Linden Lab's upcoming text adventure game code-named Dio from Emily Short and Richard Evans should be coming out later this year, but during an early, apparently accidental deployment of the game's website, some SL users were able to log in and play. Among them was Jessica Lyon, lead developer of SL's very popular Phoenix Viewer, and she shared her experiences playing Dio with me recently. Bear in mind this is Dio in an extremely early form, so what she played (as she notes) may be quite different from the finished product:
"Firstly, I feel it's important to note that I know Dio is still Alpha at best and I'm sure has a lot more to go," as she puts it. "I had this in mind while I explored." That said, here's her basic reaction:
"I think the best way to describe it is a way of telling stories with multiple outcomes chosen by the reader. Let me give you an example..." More below the break:
"You enter a room and look around; among other things you see three doors marked with the number 1, 2 and 3, respectively. Do want to open door number 1? Door number 2? Or door number 3? (Reader chooses an option by clicking an image. The choice the user makes takes them to another part of the story... let's say I chose door 2.)
"Now you walk through door number 2 and find yourself in a huge cavern underground. Do you want to walk to the left? To the right, or straight ahead? (Reader chooses, story continues etc, etc.)"
After doing this awhile, here's Ms. Lyon's take: "I get the concept, I really do, and perhaps I'm just narrow minded to think this product will never fly. I can see it being good for small children perhaps, to encourage them to read... making reading adventurous and drawing the readers into the story. But it really just reminds me of some very early Commodore Vic 20 text-based games. In fact it is exactly like those games. This isn't new tech. I suspect the creators are too young to have experienced the Vic20 text based games to realize they are just reinventing something that already existed when home computing was in its infancy."
Beyond that, she raised a point of privacy concern: "What concerns me greatly is that at one point an error popped up for a friend of mine who was exploring it with me, and within the error message was her SL name. The program had obviously loaded one of the cookies left behind by secondlife.com. This might suggest that it's planned to tie this into Second Life and if that be the case, I expect Linden Lab will become an instant laughing stock of all its customers."
So, for the moment, what Jessica Lyon thinks: "Needless to say, I was less than impressed with Dio. I'm not judging it by its errors, broken links, or lack of functionality, because I'm sure it's pre-Alpha at best. I'm judging it by its overall concept. From what I saw of it, the target audience should be children." It's actually possible that Linden Lab intends it as a game for kids, an important market of course. Also quite possible that Jessica just saw a small portion of the game, or without some of its most important features implemented. (Evans is a veteran AI developer, and without his AI, the game is likely to be arid; Short is an acclaimed interactive fiction writer, and without her writing in it, the game Jessica played is a skeleton at best.) So again, just take Jessica's take as an early observation of a product that may very well change when it reaches the market (in Fall 2012, I believe). In any case, it's interesting to see Linden Lab moving in a direction that seems so very different from Second Life.
Image credit: Modem World