Do Disproportionate Avatars Lead ‘Normal People’ To Leave SL?

EDIT: This is about proportion. Not height save for where it is disproportionate. If you think this is a ‘height police’ article, try to remember the last time someone was denied access to a venue for being too tall. Some folks are using that term, ‘height police’, backwards.

The basic question is: Do the severely disproportionate avatars that make up the majority of Second Life create a low-key alienation that causes people, especially newbies, to leave SL?

In an article on building by scale or eyeballing, the origins of the distorted and wacky stretched avatars in SL came up.
(Ok, the commenter just made a comment about the height, and Penny’s argument that smaller avatars get back more land, then linked to me, so it showed up on my referrers this morning.)

I believe LLs didn’t set the default height – residents did. I could be wrong because if Ruth is a giant, then the blame might rightly be on LLs.

We -CAN- blame them for the horrible anatomy, and the sliders all having the wrong ranges (such as female arms only being normal at 90+). While we can credit them for having given us so much amazing customization, they did it with notable flaws. At the time they started SL, I was in the Poser community and there was keen awareness of anatomy in 3D models. There were a -LOT- of people putting out human meshs. Some for free. Most of them would have -LOVED- to pad their resumes with “I’m the person who made that avatar for SL.” But somehow LLs got a base avatar made by someone who clearly flunked Mrs. Frankenstein’s 7th grade art class. Hmmm…. or maybe that’s the one art class they passed…

As to freakish heights and all the distorted shapes in SL… We residents can hold the blame for that.

People lacking a meter on the editor, and being new and so not knowing to rez a prim. Plus, not knowing what metric means… (my assumptions) people just got it wrong.

My guess is they wanted to be ‘big and cool’ so they slid the dial all the way up. Next person comes along and wants to be ‘bigger and more bad’ so matches, and then slides up the leg slider as well…

And so on, until we hit today were half these avatars have all the dials that can add to height maxed out.

The end result is all of the Baketballer T-rex avatars we have in SL now. Male and females. 99% of them have T-rex arms. If you’re a female avatar above 5’7″ or so, it is impossible to -NOT- have T-rex arms.

But that was 2003, this is 2012. No excuses left. Yet “professional” shape makers are the absolute WORST people in SL at making shapes. The more expensive the shape, the more horrid the anatomy. Want a good super looking and amazing shape? Go grab a rezzday noob, put them in front of Penny’s or my proportion guide (or pad your results and make them read both), then take the result. It’ll be better than 90% of the grid. Even if its tall. :p

Ok… but we know that won’t happen… we have what we have, and it looks horrible and jarring to the eyes.

The alienation issue:
Anyone used to looking at real life art, anatomy, or even with a good eye for visual composition will notice this and end up a bit alienated in SL.

Sometimes I suspect the reason so many people in SL have strange personality quirks is that “normal folks” find SL visually jarring due to how distorted the avatars are. :p
– They see it, but aren’t trained to recognize it, so it gives them a reverse-uncanny-valley effect of alienation, and they don’t realize how easy it is to correct, so they leave after a bit proclaiming other reasons like “SL plays weird.”

We have even Phillips Rosedale claiming we’re all a bunch of sad pathetic freaks. Ok I exaggerate – but his comment was not exactly stellar… And he’s also tried to say SL is successful, but we users have no imagination.

– If we try to parse that out of the way tech geeks speak, which tends to be harsh, blunt, and more critical than they intend (if a tech geek thinks something is mildly dull, they will call it pathetic. Very common among them to over-criticize. You might see me doing that here, and realize that I’ve been working with tech geeks for almost 3 decades now… it rubs off).

What we might end up with is that he thinks SL’s users are a little off from the range of normal. But we also desperately want to be normal. Ie: We’re not proud of what we are.
– But because we have a distorted sense of things, maybe a lot of SL users really -CAN’T- see that their avatars look freakish (see also).

A friend of mine with very strong aspergers has tried to be an artist a few times – but the work always comes out surreal, taking my eye to point out why others are not seeing what was intended. On the other hand some of the most amazing art in history was made by people who were not ‘handicapped’, but actually deranged.
– SLs users are not insane. Well… most of them are not. But they are ‘special people.’ And not in the way your kindergarten teacher meant.

There are a lot of extreme individualists here, A lot of people with anger issues, and a lot of people with extremely strong preferences for things “polite society” looks strangely upon.

So now, my giant leap in logic is to assume this comes out in the shapes of avatars. Or more precisely, the inability to see when the shape is distorted and “wrong” on a scientific, anatomical level. People with a level of disconnect with socialization, end up less able to see when something which is a social cue is off-kilter. It doesn’t alienate them the same way it alienates “the masses.”

SL is a surreal freakshow to walk through most of the time. And I’m not talking about the art builds. But normal everyday everywhere SL. Its a freakshow looking at the tall spindly avatars with skinny unreal frames and giant butts, frowns, fish-lips, and so on.

I suspect this is very off-putting to so-called “normal” folks.

As long as we have these freakish avatars there’s visual alienation going on in SL. And not talking about the furries here… I’m talking about the Fashionistas. The 7-foot tall legs up to the sky but skinnier than a pencil with a rear end the size of Texas…

Consider that slight high pitched whine coming out of electronics when something in the frequency is just a tad off. Over a few hours of sitting around it, you can get a headache, and then you start to get moody, you start to lose focus on what you were up to, and maybe you end up leaving or not getting something done, or having an argument with someone there… and while you think it was because of what they did, or because you didn’t sleep well, or you had other things on your mind… it all came back to that little whine jolting you slightly out of your comfort zone.

People can look at furries, aliens, animals, cartoon characters, and so on – and accept its different and -MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT-. They then jump into or away from it or don’t care. But when they look at something meant to be identifiably human and alike to them, but its got this ‘low key something is off’ about it. Something they can see, but lack training to explain…
– They get tossed out of their comfort zone. Over time the annoyance builds up, and then they give up.

Having tried some MMOs with bad 3D models before, and being slightly art-trained, I’ve a keen sense for when “the look isn’t right” and knowing why. Most people can get the first half of that – feel its not right. But not the why. But I’ve seen some things rapidly lose their audience because the visual was not right. Other things may have subpar content, but capture amazing audiences because the visual is tight and iconic.

SLs visual is off.

The anatomy is so poor, and the avatars so often off… and I suspect this is one major and yet largely unrecognized reason for the poor retention of new users.

But the solution (assuming you believe my idea is somewhat correct)… that’s going to take one person at a time, until a critical mass is reached. And its unlikely to occur anytime soon.

If you start with good body proportions:
literally -EVERYTHING ELSE- just falls into place.

  • Animations from motion capture work better (but those made inside of SL with anypose work worse).
  • You get more land usage back
  • Your mesh costs less Land Impact when scaled down
  • Your avatar starts to feel more ‘real’ looking and so more comforting, even when its a furry.
  • You get to lecture people about not being a child avatar. :p
  • You stop alienating the noobs, newbs, and others around you with your wacky anatomy. :p

SL9B – something permanent like this please, to help retention

I’ve added this to my newbie category because I go into advice on finding communities here. But if you’re a new person, this is probably one to read a week or two after you join.

I’m going to break a personal policy I have. I usually do not like to blog about “the same stuff everyone else is” because then well… its just reading more of the same – and probably from someone (me) with less of an informed track (I’ve got my opinions, but lack the industry sources of many SL bloggers).

But this one I need to get out there and say, on my own blog, and not just as a comment on someone else’s. So its just my feelings on things that went well.

SL9B this year really seems to have been everything right about a community event.

I had Initially planned to boycott in protest of Linden Labs pulling out.

Started going as friends dragged me in.

I had a lot less lag at this one than I’ve ever seen in past. Perhaps due to the high presence of mesh; which tends to run faster than pre-mesh on systems capable of running it. Mesh, once you get it working on your system – is just like that. I know some people have nightmares getting to run. For those who’ve made it past the hurdle, its a refreshing future of a lower lag Second Life.

It was so smooth I was able to go to crowded sims and turn on shadows, play with windlight, and spam the feeds with screenshots.

The events were great, the builds were great – only a few commercial spammers got in under the radar. I’ve not been one for most events of late as they end up being nothing more than merchant spam-fests. This one was dedicated mostly to builds about communities and what folks love about SL. A section carved off for people who do media about SL, news, blogs, video – that was an added bonus. In fact need to start following it looks, was already following

I learned about a LOT of communities that I’d never heard of before. And I mean a -LOT-. Who knew there was so much variety out there? After a few years I’ve come to be jaded in thinking I was alone in a wilderness of BDSM, Vampires, and people who listen to music 3 decades old. 😉

I still need to go back and get notecards for about 57 of them… O.o

And I don’t think there’s enough time for me to do it… /sigh. Maybe I’ll pull out an alt so I can go in stealth mode… and then end up IMing friends and defeating the purpose.

Something like this ought to be around all the time.

If a build like this was up 24/7… if even a micro version of it was the welcome area for people

  • some easy way to discover new communities without getting spammed by merchants or ‘best in hoochie-mamma wear is up on the board, bring all your wish-they-could-be-crack-ho-friends’ events…
  • I think that is what would help with retention in SL.

I spent an hour of Sunday morning chatting with a friend who’s recently passed her first rezzday. She was bemoaning how hard its been of late finding people to meet and places to go. She’s in that critical stage in SL where the things you did as a new resident have lost their magic and you need to find something that really syncs with you or SL will get set aside…

SL9B’s style of builds would be the answer – you can run through there and more than likely find something.

I suspect Linden Labs is sitting there smugly feeling they made the right move in pulling out and making residents pay to host their party. But I’m not sure if this went off better because of that, or despite it. It was rushed – and in a rush sometimes people pull together out of crisis more than they might otherwise do. I suspect this went off well due to folks pulling together and setting aside disputes (for the most part – I’m aware of two builds that had to be pulled), in order to meet a very short notice. Given time, the same chaos might unravel into a mess.

Oddly, there have been more linden sightings this last week than I’ve ever seen before. Not by me, but by many others. All over the place.

Last year’s SL8B – they seemed to avoid all but the keynote speeches. This year they’ve been all over the grid, and some posting journals on the feeds.
– I hope that continues as well.

Its a very good sign.

The more the lindens publicly appear to be engaged, the more faith customers will have in the product.

I read lindens all the time complaining when we say they don’t care – stating that yes they do, and many log in on personal accounts from home every day, or during work on linden accounts, etc, yadda yadda.
But that counts for nothing if we don’t see it.

You can care all you want, if nobody knows, no one has faith in you. Show it. And recently some of them have begun to do so.

As for some kind of build like SL9B, as a permanent thing, what would that look like? Could it be done in a single sim?

Possibly. Maybe. Something to think about.

Could this just comes down to a more effective version of the destination guide? Seeing signs that show communities, and give out a little bit of info, and will take you there.
– Something that effectively filters out the commerce.

Commerce has its place, but that place is not everywhere…

Granted the most effective means would be micro builds… but there are only so many prims to go around. Unless each sign was a rezzer – that rezzed a 100-prim build for a viewer to look at.

Imagine that as an idea. Click through the sign to find your theme of interest, rez a sample, and up pops a scene of something. Perhaps a recreation of a Tiny community, or a stage for a theater community, with a few little prim actors, or a sailboat on water for a sailing community.

– Something visual for people to sink their minds into, gain interest, and go visit the ‘real community.’

That’s what we need, and we need something like at almost every infohub and welcome center in SL…

SL9B shows that we can showcase the diverse communities in SL in an appealing way – the trick is to figure out how to do this all the time.

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