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.
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!