My blade shall cleave your SOUL!

Hiiii! It’s this fool again! 😛

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too Long; Didn’t Read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TL;DR: I made a render where a blue dragon hits people with Blue Dragon. 😛

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

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

Anyway, let’s get on with sharing the TIMELAPSE! And as you might imagine, it’s the longest one yet! 😛 It might be a li’l bit more interesting than usual, though, since I did a lot of things I’ve never done before. Although… the length of it might pull things the other way and actually make it more boring than usual. 😛 Anyway, you can watch it here, if you like! It’s only 17½ minutes long! 😛 (I should probably warn about epilepsy here, the video does flash a fair bit since as it switches between darker and lighter windows about 22,000% faster than normal 😛 )

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

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

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

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

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

Zhang Jiao: Judgement Man

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

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

Black Friday and Blue Dragons!

Speck! 🙂

Soooo, how was your Thanksgiving? Mine was nonexistent because I don’t live in the U S and A. 😛 Despite the fact we don’t do Thanksgiving over here, we’ve done Black Friday for the last couple of years for some reason. Honestly, I don’t understand. Maybe it’s just because the shops realise they can make moar moneyz if they all discount stuff at the same time, then they end up fighting each other to give the best discounts, then customers start fighting each other to get the best discounts, then it goes on the news and I laugh at all the degenerates scrabbling for the last plasma TV. 😛 But hell, I’m not complaining, it was pretty awesome last year, actually; through pure luck I managed to snag an Intel Core i7-4790K CPU for £50 off the standard price. Oosh! 😀

This year… wasn’t so oosh. 😛 I’d been thinking about grabbing some new peripherals and a new GPU for a few months beforehand. I replaced my legendary Logitech G15 keyboard with a not-really-legendary-yet G910 when I found it on Amazon for about £40 off. Didn’t expect it to go much lower than that (and it didn’t 😛 ). Also before Black Friday, I had to replace my G700 mouse because the mouse buttons were starting to give up the ghost. I got a G700s because the G700 was pretty much perfect. Apart from the metal on the mouse wheel which rusted a bit. And that some of the buttons were squeaky. And that the power lead was quite rigid and generated a lot of friction when it was plugged in, so using it while it was charging sucked a little bit. 😛 The new one’s great, though; same as the G700 but it’s a bit prettier, the buttons feel better and there’s no rust yet. Power lead still ruins the mouse when it’s plugged in, though. I also got a new cloth mouse mat to replace my old busted metal one, as well as a USB hub and Micro USB leads after finding that Arx Control (the smartphone app which is supposed to be a replacement for the LCD displays you find in some Logitech keyboards) drains your phone’s battery like friggin’ crazy, and the G910 doesn’t have any built-in USB slots, so unless you have a Micro USB that reaches from the back of your PC to your keyboard so you can plug in your phone, your battery will run out. 😛

So, I’d bought all my peripherals and accessories, but I was still in the market for a GTX 970. Then, when Black Friday actually came along… POOP! It was awful. Couldn’t find jack all. One site actually had an offer where you could save 40p on a Raspberry Pi. Wooooow! And even after that AMAZING discount, it was still way more expensive than just buying it directly from the Raspberry Pi Foundation! 😛 I noticed some nice cuts on SSDs (but they’re quite cheap anyway these days), and some okay bundle deals, but there were basically no decent offers on GPUs at all. Two of my mates… er… one of my mates got an okay deal on a GTX 970. 😛 They paid about £250 all-in, but it wasn’t that much of a discount.

There WAS a moment where I found a post on Hot UK Deals with 70-odd upvotes advising that you could buy a GTX 970 off Amazon.fr and get it shipped over here for approximately £220. Acting completely idiotically, much like a Black Friday shopper, I quickly placed an order. Moments afterwards, my frontal lobe turned back on and went “wait wait wait, it’s an international purchase; what about import costs?” There’s no import duty from France for electronics like this, but of course; you have to pay 20% VAT, which brings the cost to around £264, which is MORE than it would’ve cost to buy it here! Not a single one of the nonces on that HUKD page had realised. Thank God some of my brayn cells still work. PROFESSIONAL PANDA PANCAAAAKE

It wasn’t a total bust, though. On Cyber Monday I went on Scan.co.uk, the site I’d totally forgotten about. Luckily, I found they were selling an EVGA GTX 970 for £240; the cheapest (real offer) I’d seen over the weekend. Oh, no, wait… apart from an MSI GTX 970 I saw on an Aria.co.uk newsletter for £220, but unsurprisingly, they were all gone within 30 minutes. 😛 Anyway, after some thought and research, I decided to blow my budget for the month wide open, and ordered two of ‘em. 😀 If I’d just bought one, I’d do what I did with my GTX 770 and plan to get a second one but end up not getting around to it. I didn’t spend extra on an SLI-compatible motherboard for nothing. 😛 It sounds like stupid overkill, but according to an SLI review of these cards, the diminishing returns for two-way SLI is actually quite low. It should boost most things that can’t do 60FPS on one card to 60FPS, and boost games that can do 60FPS to 120FPS or close to it (haven’t got a 120hz monitor for nothing, either, and yes, 120hz does make a difference! 😛 ).

I experienced a bit of fury this morning when I got an e-mail saying the products I’d ordered couldn’t be sent because they were “discontinued” (lol no), but after querying Scan with some moderate force thinking they were trying to back out of honouring the price they offered, they said to ignore that e-mail because it was a mistake. They’re just having some… pretty major delays. 😛 Don’t think I’ll get them until Friday, but when I do, I’ll letcha know how awesome they are at running Transport Tycoon. Haha. 😛

Anyhoo, that’s that bit done. What’s next… ah, yes. Heehee. Heeeeheeheeheee! 😀

I started work on a scene in DAZ Studio over a week ago, but ended up stopping a few steps before completion. There were several reasons for this. One of them was because of my mouse; the mouse buttons were so phwoacked that unless I applied a shit-ton of force to them, drag operations had an unreasonably high chance of being interrupted. I would be dragging the mouse to rotate the camera, then suddenly the mouse button would unclick and click during the drag, causing me to mess with a property or switch tabs or hit render or generally do something very annoying. It wasn’t just DAZ Studio; it was definitely a hardware issue because the same thing was happening everywhere. It was probably even more annoying in Explorer. 😛 Another reason was DAZ Studio itself. The crashes… God, the friggin’ crashes! It was just… fucking ridiculous! I tried everything to reduce the crash frequency; I even ended up messing with the processor affinity to restrict DAZ Studio so it could only use 6 of the 8 CPU cores. That helped a bit, but not enough. Restricting it to 4 cores wasn’t any better. It’d still crash the graphics driver every so often, and cause a Blue Screen of Death a bit more rarely. The third reason I stopped was because no matter what I did, I couldn’t get friggin’ specular highlights to show up on the dragon’s eyes. Well, I could, but they looked completely wrong. Like… all speckly and crap. I basically just wanted to punch DAZ Studio’s face in the face.

Since I’d gotten a new mouse, I went back to DAZ Studio last night in an attempt to finish it off. It was still crashing the graphics driver, but it didn’t feel as often as usual. I was patient with it and made sure to close the viewport before a render (if you don’t, and if it crashes the graphics driver, DAZ Studio also crashes and you lose your current render progress, huehuehue oh my god it’s so painfully dumb). But then, after a few crashes… it just… stopped crashing. Completely. Not a single hiccup or anything. Smooth like butter. Caress your lover. Enjoy the mome… yeah. 😛

There were a few new frustrations. As I dropped the shading rate for more detail, DS started taking a psychotic amount of time to do what appeared to be… nothing. After some annoyance and some probing, I found out that Subsurface Scattering (SSS) was enabled on SOME of the Dragon 3 material presets, but not all of them. I was previously using a preset that didn’t use SSS, and that night, I’d switched to a material preset that did while I was trying to work out why specular wasn’t working on the dragon’s eyes. I didn’t switch it back after I found the problem and just switched the diffuse textures instead because… well, because I didn’t know that some of the presets didn’t use SSS, cuz that just would be dumb and inconsistent, right? 😛 This is how I discovered that SSS is goddamn expensive, especially in final renders. 😛

I disabled SSS on everything, finished off the tweaks to the head morphs… then took a deep breath before tweaking the render settings and UberEnvironment to render at final, DJ Max quality. 😀 Then I pressed the render button and left it running overnight. Guess what? This morning, it was happily sat there, displaying a DJ Max quality render like a doge with a newspaper in its gob. It hadn’t blue screened or crashed or broken or anything! It was all like “here is your render (mong)master, may I please you with another?”

Unfortunately, it did have to please me with another; the lighting was too weak in the first render. While I’ve been at work today, I’ve been popping onto TeamViewer every so often, having a gander at the latest render, tweaking some settings and firing off another one. DS’s been super-cool about it all, and I don’t understand why, especially since I lightly overclocked my processor just the other day, technically making it more unstable and more prone to crashing! ARGH DAZ, WHY YOU SO ERRATIC?!?

But no no no, I’m not complaining. I like it not crashing. 😛

Anyway, yes, maybe I’m blathering a bit. That’s because I’m just a li’l bit hyped to show you this. 😀 When I got home, what I believed was going to be the final render was waiting for me. It was good, but there were a few things I wanted to change. After that, I did the actual final render. And here it is:

Dragon.Init() (1080p)
Available in: (1080p) (QHD) (WQXGA) (UHD)

Hahahahahahaaaaaa! Man, I’m ultra happy about this one! 🙂 It’s just… ah, screw it, I’m throwing modesty outta the window for a minute. This is AWESOME! The concept is fun, the scene arrangement and posing really worked, the lighting’s turned out really nice (it’s the first time I’ve used UberEnvironment 2’s Global Illumination), the textures look good, the depth of field (DoF) is perfect, and the only postwork I did was a slight “bloom” effect, as well as the title and signature. I reckon it’s my best render yet! 😀 But my opinion means jack; what do you think? Let me know! 🙂

As I mentioned, I changed a few things after the first final render, which you can have a look at here. The first change was a replacement texture for the awful, low-resolution one I was using for the desk… stone… stone desk thing. 😛 It looks waaaay better. The second adjustment was the addition of a can of Wyvern Energy (frost flavour). 😀 Just a little extra touch to make the image a bit more fun. And somewhat accurate. 😉 The third adjustment was the DoF; even though it was great in the original render, it blurred out the Wyvern Energy can a bit too much, so I had to tweak it. 🙂 Oh, and I increased the size of the PC tower, too. It was a li’l bit small. 😛

Right, let’s see… stats for those who care! 😛 Rendering at WQHD with UberEnvironment 2 on Bounce Light (GI) mode and with the XHi quality preset, with a general Shading Rate of 0.2, the total render time was… 2 hours 10 minutes 5.31 seconds. Took about 9 minutes longer than the version I made before the adjustments; I blame reflection. 😛 It was a pretty heavy job this time; respect goes out to the i7-4790K @ 4.3GHz. 😀 Oh, don’t worry (if you are), I’ll make sure to get 1080p and 4K renders done and add them to the post, too! They won’t be until tomorrow at least. Depending on if DAZ Studio keeps bluescreening the PC (yes, it’s started doing it again for basically no reason). 😉

Right… phew. I think that’s it for now. Crap, this post was technically supposed to be about Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Project Mirai DX. Ah well; I’ll talk about them next time. 😛 For now, though, I’m off. See yaz!

UPDATE!!
I don’t really understand what exactly it’s doing, but DAZ Studio has… well, it’s stopped bothering with non-fatal driver crashes and is more frequently causing the PC to bluescreen through fatal driver crashes. It crashes at random times, sometimes after about 30 seconds, sometimes after about an hour… but it always gives the same error: DRIVER_CORRUPTED_EXPOOL. I imagine it’s a graphics driver crash, but honestly, I have no idea. I’ve tried disabling integrated graphics but there was no difference, and I haven’t done the more extreme option of unplugging the primary GPU and running off integrated graphics yet. I’ll try that tonight, because whatever the reason is, it’s making this 4K render absolutely impossible.

I started it earlier today before heading to work. So far, so good. I’ll leave you with a snapshot of the current progress:

Capture.PNG

Pleasedontcrashpleasedontcrashpleasedontcrash

UPDATE 2!!
WHOOO YEAAAAH ALLLLRIIIIIGHT!!!

Seriously I shouldn’t be this excited or happy that DAZ Studio finally rendered a 4K image on this perfectly healthy, quite powerful PC. A renderer successfully rendering a scene is what should happen. Every time. Because otherwise the renderer fails at its only purpose. 😛

I’ve added links to the 4K (UHD) version and the 1080p version (YES IT DID THAT TOO, HOLY SHIT!!). While this strange unexplainable streak continues, I’m rendering a… erm… a 2560×1600 version, which is a stupid aspect ratio that MacBooks use. I’mma set it as my desktop background on the one I use at work. Maybe it’ll make it faster or nicer to use. 😛

UPDATE 3!!
Finished off that WQXGA render and added it to’t list. Yes that’s the resolution’s actual name. 😛 Any other resolution requests, just lemme know! 🙂

“It’s mouldy mum, isn’t it?”

I don’t give a flying fuck though!!

That’d be a (censored) lyric from “Birthday Cake”, by Cibo Matto, featured on the Jet Set Radio Future soundtrack. Thought it was a good match for this post! 😛 Apart from that it wasn’t my 30th birthday. (Don’t rush it, dangit! :P)

Just a short one. 🙂 Aye, I had mah burfday a couple days ago, and I only got home today. 😛 Got various things such as sweets and spices and sweets and Paper Mario and sweets. 😛 My sister also took me for a day of Segway riding, which wasn’t as deadly as I thought it would be. Apart from that part where my sis nearly fell in a lake. 😛 It’s super weird at first but it only took about 10 minutes before I had it under control. They’re really fun to ride, and pretty nippy, actually! I almost want one. 😛

Now, the reason I posted was because of my burfday cake, which was just… well, here, have a look:

2015-10-04 19.23.59

How boss is that?! It was custom made by someone my sis knows. I think she’s still at college, and this was the first time she’d done a dragon cake, but phwoack, that’s awesome! I didn’t wanna eat it, and cutting it up made me feel really bad. 😛 But then I ate some and it was all good. 😀

Anyhoo, yes. Segwaying and a dragon cake. Good burfday. 😀

Oh, as well as Paper Mario: Sticker Star, thanks to a demo, I bought Project Mirai DX just before I headed home for my bidet. I’ll probably talk about them both next time. 🙂 But for nao, I’m off. See yaaaaaaaahz. 😀

mongmaster.wordpress.com has been (un)suspended!

Whoa. WHOA. WHOOOHOHOHOHAAAAHHAOOA! My number of subscribers has doubled! TO TWO!!

Welcome, Mr./Mrs./Miss./Dr. New Subscriber! 😀

Yes, it was almost immediately after my blog came back online. Y’see, I was just passing by, doing a couple of tweaks to some articles, not going to write another one because I didn’t really have much to write about, when all of a sudden, I get some weird-ass errors when trying to update a post. Something about an API call that failed. About a minute later, just when I was about to say “stuff this, I’ll come back to it later”, I get a banner at the top of my dashboard, saying the blog has been suspended because of a violation of the Terms of Service.

Lel?

I thought maybe I had done something wrong at some point yeeeeears ago, back when this blog was actually on Windows Live. I thought something’d crept up from then and bit me in teh ash whole. But even so, an instant suspension and imminent deletion with no warning or reason whatsoever? I didn’t even get an e-mail, and nothing explained why this had happened. Come on.

Naturally, I contacted support. Turned out that I’d been hit by an anti-spam bot which flagged the site. Understandable! 😛 Can’t fault the support I got, really. Well, apart from that they didn’t actually fix the issue the first time I contacted them, but whatever, no biggie, they still got me back up and running within 24 hours. 🙂  I’m still gonna tag all my posts with that tag, though. 😛 IT’S TRADITION!

Anyway, yes, I’m back, with DOUBLE the subscriber POWAAAHH! Awwww yisss, I’m SMASHING my way onto the Internetz celebrity scene BIG time. Haaaah. 😛  As a celebratory thingiemabobbyjig, I’ll go ahead and post something I was gonna post anyway! WHOOOO! CELEBRATIONZ! 😀

I finally got my ass in gear and got around to rendering a final version of The Third Breed; the render I made in my last (real) post. 🙂 Man, it was a pain to render out again. I updated to DAZ Studio 4.7, which was a slight mistake, and I’m currently rocking the Windows 10 Technical Preview, which is a mistake and a good thing in almost equal measures. Let’s just say it took at least 6 attempts to render it out. 😛

Why? Well, during a render, the CPU completely maxes out, and the Pwnage-O-Matic V6 doesn’t seem to be happy about this. 😛 I got about 3 BSoDs, the computer completely locked up once, and the graphics driver kept crashing, too. I really doubt it’s a hardware issue since the processor is practically brand new, never exceeds 60C at full load, and is currently running at stock speed. It’s probably some kinda Windows problem. Although… I did close a bunch of background programs before I began the render attempt that finished successfully. Or maybe it was just a fluke. We’ll see when we render Year of the Goat. 😀

As an extra-special treat, I rendered it in both 1080p and 4K. 😀 To render the scene in 4K, it took… 2 hours 10 minutes and 21.44 seconds. Says the log file. 🙂 Anyway, yez, I’ll stop yammering and show you le beautiful dragon! BOOYAH:

The Third Breed - DracoAurarius
Available in: (1080p) (4K)

It’s not hyper-different from the draft, but it’s better. His head’s angled down a little more, and his claw is a bit closer to his body. I also tweaked the position of his left wing, adjusted the lighting slightly, and rendered at max quality. DJ MAX quality. 😀 Also saved the final JPEGs at a higher than normal quality because I noticed some really ugly artefacts on the draft version.

I hope you liek! 🙂 If you want him on your desktop but I haven’t rendered at your native resolution, I’d be happy to churn another render out for your res and add it to the list. Just lemme know! 😀  Within reason, of course. I ain’t rendering it out at some crazy-ass overkill res like 16K or something. I like my PC to be usable! 😛

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. I’ll make a separate post about my new PC build later on. And Windows 10, and DAZ Studio 4.7, although there’s not a great deal to say about it. And of course, the 4th Chinese New Year render is almost here! I gotta render a GOAT and make it look EPIC!

Maaaaaan this year’s image is gonna suck! 😛

The Third Breed

Hoooo boy! It’s been a while since I’ve touched DAZ Studio. Conveniently about the same amount of time since I last touched this blog, actually. My last post was a render for Chinese New Year made in DAZ Studio, so… yeah. Heh. 😛

In the time I’ve been gone, I’ve been hard at work doing work so I can pay for a place to live and donating the rest to the government. 😛 My finances are going up now, though, which is nice. It’d’ve been highly depressing if it was some generic office job or something, but I’m doing what I’ve trained to do for years – programming games. 😀 Sure, it’s not a huge company, and I’m only doing mobile games, but I much prefer working in a smaller team, and the challenges aren’t much different from programming anything else. So it’s great! 🙂 I wish I liked the game that I was working on a bit more than I do, though. 😛

Anyhoo, yes, back to the original topic of my post, DAZ Studio. It’s been nearly 7 months since I last opened it. I’ve never really thought about it at all since then. I would’ve probably gotten close to February next year, remembered that I needed to do the next image in my Chinese Zodiac series and opened it then. 😛 But yeah, there hasn’t really been any particular urge to open it for a while. Besides, my focus is developing ULSG V14 in whatever spare time I can pull together.

However, a couple of days ago, I stumbled across a render of a dragon in a pretty basic pose. It looked like it’d been done in Poser or DAZ Studio. The quality was pretty dire, so I was halfway to the back button until I did a double take. I realised that I didn’t really recognise this dragon, and I have nigh on every dragon available for DAZ Studio. At first glance, I thought it was the SubDragon, but his face looked just a little bit different. Then it was like a chain reaction of HOLY SHITness. I noticed that he had no horns. He had horns on his nose, but they were flat and looked like they hadn’t been morphed. His scales looked different, too. Then I noticed his claws and feet. He had four fingers and a thumb on each hand, and four toes and a dewclaw on each foot. The SubDragon has one less. That was probably the biggest giveaway, and made me say “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS DRAGON?!”

Not long after this, I found out it was the latest in the series of DAZ’s dragon models – the DAZ Dragon 3! Yes, yes, it’s not the most imaginative of names. And it’s actually very inaccurate, since there are now FOUR main entries in the DAZ Dragons series: the Dragon, the MilDragon, the SubDragon and the Dragon 3. 😛 But meh, whatever. After finding this out, my urge to render increased massively, and naturally, I jumped on it immediately. 😛

The one thing that bugged me, though? Well, the DAZ Dragon 3 is actually a “Genesis” figure, DAZ’s most recent “technology”. I don’t know a great deal about it, just that it’s a model that can be morphed into something hugely different from the base figure. Oh, and it’s ONLY supported in DAZ Studio 4. Apparently.

Nowww… it’s somewhere in this blog… ah, here. Back in this post I tried out DAZ Studio 4, when it first came out. It was wank. The entire UI was redesigned, so your layout from DAZ Studio 3 was chucked away, and you were given a choice of preset layouts instead. I nicknamed them Noob Mode, Annoying Mode, “Expert” Mode and Shouldn’t Even Be Using This Program Mode. The best mode was Noob Mode, but that’s like awarding it first place in a leper competition. Annoying Mode had about 6000 different sections that weren’t easily configurable. “Expert” Mode was for people who thought they were experts but were actually just stupid. It had ONE section containing nigh-on EVERY POSSIBLE TOOL (including pointless ones), ONE viewport to work in, and a NON-COMPACT UI, making it pretty much bat-shit insane. Shouldn’t Even Be Using This Program Mode is still in “beta” even after five years, and is for frightened people with no desire to pose things themselves who would probably uninstall the program within 30 minutes.

As far as I recall, the UI design also brought along some gay slidey animations whenever you selected a docked tab. They weren’t smooth, or fast, or interesting. They just slowed me down and irritated me. The tab names were also written VERTICALLY, so you had to tilt your head to read them easily. This, hilariously, took up MORE space than the old UI. Basically, it was an absolutely terrible upgrade that had no advantages whatsoever. It used more resources, added more useless bloat, and the render engine was just as fast as DS3.

But if I wanted to use the DAZ Dragon 3, I had no choice but to use DS4. Gurrrrgh. Well, it’s been 5 years since then. I thought that they’d’ve made it better within that time, right?

Well… yes, actually.

But it took HOURS. 😛

The default layouts are still there and haven’t changed. However, joy of friggin’ joys, you can choose an alternate skin. There’s a choice of three – Main Street, Highway and Darkside. Anyone who uses Main Street is a spaz, unless you have sight issues or something. Seriously, the tabs are idiotically large and spacing between icons is larger. Do you WANT space to work? Then you must at LEAST choose Highway. This basically removes pointless padding, and isn’t too bad. But real men choose Darkside, because it looks like DS3 (which looked fairly cool) and uses about the same amount of space that Highway does. 😛

The difficult part is modifying one of the preset layouts. It literally took me two hours to modify Annoying Mode into a layout that worked for me.

The DJ Max

Four workflow modes: one for loading, one for constructing the scene, one for adding lights and cameras, and one for rendering. All modes except for Load have Parameters and Surfaces tabs, so you can tweak objects or materials without needing to switch modes. There’re no animation things because I think proper animation in DAZ Studio is absolutely impossible. Puppeteer is gone OF COURSE. Almost all camera cubes and pose tools are fucked off because they’re annoying, especially the camera cubes. And tabs are along the TOP rather than up the side, thank GOD. 😛

I call it “The DJ Max” because I have brain cells that are connected incorrectly. 😛 I’ve dumped the preset on Dropbox HERE, if anyone would like to use it. 🙂

UPDATE: I dumped Dropbox because I got a nice e-mail from them saying they were about to drop 23GB of my 31GB because it was part of a promotional offer. I think they were hoping that I subscribed to Dropbox Pro but then I realised I actually have a 30GB limit on OneDrive. And if you subscribe to Office 365, you get 1TB of space. And Microsoft Office, of course. And 60 Skype minutes a month. All for less than Dropbox Pro. GG Dropbox! But enough of that. Here’s a new link to the preset. Just let me know if it breaks again. 🙂

Anyway, yes. DAZ Studio 4.6 is actually pretty good now. It works about as well as DAZ Studio 3, and that’s all I can really ask for. Now, back to the Dragon 3.

…actually, is there another name I could use? D3? Oh shit no that reminded me of Diablo 3 and nearly made me vomit. I’ll just use Dragon 3 for now. 😛

Anyway, my experience with Dragon 3. Simply put? He is flat out awesome. I don’t really know what to criticise. He has the same kind of build as the SubDragon, so he is ultra-flexible and can probably do anything. But there are so many improvements. There are at least 100 morphs and a full set of expressions. He even has visemes, and might actually work with lip-sync if… er… if lip-sync still existed, seriously they got rid of that?! Or I can’t find it. Eh, whatever. He’s missing B, C, T, R and probably loads of other visemes anyway. 😛

The morphs that blew my mind were the horns. He has five sets of horns you can morph, and four of them are pretty standard. However, his main horns? Hhhhhohhh. There are 13 types. And they are all combinable.

Horns 1(R) Horns 2(R) Horns 3(R) Horns 4(R)

Of course, most combinations just end up as a total mess, but it’s awesome you can do that. 😀

He comes with some poses, of course. They’re good to let you take him out for a test render more quickly, but I don’t really use them for anything other than that. 😛 They do show off his flexibility, though. And just like the SubDragon, he’s got such a great range of personality.

Relaxed

And goddamnit. It’s gotta be said – he’s a gorgeous-looking dragon. Every part of him is beautiful. 😀 The model is so detailed, and the textures are ultra-high resolution, too. And the morphs don’t seem to affect the texture quality like they do on the SubDragon.

As I said, it’s been a while since I touched DAZ Studio, and even longer since using DS4, so I’m a little rusty. I’ve spent a few hours getting back to grips with everything, including my old friend, UberEnvironment2. 😀 Here’s what I cooked up:

The Third Breed (Draft)

I love him – he’s just awesome. 😀 This render needs a bit more work, though – the quality needs to cranked up a bit more. I’ll probably do a proper render with him at some point. Maybe with the SubDragon? We’ll see. 🙂

That’s how many months now?

Just under 5 months of notpostingonablognoonereads-ness! Wow. *blows dust away*

How is everyone? Good? Great. I’ve been hard at work on my placement, but we’ll get to that in a sec. 😉 First of all, I finished a new render today. I’ve posted it in MongMaster’s Other (Bad Word) already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

Year Of The Dragon - DracoAurarius

Sure, it’s a little premature, but happy Chinese New Year, y’all! Couldn’t miss the opportunity to create something for Year of the Dragon. 😉 It was my first time ever rendering with the Eastern Dragon, and although his crazy length outfaced me at first, posing him turned out to be pretty interesting! 😀 Oh, and that epic background and the badass neon Chinese characters? That was my lame Photoshop skillz in OVERDRIVE. 😀 I’m planning on making similar pieces for the Chinese New Year from now on. Especially can’t miss Year of the Horse – that’ll be my year. 😉

Anyway, yes – I’ve been on my placement for about 4-5 months now, and it’s… alright. It’s cool that we’re making games in a team and not doing uni work at the same time… well, sort of – we’ve gotta do stupid reports and a dumb diary to pass the placement year. What a pile of crap – surely you auto-pass the placement year if you don’t get fired? But yeah, it’s alright. We’re making two mobile games (yes, mobile games, *shudder* :P) at the moment; a domino-knocking-down puzzle game called Lapsus, and a tiki head-breaking action-puzzle game called Katu Toka – the one I’m working on.

I don’t like Lapsus at all. It’s one of those puzzle games where you end up looking at a single level for ages – I find it really boring and really frustrating. Katu Toka is alright, I guess. It’s fun, but I don’t know whether that’s the gameplay, or the ridiculous sounds and music I’ve put in as placeholders. 😛 Those’re just my opinions; I hope they both do well, of course, but I doubt they’ll get much attention, and they probably won’t sell. Because neither of them are like Angry Birds. But hey, at least they’re not shit and don’t completely rip anything off. 😛

We’re making them using a horrendous SDK called Corona. You program for it using Lua, which is simple enough, BUT it’s not object-oriented. And that makes it painful. What makes it even more painful is the way Corona has over-simplified everything. It actually makes it less powerful.

Also, when you get an error, it’s USELESS. It only ever gives you a tiny piece of the stack traceback, saying where it thinks the error occurred, but it very rarely tells you what was called before that. Oh, and it CAN’T detect syntax errors properly, it spams the console if it comes across an error in an enterFrame event instead of just halting the simulator, and 90% of the time, Corona directs you 200 miles away from the error, leaving you to figure it out for yourself. Many times, I’ve had to put a massive number of print statements where I suspect the error is, and find out where the code stops executing, so I can understand at least WHERE the error is. For simple stuff like crappy recipe apps or lame little games, it’s excellent, but if you wanna do something complex with it… God, it’s horrible. It’s like Multimedia Fusion 2 – trading power for ease of use. 😛

Anyhoo, they’ll be out on the Apple App Store and Android Market at the end of this month, hopefully, if SOME people decide to pull their thumb out of their ass and get some testers in to help. 😛

What else… ah yes, Ultimate Lame Ship Game. 🙂

Now, because of the placement, it’s almost impossible for me to find time to work on it. I’m not doing it after work, cuz I’ve just been working all day. I’m not that interested in doing it over the weekends either, cuz again, I’ve been working all week and want to chill. 😛 It’s kind of annoying, because I DO want to work on it and get it done.

I was updating it last weekend, aiming to figure out why it was being so slow on a low-end PC, or when it was being run off a memory stick. To be honest, I’ve had this problem with it ever since college, but it’s never been as intense as it is now. I didn’t understand the problem back then at all… but now, I think I do. 😀

When the game loads, it copies all its data into a temporary folder on your PC’s main drive, so I figured it wasn’t an internal MMF problem such as inefficient rendering, or a user performance problem such as a slow card or slow loading times or anything (can’t be anyway – I’m running a GTX 295 and a Solid State Drive, and it still runs slowly off an external drive for me. :P) So… if it’s still slow, the game must access something ELSE on the external drive while its running.

*click* Of course! The save file! That stays in the ULSG directory!

What I think is happening is that the crappy INI extension I’m using looks directly in the file for information, instead of loading the file into memory and reading it from there. Because of this, I also think that every time data is changed, it updates the INI file. This… is very, VERY costly, especially when you’re running it off an external drive which can only communicate with your PC using the comparatively slow USB.

So, I’ve gotta change the extension I’m using. I’ve started converting my code to use Ini++, which actually loads the file into memory. In addition, you can control exactly when it saves and loads data. This should help. One problem, though. It’s going to take FRIGGIN’ AGES. I’ve gotta go through every single event that has something to do with the INI, and change all the actions. And there are many, many actions. >.< This, paired with a ton of other tedious crap I’ve gotta do, is NOT helping my motivation. Especially when I could be working on ULSG V14 – a nice clean slate devoid of lame code. 😛 I’ve really gotta set myself some sort of target, such as working on it every other weekend, or making a major update every month or something. Otherwise it’ll never get done. 😛 Speaking of updates, there’s something I’ve decided. I’m changing the place I make updates. Might be a separate blog dedicated to ULSG, might be something else, I’m not sure, but I’m not gonna use The Daily Click any more. No biggie, cuz I doubt the site’ll last much longer, due to the oh-so-massive amount of money it costs to run. >.> I’ll post the final version there so people can find it, but won’t make updates.

Why? Cuz I’m not liking how the site’s turned out. People are constantly whining about the admins, who aren’t doing their job. One of the site founders left, probably because he can’t be bothered with all the bullshit he has to put up with. And I swear that the core of this site is just a circle of friends. For example, an admin apparently left, but I’m not sure how they knew because he never said anything about leaving anywhere on the site. “Well-known” members who have been around since very early on seem to get special invisible privileges, such as the admins and other “well-known” members siding with them automatically, even if they’re in the wrong.

Also, people keep talking about members that disappeared or got banned, like they’re gods or something. One of them actually came back and started spamming news posts and stuff, and hasn’t been banned again for some reason. It’s ridiculous. And members only ever care about the games that the “well-known” members make, that is, if they’re actually making a game and not just sitting around the forums whining and moaning. I bet if I were to update my devlog there, it wouldn’t even get looked at. On the other hand, if a “well-known” member updated their devlog, people would swarm all over it. It’s a site where the rule seems to be “the longer you’ve been around, the more authority and popularity you have”.

So, anyway, like you even care about that crap. 😛 The bottom line is, I’m making updates elsewhere cuz TDC’s community is annoying me. I’m pretty sure I’ll just make another WordPress blog and do it there, or maybe there’s another site out there that has good features. I’ll post the link to it when I decide. 🙂

Alright… I think that’s all for now. 😀 I’ll see ya later. 🙂

The ONLY game which lets you play as a gangsta’ pimp sheriff dragon!

Preloading Portal 2 on this pitiful connection is like trying to push an elephant through a mouse hole. The elephant being the 10GB Portal 2, and the mouse hole being my 1Mb connection, which cranks out a max download speed of 128KB/s. But of course, because of overhead and other technicalities, you don’t really ever hit that. 😛

So, while I was waiting, aside from playing some Dynasty Warriors 7 and joining a Skype call where trying to get a word in was like trying to push an elephant through a mouse hole (I left after about 2 minutes), I had a browse through Steam’s store. Nothing much, just a bunch of crap, as per usual. Except for one thing.

HOARD. This is how you initially catch my attention, a good name, and a symbol that looks like it’s going to poke your eye out. 😛 It was a strategy game, and I don’t really like strategy games. However, it pressed my dragon button, since that’s what you play as. 😛 And if it HADN’T pressed that button and kept me interested, I would’ve never noticed that it was an ACTION strategy game, or more specifically, a “Stratecade” game (strategy-arcade). On top of that, it was an indie game, so it had a chance of being really amazing. Of course… being an indie game, it also had the same chance of being really shitty… 😛

The screenshots didn’t give me enough, so I had a watch of the trailer. Because they actually include real gameplay footage, indie trailers are always infinitely better than trailers from full game studios. Yes, I’m looking at you, BETHESDA; your Elder Scrolls V trailer actually made me want to play the game LESS. Try not being shit at outlining the story. 😛

Of course, because of my elephant-mousehole connection, I couldn’t watch much of the trailer. Only enough for me to say “Well, I like the look of it, but unless there’s a demo, I’m not bothering.” And what do you know? There was a “download demo” button right there! 😀 Most companies totally fail at either the description stage, or the “I’m interested, I want to try it” stage, but these guys actually had brain cells, and made a demo available! 😛 Because I could try the demo, I had a chance to love it. And since I DID love it, and since someone else I know ALSO loved it, they now have 14 of our pounds. 😀

Now, time for a proper F.A.G.G.O.T Review! 😀 HERE WE GO!

Hoard is an up-to-4-player strategy-arcade game. You control a dragon, and the basic aim is to amass the largest hoard you can by doing traditional dragon-like things, such as burning down crops and buildings, destroying castles, kidnapping princesses, roasting knights who come to rescue said princesses, killing thieves who are stupid enough to wander into your hoard while you’re near, making towns fear you, and generally being a gigantic draconic asshole. 😛

It seems mind-numbingly simple… but there’s a layer of strategy to all this. Destroying towns and stuff will get you gold, sure, but to get high scores, you need to let these towns grow, so they end up sending more valuable loads to other towns, which you can intercept. You also have to watch your hoard AND your hide – if anything gets stolen or if you get wounded, your multiplier resets. If you play well by avoiding damage and protecting your hoard from thieves (sheriff dragon ;)), your multiplier eventually increases, up to X3.

Kidnapping a princess and taking her back to your hoard nets you a ransom bonus after a while (dragon pimp ;)), but almost every knight on the map will head towards your hoard to save her. Damaging a town enough without destroying it makes that town fear you. To keep this fear, you have to make sure that other meddling dragons don’t destroy the town or make the town fear them more. In return, their archers won’t attack you, and they’ll send you tribute (ie: protection money, hence: gangster dragon ;)). There are also wizard towers which are tough and can be just plain irritating, but they hold a gem worth large amounts of gold. HOWEVER, carrying this gem makes you slow and vulnerable. If you look closely at everything, you can see how strategic this game can be. 😉

If you do end up biting off more than you can chew and run out of health, you don’t die. Instead, you are wounded, and automatically fly back to your hoard to heal. And that’s nice, because I get bored of seeing “YOU DIED! Respawning in 5 seconds” – it just jolts you away from the action and makes you feel more detached. In Hoard, it’s like: “You’ve run out of health? It’s okay, here, I’ll take you back to your hoard, just wait a few seconds to heal… alright, go, get back out there!” It feels smoother. 🙂

There are plenty of maps to choose from, and a few different game modes to try. There are also score/time targets to hit on each map, bronze, silver and gold. And unlike many, MANY other games, the gold target is actually challenging to hit. You can also play Hoard co-op with up to three others, but I reckon the real fun is in the competitive modes. There are also 100+ Steam-chievements to get, but I don’t really care about them. 😛

Now time for the F.A.G.G.O.T. 🙂

Fun
Enjoyability – 8: Even with bots, this is really fun to play. The subtle layer of strategy also makes it really interesting, which adds to the fun.
Frustration – 0: I never felt any frustration while playing. There isn’t anything to be frustrated about, at all.

Audio
Sounds – 5: Hmm… well… the sounds are pretty average. The audio cues are quite lame, since I can’t tell what sound means what. But overall, the sound is just “OK”.
Music – 8: The music is really great, it makes me nod my head, and some parts make me smile. 🙂 Sure, it’s not the most incredible music I’ve ever heard, but it sounds awesome, it’s catchy, and it’s randomised. Although the effect of this is subtle, it’s much better than listening to a loop, and it shows they’ve really put some effort into their soundtrack. 🙂
Voice – 8: The only voices are the princesses, the death sounds, and the voice in the survival mode’s soundtrack. The princesses sound like cheesy, traditional princesses, which is funny. The death sounds range from “pleh” to “LMFAO”, and the way the vocalist chants “Dragon! (Dragon!)” at one point in the survival mode soundtrack is fucking ace. 😀

Graphics
Animation – 8: Since you’ll be looking at them for most of the game, the dragons hold the “animation spotlight”. 😉 Happily, they’ve done a great job – the dragons look very fluid and natural. The other animations are few and far between, and they’re generally unremarkable.
Models – 6: It’s really weird. Everything looks 3D, and it MUST be 3D… but the dragons, knights and everything like that look like they’re pre-rendered. :S In any case, the dragons look nice, but they only start to look cool until you level up a few times. Other models just look kinda average.
Textures – 7: There are some ground tiles which look fantastic, and others which look a bit “meh”. I love the style, by the way; the game world looks like a game board – you can see the table it’s resting on. 😀 The dragons themselves are textured quite nicely, but again, the other models are “meh”. The texture work stands out in some areas and doesn’t in others, but there’s nothing that sticks out like a sore dick.
2D – 10: I freakin’ love the HUD and the menus, and that dragon backdrop that appears when you’re selecting game options. I also like that red dragon which appears in loading screens. Nothing wrong here.
Effects – 6: Well, they’re good, but nothing to write home about. The powerup effects and gold pickup effects are nice, but the rest are pretty meh. The firebreath effect looks a bit pathetic to me personally. 😛

Gameplay
Core – 9: Hoard looks like a mindless kill everything game, but look a little deeper, and there hides some really cool, fast-paced strategic gameplay. “This dragon is feared in this town – should I destroy it so he gets no tribute, or shall I try to make them fear me and protect it instead?” “Should I take a risk attacking that dragon to drop his multiplier?” Choices like these make it really engaging.
Immersion – 9: At the start of a game, it’ll be slow and a little boring. But after a few minutes, you’ll start thinking about what would be the best move to make. And since it’s so fast-paced, you’ll be concentrating and having to adapt quickly. This is immersive. Very immersive. So immersive, you might spend two hours playing and not notice. 😉
Story – N/A: There is no story. And I’m glad there isn’t. Pinning a backstory to this game would’ve just been a waste of time. 😛
Replayability – 10: Since the gold medals are so difficult to get, and since multiplayer is so much fun, and since it’s a pick-up-and-play indie game, the replayability is incredible. I’ll be playing this again and again, trying to grab those gold medals. And if you’re an achievement whore, there’s plenty of them to fuck here. 😉
Repetition – 6: Ah, yes. Well, playing this game for more than a couple hours at a time will get a bit boring – it may be me, but I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure Hoard wasn’t designed to be played for long stints at a time. Then again, there are people who play Starcrap all day… 😛

Online
Praise – 9: Co-operative is fun – you need teamwork to keep your multiplier up, the thieves out and the cash flowing in. However, competitive multiplayer is where it’s REALLY at – fierce yet friendly competition, which is what I like best. 😀 As for the netcode, well, it seems pretty solid – I never noticed any serious lag at all.
Criticisms – 3: My main gripe is that you can’t assign bots to empty spaces in an online game, which is a bit of a stupid omission. Then again, since I wasn’t hosting and couldn’t look for myself, this may just be Ped being a complete retard. 😛 Nope, scratch that, you can’t add bots. :/
Fun – 9: As said in “Praise”, co-op is fun, but competitive is REALLY fun. Playing with humans is much more interesting and challenging than playing with artificial imbeciles. 😛

Total (After overly complicated but quite good Importance Machine calculations):
8.08/10 (Excellent)

Honestly, at least give the demo a try. It’s a really, really great game, and has a surprising amount of depth. 😀