Another age of looooooove!

ROUGH
BAD ON THE CASE
I WANNA HIT YOUR FACE*
(*I don’t actually want to hit your face, but H.P. Sauce Baxxter does 😛 )

Lmao, such stupid lyrics. 😆

Anyway, hello again! It’s Valentine’s Day today! Yaaaaaay, meal deals! 😛 I don’t really care about it myself, but I guess it’s nice for people who like it. For whatever reason. Maybe people forget that they have a partner and need this day as a reminder that they should do nice things with them? Shrug. Meal deals. 😛

Even though I don’t actually care about Valentine’s Day, you may remember that a couple of years ago, I created a Valentine’s themed render, Amai, and a short story to go with it. It featured a couple of characters from my never-ever-going-to-be-finished novel, Dragon Tail. I really enjoyed doing both parts of it. The render was fairly simple, but it was fun to make and I just loved how it turned out. Writing the short story was also a lot of fun, and it really helped me flesh out Whirlwind and Emerald’s relationship and gave me an excuse to dig a bit deeper into the world’s lore.

Because I enjoyed it so much, I was thinking of doing the same thing again at some point in the future with something else. But recently… well okay, not recently, it was probably like 8-9 months ago now, but anyway, I wondered… do the render and the story have to be separate? Surely there was some way of combining them. And of course, there are at least two ways of doing that. The first way is through animation, but hahahahahaha no! 😛 Not a chance, not in DAZ Studio. Especially if they think that the 4.14 update included “an advanced Animation Timeline that’s more powerful than ever before”. It’s not hard to be more powerful than a turd. 😛 If I can find a good place to rant, I might talk about the 4.14 update further down, but for now, stay on target, Mongz! 😛 Anyway, yes, no, no animation from me, I don’t have a clue where to start, I don’t have the patience for it, and DAZ Studio sucks at animation. But the second way? Well, I could tell the story through a sequence of still renders. And how best to do that? A comic, of course!

You might be able to tell where this is going now. 😄

I have very limited experience with comics. Comics are cool, sure, but I’ve never really been interested in them, content-wise, probably because 99% of them are superhero comics and I generally don’t like superheroes. The only comics I ever owned were Simpsons comics. Shut up, my mum bought them for me and I liked them and I still have them and shut up. 😅 So, as I don’t really read comics, of course I have zero experience with writing them! I’ve never made a… ahhhhhh no wait, I lieeee! I have made comics before! Holy crap I still have them!! 😆 My DIABLO II COMICS BABY YEEEEAAAHHH!

I almost completely forgot about them. 😆 Yes, back when playing Diablo II, still one of my most favourite games of all time and definitely still my most favourite action-RPG (the only thing that comes close is Path of Exile, it has excellent game mechanics, but it plays too slowly for my taste and its story is almost embarrassingly bad 😛 After finally playing it for long enough to reach endgame, I take it back; Path of Exile is actually a pile of shite, a luck-based wheel spinning game that demands a lifetime’s worth of grinding just to get one decent piece of equipment, and there’s absolutely no game balance at all, and it contains literally the worst endgame boss I’ve ever played in my life, feels like whoever designed it has never played a game before), I’d take screenshots mid-game and add dialogue in Paint afterwards. 😀 Most of them were a single panel and didn’t connect with any other panels, so I’m not sure if you could actually classify them as comics. 😛 I did make a few sequences, though. After creating and sharing my first set, the person I was playing with also started making some, too. I think his were generally better, but the grammar was a bit, uh… painful. 😛 The majority of mine are “meh”, but there are some that I was really happy with. I’m most proud of these two, especially the second:

Ahh, good times. 😀 Although I do wish we could’ve gotten to Hell difficulty. We never made it there for various reasons. 😦 I really need to play it again at some point for old times’ sake and fully complete it. Although there’s no way anyone will join me, and it’s not quite as fun solo. But, having said that, I’ve recently heard of a relatively new mod called Project Diablo II which I definitely need to check out. It looks surprisingly popular, and it seems to add in some of the less crappy elements from Path of Exile, such as endgame maps, which sounds good. But it sounds like they added luck-based item corruption crap, which is crappy. Really crappy. “Want to improve your gear? Gonna have to use this super-risky item! OHHHH too bad RNG not on your side and now your Super Mega Sword of Epicness +98 is a Super Shit Sword of Poo -69 lol go out and grind some more.” And periodic server resets, too; I just don’t understand that. It’s like they don’t realise that some people would like to reach endgame, but can’t make it there before the server is reset, because they have a job. 😛 It might be too vanilla for me, as well. I last played Diablo II with the Eastern Sun mod, which had some great features like gem/rune stockers, an infinite stash, way better item gambling which actually makes gold a useful resource, and crazy bonus dungeons with massively better loot drops, so I’m not sure if I could play Diablo II without that now. 😅

ARGH DAMN IT STAY ON TARGET MONGZ! 😛 Right, back to the present, and the actual subject. 😆 I’ve been thinking about making some kind of comic for a long while now. Using the Dragon 3, of course. 😛 I didn’t plan on doing anything massive, initially, just a four-panel comic or something. I could never think of an idea for what to do, though, so it kept getting kicked down the road a little bit every time I thought about it. Probably didn’t help that I never actively tried brainstorming any ideas, but y’know, whatever. 😛 But then, a little while after uploading Roar, Blue Dragon! to my DeviantArt page, I logged in to check on how it was doing, on the off chance that someone had, y’know, looked at it. 😛 I wasn’t particularly confident of that, and thought that it would be the last time I logged in, because I really don’t feel like I belong there. It’s like… actually no, I was going to post a dumb, extensive analogy but it turned into a rant and I’ve gone off-topic once already. I’ll put it at the end of the post. Basically, DeviantArt is shit in various ways and I don’t like it. 😛

Anyway, so, I logged into DeviantShart, and amazingly, I had a new watcher! Wow! First new watcher since I opened the account about… I dunno, 5 years ago? 😛 They’d also left a message, saying I should do a dragon series… or something along those lines. Ha! Yep, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. 😆 That message, though… I’m pretty sure it accelerated my thinking. Because not too long after that, around early August, I had a spark of an idea. I was actively thinking about what comic I could make, and thought maybe I could use some kind of celebratory day as both a theme and a target date. Something far enough away to give me a chance to create it, but not too far away, because I would procrastinate. 😛 Conversely, it couldn’t be too close, because I’d never done anything like this before and missing the date would mean I’d have to wait a year for it to become relevant again. And while looking through my calendar, it hit me. The idea, not the calendar. 😛

“Valentine’s Day!” I screamed. “Amai! FRANAIE’DIANAS! FOLLOW-UP!! SEQUEL!!! DAYTONAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I didn’t actually scream that, I’m exaggerating as usual, but anyway, yes, Valentine’s Day! Meal Deal Day! Today! Unless it’s not! 😀 I thought it was a perfect thing to base the comic on. I had characters who were in a relationship (Whirlwind and Emerald), and a world (Guira) that I could use, and as a bonus, it was a great way for me to flesh all of that out. Worldbuilding is fun! 😀 Valentine’s Day was also far enough away for me to have a chance of making the date, but not too far away that I’d just go “ahhhh, I’ve got loads of time left let’s play 900 hours of Diablo II”, followed by “crap where’d all that time go”. 😛

So, I made a start on it then, in early August 2020, sacrificing most of my spare time. And now, finally, after half a year of frequent and increasingly painful interaction with DAZ Studio… IT’S ACTUALLY FINIIIIIIIIIISHED!!!! Read it! READ IT READ IT READ IT OH MY GOD PLEAAAAAAAAAAASE READ IT! 😆

Please. Please read it. 🙏 It took me 372 solid hours and required 408 hours of rendering please read it. 😆 I also really want to know what you think! Is there anything you particularly like, or think that I could improve? Any constructive feedback is welcome! It’s my first comic, so there’s definitely room for improvement.

Aaand now I have to talk about it. Sheesh, since it was a huge undertaking that took far longer that I expected and required much more work than I anticipated, I’m struggling to think of where to start. This might end up being pretty long, so if you don’t care that much, you can skip straight to the super-excellent render stats and timelapse using this handy TL;DR link:

Too Long; Didn’t Read!

Okay… I will probably end up yammering and going in random directions with this explanation, but let’s start with the concept, I guess? 😅 Well, if it wasn’t obvious from the title of the thing, it’s a follow-up to the original Amai, the short story, specifically. Amai (Guiran Draconic for “love”) was about Whirlwind and Emerald’s first Franaie’dianas together, which, as mentioned in the comic please read it, is like the Guiran dragons’ equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Apart from that it’s not commercialised (that’s not a thing among Guiran dragons, there are no “meal deals” 😛 ) and is inclusive of everyone, not just those already in a partnership/matehood. As I probably already mentioned, I really enjoyed writing the original Amai, and – this might sound a bit big-headed, sorry – I love those two dragons. I think they make such a great pair! 😀 After thinking of Valentine’s Day as a potential theme and target date, it made perfect sense to get those two together again for a follow-up, set on their second Franaie’dianas together. 🙂

The original Amai was a lot of fun to write, and it was a really nice change, too. Y’see, Dragon Tail, the story Whirlwind and Emerald originate from, is actually a fairly dark story, so it was great to be able to write a slightly more light-hearted scene in that world. 😀 I definitely wanted to double down on that for Reaffirmed, so I made sure to kick things off on a lighter note, and tried to keep it fun and light-hearted wherever possible. Kinda maybe like a rom-com, or something. Not like I watch rom-coms, (or films in general, lel) so I have no idea if it’s similar. 😛 Soon after I’d committed to finishing the project, though, about four or five pages in, I couldn’t help but feel worried about making a comic out of this kind of story. It’s a weird one: there’s no villain, no conflict, or anything negative like that. It was more of a… “worldbuilding story”. A story that showed a peaceful moment in these two dragons’ lives, while exploring a small part of the huge world they live in. So, because of that, I felt that it might end up being ultra boring. I did my best to avert that by sharing bits of lore that I hoped were interesting, and trying to make it nice, fun, and wholesome, but I simply had to accept that most people might find it boring because no-one gets stabbed. Which is slightly creepy when you think about it. 😛

As I’d never done a comic before (well, not one of this size, anyway 😆), writing the script was a bit difficult. I only ended up writing about half of it to begin with, finishing the rest as I went along. The whole story was in my mind from the beginning, but I didn’t want to write it all out just in case I made a mistake and wrote the dialogue in a way that wouldn’t work in comic format. And as expected, this happened a few times in the early stages. 😛 I had to simplify the dialogue so it would fit a couple of times, and there was one time I was forced to split a page in two to prevent it from ending in a weird spot. I always aimed to end each page at a point where I hoped the reader was looking forward to the next. Kinda like little cliff-hangers. 😀 While it was difficult, it was still great fun to write, and it really helped me to develop and solidify the kind of relationship Whirlwind and Emerald have. (Emerald’s normally very dignified and gentle, but she becomes a little friskier and more playful when she’s alone with Whirlwind, and this behaviour quickly ends up spreading to him, too. 😀 ) Also, it was great to glimpse into Whirlwind’s past, as I haven’t really fleshed that out very much (Whirlwind is, how do I put this… “conditionally amnesiac”. If I say any more then I’ll spoil my will-never-be-finished novel 😛 ). Info about specific locations are really sparse in Guira’s lore, too, so creating the Transient Lake was really awesome. And it helped refine and bolster Guiran Draconic, too! I loved being able to throw Draconic dialogue into the comic here and there, when the time felt right. Hell, it even drove me to pull my finger out of my ass and finally write Draconic Script for the first time, used for the engraving on Emerald’s bracelet! 😀 (That’s a SPOILER but you’ve already read it, right? Please read it, it took 372 hours 😆)

“Ka mis akalaniramai, Virana.”

To explain that last bit… well, normally I write Draconic using the Latin alphabet. Y’know, the Latin alphabet, as you can see in this entire blog post. Apart from the emoji. 😛 When Draconic is written in that way, I call it “Romonic”. I know, “lololololol”. It’s a perfect anagram of “moronic”, and I absolutely love it because of that, but would never use the word canonically. 😛 It’s similar in concept to Romaji: Japanese words written using the Latin alphabet. Basically, Draconic Script to Romonic is like kanji (and hiragana/katakana) is to Romaji. It just makes it easier/possible for us Westerners to read. Yeehaw. 😛 I probably explained that badly, but hey, whatever. Explaining it is varok saknankra. Or chou muzukashii. 😛

As for the actual posing and rendering, well, my feelings about that are… mixed, really. 😅 At times, it was fun. Poses would fall into place really naturally, and I made great progress very quickly. Sometimes surprisingly quickly; I remember knocking out about half of Page 21 in less than 3 hours. However, other times, it was turbo-frustrating. I’d struggle to get the dragons posed in the way I wanted to, or I’d finish a pose and then realise that it wasn’t quite right, requiring me to move the entire model and re-pose all four limbs. Sometimes setting up the lighting and camera angle would end up being a massive pain. Then after finally getting it right, I’d realise that single panel took me about 5 hours and I had 3 more panels left to finish, which realllly didn’t help my motivation. 😛

In an attempt to maintain a steady pace and to prevent my motivation from dropping to zero, I did a couple of things. First off, I set up a mini website for a small number of people, namely family and one person from work who has given great feedback on some of my past renders (Dino Disco being one of them, which I was able to improve quite a lot). I also set up a mailing list for them using Mailchimp, which gave me an audience. Sure, it was a tiny audience of five people, but they were active, seemingly interested (they must’ve been; it’s not like I forced them to sign up, and they always had the option of unsubscribing 😛 ), and knowing that they were there and looking forward to the next page basically prevented my motivation from bottoming out. Secondly, I created a project plan, initially using some website called Team Gantt or something, but I found that to be a bit shit (and their terms basically said that they could do anything they wanted with everything you submitted, lol), so I used ToDoList instead. I’ve had that program installed for quite a while, and used it to store ideas for ULSG V14, but never really actively used it. I learned that it had a built-in Gantt chart, though, and it ended up being a massive help for planning and keeping myself on track, especially in the final stages when I knew what kind of pace I could keep. I’d’ve probably never been able to finish on time without it. 😀

Yay planning, so exciting

As a side-note, making the mini site was an interesting exercise. I’ve never really done much related to web development before, and after scratching the surface, I’ve determined that it’s hell on Earth and I hate it. 😛 Despite that, I think I made a nice little website. I based it off a simple template and heavily modified it, successfully adding a pretty neat gallery called PhotoSwipe, and even managed to add a private livestream with a live viewer count. It was completely private; I streamed using OBS from my main machine to my server box without going through any external provider like Twitch or Facebook or whatever. The live viewer count was implemented using PubNub, which was free for me to use because I didn’t fire many events. Of course, I barely used the thing, and no-one was watching when I did, but whatever! Experimenting is fun and educational! Now I know never to get a job in web development! 😛

Not (entirely) my code, I don’t even remember what this was for any more 😛

Even with the audience and the project planning, it took a lot of willpower to get this thing done. There were a couple of times where I took excessively long breaks, about a month in total, which was really bad. If that had been a week or so longer, I’d’ve blown it, because I finished the final page just three days before the deadline. 😨 I’m not exactly sure why I took such long breaks. One happened just after I returned home after some birthday celebrations, so that might partially explain it. But I’m betting it was just because the constant exposure to DAZ Studio was making me lose what little was left of my sanity and I desperately needed a break from it. 😛

Because this was the longest project I’ve ever undertaken in DAZ Studio, of course, there was no shortage to the number of times DS attempted to shit all over me, the project, all of its users, and basically everyone and everything in the world! And I’m actually not exaggerating quite as much as I normally do, there. 😛 I experienced a massive variety of problems. Some were common things that I’ve endured before, such as GPU memory leaks, Iray suddenly not working properly for no obvious reason, a disappearing mouse cursor, and DS randomly thinking I want to select multiple objects in the Scene tab despite not even touching the keyboard. However, there were some brand new ones, including insanely low viewport performance for no good reason (related to object count rather than poly count, wtf), massive delays when deleting objects (super wtf), decals casting shadows in certain situations that made no sense, very random and very sudden crashes, and worst of all, something I can’t easily explain which made me believe there was a crippling, fundamental flaw with the program. I’ll try and explain the last one, because when I discovered it, I had a very unpleasant feeling that it was going to wreck the project at some point.

I think it took about 45 minutes. 🤨

Oh, but before I explain, one good thing about this bug was that it made me move all my scenes into OneDrive so they were backed up. It was pretty cool, because I was able to keep my scenes folder in the DAZ Studio content library even though it was nowhere near my OneDrive folder. I did this using a symlink, or more accurately known as a “directory junction” in Windows. Since doing that, I’ve kinda gone a bit symlink crazy, moving a bunch of stuff that really should have been in OneDrive in the first place and symlinking to it from the original location so it feels no different than normal. It’s great! 😀 Of course, you don’t need to use OneDrive. That technique will work with any similar cloud storage provider (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).

Anyway, the attempted explanation of the DAZ Studio insanity. 😛 So… it was Page 8, Panel 2 when it first happened. I needed to create the “young” version of Whirlwind, so I loaded the scene containing the adult version of him, duplicated him, and made my modifications there. When I was done, I deleted the adult version, zeroed the young version, and saved it as a separate scene and a scene subset. I went back to the original scene, and loaded the scene subset. When done, it took me a moment to realise that the young version of Whirlwind wasn’t in his zero pose. It had imported him in the pose and position that the adult version of Whirlwind was in… in the previous panel. If that makes no sense, I know, it doesn’t. 😛 I thought I’d eaten something weird. So I tried again, and yep, same thing happened. It was absolutely bat-shit insane, and I genuinely don’t know why it happened, or how it was possible. After realising this, I soon discovered that a massive number of the trees I’d spent 400,000 years positioning manually had moved to positions they used to be in about 2-3 pages ago. Some of them were originally placed quite roughly because they were off-camera, and when they eventually had to be rendered, I moved them to more accurate positions and added additional ones. But then some of them randomly moved to their existing positions, silently and for no goddamn reason! What the CRAP?!? 😕 I swear I saved a video of me demonstrating this, but I must have accidentally deleted it while clearing out the first half of my recordings when I ran out of disk space. God damn it. 😑

Why can I undo loading the scene omg what are you on

There was also the DS 4.14 update, which I foolishly decided to update to halfway through the project. As far as I can tell, it does almost nothing good. It updates Iray which completely breaks the program for some users, adds new bugs, and fixes no existing bugs. This kind of update is extremely common. But, the fact that they ranted and raved about this particular update despite the fact that it’s no better than the last 13 updates they’ve done, throwing tons of bullshit everywhere in the process? That suuuuuper pissed me off. I made a massive list of things wrong with it, and was going to go through them in a video, but I just ended up feeling like I couldn’t be bothered. It wouldn’t make anything better. Basically, Filament is useless because it only works in the viewport and looks like shit, the animation timeline hasn’t changed and is still basically unusable, and Iray 2020.1.1, while nice because it adds support for 3000-series GPUs (even though they’re still friggin’ unbuyable because everyone has gone insane), it’s also not nice, because it removes support for some older GPUs, and this fact is not mentioned anywhere obvious! I’m pretty damn sure their installer doesn’t check your GPU before updating, and you can’t (easily) downgrade after updating!! Sure, this didn’t affect me, because I have a modern enough card, but I can imagine it screwed someone! What in HELL are they smoking?! 😡

*calm*

So yeah. As usual, DS was crap. All day, every day. 😛

Towards the latter half of the project, I realised that I would need to find a bracelet of some design, and I was divided on what to do. Part of me (the lazy half 😛 ) thought I could find something suitable that was already made, while the other part of me thought that was going to be impossible and I should just create it myself. The latter half was absolutely right. 😅 Bracelet models were quite rare, and none of them looked right. “Besides,” I thought, “if I’m gonna spend so damn long making this comic, I oughta do this right and make it unique”. So, I used Photoshop to sketch out a design that I liked the look of (using its symmetry tool, which is absolutely friggin’ great :D), and finally cracked open Blender, with the intention of using it seriously for the first time. I was a total beginner, but I couldn’t spend weeks and weeks on this bracelet, so I assimilated all the basic tutorials as quickly as possible and started to hammer something out immediately afterwards. And against all my expectations, I think I actually managed to make it look good! Sure, its topology would probably make any real artist throw up, but I don’t care, it’s the first model I’ve created since college, about 14 years ago or whatever! 😀

The last time I opened Blender was way before this project. I’d downloaded it to satisfy my curiosity, but quickly decided that I hated it because its UI felt like it was designed by a sadist. 😛 Nothing about it made sense. I think they’ve updated the UI since then, though, because the version of Blender I used to create the bracelet felt much less… insane. 😛 Apart from the menus that are seemingly only accessible through hotkeys that aren’t mentioned anywhere. But anyway, yeah, my experience with it was generally positive. It felt… clunky, and a bit confusing at times, but unlike a certain other piece of software, I don’t remember anything in Blender blowing up or making me angry. I found out that it can even do high-poly sculpting, like ZBrush! I had no idea it could do that! It’s even got scripting and probably-usable animation tools and fluid simulation and UV editing and texture painting and aaaaaaaaaagh how is this free?! 😮 If only DAZ would create something similar to DS’s GoZ bridge, only for Blender. Sure, DS has a Blender bridge available as a free addon, but it’s only one-way. Maybe I should check it out anyway, see if it’s possible to maybe leave DS behind. Or maybe DAZ could just fix their software already, instead of making one-way bridges to other software. It’s like they don’t realise that DS would actually be a really great program that I wouldn’t complain about if it didn’t have so many massive issues!

So aye, the bracelet creation went way better than I expected! Created the basic 2D shape using my reference, thickened it up to be 3D, refined it over time, then sculpted it into the final, higher-poly shape. That’s pretty much it! Although I did find out much later that more polys doesn’t always equal better quality. I would’ve probably gotten some nicer, smoother reflections on the metal if I’d been more aggressive when decimating the model before exporting it.

Blending like a nooblet 😛

After creating Emerald’s bracelet, I thought that would be the last time I’d need to touch Blender. But nope! I did a ME! 😛 At the 11th hour, I ended up revising the script after not being so sure about the ending I’d written. It felt… shallow and meaningless, and a bit sudden. However, the new script made the comic two pages longer, which had a pretty big chance of making me run out of time if it took much longer than I’d estimated. When I got to the point where I had to make a decision about which path to go down, I took a risk and chose the new script. This added the second bracelet and the linked enchantment, which I felt made the gift massively more meaningful. 🙂 But that meant I needed to design and model another bracelet! AAAAGH! 😛 Anyway, it was fine. Due to its simpler design and my newfound (albeit slight) familiarity with Blender, the second bracelet didn’t take quite as long to create.

Let’s see, what else… maybe how I arranged the panels? Well, I used Photoshop for arranging the panels and adding postwork. Before starting a page, I’d refer to the script and block out the panel layout, then measure each of the blocks and use that as the render size. Doing that instead of just rendering at a higher resolution and cropping what I didn’t need probably saved a crapton of rendering time. 🙂 As for postwork, most panels were given a once-over with the blur tool, to smooth out any really sharp highlights or to remove noise the denoiser didn’t catch. I also added blush effects and eye glint to the dragons in some panels. Some panels consisted of two renders, usually a misty and non-misty version, which I combined together. After any corrections, I tweaked the levels, added the border, aaand that was about it. 🙂

Oh, there was one page that had some postwork that I was really happy with: page 8! Panel 2 had a ghostly version of a young Whirlwind and one of his childhood friends, which was supposed to represent Whirlwind recalling memories from his past. I super-liked the idea when it came to me, but didn’t think I could pull it off as well as I’d hoped. But I was wrong! 😛 I rendered the younger dragons separately and with no environment, and slapped it on the top of the main render. Because there was no ground in that render, their feet had to be masked a little bit to blend in, but that was easy enough. To get the ghostly effect, I reduced the opacity, duplicated the layer, and applied a gaussian blur and glow (with its blend mode set to Soft Light) to the second layer, and set that layer’s blending mode to Screen. That was it. I didn’t expect it to turn out that well so easily! 😀

Overall, Photoshop was fine throughout the project. Although it did have a few annoying moments, especially that one where it suddenly became incapable of saving. 😑

And has…? 😛
Please no… 😑

Whew… I think that’s about it for the process? As there was so much work involved, trying to think of what to talk about is a bit difficult. 😅 If I remember something, I’ll probably add it here later. Let me know if there’s something I missed! 😀

TL;DR: I made a comic and it was difficult please read it. 😛

Even though it was difficult, I’m so happy with how the whole thing came out. Hell, I’m just happy that I finished it in time. 😆 There were a few panels that I was especially happy with, though, and my favourite panel of them all has to be Page 9, Panel 2. I had a lot of fun coming up with it and posing it, and I absolutely loved the result. It’s so damn cuuute! 😆 I liked it so much that I rendered it in 4K as a standalone thing:

😀

Okay, now for the timelapse! And this time, as you’d probably expect, it’s an absolute monster! 😀 The raw footage was so long that I maxed out one of DaVinci Resolve’s ludicrously long timelines, and I nearly ran out of disk space, so I had to render half of the timelapse to free up some space before I could continue. 😆 Over the course of six months, the comic took a solid 15 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes of human time to create, and required 17 days and 44 minutes of machine time to render. So 781.4 hours between myself and the computer, in total. (although if you include the fact that the machine was also working while I was working, it’s more like 1,154 hours in total 🤯) So, this timelapse shows those 372 hours of human work compressed into 21 minutes. And I definitely need to warn about epilepsy here. 😆 Aye, this video flashes a fair bit as it switches between lighter and darker colours, so seriously, don’t watch it if you suffer from epilepsy! If you don’t, great! You can watch it here! 😀

And yep, there’s a bunch of at least mildly related music to go with it, five songs this time! And because two of the songs I chose are Japanese, I went ahead and added lyrics into the video for them. 🙂
Anyway, to start off, I play the dumb song which begins with the dumb lyrics shown at the top of this dumb post: The Age of Love by Scooter. Mr. Baxxter talks about love, peace, and unity, but begins the song by declaring he wants to hit you in the face, lmao 😆 I ended the blog post of the original Amai with this song’s music video, and I still can’t get over how awful it is. 😛
Next up is Love and Devotion by Real McCoy… but DJ Bobo got involved! I can’t find a link to the song on YouTube, so that’s a Spotify link instead. Hahaha, Bobo’s cheese-flinging rampage CONTINUES! 😛 I thought the original might’ve been just as cheesy, but it’s nowhere NEAR as bad as the remix! How does he do it?! 😆🧀
Following on from the cheese is a track relevant only by title: Sunset, by The Midnight. I’ve been quite into synthwave recently, listening on DI.FM, and this artist keeps popping up every now and then. They’ve become one of very few artists that I can genuinely say I like, and I don’t actually think I’ve heard a bad song from them. 😀 Lol never mind I finally heard a terrible one 😆
The next track is only slightly relevant: a nice song called Starduster by jimmy thumb P, featuring Hatsune Miku, a Vocaloid by Crypton Future Media. It mentions love, stars, and a sunset, so hey, that’s relevant enough for me. 😆 The lyrics and translation in the video are taken from this transliteration and translation by marvelangga. You probably won’t see this, but thank you, marvelangga! 😀
I was going to finish the timelapse with the Reincarnation Mix of Your Affection, from the Persona 4 soundtrack, but at the last moment, I remembered 24h by DAOKO, featuring You Kamiyama, and decided to use that instead. 😀 I first heard this song while playing Dragalia Lost’s Valentine’s Day event, Dragalia Lost being the only mobile game I’ve honestly thought was too damn good to be stuck as a mobile game, and no, it’s not just because I like dragons. 😛 (vaguely related side note: after I was lucky enough to pull the Halloween variation of Mym in Dragalia Lost, I realised soon afterwards that she always transforms into a lingerie-clad version of Brunhilda, and it is amazing 😆) Anyway, the lyrics of the song are a little odd, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a love song, and not sure it matches the comic very much, but hey, it’s got some great energy and I like it, so shush! 😛 The translation was done by Megan Rose, taken from this page on LyricsTranslate. Again, you probably won’t see this, but thank youuuuu! 😀

And now, the render stats! And of COURSE I kept notes on how long every single panel took to render! 😛 Render settings varied, but most panels were rendered at my usual: Quality 2 with 95% convergence. Some, namely the ones with the stupid-expensive mist effect, had their target convergence reduced to around 85-90% because I found that half the time was spent on the last 10% and it made no perceivable difference in quality. Anyway, here’s the render time of the last version of every panel:

  • Page 1
    • Panel 1: 3 hours 13 minutes 54 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 2: 2 hours 32 minutes 54 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 21 minutes 28 seconds
    • Panel 4: 28 minutes 37 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 14 hours 18 minutes 51 seconds (19 renders)
  • Page 2
    • Panel 1: 58 minutes 5 seconds
    • Panel 2: 1 hour 1 minute 15 seconds
    • Panel 3: 3 hours 3 minutes 23 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 3 hours 48 minutes 55 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 2 hours 59 minutes 16 seconds (16 renders)
  • Page 3
    • Panel 1: 9 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 2: 21 minutes 3 seconds
    • Panel 3: 10 minutes 50 seconds
    • Panel 4: 21 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 5: 3 minutes 49 seconds
    • Panel 6: 24 minutes 42 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 7: 15 minutes 1 second
    • Panel 8: 25 minutes 44 seconds
    • TOTAL: 7 hours 22 minutes 18 seconds (30 renders)
  • Page 4
    • Panel 1: 6 hours 57 minutes* (two renders combined)
      • (Earlier versions of this render took around 13 hours 😅)
    • Panel 2: 20 minutes 7 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 15 hours 24 minutes 31 seconds (11 renders)
  • Page 5
    • Panel 1: 13 minutes 30 seconds
    • Panel 2: 14 minutes 5 seconds
    • Panel 3: 8 hours 10 minutes 48 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 4: 2 hours 3 seconds 49 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 5: 5 hours 51 minutes 58 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 1 day 9 hours 21 minutes 56 seconds (19 renders)
  • Page 6
    • Panel 1: 20 minutes 23 seconds
    • Panel 2: 25 minutes 46 seconds
    • Panel 3: 21 minutes 58 seconds
    • Panel 4: 9 minutes 51 seconds
    • Panel 4 (inset): 2 minutes 17 seconds
    • Panel 5: 2 hours 51 minutes 22 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 6: 41 minutes 11 seconds
    • TOTAL: 8 hours 42 minutes (20 renders)
  • Page 7
    • Panel 1: 17 minutes 47 seconds
    • Panel 2: 25 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 24 minutes 43 seconds
    • Panel 4: 34 minutes
    • Panel 5: 25 minutes 42 seconds
    • Panel 6: 2 minutes 19 seconds
    • Panel 7: 9 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 8: 13 minutes 10 seconds
    • TOTAL: 10 hours 10 minutes 35 seconds (23 renders)
  • Page 8
    • Panel 1: 21 minutes 26 seconds
    • Panel 2: 38 minutes 2 seconds (two renders combined, with foreground mask)
    • Panel 3: 13 hours 20 minutes 54 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 3 (inset): 26 minutes 37 seconds
    • Panel 4: 48 minutes 32 seconds
    • Panel 5: 23 minutes 16 seconds
    • TOTAL: 18 hours 19 minutes 54 seconds (15 renders)
  • Page 9
    • Panel 1: 42 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 2: 1 hour 49 minutes 51 seconds
    • Panel 2 Bonus Render (as seen above), 9 hours 44 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 3: 26 minutes 48 seconds
    • Panel 4: 25 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 5: 25 minutes 33 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 11 hours 55 minutes 29 seconds (12 renders)
  • Page 10
    • Panel 1: 46 minutes 15 seconds
    • Panel 2: 37 minutes 45 seconds
    • Panel 3: 20 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 4: 35 minutes 51 seconds
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 5 minutes 41 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 6: 50 minutes 6 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 7 hours 53 minutes 51 seconds (14 renders)
  • Page 11
    • Panel 1: 26 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 2: 31 minutes 10 seconds
    • Panel 3: 41 minutes 21 seconds
    • Panel 4: 14 minutes 53 seconds
    • Panel 5: 14 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 6: 16 minutes 21 seconds
    • Panel 7: 21 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 8: 21 minutes 45 seconds
    • Panel 9: 13 minutes 21 seconds
    • TOTAL: 7 hours 9 minutes 21 seconds (20 renders)
  • Page 12
    • Panel 1: 23 minutes 14 seconds
    • Panel 2: 34 minutes 34 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 7 minutes 15 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 4: 1 hour 45 minutes 9 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 59 seconds
    • Panel 6: 35 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 7: 58 minutes 12 seconds
    • Panel 8: 1 hour 21 minutes 31 seconds
    • TOTAL: 20 hours 48 minutes 7 seconds (25 renders)
  • Page 13
    • Panel 1: 1 hour 19 minutes 23 seconds
    • Panel 2: 39 minutes 3 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 10 minutes 37 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 11 hours 52 minutes 35 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 1 day 9 hours 12 seconds (11 renders)
  • Page 14
    • Panel 1: 34 minutes 46 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 2: 46 minutes 51 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 3: 32 minutes (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 2 hours 18 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 53 minutes 55 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 9 hours 11 minutes 19 seconds (16 renders)
  • Page 15
    • Panel 1: 47 minutes 54 seconds
    • Panel 2: 1 hour 41 minutes 11 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 14 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 4: 28 minutes 1 second
    • Panel 5: 36 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 6: 48 minutes 36 seconds
    • Panel 7: 1 hour 51 minutes 13 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 14 hours 21 minutes 7 seconds (18 renders)
  • Page 16
    • Panel 1: 28 minutes 44 seconds
    • Panel 2: 31 minutes 40 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 2 minutes 26 seconds
    • Panel 3 (inset): 41 minutes 13 seconds
    • Panel 4: 33 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 5: 33 minutes 12 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 6: 16 minutes 49 seconds
    • Panel 7: 49 minutes 53 seconds
    • TOTAL: 9 hours 17 minutes (18 renders)
  • Page 17
    • Panel 1: 55 minutes 58 seconds
    • Panel 2: 47 minutes 50 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 3: 36 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 4: 1 hour 8 minutes 31 seconds
    • Panel 5: 42 minutes 37 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 13 hours 35 minutes (19 renders)
  • Page 18
    • Panel 1: 16 minutes 27 seconds
    • Panel 2: 28 minutes 14 seconds
    • Panel 3: 36 minutes 2 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 23 minutes 45 seconds
    • Panel 5: 12 minutes 49 seconds
    • Panel 6: 22 minutes 4 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 7: 1 hour 28 minutes 53 seconds (two renders combined, with breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 11 hours 28 minutes 36 seconds (33 renders)
  • Page 19
    • Panel 1: 14 minutes 50 seconds
    • Panel 2: 38 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 3: 25 minutes 6 seconds
    • Panel 4: 41 minutes 20 seconds
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 12 minutes 56 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 6: 1 hour 40 minutes 25 seconds (two renders combined, with breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 13 hours 55 minutes 14 seconds (23 renders)
  • Page 20
    • Panel 1: 2 hours 21 minutes 16 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 1 (inset): 7 minutes 21 seconds
    • Panel 2: 57 minutes 51 seconds (two renders combined, with breakout mask)
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 27 minutes 17 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 4: 1 hour 27 minutes 54 seconds
    • Panel 5: 51 minutes 37 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 11 hours 43 minutes 57 seconds (22 renders)
  • Page 21
    • Panel 1: 23 minutes 55 seconds
    • Panel 2: 44 minutes 12 seconds
    • Panel 3: 28 minutes 5 seconds
    • Panel 4: 16 minutes 6 seconds
    • Panel 5: 2 hours 17 minutes 6 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 6: 30 minutes 22 seconds
    • Panel 7: 24 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 8: 18 minutes 2 seconds
    • TOTAL: 10 hours 55 minutes 47 seconds (23 renders)
  • Page 22
    • Panel 1: 11 hours 45 minutes 51 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 1 day 2 hours 49 minutes 59 seconds (18 renders)
  • SUPER TOTAL: 17 days 44 minutes 20 seconds (425 renders)

You still there? I’m not. 😆 Daaaaaaamn that was boring to type out. 😛
Yep… that’s a lot of rendering. 😛 It doesn’t look like that much in the spreadsheet I have, but after typing it out into that list… yeah. 😆 425 renders! When I bought my 1080Ti way back when, I was all “gaaah my wallet, that was so damn expensive”, but now I’m thinking it was totally, totally worth it. 😀 And hey, since the data’s in Excel, I made a chart visualising it, for no apparent reason:

Stonks. Shows that I got a pretty steady rhythm going in the night time scenes. 😀

Whew… that’s about it, I think. Now that I’ve finished the comic, no more rendering for me for about… I dunno, 8 months? 😆 I’ll spend that time playing some games that I’ve been wanting to finish, instead, like Trials of Mana, and Pikmin 3, and CTR: Nitro-Fueled and Disgaea 4 and Diablo II and probably some others!

I really hope you enjoy(ed) the comic! Depending on the reaction and/or how I feel, I might end up doing it again in the future. But with a story that contains explosions. 😛

Have a great Meal Deal Day! 😆

Inane rant about DeviantShart that I skipped earlier:

DeviantArt is like… and here comes a dumb, extensive analogy… on a golden island up in the sky in the world of DeviantArt, you’ve got the genuine artists, people who somehow do it as their occupation seemingly without being involved in games or film. They make really impressive stuff (probably because it’s their job) and everyone and their dog watches them. Then, down on the mortal plane, you’ve got the mildly popular people and total unknowns, some artists, some not really, but there are people down there (like me) who are just hobbyists. They may not be anywhere near as good as the people on the golden island, but they still try their best to create pretty things just so others can enjoy them. However, dotted absolutely everywhere on this mortal plane, there are these gigantic mountains made out of SHIT. 😛 I’ve tried to find stuff by other unknowns that I’m interested in so I can give them a watch, but I can’t find anything good due to all the shit! And there’s no point hoping for anyone on the golden island to notice you and watch you: they never bother looking down because they’re probably too busy being amazing, and probably because all they can see from up there is shit. 😛 And more often than not, the owners of the Shit Mountains are somehow unrealistically popular even though all they do is spam shit, and they even try to get some kind of payment for their shit (or for nothing at all) and for some unfathomable reason, people actually give them money! Often for no logical reason! It makes even less sense than people buying microtransactions in a slot machine mobile game that doesn’t pay out!

And it’s not just the content, either. There’re plenty of other things wrong with DeviantArt, too, like… you can’t submit more than one thing at a time unless you pay for the stupid overpriced-as-fuck Core subscription (completely ridiculous), I’m pretty sure a non-Core user’s deviations eventually become near-undiscoverable (might be a legacy thing, but I swear I remember seeing something that suggested your work stops appearing in the “browsing” sections of the site after a few weeks unless you’re Core, making it only possible to find your stuff through search), their site has only been half-converted from the old, ugly, bogey-green theme, their new site design isn’t much better because of its really confusing layout, and their crappy emojis still feel like they were pulled from random MySpace sites made in the 90s and I absolutely hate the hell out of them. Oh, and if you don’t feel like giving a fave or a comment, there’s a third option for some reason: you can give out a “Llama Badge”. I think it’s supposed to be a positive, fun thing. Because sure, real life llamas are fun and fairly cool. But the first thing I thought when receiving my first Llama Badge was: “Eh? Llama badge? You mean like the thoroughly negative Llama Medal from the Skulltag source port of Doom given to you when fragging someone who’s badly lagging or typing in chat, which means “lamer”?” So my immediate connection was that people give llama badges out to say you’re lame! And even worse, the llama badge can apparently level up, so the site’s actually giving you a level of how much of a lamer people think you are! When I made this connection, I was like: “Why’s this asshat calling me a lamer? If they could be bothered to go through the trouble of giving me this, why couldn’t they have just given some constructive feedback, instead?” Thinking maybe my work was inferior to theirs or something, I checked their page, and lo and behold, it was another giant mountain of shit, seemingly all made in Paint, and owned by someone doing a “donation drive” for points so they could get Core on someone else’s wallet. “gib money plz”. Why do they even want Core? OH YEAH, to be able to upload multiple things at a time to grow their shit mountain faster. 😑 DeviantSHART. That’s what I call it. 😛

Rant done. Please read the comic 😆

What is an OX? A miserable little pile of SECRETS!

(Hopefully not miserable; I just needed to match the reference 😛 )

Hellooo! Merry Christmas! And happy New Year! Both of the New Years, that is! 😛

It’s been a little while! How’re you? I’ve been super-busy on a little very large Secret Project for the last half a year or so, as I mentioned offhandedly in the previous post, hence why I never posted anything for Christmas like I normally do. I had to sacrifice that render to gain more time on the secret project. 😦 However, I’m glad I did that, because I would have missed the deadline otherwise. What’s the deadline? Two days from now! 😮 The thing is done, just need to give it a once-over and then get some other bits ready like the blog post. I’m kind of nervous and excited at the same time; I really hope people enjoy it! Or, y’know… even look at it. It friggin’ took long enough. 😛

Anyway! Today’s the beginning of a new Lunar New Year, the Year of the Ox! Yaaaaay! And I’m still a bit confused about it! 😛 I always thought an ox was an animal. Well, yes, it is, but what I mean is that I thought it was its own thing, the name of a species of animal. Like… you could go to a farm and see cows and bulls and maybe some oxen.

But after realising I didn’t actually know what made an ox an ox, then after doing some initial research and struggling to find a model of an ox, I realised: an ox is basically just a job description. An ox is any cattle over the age of 4 that has been trained to work, so oxen are cows and bulls! Most commonly bulls. Sort of. Usually bulls without balls. I think that’s known as a “steer”. Having no balls makes them calmer, apparently. 😛 But according to the Ox (zodiac) Wikipedia page, and the meaning of the Chinese word niú (牛), from this Wiktionary page, it can also mean buffalo, yak, and bison. It was difficult to get the facts straight because there are sources all over the Internet that incorrectly imply that an ox is a totally different animal to something like a bull, or incorrectly spout something partially/totally bullshit (no pun intended 😛 ), like… “ox is a male cow and that’s it lul”. (Yes a male cow can be an ox but a male cow that isn’t an ox is a bull or a steer, and female cows are sometimes trained to be oxen too so a male cow isn’t always an ox, arrrrrrgh see how I’m so damn confused? 😛 )

So, it took me ages to figure out what damn animal I needed, but it left me with a pretty wide choice in the end. I had access to a cow, a bull, and a bison. The bull model was 483 years old and looked like shite, the cow looked like a dairy cow (a Holstein Friesian), which is fine because they can be used as an ox but most people who see it would go “lol that’s not an ox that’s a cow” and I will say “but a cow can be an ox” and they’ll immediately say I’m wrong but won’t do anything to prove otherwise (happens to me a fair bit, I find it both infuriating and hilarious 😛 ). As for the bison, I felt that was a bit too much of a stretch. “牛” may include “bison”, but it doesn’t match with the meaning of “ox” because bison are wild animals and don’t work on farms AFAIK… even though the meaning of “牛” is “ox”. Also, there’s something called a “musk ox” which looks a little bit like a bison and is part of the same family as both bison and cattle (Bovidae) but is in a totally different subfamily (Ovibos, as opposed to Bovinae (which both bison and cattle are part of)) and can’t be an ox in the other sense because it isn’t used as a draft animal, as far as I can tell.

Seriously, do you see why I was so damn confused? This is the worst lunar new year. 😆

Anyway, eventually, I was both so tired from my secret project and so confused at the vague definition of this zodiac animal that I kinda stopped caring and tried rendering both the cow and the bison, deciding on which to use afterwards. 😛 And after not much deliberation, I decided that while the cow was probably the closest match for Year of the Ox, I would have been completely embarrassed to post that, as opposed to only slightly embarrassed to post the bison. And then quickly changed my mind again because a bison isn’t an ox even though it technically is in one defini… oh I don’t care. Here, just have a working bovine! 😛

Available in these flavours:
(1080p) (1080p Dark) (2K) (2K Dark) (4K) (4K Dark)

Happy Year of the Cow/Ballless Bull/Yak/Buffalo/Bison/Other Bovine That Has Possibly Been Trained To Work Depending On Which Definition You Use And Is Either Female Or Male Without Balls Unless They Haven’t Been Trained To Work!

I hate this day 😛

Sorry, this isn’t my best effort, and I don’t think it came out particularly well, either. 😅 Quality feels around about as good as the Year of the Goat render I did about 6 years ago… actually, nah, let’s be fair, it’s at least a li’l bit better than that. 😛 I only had about a day to do this, and honestly, it feels like I’ve been posing and rendering almost every day for the past six months and I really need a break from it. 😛

There wasn’t much to the creation of this one, really, nor did any notable things happen during it. Apart from that one time where I did a minor tweak of the bison’s right eye and DAZ Studio completely locked up and forced me to restart it and made me lose about half an hour of work and then took another 5 minutes to load the scene again. Which I then found out hadn’t actually saved the last time I asked it to save, making me lose another 10 minutes of work. Because this scene was so much lighter than the ones used in the secret project, I’d hoped DS might start behaving itself a little bit, but nope, it’s still a shit eater! 😡

Anyway, now for the RENDER STATS! And… well, the render was very fast. At Quality 2 and with the caustic sampler on, it took 6 minutes 19.10 seconds to reach 98% convergence on a 1080Ti and 1070Ti. So… yeah. 😆 Postwork was pretty much the same as every other Lunar New Year render: a custom background and some glow effects around the ox cow bull bison. 😛 As for a timelapse, I didn’t bother this time, because it wasn’t really worth it. The scene didn’t take long to put together, and it went pretty similarly to Year of the Rat, apart from that I didn’t need to do any major model adjustments, so there was even less to it. 🙂

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the post title, that’s a reference to this scene from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I’ve never played it, although I probably should get around to that at some point. 😀 The only reason I know of that scene is due to a Flash file once served to me when visiting thebest404pageever, a now defunct (and probably non-existent) website due to Adobe Flash’s end of life (mixed feelings about that, so I shall say both RIP and good riddance :P). Thankfully, someone’s converted that Flash file to a video, which I shall leave you to enjoy. Meanwhile, I will go and play a game for the first time in what feels like ages, and have a mega sleep. 😆

Hopefully see ya in a couple days for something much better! 😀

A render NOT done en passant!

Well, t’ other day… and by “t’ other day” I mean “more than a month ago”, DAZ was running one of its insanely convoluted sales, as per usual. 😛 They’re normally something like “buy an item in Group A and get anything from Group B for X% off, but buy two or more items from Group A and get all the things you chose in Group B for Y% off and get Z% off gift cards! (excluding new releases)”. Yes really. Also, several types of sale tend to be running at once, making it even MORE complicated. 😛 Even though they have so many of these sales, they’re never good, they sometimes lie, and I tend to have literally no interest in any of the items they have on offer.

Aha, but the one that caught my eye was interesting. Sure, the offer was totally idiotic: “buy one of these 6 new (they definitely weren’t new because I’d seen them before, heh) special effects items for 40% off and get 80% off everything in these two groups of assets, and 50% off this other group of assets.” Sounded like another overcomplicated yawnfest, but one of the groups of assets for 80% off was themed very nicely. It was all about, yes, of course: dragons! Specifically, the Dragon 3! 😀

Y’see, I didn’t own Dragon 3 legitimately, even though it’s an awesome figure. That’s because, for me, the asking price was way too high, especially for the amount I actually use DAZ Studio. Besides, I never really liked the thought of buying assets for DS. Kinda difficult to explain why… maybe it’s my lack of appreciation for art. 😛 I mean, all you can do with DS assets is pose them and render something out that someone may or may not look at for a maximum of 60 seconds. The renders can be pretty, but it’s not as if they demonstrate real skill. 😛 Sure, designing the scene takes some imagination, and the posing, lighting and camera setup takes a good amount of effort, but you’d never get the same level of respect as someone who actually made the models, or painted the same scene in Photoshop from scratch. Real artists would probably laugh at the stuff that I do, and not in the way I intended. 😛 I think of it in this way: DAZ Studio is like Multimedia Fusion. MMF can help you create games and applications with almost no technical skill, whereas DS can help you create nice artwork with almost no artistic skill… apart from that gamers generally don’t judge a game on the engine it’s built with, whereas artists would judge art based on how you create it… but then again, normal viewers of said art probably wouldn’t… maybe. 😛

Okay, now I don’t even know what I’m talking about. 😛 Skipping over my dumbass logic, another reason why I never really buy assets is because DAZ Studio is not a particularly stable piece of software, yes, even after finding out my BSODs weren’t actually caused by it. And just like I won’t buy broken vidya gamez, I just can’t bring myself to buy figures for a piece of rendering software which doesn’t work properly. 😛 Because of the immensity of this sale, though, and because the Dragon 3 is epic, I thought I’d put things right, and decided to get a legit version of the Dragon 3 Pro Bundle along with a lot of additional mods and an effects pack called DragonFire. Many of the things I got weren’t available anywhere else, anyway. Man, it was like the storefront was made for me, because they even had a different sale on at the same time which featured a crapton of other monster-related items, including armour and attachments for the Dragon 3, a supermorph that turns Dragon 3 into a Wyvern, the awesome-looking Reptilian 6 supermorph for Genesis 2, and a gargoyle mod that required Reptilian 6. Unfortunately, that mod required another mod which was illogically expensive, and this is where I had to stop myself. 😛 Lizardmen and gargoyles are awesome, but I can’t really think of a scene where I can use them… well, not off the top of my head, anyway.

After checking out my haul, I found out you could install these items directly within the fairly new DAZ Studio 4.9 instead of using the DAZ Install Manager or doing it manually. Intrigued by this and whether 4.9 was any more stable than 4.8 when rendering, I decided to open up the DAZ Install Manager (DIM) to install it. Unfortunately, DIM is… dim. 😛 Installing a new version of DS removes old versions automatically, without permission. That, and you can’t install old versions. They don’t show up in DIM and I can’t find DS 4.8 on my account. So… now I’m forced to use DAZ Studio 4.9. Thanks! Thanks a lot. >.<

Doesn’t matter, really. DS 4.9 is pretty much identical to DS 4.8. 😛

Well, okay. There’s a new splash screen. 😛 There’s also “DAZ Connect” and “Smart Content”, which lets you connect to your account, download products and install them from within DS, which is slightly easier than using DIM. Uh… the installation process is slightly easier, that is. Everything afterwards is way harder. 😛 Y’see, Smart Content uses its own content library, so anything you download with it doesn’t go with your other content. That, and it doesn’t… actually contain all the content on your account. I mean, the Dragon 3 Pro Bundle comes with additional textures, and I’ve scrolled through my list about five times now… and they’re just… not here. 😛 So, Smart Content is… not smart. It’s stupid and pointless. Using DIM is better because that does show all your owned content, but after installing content from DIM, if you rearrange your content directories to make them neater because you have mild OCD like me, the metadata breaks. So, doing it manually is the best way, as per bloody usual! 😛

What else is new… er… hmmm… well. It’s er… yeah, there… isn’t anything else I can see. I mean, I thought they’d have fixed that one bug where moving or rotating the camera sometimes makes it teleport 8 billion miles from where you were or rotate 3000 degrees instantly, or that other bug where attempting to adjust a property increases or decreases it by several thousand units instantly, and that other bug where clicking on something in the Scene hierarchy makes it select everything from what you had selected down to what you just clicked on for no reason. I also thought they’d make their interface to the NVIDIA Iray renderer more understandable and less impossible to configure so that I’d actually want to use it, but y’know, they must’ve been really busy with all those other invisible features that they forgot to fix these infuriating issues. 😛 It’s no more performant, renders look the same and take the same amount of time, and it’s just as UNstable as 4.8. Brilliant. GG DAZ.

Anyway, phuck that, let’s get to the point. 😛 In the sale, I snagged a couple of new supermorphs for the Dragon 3, the Hellborn Dragon and Spectral Dragon. I noticed they almost look like polar opposites, and because of this, I thought I’d make a little render with both of them together. A render depicting a conflict between the forces of heaven and hell, good and evil, black and white. A render showing the Spectral and Hellborn dragons locked in fierce combat on a famous battleground. A battle where they must protect their weak points, think before every move they make… a battle that will strain their minds to the limit, where only one dragon will walk away victorious… unless they both agree to cease the fighting, or if STALEMATE OCCURS.

Or if THREEFOLD REPETITION OCCURS!

OR THE 50 MOVE RULE!

You got it?!

YES, it’s TWO DRAGONS FUCKING PLAYING CHESS!! CHECK it out, MATE:

Dueling Dragons (1080p)
Available in: (1080p) (QHD) (UHD)

The Light Dragon slid his Queen across the board, claiming yet another black pawn. A low, quiet growl of frustration rumbled from the Hell Dragon’s throat as his opponent placed the black piece among his ever-growing collection. The Hell Dragon’s skin glowed as he scratched the back of his neck, pondering his next move, trying not to take notice of the white dragon’s calm, complacent gaze, or the gentle sound of his talons clicking against the marble floor.
“Rrr… if we were playing Monopoly, you wouldn’t be so smug.” He snarled.

“check it out mate”, oh god that pun made me feel a bit sick

I… just… yes. I believe this scene is all very yes. 😀  But it took FOREVER!

The environment I used came with a preset lightrig which was… well. It was heh. The default settings were retardedly bright, and all the lights were Uber Area Lights which I hate, because although the lights show up as lights in the scene, changing the light settings of the lights don’t change the light settings, because the light settings are actually part of the material. How wonderfully user-friendly and not-at-all impossible to comprehend! 😛

After dimming the lights down a bit, it looked great. The main problem was what happened when you try to render a scene containing UberEnvironment, a ton of Uber Area Lights, a chess set with refraction and reflection and two dragon figures both using Subsurface Scattering. Heheheh… draft renders took about an hour, and that was with the render quality at a crazy-low level! Because the draft renders were so lengthy, I couldn’t easily preview changes I made to the scene, and there’s only so much you can determine by looking at the viewport. There were those problems with BSODs while I was creating this scene too, hence why I totally flipped out and made a massive effort to figure out why the frig the PC was crashing all the time. If I hadn’t fixed it, this scene would have never been finished.

Anyhoo, render stats! At 4K with Depth of Field enabled, UberEnvironment 2 on the XHi preset, 17 Uber Area Lights, a shading rate of 0.25 and 32 pixel samples, the render time was 5 HOURS 32 minutes 6.73 seconds; the longest render I’ve ever done by far. Thanks to the stupid render times and the nice bluescreens I had at first, it’s also been the longest amount of time I’ve ever worked on a scene. 😛

What else… ah, yes, a li’l trivia. 😀 To get the layout of that board, yes, I played chess with myself, purposefully playing Black like a bit of a spanner. 😛 I was originally gonna place the pieces somewhat randomly, but that would’ve probably made the board look weird. I thought about copying a board layout (since there’re a crazy number of diagrams of chess games in the different chess-related sections of Wikipedia 😛 ), but that would’ve been boring and uninspired. I like to add some authenticity. 😀

Also, as you might’ve noticed in the image, I decided to change my artist pseudonym. 😛 There’re two reasons for this, the main one being that my old name, “DracoAurarius”, didn’t really mean anything. Well, sure, it means “Golden Dragon”, but I only chose that name because, I quote: “dragons are the most kickass creatures ever, gold is shiny and the most kickass material ever, gold dragons are crazy-kickass, and when written down at the bottom of artwork, it looks better than say, “MongMaster”. Or “Carl”.” 😛 Now, though, I really want my pseudonym to reflect my wild, out-of-the-box style, and explain that I love making crazy shit with dragons. Hence the change to DracoIndomita, meaning “Wild Dragon” or “Untamed Dragon”. 😀

The second reason for the change is actually a really dumb one. 😛 A long time ago, I had a DeviantArt account under the name of DracoAurarius. I used it to post the first chapter of Dragon Tail; a novel I started writing years ago. I posted the whole first version on this blog, actually, chapter by chapter, but I later removed it for the same reasons I wanted to remove it from DeviantArt. It was an awful, awful piece of writing that was in dire need of a revision, but at the same time I was so proud and so attached to it that there was no way I wanted it to be stolen. 😛 Instead of just deleting the submission from DeviantArt, though, I trashed the entire account. I didn’t really have any use for it, I mean, it didn’t really get any views. Besides, writing isn’t even art! 😛 Back then I had no idea I’d get into DAZ Studio and become good at using it, though.

When I finished Dragon.Init(), I was really happy with it, and since recently I’m only getting 3 views per day here across all 624 posts, I thought I thought I’d make an account on Deviant Art again with the intention of sharing my better stuff so that more people might enjoy it. Doubt anyone would look cuz almost no-one ever looks at my stuff regardless of where I post it, whine whine whine, but hey, I might as well try, right? I tried to create an account with the same name as before, DracoAurarius, but it said the name was claimed. I figured that was impossible because it’s so obscure, so I tried logging in, aaaand it let me in. I was kinda confused since I was sure I’d deleted the account, but it turns out that when you delete an account, DeviantArt doesn’t actually delete it, it just disables it with no way of reactivating it. DURRRR, why the fuck?! Because of that, I couldn’t use DracoAurarius, and that’s what caused me to think about a new name. 😛 With this image, I finally decided to change to DracoIndomita. Took me friggin’ ages to settle on it. 😛

Anyway, sorry for blabbering on about that crap! Here, have a bonus render of the Spectral Dragon:

Serene Spectral Dragon

Hahaha, I love that pose so much. It’s probably the best pose I’ve created; it came out better than I visualised. 😀 He just looks so friggin’ relaxed and smug. Don’t worry, I haven’t left the Hellborn Dragon out; here’s a bonus render of him too:

Serene Spectral Dragon

The subsurface on this one is amazing. 😀 Takes about 20 minutes to calculate then another 40 minutes to render, but still… 😛

Anyhoo, I hope you liek da epic chess match! Time for beddy byes for me. 😛

 

(UPDATEs are below; the main post content was last modified after UPDATE 6. 🙂 )

UPDATE!!
Hrrrgrhhhhaagahhhh! After fixing the DoF issue, I’ve now noticed something else I’m not happy with! I don’t know why, but I’ve lost some of the reflectivity of the chess board. It’s supposed to be a wooden chess board with some glass over it, and it used to be nicely reflective, but the effect’s just disappeared into POOP! That, and the black pieces are way too black with almost no specular highlights, even though I’ve done about 10 test renders and was really happy with the state of the chess pieces! Where’s it all gone?! 😦

Christ, THIS SCENE IS NEVER GONNA EENNNNDD!! It takes about ten hours to render final versions of all the resolutions I want, and I keep seeing minor details that I’m not happy with! It’s all very very annoying. 😛 Yes, of course, I could just render in 4K and downscale to 2K and 1080p, but then you get crappy blurry reduction artefacts, and that SUCKS! I’m not doing it in a half-arsed way. 😛

Welp, here we go with some more tweaking! WHOOOOO

 

UPDATE 2!!
Phuuuuuck… well, it turns out there was already reflection on the chess board. About 80%, actually, which is too high, yet I could see no reflection. That could only mean one thing: DAZ Studio’s default shader was being SHIIIIIIIT!

I switched it to an UberSurface shader and dropped the reflection strength and boosh, it looked pretty much like I remember it being… a bit better actually, since I tweaked the colour of the black pieces and black squares. But then there was ANOTHER problem. Inexplicably, this increased the render time EVEN FURTHER. A 4K render took friggin’ 5 hours 27 minutes, almost an HOUR more than it used to! And then, I noticed the reflection was still too strong! Gnyyyyyyaaaah!

After dropping the reflection strength, I did some calculations and estimated that the three renders would take about 12 hours, which was way too long, so I decided to do the 4K render and the 1080p render for today and do the 2K render overnight. The Pwnage-O-Matic is still blazing away on the 4K render (about 81% done, whoooo!), and by tonight I should have that and the 1080p render, so I’ll post ’em both then. 🙂

 

UPDATE 3!!
FUCK MY LIFE

I got home to what I believed was going to be the final render. And then noticed that the underside of the Spectral Dragon’s wings were not gold. And that’s because I didn’t re-enable the object after doing my render tests for the chess set, because DAZ Studio is a piece of shit and makes it so child objects don’t inherit visibility from their parents, the exact opposite of what Unity does, which I use every day at work. HEADDESK HEADDESK HEADKEYBOARD ARGHHHH

So, that’s ANOTHER 12 hours of rendering to do, but there is NO WAY it can go wrong this time because everything else is fine except for the wings. Graah, why is everything going so shittily recently?!

 

UPDATE 4!!
Finally. FINALLY! YYYYESH! YYYYESH!

I’ve rendered out the 1080p version of it and I’m pretty much as happy as a clam that isn’t in a restaurant. 😀 I’ve updated the post with the new image; I’ll add the higher resolution versions soon. 🙂

 

UPDATE 5!!
4K version is FINITO, and the 2K version is 84% COMPLETEZ0RD. Should be done in about 15-20 minutes, and in that time I am going to eat a burger, wait for the gas man to complete the inspection of the boiler and not submit the update to this post… 20 minutes later, good burger but worst gas man ever who attempted to arrive 30 minutes earlier than I scheduled, then was unbelievably unfriendly while doing the job.

But it’s okay because the 2K version is FINIIIIIIIIIIISH! I’ve added both that and the 4K version to the post, and that is all. OH WAIT, there’s the bonus render of the Hellborn Dragon. I’ll get that started now. 😀

 

UPDATE 6!!
There; added the bonus render of the Hellborn Dragon to the post, and now it’s time to give the PC a break from rendering. Good job, Pwnage-O-Matic. 😀

But hey, if you want this render in a different resolution, I’d be happy to kick off another render for ya! Unless it’s something dumb like QQUHD, which is… 15360×8640. Actually, DAZ Studio can’t render at that resolution, so nyaaaa. 😛 (The highest it could do is 8K. 😉 )