Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Whenever I mention the latest mesh avatar augmentation or attachment, one argument invariably gets made again and again: "Everyone will look the same if we all wear X!" It's hard to argue against it because it's a fair point, and in a lot of ways I agree with it. But... I wouldn't say we'd all necessarily look the same, even if we all may look similar. That's what I want to talk about today.
If this is the biggest obstacle in the way of making mesh-augmented avatars truly mainstream, it goes without saying that smart designers will try to tackle that issue head-on. The recently released Chloe hybrid mesh avatar from LOGO [Marketplace] [SLURL] is a good look at what intrepid designers can do to assuage fashionista fears about a future where every avatar is a clone of the next... And a better look at what fashionistas can do themselves. It's not the ultimate solution, but it's several steps in the right direction. Here's why:
Here are the basic facts about Chloe. This release is called a hybrid mesh avatar, but the heart of the bundle is the mesh head. It also comes with a skin and a few different shapes, a head to fit avatars with higher body fat settings, oodles of alternate skin options, as well as a HUD for makeup and more. There was actually much more to this head than I expected to be perfectly honest, and although the amount of options and components was a bit intimidating at first there is a clear and detailed user guide that walks you through every step. You can check out Gogo's thorough review of Chloe on Juicybomb if you want all the technical details, because I don't want to get too bogged down with them here.
The designer behind LOGO, Maximillion Grant, added a couple features to Chloe's HUD that will be the key to making products like this mainstream. In addition to choosing from a variety of makeup options and expressions, you can also choose details like the shape of the highlight on the avatar's nose, the shading of her cheeks, and even the boldness or modesty of her eyelashes. These may seem like almost insignificant details before you see the immediate effect they have... Any RL makeup artist will tell you that cheek and nose shading, as well as the perfect pair of fake lashes, can seemingly change your entire face.
Styling Chloe has even become a bit of a game for some Plurk fashionistas, "Here's how I look, what about you?". If you're skeptical, take a look at how these SL fashionistas used their skills as well as Chloe's settings to style their avatars in six completely different ways:
Clockwise from top left: Sasy Scarborough, Gogo, CandyZombies, Morgana Hilra, Arbel Vogel, and Prudence Imfurst. I've linked to each one's review of Chloe if you want to see even more. While they may look vaguely similar, these ladies definitely don't look the same. And compared to them, Chloe looks almost asian on me!
Options like this are a step towards offering the wearer much more variety so that they can pick the features that best suit their personal style. If tweaks to lip and brow shaping were added, the variety possible with Chloe's face would be even wider than it is now.
The key to really taking advantage of this is to know exactly what makes your avatar recognizable. It's easy to forget that many of the more dramatic or stylized skins can make a lot of everyday pretty avatar faces look nearly the same too, but there's more to what makes each avatar unique than just their face. Break your style down to its roots. With Iris I often favour dark brown hair, cute and feminine little outfits, a small sharp nose, nearly natural looking cosmetics, high but soft cheeks, short lashes, and dark brown irises. Add all that together and you have an avatar that still conveys that 'You' vibe, whether the face is mesh or not. Compare Chloe-as-Iris above to the picture on the right that I took of my un-augmented avatar wearing the skin that comes with the LOGO hybrid avatar bundle. Makeup choices aside, they're not that different, and they both definitely evoke 'Iris'.
What all this amounts to is that Chloe is the first mesh head I can see myself wearing very regularly. There are still things I would change about Chloe (as gorgeous as I think she is), and this head is not going to be for everyone. I'd like to see more texture options of course, as well as heads that support a wider range of skin tones and ethnicities, but here's what it all boils down to: The work is far from done for designers who want to innovate in this area, but progress is definitely being made. And progress of any sort is good, because mesh heads aren't going anywhere. Even Max is already teasing his next hybrid mesh avatar at his main store, for those of you who aren't too fussy on Chloe's features.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.