UPDATED! Taking a Second Look at the Viva Full-Mesh Avatar: Why the Mesh Head and Body Wars Are Just Getting Started in Second Life

A month ago, I first wrote about the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3), available for free on the SL Marketplace. After playing around with the Kalhene Ariadna full-body mesh avatar, and documenting its strengths and weaknesses (notably, a lack of alpha sections on the HUD and support for clothing alphas), I came back to the Viva mesh body with a renewed appreciation for all the work the creator had put into it. The HUD truly is amazing, allowing you to combine both alpha sections and clothing alphas to make just about any outfit fit!

For example, here is one of my alts, who wears an Akeruka Lulu Bento mesh head (one of their early group gifts), which I have grown attached to and wanted to keep. I originally wore it with a classic, SL system body; Akeruka had provided system skins to match the entire range of the Lulu head’s available skin tones. And for a long time I was happy with that.

But today, I decided to upgrade this avatar to a full mesh body, and while I was thinking about how best to do that for an inexpensively as possible, I remembered the free Viva Bento, Bakes-on-Mesh compatible mesh body and decided to try that again. (I wasn’t too crazy about the head that came included with the Viva mesh body, but that is a separate attachment, and you can use literally any head with it.)

Here is what she looks like now:

The only problem I encountered was that the system skins that came with the Akeruka Lulu head were older, and as a result there were white spots at the nail bases of the mesh fingers. To fix this, I used the free set of Bakes on Mesh feet and finger fixes available at League (exact SLURL):

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Lulu by Akeruka (L$1 group gift, no longer available; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join).

Mesh Body: the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3) from the SL Marketplace.

Skin: I used one of the system skins that came with the Lulu head in a matching skin tone, adding the League Bakes on Mesh finger fix in the pale colour, which was the closest match.

Hair: Chella by Analog Dog (I picked this hairstyle with scarf as a free gift at previous gacha event)

Necklace: Metamorpheses Temple Necklace (a gift from the 2019 BURN2 celebration of Burning Man in Second Life)

Top: Cream embroidered peasant blouse by Petite Mort (this is one of my favourite freebies, available from the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil).

Jeans: Skinny jeans from Mara’s Mysteries (a free hunt gift, no longer available).

Flats: Amy flats by Hilly Haalan (free group gift from their freebie store; the group is free to join; I found that the Viva mesh body’s flat feet are compatible with both Maitreya and Belleza flat shoes, but the Belleza ones fit a bit better so I used those)

Bag: Boho Bliss fringe bag (with hold pose) from a previous Witchwood hunt (Witchwood is the sim where the Petite Mort and Oubliette stores are located, and they regularly hold small hunts; I believe I paid only L$10 for this delightful bag!)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$161! (L$150 to join the Akeruka group, L$1 for the Lulu Bento mesh head, and L$10 for the bag)

I am very pleased with the result of this makeover! After my experiences working with both the Viva and the Ariadna mesh bodies, I can say this: with the advent of competition from free or inexpensive Bakes-on-Mesh compatible, Bento bodies, we are getting closer and closer to the time when stores charging (and users paying) thousands of Linden dollars for a mesh head and/or body is going to become harder and harder to justify. Yes, I know it’s a bold statement; hear me out.

The Viva and Ariadna mesh bodies are just the first shots fired in a war for marketshare between the established, big-name brands (Catwa, LeLutka, Maitreya, Belleza, Signature, Slink, etc.) and the smaller, nimbler upstarts. For now, the big-name brands have better designer support and offer more options, but, as we see with the fully-featured HUD that the Viva mesh body offers, that gap is starting to narrow!

I’d strongly encourage you to take a look at the Viva and Ariadna mesh bodies on the SL Marketplace, and give them both a test run. Although they are not perfect, they do give an indication of the direction the market is moving. The days of paying L$10,000 or more for a full-body mesh avatar may be numbered!

UPDATE June 11th, 2020: The Kalhene Ariadna mesh body has just updated to version 2.0, with alpha layer support (SL Marketplace link). It now has a HUD with alpha cuts and skin shininess levels, addressing some of my most serious concerns about the product.

In these final two pictures, I have combined the beautiful head from the Kalhene Ariadna mesh body with the Viva mesh body, using one of the Bakes on Mesh skins that came with the recent Limited Advanced head group gift from Akeruka:

Looking fabulous for zero Lindens! The Viva mesh body offers many more features on their included superHUD (such as a better selection of alpha sections to choose from, five different fingernail lengths, and three foot height options), which the Kalhene Ariadna body does not have. Here I just picked the shortest nails, in a natural nail colour, to go with this makeup-free look.

One particularly nice feature is the option to alpha out the wrists but not the hands, as I did for this long-sleeved minidress (a gift from Little Fox at the recent Cosmopolitan shopping event anniversary round). Surprisingly few HUDs that come with mesh bodies allow this—even the expensive brand names!

Second Life Bakes on Mesh: Truly a “Second Life” for Your System Avatar Skins and Clothing!

Not too long ago, I wrote a blogpost about how I deal with Vanity Fair’s bloated Second Life inventory of 240,000 items. And I said that one of the reasons I was so loath to part with anything was that they would probably be usable again once Bakes on Mesh was released.

Well, people, that decision is paying off in spades! Bakes on Mesh works beyond my wildest dreams, allowing me to wear system avatar skins, and all my older layer-based clothing that I thought, at best, I would only be able to wear with a system body, my Catwa head, and Slink mesh hands (which gave me a noticeable seam at the wrists, despite my best efforts to match the skin tones). So I rarely wore my old system-layers-and-flexiprim clothing once I switched to a Maitreya Lara mesh body and Catwa Kimberly mesh head a couple of years ago.

But I am having a blast digging old system skins out of my inventory and trying them on my mesh body with the new Bakes on Mesh system! Here I am wearing an old Exodi skin called Isolde Soleil (a hunt gift from many years ago), which I used to love to wear back in my pre-mesh days, along with one of my favourite system layer outfits, a black lace-trimmed gown called Look My Heart by Likka House:

I just love the soft, flowing skirt on this romantic gown, that gently sways as I move! A well-textured, well-weighted flexiprim skirt will always look more natural to me than a more modern rigged mesh skirt. This look is so elegant. Perfect for Frank’s Jazz Club!

The only problem? Well, I look great—if you have a Bakes on Mesh-enabled Second Life viewer. Somebody at Frank’s Jazz Place sent me a picture of what I look like if you haven’t updated your viewer yet:

*sigh* The price we pay for being one of the trendsetters, I guess! Note that both the standard Second Life viewer and the popular Firestorm viewer now have updates that support Bakes on Mesh.

And I want to share with you a great tip I discovered from one of NovataSecondLife’s YouTube videos about Bakes on Mesh for Maitreya: if you have a older system skin that doesn’t look quite right along the fingertips near the nails, there’s a full set of system hand tattoos that you can get for free from a store called League (here’s the exact SLURL):

It’s a package of both hand and foot fixes in a variety of skintones. I just added the Suntan nail base and it matches my Exodi Isolde Soleil system skin perfectly! (I’m usually wearing shoes anyway, so I didn’t bother with the foot fixes.) So if you are going to start wearing your all your old system skins on your mesh body, be sure to pick up this handy kit!

Bakes on Mesh has suddenly give me literally hundreds of skins that I thought I would never be able to wear again! And hundreds of older outfits that I can once again wear on a fully mesh avatar body. It’s literally giving a “second life” (pun intended) to my older inventory!

UPDATE 10:05 p.m.: I wanted to add that Altamura is another mesh avatar body maker which has released a relay for use with Bakes on Mesh (it’s available to Altamura group members for free at this exact SLURL; the Altamura Design/Mesh Avatars group costs L$50 to join):

Please note that Bakes on Mesh will only work with bodies actually purchased from the Altamura store, and not the free versions of the Altamura bodies available at Ajuda SL Brasil, UniHispana Crea, and the freebie store at the London City sim, or that you picked up at various hunts and events in the past. (However, if you were lucky enough to pick up the Romeo and Juliet full-body mesh avatars last Valentine’s Day, those are full versions on which you can use Bakes on Mesh.) Also, you do have to buy and install the Omega system kit on the body before you can use the Bakes on Mesh relay (it’s for sale for L$99 at this exact SLURL).

Altamura has thoughtfully included free male and female skins in the unisex Bakes on Mesh package, so you can test it out right away. This is the Venus female skin on the Altamura Juliet full-body mesh avatar, along with an old system-layers-and-prims dress from PixelDolls (remember them?):

UPDATE Oct. 5th: Here’s another good example of Bakes on Mesh. This is the Altamura Juliet mesh body wearing an older YS&YS Megan system skin. Again, I used the League sunkiss nail base tattoo to fix the fingertips near the nails to match the Megan skin.