Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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Second Life Avatar Height Ranges an Impediment to Quality Builds, Argues Veteran Creator

Second Life Avatar size

The male avatar at left is upwards of 7 feet tall, which is actually a typical height for SL avatars. Linden Lab's avatar adjustment sliders allow users to set their size to over 8 feet, which inevitably drives the average height upward. (Because how embarrassing is it if your avatar seems short compared to others?) That's led to a world where the female avatar on the right, who is 5'7" (which in real life is actually on the tall side for women, on average) seems dwarfish. The problem, veteran Second Life content creator Penny Patton explains in this long, detailed, and persuasive post on the official forum, has hurt the quality of Second Life building as well. (Imagine if real life architects designed homes assuming all their customers were in the NBA.)

As Penny puts it to me, "SL content creators can craft a richer, larger and more detailed world in Second Life, simply by building smaller -- but Linden Lab has to help them by encouraging most avatars to shrink down to a much more realistic size." Read her case here -- you too, Lindens reading this! While you're at it, I'll add an idea to the mix: Monetize avatar height, so that anyone who wants an avatar over 6'4" has to pay extra for that privilege. This would drive average heights down to a more reasonable proportion, while still giving the gargantuanly-inclined the freedom to do so.

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Doreen Garrigus

Wow, Hamlet. Monetize height? That's way more extreme than anything I would think to suggest. Interesting idea. It's guaranteed to provoke a response.

I think it would be enough to make realistically scaled starter avatars and accessories and to put an accurate height indicator in appearance mode---the one there currently underestimates height by about six inches.

I'm really interested to see what everyone else says.

Adeon Writer

I'm in full agreement with Penny here. It is if course very important to respect choice - if people want to be tall and huge, they have every right to be. The important thing though is that scale and measurements be readily accessible so that they are not oblivious to their size.

Her statements on how it has effected SL are true, and LL should encourage scale awareness, first and foremost by making sure their own official starter avatars and library content is to-scale.

Do you know how big that sculpty fruit plate is?!

Ann Otoole InSL

We really need a single slider that sizes the entire avatar proportionally. That way we could make a shape and size it up or down with ease while maintaining the desired shape. That would allow us to size down for small world sims or size up for regular SL as we go.

As for "monetizing height" or any other not thoroughly thought through ideas (charge for inventory, etc.)? It is too late. There is too much content out there and to start charging now would result in what Eve Online is experiencing right now with a huge customer revolt over the owners deciding to make the game pay to win.

If Penny and/or others seek to change the entire world to meet their opinion then they need to start by raising capital (good luck with that) and building their idea from scratch without treading on any patents or IP rights. Then see how many people want to be part of their perfectly controlled world where they control customer creativity and decide what customers can or cannot do. It is just like with online forums. If you don't like the way a forum is run then go make your own and see who follows you.

Recka Wuyts

Tests of persons in RL situations show tall good looking people are more likely to succeed, get more respect, ect. Given a choice I assume most people in SL with tall avatars want to be successful, or believe they will be if they are tall.

Marianne McCann

I sort of half agree. I mean, I recall making my first avatar close to my first life height, and discovering that she was still much shorter than just about everyone she came across. Back then, I just went ahead and upscaled.

All this said, isn't this a bit late now? We've got a whole world built on the scale of the old primitars and stuff. Changing it now seems a bit impossible, and would presumably bust a whole lot of existing content.

Also, it's Second Life. If someone wants to be an amazon, what's for me to stop 'em?

Doreen Garrigus

Actually, Marianne, that's one of the major misconceptions out there. We don't have a whole world built to the scale of the Primitar. We have a world that is built on a mish-mash of different scales, all colliding and irreconcilable. There are several different versions of the "a Second Life meter is really (insert other measurement here)" idea. Most of them would make the Primitar under five feet tall.

Imnotgoing Sideways

Just think about it... Someday in the distant future, I'll be telling my little avatarlings that I was 5 feet tall before it was mainstream. =^-^=

Nika Talaj

Doreen, with all due respect, my experience of SL since 2006 seems to differ greatly from yours. I've walked the world in both a 5'6" avatar and a 6'4" one, and the latter is a much better fit to existing builds. To make all that old content obsolete by changing the default sizes would sadden me, and many others, greatly.

Hamlet: Charge people for using taller avatars? I bet you hated that "Your world, your imagination" slogan when you were at LL, didn't you? And the SL8B theme, "Magic", not a big success with you either, I'm guessing? This is a seriously repressive line of thought.

Of course people with money always can afford more choice in their lives. But personally, I've always admired SL as a leveler of playing fields. There are a lot of folks without much cash who can get access to an SL-capable computer and broadband, and use that to craft a better life for themselves. Shame on you, Hamlet, for proposing to limit that in any way.

Qie Niangao

Penny is correct that SL architecture (especially) suffers from a too-broad range of avatar heights, but that seems part of the appeal of SL: to be able to assume a height different from your RL height.

The problem is that so many have picked Monstrously Tall as their fantasy height. I think this tells us much more about human nature and our perception of height than it does about a poorly calibrated readout in the Appearance editor. What's unfortunate is that there's practically no way for noticeably "tall" avatars to exist in SL because of an artificial ceiling effect: most *everybody's* height is nearly max'd out, so there's no room for anybody to be much taller than average.

Monetizing the current height range is unlikely to work, but a brand new avatar could be introduced to attain even more monstrous proportions for a fee, thus making obsolete even the current outsized architecture. (BUY NEW PREFABS!)

More practical, I think, would be to automatically attach a basketball to every avatar over 6'4" and helpfully override their walk anims to dribble it wherever they go.

Missy Restless

Totally! Let's get rid of all the tinies too! And languages. I make a lot of communication gadgets and what a pain it is to accommodate all these languages. RL communications equipment typically only has to deal with whatever is the local country's language. In SL communications gadgets have to worry about all the languages on the planet! English only from now on! Of course, if you want to speak a non-English language then just pay a language fee! Diversity is for the birds.

Penny Patton

To be perfectly clear, I'm very fond of the freedom of diversity available to SL's avatars.

My stance is not to limit avatar sizes, but to provide better starter sizes, correct size information (there's actually a bug in the appearance editor misrepresenting avatar height), and better camera placement. This would allow people more freedom in deliberately choosing their avatar size, rather than being forced into one extreme just to be "average".

Avatar size is actually only one part of the article, which explains how up-scaling effectively reduces land size and eats up more prims when building environments.

Doreen Garrigus

I took an accurate scripted measurement device around SL and measured hundreds and hundreds of avatars, then plotted the information on a graph. There is no bell curve. There is no peak. An average is meaningless.

The number of avatars who are six feet tall is equal to the number of avatars who are seven feet tall which is equal to the number of avatars who are eight feet tall. It only drops off at the edge of possible, where it's hard to get the sliders to produce something that looks human.

People are all convinced that their avatars represent some kind of norm when they are really only norms for their own little social group.

Nathaniel Flores

This is an issue I've struggled with in the build I am currently working on.

At one point I tried to convince my admin staff for the sim that we should build 'to scale' but they were concerned with people balking about having to reset their sizes, etc.

That's not to hard to deal with because you can just tell people "this is how tall you have to be to be 'normal' in this roleplay environment and they can take it or leave it.

What really prevented me from doing it, though is that I found that a lot of the pre-fab content I would want to use in the build is 'Average for SL' sized and some of it is no-mod. Cars, for an example. The cars I already have that I can use can't be shrunk down and wouldn't suit smaller scale avs. Also some furniture and things. So unless I want to buy a lot of replacements for my 'library' of building components or make each and every piece myself I'm sort of stuck with it.

So that's part of the challenge, as much as I would like to take advantage of the ability to scale down the builds. And now I'm far enough into it that a revamp would be painful anyway, so there you go. I've already sort of surrendered to it.

Dakotah Yue

The original post actually is about facilitating diversity by aggreeing to an average size based on real life measurements. Long overdue.

Nomi Lee

This scale discussion is useless, as virtual spaces have no scale reference and will never have. Product designers and architects know this problem very well since they design exclusively in 3D computer programs.
Even if there would be a operating av height measure system, it fails again when wearing high heel shoes. (When i wear prim shoes with shoe base which appear to look like 2 inch heels rl, the height meter tells me i am 5 inches taller).
The only scale reference we have in SL is the social group we are in, to which we relate our av in height. Since i started SL i dropped from a 85 on the slider to a 45 ... yet i appear still the same height in my social context ... as all my friends shrunk over the years.
(Same btw in RL: "Asians are small" comes from this referential thinking. As Asians tend(ed) to say "Americans/Europeans are tall". So who of the both is right?)
SL is good as it is in the 'scale issue'. No need to waste any thought on that.

Galatea Gynoid

While we're at it, can someone make a bed that isn't at least four times larger (in terms of surface area) than a real life king size bed? That's about the smallest I've ever seen.

Emily Lang

The scale issue and the proliferation of porn were the main reasons I turned my back on SL ages ago. Still hoping one day things will change (or that a better competitor will show up).

Bixyl Shuftan

Since getting my foxfolk avatar, it's remained at 5' 1". Irronically enough, the story that inspired it, in some places most people average 7ft.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Of course SL has a scale reference. You use it every time you create and set the size of a prim, and it's used to specify the size of land. It's called a meter, and to say that "in SL a meter isn't really a meter" is silly. If it were meant to actually be a furlong, astronomical unit, or parsec, it would be called that.

Our esteemed blogger himself wrote in his book on the history of Second Life that shape parameters were bounded to prevent an arms race for things like height. Here we have the result, aided by the way that in the old days you had no indication of what the height slider meant, and nowadays the default avatar choices are very tall and height indicators give erroneously low values. (When on earth did the definition of a "bounding box" change so that an object doesn't have to be contained in its bounding box?) Everybody's tall, so nobody's tall, and avatars with heights that correspond to RL heights get accused of being children. (Indeed, there's even been the idiotic suggestion that Penny is part of a conspiracy of evil child avatars.)

Things do seem to be improving. As time goes on, I see more avatars that seem to be of reasonable height. If you want market pressure, sim owners, patronize builders who keep to a human scale. Tell the others why you're not buying their work.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Speaking of avatar shapes, for heaven's sake, yes, do what Ann O'Toole suggests. The current avatar shape setup for body proportions is horribly non-orthogonal. There should be controls to set proportions and a separate scaling factor that sets height while keeping the proportions the same.

An example: suppose you have your proportions set just as you'd like... and then decide you'd like to be a fairy. A 7'2" fairy just doesn't match up with what people think of as a fairy... but twist the height knob and watch your proportions change.

See JIRA entry VWR-6467, which has, alas, been around since April *2008* and is still awaiting review.

Ann Otoole InSL

@Melissa - If the open source devs took on VWR-6467 then it might have a chance of getting in. Given how riled up people are getting over this then it seems logical someone might tackle it.

Aeonix Aeon

A better way to tackle the height issue would be for content creators to cater to realistic averages for scale rather than extremes. I'm set at 5' 11" in SL and personally don't care how tall people are compared to me. Of course, that also influences my buying habits, because I won't buy things that cater to giants, since that excludes myself. Linden Lab should also set the initial content for new users to adhere to more realistic scale for the avatars in order to foster this trend in conjunction with content creators. In addition, an up front method for seeing just how tall or short an avatar is when modifying it would also act as a visual cue to discourage abnormal extremes. Truth be told, whether you want to be 7 foot tall or 4 foot tall is up to the users, but that doesn't mean we should cater to those extremes. Just like abnormally tall or short people in real life, the average items just aren't tailored for them.

Adromaw Lupindo

Ann Otoole has the more right attitude on this than most of the others. Fact is, by trying to have too much control on this beyond their feasible Right, most suggestions are shrinking the potential market and reducing their catering reach.

Build for everyone and sell more. It’s lazy to expect everyone else to just be convenient for your building. I went through a build in the K.R Engineering sim; there were two doors I could not enter because I was 4” too tall. A height that my partner specifically wished my avatar was taller than hers. It was odd that, that door didn’t permit the entrance of an avatar that was _under_ 7’ (6’27”) while _all the others_ did.

The avatar height issue is the fault of shape makers and distributors long ago combined with the lack of world space scale education for people making their own. It’s little to do with LL directly.

Asking for better more informative tools, however, is always a good thing.

I’d like a display along with a proportional slider, similar to the grid overlay but persistently showing the proportion relationships of the various parts. I’d also like as well as being able to adjust the relationships and scaling groups simultaneously.

I don’t know about this claim of almost everyone being maxed out either. I see a variety in my corner, quite the mix.

Better builders build to challenges, jaded ones give up.

Saffia Widdershins

Breaking most of the content created in Second Life over the last eight years (which would be necessary to accommodate new smaller default sizes) does not seem to me to be a logical way to move forward.

Nor does suddenly charging people to remain the height they have adopted for up to eight years. It would make more sense to impose a tax on heavily scripted hair (and no - I am NOT advocating that!).

But this does seem to have potential for an interesting Open Sim experiment.

As for bed sizes ... well, I could supply a long list. But let's start with Maxwell Graf's new Mission style range at Rustica, Colleen Dessmoulins at the Loft, pitsch Parx's UrbanizeD, Ellen Kirshner's Second Space, Pandora Popstar's LISP Bazaar ... or you might want to check out the fantastic daybeds that Froukje Hoorenbeek of Dutchie and Isla Geleach of Cheeky Pea made for the Designer challenge (http://sldesignerschallenge.blogspot.com/). And I could list many, many more.

Aliasi Stonebender

Y'know, I habitually walk around in a seven-meter-tall avatar. I wouldn't be much for monetizing height.

(Yes, meters, not feet. I also got a chuckle out of 'but people wouldn't need hacks or cheats!' in the the linked forum posting - as if Second Life's best features haven't ultimately derived from 'cheats'!)

zuli

Strange enough to discussing restrict and repromote the average height of avatar. Avatar's tall always be influenced by the social environment. I can't see any avatar over 6 feet 4 in the Japanese, Korean sim (I think they are around 5.5-5.10). Prefab house can be bought from there also small and short than the EU resident's sim. Even all avatar get short as normal, we still suffer the basic distance needed by the avatar. We still need a much higher ceiling than the real life building.

This a imaginative world, we can discuss, but never can expect anyone will follow the rules.

Senban Babii

Obsession with making SL a perfect reflection and counterpart of RL is not healthy.

In meatlife, average height is x feet and y inches.

Second Life is not meatlife. The same factors do not apply. The same expected averages should not apply.

Today I am a neko. Tomorrow I am Spiderman. The following day I am a cauliflower. I can't do that in meatlife either, perhaps my ability to be a polymorphous avatar should likewise be monetised in order to force compliance with the idea that SL should mirror RL?

Pussycat Catnap

I agree with Doreen on this, at least as far as I've read through the wall of comments (her first two) - there is no average in SL.

And that holds for buildings too.

But I also would say that buildings in SL, like any 3D world or dollhouse - should be a bit overscale from the figures meant to be played with inside of them. Just like a dollhouse you need room to get your hands in there - regardless of what you do to the camera position.

BUT, the overscale should only be a slight overscale. Right now though - its all over the map. In some places its over by a vast amount, other places under, and others moderate. Its just plain out inconsistent.

Arcadia Codesmith

Change the unit of measurement.

Make 8 feet (old system) equal 6 feet (new system).

There. Now all the "giants" are magically average, and all the "midgets" can scale up to a normal SL avatar size without feeling like they're betraying some deep-seated connection to reality.

Problem solved. You're welcome.

The architectural problem is slightly more complex. Obviously, prims need to scale larger than 10x10m and land scale should be bumped 25-50% (so 500 sq m stretches to 625-750 sq m). Implementing this in a way that doesn't break existing builds, that's the tricky part. I think you'd have to give landowners the option to either flag as legacy properties or rebuild with the new parameters.

Wynochee LeShelle

Hihi. Funny. This is like Pia Zadora, Kylie Minogue, Shakira, Cindy Lauper, Bjork, Deborah Harry, etc. would try to shrink the body sizes of the human population down to their everlasting juvenile/small look and attitudes, just for their pleasure.

And Celine Dion and Dirk Nowitzki would have to pay a fee or a surcharge because of their body sizes.

...

A comfy proportion slider is an idea which makes sense, like Ann mentioned it.

But a "size regime" doesn't work. Not in RL and not in SL.

Pussycat Catnap

@Arcadia: The problem with the idea of just making 8 into 6 is that the arm slider on the female mesh can't handle an avatar above roughly 6-feet.

To have proper arms they must be the same length as your height, when in a T-pose, finger tip to finger tip. To get that, you've got to set the slider to 100% on even a 5'4" or so avatar, and then use shoulder width and body thickness on anything taller. Eventually you max out shoulders and body - but before you even max those out, they get wider than 2-head heights, and thus distort...

The female mesh can only be properly proportional in a very narrow height range - go under 5' and she gets distorted in other ways... That whole mesh needs to be redone. Even Possette from Poser, put out in he 1990s, was better - by leaps and bounds in fact.

sirhc desantis

Woo Hoo just wandered through the library and a slew of new Avs - better alert the Size Police as I'm sure there are enough there to get up their perfectly proportioned noses - I bet that FemBot breaks some standard somewhere....

Arcadia Codesmith

@Pussycat: The Linden mesh needs work.

I'm pessimistically convinced that the degree of work it needs would break most every skin and clothing item currently in existence, and therefore it won't get done.

Backward compatibility is a control collar that blows our heads off if we try to remove it.

jo yardley

I've gone for realistic scales since I joined SL and my sim (1920s Berlin) is realistic scale-ish.
I too think that the avatars people get when they first join have the same scale as the build tools.
Give all new people a realistic avatar and then give them the pleasure to change it, play with it.
Tall people will be much taller if everyone else is realistic.
It makes things easier for creators and some creators can concentrate on making objects for taller avatars just like some people now create for tinies.

Penny Patton

I would strongly encourage people to read the linked article before jumping to conclusions.

It really has nothing to do with making SL more "realistic", forcing people to shrink their avatars down, and does not suggest anything that would break content.

Changing the SL metre, on the other hand, would break content and not solve any of SL's scale issues, it would only further limit creativity.

Pussycat Catnap

@Arcadia:

Not that anyone's still reading this old thing now - but in the Poser community people have managed to apply compatible UV maps onto new meshes.

For SL this would be potentially easier - as long as you cover the same body area on your new UV map, and make focal points in the same locations, you'd be ok. Its a low enough poly situation that you can get away with a bit more there.

brandon

Just think about it... Someday in the distant future, I'll be telling my little avatarlings that I was 5 feet tall before it was mainstream. =^-^=

Posted by: Imnotgoing Sideways | Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:39 AM

you are still a pedo

PeterTheta

I do use RL measurements as a reference for my SL builds where available and all my other builds tend to be relative to those known dimensions.

Generally someone could scale what I make and often I take advantage of the same courtesy offered to me.

My avatar is to RL scale; if I meet a 7-foot humanoid I try to give them the same courtesy I extend to 30-foot dragons, especially if they are capable of conversation :-)

People who are sloppy will be inconsistent, Lindens included. I do as I like, try to set an example and let folks just do whatever thereafter.

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