I Love SLink's New Mesh Hands for SL Avatars, But If You Hate SL's Technical Limitations, They May Not Be for You
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
The default hands on the Second Life avatar are ugly, let's not dance around it. Not as ugly as the avatar's feet, but ugly nonetheless. Sculpted prims offered us the first opportunity to cover those ghastly little paws up with something more palatable, and one of the first stores to release lovely sculpted prim hands in SL was SLink [SLURL]. SLink, run by talented 3D artist Siddean Munro, gained a lot of momentum in the age of the sculpty and mesh has only added to its success. I've worn Siddean's sculpted hands often, even in posts here, so when SLink recently released their all-new mesh hands it seemed like it was time to upgrade.
I've made the switch from my faithful sculpted hands to the brand new mesh ones, but I would be lying if I didn't admit to having mixed feelings. Do I love them? Yes. Would I recommend them to everyone? No, and here's why:
First of all, these hands come in over a dozen expressions as modeled by Juicybomb's Gogo in the picture on the right, from her lingerie-clad review (which was so captivating that I unconsciously imitated it in my own pics, whoops!) They come with tons of blending options, nail polishes, and thorough instructions. Every hand is perfectly modeled, flawlessly textured, and looks better than any hand I've ever seen in a virtual world or a game, ever, so I can assure you that quality is not one of my issues here. Siddean is easily one of the most talented and active sculpt/mesh designers in SL, so quality is rarely if ever a question in her work.
That being said, mesh is complicated and not a perfect technology in SL as it is. Because these hands are rigged mesh they'll flex along with your default hands, but because default hands have no bones in the fingers (default hand poses are actually morphs of the avatar and not true poses) it's impossible to rig mesh that moves or works with the default SL hand gestures or animations. The use of rigged mesh also means that to resize the mesh hand you'll need to make a version of your shape with larger hands. To compensate for the awkward appearance of the SL avatar's own hands most female avatars I know have smaller than average hands, so I suspect almost everyone will need a special version of their shape to scale up the noticeably daintier mesh hands. And of course, like any other prim body enhancement, you'll need to spend time with the HUD tweaking them to match your skin tone... It's a prerequisite skill for any self-respecting fashionista, but not one that comes easily, and if your preferred skin has very shiny or heavily shaded arms you may have the usual troubles getting a good match, so be sure to demo and make sure that the arm-to-wrist transition is something you can live with.
But there's another thing to take note of, especially if you're intending to use these hands for art or virtual photography. Take another look at Gogo's pic. Did you notice the shadows under her hands? I'd be lying if I said I had a technical explanation for why the shadow being cast is of the avatar's true hand and not the mesh hands, or if I said I knew if all the viewers had this issue or just a few of them. It's just honestly not something I've noticed or thought about before now, so if you do know, please fill me in. I can confidently say that it's not the designer's fault, because the viewer is clearly misinterpreting the mesh objects and alpha layers she's wearing, but if you're interested in using these hands for photography be sure to test the demo out on your viewer of choice to know if you'll be dealing with a similar issue (and if it bothers you enough to be a real problem).
So far, these issues are all par for the course when it comes to mesh fashion items, so let me get right to the real reason why I think these hands aren't going to be for everyone: Each hand expression is sold individually for about L$450 a pair, or L$1250 for a pack of 5 posed sets. I always hesitate to criticize designers based on prices when those prices are within the realm of reason (as these are); I know how much time, energy, and frustration goes into something as complicated as these hands, and designers deserve to be compensated for that work at more than slave wages. While fashionistas like Gogo and myself will happily snap up a pair or 10, I suspect this price will keep these hands from widespread adoption in SL. Fashionistas and photographers aside, the average resident probably just won't want to invest that much, so those janky default hands are going to be with us for a while longer.
These gorgeous hands are definitely worth the price (and the trouble) for me, but what about you? Try on a demo at SLink and decide for yourself.Tweet
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.