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August 14, 2006

Face-to-Face

aloha!

On August 3rd, myself and Giff Constable (SL name: Forseti Svarog) made the trip to White Plains to meet up with our counterparts on the Electric Artists and Starwood Hotel teams. Marc Schiller from EA along with Jessica and Tracy from Starwood met us at a warehouse space where the Starwood design team is busily working through the design and layout concepts for the real aloft hotels.

First off, I have to mention that working and collaborating in virtual space is great, but there's nothing like in-person meetings when it comes to information transfer. A platform like Second Life allows for a much greater sense of real-time involvement with others on a project when you're working remotely than a conference call or email. We've pulled off entire projects where we never once had a chance to visit what we're recreating onsite, or to shake the hand of our clients in person. So while it can be done, and done well, there's really no substitute for both the information gleaned and the rapport established by a face to face meeting, or a real walk through the space you're going to recreate in Second Life. Which is why I came away with a much better idea of how to tackle the aloft interior after Thursday's walkthrough - and, I think, Starwood got a better idea of how ESC is handling their virtual creation.

The visit was the first time I'd ever had a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how a hotel brand like aloft gets its unique personality. A tremendous amount of care is put into every aspect of the design, from placement to fabrics to usability to accenting touches. And, like almost any other type of project, there will always be some aspects that are subject to change up until the very last moment. Some of those aspects for this project are looking to be things like fabric and material choices for the furniture - luckily, this is something that the virtual aloft project can handle much more quickly than a RL furniture manufacturer. I'm hoping that our ability to modify design and color on the fly will be of assistance to aloft's design team as well. (As soon as we got back, I had Makaio start on the furniture design, since the physical aspect of it is a lot less likely to change than the textures - see below.)

post-8-furniture-untextured.jpg

Besides the insight into the layout and textures, we also got a better sense of the overall look and feel of the aloft brand. They really did a wonderful job covering the details in making this a step above and beyond what you'd normally see in a hotel line, and creating a great experience for travelers. I picked up details from the walkthrough - like the use of sunflowers as accent items - that will help us flesh out the surrounding island build to mesh better with the aloft style. This will take some rework on our part, but luckily we now have the information we need to knock it out of the park.

post-8-int-layout.jpg

Our next steps are laying out the virtual interior plan to coincide as closely as possible with the real life layout, and getting started on the construction of the same. I will also be working closely in the next few weeks with aloft's designer in residence, Aliya, to make changes and insure that any design choices we make from this point on are firmly in touch with the aloft look.

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