This week sees the release of my 3rd generation of mesh clothes almost marking three years since i first started using mesh to make clothes for small avatars. So what has been learnt in those three years?
Its not simply make a shirt, weight map it to the provided Avatar Rig and import it. Well it might be that simple if my avatar was the default Second Life avatar shape. From the start i’ve had the challenge of my avatar being a child as my shape has been squished, scrunched and deformed to as small as possible. This makes it hard to work with. As an extreme example, get a piece of paper, scrunch it up into a compact ball then try and paint a beautiful landscape scene on it, thats what its like making clothes for a small SL avatar. What mesh allowed me to do was create a smooth surface to paint on. I could model clothing to fit my avatars size as if it was not scrunched up.
1st Gen Clothing
My 1st Generation clothes were kind of basic. I was just starting out in 3D modelling, a total newb to 3D and blender so the Shirt and jeans were big and kind of thick looking but still better than what had been seen so far in Second Life. I quickly discovered that i needed to make two shapes, one for male based avatars, and one for female based avatars because rigged clothes fit differentially on a female than the male especially around the hip and shoulders.
2nd Gen Clothing
For the Second generation i tried to improve on the previous and its here i discovered an odd problem. When you shrink the ‘fat’ or ‘muscle’ on the avatar the skeletal rig appeared to be wrong. Specifically around the shoulders. The pivot points of the shoulders would appear lower and lower in relation to the neck pivot point the small your avatar became. The result would be extremely sloping shoulders that gave odd overly rounded shoulder movement. I tried to remedy this with the 2nd generation shirts by adding fake bumps to the shoulders. The result was that when you were in a standing pose your shoulders looked more natural. The problem was when ever you reached up it looked like yo had a growth on each shoulder.
I also added a third shape after popular demand by teenage girl avatars who wanted the hint of womanhood bringing the contents of each pack to Male, Female, and Female with breasts.
NEW 3rd Gen Clothing
So it came to the time where i needed to start thinking of the 3rd generation line and looked at how to improve on things. Some things were obvious. Some things i wondered wether it would be possible. Some things such as liquid mesh and the mesh deformer looked like more trouble than it was worth. In the end i think the 3rd generation of Loki Mesh is more balanced. It improves on quality and efficiency taking into account the need for more detail and using the latest Sl features whilst considering the impact on you and your friends viewer performance.
• Improved Modelling: My modelling has improved a lot in the past year, but instead of going all out mega detailed I’ve instead become more conscious of how the model effects its environment in world. Ive seen some clothes that are so high in poly count that you get wonderful wrinkles, pockets and buttons, but i also find these clothes have HUGE costs for your viewer to display which in a room full off other avatars mounts up. My 3rd Gen clothes seek to find a balance between good detail and efficiency in your digital environment.
• Materials: Not yet fully supported across all Third Party Viewers, the 3rd Gen Clothing is Materials ready. Each item has normal and special maps which boost detail giving light reacting curves and creases as if you are wearing a mega poly count mesh. Materials also give great opportunities for fancy effects such as glossy t-shirt transfers or shiny buttons. You do need Advanced Lighting Mode (ALM) enabled on your viewer to see Material Maps work though. This has led me to display with and without ALM examples on Marketplace listings.
• Texturing: I used to simply copy and paste clothes wrinkles from photos of jeans and shirts but now i hand model or draw every wrinkle and crease. Even stitching is drawn. Textures are a lot more realistic and detailed than previous years and while a few designs are inspired by retro nostalgic geekdom, most are original designs.
• LOD Efficiency: I’ve spent a long time getting the feel for acceptable import settings for Level Of Detail with my clothes. Some clothes have their LOD import settings way to high which results in unnecessarily higher display costs.
• Joint Rigged Shoulders: In my latest attempt to tackle the sloping shoulder issue i have done away with the tumour like shoulder bumps and instead looked into Joint Rigging. This tech is mostly used for entire avatar replacement allowing you to stretch and change the avatars skeletal shape. In the case of my Shirts i used an experimental method of Joint rigging the armature bones of the avatars shoulders to be higher while wearing the shirt. This in theory gives a more natural look and movement on small avatars.
The Joint rig method is controversial though since the Second Life viewer can be a little unstable when it comes to adding and removing joint rigged items. Problems such as a spasmed stretched look can randomly occur if you keep changing your from one joint rigged item to another or simply removing the joint rigged item. All this can be fixed with a relog, but it would be better if the viewer was more stable.
My initial V3 T-shirts exhibited a BUG EYE problem that i attributed to a viewer problem but later turned out to be a problem with my rigged Shirt. The Armature skeleton used when rigging my clothes also has bones for eye positions and even though there is no eyes on my shirt, the position of those eyes is sent along with everything else when joint rigged. What i think was happening was my shirt when worn was positioning peoples eyes where mine are which on a lot of people are not in the same position or size, so they got bug eyed. Simply deleting the eye bones form the armature before import to Second Life fixed this problem and might be of help to others who experience this problem with their creations.
• Change of shape format and extra SMALL size: Small boy avatars are always made using the female base shape because female base shapes shrink smaller than male base shapes. So small boy avatars should be wearing the ‘Female’ version of my clothes for the best fitting. But this was not happening because small boy avatars think they will get cooties from anything that has female in the title.
The 3rd generation clothes hopes to avoid this confusion by changing the shapes to sizes. No longer will there be ‘Male’, ‘Female’ and ‘female Breast’. Instead it will now be ‘Large’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Medium with Breasts’ . I have also added a new ‘SMALL’ size which gives a lot better fitting and gets rid of the fat ring for those much smaller than i am.
Part of art and design is puzzle solving and over the years making mesh clothes for the little people of the grid has given me one more puzzle to solve after another. It never gets boring. Thank you to all those who buy my clothes, give me feed back and push me to keep aiming for impossible goals. I hope you enjoy the 3rd generation of clothes as i gradually bring out more designs over the coming months.