A couple of days ago Jeremy Linden put a new page into the Second Life™ Knowledge Base: Buying clothing that fits your avatar. The same day a post appeared in the Second Life Blog: Help Customers Buy Clothing that Fits their Avatars. Both of these target the confusion surrounding mesh clothes and avatars.
Consider. We started out with what I call system clothes. These are the decals we place on the avatar that look like clothes. This is the shirt or pants we make when use the features in Appearance. We hang prims and sculpties on the avatar to embellish the ‘decal’ clothes. These clothes fit the avatar perfectly. Consider ‘perfectly’ to mean no skin poke through.
Then a couple of years ago we got fully editable prims, which we call mesh. This mesh was and is used to make clothes. We call those clothes mesh clothes or mesh standard size clothes. The problem is they only respond to a few of the shape sliders. We get skin poke through. They don’t fit so well, sort of like RL clothes. We either lose weight or look weird. In SL we can adjust shape. But, some people hate that idea.
Free markets are conducive to innovation. So, the community came up with standard size mesh clothes. My experience is all the standard-size-clothes have what I consider big butts. At least bigger than I want. The standard sizes typically come in 5 sized. Some makers make more than the 5 sizes. The result is we have a flock of ‘standard’ sizes that I don’t find all that standardized. In some cases I almost wear Large. In others, Medium or Small. And none fit well, so almost.
The result is we, the SL community, decided to try for a better solution. The long and circuitous route has led to Fitted Mesh and a change to the avatar. Along the way designers started rigging to the avatar’s then available collision bones in place of the standard mbones used for animation. We know those clothes as Liquid Mesh. Fitted Mesh is Liquid Mesh taken a couple of steps farther to a better solution to clothes fitting. Otherwise, they are technically the same things.
The existing collision bones have been conscripted, and some new ones added, for additional use to help with sizing Fitted Mesh Clothes. Now Fitted Mesh Clothes respond to most of the Appearance sliders. The problem is clothes do NOT respond ‘exactly’ as the avatar does. The response is close, but we still get skin poke through. There is less than with standard sizes.
So, we have 3 types of clothes, maybe 4 depending on how you think of it. I’ve just spent 350+ words describing the types and the problems. A person new to SL is unlikely to know any of what I’ve written or what it means. I assume the Lab’s publishing of the articles is in response to user complaints from such people.
The Lab has recognized that people are confused as to which is what and how to know what might fit. I think they are right. I have problems. Whatever, the Lab has decided that merchants need some way to communicate what they are selling so the buyer can at least have a clue. I agree. I think that need is obvious. We saw that issue addressed when Redgrave came up with the idea of labeling their product rigged to the limited set of collision bones as Liquid Mesh. Fitted Mesh is now the generally accepted term for clothes rigged to the full set of collision bones.
This Is Still a Problem?
We can call clothes Classic or System clothes and it is pretty easy for a new person to learn what they are. We can say something is a sculpty. That is harder to explain. But, I think sculpties are falling out of favor. And we have Standard Size and Fitted Mesh clothes. It is not to hard to learn what they are or explain them. Standard mesh clothes change height but do not respond to body fat sliders. Fitted Mesh clothes do.
It is probably thought by a majority we will move to Fitted and away from Standard Size Clothes just as we are abandoning sculpties. So, we only need to deal with Classic/System clothes and Fitted Mesh. But, it is not that simple.
It seems we are still going to have sizes of Fitted Mesh clothes. It is the only way I know, at this time, to handle the inconsistencies in how clothes and skin respond to the Appearance sliders. So, we are back to the very problem that was key in giving up the idea of the Mesh Deformer, what shape was the clothing item designed for?
In Avastar Gaia recommends people model and weight to the default avatar shape. THEN load the custom shape and tweak the weights to that shape. If people follow that advice, I think they are likely to, we have no way to know what shape that clothing item was tweaked for. What do we do? Include the Body Fat and Breast Size slider values in the ad? That’ll be exciting advertising copy.
There is also the problem of replacement avatars. Slink hands, feet, and heads are an example of complications. The System-Clothes-Socks don’t work with sculpty and mesh feet.
The avatar we have has problems. The mesh layout and weighting has problems. To overcome those problems designers are making full body replacement avatars. System Clothes do not work on custom avatars. You must have custom clothes made for that specific custom avatar.
How in the world is a new SL user to figure all this out?
The Lab’s idea to improve things is standardization of terms. Thus the knowledge base article: Help Customers Buy Clothing that Fits their Avatars. Is this going to work? At best it will help. But, it is going to take some time for designers to get the word. Then there are those that will want to do their thing and those that NEVER get the word. So, it is not a complete solution. It may be the best we can hope for.
Read the article. Once you’re finished ask yourself if that explains things to you such that you can use the information. Then see if you can imagine how a new SL users would find that information and whether they will understand it.
Ciaran Laval has written and article on this subject too. See: Linden Lab Encourage Merchants To Standardise Their Labels On Clothing And Avatars [sic]. He points out the Lab copyrighted the icons they provide for making the new classes of merchandise. Not the best move on their part. Seems their stuff is theirs and our stuff is theirs.
This all seems way geeky to me. I’m into tech, so I get it. But, I believe all this geek-jargon and tech talk will have to be converted into something meaningful to SL’s general user base. Over time someone will come up with something that works. But, it may take some time for a chaotic world to settle on some generally acceptable terminology.