Another age of looooooove!

ROUGH
BAD ON THE CASE
I WANNA HIT YOUR FACE*
(*I don’t actually want to hit your face, but H.P. Sauce Baxxter does 😛 )

Lmao, such stupid lyrics. 😆

Anyway, hello again! It’s Valentine’s Day today! Yaaaaaay, meal deals! 😛 I don’t really care about it myself, but I guess it’s nice for people who like it. For whatever reason. Maybe people forget that they have a partner and need this day as a reminder that they should do nice things with them? Shrug. Meal deals. 😛

Even though I don’t actually care about Valentine’s Day, you may remember that a couple of years ago, I created a Valentine’s themed render, Amai, and a short story to go with it. It featured a couple of characters from my never-ever-going-to-be-finished novel, Dragon Tail. I really enjoyed doing both parts of it. The render was fairly simple, but it was fun to make and I just loved how it turned out. Writing the short story was also a lot of fun, and it really helped me flesh out Whirlwind and Emerald’s relationship and gave me an excuse to dig a bit deeper into the world’s lore.

Because I enjoyed it so much, I was thinking of doing the same thing again at some point in the future with something else. But recently… well okay, not recently, it was probably like 8-9 months ago now, but anyway, I wondered… do the render and the story have to be separate? Surely there was some way of combining them. And of course, there are at least two ways of doing that. The first way is through animation, but hahahahahaha no! 😛 Not a chance, not in DAZ Studio. Especially if they think that the 4.14 update included “an advanced Animation Timeline that’s more powerful than ever before”. It’s not hard to be more powerful than a turd. 😛 If I can find a good place to rant, I might talk about the 4.14 update further down, but for now, stay on target, Mongz! 😛 Anyway, yes, no, no animation from me, I don’t have a clue where to start, I don’t have the patience for it, and DAZ Studio sucks at animation. But the second way? Well, I could tell the story through a sequence of still renders. And how best to do that? A comic, of course!

You might be able to tell where this is going now. 😄

I have very limited experience with comics. Comics are cool, sure, but I’ve never really been interested in them, content-wise, probably because 99% of them are superhero comics and I generally don’t like superheroes. The only comics I ever owned were Simpsons comics. Shut up, my mum bought them for me and I liked them and I still have them and shut up. 😅 So, as I don’t really read comics, of course I have zero experience with writing them! I’ve never made a… ahhhhhh no wait, I lieeee! I have made comics before! Holy crap I still have them!! 😆 My DIABLO II COMICS BABY YEEEEAAAHHH!

I almost completely forgot about them. 😆 Yes, back when playing Diablo II, still one of my most favourite games of all time and definitely still my most favourite action-RPG (the only thing that comes close is Path of Exile, it has excellent game mechanics, but it plays too slowly for my taste and its story is almost embarrassingly bad 😛 After finally playing it for long enough to reach endgame, I take it back; Path of Exile is actually a pile of shite, a luck-based wheel spinning game that demands a lifetime’s worth of grinding just to get one decent piece of equipment, and there’s absolutely no game balance at all, and it contains literally the worst endgame boss I’ve ever played in my life, feels like whoever designed it has never played a game before), I’d take screenshots mid-game and add dialogue in Paint afterwards. 😀 Most of them were a single panel and didn’t connect with any other panels, so I’m not sure if you could actually classify them as comics. 😛 I did make a few sequences, though. After creating and sharing my first set, the person I was playing with also started making some, too. I think his were generally better, but the grammar was a bit, uh… painful. 😛 The majority of mine are “meh”, but there are some that I was really happy with. I’m most proud of these two, especially the second:

Ahh, good times. 😀 Although I do wish we could’ve gotten to Hell difficulty. We never made it there for various reasons. 😦 I really need to play it again at some point for old times’ sake and fully complete it. Although there’s no way anyone will join me, and it’s not quite as fun solo. But, having said that, I’ve recently heard of a relatively new mod called Project Diablo II which I definitely need to check out. It looks surprisingly popular, and it seems to add in some of the less crappy elements from Path of Exile, such as endgame maps, which sounds good. But it sounds like they added luck-based item corruption crap, which is crappy. Really crappy. “Want to improve your gear? Gonna have to use this super-risky item! OHHHH too bad RNG not on your side and now your Super Mega Sword of Epicness +98 is a Super Shit Sword of Poo -69 lol go out and grind some more.” And periodic server resets, too; I just don’t understand that. It’s like they don’t realise that some people would like to reach endgame, but can’t make it there before the server is reset, because they have a job. 😛 It might be too vanilla for me, as well. I last played Diablo II with the Eastern Sun mod, which had some great features like gem/rune stockers, an infinite stash, way better item gambling which actually makes gold a useful resource, and crazy bonus dungeons with massively better loot drops, so I’m not sure if I could play Diablo II without that now. 😅

ARGH DAMN IT STAY ON TARGET MONGZ! 😛 Right, back to the present, and the actual subject. 😆 I’ve been thinking about making some kind of comic for a long while now. Using the Dragon 3, of course. 😛 I didn’t plan on doing anything massive, initially, just a four-panel comic or something. I could never think of an idea for what to do, though, so it kept getting kicked down the road a little bit every time I thought about it. Probably didn’t help that I never actively tried brainstorming any ideas, but y’know, whatever. 😛 But then, a little while after uploading Roar, Blue Dragon! to my DeviantArt page, I logged in to check on how it was doing, on the off chance that someone had, y’know, looked at it. 😛 I wasn’t particularly confident of that, and thought that it would be the last time I logged in, because I really don’t feel like I belong there. It’s like… actually no, I was going to post a dumb, extensive analogy but it turned into a rant and I’ve gone off-topic once already. I’ll put it at the end of the post. Basically, DeviantArt is shit in various ways and I don’t like it. 😛

Anyway, so, I logged into DeviantShart, and amazingly, I had a new watcher! Wow! First new watcher since I opened the account about… I dunno, 5 years ago? 😛 They’d also left a message, saying I should do a dragon series… or something along those lines. Ha! Yep, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. 😆 That message, though… I’m pretty sure it accelerated my thinking. Because not too long after that, around early August, I had a spark of an idea. I was actively thinking about what comic I could make, and thought maybe I could use some kind of celebratory day as both a theme and a target date. Something far enough away to give me a chance to create it, but not too far away, because I would procrastinate. 😛 Conversely, it couldn’t be too close, because I’d never done anything like this before and missing the date would mean I’d have to wait a year for it to become relevant again. And while looking through my calendar, it hit me. The idea, not the calendar. 😛

“Valentine’s Day!” I screamed. “Amai! FRANAIE’DIANAS! FOLLOW-UP!! SEQUEL!!! DAYTONAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I didn’t actually scream that, I’m exaggerating as usual, but anyway, yes, Valentine’s Day! Meal Deal Day! Today! Unless it’s not! 😀 I thought it was a perfect thing to base the comic on. I had characters who were in a relationship (Whirlwind and Emerald), and a world (Guira) that I could use, and as a bonus, it was a great way for me to flesh all of that out. Worldbuilding is fun! 😀 Valentine’s Day was also far enough away for me to have a chance of making the date, but not too far away that I’d just go “ahhhh, I’ve got loads of time left let’s play 900 hours of Diablo II”, followed by “crap where’d all that time go”. 😛

So, I made a start on it then, in early August 2020, sacrificing most of my spare time. And now, finally, after half a year of frequent and increasingly painful interaction with DAZ Studio… IT’S ACTUALLY FINIIIIIIIIIISHED!!!! Read it! READ IT READ IT READ IT OH MY GOD PLEAAAAAAAAAAASE READ IT! 😆

Please. Please read it. 🙏 It took me 372 solid hours and required 408 hours of rendering please read it. 😆 I also really want to know what you think! Is there anything you particularly like, or think that I could improve? Any constructive feedback is welcome! It’s my first comic, so there’s definitely room for improvement.

Aaand now I have to talk about it. Sheesh, since it was a huge undertaking that took far longer that I expected and required much more work than I anticipated, I’m struggling to think of where to start. This might end up being pretty long, so if you don’t care that much, you can skip straight to the super-excellent render stats and timelapse using this handy TL;DR link:

Too Long; Didn’t Read!

Okay… I will probably end up yammering and going in random directions with this explanation, but let’s start with the concept, I guess? 😅 Well, if it wasn’t obvious from the title of the thing, it’s a follow-up to the original Amai, the short story, specifically. Amai (Guiran Draconic for “love”) was about Whirlwind and Emerald’s first Franaie’dianas together, which, as mentioned in the comic please read it, is like the Guiran dragons’ equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Apart from that it’s not commercialised (that’s not a thing among Guiran dragons, there are no “meal deals” 😛 ) and is inclusive of everyone, not just those already in a partnership/matehood. As I probably already mentioned, I really enjoyed writing the original Amai, and – this might sound a bit big-headed, sorry – I love those two dragons. I think they make such a great pair! 😀 After thinking of Valentine’s Day as a potential theme and target date, it made perfect sense to get those two together again for a follow-up, set on their second Franaie’dianas together. 🙂

The original Amai was a lot of fun to write, and it was a really nice change, too. Y’see, Dragon Tail, the story Whirlwind and Emerald originate from, is actually a fairly dark story, so it was great to be able to write a slightly more light-hearted scene in that world. 😀 I definitely wanted to double down on that for Reaffirmed, so I made sure to kick things off on a lighter note, and tried to keep it fun and light-hearted wherever possible. Kinda maybe like a rom-com, or something. Not like I watch rom-coms, (or films in general, lel) so I have no idea if it’s similar. 😛 Soon after I’d committed to finishing the project, though, about four or five pages in, I couldn’t help but feel worried about making a comic out of this kind of story. It’s a weird one: there’s no villain, no conflict, or anything negative like that. It was more of a… “worldbuilding story”. A story that showed a peaceful moment in these two dragons’ lives, while exploring a small part of the huge world they live in. So, because of that, I felt that it might end up being ultra boring. I did my best to avert that by sharing bits of lore that I hoped were interesting, and trying to make it nice, fun, and wholesome, but I simply had to accept that most people might find it boring because no-one gets stabbed. Which is slightly creepy when you think about it. 😛

As I’d never done a comic before (well, not one of this size, anyway 😆), writing the script was a bit difficult. I only ended up writing about half of it to begin with, finishing the rest as I went along. The whole story was in my mind from the beginning, but I didn’t want to write it all out just in case I made a mistake and wrote the dialogue in a way that wouldn’t work in comic format. And as expected, this happened a few times in the early stages. 😛 I had to simplify the dialogue so it would fit a couple of times, and there was one time I was forced to split a page in two to prevent it from ending in a weird spot. I always aimed to end each page at a point where I hoped the reader was looking forward to the next. Kinda like little cliff-hangers. 😀 While it was difficult, it was still great fun to write, and it really helped me to develop and solidify the kind of relationship Whirlwind and Emerald have. (Emerald’s normally very dignified and gentle, but she becomes a little friskier and more playful when she’s alone with Whirlwind, and this behaviour quickly ends up spreading to him, too. 😀 ) Also, it was great to glimpse into Whirlwind’s past, as I haven’t really fleshed that out very much (Whirlwind is, how do I put this… “conditionally amnesiac”. If I say any more then I’ll spoil my will-never-be-finished novel 😛 ). Info about specific locations are really sparse in Guira’s lore, too, so creating the Transient Lake was really awesome. And it helped refine and bolster Guiran Draconic, too! I loved being able to throw Draconic dialogue into the comic here and there, when the time felt right. Hell, it even drove me to pull my finger out of my ass and finally write Draconic Script for the first time, used for the engraving on Emerald’s bracelet! 😀 (That’s a SPOILER but you’ve already read it, right? Please read it, it took 372 hours 😆)

“Ka mis akalaniramai, Virana.”

To explain that last bit… well, normally I write Draconic using the Latin alphabet. Y’know, the Latin alphabet, as you can see in this entire blog post. Apart from the emoji. 😛 When Draconic is written in that way, I call it “Romonic”. I know, “lololololol”. It’s a perfect anagram of “moronic”, and I absolutely love it because of that, but would never use the word canonically. 😛 It’s similar in concept to Romaji: Japanese words written using the Latin alphabet. Basically, Draconic Script to Romonic is like kanji (and hiragana/katakana) is to Romaji. It just makes it easier/possible for us Westerners to read. Yeehaw. 😛 I probably explained that badly, but hey, whatever. Explaining it is varok saknankra. Or chou muzukashii. 😛

As for the actual posing and rendering, well, my feelings about that are… mixed, really. 😅 At times, it was fun. Poses would fall into place really naturally, and I made great progress very quickly. Sometimes surprisingly quickly; I remember knocking out about half of Page 21 in less than 3 hours. However, other times, it was turbo-frustrating. I’d struggle to get the dragons posed in the way I wanted to, or I’d finish a pose and then realise that it wasn’t quite right, requiring me to move the entire model and re-pose all four limbs. Sometimes setting up the lighting and camera angle would end up being a massive pain. Then after finally getting it right, I’d realise that single panel took me about 5 hours and I had 3 more panels left to finish, which realllly didn’t help my motivation. 😛

In an attempt to maintain a steady pace and to prevent my motivation from dropping to zero, I did a couple of things. First off, I set up a mini website for a small number of people, namely family and one person from work who has given great feedback on some of my past renders (Dino Disco being one of them, which I was able to improve quite a lot). I also set up a mailing list for them using Mailchimp, which gave me an audience. Sure, it was a tiny audience of five people, but they were active, seemingly interested (they must’ve been; it’s not like I forced them to sign up, and they always had the option of unsubscribing 😛 ), and knowing that they were there and looking forward to the next page basically prevented my motivation from bottoming out. Secondly, I created a project plan, initially using some website called Team Gantt or something, but I found that to be a bit shit (and their terms basically said that they could do anything they wanted with everything you submitted, lol), so I used ToDoList instead. I’ve had that program installed for quite a while, and used it to store ideas for ULSG V14, but never really actively used it. I learned that it had a built-in Gantt chart, though, and it ended up being a massive help for planning and keeping myself on track, especially in the final stages when I knew what kind of pace I could keep. I’d’ve probably never been able to finish on time without it. 😀

Yay planning, so exciting

As a side-note, making the mini site was an interesting exercise. I’ve never really done much related to web development before, and after scratching the surface, I’ve determined that it’s hell on Earth and I hate it. 😛 Despite that, I think I made a nice little website. I based it off a simple template and heavily modified it, successfully adding a pretty neat gallery called PhotoSwipe, and even managed to add a private livestream with a live viewer count. It was completely private; I streamed using OBS from my main machine to my server box without going through any external provider like Twitch or Facebook or whatever. The live viewer count was implemented using PubNub, which was free for me to use because I didn’t fire many events. Of course, I barely used the thing, and no-one was watching when I did, but whatever! Experimenting is fun and educational! Now I know never to get a job in web development! 😛

Not (entirely) my code, I don’t even remember what this was for any more 😛

Even with the audience and the project planning, it took a lot of willpower to get this thing done. There were a couple of times where I took excessively long breaks, about a month in total, which was really bad. If that had been a week or so longer, I’d’ve blown it, because I finished the final page just three days before the deadline. 😨 I’m not exactly sure why I took such long breaks. One happened just after I returned home after some birthday celebrations, so that might partially explain it. But I’m betting it was just because the constant exposure to DAZ Studio was making me lose what little was left of my sanity and I desperately needed a break from it. 😛

Because this was the longest project I’ve ever undertaken in DAZ Studio, of course, there was no shortage to the number of times DS attempted to shit all over me, the project, all of its users, and basically everyone and everything in the world! And I’m actually not exaggerating quite as much as I normally do, there. 😛 I experienced a massive variety of problems. Some were common things that I’ve endured before, such as GPU memory leaks, Iray suddenly not working properly for no obvious reason, a disappearing mouse cursor, and DS randomly thinking I want to select multiple objects in the Scene tab despite not even touching the keyboard. However, there were some brand new ones, including insanely low viewport performance for no good reason (related to object count rather than poly count, wtf), massive delays when deleting objects (super wtf), decals casting shadows in certain situations that made no sense, very random and very sudden crashes, and worst of all, something I can’t easily explain which made me believe there was a crippling, fundamental flaw with the program. I’ll try and explain the last one, because when I discovered it, I had a very unpleasant feeling that it was going to wreck the project at some point.

I think it took about 45 minutes. 🤨

Oh, but before I explain, one good thing about this bug was that it made me move all my scenes into OneDrive so they were backed up. It was pretty cool, because I was able to keep my scenes folder in the DAZ Studio content library even though it was nowhere near my OneDrive folder. I did this using a symlink, or more accurately known as a “directory junction” in Windows. Since doing that, I’ve kinda gone a bit symlink crazy, moving a bunch of stuff that really should have been in OneDrive in the first place and symlinking to it from the original location so it feels no different than normal. It’s great! 😀 Of course, you don’t need to use OneDrive. That technique will work with any similar cloud storage provider (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).

Anyway, the attempted explanation of the DAZ Studio insanity. 😛 So… it was Page 8, Panel 2 when it first happened. I needed to create the “young” version of Whirlwind, so I loaded the scene containing the adult version of him, duplicated him, and made my modifications there. When I was done, I deleted the adult version, zeroed the young version, and saved it as a separate scene and a scene subset. I went back to the original scene, and loaded the scene subset. When done, it took me a moment to realise that the young version of Whirlwind wasn’t in his zero pose. It had imported him in the pose and position that the adult version of Whirlwind was in… in the previous panel. If that makes no sense, I know, it doesn’t. 😛 I thought I’d eaten something weird. So I tried again, and yep, same thing happened. It was absolutely bat-shit insane, and I genuinely don’t know why it happened, or how it was possible. After realising this, I soon discovered that a massive number of the trees I’d spent 400,000 years positioning manually had moved to positions they used to be in about 2-3 pages ago. Some of them were originally placed quite roughly because they were off-camera, and when they eventually had to be rendered, I moved them to more accurate positions and added additional ones. But then some of them randomly moved to their existing positions, silently and for no goddamn reason! What the CRAP?!? 😕 I swear I saved a video of me demonstrating this, but I must have accidentally deleted it while clearing out the first half of my recordings when I ran out of disk space. God damn it. 😑

Why can I undo loading the scene omg what are you on

There was also the DS 4.14 update, which I foolishly decided to update to halfway through the project. As far as I can tell, it does almost nothing good. It updates Iray which completely breaks the program for some users, adds new bugs, and fixes no existing bugs. This kind of update is extremely common. But, the fact that they ranted and raved about this particular update despite the fact that it’s no better than the last 13 updates they’ve done, throwing tons of bullshit everywhere in the process? That suuuuuper pissed me off. I made a massive list of things wrong with it, and was going to go through them in a video, but I just ended up feeling like I couldn’t be bothered. It wouldn’t make anything better. Basically, Filament is useless because it only works in the viewport and looks like shit, the animation timeline hasn’t changed and is still basically unusable, and Iray 2020.1.1, while nice because it adds support for 3000-series GPUs (even though they’re still friggin’ unbuyable because everyone has gone insane), it’s also not nice, because it removes support for some older GPUs, and this fact is not mentioned anywhere obvious! I’m pretty damn sure their installer doesn’t check your GPU before updating, and you can’t (easily) downgrade after updating!! Sure, this didn’t affect me, because I have a modern enough card, but I can imagine it screwed someone! What in HELL are they smoking?! 😡

*calm*

So yeah. As usual, DS was crap. All day, every day. 😛

Towards the latter half of the project, I realised that I would need to find a bracelet of some design, and I was divided on what to do. Part of me (the lazy half 😛 ) thought I could find something suitable that was already made, while the other part of me thought that was going to be impossible and I should just create it myself. The latter half was absolutely right. 😅 Bracelet models were quite rare, and none of them looked right. “Besides,” I thought, “if I’m gonna spend so damn long making this comic, I oughta do this right and make it unique”. So, I used Photoshop to sketch out a design that I liked the look of (using its symmetry tool, which is absolutely friggin’ great :D), and finally cracked open Blender, with the intention of using it seriously for the first time. I was a total beginner, but I couldn’t spend weeks and weeks on this bracelet, so I assimilated all the basic tutorials as quickly as possible and started to hammer something out immediately afterwards. And against all my expectations, I think I actually managed to make it look good! Sure, its topology would probably make any real artist throw up, but I don’t care, it’s the first model I’ve created since college, about 14 years ago or whatever! 😀

The last time I opened Blender was way before this project. I’d downloaded it to satisfy my curiosity, but quickly decided that I hated it because its UI felt like it was designed by a sadist. 😛 Nothing about it made sense. I think they’ve updated the UI since then, though, because the version of Blender I used to create the bracelet felt much less… insane. 😛 Apart from the menus that are seemingly only accessible through hotkeys that aren’t mentioned anywhere. But anyway, yeah, my experience with it was generally positive. It felt… clunky, and a bit confusing at times, but unlike a certain other piece of software, I don’t remember anything in Blender blowing up or making me angry. I found out that it can even do high-poly sculpting, like ZBrush! I had no idea it could do that! It’s even got scripting and probably-usable animation tools and fluid simulation and UV editing and texture painting and aaaaaaaaaagh how is this free?! 😮 If only DAZ would create something similar to DS’s GoZ bridge, only for Blender. Sure, DS has a Blender bridge available as a free addon, but it’s only one-way. Maybe I should check it out anyway, see if it’s possible to maybe leave DS behind. Or maybe DAZ could just fix their software already, instead of making one-way bridges to other software. It’s like they don’t realise that DS would actually be a really great program that I wouldn’t complain about if it didn’t have so many massive issues!

So aye, the bracelet creation went way better than I expected! Created the basic 2D shape using my reference, thickened it up to be 3D, refined it over time, then sculpted it into the final, higher-poly shape. That’s pretty much it! Although I did find out much later that more polys doesn’t always equal better quality. I would’ve probably gotten some nicer, smoother reflections on the metal if I’d been more aggressive when decimating the model before exporting it.

Blending like a nooblet 😛

After creating Emerald’s bracelet, I thought that would be the last time I’d need to touch Blender. But nope! I did a ME! 😛 At the 11th hour, I ended up revising the script after not being so sure about the ending I’d written. It felt… shallow and meaningless, and a bit sudden. However, the new script made the comic two pages longer, which had a pretty big chance of making me run out of time if it took much longer than I’d estimated. When I got to the point where I had to make a decision about which path to go down, I took a risk and chose the new script. This added the second bracelet and the linked enchantment, which I felt made the gift massively more meaningful. 🙂 But that meant I needed to design and model another bracelet! AAAAGH! 😛 Anyway, it was fine. Due to its simpler design and my newfound (albeit slight) familiarity with Blender, the second bracelet didn’t take quite as long to create.

Let’s see, what else… maybe how I arranged the panels? Well, I used Photoshop for arranging the panels and adding postwork. Before starting a page, I’d refer to the script and block out the panel layout, then measure each of the blocks and use that as the render size. Doing that instead of just rendering at a higher resolution and cropping what I didn’t need probably saved a crapton of rendering time. 🙂 As for postwork, most panels were given a once-over with the blur tool, to smooth out any really sharp highlights or to remove noise the denoiser didn’t catch. I also added blush effects and eye glint to the dragons in some panels. Some panels consisted of two renders, usually a misty and non-misty version, which I combined together. After any corrections, I tweaked the levels, added the border, aaand that was about it. 🙂

Oh, there was one page that had some postwork that I was really happy with: page 8! Panel 2 had a ghostly version of a young Whirlwind and one of his childhood friends, which was supposed to represent Whirlwind recalling memories from his past. I super-liked the idea when it came to me, but didn’t think I could pull it off as well as I’d hoped. But I was wrong! 😛 I rendered the younger dragons separately and with no environment, and slapped it on the top of the main render. Because there was no ground in that render, their feet had to be masked a little bit to blend in, but that was easy enough. To get the ghostly effect, I reduced the opacity, duplicated the layer, and applied a gaussian blur and glow (with its blend mode set to Soft Light) to the second layer, and set that layer’s blending mode to Screen. That was it. I didn’t expect it to turn out that well so easily! 😀

Overall, Photoshop was fine throughout the project. Although it did have a few annoying moments, especially that one where it suddenly became incapable of saving. 😑

And has…? 😛
Please no… 😑

Whew… I think that’s about it for the process? As there was so much work involved, trying to think of what to talk about is a bit difficult. 😅 If I remember something, I’ll probably add it here later. Let me know if there’s something I missed! 😀

TL;DR: I made a comic and it was difficult please read it. 😛

Even though it was difficult, I’m so happy with how the whole thing came out. Hell, I’m just happy that I finished it in time. 😆 There were a few panels that I was especially happy with, though, and my favourite panel of them all has to be Page 9, Panel 2. I had a lot of fun coming up with it and posing it, and I absolutely loved the result. It’s so damn cuuute! 😆 I liked it so much that I rendered it in 4K as a standalone thing:

😀

Okay, now for the timelapse! And this time, as you’d probably expect, it’s an absolute monster! 😀 The raw footage was so long that I maxed out one of DaVinci Resolve’s ludicrously long timelines, and I nearly ran out of disk space, so I had to render half of the timelapse to free up some space before I could continue. 😆 Over the course of six months, the comic took a solid 15 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes of human time to create, and required 17 days and 44 minutes of machine time to render. So 781.4 hours between myself and the computer, in total. (although if you include the fact that the machine was also working while I was working, it’s more like 1,154 hours in total 🤯) So, this timelapse shows those 372 hours of human work compressed into 21 minutes. And I definitely need to warn about epilepsy here. 😆 Aye, this video flashes a fair bit as it switches between lighter and darker colours, so seriously, don’t watch it if you suffer from epilepsy! If you don’t, great! You can watch it here! 😀

And yep, there’s a bunch of at least mildly related music to go with it, five songs this time! And because two of the songs I chose are Japanese, I went ahead and added lyrics into the video for them. 🙂
Anyway, to start off, I play the dumb song which begins with the dumb lyrics shown at the top of this dumb post: The Age of Love by Scooter. Mr. Baxxter talks about love, peace, and unity, but begins the song by declaring he wants to hit you in the face, lmao 😆 I ended the blog post of the original Amai with this song’s music video, and I still can’t get over how awful it is. 😛
Next up is Love and Devotion by Real McCoy… but DJ Bobo got involved! I can’t find a link to the song on YouTube, so that’s a Spotify link instead. Hahaha, Bobo’s cheese-flinging rampage CONTINUES! 😛 I thought the original might’ve been just as cheesy, but it’s nowhere NEAR as bad as the remix! How does he do it?! 😆🧀
Following on from the cheese is a track relevant only by title: Sunset, by The Midnight. I’ve been quite into synthwave recently, listening on DI.FM, and this artist keeps popping up every now and then. They’ve become one of very few artists that I can genuinely say I like, and I don’t actually think I’ve heard a bad song from them. 😀 Lol never mind I finally heard a terrible one 😆
The next track is only slightly relevant: a nice song called Starduster by jimmy thumb P, featuring Hatsune Miku, a Vocaloid by Crypton Future Media. It mentions love, stars, and a sunset, so hey, that’s relevant enough for me. 😆 The lyrics and translation in the video are taken from this transliteration and translation by marvelangga. You probably won’t see this, but thank you, marvelangga! 😀
I was going to finish the timelapse with the Reincarnation Mix of Your Affection, from the Persona 4 soundtrack, but at the last moment, I remembered 24h by DAOKO, featuring You Kamiyama, and decided to use that instead. 😀 I first heard this song while playing Dragalia Lost’s Valentine’s Day event, Dragalia Lost being the only mobile game I’ve honestly thought was too damn good to be stuck as a mobile game, and no, it’s not just because I like dragons. 😛 (vaguely related side note: after I was lucky enough to pull the Halloween variation of Mym in Dragalia Lost, I realised soon afterwards that she always transforms into a lingerie-clad version of Brunhilda, and it is amazing 😆) Anyway, the lyrics of the song are a little odd, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a love song, and not sure it matches the comic very much, but hey, it’s got some great energy and I like it, so shush! 😛 The translation was done by Megan Rose, taken from this page on LyricsTranslate. Again, you probably won’t see this, but thank youuuuu! 😀

And now, the render stats! And of COURSE I kept notes on how long every single panel took to render! 😛 Render settings varied, but most panels were rendered at my usual: Quality 2 with 95% convergence. Some, namely the ones with the stupid-expensive mist effect, had their target convergence reduced to around 85-90% because I found that half the time was spent on the last 10% and it made no perceivable difference in quality. Anyway, here’s the render time of the last version of every panel:

  • Page 1
    • Panel 1: 3 hours 13 minutes 54 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 2: 2 hours 32 minutes 54 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 21 minutes 28 seconds
    • Panel 4: 28 minutes 37 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 14 hours 18 minutes 51 seconds (19 renders)
  • Page 2
    • Panel 1: 58 minutes 5 seconds
    • Panel 2: 1 hour 1 minute 15 seconds
    • Panel 3: 3 hours 3 minutes 23 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 3 hours 48 minutes 55 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 2 hours 59 minutes 16 seconds (16 renders)
  • Page 3
    • Panel 1: 9 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 2: 21 minutes 3 seconds
    • Panel 3: 10 minutes 50 seconds
    • Panel 4: 21 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 5: 3 minutes 49 seconds
    • Panel 6: 24 minutes 42 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 7: 15 minutes 1 second
    • Panel 8: 25 minutes 44 seconds
    • TOTAL: 7 hours 22 minutes 18 seconds (30 renders)
  • Page 4
    • Panel 1: 6 hours 57 minutes* (two renders combined)
      • (Earlier versions of this render took around 13 hours 😅)
    • Panel 2: 20 minutes 7 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 15 hours 24 minutes 31 seconds (11 renders)
  • Page 5
    • Panel 1: 13 minutes 30 seconds
    • Panel 2: 14 minutes 5 seconds
    • Panel 3: 8 hours 10 minutes 48 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 4: 2 hours 3 seconds 49 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 5: 5 hours 51 minutes 58 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 1 day 9 hours 21 minutes 56 seconds (19 renders)
  • Page 6
    • Panel 1: 20 minutes 23 seconds
    • Panel 2: 25 minutes 46 seconds
    • Panel 3: 21 minutes 58 seconds
    • Panel 4: 9 minutes 51 seconds
    • Panel 4 (inset): 2 minutes 17 seconds
    • Panel 5: 2 hours 51 minutes 22 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 6: 41 minutes 11 seconds
    • TOTAL: 8 hours 42 minutes (20 renders)
  • Page 7
    • Panel 1: 17 minutes 47 seconds
    • Panel 2: 25 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 24 minutes 43 seconds
    • Panel 4: 34 minutes
    • Panel 5: 25 minutes 42 seconds
    • Panel 6: 2 minutes 19 seconds
    • Panel 7: 9 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 8: 13 minutes 10 seconds
    • TOTAL: 10 hours 10 minutes 35 seconds (23 renders)
  • Page 8
    • Panel 1: 21 minutes 26 seconds
    • Panel 2: 38 minutes 2 seconds (two renders combined, with foreground mask)
    • Panel 3: 13 hours 20 minutes 54 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 3 (inset): 26 minutes 37 seconds
    • Panel 4: 48 minutes 32 seconds
    • Panel 5: 23 minutes 16 seconds
    • TOTAL: 18 hours 19 minutes 54 seconds (15 renders)
  • Page 9
    • Panel 1: 42 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 2: 1 hour 49 minutes 51 seconds
    • Panel 2 Bonus Render (as seen above), 9 hours 44 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 3: 26 minutes 48 seconds
    • Panel 4: 25 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 5: 25 minutes 33 seconds
    • TOTAL: 1 day 11 hours 55 minutes 29 seconds (12 renders)
  • Page 10
    • Panel 1: 46 minutes 15 seconds
    • Panel 2: 37 minutes 45 seconds
    • Panel 3: 20 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 4: 35 minutes 51 seconds
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 5 minutes 41 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 6: 50 minutes 6 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 7 hours 53 minutes 51 seconds (14 renders)
  • Page 11
    • Panel 1: 26 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 2: 31 minutes 10 seconds
    • Panel 3: 41 minutes 21 seconds
    • Panel 4: 14 minutes 53 seconds
    • Panel 5: 14 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 6: 16 minutes 21 seconds
    • Panel 7: 21 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 8: 21 minutes 45 seconds
    • Panel 9: 13 minutes 21 seconds
    • TOTAL: 7 hours 9 minutes 21 seconds (20 renders)
  • Page 12
    • Panel 1: 23 minutes 14 seconds
    • Panel 2: 34 minutes 34 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 7 minutes 15 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 4: 1 hour 45 minutes 9 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 59 seconds
    • Panel 6: 35 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 7: 58 minutes 12 seconds
    • Panel 8: 1 hour 21 minutes 31 seconds
    • TOTAL: 20 hours 48 minutes 7 seconds (25 renders)
  • Page 13
    • Panel 1: 1 hour 19 minutes 23 seconds
    • Panel 2: 39 minutes 3 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 10 minutes 37 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 11 hours 52 minutes 35 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 1 day 9 hours 12 seconds (11 renders)
  • Page 14
    • Panel 1: 34 minutes 46 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 2: 46 minutes 51 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 3: 32 minutes (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 2 hours 18 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 53 minutes 55 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 9 hours 11 minutes 19 seconds (16 renders)
  • Page 15
    • Panel 1: 47 minutes 54 seconds
    • Panel 2: 1 hour 41 minutes 11 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 14 minutes 7 seconds
    • Panel 4: 28 minutes 1 second
    • Panel 5: 36 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 6: 48 minutes 36 seconds
    • Panel 7: 1 hour 51 minutes 13 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 14 hours 21 minutes 7 seconds (18 renders)
  • Page 16
    • Panel 1: 28 minutes 44 seconds
    • Panel 2: 31 minutes 40 seconds
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 2 minutes 26 seconds
    • Panel 3 (inset): 41 minutes 13 seconds
    • Panel 4: 33 minutes 38 seconds
    • Panel 5: 33 minutes 12 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 6: 16 minutes 49 seconds
    • Panel 7: 49 minutes 53 seconds
    • TOTAL: 9 hours 17 minutes (18 renders)
  • Page 17
    • Panel 1: 55 minutes 58 seconds
    • Panel 2: 47 minutes 50 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 3: 36 minutes 24 seconds
    • Panel 4: 1 hour 8 minutes 31 seconds
    • Panel 5: 42 minutes 37 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 13 hours 35 minutes (19 renders)
  • Page 18
    • Panel 1: 16 minutes 27 seconds
    • Panel 2: 28 minutes 14 seconds
    • Panel 3: 36 minutes 2 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 4: 23 minutes 45 seconds
    • Panel 5: 12 minutes 49 seconds
    • Panel 6: 22 minutes 4 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 7: 1 hour 28 minutes 53 seconds (two renders combined, with breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 11 hours 28 minutes 36 seconds (33 renders)
  • Page 19
    • Panel 1: 14 minutes 50 seconds
    • Panel 2: 38 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 3: 25 minutes 6 seconds
    • Panel 4: 41 minutes 20 seconds
    • Panel 5: 1 hour 12 minutes 56 seconds (one render with extra breakout mask)
    • Panel 6: 1 hour 40 minutes 25 seconds (two renders combined, with breakout mask)
    • TOTAL: 13 hours 55 minutes 14 seconds (23 renders)
  • Page 20
    • Panel 1: 2 hours 21 minutes 16 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 1 (inset): 7 minutes 21 seconds
    • Panel 2: 57 minutes 51 seconds (two renders combined, with breakout mask)
    • Panel 3: 1 hour 27 minutes 17 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 4: 1 hour 27 minutes 54 seconds
    • Panel 5: 51 minutes 37 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 11 hours 43 minutes 57 seconds (22 renders)
  • Page 21
    • Panel 1: 23 minutes 55 seconds
    • Panel 2: 44 minutes 12 seconds
    • Panel 3: 28 minutes 5 seconds
    • Panel 4: 16 minutes 6 seconds
    • Panel 5: 2 hours 17 minutes 6 seconds (two renders combined)
    • Panel 6: 30 minutes 22 seconds
    • Panel 7: 24 minutes 11 seconds
    • Panel 8: 18 minutes 2 seconds
    • TOTAL: 10 hours 55 minutes 47 seconds (23 renders)
  • Page 22
    • Panel 1: 11 hours 45 minutes 51 seconds (two renders combined)
    • TOTAL: 1 day 2 hours 49 minutes 59 seconds (18 renders)
  • SUPER TOTAL: 17 days 44 minutes 20 seconds (425 renders)

You still there? I’m not. 😆 Daaaaaaamn that was boring to type out. 😛
Yep… that’s a lot of rendering. 😛 It doesn’t look like that much in the spreadsheet I have, but after typing it out into that list… yeah. 😆 425 renders! When I bought my 1080Ti way back when, I was all “gaaah my wallet, that was so damn expensive”, but now I’m thinking it was totally, totally worth it. 😀 And hey, since the data’s in Excel, I made a chart visualising it, for no apparent reason:

Stonks. Shows that I got a pretty steady rhythm going in the night time scenes. 😀

Whew… that’s about it, I think. Now that I’ve finished the comic, no more rendering for me for about… I dunno, 8 months? 😆 I’ll spend that time playing some games that I’ve been wanting to finish, instead, like Trials of Mana, and Pikmin 3, and CTR: Nitro-Fueled and Disgaea 4 and Diablo II and probably some others!

I really hope you enjoy(ed) the comic! Depending on the reaction and/or how I feel, I might end up doing it again in the future. But with a story that contains explosions. 😛

Have a great Meal Deal Day! 😆

Inane rant about DeviantShart that I skipped earlier:

DeviantArt is like… and here comes a dumb, extensive analogy… on a golden island up in the sky in the world of DeviantArt, you’ve got the genuine artists, people who somehow do it as their occupation seemingly without being involved in games or film. They make really impressive stuff (probably because it’s their job) and everyone and their dog watches them. Then, down on the mortal plane, you’ve got the mildly popular people and total unknowns, some artists, some not really, but there are people down there (like me) who are just hobbyists. They may not be anywhere near as good as the people on the golden island, but they still try their best to create pretty things just so others can enjoy them. However, dotted absolutely everywhere on this mortal plane, there are these gigantic mountains made out of SHIT. 😛 I’ve tried to find stuff by other unknowns that I’m interested in so I can give them a watch, but I can’t find anything good due to all the shit! And there’s no point hoping for anyone on the golden island to notice you and watch you: they never bother looking down because they’re probably too busy being amazing, and probably because all they can see from up there is shit. 😛 And more often than not, the owners of the Shit Mountains are somehow unrealistically popular even though all they do is spam shit, and they even try to get some kind of payment for their shit (or for nothing at all) and for some unfathomable reason, people actually give them money! Often for no logical reason! It makes even less sense than people buying microtransactions in a slot machine mobile game that doesn’t pay out!

And it’s not just the content, either. There’re plenty of other things wrong with DeviantArt, too, like… you can’t submit more than one thing at a time unless you pay for the stupid overpriced-as-fuck Core subscription (completely ridiculous), I’m pretty sure a non-Core user’s deviations eventually become near-undiscoverable (might be a legacy thing, but I swear I remember seeing something that suggested your work stops appearing in the “browsing” sections of the site after a few weeks unless you’re Core, making it only possible to find your stuff through search), their site has only been half-converted from the old, ugly, bogey-green theme, their new site design isn’t much better because of its really confusing layout, and their crappy emojis still feel like they were pulled from random MySpace sites made in the 90s and I absolutely hate the hell out of them. Oh, and if you don’t feel like giving a fave or a comment, there’s a third option for some reason: you can give out a “Llama Badge”. I think it’s supposed to be a positive, fun thing. Because sure, real life llamas are fun and fairly cool. But the first thing I thought when receiving my first Llama Badge was: “Eh? Llama badge? You mean like the thoroughly negative Llama Medal from the Skulltag source port of Doom given to you when fragging someone who’s badly lagging or typing in chat, which means “lamer”?” So my immediate connection was that people give llama badges out to say you’re lame! And even worse, the llama badge can apparently level up, so the site’s actually giving you a level of how much of a lamer people think you are! When I made this connection, I was like: “Why’s this asshat calling me a lamer? If they could be bothered to go through the trouble of giving me this, why couldn’t they have just given some constructive feedback, instead?” Thinking maybe my work was inferior to theirs or something, I checked their page, and lo and behold, it was another giant mountain of shit, seemingly all made in Paint, and owned by someone doing a “donation drive” for points so they could get Core on someone else’s wallet. “gib money plz”. Why do they even want Core? OH YEAH, to be able to upload multiple things at a time to grow their shit mountain faster. 😑 DeviantSHART. That’s what I call it. 😛

Rant done. Please read the comic 😆

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. 😛