A stripper that struts with such good skin

Would ya look at her? What I want to know is, why can’t I get my Second Life avatar to have an appearance like that? I mean, photorealistically speaking. The obvious answer is, different clients: the redhead above was rendered with DreamStripper, created by Ensign Games, versus the redhead that is my alter ego (Cheri Horton) inside Second Life.

Cheri’s a looker, it’s true. But she’s much more toonish in appearance, like other Second Life avatars tend to be, whereas Ensign Games’ erotic dancer is a lot more evocative of a real babe, in the face, particularly. I just hope that one day, within a reasonable time frame, the Second Life user — myself included, obviously, — will be able to whip up an avatar as uncanny as the voluptuous incarnation you see above without having to possess any sort of extensive knowledge of custom-tailoring skins. After all, I’m a user. I want to hit the ground running and not have to pull my hair out trying to create something that will help me suspend disbelief during virtual world interaction — particularly when engaging in 3D cybersex.

If you take a much closer look at the DreamStripper photo shown above, as well as this one here, you’ll notice how much more polished the depiction of the human form is compared with the more primitive-looking synthetic beings inside Second Life — based on what I’ve seen, anyway. Aside from the more precise portrayal of the face, take special note of the vividness of the stomach, the lifelikeness of the knees, and the relatively convincing impression given by the hands. In fact, the hands and the feet of Second Life avatars are what seem to be in need of the most improvement.

Still, despite all of its points in the visually-true-to-life department, where DreamStripper falls short is when its avatar bends at the limbs and joints, as you can see here. Additionally, SL has a big benefit over DreamStripper in that it gives users the advantage of creating avatars that resemble nearly anything or anyone their heart desires. In other words, to a large degree, users are ideally not confined to a certain mold, as is the case with DreamStripper (as far as I know, since I have never actually played DreamStripper.)

Enter CryoGen

At any rate, one Second Life resident who may be able to help her fellow users overcome flawed digital embodiments is skin-maker Michelle Margetts, shown above. Michelle, who says she created her own avatar to be a facsimile of her real-life self, is the founder, owner and operator of the CryoGen Lab Cloning Facility on the Makkeolli sim, coordinates 44,242,54.

Michelle, who hails from Denmark in real life, sells photorealistic skins inside her 19,456-square-meter Second Life business. She has already reproduced the likenesses of a number of Hollywood stars, and now is beginning to concentrate her efforts on trying to digitally duplicate SL residents’ real-life appearances.

“At CryoGen Lab, we always try to give you the best and most diverse skins in SL,” Michelle tells would-be customers on a promotional note card she makes available inside her business. “Therefore, we are now offering a new product line called: CryoGen ‘Unique You’ Skin. This skin will be custom built based on you! Yes… YOU…! With a picture of your ‘Real Self,’ we can recreate a 3D texture for your SL Avatar. All we need is a high quality picture of your face.”

Not only are her Photoshop-rendered skins closer to real life than what may be achievable by the average in-world consumer who tinkers and endlessly tweaks with Second Life’s avatar customization tools, but they also offer a largely unprecedented element of uniqueness, given the fact that they are fashioned based on users’ real-life appearances — theoretically guaranteeing that no two avatars will be the same.

As of now, there are numerous clones inhabiting Second Life, due to the fact that countless users have comparatively limited knowledge as far as custom-tailoring their standard-issue avatars, and lots of users merely purchase mass-produced, pre-fabricated skins when they want to enhance the usability and image of their in-world personae.

Skin TemplateStill, that said, I believe there are still limitations on how real you can make an avatar appear in Second Life’s virtual world. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m guessing that may be partially because of the nature of the platform itself, as well as any shortcomings in Second Life skin templates, such as the ones depicted in the photo at left. Maybe there’s even a need for more highly-skilled skin creators. Again, I know none of this for sure, and I certainly lack any semblance of technical expertise in this area. I am merely offering commentary from the perspective of a user — and one who happens to demand greater immersion from the virtual world I inhabit.

Second Life Photorealism set posted on Flickr.


  1. Comment by Cinomed Tweak on May 1, 2006 1:31 pm

    Hmmm, you have to remember, SL went live halfway through 2003, almost three years old now.
    It is still the only place to offer so much custom content as well.

    One can only hope someone is working on a Second Life with a new graphics and file system… eventually these griefers will kill the Second Life grid.

  2. Comment by Andrea Fryer on May 7, 2006 4:11 am

    I just recently started SL and have been struggling with the same issue. Naturally the first thing I did in the game was try and find hair, skin and clothes to make my avatar feel more like me, but I wasn’t satisfied with any of the skins I found, so I ended up making my own - which - was my first attempt at making a skin. As with Michelle, the goal is to make the avatar look like myself (only better heheh), for after having roleplayed imaginary characters in so many previous MMOGs, now I wanted to try a hand at actually representing myself - having a “second life” in this game.

    Here you can see images of me:


    And here you can see images of my avatar in her current state. There is still much work and tweaking to be done, but I’m getting there. My mission is to make her look like me, but “perfectioned” to how I’d really like to look - you know, perfect body, perfectly fitting clothes, a smaller nose etc.:


    In this folder, just for comparison, there are also images of how far I was able to get in making a character looking like myself with just the default skins and hair as well. As one can see, I didn’t get far. *grins*

    But getting back to your original question: How? As a digital artist, and one who has now dabbled with the art of making a skin, well as you can see in the comparison between default and skinned, you can do amazing things with a new skin alone.

    What I believe may be the worst hinderance in SL for nice looking avatars is the lighting, which is very sterile and unnatural. If the world was lit with several sources containing the natural tints (for instance, usually the light coming from above on a sunny day is warm, whilst the light “bouncing” up from the ground is cold, bluish or purple), things would look a whole lot better. Not only avatars, but everything in general. Another factor is anti-alias. Once our computers and connections become fast enough, we’ll be able to have anti-aliasing in 3D online worlds, which softens all those rigid edges you see. This is used in many first player games already and works fine because the data is not going over the net and thus, everything can be fancier.

    - Andrea

  3. Comment by Noche on May 7, 2006 2:12 pm

    Andrea: What an illuminating and helpful comment this is. Thanks! The second part of your reply was especially interesting. As far as the lighting, you’re not the first person to mention that to me, and I’d like to develop a better understanding of that issue from a technical standpoint, and then share that knowledge with readers. I would love to do an interview about it with you for this blog, if that’s something you might want to do. If you want, e-mail me about it and I can think out some questions. (nochekandora at yahoo dot com)

    Anyway, there are certain moments in Second Life when the lighting is generally better and more ‘flattering’ than others. I think those times coincide with sunrise and sunset inside the virtual world.

    PS - Sorry your comment took a while to publish. I didn’t realize you made it. My blog automatically withholds comments for moderation if they contain two or more links, just as a preventative measure against spam.

    And nice job on your avatar so far!

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