Ghosts in the sky…

Heyaaa. How was everyone’s Halloween? Yeah… it’s not really one of those things that people do any more. Well, not me, anyway. When I was a kid, sure. But to be honest, I don’t really get it. It’s supposed to be a religious thing, and I ain’t, but people went ahead and commercialised it and now it’s not really a religious thing any more. In some parts of the world, sure, but not ‘ere. 😛

Anyway, it’s the day of scary shit, right? That, and it’s the only time it’s okay for children to go around and get strangers to give them sweets. 😛 Thankfully I don’t get any kids buzzing my flat. Not like I ever answer my buzzer unless I’m expecting someone, anyway, but still. It’s nice.

I had an idea for a Halloween render about a couple of months before, and I wrote it down in OneNote, ending the description with “Halloween’s on October 31st so we got about 3000 years to get this done. Give or take.” When Halloween came around, I opened up OneNote, not to read what I’d written down in August, but to keep track of how many meals and stuff were in my grocery shop as I was doing it. 😛 After finishing the shop, my brain seemed to autopilot me into the Render Scene Ideas section and I went “OH SHI CRAP DAMN ARGH I FORGOT”, leaving me with 6 hours until Halloween ended, and if I posted a Halloween render after then I would look stupid. I mean jeez it’s not even Halloween any more how dumb would that look for someone to post something for Halloween after it was over.

So without further ado, here is a Halloween render!

Ghost Stories - DracoIndomita
(Available in these flavours: 1080pQHD/2K, UHD/4K)

Hahah! Honestly, I… loved this idea. 😀 It was my first genuinely decent idea since Dueling Dragons. My vision was a bit different from the result, but I think this is way better than what I envisioned.

I used Iray again, if you didn’t already know. 🙂 I’ve been trying to battle past the total idiocy of it, because I really really like it. Er, what it can come up with, that is. Don’t like much else about it. 😛 I used a combination of emissive lighting and standard lighting, the latter of which I never really used because I didn’t think it worked with Iray. I thought that all Iray lighting had to have some kind of physical presence in the scene, but nope, you can use standard lights. I just never tried giving the standard lights unrealistic values like Iray seems to want. 😛 Finding that out was pretty much a godsend. The spotlight of the torch wasn’t possible with emissive lighting, and the light from the campfire wasn’t lighting the correct side of the younger dragons on the left. I fixed that with another spotlight. 🙂

And hey, as a nice pat-myself-on-the-head-and-give-myself-a-peanut bonus, this is actually my first ever good quality render containing three subjects! My good renders have only ever contained a maximum of two before. Sure, some test renders I’ve done contained up to four, but they… weren’t good. 😛

Now, render statz! This was a LONG render, probably the longest I’ve done so far. In 2K at quality 2 with a target convergence of 98%, it took 5 hours 51 minutes 3.68 seconds. I’m expecting the 4K render to take around 13 hours. D: Looks like I am an estimation winner! It took 13 hours 14 minutes 54.38 seconds. Yikes. 😛 Postwork consists of a slight bloom effect, grain reduction, a levels adjustment and manual removal of some background distractions. There was a thin layer of light along the ground, and it looked really weird.

The post title is a reference to one of the songs I listened to while making this: a cover of a song called Aaveratsastajat, by Hevisaurus. That link goes to Spotify; I can’t seem to find it on YouTube. Anyway, it’s a repeated lyric in the chorus: “Aaveet taivahan”, which means “ghosts in the sky”. Maybe. I used Google Translate, of course. I can’t speak Finnish. 😛 If you remove the capital “A” it becomes “ghosts to heaven”. So I have no idea. 😛

Anyway, hope you like the image! If you’d like it in a different resolution, don’t be afraid to ask. 🙂 Well, as long as it’s not much higher than 8K. DS can’t render images with either dimension exceeding 10,000px. 😛

UPDATE!!
Wow! This sure got some love; WordPress tells me that it was my best day for likes! Thanks so much, everyone! 🙂

There were a couple of little things that bugged me about the render, so I made some changes. Namely, I thought the blue dragon’s neck looked weird and distracting, so I adjusted it. I did a couple of tweaks to the black dragon’s eyes, too: they’re a bit more open to make him look scarier, and his gaze is more focused on the other dragons.

Also, I’ve added a link to the UHD/4K version of the render. 🙂 Funny story: before I went to bed, I started the render with the hopes that it’d be at least nearly done overnight. When I woke up and checked the PC, it turned out that DAZ Studio had decided to ask the CPU to do the render, instead of using my two GPUs like I asked. So it burned the hell out of my CPU for about nine hours, just to reach an iteration count of about 900-odd, something that my GPUs can reach in ONE hour. Thanks, DAZ. -.- I cancelled it, restarted DAZ Studio and tried rendering again, and it started using the GPUs. Probably a dumb memory leak. Jeeesus, I mean, if the scene doesn’t fit in GPU memory, why can’t it do something intelligent for once? Like, if “CPU” isn’t checked in the Advanced tab of Render settings, throw up a dialog saying “oh there’s not enough GPU memory to do this with the GPUs”, then STOP rendering? I think that’s better than silently attempting to complete a render that will take the CPU about 143 hours. Not exaggerating. 😛

UPDATE 2!!
I’ve added a link to the 1080p version. For some reason, it still took more than five hours to render, even though it’s a fair bit smaller than 2K. Shrug. 😛

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Temporarily not working is niiiice!

Hiyaaaaa! How’s it going? 😀 Ooh, what’s this featured image thingy? Ah, I see. That’s kinda fun. 🙂 It probably only has an effect if you click on the post title, though.

Anyway ya, it’s been a li’l while since I last sharted tons of words onto this website. Although, well… I have some drafts somewhere around here. Yes, I did it again, I wrote loads of crap that I didn’t get around to posting. 😛 Partially because the posts got a bit long, partially because they happened quite a while ago and therefore it’s kinda late to post them, but mainly because I am a lazy shite. 😛 As I’ve been demonstrating over the past two weeks by not working!

Yes, I booked some time off because I was going to die otherwise. 😛 I haven’t actually had time off for myself in over a year. I’ve had time off, sure, but that’s because I had to take it off to go visit/have people visit me. Fun, but not really relaxing. I was going to spend some of my holiday doing productive things, but I pretty much just ended up sleeping a lot and playing games a lot, with a bit of eating and washing up in-between. So yes, lazy shite. 😛

I think the main cause of the lack of productivity was RimWorld. I won’t explain it too much, but it’s a colony simulation game kinda like Dwarf Fortress, not that I’d know cuz I “played” about 30 seconds of Dwarf Fortress before saying “fuck this, I literally can’t play”. 😛 Someone I know’s been playing RimWorld, so I thought I’d give it a try. And… well, I think the best word to describe it is “dangerous”. It’s insanely addictive. Like really insanely. I don’t think I’ve played a game that’s been this addictive before. But the annoying thing is, regardless of its addictiveness, I don’t actually think it’s that good. It’s frustratingly luck-based. I mean, Jesus, the friggin’ hit chances. I’m pretty damn sure what it says is total bullshit, because when some guy with a 4% hit chance hits you 3 times in 9 shots when your guy with a 10% hit chance hits ZERO times in 9 shots, that’s totally unbelievable. If I’d been playing it normally and didn’t reload when I felt bullshitted, I would’ve probably lost half my colony in one pathetic raid where the only reason I was struggling was cuz no-one on my team could fucking hit anything because of luck, then I would’ve probably lost the rest to stupid mental breakdowns where people usually end up wandering around doing nothing for about a day before complaining that they’re half-dead from starvation when they suddenly get over everything.

And it’s not only the luck-based crap, but the more you play it, the more idiocy you see. The AI is fucking stupid for one thing; you have to micromanage until you’re on the brink of an aneurysm. Then there’s some really dumbass design choices, like… by default you can only have one colony (multiple colonies work absolutely fine, they make the game more interesting and there is no real reason why this is disabled by default), the dumbass AI doesn’t give a shit about friendly fire and they can shoot friendlies directly next to them even though the learning helper effectively says that they can’t, everyone hates anyone who slaughters colony animals even though it was my direct order and they would have all died if they didn’t have the food it gave them, and if you capture a downed enemy who attacked you but failed to land a single hit on anyone, they’re not classed as guilty for some reason, so if they die through any means (such as “oh shit I didn’t realise that guy was going to die in two hours and it takes an hour and a half to get them to a bed because these fucks are so slow”), your whole colony gets a massive mood penalty because “omg a harmless prisoner died that’s so barbaric”. Oh, and you can’t harvest the organs of a dead person, but you can harvest organs from a live person (but you get mood and social penalties if you do so there’s no point). The fuck?

And I said I wouldn’t explain it too much and now look at that, for God’s sake damn it stop. 😛

Anyway, I got around to doing something kinda productive today. I made a RENDAR! Yez. 😀 It’s related to this game I’ve been slaving over for the past two years or so, although it feels more like three or even four. Not any of my games, no no no, that wouldn’t be “slaving over” it because I want to make ULSG V14, but I just never have the time. And when I do, I’m too friggin’ focused on sleeping and being lazy. 😛

It’s a game called “Race Kings”, sexist, which we made for another company. Another company who then has the audacity to say it was developed by them when it really wasn’t. I guess they paid the company I work for to do it, so maybe legally that’s correct, but… logically, it just isn’t. 😛 It’s probably best if I try not to say exactly what I think about it. But I’d like to encourage you not to play it at all, please, k thx! 😀

Anyway, the render. It was just a quick, simple-ish idea based upon one of the game’s completely idiotic understandable if you’re fucking stupid design choices. A design choice so dumb it annoys the designers that some people in the office complained about endlessly a few times. If you set off between two and zero seconds before the light goes green, you immediately lose, and forfeit all the money you wagered on the race. but if you don’t start within about a frame of the light going green you’ll lose because that’s basically the whole point of the game and 95% of the time you’ll finish last if you start last unless you pay to win

So, now that the rant explanation is out of the way, here is a dragon getting a false start!

False Start (1080p)(Available in these great flavours: 1080p, WUXGAQHDUHD)

Taken a few moments before he gets a bit more violent. No, he doesn’t break his HLE Infinity smartphone; he likes it way too much to damage it over this. He just burns a very specific part of London down instead. 😛

Anyhoo, I used Iray for this render again! I’ve been practicing a li’l bit, and I’ve gotten more used to it now, sort of. You just need to ignore the fact that it’s trying to be realistic and use whatever numbers make things look nice. When it asks for things like the candle wattage/lumen of a light, just smile, pat it on the head and input a value about 200,000x more than what is realistic. 😛

I don’t really understand light, but I know Iray is full of crap when it comes to it. 😛 The lights in this scene came with the environment, and they already had unrealistic values. By default, Iray uses candelas/m² to measure luminance, and it was set to 250,000cd/m². I had no idea what I was doing, but I did some rough measurements and found that the lights had a surface area of about 0.812m², meaning their luminance was about 203,000cd, and apparently 1cd = 1 lumen. That’s makes the light twice as powerful as full daylight, and there’s seven of the damn things! And guess what? That’s NOT ENOUGH!! I had to increase their luminance to 17,500,000cd/m², which is about 14 MILLION LUMEN! PER LIGHT! WHAT!

If I turn off the Sun-Sky lighting and just use the already insane default values, the render looks like this:

Iray

COOL, HUH?!? (Oh, ignore the noise, I only let it render for about two minutes. :P)

I tested to see if I wasn’t going crazy by switching the material’s luminance units to lumen and entering 14,000,000, and amazingly, it looks like I’m actually right. The light is pretty similar to when I enter 17,500,000cd/m²; it looks just a little bit brighter. So… yeah! I rest my case! This renderer is trippin’ balls and needs ridiculously inflated values! Maybe not quite 200,000 times more. Just 20,000 times more. 😛

Also, Iray doesn’t seem to be able to produce a render which isn’t grainy as fuck, no matter how high you put the render quality (pro tip: no higher than 4 because that’s about as good as you’re gonna get 😛 ). But I have found that you can get rid of most of it (most of the time) with a couple of quick Photoshop filters. Just add a 0.6-radius Gaussian Blur followed by a 0.6-radius Smart Sharpen. Tends to do the trick, kinda. YMMV. 🙂

So, for the 1080p version at rendering quality 3, it took… 1 hour 56 minutes 48.7 seconds, and it only reached 91% convergence before hitting the iteration limit. That was on two GTX 970s, so… speedy, Iray is not. 😛 I guess it can be prettier and more realistic, though. As for posing, that actually took about the same amount of time, but might’ve taken less if I wasn’t such a moronic perfectionist. I posed his feet and tail, even though you can’t see them. 😛

I listened to the Daytona USA soundtrack while posing, because this game kinda reminds me of it, apart from that it’s not NASCAR, or touring cars, and the courses only have 1-2 laps and last 30-60 seconds and is generally nothing like Daytona USA. 😛 and there’s next to no skill involved and it doesn’t have an awesome soundtrack and it isn’t fun or cool Maybe it’s because you go around in circles. Or maybe it’s just because the second half of Pounding Pavement cracks me right up, and Mitsuyoshi-san is a legend. 😀

Anyway, hope you like the render. 😀 I’ll get the QHD and 4K versions done overnight. QHD and 4K versions are doooone. 🙂 I’ll also go through those drafts I did and see if I can fix them up enough to post them. And by “fix up” I mean “holy crap cut them down that one’s about 10,000 words long”. 😛

Buh-bye! 😀

(Also LMFAO)

 

UPDATE!!

Added the QHD and 4K versions. 4K would’ve taken more than 6 hours to reach the 95% convergence target… if it didn’t run out of time. 😛 QHD took 3 hours 56 minutes 5.8 seconds. THE SPEEEEEEEED! 😛

UPDATE 2!!

I found out that my work monitor, like my work SpackBook, also has a stupid uncommon resolution, 1920×1200, also known as WUXGA, Wide Ultra eXtended Graphics Array! It’s like 1080p, but with 120 more pixels of height, and I didn’t even notice. Literally the only reason this resolution seems to exist is because someone said they could use it to fit two full pages of text on-screen at once. I wonder if they realised that instead of making an entirely new resolution and entirely new class of monitor they could just… zoom out to 80%? 😛

Anyway who cares. I re-rendered it in WUXGA so it fits my work monitor, so I figured I’d add it here, too. 🙂

This post contains a BIG COCK!

Ohayo gozaimasu! Or konnichiwa! Or konbanwa! Depending on your current time zone and the current rotation of the Earth! Monmasuta no Warudo shacho no Monmasuta desu! Dunno why I’m using Japanese words and a broken Japanese sentence in a post about a Chinese celebration, but hey, that’s just how I ROLL! Just like BOWLING! BOOM, STRIKE! TUBE STRIKE! SOUTHERN RAIL STRIKE!

ANYHOO, Happy Lunar New Year! 😀 Feels like it happened kinda early this year. I mean, the last few’ve happened in February, although I think Year of the Dragon was in January too but I CAN’T REMEMBER STUFF LIKE THAT FROM FIVE YEARS AGO! 😛 On that note, sheesh, five years… it feels way longer than that since I started my Chinese Zodiac series of renders. I’m kinda surprised I’ve managed to keep it going this long. I mean, the first two, Dragon and Snake, went really well, even though I remember being rather ill when doing Snake. Every year after those, though, I’ve been worried about whether the render was doable or not. Horse wasn’t so bad apart from the model featured le foal-creation toolset, which wasn’t detailed or anything, but it was still awkwardly visible. Thankfully, I discovered the Mare morph. 😛 Goat was difficult, because it wasn’t easy to get hold of a decent goat model. That, and it took several re-poses before I had something that looked alright. And DAZ Studio was crashing the PC during renders. And it was being completely insane, as I demonstrated. As for Monkey last year, I didn’t even realise what day the Lunar New Year was happening that year, and the only decent monkey models I could find were all supermorphs for Genesis figures, so they looked way too human-like. And it took me ages to get my friggin’ act together and make a good pose. And DAZ Studio was crashing the PC during renders. 😛

So what about this year? What about Rooster?!

It went pretty smoothly, actually. Heheh. 😛 Way smoother than I was expecting.

My main worry was the model. There were like… two models to choose from. One of them was an extremely low-poly chicken which almost certainly had no morphs, but luckily, the other was a somewhat detailed cockerel with more morphs than I was expecting. 2K textures, too, which was… eh, not bad, really, could’ve been worse… although about 40% of the pixels of the textures are just friggin’ unused because the UVs are crazy. 😛 But yeah, through some miracle, the model hunt turned out fairly well!

Posing wasn’t too difficult, either, nor was adjusting the texture settings. Creating the background was simple-ish too, thanks to my past self leaving detailed notes. And DAZ Studio didn’t crash! At all! Kinda expected that, though, since I’ve already fixed the cause of the crashing. 😛

Right anyway yeah yeah yeah yeay yeay, yeay heay hey, I said hey what’s going on. Prepare your anus, for here is A BIG COCK FOR YOU TO ENJOY, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT:

2017: Year of the Rooster - DracoIndomita
(Available in these flavours: 1080p, 1080p Dark, QHD, QHD Dark, UHD, UHD Dark)

Wahey! I mean, he’s not as fat or as fluffy as I was expecting him to be, but I think it turned out fairly well; way better than I was expecting! I just wish the texture quality was more better. And like hell can I texture a model, let alone retexture someone else’s model. 😛

Anyway, who wants render stats?! No-one? Well, I don’t care, here they are anyway. 😛 In 4K with DoF, UberEnvironment on High, a shading rate of 0.2 and 32 pixel samples, the render time was 32 minutes 37.1 seconds. Not Bad. Postwork includes the background, touching up the highlights on the eyes and adding a bit of Epic Motion Blur(tm) behind the turkey. Uh, rooster. 😛

So, this is the halfway point for the Chinese Zodiac series; just six renders to go until I’ve made the set! YEAH! 😀 Next year’s pic should be much easier to get a model for, too. But for nao, I’m off. Catch ya laterz!

Post Deliveryyyyy!

Phwoaack, it’s been a li’l while since I last posted. The last time was back when I PERFECTED MATRYOSHKA ON SUPER HARD LOOK LOOK LOOK:

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207

WOW! LOOK AGAIN!

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207

Ahem. So, how’re thingz? 🙂

What’ve I done since I last posted? Well, I’ve mainly been working, aaand it’s basically making me lose the will to live. 😛 Our previous project was good, I mean, I didn’t really like the game as a whole, but it was interesting to work on, and the features we were implementing were well designed and interesting to play, even if the core game was pretty dull. That was about 2 years ago. Since then, we’ve been working on a new project. It was fairly decent when we began, but as it progressed and other people got involved, I slowly began to realise that this game we were making… I didn’t like it. Like, REALLY didn’t like it. I also slowly began to dislike the other people who were getting involved. Since then, it’s escalated into a huge tornado of fuckshit. The lack of communication is ultra-annoying, the organisation is so bad I actually think the teams I worked with at university did a better job, people have meetings when I’m pretty sure they don’t need one and they overrun literally every single time, and some of the decisions made by the project leader are so stupid they go beyond what I can comprehend… for example, our game is free-to-play with in-app purchases (IAPs) like 99% of mobile junk, but the difference between all that junk and this junk was that our IAP shop was constantly pushed back in favour of much less critical tasks… so our game cannot make money. When we go for a meeting to determine our next set of tasks, the project leader always seems to have picked more tasks than we can all possibly do, insisting all of them are critical for the next build, and then it usually turns out he’s actually just picked stuff he wants instead of stuff we need. And it’s not just him; a lot of the other people I have to work with are so stupid I can’t help but wonder how the hell they got into this industry, and I can’t believe some of them have been making games for way longer than I have. Several of them don’t even care about gaming! I worked my ass off and racked up a massive debt to get here and do what I love doing, and there are people like this?! ARGHH! AND it’s summer, my least favourite season, and there’s no goddamn air conditioning and the wind speed is less than 10 mph, and conveniently all of the fans in the room appear to be situated near the lead staff, but they were saying they were going to order more, maybe, at some point, or not, probably needs a meeting. Two weeks after they mentioned getting more fans, they still haven’t, so they obviously don’t care.

The result of all this pain? A game I really really hate which I would uninstall in less than five minutes. I actually hope it bombs harder than anything has ever bombed before. I hide my opinion of the game from the other staff because it doesn’t help anyone to complain and there’s nothing that can be done about it now, but also because I’ve recently found out the project leader has this fucked up mentality that anyone who has made negative comments about the game is an asshole and 100% wrong. I hate people who can’t take criticism.

Anyway, that’s FAR too much whining, sorry. This post wasn’t supposed to be about ruining your day by mimicking the average Facebook feed. 😛 So, other more better stuff I’ve done… well, I’ve been playing a few games, of course. 🙂 I quite enjoyed the Overwatch Beta, so I ended up getting it, but after about 20 hours of game time I realised it was getting pretty boring. Slowly, it stopped being fun and became more annoying, then I questioned why I was playing it, and then I stopped. I probably won’t play it again until they… I dunno, add a new map, or a more interesting mode, or something. It’s quite annoying and doesn’t fully make sense why I’m bored of it, because I’m still up for playing Rocket League now and again, but that’s even more repetitive, and I’m worse at it than Overwatch. I guess Rocket League is just more fun. 😛

I’ve also been playing Disgaea PC, a port of the first Disgaea, a crazy tactical RPG with hilarious dialogue and mechanics. I’ve played it before on PSP, but never finished it. This time, though, I finally completed it after 60 hours, but didn’t get the good ending. The condition for getting that is to get through the story without killing a unit on your team… which is pretty easy, and I actually don’t remember killing one of my own units. Must’ve been a badly targeted skill. 😛 Anyways, I want to go through the story again to get it. Then I need to play the bonus episodes and extra stages, and get most of the achievements. Lel, it cost a third of what Overwatch cost and I’ve played it at least twice as much, and it’s made me laugh a hell of a lot more. I never liked buying multiplayer-only games, and after this, I’m probably never gonna buy another one again. Unless… I dunno, unless it’s Quake that plays like Quake III and doesn’t suck, or something. Man, I’d love to play that again; I had so much friggin’ fun with Quake Live. AND I was getting pretty good at it. 😛

Speaking of tactical RPGs, I also got Project X Zone 2 for 3DS, which is massive fun. The story is crazy and almost throwaway, but it’s funny. The dialogue is hilarious, too, full of insanity, references, weird Japanese humour and just plain funny shit. 😀 Here, have some screenshots I saved to Miiverse:

Ooh WordPress decided to make them into a gallery for me. How nice. Probably doesn’t work, though. 😛

Strangely, the game itself is kinda meh. The tactical part of it is just laughably not tactical at all. Enemy attacks tend to do a negligible amount of damage; the only real threats are swarms of enemies (say, about 6 units), enemies that attack multiple units, or bosses when they have enough EP. That’s “Enemy Points”, shown like a super ability gauge. The player has one too, called XP, which is “Cross Points”, not eXperience Points. Experience is EXP in this game. 😛 Anyway, when the enemy team’s EP is at 100% or more, their boss-class units can spend it on special attacks which do some real damage. You basically only have three options to counter this: defend to reduce the damage by half, spend some XP and use Full Defend to reduce damage to zero, or take out the boss before they have a chance to use their special. Getting out of their movement range is kinda pointless because you have so many units that the enemy’s probably gonna get one of them, and enemy bosses tend to have a movement range equal or greater than all of your units, so… yeah, all I’ve been doing for the entire game is attacking and not really giving a toss about defensive play, and I’ve only ever had two units go down. 😛 Another reason why it’s not a very tactical TRPG is because of the sheer freedom you have with items and skills. Items can be used by any of your team mates on any other team mate, no matter how far away they are, and you can use basically as many as you want until you run out. It doesn’t even cost a unit its turn or anything. Same thing with skills; any unit that hasn’t already taken its turn can use as many skills as they can afford without losing a turn. Quite a lot of units have healing abilities, too. I mean, off the top of my head, I know Felicia has one which restores 100% of a unit’s HP. 100%. It’s like “oh no, that unit just got beat on by about half the enemy team and it’s pretty low on health… Felicia, Feline Grooming, problem solved.” No SP? Use an SP restoring item, because I have about 90 of them that I picked up along the way, then use Feline Grooming. Or just use someone else’s healing skill. Problem always solved. 😛

The way you attack is pretty fun, though. You go into a side-on battle screen where you can use three normal attacks, a “solo” attack, sometimes a “support” attack, and if you have 100% XP, you can finish with a special attack. The aim is to juggle the enemy and hit them as many times as possible to do as much damage as you can. Hitting them with a new attack when they’re about to touch the floor gives a Critical, which increases damage for all the hits in that attack. At the end of your attacks, you’re given bonus gold for every 10 successive hits and bonus EXP for every Critical you get. It’s a really cool idea, and it feels great when you time everything right and pull off a massive combo. 😀 It’s not often that you do, either. My max combo is 106, and I think that was the only time I exceeded 100. I’ll probably get stupidly and pointlessly excited if I manage to beat it. 😛

Probably the most notable thing about Project X Zone 2 is that the characters are all from a bunch of different things by Sega, Capcom, Bandai Namco and Nintendo. I’ve never seen anything like it. You’ve got characters from Resident Evil, Yakuza, Tekken, Darkstalkers, Ace Attorney, Shinobi, Space Channel 5, Street Fighter, Streets of Rage, Devil May Cry, Megaman X, .hack//, God Eater, Shenmue… and there’s original characters, and I’ve definitely missed some. Christ, it’s like… the biggest crossover game in the history of ever. No wonder the story is insane. Must’ve been super-difficult to think of something.

The soundtrack is so good, too. There’s music from each of the games involved, and a different one plays depending on the character you’re currently controlling. It’s awesome when the game plays a track for the first time and you recognise it… like for me, the “Objection!” and “Investigation: Cornered” tracks from the original Ace Attorney, Jin’s theme from Tekken, and “Go Straight” from Streets of Rage 2, for example. (On a side note, I can’t help but giggle every time the fully-voiced Axel does his attack and says “GRAND UPPAH” and “ARRRRRRGH” :P) The song that totally got stuck in my head, though, was a track from Yakuza that sometimes plays when Kiryu & Majima are selected, and always plays during their special attack… this one, “Funk Goes On”. That’s the original track; the one played in X Zone is slightly different. I’ve never played Yakuza, but that track is just epic. Makes me want to do special attacks with Kiryu & Majima just for that music, even though their special doesn’t feel as powerful as other pairs’ specials. 😀

Even though the “tactical” part of it is questionable, I’d totally recommend it for the humour, characters and the battle system. It’s a pretty big fan-service game, though, so it might not be as fun if you don’t know or like any of the characters. 😛 It’s long, though; I’m at 30-something hours and I feel like I’m only just getting close to the end.

Ah. Crap. I did it again, sorry. This post wasn’t supposed to be about Project X Zone 2, either; I went into yammering mode again. 😛 I don’t think there’s anything else that I’ve played, game-wise, anyhoo. Oh yeah, Starbound, the “finished” version, but it’s okay cuz I’m already bored of talking about it. So let’s move on! 😛

Now, back to the topic of whiney Facebook feeds. Why? Well, gizza minute, will ya?! 😛

My sister was slightly-but-not-really whining about me not posting for a while on Bookface. The last post I made there was about two months ago when I posted a picture of a OnePlus 3 that I’d just received, along with Pro Wrestler, the best action figure ever. 😛 I don’t post there much any more because Facebook’s just become the world’s biggest advertisement and a place where people just post photos of themselves and other things I just don’t give a shit about, and I’m pretty sure only 10% of my friends list actually has me unblocked because I’m sure they feel the same way about my posts. 😛 Oh, and every other post recently has just been about Pokémon Go and no I’m not saying ANYTHING about it other than I’ve started blocking everything from anyone who posts about it. 😛 It’s like the zombie sheep apocalypse made real.

Ooooooh, the actual intended topic of the post is approaching fast!! 😛 So, in response to my sister’s complaint that I haven’t posted in a while, and because I haven’t posted here in a while either, I decided to cook up a little render all about POSTING! BAM:

Maw Mail (2K)

A post of a dragon postie delivering some post that you COULD print and use as a poster, for posterity! Letter me tell ya, it’d be a postitively unique poster. Hm, what’s mailing you? Am I not getting your stamp of approval OKAY ENOUGH good GOD that’s enough, that was a near-toxic level of crap puns just now. 😛

So, whaddya think? 🙂 This is my first proper attempt at using Iray, a renderer by NVIDIA which’s been in DAZ Studio since 4.8. I didn’t have much of a desire to use it until now because I never really understood it. And I still don’t. 😛

There’re a couple of flaws, methinks… Iray has a built-in bloom filter, which is great if you just bin the default settings first. 😛 It’s worked well, but it’s gone a bit rogue on his horns. It’s because the light is hitting his horns at an angle which makes them shine basically pure white. And no matter how high I put the bloom threshold, it probably won’t disappear from his horns, and even if it did, the effect would probably disappear from the sky, the place I actually want the bloom. Maybe it’s best to do bloom myself in post-processing after all… 😛 Also, that white stucco around the green door… the texture is friggin’ awful. 😛 I tried to tweak the material settings and improve it as much as possible, but there’s only so much you can do before you have to mess with the texture, and I’m not an artist. 😛 Kinda weird, though. That’s a 4096×4096 texture, which is pretty standard, so… I’m not sure why it looks so stretched and poopy. :S Ah well.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it came out, especially since I didn’t actually spend much time on it; the scene only took about 2 hours to assemble. I also didn’t need to make many tweaks; I only rendered the full scene three times before I was satisfied. For comparison, I have 25 preliminary renders stored for Dueling Dragons. Some of those were because my PC was being a dick, but still… 😛

So, Iray’s great? Neh. Not really. It’s a bit rough. It friggin’ loooooves to leave grainy bullshite in your renders in weird areas, usually outside of focus. I had to do some noise removal on that brass letterbox because it was absolutely ridiculous. Dark areas also tend to come out crappy. I also feel like I have no control over lighting. You can use a HDRI, basically a 360° image which the render engine looks at and magically generates scene lighting from that using MAFFS. “Maths”. Not an acronym. 😛 HDRIs are cool, but that requires that I have an HDRI image that roughly matches my scene. And it gives no control. You can go to the next level of control and use the built-in generic Sun-Sky environment mode, but the complexity is just OTT, and despite the stupid complexity, I really don’t feel like it’s that accurate. I mean, you can specify a latitude, longitude, time of day, date and UTC offset. The first time I used it, I gave it a test by putting in the latitude and longitude of my location, setting the UTC offset to 1 because daylight savings, setting the date to today and setting the time to about 6pm. Apparently NVIDIA thinks that England at 7pm UTC in summer is PITCH BLACK! 😛 So, all this complexity is wasted because I just don’t bother to touch the date, latitude or longitude any more; I just change the time of day, then rotate the dome to get the correct direction. As for custom lighting, like what I do easily in DAZ’s default renderer, 3Delight? Hahaha, forget it. Lights need completely dumbass settings like 50 THOUSAND lumen just for a dim light, AND it looks terrible.

But it’s fast, right? Well, no, actually. It’s really speedy at getting something rough you can use to gauge how the final render will look, but that final render took two GTX 970s… 3 hours 41 minutes 20.95 seconds to finish, and it’s not even that complex. And when I say it’s speedy at getting something rough… sure, setting a viewport to the Iray mode is useful because it gives you a live preview of your render, but eventually it starts making DAZ Studio pretty much unusable. It uses all of your GPU’s power and leaves nothing for anything else, including DAZ Studio. It also re-calculates every time anything changes. “Did you just move your perspective camera one inch to the left? Ooop, gotta recalculate! Whaddya mean the perspective camera’s position is irrelevant since I’m not rendering it or even using it to render?!” And if you change the scene enough while enduring the workspace slowdown with every change? Boom! DAZ Studio crashes either by itself or by crashing your graphics driver. Probably a memory leak! Oh, oh, speaking of memory? Iray EATS the HELL out of it. I can’t even render some scenes in Iray because it obliterates ALL 12GB of my unused memory before going “uhgh don’t have nuff memory bye now”.

I’ll probably end up going back to 3Delight with this scene to see if I can make it look better using my traditional methods. Iray seems to make stuff that looks more realistic, sure, but realism doesn’t always make things prettier, right? 😛 I’ll update this post with a 3Delight render at some point. 🙂 Even if it’s worse. 😛

Anyway… I guess I’d better post this on Bookface for my sister now, then get to bedz. 😛 Nighty night!

UPDATE!!

Someone on Facebook responded in an entertaining manner with a picture of his own, and I thought I’d share it with you here:

Maw Mail Response.jpg

😀

Also, I added a link to a video of my best match in Quake Live around the part where I mention it, because why not. 😛 The quality’s terrible because I was testing out settings for streaming and didn’t realise I’d set the bitrate way too low, but man, I was having loads of fun, calling out “DOUBLE KILL” in stupid ways, nodding my character’s head when something ace happens, and yelling “QUAD” when getting kills with Quad Damage. 😀 And a net of +34, awwwwww yiss. 😀

UPDATE 2!!

Basically nothing at all to do with the rest of this article but OH MY GOD I JUST GOT A PERFECT ON ROMEO & CINDERELLA ON SUPER HARD

HNI_0014.JPG

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Such a deviant art hole.

Aside

Just to let no-one know, I’ve set up another DeviantArt account. Hahahahahahahaha, I’m so dumb. I’m a programmer with no artistic skill and almost no appreciation for art, but I set up an account on an art website. 😛 Welp, it seems to be a nice place I can post the better stuff I’ve done with DAZ Studio. Hell, might’s well give it a try, eh? My stuff might even get viewed! 😛

Anyway, here’s a link: dracoindomita.deviantart.com

If you’re on there too, feel free to comment or follow or favourite or like or do whatever you do to other people on DeviantArt. 😛 I’ve only got my two most recent renders on there at the moment, but I’ll get around to uploading the Chinese Zodiac series at least. I just need to modify the signatures first so they use my new pseudonym. Don’t worry (or do worry, I mean), I’ll still be posting renders here as well. Hey, you even get to see any junk I create that I don’t want to post to DeviantArt! YAY BONUSES!!

…phuck me, they have a total of three faves already?! Wow, I’m actually shocked! Probably a fluke. 😛

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. 😉 )

DAZ’s sappin’ mah EXPOOL!

ERMAGERD ARGH GODDAMNIT! FERK YU IN DA BUMWHOLE!!

Er… I mean… hi. How are you? 🙂 Don’t worry, that was just me raging at DAZ Studio as per usual. 😛 But because the reason for that has been mentioned about 6000 times before, let’s start somewhere more interesting first. 🙂

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
Well, Amazon failed massively and said they weren’t going to have it in stock until after the weekend I’d been planning to play it. I bitchslapped them and cancelled the order (didn’t really bitchslap them but I did IN MY HEAD), and ordered it from ShopTo instead. It cost a tiny bit more but it arrived on release day, so GG to them. 🙂

How is it? Well, I’ll do my best not to throw any major spoilers. 😛 At first, I wasn’t really “feeling” it. The writing and the dialogue was great as usual, but the setting felt a bit wrong. You and your partner are actually children this time around, which felt strange for some reason. The first time my partner appeared, I thought “Oh God, please don’t tell me Chunsoft have made him an irritating little arse this time”, but after playing for a while, I feel like they introduced him in that way for a reason, so that’s okay. 🙂 There are a couple of other things that are still bugging me, though.

First off, the story doesn’t actually go anywhere for ages. Sure, a story is there, but it’s just a series of unrelated events and doesn’t really mean anything. Something happens, the thing is resolved, normality resumes for a while. Every so often, there were hints at this giant, overarching plot, but you never seem to get involved in it. It feels like the writers got stuck in first gear. When you get past a certain point, though, it really starts to open up. When you battle a Legendary Pokémon for the second time, shit gets REAL, with sparkliness and henshin all over the place. 😀 That was one of the few times that battles in Mystery Dungeon games were genuinely exciting.

The excitement probably came from the difficulty… the noticeably increased difficulty. In that battle, the boss loved to use ranged attacks which did a lot of damage, and I was forced to think between almost every turn, adjust tactics, consider item usage and decide on a move. It felt tense, like a true roguelike. 😀 Overall, it feels significantly harder than all its predecessors. That’s both a good thing… but kind of a bad thing as well, because I’ve found that the difficulty curve is totally erratic. Very early on in the game, I accepted a job to beat a Salamence, which had a rating of one star, the lowest possible. When entering the floor where Salamence was, he wiped my team so quickly that I thought I’d made a mistake when picking a mission or something. Oh, no, I hadn’t. His stats were just friggin’ stupid. I could only do single-digit damage to him, even with my strongest moves, and he could one-shot me. I had to resort to dirty evil tricks to beat him. I brought along a wand item which causes an enemy to fall asleep, and kept using it on him every time he woke up, spamming Alliance Attacks while he was asleep. Even that wasn’t enough, so I used a Blast Seed to compensate for my lack of attack power, which is cheap, since it always does 100 damage (quite a lot, especially in the early game). After beating him, I actually had the option of using him on future missions. I checked his level and found out he was Level 50. I wasn’t even Level 20 yet. 😛

You see… instead of recruiting Pokémon by beating them in a dungeon, this time around you “recruit” them when you complete a job that involves them. It treats each Pokémon as an entirely different character, and that’s nice, but the problem with this that they’re not necessarily close to your level, and that massive lack of balance is my biggest gripe with the game so far. If the job involves beating them, and they’re say, Level 50, it’s impossible without using cheap tactics and overpowered items. And then, when you DO win, you have an overpowered team member you can use at any time! And it’s not like all the jobs require you to beat an overpowered enemy, either; one job was just “take me to this Pokémon”, and after completing it, I got the ability to put a high-level Dragonite on my team! I mean, if I really wanted, I could easily make a team consisting of a Level 56 Alakazam, a Level 55 Dragonite and a Level 50 Salamence and steamroll the shit out of everything. But that’d be like playing with God Mode on, and that would make the game pointless! Why does it even let me do that? It’s not fun!

Other than it having basically the worst balance I’ve ever seen in gaming, Super Mystery Dungeon is pretty good so far. Its strong points are the dialogue, the story and the characters as usual, but the actual gameplay is probably better than its ever been thanks to the return of hunger (which now does triple damage, so you can’t even try to ignore it any more) and the introduction of the Looplet/Emera system. Equipment items have all changed to Looplets, which have similar effects to the old equipment items (they can increase Attack, Sp. Attack, Defence, etc.), but Looplets have sockets into which you can place Emeras (basically gems), which have various effects. You can also use Emeras you don’t want/can’t use on party members to increase their stats until the end of the adventure. The Emeras disappear when you leave the dungeon, so you only have the Emeras you find in the dungeon at your disposal. It just makes equipment way more interesting. The dungeon crawling can still be repetitive, so I understand why some may not enjoy it as much, but because it’s more difficult than Gates to Infinity, it revives that sense of tension from Time/Darkness/Sky. It’s difficult to compare it to the other games overall since I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the story yet, but because it had a slow, almost uninteresting start, I doubt it’ll be better than Explorers of Sky. The writing in that game was unbelievably good. 😀

OH, OH OH, a couple things I forgot to mention. One: the most disappointing, saddest moment of this game so far:

IMAG0613

NOOOOOOOO!! I wanted to spin the V-Wheeeeeeeel!! 😦 Yes, the V-Wave system isn’t in Super Mystery Dungeon, which is a shame, since I quite liked it; it encouraged you to take different team members along all the time. This game tries to encourage that in a… less good way. Basically, at random points, it picks three random team members who become “motivated”, and they gain triple XP from enemies. No Victini or any spinning of wheels or anything. Yawn.

Anyway, second… you know the boss battle theme? Maybe not. 😛 Anyway, it’s been the same melody in every Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game. It sounds like this in Super; it’s quite a “playful” version, which is apt. 😀 Now… unless you’ve reached Chapter 12, the next link is a spoiler… but at a certain point in the game, it gives you the the boss theme as you’d expect, but it’s an alternate version that came pretty much out of nowhere. And it nearly made me explode. I had to reload my save data and redo the boss battle just so I could hear that track again. 😛

Okay, next topic! Well, as we’re on the subject of Pokémon…

 

Pokémon Omega Ruby
“Wait wait wait wait wait what the fuck who now WHAT?!”

No, I don’t get it either. 😛

I don’t particularly know what it was. Maybe it was my hype from Super Mystery Dungeon. I tend not to get hyped about games any more, so it’s quite special when it happens. Or, maybe it was because of the demo I played. Or maybe it was the constant exposure to Pokémon-related games on the 3DS, because basically every not-actually-free-to-play game Nintendo makes seems to be Pokemon themed. Pokémon Shuffle, Pokémon Picross, Pokémon Rumble World… it’s like Nintendo are using one of the most famous game franchises of all time as a guinea pig for their annoying interest in not-actually-free-to-play mobile gaming, simultaneously promoting the series and ruining it. 😛

Whatever it was, a few weeks before Super Mystery Dungeon came out, I decided to buy Pokémon Omega Ruby.

So… why don’t I get it? Well, my only real interest in the Pokémon franchise has only ever been Mystery Dungeon; a spin-off. I’ve never liked the core Pokémon games. Ever. I had either Red or Blue on a very illegal multicart way back when I had a Game Boy (way back when I was young enough not to know it was illegal :P). Almost everyone else I knew was into Pokémon; the games, and the anime, and the cards… but I got really bored of the game, I hated the shit out of the anime and didn’t really understand the appeal of the cards. I guess that was early evidence of my “fuck the flock; I’m going my own way” nature. 😀

Someone I know had Colosseum on GameCube, and I remember borrowing it for a while. I remember liking the Double Battles but thought the game was even more boring than usual, and it had a stupid difficulty curve, and it had awful production quality. Some number of years later, I played SoulSilver on an emulator, and referred to it in this very blog as “Poké-Way-Too-Tedious-Brain-Numbingly-Boring-And-Repetitive Soul-I-Don’t-Know-WTF-To-Do-Or-Where-To-Go-Next-Silver”, which… basically sums up my experience with the game. 😛 I also played White, and I SWEAR I wrote about it to some degree in this blog but I can’t friggin’ find it at all. I’m pretty sure I said it played exactly the same only it was in Almost-3D and the Pokémon were animated. And by “animated” I mean “they twitched slightly”. 😛

The annoying thing is, I like the Pokémon. Not as much as Digimon, because Digimon tend to be 120% fucking cool, hardcore, unrestrained badasses, like turtles with massive hammers or werewolves that kick your face off or dinosaurs with rocket launchers GIGA CANNONS which turn into bipedal dinosaurs that throw suns at you, but I still like a lot of Pokémon. 😛 I can remember a fair few species and their types, mainly from playing Mystery Dungeon, and I mostly know what types beat what, so by memorising this stuff, I’m obviously interested. If I didn’t give a shite, I wouldn’t have a clue that Flying beats Fighting, Grass beats Water and Dragon beats itself. 😛

So… well, seeing as how I have a 3DS, and because (real) Pokémon games are exclusive to Nintendo systems, I decided to download the *deep breath* Omega Ruby slash Alpha Sapphire Special Demo Version *whew* and give it a chance, even though core Pokémon games have failed to interest me on four previous occasions. 😛 I don’t really understand why, since the demo was basically devoid of content, but there was something about it that made me think “Hmmm, yeah, this is good… I kinda like this”. So I decided on Omega Ruby, and bought a copy. It’s funny… Pokémon’s basically the only game that you need to research which version to buy beforehand, since there are 22 Pokémon that become incredibly difficult to get if you get one version over the other. 😛

Soooooo? Did I do something stupid? No, actually. Somehow, against all odds, it’s made me a fan.

I don’t really understand why, because it’s basically the same shizzle as the previous games. It’s a cockfighting simulation where you play as an evil kid that forces monsters to beat up other monsters to the point of fainting before you capture them in a tiny ball. 😛 Okay, no, without trying to apply the laws of the real world to the Pokémon world (because then the Pokémon world would seem royally messed up), you’re a Pokémon trainer that goes on a journey with Pokémon, catching new ones and raising them (and being nice to them! really!) to challenge Gym Leaders all over the region with the hope of getting all the Gym badges, then beating the piss out of everyone in the Pokémon League and becoming the ultimate winner of everything.

The battle system is the same. Choose a Pokémon, beat your opponent in one move, receive a microscopic amount of experience. 😛 Okay, maybe not, although to be honest that is pretty much what I remember from the Game Boy games, but I imagine I was doing it wrong and battling Pokémon that were too weak. The battle system is fine, although it’s fairly luck-based and memory assists you more than skill. If you know what type beats your opponent, switch to a Pokémon with moves of that type and you’ll win. If you don’t have that kind of Pokémon, switch to one that resists the moves you think your opponent has but ensure you can still do standard damage with your own moves, and you’ll win. 😛 The two biggest differences are the addition of a new type, Fairy, and Mega Evolution… although both of those were actually introduced in Pokémon X & Y. 😛 Mega Evolution is like a dramatic-looking power boost you can trigger for specific Pokémon, but you can only do it if the Pokémon is holding the required Mega Stone, and you can only use Mega Evolution once per battle.

Even though the battle system is mostly the same, the graphics are a lot… lot prettier. The Pokémon are 3D instead of using 2D sprites, with a cel-shaded anime-like art style. They look great; it’s probably the prettiest game I’ve seen on the 3DS. 😀 The animation’s great, too, and so are most of the special effects. All of this makes battles way more interesting to watch. I never got tired of seeing my Torchic use Scratch; watching him run back after attacking was funny and pretty cute. 😀 Unfortunately, the graphics might be too great. The game limits stereoscopic 3D to Single Battles, some cutscenes and a few other areas… and the reason it does this is pretty obvious. The 3DS just can’t handle it. 😛 The framerate in Single Battles with 3D on is just… wow. It chugs like hell at certain camera angles, usually when both Pokémon are visible or during certain attacks. When only one Pokémon is being rendered, it tends to be fine. I don’t know what the poly count of the models are, but I reckon they’re a bit too high for the 3DS, or maybe the post-processing is too expensive. This is even worse when you keep in mind that I have a New 3DS, which has a bit more power than the standard one! You can massively boost the FPS to about 60 simply by turning off stereoscopy, but… then… then everything looks flat. 😛

Exploration is mostly the same; if you walk in tall grass which covers a large amount of the land, you get attacked by monsters at a rate that makes you wonder how anyone gets anywhere without dying. 😛 It’s slightly better now, though… the encounter rate isn’t quite as bad as I remember, plus in most areas you have full analogue movement, so you can sometimes avoid patches of grass when you don’t want to battle by going diagonally (WOW DIAGONALS). Of course, you can still use Repels to stop ’em from jumping you, and you can also sneak to reduce the encounter rate, apparently. Another difference is a feature called DexNav, which puts sneaking to further use. It’s useful normally because it tells you if there are any Pokémon you haven’t caught in the current area. But sometimes the game will randomly pick patches of tall grass and place a Pokémon there, rummaging in the grass, usually with its arse sticking in the air. 😛 When this happens, you can use the DexNav to scan it, which, when you get close enough, gives you a silhouette of the Pokémon and some info about it. Sometimes it generates interesting Pokémon with unusual moves or abilities, or unusually high levels. The more Pokémon of that type you fight, the better the info becomes, eventually even telling you a summary of the generated Pokémon’s potential. If you want to battle that Pokémon, you just sneak over to the patch of tall grass it’s hiding in and make contact with it.

Catching Pokémon is business as usual, too. You hit it until its HP gets low to increase the catch chance. You can also cause status conditions to increase the chance further. When you’re feeling lucky punk, you chuck Poké Balls at it until the Random Number God smiles upon you. Sometimes this is easy and happens in one attempt, other times it’s annoying as fuck. Like recently, when trying to catch some Pokémon quite some distance from the home town. Sheesh, Skarmory was a bugger. 😛 After about 5 attempts I thought “this is weird”, and looked up the catch chance, finding out that the base chance (with the Pokémon at full health and using a standard Poke Ball) is… 3.3%. I decided not to give up, though. Lobbing basically every ball I had at it while trying to keep my team alive was somehow both frustrating and exciting at the same time. I caught it eventually, just when I was getting low on balls. Heheheheh shut up. 😛

Since this is technically a remake, the story is apparently very similar to Ruby/Sapphire’s story. Makes no difference to me because I never played Ruby/Sapphire. 😛 Anyway, the story is incredibly stupid. There are two Super Evil Teams, Team Magma and Team Aqua. Both came out of nowhere, both have seemingly infinite members, both utterly suck at Pokémon battles, and both want to do something retarded that makes no sense and is impossible. Magma wants to expand the land, and Aqua wants to expand the ocean. So both want to do something they think will be of benefit, but they’re blind to the fact that by succeeding, they’ll probably mess up the planet and kill everyone. 😛

Some of the dialogue is funny, but the script is annoying as fuck, as usual. Everything’s decided with Pokémon battles. So if you want to get something back from Team Magma or Team Aqua, who are basically terrorists and extremists, you challenge them to a Pokémon battle. If you win, they’re all like “OHMIGAWD YOU’RE SO STRONG FINE HERE HAVE THIS THING WE REALLY NEEDED TO DO OUR EVIL DEEDS” instead of “lol you won, so what, Falcon Kick, Mongz blacked out”. Especially, it’s really frustrating when the Evil Team Of Terrorists have just acquired The Plot Coupon To End All Plot Coupons right in front of you, and you just let them laugh at you and walk past. ARGHH! STOP THEM WITH A DICK PUNCH FFS!!

And where the fuck are the police?!

Aside from all that, though, it’s actually an interesting game to play. The world is pretty big, and there are quite a lot of things to do other than battles. There are Contest Spectaculars, which kinda work like a battle, but the tactics are different. You’ve basically gotta get as many hearts as possible in five turns while trying to reduce your opponents’ hearts. There’s Pokémon-Amie, too, which lets you play with your Pokémon to a certain extent; you can feed them, pet them and play a few minigames with them. The minigames are weird and feel like they were made in about two days, and the facial recognition is completely dire. The crap facial recognition ruins a somewhat interesting game you can play where your Pokémon asks you to make a certain face. It’s cool until it asks you to make a huge smile or open your mouth wide, because the camera cannot see me doing it. Then it times out and the Pokémon gets all sad and I’m like “hey sorry, but the facial recognition is total bullshit!” and that’s bad because then I’m teaching my Pokémon bad words. 😛 You can also do this thing called Super Training, which lets you increase your Pokémon’s EVs, or “Effort Values”, officially known as “base stats”. The Super Training minigame is really weird and I don’t get it at all; you throw balls at a puppet in a 3D environment and try to get the 3D balls into 2D nets while avoiding balls thrown at you. If you get enough balls into nets… you, er… you win. And your Pokémon’s base stats increase. There’s also a different kind of training where you give them a training bag and have them break it to get various effects, usually more base stats. They hit it once a minute automatically, but waiting for them to break the bag themselves is utterly stupid and pointless because you can get the effects of the bag much, much faster by tapping the bag yourself. It’s nice that they’ve exposed EVs like this and it’s great that you can increase them more easily, but it’s just a really weirdly themed, badly designed minigame that makes me think they ran out of ideas.

But yeah, overall, I’m enjoying it! Wow. Feels weird, suddenly finding out I like something I didn’t like before. 😛 Hell, I even bothered to go into Brighton (and walking around Brighton is one of my top ten most hated things) and go into an actual GAME store for the first time in years to ask for a code for a Mew during the distribution event they were having in February. That felt like it was gonna be the most embarrassing moment of my life until the cashier asked me how many I’d like, to which I responded “er, just the one, I think” in a confused manner. He then mentioned that the current record was ten. That made me feel much better. 😛 I mean, ten? Why? I thought you could only redeem one code of a kind per save file. Unless you’ve got X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and have 6 friends who can’t be bothered to go to GAME? 😛 Or maybe they were giving them out to people in other countries who couldn’t participate? Maybe that’s it.

I’ll probably end up getting either Pokémon Sun or Moon when they come out, and if Omega Ruby dries up in the meantime I might even get Pokémon X/Y. Heh… this is mental. I’m actually spending more time playing on the 3DS than on the PC recently. 😛 I now have 3 RPGs to finish, and I bought Mega Man Legacy Collection too. 😀

What’s next…? Ah yes, here comes the thing I was going to talk about originally; a BIG wall of text about a problem that was stupidly hard to debug! 😛

 

Digital ASS Zone POOdio and the Chronicles of the Corruption of the Extended Memory POOl
I’ve had these really annoying problems with DAZ Studio for some time now. Problems where during a render, DAZ Studio would crash the graphics driver (the effect of which crashes DAZ Studio if a viewport is visible), or problems where I would get a DRIVER_CORRUPTED_EXPOOL bluescreen without warning. Recently, it got to a point where I was absolutely friggin’ sick of it. It was making most renders impossible. I had to know what it was, and I had to fix it, otherwise I would explode in a fit of rage, and doctors tend to say that exploding isn’t good for your health. 😛

It literally took weeks to figure it out. At first, I poked around and did all sorts of shit in an attempt to debug the problem, and quickly came to at least one conclusion. And it was a very funny conclusion.

I was certain that this error wasn’t caused by DAZ Studio. Heheheh, oops! 😛

How did I come to this conclusion? Well… I did a stress test on my CPU for the first time in ages using IntelBurnTest. It’s one of those programs which are designed to hammer the balls out of your CPU by asking it to compute something stupidly complicated. If you can run the test for a prolonged period of time without your PC crashing or the CPU making a mistake, you can consider your CPU and its current overclock stable. I ran IntelBurnTest on my then-current overclock, and it crashed the system in basically the same way as DAZ Studio does. I disabled my overclock and ran it again. It succeeded. Easy! Obviously my overclock was unstable. Case closed. The next day, DAZ Studio crashed the PC again, so I ran IntelBurnTest again, and it, er… it produced an inconsistent result. That basically rang every alarm bell. 😛

I disabled Turbo Boost, an Intel feature which auto-overclocks your processor when it’s being strained. Test failed. I disabled EIST, aka: Intel SpeedStep, another processor feature which dynamically clocks your processor depending on its current load, mainly to save energy. Test failed. Disabled XMP, a feature that lets my memory run at the speed it was designed to run using parameters specified by the memory manufacturer. Test failed. Then, I uninstalled my graphics drivers, both dedicated and integrated, and tried again. Test failed!

It was failing at stock speeds with absolutely no overclocking or underclocking at all, manual or automatic, and even though although Windows was blaming the drivers (and according to reports I got from analysing memory dumps with WinDbg, various programs such as Logitech Gaming Software, TeamViewer and System (lel)), it appeared that they were only messing up because the CPU made a mistake. I didn’t want to believe it, but it was looking like a hardware issue. I was hoping it was just bad cooling, but my temps rarely went above 80C at full load, which, in my previous experience, is totally fine.

But then… I ran the test in Safe Mode. It succeeded. Believing it was a fluke, I ran it in Safe Mode again for an extremely long period of time while I went off and played some Super Mystery Dungeon. I checked on the PC before going to bed and it had passed about 150 times in a row.

I decided to stop it, exit Safe Mode and run the same test overnight. Found out this morning that it had failed on the third test, less than five minutes after I left it to run overnight. I left it to run again in the morning. I checked it while I was at work, and it had failed on the 33rd test.

After all that, I didn’t think it was a hardware issue. It must have been a software issue, either a driver or some other program that runs at startup was somehow messing up the CPU, causing it to mess up the GPU drivers and cause a crash. But what could possibly be messing up the CPU?!

Then I realised there was a vague pattern. In Safe Mode, you don’t have networking unless you ask for it. So, I decided to unplug my Internet connection. I ran the test for a while. It passed. I installed my display drivers again. It passed the test. I then plugged in my network cable, restarted the PC, and started the test again. It failed on the 11th test. I unplugged my network cable, restarted and did a massive test overnight. Checked it this morning. It had friggin’ passed all 200 tests.

WHAAAAT!

That basically told me that the problem could have only been one of two things. It was either my network drivers, or my firewall. I was hoping that it was my firewall, so I disabled the firewall by not letting it run at startup, and did a test. I checked after an hour or so at work… the test wasn’t running, so the PC had clearly crashed. I tried again, and checked at lunch. It hasn’t crashed, but it had failed on the 6th test. This… is not good, because that indicates the problem lies with the network drivers, and I need these network drivers. No driver, no Internets; simple as.

The only obvious thing that came to mind was the possibility that the drivers were faulty or out of date. I mean, I was having strange problems with them during the Windows 10 Tech Preview… and by “strange problems” I mean “they didn’t work at all past a certain build”. 😛 Of course, my deduction could have been way off too, but… no, it couldn’t have been that far off. It had to be something to do with a thing that accesses the Internet, because when I cut my connection to the Internet, the problem didn’t occur.

I went on Killer’s site and got their latest drivers, which had actually been updated just a couple of weeks ago. Through some miracle I actually managed to install them through TeamViewer without losing connection. I then restarted the PC, and ran another IntelBurnTest, firewall still not running. It passed all of the 100 tests I set. I re-enabled my firewall on startup, restarted, and ran the test again, basically expecting it to pass all the tests so I could finally put this shit to rest. It CRASHED THE PC!

“What the fuck” is all I could think of. I was beginning to believe that I was way off, or that this problem was pretty much beyond my comprehension. Maybe the network drivers were fundamentally broken on Windows 10? Maybe the problem was partially caused by the network drivers and partially caused by the firewall? Maybe I’d been led to believe that it was a network issue when it wasn’t? ARGGGH!

I did the test again thinking it was a freak accident that would never happen again, and TeamViewer lost connection after about 5 minutes: crash! Despite previous tests showing that the firewall had made no difference to the stability whether it was on or off, I disabled the firewall, restarted and ran the test again. Of course it still crashed. I decided to uninstall the firewall ENTIRELY, restarted, and tried the test one more time. Yes, it crashed. And oh-so amazingly and conveniently, the PC didn’t restart after that crash.

So, it couldn’t have been the firewall. But just… all of a sudden, for some impossible reason, it had entered this pattern where the CPU wasn’t failing the burn test by producing incorrect results… it was failing by crashing the PC. The ONLY thing it could possibly have been was the network drivers, but why the fuck would some network drivers screw up the CPU to such an extent that would cause it to make a calculation error?!

Because that crash took out the PC seemingly entirely, I didn’t have a way to confirm whether the network drivers really were causing the problem until I got home. When I did get home, it turned out to be an entirely new type of crash; one that locked up everything. I tried the test again and the same thing happened. So the crash had changed styles again… great.

I uninstalled the network drivers. Ran the test again. And against everything I was expecting… it crashed. This basically ruined the days of debugging I’d done. It was as if the times it passed the test were just unbelievable flukes. Even running it in Safe Mode with Networking with the network drivers uninstalled was crashing. Uninstalling my graphics drivers again didn’t help; it didn’t crash the PC, but it still failed the test.

I noticed something else, though. When running an IntelBurnTest using a small amount of memory, say, 1GB, it didn’t fail. That suddenly made me think it was a memory issue, so I decided to run Windows’ memory checker tool thing. Amazingly, it actually found a memory issue. It was totally unhelpful and just said “oh there’s a problem contact the PC manufacturer”. Uh… I built the thing, so technically I’m the PC manufacturer. 😛

But that test finally made me think “shiiit, that’s gotta be it!” I started to shuffle my DIMMs around to test whether there was a problem with one or both of them, or if it was a motherboard problem. After finding out that the memory test failed with both DIMMs in regardless of the slots they were in, I tried putting one DIMM into a specific slot. The memory test failed, so I replaced it with the other DIMM. The memory test was successful. I left that DIMM in and did a huge burn test using the same memory setting as usual.

And it failed. Crashed the PC after about half an hour.

So… to sum up so far. My PC was not overclocked in any way and my CPU never exceeded 85C even at full load. Despite this, and only when the CPU ran at full load, the PC would crash in one of three unique ways when my network cable was plugged in, but when it wasn’t, it never crashed, but uninstalling my network drivers or firewall made no difference, and it didn’t matter whether I was in Safe Mode w/ Networking or not, but it never crashed in basic Safe Mode. There was apparently a memory issue, but when I resolved the memory issue by removing the allegedly faulty DIMM, it made no difference to whether the crash happened or not.

What the fuck. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I totally lost my patience after this and didn’t bother trying to debug the problem for a few days. It became an annoying weight on my mind, so when I came back to it, I tried a couple of other things. I updated my BIOS and every driver that came with the motherboard. No effect. I re-experimented with my DIMMs and confirmed that one of them was faulty, and removed the one I was absolutely sure was faulty. Still no effect.

I collected my thoughts on the state of my hardware. I assumed it wasn’t a CPU issue, because if it was, the PC would crash all the time, not just at full load. It wasn’t a heat issue because the same test passed all the time in Safe Mode when the CPU was running at the same heat. It wasn’t a memory issue anymore because I’d removed the faulty DIMM, and memory tests were passing all the time with the current working DIMM. It wasn’t a power issue because the stated max power drain of all my components didn’t even come close to 850W. It wasn’t a GPU issue because the GPUs weren’t in use during the CPU test and the crash occurred when the drivers for my GPUs weren’t even installed. It wasn’t a drive issue because this bug had nothing to do with the SSD or hard drive. And although I didn’t have enough info to clear my motherboard of suspicion, I didn’t believe it was that.

Thinking it through, I was 100% convinced it was a software issue, but it definitely wasn’t the GPU drivers. Because I had no clue besides that, I went into yob mode and decided to disable or uninstall all suspect drivers and programs. I’d uninstall a thing, restart the PC and then do the test. So… I uninstalled Virtual Audio Cable, a driver that always felt really intrusive to me. It had no effect on the test result. I went through my startup programs list, disabling them one at a time. No effect, even when they were all disabled.

Then I realised PlayClaw wasn’t in the startup list. That’s because I have it as a task in Task Scheduler instead of a startup program, because it’s really annoying and asks you for admin rights when the PC starts if you have it as a traditional startup program; by setting it in Task Scheduler you can give it admin permission there so it doesn’t bug you. I disabled this task, restarted, and did the test.

The test passed. It was obviously a fluke, so I did it again. And it passed. And again, this time for 10x longer. Passed.

“Fuck off, stop screwing with me” is what I said. I decided to give it the test it would fail without a doubt; rendering my newest scene in DAZ Studio. In that scene, I use the preset lighting supplied with the environment I’m using. It’s pretty, but like the majority of preset things in DAZ Studio, it’s so expensive and idiotic that it takes my PC around 5 hours to render it out at max quality, and because it takes that long, it has never completed successfully. I set it to render overnight.

It succeeded. IT SUCCEEDED.

I’m not gonna show you the render because there’s so much wrong with it (mainly lighting issues, heh, why the hell did I bother with that preset crap), but what the hell… how?! How could PlayClaw, a game recorder, cause this problem? It’s never caused any problems like this when I actually use it! Christ, it’s not even in use when the problem happens! It’s just that the CPU is maxed!

At first, I thought that the problem might not have been PlayClaw alone. I thought it was a combination of PlayClaw and that faulty DIMM I removed, but… well, for fun, I put my faulty DIMM back in and it still hasn’t crashed, even after several successful burn tests and another render. So maybe it was just PlayClaw. But… argh, HOW CAN A GAME RECORDER MESS UP THE CPU?!

I’ll have to see how it goes. But DAZ Studio is working perfectly now! Er… well, no. It was working perfectly the entire time. Well, okay, not perfectly, because DAZ Studio still has a bunch of bugs, but at least it can do what it’s designed to do now. 😛

As for that render, I’ll have it soon enough. As I mentioned, the render time is utterly insane, even on draft quality. But I have a pretty good feeling about it. 😀

RIGHT, that’s enough. That’s definitely enough. 😛 I’ll leave my PC to render this out and hope it doesn’t crash while I faceplant on my bed. NIIIIGHT