getting pretty in #SecondLife

Second Life is a really wonderful game, but it’s not beginner-friendly. This is in no way suitable as a full “starter guide” but as i’ve been trying to help friends start playing, i thought i should probably start writing some of it down.

A friend wanted to use SL more but was having trouble getting the hang of the avatar customization experience. They were already doing a hell of a lot better than I was when I first started:

It’s funny how you can really tell when something is a Second Life screenshot, right? it’s the same as how World of Warcraft really always looks like World of Warcraft. Anyway, this avatar is somewhat dated looking but I feel like we should start with a screenshot of the absolute default female avatar to get more perspective:

that’s a lot worse! My friend already did well to take it from here to there. But I have played Second Life on and off for a decade and a half, so I can naturally take it a bit farther, and easier.

Cost is a real factor, too. The promise I made to them is I could modernize their avatar for under 20 New Zealand dollars (about $13 USD). That translates to a little more than 2,500 “Lindens”, the in-world currency. As it turns out I can do a lot better than 2,500 lindens!

There are three major things that make these avatars look kind of dated, whether the absolute default or the beginner avatar.

  • The body and head sculpts. The absolute default avatar uses the “system body”, which is just a little lumpy and undefined looking and doesn’t have bump mapping or shininess maps. The updated catgirl was using the free Ruth v2 body and head, which is a lot better, but still somewhat flat.
  • The texture work. The skin, hair and eyes are very undetailed and dull looking, and the clothes on the default av are worse. Funnily enough, the default body, Ruth body and the bodies I ended up using can all take the same textures, since they share a UV layout. Even if you can’t update anything else you might be able to update textures.
  • The animations. It’s harder to see in still images, but Second Life newcomers all have the same stiff stance, walk and run. It’s not flattering!

I knew that the body and head sculpts would be my first thing to change since that dictates what kinds of hair and clothes you end up using. Thankfully, there’s a (still updated) list called The FabFree Mesh Body and Head Listing that can help you find free and extremely low cost options. It turns out, Genus (a reliable old head brand for sure) still has one of their really nice heads available for free.

As for bodies, there’s a million of them and they all fit totally different clothes. But if they say “BOM” (baked-on mesh) that means they can all use the exact same skins, so grab all the free ones you can and set up separate outfits using them. For my friend, I grabbed two beloved free bodies from that list, the eBody Classic and eBody Curvy, as well as the Kalhene Erika body, which is currently 50 lindens (and the same group that gives it to you for that price gives you a lot of nice free clothes for it).

As a bonus, the Kalhene Erika body came with a cute skin texture. The Genus Strong head came with eye textures, nice eyebrows and eyelashes.

What about hair? Again, thousands of options. I knew my friend liked the character Gwen from the Spiderverse, and similarly styled hairs would go over really well. My personal favorite hair store is Olive, so I stopped by to check their sales — and found a great short haircut for only 75 lindens, with a full color HUD and fully modifiable! i loooove Olive.

The Helping Haven Gateway (which also hosts plenty of the things on the FabFree list I linked above) has free animation sets that are more than enough to spruce a new avatar up.

So, that’s that. Hair, skin, a good mesh head, animations and several different bodies, ready for clothes shopping. All for under 130 lindens (so we can spend the rest of the budget on clothes if they want to…) In order, here’s the Kalhene Erika, eBody Classic and eBody Curvy: