This week’s pic is another return to old games. Here you see the player character from Ariane in Paradise serving drinks at Lizzard’s Nightclub from Date Ariane. Lydia, an unknown friend, Dave, Bonnie and Lizzard from Something’s In The Air can be seen in the background.
You have probably seen pictures on the internet involving gender swapped celebrities and other creepy photo manipulations. These are the result of an app called FaceApp.
A Facebook friend and fellow Poser user Dodger started putting in Poser renders in the app to see what happens, and the result is usually a deep dive into the uncanny valley.
I started with three portraits I made of characters for my next game, Ariane Rachel and Trish. I am sticking with the “free” filters, because I don’t want to pay an annual fee for the pro version.
Above I took the Rachel pic and added the free makeup, smile, and long hair filters resulting in a celebrity looking Rachel.
That looks pretty good. But there is even a more powerful filter called “Morphing” that allows morphing a picture into itself. Just load a picture, then “Morph”, then “Standard”, then when it asks to load a picture, load the same picture.
So here are Rachel, Ariane, and Trish pictures morphed into themselves. The effect of “Morphing” involves morphing one picture into the other, and then “correcting” the result to look as real as possible. Since Poser models are not based on real people, the results make the renders more realistic than they are capable, sometimes looking more fake.
To me, Rachel (top) and Trish (bottom) look better this way, but Ariane looks like a plastic model.
Next experiment is adding makeup, smile, long hair, and morph into itself resulting in this weirdly realistic face that you can barely tell is Rachel anymore.
Of course the most popular feature of FaceApp is the gender swap, so here is a male version of Ariane.
And the real use of the morphing filter is combining images. Here is what happens when you morph Ariane with Rachel.
Ariane Take 2
I decided to render a new portrait of Ariane with hair pulled back from face and using simpler lighting and superfly rendering. This time the only filtering was the double morph trick. Result is a pleasing but still fake looking Ariane.
Morph Experiments: Hard Mode
Images seem to lighten up when morphed, so I wanted to add an African skin tone to the experiment. Even more challenging, violet blue hair.
As expected, morphing it into itself did end up lightening the skin tone, which could prove problematic, but the results look pretty good.
Now what happens if I take Ariane (take 2 version) and merge it with the African model. When I merged Ariane and and Rachel above, Ariane stole Rachel’s hair color and skin tone. So merging Ariane with African model I got this:
Hmm, we were expecting Ariane with dark skin and odd color hair. Instead we get Mariska Hargitay. Does FaceApp have a problem with dark skin?
One last chance: Swap the merge. Take African model and merge with Ariane…
There we go. Dark skin Ariane with blue hair. Maybe it isn’t biased after all, just gives results depending on what order you merge.
My Poser work is still primarily done with Victoria 4 which is over 14 years old at this point. Some of the original Vicky 4 stuff actually looks bad by today’s standards, but over the years, new texture tech, rendering tech, and weight mapped rigging has made Vicky 4 stuff look a lot better.
So I was wondering. Could I go back and improve the old legacy models in Poser that no one uses? Could I give them new life again? Well the answer turns out mixed.
What I am doing is running scripts to update textures to be SSS and Superfly compatible, then adding more modern and detailed looking hair and see if that is enough to make them worth using again.
The above picture is the oldest you can realistically go back — about 20 years. The Poser 4 and 5 standard model, now often dubbed “Posette” has at least some fairly realistic shape, but it is low resolution. Notice the jaggy shoulders. I also had to use a freebie painted texture Andreia for P4 by 3Dream to get it this good. “Victoria” by Zygote (Now Daz3D) was available by then and Poser users primarily used that instead of Posette.
Poser 6 (by Curious Labs) decided to compete with the Victoria 3 and Michael 3, and introduced their own models Jessi and James. They came with really dumb “strand” hair that never looked or rendered right, and so people generally stuck to the Vicky and Mikes, but updating these figures shows that they were actually really good looking. In fact these might be the best looking Poser originals ever.
Poser 7 (now owned by e-frontier) new models were Simon and Sydney. Instead of the good looking models of Poser 6, these models actually looked like real people. A middle aged Caucasian male and an Asian female.
Smith Micro bought the company and soon released some awful looking figures for Poser 8 called Alison and Ryan, along with 3 ethnic variants each. By this time Daz had already released Victoria 4 and Michael 4, and that was what everyone was using instead of these two for obvious reasons. For Poser 9 (the one that introduced SSS skin texturing), they doubled down with Alison 2 and Ryan 2 that looked just as bad. In fact these are the improved models.
Someone at Smith Micro brought up that Alison and Ryan were very flexible figures that could rival the Daz figures if someone wanted to play with the morphs and create a pretty figure. So a modeler named Blackhearted did and created these morphs for Alison 2 and Ryan 2 called Anastasia and Tyler aka Girl Next Door (and friend).
While this was a marked improvement over the base figures, none of the clothing designed for the first two worked with the second two, hence the reason they are nearly naked in this pic.
Paul and Pauline were introduced in Poser 11 that was first released five years ago. They existed to demonstrate a number of concepts like facial “chips” to move facial features around to make expressions and they came with textures all ready for Superfly. Compared to Alison and Ryan they looked “normal” which is a good thing. Compared to the new Genesis models over at Daz3D, they looked “normal” which was a bad thing.
La Femme was released in early 2019 by RPublishing, a division of Bondware, and the male equivalent L’homme which started as a morph of La Femme came out in late 2019. The previous mentioned Blackhearted was one of the main artist on the project. Bondware bought Poser and added them both to Poser 11.3.
I’ve worked extensively with La Femme. The default face isn’t that interesting, but I can make it much prettier really easy. It is still not as pretty as the latest Genesis 8 figures, but it has technological advantages like weight mapping and facial chips, that Genesis 8 can’t match.
This weeks new game pic is a return to a Something’s In The Air location. Namely Paula’s Lab. Since the next game has a sci-fi theme, may as well bring back the sci-fi elements of previous games. Just haven’t figured out a way to bring back the dodos.
As most of you know I am a Poser user. I’ve been using it for a couple of decades now, and while it has its flaws like odd anomalies rendering out of nowhere and the occasional unexpected crash that seems to happen after an hour of work and I forgot to save, it generally is pretty reliable at its one main job: Rendering images from 3D scenes you create.
The majority of my friendly competition prefers Daz Studio for a couple of pretty obvious reasons: 1. The base program is free vs a minimum $200 buy in to Poser. 2. The models, especially the ones based on Genesis 3 and 8, are prettier. Both legitimate reasons. But despite it’s popularity, is Daz Studio really the superior product? Well no, in fact it sucks.
You had ONE job!
There are things that Daz Studio does well, like load in purchased products from the DAZ3D website. The library is organized really well and you can quickly find the items that go with your model. Items are often categorized so it is easy to find exactly what you are looking for. I like this part. The Daz Studio Library is frankly better than Poser.
But here is the problem. The library interface is used everywhere. It is used in lighting, it is used in rendering, it is used in posing, it is used in positioning, and every one of these come off as poorly thought out. The good news: There are tutorial videos to help you make sense of all this. The bad news: The videos were made for 4.8, and we are on version 4.12, and a lot of them are now wrong.
But here is the truly bad part: Once you spend hours putting together a scene, getting the lighting just right, and the angle just right and you finally hit the render button… you get something completely different. Usually something lot darker than it should be. This is the main job of these programs, to render what you modeled, and not getting a render that looks as good as the Open GL preview is seriously a big failure.
I am a novice to this software so maybe it’s my inexperience causing this problem? Nope, experienced Daz Studio users say the same thing happens to them. They have learned to crank up the lights and implement sunshine to work around it. That should not be needed.
So what Daz Studio really is is a way for Daz to sell more stuff to its users. That’s the one thing that works flawlessly. The rendering — the thing that is supposed to be easy and flawlessly integrated is needlessly difficult to get right and poorly integrated.
By the way the really good images at the top and the bottom of this post have Poser rendered backgrounds. The foreground models are lit with spotlights on 200% intensity to get them light enough to render, and then I still had to increase the brightness in a photo editor after.
The two renderers
Daz Studio features two renderers 3Delight and Iray, and you can add on others if you like to customize all your textures to get them to work. Neither renderers were actually made by Daz.
3Delight is developed by Illumination Research and is a ray trace renderer similar to ones that can be found in other professional 3D rendering programs like Katana and Maya. The version used in Daz Studio is a trimmed down version to the expensive quality professional software. It compares poorly to the Firefly renderer used in Poser which has a lot of features the Daz Studio version cannot touch.
Iray was developed by NVIDIA to take advantage of NVIDIA graphics cards, and only works if you have an expensive NVIDIA graphics card. It is comparable to Poser’s Superfly renderer, and it is actually better than Superfly, except that Superfly works with any video card. NVIDIA provides the renderer to Daz Studio at low cost on the correct belief that it will sell video cards. As far as I can tell it has worked well for them. Almost everyone on the 3D rendering scene has an NVIDIA card.
Daz Studio just provides the modeling software that sends your model to these renderers that were independently created. Based on the quality of renders, it is obvious that there is no actual coordination with the makers, and that is the fatal flaw of the software. Having the render look like the preview is super important.
Ariane in G8?
On a completely different but related topic, one of the reasons I started playing in Daz Studio in the first place is because there seems to be a fair amount of interest in what would a G8 version of Ariane look like. Of course there are actual tools that can be used to convert V4 to G8 and some people have used them to create G8 versions of Ariane and Rachel. (Link is very NSFW).
As I have explained before, Ariane was created by combining the no longer available MRL Ariana body and texture with the MRL Andromeda head. Interestingly enough MRL now works exclusively in Daz3D and MRL Gem for G8 looks surprisingly similar to MRL Andromeda for V4 and therefore Ariane’s head.
But the truth is, I’m not satisfied with any of these converted solutions. If I were to do a G8 version of Ariane, I would probably just use Aurore which is what the fan art linked above was using as a base. Sure the eyebrows are slightly off, but give her brown eyes and black hair and she passes just fine, (as the pictures above attest) and you don’t have to get the conversion problems involved.
For the month of June, I’m posting samples of what I have been working on. This is my new female player character repairing robots. The new game has a sci-fi theme to it, set in the near future, the game involves training and working in areas of the economy trying to make a life. One of the career paths is robot repair. According to this essay, robots doing most of the labor is our future, and the pandemic crisis has accelerated that reality.
A year ago, I came out as Aromantic, and this year for pride month, I decided to write for romantic people (what we call “alloromantic”) since they represent 99% of the population.
Not having an ability to fall in love can be a weakness in some ways (don’t ask us for relationship advice, we don’t know anything), and a superpower in certain other ways: We can see sides of humanity that romantic people are blind to.
That is what this essay is about. Sharing the wisdom of us aromantics.
Lesson 1: Friendships are way more important than romances.
The truth about romance is this: it never lasts. Friendship can last a lifetime. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and it is obvious to me which half: Couples that started as friends or couples that successfully turn their romance into friendship before the romance fades will last for decades. Couples whose relationship is purely romantic and sexual, and not friendly, will fail in short order.
Aromantics like myself do not have any need for romantic relationships. Some aromantics do anyways for societal reasons or convenience. But we still need friendships.
One of my favorite moral philosophers Aristotle taught that friendships are the most important relationships we have. Too bad most people don’t feel that way, they prefer romantic relationships.
Aristotle wrote a lot about friendship in Nichomachean Ethics:
- Friendship is virtue directed at others. There are three types of friendship: Utility, Pleasure, and Virtuous. Only the last is true friendship, since utility and pleasure cannot sustain a friendship forever.
- “For without friends, one would choose not to live, though he had all other goods.”
- “Perfect friendship is friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for they wish well alike to each other and goodness, and they are good in themselves.” Similarly, love and marriage also must be based on character rather than utility or pleasure.
- The basis for friendship is self-love. The two most essential characteristics of friendship are fairness and sympathetic interest, the very same features that good men have with themselves.
The most common tragedy of the aromantic is for us to get friends, and then those friends abandon us to “couple up”. Friendships are the most important relationship to us and we hang on as much as possible.
It is tragic that friendships are not the most important relationship to everybody. A big negative of romantic relationships is that most people insist that it be exclusive. Only one romantic partner to a person at a time.
You can have as many friendships as you want at any time. Friends don’t mind if their friends have other friends, because it often leads to more friendships for yourself as you become friends with friends of friends. This is a way better arrangement and should be the default norm to strive for.
Lesson 2: The Split Attraction Model – The people you want to romance are not the same as the people you want to boink.
The Split Attraction Model, often abbreviated as SAM, is the theory that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are two different things.
It has generated a fair amount of controversy because of what it implies and some people are challenging SAM saying it is made up or not real.
The evidence at the zero level is overwhelming. Asexuals are people with little to no sexual attraction. Aromantics are people with little to no romantic attraction. If these were the same thing, then aromantics and asexuals would be the same thing. And yet according to a survey of asexuals, Only about 44% of asexuals are also aromantic or gray-romantic. In similar surveys of those that identify as aromantic, 66% also identify as asexual. and I suspect it is lower as the survey likely underrepresented sexual aromantics.
That means the correlation between aromanticism and asexuality is at best 50%, meaning they have to be different (though possibly related) phenomena.
People that identify as aromantic and/or asexual are called “Aspec” as a group. Aspecs has adapted the split attraction model as a way to accurately distinguish different varieties of asexuality and aromanticism which helps us to understand the diverse nature of being Aspec.
With all of this evidence, where is the problem?
The problem is outside of the Aspec community. Allos (non Aspecs are called “Allos”) are uncomfortable separating romantic attraction and sexual attraction. Mostly it is the talk of “sexual attraction” that seems inappropriate.
Generally speaking society wants to believe that sexual appetite is a result of our desire to be loved and in a romantic relationship. The Split Attraction Model says that belief is mostly false.
Two people in love with each other is easy to imagine as a beautiful thing, two people having sex is pornographic and dirty. Even in open minded LGBTQ communities the idea is often frowned upon because of this. They want to project an “all about romance” image in people’s head for acceptance, because the “all about sex” image can lead to intolerance.
And yet simple introspection says it is true. Everyone has different tastes in people they want to date and people they want to sleep with. The goal is finding that intersection of people that meet both categories, and there is nothing wrong with that.
But denying that both types of attraction exist within us (unless you are Aspec) leads to self deception. Understanding ourselves requires that we look at both.
Lesson 3: Amatonormativity – Society is way too obsessed with couples and coupling.
Popular media portrayal of aromantics and asexuals tends to be geared towards portraying us as either sociopaths or psychopaths. Consider the following examples:
- Dexter from Showtime’s Dexter – Orientation Aromantic Asexual – psychological evaluation: murderous psychopath
- Sherlock from BBC’s Sherlock – Orientation Aromantic Asexual – psychological evaluation: “high functioning sociopath”
- Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother – Orientation Aromantic Heterosexual – psychological evaluation: Narcissistic sociopath with a sex addiction
- Mick Rory from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Orientation Demiromantic Heterosexual – psychological evaluation: criminal sociopath
This is just the most famous examples. There seems to be a tendency in popular fiction to portray “bad guys” as “unloved and unloving” as if that is the reason for their badness.
Positive portrayal of aspecs is rare, and the best portrayals of aromantics (like the last two examples above) are of clowns. Their lack of interest in romance is seen as humorous, comically avoiding people that fall for them.
But it is just not aromantics and asexuals. Popular media looks down at any character that is “single”. We want happy couples in movies and TV. If a character is single, they need to find a partner. Fandoms are driven by “shipping” people to become couples, and we hate it when they pick the wrong partner.
This desire for “couples” is rampant in the real world too. Married couples have social advantages that are not available to single people. They also have legal advantages in housing, finances and taxes.
Going to a restaurant alone is an exercise in weird stares and people talking about you behind your back. Many of us avoid restaurants unless we have a friend to go with.
There is a word for this negative reaction to being single. It’s called amatonormativity. It is the social pressure for single people to couple up and for couples to marry. It is rampant in society and very noticeable by single people. Especially those like myself that like being single.
Lesson 4: Romantic stories only work as comedies. Serious love stories usually fail.
There is an odd irony with an aromantic like myself spending a lot of time writing “romantic” visual novels. The truth is, I’m not the only one. So common is it that aromantics writing romantic stories is kind of a trope. The above mentioned demiromantic Mick Rory from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow spent most of season 4 of the show as a secret romance novelist. It actually felt true to life.
The real irony is that we are good at it. Aromantics can’t understand what romantic people go through, but we can sense instinctively when romantic storytelling is getting too sappy or unrealistic. So when we write it, we instinctively know how to avoid those mistakes.
The reverse is not always true. Many well regarded romantic books, plays, movies and TV shows come off as boring and off-putting to the aromantic mind. I watched the Emmy award winning Fleabag series about a woman struggling with love, and found it unwatchable. I also wrote a review of “her” a few years ago that I had problems with, but I now realize it was my aromanticism affecting my judgement.
This happens a lot to me with famously popular romantic stories. I enjoyed the Twilight series because I found it unintentionally funny, a parody of bad romance and bad lovers. I see Romeo and Juliet as a farce involving two really stupid teenagers. Serious romantic dramas are boring to me. Romantic comedies on the other hand, are fun and enjoyable.
One of the few famous romantic authors I do enjoy is Jane Austen. There is some speculation that Jane Austen might have been aromantic herself, as she indicated no interest in ever marrying and shunned her few courters. Her romantic novels are filled with biting social commentary as much as they are with romance.
The same patterns appear in the ubiquitous “romantic sub plot” that appears in every form of storytelling these days thanks to the above mentioned amatonormativity in society. I like comical romantic sub plots. Serious stories often have comical romantic sub plots to lighten up the story, and these I am fine with.
Other serious stories will add a serious romantic sub plot to ramp up the drama an extra level. This has the opposite effect for me. I can no longer watch old X-Files episodes, because in 80 to 90% of the episodes, Scully’s life is in danger, and it’s Mulder to the rescue (To be fair it is occasionally the other way around). Also don’t get me started on the completely unearned and unnecessary kiss at the end of Rise of the Skywalker, that movie pissed me off in so many ways… (sigh).
Here is a fellow Aromantic You Tube commentator on this very topic.
I am an aromantic that writes romance. While there are scenes I have written that feel serious, the vast majority is comical, even campy and unrealistic. That’s because I see romance in a campy unrealistic way. It is fun, because it is supposed to be fun.
But what about romantic tragedies? Are these all bad? No, good moving tragedies make for compelling stories. I find that the romance really isn’t that relevant. Something tragic happens to one person, and another person who loves that person is struggling with the consequences. The tragedy is the most important and compelling part of the story. These stories usually begin with a fun and happy romantic section that explains why they love each other before the tragic turn in act two.
In real life it seems, romance is anything but happy and fun. For most people it seems romance is hard and challenging, and ultimately temporary.
Lesson 5: Romantic “Love” is NOT all you need.
The biggest lesson for romantics is that Aromantics exist. This means that romantic love is not the universal be-all and end-all of human experience.
Also, unlike our common portrayal in the media, we are not sociopaths. We have feelings and morals, and are perfectly capable of love — just not “romantic” love. There is nothing wrong with us, we have no need to be “fixed” and the “right person” doesn’t exist for us, so stop insisting they do.
We are aware that romance is a part of most people’s lives, but the truth is, humanity has had a tenuous relationship with “romantic” love for millennia. It is an instinct that has not always served humanity well.
Here is an edited, well sourced essay found on Reddit about the history of human romance. The full thing can be found here.
Romantic love evolved in humans as an adaptation because we have pretty big heads to accommodate our larger brains. This meant babies had to be born early or else they wouldn’t be able to pass through the birth canal. When most animals are born, they can walk pretty soon after, but human babies take much longer. Romantic love formed a bond between two people having lots of sex with each other to increase the chances that a newborn would have more resources devoted to it while the baby is helpless.
Romantic love usually lasts two to three years, long enough for a baby to start walking along with the tribe. The biological experience of romantic love can be defined as having unrealistically positive feelings about a specific person coupled with a strong desire to be close to them in a possessive way, dominating their time and attention including their sexual availability – but not necessarily demanding sexual exclusivity in those early prehistory days (that was added later). […]
This is what romantic love was for most of prehistory – people would “fall in love” (or not) then fall out of love two years later and go their separate ways, never giving it a second thought.
Fast forward to the agricultural revolution. Now complex societies are forming and because societies now have a great need for farming labor and warriors to defend their harvests from neighboring tribes trying to steal it, male muscle increases in value. […]
This meant men gained an increased incentive and power to control which women have sex with which men to ensure paternity. It was now important for men to know who their offspring were so they could pass down the land and property they acquired in their lifetime to their own children. Arranged marriages become the norm, women become property, and romantic love was viewed as mostly irrelevant to who you have sex with or have children with.
People stayed married and had sex and children because the church and state ordered it – romantic attraction and desire did not matter. People still fall in love during this period but doing so can be a dangerous threat to the social order, so romantic love is considered either a nuisance or tragic or a painful obsession more than anything else. […]
Fast forward to the industrial revolution. Machine production and military technology decreases the value of male muscle and increases the value of intelligent human labor, so women make substantial advances and become liberated from having their sexual and marriage choices dictated by men.
With people now free to decide who to have sex with and marry, romance makes a big comeback. Feelings of romantic attraction become a basis for choosing marriage relationships. The problem is those romantic feelings only last a few short years at most, and often even shorter, but children resulting from sex last a lifetime and society now has greater needs for children’s investment and development beyond the time they learn how to walk.
As a result, we invented the idea of lifetime romantic love, something that feels good for a few years and after that a couple is expected to continue the relationship as a committed friendship that often includes sex and co-parenting. We still call the whole thing “romantic love” even though that’s now really a misnomer. […]
After that two year romantic phase couples are often expected to force themselves to perform romantic behaviors for their partner which they once did voluntarily but no longer wish to do, and they usually only manage to force themselves with mixed success. People in this latter phase often mourn the loss of that partner who was so in love with them before and are upset at no longer feeling elated the way they did in the throes of real romantic love, and they start to blame their dissatisfaction on their partner for failing to share as much emotional or physical intimacy or do the other romantic things they used to do.
At the same time the continued presence of the partner who they no longer see through rose-colored glasses is a daily reminder of the lost joy they once had during early love, furthering the disappointment and turning the partner into someone they dislike. … These feelings are compounded by the daily irritations of having to tend to someone else’s emotional needs and fight over housework, finances, or parenting duties, all of which frequently leave people angry, unsatisfied, and resentful of their long-term romantic partners and relationships.
Fast forward to today, people are able to raise children in a variety of ways outside of two parent households so we’ve further divorced romance from its biological and societal necessities, just like birth control further divorced sex from its reproductive purpose. Having your own apartment is more affordable today, eliminating more of the economic practicalities of romantic relationships.
The notion of lifelong committed romantic love is still held up as the ideal, but in reality, it doesn’t work for most of us and fewer and fewer of us believe in it. Cohabiting without marriage has increased but not enough to make up for the marriage decline, resulting in a growing single population. […]
Outside of marriage and long-term romantic coupling people will change romantic partners frequently, enjoy temporary romantic flings, or increasing forgo romantic relationships altogether, replacing them with different combinations of platonic co-parents, solo parenting, queer platonic partners, various kinds of friendships, and casual sex partners.
Most couples and most of society continue to believe that people in long-term romantic relationships are happier and healthier than single people even though the scientific studies consistently say otherwise.
Romance is on the decline. Romantic love is always temporary, always has been. If you can successfully turn those temporary romantic feelings into a lifelong friendship, then you have succeeded in doing something a lot have failed at.
Most of my friends and family have learned the hard way, almost all of them divorcing their first spouse before finding life long friendship on the second go around.
As I write this, there is a deadly Covid-19 pandemic going on. A lot of people are losing loved ones, and that is very tragic. Losing someone you love is probably the hardest thing to get through, but you can get through it.
Romantic love has given people a lot of joy, but the loss of romantic love is not the end of the world. In these tough times we discover other things that can bring us a lot of joy. Art, hobbies, reaching a goal you worked hard on, and spending time with the family.
There are enough joyful things in the world that some of us don’t need romantic love at all to be happy. People that are stuck in loveless relationships that are staying together on the “hope” that things will go back to the way they were, should learn that lesson too.