More than a pretty face?


SL Skin More Than Just Faces?

Second Life is a great place to spend time, there is no doubt. It offers things we just cant get in real life. The social, recreational, educational exploits are endless. And an interesting economy thrives in this virtual world. However, there is a very dark downside to elements of the SL economy. Buyers can literally be deceived due to perceptions that exist in real life but not in SL. In the real world we are conditioned to believe that the higher the price, the better the quality of our purchases. And this makes sense when we understand what goes into the making of a product. Better quality fabric, wine, etc. The cost is higher to bring that type of quality to the customer. Second Life is not this way. Merchants can get their product on the SL market very easily. And in many ways, the buyer is at the mercy of trusting that the seller has released a high quality, fairly priced product, with good customer service to back it. Unfortunately it is just not always so. Don’t misunderstand, there are excellent merchants out there in SL, who go far and above in quality and price. But there are many more who don’t. The above illustration is a comparison of faces. You would be shocked to know the prices of each of the 5 skins used in our comparison. They ranged from Ruby Skins free “Rachel” (far left) to other popular skins priced up to L$1200 in our examples. We used the same Ruby shape for all skins in the examples, same pose and lighting. Please note, the higher priced skins only include one skin and no shape. We saw prices at L$3000 or more for fat packs with various makeups and again they did not include a shape. You will find single modifiable shapes in SL averaging around L$800. As always, our photos are not retouched, but we did try to obscure the name of the skin on those with demo marks. Click the photo for enlargement and then “see full size” for an even larger view. Slower internet connections may load the examples more slowly.

The SL market is flooded with clothing and skins. Skins are good examples to prove our point.  The look one chooses  is highly important in SL. SL culture is built around this much more than in RL because it is so easy to change it and make it the way we want it to be. So in choosing a skin and shape there are endless possibilities. However, if the buyer desires something that is proportioned and modeled after real life, buyer beware. Deception is rampant not only in the product but in the marketing of it. Graphic tools such as “Photoshop” are absolutely astonishing in how they can be used, both for good and bad. They can deceive the buyer into believing that the product marketed is what they will receive. Unfortunately with skins and clothing, the skinmaker should spend as much time using Photoshop on the product itself to produce a goal of  beautiful, flawless product instead of mocking up the ad, retouching imperfections and deceiving the buyer.

An inspection and comparison of quality and price is quite a lesson for those who care to try it. Skin prices are unbelievable and often do not match the quality. No doubt, much time is put into a good quality skin and shape. However the product should speak for itself, no matter what quality of graphics the buyers computer has. There is no excuse to charge high prices for seams, grainy quality, cartoonish, garish looks and the other “sins of skins” that are easily found in SL. Feet are a good example of detail. Feet are difficult to recreate to look natural. The folds and pixelation are incredibly hard to paint. Here you see one skinmaker who decided to leave a foot without any texture at all! (center)

We pay a lot of attention to bodies in RL. No less important in SL. 3D recreation of the subtle things that make for a beautiful body are important in a good skin. Click to enlarge the above picture, and I hope you can see the comparison of bodies here and notice the seams on the sides of some of these skins, below the breasts down to the waists. Seams appear as a faint line, a demarkation of where textures meet. Quality skins will not have seams or have very few and only in difficult to “reach” places like inner thighs.

The head is another enigma. Often, the scalp is found to have no texture at all or the seam was not blended out where the face meets the scalp. It is clearly seen here, in one of the more expensive skins (4th skin from left). It is difficult to find a good bald ladies skin that has head with true texture.

Beautiful bottoms are very important in SL. They come in all shapes and sizes, often highlighted with shiny hineys. But look just above the cheeks and often you will find a distinct seam, dividing the lower half of the body from the upper half. Many times the skin is created to look best from a distance, and not close up.

Creating realistic shapes is an art in SL. Though many new users of SL prefer  to create their own shapes, often it is easy to end up with a mis-proportioned body. To attain a shape that is as real life as possible, the creator has to work with the limitations that SL offers. The avatar body options are quite limited.

Here are a number of ladies shapes. Well, we think the first shape is more like a hybrid alien. :) Unfortunately that shape came with one of the most expensive skins we sampled. It clearly stands out among the others as odd. 3rd from the left is a free Ruby shape.  Even larger shapes can be well done in good proportion, as the end shape on the right. Men’s shapes are no different. The need for good balance and proportion is essential.

Shape number one is somewhat better than its lady counterpart, but not by much. Even when attempting a shape outside of the norm, large or small, it can be a challenge to end up with something that appears natural.

As you can see, obtaining a good looking shape and skin for a fair price in SL can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Especially when most merchants are there to make a profit. Though it is true, a few truely hope for the buyer to have a great product for a low price. Check for yourself and shop wisely. Look for reputable merchants who have good customer service. Inspect demos closely. Compare prices. Ask questions if there are issues. A truely good merchant wants a happy customer and will go out of their way to ensure it. And beware of comments or reviews left on products. Often positive reviews are left by the creator themselves or an alt of the creator. And negative comments are often left by a competitor, so judge for yourself by acquiring and inspecting a demo if one is available.

I do hope you haven’t paid too much for your favorite skin and shape. If you did, don’t feel like you have to wear it just because you bought it. That only advertises a bad product. Find a product that is worthy to be worn by you!

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