Loki Avatar 3.0 – Part 3 : Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

We are now on Avastar RC10 and apparently close to official release. Since my last blog post in this series i’ve actually made a break through and managed to import a fully working Bento kid avatar….

My frustrations with Avastar are slowly dissipating as i get feedback from the Avastar team and work out my own workflow. I now have a checklist i go through with the project saved as stages so i can go back to a previous stage if things go bork. Some of the issues i had are still in Avastar, i simply changed what i wanted to do.

 

Shoulders

I’m not normal because i’m male, i’ve always been male. I am of course talking about Second Life and you might be surprised to know that almost every boy child avatar you bump into in Second life is actually a girl. The reason for this is the female avatar skeleton was designed to be small and slim so when users started to relive their childhoods they found they got better child shape results by using the female avatar even for boys.

When i first arrived in Second Life i chose the male skeleton to be my avatar base shape and have been that way since while all my best friends are female. It’s one reason why my avatar seems to look so unique compared to other kid avatars, the male avatar face shape can not be recreated on the female avatar shape because they are a different base mesh. So if i changed my avatar to be female i would loose what people recognise as Loki’s good looks.

But why is being female so important you might ask? well it is because of shoulders. Simply put, female shoulders in Second Life look better when settings are set to really small compared to the male avatars which are designed to look wide and muscular.

Over the years I’ve tried joint rigging and other attempts at making the shoulders look good on a shrunken male shape, all because i needed to preserve my face. I began the Bento avatar project still wanting to use the male avatar skeleton and became frustrated when Avastar appeared to not want to allow the ‘use bind pose’ feature with the male armature. After a long winded workaround i finally got a male skeletal based Bento avatar into Second Life and the shoulders looked crap. It was at that point i did a face palm realising that i didn’t have to use the male skeleton any longer. My entire head was a brand new mesh head so i could finally join my friends and be female.

This revelation has made the Avastar workflow a lot quicker and the results much better looking.

 

Exploring the Bento

Now that i have a working workflow i’m able to start proper experimenting with Bento and other Avastar features. For instance i discovered that i don’t have to apply physics to the butt or breasts, i can actually apply them to rigged mesh hair allowing for gentle bouncing and swaying giving a little extra detail.

Thanks to Avastars ability to attach the avatar to Second Life customisation sliders I’m able to warp my face and other parts of the body. How this will be supported with my next line of clothes I’m not yet sure.

While not very relevant to my personal avatar, this will be important for the consumer version

Creating animations is the next step. I’m having trouble with the .ANIM file format from Avastar and I’m discovering weird issues that can arise from it. But it’s so great to see my new mesh face blinking and smiling, the potential is there to bring so much life to my avatar than ever before.

I got stuck in this expression

One thing i’m disappointed with is after adding 106 new bones not one of them are for toes, there are multiple bones for wings a tail, and even the groin, but the feet are flatter than a pancake. Perhaps i can take bones from somewhere else and make them into toe bones?

 

The Consumer version of Loki Bento Avatar

So the hardest part is complete and i hope the rest should be easy, adding animation presets, built in masking, wet mode, designing new clothes. Once my avatar is complete and I’m happy with how it works, i plan to make a consumer version with a head shape based on the default classic avatar. My hope is users will be able to recreate their current head shapes as close as possible to how they are now. I could then offer specially designed head shapes to choose from in future.

Loki Avatar 3.0 – Part 2 : Wish upon an Avastar

At the time of writing this (may 2017) Avastar 2.0 has still not had an officially release. It made its way to Release Candidate 7 (RC7) before halting with no clues to its eventual release.

My own experience with the plugin has lead me to a bit of frustration since Avatars workflow changed dramatically when it entered RC stage.  A feature i had been relying on was changed to what is supposed to be a better version, namely ‘Convert to Bind Pose’ which should allow me to create my avatar in any pose and import to Second Life with no issues. Originally this feature would convert your mesh avatar from what ever pose you created to the Second Life T-Pose. For me this allowed for better shoulders and is easier to work areas such as the legs. After you have finished your work you’d simply click a button to ‘alter to rest pose’ which would be the default SL T-Pose and import to SL.  In the new version i think the ‘convert to bind pose’ does away with the need to set the avatar to T-Pose before importing to Second Life. For me this does not work though. Instead of converting my pose, it completely rejigs the pose and the bones making a mess.

Apparently it has something to do with my avatar not being a specific shape and size of woman… Perhaps the big delay between RC7 and any more news is because this is an issue being worked on. In any case i wait patiently.

 

One fitting to rule them all

While i continue to wait for Avastar 2.0 to be released i have had to create a work around to continue testing my avatar, and incase Avatar is released and i still have the same issues with it. Some of my tests have been with how to make my new bento avatar compatible with current classic mesh clothes and SMB clothing (Super Mesh Bros).

Some of the tests showed that i may need to be more considerate of the position of the mesh body on the rig to reduce poke through on critical areas that can not be masked out such as the collar, and the sleeves.

An issue thats come up with fitted mesh and child avatars was EXTREME FAT. I rigged my bento avatar to the customisation sliders at 50/50 in most cases. This was so that users could make my avatar skinnier or fatter. But kid avatars in Second life are almost all created with the sliders down to zero as well as the fitted mesh clothes they wear. So when my 50/50 Bento Kid avatar wore a fitted mesh shirt… well you can see below what happened.

So what do i do in this instance? i could allow users more customisation of their avatars size and shape, but that would mean incompatibility with clothing made for avatars with sliders set to zero.

When it comes to customisation sliders, fitted mesh and kid avatars things are very complicated. I will have to do more tests and see just which sliders i can get away with being 50/50. This also effects my future clothing experiments. If i make an avatar thats set to 50/50, those clothes on a default kid avatar just won’t fit properly.

 

Wonky Fingers.

Another issue is i have wonky fingers. This is because i must have edited the finger bones instead of  posing them. Its and easy fix but shows that i have to be more careful.

I hope to have my new avatar up and running by the time SL14B starts which will be three years since my current mesh avatar was introduced. Its a balancing act of using the latest features of Bento and keeping things compatible with the old. It’s not easy being a kid avatar.

Regardless of how hard it is to import avatars to Second Life, importing to other platforms has never been easier. Below is my new avatar imported to Sketchfab wearing my current Timerascal range of clothing.

Loki Avatar 3.0 – Part 1 : Here we go again!

The Beginning of last year the big news about second life was the new BENTO avatar feature allowing creators the ability to rig mesh avatars with facial expressions and hand gestures.

Perhaps the Drax Files should have waited a year before showcasing Bento as the case always seems to be that Linden Lab introduce a feature, the community goes wild, then Linden Lab take a year or two to finally release said feature to a community thats long forgotten about it. I myself decided middle of last year not to jump on the Bento Bandwagon until the project was complete, and chose instead to push all thoughts of Bento to 2017.

So now we are in 2017 i have started looking at Bento or more specifically Avastar 2.0.  I’ve rigged characters for animating in blender many times but when it comes to second life the whole weighting for fitted mesh and other technical garbage that needs to be done gives cause for anxiety. Thats why Avastar is so important.

When i created my first Mesh Avatar the Avastar plugin for Blender was for me a bit unstable. It was still having features added in order to support the misleading ‘fitted mesh‘ feature. What i ended up with was a mesh avatar that worked for me but wasn’t a very good avatar for others to use and customise. The hope is this time around Avastar is much more stable, much more accurate and that i understand better how it works.

While not committing to create Loki Avatar 3.0 until Avastar reaches official release, i have been experimenting and getting to grips with the Avastar work flow which can change suddenly when they change options around confusing the hell out of me. Not only is Avastar a quicker way to create avatars, it also has features to export animations making it the best tool for creating SL animations. Seeing your mesh avatar hands moving thanks to Bento is really cool, and so is watching him blink. Suddenly mesh avatars can truly come alive!

I’ve also been using Substance painter to texture the new Loki Avatar. Before i used old faithful photoshop which is now bloated with features i don’t use or understand. Substance painter is now my goto tool for texturing 3D Models and is allowing me to create extremely detailed skins. Just how much of this detail will end up in Second Life i do not yet know, but it might fare better in future VR platforms.

The main aim for me is not realism, but rather personality.

Future Features
I learned a lot from my first mesh avatar Loki Avatar 2.0. Specifically about how users don’t want to change how they do things, so i’ll be creating my next avatar with that in mind.

Here are a list of features i hope to explore for Loki Avatar 3.0

• Personalities – With the addition of Bento facial animations, it’s possible that built in expressions could convey specific personalities, such as naive & Innocent, cheeky & mischievous, Grumpy, ect. Personalities could be chosen from a menu option adding a type of avatar customisation not available before.

• Hand gesture options – You could select from many hand poses.

• Easier Skin customisation – Loki Avatar 2.0 was notoriously difficult to customise the skin, i made the mesh texture system far to complicated so plan to make customising the skin a priority feature this time around.

• Common size – For Loki Avatar 2.0 i had this wacky idea to use adult size SL skeleton joint shrieked down to a kid size would make for e abetter kid avatar. It worked for me, but confused EVERYONE who used it, and in some cases just made other clothing break the universe when attached. It was partly because i had a silly idea, a lack of understanding how Avastar worked, and i stubbornly refused to begin again. Well now i am beginning again and i hope to make an avatar thats 100 times more friendly to other creators clothing.

• Bento Default Head – In my tests i’ve been working on my own very specific Loki face. I may decide to create a more detailed face based on the default Second Life head shape. The Idea being that those who are attached to how they currently look with default avatars, can try and reproduce the same face with a bento mesh avatar using the avatar slider support. In theory it should be possible, but we’ll have to wait and see. There is the possibility that i could create a range of different faces which you can tweek using sliders.

The Loki Bento Mesh avatar is just the start, the real fun begins with clothing and bento supported attachments that can take advantage of the new skeletons extra abilities. This year continues to be fun!

No Bento Loki Avatars until next year.

Over the weekend i took another brief look at Project Bento that was highlighted on the Drax world makers back in February.

If you don’t know what the Bento Project is, basically it’s an update to what people can upload for avatars in Second Life adding extra ability to rig facial expressions and fingers.

bentoloki

First announced last December of 2015 and still in testing, i hope to at some point work out how to use it. the Avastar plugin for blender should make things easier eventually but at the moment that also is still in testing.

bb

I’ll keep an eye on how it continues to evolve, but i now don’t expect to update my free mesh avatars to include bento until next year. In the mean time there are plenty of other features i can add to Loki Avatars that people have asked for.

Areas i hope to improve are the ability to change and customise skins and try a new way of masking body parts. I’d also like to experiment more with re-rigging the body shapes now that Avastar has evolved more. This would lead to backwards compatibility issues with older clothing though so we’ll see.

[UPDATED] Exploring the future of my Avatars Shape – part 5 – Loki Avatars

testAlmost a year ago i started a project to make a mesh avatar. I actually finished my own Mesh Avatar around July/August of last year, but since then i have been trying to work out how to make a consumer version that allowed others to customise it easy as well as have clothes for it.

 

Not a classic.

I explored a lot of ways to make a mesh avatar and chose the controversial path of making an avatar that could not wear clothes made for classic SL avatars. It means those who choose to use my Avatar are limited in the choice of clothing. To help with this i’ve decided to create a clothing creation pack for Clothes designers who want to retrofit or build new clothes for the Loki Avatar.

 

Character

V4_Packaging_Avatars_characters

The way i have decided to present the Loki Avatar is as characters. The Smallest Avatar is called the Lilkid, then you have the BigBro followed by The Anime character. I hope to add more characters with more subtle changes to their shapes in future. Some people have already asked for a more skinny kid, or a more muscular teen and since i never really managed to figure out wether fitted mesh was just a myth i will try and supply some variations to the characters in future.

[UPDATE]: The Loki Avatar is partially Fitted Mesh, but once i started shrinking down the classic base avatar, things got weird. Since it’s only partially fitted, such as hands and feet part of the belly i can’t really promote it as fitted mesh.

 

TOTALLY FREE

 

shop

I want users to have the opportunity to try the avatar and see if the system works for them, so all the Loki Avatars are available for FREE, FOR EVER.

 

SKNpods & paks.

SKNpodOpen

But of course if you want to be able to change the colour and textures of your Loki Avatar, then you will need to purchase the SKNpod. This unlocks premium customisation features.

 

The First Step.

This is just the beginning. The Loki Avatar is basically the consumer version of the mesh body i use for my own avatar and i will be constantly working to create new clothes and accessories while also striving to improve my own look. This then gets offered to all those who are using the Loki Avatar characters.

 

The Next Step.

The Loki Avatar has only been available for a week and already there is a list of improvements that will come later in the year, such as better more precise SKNpod features, New Characters and more. Future clothing planned are School uniforms, new Bib overalls and socks. There are also a few other kids clothing designers who have grabbed the Clothes Creations kit so look out for the Loki Avatar Logo.

 

Thanx.

I’d like to thank everyone who encouraged me in this the longest single project I’ve worked on so far in Second Life. To those who gave me honest feedback and to those who kept me going on the numerous occasions i wanted to bin the whole thing :-p. The Loki Avatar and the solutions i built for it will not be to everyones tastes, but to those who pick it up, figure it out and use it, i hope it helps you achieve and express your second Childhood here in virtual space.

If you’d like to learn more about the features of the Loki Avatar then head over to the official Loki Avatars Website

I’ll finish this post with a short Machinima i created using the Loki Avatar Anime character.