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!

UPDATED! 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). Here is the image used to illustrate that Marketplace listing, which I do not think shows off the body in its best light:

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?

UPDATE June 10th, 2020: I have taken a second look at the Viva mesh body, and you can see what I did with it, paired with an Akeruka Bento mesh head, here. I am quite pleased with the results! (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.)

The Viva mesh body paired with the Lulu Bento mesh head by Akeruka