Makies Makes 3D Printed Dolls That Are Great for Modders (But Maybe Not Others -- Yet)
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world fashion
She's here! The charming little 3D printed Makie that I designed based on my SL avatar a few months ago has arrived, and I've got lots to say about her!
Overall, I really feel that Makies, as the online service is right now, in Alpha, are ideal for modding fans like myself... but they may be less than ideal for those who want the perfect doll immediately. Here's why:
Upside for modders: Makies are sized to work with (most) other doll clothing
I've pictured my Makie on the right alongside a pen and a bottle of nailpolish for a better sense of scale. Makies are 1:6 scale, more or less. That may not mean much if you don't have an interest in dolls or collectibles, but 1:6 is the most common size for fashion dolls, as well as many collectable dolls, like Blythes and Pullips. Makies are shorter and stockier than Barbies, for example, so they may not fit many of her outfits or shoes, but Makies and Barbies could comfortably share the same scale of furniture and accessories. Well, except for hats...
This won't be much of an issue down the line once the Makie closet has expanded. Makielab even has an in-house seamstress working on patterns for DIYers. In the current stage, however, outfits are a bit limited, so if you want variety, you'll either need to wait, scavenge from other dolls, or break out the sewing machine. I'll go into more detail about this next week (because none of these options are terribly difficult), but it's something to consider. Do you want your doll to be flawless right out of the box, or do you want to spend some time making it your own?
Downside for doll lovers: Makies' physical flaws may seem distracting
These dolls are made from a surprisingly durable plastic, and manufactured using a 3D printing process. While this is what allows you to customize your Makie's face to the extent that you can, it also means that there are some noticeable ridges or areas were the plastic layers are visible. You have to look fairly hard to find them, and they're the sort of thing that I don't think would bother the average person, especially given the technology at work in producing these one-of-a-kind creation. More to the point, it's something that a comfortable modder with a fine grain of sandpaper could buff away in no-time. Believe it or not, even $600 resin dolls often come with seams from the molding process that need to be sanded away by the purchaser, so while I think this is something to be aware of, it's not something to hold against the dolls or the process that makes them. As for me, I don't think I'll be sanding these ridges smooth. 3D printing is quite fascinating, and I think these give the doll more character than it would have without them.
Upside for modders: Makies are highly customizable -- but could be even more
Makies come with an illustrated guide, explaining how to assemble and dissasemble your doll from stem to stern (including that back panel to fit a battery pack for the electronics that a truly hardcore modder can fit into the head), and I spent awhile fiddling with the joints (and getting a good idea of how strong the plastic really is). Though they're stiff at first, a little work seems to loosen the joints up pretty well, and they have a decent range of motion. I'm going to get super technical here so bear with me, but it would be nice to see MakieLab adopt a double-jointing system in the future, like many collectible jointed-dolls have in the knees and elbows, to increase poseability and range of motion... but given the medium that would be understandably too ambitious to tackle this early on.
Downside for doll owners: Makies are still fairly plain (so far)
Technical parts aside, the biggest issue with alpha Makies is obvious. They're super white, and rather plain. MakieLab has made it clear that they'll be adding more skin tones in the future, but what I would really love to see from them in the future is an in-house faceup artist. Faceup artists are artists who specialize in painting custom faces on collectable dolls, most commonly resin ones. A little lipstick and some eyeliner would make a huge difference on a blank Makie face (as you'll see next week), and letting people customize makeup options as well as hair, faces, and clothing on the site would be an excellent way to win over a modding-shy crowd. I'll be including some tips for Makie makeup next week, so hopefully just about anyone will be able to bring out the best in the Makie by the time I'm done!
Takeaway: Makies are what you make them
All this comes down to what I asked before: Do you want your doll to be flawless right out of the box, or do you want to spend some time making it your own? Do you buy a premade shape and wearit as is, or do you make or tweak something so it's distinctly your avatar? The nature of Makies invites people with a modding mindset right from the beginning -- if you want a premade doll, there are thousands and thousands of other choices. But if you want to craft it with the same care that you craft your virtual avatar (and using all the same skills and tools to do it), then Makies are the best way to do that. Just be aware that the process isn't really over until you've got your Makie in one hand and a paintbrush in the other!
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.