In May 2014, Linden Lab launched a new line of mesh avatars. These were made available on both the sign-up page for new users, and as library avatars within the viewer.
These avatars met with a mixed reception; many of the human avatars looked somewhat bland and perhaps suffered from weak skin textures, but some could also look pretty stunning given the inclusion of materials within them, as Caitlin Tobias powerfully demonstrated (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).
However, several of the new avatars did exhibit issues; there AOs resulted in their feet being buried in the ground, hair styles were not overly appealing. Perhaps most noticeable of all – although the avatars were promoted as taking advantage of fitted mesh, they were released with base shapes set to No Modify.
As I commented at the time of the release, making the base shapes No Modify pretty much undermined the entire fitted mesh aspect of the avatars, since it meant the avatars could not by default be customised using the shape sliders to adjust height, build, etc. To be able to do so meant swapping-out the base shape first, something new users would likely be oblivious of, and thus see the avatars as “not working”.
At the time of the launch, I raised this point directly with Ebbe Altberg, and in fairness, he took it on the chin:
On June 10th, The Lab announced this issue, and those relating to things like AO problems for those avatars supplied with AOs had been fixed, and the avatars duly updated. The blog post reads in part:
Following community feedback about these new avatars, we’ve made some adjustments, and today we’re re-deploying them with a few updates.
Most significantly, users will now have the ability to edit the avatar shape for the human form avatars. Because these avatars are mesh, not all sliders will affect the shape, but many of them will. Play around and personalize the body, torso, and legs using the sliders now supported with the updated, modifiable shape. Some of the head and eyes sliders will also now work to adjust the avatars’ faces.
Additionally, Sara (the blonde female avatar) got a fuller hairdo with more body and volume, and we’ve fixed the hover position for several of the avatars which helps prevent sinking into the ground.
I’ve only had the briefest time playing with the updated avatars, but they do now appear to work as expected. Some problems still remain – the hands on some of the female avatars still look like they’d be more at home on a guy, for example, but then the avatar meshes themselves doesn’t appear to have been reworked. Some people trying them did report some inventory related issues, which I confess I’ve not had time to poke at.
As it is, the update is welcome, and hopefully will see the new avatars enjoy wider use within SL. That said, I confess I won’t be using them. I’m still a stick-in-the-mud where mesh is concerned, and anyway, I’m more than happy with my avatar as she is, shape warts and all!