Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: I Test-Drive the Free Viva Full-Body Mesh Avatar

Sometime in the past month, somebody alerted me to a free mesh full-body (i.e. head and body) female avatar on the SL Marketplace, called the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3):

The creator writes in the product description:

I had originally set the price at L$3,500 and you’ll see why when you look at the Master HUD, but Viva really needs to develop a solid user base and it needs creators to make skins, clothing and other items for her.

Because the market is almost exclusively dominated by a couple of brands, it’s almost impossible for someone new to establish any sort of presence. So . . . for the time being, I am giving away the avatar free. Sometime down the road, I will need to charge. Right now, the Level 3 package is available at no charge.

Trying to launch a brand new female mesh body against the “Big Three” (Maitreya Lara, Belleza Venus/Isis/Freya, and Slink Physique/Hourglass), which is rapidly becoming a “Big Four” with Meshbody Legacy also becoming popular among designers, is a truly daunting prospect.

Throw in the monkey-wrench of Meshbody releasing their fully-featured Classic female mesh avatar body as a high-quality dollarbie. Add in eBody, Altamura, LucyBody, and countless other female mesh body creators offering various kinds of giveaways in an effort to steal even a small part of the leaders’ marketshare, and you can see how hard it is for any newcomer to gain any traction.

I bought the Viva mesh body from the SL Marketplace (link up top), and I was pleasantly surprised to see a neatly-organized series of file folders in my Received Files inventory section. No need to unpack anything at all!

So, I started trying things out. Thankfully, there’s a link to a Quick Start Guide on their website, so I started there (they even helpfully included a pose stand!). Everything seems to be controlled using one Master HUD, which takes up a lot of on-screen real estate, but can be easily minimized to a single button.

If you are already familiar with topics like skin appliers and Bakes on Mesh, what you have already learned from using other mesh bodies pretty much applies here too. One interesting feature of the Viva mesh body that I have not seen in other products is that you can you can actually add designs to your fingernails and toenails, in addition to changing their basic colour:

The Viva mesh body (with Bento hands) and Bakes-on-Mesh-compatible Bento mesh head both adjust well with the body appearance sliders, and take most Bakes on Mesh skins well (I did have a few problems with some Bakes on Mesh skins from Amara Beauty around the mouth area, so your mileage may vary).

Here, I used one of the BoM skins included with the recent Akeruka Limited head, with good results after a bit of tweaking with the face and body sliders and the eyebrow shaper:

This strapless dress came with the package, and you can even tint it using the Master HUD, using the instructions in the Quick Start Guide! I paired the dress with my trusty wardrobe staple, the free Sonnet heels from Hilly Haalan; the feet appear to be Slink-compatible, although the included foot height made the base of the feet turn white, so I had to set it aside and just adjust the shoe heights by hand.

The Master HUD includes a full component of alpha selections, which is good, because you are quite obviously not going to find a lot of clothing to fit this mesh body exactly! But, if you are prepared to invest some time and patience learning about all the features this full-body mesh avatar has to offer, I think you’ll find it compares quite favourably with other free and inexpensive options out there on the marketplace (and yes, even those that charge thousands of Linden dollars!).

For more information about the Viva mesh body, you can check out their website, including some user forums and a creator’s kit and resources. So, if you’re feeling creative, perhaps you might want to design and create some clothing for this body?

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Pulling Together a Male Avatar Look Using the Free Catwa Freya Head: The Joys and Perils of a “Unisex” Head

You might remember that I was able to pull together a male look in my first blogpost about the Freya unisex gift head, using one of the Bakes on Mesh male skins from Digital Nude Art (DNA):

But like many others, I was curious to see if I could use a combination of the freebie Catwa Freya unisex Bento head with the Classic male mesh body from Meshbody, applying a Catwa skin applier from one of the many quality men’s skin stores on the grid (since no male skin was included with the Freya head, just female skins). Let me share what I learned with you.

So I ventured out to Birth, but I found that both of the skins I preferred looked terrible on the Freya head. It would appear most of the Birth skins are meant to work best on specific, more masculine models of Catwa male heads.

I then went over to Stray Dog, and tried on demos of dozens of skins, with mixed results, before settling on the one you see here:

Now, you might think that I needed the collar to hide the neck seam between the Catwa Freya head and the Classic body, but I was actually able to get a close match between the Stray Dog skin applier I used on the Catwa head and the skin tone of the Classic body.

This is Stray Dog skin tone 5, which matches up almost exactly with the Classic body’s skin tone 11, and the included neck fades in the Classic package make it look almost completely seamless! There are even step-by-step instructions on how to apply the appropriate neck fade to the Catwa head. It works well.

No, I needed the collar to hide this rather ugly side view of the neck:

No matter how much I fiddled with the neck sliders, I simply could not avoid a neck that was noticeably thinner at the top than at the bottom. Increasing the neck width or the neck length made the problem even worse.

Another problem was the quite noticeable bulge where the Catwa head meets the Classic body at the front (see the red arrow). It’s a much larger bulge than can be explained away by a man’s Adam’s apple. The best course of action was to cover up the area completely.

So while yes, you can select Male or Female on the included Master HUD for the Freya head to work with both male and female bodies (see the red arrow in the image below), you should be forewarned that the neck area can still look a little weird on male avatars.

So you need to keep in mind that the Freya head, while “unisex” in name, might not work very well with many store-bought male skins that would look okay on a Bento mesh head with more masculine features. So demo, demo, demo before you buy!

I used the eyebrow shaper that came with the Stray Dog skin applier package, and for my starter male shape I used the free, full-perms gift shape from the NoYourOtherLeft sim, one of the three spots where you can pick up the Catwa Freya gift head (just look for a large box opposite the row of kiosks). I made the jaw more angular and square, and the ears a little bigger; the rest I left unchanged. (I noticed in particular that it wasn’t advisable to make too many changes to the nose shape.)

Here is the overall final look for my avatar, which I am quite pleased with:

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Freya unisex Bento mesh head (free group gift from Catwa; the Catwa group is free to join; more details here)

Mesh Body: Classic male mesh body (L$1 group gift from Meshbody; The Shops! group is free to join; more details here)

Skin Applier for Head: Surman by Stray Dog (L$590 per skin tone)

Hair: the Chris hairstyle in ash blonde is a gift from Alli&Ali Hair (this freebie comes from the free hair wall at The Free Dove; I tinted it a darker brown here)

Collar: Nina unisex choke by RxK (available for free from the main floor of the freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil; comes with a HUD with four colour choices and two metal choices)

All the clothing is specifically designed for Classic mesh bodies (remember to look for The Mesh Project or TMP on the packaging before you buy):

Shirt: Pepe shirt (free gift from KingalStores, available at The Free Dove)

Jeans: Stone jeans (free gift from Dreams, available from the men’s section on the third floor of the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil)

Sneakers: Jumpov sneakers by VERSOV (free group gift; the VERSOV group is free to join; these sneakers come with a HUD that allows you to change the colour of every single part of the shoe)

Animation Override: Tuty’s Daily sLIFE Free Bento AO (free from the Tuty animations store)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR LOOK: L$591 (L$590 for the Stray Dog skin applier, and L$1 for the Classic mesh body)

Coupon Clip Plays Tourist in Loseria: Exploring the Weird World of Findom in Second Life

One of the advantages of a virtual world is that (of course) it is cheaper than the real world. Or is it?

In an idle moment, while picking up the free Freya head for an alt, I clicked on another avatar’s profile, and fell headlong down the rabbit hole of something called findom, short for financial domination.

According to the Urban Dictionary (which I suppose is as good a place as any to get a “street” definition), findom is:

A combination of 2 words: financial domination. Financial domination is a very real fetish involving a submissive being “forced” to give money to the Dominant. Terms like money slave, paypig, moneypig, walletslave, and wallet rape are all part of the play involved in this type of Domination and submission. Some men are very turned on by and seek out findom Mistresses and are aroused by the act of submitting so completely to a Dominant Female.

(And yes, apparently, the D in Dominant is supposed to be capitalized, as a form of respect to the Dom/Domme. Who knew?)

And so, suffering from a rather pernicious bout of insomnia, I chose a suitable avatar to go undercover: Coupon Clip, whom you may remember lost her job as a dancer for tips at the Pino 1951 club not too long ago, alas:

Decked out in a bubble-gum pink jumpsuit with matching platform heels (but keeping her signature Fifties bouffant hairstyle), Coupon set out to explore the world of findom in Second Life.

Her first stop was a bustling little spot called Loseria (a place with some definite, uncomfortable Nazi deathcamp overtones, with its chain-link fences, stone walls, and guard towers):

Now, as a proud-and-out-of-the-closet, clinically depressed, overweight 56-year-old librarian possessed of a hyperactive imagination, stuck in self-isolation in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, I am in absolutely zero position to judge anybody else’s lifestyle choices, but…

But… There are some pretty hardcore choices being made here, people:

And I have never seen more expensively manicured, bejeweled, and costumed female avatars in my life (and trust me, I have been hanging out in Second Life for fourteen years now). There are dozens of them, perched on thrones waiting for their next worshipper, or leading their kept, presumably financially submissive men on leashes, or not-so-coyly posing with pythons:

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…
Mama has expensive tastes…and looks a little bored
I’m not even going to begin to describe what’s going on here…
The titler above the white bunny’s head says:
“Headpat me, you slut! I’ve been headpatted 348 times.”

Surrounding the fenced-off central yard are advertising boards for a wide variety of findom/finsub goods and services:

Yep, Loseria is pretty much the nexus where twin passions meet in Second Life: sex and money. As Roderick memorably says in season 3 of the HBO TV series Westworld:

All sex is commerce. If you don’t know that, you’re just being billed indirectly.

Uncomfortably standing out like a sore thumb in my Fifties hairstyle and pink jumpsuit in a sea of latex black, I quickly decided that I had done sufficient exploring for the day, in the wee hours of the early morning, and teleported out, back to the relative safety of my favourite jazz-infused watering hole, the Pino 1971 bar. Whew. That was a close one. I think I came perilously close to accidentally becoming someone’s financial submissive! (And yes, it’s not just men that become finsubs; I saw a few women doing it at Loseria, too.)

My little excursion just goes to prove that, for any possible kink or fetish in real life, it is probably represented somewhere in Second Life if you know where to look, and (of course) somebody is trying to make a buck off of it. Witness the untrammeled free market at work, people.

A final thought before I go: it is precisely because of its wide-open nature (with only a few things strictly banned, such as ageplay) that Second Life is still as popular and commercially successful as it is. You might not like some of what there is to see and do in SL, but the fact remains that including non-PG options for users is a definite attraction for some customers.

In contrast, I rather doubt that the soon-to-be-launched Facebook Horizon, for example, will be offering a version of Loseria in its efforts to appeal to and to attract the soccer moms of America. In seeking to lure and retain lucrative corporate sponsors, partnerships, and advertisers, most of the newer social VR platforms and virtual worlds are choosing to stick to their guns and disallow adult content. However, there has been some speculation about the potential uses and abuses of the so-called “decentralized”aspects of the blockchain/cryptocurrency-based virtual worlds. We shall see what happens. It will be fascinating to watch the market evolve.

Every social VR platform and virtual world, sooner or later, decides whether or not putting themselves into financial submission to adult content is worth the gamble.