Current edition: Vol.9, No.1, January 2006

Active Worlds News

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Improved Avatars
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Mystery Location
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AWEC Update
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New Things for Avatars

Courtesy of Stacee

This article is going to be about avatars again. Seems there is a lot of interest out there about avatars, how to make them, how to use them, how to make seqs for them. Avatars are enough to cover probably about 2 years worth of Newsletter articles, so here we go with some more info. By the way, I figure I should throw in here that if anyone out there has a question that they'd like to see answered in this Newsletter about any modeling topic, please send it my way, at For now, let's get on with avatars.

Now, for anyone that doesn't want to know about 4.1....PLEASE, read no further! That's right, there are going to be a few small 4.1 spoilers in this article, so if you want to be thoroughly surprised, don't read this article.

Years back now, tags 32-42 were added into the list of usable tags for avatars, but it was soon discovered that these new tags didn't work. When work was started on 4.1, this issue was addressed, and the tags were finally fixed to work in 3.6, and an additional set was added to work in 4.1. Therefore here is the list:

(New to 4.1)

Note a number of the new tags seem strange ones to add for avatars, since they deal so much with the face area....skinned
avatars will take advantage of a lot of these tags. But there are a few of these new tags I do want to talk about ....particularly the ones that deal with the eyes.

Many would agree that eyes are very expressive on a person. In AW, there has been a slow evolution of the eyes. First there eyes. Then we graduated to painted eyes. Someone got clever and made blinking avatars by way of an animated seqs for the face. And eventually we moved to avatars that had blinking eyes by way of sequence-animated eyelids. We now come to the next level of expressive eyes, and it's incredible...eyes that actually MOVE where you are looking. You've heard of autowalk for the avatar.dat that modulates an avatar's walking to look more normal. Welcome to Autolook. This command for 4.1 is going to make it so an avatar will actually turn in the direction it's looking from the waist up....and this includes the eyes. So time to whip out these new avatar tags and make awesome use of them.

Something that really hasn't been done before is to give avatars separate eye pieces, or eyeballs. There really was never any need to before. Making them is easy enough, a round sphere with an eyeball texture mapped on. Now note that on the side view, we can see that it's only a half-sphere. By chopping the eyeball in half like that, you save on polygons (faces), and the less polygons, the better...cuts down on lag. Each eye is only 51 polygons, and no one will see the back of the eye, so flat is just fine. The axis for the eyeball is marked in green...should be in the middle of the eye, but lined up with the flat back. Let's use the new tags on these and mark them respectively aw_rteye and aw_lfeye (tags 37 and 38).

Now, what about the head. You could possibly delete the polygons where the eye used to be painted on the head and then just let the eye show up behind there, but this creates a problem....the inside of the avatar's head is invisible, so you will see the eye but on the spaces around the eye you will see right through the avatars head into open space. Will look freaky. A better option would be to do like the picture above. On the texture for the head, I blanked out the eyes so it looks like they have none...just the whites of the eyes. Then I indented the vertices from the eye areas back into the head. Picture taking your fingers and poking the eye areas on a clay head back into the head...that's what we're doing on the head model.

Then it's a trick of lining up the eyes and making sure they look normal. Note the eyeballs overlap the indented eye sockets, this is just what you want. It might take a bit of playing around with the eye socket areas and some eyeball resizing, but when it's done, it should look something like the picture above.

And again, avatars that blink look much more alive then those that don't. So we'll add some eyelids. These eyelids were made from the eyeball objects but elongated to fit over them when they blink. I should have chopped them in half, because again, the back half never comes out of the one sees them, and that saves on polygons. Have to go back and do that.The axis for the eyelids is marked in green. I made the eyelash pieces separate but you don't necessarily have to. You could make it part of the texture. We'll take advantage of the new tags for 4.1 and name the eyelids aw_rtlid and aw_lflid (tag 45 and 46).

Okay, how to glue these. Note in the picture at the beginning when we were making the eyeballs, that there is a green cube behind the eye. Remember those from the last lesson? This is our hierarchy end. One behind each eyeball. Click on one of the eyeballs, then click on Glue as Child, and click on the cube behind it. Repeat with other eye. For the eyelids, since I made a separate eyelash piece, I can use that in place of a cube. So I click on an eyelid, Glue as Child, and then click on the eyelash piece. Repeat for the other eyelid. Then I click on the head. Hit Glue as child, click on the cube inside the head, click Glue as Sibling, and hit one eye, second eye, one eyelid, second eyelid, and finally the hair (if any). Whallah, head is read to be glued to neck.

One last thing that we have to take into consideration is that cobdump3 doesn't know how to convert some of the newer tags
for avatars. Hopefully, that will be updated with the release of 4.1. In the meantime, you can do it manually in the rwx. Go near the bottom where it puts the clumps into hierarchies. Look for any named parts that don't have "Tag x" above the "ProtoInstance aw_namepart" and then place the appropriate tag number in, like the example below:

Translate 0.003 -0.81778 -0.064001
Tag 45
ProtoInstance aw_rtlid
ProtoInstance _51

Okay, you now have an avatar that's ready to use in 4.1 with the new Autolook command, as well as the new blinking seqs made
for the new tags, like this handsome guy below.


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