The shiny ice material was also a nice chance to play with a subsurface material, which is something I don't usually get a chance to noodle around with, since I don't make candles or snails very often. I don't think I really used it to its maximum Hotness Factor in this example - there is much I still need to learn about it - but it did give a nice ambient blue fill to the ice surface.
I did originally try to use a Displacement map to give the ground a nice, genuinely perturbed surface. It wound up eating way too much memory though, and destroyed my computer if I tried to render at high resolution. I should probably buy more memory.
Speaking of buying more memory! Due to the considerable hardware limitations of my home computer, the only real way I was going to be able to render out a high resolution image with all the proper rendering bells and whistles enabled was through the command line. So, for much of the rendering process my desktop looked like this (Fig.12).
In actuality, not only did this free up a boatload of memory that would normally be hogged by Maya and the open scene file, but this helped me keep good track of how the render was progressing and how badly it was crushing my computer. Having the Task Manager open to the Performance tab right next to my render console means I can watch the consumption of my precious RAM as well as CPU load on the fly. It's super useful.
There were also a few housekeeping things I did (and try to be diligent about always doing) within my Maya scene that can only help you out in the long run. Using Display Layers goes a long way in terms of keeping performance within Maya manageable when you have an enormous amount of geometry detail. Rendering your layers out in passes is also a classic tactic that is wise to do, although I did not do this on Blast Core.
Delete anything you don't use! Geometry that isn't visible within your camera range, materials and textures that aren't used on anything, lights that aren't lighting anything - kill it. Extraneous junk in your scene file is only going to bloat the file size and bog you down when it comes to rendering. The Hypershade has a cool little tool for this (Fig.13).