I missed Strawberry Singh’s 2015 round of the “What’s Your Digits?” meme, and I do admit it was semi-deliberate, as I had all sorts of personal RL situations (some of them stemming from in-world events) to handle: from eurocrisis-induced financial woes to health issues and everything in between. Then (this year) came childbirth, with all that comes with it. As you can guess, I made putting my RL in order my #1 priority and distanced myself from the whole SL scene for a while; I must say that the way I view SL and everything concerning it has changed drastically, and I don’t regret it at all.
Last time I responded (back in 2013), the meme focused on the issue of avatar proportions. This time, the tagline is “the mesh body revolution” and, predictably, attention is turned to our transition to third-party mesh bodies, our preferred mesh bodies, and whether we’ve changed our avatars’ shapes accordingly. I also missed the 2014 round, which was concerned with the introduction of fitted mesh for clothing and avatars. I had actually started writing a draft, which I never got around to finishing, but other things got in the way. So, now, I’ll respond to both rounds, albeit with a significant delay.
2014 round: The Fitted Mesh Revolution
- What are your thoughts about Fitted mesh? – Having graduated from an engineering school, I understand very well that, since all design decisions are the result of a process that sets priorities and makes compromises, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” solution to everything, something that sadly far too many users in SL fail to understand. So, I welcomed the adoption of a technical solution that allows for better-fitting clothing, but I knew very well that, as was the case with Standard Sizing, how each garment would fit depended on the skills and decisions of its designer. My experience so far has fully confirmed that my observations from that time are still valid.
- Have you tried any of the new fitted mesh avatars released by Linden Lab? What do you think of them? – Yes, I have. I was not particularly impressed and haven’t bothered to give them another try since then. Even the newer starter avatars don’t appeal to me.
- Have you tried any fitted mesh avatars/bodies created by residents? – Yes. During my “full latex enclosure” days, I used a heavily modified and rescripted version of Utilizator Mode’s <UTILIZATOR> Avatar 2.0 mesh body, but I no longer use it, as I’m no longer into that scene. My mainstay up until 2016 was the SLink Physique mesh body, which I absolutely adored. I’ve also played around with the SLink Hourglass for a few outfits, but now I’ve settled with the Maitreya Lara, which I wear almost exclusively and only occasionally switch to the Physique. Now, let’s be 100% clear: I love Siddean Munro to bits. She’s a wonderful person to deal with, she’s 100% open w.r.t. providing designers with the materials they need to create stuff for her hands, feet and bodies, the shape and rigging of the Physique are really good (in fact, in the shoulders, elbows and groins it beats the Lara hands down), her hands and feet look much better than the Lara’s, the feet provide all sorts of positions you’d expect to see in RL, almost all clothes and shoes for the SLink bodies are modifiable (contrary to what is the case with Maitreya, and I suspect Onyx LeShelle demands that designers make their Lara-compatible stuff no-mod, which is an appalling and customer-hostile policy), but I was eventually pushed to Maitreya, because:
- The SLink bodies don’t come with hands and feet; you need to purchase the appendages separately, and the hands and feet have their own HUDs – having three different HUDs on your window just for your body parts is a major pain.
- The pose HUD for SLink’s Bento hands only includes the original poses that SLink already had and doesn’t add anything new.
- The mesh body’s HUD has always left much to be desired, ergonomically.
- With SLink, you need to use separate appliers for hands, feet, and body. This costs you more money, and it’s more time-consuming to do.
- For a very long time, there was no autohide/autoshow script, which made switching outfits much more time-consuming.
- Fitting the newer versions of the SLink feet to the Maitreya body is no longer as easy as it used to be, and the texture transitions between the Maitreya body and the SLink hands and feet aren’t exactly seamless, which is a pain for someone as OCD as I am.
- Several updates were pushed to the market before they were fully tested.
- The Physique doesn’t work that well with more exaggerated breast and butt figures, and the Hourglass doesn’t appeal to me for full-time use.
- Have you tried a mesh head? What are your thoughts about mesh heads? – To be honest, it took me a long time to decide to do so. The first mesh heads that were launched were too heavy on the viewer from a geometric point of view, their expression layers used alpha blending, which wreaked havoc as they were piled upon each other, and I’ve always loathed the policy of many skin makers to only make skins for one specific head brand. Finally, I didn’t like the shapes: In the designers’ publicity shots and in the heavily-photoshopped shots you see on the opinion leaders’ blogs, they look fantastic. But, when I tried the demos (and even some full versions), I hated them, especially w.r.t. their profile shapes. And, before Bento came along, they were impossible to adjust – either you loved the shape the designer came up with or you didn’t, and if you didn’t, tough luck. So, I decided to stick with the standard head for longer than I normally would. Eventually, I found the LAQ Maxine 1.0, which was a good approximation of both my normal (SL) head shape and is also a decent approximation of the way my face and head look in RL, and adopted it. I still use it.
- Do you foresee a lot of changes to our current Second Life avatars because of fitted mesh? – Yes, and it’s already happened. People have started taking far greater liberties with their avatar shapes than they could in the days when Standard Sizing was the only option, as the new system (despite its limitations) gives them far greater freedom over how they can express themselves with the way they shape their avatar. As a matter of fact, I myself had started straying away from the Standard Sizing norms, making my avatar a much closer facsimile of my RL shape than I could before; now, it reflects me much more than it did before.
Now, let’s talk about how my avatar’s shape changed in 2014. In 2013, my avatar was certainly not tall by SL standards, but still tall by RL standards. The arms were also shorter, in order to strike a compromise between realism and accommodating the pre-existing animations and poses that were made for the horribly-proportioned avatars that were the norm back then. This time around, I went for a shape that was absolutely RL-plausible and resembled the RL me. So, my SL height now matched my RL height, and the same applied to my arm length. Sometimes, though, I did make concessions to non-fitted mesh garments I still had in my SL wardrobe, so I made a few versions that complied with the small (or, sometimes, medium) size of the Standard Sizing system. However, as I started ditching non-fitted mesh outfits and garments, these shapes went out the window, along with the clothing that made them a necessity.
At the end of the post, you will find a table with a comparison of how my avatar’s parameters have evolved.
2015 Round: The Mesh Body Revolution
To be perfectly honest, I wonder if this round should have been done in 2014 rather than 2015, because mesh bodies were already the norm, but anyway.
- Do you currently own a mesh body? If so, do you wear it all the time or just once in a while? If not, skip to the fourth question. – I obviously do, and I wear it practically all the time. As I wrote earlier, I was pushed, for reasons that had to do with costs, clothing choice, and ergonomics, to make a very reluctant switch to the Maitreya Lara. I’ll reiterate my dislike for the Lara’s shoulders, elbows, sausage toes and groin area, but I must say the general shape is on par with the Physique, with the breasts looking a little better, and it also works better with a wider variety of shapes.
- What is your preferred mesh body available on the market right now? – The Maitreya Lara, for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.
- Have you changed your shape since you started wearing the body? – Absolutely. Before fitted mesh bodies came along, and before fitted mesh clothing became the norm rather than the exception, I had to try to adhere to Standard Sizing (although not every SL fashion designer implemented it well, but that’s another story). Ever since then, I’ve been able to shape my avatar to look a lot more like the RL me. I wish, however, that some designers (here’s looking at you, Elegance Boutique) didn’t try to limit us to “0 body fat” requirements for their clothing. Fitted mesh is about the clothing adapting to the avatar’s shape, not about the designer pretending s/he is that shapist dickhead Karl Lagerfeld and telling us that we must conform to a certain anorexic standard to wear his/her stuff.
- How do you feel about mesh bodies in general? – I love them. There are some (for instance, Maitreya Lara, SLink Physique & Hourglass) that not only look great, but also manage to keep our render weight down. They look far better than the default SL avatar in every imaginable way, lighting and reflections on them behave much better, you can have materials-enabled layers like tattoos, stockings, sweat, etc. What’s not to like, really?
- What is one thing you would request from designers when it comes to mesh bodies? – Not one. Three:
- First of all, a working, easy-to-use universal applier system for skins, tattoos etc.
- Second, a “designers are welcome to make their clothing copy/mod” policy, combined with openness w.r.t. providing dev kits to new and aspiring creators. Regarding the “no mod” thing, don’t get me started on how utterly retarded the belief that “no-mod prevents copybotting” is.
- Third, a close collaboration between designers to make hands and feet seamlessly interchangeable between body systems.