A while ago while out shopping, I bumped into Shai Delacroix, the well-respected creator behind the Shai brand. We chatted a bit and she suggested I do a post addressing some of the common questions that come up about creating in Second Life and volunteered to provide her technical expertise. It seemed like a great idea to me, so I eventually made a couple plurks soliciting questions and then recruited some designers to offer their answers and opinions. The result is a sort of Creator’s Roundtable discussion which thanks to the many questions and answers has run to more than 20 pages. For that reason, I am breaking it up into a few separate pieces. The series continues with Creators Roundtable #2, #3 and #4.
First things first, though. I have to thank the following designers for their generous gift of time and willingness to participate: Cyclic Gearz (CG), SySy Chapman (SS), Tyr Rozenblum (TR), Siddean Munro (SM), Anya Ohmai (AO), Shai Delacroix (SD).
Why do people make so many strapless tops and dresses. Why no sleeves?
CG: In all likelihood, it’s because sleeves are harder to rig and shape well. You have to take into account how the shoulder, elbow and wrist moves, and for people new to rigging, strapless items are a good start.
SS: I second what Cyclic says, specifically the shoulder area is very hard to rig.
TR: Agreeing with Cyclic, but to add, sleeves (while one of my fave things to do), aren’t the only major issue. You see a lot of strapless more so because the shoulder blades of the avatar are basically awful. Often you’ll see them unweighted and pulled out from the av (which to me looks awful), or they move oddly. Generally they move oddly because the creator is trying to adjust to the terrible weights on the avatar base. If you don’t you get a lot of clipping through straps when shoulder/collar joints move.
SD: The shoulder portion of the avatar shares 3 – 4 weight areas: Collar, Shoulder, Neck, Chest. Balancing these with little polycount/points to hold the those weights is a bit tricky to do. Skinning it on a tpose (default skeleton with arms out) is also a point of contention, when it comes into SL, you cross check it on a pose standing with arms down, it can become a nightmare. With strapless, tube top styles, you don’t have to deal with this and can produce mesh faster.
Why do the shoulders of mesh tops and dresses often float a bit above the avatar shoulder? Can this be fixed by some shape adjustment?
SS: Because the shoulder area is hard to rig, so probably same reasons as mentioned above. Hovering a little bit over the shoulder means it won’t clip into your body even with certain extreme animations such as dances etc.
TR: This goes with my initial answer, while I try to cut it close for shoulders, the back depends on how low the neck line is. One thing creators should really learn is, well, learn the “bad” areas on the avatar and try to avoid them. I don’t mean don’t do something all together. But often times you can lower or raise a neckline just a bit, to avoid problem areas in the avatar weights. Same with shifting a neckline, or a strap. Really with the avatar nothing is TOTALLY impossible. You just have to accept things won’t be perfect and try to adjust to buffer the issues as best as possible.
SD: It is not fixable by end user shape adjustment due to the area of weighting (see above), plus the way the item is designed, modelled and rigged. Standard Ruth avatar’s shoulder shape is also anatomically thicker and funnels into a thin neck base. The clavicle/ collar area is weirdly protruding. So when you base the mesh straps on Ruth, you’d likely have space in between. New default avatars with proper anatomy, topology and better weighting could solve this issue.
Why isn’t fitted mesh a more popular creation?
CG: I think it’s a combination of it being still very ‘new’, requiring learning about a whole new group of bones to rig to. There’s very little helpful documentation, and not a lot of resources out there for people new to mesh, or for those already proficient in mesh for that matter.
SS: Fitted mesh as of now for the default SL avatar, is full of bugs and limitations. Especially for the more curvy avatars (if they max out their sliders) its going to look pretty borked so my guess is thats why lots of creators still stay away from it, as I am myself. Fitted mesh for a particular body, such as Slink physique atm, is slowly picking up. It is do-able, because of the good weighting Siddean Munro did and workable for us. However, it still is alot of work. I think thats also a factor why it’s not that popular yet, it is basically double work as its completely different then your normal standard sizing mesh.
TR: I think it depends on how you look at it. Fitted mesh is very popular now with new bodies coming out. Fitted mesh heavily relies on the weights under the clothing you are working with. That said, it still works really well with a few styles for the regular avatar. But, for instance in my case, I don’t like the idea of doing it on some things, and not on all things. So I just don’t do it for standard sizes, it saves a lot of confusion for customers. Because it would work nicely on a jacket, sweater, and some dress styles, but will bug out on some jean styles (around the hip/belly/butt area), and neck lines. It’s even more hit and miss than regular weighting.
SD: Collision skinning is pretty new in general and we don’t have the luxury of adding more controls to the basic skeleton that could make Fitted Mesh better. Avastar is the only tool to have sliders/ fitted mesh documentation at the moment. And we will still need to offer certain sizing on top of it. The added workaround to make one item is not worth the worry in my opinion.
Why do so many pants have either a huge thigh gap or the crotch droops?
TR: Hate to say it, personal preference. This doesn’t have anything to do with the sl avatar at all. Creators are following what’s popular (and believe it or not, both these things are). I think casual styles have gotten a bit forgotten, in the race to stay on top with trends.
SS: Basically what Tyr said.
SD: Could also be another balancing weight issue for some styles with weights on pelvis, hip left and hip right. You have to compensate for that thigh gap when walking/sitting which might result in weird crotch issues if not done right. But that aside, that’s what the kids are wearing these days!
Why can’t you line the inside of clothing so it looks better from all angles?
CG: Many creators don’t do this as it add polygons to the mesh, which increases the time it takes for the viewer to load from the server, and increases the upload fee. It is possible to add a small amount of polygons at the hem and armholes or leg holes to simulate as if it was lined though, but still – it adds extra polygons. There is a balance to be had between having something that doesn’t take a long time to rez, and something that looks good. Can’t always have both 🙁
TR: Okay so, how to explain…in MMORPGS your camera is at a fixed angle, and the items you are wearing are using bump maps that are infinitely better than SL. So you can’t really zoom in (generally at a decent angle) on your avatar, at least not for any length of time with normal play. But if you could you would see that they have dresses with closed bottoms, or maybe just go to some sort of abyss after a certain point. In SL, detailing rules the roost! But to do interior faces, you are basically doubling the face count of an item. Also interior faces are a pain to weight (because, again, in the real world, interior faces are not a thing). So the trade off is, unless it needs it, save the face count for details. Even items like jackets can lose a lot of interior faces for areas that can’t be seen.
For the photos, I used their Flickr® profile pictures.