Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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A Very Very Early Look at Dio, Linden Lab's Upcoming Text Adventure Game -- Is It for Kids?

Linden Lab text adventure game dio

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 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


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Brookston Holiday

As a stand alone maybe it would be just like a vic20 game... but imagine if the tech were used as the back end to a quest that you ran inside of second life. Where each choice from dio was tied to actions you actually performed within second life. It could be used to run quests like you see in WoW and similar games only you would be designing them in a dedicated environment instead of using LSL and notecards. I think this, combined with pathfinding, could be used to make some pretty kick ass experiences.

Pussycat Catnap

The concept described above sounds like "pick your path Adventure Books" from the 1980s.

Those were actually quite popular. I'm not in education so I don't know; but I've not heard of much in terms of a digital version of them.

Wikipedia implies a dead market:

- Which means, with the growth of eReaders, this might be a good path to go down. Something aimed at Kindles and Nooks for the pre-teen set perhaps?

Arcadia Codesmith

Going back to basics can open up paths you missed the first time around.

Metacam Oh

Typifies everything about Linden Lab... out of touch.

Adeon Writer

Sounds like a MUD maker. Maybe I'm wrong?

Either way, a tool like that has great use in Second Life, if properly integrated.

Too hard to tell without seeing it firsthand.

I have little doubt there's far more to it than Jessica has seen.


Interactive fiction is going through a renaissance at the moment, take a look at grand text auto, interactive fiction of all sorts is exploding because of its potential use in games, Ms. short's stories I find charming, her latest on vary tales is great. Would be willing to bet this will be incorporated into a product at some point.

elizabeth (16)

one thing that oldbies sometimes miss when chat about the olden days, is that todays young people werent even born then

so what is old/been there done that, for their parents generation is new for them

Ajax Manatiso

When do they start work on Pong II ?


Motel Hell and Bates Motel?

Sure...bring on the kids. I's alpha.

As for text-based interactive fiction for kids? I'd say yes, at my wife's school as a test market. Pussycat Catnip and NWN's Desktop partisans get ready to throw something heavier than a tablet at me: nearly all classrooms are kitted out with iPads. Increasingly, if it won't run on one, it won't be used.

I'd think Dio would work as an app on a tablet. Fire up the modem, log into the BBS, and let's party online like it's 1989!

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