Weekly Art #1

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I’m in between projects right now, but I’m in a creative mood.  So I am starting a project of a picture a week.

Each week I will post either a new picture or a re-render of an older picture. Sometimes with nudity, sometimes not.  Most will probably feature Ariane and/or Rachel but I’m working on new models and new sets I want to experiment with.

This website and my Deviant Art site will have the lossless PNG file you can download.  I am also creating a “safe for work” 500×500 image I’ll post to more puritan social media such as Instagram, which I have largely ignored for the past year or so.

In this picture I am tinkering with dynamic cloth where Poser simulates draped cloth over the body resulting in much more realistic folds.  This is a bit time consuming, which is why I have never used it in any of my game images, but for single stills I have the time.

The Internet Dream is Dead!

Whatever Happened To The Internet Dream?

Part 1: Bored of the Internet
Part 2: The Death of Politics and Religion
Part 3: The Decline of Movies and TV
Part 4: Trapped in an Andrew Niccol Film
Part 5: The Tech Apocalypses
Part 6: Internet Memes are Destroying Civilization

Part 7: The Dream Is Dead!

dream1I’ve been working on various different aspects of the Internet for 20 years now. I have worked on computers, web servers, domain name servers, email servers, search engines, cloud servers, ISPs, home routers, IP phones, and cell phones.  The ever changing nature of the internet has led to a few layoffs and constantly shifting roles.

This year the legitimate servicing company I worked for started reducing our hours, and then introduced a new “sales” component.  The legitimate company turned into a side hustle company, and I got out.

So I got a new job for the local division of a “silicon valley start up”.  All the horror stories I have heard about working for companies like this were true.  It was a high stress environment that required significant training, and they were paying about a third of the wages we should be getting for the kind of work they wanted us to do.  Silicon Valley culture is toxic, misogynistic, and it was clear the owners were just trying to build the company so they could sell it.  In other words, they didn’t care.  I got out again.

So for the first time in two decades, I work for a company that has nothing to do with the internet.  It’s actually nice!

But it got me thinking.  The internet was supposed to change the world for the better, but the golden age of the internet is pretty much over. Every corner of the internet has been taken over by governments, megacorporations, and side hustles.  Is there any good left on the internet?

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I’ve been thinking about the “state of the internet” recently, especially in regards to events globally and personally over the last few years. Some conclusions:

1. The “wild west” era of the internet is pretty much dead. Corporations have taken over the majority of it. All the cool stuff is now owned by established corporations.

I recently needed to change my DNS settings, as my current settings weren’t cutting it. I decided to go back to Open DNS, the only truly independent DNS servers on the internet — until they sold out to Cisco Systems.

2. The “Silicon Valley Start-up” is dead. Funding resources that used to be available to entrepreneurs with good ideas and a business model have dried up. There won’t be any more new internet billionaires anytime soon.

3. There is still money to be made in the “gig economy” (Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, You Tube, Patreon, Gofundme, etc.) but it is harder and carries higher risk than it used to. Basically, if you are not already making good “gig economy” money, you probably never will until worker protections and benefits are common place for contract workers.

4. The “free” areas of the internet are shrinking and getting harder to access. Worse the advertising models that kept those areas free are not paying enough to keep them free.  More and more websites with actual good content are putting up pay walls.

Paywalls are the bane of many popular websites like Reddit which relies on commenting and sharing news and content from other sites.  Paywalls are blocking Reddit users from seeing the content they need to comment on, resulting in fewer meaningful posts.

When you rely on material from other sources, and those sources block you, you die like Fry’s Electronics.

5. Social media is in sharp decline across the board as these sites grow more toxic and advertiser dominated. Celebrities have learned to make money shilling their fame, and that is what dominates twitter and Instagram these days.

6. Toxicity in social media has leaked into multiplayer gaming where MMORPGs, Open PvP warfare games, and 3D Virtual Worlds that depend on social interaction for content and player retention are in sharp decline.

7. It almost doesn’t matter if “net neutrality” becomes the law again or not. It does not seem to serve a purpose anymore.  It was supposed to create a level playing field of customer access that both big companies and small companies can access, but too many other road blocks have been raised that the ones “net neutrality” was supposed to undo don’t really matter.

And yet there may be hope…

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While digging through my archived posts I found one written in 2010 called “What tech will be gone by the next decade?” and made some predictions.  I won’t bore you with a score card ( I was right about DVD’s, Satellite TV, and incadescent bulbs, but those were easy calls), but what interested me more were the predictions I got wrong.

The e-book revolution was supposed to change reading the same way that ipod changed listening to music.  It was supposed to be the death knell of the bookstore and the library.  And yet it didn’t. E-books account for only 20% of book sales.  That is where it has been for the last few years and holding steady.  Bookstores have turned a corner and may actually be making a comeback.  Libraries are growing in popularity as well supplanting shopping malls as the cool place to hang out.

Theaters are still surprisingly popular. Adding reclining seating, reserved seats, and alcoholic beverages has boosted the movie theater experience enough to keep people going.

To me, this all feels like a societal counter revolution.  The internet has caused so much change to society that we are collectively trying to rescue some elements of pre-internet society from the damaging effects of the internet.

This is all good.

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The best and worst elements of the internet

If you ask me what the greatest thing about the internet is, I’d tell you it is how the internet brings together like minded individualsI’m an aromantic.  I didn’t know this until I learned what an aromantic was.  Only 1% of the population is aromantic.  I’m also a nerd with an INTP personality.  Supposedly only 3% of the population is INTP.  I make indie visual novels using Poser.  The number of others that do is really small.  I have found supportive communities on each aspect of my life.  Learning I’m not alone in my weird hobbies and personality traits has brought a lot of joy to my life.  I’m pretty sure this has helped millions, maybe even billions of others as well.

If you ask me what is the worst thing about the internet is, I’d tell you it is how the internet brings together like minded individuals.  The sheer toxicity of society today both on and off the internet is largely due to toxic people egging each other on.  The “Boaty McBoatface” mentality of the internet is responsible for the rise of racism, sexism, nationalism, fascism, and religious demagoguery throughout the world that is threatening the survival of the entire planet.  Conspiracy theorist run rampant spreading lies and finding people that believe them and creating social movements based on lies.  Governments, political parties, and corporations are using social engineering techniques to control the uninformed masses.  Shutting down social media to stop these trends would do the world a lot of good.

What do we do when the best and worst elements of the internet are the same damn thing?

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Another brick in the wall

The main lesson to be found in the movie Joker is this:  Society is to blame for the problems of society.

Yeah, I thought it was a pretty lame theme as well.

My point is, the Internet is just another social institution that got really popular and then disappointed us, and now it is losing its influence.  In the past century, motion pictures, then radio, then TV, then video game consoles, then the Internet all dominated the public consciousness as we distracted ourselves from existence.

Is it losing it’s ability to influence us?  Yes!  Will it disappear?  Only the same way motion pictures, radio, TV, and video game consoles have disappeared (they haven’t).

The average internet user probably cycles between only 4 or 5 web sites daily. There are probably a dozen that they visit occasionally, and maybe 50 that they have bookmarked to check in on from time to time when they are bored.  The other billion websites they never visit.  These numbers are probably mirrored with internet apps.

The internet is meaning less and less to us. It seems we have all moved on to the next distraction:  Streaming services.

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Coming soon!  My new blog series: Whatever Happened To The Streaming Service Dream?

 

 

Switching Models Can’t Be Done!

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I’ve been tinkering with changing Ariane and Rachel from V4 based figures to La Femme based figures.

I’ve decided to abandon the project for a number of reasons.  First, no matter how close and recognizable the new versions were, they still didn’t look the same. Comparison test after test show V4 versions win every time.

I can say that at least the La Femme versions are recognizable. The one I tried using a Dawn  were not.  Despite the many advantages of using them, it feels like they are characters drawn by a different artist.  Caricatures rather than the originals.

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That doesn’t mean I will just toss them.  Sometimes a caricature is a good thing, but visual stories are best told with consistent looking art.

The Truth about V4 vs. La Femme

La Femme is a great model, I love working with it. Many difficult posing tasks are made really simple with La Femme.  This is why I used the La Femme version of Ariane as a stunt double during the Day 3 Gymnastics scenes in Ariane in Paradise.  This is why three new female characters in AiP: Christine, Lin, and Trish, were made using La Femme.

Poses are better in La Femme, hands are better in La Femme, so are feet, so are breasts, so is genitalia.  La Femme hands are very close to human, the individual bones in the hand are poseable, and the fingers look like real fingers instead of sausages.  But reality comes at a price: Getting the hands and fingers in just the right place takes more work.

Yet there is one key thing where V4 wins: Expressions.  V4 models are much better actors.  The faces are much more believable.  I learned a long time ago, faces are key to visual storytelling.  I need the V4 faces!

If you are starting with new characters, La Femme has some nice facial expression tools in those facial “chips”, but trying to use them to make realistic human expressions just doesn’t work.  I’m constantly making faces that look too exaggerated.  The slider model in V4 is just much more precise.

Superfly vs Firefly

Poser 11 has two different rendering engines called Superfly and Firefly. Superfly is a lighting physics based engine that results in often impressive realism. Most of Ariane in Paradise was done in it.

Firefly is based on ray tracing, the mathematics of light and shadow. The results are not as realistic as Superfly, but they are often prettier.  Pretty beats realism every time.

The three mini stories were a test of this, too. The first story was done in superfly. Impressive images, but they took on average 50 minutes to complete.  The second was done in Firefly, at an average rendering time of around 20 minutes.  Generally speaking outdoor images with few lights (especially just sunlight), should be done in Superfly. Indoor images (especially multi lighted ones) should be done in Firefly.

Bottom line…

 

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Time to go back to the old looks, and classic Firefly renders.

Moving In #3: The Puppy and the Hot Tub

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Rachel: Why did you set up the hot tub out here?  We have two empty rooms.

Ariane: I like it here by the big window, feels like I’m outside.

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Ariane: Dinky get down.

Rachel: I know you like to cuddle by us when we are sitting, but we can’t cuddle in the hot tub.

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Rachel: Oh no, Dinky!

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Ariane: Grab her, I don’t want her to drown.

Rachel: Dogs are buoyant and can dog paddle, she won’t drown.

Ariane: Yeah, but she’s just a puppy, I don’t know if she has ever been submerged in water before.

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Ariane: Sorry Dinky, the hot tub is off limits to dogs.  Now let me get you nice and dry so you are not dripping all over the floor.

 

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Ariane: She’ll be OK, she’s all scared a frightened.

Rachel: Poor Dinky, she looked so traumatized, I hope the experience didn’t scar her for life.

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Ariane: I hope she learned her lesson and won’t be trying it again anytime soon.

Full sized images:

 

Moving In #2: House Warming Gifts

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Rachel: Hey, how’s the painting going.

Ariane: I should be done with this wall by the end of the day.

Rachel: Good.  Remember when we talked this morning about each of us getting something new for the apartment?  I just bought something and I want to show you.

Ariane: Me too! Let me get down from the ladder and I’ll show you what I got.

loftpaint2

Rachel: So are you going to paint this whole room red like your house?

Ariane: No just that wall.  I was thinking blue for the wall near the stairs and green for the balcony.  I’m trying to decide between neon green and forest green.

Rachel: I like the green on your apron.

Ariane: Dark turquoise green.  Yeah that might work.  Haven’t decided on the columns yet, they are so inconveniently placed.

Rachel: Well they are keeping 20 stories of building from falling on top of us, so they are staying.

Ariane: Good point.  So I got us a Cubert.  This little robot guy is similar to Amazon Echo or Google Home in that it is a voice activated home assistant.  But instead of a boring can of beans shape, it’s shaped like a robot.

Rachel: Can it do robot things?

Ariane: It’s head will look at you when you ask it a question, and it’s arms do basic gestures depending on it’s response.

Rachel: It’s also got legs and feet, can it walk?

Ariane: Why don’t you ask it?

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Rachel: Hey Cubert, can you walk?

Cubert: No, but I am mobile. Can you carry me?

Ariane: Did I mention it has a bit of a weird personality?

Rachel: Awesome. I love it. Kind of cute, too.

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Rachel: But my gift might be cuter, let me get it out.

Ariane: What do you have in the box Rachel?

Rachel: I have…

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… a little doggo.

Ariane: Oh my god, you got us a puppy!  I love it!

Rachel: She’s a bit of a mutt, not sure what species, but she seems friendly enough.  She’s already been spayed and had her shots.  We just need to name her.

Moving In #1: The Model Loft

This is the first of a series of stories I’m throwing together whenever I’m in the mood.  I still haven’t decided what my next game will be, but I’m interested in carrying on with Ariane and Rachel, and adding a bit of sci-fi tech to the mix.

Note: If Ariane and Rachel look a little different than usual, it is because I’m using La Femme as a base model instead of Vicky 4.

Our story begins with Ariane and Rachel discussing moving in together now that Rachel is out of college and has quit modeling…

loftproject1aRachel: So what do you think?

Ariane: It’s nice, but it means living under the same roof as my mom.

Rachel: Ellison Tower is a huge building, I doubt you’ll even see her very often.

Ariane: I’m just wondering why we can’t move into my house. There is no pool here.

Rachel: The pool is expensive to upkeep, and you can only use it half the year.  This place is bigger than your house. We can even bring the hot tub.

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Ariane: I’m also closer to work, living here would save me a lot of money, and I really love this furniture.

Rachel: This is a model suite, we won’t have this furniture, but we both have furniture we can bring.

Ariane: Yeah, I guess. At least the view is spectacular.

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Rachel: We won’t have that either. This is model suite is on the 23rd floor. If we take it, our suite will be on the 5th floor.

Ariane: So our view will be…?

Rachel: A parking garage.

Ariane: Can I run around naked and give the parking lot patrons a show?

Rachel: Sure but the glass is one way so they won’t see you. This is high tech glass that traps solar energy and generates electricity.  It also has a TLCD coating.

Ariane: What’s that?

Rachel: Transparent Liquid Crystal Display, similar to color e-paper.

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(Rachel does something with her phone and suddenly the Pirate’s Cove from Duquesne appears in the windows.)

Ariane: The window is a video screen?

Rachel: It can display pictures, it is slow to refresh, so it can’t do video.

Ariane: So if we don’t like looking at the parking lot we can change the view?  Neat! Do the walls do the same thing?

Rachel: No just the glass.

Ariane: So I can paint the walls another color?

Rachel: That’s right, you are not a fan of white walls.  Sure, as long as I can hang my photos on them.

Ariane: Deal, let’s do this!

Links to full sized pictures: