Today we need to understand Blender (probably with AvaStar), Maya, or 3D Max along with GIMP or Photoshop and we have to understand a load about how clothing works in Second Life and all its quirks and gotchas. As a designer we have customers that want system clothes and mesh clothes that look good and fit. We have to figure out how to deal with a customer base that may wear the standard avatar or have a fitted mesh avatar body. So, Kyriakos provides the tools for whichever direction a designer wants to go.
For both designers and customers things have gotten much more complex. It is like RL in some ways. We need to know about cloth and how various designers handle size. Spandex, cotton, wool, synthetic fiber, and combinations make our life better, but we have to know what they are good for and shop accordingly. So, too we now have to deal with complications in SL.
In the next year nothing is going to get simpler. There is the possibility that the Lab will add a feature to allow us to transfer the Server Side Appearance (SSA) baked texture to our mesh/prim items. This means wearing a system shirt would be able to be seen on a mesh body.
SSA takes all the textures we wear, shirt, undershirt, tattoo, etc., and bakes them into 3 single texture composites 512×512 for the head, upper body, or lower body. We could be wearing 5 undershirt layers and 5 shirt layers, a total of 10 textures that could be 1024×1024. That would be a max of about 47 mb of textures per avatar (1024x1024x3 (color bits) = 3mb x3 (head upper lower) = 9.4mb x5 (layers) = 47mb). In a region with 80 avatars that is 3.7 gb of textures. SSA reduces that to 512x512x3= 0.78mb x3 x5 = 11.7mb x80 = 943mb. So, 3.7gb verses 0.9gb is a huge savings.
SSA does not help with mesh attachments. Attachments of any kind are not processed in the SSA process. By allowing the system to give access to the baked output of SSA via scripting there is a huge potential for reducing texture load by allowing those SSA textures to reduce the texture load from mesh bodies.
There is the problem of prims not having texture layers and fitted mesh is still just another prim. With access to the SSA texture, we would in some form have a measure of layer control for a prim.
There is the problem of UVMaps. One of the advantages of mesh bodies is we can improve on the UVMap, meaning they are different that the avatar’s. But, are they different enough to matter? I’m not sure and suspect we will see some bodies that have significantly different UVMaps and others that are close enough it wouldn’t matter.
SSA uses the SL avatar’s UVMaps. So, it is up in the air if access to SSA textures is going to be something that gets implemented. We do know that layers for prims is too big a project for the SL1 team to want to take on. What we don’t know is what they will decide about the usefulness of exposing the SSA texture to users for use on prims. Nor do we know if designers will find the feature useful or even how useful it will be to customers. And does the added complication of trying to explain this to new users devalue it?
What we do know about the current direction in clothes design is mesh clothes are a complicated subject and designers are finding their way in a search for the best solution. That means various designers are trying different things. For now that mostly seems to be in the direction of fitted mesh bodies and fitted mesh clothes for use with any body be it fitted or system.
There is a trend toward building Appliers to work with the bodies and attachments. Skins and clothes now all seem to have Appliers for the various avatar enhancements.
For those making templates for others to use, things are even more complex. Some like Alpha Lab are providing for all the different types of clothes designers may want to provide. Plus support for a number of the various Appliers. I suspect support for Appliers is going to be a popular attribute for those selling to designers.
As all this complexity is too much to ask new users and customers to deal with. So, Appliers and similar tech will be used to make things easier. Slink just revised their mesh body based on feedback they were getting and new ideas on how to handle problems. Expect to see some more iterations of this before the best method is found. Plus it will take some time for the market to tell designers which solution is most popular.
I suspect and hope the SL2 team is paying attention and designing SL2’s avatar such that most of these complexities are simplified.