All praise the One True Egg.

OH NOES! IT’S ME AGAIN! 😛

‘Sup? Hope everything’s well on your end! 😀 Me, I’ve been somewhat busier than normal, as of late. My mum came down to visit a few months ago, and we visited London because we think Brighton is a boring shitehole. Yes, London is also kind of a shitehole, but at least there are things to do there. 😛 Anyway, that was good, but then the month after that I went to London again with my friends. Then the month after that, my sister came down to visit, and we did an escape room, which we cleared with only 4 minutes left. 😀 We learned afterwards that it has quite a high failure rate, so we were pretty chuffed with ourselves considering there was only two of us. 😀 It was really awesome, and I totally recommend it if you ever find yourself in Brighton for some reason (have a look for Bewilder Box). Oh, and we rode on some bikes along the bike lane on the seafront, too. It’s been at least 9-10 years since I rode a bike, and I’ve never ridden one in public before, and it was genuinely terrifying, especially since the bike lane was about 4 inches wide in places and the bikes were god-awful. I constantly felt like I couldn’t control the thing. 😛 Anyway, two weeks after that, I had another weekend with my friends, this time mainly just hanging out, playing board games and vidya games.

So, this excessive amount of human interaction, combined with work and lack of sleep due to the insane heatwave (it got so bad that I actually bought an air conditioner 😛 ), means I’ve felt pretty burned out as of late. Uh, no pun intended. 😛 Various bits of technology have decided to start being a dick to me recently, too. My printer randomly stopped working immediately after someone printed something with it last weekend, so I had to buy a replacement which happened to have the most irritating Wifi setup process ever. The new Windoze 10 update was near-impossible to install, and when I managed to do it, all it seemed to do was slow my PC down a lot and break Groove Music. And the Wifi on my router has randomly started plebbing out and refusing connections for no good reason. And my idiot firewall recently decided to ignore all its rules again, blocking things I told it to allow and allowing things I told it to block. It’s all so very, very annoying. 😛

To help myself chill out, I decided to book a week off work so I could sleep a lot. And it’s gone way too goddamn fast. 😛 And I haven’t really used it to chill out or sleep as much as I planned, because I’ve spent more than half of it doing a new render. But this is a good thing! I like doing da rendarz. 😀

This time, I decided to make something based on a weird office meme that started recently, between me and a few others. The story goes something like this: one day, one of my co-workers said “Lewis, can you test my branch?” from across the office. Lewis, one of our QA guys, somehow misheard this to a degree no-one could ever have imagined, replying with “What, egg and be true?” Shortly after that, I drew the best egg I’ve ever drawn on the nearby whiteboard, and wrote “Egg and be true” next to it.

Aaaand that how we began a cult. 😛

I’ve been meaning to make a render based on it since then. I came up with an idea for it while bored and daydreaming during a totally unnecessary meeting, but never found the time to put it together. So, with this week off, I thought I’d spend a day creating it, but because of things, that day turned into like 3 days. But I’d say it was time well-spent, as it is a joy to honour the One True Egg! PRAISE BE:

A dragon sat in front of the One True Egg, claws positioned over his head.

More flavours here!
Original version (shown above): (1080p) (2K) (4K) (Character Focused – 2250×3000)
Dark version (shown lower down): (1080p) (2K) (4K) (Character Focused – 2250×3000)

Hahahahaaa I’m so dumb XD

Ahhhh, so much zen! 😀 This was a really fun scene to do, and the pose was interesting to create, too, but when I began, I wasn’t sure it was possible to do it with Dragon 3. Sure, he can stand upright on his hind legs, and he can look pretty good when doing that, but having him sit down on his butt is a totally different story. Not only does his tail get in the way of him sitting down, there’re bend limits on his legs which prevent them from crossing over like that, and I had no choice but to break them by a massive amount (they’re twisted about 130 degrees, which is 50 degrees more than the limit 😛 ). It makes his thighs look really warped and weird, but I think I got away with it here because of the camera angle. His shins and feet block most of the problems, thankfully. 😛 There were other problems too, like his left foot intersecting his right calf, and the fact that his biceps looked huge when raising his arms. I had to fix those by creating some custom morphs using ZBrush.

Oh, and speaking of the raised arms… that gesture the dragon is doing with his claws is our form of greeting to members of the cult. Originally, the dragon was holding the egg in front of him, but I thought performing our greeting gesture was more apt. 😀 It’s performed by forming the top of a triangle with your hands and moving it over your head. The triangle represents the truth, and your head represents the Egg. The motion simulates the Egg piercing the truth. 😛 Nope, that was the QA guy’s idea, not mine. 😛

Originally, I expected to spend an evening doing the posing and lighting, have it render overnight, and do the postwork the next day. Annoyingly, though, a lot of things went wrong, and I kept having second thoughts and random ideas along the way, so I ended up spending way longer on it than I planned. 😛

On the first day, I had the scene assembled and the pose was pretty much finished, although it took a bit longer because I had to re-pose his arms after getting the idea to use the greeting gesture. The lighting wasn’t going great, though, so I had to spend another day on it. On that second day, though, I started getting a lot of random ideas. I changed the candle holders to be black on one side and white on the other, I tried out making a gloss map for the dragon’s tail to show that it was wet from being in the water (which didn’t go very well for some reason), added rim lighting behind the dragon, and struggled with adding lights around the egg to simulate that it was glowing. That’s when I remembered seeing something called “Canvases” in the advanced render options, and thought that it would let me render different parts of the scene separately so I could do some things in post that I wouldn’t normally be able to do very easily. Lol no. 😛 When rendering a Canvas, you can only render one at once, it seems to render them in a totally different way than normal, and it spits out some random garbled junk in addition to your render, which very, very vaguely resembles what I wanted to render:

yay whitespace I can’t get rid of, thanks wordpress, you piece of shit

A long time after rendering these, I realised that these are 32-bit images, which probably explains why the files were so massive. Really not sure why they display like that, but whatever. Converting them to 8-bit gives you something that looks better, but at the same time… no it doesn’t. 😛 It looks awful. Like… all glowy and shit. And the background is gone, too. And judging by the fact that two of each type of candle rendered as a black silhouette in the left image, it seems that Canvases don’t support instanced objects, either:

wordpress is shit

And of course the Canvases feature isn’t documented. 😛 So I gave up on it. It’s really annoying, though. It feels like this would help with things like motion blur, and open up a lot of post-processing possibilities, but nope, no documentation about it, and it’s impossible to figure it out by poking it like I normally do. Maybe I’ll fight with it again in the future.

Anyhoo, after ditching Canvases, I then had the idea to make the egg gold instead of silver… then as I was doing that and trying to decide whether I liked gold or silver more, I accidentally made the egg transparent and thought “AH, A GLASS EGG!”, so I did that instead. 😀 I think it turned out well in the end, but making the glass egg caused another problem which ended up costing me a lot of time. I first noticed it when adding a light behind the egg to re-create some nice-looking water reflections that I’d lost after switching the egg to be made of glass. Doing this made me discover a very… uh, interesting quirk with the Iray shader. If you set a light emitter to have geometry, and place it behind something that’s refractive… even if the light emitter’s geometry is set to be hidden, the refractive material will render it. Basically… you can see invisible things in refractive materials. 😛 This meant you could clearly see a black circle in the egg, that black circle being the emitter I was using to get the water reflections around the egg cup.

Notice the solid black circle which only appears in the egg? That’s the light emitter which is supposed to be invisible!!

Trying to think of ways to fix this without cheating pretty much drained about 4 hours of my time. 😛 I even went back to the Canvases feature in desperation, trying to figure it out so I could fix the issue I was having, but nope. In the end, I had to cheat and render the scene twice, once with the emitter on, and once with it off, and combined the two images in post to get the reflections without the black circle. It made me feel a bit dirty. 😛

After realising that cheating was my only option, and fixing some problems where the lighting changed completely when enabling the Caustic sampler, I was ready to go. But of course, I had to make two more foolish mistakes. 😛 Firstly, I forgot to increase the maximum render time again. DAZ Studio has idiotic defaults where it will stop rendering regardless of the convergence rate if either two hours pass or Iray does 5000 iterations, and you still can’t change the defaults! It’s very rare for any of my renders to take less than two hours, goddamn it! (angry emoji) But my second mistake after that which was even more annoying? I trusted a friggin’ plugin I’d discovered a few days before. 😛

It’s a render queue. Basically, something DAZ Studio should have, but doesn’t, because they’d rather spend years adding “strand-based hair” and other much less useful shit first. 😛 As you can probably tell, the render queue lets you render one scene after another without input. I was a bit skeptical, but in my tests, it actually seemed to work, so I trusted it with rendering these two scenes. When I came back to it the next day, it claimed it had finished, but I could only find one render. That’s when I realised that whoever coded this made two massive schoolboy errors!

My scenes were called something like “The One True Egg 45.1.duf” and “The One True Egg 45.2.duf”. What this idiot plugin does is look at the name of your scene file, find the first dot, and discard everything after it to get the render file name. Presumably, it does this to strip the file extension, but for fuck’s sake, this logic is completely wrong!! When you do that to the scene names above, you get “The One True Egg 45” for both of them! You’re supposed to check for the last dot and strip everything beyond that! I didn’t notice this idiocy before rendering because, as you can see in the screenshot above, the window didn’t show the full target path! I just assumed the target paths would be correct, because why wouldn’t I?! But after scrolling across the window after about 8 wasted hours of rendering, BOOM! That’s when I realised that the coder was a dumbass!

And hey, as if that’s not enough, it doesn’t even bother to check if the file it wants to save already exists before saving it! So the plugin just goes “yep just save with that file name I’m sure it’ll be fine” and shits all over what was already there without giving half a damn! Oh my God, why do you not check if the file already exists?! Both of these errors are so ridiculously basic that all I can imagine is that the author wrote the code, then never looked at it again! Never considered any kind of edge case! That just seems like an “I don’t give a crap” attitude, to me. So yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by this plugin at first, and was gonna keep it after I’d confirmed it working in a real-world situation, but hah, not any more! No chance. I just can’t deal with half-arsed plugins that waste my time. I’ve already asked for a refund. 😛

Anyway… I’m calm. I’m calm… FUCK YOU I’m calm. Come on, MongMaster, zennnn… sit like the dragon and praise the One True Egg… thaaat’s better. 😛

That was the last thing that went wrong, thankfully. 😀 After that, I re-rendered the scene four times (twice for the character-focused version, twice for the desktop version), and all was good and stuff. 😀 At Quality 2, with the Caustic and Architectural samplers on, the character-focused render (6.7MP) took 7 hours 6 minutes 20.2 seconds in total, which was much longer than I initially expected. And that was using both GPUs, because the scene was quite light on GPU memory. As for the 4K render (8.2MP), it took 3 hours 52 minutes 29.3 seconds in total, which makes NO SENSE. It has 22% more pixels but it rendered 80% faster! :S Maybe it’s something to do with the image dimensions? I dunno. Magic. 😛

As for postwork, that consisted of merging the two different renders together to get some nice light around the One True Egg’s eggcup without having a black circle within the Egg, blurring out some noise that the post-denoiser didn’t get for some reason, adding some glint to the dragon’s eyes, tweaking contrast, levels and saturation, and adding a vignette. Here’re the two different renders before postwork, so you can hopefully see what I mean:

The render without the water light.
The render with the water light. Notice the black circle in the Egg, and the shadow on the dragon’s legs.

fix your shitting editor wordpress oh my god

Continuing the recent tradition, I created a timelapse of this render, too, adding some mildly-related music behind the video. 😀 I really struggled for tracks this time, though, because for SOME reason, no-one wants to sing songs about eggs. 😛 Still, I just about managed to scrape together enough egg-related songs for the video. First off, there’s “E.G.G.M.A.N” from Sonic Adventure 2, followed by “Do The Funky Chicken” by Rufus Thomas (sorry, not sorry 😛 ), and finally, “Egg Shaped Fred” by Mansun. 😀 I was tempted to include “Tails and Dr Eggman Fight but Dr Eggman Dies In An Explosion” by Sonic4ever on there, but I thought I’d use Eggman’s theme instead. 😛 You can check the timelapse out here, and watch me keep changing things and flail around with Canvases and slowly lose my sanity (not like I had much in the first place 😛 ). Yes, I’ve tried embedding the video in the blog post again, but it’s still not working. And I don’t want to use YouTube because they’ll be all like WAAAAAAAH COPYRIGHTED MUSIC, even on unlisted videos, and even though I’m not profiting off using it. 😛

Oh ya, also, like I did with Dino Disco, I drew some notes over my preliminary renders that pointed out problems and things that were going well. I’ve found that this really helps keep my thoughts straight and helps prevent me from forgetting something that I need to fix before the final render. And when the render’s finished, it becomes a nice history of how the render evolved over time. 😀 Here it is:

I also thought I’d try doing something else new and dumb with my renders, for cheap lols important research purposes. 😛 I’m not sure if you know, but Microsoft released something a while back called CaptionBot. It’s an AI which looks at an image you give it and tries to describe it, usually with terrible results. 😛 So, I thought I’d feed CaptionBot my renders and see what it says it is. I’m hoping to be surprised at some point, but I’m mostly just expecting it to fail. 😛 Here’s what it thought about this render:

Boooring. You could’ve at least tried to describe it. That would have been funnier. 😛 But hey, it recognised that something was sitting down! Not sure where it got “cake” from, though. 😛

Oh, but there’s something similar to this that I’ve found really impressive, though: Clarifai. It does the same kind of thing, but instead of trying to form a sentence, it just spits out a list of words that match the concept of the image, along with a “confidence” value. It has all sorts of other features, too face detection, a colour breakdown of the image, and can even determine if it’s NSFW… and now I have a huge urge to try and break that feature for some reason. 😛 Aside from the explicit content detection, I’m not exactly sure what kind of serious use-case all this stuff has, but anyway, there’s a section of the site that lets you try it out, and it’s amazing how close it can get:

“Meditation”, “Zen”, “Spirituality”, “Candle”… there’re so many accurate terms there, it’s crazy! :O However, it didn’t see “dragon” (slightly understandable) or “egg” (bit of a blunder there 😛 ). And yes, it says it’s SFW with 96.8% confidence. 😛 I might make this a thing. CaptionBot vs Clarifai! 😀 Ahhh, I’m such a gorm. 😛

Anyway, I kind of went off-topic at the end there, but I hope you like the render! Let me know what you think. 😀 For now, though, I think I’ll stop writing junk and go and shoot some more giant insects on EDF 5, which thankfully came out on Best Console recently (thank you Sandlot/D3Publisher/whoever else was involved! 😀 ).

Egg and Be True, everyone! 😀

UPDATE!!
Firstly, many thanks for the likes! Honestly, it means a lot. 🙂

A couple days after finishing and posting this render, I found myself thinking about it. To me, this scene represents light, and the good side of things… but what about the dark side? I wondered… could I pull a 180 on the atmosphere and make a dark, evil version of this scene?

To find out, I decided to revisit the scene, and began a corruption spree. I took everything I could think of, and flipped it around. White turned into black, sky blue became blood red… and before long, I found it: the Dark Side of the Egg!

So, so EVIL! 😀 I just took the words “evil” and “corruption”, and ran with them. The environment changes consist of the red lighting, the red “Dark Egg”, flipping the candle positions around and giving them red flames, as well as darkening the rocks and sand around the edges of the pool. As for the dragon, aside from the very obvious black scales, I made his eyes and wing membranes red, gave him new horns with a modified texture, made his facial expression more aggressive, lowered his arms, lengthened his talons, and gave him a bit more bulk. Good experiment, methinks! I had fun with it, at least. 😀

I’ve added it to the Render Flavour List under the main render near the top of the post, but of course, you can see the full version by clicking on it above. 🙂 I have the desktop version of the render in progress, and I’ll post it at some point tomorrow. I had an idea for a dual-monitor desktop wallpaper version of this, as well. Nothing special: just a simple compilation of both renders, side-by-side. If it doesn’t end up being a turd, I’ll post that here, too. 🙂

As Ulala would say: staaaay tuned!

UPDATE!! (2)
I created the desktop versions of Dark Side of the Egg. You can get them from the Render Flavour List above, where the main render is. 🙂

I also created a basic dual-monitor version, where both renders “blend” together slightly. However, I realised that it’s not going to work for everyone unless I make about a million different versions of it. 😛 For two monitors of the same resolution, it’s easy, but if the monitors are different resolutions, it gets tricky.

I made Double 4K, Double 2K and Double 1080p versions, though. 🙂 I also made a 4K + 1080p version to put on my desktop at work, and if you have a look at that version, I think you’ll understand what I mean when I say it gets tricky, and why I decided to stop there. 😛 Having said that, if you do want a specific version for your monitor setup, just ask, and I’ll create it for ya when I get some time. 😀 Unless it’s triple monitors or something crazy like that. 😛

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Shootin’ some b-ball inside’a the gymnasium…

…when a 👫 o’ 👨s, they were 👆✌️🚫👍, 🌟🐻 makin’ trouble in my neighbourhoo– yeah, that. 😛
(I had to write that on my phone, cuz that’s where all the emoji that the kids use these days are. 😛 )

Harro! How are you this fine weekend, or weekday if you didn’t read the post on a weekend? 😀 Me? I’m good, nothing particularly notable’s happened recently. Although I do need to phone Virgin Media because they “need information” about something or other. I’m upgrading to 350Mb from 200Mb after finding out that these titfaces have been overcharging me for pretty much no reason at all. I went onto their site the other day and found that I could upgrade to 350Mb for 13p more a month than I was paying for 200Mb. Shitheads. 😛

Anyway, whine bitch moan no-one cares. 😛 I do have something you might care about, though; a brand new, fresh, shiny, tasty* render! *oooooooooooh*
(*not edible)

This one came about from this bit of conversation with a friend:

This was awesome, because no-one’s ever requested a render from me before, and that alone makes me happy. 😀 But anyway, dragons playing basketball? Hell yeah! Totally my style! 😀

…Apart from that I didn’t have much of a clue about basketball. 😛

All I knew is that some very tall men in some vests bounce an orange ball around and try and get it through a hoop to score variable amounts of points depending on how far away from they hoop they were when they threw the ball. 😛 So, I did some research, because I probably wasn’t going to get anywhere if I didn’t. 🙂 I searched for pictures of people playing it for pose ideas and mostly just found pictures of basketball riots, then tried to watch some NBA game replays for scene composition ideas but was denied by Fox because I don’t live in America, so I settled for some random friendly match (which didn’t seem very friendly 😛 ) on YouTube that wasn’t in English. 😛 I also read about basketball rules and a page containing shit-tons of lingo on Wikipedia.

I was originally looking for some kind of lingo where I could play around with the words (or not) to make a double entendre (the clean kind 😛 ) for the title. I was originally going for “monster jam”, but that’s just something I heard on Rocket League once, and it’s more commonly known as a motorsport event featuring monster trucks. But one of the terms on that Wikipedia page ended up giving me the general idea for the scene: “fast break”, where players try to advance the ball and score as quickly as possible, so I just went for that with the title, too.

So, here it is: Fast Break!

More flavours available here:
(1080p) (2K) (4K)

SLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM DUNK! Says me. 😛

Man, this one was so much fun to make! 😀 I was originally thinking of a scene with some action near the hoop, like a dragon leaping up to score while another leaps to defend, but after some playing around and discovery of the term “fast break”, I really liked the idea of a dragon confidently running up the court while the defenders prepare to intercept. It gave a much clearer focal point. 😀

This render contains the largest number of subjects I’ve ever rendered in one scene, including test renders: five main and technically four in the background, so nine in total! :O When I say there’s “technically” four in the background… that’s because I used DAZ Studio’s instancing system. I created four unique audience members and created two additional instances of each of them, which (apparently) saves resources when rendering. This means there’re actually 12 dragons on the bleachers, but eight of them are duplicates. I did this because… well, you’ll almost certainly never notice, because they’re waaaaaaay off in the background, miles into the camera’s depth of field annihilation zone. Would you have known if I hadn’t told you? 😀

I also realised there was a practical problem… team identification. I wasn’t going to give them clothes because A: I don’t like the idea of that, and B: the only items available are armour and saddles. 😛 I was thinking of spraying player numbers onto their scales, but I didn’t go through with that because I thought it’d look shitey, and I’d had a better idea anyway: armbands! I thought they’d make it very clear without overdressing the dragon and making them look weird. 🙂 So, I grabbed an armband that was intended for humans and hammered the shit out of it using my pathetic ZBrush skills, making a unique morph for each dragon so it would fit well. After doing armband morphs for four of them, I realised… you were only ever going to see two of the armbands. What a pleb I am. 😛 Ah well.

As for postwork, I did quite a bit of it this time. I applied motion blur to the red dragon’s legs and his left arm, as well as the green dragon’s legs. I also added motion blur to the ball. I would’ve done this in Iray rather than Photoshop, but you can’t. 😦 3Delight supports motion blur, but I have no idea how I’d get the motion blur out of that and slap it on top of an Iray render without it looking like… like 💩. 😛 I also removed the nose horns from the red and green dragons, because you can’t remove them from the model itself… well, okay, I’m sure you can, but that would involve things like UV mapping which I don’t fully understand yet. 😛 Finally, I added a normal vignette, and then perhaps most obviously, some manga-like “focus lines” as a secondary, stylized vignette. It took me ages to decide whether to go through with those focus lines, because I found them really distracting. Eventually, I softened them up and made them very transparent, which made them kind of “blend into” the image a bit more, complementing it and guiding your focus rather than stealing it. 🙂 Also, instead of my usual “typed” signature, I used the signature I made for my sister’s Amai canvas print. I’m probably gonna do that from now on. 🙂 For some weird reason which makes no sense, I… kinda prefer not having the title of the art there now. Shrug. 😛 Might be because it looks a bit cleaner.

Oh, oh, yeah! There was something I was supposed to mention after doing Amai, but I totally forgot to mention it then, and I almost forgot to mention it here, too! 🙂 Ever since starting to use Iray, I’ve had this irritating problem with the renders it spits out, where certain areas – usually reflective or out-of-focus – come out as grainy, fuzzy chunks of poo. The way I’ve dealt with the problem has evolved over time. Initially, I used a Gaussian blur in Photoshop, then began to use a combination of 0.6 radius Gaussian blur followed by a 0.6 radius Smart Sharpen. Most recently, I’ve been applying a stronger blur and sharpen to a Smart Object version of the image, then painting the effect mask depending on how strong I wanted the blur in certain parts of the image. Now, though? In the DAZ Studio 4.11 Beta, they’ve added this godsend, called the Post Denoiser:

Just click to make it available, click to enable it (not sure why there’re two steps, lel, it’s not a nuke 😛 ) and boom, it kills that noise like the police killing a noisy party. 😛 It can even make Iray viewport renders more useful by removing the initial noise early into the render so you can get a good idea of how the render will turn out in much less time! 😀 One thing, though: the default start iteration is 8, and while that’s great for viewport renders, I don’t know whether I can trust a number that low for final renders. If the denoiser starts early, it makes the image appear very, very messy early on, and I’m not sure if this is improved as time passes. For Fast Break, I first performed a render with the denoiser off to get a vague idea of how many iterations it would need. After it reached about 33% convergence, I stopped the render and set the start iteration to about the number of iterations it had performed, which, for this render, was about 2500. Thinking about it, though, I used the denoiser on Amai, but never adjusted the start iteration, and that turned out alright. So… maybe I’m worrying for no reason. 😛 UPDATE 2!!: Yep! I did an experiment and found out that having the Post Denoiser on from an early iteration doesn’t make any difference to the final quality of the render; it comes out just as sharp as it would if the denoiser was set to begin at a later stage. So it’s a win-win; a more useful Iray viewport experience and no noisy renders! Yay! 😀

Anyway, whaddya think of the render? 😀 I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed making it. Special thanks to Ben for the request! 🙂 I now understand basketball just a tiny bit more than I did originally. 😛 To me, it’s like a crazy “sleight of hand” game, with all the insane passing techniques and dribbling tricks and stuff. 😀

Oh, crap, of course! Render stats! Yaaaaaaaay! 😛 So, at 4K, with Rendering Quality 2, 98% convergence and everything nice on (Caustic and Architectual samplers), my 1080Ti and 970 pushed out a render in 9 hours 42 minutes 34.23 seconds, which, when you consider the 1080Ti, is a really long time! Some maths would suggest that on my old cards, this render (if it had been able to fit in the GPU memory, which it wouldn’t!) would have taken about 18 hours 16 minutes! :O I LOVE MY 1080TI! Best purchase ever. 😀

Right, I’m gonna bounce on outta here. Yeah, I went there. 😛 I’ll leave you with one of the songs that started playing while I was making this render. I found it funny when it came up, because the lyrics say “make more rhymes than Michael Jordan make slam dunks”. XD

UPDATE!!
First off, I want to say thank you for the likes, everyone! It means a lot! 🙂

While I was creating this render, I had PlayClaw recording with the hopes of creating a timelapse video for no apparent reason. 😛 I’ve tried doing this a few times in the past, but the videos always had something or other wrong with them, usually PlayClaw or Shadowplay silently crashing when I started a render, or sometimes for no reason at all (Shadowplay -.-). This time, though, the videos recorded with no problems, so I stuck them all into Premiere and made a… er… 5258.17% timelapse video, which you can check out here, if you’re interested! 😀 Almost everything is there, excluding the initial scene setup bit (because I forgot, oops 😛 ), and the bits where I stopped recording to have a break to eat dinner or send messages or talk on the phone or poo. 😛

The video’s soundtrack consists of the song above, “Stimulation (New York Stage)” from Capcom vs SNK 2, followed by “The Fresh Prince of Tidal Tempest” by Qjimbo (I actually prefer that mashup over the original song XD), and finally “Jam” by Michael Jackson, which I chose because it has a music video with lots of basketballing in it. 😛

I do not apologise for the Fresh Prince. 😛

IT’S REAAAAL!

Aside

Just a quick one!

So, it’s my sista’s burfday today. 🙂 A while ago, when I posted Amai (the render) on Jokebook, she mentioned that she’d have it as art, as in, to put on a wall. I lolled to myself and thought “yeah right, I don’t even consider it to be art”, but as I’m a (un)funny man, I jokingly replied with “burfday present sorted”. 😛

Turns out she was actually serious, though, so with no other burfday present ideas… I got it printed on canvas for her. It arrived way earlier than I expected and she opened it EARLY, NAUGHTY GIRL:

Eeeeeee! XD

I did a special 8K render for this, which may have been massive overkill, but hey, the site had a 40MB upload limit and I wasn’t going to take any chances. 😛 I’ve added it to the previous post, just in case someone wants to check it out. Made a proper signature too (took me half an hour, top lel 😛 ). It was printed by HelloCanvas (not an advertisement, just a recommendation 😛 ), and it looks like they did a good job! I haven’t seen it in real life, but from what I can tell, it came out pretty much as the preview suggested it would.

I’m glad she likes it so much! 😀 But she’d better not feel like she shouldn’t take it down when it becomes an eyesore. 😛

The age of love!

*da-da-daaaaaaaaaah, da, da, dah*

UPDATE 3!!: For people who have already read this post: I’ve now added the short story I promised – scroll down if you want to read it! 🙂 For those who haven’t read the post yet, great timing! This is the form I wanted the post to take when I first posted it! 😛

Ahh, Valentine’s Day, or what I like to call “love reminder day”. “Hey, you know that person you’re in a relationship with? Did you know you’re supposed to love them? You should try being nice for just 24 hours! And buy a meal deal and stuff, too! Then we can buy our wives LAMBORGHINIS with the money!” 😛

Yeah, I don’t get it. Surely you should be nice to them every day? 😛 Well, doesn’t matter to me; I’ve been single all my life, and I don’t think I want that to change. 😛 I mean, it’s great! I get a whole double bed to myself, I can do any dumb shit I want and the only person that can screw me over is ME! 😛

Anyway, I normally don’t pay attention to Valentine’s Day, but a couple of days ago, my brain randomly decided to Do Stuff(tm), probably while I was bored, and as a result, an idea for a render occurred. 😀 Since then, I’ve been trying to bring it to life in two ways, even though my brain feels like it would rather just sleep. 😛 But “NO” I say, “all I do at work nowadays is really boring shit that doesn’t make any difference, and I’m bored of not doing my own shit which I do find interesting, so #dealwithit and let me pose damn you!”

“Hangonhangonwait, what’s “bring it to life in two ways” supposed to mean?” I hear you ask in one of the many different multiverses. Well, hang on, I’m getting to that! Let me ramble! 😛

Unless you genuinely know me, or you’ve read my About page, or you’ve gone way back through to the horrible, rotten bowels of this blog, you probably don’t know that besides gaming, programming and rendering, I also have a passion for writing. I actually started writing a story way back in 2006. Shit… that long, huh? Damn, that even surprised me. I thought it was 2009. Oh, no, of course, I was still in school when I started, so that makes sense. No prizes for guessing what the story is about. 😛

And oh man… I did just go off on a tangent talking about that story, but realised that’s completely not the point of this post, and have removed those off-the-rails paragraphs. 😛 Maybe I’ll talk about the story in future, if anyone cares (almost no-one cared back in school, so hey, I ain’t holding my breath now 😛 ).

Anyway, yes, I like writing. I don’t think I’m too bad at it, either. Sure, my writing style might be a little basic and my vocabulary might not be as refined as other people, but whatever, I enjoy it, and I sometimes find that I really like reading back what I write, which sounds insanely vain and I now need to slap myself, just a sec…

Ow.

But yeah, for this render, I thought I’d recruit a couple of characters from that story I mentioned and put them in a scene suitable for Valentine’s Day. I also thought it would be really cool to write a short story to go with it, and set a scene beyond the static image. And that, good sir and/or madam, is what I meant by “bringing it to life in two ways”. 🙂

UNFORTUNATELY, I suck, and haven’t managed to get the side salad of writing done in time. -.- It’s currently 292 words, hasn’t really progressed past the intro yet, and I was hoping for it to be at least a couple thousand words. 😛 I blame my tiredness, the render I only just finished this evening, and the postwork of said render, which wasn’t even complicated yet took me about an hour before I was happy with it. 😛 But no matter, at least I have the render to show you just in time, sort of, just, 5 minutes before Valentine’s is over. 😛

So, I present to you, my Valentine’s render, two ways, with grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon and a caramel jus, topped with a sprinkling of love:

You can get this one in a ton of different flavours:
Colour: (2560 Square) (1080p) (2K) (4K) (8K Square)
Monochrome: (2560 Square) (1080p) (2K) (4K)

The story comes next, but if you’d prefer, I have it as a PDF, complete with a cover page. Feel free to grab it here!


Amai

“Whirlwind. I… I have something I need to talk to you about. Meet me in our chamber at sundown.”

Those words stayed with me for hours.

That serious look in her eyes, that stern expression… and her voice… Gods, it was so sharp, even thinking of it felt like it was piercing the scales on my chest. I had never seen Emerald like that before, and it… it worried me more than anything. Was she alright? Could she have been unwell? No… she would ask Shikaru or myself for help if that was the case. She would never be so secretive about an illness, or an injury. B-but then again… maybe it was something she only felt comfortable sharing with me? Or maybe she was upset about something? Had I… had I wronged her in some way? Rrrgh… all these dark thoughts recently…

“Yoohoo, Guira to Sin! You awake up there?”

I shook my head and blinked a few times to force myself out of my thoughts and back into reality. I found myself sat by a campfire with a few of the other dragons, while beautiful trees and foliage of the forest surrounded us on all sides. To my left was Thunder, a Great Dragon, his bright yellow scales gently crackling with energy as always. Opposite me was Shadow, a Western Dragon like myself, as black as night, and with sharp, crimson eyes that could easily pierce the darkness. And to my right was the owner of the voice I had heard: Ifri, a smaller breed of dragon known as a Drake, his personality still as vibrant as the bright red scales covering his body.

“Heh, you alright, kin? You keep daydreamin’!” Ifri asked, his voice a mix of playful curiosity and genuine concern. “Has Em been keepin’ you awake the past few nights, or somethin’?”

“N-no, no, it’s nothing like that.” I denied, lowering my head. “Sorry, I… kinda just got lost in my thoughts. What were you saying?”

“Was just wonderin’ about where you’re goin’ at sundown.” Ifri said. “You made it sound pretty heavy, and that just makes me curious. What’s it about?”

A short growl emanated from Thunder’s throat as that question was asked.

“Ifri, this is the third time you have pressed Sintarka about this, tonight.” Thunder said, with a hint of annoyance. “He has already explained twice before that he does not know.”

“I-it’s alright, Thunder.” I said, shaking my head. “But… he’s right, though, Ifri. I honestly don’t know what it’s about. All I know is that it just sounded… really serious.”

“Ah… I see. Fair enough.” He said, lowering his head a moment, before raising it again for another question. “So… who’re you meeting?”

“Ifri, enikkyanar slara!” Thunder growled. “Sintarka, mear ne’surin sar karkakurta slara.”
(“Ifri, stop nagging him! Whirlwind, do not feel you have to tell him.”)

“N-ne… siturk aram.” I replied, with some hesitation. “It’s… it’s with Emerald.”
(“N-no… it’s okay.”)

“Oh. Ohhhh.” Ifri said, seemingly realising something I didn’t.

“What?” I asked, frowning slightly.

“No, no, it’s alright, kin.” He replied. “I wouldn’t worry if I were you. In fact, I’d say you’re probably in for a good n—mmmf!”

Shadow quickly and forcefully cut Ifri off mid-sentence, clasping his claw firmly around the drake’s muzzle. Ifri tried to loosen Shadow’s grip and voice his disapproval, but all he could manage was a few muffled cries of protest.

“That’s enough out of you.” Shadow said, with a growl. “The Sun’s already begun to set, Sin. Shouldn’t you get going?”

I looked to the Sun through the trees of the forest and was surprised to see just how far it had dipped. The sky had already turned to a beautiful shade of orange, the Sun casting its warm, wonderful light over the already-wonderful Forest Realm. Despite the sunset’s calming beauty, it had caused an unpleasant nervousness to suddenly take root in my gut. It was time…

“Ah! Y-you’re right. Thanks, Shadow.” I said, quickly getting to my feet. “I-I’ll see you guys later.”

“Kar ne fir, Sintarka.” Thunder assured me. “I am sure things will be okay.”
(“Have no fear, Whirlwind.”)

I nodded, letting out a short growl of appreciation before heading to our nearby cave. Etched into the cliffside, and tunnelling surprisingly far beneath the surface, it was a very impressive cavern with more than enough space to shelter all six of us. Tonight, however, with Thunder, Ifri and Shadow socialising outside and Shikaru out hunting, only one person was in here. Emerald… my mate.

Words can’t convey how much I cared for her. Our matehood was proof of that. Dragons only enter matehood with those they truly, truly love, because when a dragon chooses a mate, that bond lasts for the rest of their life. But for me… I loved her so much, that I would have been happy to journey into the afterlife with her still by my side.

Ever since the Battle of Eache Grak, though… we had been apart. I didn’t even know if she was alive, and I feared that I had lost her forever. This fear left me feeling… lost, and empty, and as a result, I slowly began to lose my will to fight. However, as the years passed, fortune began to smile upon me. I was able to meet up with some old friends and allies, and even make new ones at the same time. This gave me hope. Hope that I would one day find her. And then… finally. After 22 long years, I got the lead I was praying for. One that led me to my mate, alive and well.

Knowing that she was safe… knowing that the children that she had spent all that time raising on her own were safe… it reignited that flame inside me. It gave me a reason to keep fighting. I wanted to fight for Guira’s future… and in turn, I wanted to fight for the future of my loved ones. I wasn’t going to let anyone, human or dragon, stand in the way of that future.

But today… I was afraid. Emerald was my drive, my reason to fight, but the way she acted today gave me the frightening thought that she was unhappy with me. What was she going to do? What was she going to say? D-did she… intend to rescind our matehood…?!

I stopped walking, shivering at that thought. Gods, no… no, no, that would… it would rip me apart. The thought shook me so much that I instinctively lowered my head and closed my eyes, giving a silent prayer for the contrary.

A few moments later, I continued through the cave, soon reaching the passageway that led to our chamber. As the gentle pattering of my footsteps echoed throughout the hall, my heartbeat hastened, and I felt my wings start to tremble with nerves. Gods, I couldn’t go in like this. I stopped again for a moment, taking a deep breath to steel myself for what was to come. Then, when I felt I was ready, I bravely stepped forward, and turned the last corner.

I wasn’t ready.

“S-susa…!”
(“W-wow…!”)

That word escaped my maw before I could hold it back. In the chamber, with only candlelight to illuminate her stunning, scintillating green scales, Emerald was lying there, a mesmerising sight to behold. As she saw me enter the chamber, she gently blew a ring of smoke in my direction… in the shape of a heart.

“Evening, Sin.” She said, with a smile.

That smile told me everything. That serious, stern look I saw on her muzzle earlier in the day was nothing more than a ruse. She did all that to hide this surprise she had in store for me. Immediately, I felt that huge, heavy weight that had been with me all day lift from my shoulders… and with no words to respond with, all I could do was laugh, turn to the wall next to me, and press the top of my head into it.

“Heh, what’s wrong? Was this a bit much of a surprise?” She asked, with a chuckle of her own.

I turned from the wall, and began to approach her, my laughter slowly dying down.

“Vira… you evil, evil dragoness.” I said, with a smile. “All day, I’ve been worrying that there was something seriously wrong!”

Emerald laughed, shaking her head slowly in response.

“Sorry, love. In hindsight… I-I probably did go a bit far this morning.” She admitted. “I didn’t mean to be so harsh, I just… wanted to throw you off the scent. I wanted to surprise you.”

“Rrrh, like I could ever be mad at you.” I said, softly. “Come here.”

Emerald raised her head to mine as I got close, allowing me to nuzzle her, lovingly. She responded with a soft, affectionate purr, each time our muzzles stroked against each other. We stayed like this for a few tender moments, until I found it impossible to hold back the one question that was on my mind.

“So… what’s all this about, then?” I finally asked, as I moved my muzzle away from hers. “What’s the occasion?”

“Don’t you know what day it is today, Sin?” She asked, simply.

I furrowed by brow, and thought for a moment. The days seemed to fly by, recently, so I often had trouble keeping up. But… as far as I was aware, today wasn’t a particularly special day. It wasn’t the anniversary of our matehood… right? Had I forgotten something?

“…Masnakdia?” I said, jokingly.
(“Thursday?”)

“You dunce, Sin. It’s Kainakdia (Friday).” She chuckled.

“Ah, heh. I… I clearly don’t know, then. Sorry…” I replied, blushing.

“It’s alright!” She assured me. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to spend it together, after all.”

I tilted my head, puzzled. Before I could open my muzzle to ask her, she brought her lips to mine, and kissed me, gently.

“Arasi Franaie’dianas, mis amai.” She whispered.
(“Happy Franaie Day, my love.”)

“F-Franaie’dianas?” I asked, before gasping with realisation. “A-ah!”

“You’ve remembered?” She said, with a smile.

Franaie’dianas… of course. “Franaie Day” in Standard, it was one of the ten days of the year dedicated to each of the different Draconic Gods. Each of the Gods governed one of the ten elements, but they also governed two attributes each. On each of these ten days of celebration, those attributes were the focus of the festivities. This time, it was the day dragons honoured Franaie, the Goddess of Fire, and her attributes of love and confidence. On this day, dragons often cast aside shyness and fear to confess their love towards one they had feelings for, and those already in a matehood or partnership would express and affirm their love without worry or inhibition. And this scene… was Emerald’s way of expressing her love to me.

“Yeah… I-I’ve just realised now. Damn it… how could I have forgotten?” I said, ashamed. Emerald was right. This was the first time we had been able to spend this day together, and I’d gone ahead and forgotten. What a fool I was…

“Sin, love, it’s alright.” She said, nuzzling me reassuringly. “Honestly, I preferred it this way. That look on your face was so worth it. I love to surprise you like this.”

“Heh, I know… and I love that about you.” I replied, with a chuckle. “But all this feels so… familiar. Didn’t you do something like this on the day we declared matehood?”

Emerald’s face lit up.

“Ah, you remembered!” She said, happily. “Maybe your memory isn’t as bad as I thought!”

“Pah, like I’m ever going to forget that day, Vira.” I replied, shaking my head as I began to reminisce. “I remember it as if it was yesterday. You looked more beautiful than ever, and you seemed so confident at first glance, but after we began to talk… wow. I’ve never seen you so nervous, before or since.”

“Can you really blame me?” She said, defensively, but with a light-hearted tone.

“Of course not! You were really brave that day. Hell, I would’ve been even more nervous.” I admitted. “When I entered the chamber that day, kinda like tonight, I had no idea what it was all about. It never once crossed my mind that you wanted to propose matehood, right up until the moment you made it crystal clear. I-I mean… I never believed that a… a runt of a dragon like me was ever worthy to mate with a perfect, wonderful, angel of a dragoness like you.”

“S-Sin…” She whispered.

“I-I knew my love wasn’t unrequited. I felt it all along during our partnership.” I continued. “But I… I never knew if the love I was showing you was enough. I was scared… scared that I was genuinely not good enough for you. But when that day came, the day you spoke those words… ‘I would like to declare you as my mate’… that was the greatest day of my life. And I’d never, ever forget it.”

I looked down, finally taking a breath. There I went again. My feelings for her gushing from my maw, with no way of stopping them. But before I could apologise, I felt Emerald embrace me, tightly, a few tears running down her muzzle.

“D-don’t you even dare to think about apologising, y-you… big, soft…”

She wanted to finish that sentence, but all her emotions allowed her to do was cry with joy. I let out a gentle chuckle, quietly putting my arms around her. There it was… that wild telepathy of hers. She had managed to tame it in the years we were apart, but she always seemed to lose control of it when she got emotional. It was cute.

“Tch… c-cute…” She whispered. “I-I’d smack you if I didn’t love you so much… heh…”

She managed a quiet laugh through her tears, and I smiled.

“Thanks for this surprise, Vira.” I said, gratefully. “You looked amazing. And it was so nice to reminisce with you. It reminds me just how lucky I am to have you.”

“Oh, Sin… i-it was nothing, really.” She said, wiping her tears away. “I’m glad you liked it. It’s always a pleasure to make you happy.”

“Well then… it would definitely make me happy to spend the rest of this evening with you. Is that okay with you?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically. “It is Franaie’dia, after all.”

“Hah, says the dragon who forgot about it…” She retorted, with a laugh.

“Trust me, after this… I won’t ever make that mistake again.”

She smiled, closing her eyes as I nuzzled her, lovingly. As I took hold of her claw in my right, and gently ran my left claw along the side of her muzzle, I whispered.

“Ir amai sar, Virana.”
(“I love you, Emerald.”)














































TITANIC POWER TROUT!!
And thus normal service is resumed! 😛

Okay, let’s see, where should I start? Let’s start with the story, shall we?

That… was… a joy to write. 😀 I aimed for 2,000 words, but overshot and hit 2,478. Shows you how much I was getting into it. 😛 I’ve never written a scene quite like that before, and I didn’t know if I could do it. When it was written, and when I was happy with it, I actually felt a bit nervous to put it here. Probably because it’s a pretty big passion of mine and because I feel like I’m “exposing myself” a little bit by sharing it. NO, not like that, you know what I mean. 😛 I really hope you enjoyed it, though, and I genuinely want to know what you thought! It’s been a long time since I shared some serious writing. 🙂

I can’t think of much else to write about the writing. 😛 So let’s move on to the stuff I’d written before, regarding the render.

AHHH! Go up there and look at them again! JUST LOOK AT THEM! LOOK AT ALL THE LOVE! THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT!

Damn! This render was so much different from what I normally do. It was partially inspired by “Shh… it’ll be okay…“, a very old (and not very good, but hey, gotta start somewhere 😛 ) render I created when I was just getting started with DAZ Studio. Whereas that was a more solemn scene with a hint of love, this one is total love. And damn. I really enjoyed doing it, and really, really love the result. 😀 Aaand that was big-headed and vain. Slap time!

Ow.

Despite its apparent simplicity, this render was actually quite tricky! Sure, I knew exactly what I wanted when I began: I wanted them very close to each other, I wanted their necks to bend in such a way that they made the shape of a heart, and I wanted them to be nuzzling. However, after about half an hour or so of posing, I finally realised that achieving all of the above was impossible if the dragons were in a quadrupedal posture. 😛 Besides, I then thought more carefully about it, and realised that they wouldn’t be able to do some other nice things in a quadrupedal posture, like hold each others’ claws.

So with that, I made them bipedal, but it was still difficult. It required really precise placement to get their chests to touch and their necks to bend in the right way without them looking ridiculous. Their necks needed lengthening, and I had to break several joint limits to achieve the nuzzling I wanted. Then there was the claw-holding that I wanted, which required really intricate posing, and probably took a lot longer than it needed to because I’m a dumb perfectionist and need to make sure those talons that you can’t see look okay and don’t pierce any scales. 😛

After the difficult posing, there was the lighting, which went way better than I thought it would, and I learned something new! I like doing that learning thing. 😀 It’s like this: ever since starting to use proper three-point lighting, I’ve had this really annoying problem with shadows; they always turn out really sharp, and you can often notice multiple shadows from one character. That’s perfectly normal, I guess: you shine three different lights on someone, you get three shadows. But the difference is that Iray’s shadows were always quite sharp regardless of how far away the light was, and that just looks BALLS. 😛 But I have found the SOLUTION, through random poking of things! 😀 LIGHT GEOMETRY:

Normally, it’s on “Point” by default. I never really understood why you’d want it on anything other than that, but now I do! 😛 For some reason, in Iray, the bigger the light is, the blurrier the shadow becomes. It might be because the “point” option doesn’t really give the light a physical presence. It’s kind of a hack, really. Even if you point the camera at a spotlight with “point” geometry, you won’t see any light. However, the other options actually give the light a physical presence, so I guess Iray can light more accurately? I dunno. 😛 Basically, giving Key and Fill lights geometry is a good idea because they’re usually out of the camera’s view. It’s probably not so useful for Rim lights, because they’re usually behind the subject and may appear in the render as a big white block, which would look BALLS! 😛

After lighting, there was the fact that these two are actually characters from my aforementioned story, so I wanted them to look at least vaguely close. Emerald, the green dragoness on the right, has silver horns, which wasn’t too difficult. Just needed a bunch of material tweaking. Whirlwind, the blue dragon on the left, however, has a blue crest down his neck, and for a moment I was pretty damn sure that was a loss because I can’t really model, and definitely didn’t have time to. 😛 However, BRAINWAVE! I went way, way back, and grabbed the tail attachment from the Millenium Dragon! Of course, it needed some heavy-duty modding, so I used ZBrush to adjust the fins so several of them would look okay next to each other. After that, and a schitt-ton of texture tweaks, BLAM! Crest! Didn’t turn out too badly, either! I was worried I’d do all that just to bin it! 😀

Then there was postwork, which just consisted of the background and a saturation reduction. That background, though… goddamn, it took ages to settle on it. I don’t really know why. I think it was the colours. The pink I was using wasn’t really garish, but it stood out too much. It just… clashed with the colours of the dragons. The background was like “LOOK AT MEEEEEE!” while I was like “uh no, fuck you background, look at the dragons”. 😛 It only started to look acceptable after I darkened it and desaturated it. Oh, by the way, speaking of desaturation? For some reason, this render looks fucking ACE in black and white. I’ll make an alternate monochrome version along with the background versions. 😀 UPDATE 2!!: I’ve added the monochrome versions and the usual set of resolution options! Go up there and check ’em out if you haven’t already! 🙂

Also, unless you’ve read the story, you might be wondering what the title I gave it is all about, and what language it’s in. Well… “Amai” means “Love” in Guirian Draconic. And no, that language doesn’t exist. It’s a language I created for the story I keep mentioning. Yes really. No it’s not a cipher. No it doesn’t follow any kind of logical pattern. No it doesn’t cover the entirety of English; it’s currently only covering 317 336 words. (I created 19 more for the short story! 😀 )

The majority of the words are just random nonsense. Kamasa. There, that’s now the word for “nonsense”. 😛 Put it in Google Translate and it’s apparently Hindi, a language which I’ve never spoken a word of. 😛 I don’t know how I do it. But I fucking love it. XD

Annoyingly, though, I’ve just learned that “甘い (amai)” means “sweet” in Japanese. The word was intended to be a gibberish mix of the Italian “amore” and the Japanese “愛 (ai)”, both of which mean “love”, but nope, I’ve just gone ahead and accidentally spoken pure Japanese. Damn it. 😛

Anyhoo… whew… that’s about it. Sheesh. I don’t normally talk about a render that much after doing it. Sorry! XD

Anyway, now it’s time for the RENDER STATS! Yay! 😛 Spoilers: this rendered like friggin’ LIGHTNING. At 2560×2560, with Rendering Quality 2, 98% convergence and basically everything nice on (caustic & architectual samplers), it took… 5 minutes 41.27 seconds! BOOM! Yes, really! To be honest, that was kind of expected, since there’s no environment, but even so… I was expecting it to take at least 15 minutes. 😛 Damn, I love this rig. 😀

Gotta post this now! I’ve got like 20 seconds before it becomes invalid! I’ll make a better outro in a sec! 😛

UPDATE!!: OOOSH! Valentine’s post successfully made 15 seconds before Valentine’s Day ended! I call that a win! 😛 Unfortunately, the story not being here is a FAIL! I’ll get it finished tomorrow… uh, today. 😛 It’ll most likely be posted late on Friday 15th or in the early hours of the 16th. If you care. Which I really hope you do. Please care. XD UPDATE 3!!: Since you’re all the way down here, I’m sure you already know I’ve added the short story to the post. 😛 But I just wanted to use this moment to say I SUCK because I said I was most likely going to post it in the early hours of the 16th at the latest, but GOD DAMN it took a LOT longer to write than I expected. I spent at least 6 hours on it between Friday evening and Saturday very-morning, and then spent pretty much the whole of Saturday evening and a bit of Sunday very-morning on it. It took around 14 hours total. And it was so, so worth it. 😀

Anyway, laterz, y’all! And be nice to your partner for the next 364 days, too! 😛

By the way, in case you didn’t catch it, the post title is a reference to this:

(And holy shit what was that, that has to be one of the worst music videos I’ve ever seen. XD)

UPDATE 4!!
I did a special 8K render of Amai for birthday reasons, which I’ve added to the Render Flavour List. Hehe, I’ll call it that from now on. I’m such a spaz. 😛 Anyway, I’d love to tell you how long it took, but it’s not in the log file. 😦 It’s 10x more pixels, so I assume it took 10x longer? I dunno. Let’s say it took an hour. I’m pretty sure it took longer, though. 😛

One! Sleep! TILL BROOKLYN! No, wait – CHRISTMAS!

Heyooo! Merry incoming Christmas! If you’re reading this on the day I asked WordPress to post it (or any subsequent Christmas Eve), then it’s only one more day until Jesus Day! Yay! 😀 When this is posted, I’ll be sliding down a big snowy hill on a toboggan in an attempt to beat my sister to the bottom and losing every single time because MY TOBOGGAN IS CRAP! 😛 I’ll also be laughing at everyone else having massive accidents, of course. 😛

Anyway, I hope you’re excited for Christmas! Me? Nope. I’m too old now. 😛 Jayzuz, “too old”… I’m only 28. XD But yeah, I don’t really get excited for Christmas like I used to. But I am excited to share what I’ve made for y’all. A Christmas RENDER! 😀 “ERMAGERD WHAT?! IT’S BEEN SO LONG SINCE YOUR LAST CHRISTMASSY RENDER!”

Yeah, my last Christmas render was done back in 2011, so that’s a whole 7 years. I think the reason I stopped doing Christmas renders was because I was discouraged. All of them have just been “meh”, or worse. I did start work on a Christmas render in 2012, but I ended up scrapping it. I still have a test render of it, actually… should I? Ah, what the hell, since it’s Christmas, here it is:

Ahhh, the good old SubDragon. 😀 I tend not to share old test renders because they’re embarrassing as fuck, but hey, there it is 😛 Honestly, though, looking back, I’m not sure why I gave up on that one. The execution is bad, sure, but the concept is nice. Maybe I’ll visit the idea again some time.

Even though I don’t really share test/failed/quick renders, I still like to keep hold of them. Why? Well, like I say on the MongMaster’s Turd page, why do you keep hold of that Defend Globe when it only affects bug types? 😛 They’re nice reminders. Some remind me of how far I’ve come since I started rendering, others remind me of certain things I did that I might’ve otherwise forgotten, and others remind me of the PAIN that DS puts me through. Here’re some examples, while I’m at it (I’m also testing WordPress’ new editor by doing this 😛 ):

DAZ Studio did this while I was doing DOF tests and trying to fix infinite rendering times because of subsurface scattering. Why does it do this to me.
Test render of The Third Breed in Iray before I started using Iray properly. The lighting it rendered wasn’t even close to the lighting I asked for. I genuinely didn’t understand what it was doing.
Made quickly as a bit of fun for someone on a not-very-popular forum. Wish I could remember the details. 😛 I wonder how those guys are doing now.

Stock raytraced shadows in 3Delight were solid black unless some unknown conditions were met. Thankfully, I learned about UberEnvironment.
Dueling Dragons test render. One time only, DAZ Studio decided to shit this out for some now-unknown reason. Pretty much ruined my evening. 😛
One of my very first renders, from 2009. You have no idea how much I hesitated to put this here. It makes me cringe. 😛

Wow, WordPress’ new editor has only given me a mild headache, and I only swore three times while doing all that, so it’s not horribly bad. I still refuse to stop putting the “WordPress Is Shit” tag on every post I make, though. TRADITION NEVER DIES! 😛

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent again. That’s enough crap for now! I didn’t come here to give you coal for Christmas. I came to give you DIAMONDS*! 😛 (*cubic zirconia)

So yes, it’s been a long time since my last Christmas render. Since then, I’ve gotten hold of the DAZ Dragon 3, I’ve learned how to use Iray relatively well, my scene composition skillz are much better, and my lighting skillz have improved, too. I also tend to have ideas more rarely, but they’re much higher-quality. So, when I started this scene, I knew it was going to be a nice way to see how far I’ve come. Here’s the result:

(Available in these tasty flavours: 1080p2K, 4K)

DAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAAAAA SO CUUUUUUTE!! GAAAAH! I WANNA HUG HIM WHILE WEARING A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF PROTECTIVE CLOTHING SO I DON’T GET STABBED!

*ahem* Yes. I… think I’m a bit better at this than I was seven years ago. 😀 What do you think? Do you like? 🙂

I’m not totally sure where the idea for this came from. I think it was partially inspired by my 2011 Christmas render, and I think “cozy” was the trigger word, but it was mostly a shower moment. 😛 It was also the first time I’ve used the Crystal Dragon supermorph/geograft, which somehow worked way better in this scene than I was expecting. Using the regular Dragon 3 just… lacked something. The more “brutish” look of the Crystal Dragon somehow makes it cuter to see him like that. 😀 Oh, and of course, the ice crystals help with the wintery, Christmassy theme. Huh, what’s that? If he’s a dragon with ice crystals coming out of his scales, why is he sleeping next to a warm fire? Well, that’s because 🖕! 😛

Now, it’s render stats time! You remember that my previous render “Monster. Hunter.” took about 21 hours, right? Of course you don’t! 😛 Anyway, at 4K, Rendering Quality 2, 98% convergence AND with Caustic and Architectual samplers on (something I’ve never done before because it increases render time), this one took… ooooohhh… 5 hours 52 minutes 11.1 seconds! Yeah. About 4 times faster, and one hour of that was the last 3% convergence. 😛 The main reason it was so relatively fast is because the scene is quite a bit less complex. I didn’t have to faff around trying to get the scene memory usage below 4GB, because it only used 3.5GB. 🙂 But another reason was becaaaause… I got a new GPU! AND IT’S A FRIGGIN’ MONSTER!!

GTX 1080Ti. I got it a couple months ago as a birthday present to myself. 😀 It’s got triple the VRAM of my old 970s, so I highly doubt I’ll run into any memory issues again, which is more than enough to make me happy. But of course, I was also expecting a bit more speed. 😀 I did some tests using the “Monster. Hunter.” scene and found that the 1080Ti is about 58% faster than TWO 970s, cutting render time by more than 4 hours! And then, amazingly, I found out that Iray can actually use any two GPUs to render! I tried putting one of my 970s alongside it, and it cut down the render time by an additional hour! :O So I’ve kept one of the 970s in, just to assist rendering. I’d’ve kept both of them in, but putting a 970 in the bottom PCIe slot covers up the motherboard’s USB 3 header. And I’m not sure if my PSU could handle it, anyway. 😛

Oh, and of course, the 1080Ti can run Monster Hunter: World at 90FPS. 😀 Just as long as you don’t put the volumetric fog too high, anyway. To be honest, I don’t even notice a difference past Low. 😛

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the render. And of course, I hope you have a great Christmas, or whatever it is you celebrate! 😀 I’ll see you again in the New Year! Probably the Chinese one! 😀

Monster Hunter on PC.

Friggin’ took them long enough! 😛

So, my experience with Monster Hunter is fairly long, and… very rocky. 😛 There are a fair few posts in here detailing my frustration with the series, actually (this one’s okay, but plz don’t look at the other posts, some of them are so pathetically whiny and often very wrong 😛 ). I “get” the game, the idea really works for me, so I should enjoy it… right? But nope. With the exception of Monster Hunter 4 which resolved a few killer issues I had with previous games, I’ve hated every Monster Hunter game I’ve played. After playing the game, hell, even with MH4, I always come out of the other end of it thinking “for fuck’s sake, why the hell (insert complaint here)”. Let me throw out a few examples…

1: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell did they make these monsters so goddamn cheap?”

Most of my negative memories come from Monster Hunter games on the PSP, specifically Monster Hunter Freedom: Unite (MHFU). The “difficulty” of MHFU was just painful. Notice the quotes, indicating sarcasm. 😛 Personally, I prefer difficult games. I find them more fun, they give a better sense of accomplishment, and they generally feel much better to play. However, there’s a fine line between “difficult” and “cheap”, and when that line is crossed, I get a burning desire to dump a tanker of wallpaper paste into the studio of the developers responsible. 😛 I remember two monsters in MHFU that crossed that line so blatantly that it blew my mind that they actually got away with it, to the point where I actually still can’t believe it was for real. For example, Kushala Daora, a dragon that can generate a wind shield, was effectively broken. The wind shield instantly interrupts anything you do when you get close, so you basically can’t land any hits, and the thing you need to break to remove the shield is protected by the shield. Allegedly, the shield could be disabled temporarily by poisoning the monster, but… you can’t even try to inflict poison because of the shield, meaning that the only option is to use a bow/bowgun… which is next to impossible solo, because Kushala Daora is one of the fastest Large Monsters in the game. Another monster, Plesioth, a giant fish thing, spent the vast majority of its time in the water (effectively making it invincible), the items you can use to get it out of the water are very limited and sometimes don’t work, and the bottom line was that it took so long to beat it that I ran out of time. What was the time limit? Oh, just an hour. -.-

This catastrophically cheap bullshit never appeared in Monster Hunter 4. I never felt angry at the difficulty, and never felt like I was struggling. In fact, at times, it actually felt a bit too easy. Although that might have been because of my main weapon, a weapon new to MH4 called the Insect Glaive. It feels so overpowered that it’s actually a bit embarrassing to admit that I use it. 😛

2: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell is the collision detection so god-awful?”

Seriously, MHFU, and all other MH games on PSP, had some of the worst collision detection I’ve ever seen. 😛 Plesioth was one of the main culprits here too, and the one that sticks in my mind the most. When doing its tail swipe attack, the tail is so high up that it just never looks like it hits you, but oh, of course it hits you. Rolling underneath it is impossible because the game considers its tail as a huge box which extends all the way to the ground. And don’t get me started on its body check attack.

Again, I never felt like I experienced this in Monster Hunter 4. When things clearly didn’t hit me… they didn’t hit me. 😛 Plesioth wasn’t really in Monster Hunter 4, though. He was relegated to a fish you catch in a mini-game. 😛

3: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell did they put it on this stupid console?”

Seriously, Capcom must do this on purpose.

The last time Monster Hunter was on a console that made sense was at the very beginning. The original Monster Hunter, and Monster Hunter 2 (Japan only) were on PS2, which is a perfectly reasonable choice of console. However, from then on, Capcom just stopped making sense entirely.

They began releasing Monster Hunter on PSP, which, aside from the DS, was the worst possible console for this game. It had less power than a PS2 so the graphics and framerate were worse, the screen was tiny, and the controls… holy crap. The PSP only had one tiny analog stick for God’s sake. There was no right analog stick, so you had to rotate the camera using the D-Pad above the stick. You had to develop a stupid technique which (quite affectionately) became known as The Claw, where you bend your index finger in such a way where you could move the character and the camera simultaneously. I can’t actually fathom why they put it on the PSP, and then continued to do so for years afterwards.

Well, they continued to do so until Monster Hunter 3. But instead of staying loyal to Sony and putting it on the $599 US dollar PS3, they decided to change allegiance to Nintendo and dumped it on the Wii, completely ignoring the clearly successful Xbox 360. WHY did they put it on the Wii, a console with vastly below-average power and driven by a stupid controller with only one analog stick?! ARGH! And then, for Monster Hunter 4 and Generations, they continued to ignore those tasty, popular, powerful home consoles, instead choosing to release it for the 3DS! Yes it was somewhat popular and somewhat tasty, but it wasn’t powerful! I mean, it was probably good for them that they didn’t release it on the Vita since that thing tanked harder than anything I’ve ever seen, but come on, why did you choose the 3DS over every other option? They must have been targeting the weaker consoles on purpose.

I mean, this goes without saying, but the true stars of Monster Hunter are, of course, the monsters. They can be awesome, beautiful, creepy, weird, or even stupid, but I love pretty much all of them, and they often contribute towards Monster Hunter’s weird sense of humour, like Yian Kut-Ku’s run that makes him look like a chicken, Tigrex’s ice breath which can turn you into a snowman, or Congalala’s attack where he literally throws shit at you. 😛 But I’ve never really been able to see the monsters in all their glory, because Capcom keep choosing the weakest possible console to release their games on! I’m pretty sure they did this so that they could keep re-using assets over and over again. Like, I swear, Rathalos uses exactly the same textures in Monster Hunter 4 as he does in the original Monster Hunter.

This has been my biggest gripe with the series all this time. Why can’t they just release it on a console that makes sense for once?! I JUST WANNA SEE PRETTY MONSTERS AND CONTROL THE CAMERA WITH MY RIGHT HAND!!! IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?! 😛

So… when they announced Monster Hunter: World for PS4 and Xbox One… I was both extremely irritated and very excited at the same time. Excited because the series had finally made it back to consoles that made sense… annoyed because they were stupid consoles that I didn’t want to buy for just one friggin’ game. But then they announced a PC version, and you can probably imagine how high I jumped for joy. 😛

And today? Finally… finally, Monster Hunter has made it to the console of the Master Race: the PC. 😀

Have I played it? No… not yet. 😛 I was planning to jump on it as soon as I got home, but I was so tired when I got in from work that I didn’t feel like it was a good idea. But hey, no worries. I’ve got all day to play it tomorrow, because I’ve booked tomorrow off. 😛 Hehe, that’s the first time I’ve booked a day off work to play a game. It’s also the first time I’ve pre-ordered a game in a very long time. So yeah… I’m a bit hyped for it, which doesn’t happen often with me, so it’s quite a special moment. 😀

Ahh, yeah! I got so into ranting and blabbing all that crap that I forgot the other half of the reason for this post. I made a little render to celebrate Monster Hunter: World’s PC release. 😀

This render was probably the reason why I felt so tired today. 😛 I stayed up way too late, trying to get the render to a point where I was happy to share something. I wasn’t sure if I’d have anything at all when I first started, but it ended up going surprisingly well!

Anyway, it’s still a work in progress, but here, check out this monster hunter:

Monster. Hunter. (WIP).jpg

He’s not a monster hunter, but he is a monster hunter. Because he’s a monster, and he’s a hunter, but not hunting monsters, he’s just hunting? And Monster Hunter was released today? Yeah?! Get it?! YA GET IT?! HEH 😛

Man, this one… seriously, I’m so happy with how this came out, even if it is unfinished. 😀 It’s probably the most mature-looking render I’ve made, but because of the underlying pun, it’s still got that hint of humour that I like to portray. 😀 It’s a bit unusual for me too, because it’s not very often I render a dragon standing on their hind legs like this. I prefer to put dragons in a more bestial or feral pose. Sure, the black dragon in Ghost Stories is on his hind legs, but he’s doing it for dramatic effect, whereas this dragon looks like he naturally walks on his hind legs. I should try this a bit more often, because I love how it came out! 🙂

Jesus, listen to this pleb trying to sound like an artist. 😛

Anyway, even though it’s just a work in progress, I hope it pleases your eyes! 😀 I’ll probably be back tomorrow to update this post with my thoughts about Monster Hunter: World after I’ve actually played it. 😛 And of course, I’ll be back with the final version of that render, too, along with some bigger versions that you can stick on your desktop! If you want. 😛

Right, I’m pretty hungry right now, so I’d better go cook some Well-Done Steak*. Cue the music!

(*i lie, i have no steak 😦 )

UPDATE!!
Monster Hunter: World follow-up

So, I’ve been playing Monster Hunter: World for 3 days now. Apparently there’ve been loads of complaints in the Steam reviews about not being able to play online or something. And that’s quite funny, because the first complaint I had with the game was that it doesn’t give you a “play offline” option. 😛 Sure, I’d like to play multiplayer, I’ve never really done it before and it’s probably even more fun. But I don’t want to risk going into a game and getting carried by someone with overpowered equipment. That’s not fun. Besides, I just can’t bring myself to play co-op with random people. Not sure why.

Anyway, whatever, who cares, because the game is glorious from the moment it starts. It has an introduction that wipes the floor with every other game in the series. Also, like Monster Hunter 4, there’s a story, thank fuck, because MH4’s story, regardless of how balls it was, was a huge driving force for me, and made the game more enjoyable. No, so far, World’s story isn’t much better. Come on, it’s a game about hitting giant monsters with sticks and bagpipes, there isn’t much you can do with that. 😛 However, World’s story is told much better. Because Capcom have added something that is so state-of-the-art it actually blew my mind. Voice acting. I mean WHOOOOAOAHAHHAHAAH voice acting in 2018?! NO, surely not! 😛 But yes, finally they bothered with voice acting so that you can hear the characters, rather than having to read them all the time. 😛 Of course, not everything has voice acting. Just cutscenes, tutorials, and other important bits of the game.

Oh, speaking of tutorials, World kicks the living arse out of every other game in the series on that front, too. The game doesn’t freeze solid and perform information overload on you now; it’s much friendlier than that. Like, in MH4, when doing weapons training, you were dumped in a room, forced to read a ton of text about your weapon and how it worked (which couldn’t be viewed again without exiting and restarting the training), before finally being given control so you could try remembering and doing everything the guy just said. In World, you get a brief voiced description about the weapon you choose, before being given a bunch of on-screen controls and useful combos to try. When you’re done with trying one weapon, you can pick a different weapon from the box and try that without having to reload the mission. It’s a shame you don’t get a live target to practice on, though, you just get some boxes and shit. 😛 I found it really useful in MH4, because it’s how I discovered just how overpowered the Insect Glaive was (on my first try with it, I took out a Great Jaggi in half the time it took me to take it down with a Long Sword, a less complex weapon that I already knew how to use).

Thankfully, as far as I’m aware, it isn’t overpowered in World. Hard to tell, though, because I haven’t done a proper test of all the weapons yet. The weapon set consists of the same 14 weapons from MH4, nothing new. Some weapons appear to have new moves or tweaked move sets, though.

As for the controls, well. When I finished my first proper hunt, I just sat there, staring at the game with a smug “I told you so” grin on my face. That was the first time in the whole history of Monster Hunter where I’ve been able to move the camera smoothly and freely, and it’s a ridiculously huge improvement. And there’s more, too, because they’ve added… a lock-on camera, called the Focus Camera. And this seems to be Capcom proving that the lock-on camera is a stupid idea, because it is. I tried to like it, but it just ended up annoying me, because I found it really hard to hit the part of the monster I was trying to aim for. But don’t worry, because they’ve also added the option to use the Target Camera from MH4, where you can press LB to make the camera face the monster. They also added an option so you can use these cameras on all monsters, not just Large Monsters, but laugh my arse off NO. Just no. 😛

Difficulty? Yep, there’s some difficulty here, but I don’t think it’s horrific. I reckon the perceived difficulty is totally dependent on experience, both with Monster Hunter and with games in general, but personally, I’d say it starts off fairly mild and slowly gets harder. Overall it’s challenging, sometimes difficult. I haven’t fainted yet, but I’ve had some close calls. That just makes things exciting, though! 😛 Fainting isn’t really a huge deal in World, anyway. Since gathering is so much faster and easier, and since they added a feature where you can set certain items to auto-craft, it’s easy to restock critical items like Mega Potions, so you don’t really need to worry about wasting money on them. Also, unlike previous games, you have all the information you could ever reasonably need about monsters in the game itself, like weak points, elemental weaknesses, drops, and even vague drop rates. And the Palico (a Felyne sidekick who helps you in battle) is very helpful this time around. Right off the bat, he has a skill which can restore a sizeable chunk of your health, and he uses it intelligently. This has genuinely saved my ass at least twice, so he’s probably a gigantic help for new players. But if you do struggle, again, unlike previous games on the dumb consoles, co-op is actually a feasible option this time around. 😛

What else… oh, yeah, graphics. Well, uh… when I first saw my Palico in a cutscene I was like “OMG :3”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h25m21s940.png

Then when I encountered my first Jagras I was like “SO PRETTY :O”:

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Then when Anjanath first officially said “hello” I was like “SO AWESOME :O”:

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Then when I got to see the legendary Rathalos finally in high-resolution glory before he proceeded to kick the shit out of an Anjanath he didn’t like, I was like “SO EPIC :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h16m53s315.png

Then when he kicked most of the shit out of me afterwards I was like “💩, uncool bro, that nearly killed me, but I forgive you because OMG YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h18m01s558.png

The graphics you see there are “max graphics where it matters”. 😛 By that, I mean I’m using the top LOD models, no resolution scaling and full texture quality, but everything else is knocked down to compensate. Because realistically, I can’t run this at truly max graphics. Not sure why people are going “WAAAAH IT NEEDS SO MUCH CPU POWER” because it just… doesn’t. It uses less than half of what Forza Horizon 3 does, and I know that game canes a recent-generation i5, because a friend of mine played it and always complained about the CPU usage (rightfully so). GPU power, though, well, ha haaaa… you’re gonna need that. And you’ll need to get that power from just one GPU, because World joins the ever-increasing (and annoying) list of games that don’t support SLI. -.- I run two GTX 970s (so, just one), and with my settings, I get about 40-45FPS average at 2K (2560×1440). I’m not locked by GPU memory. Here’re my settings, along with NVIDIA’s hilarously stupid “optimal” settings:

NVIDIA GeForce Experience_2018-08-13_20-34-34.png

I’ve since turned off anti-aliasing since Temporal Anti-Aliasing costs 4 FPS for something I probably won’t notice. But the gains for dropping any of the other settings are so low that there’s no point. I mean, subsurface scattering sounds pretty expensive, but it actually only costs me 2 FPS and really makes a difference in some situations (see Rathalos encounter above). And lmfao, that “optimal” texture quality of 256. Dropping from Full to 256 has no effect on FPS, you fucks! I’m bored of Monster Hunter’s traditional PS2-quality textures! I wanna admire Rathian’s pretty face for once in my life!

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It’s in the eye of the beholder, okay?! 😛

So yeah, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous if you have a good GPU, and if you have a modern 1000-series NVIDIA GPU or AMD equivalent, I’d be surprised if you didn’t hit 60 FPS at 2K. Maybe a 1070 is enough, or maybe even a 1060 if you run at 1080p. This is just me guessing, though. 😛 I’m planning on upgrading to a 1080 or 1080Ti soonish, both for rendering and for gaming. I’d get one sooner, but I’m holding out for the 1100 series. Sure would be nice if they’d just tell us roughly when it’s coming out… -.-

Complaints? Well, yes, I have a few. The first and most irritating thing about the game so far? Scoutflies. These green things:

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MY FUCKING EYES.

They’re supposed to act as the game’s GPS, because the maps are now so large and so complicated that I find it ridiculously hard to figure out how to get to places. But they also highlight things for you, like gathering points. All of this, especially early on, is just… total information overload. 😛 But even after you get used to it, they’re so bright and so distracting that I actually feel relieved when I find a Large Monster that wants to kill me, just because the flies go away when that happens. 😛 There have been so many times where I’ve thought “right, yeah, I know where the monster is, no I don’t want to look at any more footprints because I know where it is and I’ve maxed out the tracking level, no I don’t want any blue mushrooms, I just want to make my way to the monster with no guidance or distractions now, please go away…” but no, green particles everywhere, and no, you can’t turn them off. And then, when you do want guidance, they’re not only blinding, but they’re also sluggish, often very unclear, and in situations when you’re carrying an egg and have access to the Scoutflies because nothing’s trying to kill you, the route they choose is usually impossible, trying to taking you through small gaps and other areas that you can’t access while carrying an egg. In fact, the idiot Scoutflies and the sheer complexity of the maps is why I simply can’t be fucked with the mission where you need to deliver two Wyvern Eggs.

Those missions are my second complaint, actually, the egg carrying missions. Were they even tested? They’re absolute balls. There’s no way you can do them solo without being a cheap little bitch. Delivering two Herbivore Eggs was difficult enough, because the nests are right next to where the herbivores endlessly spawn no matter how many you kill, and they’re faster than you, and there ends up being about six of them before you eventually get headbutted by one of them and drop the egg. At one point after dropping said egg, they surrounded me and pretty much gang raped me, which was somehow both hilarious and insanely annoying. So how did I finish it? I used the Ghillie Mantle, an item which effectively makes me invisible. As I said, “cheap little bitch”. 😛 And that one I mentioned earlier where you have to deliver two Wyvern Eggs? Fuck that shit. The moment you pick up an egg from the nest where she never is, Rathian senses a disturbance in the Force and immediately heads for your exact location, even if you’re wearing the Ghillie Mantle. Of course, she can’t actually see you, so she doesn’t chase you, but this doesn’t stop her from following you at a distance, waiting for the moment when the Ghillie Mantle wears off. It’s just so mind-numbingly broken. Because the route is so complicated and the distance you have to travel to secure the egg is so long, longer than the Ghillie Mantle can ever last, the only way I can imagine doing it, even in co-op, is by being a cheap little bitch and killing Rathian before trying to transport the eggs. And I don’t know about you, but that seems slightly outside the scope of the quest. 😛 And hell, even if you did do that, you’d still have to figure out how to get back to a camp without using the Scoutflies, because they’re dumb and try to take you through inaccessible areas. 😛

And my third complaint… audio. It’s a pretty minor one, but for me, the game is oddly quiet. The audio settings are all at max volume, but even with my headphones at full blast, the game’s still a bit quiet. I got around this problem by routing the game’s audio through a virtual audio cable and amplifying it before routing it back to my headset, but this is a faff, it kind of affects the audio quality and adds a bit of latency, which isn’t cool. Hopefully it’ll be fixed in a patch or something.

And that’s it. Scoutflies, egg missions and quiet audio are the only problems I’ve found. Not sure what all this screaming about broken servers is, because it works for me…? 😛 I’ve not actually played with others, sure, but I can connect to online sessions just fine, and I’ve collected my daily shit with no problem. Maybe the problem is when you’re in an actual hunt? Whatever, doesn’t really affect me, no-one I know will ever get this anyway. It’s probably a bit difficult for them, and they wouldn’t have any time for it. 😛 I’ll play online eventually, when I’m ready. Just don’t want to rush through the game or get carried by someone overpowered, that’s all. 😛 Uhhh, nope. Someone I know was interested in getting it but was put off by the alleged server issues, so I tried responding to an SOS flare and testing some multiplayer. Didn’t have a single problem. The only thing I noticed was that holy hell, the session filled up fast! The SOS flare was sent by a solo player who hadn’t had a response when I tried to join, and by the time I made it into the game about 30 seconds later, I was the last player to set off from the camp.

UPDATE 6!!: Since then, much to my surprise, my friend actually ended up getting the game, and we’ve played some co-op. And now I can say with confidence: I have literally no idea why people are complaining about the online play being broken. However, I can understand complaints about the online system, because it it were any more obtuse it’d be a straight line. Angles? Obtuse? No? 😛 Anyway, the online system is insane. You have sessions which can consist of 16 players, and within these sessions you can have hunts which consist of up to 4 players. This is all totally understandable and quite cool so far, but when it comes to making a session for just you and your mates, things get shit very quickly.

First off, the game doesn’t prevent you from trying to join the sessions of people who are in an offline session. If you try, the game just sits there for a while before saying it failed to connect. So, my friend tried creating a private online session, and sent me an invite through the Steam overlay. That didn’t work either. Some amount of time after that, I noticed that the in-game invite option was greyed out, so I tried making a normal, non-private session. That made the invite option light up, and my friend was able to join the session. After this, I changed the session options so that it was private, and that worked; no-one random joined after that. Basically, you can’t join private sessions even if you’re invited; you have to make a non-private session, do your invites, then make the session private, or use passcodes on the quests you post.

But that’s not all, because Monster Hunter: World has laughably bad multiplayer story support. When you post a quest that contains cutscenes, you have to start it single-player. After all the cutscenes have played, the quest opens to other players. So this means… if a group of friends want to play a story quest together, they all have to start the quest individually, get to the point where the SOS flare can be fired, return to HQ, and then one player has to post the quest again and have the others join it. That’s just retarded. 😛 Oh, and you know I said that the quest opens up to other players after all the cutscenes have played? Yes, but every attempt I made to join those quests ended up failing immediately. That’s probably a bug. 😛

And Expeditions? One does not simply join an Expedition. No, you can’t just join a friend’s Expedition, which is a ridiculously stupid oversight, because it’s not like multiplayer Expeditions aren’t supported. There’re only two ways that it can be done. The first way is for everyone to join a quest and complete it, and during the end-game timer, leave the option as “return to camp”. This puts you in an Expedition in that area. That’s a faff because you have to complete a quest, so the other option is to enter an Expedition alone, fire an SOS flare and have the others join you through the SOS menu. You can cancel the flare when everyone’s joined. This is much less of a faff but it opens up the Expedition to EVERYONE, so there’s a chance of someone random joining, which is annoying.

I highly doubt Capcom’s gonna address any of this. It’s probably been like this on consoles up until now, so the chances of them fixing the issues now is probably next to zero. But in summary, yes, multiplayer works, flawlessly, and as far as I can tell, everyone who is crying about broken servers is just talking crap. However, the multiplayer system is ridiculously obtuse, confusing as hell and has awful story support.  UPDATE 7!!: Gotta take back that “flawlessly” statement, because we’ve since had a couple of annoying connection issues. Sometimes, one of us has randomly lost connection to the session, and that puts the session in a weird state where the player who dropped can’t re-join. This has only happened at the very beginning or end of a hunt, though, not midway through. There’s been one instance where a posted quest just stopped appearing on the board, too. But as I said, annoying issues. Not crippling. I wouldn’t say the servers are broken, they just have a few teething problems.

Waiting for Monster Hunter to finally land on the PC was worth the wait, though. I’m not disappointed. It’s the best game I’ve played in a long time, and I can see myself continuing to play it for a long time to come. 😀 It wasn’t long ago that I loathed the series, so this is quite the epic turnaround they’ve managed!

Now, let’s move onto the subject of “Monster. Hunter.”. The celebratory render. Guh, this is gonna get confusing, isn’t it? 😛

Monster. Hunter. render follow-up

I was really surprised with the first draft of the render. It took about five hours to put together. But after that, when the environment was in and needed to stay active because it was making a critical contribution to the final lighting… the PAIN BEGAN.

DAZ Studio can’t handle scenes like this when using Iray. It babs itself when things get even remotely complicated, sometimes taking minutes to recalculate, making it impossible to tweak the scene while the interactive Iray render is running, therefore making it extremely difficult to tweak things such as materials. In fact, not long after I produced the draft render, this scene became so heavy that it wouldn’t fit in GPU memory, so only the CPU could render it. This isn’t a realistic option. In fact, I’m not sure why DAZ offers the option. Because it’s a stupid thing to do. From experience, I think it’s about 20x slower than GPU rendering. Ain’t got that kind of time, brah.

And with this render, ohh, I’ve never seen DAZ Studio bab itself quite as much. The first problem was when the scene became too heavy for the GPU. I really wasn’t happy with the grass density, or the quality of the ground texture, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and added a lot more higher-quality grass. This pushed the scene over the edge and became too complex to fit in GPU memory… not to mention that it was getting very difficult to do anything with the interactive render running.

To cut down on memory usage, I used a tool which can reduce the size of texture maps of objects you select. After halving the size of everything in the background, the scene was able to fit in GPU memory again, which was great. Wasn’t any faster at rendering, though, and this was a problem, because I needed to tweak the lighting. After this, it just descended into a whirlpool of fuckshit which connected directly to Satan’s testes. Yes, it was that bad.

First, it started leaking memory, so I couldn’t do more than one Iray render without restarting DS. Then, for no reason at all, it began to crash after turning on the interactive renderer, if not before rendering the first time, then always before rendering the second time. And then, it began to do this really weird shit when rendering, where the top half of the render would begin after the bottom half, making the top half look darker. I imagine that was some insanity with double-GPU rendering, but who cares, it was annoying. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, bang, it stops rendering with the GPUs. Had to reduce texture quality again just to get it to stop whining. Oh, and then, I discovered a problem where the Dragon 3’s left eye would render black, even though both of his eyes are one material and the right eye rendered just fine!

Monster. Hunter. 3 (Head Fail).jpg

I eventually discovered that this was caused because of a render setting that I’d changed, “Instancing Optimization” under the “Optimization” category. I changed it from Speed to Memory, because of the multitude of aforementioned memory issues I’d been having. But why the hell. His eyes aren’t instanced objects! The only instanced objects in the scene are the grass objects! Why would this option break the eyes?! And what does it even mean?! It’s not fucking documented! Look, this is the documentation of the whole Optimization category! (Backup screenshot here in the hilariously unlikely event that they update it.) OOOH SO USEFUL!!

And then, when I finally manage to get DAZ Studio to start a goddamn render, BAM, I was bitten once again by the IDIOT default settings of a two-hour maximum render time. Just as a final “fuck you”.

Haaah… so yeah… I wasn’t particularly calm. 😛 I even resorted to singing out my anger over a track from Disgaea 5 after it started playing as part of my “every piece of music on the PC” shuffle playlist. It helped a tiny bit. 😛

To be honest, though… the pain was worth it. Because look at THIS:

Monster. Hunter. (Character Focused)
(Available in these flavours: 2560×3072 “Character Focused” Version, 1080p, 2K, 4K)

MORE PLANTS! MORE GRASS! MORE FORESTY! 😀

Yes, it’s still a work in progress. UPDATE 2!!: I replaced the WIP version with the final version. I increased the texture resolution on the tree and added something that went missing in the last WIP render. 🙂

I… don’t really know what else to say. I mean, I’ve really surprised myself with this one. It was only gonna be a quick celebratory render, so I never imagined it would turn out as good as it has! 😀

Oh, wait, of course, I do know what to say: RENDER STAAATS! 😀 And oh, it’s a biggie. My longest render ever. That render, at 2560×3072, quality level 2 and 94.5% convergence (because I needed to kick off the desktop renders before going to bed and couldn’t wait another hour for the last 0.5% convergence 😛 ) took 20 hours 57 minutes 45.31 seconds. BOOM, R-R-R-R-RECORD BREAKER! Holy CRAP that’s a long time. But there’s a reason. The scene, despite all my efforts, flat out would not fit in my primary GPU’s memory, because DAZ Studio needs 2 GB just to show it in the viewport, the render needs about 3GB extra, and my GPUs only have 4GB of memory each. So I had to render it with the secondary GPU only, because that didn’t have anything in memory.

UPDATE 3!!

Heyyy, as you might have seen from the updated links under the image, I’ve added some desktop versions, the traditional 4K, 2K and 1080p trio. The 4K version took 11 hours 46 minutes 29.91 seconds to render… which is odd, since it’s about 400k pixels larger than the character focused render. There’s one very good (and equally confusing) reason for this, though: I was able to use both GPUs to render it. Not sure how… because again, larger image. They require more memory to render, right? 😛 It was basically a miracle, because the scene was 49MB off not fitting in GPU1’s memory. Look!

MSIAfterburner_2018-08-15_09-27-01.png

4047MB peak usage! The GPU only has 4096MB of memory! I didn’t even want to sneeze on the computer just in case it went over the edge. 😛

Anyhoo… normally I render all three resolutions individually, but this time I just rendered the 4K version and scaled it down. The main reason is because of Iray’s irritating grainy renders. Basically, any areas of the image that are even slightly dark, reflective or translucent turn out grainy, regardless of the convergence ratio or render quality settings. To counteract this, I apply blur manually to especially bad areas by converting the image to a Smart Object, applying a Gaussian blur as a Smart Filter, and airbrushing the mask white wherever I want to reduce the grain. This helps with the 4K image, but then I have to repeat the blurring process twice more with the 2K and 1080p images, and that’s really boring. 😛 So instead, I apply the blur to the 4K image, then downscale it. This not only saves time, but it reduces the grain massively at lower resolutions, and actually looks better than if I’d just rendered it at those resolutions.

And since we’re on the subject of postwork, I’ll mention what else I did in that area. 🙂 Apart from the signature and the blurring, I also added a vignette and a slight levels tweak to the desktop versions. But that’s all. 🙂

That’s all from me for now, but I hope you like the pic! Laterz. 🙂

UPDATE 4!!
(obsolete, see update 5)

I don’t believe it. After posting the final version here, after creating those desktop versions, after posting it to DeviantArt, after posting a follow-up comment on my Bookface post with the “finished” version and a link here for the desktop versions… I’ve noticed a huge mistake in the pose.

He’s NOT DRAWING THE ARROW CORRECTLY, oh my GOD I’m such a MORON!

Just… yeah. Just look carefully, and you won’t un-see it. The bow string is tensing against… what, exactly? It’s supposed to tense against the back of the arrow, you absolute dumbfuck MongMaster, what are you smoking?! This was my number one focus when posing. I looked at a lot of pictures of people drawing bows, and spent a lot of time making sure it looked just right, because I’ve only ever drawn a bow once before and was afraid of getting the pose wrong. And now look. I got it wrong. For fuck’s sake.

Not happy at all. I’ll fix it, but it’ll take a couple of days. -.-

UPDATE 5!!

Okay, I’ve replaced the renders with a new version where the dragon is drawing the arrow correctly, and all is good again. 😛 But hey, even though I had to spend another evening rendering both versions of this picture again, I found another silver lining! I learned another DAZ Studio dumbfuckery! 😛

As I said before, the character-focused version of the render wouldn’t fit in my primary GPU’s memory, so I couldn’t render it with both of my GPUs; I had to use my secondary GPU by itself. The knock-on of this was that it basically doubled the render time to nearly 21 hours. When it came to rendering the scene this time, I was wondering if there was any way to squeeze the scene size down just enough so it could fit in GPU memory without any major quality sacrifices. I tried some dumb things like closing DAZ Studio viewports and panels to try and save memory. Of course, this did nothing, so as a last-ditch, blue-sky thinking, really-clutching-at-straws-here attempt, I tried shrinking the DAZ Studio window down so that it was really small. Lo and behold, doing this actually freed up 100MB of GPU memory. Absolute top lel. Maximum lel. Lel overload. 😛 If you don’t believe me, here’s a demonstration.

That 100MB saving was enough to do the character-focused render with both GPUs. This saved about 11 hours, which means I can actually play Monster Hunter again tonight instead of using my PC to re-render this scene constantly, yay! 😛

Ghosts in the sky…

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

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

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

So without further ado, here is a Halloween render!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 3!!
MAN, I wish I’d spend more time looking into stuff that inspires me.

Nearly half a year after this render, I learned after literally two minutes of research that Aaveratsastajat is effectively a translation. It’s probably not a direct translation, but Aaveratsastajat is the Finnish version of a seemingly ridiculously well-known country and western song from 1948 called “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend”. “Aaveet taivahan” is where “Ghost riders in the sky” appears in the original song, so I assume that’s what it’s supposed to mean. Or maybe the Finnish swapped it for ghosts?

Well, whether it’s ghost riders or just ghosts, BOOM! The post title turned out to be at least mostly accurate, despite the fact I don’t understand a word of Finnish. 😀