I have spent my weekend testing out the new Senra line of mesh starter bodies, Blake and Jamie, which were launched in beta last week. While I think that there is a lot to like about these bodies, my investigation has led me to the following conclusion: that these mesh bodies, while nice in many ways, have a big problem.
But first, I want to talk about what I do like. I really like fact that Linden Lab has, finally, created a mesh starter avatar system that gives new users an out-of-the-box, modern mesh body, with a generous, mix-and-match unisex capsule wardrobe to get them started.
For example, here is my oldest male avatar, Morden Winkler, hanging out at the bar, listening to the music at Fogbound Blues. I used an old Belleza skin called Ewan from my inventory, and if I may say so, he looks damn good for a completely free avatar (an important consideration because, unlike the many options for women, men have relatively few free/inexpensive mesh body choices in Second Life):
The Senra bodies and wardrobes I like; it’s the heads that are giving me conniption fits. Let me explain.
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion, after trying on innumerable older skins on both the Blake and Jamie bodies, that they all have this weirdness to the eyebrow and upper eyelid area, so that any SLUV skin (i.e., any skin based on the standard system avatar mapping) is simply not going to work with these heads.
Morden may look great in still pictures, but watch this 8-second video and see what happens to the eyebrows on this old Belleza skin when he blinks:
You see how his eyebrows get deeper when he blinks? This problem, as near as I can tell, happens with all SLUV skins. It means that the older skins that many of us have in our inventories will be absolutely useless on the Blake and Jamie heads, no matter how much fiddling we do with the eye and eyebrow sliders (and trust and believe, I tried everything!). It’s a problem with the underlying mesh of the Blake and Jamie heads. It’s incompatible with SLUV skins.
I shared this problem on the Second Life Community forums, and someone suggested I try a Bakes on Mesh eyebrow concealer from Izzie’s (exact SLURL; it’s also available on the SL Marketplace), for L$149. It comes in a variety of skin tones to match just about any skin, and they are tintable to match any skin.*
Here’s two pictures showing another old female skin I had in my oldest female avatar’s inventory, the “photorealistic” Bella Snow skin from IC Skins (a store long since vanished from the grid and the Marketplace). The picture on the left is the skin as it looks on the Senra Jamie mesh head (where the eyebrows do move when the avatar blinks). The picture on the right is the same head and skin, using the Izzie’s eyebrow concealer and the Jamie brows, taken from the hair folder in the Senra Jamie package.
You can very clearly see just how much higher up the Jamie brows sit. There is a lot of real estate between the eye and eyebrow, which is fine if that is what you want. But I set the eyebrow height slider to its LOWEST level, and they are still sky-high compared to the regular brows! I’m sorry, but this is a deal-breaker for me.
At this point, it is very clear to me that entire eyebrow/eyelid area area on the Blake AND the Jamie mesh heads is VERY different from the SLUV used on most older skins, and it is therefore unlikely that any will work with the Blake and Jamie heads!
I do consider this a MAJOR problem with the Blake and Jamie heads, and frankly, I’d rather just use one of the free LeLutka heads I picked up at previous Christmases than try to find an old SLUV skin in my inventory that will work with it. It’s extremely disappointing; I was so looking forward to being able to use all the old skins in my avatars’ inventories with these heads.
However, the Senra line of starter mesh avatars will provide an opportunity for creators to make new skins which will work with the Blake and Jamie bodies. But part of me is also hoping that Linden lab is taking the word “beta” seriously, and listening to the feedback from users like me, and are willing to make some changes to these starter mesh avatar heads so that they do work better with older SLUV skins.
Also, please keep in mind that this is an experienced SL user talking here (almost 17 years), and most SL newbies will not be aware of this issue, not have any older skins in their inventories, and be happy enough with the Jamie and Blake bodies as they are, until they decide to upgrade the head and/or body to another brand.
I guess we’ll see, won’t we?
*I did test out the Izzie’s Eyebrow Concealer on the older Belleza skin that Morden Winkler is wearing in the top photo, and unfortunately, it does not completely cover the bottom part of that bushy male eyebrow, so I cannot use it with that skin. It’s a shame, because I really liked it a lot, and wore it a lot, back in the old pre-mesh days.