A Matter Of Scale
Or… “You’ve all got it wrong, god damn it”
There has been a debate regarding height and scale in SL (Second Life) for as long as I have been a resident – which is going on four and a half years now. On the scale side there are several issues. Some people simply cannot build and so create items (houses, accessories, furniture, etc.) that are simply not to scale with anything. The follow-cam method of viewing the world requires that buildings be upscaled so that when standing in a relatively small room your camera view is not outside the wall behind your avatar – this makes properly scaled furniture look truly bizarre and toy-sized when placed in such rooms. Worst of all, the matter of ego – avatars are grossly overscaled (as much as eight feet tall) simply to satisfy the desire to be tall and impressive (with the obvious side effect that others upscale their OWN avatar to ‘fit in’ to the seeming average and to seem appropriately sized, even if they’re not trying to be large and impressive).
Scale, however, is a decidedly tricky business, because – in a nutshell – everyone has it WRONG.
Take a close look at the image above – this shows my avatar scaled to my exact real life height, matched to the inworld prim measuring system (as in – create a prim, make it the correct height, and scale the avatar to match) – which is 6’3″ (1.905m). This was no mean feat, and took a great deal of tinkering with the shape editing system.
Now we get to the problems.
First of all, according to the shape editing system itself, I am ridiculously short – on the extreme low side of what is presented as average. Why do I say this? Because of the ‘height’ slider in the shape editing. According to that slider – my height is a 20 on a scale of a possible 100, where the preset average is 50. In real life I am still considered somewhat tall (although the average height in North America is catching up to me, and I’m not as tall-seeming as I was twenty years ago). But still – 20?? Let’s have a look at a comparison, shall we?
According to the height adjustment slider, the shortest I can be with all other settings intact is 1.87m (6’1.5″), while the average I would be is 2.05m (6’8″ ffs!!). Never mind the maximum. Obviously this is completely ridiculous and creates a completely false sense of scale in newcomers editing their avatars for the first time.
Be that as it may, it’s still not really the worst problem. Far worse is the complete inaccuracy of every available measuring system (save the aforementioned create a prim and go by straight visual comparison method).
Look again at the first image – note the three prims, their corresponding heights, and the key at the bottom.
There are two basic methods of determining your avatar’s height inworld – one is to use a scripted height finder of some sort (the red prim corresponds to this method), the second is to go by what the viewer itself ‘oh so helpfully’ tells you (the blue prim corresponds to this).
As you can plainly see – they’re both completely wrong.
According to the scripted height-finder, I am 5’10” tall – a full 5″ (nearly half a foot, or 7%) too short.
But according to the viewer, I’m 6’6″ – 3″ (4%) too tall.
Hell, even by averaging the two it still comes out wrong – 6’2″ – but at least that’s closer.
In short, unless you have a specific height in mind and are willing to create a prim, scale it properly, and tinker with your avatar until it’s perfect – there’s really no way to accurately know your actual avatar’s height, or easily set it to something comfortable or realistic.
So to quote Lewis Black (and you’ll have to imagine the frenzied outrage here), I say to both Linden Lab and all third-party viewers teams – “FIX IT!!!”
Here is a simple but graphic illustration of the further scale problems in SL.
The red prim in the picture below is a standard 10x10m square. For most house builders, this is a modest-sized (if not small) room. Yes, a single room – 10m square – slightly more than 30 feet to a side. Beneath it is a perfectly accurately scaled floorplan of what is considered a small but reasonably-sized two-bedroom apartment in real life. Note that I do not seem out of proportion to this – and yet due to the factors I mentioned above, actually building such a floorplan to correct scale would make the result seem incredibly tiny and cramped. The follow-cam would make even walking around this perfectly reasonably sized dwelling utterly impossible.