Black Friday and Blue Dragons!

Speck! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capture.PNG

Pleasedontcrashpleasedontcrashpleasedontcrash

UPDATE 2!!
WHOOO YEAAAAH ALLLLRIIIIIGHT!!!

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

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

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

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“It’s mouldy mum, isn’t it?”

I don’t give a flying fuck though!!

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

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

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

2015-10-04 19.23.59

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maaaaaan this year’s image is gonna suck! 😛

The Third Breed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well… yes, actually.

But it took HOURS. 😛

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

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

The DJ Max

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relaxed

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

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

The Third Breed (Draft)

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

That’s how many months now?

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

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

Year Of The Dragon - DracoAurarius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now time for the F.A.G.G.O.T. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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