When you join Second Life you get to choose from a selection of avatars, there used to be a dozen, recently 24 mesh ones were added.
It was about time that the old avatars were replaced by something new and more up to date but I fear that by giving new users 100% mesh avatars, Linden Lab may have made things more complicated for our precious noobs.
Imagine being a new user, you pick one of the avatars, start your Second Life and then you decide you want to change your clothes, or your avatar… and you realise that this is very hard.
A friendly oldtimer gives you some clothes… alas these don’t work on these avatars.
You chat to someone and see their mouth move, you realise your avatar can’t do that.
You visit a sim that has a dress code, you need to change your avatar… but you don’t know how.
Ebbe Altberg explained on Twitter that they had made a mistake with the avatars, they should have mod permissions, so this will be fixed.
But still, a full mesh avatar is something for experienced SL users, not for those who’ve only just started it.
One of the things EVERYONE in SL wants, is to customise their avatar, change hair, skin, shape, etc.
This has now become harder.
Getting the new user experience to be fun, easy and inviting is one of Linden Lab’s main goals, after all, lots of people join SL but only a few hang around, the user retention is not very good.
We should want new users to be able to create an avatar they like and start exploring as soon as possible.
I don’t think these new avatars will help with that.
There might be a better way to help new users start their Second Life.
I’ve written before about using the Second Life website for more phases of the new user experience, such as a tutorial, helping them find a first location to teleport to, etc.
But I also think we should perhaps let new users create their own avatar on the SL website before they even start the SL viewer.
I think that it is very important that new users get to experience SL with an avatar they like, one they created themselves and one that they can bond with.
One that represents who they are or who they want to be, someone they will perhaps would not abandon so quickly and that might keep them in SL a little longer.
Actually relating and starting to care for an avatar is a great experience that enriches your Second Life and it is something that usually doesn’t happen till you’ve been in SL for a while.
Imagine having that feeling from the very beginning!
I would like new users to create their new SL avatar on the SL website just like they can do with countless other games, MMOs and simulation games such as The Sims.
Besides giving you an avatar you will feel closer to than one randomly picked from a small selection, it is also just a lot of fun to do.
If I look at the current avatars on offer, I don’t see any that I fancy, that represents me.
If I joined SL today, I’d start it with an avatar I didn’t like, one that I could easily forget about if I decided to leave SL.
You will never make everyone happy with avatars you’ve created, so let them create their own.
Really, we don’t care if our avatars are not 100% mesh, we can always decide to buy one of those or as many do today, replace parts of our bodies with mesh bits.
Creating, adapting and customising your avatar should be fun and easy.
Look at the game industry to see how they do it and translate that to an avatar builder on the SL website.
If others can do it, so can we.
Let’s have a look at a game that comes very close to Second Life; The Sims 3.
A game I used to enjoy a lot, till I discovered SL.
Creating a ‘Sim’, is a lot of fun.
With big buttons and easy sliders you have a surprising amount of freedom and countless options to make your avatar look the way you want it to.
And all this before you even start the game.
The second you move into your first house, you have already spend some time with your Sim and probably already like him or her.
I think that something that allows new SL users to create their own avatar, even if it is more basic than in the Sims will be better than making them choose from a selection of avatars, no matter how cool they are.
After all, SL is all about freedom and creativity, why not start that experience from the very beginning?
Oh and bring back last names 😉
What do you all think about this idea?
Let me know in the comments.
I want to leave you with this very impressive video of the avatar creation tool from ‘The sims 4‘ that will be released later this year.