Linden Lab launches Versu

LL logoOn Thursday 14th February, when most of us had our attention on One Billion Rising in Second Life, Linden Lab launched Versu on the iPad.

The much-anticipated storytelling app is being made free-of-charge and is bundled with a tutorial, a “scene” and a “full length” story, with other titles to be offered at $4.99 each and offered “periodically”.

The press release announcing the lauch reads in part:

A product of Linden Lab’s acquisition of LittleTextPeople earlier this year, Versu provides unique narrative experiences in which the reader is an integral part of character-driven interactive stories. In Versu, you take on a character with distinct preferences, concerns, and desires, as you explore and change a story through your decisions and interactions with other characters. The characters you encounter are endowed with sophisticated artificial intelligence and have their own unique personalities, motivations, and emotional reactions as you interact with them. The decisions you make and how you treat other characters define your character in the story and influence the narrative, giving each title the potential for many unique experiences to explore. In the future, the tool set used to build these immersive stories will be made available to users, enabling readers to insert their own characters and scenes into the narratives they explore.

The Versu website provides more information on the titles released with the app:

An Introduction to Society: a piece approximately 5 minutes in length and designed as a tutorial / introduction to Versu with a lighthearted theme, covering the basics of interacting with the app – understanding objectives and achievements, playing settings and directing a chosen character. The story involves Lucy, a schoolgirl receiving instruction from her grandmother about how to behave herself in polite society. There are several possible outcomes to the story, as well as a little background on characters who may appear again in future titles.

The Unwelcome Proposal: in this scene, adapted from Pride and Prejudice and which runs some 5 – 10 minutes as a further introducion to Versu, Elizabeth’s cousin Mr Collins is full of reasons why they should be married. She disagrees, but can she convince him her refusal is sincere? Users can play as either Elizabeth or Mr Collins, exploring routes through Austen’s story and drawing heavily on her original text.

The first Versu title, offered at $4.99

The first Versu title, offered at $4.99

The House on the Cliff: a full-length original story running to some 30-45 minutes by Emily Short. An accident to a carriage and mail-coach strand a group of strangers in a desolate stretch of coastland. The only source of shelter is an ancient, rambling estate, where neither servants nor master appear to be at home. Users can pick character from a wide selection and play through the story, forming alliances or finding enemies among the other travelers. Tasks within the story include working to recover from the crash, uncovering the secrets of the estate, and the option to pursue aims unique to the chosen character.

A Family Supper: offered at $4.99, this is a full length story of around 30-45 minutes. The Quinn family is hosting a small house party, but an unconventional guest threatens their peace with sonnets, vegetarianism, and a gift for finding everyone’s sore points. When secrets start coming to light and a corpse appears, it’s up to you to bring about justice – if justice is what you want. Players can choose between one of two characters, Lucy, who is staying with her hosts, or another character who is present only for supper — at the Quinns’ estate. As the evening progresses and things begin to go wrong, help to discover what has really happened, and decide how it should best be resolved — if you don’t provoke your hosts to throw you out of the house first, that is!

Of these stories A Family Supper is perhaps somewhat familiar, given the story outline was referred to briefly when the Versu wesbite was open to public viewing at the start of 2013, so presumably, the other character which can be adopted by users is that of “Miss. Bates”. Similarly, The House on the Cliff would appear to be the ghost story hinted at as well. Where there is a very clear difference between the accidental exposure if the website and the launch of the product, is that the “leak” of the website indicated that Versu would be browser-based, rather than a dedicated app.

While Versu is initially only available for the iPad, a version for Android is promised soon. Going on the launch of Creatorverse, any wait for this to happen shouldn’t be that long – although it is uncertain whether the Android product will be aimed solely at tablets or accessible on devices with smaller screens.

A video released with the launch, explains more about the app and the stories, with insights from creators Emily Short and Richard Evans, as well as an unusually gravel voiced Rod Humble.

An interesting aspect with Versu – and in keeping with the idea of “shared creative spaces” – is that while the initial offerings are authored by the team from LittleTextPeople, users will in the future have the option of writing and published their own Versu stories, as noted on the Versu website:

As a content creator, you’ll be able to create your own characters, improvise new dialogue and gestures for them, and even build entirely new stories and games for others to enjoy.

How this will work, and what options may be included in order for budding authors to monetise their stories is unclear – so eyes need to be kept on the Linden Research and Versu websites to catch upcoming announcements as / when the self-authoring capabilities are launched. However, this does go some way to explaining the references to “user-generated” content found in the Versu Terms of Service during the time when the website was accidentally revealed to the public in January.

Of all the new products the Lab initially announced, Versu is the one that has grabbed my attention the most, although I admit I was surprised by dio, launched at the end of January. The press release, Versu website and launch video have again piqued my interest even if, as a non-Apple user, I’ll have to be patient before I can get my little paws on a version (assuming that the Android version will be playable on small-screen devices as well). Certainly, of all the products launched to date, Versu would seem to have the most solid means of building a reliable (if possibly not overly large) revenue stream from the off, through the periodical release of engaging titles, should the app build up a reasonable following.

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8 thoughts on “Linden Lab launches Versu

    1. slutrix

      Agreed. I don’t have a tablet and I wouldn’t buy a tablet just for Versu – if I already did have one, I might consider it.

      For the time being, though, I think I’d consider something Writer’s Cafe, which I’d dabbled with in the distant past, although it didn’t really grab my attention.

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  1. Pep

    Scrivener [http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php] seems to be the flavour of the moment as far as software for the professional writer is concerned, from my wanderings around the blogs of newer authors’ – ie those who aren’t still banging away at Remingtons. A comparison with Writer’s Cafe and also Ulysses is available at [http://chrisamies.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/writing-project-software-compared/] Versu looks like it’s aimed at those geeks who bought the TSR Endless Quest books and would like to recycle the concepts – and maybe even the stories. Pep (Disclosure: uses Scrivener.)

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  2. sickjessicka

    I really do like the game concept, and would play it if there were more modern stories to play through. I love the kind of gameplay, would love to see it a bit more visually appealing, but wouldn’t mind trying out a post-1960’s kind of story.

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    1. Inara Pey Post author

      I’ve only seen the video for Versu, so unable to really comment on the visual style – as I’ve no idea whether it is fully reflective of the Versu release, or presents an earlier working version (dio has already gained a negative reputation as the promo video doesn’t actually resemble the product, and even the video tutorials present a UI which is somewhat different in presentation to the beta release). That said, what I have seen in the video and on the website did strike me as being a potential turn-off for some in terms of the graphics, so can understand your point.

      That said, if done well, “pen and ink” style illustrations might actually increase the period appeal for some settings and stories. When used with stories set, say, during the 19th Century, they might evoke a look and feel of the kind of illustration which often accompanied stories printed in the likes of The Strand magazine.

      I’m sure that we’ll se stories from a number of eras appear as titles are added to the “library” – and I would certainly hope the visually, they would also go some way to addressing the period in which they are set. Guess we’ll have to see what comes along.

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  3. Pingback: Ancient Rome coming to Versu – but is Versu coming to Android? | Living in the Modem World

  4. Pingback: Versu: making NPCs human | Living in the Modem World

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