Update, February 19th, 2014: Creatorvers and dio were discontinued by Linden Lab on February 19th, 2014. Links to their websites, etc., have therefore been removed from this article.
Details of a kind are starting to slip out about LL’s new product stream. We’re now already very familiar with Patterns and Creatorverse, the latter of which reached the Android platform at the start of the week, coming to it via the Kindle range of tablets.
An article in Techcrunch provides some more insight into the remaining two products of which we’re already aware, Dio and Versu.
The article starts off with a positive comment on Second Life itself:
Linden Lab, the company that created Second Life and grew that online community into one of the most colorful, varied online social networks in the world, is doing some very different things for the first time in many, many years.
Admittedly, this quickly slides into the murkier waters regarding declining user numbers, observing rather interestingly that “passive viewing becoming the dominant interaction method”, before bringing up that beloved subject of many a journo reporting on SL, that of its “sordid past”.
I’m not entirely sure what is meant by “passive viewing”, but I suspect that relates to many of the more populous venues in SL being clubs (of every sort) whereby avatars are dancing but most of the conversation is going on in IM, giving the illusion that everyone is sitting in silence watching avatars gyrate twist and turn individually or in groups, or twirl gracefully around the dance floor like pairs of professional ballroom dancers. While the image is true, I’m not entirely sure how representative of SL it is as a whole.
But I digress.
In the article, Rod Humble confirms the upcoming order of the remaining two initial product releases from the Lab, with Dio coming up next, followed by Versu.
“The next project is a web experience called Dio that’s really hard to explain, which I like. It’s sort of like Second Life without the graphics, or Facebook but trying to be more of a creative space,” Humble is quoted as saying in the Techcrunch article. He goes on, “So it’s a web experience and you create your space, but within the spaces, everyone has their own avatar and avatars carry inventory. The way you navigate from space to space is via doors, and you can make things like a MUSH [multi-user shared hack] or hobby space very easily.”
This in itself sound curious, especially when added to previous hints on the product, with Humble describing Dio as a, “Room creator, in which players can do everything from construct a choose-your-own adventure to develop an interactive wedding album,” during an interview with Giant Bomb in October which I covered here, or simply as “A website that lets people create rooms out of their personal images and videos, connects them to other people’s rooms and lets people share the space,” as he did when talking to Kotaku.
Given the mass of “shared webspaces” which already exist out there which combine various elements of social interaction, photo / image sharing and so on, I have to admit Humble’s description of Dio to Kotaku in particular left me wondering exactly what Dio would offer as a reasonable USP that would help it stand out from the crowd sufficiently to drawn attention and, one would assume, m-o-n-e-y.
Having now read his latest comments, the idea of “Second Life without the graphics” in which everyone has an “avatar” leaves me with impressions of Arthur Dent, toothbrushes and pocket fluff (and if you don’t get the reference, Don’t Panic!). I’m absolutely positive that Dio will not be anything of the sort, but I can’t shift the image from my brain since reading the quotes – so, thank you, Rod, for that! :).
More seriously,the description given to Techcrunch for Dio does again have me curious and intrigued as to what it is we’ll actually see when the product launches in the near future.
Turning to Versu, the article quotes Humble once more, “It’s procedural interactive storytelling. Basically you set the motives and the behaviors of the individual characters and the plot gets generated as you go, and each time it’s different.”
This doesn’t actually add a lot to what we know about Versu per se, Humble’s words pretty much echo what he said to Giant Bomb in October. However, what is interesting – to a point – is the way that the Techcrunch article apparently links the development of Versu to that of Dio. Following Humble’s description of Dio, Techcrunch immediately states:
The end result is a collaborative product called Versu created by former The Sims 3 co-worker Richard Evans and interactive storyteller Emily Shaw.
While this could be a misunderstanding on the reporter’s part, the juxtaposition of the comment, and the wording do seem to imply that Versu actually grew out Dio. If this is reflective of how the two were developed (previous interviews with Humble seemed to point to the two products having a separate genesis / development), it’ll be interesting to see what exists by way of commonality between them. Will Dio, for example, provide a basic set of character generation tools for the “build and adventure” aspect of the product, which are then greatly expanded upon in Versu?
In terms of Versu itself, Techcrunch also comments:
The idea here is to tap into collaborative storytelling, something that’s been gaining in popularity in online spheres, as evidenced by the traction social writing startup Wattpad has seen. But with Versu, Linden Lab adds a gaming element to interactive storytelling that essentially allows players to create their own characters which then write themselves. It seems like a smart way to capitalize on the observer tendency that’s turned Second Life players into story watchers.
While this again doesn’t add much to what we already know about Versu – and I’ll leave the fact that I don’t necessarily agree with the comment on SL users being passive observers – when combined with Humble’s description of the product, it does tend to increase one’s curiosity. As it is, I’m actually far more intrigued by both the concept and the potential for Versu than perhaps I have been by both Patterns and Creatorverse (and I’ve warmed tremendously towards the latter after initially feeling very cold towards it).
The most striking thing about Creatorverse, Patterns, Dio and Versu – with the possible caveat on the last two in that they may share something of a common heritage if Techcrunch has it right – is that while they all explore the concept of “shared creative spaces”, they all do so very differently. This leads Techcrunch to wonder if people will find this perhaps too confusing. I’m not convinced they will. If Humble and those at LL have got things right, and are indeed threading the needle between innovation and fun, I think it is entirely possible that down the line, LL could well establish a reputation for being a company which does just that: provides innovation applications and games which are fun. If so, that will obviously be all to the good for the company. What it means for Second Life in the long-term, should this prove to be the case, remains to be seen.
With thanks to the pointer from Ciaran Laval.