What you see here are not watercolour paintings, but screenshots. The vibrant and beautiful images depict not static, empty scenes but living vistas soon to be inhabited by thousands of people. Love is an upcoming MMO, to feature a huge dynamically alterable world and innovative interrelated gameplay systems. It is the work of a single person, Eskil Steenberg.
The game’s stunning visuals are thanks to clever procedural programming, which dictates much of Love’s underlying design as well. One-man-band Steenberg utilizes intelligent techniques in order to reduce the workload and create vast amounts of content; he has created his own tools to aid his development process, which are even available for anyone to try.
The game surfaced early last year during GDC1, immediately drawing attention with its impressionistic imagery. It was at this year’s GDC, though, that substantial information was finally revealed, detailing the fundamental world-building mechanics, resources and communications system2. Steenberg initially released a haunting first trailer, embedded after the jump, and later a full gameplay demonstration in which he gives a walkthrough of the basic mechanics. And last week he released an alpha client to the public, so that people could finally witness the game running realtime in full glory.
The alpha client is an unplayable demo, showing a looping, side-scrolling view of the breath-taking world of Love. There is a menu with a few connectivity options, but nothing is available for us to touch, only see. The client serves as a test for potential consumers to see how the game will run on their systems, and for Steenberg to gauge the interest in the game. The game reportedly pings a remote server as well as sends information on the graphics card being used - but nothing else, we are assured. A proper alpha test period will be starting “soonish”, allowing players to get a taste of the gameplay and help test the game. No word yet on when or how exactly people can sign up, but apparently it will require a 3 Euro donation3. (Update: You can now join the alpha by paying for a 30-day voucher)
The world is worth changing, so get on with it. Take your mates and make your planet whatever you want it to be.
What sets Love apart from the current major MMOs is it key feature - the malleability of the world, and the DIY nature of the constructable facilities. Everything revolves around the use of tokens. Players can join or create new settlements, which can be only be built around scarcely available monolith tokens. Players can then deform the nearby land by raising and lowering the terrain, and punching holes through it. Other kinds of tokens provide tools and means to build facilities like power generators and defensive structures. Power is the primary resource and will be one of the driving forces of the the game. For example, as the gameplay video shows, players can build windmills to generate power, and then link them to relays or force fields. When attacking AI settlements (Love is PvE), players will need to target the power sources in order to breach the defenses.
Another axis of the design is how communication works. A radio system is built in to allow players to assign specific frequencies to particular tasks, like chat channels or activation of tools. Again, the video clearly demonstrates how you can set a bomb to go off by having it listen on a radio frequency for a keyword that you can hotkey.
This is a game to play with your friends, and for them to play with their friends. Never enough to be crowded; never so few to be alone.
These simple systems interact to introduce innovative and refreshing new mechanics and scenarios. The extent of the creativity and ingenuity of the inventions and solutions lies entirely in the hands of the players. Steenberg proposes a shard model for the MMO, with each shard hosting 200 or so simultaneous players4. This is a comparatively small amount of persistent users, that will bring a level of intimacy and community conducive to the collaboration required to overcome the enemy AI.
There is still a long way to go for Love, and I will most certainly be keeping a watchful eye on its development. I am not even that big of an MMO gamer, having only spent a little time in EVE Online with Martyn and Richard. But what I think attracts me to Love is what I dig about EVE too - the sense of freedom to take the tools given to you and interact with other players in ways that cannot be experienced in any other game. Love looks to provide that along with incredibly unique and gorgeous eye candy. Here’s hoping that Eskil Steenberg can achieve his lofty ambitions and bring this indie MMO to completion.
- http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/02/20/for-the-love/ [↩]
- http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/10/23/rps-interview-love/ [↩]
- http://www.gaminglove.net/forums/showpost.php?p=666&postcount=75 [↩]
- http://www.gameobserver.com/features/inside/all-platforms/gameobserver-interview-with-love-designer-eskil-steenberg-146/ [↩]