I’m off the Grid few for a few days, working away from home, and I come back to find that in my absence Linden Lab have only gone and announced one of the biggest and best innovations to hit the Grid since mesh came along! What’s worse is that I certainly didn’t see it coming!
Project Bento, (I’d love to know the back story behind that name), if you haven’t come across it – perhaps you’ve been lost in the Amazon jungle or something – will give SL avatars more bones… Significantly more. What that means in simple terms, is that content creators are going to have way more points on the avatar skeleton that mesh can be rigged to. In even simpler terms, it means we can have avatars that depart from the standard two arms, two legs, one head and scripted tail, opening up the possibilities of a virtual bestiary of animated mesh critters for SL residents to dress up as.
More exciting for me is the news that we’re going to get a shed load of extra bones in the hands and face – for the first time ever the SL avatar enters the realm of fully articulated mesh hands and fingers, and mesh faces capable of real animation and expression without any tiresome and messy mucking about with morphing. Even I might consider mesh body bits now, and that’s a huge change of heart, as far as I’m concerned!
What has surprised me the most is that this was an improvement that all those ‘in the know’ or with any sort of technical leaning, (myself included), were categorically stating simply would never happen, yet here it is on the immediate horizon, despite all the odds. As changes to SL avatars go, it really doesn’t get much bigger and it’s been at the top of the wish list for every mesh creator since day one.
It’ll be interesting to see how the creator community reacts to the news… There’s been plenty of dissent and hand-wringing recently where a lot of people have managed to get their knickers in a twist over project Sansar. The strong likelihood that we won’t be able to transfer our inventories into the new platform has seen a fair number of creators vociferously proclaiming that they won’t be making anything new for SL, because it’s a pointless exercise. However, Project Bento is something of a game-changer: To begin with, it breathes a whole new life into the avatar, potentially building years more viability into what was a rather outdated model. Then there’s a whole untapped market out there, just begging to be exploited – in a commercial sense, it could be huge. And let’s not underestimate the psychological impact this innovation will have upon the SL user base – it can only serve to build general confidence in the Lab, and in a continued future for SL, whereas there always has been a certain cynicism from many on that particular front.
I’m well aware that there will be the usual doom-mongers and naysayers who see any improvement to SL as a sign of impending disaster, but seriously, it really is about time that those people got themselves a real life, because we sure as hell could do without them in the virtual one!
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a massive high on which the Lab can end a year which has been marked throughout by innovation, development, improvements, good communication and the occasional curve-ball surprise – in fact, it’s been a great year all round, and I for one can’t wait to see what’s coming next!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get a couple of extra arms fitted and a decent set of flexible fingers and opposable thumbs… And then the fun is really going to begin?!
Skeleton we have been friends for years
And you have seen me through some trials
And tribulations and some tears
But everybody thinks I’m weird
Kate Nash – Skeleton Song