When It’s Time to Let Go of a Dream

The banner of my brand on the Sansar Store (December 2017 to September 2019)

My getting angry over the unexpected drastic changes to the default Sansar female avatar has led me to make two conclusions:

  1. That I need to get a life; and
  2. That I need to let go of a dream onto which I’ve held too tightly for too long.

Part one is obvious to anybody who reads this blog 😉 and, I do assure you, I have made valiant, continued efforts to have a real life outside of virtual reality and virtual worlds! But part two is something I only realized today, after some quiet thought over my lunch break.

There is a category of my blog called Adventures in Virtual Fashion Design, where I posted about my learning how to use Marvelous Designer to create avatar clothing in Sansar, and where I shared my dream: to become a virtual fashion designer and own and run my own store, my own brand, and be able to make a little side income to supplement my pension when I retire. A creative outlet. A hobby. Maybe even a tiny fashion empire like those I had seen people build in Second Life!

Today, I realized that one of the reasons I got so upset over the changes to the default female avatar in Sansar is that it would mean that I would need to remake all the clothing that I had already created and put up for sale in my store on the Sansar Store. And frankly, it has been so long since I taught myself how to do all that work in Marvelous Designer, that I’d forgotten almost all of it, and would need to start all over again.

You need to keep working on a skill to strengthen it, and I had let that particular set of skills wither, as I worked on my paying job during the work week, and as I worked on this blog and the Metaverse Newscast in the evenings and on weekends. And I discovered that I was good at those things! Perhaps better at those things, than I would be if I were to take up avatar fashion design again (although of course you never know).

So, reluctantly, I will shutting down my store today, and taking all my avatar clothing items off the market, except for one. I don’t want to offer clothing items that were designed for avatars that no longer exist, and I don’t want people to have to fuss and fiddle with my clothing to make it fit Avatar 2.0 avatars. So it’s all coming down. I did get a small thrill every time I sold an item, though, and every time I saw someone in-world wearing a T-shirt or a dress I made!

I don’t know when I will be able to resume work on this project. I might wait until Linden Lab finalizes the body morphing on the current Sansar avatars, which is supposed to happen within the next four to six months, according to Landon Linden. Or I might wait until I take full retirement from my paying job and I have more time. We’ll see.

But I do know that it’s time for me to let go of my dream, as least for now.

Image from this blogpost

UPDATED Editorial: Moving from Avatar 1.0 to Avatar 2.0 in Sansar—A Look at the Gains and Losses, and Why I Think Linden Lab Has Made A Mistake with the New Default Female Avatar 2.0

Let’s make one thing very clear: I am not a happy camper. My first two blogposts I made very early this morning about the most recent update to Sansar (here and here) were bouquets to Ebbe Altberg and his team for a job well done, but this third blogpost is about a major beef I have with the new Avatar 2.0 system, specifically the new female avatar.

I first had inklings that something was wrong when people were complaining about the female avatar proportions on the Sansar Discord. I wrote up a blogpost about it, Cara Linden responded and I posted her response, and then I promptly forgot about it.

But today. TODAY….

I decided to load up my Vanity Fair avatar to see what kind of impact the move to Avatar 2.0 would have on her inventory. I already knew that I would lose all the old custom avatars, as well as any rigged clothing and hair, but I wanted to see what I was left with, and how I could work with what was left.

The change was actually pretty wrenching for me. I hadn’t anticipated that I would lose EVERY. SINGLE. F***ING. PAIR. OF. SHOES. I had ever bought! I was left with one pair of tan boots and that was it. I would have thought that at least shoes could have been carried over from Avatar 1.0 to Avatar 2.0!

And, as expected, all my old hairstyles were gone, replaced by the six default female hairstyles, none of which I liked. *sigh*

Another very unpleasant surprise was that Linden Lab removed all their previous default clothing from my inventory, except for the futuristic Nexus top, pants, and shoes I was wearing! What the hell, Linden Lab?!?? Couldn’t you have offered us some NON science-fiction outfits? Are we supposed to be an all-science-fiction, all the time, now?!??

I am not a fan of any of the preset face shapes, or the choice of skin tones and eye colours. Would it have killed Linden Lab to give us a few more options in these areas, especially since we have to wait for custom skins and eyes? This is the best I could come up with on short notice, without touching any of the sliders or the face deformation buttons:

Vanity Fair, Avatar 2.0

A little boring, but a perfectly serviceable starting point.

Now to get to the main reason I am so upset. The default basic female body shape is absolutely ridiculous. She’s too elongated, her shoulders and hips are too narrow, and her arms look like they have no muscles at all! I honestly cannot believe that we have been given such an unrealistic starter female avatar. What the hell was Linden Lab thinking?!?? I consider this to be a definite step backwards, and the sooner that Linden Lab implements proper body sliders and body deformations, the better.

So now it’s time to try on some of the Marvelous Designer-created clothing which survived the transition from Avatar 1.0 to Avatar 2.0, to see how well it fits and how much adjusting is needed. The first thing I tried on was a simple white top, which by default fit far below her actual shoulders:

Using the new Transform Item button on the Worn Items window, I tried to adjust the top to fit my new, overly-elongated body:

You can now edit clothing using tools which will be familiar to users of other virtual worlds such as Second Life: translate, rotate, and scale:

The fourth button allows you to adjust all three at the same time:

So, after a bit of fiddling, here is what I was able to come up with:

So yes, the tools are there for you to be able to make your old clothing fit the new avatars, but you are going to have to do a lot of fiddling and tweaking and adjusting. Even worse, you are going to have to do all that fiddling and adjusting all over again if you take the item off and then put it back on from your inventory, because when you put it back on, it will automatically go to the same spot on your avatar body.

It also means that any clothing originally designed for Avatar 1.0 avatars will be a pain in the ass to use, because it will not fit the new avatars well by default. Most clothing makers will probably land up just removing older items from the Sansar Store completely, since they won’t fit as neatly and automatically as any new clothing specifically designed for Avatar 2.0 avatars will.

At this point, I’m a really very glad that I have so few items in my store on the Sansar Store, since I now am pretty much forced to redo them all. And yes, I am angry about that.

And keep in mind that this sort of fiddling, tweaking and adjusting of old clothing designed for Avatar 1.0 will be a major stumbling block to new users of Sansar, who will not understand why their clothing “doesn’t fit right”. I can only imagine how much work that somebody has to do now, who has already put dozens, or even hundreds, of items of clothing on the Sansar Store, in order to make them work better for the Avatar 2.0 avatars. It’ll be like starting over from scratch. This is very clearly NOT going to be the smooth process that was originally promised by Linden Lab. If I were a clothing maker who invested a lot of time and money into making clothing to date, I would be furious at Linden Lab for making such major changes to the avatar. Why was such a drastic change necessary? Why wasn’t an effort made to keep at least some sort of backwards compatibility?

And finally, and most damning of all…

I put on my VR headset and looked down myself as Vanity Fair, and I was HORRIFIED! My forearms look like toothpicks, and my hands are much too small! I look like someone with a wasting disease or a small child, not a grown woman!

The difference between Avatar 1.0 and Avatar 2.0 is so jarring that it is immersion-breaking. It’s also a complete deal-breaker for me. This is just a truly horrible default female avatar and at this point, I don’t think I will even bother to design clothing for it until it is replaced or improved. I’m that unhappy with it.

What the hell was wrong with the much more realistic proportions of the default female Avatar 1.0? Why did Linden Lab f*** this up so badly?? What were they thinking?!?? Let’s do a direct comparison, wearing the same outfit, between Avatar 1.0 and Avatar 2.0:

Vanity Fair, Avatar 1.0: This is what a real woman looks like
Vanity Fair, Avatar 2.0: Way too tall, hips too narrow, too thin, hands too small, looks like a Barbie doll

If you can’t see that there is something seriously wrong with the default female Avatar 2.0 just by comparing them side by side, then I give up. There were clearly drastic design decisions made that were NOT communicated by Linden Lab effectively to the users. This is NOT what we asked for. This is NOT what we wanted.

UPDATE: O.K. I’ve had a chance to calm down and think this over.

I think it is highly unlikely that Linden Lab is going to roll us back to Avatar 1.0, but I really disagree with the direction they decided to go for the female avatars. Landon Linden reported from the official Sansar Discord in response to this blogpost:

We’re working to get body morph in before the end of the year. It is a top priority for us, too.

And this is a bit of comfort. I keep forgetting that this is a beta, and that things like this will happen. We all take part in the beta knowing that something could come along and break everything for us, and we have to start over again. That’s part of the deal. I made the assumption that things would not change, and when they did change, and that change potentially impacted an avatar clothing business that I would very much like to get off the ground, I got upset.

I’m sorry.

SECOND UPDATE: Market forces to the rescue! We now have some good interim solutions to the new default female avatar proportions, and I’m much happier!

A First Look at the Sansar Nexus

The Nexus Loading Screen

Well, I will say one thing about the Nexus, the brand new central social hub in Sansar. It’s gorgeous, like something straight out of a science fiction movie! Linden Lab obviously put a lot of care and attention to detail into the environment design, story line, and quests they have built around this new gathering hub, and it shows.

First, if you’re the kind of person who likes to read through the instructions before diving in, here’s the new Sansar documentation for the Nexus. But if you (like me) just want to dive right in, let’s go!

The Nexus

But before you can explore the Nexus, you must first complete a tutorial quest, called the First Portal:

There was a bug the first time I tried this, and I found I had to go back to the Nexus and restart the quest for it to work properly. Basically, a hovering presence (an NPC named Agent Primus) takes you through the basic avatar movement and teleporting functions, and at the end of the quest you are given your Codex, which I understand is a tool used to collect and organize the worlds which you visit in Sansar, to make it easier to revisit them later. You can get more information about the Codex here.

After you complete the First Portal Quest, you return to the Nexus to receive a second quest from Agent Primus, Welcome to the Nexus, where you explore what the Nexus has to offer:

Here’s a few more shots I took while exploring the Nexus. There’s a map, but it’s probably best just to wander around to get the lay of the land. You can keep your quest window open in the upper right-hand corner of your screen if you’re not sure how to proceed.

At the centre of the Nexus is a gleaming Prime Portal, making a faint mechanical sound, which you activate by clicking on one of the lighted pillars which surrounds it:

This pulls up the reassuring, familiar Sansar Atlas and Events listings:

Now, for me, the jury is still out over whether it is an improvement or an inconvenience to have to go to a physical place (the Prime Portal at the Nexus) to see the Atlas and Events, as opposed to just pressing a button on the left-hand side of the screen as we used to do to access them. The idea is that the Nexus acts as a sort of physical library or experiences (or worlds, as they are now calling them), from which you can make selections to add to your personal Codex, which is what has replaced the Atlas when you do press that Go button to the left of your screen:

The idea is that the Nexus will become an even busier version of the old Sansar Social Hub, much like the idea that people will visit the library to check out books, mingle, and socialize. As a librarian who understands the value of the library as a social space and a learning space, I’m willing to suspend my initial skepticism and give it a shot to see how well it works out.

And, I gotta tell you, the Prime Portal is stunning! It has an imposing air of gravitas, reminding me of builds like the Ivory Tower of Primitives in Second Life:

But a still picture doesn’t so it justice. Here’s a brief video of it in action:

Off to one side of the platform is a club called the Socialite Guild, where you walk through a blue pulsing curtain and are instantly teleported to a dimly-lit, futuristic nightclub. Walk back through the curtain and you’re back at the Nexus.

In a ring around the Prime Portal are circular specialty portals, such as this Events Portal. (Note that many of these portals are not yet set up.)

So, overall, what do I think? I think this is pretty impressive so far. It remains to be seen if this sort of innovative thinking and attractive design will help Linden Lab with its goal of enticing newcomers into Sansar, inspiring them, and encouraging them to come back often for return visits, eventually becoming a member of the community.

As Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg himself said recently on the official Sansar Discord server: “Retention, retention, retention, people.” I think this is a step in the right direction. Congratulations to Ebbe and his team for all the hard work they’ve put into this update! I think Linden Lab can be proud of what they’ve done here.

UPDATED! A First Look at Avatar 2.0 and the New Humanoid Avatar Face Deformation Features in Sansar

Linden Lab has issued a major update to the Sansar client! The team was working on it all day yesterday and well into the evening. I was tired, so I went to bed around 8:00 p.m., and woke up at 2:00 a.m. this morning to discover that the update was ready to download and install, so I put on a pot of strong black coffee and set out to explore! This is my first blogpost about the new update, and there will be many more throughout the week.

There’s quite a lot to unpack in this new update, so I’m going to take things slow and capture pictures and some video to show you what I’m talking about. For a complete list of new features, here are the release notes. But for now, let’s start with the new avatars, the much-anticipated Avatar 2.0 project. Also note that I am starting with a fresh, brand-new avatar with zero inventory, for illustration purposes.

When you first sign in to Sansar, you are presented with a choice: select a pre-made humanoid avatar, or create and customize your own (see the red arrow below):

Here’s a look at the ten starter avatars. As you can see, they are all of a stylized, vaguely science fiction theme:

Now, let’s take a quick look at the avatar customization module. At first glance, it resembles the old system we had before:

There’s a very limited selection of clothing for male and female avatars, again in a futuristic, sci-fi style:

There is a similarly limited selection of futuristic hairstyles, 6 for men and 6 for women, with the same colour and tinting options as before:

And there are a half-dozen science-fiction-type head attachments, like this over-the-ear piece:

The Face tab offers a bunch of new tools, including a variety of face presets, skin colours, eye colours, as well as various sliders to control various aspects of your face, as before:

Here’s a short video to show you what changing the face presets, changing the skin colour, and changing the eye colour looks like:

Now comes the fun part: the brand new interactive face deformation tools! See these top two rows of buttons that appear over your avatar’s head when you click on the Face tab? These are the new face deformation tools:

The top four buttons are (from left to right):

  • Head – Allows you to modify the entire head. 
  • Section – Allows you to modify large sections of the face. 
  • Feature – Allows you to go deeper and modify facial features.
  • Part – Allows you to go even deeper and fine tune specific parts of facial features.

The second row of buttons controls the movement/position, rotation, and scaling/size of whatever section of the head you picked using the top row of buttons:

These are pretty much the same move, rotate, and scale tools that you should already be familiar with from Second Life and other virtual worlds.

So, let’s take a look at a very simple first example video: moving, rotating, and scaling the entire avatar head:

Notice that whatever area you are working on is highlighted (in this first example, the entire head). If you were to select a section, feature, or part of the head, you would use your mouse to highlight that section/feature/part before you move, rotate, and/or scale it.

So, by using combinations of the existing face sliders and the new facial deformation buttons, you can pretty much make infinite adjustments to achieve your desired avatar look. It’s a complicated but powerful system, and this blogpost is just a brief introduction, so feel free to play around and see what you can come up with! I expect it’s going to take hours of trial and error to see all the different combinations you can achieve.

If you need help, please refer to the new document Customizing Your Avatar.

There is more—much, much more—in this new release, and over the next few days this week I will write about other new features in the client. Have fun!

UPDATE 4:53 p.m.: Istari, a Linden Lab employee, shared the following animated GIF which gives a real good ides of how you can edit the various facial features of your avatar using the new facial deformation buttons (see image right):