* render! *oooooooooooh*
(*not edible)

This one came about from this bit of conversation with a friend:

This was awesome, because no-one’s ever requested a render from me before, and that alone makes me happy. ๐Ÿ˜€ But anyway, dragons playing basketball? Hell yeah! Totally my style! ๐Ÿ˜€

…Apart from that I didn’t have much of a clue about basketball. ๐Ÿ˜›

All I knew is that some very tall men in some vests bounce an orange ball around and try and get it through a hoop to score variable amounts of points depending on how far away from they hoop they were when they threw the ball. ๐Ÿ˜› So, I did some research, because I probably wasn’t going to get anywhere if I didn’t. ๐Ÿ™‚ I searched for pictures of people playing it for pose ideas and mostly just found pictures of basketball riots, then tried to watch some NBA game replays for scene composition ideas but was denied by Fox because I don’t live in America, so I settled for some random friendly match (which didn’t seem very friendly ๐Ÿ˜› ) on YouTube that wasn’t in English. ๐Ÿ˜› I also read about basketball rules and a page containing shit-tons of lingo on Wikipedia.

I was originally looking for some kind of lingo where I could play around with the words (or not) to make a double entendre (the clean kind ๐Ÿ˜› ) for the title. I was originally going for “monster jam”, but that’s just something I heard on Rocket League once, and it’s more commonly known as a motorsport event featuring monster trucks. But one of the terms on that Wikipedia page ended up giving me the general idea for the scene: “fast break”, where players try to advance the ball and score as quickly as possible, so I just went for that with the title, too.

So, here it is: Fast Break!

More flavours available here:
(1080p) (2K) (4K)

SLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM DUNK! Says me. ๐Ÿ˜›

Man, this one was so much fun to make! ๐Ÿ˜€ I was originally thinking of a scene with some action near the hoop, like a dragon leaping up to score while another leaps to defend, but after some playing around and discovery of the term “fast break”, I really liked the idea of a dragon confidently running up the court while the defenders prepare to intercept. It gave a much clearer focal point. ๐Ÿ˜€

This render contains the largest number of subjects I’ve ever rendered in one scene, including test renders: five main and technically four in the background, so nine in total! :O When I say there’s “technically” four in the background… that’s because I used DAZ Studio’s instancing system. I created four unique audience members and created two additional instances of each of them, which (apparently) saves resources when rendering. This means there’re actually 12 dragons on the bleachers, but eight of them are duplicates. I did this because… well, you’ll almost certainly never notice, because they’re waaaaaaay off in the background, miles into the camera’s depth of field annihilation zone. Would you have known if I hadn’t told you? ๐Ÿ˜€

I also realised there was a practical problem… team identification. I wasn’t going to give them clothes because A: I don’t like the idea of that, and B: the only items available are armour and saddles. ๐Ÿ˜› I was thinking of spraying player numbers onto their scales, but I didn’t go through with that because I thought it’d look shitey, and I’d had a better idea anyway: armbands! I thought they’d make it very clear without overdressing the dragon and making them look weird. ๐Ÿ™‚ So, I grabbed an armband that was intended for humans and hammered the shit out of it using my pathetic ZBrush skills, making a unique morph for each dragon so it would fit well. After doing armband morphs for four of them, I realised… you were only ever going to see two of the armbands. What a pleb I am. ๐Ÿ˜› Ah well.

As for postwork, I did quite a bit of it this time. I applied motion blur to the red dragon’s legs and his left arm, as well as the green dragon’s legs. I also added motion blur to the ball. I would’ve done this in Iray rather than Photoshop, but you can’t. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 3Delight supports motion blur, but I have no idea how I’d get the motion blur out of that and slap it on top of an Iray render without it looking like… like ๐Ÿ’ฉ. ๐Ÿ˜› I also removed the nose horns from the red and green dragons, because you can’t remove them from the model itself… well, okay, I’m sure you can, but that would involve things like UV mapping which I don’t fully understand yet. ๐Ÿ˜› Finally, I added a normal vignette, and then perhaps most obviously, some manga-like “focus lines” as a secondary, stylized vignette. It took me ages to decide whether to go through with those focus lines, because I found them really distracting. Eventually, I softened them up and made them very transparent, which made them kind of “blend into” the image a bit more, complementing it and guiding your focus rather than stealing it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, instead of my usual “typed” signature, I used the signature I made for my sister’s Amai canvas print. I’m probably gonna do that from now on. ๐Ÿ™‚ For some weird reason which makes no sense, I… kinda prefer not having the title of the art there now. Shrug. ๐Ÿ˜› Might be because it looks a bit cleaner.

Oh, oh, yeah! There was something I was supposed to mention after doing Amai, but I totally forgot to mention it then, and I almost forgot to mention it here, too! ๐Ÿ™‚ Ever since starting to use Iray, I’ve had this irritating problem with the renders it spits out, where certain areas – usually reflective or out-of-focus – come out as grainy, fuzzy chunks of poo. The way I’ve dealt with the problem has evolved over time. Initially, I used a Gaussian blur in Photoshop, then began to use a combination of 0.6 radius Gaussian blur followed by a 0.6 radius Smart Sharpen. Most recently, I’ve been applying a stronger blur and sharpen to a Smart Object version of the image, then painting the effect mask depending on how strong I wanted the blur in certain parts of the image. Now, though? In the DAZ Studio 4.11 Beta, they’ve added this godsend, called the Post Denoiser:

Just click to make it available, click to enable it (not sure why there’re two steps, lel, it’s not a nuke ๐Ÿ˜› ) and boom, it kills that noise like the police killing a noisy party. ๐Ÿ˜› It can even make Iray viewport renders more useful by removing the initial noise early into the render so you can get a good idea of how the render will turn out in much less time! ๐Ÿ˜€ One thing, though: the default start iteration is 8, and while that’s great for viewport renders, I don’t know whether I can trust a number that low for final renders. If the denoiser starts early, it makes the image appear very, very messy early on, and I’m not sure if this is improved as time passes. For Fast Break, I first performed a render with the denoiser off to get a vague idea of how many iterations it would need. After it reached about 33% convergence, I stopped the render and set the start iteration to about the number of iterations it had performed, which, for this render, was about 2500. Thinking about it, though, I used the denoiser on Amai, but never adjusted the start iteration, and that turned out alright. So… maybe I’m worrying for no reason. ๐Ÿ˜› UPDATE 2!!: Yep! I did an experiment and found out that having the Post Denoiser on from an early iteration doesn’t make any difference to the final quality of the render; it comes out just as sharp as it would if the denoiser was set to begin at a later stage. So it’s a win-win; a more useful Iray viewport experience and no noisy renders! Yay! ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, whaddya think of the render? ๐Ÿ˜€ I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed making it. Special thanks to Ben for the request! ๐Ÿ™‚ I now understand basketball just a tiny bit more than I did originally. ๐Ÿ˜› To me, it’s like a crazy “sleight of hand” game, with all the insane passing techniques and dribbling tricks and stuff. ๐Ÿ˜€

Oh, crap, of course! Render stats! Yaaaaaaaay! ๐Ÿ˜› So, at 4K, with Rendering Quality 2, 98% convergence and everything nice on (Caustic and Architectual samplers), my 1080Ti and 970 pushed out a render in 9 hours 42 minutes 34.23 seconds, which, when you consider the 1080Ti, is a really long time! Some maths would suggest that on my old cards, this render (if it had been able to fit in the GPU memory, which it wouldn’t!) would have taken about 18 hours 16 minutes! :O I LOVE MY 1080TI! Best purchase ever. ๐Ÿ˜€

Right, I’m gonna bounce on outta here. Yeah, I went there. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ll leave you with one of the songs that started playing while I was making this render. I found it funny when it came up, because the lyrics say “make more rhymes than Michael Jordan make slam dunks”. XD

UPDATE!!
First off, I want to say thank you for the likes, everyone! It means a lot! ๐Ÿ™‚

While I was creating this render, I had PlayClaw recording with the hopes of creating a timelapse video for no apparent reason. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve tried doing this a few times in the past, but the videos always had something or other wrong with them, usually PlayClaw or Shadowplay silently crashing when I started a render, or sometimes for no reason at all (Shadowplay -.-). This time, though, the videos recorded with no problems, so I stuck them all into Premiere and made a… er… 5258.17% timelapse video, which you can check out here, if you’re interested! ๐Ÿ˜€ Almost everything is there, excluding the initial scene setup bit (because I forgot, oops ๐Ÿ˜› ), and the bits where I stopped recording to have a break to eat dinner or send messages or talk on the phone or poo. ๐Ÿ˜›

The video’s soundtrack consists of the song above, “Stimulation (New York Stage)” from Capcom vs SNK 2, followed by “The Fresh Prince of Tidal Tempest” by Qjimbo (I actually prefer that mashup over the original song XD), and finally “Jam” by Michael Jackson, which I chose because it has a music video with lots of basketballing in it. ๐Ÿ˜›

I do not apologise for the Fresh Prince. ๐Ÿ˜›

IT’S REAAAAL!

Aside

Just a quick one!

So, it’s my sista’s burfday today. ๐Ÿ™‚ A while ago, when I posted Amai (the render) on Jokebook, she mentioned that she’d have it as art, as in, to put on a wall. I lolled to myself and thought “yeah right, I don’t even consider it to be art”, but as I’m a (un)funny man, I jokingly replied with “burfday present sorted”. ๐Ÿ˜›

Turns out she was actually serious, though, so with no other burfday present ideas… I got it printed on canvas for her. It arrived way earlier than I expected and she opened it EARLY, NAUGHTY GIRL:

Eeeeeee! XD

I did a special 8K render for this, which may have been massive overkill, but hey, the site had a 40MB upload limit and I wasn’t going to take any chances. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve added it to the previous post, just in case someone wants to check it out. Made a proper signature too (took me half an hour, top lel ๐Ÿ˜› ). It was printed by HelloCanvas (not an advertisement, just a recommendation ๐Ÿ˜› ), and it looks like they did a good job! I haven’t seen it in real life, but from what I can tell, it came out pretty much as the preview suggested it would.

I’m glad she likes it so much! ๐Ÿ˜€ But she’d better not feel like she shouldn’t take it down when it becomes an eyesore. ๐Ÿ˜›

The age of love!

*da-da-daaaaaaaaaah, da, da, dah*

UPDATE 3!!: For people who have already read this post: I’ve now added the short story I promised – scroll down if you want to read it! ๐Ÿ™‚ For those who haven’t read the post yet, great timing! This is the form I wanted the post to take when I first posted it! ๐Ÿ˜›

Ahh, Valentine’s Day, or what I like to call “love reminder day”. “Hey, you know that person you’re in a relationship with? Did you know you’re supposed to love them? You should try being nice for just 24 hours! And buy a meal deal and stuff, too! Then we can buy our wives LAMBORGHINIS with the money!” ๐Ÿ˜›

Yeah, I don’t get it. Surely you should be nice to them every day? ๐Ÿ˜› Well, doesn’t matter to me; I’ve been single all my life, and I don’t think I want that to change. ๐Ÿ˜› I mean, it’s great! I get a whole double bed to myself, I can do any dumb shit I want and the only person that can screw me over is ME! ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, I normally don’t pay attention to Valentine’s Day, but a couple of days ago, my brain randomly decided to Do Stuff(tm), probably while I was bored, and as a result, an idea for a render occurred. ๐Ÿ˜€ Since then, I’ve been trying to bring it to life in two ways, even though my brain feels like it would rather just sleep. ๐Ÿ˜› But “NO” I say, “all I do at work nowadays is really boring shit that doesn’t make any difference, and I’m bored of not doing my own shit which I do find interesting, so #dealwithit and let me pose damn you!”

“Hangonhangonwait, what’s “bring it to life in two ways” supposed to mean?” I hear you ask in one of the many different multiverses. Well, hang on, I’m getting to that! Let me ramble! ๐Ÿ˜›

Unless you genuinely know me, or you’ve read my About page, or you’ve gone way back through to the horrible, rotten bowels of this blog, you probably don’t know that besides gaming, programming and rendering, I also have a passion for writing. I actually started writing a story way back in 2006. Shit… that long, huh? Damn, that even surprised me. I thought it was 2009. Oh, no, of course, I was still in school when I started, so that makes sense. No prizes for guessing what the story is about. ๐Ÿ˜›

And oh man… I did just go off on a tangent talking about that story, but realised that’s completely not the point of this post, and have removed those off-the-rails paragraphs. ๐Ÿ˜› Maybe I’ll talk about the story in future, if anyone cares (almost no-one cared back in school, so hey, I ain’t holding my breath now ๐Ÿ˜› ).

Anyway, yes, I like writing. I don’t think I’m too bad at it, either. Sure, my writing style might be a little basic and my vocabulary might not be as refined as other people, but whatever, I enjoy it, and I sometimes find that I really like reading back what I write, which sounds insanely vain and I now need to slap myself, just a sec…

Ow.

But yeah, for this render, I thought I’d recruit a couple of characters from that story I mentioned and put them in a scene suitable for Valentine’s Day. I also thought it would be really cool to write a short story to go with it, and set a scene beyond the static image. And that, good sir and/or madam, is what I meant by “bringing it to life in two ways”. ๐Ÿ™‚

UNFORTUNATELY, I suck, and haven’t managed to get the side salad of writing done in time. -.- It’s currently 292 words, hasn’t really progressed past the intro yet, and I was hoping for it to be at least a couple thousand words. ๐Ÿ˜› I blame my tiredness, the render I only just finished this evening, and the postwork of said render, which wasn’t even complicated yet took me about an hour before I was happy with it. ๐Ÿ˜› But no matter, at least I have the render to show you just in time, sort of, just, 5 minutes before Valentine’s is over. ๐Ÿ˜›

So, I present to you, my Valentine’s render, two ways, with grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon and a caramel jus, topped with a sprinkling of love:

You can get this one in a ton of different flavours:
Colour: (2560 Square) (1080p) (2K) (4K) (8K Square)
Monochrome: (2560 Square) (1080p) (2K) (4K)

The story comes next, but if you’d prefer, I have it as a PDF, complete with a cover page. Feel free to grab it here!


Amai

โ€œWhirlwind. Iโ€ฆ I have something I need to talk to you about. Meet me in our chamber at sundown.โ€

Those words stayed with me for hours.

That serious look in her eyes, that stern expressionโ€ฆ and her voiceโ€ฆ Gods, it was so sharp, even thinking of it felt like it was piercing the scales on my chest. I had never seen Emerald like that before, and itโ€ฆ it worried me more than anything. Was she alright? Could she have been unwell? Noโ€ฆ she would ask Shikaru or myself for help if that was the case. She would never be so secretive about an illness, or an injury. B-but then againโ€ฆ maybe it was something she only felt comfortable sharing with me? Or maybe she was upset about something? Had Iโ€ฆ had I wronged her in some way? Rrrghโ€ฆ all these dark thoughts recentlyโ€ฆ

โ€œYoohoo, Guira to Sin! You awake up there?โ€

I shook my head and blinked a few times to force myself out of my thoughts and back into reality. I found myself sat by a campfire with a few of the other dragons, while beautiful trees and foliage of the forest surrounded us on all sides. To my left was Thunder, a Great Dragon, his bright yellow scales gently crackling with energy as always. Opposite me was Shadow, a Western Dragon like myself, as black as night, and with sharp, crimson eyes that could easily pierce the darkness. And to my right was the owner of the voice I had heard: Ifri, a smaller breed of dragon known as a Drake, his personality still as vibrant as the bright red scales covering his body.

โ€œHeh, you alright, kin? You keep daydreaminโ€™!โ€ Ifri asked, his voice a mix of playful curiosity and genuine concern. โ€œHas Em been keepinโ€™ you awake the past few nights, or somethinโ€™?โ€

โ€œN-no, no, itโ€™s nothing like that.โ€ I denied, lowering my head. โ€œSorry, Iโ€ฆ kinda just got lost in my thoughts. What were you saying?โ€

โ€œWas just wonderinโ€™ about where youโ€™re goinโ€™ at sundown.โ€ Ifri said. โ€œYou made it sound pretty heavy, and that just makes me curious. Whatโ€™s it about?โ€

A short growl emanated from Thunderโ€™s throat as that question was asked.

โ€œIfri, this is the third time you have pressed Sintarka about this, tonight.โ€ Thunder said, with a hint of annoyance. โ€œHe has already explained twice before that he does not know.โ€

โ€œI-itโ€™s alright, Thunder.โ€ I said, shaking my head. โ€œButโ€ฆ heโ€™s right, though, Ifri. I honestly donโ€™t know what itโ€™s about. All I know is that it just soundedโ€ฆ really serious.โ€

โ€œAhโ€ฆ I see. Fair enough.โ€ He said, lowering his head a moment, before raising it again for another question. โ€œSoโ€ฆ whoโ€™re you meeting?โ€

โ€œIfri, enikkyanar slara!โ€ Thunder growled. โ€œSintarka, mear neโ€™surin sar karkakurta slara.โ€
(โ€œIfri, stop nagging him! Whirlwind, do not feel you have to tell him.โ€)

โ€œN-neโ€ฆ siturk aram.โ€ I replied, with some hesitation. โ€œItโ€™sโ€ฆ itโ€™s with Emerald.โ€
(โ€œN-noโ€ฆ itโ€™s okay.โ€)

โ€œOh. Ohhhh.โ€ Ifri said, seemingly realising something I didnโ€™t.

โ€œWhat?โ€ I asked, frowning slightly.

โ€œNo, no, itโ€™s alright, kin.โ€ He replied. โ€œI wouldnโ€™t worry if I were you. In fact, Iโ€™d say youโ€™re probably in for a good nโ€”mmmf!โ€

Shadow quickly and forcefully cut Ifri off mid-sentence, clasping his claw firmly around the drakeโ€™s muzzle. Ifri tried to loosen Shadowโ€™s grip and voice his disapproval, but all he could manage was a few muffled cries of protest.

โ€œThatโ€™s enough out of you.โ€ Shadow said, with a growl. โ€œThe Sunโ€™s already begun to set, Sin. Shouldnโ€™t you get going?โ€

I looked to the Sun through the trees of the forest and was surprised to see just how far it had dipped. The sky had already turned to a beautiful shade of orange, the Sun casting its warm, wonderful light over the already-wonderful Forest Realm. Despite the sunsetโ€™s calming beauty, it had caused an unpleasant nervousness to suddenly take root in my gut. It was timeโ€ฆ

โ€œAh! Y-youโ€™re right. Thanks, Shadow.โ€ I said, quickly getting to my feet. โ€œI-Iโ€™ll see you guys later.โ€

โ€œKar ne fir, Sintarka.โ€ Thunder assured me. โ€œI am sure things will be okay.โ€
(โ€œHave no fear, Whirlwind.โ€)

I nodded, letting out a short growl of appreciation before heading to our nearby cave. Etched into the cliffside, and tunnelling surprisingly far beneath the surface, it was a very impressive cavern with more than enough space to shelter all six of us. Tonight, however, with Thunder, Ifri and Shadow socialising outside and Shikaru out hunting, only one person was in here. Emeraldโ€ฆ my mate.

Words canโ€™t convey how much I cared for her. Our matehood was proof of that. Dragons only enter matehood with those they truly, truly love, because when a dragon chooses a mate, that bond lasts for the rest of their life. But for meโ€ฆ I loved her so much, that I would have been happy to journey into the afterlife with her still by my side.

Ever since the Battle of Eache Grak, thoughโ€ฆ we had been apart. I didnโ€™t even know if she was alive, and I feared that I had lost her forever. This fear left me feelingโ€ฆ lost, and empty, and as a result, I slowly began to lose my will to fight. However, as the years passed, fortune began to smile upon me. I was able to meet up with some old friends and allies, and even make new ones at the same time. This gave me hope. Hope that I would one day find her. And thenโ€ฆ finally. After 22 long years, I got the lead I was praying for. One that led me to my mate, alive and well.

Knowing that she was safeโ€ฆ knowing that the children that she had spent all that time raising on her own were safeโ€ฆ it reignited that flame inside me. It gave me a reason to keep fighting. I wanted to fight for Guiraโ€™s futureโ€ฆ and in turn, I wanted to fight for the future of my loved ones. I wasnโ€™t going to let anyone, human or dragon, stand in the way of that future.

But todayโ€ฆ I was afraid. Emerald was my drive, my reason to fight, but the way she acted today gave me the frightening thought that she was unhappy with me. What was she going to do? What was she going to say? D-did sheโ€ฆ intend to rescind our matehoodโ€ฆ?!

I stopped walking, shivering at that thought. Gods, noโ€ฆ no, no, that wouldโ€ฆ it would rip me apart. The thought shook me so much that I instinctively lowered my head and closed my eyes, giving a silent prayer for the contrary.

A few moments later, I continued through the cave, soon reaching the passageway that led to our chamber. As the gentle pattering of my footsteps echoed throughout the hall, my heartbeat hastened, and I felt my wings start to tremble with nerves. Gods, I couldnโ€™t go in like this. I stopped again for a moment, taking a deep breath to steel myself for what was to come. Then, when I felt I was ready, I bravely stepped forward, and turned the last corner.

I wasnโ€™t ready.

โ€œS-susaโ€ฆ!โ€
(โ€œW-wowโ€ฆ!โ€)

That word escaped my maw before I could hold it back. In the chamber, with only candlelight to illuminate her stunning, scintillating green scales, Emerald was lying there, a mesmerising sight to behold. As she saw me enter the chamber, she gently blew a ring of smoke in my directionโ€ฆ in the shape of a heart.

โ€œEvening, Sin.โ€ She said, with a smile.

That smile told me everything. That serious, stern look I saw on her muzzle earlier in the day was nothing more than a ruse. She did all that to hide this surprise she had in store for me. Immediately, I felt that huge, heavy weight that had been with me all day lift from my shouldersโ€ฆ and with no words to respond with, all I could do was laugh, turn to the wall next to me, and press the top of my head into it.

โ€œHeh, whatโ€™s wrong? Was this a bit much of a surprise?โ€ She asked, with a chuckle of her own.

I turned from the wall, and began to approach her, my laughter slowly dying down.

โ€œViraโ€ฆ you evil, evil dragoness.โ€ I said, with a smile. โ€œAll day, Iโ€™ve been worrying that there was something seriously wrong!โ€

Emerald laughed, shaking her head slowly in response.

โ€œSorry, love. In hindsightโ€ฆ I-I probably did go a bit far this morning.โ€ She admitted. โ€œI didnโ€™t mean to be so harsh, I justโ€ฆ wanted to throw you off the scent. I wanted to surprise you.โ€

โ€œRrrh, like I could ever be mad at you.โ€ I said, softly. โ€œCome here.โ€

Emerald raised her head to mine as I got close, allowing me to nuzzle her, lovingly. She responded with a soft, affectionate purr, each time our muzzles stroked against each other. We stayed like this for a few tender moments, until I found it impossible to hold back the one question that was on my mind.

โ€œSoโ€ฆ whatโ€™s all this about, then?โ€ I finally asked, as I moved my muzzle away from hers. โ€œWhatโ€™s the occasion?โ€

โ€œDonโ€™t you know what day it is today, Sin?โ€ She asked, simply.

I furrowed by brow, and thought for a moment. The days seemed to fly by, recently, so I often had trouble keeping up. Butโ€ฆ as far as I was aware, today wasnโ€™t a particularly special day. It wasnโ€™t the anniversary of our matehoodโ€ฆ right? Had I forgotten something?

โ€œโ€ฆMasnakdia?โ€ I said, jokingly.
(โ€œThursday?โ€)

โ€œYou dunce, Sin. Itโ€™s Kainakdia (Friday).โ€ She chuckled.

โ€œAh, heh. Iโ€ฆ I clearly donโ€™t know, then. Sorry…โ€ I replied, blushing.

โ€œItโ€™s alright!โ€ She assured me. โ€œItโ€™s the first time weโ€™ve been able to spend it together, after all.โ€

I tilted my head, puzzled. Before I could open my muzzle to ask her, she brought her lips to mine, and kissed me, gently.

โ€œArasi Franaieโ€™dianas, mis amai.โ€ She whispered.
(โ€œHappy Franaie Day, my love.โ€)

โ€œF-Franaieโ€™dianas?โ€ I asked, before gasping with realisation. โ€œA-ah!โ€

โ€œYouโ€™ve remembered?โ€ She said, with a smile.

Franaieโ€™dianasโ€ฆ of course. โ€œFranaie Dayโ€ in Standard, it was one of the ten days of the year dedicated to each of the different Draconic Gods. Each of the Gods governed one of the ten elements, but they also governed two attributes each. On each of these ten days of celebration, those attributes were the focus of the festivities. This time, it was the day dragons honoured Franaie, the Goddess of Fire, and her attributes of love and confidence. On this day, dragons often cast aside shyness and fear to confess their love towards one they had feelings for, and those already in a matehood or partnership would express and affirm their love without worry or inhibition. And this sceneโ€ฆ was Emeraldโ€™s way of expressing her love to me.

โ€œYeahโ€ฆ I-Iโ€™ve just realised now. Damn itโ€ฆ how could I have forgotten?โ€ I said, ashamed. Emerald was right. This was the first time we had been able to spend this day together, and Iโ€™d gone ahead and forgotten. What a fool I wasโ€ฆ

โ€œSin, love, itโ€™s alright.โ€ She said, nuzzling me reassuringly. โ€œHonestly, I preferred it this way. That look on your face was so worth it. I love to surprise you like this.โ€

โ€œHeh, I knowโ€ฆ and I love that about you.โ€ I replied, with a chuckle. โ€œBut all this feels soโ€ฆ familiar. Didnโ€™t you do something like this on the day we declared matehood?โ€

Emeraldโ€™s face lit up.

โ€œAh, you remembered!โ€ She said, happily. โ€œMaybe your memory isnโ€™t as bad as I thought!โ€

โ€œPah, like Iโ€™m ever going to forget that day, Vira.โ€ I replied, shaking my head as I began to reminisce. โ€œI remember it as if it was yesterday. You looked more beautiful than ever, and you seemed so confident at first glance, but after we began to talkโ€ฆ wow. Iโ€™ve never seen you so nervous, before or since.โ€

โ€œCan you really blame me?โ€ She said, defensively, but with a light-hearted tone.

โ€œOf course not! You were really brave that day. Hell, I wouldโ€™ve been even more nervous.โ€ I admitted. โ€œWhen I entered the chamber that day, kinda like tonight, I had no idea what it was all about. It never once crossed my mind that you wanted to propose matehood, right up until the moment you made it crystal clear. I-I meanโ€ฆ I never believed that aโ€ฆ a runt of a dragon like me was ever worthy to mate with a perfect, wonderful, angel of a dragoness like you.โ€

โ€œS-Sinโ€ฆโ€ She whispered.

โ€œI-I knew my love wasnโ€™t unrequited. I felt it all along during our partnership.โ€ I continued. โ€œBut Iโ€ฆ I never knew if the love I was showing you was enough. I was scaredโ€ฆ scared that I was genuinely not good enough for you. But when that day came, the day you spoke those wordsโ€ฆ โ€˜I would like to declare you as my mateโ€™โ€ฆ that was the greatest day of my life. And Iโ€™d never, ever forget it.โ€

I looked down, finally taking a breath. There I went again. My feelings for her gushing from my maw, with no way of stopping them. But before I could apologise, I felt Emerald embrace me, tightly, a few tears running down her muzzle.

โ€œD-donโ€™t you even dare to think about apologising, y-youโ€ฆ big, softโ€ฆโ€

She wanted to finish that sentence, but all her emotions allowed her to do was cry with joy. I let out a gentle chuckle, quietly putting my arms around her. There it wasโ€ฆ that wild telepathy of hers. She had managed to tame it in the years we were apart, but she always seemed to lose control of it when she got emotional. It was cute.

โ€œTchโ€ฆ c-cuteโ€ฆโ€ She whispered. โ€œI-Iโ€™d smack you if I didnโ€™t love you so muchโ€ฆ hehโ€ฆโ€

She managed a quiet laugh through her tears, and I smiled.

โ€œThanks for this surprise, Vira.โ€ I said, gratefully. โ€œYou looked amazing. And it was so nice to reminisce with you. It reminds me just how lucky I am to have you.โ€

โ€œOh, Sinโ€ฆ i-it was nothing, really.โ€ She said, wiping her tears away. โ€œIโ€™m glad you liked it. Itโ€™s always a pleasure to make you happy.โ€

โ€œWell thenโ€ฆ it would definitely make me happy to spend the rest of this evening with you. Is that okay with you?โ€ I asked, somewhat rhetorically. โ€œIt is Franaieโ€™dia, after all.โ€

โ€œHah, says the dragon who forgot about itโ€ฆโ€ She retorted, with a laugh.

โ€œTrust me, after thisโ€ฆ I wonโ€™t ever make that mistake again.โ€

She smiled, closing her eyes as I nuzzled her, lovingly. As I took hold of her claw in my right, and gently ran my left claw along the side of her muzzle, I whispered.

โ€œIr amai sar, Virana.โ€
(โ€œI love you, Emerald.โ€)














































TITANIC POWER TROUT!!
And thus normal service is resumed! ๐Ÿ˜›

Okay, let’s see, where should I start? Let’s start with the story, shall we?

That… was… a joy to write. ๐Ÿ˜€ I aimed for 2,000 words, but overshot and hit 2,478. Shows you how much I was getting into it. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve never written a scene quite like that before, and I didn’t know if I could do it. When it was written, and when I was happy with it, I actually felt a bit nervous to put it here. Probably because it’s a pretty big passion of mine and because I feel like I’m “exposing myself” a little bit by sharing it. NO, not like that, you know what I mean. ๐Ÿ˜› I really hope you enjoyed it, though, and I genuinely want to know what you thought! It’s been a long time since I shared some serious writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

I can’t think of much else to write about the writing. ๐Ÿ˜› So let’s move on to the stuff I’d written before, regarding the render.

AHHH! Go up there and look at them again! JUST LOOK AT THEM! LOOK AT ALL THE LOVE! THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT!

Damn! This render was so much different from what I normally do. It was partially inspired by “Shh… it’ll be okay…“, a very old (and not very good, but hey, gotta start somewhere ๐Ÿ˜› ) render I created when I was just getting started with DAZ Studio. Whereas that was a more solemn scene with a hint of love, this one is total love. And damn. I really enjoyed doing it, and really, really love the result. ๐Ÿ˜€ Aaand that was big-headed and vain. Slap time!

Ow.

Despite its apparent simplicity, this render was actually quite tricky! Sure, I knew exactly what I wanted when I began: I wanted them very close to each other, I wanted their necks to bend in such a way that they made the shape of a heart, and I wanted them to be nuzzling. However, after about half an hour or so of posing, I finally realised that achieving all of the above was impossible if the dragons were in a quadrupedal posture. ๐Ÿ˜› Besides, I then thought more carefully about it, and realised that they wouldn’t be able to do some other nice things in a quadrupedal posture, like hold each others’ claws.

So with that, I made them bipedal, but it was still difficult. It required really precise placement to get their chests to touch and their necks to bend in the right way without them looking ridiculous. Their necks needed lengthening, and I had to break several joint limits to achieve the nuzzling I wanted. Then there was the claw-holding that I wanted, which required really intricate posing, and probably took a lot longer than it needed to because I’m a dumb perfectionist and need to make sure those talons that you can’t see look okay and don’t pierce any scales. ๐Ÿ˜›

After the difficult posing, there was the lighting, which went way better than I thought it would, and I learned something new! I like doing that learning thing. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s like this: ever since starting to use proper three-point lighting, I’ve had this really annoying problem with shadows; they always turn out really sharp, and you can often notice multiple shadows from one character. That’s perfectly normal, I guess: you shine three different lights on someone, you get three shadows. But the difference is that Iray’s shadows were always quite sharp regardless of how far away the light was, and that just looks BALLS. ๐Ÿ˜› But I have found the SOLUTION, through random poking of things! ๐Ÿ˜€ LIGHT GEOMETRY:

Normally, it’s on “Point” by default. I never really understood why you’d want it on anything other than that, but now I do! ๐Ÿ˜› For some reason, in Iray, the bigger the light is, the blurrier the shadow becomes. It might be because the “point” option doesn’t really give the light a physical presence. It’s kind of a hack, really. Even if you point the camera at a spotlight with “point” geometry, you won’t see any light. However, the other options actually give the light a physical presence, so I guess Iray can light more accurately? I dunno. ๐Ÿ˜› Basically, giving Key and Fill lights geometry is a good idea because they’re usually out of the camera’s view. It’s probably not so useful for Rim lights, because they’re usually behind the subject and may appear in the render as a big white block, which would look BALLS! ๐Ÿ˜›

After lighting, there was the fact that these two are actually characters from my aforementioned story, so I wanted them to look at least vaguely close. Emerald, the green dragoness on the right, has silver horns, which wasn’t too difficult. Just needed a bunch of material tweaking. Whirlwind, the blue dragon on the left, however, has a blue crest down his neck, and for a moment I was pretty damn sure that was a loss because I can’t really model, and definitely didn’t have time to. ๐Ÿ˜› However, BRAINWAVE! I went way, way back, and grabbed the tail attachment from the Millenium Dragon! Of course, it needed some heavy-duty modding, so I used ZBrush to adjust the fins so several of them would look okay next to each other. After that, and a schitt-ton of texture tweaks, BLAM! Crest! Didn’t turn out too badly, either! I was worried I’d do all that just to bin it! ๐Ÿ˜€

Then there was postwork, which just consisted of the background and a saturation reduction. That background, though… goddamn, it took ages to settle on it. I don’t really know why. I think it was the colours. The pink I was using wasn’t really garish, but it stood out too much. It just… clashed with the colours of the dragons. The background was like “LOOK AT MEEEEEE!” while I was like “uh no, fuck you background, look at the dragons”. ๐Ÿ˜› It only started to look acceptable after I darkened it and desaturated it. Oh, by the way, speaking of desaturation? For some reason, this render looks fucking ACE in black and white. I’ll make an alternate monochrome version along with the background versions. ๐Ÿ˜€ UPDATE 2!!: I’ve added the monochrome versions and the usual set of resolution options! Go up there and check ’em out if you haven’t already! ๐Ÿ™‚

Also, unless you’ve read the story, you might be wondering what the title I gave it is all about, and what language it’s in. Well… “Amai” means “Love” in Guirian Draconic. And no, that language doesn’t exist. It’s a language I created for the story I keep mentioning. Yes really. No it’s not a cipher. No it doesn’t follow any kind of logical pattern. No it doesn’t cover the entirety of English; it’s currently only covering 317 336 words. (I created 19 more for the short story! ๐Ÿ˜€ )

The majority of the words are just random nonsense. Kamasa. There, that’s now the word for “nonsense”. ๐Ÿ˜› Put it in Google Translate and it’s apparently Hindi, a language which I’ve never spoken a word of. ๐Ÿ˜› I don’t know how I do it. But I fucking love it. XD

Annoyingly, though, I’ve just learned that “็”˜ใ„ (amai)” means “sweet” in Japanese. The word was intended to be a gibberish mix of the Italian “amore” and the Japanese “ๆ„› (ai)”, both of which mean “love”, but nope, I’ve just gone ahead and accidentally spoken pure Japanese. Damn it. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyhoo… whew… that’s about it. Sheesh. I don’t normally talk about a render that much after doing it. Sorry! XD

Anyway, now it’s time for the RENDER STATS! Yay! ๐Ÿ˜› Spoilers: this rendered like friggin’ LIGHTNING. At 2560×2560, with Rendering Quality 2, 98% convergence and basically everything nice on (caustic & architectual samplers), it took… 5 minutes 41.27 seconds! BOOM! Yes, really! To be honest, that was kind of expected, since there’s no environment, but even so… I was expecting it to take at least 15 minutes. ๐Ÿ˜› Damn, I love this rig. ๐Ÿ˜€

Gotta post this now! I’ve got like 20 seconds before it becomes invalid! I’ll make a better outro in a sec! ๐Ÿ˜›

UPDATE!!: OOOSH! Valentine’s post successfully made 15 seconds before Valentine’s Day ended! I call that a win! ๐Ÿ˜› Unfortunately, the story not being here is a FAIL! I’ll get it finished tomorrow… uh, today. ๐Ÿ˜› It’ll most likely be posted late on Friday 15th or in the early hours of the 16th. If you care. Which I really hope you do. Please care. XD UPDATE 3!!: Since you’re all the way down here, I’m sure you already know I’ve added the short story to the post. ๐Ÿ˜› But I just wanted to use this moment to say I SUCK because I said I was most likely going to post it in the early hours of the 16th at the latest, but GOD DAMN it took a LOT longer to write than I expected. I spent at least 6 hours on it between Friday evening and Saturday very-morning, and then spent pretty much the whole of Saturday evening and a bit of Sunday very-morning on it. It took around 14 hours total. And it was so, so worth it. ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, laterz, y’all! And be nice to your partner for the next 364 days, too! ๐Ÿ˜›

By the way, in case you didn’t catch it, the post title is a reference to this:

(And holy shit what was that, that has to be one of the worst music videos I’ve ever seen. XD)

UPDATE 4!!
I did a special 8K render of Amai for birthday reasons, which I’ve added to the Render Flavour List. Hehe, I’ll call it that from now on. I’m such a spaz. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, I’d love to tell you how long it took, but it’s not in the log file. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It’s 10x more pixels, so I assume it took 10x longer? I dunno. Let’s say it took an hour. I’m pretty sure it took longer, though. ๐Ÿ˜›

Monster Hunter on PC.

Friggin’ took them long enough! ๐Ÿ˜›

So, my experience with Monster Hunter is fairly long, and… very rocky. ๐Ÿ˜› There are a fair few posts in here detailing my frustration with the series, actually (this one’s okay, but plz don’t look at the other posts, some of them are so pathetically whiny and often very wrong ๐Ÿ˜› ). I “get” the game, the idea really works for me, so I should enjoy it… right? But nope. With the exception of Monster Hunter 4 which resolved a few killer issues I had with previous games, I’ve hated every Monster Hunter game I’ve played. After playing the game, hell, even with MH4, I always come out of the other end of it thinking “for fuck’s sake, why the hell (insert complaint here)”. Let me throw out a few examples…

1: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell did they make these monsters so goddamn cheap?”

Most of my negative memories come from Monster Hunter games on the PSP, specifically Monster Hunter Freedom: Unite (MHFU). The “difficulty” of MHFU was just painful. Notice the quotes, indicating sarcasm. ๐Ÿ˜› Personally, I prefer difficult games. I find them more fun, they give a better sense of accomplishment, and they generally feel much better to play. However, there’s a fine line between “difficult” and “cheap”, and when that line is crossed, I get a burning desire to dump a tanker of wallpaper paste into the studio of the developers responsible. ๐Ÿ˜› I remember two monsters in MHFU that crossed that line so blatantly that it blew my mind that they actually got away with it, to the point where I actually still can’t believe it was for real. For example, Kushala Daora, a dragon that can generate a wind shield, was effectively broken. The wind shield instantly interrupts anything you do when you get close, so you basically can’t land any hits, and the thing you need to break to remove the shield is protected by the shield. Allegedly, the shield could be disabled temporarily by poisoning the monster, but… you can’t even try to inflict poison because of the shield, meaning that the only option is to use a bow/bowgun… which is next to impossible solo, because Kushala Daora is one of the fastest Large Monsters in the game. Another monster, Plesioth, a giant fish thing, spent the vast majority of its time in the water (effectively making it invincible), the items you can use to get it out of the water are very limited and sometimes don’t work, and the bottom line was that it took so long to beat it that I ran out of time. What was the time limit? Oh, just an hour. -.-

This catastrophically cheap bullshit never appeared in Monster Hunter 4. I never felt angry at the difficulty, and never felt like I was struggling. In fact, at times, it actually felt a bit too easy. Although that might have been because of my main weapon, a weapon new to MH4 called the Insect Glaive. It feels so overpowered that it’s actually a bit embarrassing to admit that I use it. ๐Ÿ˜›

2: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell is the collision detection so god-awful?”

Seriously, MHFU, and all other MH games on PSP, had some of the worst collision detection I’ve ever seen. ๐Ÿ˜› Plesioth was one of the main culprits here too, and the one that sticks in my mind the most. When doing its tail swipe attack, the tail is so high up that it just never looks like it hits you, but oh, of course it hits you. Rolling underneath it is impossible because the game considers its tail as a huge box which extends all the way to the ground. And don’t get me started on its body check attack.

Again, I never felt like I experienced this in Monster Hunter 4. When things clearly didn’t hit me… they didn’t hit me. ๐Ÿ˜› Plesioth wasn’t really in Monster Hunter 4, though. He was relegated to a fish you catch in a mini-game. ๐Ÿ˜›

3: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell did they put it on this stupid console?”

Seriously, Capcom must do this on purpose.

The last time Monster Hunter was on a console that made sense was at the very beginning. The original Monster Hunter, and Monster Hunter 2 (Japan only) were on PS2, which is a perfectly reasonable choice of console. However, from then on, Capcom just stopped making sense entirely.

They began releasing Monster Hunter on PSP, which, aside from the DS, was the worst possible console for this game. It had less power than a PS2 so the graphics and framerate were worse, the screen was tiny, and the controls… holy crap. The PSP only had one tiny analog stick for God’s sake. There was no right analog stick, so you had to rotate the camera using the D-Pad above the stick. You had to develop a stupid technique which (quite affectionately) became known as The Claw, where you bend your index finger in such a way where you could move the character and the camera simultaneously. I can’t actually fathom why they put it on the PSP, and then continued to do so for years afterwards.

Well, they continued to do so until Monster Hunter 3. But instead of staying loyal to Sony and putting it on the $599 US dollar PS3, they decided to change allegiance to Nintendo and dumped it on the Wii, completely ignoring the clearly successful Xbox 360. WHY did they put it on the Wii, a console with vastly below-average power and driven by a stupid controller with only one analog stick?! ARGH! And then, for Monster Hunter 4 and Generations, they continued to ignore those tasty, popular, powerful home consoles, instead choosing to release it for the 3DS! Yes it was somewhat popular and somewhat tasty, but it wasn’t powerful! I mean, it was probably good for them that they didn’t release it on the Vita since that thing tanked harder than anything I’ve ever seen, but come on, why did you choose the 3DS over every other option? They must have been targeting the weaker consoles on purpose.

I mean, this goes without saying, but the true stars of Monster Hunter are, of course, the monsters. They can be awesome, beautiful, creepy, weird, or even stupid, but I love pretty much all of them, and they often contribute towards Monster Hunter’s weird sense of humour, like Yian Kut-Ku’s run that makes him look like a chicken, Tigrex’s ice breath which can turn you into a snowman, or Congalala’s attack where he literally throws shit at you. ๐Ÿ˜› But I’ve never really been able to see the monsters in all their glory, because Capcom keep choosing the weakest possible console to release their games on! I’m pretty sure they did this so that they could keep re-using assets over and over again. Like, I swear, Rathalos uses exactly the same textures in Monster Hunter 4 as he does in the original Monster Hunter.

This has been my biggest gripe with the series all this time. Why can’t they just release it on a console that makes sense for once?! I JUST WANNA SEE PRETTY MONSTERS AND CONTROL THE CAMERA WITH MY RIGHT HAND!!! IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?! ๐Ÿ˜›

So… when they announced Monster Hunter: World for PS4 and Xbox One… I was both extremely irritated and very excited at the same time. Excited because the series had finally made it back to consoles that made sense… annoyed because they were stupid consoles that I didn’t want to buy for just one friggin’ game. But then they announced a PC version, and you can probably imagine how high I jumped for joy. ๐Ÿ˜›

And today? Finally… finally, Monster Hunter has made it to the console of the Master Race: the PC. ๐Ÿ˜€

Have I played it? No… not yet. ๐Ÿ˜› I was planning to jump on it as soon as I got home, but I was so tired when I got in from work that I didn’t feel like it was a good idea. But hey, no worries. I’ve got all day to play it tomorrow, because I’ve booked tomorrow off. ๐Ÿ˜› Hehe, that’s the first time I’ve booked a day off work to play a game. It’s also the first time I’ve pre-ordered a game in a very long time. So yeah… I’m a bit hyped for it, which doesn’t happen often with me, so it’s quite a special moment. ๐Ÿ˜€

Ahh, yeah! I got so into ranting and blabbing all that crap that I forgot the other half of the reason for this post. I made a little render to celebrate Monster Hunter: World’s PC release. ๐Ÿ˜€

This render was probably the reason why I felt so tired today. ๐Ÿ˜› I stayed up way too late, trying to get the render to a point where I was happy to share something. I wasn’t sure if I’d have anything at all when I first started, but it ended up going surprisingly well!

Anyway, it’s still a work in progress, but here, check out this monster hunter:

Monster. Hunter. (WIP).jpg

He’s not a monster hunter, but he is a monster hunter. Because he’s a monster, and he’s a hunter, but not hunting monsters, he’s just hunting? And Monster Hunter was released today? Yeah?! Get it?! YA GET IT?! HEH ๐Ÿ˜›

Man, this one… seriously, I’m so happy with how this came out, even if it is unfinished. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s probably the most mature-looking render I’ve made, but because of the underlying pun, it’s still got that hint of humour that I like to portray. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s a bit unusual for me too, because it’s not very often I render a dragon standing on their hind legs like this. I prefer to put dragons in a more bestial or feral pose. Sure, the black dragon in Ghost Stories is on his hind legs, but he’s doing it for dramatic effect, whereas this dragon looks like he naturally walks on his hind legs. I should try this a bit more often, because I love how it came out! ๐Ÿ™‚

Jesus, listen to this pleb trying to sound like an artist. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, even though it’s just a work in progress, I hope it pleases your eyes! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ll probably be back tomorrow to update this post with my thoughts about Monster Hunter: World after I’ve actually played it. ๐Ÿ˜› And of course, I’ll be back with the final version of that render, too, along with some bigger versions that you can stick on your desktop! If you want. ๐Ÿ˜›

Right, I’m pretty hungry right now, so I’d better go cook some Well-Done Steak*. Cue the music!

(*i lie, i have no steak ๐Ÿ˜ฆ )

UPDATE!!
Monster Hunter: World follow-up

So, I’ve been playing Monster Hunter: World for 3 days now. Apparently there’ve been loads of complaints in the Steam reviews about not being able to play online or something. And that’s quite funny, because the first complaint I had with the game was that it doesn’t give you a “play offline” option. ๐Ÿ˜› Sure, I’d like to play multiplayer, I’ve never really done it before and it’s probably even more fun. But I don’t want to risk going into a game and getting carried by someone with overpowered equipment. That’s not fun. Besides, I just can’t bring myself to play co-op with random people. Not sure why.

Anyway, whatever, who cares, because the game is glorious from the moment it starts. It has an introduction that wipes the floor with every other game in the series. Also, like Monster Hunter 4, there’s a story, thank fuck, because MH4’s story, regardless of how balls it was, was a huge driving force for me, and made the game more enjoyable. No, so far, World’s story isn’t much better. Come on, it’s a game about hitting giant monsters with sticks and bagpipes, there isn’t much you can do with that. ๐Ÿ˜› However, World’s story is told much better. Because Capcom have added something that is so state-of-the-art it actually blew my mind. Voice acting. I mean WHOOOOAOAHAHHAHAAH voice acting in 2018?! NO, surely not! ๐Ÿ˜› But yes, finally they bothered with voice acting so that you can hear the characters, rather than having to read them all the time. ๐Ÿ˜› Of course, not everything has voice acting. Just cutscenes, tutorials, and other important bits of the game.

Oh, speaking of tutorials, World kicks the living arse out of every other game in the series on that front, too. The game doesn’t freeze solid and perform information overload on you now; it’s much friendlier than that. Like, in MH4, when doing weapons training, you were dumped in a room, forced to read a ton of text about your weapon and how it worked (which couldn’t be viewed again without exiting and restarting the training), before finally being given control so you could try remembering and doing everything the guy just said. In World, you get a brief voiced description about the weapon you choose, before being given a bunch of on-screen controls and useful combos to try. When you’re done with trying one weapon, you can pick a different weapon from the box and try that without having to reload the mission. It’s a shame you don’t get a live target to practice on, though, you just get some boxes and shit. ๐Ÿ˜› I found it really useful in MH4, because it’s how I discovered just how overpowered the Insect Glaive was (on my first try with it, I took out a Great Jaggi in half the time it took me to take it down with a Long Sword, a less complex weapon that I already knew how to use).

Thankfully, as far as I’m aware, it isn’t overpowered in World. Hard to tell, though, because I haven’t done a proper test of all the weapons yet. The weapon set consists of the same 14 weapons from MH4, nothing new. Some weapons appear to have new moves or tweaked move sets, though.

As for the controls, well. When I finished my first proper hunt, I just sat there, staring at the game with a smug “I told you so” grin on my face. That was the first time in the whole history of Monster Hunter where I’ve been able to move the camera smoothly and freely, and it’s a ridiculously huge improvement. And there’s more, too, because they’ve added… a lock-on camera, called the Focus Camera. And this seems to be Capcom proving that the lock-on camera is a stupid idea, because it is. I tried to like it, but it just ended up annoying me, because I found it really hard to hit the part of the monster I was trying to aim for. But don’t worry, because they’ve also added the option to use the Target Camera from MH4, where you can press LB to make the camera face the monster. They also added an option so you can use these cameras on all monsters, not just Large Monsters, but laugh my arse off NO. Just no. ๐Ÿ˜›

Difficulty? Yep, there’s some difficulty here, but I don’t think it’s horrific. I reckon the perceived difficulty is totally dependent on experience, both with Monster Hunter and with games in general, but personally, I’d say it starts off fairly mild and slowly gets harder. Overall it’s challenging, sometimes difficult. I haven’t fainted yet, but I’ve had some close calls. That just makes things exciting, though! ๐Ÿ˜› Fainting isn’t really a huge deal in World, anyway. Since gathering is so much faster and easier, and since they added a feature where you can set certain items to auto-craft, it’s easy to restock critical items like Mega Potions, so you don’t really need to worry about wasting money on them. Also, unlike previous games, you have all the information you could ever reasonably need about monsters in the game itself, like weak points, elemental weaknesses, drops, and even vague drop rates. And the Palico (a Felyne sidekick who helps you in battle) is very helpful this time around. Right off the bat, he has a skill which can restore a sizeable chunk of your health, and he uses it intelligently. This has genuinely saved my ass at least twice, so he’s probably a gigantic help for new players. But if you do struggle, again, unlike previous games on the dumb consoles, co-op is actually a feasible option this time around. ๐Ÿ˜›

What else… oh, yeah, graphics. Well, uh… when I first saw my Palico in a cutscene I was like “OMG :3”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h25m21s940.png

Then when I encountered my first Jagras I was like “SO PRETTY :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h08m00s735.png

Then when Anjanath first officially said “hello” I was like “SO AWESOME :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h14m44s560.png

Then when I got to see the legendary Rathalos finally in high-resolution glory before he proceeded to kick the shit out of an Anjanath he didn’t like, I was like “SO EPIC :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h16m53s315.png

Then when he kicked most of the shit out of me afterwards I was like “๐Ÿ’ฉ, uncool bro, that nearly killed me, but I forgive you because OMG YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h18m01s558.png

The graphics you see there are “max graphics where it matters”. ๐Ÿ˜› By that, I mean I’m using the top LOD models, no resolution scaling and full texture quality, but everything else is knocked down to compensate. Because realistically, I can’t run this at truly max graphics. Not sure why people are going “WAAAAH IT NEEDS SO MUCH CPU POWER” because it just… doesn’t. It uses less than half of what Forza Horizon 3 does, and I know that game canes a recent-generation i5, because a friend of mine played it and always complained about the CPU usage (rightfully so). GPU power, though, well, ha haaaa… you’re gonna need that. And you’ll need to get that power from just one GPU, because World joins the ever-increasing (and annoying) list of games that don’t support SLI. -.- I run two GTX 970s (so, just one), and with my settings, I get about 40-45FPS average at 2K (2560×1440). I’m not locked by GPU memory. Here’re my settings, along with NVIDIA’s hilarously stupid “optimal” settings:

NVIDIA GeForce Experience_2018-08-13_20-34-34.png

I’ve since turned off anti-aliasing since Temporal Anti-Aliasing costs 4 FPS for something I probably won’t notice. But the gains for dropping any of the other settings are so low that there’s no point. I mean, subsurface scattering sounds pretty expensive, but it actually only costs me 2 FPS and really makes a difference in some situations (see Rathalos encounter above). And lmfao, that “optimal” texture quality of 256. Dropping from Full to 256 has no effect on FPS, you fucks! I’m bored of Monster Hunter’s traditional PS2-quality textures! I wanna admire Rathian’s pretty face for once in my life!

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h54m15s621.png

It’s in the eye of the beholder, okay?! ๐Ÿ˜›

So yeah, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous if you have a good GPU, and if you have a modern 1000-series NVIDIA GPU or AMD equivalent, I’d be surprised if you didn’t hit 60 FPS at 2K. Maybe a 1070 is enough, or maybe even a 1060 if you run at 1080p. This is just me guessing, though. ๐Ÿ˜› I’m planning on upgrading to a 1080 or 1080Ti soonish, both for rendering and for gaming. I’d get one sooner, but I’m holding out for the 1100 series. Sure would be nice if they’d just tell us roughly when it’s coming out… -.-

Complaints? Well, yes, I have a few. The first and most irritating thing about the game so far? Scoutflies. These green things:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-21h10m15s008.png

MY FUCKING EYES.

They’re supposed to act as the game’s GPS, because the maps are now so large and so complicated that I find it ridiculously hard to figure out how to get to places. But they also highlight things for you, like gathering points. All of this, especially early on, is just… total information overload. ๐Ÿ˜› But even after you get used to it, they’re so bright and so distracting that I actually feel relieved when I find a Large Monster that wants to kill me, just because the flies go away when that happens. ๐Ÿ˜› There have been so many times where I’ve thought “right, yeah, I know where the monster is, no I don’t want to look at any more footprints because I know where it is and I’ve maxed out the tracking level, no I don’t want any blue mushrooms, I just want to make my way to the monster with no guidance or distractions now, please go away…” but no, green particles everywhere, and no, you can’t turn them off. And then, when you do want guidance, they’re not only blinding, but they’re also sluggish, often very unclear, and in situations when you’re carrying an egg and have access to the Scoutflies because nothing’s trying to kill you, the route they choose is usually impossible, trying to taking you through small gaps and other areas that you can’t access while carrying an egg. In fact, the idiot Scoutflies and the sheer complexity of the maps is why I simply can’t be fucked with the mission where you need to deliver two Wyvern Eggs.

Those missions are my second complaint, actually, the egg carrying missions. Were they even tested? They’re absolute balls. There’s no way you can do them solo without being a cheap little bitch. Delivering two Herbivore Eggs was difficult enough, because the nests are right next to where the herbivores endlessly spawn no matter how many you kill, and they’re faster than you, and there ends up being about six of them before you eventually get headbutted by one of them and drop the egg. At one point after dropping said egg, they surrounded me and pretty much gang raped me, which was somehow both hilarious and insanely annoying. So how did I finish it? I used the Ghillie Mantle, an item which effectively makes me invisible. As I said, “cheap little bitch”. ๐Ÿ˜› And that one I mentioned earlier where you have to deliver two Wyvern Eggs? Fuck that shit. The moment you pick up an egg from the nest where she never is, Rathian senses a disturbance in the Force and immediately heads for your exact location, even if you’re wearing the Ghillie Mantle. Of course, she can’t actually see you, so she doesn’t chase you, but this doesn’t stop her from following you at a distance, waiting for the moment when the Ghillie Mantle wears off. It’s just so mind-numbingly broken. Because the route is so complicated and the distance you have to travel to secure the egg is so long, longer than the Ghillie Mantle can ever last, the only way I can imagine doing it, even in co-op, is by being a cheap little bitch and killing Rathian before trying to transport the eggs. And I don’t know about you, but that seems slightly outside the scope of the quest. ๐Ÿ˜› And hell, even if you did do that, you’d still have to figure out how to get back to a camp without using the Scoutflies, because they’re dumb and try to take you through inaccessible areas. ๐Ÿ˜›

And my third complaint… audio. It’s a pretty minor one, but for me, the game is oddly quiet. The audio settings are all at max volume, but even with my headphones at full blast, the game’s still a bit quiet. I got around this problem by routing the game’s audio through a virtual audio cable and amplifying it before routing it back to my headset, but this is a faff, it kind of affects the audio quality and adds a bit of latency, which isn’t cool. Hopefully it’ll be fixed in a patch or something.

And that’s it. Scoutflies, egg missions and quiet audio are the only problems I’ve found. Not sure what all this screaming about broken servers is, because it works for me…? ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve not actually played with others, sure, but I can connect to online sessions just fine, and I’ve collected my daily shit with no problem. Maybe the problem is when you’re in an actual hunt?ย Whatever, doesn’t really affect me, no-one I know will ever get this anyway. It’s probably a bit difficult for them, and they wouldn’t have any time for it. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ll play online eventually, when I’m ready. Just don’t want to rush through the game or get carried by someone overpowered, that’s all. ๐Ÿ˜›ย Uhhh, nope. Someone I know was interested in getting it but was put off by the alleged server issues, so I tried responding to an SOS flare and testing some multiplayer. Didn’t have a single problem. The only thing I noticed was that holy hell,ย the session filled up fast! The SOS flare was sent by a solo player who hadn’t had a response when I tried to join, and by the time I made it into the game about 30 seconds later, I was the last player to set off from the camp.

UPDATE 6!!: Since then, much to my surprise, my friend actually ended up getting the game, and we’ve played some co-op. And now I can say with confidence: I have literally no idea why people are complaining about the online play being broken. However, Iย can understand complaints about the onlineย system,ย because it it were any more obtuse it’d be a straight line. Angles? Obtuse? No? ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway, the online system is insane. You have sessions which can consist of 16 players, and within these sessions you can have hunts which consist of up to 4 players. This is all totally understandable and quite cool so far, but when it comes to making a session for just you and your mates, things get shit very quickly.

First off, the game doesn’t prevent you from trying to join the sessions of people who are in an offline session. If you try, the game just sits there for a while before saying it failed to connect. So, my friend tried creating a private online session, and sent me an invite through the Steam overlay. That didn’t work either. Some amount of time after that, I noticed that the in-game invite option was greyed out, so I tried making a normal, non-private session. That made the invite option light up, and my friend was able to join the session. After this, I changed the session options so that it was private, and that worked; no-one random joined after that. Basically, you can’t join private sessions even if you’re invited; you have to make a non-private session, do your invites, then make the session private, or use passcodes on the quests you post.

But that’s not all, because Monster Hunter: World has laughably bad multiplayer story support. When you post a quest that contains cutscenes, youย haveย to start it single-player. After all the cutscenes have played, the quest opens to other players. So this means… if a group of friends want to play a story quest together, they all have to start the quest individually, get to the point where the SOS flare can be fired, return to HQ, and then one player has to post the quest again and have the others join it. That’s just retarded. ๐Ÿ˜› Oh, and you know I said that the quest opens up to other players after all the cutscenes have played? Yes, but every attempt I made to join those quests ended up failing immediately. That’s probably a bug. ๐Ÿ˜›

And Expeditions? One does not simply join an Expedition. No, you can’t just join a friend’s Expedition, which is a ridiculously stupid oversight, because it’s not like multiplayer Expeditions aren’t supported. There’re only two ways that it can be done. The first way is for everyone to join a quest and complete it, and during the end-game timer, leave the option as “return to camp”. This puts you in an Expedition in that area. That’s a faff because you have to complete a quest, so the other option is to enter an Expedition alone, fire an SOS flare and have the others join you through the SOS menu. You can cancel the flare when everyone’s joined. This is much less of a faff but it opens up the Expedition to EVERYONE, so there’s a chance of someone random joining, which is annoying.

I highly doubt Capcom’s gonna address any of this. It’s probably been like this on consoles up until now, so the chances of them fixing the issues now is probably next to zero. But in summary, yes, multiplayer works, flawlessly, and as far as I can tell, everyone who is crying about broken servers is just talking crap. However, the multiplayer system isย ridiculously obtuse, confusing as hell and has awful story support.ย  UPDATE 7!!: Gotta take back that “flawlessly” statement, because we’ve since had a couple of annoying connection issues. Sometimes, one of us has randomly lost connection to the session, and that puts the session in a weird state where the player who dropped can’t re-join. This has only happened at the very beginning or end of a hunt, though, not midway through. There’s been one instance where a posted quest just stopped appearing on the board, too. But as I said, annoying issues.ย Not crippling.ย I wouldn’t say the servers are broken, they just have a few teething problems.

Waiting for Monster Hunter to finally land on the PC was worth the wait, though. I’m not disappointed. It’s the best game I’ve played in a long time, and I can see myself continuing to play it for a long time to come. ๐Ÿ˜€ It wasn’t long ago that I loathed the series, so this is quite the epic turnaround they’ve managed!

Now, let’s move onto the subject of “Monster. Hunter.”. The celebratory render. Guh, this is gonna get confusing, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜›

Monster. Hunter. render follow-up

I was really surprised with the first draft of the render. It took about five hours to put together. But after that, when the environment was in and needed to stay active because it was making a critical contribution to the final lighting… the PAIN BEGAN.

DAZ Studio can’t handle scenes like this when using Iray. It babs itself when things get even remotely complicated, sometimes taking minutes to recalculate, making it impossible to tweak the scene while the interactive Iray render is running, therefore making it extremely difficult to tweak things such as materials. In fact, not long after I produced the draft render, this scene became so heavy that it wouldn’t fit in GPU memory, so only the CPU could render it. This isn’t a realistic option. In fact, I’m not sure why DAZ offers the option. Because it’s a stupid thing to do. From experience, I think it’s about 20x slower than GPU rendering. Ain’t got that kind of time, brah.

And with this render, ohh, I’ve never seen DAZ Studio bab itself quite as much. The first problem was when the scene became too heavy for the GPU. I really wasn’t happy with the grass density, or the quality of the ground texture, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and added a lot more higher-quality grass. This pushed the scene over the edge and became too complex to fit in GPU memory… not to mention that it was getting very difficult to do anything with the interactive render running.

To cut down on memory usage, I used a tool which can reduce the size of texture maps of objects you select. After halving the size of everything in the background, the scene was able to fit in GPU memory again, which was great. Wasn’t any faster at rendering, though, and this was a problem, because I needed to tweak the lighting. After this, it just descended into a whirlpool of fuckshit which connected directly to Satan’s testes. Yes, it was that bad.

First, it started leaking memory, so I couldn’t do more than one Iray render without restarting DS. Then, for no reason at all, it began to crash after turning on the interactive renderer, if not before rendering the first time, then always before rendering the second time. And then, it began to do this really weird shit when rendering, where the top half of the render would begin after the bottom half, making the top half look darker. I imagine that was some insanity with double-GPU rendering, but who cares, it was annoying. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, bang, it stops rendering with the GPUs. Had to reduce texture quality again just to get it to stop whining. Oh, and then, I discovered a problem where the Dragon 3’s left eye would render black, even though both of his eyes are one material and the right eye rendered just fine!

Monster. Hunter. 3 (Head Fail).jpg

I eventually discovered that this was caused because of a render setting that I’d changed, “Instancing Optimization” under the “Optimization” category. I changed it from Speed to Memory, because of the multitude of aforementioned memory issues I’d been having. But why the hell. His eyes aren’t instanced objects! The only instanced objects in the scene are the grass objects! Why would this option break the eyes?! And what does it even mean?! It’s not fucking documented! Look, this is the documentation of the whole Optimization category! (Backup screenshot here in the hilariously unlikely event that they update it.) OOOH SO USEFUL!!

And then, when I finally manage to get DAZ Studio to start a goddamn render, BAM, I was bitten once again by the IDIOT default settings of a two-hour maximum render time. Just as a final “fuck you”.

Haaah… so yeah… I wasn’t particularly calm. ๐Ÿ˜› I even resorted to singing out my anger over a track from Disgaea 5 after it started playing as part of my “every piece of music on the PC” shuffle playlist. It helped a tiny bit. ๐Ÿ˜›

To be honest, though… the pain was worth it. Because look at THIS:

Monster. Hunter. (Character Focused)
(Available in these flavours: 2560×3072 “Character Focused” Version, 1080p, 2K, 4K)

MORE PLANTS! MORE GRASS! MORE FORESTY! ๐Ÿ˜€

Yes, it’s still a work in progress.ย UPDATE 2!!: I replaced the WIP version with the final version. I increased the texture resolution on the tree and added something that went missing in the last WIP render. ๐Ÿ™‚

I… don’t really know what else to say. I mean, I’ve really surprised myself with this one. It was only gonna be a quick celebratory render, so I never imagined it would turn out as good as it has! ๐Ÿ˜€

Oh, wait, of course, I do know what to say: RENDER STAAATS! ๐Ÿ˜€ And oh, it’s a biggie. My longest render ever. That render, at 2560×3072, quality level 2 and 94.5% convergence (because I needed to kick off the desktop renders before going to bed and couldn’t wait another hour for the last 0.5% convergence ๐Ÿ˜› ) took 20 hours 57 minutes 45.31 seconds. BOOM, R-R-R-R-RECORD BREAKER! Holy CRAP that’s a long time. But there’s a reason. The scene, despite all my efforts, flat out wouldย not fit in my primary GPU’s memory, because DAZ Studio needs 2 GB just to show it in the viewport, the render needs about 3GB extra, and my GPUs only have 4GB of memory each. So I had to render it with the secondary GPU only, because that didn’t have anything in memory.

UPDATE 3!!

Heyyy, as you might have seen from the updated links under the image, I’ve added some desktop versions, the traditional 4K, 2K and 1080p trio. The 4K version tookย 11 hours 46 minutes 29.91 seconds to render… which is odd, since it’s about 400k pixels larger than the character focused render. There’s one very good (and equally confusing) reason for this, though: I was able to use both GPUs to render it. Not sure how… because again, larger image. They require more memory to render, right? ๐Ÿ˜› It was basically a miracle, because the scene wasย 49MB off not fitting in GPU1’s memory.ย Look!

MSIAfterburner_2018-08-15_09-27-01.png

4047MB peak usage! The GPU only has 4096MB of memory! I didn’t even want to sneeze on the computer just in case it went over the edge. ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyhoo… normally I render all three resolutions individually, but this time I just rendered the 4K version and scaled it down. The main reason is because of Iray’s irritating grainy renders. Basically, any areas of the image that are even slightly dark, reflective or translucent turn out grainy, regardless of the convergence ratio or render quality settings. To counteract this, I apply blur manually to especially bad areas by converting the image to a Smart Object, applying a Gaussian blur as a Smart Filter, and airbrushing the mask white wherever I want to reduce the grain. This helps with the 4K image, but then I have to repeat the blurring process twice more with the 2K and 1080p images, and that’s really boring. ๐Ÿ˜›ย So instead, I apply the blur to the 4K image, then downscale it. This not only saves time, but it reduces the grain massively at lower resolutions, and actually looks better than if I’d just rendered it at those resolutions.

And since we’re on the subject of postwork, I’ll mention what else I did in that area. ๐Ÿ™‚ Apart from the signature and the blurring, I also added a vignette and a slight levels tweak to the desktop versions. But that’s all. ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s all from me for now, but I hope you like the pic! Laterz. ๐Ÿ™‚

UPDATE 4!!
(obsolete, see update 5)

I don’t believe it. After posting the final version here, after creating those desktop versions, after posting it to DeviantArt, after posting a follow-up comment on my Bookface post with the “finished” version and a link here for the desktop versions… I’ve noticed a huge mistake in the pose.

He’s NOT DRAWING THE ARROW CORRECTLY, oh my GOD I’m such a MORON!

Just… yeah. Just look carefully, and you won’t un-see it. The bow string is tensing against… what, exactly? It’s supposed to tense against the back of the arrow, you absolute dumbfuck MongMaster, what are you smoking?! This was myย number one focus when posing. I looked at a lot of pictures of people drawing bows, and spent a lot of time making sure it looked just right, because I’ve only ever drawn a bow once before and was afraid of getting the pose wrong. And now look. I got it wrong. For fuck’s sake.

Not happy at all. I’ll fix it, but it’ll take a couple of days. -.-

UPDATE 5!!

Okay, I’ve replaced the renders with a new version where the dragon is drawing the arrow correctly, and all is good again. ๐Ÿ˜› But hey, even though I had to spend another evening rendering both versions of this picture again, I found another silver lining! I learned another DAZ Studio dumbfuckery! ๐Ÿ˜›

As I said before, the character-focused version of the render wouldn’t fit in my primary GPU’s memory, so I couldn’t render it with both of my GPUs; I had to use my secondary GPU by itself. The knock-on of this was that it basically doubled the render time to nearly 21 hours. When it came to rendering the scene this time, I was wondering if there was any way to squeeze the scene size down just enough so it could fit in GPU memory without any major quality sacrifices. I tried some dumb things like closing DAZ Studio viewports and panels to try and save memory. Of course, this did nothing, so as a last-ditch, blue-sky thinking, really-clutching-at-straws-here attempt, I tried shrinking the DAZ Studio window down so that it was really small. Lo and behold, doing thisย actually freed up 100MB of GPU memory. Absolute top lel. Maximum lel. Lel overload.ย ๐Ÿ˜› If you don’t believe me, here’s a demonstration.

That 100MB saving was enough to do the character-focused render with both GPUs. This saved about 11 hours, which means I can actually play Monster Hunter again tonight instead ofย using my PC to re-render this scene constantly, yay! ๐Ÿ˜›