Remember grade school recess, trolling the library, looking for interesting new books to read? Who needed all of that pesky social interaction when literature was the only friend that a kid could ever want? A bastion of that glorious reading joy was the widely consumed Choose Your Own Adventure series. Nothing could better engage the creativity of a youth’s inquisitive mind while simultaneously boosting their reading comprehension and decision-making skills. All these years later, Linden Lab is attempting to put an interactive spin on the genre with the introduction of their upcoming digital fiction platform, Versu.
Despite drawing a heavy influence from the popular book series, Versu prides itself on being far from a standard, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” experience. While there are plenty of similarities between the two forms of media, the interactive nature of Versu renders it a far more flexible storytelling medium than its print-shackled counterpart. The scripted interactions available in the narrative change every single playthrough, thanks to an AI system that reacts to the player/reader’s decisions in real-time. Additionally, if there are multiple non-playable characters in a given scene, their dialog options and reactions will also play off of each other, creating a far more realistic group dynamic.
Overall, the storytelling mechanics of the application are fairly straightforward. There are a series of actions that can be pursued at any given point, which will in turn effect how other characters feel about the player controlled avatar. Both dialog options and other physical actions are then triggered as a result of each decision. It is amazing to see how differently stories can play out, especially when replayed while controlling a completely different character in the scene. In another interesting touch, there are certain narratives where a diverse variety of characters are available to use as both NPCs and the reader controlled avatar. The selection of a separate cast can even influence how a given plot will play out.
As was previously alluded to, this is not just a collection of three interactive stories, but rather an entirely new literature platform. Versu has a store available at launch with an additional story that can be purchased, as well as the promise of many more to come. Even more exciting is Linden Lab’s announcement that they will eventually release authoring tools to the general public. It is going to be fascinating to see how other authors can put Versu’s unique toolset to work for their storytelling purposes. Be sure to keep an eye out for its launch, later this week.