Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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I Love SLink's New Mesh Hands for SL Avatars, But If You Hate SL's Technical Limitations, They May Not Be for You

SLINK mesh hands
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:

Gogo in SLink mesh hands

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.

Mixed_reality_iris2010 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.

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Tracy Redangel

I agree with everything you said in your review but I'd also like to add that if you run your graphics on Mid or Low, then you might not want to wear these hands. They will only look good with Atmospheric shaders on. If it's disabled, then you can see the wrist line, and the colors will be off. It's not an issue with just these hands, I have a few other shoes with prim and mesh feet with the same issue

Adeon Writer

Sounds like the old tinting bug, Tracy, if can't use SL's in-world prim tinting if you want things to match up on lower graphic settings. Gotta bake it to texture.

That problem has been around for years and I doubt LL will ever fix it. :P

Nedria Cyr

I tend to be the person who splurges for a really good __(insert item here)__ when I'm able to, but even I'd have a hard time swallowing $1250 for a pack of 5 hand poses, which I likely would not wear on a regular basis.

The mesh feet I use are from one of SLinks competitors, and they offer 10 tattoo patterns (which can be colored as you like, independently, even), 42 nail polishes, 10 nail art patterns, and you can customize each toe nail independently. They're also about half the price. Unfortunately in way they've made me come to hope for more when it comes to mesh hands too.

If SLink added several more hand poses and a lot more more customization options (tattoos included), then I'd be happy to pay $1250 for a pack. As they are, I would not buy a single hand pose (I want variety), and there's not enough value for me to shell out that kind of cash.

Pussycat Catnap

So which competitor did you buy?

I found some free mesh feet for an alt the other day - but tinting on them has been painful.

Masami Kuramoto

What's the triangle count of these meshes?

Pussycat Catnap

Not sure if users can get data on triangle counts. Only the builder knows that.

We just have land impact - which is a formula that includes some curious variables, such as size rezzed at, within its equation.

That said - depending on your viewer and graphics card drivers - mesh can perform faster than prims and sculpty, or much worse.

Its hard to just say "this many triangles equals disaster, that many doesn't."

Gwyneth Llewelyn

This just shows that it's time for LL to start playing with new standard avatar shapes :)

Maybe that's what Rod Humble means when he says the Lab is developing things that will make "SL users, businesses, and developers" much happier...

Pienaar

Oh, I didn't see the "shadows problem" on Juicy's blog. Hm, a mesh object casting wrong shadows. I have read about that just a few days ago on Natale's blog...

http://blog.nalates.net/2012/10/15/mesh-rendering-quirk/.

Proposed solution: "One must include avatars in the reflection settings to get mesh items to show a reflection" A.K.A. "One must have a really powerfull pc to get a decent SL experience."

:(

And to answer your original question: Yes I will buy those hands anyway!

Ajax Manatiso

SL avatars would never get a new mesh shape (and their shapes currently ARE a mesh, though not a great one) because not only will the servers and the client need to be totally re-written, but the physics engine and ALL clothes and attachments would no longer fit properly. Not only would the investment be steep, everyone would have to throw out their entire inventories including any mesh items you've recently gotten and that would also remove the "golden handcuffs" stopping so many long-time residents from leaving SL for OpenSim. In short, it will never happen.

Tracy Redangel

New default avatar shapes with new, improved sliders are well over due in SL. It's great that creators are making some really cool mesh hands and feet, but I would rather have nice default hands and feet. How old is the default SL body?
And for the love of all that's decent and holy, we need bones in our phalanges, because if I can't strangle some jerks out there, I can at least have the satisfaction of flipping a proper birdie finger! Ammirite?

Pussycat Catnap

Easy way to make a new default avatar:

Make it. And then put in a toggle to use the old one instead.

Set everyone to have the toggle on, but set the default for a new account to have the toggle off.

Make the "button" for this toggle super-obvious for the next several viewer updates.

You could have the 'bones' for the body be about the same as they are now - and mesh clothes would continue to work.

The existing avatar, made into a proportional shape, still fits most mesh clothing - because of how mesh sizes and fits around the bone structure. So this is not the issue some might want to claim it is.

That said, a new default avatar should also take bosom into account on the rigging / mesh forming (not to mention the pectoral attachment points should "move" with the 'bosom' when avatar physics are turned on). And resources depending, some rigging for the mouth and the fingers would be useful.
- But these would still not break mesh clothing nor sculpty clothing.

Texture based clothing is rapidly disappearing from the grid anyway. It already looks "noobish" when you see someone in it. And fewer and fewer new products use it. With a new base-avatar, I think many folks would not miss losing their texture based clothes, and those who did could still be allowed that toggle back to the old mesh.

Tracy Redangel

@Pussycat

Oh I still see plenty of avis still wearing spaghetti hair, nipple tape, and shredded texture mini skirts. O.o
Even those who've upgraded their viewers still roam around in bad hair hair and clothes they got at the freebie store. It makes me wonder if mesh has divided the SL community somewhat. You have a stubborn few who refuse to have anything to do with mesh for various reasons whether it's because they have older computers, older viewers, or they simply refuse to alter their avatars to fit into mesh. Then you have mesh fanatics who've thrown away everything non-mesh from their inventory. Both extremes seem to have a tiny bit of disdain for each other.
I love mesh. But texture/system clothes still have their place. The good thing is, we can have both. Why should I throw away my Mon Tissu texture jeans? They look super good under a slim-fitting mesh jacket. Not to mention, I can wear them with my mesh knee-high boots. I can't wear those boots with any of my mesh jeans. Just because something is mesh...doesn't necessarily mean it's a quality item. I've tried on some really terrible mesh clothing, hair and shoes. It's bad. REAL bad.

Nalates Urriah

The shadows think may be the problem that Honor noticed in her photography. See: http://blog.nalates.net/2012/10/15/mesh-rendering-quirk/

Pussycat Catnap

There would be no reason a new avatar could not take body-paint clothing. It just wouldn't take the jeans you bought in 2003.

Even in RL... who still wears jeans -THAT OLD-?

Pussycat Catnap

I've tried some really bad mesh too.

But that's like saying... The new 2012 Tico sucks, so I refuse to take that 2012 Ferrari, my 1908 Model T is just dandy.

We do need a new avatar. I would suggest it exist alongside the old one as some people handle change poorly. But a new one should be the default.

This is not about pushing mesh and killing body-paint clothes. You can do mesh for either - and by its nature older mesh would survive. Body-paint is just paint-by-numbers-in-a-2000L-template anyway... and can be done in any old (or new) template.

This would not kill those technologies.

It'd be about making an avatar that could animate better - that would have bone rigging properly aligned with the joints. That would have toes. That have fingers that could move.

And given how SL is used... more polygons in the crotch area would be very useful... Not just for SL's primary purpose that everyone pretends to hate, but also to avoid those stretch marks when an avatar walks...

(Not to mention everytime you see a trampy avatar in a thong, you can see half the texture-map of their genital area smear across their butt-cheeks...)

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