While it’s best known for once-trendy virtual world Second Life, Linden Lab has a more diverse roster than just that. Witness, for example, Versu, a new ‘interactive fiction’ app that has just launched for the iPad.
At first glance, Versu appears like any other ebook reader app, with a virtual library of titles to select from and a store from which to buy more. However, dive in and you’ll discover that the stories here offer a multi-layered, interactive experience that draws on the popular ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ format while offering players much more choice in the direction they take each story.
The result of Linden Lab’s acquisition of startup LittleTextPeople one year ago, Versu uses artificial intelligence to control how different characters with different personalities react to your actions.
Each ‘episode’ in Versu allows you to pick a character to play. You’re then thrown into a story that unfolds in the form of a play script. As the story progresses, you have different objectives you must complete to move it forward. These are multiple choice, but there are also optional ‘actions’ you can also choose from at almost any point, which influence how events unfold.
Actions can also unlock hidden ‘achievements’ within each episode (e.g., ‘Make others dislike one another’) that aren’t core to completing the story but add an extra degree of fun to proceedings as you discover them.
This is just the first stage of the Versu project. The free iPad app contains three episodes, plus an additional one that can be bought as an in-app purchase for $4.99. More episodes and an Android version are planned. More intriguingly, Linden plans to launch a tool in the future that will allow anyone to create their own interactive stories.
Meanwhile, Linden Lab is busy with other projects too. It claims that Second Life is still a thriving, with a virtual economy worth half a billion US dollars in 2012. Other apps it has recently launched include a sandbox PC game called Patterns, an iOS and Android app called Creatorverse, and Dio, a Web-based platform for creating interactive ‘rooms’ about any subject. The company also recently acquired iPad game Blocksworld, helping its goal to provide ‘shared creative spaces’ of many kinds.
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