You may have noticed recently that LL – creators of Second Life – added some new avatars available for selection to new users and for everyone else in their Library folder (check your inventory!)
The design brief was simple, create 6 werewolf avatars based on ‘the modern werewolf’ that people see commonly in recent hit TV shows and movies. Since the recent release of mesh import ability to Second Life, I was given the all clear to create these avatars as mesh – a first for LL’s starter avatars!
As usual with anything for new users, I need to keep things somewhat simple and quick to load. The avatars had to be low poly enough so that the new user wouldn’t be left staring at a blank space where there avatar should be, but at least decent enough quality to show what is possible in SL.
Below is an animated .GIF to show the steps of development the quad werewolf went through along with a brief description. You can click the image for a bigger view.
I hadn’t modeled a wolf before, so this was a nice challenge. The good news is that I wasn’t modeling a strict wolf, this would be a stylised wolf to give it more of a ‘werewolf’ appearance. I gave the head exaggurated features including a high brow, larger eyes and in general a more imposing, threatening head. Blood helped! My first step was to find a nice side reference I could use as a modelling guide. Once I had roughed in the body I focused on the head.
I knew in advance that I would have the mouth open somewhat on the wolf, so to make sure I had proper teeth placement I superimposed the skull of a wolf onto the base background image, from there it was a snap to build in the proper teeth positions. I quite often start with the bone for mouths (like with my zombie) and then build the flesh on top of them, in this case the wolf’s lips came last.
One thing I really wanted to do was have the jaw rigged separately from the head to allow a realistic open/close look (see left). While this is technically possible, it would require very strict control of the head through animations and somewhat limits what movements are possible. One thing LL really wanted was a howling animation, which would have made this kind of rigging technique infeasible since the head and neck would have to tilt backwards to complete the howl.
I could have gone with the route pre-mesh furries in SL use with a separate prim attachment for the jaw, but that would have really ruined the whole effect of using mesh for the avatar. Maybe in the future we will get custom bone rigs so that jaws could easily be animated properly.
After the quad werewolf I focused on a bipedal version (see right). The development of the biped werewolf was helped greatly by the fact I had just modeled the wolf head, which I then distorted and extended, sharpening the features and making it much more monster like. For the body, again I had help with a similar body I had made in the past for a different project. I added more definition and musculature to this body and blended it with the newly morphed wolf head model.
The bipedal werewolf was very fun to build though I ran into some issues with a mane that I had planned in the design stage, which would be large and run down the spine of the avatar. In Maya, the mane looked decent enough, using an alpha layer and polygons that layered over each other as they stuck out from the werewolf’s back. However, in SL the alpha rendering didn’t work so well for rigged mesh objects (see below).
That was a real shame, but without the alpha texture there was still a reasonable sense of depth to the mane. I could of course have gone crazy with lots of flexi prims or adding tons of polygonal strands, but again this needed to be a low poly and fast loading avatar!
This is not the first time I have created avatars for LL as part of the new user registration page and in the Library folders. You can read about the previous avatar release here.
To try these avatars for yourself, simply log into Second Life and check your inventory. Library > Clothing > Initial Outfits.
Interested in hiring me to create your perfect avatar? See my services page!