Since mesh first appeared on the Second Life Beta Grid i’ve been toying with the idea of replacing the SL Default avatar mesh with one build by myself.
From the point of view from anyone outside of the Second Life Virtual World this might seem like a simple easy thing to do by just replacing the avatar mesh, but there technical aspects that a replacement Avatar Mesh can’t replicate that i feel are important to giving my avatar life in SL. So when approaching replacing my avatars default mesh there is a lot of things to consider.
1. Do i want my avatar to still be able to smile and laugh
2. Do i want my avatars head to still be customisable with the SL build in editor sliders?
3. Do i want my avatar to be able to wear the same clothes as everyone else?
4. Do i want my replacement Mesh Avatar to be some i can offer commercially to others?
I started with CyberMeshing my avatar by replacing his legs and feet so i finally had individual toes and legs that did not look like tree trunks. I also changed my hair to mesh and occasionally toyed with replacing my arms and hands. Combined with my clothes my Avatar started to look more like how i envision him and less like a 2005 Default SL Avatar.
Every now and then i would consider wether replacing my entire avatar with a mesh one was worth it? If my avatar spends most of his time covered by mesh clothes whats the point in making a mesh avatar that ends up covered up? But an argument for working on a replacement mesh is simply progress. The more i work on making clothes for my avatar, the more detailed they become, the more i find issues with how the default mesh deforms to get my size and shape.
So now i’ve come to a point where i’m really starting to look into the possibilities with making a replacement avatar. I’ve seen some great ones already on the grid. Some avatars are total replacements, some only replace to your neck to leave your head. I’ve not yet decided which approach to take and will probably try them all and there is a lot of different issues that arise from each method.
Method 1: Replace Default Avatar Size.
I would create my mesh shape to the size and rig of the Second Life default male avatar then shrink using the ‘tiny avatar’ work flow. This should result in 5.5″ avatar with all custom sliders set to 50 as if a full size default avatar in theory. The reason for doing this is hopefully the shoulders will bend more naturally. I really have a problem with shoulders.
Method 2: Replace Deformed Size.
I grab my avatars current deformed state and import into blender and rigg my new mesh shape in relation to the deformed hight. This would be compatible with my clothing, but i’m left with the horrible shoulder problem that i really have a problem with.
Which ever method i go with, i have to consider keeping the default mesh head. I have seem some replacement avatars do this really well and it might be worth doing just to keep my avatars facial expressions active. For a commercial possibility, keeping the avatars default head would make sense since a big part of creating your own avatar is the ability to make a unique face. The difficulty is getting the neck of the replacement mesh to align with the default head seamlessly.
Method 3: Total Replacement.
Why so much trouble to keep the face? Perhaps just simply replacing the entire thing is best? Well thats another avenue to explore. I’ve seen people with hamster avatars, horse avatars, all sorts of avatars that have limited customisation and facial expression, but they manage to bring their own spin on it that defines them from others with the same avatar shape. Perhaps this need for retaining my avatars expression is making the whole process harder than it needs to be.
I’m still in the early stages of exploring whats possible with mesh and my avatar. There is no guarantee that what i finally decide on will be released commercially. What if i end up with something that looks great but in doing so end up with something with clothes that can’t be worn by regular default mesh avatars? So there is a tonne of testing to be done yet. I’m always open to suggestions and tips from those who have already experimented in replacement avatar mesh, so feel free to comment.
Avatars of the Future
As more virtual worlds come online perhaps they will allow for more freedom in the type of avatar i have created from scratch. Creating shape keys for my avatars unique smile and expression. It’ll only be a matter or what that platforms supports rather than what it allows so really i should be creating a new avatar with that in mind.