Ahoy! It’s been a while, matey! How are ye? Slowly gettin’ back t’ normal, I hope? That’s kinda happenin’ here, sort o’. 😛 I’ve started workin’ from the cabin again instead o’ at home. I definitely prefer workin’ at home, as it’s quieter, I don’t ‘ave t’ walk or get the bus, ‘n unlike the cabin galley, me galley has more than jus’ a microwave. So why did I go back t’ the cabin? Basically, ’cause I be nah rich. 😛 I live in a wee flat ‘n ‘ave no dedicated area fer work, so I had t’ ‘ave another keyboard ‘n mouse on the same desk, ‘n another computer by me right leg, ‘n a Mac on me black brew table. ‘n an iPad lying around somewhere jus’ in case. ‘n an Apple TV plugged into a 4K monitor in the ship me TV used t’ be, afore ’twas demoted t’ the floor. ‘n the work PC was wired into me existin’ monitor setup, so I had t’ switch monitor sources every time I needed t’ use a diff’rent computer. So that’s one advantage t’ the cabin: I don’t ‘ave t’ a ton o’ extra crap in me wee flat. 😛 I totally would’ve kept workin’ at home if I had a bigger ship, but I don’t ‘ave that kinda booty. 😛 It’s also nice to be able to jus’, ye know, ask scallywags stuff usin’ me mouth. Instead o’ composin’ a message on Slack ‘n sometimes havin’ to wait about an hour fer a response. ‘n even though it’s quieter at home, I actually found it easier t’ focus at work, ’cause thar’re fewer distractions, meanin’ I can get more work done.
Things aren’t quite back t’ normal ‘ere, though, ’cause nah everyone wants t’ go back t’ the cabin. So I still needs t’ waste time writin’ messages t’ scallywags instead o’ jus’ goin’ o’er ‘n askin’ ’em. Pretty sure they be jus’ usin’ the Death Virus as an excuse, ’cause they had ne’er had any problem gettin’ into work afore, but now, ohhh no it’s too difficult, got t’ look aft sprogs ‘n do things at home. But ye managed afore… 🙄 Oh, ‘n a lot o’ places still demand ye wear a face mask ‘n “check in” or whatever. Guh, I jus’ wish scallywags would grow up ‘n get o’er this flu already. ’tisn’t goin’ t’ walk the plank, it’s impossible t’ belay that from spreadin’, ‘n ye’re goin’ t’ catch it eventually, so jus’… I dunno, ignore it, eh? 😛
But aye, other than goin’ back t’ work ‘n gettin’ vaccinated, nah much has happened wit’ me, mighty. Jus’ recoverin’ from creatin’ Amai: Reaffirmed (please read it) by nah touchin’ DAZ Studio wit’ a barge pole fer the past 7 months or so, ‘n playin’ games instead. 😛 I discovered ‘n took advantage o’ an offer where ye could get three months o’ Xbox Game Pass fer £1, ‘n I’ve been super-surprised by it. I didn’ know they had so many good games on thar. 😮 So I’ve been playin’ a bunch o’ ’em. Tetris Effect: Connected be like enough me favourite so far. It’s like Tetris, Rez, ‘n Lumines somehow had a three-way sprog. 😆 I love all three o’ those games, so combinin’ ’em together be jus’ aaaaaah! It’s such a good game. 😀 It’s got a smart co-op mode, too, which I’ve played a couple o’ times wit’ random players, ‘n once wit’ someone o’er Parsec, a low-latency remote desktop app wit’ a focus on gamin’. Apparently thar was some annoyin’ lag, but ’twas playable. Nah sure who’s fault the lag was, but ’twas prolly at least partially mine. 😛
Anyway, I be off topic as usuaaaal! I’ll get onto the real subject now. 😅
Ye might be wonderin’ why in Davy Jones’ locker this post be written in pirate-speak. 😛 That’s ’cause, matey, today (or at least when I posted this tale entry) be apparently “International Talk Like A Pirate Day”. I ‘ave no idea which thought o’ this, but ahoy, thar ’tis. It’s jus’ another one o’ those things arbitrarily assigned t’ a random day fer no real reason. Like Burger Day, assigned t’ the 28th o’ May. O’ course, it’s also assigned t’ the 26th o’ August. ‘n thar’s Cheeseburger Day, which was apparently yesterday, the 18th o’ September. See? All bullshit. 😛 I’ll make one up meself: Act Like A Mong Day, October 4th, go go go. 😛
While I don’t mighty get why scallywags reckon we shall natter like pirates on this specific day, it’s jus’ a bit o’ fun, innit. 😆 ‘N ahoy, it ended up partially inspirin’ the scene created fer Return T’ DAZ Studio Aft A Lengthy Break Day! Which be today! Along wit’ Natter Like A Pirate Day! Double day! Yarr! 😛
Har, if the things I be sayin’ make even less sense than normal, even wit’ pirate speak, that’s… like enough t’ be expected. 😆 Why’s that? Well, ’cause I be nah sure wha’ kind o’ energy I be runnin’ on at the moment. 😛 Since it’s bin 7 months since I las’ touched DAZ Studio, I was a wee bit rusty ‘n slow. That, combined wit’ the limited time I ‘ave on weekdays, me underestimation o’ how difficult the scene would become ‘n how long ‘twould take, ‘n o’ course, a healthy dose o’ procrastination, I left this render a wee bit too late. 😅 But I mighty wanted t’ get it done, so I jus’ kept on goin’ through the weekend ‘n I’ve sort o’ been awake fer more than 24 hours now. Wants sleep but can nah cuz needs t’ write this. In pirate. Hehehehehehehehehaaarrr
Anyway, aye, Talk Like A Pirate Day was one o’ the things that inspired the scene I came up wit’. ’twas mainly somethin’ else (which I’ll mention later), but this solidified the idea ‘n gave me a date t’ aim fer. By now, I be sure it’s super-obvious wha’ the general theme be. 😆
So without further ado… here it be! HERE BE DRAGONS!
YAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAARRRRR! BOOM! BURNINATE THE SCALLYWAGS!
I din’t sleep on Saturday. ‘n ’twas worth it. 😆 Garr, this one was kind o’ a pain, ‘n turned out way more complicated than I thought ‘twould be, but I be pretty happy wit’ how it ended up. 😀 It’s… nigh-on like wha’ I had in me head. I imagined the dragon cap’n t’ be facin’ the camera a bit more head-on, but I ended up at this angle, eventually liked it, ‘n jus’ sort o’ went wit’ it. Wha’ do ye reckon? How do ye like it? Let me know! 😀 Eh? Wha”s that? “Why are dragons walkin’ ‘n clamberin’ about the ship when they could be usin’ thar wings”? ‘Cause laughin’ ’til I spew grog! I dunno, dragon pirate code o’ honour that bars ’em from flying? Use yer imagination mateyyyy. 😛
Anyway, the process… ’twas fairly straightforward this time, as I was kinda familiar wit’ all the things I needed t’ do. T’ get all the dragons kitted out wit’ pirate clothes, I used the same technique as I’ve used a couple o’ previous renders (Roar, Blue Dragon! ‘n Dragula): the Transfer Tool. I moulded the clothin’ usin’ ZBrush so it fits the Dragon 3’s naught pose, then used the Transfer Tool t’ smoosh the Dragon 3’s rig onto the clothin’ ‘n do an auto-auto-fit. Aye, I meant t’ write auto twice. 😛 The difference this time be that I kiiiind o’ overdid it a wee bit. 😅 Three outfits. Threeeeee o’ ’em. ‘n they all had at least three different pieces o’ clothin’. While I reckon I got away wit’ combinin’ the cap’n’s outfit into a single mesh ‘n shapin’ all o’ it at once, fer some reason or another, I did each piece o’ clothin’ in the other outfits individually. I reckon ’twas jus’ mighty difficult t’ get the arms ‘n legs t’ fit when done all at once.
The only other difference related t’ the process o’ fittin’-human-clothes-t’-a-dragon was that I saved out the morphed outfit as an actual “product”, ’cause I had t’ use ’em multiple times ‘n didn’ wants t’ use a scene subset, ’cause I wanted t’ limit the number o’ times DAZ Studio had a poo on me head. 😛 I can nah remember if I mentioned this in Amai: Reaffirmed’s post, but it’s fairly simple fer a single object. Ye jus’ select the parented outfit ‘n save it as a Support Asset -> Figure/Prop Assets. It’s more confusin’ ‘n complicated if ye wants t’ save an outfit that has things parented t’ it, like shirt buttons. I would explain but I would prolly fall asleep. Sorry. 😅 I might update this later when I be more awake. 😛
One notable thing I encountered was memory usage. Oh boy. Aye, I reckon ’twas a combination o’ things, but this scene’s peak memory usage was around 23GB. Havin’ 11 dragons in the scene prolly didn’ help, but I reckon the biggest problem was the ship I chose t’ use. ’twas mighty good, mighty detailed, ‘n way better than the alternative I had in mind, but fer the love o’ God. I ‘ave ne’er seen a scene use so many textures that the texture dropdown menu covers the entire screen:
Seein’ that memory usage was jus’… beyond ridiculous. Jus’ when I get more friggin’ memory, too! It’s like a curse; I always seem t’ push everythin’ t’ its limits, even if it doesn’t make sense. Like I remember runnin’ mighty low on space when runnin’ a 1TB HDD, so I upgraded t’ a 4TB. ‘n I be still constantly runnin’ low. Hoooowwwwww. 😛
Ah, aye. Ye, uh… ye may be wonderin’ how I was able t’ render a scene that required 23GB o’ VRAM when me usual GTX 1080Ti only has 11GB. That’s ’cause I managed t’ score the ultimate loot. I… managed t’ get an RTX 3090. The Founders’ Edition. From Scan, nah a scalper. 😅
I managed t’ get hold o’ one by writin’ me owns website sniffer. 😛 ‘Twas written partly jus’ a challenge t’ see if I could do it, but when I did manage t’ do it, o’ course I kept it runnin’. 😛 Three weeks later, I got a notification on me phone that ’twas in stock, ‘n after realisin’ it weren’t no false alarm, ‘n I’ve ne’er tried t’ go through checkout faster. 😅 O’ course, me bank tried t’ stop me by repeatedly refusin’ t’ allow the bounty even though I friggin’ approved it wit’ biometrics, but I got thar in the end, thankfully. Don’t worry, this beauty won’t be goin’ anywhere nigh eBay or a blockchain! 😛 I was originally plannin’ on gettin’ a 3080 or 3080Ti, but I jus’ couldn’t ignore that 24GB o’ VRAM. All that memory be literally useless fer gamin’, o’ course, but as evidenced here, it’s super-useful fer renderin’. This scene would ‘ave been impossible without it, thanks t’ the ship model well-nigh blastin’ all 11GB o’ me GTX 1080Ti’s memory out o’ the water alone. 😑
The 3090’s performance be basically wha’ ye might expect. Although it actually exceeded me owns expectations. 😆 Aft spendin’ some time overclockin’ it, I did a benchmark by re-renderin’ “Roar, Blue Dragon!”. The original render o’ that scene was done by a 1080Ti ‘n a 1070, ‘n it took 6:23:38. Wit’ a 3090 ‘n a 1080Ti workin’ on it, it sounded like a jet engine but it took 1:18:40. 396% faster. 🤯
‘N ahoy, since I can nah reckon o’ anythin’ else t’ natter about when it comes t’ the process, now’s prolly a good time t’ move onto the RENDER STATS! 😀 So, o’ course, the 1080Ti had t’ sit this one out ’cause it didn’ ‘ave enough VRAM, but at Quality 2 ‘n 95% convergence target, it took an RTX 3090 2 hours 30 minutes 14.92 seconds t’ render at 4K. Blistering barnacles. 😆
‘N o’ course, now fer the TIMELAPSE! Fairly average-sized one, this time. The render took jus’ under 30 hours t’ complete, includin’ the 2 1/2 hours o’ render time. Ye can watch the timelapse ‘ere! 🙂 I crammed in four tracks this time. First off be We Love Burnin’ Town, by Jake Kaufman, from the Shantae ‘n’ the Pirate’s Curse OST. It’s the chantey played in the openin’ stage. I originally got Shantae ‘n the Pirate’s Curse from a Humble Bundle ‘n kind o’ shoved it t’ one side cuz I’d ne’er heard o’ it ‘n didn’ even know wha’ ’twas. But one day, I finally gave it a try, ‘n ended up lovin’ it. 😀 I’d mighty rarely played Metroidvanias afore, ‘n this was definitely the first one I ever played t’ completion. That soundtrack be jus’ amazin’, too! Anyway, next up be, o’ course, You Are A Pirate from Lazy Town, prolly better known as the chanty used in the Lol Limewire meme. 😛 f ye look closely in the timelapse, ye’ll notice that I replaced the default DAZ Studio “activity image” (the image that shows in the top right o’ the program window) wit’ a reference t’ that meme. Temporarily, o’ course. It’s back t’ Morshu now. 😆 Now, if ye remember, I mentioned that Natter Like A Pirate Day was only partial inspiration fer this scene. The main inspiration was actually the next two shanties in the timelapse… ‘n both o’ ’em are by none other than CHEESY DJ BOBO! 😆😆🧀 Oh aye, yet again, the master o’ cheese inspires me renders. God damn it. 😆 He has an album titled “Pirates o’ Dance”. Unlike his hilarious “Vampires” album, mighty few shanties on this album actually refer t’ pirates, but it’s aye, two be enough. 😛 The first be introduced by the 30-second track Ghost Ship, which seamlessly leads into the actual chanty, Garunga. GARUUUUNGAAAAA 😆😆😆 I end the timelapse on the more upbeat shantey o’ the pair: Pirates of Dance, which goes on ’bout pirates that dance ‘n come from outer space. Funnily enough, that sounds mighty similar t’ t’ Space Channel 5’s Part 2’s Rhythm Rogues. 😛
UPDATE! Ah, crap, I forgot about the redlines I usually share! Here ye go:
Jus’ six preliminaries afore I rendered the final thing. Dunno why, but it felt like way more than that. Maybe ’twas cuz o’ all the damn problems I had wit’ renderin’ towards the end. 😑
I reckon that’s it fer now… maybe. I can nah reckon o’ much else. 😅 Maybe that’s cuz all me noggin’ wants t’ do be make me lie down ‘n melt into me cot fer like 48 hours. But it can nah, cuz I got work on the morrow. Arrrgh. 😛 Anyway, if ye reckon thar’s anythin’ I’ve missed, jus’ let me know! ‘n I hope ye like the render! 😀
(Disclaimer: Sorry, I be a scurvy dog ‘n used this website t’ translate most o’ me stuff into pirate-speak. I would’ve done it meself but I be mighty crap at talkin’ pirate, ‘n I was runnin’ out o’ time like. Uh… matey. :P)
ROUGH BAD ON THE CASE I WANNA HIT YOUR FACE* (*I don’t actually want to hit your face, but H.P. Sauce Baxxter does 😛 )
Lmao, such stupid lyrics. 😆
Anyway, hello again! It’s Valentine’s Day today! Yaaaaaay, meal deals! 😛 I don’t really care about it myself, but I guess it’s nice for people who like it. For whatever reason. Maybe people forget that they have a partner and need this day as a reminder that they should do nice things with them? Shrug. Meal deals. 😛
Even though I don’t actually care about Valentine’s Day, you may remember that a couple of years ago, I created a Valentine’s themed render, Amai, and a short story to go with it. It featured a couple of characters from my never-ever-going-to-be-finished novel, Dragon Tail. I really enjoyed doing both parts of it. The render was fairly simple, but it was fun to make and I just loved how it turned out. Writing the short story was also a lot of fun, and it really helped me flesh out Whirlwind and Emerald’s relationship and gave me an excuse to dig a bit deeper into the world’s lore.
Because I enjoyed it so much, I was thinking of doing the same thing again at some point in the future with something else. But recently… well okay, not recently, it was probably like 8-9 months ago now, but anyway, I wondered… do the render and the story have to be separate? Surely there was some way of combining them. And of course, there are at least two ways of doing that. The first way is through animation, but hahahahahaha no! 😛 Not a chance, not in DAZ Studio. Especially if they think that the 4.14 update included “an advanced Animation Timeline that’s more powerful than ever before”. It’s not hard to be more powerful than a turd. 😛 If I can find a good place to rant, I might talk about the 4.14 update further down, but for now, stay on target, Mongz! 😛 Anyway, yes, no, no animation from me, I don’t have a clue where to start, I don’t have the patience for it, and DAZ Studio sucks at animation. But the second way? Well, I could tell the story through a sequence of still renders. And how best to do that? A comic, of course!
You might be able to tell where this is going now. 😄
I have very limited experience with comics. Comics are cool, sure, but I’ve never really been interested in them, content-wise, probably because 99% of them are superhero comics and I generally don’t like superheroes. The only comics I ever owned were Simpsons comics. Shut up, my mum bought them for me and I liked them and I still have them and shut up. 😅 So, as I don’t really read comics, of course I have zero experience with writing them! I’ve never made a… ahhhhhh no wait, I lieeee! I have made comics before! Holy crap I still have them!! 😆 My DIABLO II COMICS BABY YEEEEAAAHHH!
I almost completely forgot about them. 😆 Yes, back when playing Diablo II, still one of my most favourite games of all time and definitely still my most favourite action-RPG (the only thing that comes close is Path of Exile, it has excellent game mechanics, but it plays too slowly for my taste and its story is almost embarrassingly bad 😛 After finally playing it for long enough to reach endgame, I take it back; Path of Exile is actually a pile of shite, a luck-based wheel spinning game that demands a lifetime’s worth of grinding just to get one decent piece of equipment, and there’s absolutely no game balance at all, and it contains literally the worst endgame boss I’ve ever played in my life, feels like whoever designed it has never played a game before), I’d take screenshots mid-game and add dialogue in Paint afterwards. 😀 Most of them were a single panel and didn’t connect with any other panels, so I’m not sure if you could actually classify them as comics. 😛 I did make a few sequences, though. After creating and sharing my first set, the person I was playing with also started making some, too. I think his were generally better, but the grammar was a bit, uh… painful. 😛 The majority of mine are “meh”, but there are some that I was really happy with. I’m most proud of these two, especially the second:
Ahh, good times. 😀 Although I do wish we could’ve gotten to Hell difficulty. We never made it there for various reasons. 😦 I really need to play it again at some point for old times’ sake and fully complete it. Although there’s no way anyone will join me, and it’s not quite as fun solo. But, having said that, I’ve recently heard of a relatively new mod called Project Diablo II which I definitely need to check out. It looks surprisingly popular, and it seems to add in some of the less crappy elements from Path of Exile, such as endgame maps, which sounds good. But it sounds like they added luck-based item corruption crap, which is crappy. Really crappy. “Want to improve your gear? Gonna have to use this super-risky item! OHHHH too bad RNG not on your side and now your Super Mega Sword of Epicness +98 is a Super Shit Sword of Poo -69 lol go out and grind some more.” And periodic server resets, too; I just don’t understand that. It’s like they don’t realise that some people would like to reach endgame, but can’t make it there before the server is reset, because they have a job. 😛 It might be too vanilla for me, as well. I last played Diablo II with the Eastern Sun mod, which had some great features like gem/rune stockers, an infinite stash, way better item gambling which actually makes gold a useful resource, and crazy bonus dungeons with massively better loot drops, so I’m not sure if I could play Diablo II without that now. 😅
ARGH DAMN IT STAY ON TARGET MONGZ! 😛 Right, back to the present, and the actual subject. 😆 I’ve been thinking about making some kind of comic for a long while now. Using the Dragon 3, of course. 😛 I didn’t plan on doing anything massive, initially, just a four-panel comic or something. I could never think of an idea for what to do, though, so it kept getting kicked down the road a little bit every time I thought about it. Probably didn’t help that I never actively tried brainstorming any ideas, but y’know, whatever. 😛 But then, a little while after uploading Roar, Blue Dragon! to my DeviantArt page, I logged in to check on how it was doing, on the off chance that someone had, y’know, looked at it. 😛 I wasn’t particularly confident of that, and thought that it would be the last time I logged in, because I really don’t feel like I belong there. It’s like… actually no, I was going to post a dumb, extensive analogy but it turned into a rant and I’ve gone off-topic once already. I’ll put it at the end of the post. Basically, DeviantArt is shit in various ways and I don’t like it. 😛
Anyway, so, I logged into DeviantShart, and amazingly, I had a new watcher! Wow! First new watcher since I opened the account about… I dunno, 5 years ago? 😛 They’d also left a message, saying I should do a dragon series… or something along those lines. Ha! Yep, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. 😆 That message, though… I’m pretty sure it accelerated my thinking. Because not too long after that, around early August, I had a spark of an idea. I was actively thinking about what comic I could make, and thought maybe I could use some kind of celebratory day as both a theme and a target date. Something far enough away to give me a chance to create it, but not too far away, because I would procrastinate. 😛 Conversely, it couldn’t be too close, because I’d never done anything like this before and missing the date would mean I’d have to wait a year for it to become relevant again. And while looking through my calendar, it hit me. The idea, not the calendar. 😛
I didn’t actually scream that, I’m exaggerating as usual, but anyway, yes, Valentine’s Day! Meal Deal Day! Today! Unless it’s not! 😀 I thought it was a perfect thing to base the comic on. I had characters who were in a relationship (Whirlwind and Emerald), and a world (Guira) that I could use, and as a bonus, it was a great way for me to flesh all of that out. Worldbuilding is fun! 😀 Valentine’s Day was also far enough away for me to have a chance of making the date, but not too far away that I’d just go “ahhhh, I’ve got loads of time left let’s play 900 hours of Diablo II”, followed by “crap where’d all that time go”. 😛
So, I made a start on it then, in early August 2020, sacrificing most of my spare time. And now, finally, after half a year of frequent and increasingly painful interaction with DAZ Studio… IT’S ACTUALLY FINIIIIIIIIIISHED!!!! Read it! READ IT READ IT READ IT OH MY GOD PLEAAAAAAAAAAASE READ IT! 😆
Please. Please read it. 🙏 It took me 372 solid hours and required 408 hours of rendering please read it. 😆 I also really want to know what you think! Is there anything you particularly like, or think that I could improve? Any constructive feedback is welcome! It’s my first comic, so there’s definitely room for improvement.
Aaand now I have to talk about it. Sheesh, since it was a huge undertaking that took far longer that I expected and required much more work than I anticipated, I’m struggling to think of where to start. This might end up being pretty long, so if you don’t care that much, you can skip straight to the super-excellent render stats and timelapse using this handy TL;DR link:
Okay… I will probably end up yammering and going in random directions with this explanation, but let’s start with the concept, I guess? 😅 Well, if it wasn’t obvious from the title of the thing, it’s a follow-up to the original Amai, the short story, specifically. Amai (Guiran Draconic for “love”) was about Whirlwind and Emerald’s first Franaie’dianas together, which, as mentioned in the comic please read it, is like the Guiran dragons’ equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Apart from that it’s not commercialised (that’s not a thing among Guiran dragons, there are no “meal deals” 😛 ) and is inclusive of everyone, not just those already in a partnership/matehood. As I probably already mentioned, I really enjoyed writing the original Amai, and – this might sound a bit big-headed, sorry – I love those two dragons. I think they make such a great pair! 😀 After thinking of Valentine’s Day as a potential theme and target date, it made perfect sense to get those two together again for a follow-up, set on their second Franaie’dianas together. 🙂
The original Amai was a lot of fun to write, and it was a really nice change, too. Y’see, Dragon Tail, the story Whirlwind and Emerald originate from, is actually a fairly dark story, so it was great to be able to write a slightly more light-hearted scene in that world. 😀 I definitely wanted to double down on that for Reaffirmed, so I made sure to kick things off on a lighter note, and tried to keep it fun and light-hearted wherever possible. Kinda maybe like a rom-com, or something. Not like I watch rom-coms, (or films in general, lel) so I have no idea if it’s similar. 😛 Soon after I’d committed to finishing the project, though, about four or five pages in, I couldn’t help but feel worried about making a comic out of this kind of story. It’s a weird one: there’s no villain, no conflict, or anything negative like that. It was more of a… “worldbuilding story”. A story that showed a peaceful moment in these two dragons’ lives, while exploring a small part of the huge world they live in. So, because of that, I felt that it might end up being ultra boring. I did my best to avert that by sharing bits of lore that I hoped were interesting, and trying to make it nice, fun, and wholesome, but I simply had to accept that most people might find it boring because no-one gets stabbed. Which is slightly creepy when you think about it. 😛
As I’d never done a comic before (well, not one of this size, anyway 😆), writing the script was a bit difficult. I only ended up writing about half of it to begin with, finishing the rest as I went along. The whole story was in my mind from the beginning, but I didn’t want to write it all out just in case I made a mistake and wrote the dialogue in a way that wouldn’t work in comic format. And as expected, this happened a few times in the early stages. 😛 I had to simplify the dialogue so it would fit a couple of times, and there was one time I was forced to split a page in two to prevent it from ending in a weird spot. I always aimed to end each page at a point where I hoped the reader was looking forward to the next. Kinda like little cliff-hangers. 😀 While it was difficult, it was still great fun to write, and it really helped me to develop and solidify the kind of relationship Whirlwind and Emerald have. (Emerald’s normally very dignified and gentle, but she becomes a little friskier and more playful when she’s alone with Whirlwind, and this behaviour quickly ends up spreading to him, too. 😀 ) Also, it was great to glimpse into Whirlwind’s past, as I haven’t really fleshed that out very much (Whirlwind is, how do I put this… “conditionally amnesiac”. If I say any more then I’ll spoil my will-never-be-finished novel 😛 ). Info about specific locations are really sparse in Guira’s lore, too, so creating the Transient Lake was really awesome. And it helped refine and bolster Guiran Draconic, too! I loved being able to throw Draconic dialogue into the comic here and there, when the time felt right. Hell, it even drove me to pull my finger out of my ass and finally write Draconic Script for the first time, used for the engraving on Emerald’s bracelet! 😀 (That’s a SPOILER but you’ve already read it, right? Please read it, it took 372 hours 😆)
To explain that last bit… well, normally I write Draconic using the Latin alphabet. Y’know, the Latin alphabet, as you can see in this entire blog post. Apart from the emoji. 😛 When Draconic is written in that way, I call it “Romonic”. I know, “lololololol”. It’s a perfect anagram of “moronic”, and I absolutely love it because of that, but would never use the word canonically. 😛 It’s similar in concept to Romaji: Japanese words written using the Latin alphabet. Basically, Draconic Script to Romonic is like kanji (and hiragana/katakana) is to Romaji. It just makes it easier/possible for us Westerners to read. Yeehaw. 😛 I probably explained that badly, but hey, whatever. Explaining it is varok saknankra. Or chou muzukashii. 😛
As for the actual posing and rendering, well, my feelings about that are… mixed, really. 😅 At times, it was fun. Poses would fall into place really naturally, and I made great progress very quickly. Sometimes surprisingly quickly; I remember knocking out about half of Page 21 in less than 3 hours. However, other times, it was turbo-frustrating. I’d struggle to get the dragons posed in the way I wanted to, or I’d finish a pose and then realise that it wasn’t quite right, requiring me to move the entire model and re-pose all four limbs. Sometimes setting up the lighting and camera angle would end up being a massive pain. Then after finally getting it right, I’d realise that single panel took me about 5 hours and I had 3 more panels left to finish, which realllly didn’t help my motivation. 😛
In an attempt to maintain a steady pace and to prevent my motivation from dropping to zero, I did a couple of things. First off, I set up a mini website for a small number of people, namely family and one person from work who has given great feedback on some of my past renders (Dino Disco being one of them, which I was able to improve quite a lot). I also set up a mailing list for them using Mailchimp, which gave me an audience. Sure, it was a tiny audience of five people, but they were active, seemingly interested (they must’ve been; it’s not like I forced them to sign up, and they always had the option of unsubscribing 😛 ), and knowing that they were there and looking forward to the next page basically prevented my motivation from bottoming out. Secondly, I created a project plan, initially using some website called Team Gantt or something, but I found that to be a bit shit (and their terms basically said that they could do anything they wanted with everything you submitted, lol), so I used ToDoList instead. I’ve had that program installed for quite a while, and used it to store ideas for ULSG V14, but never really actively used it. I learned that it had a built-in Gantt chart, though, and it ended up being a massive help for planning and keeping myself on track, especially in the final stages when I knew what kind of pace I could keep. I’d’ve probably never been able to finish on time without it. 😀
As a side-note, making the mini site was an interesting exercise. I’ve never really done much related to web development before, and after scratching the surface, I’ve determined that it’s hell on Earth and I hate it. 😛 Despite that, I think I made a nice little website. I based it off a simple template and heavily modified it, successfully adding a pretty neat gallery called PhotoSwipe, and even managed to add a private livestream with a live viewer count. It was completely private; I streamed using OBS from my main machine to my server box without going through any external provider like Twitch or Facebook or whatever. The live viewer count was implemented using PubNub, which was free for me to use because I didn’t fire many events. Of course, I barely used the thing, and no-one was watching when I did, but whatever! Experimenting is fun and educational! Now I know never to get a job in web development! 😛
Even with the audience and the project planning, it took a lot of willpower to get this thing done. There were a couple of times where I took excessively long breaks, about a month in total, which was really bad. If that had been a week or so longer, I’d’ve blown it, because I finished the final page just three days before the deadline. 😨 I’m not exactly sure why I took such long breaks. One happened just after I returned home after some birthday celebrations, so that might partially explain it. But I’m betting it was just because the constant exposure to DAZ Studio was making me lose what little was left of my sanity and I desperately needed a break from it. 😛
Because this was the longest project I’ve ever undertaken in DAZ Studio, of course, there was no shortage to the number of times DS attempted to shit all over me, the project, all of its users, and basically everyone and everything in the world! And I’m actually not exaggerating quite as much as I normally do, there. 😛 I experienced a massive variety of problems. Some were common things that I’ve endured before, such as GPU memory leaks, Iray suddenly not working properly for no obvious reason, a disappearing mouse cursor, and DS randomly thinking I want to select multiple objects in the Scene tab despite not even touching the keyboard. However, there were some brand new ones, including insanely low viewport performance for no good reason (related to object count rather than poly count, wtf), massive delays when deleting objects (super wtf), decals casting shadows in certain situations that made no sense, very random and very sudden crashes, and worst of all, something I can’t easily explain which made me believe there was a crippling, fundamental flaw with the program. I’ll try and explain the last one, because when I discovered it, I had a very unpleasant feeling that it was going to wreck the project at some point.
Oh, but before I explain, one good thing about this bug was that it made me move all my scenes into OneDrive so they were backed up. It was pretty cool, because I was able to keep my scenes folder in the DAZ Studio content library even though it was nowhere near my OneDrive folder. I did this using a symlink, or more accurately known as a “directory junction” in Windows. Since doing that, I’ve kinda gone a bit symlink crazy, moving a bunch of stuff that really should have been in OneDrive in the first place and symlinking to it from the original location so it feels no different than normal. It’s great! 😀 Of course, you don’t need to use OneDrive. That technique will work with any similar cloud storage provider (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).
Anyway, the attempted explanation of the DAZ Studio insanity. 😛 So… it was Page 8, Panel 2 when it first happened. I needed to create the “young” version of Whirlwind, so I loaded the scene containing the adult version of him, duplicated him, and made my modifications there. When I was done, I deleted the adult version, zeroed the young version, and saved it as a separate scene and a scene subset. I went back to the original scene, and loaded the scene subset. When done, it took me a moment to realise that the young version of Whirlwind wasn’t in his zero pose. It had imported him in the pose and position that the adult version of Whirlwind was in… in the previous panel. If that makes no sense, I know, it doesn’t. 😛 I thought I’d eaten something weird. So I tried again, and yep, same thing happened. It was absolutely bat-shit insane, and I genuinely don’t know why it happened, or how it was possible. After realising this, I soon discovered that a massive number of the trees I’d spent 400,000 years positioning manually had moved to positions they used to be in about 2-3 pages ago. Some of them were originally placed quite roughly because they were off-camera, and when they eventually had to be rendered, I moved them to more accurate positions and added additional ones. But then some of them randomly moved to their existing positions, silently and for no goddamn reason! What the CRAP?!? 😕 I swear I saved a video of me demonstrating this, but I must have accidentally deleted it while clearing out the first half of my recordings when I ran out of disk space. God damn it. 😑
There was also the DS 4.14 update, which I foolishly decided to update to halfway through the project. As far as I can tell, it does almost nothing good. It updates Iray which completely breaks the program for some users, adds new bugs, and fixes no existing bugs. This kind of update is extremely common. But, the fact that they ranted and raved about this particular update despite the fact that it’s no better than the last 13 updates they’ve done, throwing tons of bullshit everywhere in the process? That suuuuuper pissed me off. I made a massive list of things wrong with it, and was going to go through them in a video, but I just ended up feeling like I couldn’t be bothered. It wouldn’t make anything better. Basically, Filament is useless because it only works in the viewport and looks like shit, the animation timeline hasn’t changed and is still basically unusable, and Iray 2020.1.1, while nice because it adds support for 3000-series GPUs (even though they’re still friggin’ unbuyable because everyone has gone insane), it’s also not nice, because it removes support for some older GPUs, and this fact is not mentioned anywhere obvious! I’m pretty damn sure their installer doesn’t check your GPU before updating, and you can’t (easily) downgrade after updating!! Sure, this didn’t affect me, because I have a modern enough card, but I can imagine it screwed someone! What in HELL are they smoking?! 😡
So yeah. As usual, DS was crap. All day, every day. 😛
Towards the latter half of the project, I realised that I would need to find a bracelet of some design, and I was divided on what to do. Part of me (the lazy half 😛 ) thought I could find something suitable that was already made, while the other part of me thought that was going to be impossible and I should just create it myself. The latter half was absolutely right. 😅 Bracelet models were quite rare, and none of them looked right. “Besides,” I thought, “if I’m gonna spend so damn long making this comic, I oughta do this right and make it unique”. So, I used Photoshop to sketch out a design that I liked the look of (using its symmetry tool, which is absolutely friggin’ great :D), and finally cracked open Blender, with the intention of using it seriously for the first time. I was a total beginner, but I couldn’t spend weeks and weeks on this bracelet, so I assimilated all the basic tutorials as quickly as possible and started to hammer something out immediately afterwards. And against all my expectations, I think I actually managed to make it look good! Sure, its topology would probably make any real artist throw up, but I don’t care, it’s the first model I’ve created since college, about 14 years ago or whatever! 😀
The last time I opened Blender was way before this project. I’d downloaded it to satisfy my curiosity, but quickly decided that I hated it because its UI felt like it was designed by a sadist. 😛 Nothing about it made sense. I think they’ve updated the UI since then, though, because the version of Blender I used to create the bracelet felt much less… insane. 😛 Apart from the menus that are seemingly only accessible through hotkeys that aren’t mentioned anywhere. But anyway, yeah, my experience with it was generally positive. It felt… clunky, and a bit confusing at times, but unlike a certain other piece of software, I don’t remember anything in Blender blowing up or making me angry. I found out that it can even do high-poly sculpting, like ZBrush! I had no idea it could do that! It’s even got scripting and probably-usable animation tools and fluid simulation and UV editing and texture painting and aaaaaaaaaagh how is this free?! 😮 If only DAZ would create something similar to DS’s GoZ bridge, only for Blender. Sure, DS has a Blender bridge available as a free addon, but it’s only one-way. Maybe I should check it out anyway, see if it’s possible to maybe leave DS behind. Or maybe DAZ could just fix their software already, instead of making one-way bridges to other software. It’s like they don’t realise that DS would actually be a really great program that I wouldn’t complain about if it didn’t have so many massive issues!
So aye, the bracelet creation went way better than I expected! Created the basic 2D shape using my reference, thickened it up to be 3D, refined it over time, then sculpted it into the final, higher-poly shape. That’s pretty much it! Although I did find out much later that more polys doesn’t always equal better quality. I would’ve probably gotten some nicer, smoother reflections on the metal if I’d been more aggressive when decimating the model before exporting it.
After creating Emerald’s bracelet, I thought that would be the last time I’d need to touch Blender. But nope! I did a ME! 😛 At the 11th hour, I ended up revising the script after not being so sure about the ending I’d written. It felt… shallow and meaningless, and a bit sudden. However, the new script made the comic two pages longer, which had a pretty big chance of making me run out of time if it took much longer than I’d estimated. When I got to the point where I had to make a decision about which path to go down, I took a risk and chose the new script. This added the second bracelet and the linked enchantment, which I felt made the gift massively more meaningful. 🙂 But that meant I needed to design and model another bracelet! AAAAGH! 😛 Anyway, it was fine. Due to its simpler design and my newfound (albeit slight) familiarity with Blender, the second bracelet didn’t take quite as long to create.
Let’s see, what else… maybe how I arranged the panels? Well, I used Photoshop for arranging the panels and adding postwork. Before starting a page, I’d refer to the script and block out the panel layout, then measure each of the blocks and use that as the render size. Doing that instead of just rendering at a higher resolution and cropping what I didn’t need probably saved a crapton of rendering time. 🙂 As for postwork, most panels were given a once-over with the blur tool, to smooth out any really sharp highlights or to remove noise the denoiser didn’t catch. I also added blush effects and eye glint to the dragons in some panels. Some panels consisted of two renders, usually a misty and non-misty version, which I combined together. After any corrections, I tweaked the levels, added the border, aaand that was about it. 🙂
Oh, there was one page that had some postwork that I was really happy with: page 8! Panel 2 had a ghostly version of a young Whirlwind and one of his childhood friends, which was supposed to represent Whirlwind recalling memories from his past. I super-liked the idea when it came to me, but didn’t think I could pull it off as well as I’d hoped. But I was wrong! 😛 I rendered the younger dragons separately and with no environment, and slapped it on the top of the main render. Because there was no ground in that render, their feet had to be masked a little bit to blend in, but that was easy enough. To get the ghostly effect, I reduced the opacity, duplicated the layer, and applied a gaussian blur and glow (with its blend mode set to Soft Light) to the second layer, and set that layer’s blending mode to Screen. That was it. I didn’t expect it to turn out that well so easily! 😀
Overall, Photoshop was fine throughout the project. Although it did have a few annoying moments, especially that one where it suddenly became incapable of saving. 😑
Whew… I think that’s about it for the process? As there was so much work involved, trying to think of what to talk about is a bit difficult. 😅 If I remember something, I’ll probably add it here later. Let me know if there’s something I missed! 😀
TL;DR: I made a comic and it was difficult please read it. 😛
Even though it was difficult, I’m so happy with how the whole thing came out. Hell, I’m just happy that I finished it in time. 😆 There were a few panels that I was especially happy with, though, and my favourite panel of them all has to be Page 9, Panel 2. I had a lot of fun coming up with it and posing it, and I absolutely loved the result. It’s so damn cuuute! 😆 I liked it so much that I rendered it in 4K as a standalone thing:
Okay, now for the timelapse! And this time, as you’d probably expect, it’s an absolute monster! 😀 The raw footage was so long that I maxed out one of DaVinci Resolve’s ludicrously long timelines, and I nearly ran out of disk space, so I had to render half of the timelapse to free up some space before I could continue. 😆 Over the course of six months, the comic took a solid 15 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes of human time to create, and required 17 days and 44 minutes of machine time to render. So 781.4 hours between myself and the computer, in total. (although if you include the fact that the machine was also working while I was working, it’s more like 1,154 hours in total 🤯) So, this timelapse shows those 372 hours of human work compressed into 21 minutes. And I definitely need to warn about epilepsy here. 😆 Aye, this video flashes a fair bit as it switches between lighter and darker colours, so seriously, don’t watch it if you suffer from epilepsy! If you don’t, great! You can watch it here! 😀
And yep, there’s a bunch of at least mildly related music to go with it, five songs this time! And because two of the songs I chose are Japanese, I went ahead and added lyrics into the video for them. 🙂 Anyway, to start off, I play the dumb song which begins with the dumb lyrics shown at the top of this dumb post: The Age of Love by Scooter. Mr. Baxxter talks about love, peace, and unity, but begins the song by declaring he wants to hit you in the face, lmao 😆 I ended the blog post of the original Amai with this song’s music video, and I still can’t get over how awful it is. 😛 Next up is Love and Devotion by Real McCoy… but DJ Bobo got involved! I can’t find a link to the song on YouTube, so that’s a Spotify link instead. Hahaha, Bobo’s cheese-flinging rampage CONTINUES! 😛 I thought the original might’ve been just as cheesy, but it’s nowhere NEAR as bad as the remix! How does he do it?! 😆🧀 Following on from the cheese is a track relevant only by title: Sunset, by The Midnight. I’ve been quite into synthwave recently, listening on DI.FM, and this artist keeps popping up every now and then. They’ve become one of very few artists that I can genuinely say I like, and I don’t actually think I’ve heard a bad song from them. 😀 Lol never mind I finally heard a terrible one 😆 The next track is only slightly relevant: a nice song called Starduster by jimmy thumb P, featuring Hatsune Miku, a Vocaloid by Crypton Future Media. It mentions love, stars, and a sunset, so hey, that’s relevant enough for me. 😆 The lyrics and translation in the video are taken from this transliteration and translation by marvelangga. You probably won’t see this, but thank you, marvelangga! 😀 I was going to finish the timelapse with the Reincarnation Mix of Your Affection, from the Persona 4 soundtrack, but at the last moment, I remembered 24h by DAOKO, featuring You Kamiyama, and decided to use that instead. 😀 I first heard this song while playing Dragalia Lost’s Valentine’s Day event, Dragalia Lost being the only mobile game I’ve honestly thought was too damn good to be stuck as a mobile game, and no, it’s not just because I like dragons. 😛 (vaguely related side note: after I was lucky enough to pull the Halloween variation of Mym in Dragalia Lost, I realised soon afterwards that she always transforms into a lingerie-clad version of Brunhilda, and it is amazing 😆) Anyway, the lyrics of the song are a little odd, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a love song, and not sure it matches the comic very much, but hey, it’s got some great energy and I like it, so shush! 😛 The translation was done by Megan Rose, taken from this page on LyricsTranslate. Again, you probably won’t see this, but thank youuuuu! 😀
And now, the render stats! And of COURSE I kept notes on how long every single panel took to render! 😛 Render settings varied, but most panels were rendered at my usual: Quality 2 with 95% convergence. Some, namely the ones with the stupid-expensive mist effect, had their target convergence reduced to around 85-90% because I found that half the time was spent on the last 10% and it made no perceivable difference in quality. Anyway, here’s the render time of the last version of every panel:
SUPER TOTAL: 17 days 44 minutes 20 seconds (425 renders)
You still there? I’m not. 😆 Daaaaaaamn that was boring to type out. 😛 Yep… that’s a lot of rendering. 😛 It doesn’t look like that much in the spreadsheet I have, but after typing it out into that list… yeah. 😆 425 renders! When I bought my 1080Ti way back when, I was all “gaaah my wallet, that was so damn expensive”, but now I’m thinking it was totally, totally worth it. 😀 And hey, since the data’s in Excel, I made a chart visualising it, for no apparent reason:
Whew… that’s about it, I think. Now that I’ve finished the comic, no more rendering for me for about… I dunno, 8 months? 😆 I’ll spend that time playing some games that I’ve been wanting to finish, instead, like Trials of Mana, and Pikmin 3, and CTR: Nitro-Fueled and Disgaea 4 and Diablo II and probably some others!
I really hope you enjoy(ed) the comic! Depending on the reaction and/or how I feel, I might end up doing it again in the future. But with a story that contains explosions. 😛
Have a great Meal Deal Day! 😆
Inane rant about DeviantShart that I skipped earlier:
DeviantArt is like… and here comes a dumb, extensive analogy… on a golden island up in the sky in the world of DeviantArt, you’ve got the genuine artists, people who somehow do it as their occupation seemingly without being involved in games or film. They make really impressive stuff (probably because it’s their job) and everyone and their dog watches them. Then, down on the mortal plane, you’ve got the mildly popular people and total unknowns, some artists, some not really, but there are people down there (like me) who are just hobbyists. They may not be anywhere near as good as the people on the golden island, but they still try their best to create pretty things just so others can enjoy them. However, dotted absolutely everywhere on this mortal plane, there are these gigantic mountains made out of SHIT. 😛 I’ve tried to find stuff by other unknowns that I’m interested in so I can give them a watch, but I can’t find anything good due to all the shit! And there’s no point hoping for anyone on the golden island to notice you and watch you: they never bother looking down because they’re probably too busy being amazing, and probably because all they can see from up there is shit. 😛 And more often than not, the owners of the Shit Mountains are somehow unrealistically popular even though all they do is spam shit, and they even try to get some kind of payment for their shit (or for nothing at all) and for some unfathomable reason, people actually give them money! Often for no logical reason! It makes even less sense than people buying microtransactions in a slot machine mobile game that doesn’t pay out!
And it’s not just the content, either. There’re plenty of other things wrong with DeviantArt, too, like… you can’t submit more than one thing at a time unless you pay for the stupid overpriced-as-fuck Core subscription (completely ridiculous), I’m pretty sure a non-Core user’s deviations eventually become near-undiscoverable (might be a legacy thing, but I swear I remember seeing something that suggested your work stops appearing in the “browsing” sections of the site after a few weeks unless you’re Core, making it only possible to find your stuff through search), their site has only been half-converted from the old, ugly, bogey-green theme, their new site design isn’t much better because of its really confusing layout, and their crappy emojis still feel like they were pulled from random MySpace sites made in the 90s and I absolutely hate the hell out of them. Oh, and if you don’t feel like giving a fave or a comment, there’s a third option for some reason: you can give out a “Llama Badge”. I think it’s supposed to be a positive, fun thing. Because sure, real life llamas are fun and fairly cool. But the first thing I thought when receiving my first Llama Badge was: “Eh? Llama badge? You mean like the thoroughly negativeLlama Medal from the Skulltag source port of Doom given to you when fragging someone who’s badly lagging or typing in chat, which means “lamer”?” So my immediate connection was that people give llama badges out to say you’re lame! And even worse, the llama badge can apparently level up, so the site’s actually giving you a level of how much of a lamer people think you are! When I made this connection, I was like: “Why’s this asshat calling me a lamer? If they could be bothered to go through the trouble of giving me this, why couldn’t they have just given some constructive feedback, instead?” Thinking maybe my work was inferior to theirs or something, I checked their page, and lo and behold, it was another giant mountain of shit, seemingly all made in Paint, and owned by someone doing a “donation drive” for points so they could get Core on someone else’s wallet. “gib money plz”. Why do they even want Core? OH YEAH, to be able to upload multiple things at a time to grow their shit mountain faster. 😑 DeviantSHART. That’s what I call it. 😛
How’ve you been? Good, I hope! I’m pretty much the same as always, sitting in front of a PC, coding for work, then playing games, rendering, and sometimes doing little bits of coding and writing for fun. 😀 Only major thing that’s happened recently is I had my 30th birthday earlier this month, which was great, but now I feel kind of old. Physically, not mentally; mentally I’m still about 8. 😛 Although according to Dr. Kawashima (Brain Training for Nintendo Switch, fitting birthday present 😆), my brain is 23. Just can’t manage the minimum score of 20 because my memory is apparently a bit poop. 😛
Anyway, yes, Halloween! No trick-or-treating this year probably, which is both bad and good depending on who you are, I guess. 😛 Makes no real difference to me, since I don’t get any trick-or-treaters anyway. 😆 But I have got a treat for you, sir/madam/smadam/nullreferenceexception! A Halloween render! Which almost didn’t happen! 😛
Yeah, I kinda barely made it this time around. 😅 I’d had several ideas a while in advance, but I just couldn’t decide on one. And none of the ideas I wrote down were the ones I did; I came up with one final idea while trying to decide, and I decided to pursue that one instead. 😆 So there was that, and there was the fact that I’m working on a, er… secret project right now, which has a strict deadline and requires a crapton of rendering, and if I miss that deadline, the theme of the project won’t be relevant. I scheduled a week to do my Halloween render when planning the secret project, but I’d totally overestimated how much time I had during weekdays. And Halloween landed on a Saturday this year. So I basically had fragments of time during the week, and the Friday evening and Saturday morning to do this. Not helpful when I’m burned out from doing nothing but working and rendering. 😅
But no matter! I may want to just sleep for a year now, but I still managed to finish the Halloween render on time (just 😛 )! Behold! BLEH!
Hahaaa, I got a dragon to wear a tuxedo! That experience I gained from “Roar, Blue Dragon” paid off! 😀 It went way more smoothly than that, too, probably because the suit wasn’t totally broken. 😛 I wasn’t sure this idea was going to work at first, and almost fell back to one of my other ideas, but I think it came out great in the end! What do you think? 😀
When it comes to the process, I can’t really think of much to talk about for this. Maybe that’s because I’m on about 3 hours sleep right now and all my brain wants to do is turn off. 😛 Fitting the suit was pretty much the same deal as “Roar, Blue Dragon”, the difference being that the assets were already in DAZ Studio. I fit the tux to the figure it was intended for (Genesis 8), set up the materials, and then removed the figure, leaving just the clothes. Of course, ZBrush made things a bit difficult afterwards, since you can’t sculpt multiple SubTools at the same time; you have to switch between them. I got around this by exporting the set of clothing items as a single object, then reimporting it into DAZ Studio before sending it to ZBrush. If I had the time, I’d’ve probably sculpted them individually, but… I didn’t, so I didn’t. 😛
The only other thing was the ground mist, which turned out massively better than I was expecting, despite it just being a stupid “blue sky thinking” moment. It’s just a stack of 28 planes, all with a super-simple cloud texture generated by Photoshop, fully translucent and refractive with an refractive index of 1. Job done. 😛 It almost put me in a kind of difficult situation, though. This solution for the mist felt perfect at first, because it was quick to do and worked well, but I’m pretty sure it caused quite a large spike in the render time. And that was no good because if the render took too long, I’d miss the deadline. Thankfully, the render time was still short enough to get it done. Albeit just the 2K version. The 4K version is being rendered as I write. 😀UPDATE!: It’s done now! 😛
Anyway, the RENDER STATS! 😀 At 4K with Rendering Quality 2, it took a total of 15 hours 4 minutes 28 seconds! So, quite a long one, but it was two renders that I combined into one during post. One of the renders had ground mist, which took 10:51:52, and the other one didn’t have the mist, which took 4:12:36. So that mist solution I came up with increased the render time by 150%. Oops. 😛 I still need to try it with caustics on, but I imagine that’ll take at least 24 hours and I still have a secret project to do. 😛 Postwork consists of combining the two renders, masking some nasty dithering with the ground mist, removing some weird highlights on the inside of his cape, smoothing out some stuff the post denoiser didn’t denoise, adding a bit of motion blur to Dragula’s arms, adding an additional layer of fake bloom (even though there was bloom in the scene already, generated by Iray 😆) a levels tweak and a li’l bit of desaturation. 🙂
I’ve got a timelapse for you, too, which you can watch here! 😀 It didn’t take as long as “Roar, Blue Dragon” (just under 20 hours including render time, as opposed to about 70), but it’s still a fairly long timelapse video. Why? Well, because of the cheese-stuffed soundtrack! Seriously, it’s so full of cheese that you’ll think you’re swimming in it. I was only going to put two songs in at first, but I just couldn’t bring myself NOT to put in the third song I found. 😛 The first track is Shadows of the Night, by DJ Bobo. On my 30th burfday, while I was trapped in the car on a journey, my sister played a playlist of birthday songs, and the last one was a track by DJ Bobo, whom we’d never really heard of before (I had, but only vaguely). “WE SING HAPPY BIIIIIIIRTHDAY TO YOU, AND MAY ALL YOUR DREEEEEEAMS COME TRUE!!” Of course, after that, she played nothing but DJ Bobo songs the rest of the way. 😛 It didn’t take long to decide on the next track, because unbelievably, I quickly found out that the same artist has an album literally titled “Vampires”. 😆 So, the next two tracks are from that album! I chose I’m Crazy for the second track, because I am. And because of the cheese 😛 But finally, just when you think I can’t cram in any more cheese, I round off with Dangerous (the video’s a live performance, lmao HOW did this get a live performance, and lmfao he’smiming it 😆). “WE ARE MAD! WE ARE COOL! WE RULE!” 😆😆😆 I couldn’t stop laughing. This album HAD to have been done for a bet. 😛 🧀
I’ve got the progress history here, too:
Six preliminaries this time, which is pretty average, methinks. 😀 Although this doesn’t include anything related to the original pose I made, which you can see in the timelapse. I might render that original pose as a little bonus, cuz I don’t think it was bad or anything. It just didn’t feel Dracula-esque enough. 🙂
Ah, and just in case you’re working about the post title… that’s a reference to a line spoken by Dracula in Monster Bash, a legendary pinball table by Williams. It involves Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein[‘s Monster], The Bride of Frankenstein[‘s Monster], and The Creature from the Black Lagoon getting together and forming a rock band. 😀 The rule set is just as crazy: you can potentially stack every single feature and play them all at the same time. It has some really funny, well-delivered voice lines (“No I won’t go back to your dog house with you!”), and it has such a great soundtrack, too. 😀 Of course, I haven’t played it for real; I was only 8 when it was released in the U S and A where I don’t live, pinball wasn’t as big in the UK as it was in the US, and it was a pretty rare table to begin with. 😛 I first played it in The Pinball Arcade, and recently picked it up again in Pinball FX 3 on Switch, since I lost all my tables on Pinball Arcade (and they lost the rights to basically all their good tables to Pinball FX 3, looool 😛 ). Anyway, here’s a video of it. 😀
I think that’s all for now! I’ll update this post with the 4K and 1080p renders when they’re ready. But for now, I think I’m going to faceplant my bed. Niiiiight! 😛
UPDATE!! The 4K version finished rendering! I’ve added that to the flavour list, along with the 1080p version. The image itself is slightly different than the one I posted originally; I’d added levels and hue/saturation adjustment layers to the image in Photoshop, but disabled them at some point before I saved it out, and didn’t remember to enable them again, because I’m dumb. Things like this are probably why I can’t get a 20 in Brain Training for Nintendo Switch. 😛 Anyway, I remembered to enable them this time, so the image is a bit brighter and less saturated than before. 🙂
I also updated the timelapse, adding a bit onto the end where I re-do the postwork on the 4K image. Probably not worth re-watching for that. Unless you want to listen to DJ Bobo again. I mean, why wouldn’t you? POWER TO THE VAMPS 😆
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. 😛
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. 😛
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. 😛
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:
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:
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! 🙂
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:
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. 😀
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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. 🙂
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:
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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.
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. 😀
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. 😛
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… 😛
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. 😀