The Isle of May in Winter

When we closed the Isle of May in June we promised ourselves that we would try designing a winter version later on in the year to see how it turned out. Having worked on the sim for a couple of weeks, we rather like it, and so today it opens to everyone – here is your landmark. As usual, it won’t stay open for too long – think of it as our ‘festive’ sim – so make the most of it while it lasts.

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The Isle of May was always a special sim to us, it seemed to have a magic all of its own. When the sim opened on 16 March 2018, we were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm shown by visitors. The Flickr stream grew fast, with around 350 pictures posted in the first week alone. As comments in the sim’s guestbook testify, our first ‘pastoral’ sim – a contrast to some of the more desolate landscapes we’d made in the past, such as Furillen and (especially) Khodovarika – struck a chord with its spectacular views and abundant wildlife.

But we always wondered about this place in winter, fully exposed to winds from the North Sea, bitterly cold, and covered in snow …

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What we were hoping to create is something wild and untamed: less desolate and abandoned than Khodovarikha, or even Furillen, but still a place where you’d feel the wind and snow hurting your face, and the cold gnawing away at your insides. We imagined a roaring sea, with north-easterly gales blasting onto isolated beaches.

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In real life, this would surely be a thoroughly horrible place to be for all but the most masochistic lover of raw nature.

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But in Second Life, such places can be wonderful, and surely a contrast to sunnier beaches or even some the cuter, picture postcard versions of winter we are used to enjoying on the grid over the Christmas weeks. So we have not compromised: the Isle of May in winter is brutal and unforgiving, dark and forbidding.

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And yet … this is a nature reserve, where 285 different bird species have been recorded. The Isle of May is especially noted for its puffin colonies, crowds of angry cormorants and hungry gulls, guillemots, herons and cranes, as well as a variety of birds such as ospreys, crows, ravens, bats, pheasants, eurasian jays, magpies, starlings, blackbirds, blue tits, sparrows, woodpeckers, owls and – of course – robins. You will find all of these on the sim, as well a few hardy black-faced sheep huddled close to straw bales, a small raft of otters, some goats, wild rabbits (yes, rabbits are abundant on the real Isle of May!), and a family of deer – all braving the cold and fighting for survival …

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As always, we have paid close attention to the sim’s soundscape. In this instance, I added original sound files to the cormorants, egrets, cranes, herons, common murres and geese. It makes for quite a cacophony at certain places on the sim, as indeed it would in real life.

Out in the bay, you should be able to spot the beautiful orca, and if you listen closely, you will surely hear its wonderfully plaintive cry. You might also notice the mother and baby dolphin. Dolphins are quite frequently seen from the Isle of May, and I was somewhat surprised to learn that they do not migrate, although realistically, I doubt they would be seen in water this cold!

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In addition, besides the sea birds that we believe would still inhabit the island even in deepest winter, you will also find seals and seal pups, for whose protection the Isle of May is officially closed every year from 1 October until Easter.

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We did take some liberties when putting this version of the sim together. For example, we introduced a small wolf pack. Surely there are no wolves in Scotland? Correct – not since the eighteenth century, it would seem – but we placed this group on the sim as a hat tip to a landowner called Paul Lister, who wants to reintroduce wolves – safely behind fences, I hasten to add – to the Scottish highlands. I have no strong views about Mr Lister’s plans, but love hearing the howl on the sim. Just pity the poor sheep, grazing within earshot …

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We’ve taken other liberties too. You’ll also see an arctic fox flitting in and out of its den. Why? Because this beautiful animal once thrived in Scotland, and although you can only see it in the Highland Wildlife Park these days, I find it fascinating to imagine times when species such as arctic foxes – and, indeed, wolves – were plentiful in the Highlands and Islands.

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In any case, our Second Life version of the Isle of May was never an exact replica, indeed as we always made clear, we were hunting for the spirit of this place more than a literal representation – our own ‘true north’, as it were. So our island was inhabited by more than just the nature wardens – a lighthouse keeper, a house owned by an artist, and a smattering of smaller buildings around the periphery probably hosting holidaymakers. Previous visitors seem to have enjoyed these signs of human life, and we have continued many of them – the main house, the lighthouse, and so on – here in their ‘winter coats’.

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Some buildings have changed – e.g. the fisherman’s hut – or are new. We couldn’t resist placing a ‘real’ church just beyond the ruins of the old St Adrian’s Chapel. This is the delightfully creepy ‘Church of the Damned’ by Schultz, which sits gloomily under frozen oak trees, guarded by those wolves and some ominous bats.

As for music, I have re-introduced the Furillen radio stream – consisting of around 70 hours of ambient music on random rotation – which many visitors have enjoyed in the past. Here are some tasters from the stream:

Finally, a quick note to photographers. We know that snowfall can make picture-taking a little frustrating. At the same time, we wanted to make the experience of being on the Isle of May as immersive as possible, so make no apologies for the fact that visitors will find snow all over their screens, and their view into the distance obscured. However, we will be switching the snow off on some days. But enjoy the challenge, too – snow shots can be incredibly atmospheric … we believe in you!

As ever, please enjoy what you see and ask for nothing more, just as we ask for no donations or membership fees. There are no rez rights. Why? Because we wanted to use every last prim to make the sim as good as it could be.

We love this place and thoroughly enjoyed putting it together. But whatever you think about it, and wherever you spend your time, have a happy winter!

Bayou Bids Farewell

We opened Black Bayou Lake on 9 October 2018, and having originally planned to keep it open for about one month, feel that the time has come to move on. The sim will therefore close on Friday 23 November 2018, so you have a few more days to enjoy it.

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Black Bayou Lake has been popular, perhaps a little bit more than we expected. The Flickr group is now approaching a thousand pictures. As I said in my last post, we really enjoyed seeing now various photographers imagined the sim, indeed this is one of the most intriguing and satisfying aspects of sim design. There are many highlights which demonstrate great variety in how you saw this place.

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Golden Bayou

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" Saving nickles, saving dimes "

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Light me up a cigarette

Black Bayou Lake

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We also wanted the visit to be immersive, and were pleased to note several of the reviewers commenting about exactly this. As noted in my last blog, and as some entries in the sim’s guestbook confirm, we were especially pleased when visitors who have actually been to this part of the world ‘approved’ our attempt to recreate the Bayou in SL – given that we had only photographs and maps to go on. Finally, we always intend our sims to be places where visitors are not bombarded with greetings or requests for donations, and can just, well, hang out … and this is what seems to have happened for the almost two months we stayed open.

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Sunday Night Football!

A friendly encounter and stories shared

“The Graveyard In Our Heart”

As I have said in the past, our plan now is to follow a pattern of old sim revivals mixed in with new sims. Besides Bayou, our ‘back catalogue’ of sims now includes Furillen, Digue, Khodovarikha and the Isle of May, and we think they all merit the occasional return with improvements, variations or second thoughts. Our last revival was La Digue du Braek, which re-opened for a month or so at the beginning of 2018. We will surely do a ‘Version 2’ of Bayou in due course, and have some interesting ideas for brand new sims that we will follow up in 2019. But for the time being, we have another revival in mind.

So … watch this space.

It may come sooner than you think.

One week in Louisiana

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Black Bayou Lake opened just one week ago – with no advance notice – and the sim has been busy ever since. Given that the grid is currently in the grip of Halloween fever, this is a nice outcome. Thanks to everyone who has visited so far, and especially to those of you who took the trouble to leave a comment in our guestbook.

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Apart from the intrinsic satisfaction to be had from trying to recreate real locations using the somewhat limited resources available to us in Second Life, the two main reasons we put sims together are, first, to give visitors an immersive experience of ‘being there’ – hence our focus on a convincing windlight and soundscape, for example – and, second, to give the large and active community of photographers something new to take pictures of.

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After one week, the sim’s Flickr group is fast approaching 300 pictures, and it is always intriguing to see how others choose to ‘see’ what we put together: the angles they choose, their light settings, favourite details, and so on. I have been struck so far by how many of you have chosen monochrome …

Please just take me with you when you go

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We have also been surprised by how many photographers have focused on one small detail that we added right at the end, almost as an afterthought: these old sneakers, hanging from the hammock, and from a boat …

" Saving nickles, saving dimes "

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As expected, the sim’s wildlife has been popular …

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It's a Canadian thing....

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… and I have enjoyed seeing images that use the walkway for perspective, to create pictures that remind me of Furillen’s old pier …

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Finally – as with every sim we’ve been involved with – some of you are simply very good at making images that are downright moody …

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The Beast in the Swamp

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There have been very positive reviews from Inara Pey and Maddy Gynoid – both are experienced reviewers and it is always interesting to get such feedback. But the ‘review’ we are always waiting for – with baited breath, it must be said – is from anyone who has actually visited the places we try to recreate. I remember some fascinating conversations from people who had visited the real Furillen and the Isle of May – although, alas, nobody I met has ever visited Khodovarikha. As for Black Bayou Lake, we had our first conversation with a ‘local’ reviewer last night. This is how it went …

[18:08] RM: just wanted to say WELL DONE! I am a Louisiana native and I’m positivley sweating and batting away mosquitos while standing here LOL
[18:08] JK: Ohhhhhhhhh nice :p
[18:08] RM: you def captured the essence for sure
[18:09] JK: ha ha ha we were waiting people from louisiana to have their opinions, you’re first and that’s very coool to hear 🙂
[18:09] RM: the ambient sounds, everything…perfect
[18:10] RM: GOOD JOB

Black Bayou Lake

Black Bayou Lake – the inspiration for our latest sim – is located in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. The lake is part of an 800 acre nature reserve – there is a factsheet about it here – which seethes with wildlife: there are many species of bird, insect, reptile and fish, along with a variety of trees such as cherrybark oak, cedar elm, ash, hickories, willow oak, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, mockernut hickory and post oak. It’s a stunning place, which attracted us because we had not yet tried designing a sim that consists mainly of water.

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With bare trees growing up out of the dark lake, this place has a somewhat creepy feel, and we tried to capture this spirit in our recreation.

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In some ways this sim is a throwback to Khodovarikha, in which nature was characterized by a rawness that many visitors found inspiring. But unlike that desolate Russian weather station, Black Bayou Lake recalls our most recent sim, Isle of May, for its abundance of wildlife.

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As ever, we’ve done our best to make the sim feel alive: there are plenty of birds, from eagles soaring overhead, ravens and crows, owls and woodpeckers, osprey and kingfishers, along with a variety of water-based birds such as egret, geese, cormorants, ducks, cranes, brown pelicans and herons. You’ll hear most of these birds in the sim’s soundscape. All of them, so far as we are aware, can be found in and around the real Black Bayou Lake. There are alligators, too, ominous and threatening from just beneath the water.

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The dominant structure at Black Bayou Lake is a large walkway used by visitors who want to venture out onto the lake, and for fishing. The walkway has an interesting feature, a ‘bridge’ section that looks like an upside down ‘V’, and we have recreated this although we have no idea what its purpose might be, other than to offer a more elevated viewing spot.

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As for human habitation, we have added shacks and a houseboat that we believe are typical of the Louisiana Bayou.

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For music, a blues-based soundtrack seemed like the best choice.

As with the Isle of May, what you see is what you get: no parties or exhibitions, no tip box and no rez rights (we always run out of prims, so please don’t ask) – and it won’t be staying open for long. So enjoy Black Bayou Lake while you can, and post your pictures here.

San Pietro Pervertito

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Opening today on a parcel within the appropriately-named Heaven region, San Pietro Pervitito is a our tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the interior of a famous church, San Pietro Martire in Murano, near Venice …

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… which we have transformed into a dance club and bar. The centrepiece of the parcel is Van Auster’s brilliant recreation of the building itself.

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Inside, our decor mixes up religion, decadence and sex. We enjoyed juxtaposing the religious setting of the building …

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… with erotic dancing …

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… statues dressed in fetish masks …

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… and various other religious paraphernalia such as lurid confessionals, references to serpents and fish, together with art that explores erotica, debauchery and decadence, such as Thomas Couture’s Romains de la décadence (1847) …

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We experiment with sim design and deco a lot, and started work on the interior of this church purely out of curiosity about how it would turn out. Just to be clear, it was not and is not our intention to run a club. We simply enjoyed making something we feel is a little bit different – and playfully irreverent. But as with the Isle of May, once we finished we thought it might be fun to share this space for a week or two. So while it lasts, please feel free to enjoy San Pietro Pervertito for photography and play.

 

The Isle of May – (very) brief update

The Isle of May opened a week ago and the response from visitors has been generous. In just seven days, over 350 pictures were posted in the Flickr group. The sim has been reviewed by Kara, Inara Pey, and Austin Tate. Thanks to them for taking time to visit and report.

We’d like to say a sincere thank you, also, to everyone who made comments to us about the sim personally, or via the guestbook. Although we were very pleased with the sim ourselves, it has been a nice surprise to receive such positive feedback. We appreciate it a lot.

We’re sorry that there are no rez rights. As we’ve explained whenever asked, we used up all but 3 prims of the sim allowance, so granting rez rights would only lead to frustration. We could get rid of a couple of hundred prims, but – frankly – we’d rather not.

The pictures visitors have been taking are terrific – it’s fascinating to see so many different perspectives. I won’t single any out, there are just too many good ones. But I would recommend this video of the sim made by Serendipity Dyrssen, which we really enjoyed. We think it deserves to be shared more widely.

Thanks to Serendipity for going to such time and trouble, it’s great to have this momento.

The sim will stay open a while longer, although not indefinitely. As soon as the numbers die down, we’ll close and move on to our next project. So please enjoy it while you can.

Isle of May

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The Isle of May opened on Friday evening. The sim is the fifth we have built, it follows on from Furillen, La Digue du Braek, Furillen City and Khodovarikha. We will be reviving those sims from time to time, as we recently did with Digue, but Isle of May is our first “new” sim since Khodovarikha.

The Isle of May represents something of a departure for us, a sim in a deliberately “pastoral” style. Where previously we have emphasised desolation and decay – albeit in a form we always took to be beautiful – the primary emphasis at Isle of May is on abundant life.

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Isle of May I

The real Isle of May is situated on the Firth of Forth, eight kilometres off the East coast of Scotland. Less than half a kilometre wide and two kilometres long, the island is owned by Scottish National Heritage and used mainly as a nature reserve.

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The island is closed to visitors every winter to prevent disturbance to seal pups. It is accessible during the summer months via a 45 minute journey on a ferry which sails from Anstruther and Crail, and also from North Berwick.

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While there is no “signature” building on this sim, what we were searching for is something holistic and organic: for visitors, an immersive experience of being “in nature” that is powerful and evocative. We think it’s stunning, indeed we were a little bit surprised by how well it turned out. We’re pleased we tried something different (well, different for us …).

The Voyager

While the real Isle of May has no permanent residents, our imagined Second Life version is home to a small group of artists, a lighthouse keeper and a ranger who takes care of the island’s birds and wildlife. The latter are the most outstanding feature of the sim, which is teeming with life – the soundscape alone is remarkable. Here you will find: gulls, puffins, guillemot, cormorants, Canada geese, otters, an orca, two dolphins, various ducks and swans, herons, cranes, osprey, pheasants, and a range of garden birds including various finches and songbirds, crows, kingfishers, and thrushes.

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A sea eagle soars overhead …

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There are also sheep, goats, deer, and a small dog – Jim – who plays down on the beach.

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The sim is on two levels, with a beautiful, peaceful U-shaped cliff top area covered in vegetation and lower beaches on either side.

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Outstanding in her field

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The buildings on the sim are few: the main house stands at the centre of the sim, with a lighthouse and foghorn station to one side and the wildlife keeper’s office together with the ruins of St Adrian’s Priory on the other.

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Bach in a minuet

My Realm of Peace

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Down below, on small beaches, there are various buildings such as an old stone house, beach huts and a fisherman’s lodge.

My Secret Hideaway

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All around the island there is a wild sea crashing against rocks and cliffs. The sense of location is impressive.

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The sim had a lot of visitors during the weekend, with many pictures already posted in the Flickr group. We’ll feature some of these on this blog from time to time, but to all intents and purposes our work is done now. There will be no group, no tip jar, no parties or exhibitions, no picture of the day – we just invite you to enjoy this space for as long as it remains open.

So what next? We always have plenty of ideas, places that we’d like to recreate. Time will tell. But for now, please enjoy our rendition of the Isle of May.