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Annie Rubanis

Fewer creators and designers than ever

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Hi all,

 

A quick observation and question:  does it seem to anyone else that SL has fewer designers and creators than ever?  I go back about 4 years and can remember when any category had a really wide variety and selection of creators making new items, animations, etc.  Animations are a good example, I love shopping for new stands and other animations for my AO but have found that these creators have seriously dwindled over the years and the ones who are still actively designing and putting out new items do this with less frequency than before.

Am I just imagining this?

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Nope

People got lazy and use those template in masses
Most of the stores i got to sell the same crap, just different texture (mesh-non mesh) and ofcourse alot of old items

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I can't speak authoritively, since LL don't release these metrics.

The bottom fell out of the skills market in SL some years ago, although a few professional creators still exist or have yet to be alienated by the service provider. The shortest answer is that developing skills within SL is no longer considered profitable, though the reasoning behind this is more complex. SL moved quickly from developing world to primarily-stagnant world, and it's difficult to pin-point the cause precisely. My personal opinion is that the money and interest just isn't here anymore; commercial interest in SL has all-but died, and those with the talent have gone to find other, better ways to make money (or learnt more relevant skills). SL has moved on and begun catering to other markets, most of which are not interested in creating.

Further theories include but definitely aren't limited to...

With the improvements both in content quality and content arcitecture in the past year, the barrier-to-entry has raised significantly before the transition from 'uploader' to 'creator' takes place. In short, people need to know more than they did in the past. This is most obvious with mesh of course, but recent bouts of height/offset drama have taken their toll on the animation community also.

There is also reason to assume that the service operators legendary customer service record is causing creators to leave at least as quickly as any natural 'churn' of the creator pool caused by old age, retirement, simple drifting away from the interest or movements to other grids or virtual worlds.

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New people coming to SL have had different aspirations.  When I managed the NCI newbie mall a couple years ago, I was dealing with at least two new creators/sellers per week.  I remember having to re-design the floor to allow for more space. There was even a waiting list. (^_^)

Now, just this past weekend, I closed the mall.  Applications were down to one per month.  And, even then, what few people applied usually didn't even have anything created yet. (._.)

So, yeah, the SL market as a whole has gone past its saturation point and much of what's left is kit or prefab licensed works.  Mind you, that's not a bad thing.  There are people who can make objects but can't texture to save their lives.  There are texture artists who have a tough time wrapping their minds around 3D forms and UV maps.  So the full perms templates and prefab markets do have their place.  (^_^)

Still, I miss all the store updates from the past.  Nowadays I find more stores advertising new discounts on old items than advertising new items. (>_<)

 

 

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You are not imagining it. I think there are at least a couple reasons for this:

1) SL isn't growing, so one cannot use that as a rationalization for the time and effort expended on content creation for sale. You can only hope that SL's dwindling population increasingly consists of people who love to buy things (or that you can compete by growing your skills beyond those of other creators, which I'll address in #2). But I think that's not likely. I don't imagine SL will escape the demographic effects of reduced "immigration".

If fewer new people enter SL (akin to declining birth/immigration rate in RL), the average age of SL residents will drift higher. If you back out health care costs for RL people, spending declines with age. I don't know if the same holds true for SL residents, but it's certainly true for me. The items in my inventory do not wear out, so I've no reason to replace them. So, we have a declining base of customers who are perhaps less likely to buy. That's hardly fertile soil for growing creators.

2) LL forgot Philip Rosedale's vision of SL as a virtual tinker-toy set that anyone could use to build. While we still have basic prims and library textures which allow residents to build in-world with a set of tools and materials common to everyone, the best looking and most resource efficient constructions now require the use of sophisticated out-of-this-world creation tools.  

I think that discourages widespread creation because additional steep learning curves are added to a would-be creator's journey and because creation becomes a largely solo effort. While I'm quite happy to work by myself in quiet, I've also had great fun building in-world in collaboration with others, or teaching them. SL was never easy, but imagine how much more difficult it becomes to teach students when the best tools can't be used (or demonstrated) in-world.

It's ironic to watch the RL excitement over the arrival of affordable 3D printing. Although it's largely hype (as was SL in the early days), not a week goes by without some story in the news about how we'll all soon be able to build amazing things for ourselves, right in our own homes. Meanwhile, as mesh encroaches, it becomes harder (external tools) or more expensive (land impact of prim builds) to make amazing things in SL. On absolute terms, creation in SL is still simpler than in RL, but amazement is a relative thing.   

How odd that "Your world, your imagination" might be easier to obtain from a MakerBot than from Second Life.

ETA: new creators are also in competition with the generosity of older ones who free their creations into the wild when they leave.

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I noticed this difference too. One of the reason could be that making good quality  things in SL is harder now and less people have the skill or time to do it. A few years ago people can just make a skirt by using flexi prims and that would be considered a good quality item but now it takes some knowledge and skill in 3D program to make something that's considered good quality.The other obvious reason is just that there are less active people on SL now compared to a few years ago.

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To all of the above I'd like to add that when I joined SL most everyone was willing to pay for quality.  Now, a high percent of people come into SL and expect everything for free or dirt cheap.  Some of it is the economy bottoming out resulting in people not having the extra cash to spend, but LL has hurt things by marketing SL the way it has. 

LL also shows zero support for creators anymore, other than a few of their favorites. Add to that the fact that inworld search is so borked its almost useless for finding specific items and they have really made the MP a horror show for some merchants with listings showing totally unrelated pictures from other merchants, not getting paid when items are delivered but showing as undelivered on the merchants records, etc.

That doesn't give creators much incentive to make original items that take quite a lot of time to create and that are hard to market. 

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I kinda agree with Freya. I cant speak for high end designers...Im fledging myself..meaning I am not a stellar designer (yet) so I can only tell you why Im starting to move away from SL.

my store is only in the marketplace because owning enough land inworld WITH a reasonable amount of prims is prohibitively expensive. Also, even though 10L seems cheap for an upload, it adds up when you have to constantly upload something you are trying to tweak. Uploading mesh isnt cheap either. Couple upload fees with ever trying to own enough land to build on and its just not profitable. or fun.

So Ive recently gone to another virtual world that IS very affordable.

I have big love for SL because Ive been here (alternate avatar) almost since the beginning. I love the new viewer, the mesh the places to explore and shop...but for my own personal growth as a creator, SL just isnt "it" right now.


because I play in several virtual worlds I can also say a few have left SL altogether and taken a gamble in other worlds. I couldnt say why, but I betting the reasons are similar. 

No one believes they are going to make big money in SL. But these days its almost impossible for most to offset that HUGE 195.00 tier you have to pay to expand and have some actual prims to play with. Especially when there are at least three other "healthy" growing virtual worlds with regions at less than 1/4 the price of a full region in SL.

I keep hoping SL will wake up. But instead of lowering prices to allow more people to own regions of their own, SL has gambled on external advertisers bringing in the money. Im kinda tired of waiting for them to realize to stay on top, you need to actually let the average person have more than what you get with a premium account.

I have a premium account here in SL. But with my recent purchase of a full region, for slightly more than the cost of my premium home and its limited prims,  I'm not sure Ill keep it. I need to be where my desire to expand creatively is actually wanted.

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I agree, but I guess I'm not quite as discouraged as some of the other creators who have posted so far.  I have been in SL for six years and have been creating things from the start.  When people ask me why I stay in SL, one of the first things I say is that I love learning new skills and finding new creative challenges here all the time.  I make things (design clothes, write scripts, create textures ...) because I enjoy it.  Over the years, I have gotten good enough that I can also earn enough to pay my monthly expenses from the income.  That's a lovely side benefit and a secondary motivator, but the fun of meeting a new creative challenge is what really drives me.

Having said that, SL has changed a lot since I arrived here in 2007.  When I began, a novice builder or dress designer could make good products with in-world tools (well, except for the texturing), and people would buy them.  It was easy to be a beginner.  That's not the case any more.  Items made with in-world tools and materials look "nice", but not professional.  Not only that, but Linden Lab's recent emphasis on gaming has brought in a generation of newbies who are accustomed to the look of professionally-made things.  They have less patience with the work of amateurs, and they have little interest in the do-it-yourself side of SL that attracted people like me.  Today's amateur creators are reduced to making nice little art projects or just adding a texture and a splash of color to some real creator's work.

I have no intention of leaving SL.  I have way too much money, effort, and emotional energy invested here, and I see no end to the creative challenges.  I'm having a ball learning to handle mesh, although I have no desire to make rigged mesh until LL finally gets its act together and releases the Deformer.  People still bring me interesting scripting challenges.  The group I work most closely with depends on me for a lot of their creative support.  This is home, and I am still growing with it.  I don't know if I would feel the same way if I were a newbie today, but I'm not.

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IMO it's a normal process for many reasons.

Selling entry-level things and making a profit is a non-starter. Nowadays a creator of any kind needs excellent skills to break even, outstanding skills to make a profit. Look at animations as an example: Who would buy anything other than professional, possibly mocap, animations today?

Then there's market saturation. The market is flush with crap, junk, trash. People who thought SL would be easy money probably have given up by now.

The level of entry has gotten much, much higher. Too high for most hobbyists. With mesh it has now gotten even higher, and materials support will raise that even more.

Last but not least SL is past it's hype. There's things LL could do to freshen up the product, maybe they plan on it, but I don't see that happening. For most people SL is not an option for numerous reasons and it will in its current state never be an option either.

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Annie Rubanis wrote:

Hi all,

 

A quick observation and question:  does it seem to anyone else that SL has fewer designers and creators than ever?  I go back about 4 years and can remember when any category had a really wide variety and selection of creators making new items, animations, etc.  Animations are a good example, I love shopping for new stands and other animations for my AO but have found that these creators have seriously dwindled over the years and the ones who are still actively designing and putting out new items do this with less frequency than before.

Am I just imagining this?

You're seeing basically the same thing that happens in RL all the time. There are far fewer car manufacturers today than there were in 1916; there are far fewer computer manufacturers than there were in 1996 (I remember when Computer Shopper magazine was an inch-and-a-half thick.) The problem is not so much the market being flooded with cheap JUNK, but with cheap GOOD products (not necessarily the best, perhaps, but acceptable.) For various reasons some manufacturers are able to reach a price/quality point that means many of their smaller competitors have to give up.

Personally, I now see no reason to spend more than L$350 or so on an AO because I know a couple of makers whose AO's at that price point are at least as good as the four-figure ones. Same with the old expensive, no-copy furniture. Still, I'm finding good new merchants all the time.

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I've love to see some actual statistics rather than random subjective opinions.  Going to just a small subset of the stores on the Twisted and Steampunk hunts in the last month or so, for instance, I've been freshly blown away by the number and variety of creators out there (and the range of quality, from lolcute to whoa).  And exploring just a few of the sims and large-scale art projects that friends have pointed me at lately (I don't have time to actually look for any myself, I'd never finish!), those things seem to be going strong to.

 

So my subjective opinion is the opposite of these.  It's hard to get objective numbers (what counts as a creator, or a designer?) of course, but I bet at least some of it is that people who've been around for awhile see their old favorites moving on, or changing, or dropping out, and no longer have the behavior patterns that lead to finding new ones...

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I dont think the conversation was about statistics but started with one persons impression and a desire to see what other people thought. Not intended to make anyone's hair stand on end or be anti-SL.

It could easily have become a conversation where folks could pass on the SURLs to their favorite designers and creators. I'm frankly surprised no one has done that. In fact, Im slapping myself up side the head because while I stand by what I said subjectively in my own opinion, I also have a lot of favs here.

that being said...

It is true that there are many creative people with wonderful creations here in SL.

it is also true that many creative people, many of my favorites have one, either left, or two, done what I'm doing, bridging more than one world before deciding which place is more hospitable financially to our creative hopes and dreams.

I dont know how many folks bridge before leaving or deciding to stay.

I personally wish a few more of my favorite hair, shoe and template creators would bridge (not leave) Sl and my new world. Then I could not only have fun in sl, but look just as fabulous in my other world. lol.

All dialog is good. If Lindens are watching, one hopes they take stock of their users subjective opinions. Its not statistics that make you successful, its your customers subjective impressions/beliefs/opinions that do.

I personally and subjectively don't believe Second Life is failing as a business. I do know they are not meeting my needs as a person who wants to expand creatively. For me, the only thing inhibiting my growth is the cost of land ($195 for an SL region vs $15-$60 elsewhere). For others this may not be the case.

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That is a good thought!  I didn't mean to be calling anyone wrong or anything, just reporting my own subjective impressions.

But better to actually provide useful information!  :)  So I will try.

Many, many, of the creators / designers in the Twisted Hunt have really high-quality stuff.  That Hunt is now over, but the merchants are still there!

http://twistedhunt.com/participating-merchants

So there's about 150 to start with.  :)  I personally am a big fan of Sn@tch and ezura Xue and Snow Bound and Grim Bros and the Strawberry Box and probably a dozen others from that particular list.

The Steam 8 hunt also had some amazing stuff; there's a series of good weblog entries showing some of them here:

http://dollysdiary.wordpress.com/category/steam-hunt-8/

In Machinima, I'd suggest looking down the enormous list :) of ones from Nat Randt:

http://www.youtube.com/user/NRandt

and starting with the ones that mention that they are collaborations with Karima Hoisan; great stuff there.

And for great (and modern!) sims to explore, my favorite two weblogs (although there are billions!) are probably:

http://michelehyacinth.wordpress.com/

http://honourmcmillan.wordpress.com/

 

Hope that's at least slightly useful information to people looking for neat new stuff!  By lots and lots of creators and designers.  :)

 

 

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I think one of the issues is that the barrier to entry for creators is much higher than it used to be. Back in the old days (I am the alt of a long-dead avatar) if you arrived in SL with basic, rudimentary Photoshop skills, your learning curve was relatively small in terms of fashion: understanding the avatar mesh, and learning to create and manipulate prims.

That was pretty much it, and if you were good with those few tools, that could take you pretty far. I mean, I still regularly wear a handful of vintage clothing from way back -- old, old Nyte N Day, Simone, Dazzle, Pixel Dolls -- and it held up to the current standard until very recently when mesh arrived and the prim skirt began to be outmoded. (Except skin; old skin does not hold up well!)

Then we got scuplts, and you needed to learn to use Blender or a similar programme. That is a steep learning curve for a casual creator, and there was a goodly amount of attrition. Then we got mesh, and the learning curve got even steeper with even more falloff. 

So basically, it's much much harder to walk into SL these days with some rudimentary skills and grow them organically into a business. You need to arrive with a relatively sophisticated skillset, or go out and invest the time and money in developing one. Absolutely, some people will do that and that's why we have the new creators we have; I just think fewer creators are being asked to do more with a larger skillset for less money than the old days, and I get why that isn't so appealing.

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Has to agree with you, there is absolutely no incentives for creators to create..  Everyone seems to want everything for free, which is well and good for the patron but sucks for the creator who may have to invest money into a creation.   Why should you create things for those who want it all free?

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If people wanted something for free we wouldnt be in second life or any virtual world for that matter.

Smart marketing teases you in with something free or low priced and then hooks you by having something you just have to have at a price you can afford.

Some other worlds are offering incentives to get folks on board and it seems to be working. You can definitely get up and started in places such as Avination, InWorldz and Island Oasis, to name a few, much cheaper than you can with the high cost of SL.

as for the marketplace, smart sellers lure potential shoppers in with a freeie here and there. This brings people into the store and if the quality of the item is high enough, word spreads like wildfire via world of mouth. Purple Moon is a wonderful example of a designer giving free items to group members to say thanks. AND she offers high enough quality for low enough prices its hard not to purchase something else while you are there.

Something for nothing, you betcha. Its the best lure a marketing professional can use to get you to buy. 

Unfortunately SL isnt as smart about this as the creator of Purple Moon.

You gotta give to get. not simply charge the highest rates because you believe you have the market over a barrel.

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Alicia Sautereau wrote:

Nope

People got lazy and use those template in masses

Most of the stores i got to sell the same crap, just different texture (mesh-non mesh) and ofcourse alot of old items

+1. Pretty much took the words out of my mouth.

Fact: 99%+ of the mesh stuff you see on marketplace are made from kits. Some of these "creators" are trying to be funny by selling their no mod/no trans retextures for higher prices than the original full perm kit. Lol.

I vouch for a new rule on marketplace, all creator kit (mesh or not) sellers must force their resellers to explicit state in product description that "this item was made from a creators kit", otherwise they can apply to get their product removed.

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Annie Rubanis wrote:

Hi all,

 

A quick observation and question:  does it seem to anyone else that SL has fewer designers and creators than ever?  I go back about 4 years and can remember when any category had a really wide variety and selection of creators making new items, animations, etc.  Animations are a good example, I love shopping for new stands and other animations for my AO but have found that these creators have seriously dwindled over the years and the ones who are still actively designing and putting out new items do this with less frequency than before.

Am I just imagining this?

In the 8 years i have been in Sl, i have seen many many stores come and go. The ones that are still around are the ones that care for their customers and put out new items, usually on a weekly basis.

As to animations, they are better now than ever before.  Motion capture animations  are extremely lifelike. The few shops i follow put out a new set weekly. I have spoken with the creators and it takes about a week to get ONE new animation done, with all the re-shoots and editing. Perhaps you need to find new stores to shop at.

As to the template argument that has been thrown about. Clothing has to have something to start from, a template is just a base to add your own designs to. Seeing as how hard it is for some old school designers to learn to make mesh clothing, the templates are a way for them to continue to compete in the market. Just like RL, clothing is all about the textures, patterns and fabric, for lack of a better term.

Personally I feel the ending of the magic boxes will cut some of the business in a box chaff from the MP. At least i hope it will.

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One of the big problems for creators is pirating. An example of this is in the car making market. Someone started passing around full perm Pm scripts and within a couple of months the market went from a handful of creators to hundreds. Prices dropped drastically, if you wanted to sell something you had to slash prices dramatically.. That raised your overhead to the point it just wasn't worth creating cars anymore.  The same with skins and copy bot. People copy bot the skin templates, they sell the skins for 100 lindens. Why would someone spend the immense amount of time creating new skin templates to make skins when someone is going to steal it, then sell it for 1000 times less than the person who made it? They're not. That's what common users don't realize, we are not going to spend a month working on new items to have it stolen and reintroduced as someone else's creation within days of releasing it. Another big issue is freebies and people living in other areas of the world where the dollar is worth significantly more. Say I live in south America where someone can live comfortably on less than 100 dollars a month. If I sell a skin for 100 linden, it's like a 1000 to a euro or someone living in North America.. This really creates an unequal playing field that people just don't want to deal with anymore. Almost all the female skins are created off the same templates, I haven't seen an original one in quite awhile. same stuff by different creators at extremely different prices. Sl as an economy is over, to much competition, to much content theft and an unequal playing field is driving the talented people off, and I cant say I blame them.

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another issue is the fact that people feel entitled to a freebie. I shuldn't even have to argue why someone should be allowed to have a hunt item for 1L. Yes that may mean you can't afford it to bad so sad move on. You're not entitled to something for nothing. It's a gift to you from the creator. One they aren't required to give. I personally can't really sell anything if it doesn't cost 1L unless its a mod and that's because it's a smaller compitition market. So I think that says a lot really.

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I agree with most of it. As much as the mesh has made so many more styles possible where the old ways just couldn't do some things it has made many of the designers limited. If you don't know how to make mesh in the out of world programs your at the mercy of the styles the ones that do know how will provides as builders kits. These vary in price so much it is ridiculous by the way. If a designer pays too much for one of these kits they will end up taking huge losses upon themselves just to have the item. The more affordable ones end up flooding the market. Just because one costs less than anther it doesn't mean it is less quality. I have seen some very expensive things that were garbage and some very well priced ones that are great. The ones that are affordable and really good end up in all the stores. An issue with using these kits  comes in the form of the customer complaints. If I'm at the mercy of the kit makers designs quality and sizing it can be very frustrating when a customer complains, slamming your work when the issue itself is in the mesh kit item itself. Not all of the kit sellers even offer demos and some charge up to 10L for these. Why should we have to pay for a demo of an item just to find out if it is faulty and not want to put it on our shelves for our customers to complain about. Once we buy the item, if we couldn't get a demo we are kind of stuck with it and if we don't offer it for sale we have to absorb the cost loss. 

Having to use all these out of world programs isn't only an issue due to only some creators knowing how to use them but the longer the creators have to be out of world learning these programs and spending the extra more complicated time making things in them... the less time they are spending in world. Places that used to be busy are now ghost towns. The amount of new people coming in and asking how to "play this game" or wanting to learn about building on their first day has dwindled to almost nothing. Maybe the labs are still getting new accounts but it seems to me most of those are alts that have the knowledge already and not actually new potentially paying customers and or creators.

The more population and merchant activity in sl the better off the labs are. It would benefit them greatly to give the build/edit/system cloth creation a huge overhaul to make more shapes etc possible. Even when people were using sculpt as the new great thing someone made it possible to do some types of that in world using their expensive tool. They would build the item with prims and stick it in the machine to have it morph to a sculpt. This way people that didn't know the out of world programs could still be part of the new direction of building. I cant see why something cant be put into the program or made available by the labs for creator purposes that allows someone to make a mesh in world.. yes even a rigged mesh. I don think it should be auto installed in every viewer download but could be an add on feature that the designers could go into advanced or something to activate. Id luv to be able to make my own mesh designs but between learning the free program that is very order of operations specific and very annoying... plus doing the uploads to find out that all that work i did something wrong and the textures don't work or half of it is invisible etc... well its not worth the time and frustration. I would be out of world working my butt off for one small item that would make me next to no lindens and id be lucky if it covered its upload costs at all and having to neglect my in world friends, store and business connections since id be too busy in the 3D program. 

I suggest to the labs to look into some of the RL fashion manufacturing's pattern making programs (there are some affordable (I probably am not allowed to name) that the labs could get some framework ideas on how it should be done. These programs have the designer make flat pattern pieces with points where they get seamed together and shows the 3D model of how the pattern would look if sewn up. Yes draping, naturally created wrinkles and all. (not fit wrinkles unless you make the pattern piece and attach instructions to create that). 

A huge advantage of having these capabilities in world is that the rigging would be correct as it would be based on the LL avi mesh and for the designers.. no upload and we could see what needs tweaking right away.


It's possible that in world programing like this may open up the design possibility again for those of us that don't know how to use programs designed for making video games and animated feature films. Its for sure it would give the designers back their communication and customer relations that gets neglected being logged out for creating so many hours of our sl dedicated time.

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TishaRogue wrote:

A huge advantage of having these capabilities in world is that the rigging would be correct as it would be based on the LL avi mesh and for the designers.. no upload and we could see what needs tweaking right away.

 

I can understand your frustration however, an item rigged to the default avatar will not always look good, rarely does in fact.  It usually needs some (or a lot) of manual weight painting and individual vertex editing.

Also, don't forget that there isn't really a default mesh shape at all, there are several standard SL avatars and everyone is a different shape, we're all based off the LL avatar mesh!

Now if LL added in the already functioning deformer..but that's another topic altogether.

I can't see LL putting any effort whatsoever into implementing this though as you're basically asking them to recreate a tool such as blender and since that's already free, there's really no ROI on their effort to add anything into the viewer.

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