Monday, August 26, 2013

Shaping the future

Misty in Kreations mesh outfit - one of the better fits
I'm sometimes very frustrated by the feeling that Linden Lab don't understand their customers very well at all. I've known a lot of Lindens in my nine years in Second Life, and most of them (not all) have used whole different avatars when they swapped out from one style to another. Very few stuck with a humanoid avatar and tweaked it in the way that is normal for a resident.

Caliandris was based upon my avatar in Uru, as I arrived in SL in 2004 after Uru had closed for the first time. Avatars in Uru weren't as customizable as they are in SL, and gradually over the course of time I have refined her look, bought better skins, added mesh hair and prim eyelashes, bought better clothing.... I change my avatar more or less every time I log into SL - I change clothes, change hair, choose attachments appropriate to the things I am doing, particularly if I am exploring RP sims.

I'm finding the arrival of mesh clothing both fascinating and frustrating. Many of my costumes are rigged, but it isn't possible for them to deform to the shape of my avatar. Linden Lab wasn't aware that people would want to do that with mesh! That just staggers me.  I would say that the number one activity for most dedicated SL residents is changing their avatar... particularly if they don't build or create things themselves.  It's definitely the number one creative activity in SL, changing and dressing up the avatar.  Some people (like most Lindens) prefer to buy off-the-peg whole avatars and simply swap them out, but that's because most Lindens came into SL as a job, and people who enter SL with a work identity don't immerse in the same way that residents do.  They can't.  They are supposed to be working.  It makes a huge psychological difference to you if you have a working persona and avatar in SL.

LL introduced meshes, without realizing the potential for clothing, which means that at present, although it is possible to buy rigged mesh clothing, it is necessary for the creator to make the clothing in several sizes to roughly fit the avatars.  Thus in SL you have to make your avatar fit the clothing instead of the other way around.  The meshes usually come in different sizes and with textures which will make the appropriate part of the anatomy disappear, but even so.   I have tops which require me to set my arms to the minimum fat and minimum muscle to make them fit, even when I am wearing the largest size.  As the largest size caters for my relatively large breasts, it looks absolutely ridiculous and cartoony to have stick-thin arms.  Cold Logic is particularly bad for that I have found, although I like a lot of their mesh clothing.

It could be possible to deform the meshes to fit the avatar, and it was left to an external fundraiser run by Maxwell Graf to raise money to see if an external scripter (the ex-Qarl Linden) would be able to write the code necessary to make this work in SL. The difficulty is that people generate meshes for upload to SL in all sorts of programs, and they don't all work the same way.  And LL is needed to work to incorporate the program into the main viewer, because third-party viewers aren't allowed to create new applications which aren't in the mainstream viewer any more.

The project has been underway for many months, and the last I heard it was in Linden Lab's hands.  I hope they get on an incorporate it soon, because many of the mesh clothes I have bought would require enormous changes to my avatar to come anywhere near fitting.  In fact I have a whole cupboard full of adapted shapes I have made so that I can wear the mesh clothing I have bought.  The thing is, I have spent nine years on making my avatar.  It would be rather nice if I could deform the mesh clothing to fit my avatar, and not have to make it the other way about.

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