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.

Escapades Recap – 12th Wickerman & Eurovision

Just a  quick post about some things that happened recently on Escapades Island in Second Life….

Following right on the heels of the successful Fantasy Faire was the annual Burning of the Wickerman on Escapades Island. After the frustration of being sick during Fantasy Faire it was a relaxing joyful experience to be joined by my friends for the parade up the mountain side to perform the ritual to burn the wickerman for the 12th year in a row.

It’s basically the same thing every year with the same musical soundtrack but for some reason everyone loves it, everyone gets a feeling of belonging in this vast sprawling virtual world.

I never film the Wickerman and rarely take pics so i leave that up to the others to record. Check out Strifeclaws Flikr album of the event.

 

Together for Eurovision 

A week after the Wickerman was the Eurovision song contest which has also become a sort of tradition on Escapades Island. The idea of friends from many of the contributing European countries all sitting together in Virtual Reality watching and laughing together is one that for me captures the whole point of the shared virtual spaces.

Eurovision photos taken by Avarial

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.

Fantasy Faire: The Lilypods

Fantasy Faire is back with twelve regions packed full of wonder and mystery and on one region called Mudrana we find the our favourite gang of misfits.

This year they are called the Lilypods, a group of children who have found themselves living in a giant pond helping the local frogs keep their Frog God awake. Anyone can come along and join the gang in their adventures during the week, just turn up at the Lilypod basecamp!

The Lilypods are recognisable by their over sized Lilypad hats, and noises horn trumpets which they use to assist the frogs in keeping awake the Frog God. It is said bad things will happen if the frog god of Mudrana falls asleep.

The Lilypad Hats and trumpets, including a hip bag are available to buy at the Lilypod Base Camp, all proceeds of which go directly to Cancer Research.

All through the week there will be roleplaying encounters and special fund raising events that help uncover the ongoing story at Mudrana. There is a timetable to help you know when to turn up and be around. The updated timetable is available in the Base Camp.

The first Lilypod Event begins on Friday at 2pm, Join Dogstar of the lesser Sidhe and the Spirit Guardians for gathering of folk tales. Tell us a story and hear of others, who knows, there might be a clue or two to whats going to happen this week.

So come along, join the lilypods at Fantasy Faire!

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!