I’ve had several very interesting discussions recently over the topic of ‘realistic’ and ‘proportional’ avatars. Though I have not always agreed with everything that was said, I have enjoyed immensely participating in the discussions. Having had a few days to digest all the information, my original attitude still stands.
There are people in SL who are advocating a change to what they call ‘realistic’ or ‘proportional’ avatars. Many people use the terms interchangeably. Because I was curious, because I love words, and because I don’t necessarily agree, I looked up the definitions.
According to Dictionary.com, realistic is defined as ‘resemblingorsimulatingreallife.’ Proportional is defined as ‘beinginorcharacterizedbyproportion.’ (Side note – it’s generally frowned upon to define a word using the word itself.) Proportion is defined as ‘properrelationbetweenthingsorparts‘ OR as ‘symmetry,harmony,orbalance.’
The advocates of ‘realistic’ avatars in SL have a myriad of reasons behind their opinions. Some believe that the default avatar was too big (and/or too disproportionate) to begin with, and thus began the problem. Too-large avatars led to too-large buildings. Some believe that the default SL camera presets are also partially to blame. (If you are interested in a detailed discussion of how changing presets can affect your view/experience in SL, read Penny Patton’s post here.) Other things said to skew your view of SL include the speed at which your avatar runs, and the plethora of too-large buildings (which means that you don’t notice that your avatar is overly large).
There are tons of ‘rulers’ available in SL to help you measure your height. There is also the appearance editor. Neither of which, apparently, work correctly. (For an interesting read about proportional avatars, building to scale, the impact of these on the SL experience, read Penny Patton’s post here.) According to one such ‘ruler,’ my avatar’s size is deemed ‘ogre-ish.’ Interesting. (And a little insulting, truthfully.)
After listening to people discuss these issues (and reading everything I could find on the subject), I’m still not willing to change my avatar. I like the way my avatar looks, and I’ve spent a goodly amount of time making her the way I want. Am I realistic? Perhaps not, to some. Am I proportional? Again, perhaps not, to some. I understand the benefits to having a more realistic-sized avatar – building smaller buildings means lower LI, more things, more people in one place – I get it. But ‘realistic’ is not the be-all and end-all goal for my SL.
I can fly in SL. Is that realistic? I can instantly teleport from one location to another. Is that realistic? For me, a lot of the arguments for ‘realistic’ and ‘proportional’ avatars come down to people’s personal aesthetics. Some people prefer to have realistically-sized avatars. Great! Awesome! Go for it! Just don’t tell me that I have to as well.
My avatar is (I feel) proportional. Does she match the ‘standard’ human proportions? Probably not. However, ‘standard’ in this respect means average. And there are plenty of people in the ‘real’ world who would not be deemed ‘proportional’ by those figures. Does that mean they are not realistic? Standard sizes for NBA players, for example, are not the same as standard sizes for horse racing jockeys. Does that make either subset of humanity ‘unrealistic?’
I heard other people (with ‘realistic’ avatars) complain about furniture that did not fit them (i.e., the poses did not work well with their avatar), about sims that would not admit them because they weren’t tall enough, and about ‘float dancing’ (because the animations place their avatar’s feet above the ground). I have to admit, I’ve never really experienced any of these issues. I’ve never had a piece of furniture ‘not work’ with my avatar (although I have had to slightly adjust some poses). I’ve never been to a sim where my avatar’s appearance was an issue at all (with one exception). And I’ve never had an issue with an animation not looking correct (and, as a dancer, I’ve used a LOT of animations!).
Out of curiosity, I visited a sim that requires ‘realistic’ avatars. Normally, I wouldn’t have explored further. As I said, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on my avatar over the years, so changing something as significant as her shape is a big deal. That said, there was a free avatar kit (realistically sized), along with clothing suited for the sim. I donned both, and went exploring. The sim was nice, but not someplace I’ll probably ever re-visit. There are several reasons for that (including that most avatars there speak a different language than I do). But the biggest one was that I just didn’t like being a ‘realistic’ avatar. It felt – wrong. It wasn’t a quick visit – I wandered around for probably a good couple of hours. But the ‘real’ sized avatar did not ‘grow’ on me, as many claim.
For me, one of the great things about SL is that people can CHOOSE to be what they want. If they want to be ‘realistic’ or ‘proportional,’ they can. If they want to be as tall as an ogre, they can. If they want to be a pixie, or a tiny, or a furry, or a Neko, or a dragon, or a robot – they CAN. Isn’t that wonderful? SL is a wondrous place, and part of that wonder is exploring places and meeting people that are different. So I don’t think it’s ‘realistic’ for people to think that everyone should have a realistic and proportional avatar. (Just a side note – if everything is supposed to be ‘realistic,’ why isn’t anyone complaining about the lack of fat and/or ugly avatars?)
There are lots of things in SL that I find personally weird/creepy/un-aesthetically pleasing. I don’t understand the appeal of mesh breasts and mesh booties. That doesn’t mean, however, that I automatically discount someone because they wear one or the other (or both). I try (and I don’t always succeed, I freely admit) to judge people in SL by their words and actions, not by their looks. One of the nicest people I’ve met in SL (and someone I think of as a true friend) is a dog.
In the end, everyone is in SL for different reasons. Not better reasons, just different ones. So you enjoy your SL (whatever that may look like) and I’ll enjoy mine. Alrighty?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to search the events listings for ‘ogre party.’ 😀
Shakespeare said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” (Romeo & Juliet, in case you’re interested.) But not for me. I made the decision to part ways with Facebook.
I’ve never really cared for Facebook – their vague privacy settings, their data mining, their sale of my information to anyone they chose. But a few things lately have finally ‘gotten my goat,’ so to speak, and I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. (I say ‘deactivate’ because I’ve yet to find a way to actually ‘delete’ my information on Facebook.)
Now, everyone knows that it is against Facebook’s TOS to set up a profile using an ‘avatar’ name or some other pseudonym. But millions of people have done it, and Facebook seems to be very lackadaisical about policing that particular aspect of their TOS.
About a month ago, many of my friends on Facebook starting changing the names on their SL/avatar profiles to match their ‘real life’ names because there was another ongoing round of account deletions and they were afraid that their account would be targeted next. Which is fine, that’s their choice. However, I don’t know some of these people outside of SL. So if I know you as Meegan Foxhound and suddenly you show up as Jane Foster, I’m confused as hell. 😛
And then Facebook had the gall to delete the accounts of some drag queens. *Cue dramatic music* The drag queens have taken Facebook on, demanding that they be allowed to use their ‘chosen’ name. Facebook has stood firm, telling the divas that they can either use their ‘legal’ name or they can change their profile to a ‘page.’ What’s the difference between a page and a profile?
If you are a ‘profile,’ people you know see your posts. (Only about 16% of them see your post, but that’s a different story.) If you are a ‘page,’ you can pay Facebook to ‘promote’ whatever you are posting, thereby guaranteeing that more than 16% of your friends see what you’ve posted.
The divas have threatened to keep on fighting. Me, I don’t see the point. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is walk away.
Facebook is NOT the only player in the social media game. Google+ allows avatar/character names. Move over there – that’s what many SLers have already done. As more people move to Google+, the more robust and useful it will be. And as more and more people abandon Facebook, it will be forced to change its TOS, or go the way of MySpace. Or, you can sign up for ASN (Avatar Social Network) – a social network specifically designed for those who have a virtual/online identity and want to keep it separate (or not) from their ‘real life.’
The proverbial ‘last straw’ for me was reading a story about how Facebook was experimenting on its users without their knowledge. You can read about it here. The article quotes Kate Crawford, visiting professor at MIT’s Center for Civic Media and principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and her response sums up my feelings: “It’s completely unacceptable for the terms of service to force everybody on Facebook to participate in experiments.” Ms. Crawford said it points to broader problem in the data science industry. Ethics are not “a major part of the education of data scientists and it clearly needs to be,” she said.
Like everyone else, I’ve been looking (and drooling) over the new mesh bodies available. In a quick search, I found mesh bodies by *KL*, SLink, Belleza, Vika, TheShops, Sking – the list seems endless. Add to that the endless options – feet, hands, heads, and the whole idea of a mesh body makes my head spin.
New users to SL have the option to get a mesh avatar when they sign up. But the difficulty in dressing a mesh avatar has caused a lot of stress and confusion and many have questioned whether it’s too confusing for newbies. So is a mesh body the way to go?
I’ve tried a couple of demos, and I liked them. But I’m not sure it is worth it. I tried the SLink Visage heads and loved both of them – lots of options that you don’t get with a regular avatar, like facial expressions. I liked the way the body looked and LOVED the HUD and the multitude of options it provided. Plus, it works perfectly with SLink hands and feet, something I’ve already invested in. I haven’t tried any other demos yet, but from what I’ve seen/read, most of them offer the same sort of options as the SLink body (a HUD with lots of options for adjustments, working with the SLink hands/feet, etc.).
As a dancer/performer, I love the way the mesh bodies look and move – no flat butt when you bend over, no weird shoulder joints when your arms move above your head, etc.
What I don’t love is how difficult it has been to dress a mesh body. Previously, finding clothes that worked with each mesh body was no easy task. In the months since I first tried a mesh body, creators have been working hard at making it easier to use and dress a mesh body. The SLink body has HUD options for a tattoo layer, underwear layer, and a clothing layer. Skin creators are making appliers for the new mesh bodies, and with new mesh clothing hitting the grid daily, some of the headaches are going away.
However, there are still some things about mesh bodies that concern me. I have shied away from using mesh clothing when performing because of the alpha layers that are required. So a dress looks great if I’m standing still, but when I start dancing, my legs only appear from my feet to my thighs – my hip/groin region is invisible, which always looks odd. Mesh ‘breaks’ when you move in certain ways – so the skirt appears to ‘rip’ into two pieces when I walk. Not the look I’m going for. I’ve seen dancers who use mesh and when they change costumes or remove pieces, pieces/parts of them are briefly invisible because of the alpha layer. It’s odd to watch someone with no torso (only head, arms, legs visible) dancing.
I’m not sure if using a mesh body and mesh clothing with it will address these issues. Some of the bodies are rather pricey, so how do you decide which one is the right one?
I’d love to hear if you use a mesh body, which one you have, and why you love it!
While scrolling through my Reader, I found a post by Jo Yardley with some pictures of some of the new mesh avatars that LL is rolling out for new accounts.
You can find the pictures of the avatars on Jo’s blog post here.
I must say, I am not all that impressed with the avatars. I’ve tried a mesh avatar myself (the WowMeh mesh body) and I didn’t really care for the way it looked. There were some nice features, including the fact that your derriere doesn’t become a pancake when you sit. However, the ankles seemed incredibly tiny in proportion to the rest of the legs. Also, it appears that most of my current clothing inventory wouldn’t work with the mesh body. After having just purchased some SLink hands and feet (which would be useless (and unnecessary) with a mesh body), I hate to waste all those lindens.
I think that you can wear some mesh clothing with the mesh avatar body (I’m not very clear on how that will work), but I don’t like to wear mesh when I dance. Mesh stretches in weird ways when you move/dance, it appears ‘broken’ depending on your movement/dance, and pieces of you are invisible due to the alphas that most mesh clothing requires.
Does this mean that ‘basic’ avatars are on the way out? Will I no longer be able to find clothing for my ‘basic’ avatar unless I wear mesh?
It will be interesting to see how/if SL users welcome the new mesh avatars. I may create a new account just to see what they are like. And what of the ‘library’ of things (including clothing) that LL includes with all new accounts (you know, those folders of stuff you never use but can’t delete)? Will it now include mesh clothing that will work with the mesh avatars? Or will you just get one ‘outfit’ and that’s it?
After reading through the article, I’m not so sure I want VR to be more real. I mean, there’s only one of me. I have different facets of my personality, and I like to express those different facets in multiple ways. But adding all those together is what makes me ME.
Humans are fascinated by the thought of making more and more realistic robots (avatars?) – Asimov’s I, Robot (which was a tad different from the Will Smith movie version), Bicentennial Man (which I loved), AI, even Blade Runner. And who could forget Melanie Griffith in Cherry 2000? (Because what man doesn’t dream of a robot wife, right?)
But there’s always something just a little bit creepy about how ‘human’ robots could become. So when the article mentioned that High Fidelity will use your webcam to mimic facial expressions, I had to pause. First, I don’t want to have to run my webcam to play in SL or High Fidelity. Second, it’s kind of creepy. Yes, there is a real person behind the avatar, but VR is never going to be as ‘real’ as face-to-face, in my opinion. Third, I can’t see how using a webcam and wearing a headset and glove is going to make me feel like ‘I’m really there!’
It seems that everyone thinks that VR is headed for the mainstream. I’m not so sure.
People want maximum gain for minimum effort. Putting on tons of gear to sit down in front of a computer, log in to a virtual world, and then have a meeting seems like a lot of extra work when you could just Skype. There’s a lot of talk about how much more we could accomplish using VR. I’m not sure that’s true, either.
A lot of people like the internet and VR games because of the anonymity they afford and the ability to be something or someone completely different than who they are in real life. It’s why so many people don’t like to use voice, but instead would rather type chat. Typing also makes it possible to multi-task, something that many people are required to do on a daily basis. Right now, if I’m in SL and one of my kids needs something, the phone rings, whatever – I get up, take care of it, and come back. Using the Oculus, wearing a glove, etc. etc. makes it that much harder to move seamlessly from one thing to the next.
Right now, while I certainly see possibilities for VR, I’m not convinced it will live up to the hype.
I’m still waiting for my flying car that folds into a briefcase (a la The Jetsons) or for a food replicator so that I can stop living at the grocery store. (You wouldn’t believe how much teenagers eat!) Or for a teleporter – how cool would it be to be able to teleport to Paris for lunch? Or the UK for tea? Or Down Under for an afternoon swim? Those are the kinds of things the ‘real’ me wants!
Ebbe Altberg (aka Ebbe Linden) debuted a new mesh avatar at the VWBPE conference this weekend. Jo Yardley had a picture of it on her blog – see the picture here.
I must say, I personally don’t like the look of this avatar. His eyes look bloodshot and the overall look, to me, is somewhat menacing. However, this is (according to Ebbe) one of the new mesh avatars that will be an option for new accounts.
Aesthetics aside, what does this mean to the rest of us?
So new accounts get a mesh avatar, but since I have an established account, I have to pay for one? Do I even want a mesh avatar? I’m not sure I do.
I like mesh clothing, but I’m not clear on how a mesh avatar can wear mesh clothes. I have enough trouble already adjusting to mesh clothing. I refuse to make a shape for every outfit, so I just modded one of my shapes for mesh and use that shape when I wear mesh clothes. However, a lot of people don’t have moddable shapes.
As a dancer/performer, mesh clothing isn’t always a great option. A mesh skirt can be great because the panels don’t appear to move through your legs when you’re dancing. But doing a kick and having your legs appear to be disconnected from your torso can be a disconcerting sight to audience members. Mesh clothing also presents issues if you remove it during your performance, because it may take a few seconds (or quite a few seconds) for the alpha to disappear and your avatar to reappear. I’ve seen dancers who appear to be missing limbs and/or pieces of their torsos because they removed a piece of mesh clothing.
And now fitted mesh is hitting the market. As I understand it, the fitted mesh is supposed to allow creators to make mesh clothing in one size, rather than having to provide the 4 or 5 ‘standard sizes’ we’ve gotten used to with mesh. I tried on a fitted mesh dress yesterday and it did fit well, just needing adjustment in one area. As someone who constantly worries over the size of her inventory, I would love to only get two items – the alpha and clothing, rather than what happens now. When I buy a mesh dress, I get at least 5 items – the alpha and 4 sizes of the dress.
I’ve also run into issues with trying to wear too many mesh objects at once (something I didn’t realize was limited). You can only wear 5 alpha layers at one time. I currently wear on a regular basis: an alpha for my shoes, an alpha for my eyelashes, and an alpha for my SLink hands. That only leaves two slots for mesh clothes – add in a top and pants, and I’m at the 5 alpha limit. There are creators who are combining alphas to combat this problem, but if we go to mesh avatars as well, how will that work? Then you have one alpha for the avatar itself – and then you have to add the others on top of that?
I just saw, several weeks ago, that the creator of the SLink hands/feet has released mesh heads. I haven’t looked at them closely, but they do appear to have some interesting options, like changing eyebrow color, lash style, facial expressions, etc. through the use of a HUD.
If mesh avatars become the norm in SL, does that mean that system clothing layers will become obsolete? I’m not sure I like that idea, as it causes issues when dancing and performing. Although it would certainly make it easier to reduce my inventory count if I could no longer use system clothing. 🙂
It seems like there are lots of new changes that will be happening in SL in the days ahead. Change can be exciting, but also scary, so it will be interesting to see how SL residents react to these changes.
Some people like change, other people have to be forced into it, kicking and screaming.
For me, it depends on what the change is.
I’ve run across an article about scale in Second Life several times in the last few weeks. It’s an article on a blog called The Digital Pasture. The initial article was about the fallacy that land is expensive in Second Life. Read the post here and draw your own conclusions. (I don’t own land in SL, so I wasn’t that interested in that aspect of the post.)
When I read through the post, I was interested to read about a related post dealing with the issue of scale in SL. That post talks about how scale is ‘off’ in SL. According to the post, the starting height for new avatars is over 6 feet. Not the average height in RL for males or females, to be sure. There are a few sims (like Jo Yardley’s 1920’s Berlin sim) that are built to a realistic scale. I was interested in the idea for a number of reasons.
With the (hopefully) soon-to-be available options like Oculus Rift, I think scale will become more important. It won’t seem very realistic if all the buildings around you have doors and windows that appear 300 feet tall! If building to scale also lets you conserve on prims/LI, that’s always a good thing. Who wouldn’t like to have more prims/LI?
I was also interested to read about how the default camera setting can cause issues. It’s not something I had even really thought about before. So I decided to change my camera settings and see how (or if) they affected my time in SL. I changed the settings following the directions in the post (using the centered view). After about a week of use, I am very happy with the new camera settings. I am better able to navigate my way around (something I needed when completing The Lost Mine hunt!) and I am not constantly pulling my camera down to see around me more clearly.
I am contemplating changing the size/scale of my avatar. I have previously resisted attempts to change my shape too much. 😛 After all, your avatar is ‘you’ in many ways, and it can be very difficult to make changes. Part of the appeal of SL (and other virtual worlds) is that you can be whoever/whatever you want.
I came across a video of avatar creation in an online game called Black Desert. I tried to visit their website before writing this post, but got a message saying their server was overloaded and I was redirected to their Facebook page. This was the message on their Facebook page:
“Small Update regarding our Website issues. It seems like that the Character Creation Video attracted a lot of attention, especially in the west. Our Video recently reached more than 100k Views, that’s even more than the Original Video posted by PearlAbyss (검은사막). Unfortunately, the hype is to much for our Website and we can’t handle the heavy traffic at the moment. Means all we can do is waiting until the hype is over. Our Forums are still Online, but our Frontpage will stay Offline for a while.“
I can see why the video got so much attention – after watching the possibilities, I would love to have even half of the capabilities shown to tweak my avatar in SL.
It would be nice to be able to add some personal touches (like curls in your hair) without having to buy a whole new hairstyle. Content creators may not like it, of course, but having more options is always good, right?
Mesh is another one of those divisive topics in Second Life. It seems you either love it or hate it.
Me – I’m in the middle.
I like mesh because my skirt doesn’t fall through my legs or the chair when I sit down. The edges are crisp and clear and look like clothing I’m wearing, not clothing I painted on.
I don’t like mesh because you have to wear alpha layers, which usually don’t fit my avatar well, so pieces and parts poke through unless I stand still. Since there is a limit of 5 alpha layers, wearing a layer for shoes (or feet), hands, shirts, pants, hair – it doesn’t take long to hit the 5 layer limit. And though I have modified my shape for mesh clothes, I refuse to clog up my inventory with a shape for every outfit. Another reason I dislike mesh – because of the multiple sizes, I’m left with a ton of items in my inventory that I don’t need/want. But the ‘what-if’ voice in my head won’t let me just delete them. 😛
Lindal Kidd wrote an interesting blog post about mesh and alpha layers. With the advent of items like Lola’s, the Phat Azz, and the latest – mesh avatar heads – how long will it be before we’re using alphas to completely obscure the original avatar in favor of mesh? (Specifically for human avatars, as tinies, furries, and the like already do this.) Check out Lindal’s post here.
What about using mesh clothing when you dance? I’ve heard from people on both sides. Some dancers love mesh because it looks more realistic. Some dancers hate mesh because of the alpha layers which render parts of your body invisible. It can be a little disconcerting to watch someone dance and then when they do a jump, leap, turn, spin, breakdance move, whatever, their legs don’t appear to be attached to their bodies. For dancers who remove/change costume pieces during a performance, the alphas can be problematic, because it may take a few seconds for the alpha to disappear and that portion of the avatar to reappear. (Imagine watching someone dance, remove a coat, and then appear as if their torso is missing – a little disconcerting.)
What would you like to see change about mesh to make it better? Or would you rather mesh just went away?