Conversations in Versu

Versu is a new iPad game from Emily Short and Richard Evans—though kind of less of a game and more of a conversation engine, really, if that makes any sense. It’s a ton of fun to goof off in; the app’s free, so if you have an iPad, you don’t have an excuse for not playing with it—and I’m not saying that just because I have tremendous respect for Short’s talents as a game designer.[1]

On her blog, Short’s posting a series of articles about Versu’s design; the most recent focuses on how the conversations work:

In a multi-agent story, conversation flow has to be explicitly controlled; we have to track whose turn it is to talk next (if anyone’s), enforce rules of topicality; we have to give characters the option to interrupt others, and appropriate responses if they do so.

In addition, conversation in Versu scenes needs to be interleaved with other character behavior. Characters might be talking while dancing, or eating dinner, or during a fight; so we need to provide to make conversation flow around the other social activities that are occurring at the same time.

It does lay bare some of the smoky-mirror-y stuff that makes Versu tick, so maybe don’t read the above until you’ve played the game. Still, the design’s fascinating, and the project itself is ambitious. Big fan.

  1. I will admit that it was while playing interactive fiction—Emily Short’s games in particular, and Savoir-Faire specifically—almost a decade ago that I first realized that people actually think about how games work.  ↩