Join 3,420 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"What twists and turns will your story take?"
February 14, 2013 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Acclaimed interactive fiction guru Emily Short has teamed up with Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, to launch Versu, an interactive storytelling platform that "focuses on character interaction as its primary form of play." The first two stories are free, and Short says authoring tools are on the way.

Emily Short, previously.
posted by jbickers (26 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Today, the first four Versu stories are available for iPad. Clients for Kindle and Google Play will follow, as well as stories in other genres and by other authors, and both character- and episode-authoring tools will be made available to the general public in the future.


I am posting this not to complain but to save others from the crushing feeling of disappointment I have just felt. Still, though, this sounds awesome.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:38 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


LINDEN!!!

That was my go-to curse when I was doing SL stuff. I hope to God they sat down and planned their system architecture instead of making it up as they went along.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:39 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Short I trust, so this is probably some cool stuff, but like MCMikeNamara, I'll have to wait to find out.
posted by Zed at 1:48 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hell yes! Can't wait for the Kindle port, to say nothing of the author tools.
posted by Iridic at 1:52 PM on February 14, 2013


This sounds great.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:58 PM on February 14, 2013


This reminds me of something I saw on Mefi some time ago. It was an adventure game in the style of those old games like King's Quest. But the catch was that it was played by two players: one played the hero, and the other could control every other person and object in the world. Does anyone remember that I'm talking about?
posted by roll truck roll at 2:10 PM on February 14, 2013


Oh, here it is.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:14 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Well, I was interested in potentially giving Emily Short some money, but she doesn't seem to want to sell me anything. iDevices only, and no plans for a computer version at all.

I can't really see the format needing a tablet, fer chrissake. It's sophisticated interactive fiction with icons. A desktop should be fairly capable at doing that, I would think.
posted by Malor at 2:16 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't get a real sense of how this is different from IF, and what it does. I'd love to get hands on, because it does sound intriguing.

If somebody could find screenshots or something I'd really appreciate it? What is this? I can't just load it up and try it because... (see above)
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:31 PM on February 14, 2013


I'm torn. Emily Short is the awesomest but Second Life is the lame. maybe it all balances out
posted by Bwithh at 2:43 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to beat a dead horse, but the more I think about it this actually feels like it could be an elaborate plan between Apple and Emily Short to get me to spend my tax refund on an iPad I don't need.

(jokes on them; it's already been spent)

But seriously, I'm sort of embarrassed how intrigued by this I am. I am just barely exaggerating when I say that I read the summaries for "The House on the Cliff" (An accident to a carriage and mail coach strand a group of strangers...) and "A Family Supper" (...an unconventional guest threatens their peace with sonnets, vegetarianism, and a gift for finding everyone's sore points...) and thought "The Apple Store is like three blocks away right now and I've had a hell of a couple weeks; shall we?"

What I'm saying is, as others have said, I look forward to any and all details.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:46 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]



What I'm saying is, as others have said, I look forward to any and all details.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:46 PM on February 14 [+] [!]


It sounds like Interactive Fiction with some kind of conversation/behaviour engine for NPCs. (Except maybe with graphics?)

If that worked it would be revolutionary for video games in general, not just IF. I'm finding it almost impossible to imagine how it could work though, without being painfully awkward. So maybe I'm misunderstanding things here.

I'm having a hard time separating Emily Short and IF from text based systems in my mind, so there's something else here I'm not understanding as well. If it's graphical, it's not going to work the way IF does, and the development community will be shaped (and restrained) accordingly.

There's really too much confusion for me to comment constructively on this.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:56 PM on February 14, 2013


I'm having a hard time separating Emily Short and IF from text based systems in my mind, so there's something else here I'm not understanding as well. If it's graphical, it's not going to work the way IF does, and the development community will be shaped (and restrained) accordingly.

From the video it looks like it's basically IF, but of the CYOA variety instead of parser based. That's on the reader end.

What's innovative/neat here, if anything, is going to be what's going on on the authoring end.
posted by juv3nal at 3:11 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The iOS-less may console themselves with this 1.9GB archive of nearly every text IF game ever.
posted by Zed at 3:14 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


The engine uses social AI by Richard Evans (Black and White, Sims 3)

Oh boy. Sounded interesting until I saw that part about some guy who worked on the Sims3. No, thank you, I like my gaming experiences to not be full of game breaking bugs and frustration.

He also worked on Black and White!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2013


Sounded interesting until I saw that part about some guy who worked on the Sims3.

I dunno, Rod Humble worked on Sims 3, but he's done some interesting arty stuff on the side.
posted by juv3nal at 3:47 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for showing me those. Stavka is definitely going to take up some of my evening.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 3:52 PM on February 14, 2013


H'm i downloaded the free app using itunes on my computer, but you have to pay for the stories and i couldn't see how to click on them to bring them up...
posted by maiamaia at 4:01 PM on February 14, 2013


So, I played it for about half an hour, and while I'm no IF expert, I'd best describe it as a sophisticated text adventure engine that's much easier to play.

One of the things that's always put me off IF is the amount of guessing I need to do to figure out what the game wants me to say. I understand that under the hood, there's a finite number of options for me to take, and because I'm basically impatient, I'd rather dispense with the "put rubber duck on string" stuff and press a button that does the same. In other words, I'm personally not interested in IF due to puzzles, it's more about the story for me.

It seems that Versu is pretty much the same, and I think it draws a very interesting balance between an authored narrative and player freedom. It's not The Sims - you don't have anything close to resembling total freedom. But that's a good thing - I like exploring the worlds and characters that an author can create. And so in Versu, you have quite a lot of freedom to act at more or less any time, but the actions you can take are constrained by what makes sense and what's possible. And yes, the other characters more or less react appropriately to your actions (although it's not quite perfect).

What does this mean in practice? You read the story in chunks of short paragraphs, and most of the time you can either choose to press 'More' to just get more story delivered, or you can press 'Act' to do something, which might be giving some lad (or lady) a smouldering look, or revealing something about your character, or suggesting that you go and explore the crypt, or whatever. There is no distinction between saying something or thinking something or doing something - it's all just 'actions', and your list of available actions will change depending on the context. You don't seem to get the option to do something that will elicit basically no reaction, which is nice (unlike many text adventures). Yes, it's multiple choice, but there are usually lots of choices, and they're interesting and have unpredictable effects.

I was interested enough to play through most of The House on the Cliff until I had to go and do some work and my session timed out (yeah, annoyingly, you need to be online to play - WTF? if it's data they want, I don't see a reason why they can't send that as and when it's possible). And I will probably try one of the other stories as well; Emily's writing is always super fun. There's a lot of work to be done on the interface, which could do with a lot of streamlining, and I found it irritating to have to be pressing buttons every other sentence.

But there's a lot of promise here; it feels more coherent and natural to me than a lot of the other IF competitors out there. Other than the irritating Achievements (come on guys... at least make them less prominent!) there's no gamification, and that suits me just fine. I get the feeling that this engine is perhaps destined to be incorporated into other environments, maybe 3D games or adventure games or so on. Fun times.
posted by adrianhon at 4:04 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


maiamaia: You don't need to pay for the stories. Three of them are free and one is $2.99. You can't play it on your computer, it'll only work on an iPad.
posted by adrianhon at 4:05 PM on February 14, 2013


My final comment: It's also clear that each NPC not only has a kind of relationship-meter with the player and other NPCs, but it also has its own aims, desires, etc. So they'll often go off wandering around to find things or smoulder at each other or whatever, even if you're just hanging out in a cellar drinking brandy on your own. However, there's always momentum to the story so it looks like even if you do nothing, the plot will continue and bring you along.
posted by adrianhon at 4:11 PM on February 14, 2013


An interview with the aforementioned Rod Humble over on gamasutra.
posted by juv3nal at 4:01 AM on February 15, 2013


Interesting. As has already been suggested, the player interface doesn't seem to be doing anything that choose your own adventure style IF hasn't already done. Multiple choice in a linear narrative is nothing new.

The authoring system does sound where anything interesting is happening, but the limitations imposed by technology and marketing here seem to be restrictive enough to counter anything interesting going on.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:43 AM on February 15, 2013


Andrew Plotkin weighs in. Interestingly, he notes that "You can choose to play any character in a story, thus making the other characters NPCs, under program control."
posted by juv3nal at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm, Versu looks quite good.
If this partnership with Short is a sign that Linden Labs is attempting to dump crappy Second Life and pivot to investing in text-based auteur Interactive Fiction, I applaud them.
posted by Bwithh at 8:13 PM on February 15, 2013


Emily Short has been talking about some of the "behind the scenes" stuff on her blog:
Content Structure
Conversation Implementation
posted by juv3nal at 4:58 PM on February 25, 2013


« Older Music may be able to improve productivity at work,...  |  And Now Let Us Praise, and Con... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments