Mesh Bodies: TheMeshProject vs Belleza with a little on Slink Physique

Mesh Bodies are taking off in some corners of Second Life and I’ve recently been thinking of joining in on this.
There are surprisingly few reviews on the subject.

The only one comparing them that I could find was here: The Mesh Body Reviews – Belleza vs Mesh Project vs Wowmeh (naked) – Updated

- Which is pretty good, and I suggest reading that before or in addition to my points. My plan is just to cover the concerns I still had after reading that review.

While there are more than three entries in this field; Belleza, TheMeshProject, Slink Physique, and Lena Perky are the only ones that have a ‘normal’ shape. Fusion has one that comes close (called Androgynous for some reason) – but it still has bulky limbs and a bosom with nipples that have a very strange look to my eyes (they look almost like a torus).

Lena Perky was quickly off my list because its alpha system is simply not sufficient – too large of sections for most clothes wearing. In addition if you have an AO with an animation that raises your arms above the shoulder, the bend point for the Lena Perky is the same as the default avatar
– both of which are anatomically flawed.

Slink, Belleza, and TheMeshProject do not have this shoulder issue. Each is a little different and I’m not sure who has the best anatomy.

My main concerns in a mesh body are how well will it fit my wardrobe, and my preferences in skins.

Alpha Cuts:

For the wardrobe we need to know how good the alphas are and how well the body parts line up with the default avatar, as your wardrobe will be worn by that default avatar even as it goes invisible. Here are the alphas for Belleza, TheMeshProject, and Lena Perky:
And here is Slink’s system:

The Belleza has the best arm and leg cuts – significantly so. The TMP is second, but has the best chest cuts.

The upper neck cuts of the TMP are very specific which allows for a mutitude of tops to be worn… You can cut out by left or right, front or back – all individually. It means a LOT of clicking around setting up outfits, but also that you can get pretty good cuts… This is by far the best alpha-cut system of the choices I have seen.

The Belleza has a flaw in linking front, back, right, and left cuts. If you have an asymmetrical outfit this is a fatal flaw. Even if not many outfits have different cuts in front and back and Belleza cannot handle this common situation.

All of these amazing cuts are wasted from so simple a requirement being missed.

Hopefully that will be addressed someday – but I suspect it would require a whole new ‘cut up’ of the ‘faces / sides’ of the object and be a major undertaking.

The Slink one just doesn’t have enough cuts, period. Its not as limited as Lena’s was – but it comes close. It is in bad need of an update to this.

 

Clothing Fit

When it comes to fitting the body into your clothing… TheMeshProject falls down severely… In a flaw that is so bad it is shocking this made it out of even early testing: Notice the white there – that is the TMP body’s arms. Notice where it is not – inside the main body. This means most clothing with sleeves will suffer pop-through, and if your alpha cut doesn’t line up perfectly, you will have an odd spot somewhere.

Thus the initial image in this blog article – my arms poking out.

Here is the effect on a glove that is a perfect tight fit to my alt’s normal arms:
Normal, then TMP, then TMP with the closest Alpha Cut available.

Belleza does a better job fitting into the default avatar’s dimensions: If TMP did that, the contest would be over…

Notice how absurdly large my hands are in that Belleza image. This is another benefit of Belleza and TheMeshProject over every other competitor. Both use fitted mesh for the hands – so your hand size dial works on them. This does NOT work if you use the optional ‘Slink Fit’ version of Belleza.

TheMeshProject goes a step further though, the foot size dial also works, as its feet are also fitted mesh: And here you can see that a dial setting of 50 is close to ‘Slink Size’. But Slink Size may actually be too big for proper human proportions on an avatar under 6-feet or maybe even under 6’6″… My normal foot size dial was 16. Your foot should be “the same size as the length of your forearm”.

Unfortunately while you can get as big as Slink feet, The Mesh Project feet still float too high above the Slink ones to be able to wear rigged mesh shoes (unrigged however might work) made for Slink.

Belleza feet CANNOT be resized, but also come a lot closer to slink: The brown ‘blotch’ on the left foot there is my slink foot, resting just inside the Belleza one.

This almost means “some” of your slink shoes might work.

Belleza CAN be used with an optional ‘for slink’ body letting you wear your slink hands and feet… but this body requires an absurdly high “torso and leg muscle slider setting of 50″… at which point your avatar will come away looking like she needs a wrestler mask or Xena armor.

 

Mesh to Body join – neck seams

If you make it past all the above concerns, your next issue is the join between the avatar and your default Second Life head (unless your avatar is Irish, in which case you can buy one of the heads from Slink or TMP that have distinctively north-west-European facial bone structure – and will then look identical in shape to anyone else using the same head).

The Mesh Project can fit perfectly to the default avatar’s head if in styling you use the ‘retrofit’ option. I have no idea what the other option does as this one works so I used it and moved on. They then have a tattoo layer to blend one of their 36 skin tones to yours. Unfortunately my avatar, using Angel Rock’s Botswana Seal (choice inspired by my slight Nigerian heritage), exists in the ‘zone of pigments’ between their tone 30, 35, and 36. But most non-African skin tones and a few African ones are covered. – You might not see it, but I find the face slighter darker than the body tone here. However the blend is very well done and should work for most people.

Belleza has a much harder time of things. I have so far only been able to not have a seam by setting my head size to 0, which has… other issues…

Even if Belleza lines up for you, there is no skin blend, so you will see a seam:

On my alt that bought the full version of Belleza, I used the Omega system to apply her skin to the Belleza and discovered that the neck there goes beyond the SL avatar UV map. If your skin maker ‘painted inside the lines’ as mine did… halfway up the neck the texture ends…
– You can use Belleza’s alpha to cut this back… but then it cuts the neck to shorter than the SL avatar body alpha map… leaving a gap of ‘empty air’. At least on my 5’7″ avatar.

On TMP, no matter what I do to mess with the shape dials, I cannot mess up the join. It remains perfect.
On Belleza, the opposite becomes a problem: the seam just seems to always be there in some fashion.
I did not check this closely on Slink. It seems to match up at the neck, but it uses an attachment for the blend rather than a tattoo layer which is just… peculiar. The attachment comes in a pack of several for different body fats starting at 5 and moving up in units of 5 – not consistent with the standard sizing clothes system, which means more alpha cuts will need to be used to hide parts of the body made too fat as a result…

 

The Bosom Shape

The next issue, and the issue that cut Slink out of the running for me, is how each of these models the bosom. Slink deforms under the bosom, and this can get quite severe:
This is the bosom at 100. The deformation there is easy to see by 53, and starts at 16… it starts before the bosom even starts forming… Notice how the under-bosom shadow is moving out from the body.

Belleza is much better:
At 100 there is visible deformation, but nowhere near as bad as Slink. This starts at a dial of 55, but is not easy to see until 71.

TheMeshProject does the best job here, in my opinion. Here it is at size 100, just to show an extreme:
From 30-100, I was able to get usable results. Here you can see a ‘break-away’ is only just starting to happen – and the shadow is still where it belongs. At my normal 48, it looks perfect.

Skins:

Appliers are now out there for TheMeshProject and Slink.

Most of what you will find is for Slink – I think its been out longest and I think a lot of merchants assume its the one to support. My concerns above make me feel this might be jumping on the bandwagon too soon. The Slink body needs more corrections than the other two…

TheMeshProject’s website, ‘themeshproject.org’ will list out a huge list of merchants supporting it. If you start going to those shops you will quickly find that many of them in fact don’t even have a single item for it. Some of them… don’t even exist. They must have left SL or something.

In fact I had exactly one successful result in the skin category: Sinful Curves. And if you search for ‘themeshproject’ or ‘tmp’ on SL’s marketplace – most of the results as of this blog posting also point to that store. That store btw, does have very good skins… But none get as dark as I desire to go.

A much better way to find “the mesh project” items is the flickr group: https://www.flickr.com/groups/themeshproject/
– because this appears to list actual things. And will lead you to merchants with more things. Once I found this group I was finding MeshProject items everywhere. But still none go as dark in skin tone as I desire to go.

I get my skins from Angel Rock and that shop has been very hesitant about supporting mesh products. Appliers have only just begun to show up for them. Which is frustrating because they are the only shop in SL that seems to make African and Asian skin tones that really look of those ethnicities, but not by using the ‘cheap photo pasted into the UV map’ trick some low-end skin shops use. The skins at Angel Rock are super high quality (and they do have some Latina and Caucasian skins as well BTW).

As for Belleza, the neck issue above means any attempt to blend one of their existing skins to your own is likely to have issues.

Using an applier means going to the Omega system and buying a ‘relay’ device that will “try” to apply an applier made for lolas or phat zzz onto the top or bottom of Belleza.

This same Omega trick can be used for a Lena Perky if you get that.

Belleza might have appliers for it soon, but right now it is very new and if any have been made, I’ve thus far missed seeing them.

On the other hand my favorite skin designer does have appliers for lolas and phat azz… so I can get my skin onto a Belleza… BUT… Not onto the hands or feet.

To get a skin onto the hands or feet with Belleza you need a Belleza specific applier, or to use the Slink hands / feet and set you torso muscles to Xena Warrior Princess 50…

Even if you do get a skin on with Omega, the UV map ends before the actual neck does… so the top of your neck might look weird. In my case that spot was where the skin maker decided to put her watermark / store name…
(And my favorite skin shop doesn’t yet make slink hands appliers anyway… so I’m back to out of luck.)

 

Concluding thought:

Sadly I feel all of these need work. Each of them gets some things right and other things wrong. The errors are not matters of style and preference but go to the heart of usability.

Belleza has critical issues with the neck join and alpha system.
Slink has too few alphas and a highly deformed bosom.
TheMeshProject has arms that cannot fit inside clothing.

Second Life 2.0 – my initial hopes for doing the new ‘base avatar(s)’

(this post is a tad stream of thought as it was not an intended blog, but just hit me as something I wanted to get out there, pretty much as I have been typing it in…)

Over on Hamlet’s blog, in my comments to a new article, I outlined my thoughts on how I feel they should do the avatar for Second Life 2.0.

I like -some- of what I said there, but I don’t so much like my first comment there (I got a bit dumb / juvenile when one of my triggers was pulled by the article claiming the SL avatar is actually not bad… Thus I’m not going to link back this time…)

So here are my thoughts (and somebody remind me to come back and add images from some of the things I mention here):


The SL 1.0 avatar is bad, and was bad even when it was made.

I can pull out Possette from Poser 4 in the late 1990s and show you all the ways, in detail, that the SL avatar has been bad from day one.

And I can take Possette into a 3D modeling application and scale her polygon count down to whatever SL’s is – and she will STILL be worlds better.

And Possette is considered a BAD 3D model…

SL’s avatar has anatomy problems from head to toe. Poor rigging. and absurdly bad morphing range choices (the fact that a female avatar’s arms are too short unless the dial is set to 100, and that is still too short if she is over 5’6″ tall… this is just WRONG).

Time is no excuse.

Primitive technology is no excuse.

There simply was no excuse.

The lessons to learn from it are simple: Look at that. Now do something very different.

Here is my idea of different:

The mistakes in the SL-1.0 avatar can be avoided by hiring actual 3D-modeling professionals who have specific game-design experience. People who will know how to rig for real-time animation, how to model for it, and how to model morph points for the needed levels of variety.

The mistakes can be further avoided by making 3 completely different meshes: male, female, child.

- This also lets you put in ways to force the child one into ‘G-rated’ skins, and prevent the adult ones from being ‘morphed’ into too-childish of appearances.

You might then need some ‘swap points’ – specific cut points in the mesh where limbs can be removed and replaced with other 3D models, including the head, and in the adult models the ‘pubic region’.
– so that your community can easily customize the avatar later on.

In the adult female, also the bosom as a swap-part. The shape of this can vary a lot from woman to woman, and recent products in the SL Marketplace show that there is high demand for that reality to be met in our avatars. By having it as a swap out spot, “where to connect” becomes a lot easier for future content developers to determine when making their product.

(I should be able to go into appearance, and use a pull down menu or something to simply select what head to show, what kind of left upper limb to show, etc… from among those I have made or bought then linked to that point).

- this kind of customization was seen in MMOs from 2004 on (think of City of Heroes as an ideal example – some of which can be seen in the modern replacement MMO Champions).

From the get-go, every model should have the ability to bake at least 3 kinds of textures onto it: a skin, a shadow map/tattoo layer, and an alpha-mask.
– Even for rezzed objects. There is no reason alpha maps should be limited to the base “nude” avatar, and the “tattoo layer” is more or less akin to a “shadow layer” on a rezzed object so those should be treated as such in a uniform sort of way.

There is no need to ever add support for texture based clothing in today’s modern 3D – just start out doing “mesh worn clothing” right from day one… Using a comform to shape system akin to some of what is now seen in Daz3D’s auto-fit system… but more locked in because you’re only dealing with 3 meshes…

Next up…

A system to swap out the ENTIRE mesh, and its rigging, for a custom one… so that users can later add in animals and whatever… But with some tight limits.

(alternatively, you start with a 4th mesh, that is just balls connected by sticks, in a quadruped form, and then have a rigging for that – thus helping boost consistency for animators.)

Proportions:
This is so vital…

Unless you are going for a specific aesthetic, a cartoon look – you MUST have correct proportions as the default.

That means you model these 3 meshes for real human proportions of an adult male, female, and a child of the ‘default chosen age’ (which my GUESS would put at 8 based on what I observe in SL as the norm among child avatars that are dedicated to being such).

- Your middle of the dial, unmorphed avatar, MUST be proportionate.
As in, the ’50’ setting of every shape dial is proportionate, and as tall as the global average, or the average in your ‘nation of choice’ (and here you pick something reasonable like the USA, and not like my Amazonian Jungle cousins).

- You then do 3 ‘special head morphs’ to start… Caucasian, African, Asian. Yeah I know that doesn’t even cover my own ethnicity… I think those 3 suffice however as, in art, other ethnicities are usually doable as blends from them.

This is something seen in a number of Daz3D / Poser figures. A couple of full head morphs that if dialed to ‘fully applied’ give a generic look from a given ethnicity. You do these as morphs and not head swaps, because its much more interesting to apply them partially in a mix.

Victory is… still down the road a bit. But we’re walking forward again…

If you love something, you don’t flee – you work to get it fixed. And you put feet to the fire over it.

We all know that last year the Second Life Terms of Service got put through the wringer of a rather nasty change that no one liked. Its possible even some inside of Linden Lab were none too pleased – though that is speculation.

Back when this occurred some SL Pundits called for people to ‘leave SL if this bothered them’. Some see the only metric of protest for an online service being ‘abandonment or disengagement.’

You have to wonder… if this is reflective of people’s upbringing…

I didn’t leave SL. I didn’t stop buying stuff for my avatars. I even near doubled my land holdings.

I was not one of the big bloggers on this at the time. I just said my piece in the comments of other people’s blogs.

I didn’t leave Second Life… because I care about Second Life. And not just the ability to have a sandbox to play pixel-pusher in. I care about the communities. Even and especially the ones I’m not personally in. I care that they are possible, that they exist.

I care that a dying friend (who I did not know was dying at the time), was able to give and receive so much love at the final stages of her life. Because of Second Life.

There is a magic to Second Life that goes WAY BEYOND prim acounts, tier, Marketplace, and the Terms of Service.

Its the magic of the people in Second Life. Even and sometimes especially the Linden employees we love to deride but sometimes secretly admire (if you’ve ever squealed at the sight of meeting a Linden inworld, you cannot fully pretend to hate all the Lindens… I’ll give you a pass, but I’m also holding onto a knowing grin)…

Heck… we lambaste those Lindens so much BECAUSE we care…

Some would say nobody cared about that TOS change last year because:

“Since this controversy began, there not been a noticeable drop in the amount of Second Life content created, bought, and sold, let alone any dip in actual usage of Second Life.”
- Linden’s Revised ToS for SL Still Troubled, Says RL Lawyer

And that we had no reason to be up in arms because:

“there is no evidence it was ever intended maliciously, nor that the clause caused any noticeable drop in the amount of Second Life content created, bought, and sold, let alone any dip in actual usage of Second Life.”
- Linden Lab Amends Draconian Clause in SL’s Terms of Service (Months After Anyone Was Really Angry About It)

But it changed… for some reason Linden Lab decided to amend things.

So…

Apparently Linden Lab pays attention to more metrics than just people giving up. Apparently they also pay attention to community goodwill, and community commentary.

So if the dollars didn’t move, if the users didn’t flee… then what and why?

People spoke up, blogged about it, got third parties to pull support (places like Renderosity), they called Linden Lab out on it all over the internet.

I would hazard to guess that the Second Life userbase even managed to get the former CEO of Linden Lab tossed out (speculation again – deservedly or not, it was under his watch and flipped the dial for many in regards to him).

Some Pundits think nothing happened and no one cared…

They would push the notion that the ONLY valid way to protest an online community is to rage quit it…

Well, I’m pretty freaking pissed at Congress these days…

But it doesn’t mean I decided to “quit” the USA and move myself to Jupiter… (or even further to Canada or Utah or something).

Only the really crazy sorts actually try and fly off the planet when these things happen. Especially when there’s no other planet to go to, let alone spaceships to get there with.

“the fact remains that there’s been no noticeable drop in SL usage or Marketplace activity since this controversy cropped up.”

That’s just looking at it all wrong…

SL is a community first, and in communities you pay attention to attitudes and general conduct. Not just numbers. Perception is a whole lot more important in the longer picture.

Even if its just the content uploaders / re-propagators that are ticked off… that can spread in a viral manner – and they alone are still a significant community.

But to just pretend like they don’t even exist?

That’s just irresponsible.

Because people didn’t and don’t burn down THEIR OWN communities in protest (absent ghetto riots – and maybe because of them folks are more aware of how poorly that tactic fairs).

The thing is… its BECAUSE WE CARE that the one thing people did NOT do is leave and destroy their communities…

If no one cared… then yeah – that is when all the users would vanish and Marketplace would drop off.

But we do care. Maybe too much.

So instead we rant and rave to the point that the Second Life brand gets toxic… which itself may not be wise… but it is the sort of protest people WILL do because it can seem to be done without hurting the existing communities… (even though it does, it is too indirect for most people to perceive)

Linden Lab is however, wise enough to see that keeping the users happy helps the brand – and that the ‘bottom line’ is not just the dollars.

Sure they fumble in meeting the community’s needs, and get it wrong more often than right… but they at least understand it actually does matter.

So a tossed out CEO, and now a new Terms of Service. I’d say – rightly or wrongly – Linden Lab is at least trying. They’re aware of the problem.

GI-Joe may have said “Knowing is half the battle.” Linden Lab just has to learn how to handle the other half… (pipedream maybe, but I care, so I keep hoping) O.o

I think the whole point of bringing in Ebbe Altberg was to get a CEO who had the skills to be able to understand and relate to the users.

(I am never going to get over that this guy’s last name basically sounds like ‘Alt Neighborhood’ to me) :)

He’s not made changes as fast as we might like – but I think its clear that he has better intentions than in past, and is obviously putting in the effort.

To me, that speaks volumes of how Linden Lab got hyper aware after the Terms of Service changed last year, that they were doing something wrong, and needed to figure out what. So they got themselves a guy who could deal with that…

Ebbe Linden’s somewhat exposed that among a number of lindens… they too had been getting frustrated with the prior direction, and wanted to reach out again (or, I am reading too much into some statements. But when I listened to the Drax File Interviews, I got the impression they wanted to get to know us more than they had been allowed to in recent past).

So… I think the way the community acted after that last Terms of Service change last year was exactly right.

Rather than abandon Second Life and our communities in it – we called them out on the change, and got very vocal. But we stayed engaged to show we cared.

And now, though its not everything we wanted… we’ve got a much better CEO, and an improving Terms of Service.

There is even mention now on Daz3D (a major source of 3D models) as a result (Daz3D models are still barred from use in Second Life – which if you understand what their models are, makes sense regardless of the Second Life Terms of Service).

So…

I’m calling this one a partial victory, and a road we’re now walking down.

We got their attention, they’ve begun addressing it, and not just that – they are now trying to become a more responsive company as a result.

Because… abandoning the thing you love is the LAST way to fix it. Engaging with it is just so much better.

Ever burning fire – Ever Dreamscape

Ever Dreamscape
An ever burning fire has gone out.

That is how it feels since I learned.

On May 8th, 2014; a friend of many made the move on to her account in Third Life. It took a few more days for us to find this out.
Ever's Memorial - Ever had the perfect smile
Ever Dreamscape was a spark of inspiration for so many. She was the Clown Princess of Bay City. The glue that held so many pieces together.

At the tender age of 53, Ever logged out of First Life.

I first met Ever on an individual level during one of her random escapades. I’d gone to a few Bay City events and noticed how after a while they always took a turn for the humourly weird. One person seemed to dragging folks along for a few things, so I thought I’d stick to that person for a bit, maybe say something, and see what was going on.

Ever was full of an absurd amount of energy and drive. She seemed to be at the center of so many things, the sort of person who just had to be that extreme extrovert out there all over the place in both RL and SL. It would be some time until I knew better.

Its probably not right for me to share those of her secrets that I held; but I can do better. Or rather she can. She can share her secrets for us:
Hero’s Journey – Ever Dreamscape’s story
The Abuser – Ever’s struggle

It was always a thrilling experience to connect with Ever. Over time the conversations got deeper and I learned there was a soul of some amazing substance behind this bubbly silly avatar. She struggled with many things, and had her battles to wage. SL was the place where she could recapture a time where she had been able to be outgoing, and she took that, and quite literally set it on fire.

I mostly ran with Ever during 2012. I had a lot of fun just randomly popping in on her and seeing what she was up to. Sometimes it was a blast. Other times I’d surprise her alone somewhere in SL and this is how I got to know how much she had to struggle with – those were the moments when I just tuned in my big cat ears and set the whole thing to listen.

Do your friends a favor, if you read this. Sometimes, just let them ramble at you and go on for hours on end. SL is a great place for people to pour out their hearts and heal each other.

Ever showed me that. And she showed me that our ideas about who our friends are might not always be right. Sometimes the people we know are so much more amazing than we could have ever imagined.

She must have known that – she gathered up so many people’s hearts like a silly mother hen. Or maybe mother chimp. Or mother shark. Or drunken crazy lady on the corner with a match and kindling stuffed into your mailbox. Kind of… all of that. In the right ways.

She had her own set of superb ears as well I should say. I’m a fighter, and I get myself into scraps all the time. She was very good as just hearing me rant and rave and then having something useful to toss back for a little sense and perspective.

You can see, or remember, some of Ever’s magic, as she was one of those rare people who recorded some of her SL for all of us. Here is Ever’s youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/EverDreamscape

When 2013 came around, I don’t know why – but I stopped coming to SL. For most of that year I didn’t log in for more than a minute or two every month. I just sort of dropped the mic and walked off stage.

I never managed to reconnect with Ever. She was there everytime I sent her a message, but I stopped showing up. I kept thinking to myself… next week I’ll be back in SL again and I’ll hang out with all my friends there.
Her last words to me were on the SL Feeds:
ever.dreamscape
“Happy New Year!!! ..and yes it would be nice to see you about ! :D”
Nothing important then. Just a friendly poke. But now I feel it.

Ever’s passing makes me realize putting of those who are dear to you is never wise. I’ve got some people I need to find a way to talk to now.

It feels like the fire has gone out for me in SL. But I strongly suspect Ever would not want that. She was an ever burning fire, an eternal party, always putting up cheery face and meaning it. People can be happy and sad at the same time – even being so happy you need to put on shades to be around them. That was Ever.

Her last words to us all are both humorous and sad:

ever.dreamscape:
“ok her’es th deal, i’ve suddenly taken very il….. if i ralley may spend a couple more years to harass you all hoping! did not takw the thoraze. it’s been lovely dancing w you all…..gnight George muahhhhh”

So everybody just keep on dancing:

For some reason when I view Ever’s youtube, it keeps recommending Boy George. So here’s one more for the party, Ever:

In quirky faith, you knew what your heart was for, and now you’ve got a halo.

And yes, no matter where you are now, Fire haffi burn:
Fire Ever haffi burn
Till we meet again;

Go light em up in heaven for us.

Second Life’s “Sexy Time” advertising – thinking twice about the opposition to it

This is cobbled together from some posts I’ve been leaving on Hamlet Au’s blog.

You might think that as a spiritual person, active about my faith in SL, who often comments about ‘that stuff’… that I’d be on the bandwagon against the new ads.

Especially as those ads are basically “the sexy white people” routine again…

But I’m not so willing to fight this one.

Let me use a bit of over the top silly exaggeration to make a point.

Imagine its 2009 and you’re a corporate user looking to use Second Life for business meetings, showcasing your real life business achievements, selling product, branding, etc…

Problem is… the place is full of so-called furries and XXXers and RPers and educationals and “commie-liberal-hippie-artist-scum”. All those people you don’t want in your store scaring your customers. The weirdos you picked on in 6th grade.

So you call up your mate from school, M. Linden, and ask him to take an accounting of things and correct all this. You’ve got money to dump, and he just needs to clean up the place. Get rid of the geeks and losers.

So he tries.

And we all know the result. SL goes into a tailspin, policies get odd, prices go up, venues close, and then business realizes it doesn’t even want the product anyway. In fact; the whole call M. Linden got seems to have been dreamed up in his head: business was never really on board anyway. They were the customer Linden Lab wanted, the freaks were the customers Linden Lab got.

Even SL’s founder is on record calling his users ‘disabled freaks’. He used more polite language, but basically back then he called us all ‘the crazy cat lady down the block and the old guy telling you to get off of his lawn.’

Now its 2014 and Linden Labs is looking at marketing again so they look at what people ACTUALLY USE SL FOR…

Hamlet Au posts this almost every month.

Top sims?

XXX-this and XXX-that, with a bit of Borat sexy time thrown in for good measure and a few furries and goreans. PLus some dating and dancing places for those ‘so-called online dating freaks’.

The rest of us? We’re a bit like those 2009 business users (OK, I’m a furry half of the time… this is just a silly parable after all).

Now everyone’s all up and trying to call E. Linden and ask him what for… Asking him to clean up the place so your respectable art and live music and charity work doesn’t have to sit next to the gorean-furry-luvulongtime-escort-interracial-child-xxx operation…

But… well…

At the same time we’ve been demanding for years that they recognize who’s using SL, and market to them.

Now they are.

And we don’t like it.

Pick your poison folks.

Because its right there in Hamlet Au’s blog… look at who the top sims are (note how similar this 2011 link is to the 2014 one – this stuff is pretty static in theme).

If anything, LLs needs to get MORE explicit in these ads. It might chase us “regular respectable folks” away… but at least then they’d be appealing to their actual users for a change:
Those ‘noobs’ on the xxx sims…

Now, I don’t mean to imply that the XXX and ‘fantasy self’ crowd drove away the business crowds.

Rather I am trying to show that we’ve already seen what happens when Linden Lab tries to market not to the customers it has, but the ones it wishes it had.

Now… they are marketing to the actual people that show up at the door… and folks don’t like it, because most of the Second Life users are NOT from the same crowd that composes the Second Life commentators.

Commentators, critics, and bloggers want them to market to people who are here for “something greater”… But the very data we love to talk about and promote shows that we are not the viable audience for Second Life…

And that like it or not… maybe they actually are marketing to the right crowd now… at least from a ‘capitalist bottom line’ POV…

I hope my opinion here is not seen as mocking the ‘freaky’ people that end up in Second Life – as that is not my intent. I’m stating it like that above to be over the top, and to hopefully show a little of ‘this is how what gets said gets read’.

Plenty of people seek acceptance online from a world that rejects them offline. I know for a fact this is why many minorities ‘hide as white’ in platforms like Second Life. I’ve always been a fighter so that notion never appealed to me.

I actually am mostly fit and healthy for my age, and still seem to have my looks – despite the scraps I’ve been through.

So given a choice between a kick in the face for speaking up, or having a group hug by playing nice… I’ve always chosen the kick… I’ve got a dentist appointment soon because that is NOT an analogy for me…

I try to remember that about others too. That everyone needs a place to feel accepted and to explore – though I do fail at it sometimes because I tend to fight back and can end up misdirected.

Too often people are scorned merely for what they are, rather than who/how they are – I say that all the time about race, but it also very much applies to gender, physical ability, fitness, attractiveness, social class, and other ways people are unjustly biased against.

Second Life is a fantasy world that lets people find their own ways of skipping past that bias. Its also just a place to have some fun in – and each side of the fence here needs to get over its bias of the other because to the world outside of SL, we’re all 10x freakier than any of us might actually be.

It is a bitter pill to swallow when the fantasy the majority here seek is not the one oneself is seeking – but better to recognize that it is still doing good for people in letting them find their fantasy.

People who do not like that Linden Lab is now advertising to its actual users can consider the alternative… going the way of Blue Mars or Cloud Party – vanishing.

When does it become more costly to sell on Marketplace than inworld?

I’ve a theory, that I suspect most merchants have already run through their heads, but which has only just occurred to me…

Marketplace is actually costly for a successful Second Life merchant.

Consider the math. First I’ll look into how much is ‘lost’ in the fee taken by Linden Lab for each sale. The 5%. Then we will compare that to the cost of owning premium land at various tier breaks. After that I’ll comment a bit about what occurs if you rent land instead, or if you use the various enhanced features of Marketplace.

At a 5% service fee for every sale a merchant makes on Marketplace, how much does it take to be charged $10 US-currency. I’ll use this number for my math as its a nice round figure.

As of right now, $10 buys you… (runs off to check) L$2480. When I became active again in SL, in 2009, that same $10 got you L$2600. The figure fluctuates – but tends to be fairly stable. It has had a downward trend – your money buying you less lindens – but a slow one.

By converse… Losing L$2480 today is losing 10 dollars. It took losing L$2600 back in 2009 to lose 10 dollars. For people outside the USA, this figure will math differently. Run my math below using your own conversion rates and VAT (if applicable) locally. The more of your local real life money it takes to buy linden dollars… the more Marketplace will hurt your profits, unless it balances equally on the other side with a similar cost for paying for a premium account (is VAT charged on that fee as well).

A 512m premium account costs $9.95. Lets just round that up to $10. That actually favors marketplace to round that up… (By contrast if you pay your premium quarterly or annually – Marketplace becomes much more expensive in comparison).

For marketplace to cost you L$2480, or $10 – in a month you have to do L$49,600 in sales.

Now for me that would be insanely high. I have a sort of non-shop and I make maybe L$100 a month out of it. :) My “Shop” is mostly there because I like building places and having places… I guess that’s a fixation from having grown up rather harsh and even for a time homeless. You folks do not even want to know how much I spend on land in SL. I purposefully avoid looking and split it across 5 accounts so I will be less likely to know… :)

On the other hand if you consider your SL business a viable one, L$49,600 linden had better be small… That’s only $200 dollars. Or… one cup of coffee at Starbucks (OK maybe not… but prices sure seem to be headed that way sometimes…)

I think my mobile phone bill every month is higher than that… San Francisco is not a cheap place to live…

But how much volume is that in SL terms? Lets assume your average product sells for 350L. For most places I shop that’s cheaper than what it really is… For a few high volume places its high. I’ll call it normal because I hope it is and not the 500-600 I’ve been seeing more often of late. :)

At that average price, you need to sell 141.7 items a month.

Pipe dream territory for me. But when I go to some popular shops, I suspect they make that many sales in a matter of days.

If I look instead to some brand name mesh places… where I think the average price is L$500… They need 99.2 sales in a month – which is really about 3 and a third a day…

If you are not making sales like this – you are not a successful merchant. You’re just a hobbyist like me. Frankly if you’re the kind of merchant who can “pay real life bills” with Second Life, and I know a few of them, you’re making about $2000-$3000 real life dollars a month in SL. Or… L$496,000 – L$744,000.

Ok… so lets say you have just made exactly L$49,600L in sales on Marketplace. Just now, some fool bought your ‘prim in a box’ and got you to that number. Linden Lab has taken away 5% of that this month – for $2480. If you had sold those items inworld, they would not have taken away ANY of your profits, but you would have paid them $2480 in tier for your little 512m shop.

EVERY SINGLE SALE YOU MAKE ON MARKETPLACE AFTER THAT POINT LOSES YOU MONEY.

Every further time they charge the 5% fee – that is money Marketplace it taking from you that having an inworld shop would not have taken.

Now some very successful merchants get by on a 512m shop because they have zen-like design skills and know about product display. Others cannot as they lack these talents, and so need more land. And some are just land junkies (waves paw).

So here is a list of tier costs, and how much in sales on Marketplace would have instead paid for that land, always rounding up to nearest dollar:

Base Land
Premium + Tier
Total Land
With Group Bonus
Premium + Tier
Cost
Marketplace Monthly Sales
with same cost
512m 563m $10 L$49,600
1,024m 1,126m $15 L$74,400
1,536m 1,689m $18 L$89,280
2,560m 2,816m $25 L$124,000
4,608m 5,068m $35 L$173,600
8,704m 9,574m $50 L$248,000
16,896m 18,585m $85 L$421,600
33,280m 36,608m $135 L$669,600
66,048m 72,652m $205 L$1,016,800

So the way to look at this chart is if you are making more than the linden dollars of any entry up there – consider if you think a shop on a plot of land of the size listed in the group land column could make the same amount of sales. If so – you belong inworld and not on Marketplace.

I strongly urge people here to consider that they don’t need a mega-sized shop to do well. Very effective shops exist in SL on rather small plots of land. Often they are more successful than the giant shops because they are built by people who know about shop display, product placement, and designing for an appealing ‘shopping-mood’ experience.

You can’t control the environment on Marketplace – how appealing your products look in that grid, what the user is experiencing when browsing there, what other products they see next to it, and so on. You can’t set the mood.

Effective inworld shops know that inworld they can control all of this – and motivate people to buy.

Counter examples of badly laid out shops that create a negative shopper experience litter the grid. I won’t call out malls here because some great shops are found in malls – and some horrid shops are found stand alone. But if you DO know how to design a shopping experience – consider very strongly who is adjacent to you in that mall – are they making your customers feel alienated by having ugly displays that people encounter when camming around or walking through?

That is why I began my focus on premium people – they have the ability to control for that.

But mall renters, and shops on estates – are often MORE valuable for keeping SL alive – they support land tier of the places we enjoy. Rent your mall shop only at a place you want to see stay alive in SL… and one that cares about the quality of merchant shop builds…

Renting at malls and on estates is often dramatically CHEAPER than going premium. This is because of discounts as one holds more tier – which get partly passed on to renters to encourage them to rent.

So if you put your shop there… then Marketplace is even LESS attractive… If you could rent a shop for say… 1,500L a month… that’s only going to be $6.05 US dollars (plus the 30 cent fee to buy lindens). If you can make L$30,000 a month, that rental shop inworld is a better deal than Marketplace. And what I see here is that often merchants will pad this with some small mall vendors they rent for even less in places with known good volume (this seems the trend in the furry community) or the landing spots of roleplay venues that attract people looking for the kinds of designs that merchant sells (if you sell genre wear or make genre furnishing).

But this requires keeping track of whether or not your inworld sales are enough to meet the breakpoints.

ANYTIME 5% OF YOUR SALES INWORLD IS MORE THAN THE COST OF THE LAND YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ON, SELLING ON MARKETPLACE WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE EXPENSIVE FOR YOU IN FEES.

But what about all those enhanced listing features on Marketplace? Lets put aside whether or not they work…

Well lets not. I will say it right here and now: they do work.

If they don’t work for you, its because your listings are bad. You need to improve your listing images and maybe even your actual products.

So how do I know they work?

Well… lets be brutal here – where do you think I get ideas for what I end up buying half the time I buy from marketplace… Yep: as a consumer, who is not your competition, I’ll be brutal and say I bought from the person who’s enhanced listing caught my eye. The other half of the time was from a search. Granted much of the time I quickly favorite enhanced listings and return to them later – sometimes months later. Once a year later…

Most of my shopping is inworld though – but that is just preference. Often I look in one and buy in the other. I almost never buy from a merchant I can’t find inworld. I can clearly think of two examples – and they were fairly cheap allowing me to overcome my concerns.

So… enhanced listings… they work.

But they also cost you a LOT, and you could easily pay for a larger shop inworld where you could have a lot more control over the experience – which frankly works even better. A vast portion of my inventory is things I bought that were in an inworld shop nearby whatever had brought me there originally.

I will see things rezzed around in a theme – and that theme will make me realize something like “oh, I like how that chair goes with this bed over here, and I have a similar bed… I think I’ll buy the chair. And what’s this picture frame by the chair, and oh look at that coat that matches the pants I got last night…”

$$$ – how it happens. Good display.

On Marketplace – your enhance listing is often sitting there next to some ‘forced XXX HUD for Vampire Furry Breedables’ that is listed in ‘General’ for who knows what reason… and I have been known to click to the next page just to get that thing off my screen, just as I notice you, click back, but you’re gone. Now instead I have assorted child AV and Gatcha machines and am like… well… none of that’s for me though the gatcha machine looks nice enough, wonder if I can descript it and rez it by my SL Home’s fishtank?

- Yeah… Marketplace is too random.

And, as the point of this blog noted: actually more expensive for a merchant than it might seem at first. Just because you can list it all for free – doesn’t mean its free to sell it.

If you’re a new merchant or a struggling merchant; Marketplace is good. But if you have a brand name that attracts people – you are paying fees you shouldn’t be paying, and you could control that better by creating an inworld experience instead…

Why moving a shop to Marketplace ‘hurts’ the SL economy.

In response to:
I don’t contribute to the economy?!

I wrote a comment, that I think is better served as my own blog entry:

She notes, heavily paraphrasing, giving up an inworld store, shifting to marketplace, and now buying lots of new toys to go and take pictures and make inworld art.

This is pretty normal for today’s Second Life merchant. Shifting to Marketplace and then using the saved rental bill or tier fee to buy more goods in world – thereby feeling they are contributing to the SL economy.

And they are. But not where it is needed to keep SL around.

What such a merchant is no longer doing is helping to support the existence of the venues they visit and enjoy the use of

Venues we enjoy are largely paid for by renting out portions of the land. Tipping in clubs or shops – is trivial by comparison. Look at the ‘how much has been paid’ meters on venues. Even in high traffic spots it is usually a paltry sum when compared to the tier for that location.

If one neither owns land nor rents land – then one is not significantly helping to support the continued existence of places to see and enjoy. That is the problem of Marketplace; it breaks the fundamental link that holds the ‘Second Life Economy’ together.

Formerly there was a cycle of goods bought from merchants who paid landowners or their own tier – thereby keeping in existence places for people to go to in order to enjoy using or showing off the goods they bought from those or other merchants.

Linden Labs stayed in float by collecting the rent bill.

A ‘circle of life’ if you will.

  1. Buy goods at shop B to use at place one loves A
  2. Shop B pays for land at A.

The second part of that is gone when a merchant moves to Marketplace.

Now it is:

  1. Buy goods at Marketplace store B to use at place one loves A
  2. A has no major source of income to pay insane tier bill, and closes.

People do not tip enough to cover the difference.
Venue A won’t succeed by selling advertising – that works for websites though often by the slimmest of margins, but for SL it would create an unpleasant A, and not be as effective as merchant B merely adjusting their settings on MP…

Some things do advertise in world at places you visit – but it is usually groups related to the place itself.

Or the venue’s mall. And of course… that mall is shrinking as its merchant’s go to Marketplace…

With every merchant that leaves their inworld shop, the ability to support inworld venues to visit and enjoy decreases.

Soon people will start having real trouble finding places to use and enjoy the things they bought from those merchants…

Therein lies the danger for Second Life.

Linden Labs though? They are now still collecting rent on what is left, plus also skimming off the top of your sales on Marketplace…

- It might be that if you have an inworld brand that does enough volume, it could even be cheaper to keep that inworld shop…

In addition to helping the larger Second Life economy…

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