I was asked to help a person get some bare feet working with their Xcite Feet. The person was about 6 months old. First we had to get past lots of confusion. She had ideas about what Xcite was going to do and what bare feet are. The problems I ran into trying to get things sorted out show several reasons people probably give up on Second Life. Whatever that case is, I learned a lot about bare feet, which is what this article is about.
If you don’t know by now, I absolutely hate Second Life Search both in-world and in the Market Place. I expect search to work like Google or Yahoo and provide me a good list of items related to my search. SL Search just does not work that well. There are reasons for that, but that is another story.
Search is so bad I started asking friends for suggestions. Once I found several good bare feet I realized in SL we have very few items labeled bare feet. Instead we have barefeet [sic] as one word. The latter spelling gives far better results. Still there is lots of garbage mixed in. It seems the results include items with the words bare, feet, and barefeet.
Bare feet in SL come in sculpty and mesh. Prices for sculpty feet run from L$25 to L$600+. Mesh feet run from about L$200 to over L$1,200.
Pros and Cons
The problem with sculpty feet is the lines where the toes attach to the foot. There also tends to be a line where the foot attaches to the ankle. The lines are often covered by decorations, ankle bracelets are common. The bracelets reduce the need to have a perfect skin color and texture match with the leg.
Sculpty feet need sizing and coloring scripts. It becomes very tedious to use the viewer’s editor to adjust color of all the parts and both feet have to be done individually. Some creators use efficient scripts and HUD’s so the scripts in the foot have minimal impact, but not all. J’s Flip-Flap & Barefoot are gorgeous and easy to adjust and color match, but after removing the HUD the scripts in the feet use 5.6mb of memory. There is no legitimate way to remove the scripts as the feet are no mod and the HUD has no script remove function. Many of us consider the max script use for an avatar to be 3mb. Somewhere above 3mb we start to have teleport problems.
Mesh feet have some problems. A big one is the Mesh Deformer that is being developed. We are not sure how well mesh feet we buy now are going to work with the deformer. For now, feet come in different sizes because we cannot adjust the size of a worn mesh as we can a sculpty. The plan for the Deformer is one size foot will fit all avatars.
I’m of the opinion that most mesh that fits well without the Deformer will fit well after the Deformer is released. However, feet tend to be an exception. We typically set our feet to 0 size to work well with most SL shoes. That size tends to cause mesh feet to crumple when the deformer is used. I’ve included pictures of a mesh foot at size 0, 27, and 100. (Note: I deliberately avoided making a skin tone match for the pics.)
It is looking like the Deformer will come with a Boolean switch to turn deformation on or off. Presumably everything made before the switch is added will be set to off by default. If not, we will be doing lots of foot size changing as we change between mesh feet/shoes and sculpty feet/shoes. The alpha layers may save us from that fate. (See opening image)
Mesh feet have some advantages over sculpty feet. One advantage is the toes and foot are usually a single part. This means no lines where the toes attach to the foot. Also the foot does not have to stop at the angle.
I have added a couple of images showing the ankle bending, something sculpties cannot do. Also, I’ve included Slink’s video showing how the mesh can be tapered into the leg for better skin matching. There is a geeky thing about color matching on sculpties and mesh. If either is done well, the edges where things meet are nearly invisible. We see the problem most pronounced in the front and back flaps used with miniskirts.[youtube sY65PhgazHk]
No matter what we do, color matching remains a problem. Too many things affect color in the viewer. I used the 3.2.8 Development viewer to take some of these pictures. Others I took using the Deformer Project Viewer. My graphics settings in the two viewers are different. One has Lighting & Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, and Shadows on and the other has them off. In one I have an almost perfect color match. In the other the match is not so good. I could adjust, but when I go back to the other viewer I’ll then see a mismatch there. So, depending on how others have their viewer set my feet will render a better or worse color match for them.
Another problem is the texture used for skin. A white texture allows one to use the Build Tool’s Texture Color and use meaningful RGB values. ONLY when the texture is white (gray scale) can the Show Color Under Cursor give usable results. (SLV: Develop->Show Info->Show Color… – Phoenix: Advanced->UI->Show Color…)
If a texture is the color 106,70,43 (a skin color) and the Build Tool color is white (255,255,255) then Show Color will return 106,70,43. If you set the color to 100,100,100 (medium dark grey) then Show Color will return 41,26,18. The resulting 41,26,18 is a useless value for trying to match colors. What this means is you need to check the demo to see if the maker is using a colored or gray scale texture. (What happens is: 100/255 x 106 = 41) Or at least make sure their coloring tool works well. Color problems are another reason to only buy Mod-OK stuff.
Sculpty feet are attached either to the foot or to the lower leg. How they are made determines how the maker will attach them. How they are attached also determines how they will behave as you move. See the pictures.
Mesh is rigged to the foot and leg. The ankle will flex and the foot will behave as a foot should. The attachment point doesn’t really matter. Where the mesh renders depends on information in the rigging. There are no positioning or sizing issues… well… it either fits or not and there is nothing to be done about it. The deformer should resolve any fit issues.
Try explaining all this to a new SL user. I can see why they get confused and frustrated.
Concepts of how things work is another problem for SL. I have Xcite! parts. Xcite! nipples and Avatar Physics do not work together. For those of us that have been in SL for a time we have learned why this is so. Also, we know that Xcite! parts like ears, thighs, butt, etc are invisible add-ons. New people don’t know the limits of SL and what to expect. I can’t imagine a fix for the conceptual ideas that are part of SL. One just has to learn them.
Consider. Put on sculpty feet then wear the Xcite! feet and the sculpty feet are replaced. The alpha layer hides the avatar’s standard feet and one is left wondering what happened. After one is in SL for a time, we know to use ADD rather than wear. But, that has to be annoying to new users. There is just sooo much that has to be learned.
I am assuming that some time after the Mesh Deformer is released we’ll see new nipples from Xcite! made from rigged mesh. That will allow them to move with avatar physics. Other parts may be better left as sculpties or non-rigged mesh… I’m not going any farther down that road.
Getting bare feet seems like such a simple thing to do. It turned out to be rather painful. Search presents an obstacle and our jargon spelling of barefeet another. Those making feet provide little os any real information about their products.