I’d been a little curious about Versu ever since it came out, and a talk I heard at GDC this year did nothing to reduce my enthusiasm. So I figured I’d try it out on the plane ride to Japan.

Unfortunately, there was a flaw in my plan: when I downloaded the game, I realized that it wouldn’t play without a network connection. Now, maybe there’s a good reason for this: maybe the game does more computation than my iPad could handle. Or maybe Linden Labs didn’t think twice about doing it that way: that’s the way they do things. Or maybe they did think twice, but they decided it was best from a maintainability/portability point of view. Or maybe they have some economic reason for doing it that way. Maybe there’s even a reason why it’s better for users, I just can’t think of one.

Who knows; at any rate, not what I expected. And, to be honest, I felt a little bit like I was getting my own Sim City experience. My mood wasn’t helped when, a week later, I was playing the game, and I lost half an hour of play time because it couldn’t sync with the server on one turn. (Yes, I realize that text adventures have been training me for decades to save regularly, but surely that’s a bug, not a feature, especially in iPad games?)

Server interactions aside, what did I think about Versu? I’m glad to have spent a few hours with it: I went through all four scenarios multiple times. But I can’t say I felt too satisfied after that.

Not sure what’s going on there. Maybe it felt like a tech demo? Maybe the themes of the stories didn’t work for me? Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood? Maybe the mechanics need to evolve a bit more? Maybe I prefer either explicit narrative or else sandbox mechanics, whereas this middle ground of exploring a pre-existing narrative space doesn’t work as well for me?

Hard to say; and I certainly won’t swear off playing more stories that use the Versu machinery in the future. But I won’t spend time waiting for stories more to my taste to come along, either.

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