How Victoria 7 Is Killing A Hobby

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As someone who does a lot of work in Poser for my games and other projects, that means I am involved in the 3D Rendering community, which I have written about before. About 3 years ago the community started getting bigger thanks to Daz3D releasing Daz Studio for free.

Until then, the community primarily consisted of users of Poser software, which is a fairly expensive program to get started on.  Daz Studio can do a lot of what Poser can do, though it has always lagged behind in certain areas, but it was sophisticated enough to give Poser a challenge, and it offered an inexpensive entry point.

The biggest difference between Daz Studio and Poser is the user interfaces. Both programs have a bit of a learning curve, and once you learn one, you are probably not going to want to learn the other.

For the last 3 years the community has kind of fractured in a friendly rivalry between Poser people, and Daz Studio people. Friendly, because a lot of content could be shared between the programs, and both programs produced some really great images.

One of the stumbling blocks you run into in this hobby is incompatible models. I have been playing with Poser since the “Posette” days which is one of the first female models.  A company called Zygote (now part of Daz3D) came up with the first really great anatomically correct models for Poser called Victoria and Michael. Clothing and accessories made for Posette would not work on Victoria and Michael.

This pattern followed with each model. Victoria and Michael were replaced by Victoria 2 and Michael 2 then Victoria 3 and Michael 3, then Victoria 4 and Michael 4.  Poses, skins, hair, and clothing designed for one model are incompatible with other models.  Not by design, it is just the nature of the constantly improving technology.

I created the first Date Ariane version using Victoria 3, and created and acquired quite a library of Victoria 3 and Michael 3 hair, clothing, and skin textures.  When I started “Something’s In The Air” Victoria 4 had been out for 4 years, and all the latest clothing and accessories were being made for the Victoria 4 and Michael 4 models. I made the leap to the superior model, and never looked back.

Victoria 4 has proven to be a great female model. Extremely versatile, and still the most popular today. It was also the last “Victoria” natively designed to work with Poser.

Daz3D moved on to a “Genesis” modeling system that was much more flexible than the Poser system, and incorporated it natively in Daz Studio. Poser users needed a converter to use Genesis models.  The DSON converter has never worked right, as neither Daz3D or Smith Micro (the makers of Poser) do not have much incentive to get it to work right. Because Genesis was not a huge improvement over Victoria 4, most Poser people did not bother upgrading.

Soon after giving away Daz Studio, Daz3D released Genesis 2.  Genesis 2 is an improvement over Victoria 4 as the joints look more natural in motion.  That has made Genesis 2 popular with all the new Daz3D users and even converted some Poser users to the model despite the broken DSON converter.

Many of us Poser users still stick to Victoria 4 as we can use the powerful “Morphing Tool” to fix minor joint oddities, or find other fixes available.

Third party vendors have found it most profitable to support both Victoria 4 and Genesis 2 models and as a result there are now plenty of skin, hair, clothing and accessories for both models.

Genesis 2 V6 on left, Genesis 3 V7 on right.  Not a huge difference.

And then Victoria 7 / Genesis 3 happened.

This week Daz3D released a new model and dubbed it Victoria 7 to get the name recognition. They are touting the higher polygon count allowing more details like the wrinkles in knuckle joints for example, to make the most realistic human 3D model ever. (Are we at the uncanny valley yet?)

This new model is making rather negative waves in both the Poser and Daz Studio communities.

Daz Studio fans are finding that, as in model generations past, their Genesis 2 clothing and accessories will not work on Genesis 3. That means shelling out lots more money to get all new clothing and accessories for Genesis 3, or just sticking with “obsolete” Genesis 2.

The sad part is Genesis 2 was just finally becoming supported enough by third party vendors that it could compete with Victoria 4 in versatility, but now third party vendors may start having second thoughts if Genesis 3 becomes a thing.

Poser fans are finding fine print on the Victoria 7 page:  Compatible Software: DAZ Studio 4.8
In other words, barring some miracle addition to the upcoming Poser Pro 2016, Genesis 3 models are not compatible with Poser.  That will be a further disincentive for third party vendors to support Genesis 3 as most of the community simply cannot use it at all.

As a Poser user, I have never felt a need to upgrade to figures higher than Victoria 4 and Michael 4, they are still widely supported and clothing, skins, and accessories for them still sell better than any other figure. While each of the Genesis models got more detailed, for my purposes (low res internet images), the details aren’t going to make much difference.

Poser is still better software than Daz Studio, with numerous tools not available in Daz Studio like the above mentioned Morphing Tool, numerous rendering engines to make your images look like drawings, paintings or comic books, including a native photo realistic renderer comparable to the best available for Daz Studio, also tools to fit clothing between models and dynamic clothing for animated cloth motion.

That’s not to say Daz Studio is bad, it handles the tasks most important to hobbyists, photo realistic still rendering and basic animation, as well as Poser does, and its memory management is superior enough to handle higher polygon counts, which is why it handles Genesis 3 and Poser does not.

If Daz3D no longer wants to support Poser, that’s their loss. I foresee a fracturing of the community that is already having negative effects.  The 3D rendering community is already a very small niche group, we do not need to make it smaller.

Here is my hope: There is ONE way this could go right for everybody. There should be a new version of Poser out later this year if they stick to their “every two year” upgrade pattern.

If Poser Pro 2016 were to include support for a complex 173 bone figure, and if Daz3D were to release a “Victoria 7 For Poser” product (no DSON conversion needed) then that would generate lots of interest for both upgrades.

It is such a good idea part of me wonders if this is the plan all along.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

A Day In The Life of Ariane

One of my post Something’s In The Air projects was to update my web page.  After doing Date Ariane, I came up with this idea of showing what Ariane is doing every moment of every day and creating a desktop theme that changes with the time of day.  My idea got really elaborate for a while, sometimes changing pictures every 5 minutes, but not knowing how to pull it off, I decided to port the idea to my web page.

Basically, whenever you visit the home page or the link page of arianeb.com, you will see Ariane’s predominant activity during that hour.  It is based on what time it is on your computer, so time zone does not matter.  There are weekday and weekend versions.

This has been the case now for a few years, and the original pics were purposely set in a different house than the one in Date Ariane.  I did a minor update after creating a V4 version of Ariane, but now that Ariane has a better house which I plan to use in SITA and Date Ariane 2, I decided to make all new pictures, though in the case of the above “Ariane goes to the office” it remains the same.

The old pictures were 1000×500 to support the fact that most people were viewing the web on computes via browsers on wide screen monitors. The new pictures are 1000×800 which is slightly better resolution but more square to support the fact that most people are now viewing on phones and tablets which can be oriented horizontally or vertically.

I’m planning on more changes to my website, such as easier to read text on small phone screens and bigger links for easier tablet clicking.  I still have at this writing 6 more pics to do, two dinner time, and four late night pics, I also want to do lunch time pics.

Director’s Commentary 1: Another Date With Ariane

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Now that the game is out, I thought I’d write some commentaries on the game, throw some insights into my thinking. I’m doing this as a “Director’s Commentary” like you might have in a DVD if this was a movie.  This post will contain spoilers! If you have not played story 1 yet, download the game now and play it first.

If you want to follow along, before you start the game, go to the “Options” menu, then “Prequel Menu”, then select “Did It All!”.  The commentary will be based on that version of Ariane’s story, as I think it is the most fun.  It is designed primarily for fans of the original Date Ariane game, as there are a lot of references to the first game. Also make sure transitions are on, and that the Auto Forward Time is slid all the way to the right so you can follow along.

This “Did It All!” version also has a different opening introduction, mentioning that Ariane is also a friend in town, and that you have been on a few dates, rather than one date.

“Your Alarm goes off at 7 AM…”

My original vision for this game was 6 stories. The first choice would be “Get Up” or “Sleep In”, then the next choice would be “Call Ariane”, “Go To The Gym”, or “Play Video Games”  The original Get Up/Call Ariane is the current Story 1. Get Up/Go To The Gym is the story of Heidi and Wendy, Heidi’s story may be told in the future, Wendy’s story is in the game as “bonus” content in that it just magically shows up after a while. Get Up/Play Video Games is the current story 4. Sleep In/Call Ariane would have been a story about Lydia the Lead Singer. Sleep In/Go To Gym is the current story 2, and Sleep In/Play Video Games is the current story 3.

SITA is a story about how seemingly mundane choices lead to incredible outcomes.  The simple choice of, “Do I get up?” or “Do I go back to bed?” can, in this universe, change the world.  For now we are going to get up and call Ariane.

“You Have Been Out on a few dates…”

Originally, the first image of this game was the second image in Date Ariane.  I originally rendered most of story 1 with the original Ariane model, before I decided that Ariane needed a major makeover. Ultimately there were about 5 different makeovers, and then I decided the old Ariane house set was way too outdated too, and so I upgraded her house to this.  So on one hand, this image looks nothing like the second image from Date Ariane, but on the other hand it represents a preview of what the second image from Date Ariane will look like when I do an update in the future.

By the way, the original name of this story was “Second Date”, but because I made this special version, requiring there to be multiple dates with Ariane in the past, that the name was changed to “Another Date”.

“Some of these dates…”

Most of the time in the making of this game, I render using basic lighting that looks pretty decent, but the Poser 9 Renderer can use some very advanced lighting like “Sub Surface Scattering” which simulates real skin modeling and “Image Based Lighting” that gives a precise simulation of ambient lighting. This picture of Ariane nude in bed uses both of these advanced techniques. The majority of the images in this game do not use advanced techniques, mostly because they are extra time consuming to set up, test, and then render.  A few key pictures in the game do use advanced rendering, another one is coming up soon.

“Hello?”

Like most writers, I started writing the story before I started illustrating.  When I got to the illustrating stage, and realized that illustrating a phone conversation from a first person point of view is boring (it can either be just a black screen with text or staring at a wall with text), I decided a imaginative approach would be much better.  The rules are: 1. You are not seeing any of this literally, so you imagine talking to a naked Ariane, but that does not mean she is.  2. Images slide in and out of frame to give a surreal effect to the conversation. 3. You only envision something once Ariane mentions it.  So when she mentions eating breakfast, you then imagine her in her kitchen.  There are three other phone conversations in this game, and they all follow these rules.

There are no dead ends in this version of story 1, so it does not matter your choices, so we will skip ahead…

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“You arrive at the restaurant…”

Here is another example of advanced lighting. The room is lit by 4 spotlights, and ray tracing uses 3 or 4 bounces. Notice the reflection of the glasses and the bottles on the bar counter, you will not see that kind of detail in any other image set in the bar. Primarily because the image took about 8 hours to render.

All four stories in “Something’s In The Air” have introductory sequences that have nothing to do with the plot of the particular story.  Relevant choices in Ariane’s story do not happen until the theater, which is like the 6th scene in the story.  All of these introductory scenes are designed to 1.) create a setting and introduce characters, and 2.) show how the various stories cross each other.  This same bar scene happens in story 2, only you are there with Dave instead of Ariane.  All of the main characters in the game, except Dave, show up somewhere in story 1.

Here we see Rachel Spahr, who is actually kind of the star of SITA, Stacy the Strip Club Manager, and Bonnie the Bartender.  I should note that when I was laying down the story for SITA, and had to start coming up with names for the characters, I just started making names that start with the same letter as their job: Stacy the Strip Club Manager, Bonnie the Bartender, Heidi the Hairdresser, Wendy the Weight Trainer, Lydia the Lead Singer, Veronica the Vamp, Paula the Professor, etc.

The audio in this scene is an ambient crowded bar/restaurant sound I downloaded from  Freesound.org. It is absolutely perfect for this scene, except that this is supposed to be an American restaurant, and it sounds like a bunch of British accents are heard.  Could not find a better sound with American accents, so I stuck with the British voices. It’s summer after all, maybe they are visiting the States?

“The Restaurant Bar is getting crowded now.”

The background image is a separate render from the foreground.  In the background is Lydia the Lead Singer, and the rest of the band. The basic story there is that the band is about to start their big tour, and they are doing a concert in front of the home crowd.  Some record exec hears their sound check, and then invites band and crew (in the missing story you are part of the crew) to dinner, hence the overcrowded restaurant interfering with your date with Ariane (and Rachel in story 2).

Early versions of this picture had Bonnie the Bartender wiping down the table, thus body blocking your view of the restaurant patron on the far right who is not wearing pants.  Putting clothing on every background character is sometimes an annoying chore, so there are a lot of nearly naked background characters in this game, though most are not this easy to spot.

Ariane asks, “So how has your day been?”  This is a type of choice I use a lot in the game to try and cut down on boring background exposition.  One choice explains what happened to Ariane during the day, the other explains what happened to you. If you talk about yourself, the conversation changes to baseball. References to the baseball game appear a few times later in the story, but are missing if you ask about Ariane’s day.  If you ask about Ariane’s day, and you have already met Rebecca (which in the case of “Done It All!” you have), she will mention that Rebecca had asked out Ariane, too.  Had you not called Ariane before she went to the gym, she would be out with Rebecca tonight. In story 2, Rebecca and Ariane are seen on their date in the background.

“What the hell did you do that for, Stacy?”

When you play this scene on the default setting, or any prequel setting not involving the strip club, Ariane does not call her by name, just some “blonde bitch”.  So if you went to the strip club, and Ariane won the amateur night contest, then suddenly they know each other by first name, and it sounds like they see each other regularly.  Does Ariane now work at the strip club?  I don’t have an answer to that, and it does not matter. Ariane never mentions her career in either Date Ariane or SITA, and I imagined her career was “Video Game Character”, and if you ask Ariane what she does for a living she says, “I work as a model, video game actor, and I sell animations in Second Life.”, so that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

In this conversation, we learn a personality trait of Ariane’s that shows up once or twice in Date Ariane: When she is angry she gets brutally honest.  If you play SITA with a prequel setting in which you slept with her on the first date, she will be a little bit mad at you during the first half of the date, because you waited over a week to call her.  That brutal honesty comes out a couple of times.  The original version of this story was that “angry” version of Ariane, and testers hated her. That’s when I came up with “excited Ariane” (the default version) and later “practically a girlfriend Ariane” which is the version we are playing now.

Incidentally, there is a third version of this conversation you can see if you go to prequel menu and select “Dance and Lost”. Stacy will start calling Ariane “Betty” which is the stage name Ariane used at the strip club.

“You go to the table, there are pictures you took of Ariane.”

Here is another scene that only shows up if you either “Did It All!!” or pick a prequel where you do a photo shoot in the mountains.  In Date Ariane, there are multiple versions of that scene. These pics are the ones where you ask Ariane to take off her shirt then her pants. Another version are pants first.  The pics on the table are a mix of old Ariane and new Ariane, which illustrates that they do look somewhat alike. I was too lazy to recreate all of these pictures with the new model for this game, especially considering how small they are, but after I do an updated Date Ariane, I will update this picture to show only new model Ariane pics.

“You know what, Stacy did us a favor…”

In Date Ariane, the text was always color coded to match the whatever the speaker was wearing. Doing that is very hard in RenPy, but coloring the name tags of the players is very easy.  Every Ariane line prior to this line had Ariane’s name in pink. because she was wearing a pink gown. From this point forward, Ariane has a blue name tag, because she now has a blue shirt on.

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“May I take your order?”

This diner scene has the same funny trick used in Date Ariane in which there is no way to tell if the waitresses have tops on or not. From the pictures on the wall they apparently do not, but things keep getting in the way of your view.  There is a scene buried in one of the Rachel stories that reveals the truth: The waitress is wearing a white top.  In fact, the character model has the top on in every picture, but I used the top to help me with the blocking.

“So. here we are on another date…”

First picture of Paula, the main character from story 4.  If you watch her in the background she is picking up an order of coffee and donuts to go, in story 4 you will find out why. All of the datable girls make a cameo in story 1.  We saw Rachel, Stacy and Bonnie in the bar, here is Paula, Veronica is coming up, and Wendy makes a one pic cameo in a hot green dress in the “Celebrity Sightings” ending, which we will not do in this commentary.

“Well let’s see…”

Usually at this point, Ariane will describe all the things you did on your last date, depending on what you pick in the prequel menu or what you type in to your custom ending.  The “Done It All!” setting has Ariane describing all that went on with somewhere between 8 and 10 previous dates.  Since you apparently just arrived in town a month ago and this is the first time  in over a week that you two have gone out. 10 dates in the span of 3 weeks seems pretty crazy. Many of the dates described cannot even be done in Date Ariane.  Well the whole point is not to be realistic or accurate, the whole point of the very long dialogue is to give fans of Date Ariane a funny reminder of all the crazy stuff that went on in that game.  Often in this dialogue you get Ariane’s version of the dates, which are different from the players point of view.  I especially like Ariane’s take on the mountain photo shoot date.

“So we have been on many epic dates…”

Like I said, there are three versions of “Another Date”, and the post flashback scene is the most obvious divide. The default/no sex version has Ariane making light of you not calling her, and when you tell her she could call you, she does right there at the table.  The “sex on the first date” version reminds Ariane that it took you a week to call and she gets mad again, but then the two of you come to a friendly understanding and she finally forgives you.  The many dates version we are on has you and Ariane having the “What kind of relationship do we have?” talk, which Ariane hates, leading to a Muse and Spirit discussion.  Later if you meet Rebecca, there is some hilarious exchanges.  I had to completely rewrite the Rebecca ice cream scene on the “Done It All!” version as the two other versions made no sense in the “Done It All!” scenario. I’m mentioning this now because we are not going down that path either.

“The theater downtown has three different movies playing.”

Not only did I give the three movies titles that have never been used, I gave them titles so lame that they will never be used.  If you don’t get the joke of “The Maguffin Job”, you should learn what a “MacGuffin” is.  Basically, every action film ever made has had a “MacGuffin” as Hitchcock described it. “The Opposite Gender” does not roll off the tongue like “The Opposite Sex”, but the latter is a real movie, I just needed something that sounds like a romantic comedy.  In Date Ariane, “The Opposite Gender” had not come out yet, and a movie called “Heartbroken” was playing.  You can see this yourself if you scroll back to the flashback scene when you were eating at the fancy restaurant.  That means “The Opposite Gender is the new film that opened up this weekend (and why it is so crowded).  Finally, “Love, As Usual” is the drama film.  The game does not use the titles, only the genres. We are going to Let Ariane Decide.

“You finally get in and the theater is packed.”

The theater model that I used here has an audience of simple stick figures occupying  the seats. If you look at the arms you will notice. The round ball heads broke the illusion, so I used low rez hair figures and painstakingly put the hair on all the foreground audience figures so they look more real.  You can still see the round head ones in the background.   The movie preview has an A rating. I wanted to avoid trademark issues with the MPAA, so as a tribute to the late Roger Ebert I used an “A” rating which Roger wanted between R and X to separate legitimate adult films from porn. In response, the MPAA created NC-17 and then defeated the purpose of the rating by giving the NC-17 rating to porn movies, and now they can’t be advertised.  Now all films between R and NC-17 go with “Unrated” to avoid the “porn” stigma of NC-17.

“As you take your seat…”

So here is the Veronica cameo.  My original draft of Ariane’s date was to have one bad thing after another happen. As the 6 people who saw my alpha version can attest, the date was REALLY bad, bordering on miserable and unfun. Veronica’s phone exchange was twice as long as it is here, and people hated it.  In order to make it more playable it got edited down. When you do finally meet Veronica in story 3, she is not quite as unlikeable as she is here.  Also, she eventually pays dearly for leaving her ringer on in a theater.  A lesson to all theater goers, turn your cell phones off!

When writing the game, I was very sensitive to timeline issue (only to screw it up later when I dropped some stories).  Restaurant was at 7 PM, diner was around 7:20 to 7:45, theater is 8:05.  At this point Veronica leaves and goes to the bar.  In story 3, the baseball game ends around 8:10, and you get to the bar at around 8:20, and you may leave to the convention with Veronica at 8:30. The part of the Veronica phone dialogue that I cut out is Tanner telling Veronica that she needs to find a guy to bring with her to keep his significant other from finding out about their affair, which is why you get dragged to the convention in the first place.  It was way too much dialogue, and there are enough clues for you to figure this out on your own.

“The movie is starting…”

Most of the music I use in the game is from a collection of royalty free music I purchased from the composer Marc Riedinger. He did a romantic comedy song, but I used it in the Ariane flashback scene as well as the Rachel dinner scene. Here I used a piece called “Radio Martini” by Kevin McLeod, one of four non Riedinger compositions, and the only one not in a dance or club scene.

I created vignettes of the three movie genres to portray the movies. “The Opposite Gender” opens with the typical “meet cute” scene, then pic 2 is the inevitable fight, and pic three is the final make up. Every Romantic Comedy movie since Charles Chaplin has followed this formula.  The background pictures are pictures I took while visiting family in Manhattan. The first is Rockefeller Center. The second is a view of the Empire State Building as seen from the top floor of 30 Rockefeller Center.  The third is Times Square, which is purposely blurry to avoid any copyright complaints from advertisers in Times Square.

Funny fact about all three movies: The main actor and actress models are the same in all 3 movies. I just changed the hair and clothing. In fact not very well, the actor in the romantic comedy is wearing the same thing as the actor in the action film, I only changed the hair color and the shirt color.

“So what did you think?”

Here is another place that I significantly changed the dialogue from the first draft, Ariane originally HATES the movie with a passion, giving a verbose bad review, only making the date seem more miserable.  Now she makes a funny joke about how forgettable it was. Much better!

I originally had a street sound loop that had both talking and traffic in it, but it also had a bus noise that was really annoying every 20 seconds of the loop.  To replace it I took two ambient loops, one with traffic and one with talking, and mixed them together.  The talking is soft and barely audible, and is in Ukranian rather than English, but it gets the job done. Once again we have a choice, we are going to pick Let her decide what to do.

In the original version, which you can get a taste of if you pick a last date where you slept together, Ariane complains that you made all the decisions on the last date (which is true, because that was the whole point of the game).  Ariane insisted that she make all the decisions this time, and all her decisions turn out to bad ones. I toned this down quite a bit, even on the version where you slept together on the first date, but because of that original concept of the second date, the best choice always turns out to be to let her decide, which is why we did it twice in a row.

“Ariane heads out of town driving into the mountains.”

This picture should look familiar to players of Date Ariane. I just rerendered it to 1280×720 size and turned the orange colored dirt to green grass.  Apparently grass grows really fast in this universe.  I also changed perspective from driver to passenger since Ariane is driving this time.  The music here is a rocking version of the same music you hear in the bar when Ariane gets wine dumped on her, a third version can be heard in the “blackout fun” thread.  This is three variants of a theme called “dancing mice”.  I sort of made it Ariane’s unofficial theme song.  The second picture is also a rerender from Date Ariane with grass and some giant boulders.

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“Well here we are…”

The orange glow on the right is coming from the city, which is visible in Date Ariane, but due to copyleft attribution requirements, I did not use here. That’s OK, you do not need to leave the car.  A regular convention in Date Ariane was to show Ariane making kissing face whenever you kiss. I rarely use it in SITA, as it kind of looks dumb, but since it is foreplay leading up to sex, I use it here. (I use it again in a foreplay moment with Rachel).

“I have been wanting this…”

Since depending on your choice of prequel, this is either your first time, second time, or tenth time having sex with Ariane. It would seem logical to have three different dialogues here, but for some reason this scene feels right no matter if it is the first or tenth.  Ariane’s odd choice of vehicle (which was actually decided because it was the only free vehicle model I found online when I was first making Date Ariane) now presents a privacy problem which Ariane solves by using your shirt as drapes.

“She then gets on your lap…”

I will assume you played this scene before, and all your attention was focused on the foreground, especially when Ariane unbuttons her top.  This time pay attention to the background, which in the first picture is perfectly black.  Second picture is identical, except clouds appear on the left.  As you move through the scene the clouds are moving farther and farther from left to right.  By the time she shows you her tits, the background sky is very gray even through the tree branches…leading to “BOOM!”

In Date Ariane, I establish that the mountains are fairly close to the lake, and I establish in SITA that the lightning strikes twice near the lake. That’s why the thunder is a bit louder here than in other paths, and also that it corresponds so quickly to the lightning.  On other paths you see the lightning flash, then a thunder rumble demonstrating it is a ways away.

“Maybe we should get out of here…”

Here are four nearly identical pictures in a row with different lighting. First has the orange glow of the city.  Second is animated lightning, two images flipping back and forth in an uneven pattern to simulate lightning. Third is darkness, which is probably too bright considering reality.  Date Ariane had a nearly full moon which made he night sky bright, SITA which takes place over a week later would have a half moon that rises around midnight, and the storm hits at around 11:00 PM in all timelines, hence there is no moon in this game.  That’s how much detail I added to the game: I even get the astronomy right.  Finally we get some reflected headlights to brighten things up.

“So how does tonight rank…”

The drive home dialogue is different in “Done It All!”. In all other scenarios, Ariane complains about how bad the date has been so far, in this one there is comparisons between the other 8 to 10 dates.

The “rainfall” is made up of two rainfall png files that are animated back and forth giving a decent low memory illusion of rain.  Every time rain shows up in the game I use the exact same technique and pictures.

“She goes into her bedroom…”

The sexy black sheer robe, first seen in Date Ariane, makes another appearance, though it has pockets now.  The hall pic and the cocoa pic make Ariane look different as if I used different models.  All I did was move her bangs out of her left eye and change her smile slightly. Funny how making such a small change can give a different look.  Ariane’s recipe of cocoa is one I use all the time.  Growing up, whenever we had soggy rainy days, my mom would make real cocoa, the kind you can only get in the fanciest restaurants these days.  That put me off instant cocoa for life as it tastes disgusting in comparison. However, Nesquik mixed with microwaved whole milk tastes surprisingly close.  Memories of cocoa on rainy days, made me add this scene.

“Why don’t you spend the night?”

It took a lot of trial and error to get that dropping the robe effect exactly right.

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“Let’s get back to where we left off…”

Normally, I don’t post nude pics of Ariane in the blog, but this one is important. The one in the beta version of the game is wrong.  It has a cheap looking picture on the wall.  The picture above is what it should look like, the picture is a Monet’s Water Lillys at Sunset.  If you want to correct your beta copy,  right click the picture and “Save Link As…” to the “Somethings In The Air-beta2-win/game” directory keeping the aribedroom1.jpg name so that the game uses it. You will have to save game then restart the game to see it.  This is the new bedroom introduced 3 posts ago.  The trophy to the right of her head I imagine being a gymnastics trophy.  In other pictures, you may see some medals as well.

“Next Morning”

Ariane’s new house still has bay windows, though now they have Venetian blinds, and there are still tract houses across the street, though I updated their look too.  The game ends with another Muse/Spirit exchange reminiscent of the diner conversation.

And that’s the end of story 1.  At some point in the future I’ll do stories 2, 3, and 4.  I might have a hard time with 2 as I am going to have a hard time deciding which path to choose with Rachel, there are at least 3 really good ones.

What’s New With Ariane

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I thought I’d take time out from working on Something’s In The Air, to show some changes to Ariane.  If I get around to updating Date Ariane, I will be using these models.  So this is more of a preview of the prequel remake, I think.

Ariane’s looks have changed once again. This time I changed the shape of her face slightly.  Not only is she a little cuter, she looks a little more like the Date Ariane version.  She was originally supposed to look like Audrey Hepburn, but now she looks more like another British actress, though I’m not sure if it is Gemma Arterton, Michelle Dockery, or Jenna-Louise Coleman.  Dockery is probably the closest, but if you put Coleman’s eyes on Arterton’s head you would get a closer match.  (OK, you got me, Kim Kardashian’s eyes on Arterton’s head would be closer, I just happen to be a Doctor Who fan.)  If you want to see more pics, I rerendered all the portfolio pics with the new face. Eventually, the whole website will use the new look.

Anyways, enough about that, lets check out the house. Above is the living room couch, now white cloth with blue throw pillows instead of the old black vinyl and no throw pillows. Behind her is the dining area, and that orange section in back is the kitchen.

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Yes the kitchen is a bright orange, with black counters and appliances and dark brown wood cabinets. A nice change from the apricot color kitchen that looked a little too 70’s retro for me.

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If you turn around and look back towards the living room, you will see that the bay windows have moved to the side. In its place is a TV and a bookshelf filled with great works of literature.  OK, the first shelf are great works of literature the rest are trashy romance novels.  The old “boom box” is still there, because there is an area in front for dancing.

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Last but not least is the bedroom.  Goodbye pink painted stucco, hello beige yellow wallpaper.  I moved my computer in here.  I have some gymnastics memorabilia on the shelves, and a print of Monet’s Water Lillys at Sunset.  Behind you unseen are some glass doors opening to the patio and pool area.

And that’s the five cent tour. There is also a gray colored bathroom and a second bedroom you will probably never see, as well as a garage.  Now back to work.

Fun With Subsurface Scattering

A few months into this project, I upgraded from Poser 7 to Poser 9. One of the new features of Poser 9 was a new skin rendering model called Subsurface Scattering, or SSS. It is a form of Ambient Occlusion.  If you don’t understand this stuff, well neither do I.  All I know for sure is that it can sometimes make pictures look better.  But it is tricky. The worst SSS images I have seen makes the skin look ceramic, but washed out and pale skin is common too.

Here is my attempt at applying the SSS model to Ariane’s current skin:

While the skin detail is there, the color looks off, and that “ceramic” look creeps in too.  It is not just about applying the skin model to any skin, it has to be the right skin and tuned to use SSS model.  Well I found just such a skin on Renderosity.  The name caught my attention first, but then I noticed how close the the skin is to the one I am using for Ariane already, and it is already pre-tuned to work with SSS.

The application of the skin to Ariane’s model resulted in the picture on the right at the top of this post. The one on the left is the non-SSS model.  When I posted that comparison on Facebook, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the right picture over the left.  I agree, but that means re-rendering a lot of pictures.  I think it might actually be worth it though.

Its All About the Lighting!

Ariane isn’t the only major character I tried this skin trick with.  The Paula character seemed a prime candidate as well, because the skin I was using was a weak point already, not to mention the hair style wasn’t working either.  So I found a similar SSS enabled skin for her too, and a better hair style.  Since there are a lot fewer Paula pics to redo than Ariane pics, I started rerendering Paula first.  Most of the time I just swapped out the hair and skin and rerendered, which usually works out OK, until I got to a series of pics that take place in an office.

As you can see on the left, the old hair and skin looked OK in the office lighting, but I was trying to make it look better.  When I just swapped out the hair and skin and re-rendered, it actually turned out worse, as you can see in the center. The secret to improving on the original was to adjust the lighting in the scene, resulting in the much better pic on the right.  I have a feeling this is going to prove true when I get to redoing the Ariane pictures.

(Side note: I was planning on redoing a lot of the Ariane’s anyways as in my rush to do her story, I noticed she has a bit of an acting problem, having the same expression on her face in 80% of the pictures. Re-rendering is not going to be a pointless chore).

And Sometimes You Shouldn’t!

Since Ariane and Paula worked out for the better, why not improve Rachel too?  Well after trying the same techniques to Rachel, the results are: the non-sss Rachel actually looks better!  New technology does not make everything better.  The SSS Rachel on the right looks flat and uninteresting. The one on the left may look less “real” but it has more character, which is especially good because there are an awful lot of Rachel pics that I did not want to re-render.

Cosplay in 3D

As predicted I am back in “creative” mode, and working on Something’s In The Air most of my spare time.  My current project is to create an outdoor Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival, a “Comic-Con” type festival, though that name is TM so I can’t actually call it that.  Even worse is that these festivals often have a lot of people dressed up as their favorite tv/comic/movie/video game characters, all of which are also copyrighted or trademarked, so I can’t actually have any familiar characters in costumes.

I thought for fun I would make at least one up. Above is a pretend costume of a pretend comic character which I still haven’t settled on naming yet, sort of a female Green Arrow™, and at some point there will be a discussion of pretend adventures, with pretend supervillains, and other assorted pretend geek speak.

The black background is due to the fact that I have yet to build the set that this pretend festival takes place.  Sets can be time consuming work, and I am going to need a vendor area (and stuff for the vendors to sell), a stage for trivia and costume contests take place, a gaming area where a card game tournament is going on, a weapon demo area (“fire a real medieval crossbow, $5”), and other attractions.  It is also set outdoors at night, which means light sources have to be included, and of course some generic background crowds.

Below are some of the pretend costumes I came up with.  I figured with Halloween coming up it would be appropriate to share:

A couple of goth/vampire types.

The classic superhero types, the guys could probably use some symbols on their chests.

Some spaceship crew members, the girls in skin tight uniforms.  Putting the sci-fi in sci-fi/fantasy.

And putting some fantasy in sci-fi/fantasy are some neo-medieval costumes.

Meet Paula

I know there hasn’t been a lot of posts this summer, in truth there has not been a lot of news to share in the topics I usually blog about.  In between various distractions, I have been working on Something’s In the Air, and have now finished story 5 of 5, with story 4 only half way done and story 2 only existing in bits and pieces.  As promised, I would introduce the main characters as I completed their story.  I introduced Rachel (story 3) almost 6 months ago, and Ariane is story 1.

While playing some Japanese Date Sims, there are these typical tropes among the datable women. Ariane is “action girl”,  Rachel is “geek girl”, and Paula is primarily defined as “smart girl”: a certified genius and scientist, she doesn’t bother with makeup, and has a low maintenance hairstyle.  She is probably the type of girl you are unlikely to meet in a bar, which is why she has a second defining characteristic: she’s a “gamer”.

While writing Something’s In The Air,  I have had to make “you the player” a character in the story.  At the beginning of the story, you are defined as a single guy who moved to town about a month ago for work, and in that month you have only met and dated one girl, Ariane.  Since SITA is a game, I am assuming that “you the player” also play other games, so meeting another gamer like Paula is a possibility.

She is a natural red head, age 25, single by virtue of being too busy for a social life. Since I made her a red head, may as well give her freckled skin, and a Scottish sounding last name Brannigan (yes, after the character from Futurama, though they share absolutely nothing in common).  I also gave her the facial features of another beautiful scientist, Natalie Portman.

I also showed you this picture of her in my last post.  Even though gaming is the primary setting for story 5, the theme revolves around science and mystery.  To emphasize that fact, I threw in some tropes from my favorite science/mystery TV show Fringe, including introducing locations with floating letters, and a guy who looks like an observer making a cameo (but irrelevant to the plot).  Story 5 is the end game that unlocks after you reached key ending points in the other 4 stories.  Once unlocked the story involves a series of gaming puzzles that once solved reveal the big ending.

I do something similar with all five stories to separate them thematically.  Next up is story 4, which has a comic book theme.  It is set in an outdoor comic convention, which means another crowd scene, and this time with a bunch of “cosplay” characters that cannot be trademarked, so I have to make up some new ones.  I knew this story was going to be trouble when I wrote it.  I do like to challenge myself!