Friday, 17 January 2014

SL: My first steps in Second Life

It is a special moment that you all know: the first time you enter a different virtual game, or more broadly said, world. There is this feeling of feeling lost, not knowing what or how to do things, but there's also this feeling of wonder, a feeling that will slowly fade as you get familiar with the world, until you take everything you see for granted.

Vanessa allowed me to experience this moment once more, by inviting me over to the wondrous world of Second Life (in short: SL). Before I got to know Vanessa, I only vaguely knew something of Second Life. I only remembered that the newspapers were writing about it when it was new: something about how it was all about fashion and that the big brands were all trying to get in. And that it probably was just a hype. Others told me they thought it was all about sex.

Reading the stories of all the pleasantly crazy people over at iRez, I decided it had to be more. And as one of the contributing authors of the iRez blog, I was invited to participate in the New Year's picture... in Second Life.

Who oh who is the real Rav? Vanessa kept mimicking me!

When I logged in with my character, I thank the heathen gods Vanessa was there to carry me around. As a gamer, I usually find my way on the keyboard pretty quickly, but Second Life was very different and not very intuitive. Luckily Vanessa was willing to listen to me panic on voice chat and give me useful directions.

Shopping is big in Second Life. The incentive is present right at the start, as you can choose a pre-made character out of a handful. No body sliders, no colour options, nothing. And they are all super ugly. If you want to change what you look like, you have to buy the changes at shops and add them to your character. There are shops for everything: clothes, hairstyles, skins... even ears and eyes!

I wanted to look a bit like an elf for the picture, so we ported to a shop I had found that could provide a dress in the right style (picture above). Vanessa gave me loads of money so that I could afford whatever I wanted. Did I tell you guys already that she's awesome?

Just before, we had spent five hours (no exaggeration, it was literally five hours) on finding the Elvish hairstyle that we're wearing on the picture. And all that time, Vanessa put up with me, it was pretty amazing. The worst part had yet to come, though.

In order to change your face, you could buy "skins". We spent some time looking at posters of faces on walls. I thought that if you would buy one of these, you would ending up looking exactly like the person on the wall. But that wasn't the case. Then I thought it meant you just bought the skin tone, but that wasn't the case either. I didn't really understand Vanessa's explanation but I picked one that looked different but worked anyway.

I think I've worked it out now. I think the skins form a combination between what you already look like and what's in the skin when you attach it to your character. I'm not sure why it works this way, but maybe it is meant to ensure everyone gets a unique face. Very complicated, either way!

This dress reminds me of the Festive Azure Party Dress that I like to wear in LotRO. Very elfy!

After we were done, we rested and talked a bit in Vanessa's amazing lighthouse. It had super hot chairs and looked very surreal. You could even fly to the roof and make weird poses (see the top picture), which we of course did. Because we could, or something, I think.

Now I was ready for the big photoshoot with the other iRez authors... or was I? I'll write about my continuing adventures in the next post.


  1. That sounds like quite the experience! So lucky to have a patient guide in what seems to be a very...confusing sort of world. Teleporting around and shopping for faces and hair, oh my. It's almost enough to make me curious about SL and give it a try...almost. I don't think I could put up with that level of customization.

    But seeing those shops does remind me of how SL has also become a marketplace for people who create their own digital content - like the skins and clothes and all - to become successful. Too bad I'm not a graphics person, otherwise I might try to recruit you and Vanessa to be models for the latest "Dresses by Dan"! ;)

    1. I'm really astonished by what people create as well. I'm was tempted to dive into it and make nice clothes myself if I was going to spend more time there. We should totally open "Dresses by Dan & Rav"! ;-)

  2. Aww, Rav! It was so great to have you visit! There actually *are* body sliders, we just never got around to them. I think I gave you a copy of my shape, which I think you modded some. A "shape" is essentially a file of body slider settings on about 80 axes: height, body fat, etc... but also length of earlobes, distance between eyebrows, etc. So, a "Shape" is an avatar mesh. "Skin" is a 2D map that gets stretched over your shape. You can paint your own skin in Photoshop and amazing peeps like Eloh Eliot have made highly detailed (zillion photoshop layers) open source PSD skin files that you can use and mod as you like. You could just change something like lip color, or you could paint yourself blue, as I did here:

    And yes, Rav, you and Dan could totally open your own clothing shop. Although the stakes have kind of upped over the years. In the beginning, clothes were "system clothes" which were essentially 2D textures stretched on top of your skin. There's been various new media over the years, and today most clothing is "Mesh". The earlier clothing is pretty much all made "In SL" except for the textures done in something like Photoshop. But mesh clothing tends to be designed in a program like Maya, 3DSM, Blender, etc, and then imported into SL. Mesh is often A LOT better. Except for dancing where older "Flexi Prims" are nice because of the way they move. So today the successful couturier had to have pretty decent 3D modeling chops. (or buy one of the many "templates" available and simply "texturize" it to your own style.


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