Of avatar height and size

Height has always been an issue within Second Life. Not only are default avatars unusually tall compared to the rest of the in-world scaling (most top-out in the 7-8ft range), the camera is offset at a difficult – if not unnatural – angle – which forces people to build oversized  structures in order to be able to accommodate it.

I’ve been solving the camera issue for the last couple of years using Penny Patton’s excellent camera offsets, which she first kindly allowed me to reproduce on this blog almost two years ago. Penny has also written extensively on getting a decently scaled avatar, and on the benefits of having realistically sized avatars in-world.

Avatar height issues have long been compounded by the fact that the height display in the viewer’s appearance editor does not accurately reflect the avatar’s height when compared to in-world scaling, with the avatar being around 15 cm (6 inches) taller in-world than is reported by the edit shape height display. This means that even when someone is trying to scale their avatar more realistically using the shape editing tools, they will, at the very least, invariably end up taller than they intend.

The good news here is that there is a good chance that the edit shape height issue may be addressed as a part of the avatar baking project. Nyx Linden will be “diving into” the code for the appearance editor as a part of that project, and may have time to do something about the inaccuracies in the height reporting. Assuming this does happen, it will still leave the problem of starter avatars still being abnormally tall / large, but it’ll certainly be a step in the right direction for those who do wish to size and proportion their avatars more realistically (something which is growing in popularity within SL).

I’ve actually been working on adjusting my own avatar since altering my overall appearance back in August 2010, gradually reducing my height to get down to something which might be regarded as relatively “normal”. Of late, however, I’ve noticed that even with my own downsizing, I’m starting to stand a good head or more taller than friends, and that at a touch over 2 metres in height in bare feet, I’m not always comfortable with my avatar’s height.

The problem is, how does one correctly scale one’s avatar, given the fact the editing tools are so very rough-and ready? Even allowing for the inaccurate height reporting noted above, the sliders are entirely abstract in meaning and at best relate only to an arbitrary start point. The abstraction is made worse by the fact that changes to one slider can impact the proportions controlled by several other sliders, reducing everything to a series of guessimates if using the sliders alone to define your shape.

Penny Patton again comes to the rescue here, providing a superb guide to defining a properly portioned avatar of almost any height and size, which in valuable whether you’re trying to get your avatar sized to realistic proportions or whether you wish to have an abnormally tall or short avatar that is properly proportioned of itself (such as a role-play giant or dwarf, for example).  I’ve been meaning to try her tutorial out for a while, but after tripping over a couple of friends recently, thought it was about time I did so :).

I like to think my avatar wasn’t abnormally sized to start with – but I have to admit, the results did startle me, and I’ve yet to see how things stack-up as I wander in-world.

My “usual” height has been just over the 6-foot mark (6 ft 3in, in fact), as mentioned above, and has been that way for a while. This is actually quite moderate in SL terms – or has been – a height which mostly leaves me looking reasonably-well proportioned against many in-world objects.

Me at 6ft 3in (+ heels…)

Using Penny’s tutorial I opted to scale my avatar to something approaching my real-world height and size (I’m 5ft 8in in real life, so a little bit on the tall side here as well :)). If I’m honest I did have a small problem with one section of the instructions, which I found a tad confusing to read (but then, put three shovels against a wall then ask me to take my pick, and I’m confused; so the fault is as likely to be mine as much as anything else), but, with a little trial and error, I ended up looking like this…

Me at 5ft 8in

The difference is perhaps a little hard to see, until one compares the two side-by-side (and allows for a slight perspective issue which does actually exaggerate the difference somewhat).

Me at 6ft 3 and me at 5ft 8 (there is a slight perspective exaggeration in the two photos when combined like this)

The finished result, if I’m honest, has me leaning two ways at once. On the one hand, and combined with Penny’s camera defaults, It does give a much better perspective of things in general, and does have major benefits building-wise; were we all properly scaled in-world, we wouldn’t need houses the size of the Royal Albert Hall in which to live. Even my Linden Home now has church-sized proportions about it from my new perspective!

However, on the other, realistic avatar heights open up a world of issues of their own. Take no mod furnishings, etc., for a moment. Adjust your avatar height and proportions and it’s easy to find you have a bed you need a car and a guide-book in order to find your way across from one side to the other. That said, I do more naturally “fit” my piano now, and my feet don’t vanish into the floor when seated…

I’m still adjusting to my new height, and confess to having my “old” shape sitting ready for recall. Even at 6ft+, it still works with Penny’s camera offsets; but I’m going to see how things go with the new economy-sized me for a while – and see how people react as I let her be seen more in-world.

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