Can You Keep Your Face by Using a Bento Mesh Head?

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Please be kind to me about this, but I have a freakish head. When I shaped my avatar more than ten years ago over about two hours of picky work with sliders, I didn’t try to mimic my First Life face (though I didn’t try not to, either). Instead, I just went with my gut, changing each setting until the face looked right. There was one problem, though, and that was that getting the face shape I wanted required me to have kind of a short head. It’s only a little shorter than it should be, and hair takes care of the problem, but the point is, I really wanted to have this face. Pointy chin, thin nose, and a resting expression that hints at a smile — that was what I’ve thought of as me since the day I arrived.

leaning forward

The availability of mesh heads hasn’t changed that for me. There are a lot of them, but the fact that they can’t be changed to match what I think of as my face has meant I really haven’t been interested.

catwa_head_annie_human_ad

But now there’s Bento, or there soon will be. In case you don’t already know, Bento is a new feature Linden Labs developed that in the coming weeks or months will be available in the default Second Life viewer as well as in Firestorm. You can test Bento with experimental versions of either of those viewers. Bento adds new bones to a Second Life shape, which may sound creepy at first — but it means, among other things, that you can have wings with realistic motion integrated into your body, or hands with individually moving fingers, or a mesh head that you can adjust!

A mesh head, especially a Bento one, can be more expressive than a Second Life system head, with better expressions and gestures, more control, and finer sculpting. It seems like it would be a lovely upgrade, even if it is a fashionista indulgence.

So I was excited to try a Project Bento mesh head, and when Strawberry Singh posted about the new Altamura Aggie Bento mesh head and I found out it was on sale for L$699, I decided to take the plunge. (Readers, sorry to tell you about the sale too late, in case you would have been interested!) I installed the Firestorm alpha viewer (available for free if you sign up for their testing group, because it’s not ready to be used by people who aren’t willing to test it yet), bought the new head, and went home to play with sliders.

aggie

Since I could adjust the Bento head just like I can the system head, and especially since Bento heads have more adjustment options than system heads, I thought any good Bento head should be one I could adjust to look very much like my original system face. Especially Aggie–after all, she already looks a tiny bit like me, right? And maybe I’d be able to get the face I want without having to shorten my head! Then I could wear all those beautiful Rezology and Magik hairstyles that with my current head make me look like I’ve been stuffed forcibly into Cousin It.

So, did it work? To make a long story short … no.

I was able to adjust dozens of measurements on the new head, but I was surprised at how many things I couldn’t change. The shape of the eyes is much more sultry and elongated than my eyes. I couldn’t make the nose long enough, or the mouth small enough, or the lips cheerful enough, or the chin pointy enough. Just any Bento head — even a very nice model with some similarities to my own face — isn’t going to work if I want to recreate myself faithfully.

The good news is that soon there will be a lot of choices for Bento heads, and if you’re not attached to your face looking a very particular way, you can get one of the good ones and then personalize it to Paris and back. That solves the problem of showing up at a party wearing the same face as someone else! There may even be Bento mesh head hope for me, if I keep my eyes open and find one that’s closer to my face in the ways that can’t be changed by sliders alone. We’ll have to see! But if not, I’ll be able to keep the face I already have, and that will certainly do.

What about you? Are there plans for a personalized Bento mesh head in your future?

^^^\ Kate /^^^

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Why use Firestorm? My reluctant Second Life viewer change

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I went more than ten years using the Linden Labs Second Life viewer pretty much exclusively. Not that I haven’t tried other viewers, or used Radegast in a pinch, but I haven’t really been inclined to go to the bother of switching.

firestorm

So what changed? Why Firestorm? Is Firestorm better than the Linden Labs viewer? Honestly, I don’t know what changed, exactly. It’s just that I keep hearing people talk about the Firestorm viewer and that they prefer it, and I kept dabbling until I was sucked in, I suppose.

Now that I’m properly converted, though, I can find a lot of features that I like in this viewer!

  • There’s no outfit pictures page getting in the way of my outfits listing
  • I don’t have to redo my Windlight selection every time I restart (though maybe there was a way to lock this in with the Linden viewer that I didn’t know about?)
  • Firestorm has RLV capabilities, like automatic teleporting (and so on)
  • It seems to run more smoothly (for me, anyway)
  • You can copy/paste object settings, I’m told, which should make building easier if I do much more of at any point
  • There are handy buttons with an array of options in the chat window, so I don’t have to right click and navigate menus to get to some of things I would want to do while in chat
  • There’s a built-in multi-AO! It reduces lag and prevents me having to add a specific AO to every outfit. This is a great feature! Instructions are here: http://wiki.phoenixviewer.com/animation_overrider

So far, there’s really only one thing I can think of that I don’t like about Firestorm, and that’s the loss of the ESDF buttons to jump and fly. I do a lot of flying, and having to rely on one hand to do it all, with the PgUp and PgDown and arrow keys, isn’t as comfortable or intuitive for me. Then again, maybe I’ll like how much easier it is to type directly to chat, so it’s possible even that will turn into a positive. Or someone might tell me how I can enable ESDF, using some arcane setting deep in darkest corners of the options menus.

^^^\ Kate /^^^

 

Gridism: Scenes of Second Life Become Physical Art

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MantisKelly Guillory of the Ashur Collective recently posted a manifesto for a novel approach to art that Kelly calls “Gridism.” Gridism is (I hope I’m not oversimplifying) taking scenes of customized and personalized things in games and virtual worlds and making First Life art out of them.

Click here to the read the article. It’s interesting, partly because it touches on identity and our Second Life selves! And here are a couple of Kelly’s paintings to enjoy.

 

Farmland

^^^\ Kate /^^^

Steampunk Halloween is Coming!

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I’m still working on my costume, but I’m most of the way there. You can’t see the clockwork key in my back from this angle, though.

This Saturday from 1-3pm SLT, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators will host a big “Ghouls and Gears” steampunk Halloween party in the dungeon of Schloss Neufreistadt (New Free City Castle, in English) (don’t worry: people in the CDS generally speak English, not German). Here’s the SLURL: SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Neufreistadt/235/191/194

DJ Squishy Paine will spin from 1 – 2 pm SLT, followed by Naftali Torok, live, from 2 – 3 pm SLT.

Come! Wow us with your steampunk Halloween costume! Dance, laugh at the spooky gadgets, and check out the castle! The CDS is a beautiful, multi-sim build full of great people. I dare you not to like it.

Steampunk Halloween poster

^^^\ Kate /^^^

How to Meet People in Second Life

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On the Second Life Community forums, someone recently asked

I would like to get social and meet people but i dont really know how to do that !?

Are there famous places/destinations that people hang out ? Is there a search engine inside SL that can find places based on population ? Thank you!

I realized I had some suggestions about this for newer residents. In case you’re interested, here those are.

First, importantly, Search is your friend! She’s a lazy friend with limited skills, but she’s mostly there when you need her, and ultimately she really does want to help.

Muddys

Dancing at Muddy’s Music Café

Where to go to meet people depends on what you want to meet people for. If you just want to be with some other folks and don’t mind if there’s not a lot of connection or (depending) conversation, there are plenty of dance clubs where you can go, and that would be the thing to search for. Use the drop-down in search to narrow your results to places only. Some of these clubs, at times, have people at them who want to meet other people or have conversations. Others will mostly have people dancing and perhaps yelling things out from time to time (“Hi”, “Great song”, “Woo-hoo”, that kind of thing) but not much in the way of actual connection.

If you have special interests that you want to share with people, search for groups using that same search feature. Some of the groups will be old and defunct, and there’s no good way to tell, but often groups with a lot of people are active. Some of these groups have places connected with them, like churches or nude beaches or residential areas.

If you just want to have sex, I suppose you know what to type into search for that, but if you want to meet someone romantically without it suddenly getting grabby, try Frank’s or Sweethearts Jazz, both of which tend to be full of single avatars seeking other single avatars for a dance and maybe more. Frank’s is formal attire, and Sweethearts is formal or semi-formal. These are mostly for straight people, though there are some other destinations that work well for other orientations.

While you never know whether you’ll meet someone or stand around looking until you give up, for an example I stopped in at Frank’s just long enough for people to rez and for me to take this picture, but it was still enough time for a very tall, newish guy (not pictured) to politely introduce himself and ask me to dance.

franks

Some resis standing by the dance floor at Frank’s

For conversation or connecting with other people, try discussion events, or just teleport to a hub, like London Town, where there are always a lot of people milling around.

People watching in London Town

People watching in London Town

If you want to meet people serendipidously, go to one of the more popular “wander around” destinations like DaVinci Gardens or whatever’s being touted by Linden Labs currently in the viewer. Just go wherever things look interesting and see if you run into anyone.

Taking a free Dragon ride at DaVinci Gardens

Taking a free Dragon ride at DaVinci Gardens

If you want to stack the deck as you wander, use the button that looks like a dot inside several circles (on the Linden Labs viewer that you’re probably on if you’re new), which brings up a local map. Try to move your green dot closer to the other green dots you see, if any, since each one is a person. If you see a little green V or ^, that means the person is above or below your level.

Looking at the radar at DaVinci Gardens

Looking at the people radar in DaVinci Gardens

None of these methods are sure-fire, I’m sorry to say, but if you keep at it for a little while and do things you’re genuinely interested in, you’ll start running into intriguing people and can build a list of friends. Then, whenever you log on, you can just see if any of your friends are around and available.

Good luck!

^^^\ Kate /^^^

I’m Here, but I’m Not Really Here: Radegast

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radegast

I recently discovered Radegast, a Second Life (and other virtual world) client designed mainly for things like chatting and inventory. It’s a handy tool if you are on a computer that might not have the power to run Second Life properly, or if you’re logging in for something text-only and don’t want to be distracted by the pretty world.

When I use Radegast, I feel like I’m in Second Life but not in Second Life, kind of like I have a phone connection there.

Even so, it does have a 3-D viewer so you can see where you are and click on things. I don’t think it’s mesh-friendly, though. As you can see from the picture, it has a little trouble rendering me in my Maitreya body and a fitted mesh dress from Meli Imako. I don’t recommend it for scenic walks.

^^^\ Kate /^^^

One of the Smartest Things I’ve Ever Heard of a Virtual World Company Doing

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On New World Notes, Hamlet Au reported that High Fidelity is hiring people to work 4-hour greeter shifts in a virtual world. Here’s the link to the ad.

high fidelity

High Fidelity, if you didn’t already know, is the next-generation virtual world by a team assembled by Philip Rosedale, aka Philip Linden, aka the creator of Second Life (who is no longer at Linden Labs. Linden Labs is creating a new virtual reality experience called Project Sansar).

Project Sansar Advertisement

Project Sansar Advertisement

Why do I think this is incredibly smart? Because it’s a direct and well-conceived approach to addressing probably the two biggest problems from which a fully operational virtual world can suffer: the learning curve for getting comfortable in that world, and the disconnect between the developers and corporate types on the one end and the actual users on the other.

A greeter can prevent all kinds of frustration and wasted time as new users get used to their surroundings. (For instance, on Second Life resi confessed recently in a Second Life forum post that for weeks after she joined, she assumed she had to park her avatar somewhere safe when she was logged off so that no one would do anything harmful or disruptive to it.)

A presentation on High Fidelity

A presentation showing off High Fidelity

A greeter can also gather unstructured, open feedback on the virtual world experience, quickly getting up to speed with resis’ joys and frustrations, and so act as a crucial link between residents and those who run the world.

None of this means I’ll be racing to join High Fidelity (or Project Sansar, for that matter). The most important things to me about Second Life are my friends, the social scene, my home in the CDS, and secondarily, my wardrobe. I’m certainly not planning on getting a virtual reality headset any time soon. None of those are going to be easily replicated in another virtual world, so for the immediate future, I plan to stay where I am, though I’ll probably explore these new worlds at some point before too, too long.

^^^\ Kate /^^^

A Better Way to See in Second Life

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Thanks to Kat Feldragonne on her A Kat and A Mouse blog, I recently read this five-year-old post by Penny Patton that explains not only what’s subtly wrong with the default camera angle in Second Life, but how to improve it! She also offers a great trick for camming around while moving. It’s about 6 steps, and not very complicated (but double-check that you’re entering the right numbers so that you only have to do it once). The instructions are written for the Linden Labs viewer, but they should be very similar or identical in other viewers.

I don’t know about you, but it never occurred to me that I didn’t like the default camera angle in Second Life…but as soon as Penny mentioned it, I realized that things I’ve found frustrating, like not being able to see in small spaces and sometimes having my camera stuck outside a wall or something when I’m on the other side, are due to this camera angle problem! Compare these pictures of me with the default camera angle compared to using the “over the shoulder” approach Penny offers.

Original view at my front door

Original view at my front door

Modified view at my front door

Modified view at my front door

It’s not just the practical things: the improved view angle makes me feel part of the scene instead of like I’m looking down on myself from above (go toward the light, Kate!). It’s more personal, more you’re-actually there.

Original view in a sculpture park

Original view in a sculpture park

Modified view in a sculpture park

Modified view in a sculpture park

Does this really make a big difference in my Second Life experience? I don’t honestly know. I think it makes a difference, but it’s so subtle. Well, but I will say that at my housewarming/10th rezday party over the weekend, it worked very well. Want to try it? Comment or post and let me know how it went! If you post about it on your blog, let me know so that I link or repost.

^^^\ Kate /^^^

UPDATE: Nalates Urriah provides more information and links to an easier way for Firestorm users to change their view settings here. She has a detailed post from a few years back (still applicable) here.