The rocky road of Sansar Avatars is best described by the fact i have had to create my Avatar five times in the two years i’ve been using Sansar, but it was worth it!
First i was a grumpy looking adult male which i felt so uncomfortable calling Loki. Then they allowed custom avatar import but only for avatars that were all the same hight, so i created robot and placed my Second Life avatar on top. Finally they allowed scaling so i was able to take my kid avatar off the robot and walk around as intended. Then they decided to delete everyones avatars introducing avatar 2.0, that used a totally new skeleton and morph sliders for customising faces. But no matter what i did i was never happy with the face and they didn’t allow body morphs or custom skins.
In June i decided to try import my avatar again to Sansar but found it incredibly hard. Not only is the supplied Reference Skeleton horrific to work with, i just could not weight paint my model to the 2.0 Skeleton accurately. In the end i cheated by transplanting my avatars head from my model to the Sansars already weighted body. I edited and morphed the body shape to be more in line with how my avatar should look. The result was pretty awesome and probably the best avatar i’ve ever made for any platform so far. I didn’t go for photorealism with my avatar, i wanted him stylised and full of expression. People have come up to me saying my avatar reminds them of Pixar, Disney and even Gorillaz which is exactly what i wanted to achieve… fingers crossed i wont have to create it all over again any time soon.
NOTE: if you want to try your hands at working with Custom Sansar Avatars, i recommend getting Medhues versions of the Reference files.
The reason Avatar 2.0 was created was to allow users the ability to easily create their own unique look following how Second Life’s Avatars work, but from what i’ve seen, nearly all my friends in Sansar have chosen custom imported avatars. I’ve met some who describe Sansars face editing tools really hard to master, instead choosing masks from the store in order to hide their scary face morphing attempts.
Could it be an Avatar appearance is important to wether that user returns to a virtual World? Sansar is for the moment an events focused service. Maybe their target audience does not care about how they look when they come to watch a band play their latest album. Thats certainly the case for those watching the video stream app. But to keep coming back in VR, being social is key yes, but also how we want to be seen is part of that. We don’t want to socialise if we are not happy with how we look. Another thing to think about is many users might already have a Virtual Persona on another platform such as SecondLife or VRchat, and if they cant replicate that persona in your virtual world they may not feel ‘themselves’.
So perhaps a solution to Sansars user retention issue is to make it much easier to look how ever they want, either by expanding the avatars morph abilities and sharing of the shape presets, or perhaps making it easier to import custom avatars made for VRchat… or simply supplying a better skeleton reference file for blender!
I love logging into Sansar to meet up with people, because my avatar is awesome and i want to be seen as that avatar while enjoying the immersive events. It’s fun and keeps me coming back in. I’m pretty sure this is how it is for most who hang out i Sansar, or any Virtual World.