While checking the Second Life map the other night I noticed 2 clusters of Samsung islands - 4 named "Samsung Matrix", and eight more simply called "Samsung". It was one of those frustrating nights when everything seemed to be shut - and these islands were no exception. However, I will tell you what I know.
My previous post touched on the work South Korean builders, Acid Crebiz, have done for LG CNS and while I was checking out the builders' website I noticed they had also listed Samsung in their portfolio. Unfortunately they have not yet posted any further information about the build, but I am fairly certain these islands are the result. The "Samsung Matrix" ones look particularly interesting in this map view:
Hopefully, if I ever manage to harmonise time zones with Acid Crebiz, I will be able to obtain more information on these sims. But for the meantime, the above "satellite map view" will have to suffice.
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
While checking the Second Life map the other night I noticed 2 clusters of Samsung islands - 4 named "Samsung Matrix", and eight more simply called "Samsung". It was one of those frustrating nights when everything seemed to be shut - and these islands were no exception. However, I will tell you what I know.
It can be an odd pasttime, rambling among the islands of Second Life. Some nights it seems you can get in everywhere, and you are left with a bewildering array of sites (sights?) to write about. Other nights it seems like almost everything is closed, and you are left with just a few scraps. Last night was one on those nights for me. After a lot of failed attempts, the closest I got to something worth bringing to your attention is this: LG CNS. The reason I am so downbeat about it is not the quality of the build but the fact that, even though I could access the island, I could not actually get in to the building illustrated below.
But first - a bit about the company. LG CNS, based in South Korea but now with a global presence, is an IT consulting and services company, affiliated to the giant LG Corporation. They have the largest market share in the Korean IT service market and employ around 7,300 people in Asia, Europe and the USA. Their presence in Second Life is being developed by the first (and as far as I know, only) Korean Second Life development company: Acid Crebiz.
The presence itself currently consists of a single, largely featureless sim, at the centre of which sits an office block. Although I could get to the sim, I was not able to enter the office block. However, it is possible to arrange visits, provided you make contact with Tory Noel. The block itself is OK, but nothing particularly stands out. It would be interesting to see inside, as I have been impressed with Acid Crebiz in the past - but that will have to wait for another day. Anyway, here's a few snaps to be going on with:
I just received the following, from Kiwini Oe of Clear Ink, as a comment on my recent post about The Office in Second Life. Rather than leave it there, where few might stumble upon it, I thought I should post it so that more people get a chance to read it:
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." I don't know how many times in my marketing career I've been asked to conjure up a successful viral campaign on the spot. But, it's like trying to be cool: if you have to say you are, you probably aren't, and if you try to plan a viral success like you would an ad campaign, it probably won't happen. It's difficult to predict ahead of time when it will happen, but when it does, you'll find a good deal of preparation had something to do with it. You are right: we were happily surprised by the extent of the response to "The Office" in Second Life, but because of the preparation applied to this opportunity, the in-world response was what we had hoped for, and then some.
The producers of "The Office" entrusted us with authenticity and doing the right thing in Second Life, so we knew that a few things had to happen. First, Dwight and Jim would need last names off of the standard SL list, just like every other new resident. We could have requested custom names from Linden Lab to match the characters in the show, but those would not have been available to the "real" Dwight Schrute or Jim Halpert. The producers gave us this kind of creative control from the start. We knew that Dwight and Jim would need groups so that they could have their titles ("Asst to Regional Mgr", "Philly Sports Writer"). Dwight would need a profile that would accurately portray his perfect first life, and Jim, his idealized Second Life. The producers knew that authenticity would also come from locales in Second Life, so location scouting was a big part of what we did. The three sets that we built (out of the eight scenes that we shot) were based on a respectful and creative knowledge of "The Office" character and lore.
We knew that using real Second Life names meant that these avatars would not live forever in isolation from the Second Life community. As soon as NBC released publicity stills that showed "Dwight Shelford," the Second Life community had their first point of contact, and it never really stopped. Daily care was taken to preserve and protect the character and personality of Dwight's avatar in that balance between being an empty one-shot avatar and being an over-exposed puppet. We applied the same standards and treatment to the other avatars that were created to add depth to the in-world group. The profiles were detailed because we knew that experienced SL'ers would dig deeper once NBC began to publicize the upcoming episode. (We live in a world where people truly believe TV characters are real, and now given this second degree of separation from reality, we made it clear that these were avatars created for the show; it was not really Dwight Schrute--how could it be?--or the actor Rainn Wilson.) Yet with actual Second Life avatars, fans felt the right amount of connection.
The IM's and friendship requests received before the show gave us an indication of what the reaction might be on Thursday night, and they started pouring in even before the first commercial break. As members of the Second Life community, we knew that there had to be someplace in-world to go after the show. Avatar-fans of The Office were able to bring their real life enthusiasm for the show into a familiar virtual setting, which we provided on our "back lot".
We felt an obligation to be true to two very passionate communities: to the fan base of a popular TV show and to those who identify Second Life as their community. Our project was better informed as we felt a kinship with both communities and it is gratifying to be a catalyst for the overlap between the two. Much of the credit for the preparation and success of this goes to TROI Timtam, both for her attention to detail as well as for her (literally) careful approach to knowing and doing what had to be done.
On a closing note: although there are the inevitable comparisons between CSI:NY and "The Office" in SL, they were two very different endeavors. I know how hard we worked in a short period of time on "The Office" in SL. The scale of effort on CSI:NY, both on television and in-world, was a different order of magnitude, and the Electric Sheep are to be congratulated for their concept and execution of it. (I donned my Second Life Mentor title last Wednesday night to help in-world and to be part of that phenomenon.)
It will be up to the producers of "The Office" to decide if or how they want to proceed in Second Life. I don’t know where this is all going, but for now, it's great to be part of it.
Thanks, Kiwini, for what I found to be a fascinating insight.
Monday, 29 October 2007
After my giddy romp across the world of entertainment over the last week or so, it seemed a good point to seek out something gentler and more spiritually nourishing. I therefore took myself off to a monastery for some quiet contemplation. Well... it sounds good, but in truth a good friend suggested I should go along to see this: the virtual Basilica (and monastery) of San Franceso D'Assisi. The real world monastery, along with the lower and upper churches, date back to the first half of the 13th Century, and are decorated with frescoes by Cimabue and Giotto, parts of which were damaged in an earthquake in 1997, which also killed 4 unfortunates. A more complete description of this world heritage site, with some excellent photos, can be found here. Keep those photos in mind, as you might want to compare them with the ones below! The Second Life site for Assisi is supported by an informative website.
I don't want to dwell too long on this, so I will cut to the chase and let you get a good look first (don't forget - you can click on the images to get larger versions).
Outside (Note there is a visitors' guide HUD):
The Upper Church:
The Lower Church and Crypt:
On arrival this place doesn't look that impressive. There's a number of tourism-related websites and a large gateway, the other side of which lies the basilica and monastery (friary?) complex. You can pick up a HUD here, to provide you with a guided tour. As I passed through the gateway I thought that the external textures were OK, but tending to the bland side. I got no real sense of substance from them.
However, it is when you enter the basilica that it suddenly gets very interesting. You move from the relative blandness of the exterior stonework to the sumptuous, beautifully reproduced interior, with its frescoes, arches and stained glass windows. I hope the pictures above give at least some sense of this. If you click on the various frescoes notices appear, telling you a little about the paintings.
The richness and depth of the build continues downstairs, in the lower church and, below that, the Crypt of Saint Francis. I understand it is a faithful reproduction of the real world building, in all its complexity - and one heck of an achievement.
This is a really interesting build - and well worth the visit, if only to gawp at the many wonderful frescoes. Sure, it's even better visiting the real thing (it's 20 years since I was there) - but we can't all do that. So take the green, energy-efficient, low-emissions route, and visit Assisi in Second Life.
Sunday, 28 October 2007
Almost - but deliberately, not quite - slipping under the radar into Second Life this week was the hit US TV comedy: The Office. Based on the UK version, but reworked for an American (and indeed worldwide) audience, The Office purports to chart the fortunes of a small, struggling stationery company through the eyes of a fly-on-the-wall documentary team. Unlike most such remakes, this has been a critical success on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the latest episode, Local Ad, we discover that Dwight Schrute, the "Assistant to the Regional Manager", has an avatar in Second Life. Here is a link to YouTube, with a short clip - sadly a longer clip seems to have been removed. The NBC website makes only passing reference to Second Life in the episode description, and it is left to the viewer to discover more if he or she is sufficiently intrigued.
And this is where it starts to get really interesting. If you start digging you quickly find that the dalliance with Second Life goes far beyond a one minute slot in one episode. Dwight had already intimated that he had, in effect, replicated his first life in Second Life, so much so that he had even created an inworld game called Second Second Life. It turns out that all of this is "true." You can search for Dwight's avatar, Dwight Shelford, and check out his profile. You will find this is detailed and complete. For example he list his talents as "Avid traditional corn husk doll maker; beet sculpture; recorder player". A little more digging will reveal the avatar names for other members of the cast. However, to save you the virtual legwork, you can find all you need to know here, a fans' community journal.
This leads to another clue - the existence of a Dunder Mifflin Second Life group (our motto: Paper for a Paperless World), which you are free to join. Again, this is played deadpan - with little indication that this is anything other than a company group. If you check out the group notices, you will find reference to the after-show party - and crucially this is where I found the location of the virtual set. I won't spoil it for you by telling you where it is. If you are that interested you will find it yourself. As a taster, here's the pictures I took:
And some desktops:
When I joined the group, about 12 hours ago, there were 362 members. I have just checked, and this has now increased to 487. I know this is not meteoric, but you need to bear in mind that this is the effect of word of mouth - no advertising whatsoever. Furthermore, a lot of the folks I met at the Dunder Mifflin office and other locations, were newcomers trying out Second Life because of what they saw on the show.
The office itself is, I understand, a fairly faithful reproduction of the one in "real life." This is where things get even more subtle and ambivalent. Is this office the work of the fictional Dwight, and therefore itself a fictional virtual entity?? Or is it just a set, like any other except for being in a virtual world, used in the making of the TV show? The best I can come up with is: it is a bit like schrodinger's cat - existing as both a fiction and a tv stage until you actually look at it!
A note of encouragement for fans: in the "locations" notecard that I picked up it is clear the Second Life will feature in more episodes. And unlike another TV show in Second Life, there is no attempt to treat the Dunder Mifflin offices as some kind of walled garden. The notecard leads you to a recreation of ancient Babylon, where oddly enough you will find Dwight's Second Second Life. It also indicates that a future episode will take in the busy, popular and slightly salty Amsterdam sim. Closer to the office, there's a recreation of Troy's Tavern, where you can help yourself to free drinks and play pool or poker. For the freeloader, other freebies include a range of T-shirts.
The build has been done by TROI TimTam of Clear Ink, who have made only a short announcement on their Clear Night Sky website. And these are not dumb people when it comes to marketing and understanding how to apply Second Life. The website suggests a low-key, quick build - but I am impressed with the detail that has been put in to the profiles. Dwight and his co-workers come across as real people with Second Life avatars.
So what to make of this? I described this as a viral approach to Second Life for the following reasons: First, the word is spreading by personal recommendation through chats, IM and blogs. Second, it has depth - your digging is rewarded with new, often hilarious discoveries. And this means you can feel like you are contributing to the story, "adding value". I would like to think I am doing that through this post.
The result is a ripple effect, spreading wider and wider, and luring more and more people. It might not bust the Second Life ceiling - but the newcomers I met seemed already in tune with what SL was about and looking forward to discovering more. I hope this post may encourage more to take a look. Pssst... pass it on.
Saturday, 27 October 2007
A few days ago I read an announcement that Wipro Technologies, one of the giants of Information Technology in India - and, by logical extension, the world - had launched an Innovation Isle in Second Life. If you work in IT and by some strange chance have not heard of Wipro then trust me, you will. They, like the other Indian mega-IT companies, are heading your way. If you're lucky you may still have a job at the end of it. The rampant success of companies like Wipro has led the "Western" IT companies, like IBM, Accenture and Capgemini to respond with massive ramp-up of staff in India. Now Wipro has become the first major Indian IT services company to launch in Second Life.
I have to say, I don't really like the build - and that's not just because my RL job might be at stake! Here are some pictures first, so you can see what I mean:
The island has everything you might expect - and more. There's a learning centre, a cafe, a recruitment station and many other buildings, including "administration" and "security." There's a large open "pit" for less formal meetings, and there's even a volley ball court. So on the plus side, they've squeezed a lot in. On the downside, it is all rather messy - there is little coherence between the various buildings and much of the interior work is weak, with clashing textures and odd blends of pre-built and bespoke built elements that are jarring to my eye. It seems to be a place in search of an identity and a style. At the moment it lacks both.
It is clearly not quite ready yet - when you click on many parts of the build you are prompted to select options from a builder's toolkit! So perhaps it will discover its style in due course. But for now I think it is not a great example of a public corporate site (standards can be a lot lower when only your own staff are going to see the place!).
Last night, after posting the IIR piece, I joined my friend and fellow blogger ugotrade (Tara5 Oh in Second Life). She was just back from a conference in London, and was wanting to see what she'd missed in Second Life over the last week. I suggested she might want to form her own opinions on the CSI:NY islands, and found her the busiest orientation site I could - with around 12 peoeple on it. As is her way, she was soon deeply enmeshed, interviewing and assisting newcomers. It was around this point that I joined her - and found the next hour or 2 oddly illuminating.
In broad terms, here are my observations:
- The number of active CSI:NY sims has been slashed to around 100. The remainder are showing as offline, though I assume they can be brought back if demand indicates a need.
- Across the 100 sims, numbers of avatars fluctuated from 1 or 2, up to 10 or 12. If I was to take a wild stab in the dark and assume 5 to 7 on average per sim, this would yield the number using CSI:NY at any one time to be around 500-700.
- The flow through the orientation sim seemed fairly constant. Over the time I was there I would reckon we saw a new face once every couple of minutes. Call it 30 an hour. Assuming all 50 open orientations were running at this pace would suggest around 1500 new registrations per hour, or around 35-40,000 a day. Mercifully short of the 3000/minute that Linden Lab were looking at.
- When I arrived there was a helper present. However, at some point she had to go elsewhere, leaving newcomers with no official welcome personal help. I don't know how many sims have helpers, but maybe it's not enough.
- Newcomers were confused about the interface - and it took several goes to get them using "chat." I have visions of people sat in front of their computer screens, screaming: "Help! What am I supposed to do?"
- People seemed to be unaware that they were on an orientation island - and not in The Game proper. I spent a long time near the outbound teleport, explaining how to use it and why. This, despite there being a huge billboard telling you exactly what to do. I don't know why this was going wrong, but it was. My guess is the description may be too perfunctory.
- People were usually totally unaware that there was a whole virtual world out there. For example, one guy thought he had seen it all on a previous trip. When told there were thousands of places to visit, and he had seen just 3, it was like a revelation. Where in this whole build is the existence of the rest of Second Life acknowledged? Or rudimentary assistance provided in reaching it?
- People did tend to blunder about - perfecting walking in SL takes some practice - but more importantly were often confused. To repeat the question posed above, I heard this several times: "Help! What am I supposed to do?"
- For a while I was using the Classic viewer, but the lag got so awful I thought I would switch to OnRez. A good decision, since OnRez performed far better, without the 10 or 20 second timeouts I sometimes get with the LL viewer.
UPDATE: The 3000/min figure comes from 2 sources. One, a friend who acts as an orientation mentor, and received this figure during a mentors' meeting with Glenn Linden. The other is from here, which purports to be the notecard issued by Linden Lab.
Friday, 26 October 2007
Not much of a posting, this one. Last night, while perusing the Second Life map I happened upon the sim: IIR NY HQ. Now, when I see initials - especially initials like "NY" and "HQ" - I think it has to be worth a visit. The island belongs to the Institute for International Research, and is still under construction. However, enough of it exists to give the flavour of the place.
The IIR mission is "to facilitate the growth and advancement of our core client-partners by supplying the optimum business solutions, at the right time and in the right format - so that their goals can be surpassed and unique marketplace challenges overcome." Ummm... yeah... right. Could some kind soul strip away the MBAspeak and tell me what they do?
Never mind... you might be interested in this though. In mid-August IIR announced plans to organize, promote, and run events in Second Life. Their aim is to launch officially into Second Life in November at the inaugural conference on Managing Virtual Distance, and featuring a certain Mr Phil Rosedale.
The build itself is far from complete - so it is not fair to critique it. But here are some snaps to be going on with:
As the hubbub starts to subside on the whole CSI:NY thing, I thought I would record some of the stuff that’s been rattling around in my head over the last few days.
My first reaction when I read all the hullabaloo coming out of the Virtual Worlds Conference was: “Meh.” However, folks with a far keener interest and knowledge of the entertainment and media industry were at pains to assure me that this was groundbreaking stuff, and that is was “game changing.” I thought I should wait and see. The impression given was that this represented a real leap forward in the pursuit of convergent media, and is the way of the Future. To quote Mr Zuiker, proud owner of the CSI franchise: “What’s the future of television? It is as follows: TV, online, mobile, and gaming.”
As for Linden Lab, CEO Phil Rosedale’s take, as quoted at Ugotrade was: “I think it is a great project. We don’t look for traffic for Second Life in general we more look for opportunities to present Second Life to people in a more obvious way to people who don’t understand it, or haven’t experienced it.”
So… a major leap in convergent media – and good exposure for Linden Lab. What could possibly go wrong?
The big risk we all knew about was grid overload, but so far (touch wood) this has not happened, in part because the invasion of newcomers simply has not happened on anything like the anticipated scale.
However, what I think has gone wrong is, frankly, the whole shebang. What I’ve noted, rather than a magical blending and blurring of the lines between reality and virtuality, is simply the co-opting of Second Life to act as a games platform. A role for which it is particularly inappropriate – and for which CSI has no need, since such platforms exist already. Now, I’m not trying to be precious about SL here. In the whole wide metaverse there is clearly a large need for entertainment and, indeed, for gaming. But to be blunt, Second Life cannot offer the level of gameplay that seasoned gamers have good reason to expect.
And this leads to my next point. TV is an illusion, where it is necessary to tweak reality (and in this case, virtuality) in the interests of entertainment. CSI was not out to make a documentary about Second Life, and was bound to present it in a way designed to extract the maximum entertainment value. And this has led to 2 basic lies. First, that the Second Life virtual world is smooth, fast and beautifully detailed. This would be fine if newcomers weren’t then invited to come and try it out. The gulf between the TV version and the horribly laggy, grey, slow-rezzing virtuality cannot, to my mind, be called “good exposure for Second Life”. The second lie is that Second Life is a sleazy game, populated by players. This lie was not necessary to the plot, and is the one with which I have the single biggest issue.
In common with many of the readers of this blog, I spend a great deal of time in Real Life extolling the features and benefits of Second Life and virtual worlds in general. Through this one piece of unnecessary scripting I feel like I’ve been thrown back a year in my own evangelising efforts; back to the days of: “Second Life? It’s just a game isn’t it? Full of sleazeballs and geeks.” Again, how this view of Second Life can be viewed as “good exposure” I am at a loss to explain. This might also explain the less-than-impressive uptake of new accounts.
On a lighter note – I was tempted to call this piece: CISCO:NY. As I have mentioned previously, the grossly over-the-top “Ciscofication” was – to me at least – a complete turn-off.
I think Linden Lab have done themselves no favours here. It is not true that “all publicity is good publicity.” I am dismayed at the short-termism shown by
Telecommunications companies have been drifting into Second Life for some time now - and yesterday I got to visit the latest of these: Orange. The company history is somewhat convoluted, but it was acquired as the mobile phone (cellphone) arm of French communications giant, France Telecom, in 2001. Since 2006 it has taken a broader role, as the global brand in front of many of the parent company's services - in particular, internet.
The Second Life build has been carried out by the talented bunch at Metaversatility - a company who's name I always have difficulty typing. It spans 2 sims, but only one of these, Orange 1, is currently fully developed. There are zones for music and photography, with chillout'n'chat areas for each - and from the start Orange intend to engage with and build their customers here. A schedule of events is already being finalised, presumably using the large stage area (shown below). There are more zones than this, but in my haste (and tiredness) I did not record them all. In fact, it is impressive how much has been squeezed in to the sim.
As you walk around the island you will find a rather fine sound sculpture. It's hard to miss as it blocks your path - though it is "phantom", allowing you to walk right into it. Now this, in fact, is my only quibble with the build. The sculpture is dramatic and effective, but seems out of place and in the way. I'm sure a lot of thought went into its location, but for me at least, it seems wrong.
The overall build quality is, as I would have expected, very good, with subtle use of scripts to control textures. Orange's branding must have posed some interesting challenges, since it is basically black and orange - not necessarily the easiest colour combination on the eye. Metaversatility have done a great job, even down to the careful selection of the (fixed) time of day to squeeze out the maximum amount of orange from the available sky settings. Anyway, enough of such ramblings - here's the pictures:
The sound sculpture and chill areas:
The stage and meeting areas:
I had intended to write more, but frankly it very late when I toured the island and I did not take in much of the detail. One thing I do remember, though, is you can opt to tootle around the island by hang glider. As with most vehicles in Second Life my prowess with the glider is best overlooked - but you might enjoy it.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
I'd be among the first to admit that asset management is not exactly a huge turn-on, but despite this I thought I should introduce you to Nikko am, whose English-language webpage includes the rather jarring strapline "global expertise, Japanese execution." While out on my regular rambles tonight - all spruced up with my fancy, new OnRez viewer - I happened upon their month-old sim in Second Life. Before I go any further, though, I should point you at their Japanese website, which is rather more relevant in that it actually shares motifs with their Second Life presence.
A bit of digging turned up this press release, in which they talk about using new media - including Second Life - as a way of talking with customers about opportunities for investment. The build itself falls into 3 zones: the game; the office block and the stage. It is my assumption that the notion of "the nest egg" seems to transcend cultural boundaries, as the game zone seems to be a matter of collecting as many chicks (feathered, that is) as possible before your time runs out. I think, though I'm not entirely sure, that if you hit the target you get a prize. I certainly seemed to hit the target and did receive something - I've just not yet checked out what it might be! If you don't fancy that, then there is a range of freebie T-shirts to peruse.
The office zone is nicely rendered and, as is the norm for Japanese companies, is full of cutesy-pie anime. Inside, the office is sub-divided to give you information on specific aspects of the company's portfolio of offerings. Here you will find the only piece of English in the place, which to my British eyes clearly states that nothing available on the site is available in the UK. On the uppermost floor is a boardroom (see picture below). I noticed that each office area had what seemed to be a rather conspicuous rubbish receptacle outside it. I first assumed this was an ashtray, but now I'm not so sure. Anyway, whatever its purpose this receptacle (oddly enough) detracted from the experience for me, even though I think it was put there purely to add "texture."
The third zone is an outdoor stage, complete with grand piano, presumably for social events. Not much more to say about that, so on with the photos!
The Office Block
Specialist Areas Inside the Office:
Verdict? A nice build, with a good attempt at engagement through the game and the outdoor stage, but... somehow it does not seem to me that it is going to generate much traffic. Although sharing motifs with the website, the 2 channels seem to be separate entitites, and that (to me) breaks some kind of unstated, yet cardinal, rule. I don't get much sense of engagement here either - and that is a definite requirement in Second Life.
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
While trying out the new OnRez viewer - already on its first patch release, which tends to suggest some very tired code monkeys - I couldn't resist bringing you this little slice (not for the squeamish):
The viewer itself seems fine - definitely some nice refinements over the standard Linden Lab version. In particular, it does seem to be smoother and faster. The rest of the changes are largely cosmetic tweaks, apart from the viewer-based browser. However, I wouldn't get too excited by this. It is a nice add-on, but is not really a full-blown browser, with tabs, and multiple windows, and history, and favourites, and... and...
I don't know if you are a regular reader of this blog, but if you are then you may recall seeing some of these pictures before. A few weeks ago I wrote about stumbling across this island, while out on my routine rambles in the virtual world of Second Life. For reasons I don't intend to go into, I removed the post in the hope that this island would be allowed to stay. But it seems it is not to be.
So what was it that I liked about it - and why I will miss it, now it is all but gone? I will take you back in time a couple of weeks, to my first arrival on the island. The first picture illustrates the arrival point - a sort of "mission control", with a bank of computers and large status displays. Taking pride of place was a display showing some kind of palace, and an invitation to step through the screen.
On doing so I found myself suddenly immersed in a sort of digital Narnia... snow on the ground, a frozen lake (fed by bottles of a now unnamed vodka), flurries of snowflakes falling out of the sky and in the distance, the ice palace. The transition from 2D in the control centre to 3D as I stepped through the screen was a real "Wow Moment." For a few dollars I could have availed myself of some ice skates. Instead I headed over to the palace where I found a large dance floor, seating for groups both large and small, and the biggest bottle of vodka I have ever seen, endlessly pouring into a huge, ice-filled glass.
The attention to detail and the quality and flair of the design impressed me enormously. But sadly, this marvellous construction was only going to last about as long as real world ice sculpture.
By last weekend, only the Ice Palace remained - and a number of people who had heard of its imminent demise came along for a final send-off. Today, it is just a snowy desert, devoid of all the artistry and subtlety that had made this such a fine build. Even the snow has stopped falling.
It may sound a bit pretentious, but I was reminded of a couple of lines from Elegy Written In a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Grey:
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds...