There's a lot to be said for text-based interactive fiction. It engages our imaginations so directly, and gets away from a lot of the challenges present in graphical games that offer interactive stories. In games like Mass Effect and The Walking Dead, more choices mean that the developers need to make more content, and the more "real" the choices are, the more likely it'll be that players won't even see a percentage of the developers' hard work.
With text, that's much less of a problem. Want to create a whole new area? Just write it down! Want to let the player take on the role of an entirely new character? No problem!
Today, the folks at Linden Lab released Versu, an interactive space for living stories that you can download for free for the iPad. You can watch the trailer above to get a sense of what Versu is all about, though to really get a sense, I recommend playing through the free stories that come with the app.
Versu is the brainchild of AI researcher Richard Evans and acclaimed interactive fiction author Emily Short. They've been talking about the concept for a while, and it's really cool to see it finally come out. It's a bit more complicated than this, but the main thing that sets Versu stories apart from standard Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style games is that you can play multiple characters, and each character reacts to what's going on according to its own distinct AI.
You can read more about the vision for Versu at Short's blog. Short is a hell of a writer; I really liked her game First Draft of the Revolution, which I played last year (and which you can play for free in your browser). She's written the stories that come with Versu, although the core idea of the thing is that users will be able to generate their own content, too.
Anyway, watch the trailer. It looks sweet. We'll likely have something more in-depth about Versu at some point in the future, once we've had a chance to mess around with it. In the meantime, if you're interested in interactive stories and video game narrative, download it and give it a go.
Versu [Official Page]