On Tuesday, September 3rd, Linden Lab released a major update to Sansar, which has seen the introduction of a number of new features and updated capabilities. It represents potentially the biggest single update to Sansar since the public opening of the beta two years ago. The chief updates comprise:
The all-new avatar 2.0, which comprises:
The Nexus: a new landing point that all users will / can go to when logging-in to Sansar, and which includes:
The Codex: a new UI element to allow users record and manage and quickly return to places they have previously visited while in Sansar.
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Experience points (XP): which include titles and levels, and which are gained through participating in Sansar, and depending on how they engage within the platform.
Such is the size of the release, I’ve split this article into a series of parts, all of which can be reached via the table of contents, above right. These sections are not intended as complete tutorials / guides, but rather to provide a general introduction and overview, particularly for those who may wish to try Sansar as a result of the R36 update.
R36 Official Documentation
For detailed information on the various aspects of R36, it is recommended you also refer to the official documentation, comprising:
- The R36 release notes.
- Customising Your Avatar.
- Keyboard shortcuts (styling your avatar).
- The Nexus.
- The Codex.
- XP system.
Avatar 2.0 is the new all-singing, all dancing avatar for Sansar. In particular, it provides a new set of deformation tools and updated sliders designed to make customising an avatar’s face more intuitive, as well as offering a series of “preset” looks which can be used as a baseline facial shapes and edited and saved.
Note: this is not an in-depth look at editing avatar 2.0 or carrying out Marvelous Designer clothing adjustments. These are documented in detail on the Sansar website. The following is only intended as a general overview.
New users logging-in for the first time (or existing users logging-in for the first time since this release was deployed) will immediately be presented with the new avatar picker. This broadly comprises two options:
- Selecting one of ten default avatar styles. These attempt to offer a range of ethic looks, with two leaning towards science-fiction / fantasy (with the de rigueur pointy ears and pale eyes).
- Some are of somewhat androgynous facial looks, so the clothing colours indicate gender: green = female; purple = male.
- Scroll arrows enable moving back and forth between the options, and a selection is made by clicking on the desired portrait and then on the Continue button.
- This will load the avatar and drop the user directly into the Nexus – see The Nexus for more details on this.
- Clicking on the Create New button. This will randomly select one of the default avatars and load the character editor.
LL have stated that they have sought a more “stylised” avatar form between male and female in order to make some clothing elements more “unisex” in nature. This sound fine – until you see the default female avatars. “Androgynous” might be the kindest way to describe them, “elongated” might be another.
On the surface, the body proportions are around right: her height is 8 “heads” (the distance from top of head to chin) and most women are around 7-8 heads tall; her shoulder width is roughly 2.5 heads (measured from ear to ear), and the average woman’s shoulder width is around 2-2.5 “heads”. Similarly, the male avatar is in the proportions you might expect: an average 7.5 “heads” tall and 2.5 “heads” across the shoulder.
The problem is that of height. According to average height, women’s heights average between 4ft 10in and 5ft 6 in globally. By comparison, men average between 5ft 4in and 6ft – with a bias around the 5ft 7in-5ft 9in range. However, given there is little differentiation in the overall height of the male and female avatars, the result is a female look is painfully thin, hipless, and which sits uneasy on the eye.
Of course, this can potentially be solved over time – providing full body deformation, allowing custom avatars into the starter picker, and so on. But it’s possible that for some coming into Sansar from other virtual environments, the female avatar is going to appear less than attractive. Or as I’ve heard it referred to already in the Nexus, “bleah!”
Editing and Styling Tools
R36 brings an updated set of avatar editing and styling tools / options. These can either be accessed when selecting an avatar for the first time (see above), or via the familiar Create button > Style My Avatar > Customise option.
The basic Look Book / Editor still layout comprises 4 parts:
- Worn items panel: the clothing and attachments currently worn. If the clothing has been created using Marvelous Designer, buttons for adjusting and transforming the clothing will also be displayed.
- The avatar on a pose stand: which can be rotated with and right-click drag (desktop mode). Remember the free rotation button is available in the bottom left corner of the inventory panel. Note this view can change when editing an avatar, such as zooming on the head during facial editing.
- The inventory panel: for accessing hair, clothing, accessories, etc for wearing / editing.
- Buttons along the bottom of the screen for undoing / redoing changes, discarding / saving changes going back to your last location (Home Space or world spawn point.
Those who have used the right-side inventory panel will be familiar with the tabs displayed (from top to bottom):
- Avatar: pick the gender of the avatar.
- Hair (comb tab): select the hairstyle.
- Face (head icon): customise the facial features.
- Clothing (coat hanger icon): select clothing to wear – note that any rigged clothing existing users may have had is no longer listed as it is incompatible with Avatar 2.0 (creators have a means to provide an update when / if available), so only Marevelous Designer items remain.
- Accessories: (visor icon) available accessories – again, note that accessories specifically rigged for avatar 1.0 will have been removed from existing user’s inventory.
- Animations (running icon): set-up emotes.
Provides twelve default hairstyles (6 female, 6 male), with colouring / tinting options, and buttons to obtain additional hair through the Sansar Store or to import your own custom hair.
Face and Facial Deformation
The facial deformation capabilities are perhaps the most extensive “visible” changes with the new avatar, outside of the overall shapes. These, and options to colour skin and eyes, are found on the Face tab, which contains a number of sections, some of them new or extended, as outlined below.
The most obvious aspects of the facial editing options are the two colour pickers to select skin and eye colour – just click to apply the required tone / colour. The remaining options are:
- Presets: six slots for different head shapes / facial features. Defaults are supplied for each, and clicking on any of them will apply them to the avatar in edit mode. The presets can be modified, or the user can work from the original base avatar to make changes to the face, which can then be saved back to any one of the slots.
- Sliders: an extended set of sliders for modifying facial features: cheeks, chin, ears, eyes, jaw, mouth and nose. These are designed for more subtle fine-tuning of features, rather than significant changes.
- Head deformation buttons: four options that allow the head / facial features to be modified directly. These are intended for major changes to the head / face / features and comprise (from left to right):
- Head: allows the entire head to be modified.
- Major Sections: allows large parts of the head / face to be selected and modified (e.g. forehead, forehead and top of head, lower cheeks and jaw, cheeks, nose and jaw, etc).
- Feature: allows specific features – nose, , mouth, cheeks, chin, etc – to be adjusted.
- Part: allows fine-tuning and adjustment of specific parts of facial features – the corners of lips or eyes, the flair of nostrils, the shape of nose or ear tips, etc – to be modified.
- The adjustment tools: a set of the tools that work with each of the head deformation buttons, comprising:
- Translate: allows the selected area to be moved up, down, front, back, left and right. Also enabled by tapping W on the keyboard.
- Rotate: allows the selected area to be rotated, if appropriate. Also enabled by tapping E on the keyboard.
- Scale: allows the selected area to be resized. Also enabled by tapping R on the keyboard.
When an area of the face / head is selected, it will be highlighted in white. Once the required tool has been enabled, a left click (in desktop mode) will allow you to modify the selected and highlighted area.
These options are intended for significant changes to the head / face. They can be used in concert with the sliders, which as noted above are intended more for fine-tuning changes. The gif to the right, courtesy of Linden Lab, demonstrates the use of the deformation buttons and tools.
For those used to working purely with sliders, this approach is liable to come across as complicated, and it does take time and practice to actually work out how to balance things and achieve a satisfactory result. However, there is no denying the system is potentially very powerful, offering almost infinite opportunities to develop a unique look.
The default set of avatar accessories retains the sunglasses and Christmas / festive “deer antler” headgear strung with lights (popular among early adopters at holiday time, so a nod to the past). To these have been added a set of sci fi-ish hair clips and pieces.
One of the major concerns with Avatar 2.0 was that of clothing and fitting. All rigged clothing had to go by way of the dinosaur, but the Lab indicated that a set of transform tools would be included for Marvelous Designer (MD) clothing that would help them to fit Avatar 2.0, and be available to users for making necessary adjustments. These tools have been delivered, and they are both impressive and slightly frustrating.
The tools comprise two elements: and auto-adjust option and a set of manual transform tools.
This does exactly what the name implies: it automatically adjusts an item of MD clothing to fit an avatar as best as possible. It is accessed in one of two ways:
- Via inventory:
- Click and wear the item of clothing to be adjusted.
- The cloth simulator will start.
- Right-click on the thumbnail for the item in inventory.
- Select Adjust from the drop-down menu.
- Via the Worn Items panel:
- Click and wear the item of clothing to be adjusted.
- The cloth simulator will start.
- Click the large Adjust button at the bottom of the Worn Items panel.
In both cases note:
- It can take a while for the clothing to fully adjust – give the tool time to work.
- It’s not always 100% accurate – clippings and gaps may need manual adjustment.
- When it is clear no further adjustments are being made, click the Done Adjusting button below the avatar to make sure the updates are dully applied. You can then use the manual tools to make further adjustments, if required.
- If you are happy with the results, make sure you save the updated appearance to a look in order to preserve the updates.
Manual adjustments can be achieved using the Adjust and Transform tools in the Worn Items panel.
- The Adjust tool can be used to make fine adjustments to MD clothing – adding natural folds, creases, etc. It can also be used to overcome issues of clipping – the avatar or underlying clothing showing through.
- The Transform tools reside in a separate panel and offer options to move, rotate and resize clothing. These can be used individually using three buttons on the panel, or combined into a single gizmo-type tool (the “all” button).
Depending on the garment, manual adjustment can be relatively simple or annoying frustrating and time-consuming. I personally recommend using auto-adjustment first and then, wherever possible, the Adjust tool. Particular frustrationsI found include:
- What you see when making adjustments doesn’t always match how the garment will look when updates are finished – it’s best to periodically click the Done Adjusting button and then free rotating the avatar to check results, than in trying to do everything in a single pass.
- The Transform tools only work on the cardinal points relative to the avatar – up, down, left, right. There are no diagonal handles on the resize option, which can made a simple job of adjustment into something far more complicated.
- Time really is needed to get things right.
As with the auto-adjust option, it is important finished work is saved to a look in order to be retained.