I love the merchants of Second Life. They make so many lovely things...clothes, hair, shoes, jewelry...they even make body parts that look better than what came "standard" with your avatar. That's what we're going to talk about today. Let's begin at the bottom and work up!
FEET. In previous posts, I've discussed how today's better shoes come with a sculpted or mesh foot that's actually an integral part of the shoe. You hide your own, ugly avatar foot with an alpha mask layer, and all anyone sees is your pretty mesh foot. You can even get "bare feet", just the foot without the shoe. Some are flat, and others put you up on tiptoe, as if you were wearing heels, but without the heels.
HANDS. I recently broke down and got a set of mesh hands from SLink. I love them! They come in a variety of poses...although it would be lovely if they also came with a HUD that let you switch poses on the fly. These hands look much prettier than the stock avatar hands, and the nails are a permanent part of them, so no more fingernails flying off! There are skin appliers sold for them by a large number of popular skin makers, which makes color matching a one-click non-event. The one drawback is that you MUST use one of the Standard Mesh Shapes in order to get them to fit. I wound up going with the Medium shape, and then modifying it to re-create my own facial features.
BUNS. Yep, you can buy a mesh ass. As with shoes, and all attachments of this sort, you hide your standard buns with an alpha mask. Because your new tushie is an attachment, your clothing layers won't affect it. In order to keep from, er, letting it all hang out, you'll need to buy clothing that comes with an "applier" for your particular make of attachment. Appliers are simply HUDs that work with the attachment and apply a clothing layer to it. Also, mesh buns (and boobs, see below) don't respond to the avatar physics system. That is, they cannot be made to jiggle when you walk. Personally, I can think of only two reasons to get mesh buns: if you want an ENORMOUS bubble butt, or if the poor detail level of the inner thigh area of the stock avatar drives you crazy.
BOOBS. There are several makers of mesh breast attachments, but perhaps the most popular are the Lolas Tangos. They have a lovely, perky shape that you just can't get with the stock avatar appearance sliders, and of course you can make them quite a lot larger than the sliders will allow. There are whole web sites devoted to those women who prefer to be very well-endowed in Second Life! (Like Maggie Bluxome's page.) Like mesh buns, mesh breasts don't respond to avatar physics or avatar clothing layers. Clothing with appliers is a must, unless you are a nudist.
EYES. Most eyes are simply textures, but you can get some that are actual attachments, much like wearing contact lenses. This allows them to have functions like sparkles, or glow, or blinking at a slower speed. And of course, you can get prim eyelashes, too, which I covered a while back.
HEAD. Don't like your head? Get a new one! You can buy an entire mesh avatar head. Eye movement, eye color, skin tone, makeup, and sometimes mouth movement is controlled by a HUD. Like mesh boobs, mesh heads have a greater level of photorealism than you can get with the stock avatar mesh.
ALL OF ME. Yes, you can even get complete mesh avatars. Like the piecemeal attachments, standard clothing doesn't work with these, so you are limited to the clothing and accessories provided by the creator of the mesh avatar. And of course, you can't adjust the body with the Appearance sliders!
Like Mesh clothing, all of these enhancements can provide a greater degree of realism. But do be aware of their limitations as well...especially since most of them are relatively high priced items.
One caution here: I would not buy ANY mesh body part replacements, and certainly not a complete mesh avatar, from the Marketplace. Not only is trying out a demo of the product highly desirable, there are some scammers advertising these expensive items, but delivering empty boxes. For more on the Empty Box Scam, read this entry.
And of course, along with Mesh clothing, they require you to wear an alpha layer to mask the part(s) of your avatar they are replacing. You may run into a limiting factor here...you can only wear a maximum of five alpha layer items.
In fact, it's the increasing use of alpha layers that caused me to come up with the title of today's post...I wonder sometimes if, as we erase more and more of our avatars, we're getting to the point that we will soon have nothing left. While I applaud the resourcefulness and creativity of the attachment makers, I really wish that Linden Lab would bite the bullet and produce an "Avatar 2.0", a base avatar with more detail in appearance and movement and expression. They've made such wonderful strides in improving the look of the Second Life world, with Mesh, shadows, and Materials...I think it's high time that Second Life's inhabitants were similarly improved! Yes, I know it would disrupt things and break all sorts of content. But even with six years of accumulated clothes, I'd be willing to put up with re-acquiring my collection, if it meant a real improvement in avatar realism...one that everyone could create for, not the piecemeal situation we have now.
Next: A wish list for Avatar 2.0.