Previews

Love

Preview: One man's mission to reinvent MMOs

The demo of Love starts like any other game demo: men hunched around a laptop, watching with a sense of weary cynicism. It ends with the two journalists, myself and imperturbable freelancer Jim Rossignol, bewildered.

We try and form words out of our perplexity, try and reassemble our astonishment into sentences. "Can you... What if... How... Umm."

Eskil Steenburg is without question one of the cleverest men we've ever met. He comes across as a lumbering man-child; his nails are bitten away, his clothes hang off him like a teenager. But he has the sharpest of minds.

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He is that rare thing: a superb programmer with an eye for art and aesthetics.

Prodigiously talented at 3D modelling, but with an eye for knowing what to model. His game, Love, is a miracle: a near indescribable mix of massively multiplayer exploration game, art project, design tool and hippy commune, that he's built alone.

Love (named 'for the Love of game development') is a massively multiplayer game.
You explore watercolour countrysides, fighting off hulking monsters, finding places to build settlements with your game-mates. The monsters (like the landscapes themselves) are generated from simple algorithms, and mutated semi-randomly: each is different, each some kind of freak of nature.

Eskil laughs as he shoots one where it's face could be. It wobbles and sighs before disappearing. As he plays, he talks about his plans. "Obviously, I want other players to explore this place with me. I think, just 200 people, would be a good start - we could have fun together." Can... can we play?

The technology behind Love means that the game is editable like nothing we've seen before. Eskil points his mouse at a wall and clicks - then stretches the terrain back and forth, terraforming at will. Then he fires a gun at the side of a wall and it's blown away - digging a cave into the side of a cliff. He then trots through this tunnel, dropping into pastures on the far side.

Eskil starts demonstrating his creation tools - what he's using to build the models in-game. He talks of players using them to help him finish the world. They're toys in themselves - a vector art package that can produce simple 3D models like Google Sketchup, but with fun effects, and fireworks set off every time you make something.

The interface is a pure joy to use, too: everything handled with two mouse buttons. Within a few moments, Eskil has built an ammo pouch for one of his soldiers. It's that easy.

Then he pauses. "I sometimes get bored though. I want game development to be fun." He presses a button, and the pouch breaks apart into vector lines. Then a triangular space-ship steams in, under Eskil's control. The art package is gone. All that's left is a game of Asteroids.

Jim's jaw drops. I start giggling. We've fallen in Love.

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