Hi Alphas and HF developers!
This is my first post here and as a Second Life user since 2006 and owner of a quite known fashion store there, I would like to start a discussion about avatar customization and fashion in virtual worlds. These subjects are, in my opinion, very important pillars of any want-to-be-successful social virtual world. Not only because of the user experience but also for the business and commerce side.
Why do I think that? Because almost all users want to be unique, different from other avatars and a very important way to express this is through fashion and customization. This simple fact makes clothing and avatar customization accessories the most sold items in Second Life, creating a big and strong economy and a huge incentive for content creators to bring more and more content into the virtual world, filling it with a diversity and richness which at the same time attracts new users as they see tons of cool and different content to buy and through which express their personality.
I remember my first years in Second Life. There were no sculpts, no mesh. Only texture clothing applied over the avatar UV and native prim accessories. Even with such a primitive state of things, you could shop in many stores and combine all your items quite easy. This was really cool but sadly it didn’t look too modern compared with contemporary games graphics. Enter sculpted prims. Clothing looked so much better. You could combine sculpts and texture clothing giving things a more realistic look, but then it started to become a bit more difficult to match things from different stores. Enter mesh. Clothing and avatars now could look really cool and realistic, but at a very high cost. It became almost impossible to match items from different stores. You could buy a great looking jacket, but forget to use that t-shirt you loved under it. Not to mention mesh avatars. They might look great but won’t work with almost any clothing items.
This is very bad for the fashion business and in consequence for the virtual world itself. People gets very frustrated, specially newbies. They enter the virtual world, see a lot of very cool content, buy an awesome jacket somewhere then a very realistic shirt somewhere else, only to find they can’t wear them together, even using a “standard” human body shape. They ask the store owner “hey, your shirt gets through my jacket, how can I wear both correctly?” and sadly, you have to tell your customer “I’m sorry. You just can’t.” and then start explaining them (in case you have time and patience to do this with a lot of new customers) about mesh limitations, rigging issues, standard and not so standard sizes and so on. I can tell that most people will think it 100 times before buying something after such an experience. Sometimes you can’t even use a shirt and a jacket from the same store! Not even some boots and a jean. Fitted mesh tried to solve this but was not quite successful. Im quickly touching the surface of the topic because I don’t want to bother you with all the problems of clothing and customization SL have right now.
So, enter High Fidelity and I ask myself: A new virtual world, a new chance to make things right from the beginning. A chance to make a more realistic world, where you can buy stuff in any store and combine it at your pleasure. A world were you can modify your avatar to your liking without having to worry about making most of your inventory useless. Will HF stand against this challenge? Will they value these issues as important as I think they are?
I know we are at an alpha stage, but so far, from what I see. This is not happening. Full mesh avatars (clothing and body combined in a single file) even with attachments, are definitely not the way to go. Full mesh avatars could work if you want to be a robot or a dragon. But there should be something better if you want to be a simple human.
What would I like? In my imagination, I dream of something like Mixamo Fuse (https://www.mixamo.com/fuse) but in-world. A standard where I can change my face, skin, combine layers of mesh clothing and while modifying all the avatar body values clothing would follow deforming with my body. No matter if im a bit overweight, if i have big breasts. No worries. Clothing will adapt and look great or almost great.
I could endlessly and carelessly shop anywhere knowing that at least most of the items will work on me.
I could develop things that everyone could try on themselves.
I’m not a programmer. Don’t know how to develop such a thing, but I think I’m speaking in behalf of a lot of people here. This is what most poeple want.
I think if HF gets to solve this somehow, a very bright future will follow. It will attract content creators and shoppers like never before.
What do you guys think?