Wednesday, 7 November 2007

A Bubbly Time at Vranken Diamant

Exclusive brands are not new in Second Life, with luxury lines of clothing, watches and shoes already represented. To be completely accurate, I suppose, I should say that to me these brands class as luxury. However, I do recognise that the truly luxurious and exclusive would have no truck with such low brow, downmarket affairs as Second Life and the hoi polloi who inhabit it. Anyway, I digress... last night I found another brand to add to the list: Vranken Pommery Monopole. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but it turns out the company produces Champagne. Indeed, they are apparently the world's second largest producer of bubbly.

In March 2006, the company announced a new "premium tier", named Diamant, that comprises four cuvĂ©es, including two vintage Champagnes and a prestige cuvee. According to a spokeswoman quoted at the time, these tipples are “ideally suited to the demands of the prestige and fine dining sectors of the market”. It is this premium bubbly that is being promoted through the Vranken Diamant island in Second Life.

I found the place completely by accident, and had no idea what to expect. You arrive in front of a long, yellow walkway that leads towards a large, crystalline pyramid in the distance. As you touch down you are offered a bracelet. I am not sure - but I think it may be necessary to wear this. Certainly on my first run through the island, without the bracelet on, I seemed to have problems getting about. So be safe, and put it on.

The walkway disappears into the side of the pyramid - but just keep walking, as this is a phantom surface. Once inside, you will find a diamond. Try clicking on it to see what happens... and choose a door. Depending on your selection you will find yourself whisked off to one of (I think) 8 different and exotic locations. A combination of SL objects and RL phototextures gives each location a great sense of depth, as you can see here:

The picture at the bottom-left really is the right way up, it's my avatar that is upside down. At the bottom right you can see the rather elegant and slightly enigmatic teleports that enable you to get around the site.

I really like this build. It is witty, cleverly done and packs a lot in. I particularly like the near-seamless blending of 3D SL objects with the 2D backdrops. I am not so sure of its use, however. Certainly there are small social areas, and one or two larger ones, but they are not easy to reach unless you already know your way around. It strikes me that the principal aim of the site is to be seen to be witty, shiny... and, well, bubbly. The build appears to be the work of the seemingly perpetually busy Gene Replacement.

If you want to see more, there's a decent machinima movie here, though oddly I did not find any other references to the site. My Google search might have been a bit lightweight, but I found no press announcements or blog posts, yet the machinima was posted several months ago. I know it can be good to be discrete, but this is a strange way to go about promoting your presence!

I would certainly recommend having a look around - but I cannot see that it would keep you coming back (unless you are accompanying a friend who has not been around it yet).

No comments: