User Interfaces Should Be More Obscure!

June 11, 2007 12:28 am

The first time I used Bryce, I was momentarily taken aback by the interface. Odd buttons with arrows, a row of shapes along the top, and small triangles here and there surrounded a seemingly straightforward but boring grid. But with a few experimental clicks, I was able to put together and render "Glass Sphere and Torus Floating Over Water." If I say so myself, the reflection of the shapes (standard glass), the waves and clouds (default settings), and forty seconds of intensive rendering time on my x386 machine produced a perfect capture of the essential conflict "Man vs. Floating Shapes."
Sadly, I was unable to save my modern masterpiece. I didn't know how to quit the program.
For those who are unfamiliar with Bryce, the default settings typically leave the interface in the middle of the screen surrounded by a thick black border. None of the little shapes or spheres or triangles in that island of glowing pixels seemed to have anything to do with saving a picture or quitting the program. Keeping my computer on for centuries so that others could view my work was a possibility, but that seemed so unfair to the millions who would be unable to afford my hefty admission fee.
So, I would have to shut down the program. But how? Fortunately a neighbor owns a high-powered assault rifle which he was all too willing to let me borrow. Something about wanting to obscure "the prints," whatever that means. So I returned to... what? Oh no, no, no! Don't for a moment think I was going to shoot my machine. That would be foolish. Instead I went outside and blasted a few transformers, knocking out power in a three county region and shutting down my computer with a minimum of sparks and only a single, well-contained fire.
After this incident I was able to take some time off and ponder the situation, free of distractions other than a riot or two in Cell Block 3. I realized that the interface for Bryce is designed for one reason: to keep out the rift-raff, the hoi polloi, the common rabble, the plebeians, the lumpenproletariat, the...well, I think you get the point. Bryce's interface is designed simply to keep out those who will do nothing more than produce quick, trite images which will clog up the Internet and keep true masterpieces -- such as the much missed "Glass Sphere and Torus Floating Over Water" -- from being properly appreciated.
Thanks to some legal technicalities, the calling in of political favors, and a psychiatric report stating that all tests show "major loon," I was back on the streets in less than a week. The system works!
I soon discovered that there was written material explaining how to use Bryce, and from this I learned that if one simply moves the cursor to the top of the screen a standard toolbar with Save and Exit will magically appear. I confess that the actual utility of the so-called "User's Guide," was a bit of a surprise. For the past several years I have worked as a technical writer, and my own experience shows that, aside from some jargon filled pages in the front , the rest of the document can be filled with recipes for waffles and no one is the wiser.
With Bryce now conquered I moved on to DAZ Studio. I wondered why this was available for free, but months later, after dropping three large at the Renderosity Marketplace, I began to glimpse their marketing strategy.
Initially, however, I was stuck with the free items which come with DAZ Studio such as a simplified Victoria 3.0 and a fairy outfit. Not that I have a problem with other people's lifestyle choices, but I wondered whether this virtual outfit would affect my well-known macho image. Apparently, though, I don't have a macho image, at least that's what my therapist, hair stylist and Frank the All-Knowing Shoe-Shine Guy told me. So that's a relief.
At any rate, I was quickly able to get the quasi-nude Victoria 3.0 to appear and, not wanting to provoke a raid by a local SWAT team, quickly clothed in the bikini-like fairy outfit. A few dozen clicks and one or two blasphemous curses showed me that I could adjust various numbers to get limbs, fingers, and heads (or head, I should say) to move. The thrill and excitement of this quickly lead to more horror: her clothes didn't follow her as she moved! For that matter, neither did her hair.
I downed a few xanax and soon realized that I could make similar adjustments to various numbers for her clothes and hair. It took only six hours of painful manipulation to achieve my first DAZ Studio masterpiece: "Victoria, in Fairy Outfit, Walks Left."
Critical praise was less that I had hoped for.
Apparently the software allows one to "parent" objects to figures so that they follow along automatically. And then there are "poses" which, well, pose. The whole thing could have been done in ten seconds.
Okay, fine, mean people on the message boards. But given that I had already found useful information in one "User's Guide" what were the odds that lightning would strike again? Apparently pretty good, as I also learned during a thunderstorm that night when my car was hit by a stray bolt and exploded.
Thus DAZ Studio is another program which has an interface calculated to keep out the rift-raff, the hoi polloi, the common rabble, etc. etc. Normally I have no problem with this concept, but I was starting to take this personally.
My paranoia grew over the next few weeks as I tried new rendering techniques.
* I made several attempts to export Victoria from DAZ Studio to Bryce without success. I was puzzled until one day at work when I was giving a talk to the board she appeared in her fairy outfit on slide 5 of my PowerPoint presentation. Luckily that wasn't a problem, indeed it seemed to improve interest in my talk, "Effective Deployment of User Support Documentation."
* Blender is a widely used program for modeling. Or so they claim. I have yet to be able to figure out how to do anything in it, although for some reason every time I fire up the program airliners begin to stack-up over Dulles International.
* I happened to be passing the headquarters of Autodesk and stopped by to introduce myself and purchase a copy of Maya. At first they were nice, but suddenly an executive popped in and claimed that there was no software by that name. I persisted, pointing out that their own website called Maya a "powerful, integrated 3D solution." Apparently that's the work of bored programmers. He did, however, give me directions to Newtek, telling me not to believe them if I got there and they claimed Lightwave 3D was a hoax.


The View from Lobeville
by Contributing Columnist
Ron Kollgard [AnteriorLobe]
A personal commentary about the critical, the important, and other stuff.
Ron is also a member of the
Renderosity Comics Team. Be sure to catch his weekly comic strip, "Non-Canonical" among the other fine works of our hard-working cartoonists.

June 11, 2007
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Article Comments

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 13 June 2007

Been there, done that ... thanks for the laughter. Dee-Marie

Hypernaut ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 14 June 2007

LOL - I think we all smacked our foreheads occasionally, after discovering how easy things actually could have been Very entertaining writing - hope to get more of it !!!

Kimberly.3D ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 14 June 2007

Very funny indeed. I remember my first trip through Bryce and Daz too...with similar thoughts and feelings did I proceed! Kimberly.3D

kahshe ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 14 June 2007

Hey I got Blender to do something, but sadly I forget how. Bryce is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. I already use Poser so learning Daz Studio....I tried a couple of times doesn't make much sense to me. Now we've got to deal with Vista. I do get the upgrade blues so thanks for the laughs....rog

Jean-Luc_Ajrarn ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 15 June 2007

ROFLMAO! thanks for the laugh. :)

watchman2005 ( posted at 12:00AM Sun, 17 June 2007

Enjoyed your humour. Bryce did puzzle me as a lot of programmes do though I found Daz less perverse than Poser but then it could be me that's just perverse!

AnteriorLobe ( posted at 12:00AM Sun, 17 June 2007

Thanks for the nice comments about this piece. I very much appreciate it.

DramaKing ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 18 June 2007

I haven't laughed so hard for months, er, weeks, or make that days. Whichever it was, or is, I laughed pretty hard. It's always good to make light of our problems. That wasy we don't go gun crazy and knock out power transformers or simply boot the computer out a second-story window and drive over it in a car.

ysvry ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 18 June 2007

very funny tale , just read it after a night long finding out how rigging and boning works in blender, They want a portfolio whithin a week for a work place making a new opensource movie or game lol. It will be low paid , well money is getting more virtual by the day so who cares. Thx for the laughs and have a nice day.

nickcharles ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 18 June 2007

Thanks, Ron, for another fantastic edition of the View from Lobeville!

3Dillusions ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 19 June 2007

So funny, while I had never seen a 3D program before, when I got Daz for some reason it was easy, got Bryce 5.5 the other day and lost the plot completely, lol. All those buttons up the top and what are they a mystery, another program to learn about, sigh :)

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