Pet Me, Hold Me, Anyway You Love Me

Interactions were not always possible

 Solcar Amat

When they were introduced, the VKC® Dogs had no animations that allowed avatars to pet them. Enrico Genosse, the visionary of virtual dogs, did the first round of animations but he neither enjoyed the process nor was he particularly pleased by the results. Sandry Logan was well on the way to creating the first successful animations for petting the dogs, but they never reached the market because at about that time the Linden Lab software broke gestures for a while. By the time gestures were functional again, Mr. Genosse had added a protective bubble around the dogs, to reduce problems related to collisions, and the avatar no longer could get close enough to the dogs. He placed this bubble as a workaround to prevent a glitch that occasionally would cause the dogs, in the early days, to crash a sim. 

Solcar Amat came to Turing Isle one day and, as usual, all the dogs came bounding up to him, sniffing and greeting. “I was physically afraid,” he recalls. “These objects all moved toward me. Never in SL had anything friendly approached me in this way.” Overcoming his initial reaction quickly, he immediately fell in love with the Chihuahua and the Doberman. As he continued to visit the Dog Park, “the big, ugly gray dog” always would come up to to Mr. Amat and follow him around. Slowly, he came to love, and eventually adopted, his first dog, the Newfoundland he named Pepe. 

Mr. Amat was so impressed that the dogs could hear and understand and learn tricks. As he read the manual and worked with Pepe daily, playing with him over and over, it became emotionally difficult to put the dog back into inventory. “Those pixels were no longer pixels,” he observed, reflecting an experience common to most owners of VKC Dogs. “They were flesh and feelings.” He yearned for a way to demonstrate his feelings toward his dog. 

One day, Miss Logan mentioned making animations and demonstrated a gesture for him. The seeds of a career took root and sprouted that day. Solcar learned to be an animator. Once he began to feel good about his animations, he showed them to Enrico. 

The meeting between the two men quickly lead to an alliance. Mr. Amat began creating animations, first for the Australian Shepherd, next for the Chow Chow. These first animations were 14 seconds long, each second of finished animation representing hours of behind-the-scenes, tedious work. Most of the animations for the VKC Dogs are now 29 seconds long, the upper limit that SL places on animations. Each animation is lovingly and thoughtfully crafted for the particular breed. 

“I spent time watching them to find out what animation the dogs wanted,” Solcar said in describing the process of creation. “I would wake up in the middle of the night [and realize] I know how to do it!” Now avatars can clap their hands, move in close, kneel down beside the dog to caress, tickle or hug it. 

Creating the animations in which the avatar hugs the dog is the most difficult. Mr. Amat must create movements that work with many different sizes of avatars, being careful that the avatar’s hands, for example, do not penetrate the dog in a way that looks unnatural.

Of course, the movement of the avatar is but one half of a successful animation. Look carefully at the dog when petting it. You will see the dog moves in response to the avatar’s attentions. Some lean toward the avatar. Others hold out their paw, or playfully show their belly.

With the release of the pathfinding pets, there is now a choice of three different animations for each animal: stroke, scratch, and hug. These are owner-only commands.

Setpet is the command that changes the petting animation. You have three options: strokescratch and hug.

For example:

fido setpet hug

We will leave you to work out which is which!

Recently, Mr. Amat was caught on camera as he was making petting animations for the VKC Puppies. He graciously agreed to allow us to post these behind-the-scenes candid photographs here for you. You will notice how he is hard at work at all hours of the day and night, and in all kinds of weather. Obviously, animating puppies or any VKC Pet does not require a lot of heavy lifting, but the work requires plenty of creativity and a lot of concentration. He moves that manikin, fondly known as Grandpa, step by tiny step to create the motions for the avatar during the petting animation and he poses the puppy as well. Peeking into the little tent, we see his sleeping bag has not been slept in. Occasionally, one of his own VKC Pets comes to check on him, hoping that Mr. Amat will take a play break, but to no avail. ❧

Petting the VKC Siberian Husky

Petting the VKC Bichon Frise

Petting the VKC Golden Retriever

Petting the VKC Chihuahua

Petting the VKC Wolf

Petting the VKC Doberman

Petting the VKC German Shepherd

Petting the VKC Great Dane

Petting the VKC Jack Russell Terrier

Petting the VKC Labrador

Petting the VKC Mutt, Widget

Petting the VKC Polar Bear Cub

Petting the VKC Dachshunds

Petting the VKC Portuguese Water Dog

Petting the VKC Rottweiler