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):

UPDATED! Editorial: The Sansar Female Avatar Proportions for Avatar 2.0 Are Wrong (and What Linden Lab Has to Say About It)

Sigh…

Here are the well-known, standard female human proportions, as covered in any beginner art class:

As you can see (and you can check this by doing a simple Google search on “human female proportions”) the average female is 7-1/2 heads tall.

So why in God’s green earth is the female avatar for Sansar’s Avatar 2.0 project 8-1/2 heads tall?

Not only that, the arms on the female avatar are too short, and the hands are too small! Your avatar’s arms have to be long enough to be able to wipe his/her ass properly 😉

Why is Linden Lab not using the many standard human female proportion diagrams in designing their default female avatar for the Avatar 2.0 project? Here’s a few more images:

C’mon guys! Get it together, please. We don’t want to have to go through all this all over again for Avatar 3.0. Please get the avatar proportions right before you release this! Otherwise you’ll have to go back to the drawing board when users complain (and they are complaining already, from what I can see on the Sansar Discord).

UPDATE Aug. 27th: Well, there has been the usual lively discussion over on the Sansar Discord about this! Cara Linden responded:

Thanks for the feedback everyone! We are looking at our skeleton and the hand looks proportioned well against the body.

Image shared by Cara

She added:

In addition, we are going for more of a stylized avatar look vs a realistic one, hence why we are not focused on conforming to ideal proportions. The new avatar 2.0 skeleton was designed to give you all a broad range of capabilities using full face AND body deformation capabilities. Once we released the full system, you will be able to create all kinds of avatars from realistic looking ones to more stylized ones like caricature avatars with huge heads and even small bodies.

UPDATED! Sansar Product Meetup, August 22nd: the Nexus, the Codex, the Prime Portal, and Avatar 2.0

Sansar Product Meetup, August 22, 2019

I popped into this week’s Sansar Product Meetup as I was curious about several of the new features in the next release of the Sansar client software. According to the Atlas listing for this event, there were 57 avatars at the meetup!

A blogpost yesterday by Linden Lab raised a lot of questions about the next release, code-named Welcome to the Nexus. They plan to update Sansar next week, unless something unforeseen happens.

One new feature is called the Nexus, a central hub for Sansar, where people can log into and find other users, plus a series of quests with a story arc. The current Sansar Atlas will be replaced by the Nexus.

There will be a brand new tutorial for newcomers to Sansar, which leads into a series of story quests, to provide a framework for directed play. Linden Lab will require all users (even those of us who have been around for years now!) to go through that new user tutorial at least one (in order to collect their Codex, which is discussed below). In response to a question about users being forced to do quests they don’t want, Nyx Linden replied on the Sansar Discord:

Getting through the first time user experience, if you are an experienced user, will take maybe 30 seconds, and we’re going to enable ways to dismiss quests you’re not interested in, so people who don’t want to do the story lines we make totally can skip them.

Users will spawn in the Nexus as opposed to their home space (where they can access their Lookbook), but the home space will not go away. The Nexus will replace the Sansar Social Hub, but the Sansar Social Hub will not be shut down; it will be repurposed with additional quests.

There will be a new XP (experience) system which will be tied to the quest system. If you have already completed some quests, you will be awarded some XP points.

The Prime Portal is the place in the Nexus where all worlds are available to visit and explore. There are also a series of permanent portals to help user explore experiences. For example, there will an Events portal. Another portal will be for creators. These portals will evolve and change over time, based on user feedback. There will be a permanent Monstercat portal. You will have to go to the Nexus to use the Prime Portal, which will be the primary way to find new worlds.

A brand new feature called the Codex lists all places you have already been to before. You have your own personal Codex that you bring with you, and it records all worlds and experiences you have been to. You can curate this list of worlds, removing those you don’t want to visit again. You will also be able to access the Codex of your friends and other creators.

While the Nexus is a place, the Codex will be something you carry around with you from place to place.

Events will be treated slightly differently from before. You will be able to see all upcoming events in your Codex. You can also access events from the Prime Portal. This will be a dedicated section just for events, in both the Codex and the Prime Portal.

And, in a significant piece of news, the different places you can visit in Sansar will now be referred to as worlds instead of experiences. (This is going to be a big problem from us Sansar oldbies, who have gotten used to referring to them as experiences! It’s going to hard to change a habit.)

Cara Linden gave a very brief update on Avatar 2.0, which should come out next week. More information is available here. There will also be a new feature to allow more adjustment of Marvelous Designer clothing so they work better with the new avatars. Also, you will be able to re-position accessories and other avatar attachments.

In response to a question about whether it is too soon to release Avatar 2.0, Cara said Linden Lab wanted to push out the new face deformation features as quickly as possible, followed by body deformation support later on. The sooner this change to avatars is implemented, the less broken content on the Sansar Store that needs to be updated.

It sounds as if this next release is going to be a major one! I’m very much looking forward to it.

UPDATE 4:04 p.m.: There was a lot of information conveyed in that one-hour meeting, so I have reached out to Linden Lab to ask them to read this blogpost and tell me if I made any mistakes in reporting.

Also, having had a chance to let things percolate in my brain for a while, I am not convinced that having users spawn in the Nexus (as opposed to their private home space/Lookbook) is such a good idea. Jessica Outlaw has written at length about women feeling unsafe in social VR (which I have written about here and here on my blog), and she advocates for having a safe space for people to retreat to.

I sure the hell hope that Linden Lab did some usability testing on all this. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are the ones who are going to be doing the usability testing for them, and that Linden Lab will only roll features back if there is a disastrous response, unexpected serious bugs, or an overabundance of trolling, griefing and harassment at the new Nexus. I guess we’ll see what happens.

How You Can Prepare for the Upcoming Switch to Avatar 2.0 in Sansar

As you probably already know, Sansar is upgrading its default, dressable human avatars to a new version soon. This update, called Avatar 2.0, means that existing human avatars and any items rigged for them will be discontinued. Earlier I wrote:

Linden Lab is working on the next version of the default human avatar in Sansar, dubbed Avatar 2.0, which should arrive sometime in August or September 2019. Unfortunately, first-edition avatars will be discontinued, and any items rigged for them (such as clothing, shoes, and hair) will break and not be useable by the next-generation avatars. However, clothing made using Marvelous Designer should still work with Avatar 2.0 avatars.

Here’s a FAQ by Linden Lab explaining all the upcoming changes in more detail, as well as an official blogpost. Inara Pey has also blogged extensively about Avatar 2.0 hereherehere and here.

Today, Linden Lab sent out more information about this upcoming major change to Sansar:

We’re just a month away from the official launch of Avatar 2.0, and we want to make sure creators like you have ample time to prepare.That’s why we’re releasing our Avatar 2.0 skeleton early – to give you all of August to optimize your content… Starting today, you’ll also be able to submit any avatar items you create against the new skeleton to the Sansar team for an official review. These include: full avatars, rigged clothing, hair, MD clothing, emotes, and accessories. 

You can download the new avatar reference files here. And here are step-by-step instructions on how to submit your created items to Linden Lab for review.

And, as a sneak peek of what we can expect with Avatar 2.0, here is a YouTube video (taken from a weekly Sansar Product Meetup livestream) that shows how you can adjust the facial features on the new human avatars:

This reminds me strongly of how you adjust your face in The Sims 4. I’m really looking forward to seeing this roll out!