Editorial: The Bento Head Wars of Second Life Have Begun in Earnest

For the longest time, Catwa absolutely ruled the Bento mesh head market, almost having a monopoly. But I get the impression that they are now under attack from all sides lately, and possibly losing market share.

The Genus Project has truly fired a shot across the bow with their release of the completely free, absolutely gorgeous Strong Face Bento mesh head group gift, which comes with a couple of fully-featured HUDs (including some things that Catwa used to charge extra for, after you shelled out L$5,000 for one of their heads). Seriously, this has got to be one of the best freebies I have ever picked up in Second Life, and I have seen one hell of a lot of freebies in my 14 years in SL!

I did a little tinkering with the free Strong Face head, and last year’s free group gift of the Altamura Juliet body, and I came up with the following look, which I am rather pleased with:

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Strong Face by Genus Project (free group gift; includes the mesh eyes)

Mesh Body: Juliet from Altamura (free group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019)

Skin Applier: Mila in the Milk skin tone, from Insol (dollarbie hunt prize in their current hunt); matching Omega body skin applier is free!

Lipstick Applier: free group gift from D’Selles from last year’s eBENTO Advent calendar

Hair: Bella hair in blonde (free Advent calendar gift from JUMO)

Ballgown: Cannes ballgown (free gift from Son!a Edge from the Valentine’s Day Shop and Hop event)

Necklace and Bracelet: Wild Whimsy by Chop Zuey (former free gift from The Free Dove)

Shoes (Not Shown): Sonnet pumps (free group gift from Hilly Haalan)

Animation Override: Chubby Girl AO by [ImpEle] (free from the SL Marketplace). This is a nice, simple, calm, free AO with no crazy movements. I added a free, separate Bento hand animator from the Altamura Juliet package. I am also using the Basic Animation HUD that was included with the Strong Face head by Genus Project.

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$200! (L$100 to join the Altamura group, L$99 for the Omega system kit for Altamura mesh bodies, and L$1 for the Insol skin applier.) If this isn’t proof that you can have a stunning-looking avatar in Second Life without spending a lot of Linden dollars, I don’t know what is. I mean, that works out to less than one U.S. dollar, folks!

This is genius advertising for Genus Project heads, and if I were Catwa, I would be worried. Akeruka has also been slowly chipping away at Catwa’s lead with semi-annual free group gifts of Bento mesh head gifts over the past few years (although they seem to have stopped now). Other Bento mesh head retailers are having sales more often, I notice. Add in the recent avalanche of free and inexpensive Bakes-on-Mesh compatible Bento mesh heads, and the writing is truly on the wall for Catwa.

It didn’t help that, back in 2018, Catwa threatened rival Bento head creators Akeruka and GA.EG with a lawsuit, saying that they had copied the Catwa head UV map (The Whisperer website has all the receipts). Eventually, Linden Lab was forced to release a statement to respond to the brouhaha. Catwa was widely seen as bullying other, smaller Bento head creators, and as a result the company lost a lot of goodwill and respect among SL users.

The question is: how will Catwa respond to the Bento Head Wars? Will they hold their head high, pretend nothing has changed, and continue to charge L$5,000 for their heads? (To be fair, most other well-known Bento head brands cost a similar amount.) Will they lower their prices, throw more sales, perhaps even give away a free gift of their own?

Things are getting very interesting…please discuss amongst yourselves, and feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts on the matter. Who do you think is winning the Bento Head Wars?

The free Strong Face mesh head group gift from the Genus Project
is truly a shot across the bow at Catwa…
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Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Beautiful Free Gowns from Poet’s Heart

One of the things that amazes me about Second Life is that, even after fourteen years of exploration, I still come across stores that I have never visited, or even heard about before.

And such is the case with Poet’s Heart, a store which specializes in full-length gowns (designed for Maitreya Lara mesh bodies only, although most of these gowns will also work with other models of mesh avatar bodies, like Altamura, if you make use of the alpha sections on the HUD that comes with the body).

You can join the Poet’s Heart group for free, and pick up some lovely free gowns and historical roleplay outfits from their group gift wall in-store:

Here my medieval roleplay avatar, Scarborough Fair, will model a few of these group gifts.

The Aerin gown in green has a clear elven influence, and it comes with a separate belt, overskirt, and sleeves that you can mix and match as you like:

The Happy Holidays 2019 gift from Poet’s Heart is the romantic Niniane gown with long, flowing sleeves, and a HUD with lots of options to change the colours and fabrics on various parts of the dress, including the trim:

Finally, this stunning silvery white ballgown is the Happy Holidays gift from 2017. This beautiful gown could easily be turned into a wedding dress with the right accessories:

In this final picture Scarborough Fair is wearing:

Mesh Head: Lulu Bento mesh head by Akeruka  (previous group gift; group costs L$150 to join)

Mesh Body: Maitreya Lara

Hair: Magdalen by LeLutka

Gown: Happy Holidays 2017 gown by Poet’s Heart (free group gift; group is free to join)

Jewelry: Antigone silver and diamond earrings and necklace (a long-ago free gift from Kouse’s Sanctum, a store which has now closed)

Shoes (not seen): Sonnet suede pumps by Hilly Haalan (free group gift; group is free to join)

Animation Override: The Gown AO by Kamilah Hauptmann (available for L$1,000 on the SL Marketplace, it is adjustable to accommodate various sizes of gowns, including bustle gowns and Mantua gowns)

Animated Fan: scripted geisha fan by Tuty (which I retextured with a white lace pattern; it randomly switches between five different fanning animations and is available for only L$50 on the SL Marketplace)

UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Come Visit the Freak Show!

Today I discovered a really exceptionally well-done sim in Second Life called Freak Show, complete with all kinds of wonderful details and dozens of circus freaks of every kind and description (please see this Encyclopedia Britannica article for some historical background on freak shows).

Freak Show has the biggest collection of freaks (avatars, animesh, and static mesh) that I’ve ever seen in Second Life—which, if you stop and think about it, is quite an achievement 😉 Please do NOT derender avatars or set “view friends only” in your SL viewer, as the circus freaks will be derendered as well! There are some really inventive ones here to see.

I was stopped in my tracks by a two-headed conjoined twins avatar, and I actually had to pull out my handy free What Is She Wearing HUD? to scan her to see what parts made up the avatar! (A very handy tool, and highly recommended whenever you discreetly want to see what another avatar is wearing.)

I was wondering who sold mesh avatar attachments that would give your avatar two heads! It turns out she is all one mesh component. (You can pick up an updated version of her here on the SL Marketplace if you’re interested. It even comes with an add-on AO for the second head!)

Here’s a picture of the owner, Uri Jefferson, who (appropriately enough) is a six-armed circus freak himself!

I decided to dress up for the occasion. This is one of the ten Halloween costume hunt prizes from Brii Underground Wear, the Mary Salem outfit, which comes complete with the gown, wrap, and jewelry—even a matching top hat! Find pumpkin #2 and it’s yours for only L$6:

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh head: Cleo Bento mesh head by Akeruka (a former L$1 group gift; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join)
  • Mesh body: Juliet mesh body by Altamura (a former Valentine’s Day group gift; Omega-compatible; more details here; the Altamura group costs L$50 to join)
  • Omega skin applier: (included as part of a package of body skin appliers that comes with the Cleo mesh head; you can pick up the Omega applier kit for Altamura mesh bodies for only L$99 at the Omega Solutions store at this exact SLURL)
  • Hair: Hurrah hair by Ade (a free gift from the recently concluded 2019 Hair Fair)
  • Outfit (Except Shoes): Mary Salem outfit (L$6 Halloween hunt prize from the pumpkin hunt at Brii Underground Wear)
  • Shoes (Not Shown): black flats (part of a free sample pack of Slink-compatible shoes from Garbaggio, available on the SL Marketplace; Altamura mesh bodies have Slink-compatible feet)
  • Animation Override: Chubby Girl AO by [ImpEle] (free from the SL Marketplace). This is a nice, simple, calm, free AO with no crazy movements. 

TOTAL COST OF THIS AVATAR: Only L$306!

See you at the Freak Show! Here’s the SLURL.

UPDATE Oct. 31st: Draxtor Despres has released a video profiling the Freak Show!

UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Twisted Fall Hunt

The Twisted semi-annual hunts are renowned for being the hardest hunts in Second Life. While last spring’s Twisted Hunt had a theme of white and gold, the new fall Twisted Hunt has a theme of black and red.

Don’t expect any helpful hints from the Twisted Hunt website; all you’ll get is a list of participating stores. After that, you’re on your own. Many stores deliberately put multiple false hunt cubes throughout the store to make it even more impossible to find the prize you are seeking!

Here is a look at one of the Twisted Hunt prizes: this gorgeous black-and-red ballgown with gold accents by C!L Boutique:

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head and Eyes: Cleo by Akeruka (a previous dollarbie group gift; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join; the Cleo head comes with matching Omega body skin appliers; more details here)
  • Mesh Body: Juliet by Altamura (Juliet was a free Valentine’s Day group gift; the Altamura group costs L$50 to join, and you can obtain the Omega system kit for Altamura mesh bodies for only L$99 available at this exact SLURL; more details about the Juliet body here)
  • Hair: Winks by LIQUIDMOON (free gift from a previous Hair Fair)
  • Dress: Morticia ballgown by C!L Boutique (free Twisted Hunt prize)
  • Jewlery: Sacre Coeur earrings and necklace by CODEX (free gift from a previous eBento event)
  • Fan with Animation: Scripted fan for geisha by Tuty’s Animations (free gift from years ago; tinted red to match the Morticia gown)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: L$300

Pictures were taken at the Twisted Hunt headquarters.

UPDATE Sept. 13th: Melyna Foxclaw left the following helpful message using the Contact form on my blog:

Hi! I am writing about the recent Twisted Hunt post. I noticed you mention you were mostly on your own on this hunt. But there is an inworld hunt group too. There are no hints on the website, but if you join the free Twisted Hunt Inworld group, you can ask for hints there. That is the only place you can get the hints. They are not published anywhere because they can change very often during the hunt at various stores in the hunt. And the group can be quite helpful at times when you get stuck. Usually, there will be someone willing to help you out. Or someone who knows the hint. Some stores have an easel that might have the hint and more information about extra side hunts at their stores. Just FYI, since it was left out. Thanks!

Thanks, Melyna!