For The Love

By Jim Rossignol on February 20th, 2008 at 6:49 pm.

Love lifts us where we belong.
Occasionally encounters with human intelligence can be entirely bewildering. Suddenly you’re faced with the fact that other minds move in the same world and speak the same language, and yet have thoughts and intellectual processes going on that are entirely alien – and superior – to your own. That’s certainly how it feels to be shown the work of Eskil Steenberg, while sat at a spare table in a GDC conference hall. Steenberg’s temperamental laptop might not have wanted to help out, but what we saw flickering on that screen was astonishing and somewhat unsettling.

Steenberg is working on quite a different plane. Not just from wishful luddites like me, but also other developers and artists. He casually chats away about the procedural multiplayer adventure that he’s creating by himself, and in doing so reveals glimpses of a kind of creative genius that you’d be lucky to find anywhere, but that you could only find in the games industry. Steenberg is an artist and a prodigiously talented programmer. He has both the vision and the technical skill to create something spectacular, all on his own. Hell, if Eskil gives up tomorrow and never gets this game out to its audience it will still be important to me. Just the idea that one man can set out to make an mini MMO that looks like lavish impressionistic artwork brought to life… well, just look at it. In motion it was suggestive of a smokey, dynamically lit version of Okami.

It must be love, love love.

He pulled up his tools, applications for object rendering and design that are more like game interfaces than things designed for hard work. In fact, as he’s showing us some graphical tech he suddenly clicks on a ghostly spaceship that’s passing over his rendered street scene and the tool window instantly becomes a game of Asteroids. As I said; bewildering.

The game itself, dubbed Love (as in For The Love Of Game Development), is an exploration-based moderately-multiplayer FPS with astounding impressionistic visuals and a procedurally generated universe. Since Steenberg is a one man show, he’s relying on clever maths to build the world for him and then clever gamers to come in and help him figure out where to take it, and what to do with it.

So far he’s already populated it with weird animals and wondrous, gaseous visuals, and he intends to build the world into a kind of communal adventure, where gamers work together to furnish a central village, defend it from enemy attack, and explore the surround world and its many dungeons. Players will be able to do things like deform elements of terrain, allowing them to build tunnel networks or walls to defend their property. Items will also be intended for the good of all as Steenberg creates them and drops them into the world. You won’t be picking up rifles in your adventures, but more likely the plans for the rifle-building machine, that can then be utilised by everyone in your village. Part Zelda, part Tale In The Desert, part adventure shooter, and wholly abstract and beautiful, Love looks the kind of amalgam of art, programming and internet savvy that we’ve desired without even being able to imagine. It has the potential, and Steenberg has the huge intellect, for this to be one of the most precious events in PC gaming.

Love is a beautiful thing.

Nonetheless it’s unclear what’s going to happen to Steenberg and his project. He says he’s not doing it for the money and that he only needs 200-or-so subscribers to justify running the live game. From what I’ve seen he’ll be lucky to avoid being swamped by thousands, those hungry legions of gamers who want something quite different from their MMO experience, and just aren’t getting it.

Love, oh Love, it has me quite giddy indeed.

[You'll find more screens of Love here. More details when we have them.]

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78 Comments »

  1. ry says:

    slappeh:. it looks like a fairly low-fi 3d engine, with a great big fuzzy filter over it. looks interesting though.

    Although most of my MMO time is spent in Eve Online, i have the added bonus of setting a long skill training and playing this for a few weeks before i get bored of it’s revolutionary gameplay and searing originality, and want to go back to kicking people in the neck.

    Without actually knowing anything about Love (or love for that matter) i’m not convinced it’s a long-term experience.

  2. roBurky says:

    The screenshots remind me a lot of Noctis. Although it probably looks different in motion.

  3. Seth Tipps says:

    Will Wright and Brian Eno on the subject of Procedural Generation, with examples from Spore; http://fora.tv/2006/06/26/Will_Wright_and_Brian_Eno

    Make yourself comfortable, this is an hour and a half of rather academic discourse, with a light dash of humor.

  4. playclever says:

    This… sounds incredible.

  5. sebas says:

    Looks amazing!
    I found this btw : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fktbTQ7EL-c

  6. Paul Parkinson says:

    This looks magnificent. I’ve seen WOW (blecchh), Eve (nice but “training” is too long winded) and SecondLife is dull dull dull; this is right. up. my. street.

    Want.

    Will. Play. Will. Pay.

  7. Loolee says:

    Looks absolutely lovely.

  8. ns says:

    Wow. it looks simply stunning!

  9. FM says:

    this simply looks amazing, I hope he succeeds in creating a game out of it.

    I particularly love the artistic direction, and I think the game will hold onto a core of dedicated players, interacting positively to continuously improve the player experience.

    I think it could be interesting if he set up various worlds with different fundamental concepts, or even identical ones and watch them develop in different ways.

  10. Alex says:

    It seems like a great idea, but the art just looks like someone went a little heavy on the Photoshop filters, and I don’t know if I could spend a lot of time playing a game that is this stylistic. Cell-shading is great until you need detail.

  11. Robot Cartoons says:

    Wow, I love the “concept art” look, and the simple idea of gameplay might just be what will get me into playing onine games again. I can’t wait to explore this.

  12. takipsi1im says:

    Yeah, but, “Love”? Come on.

  13. Serjn says:

    Looks a lot like Noctis… I wonder whether you will be able to apply filters similarly..

  14. Pirate0r says:

    When ever I read about games that have a procedurally generated universe, it always reminds me of the Fantasy Game that Ender played in the book Ender’s Game.

  15. Confused says:

    I don’t get it? It looks crap and sounds competely unachievable. Another ovehyped project that will never see the light of day.

  16. Jack says:

    i’ve give my right testicle to play this game…not my left one though…thats the baby making one…

  17. kevin says:

    Good work man, Ive been waiting for a procedural game, it is the greatest form of freedom in all games which gamers like me crave. Now hopefully in my lifetime a online procedural virtual reality game will come out in my lifetime. i wish a online game would come out where you could “plug” in your brain and be inside a world and use all five senses.

  18. fawrh says:

    Just wanted to put it out there, that not only is the game a work of art (visualy), so is the engine (check out his blog). Not only are some of the things that he is doing are pure genius, but the networking engine (not to mention his tools) should be burned on to a series of disk, placed into a glass case, and put into a museum. Along with Chaos from the “theprodukkt” (google it), Eskil is among the greatest programmers of our time.

  19. jhro says:

    The site says, “Environment fully editable from within game.” The thought of seeing what you people might create is intimidating. I’m thinking, dong cities.

    @kevin it’s called the Matrix, and you are already playing it.

  20. RichPowers says:

    This is one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen. Incredible.

  21. K says:

    Great graphics. I don’t think I have seen more “emotional” graphics since “Another World”

  22. Mr Toad says:

    This sounds /exactly/ like the game i’ve been dreaming of.

  23. crazy says:

    im really looking forward to this.it looks amazing.

  24. Pivit says:

    hope we dont have to pay for the game but even if we do im gonna “love” it.

  25. Pivit says:

    hope we dont have to puy for it

  26. foamy says:

    I don’t get what’s so supposedly great about this. Heavily stylized graphics, probably cell-shaded or something. Looks ok, maybe kind of pretty in places (the screenshots don’t show much) but certainly not anything to cream your pants over like that. Why is everyone so impressed? This looks kind of par for the course where free MMOs are concerned.

  27. Aliennoffe says:

    When will it be released?