Versu is now live and available for the iPad, and as we suspected, it's an interactive fiction platform developed by award-winning interactive fiction writer Emily Short and acclaimed game AI programmer Richard Evans, whose company Linden Lab bought last year. Here's the official trailer:
Hopefully you get a sense of what Linden Lab is trying to accomplish here: Far more than old school interactive fiction updated for the tablet, the platform uses an artificial intelligence back-end to allow for subtle changes of character behavior based on the player's choices. Short wrote the first story, derived from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (but playable from multiple character perspectives), along with an original horror story of her own, and a murder mystery called "A Family Supper" that'll also be available today through in-app payment of $4.99. (The platform's launching on iPad, but an Android tablet version is also promised.)
Reading the announcement Linden Lab was kind enough to send along, it's easy to see where this is likely going:
"[I]n the future, we plan to open the platform to allow authors to publish their own work on Versu as well,” says Rod Humble there. Given that Short's "Family Supper" story is being sold as an in-app payment, it's reasonable to assume other authors will be able to sell their own interactive fictions on Versu too. Tablets, ideal for leisurely, living room couch use, are perfect for this kind of medium. The real question is whether there's a large enough audience for this kind of fiction. Text-only interactive fiction per se hasn't attracted a very large audience since the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and Infocom text adventures of the 80s (which were pretty nichey to begin with). What's more, on the surface (without really exploring the AI interaction) this doesn't have a whole lot of difference from dio, another kind of interactive fiction platfor from Linden Lab. However, intuitively I sense there's a desire for the tablet-driven generation to have a new kind of fiction, and Versu might be it. Why not give it a try and decide for yourself?
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