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.)

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.

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