Worlds Apart: Love & Neverdaunt 8bit

By Quintin Smith on November 11th, 2009 at 11:06 am.


Oddly, Love isn’t the only trippy single-programmer MMOG with an emphasis on player landscaping and building that’s currently in beta. There’s also Neverdaunt 8Bit, or N8, which swaps procedurally generated gorgeousity and lethal roaming AI for a retro aesthetic and plain old messing around. I took a closer look at both of them recently and find myself liking one an awful lot more than the other. Find out which after the jump.

I checked out Love first, paying €3 for a month’s subscription to the “alpha”. My not following the game too closely in the games press quickly turned out to be a good thing. As I wasn’t expecting anything I wasn’t too disappointed when the High End graphics failed to work on my (capable) machine, nor was I that upset when the server I picked turned out to have several AIs pottering around right on top of the newbie spawn, meaning they gunned me down over and over again. The lack of sound – missing while the game is tested – was also unexpected.


Lucky for Love I am a crazy man and inaccessible games are my favourite. On went the Charles Mingus album as, to a soundtrack of hoarse saxaphones, I eventually went scrambling over cliffs and chasms to some degree of seclusion and safety. Now what?

Read its design document and you’ll find out that Love is meant to be a game where each server’s players unify against the evil AI by building settlements. Everyone can build, and everyone works together to string up power lines, place machines, dig caves and build fortifications. A game where there is no inter-human conflict, only love! And freedom!

In practice, as you’d expect from an online game built around the concept of co-operation, Love has problems. The amount of time required to build a sizeable fort is nothing to the time it takes a knowledgeable griefer to rip it apart, and the recent addition of a ‘griefing gun’ that allows a settlement’s inhabitants to teleport troublemaker to the other side of the world is a monument to Eskil’s misjudgment of people. But there’s also a temptation for the inhabitants themselves to tear up their home, because when you’ve got a decent settlement up with walls and power running to defensive guns, there’s nothing left to do. The game’s over.


I found a settlement to join in the end but it was already completed, and I wandered the grand battlements in a daze. I couldn’t believe the game was close to being feature complete. Eskil’s made a game of building sandcastles in a desert.

Or maybe… that’s all true love really is!

Probably not though. I don’t think you have to pay three Euros a month for true love, or turn to excitable jazz as respite from love’s silence and violence.

But Love is unquestionably a game with potential. It’s easy to imagine this framework becoming an utterly absorbing competitive game, a masterpiece of passive-aggressive warfare, with two settlements of players working not only to build but to undermine the other group by cracking holes in their walls, hacking their doors, deactivating shields, breaking their power relays and causing cave-ins, then letting the murderous AI do their dirty work. Or a game on which you create a competitive building framework – creating a world in which settlements struggle to be the most beautiful, the most useful, the most heftily defended.

But, if Eskil is currently considering a new direction for Love, I think this is unlikely to be it. At this point we can only hope he’s considering any addition at all, hopefully one that’ll make this game more than sweet nothings. Give us something worth licking, Eskil! Something worth sinking our teeth into. Right now, this isn’t it.


On the other hand, N8 (short for Neverdaunt 8Bit) is a hopelessly flirtatious game. Browse their site if you don’t believe me. I especially like the almost-useless FAQ, or ‘User Guide For Users 1: Beginner Stuff For Beginners’.

N8 describes itself thus: “Neverdaunt is a dream like world of floating Islands and falling stars where nearly anything can happen… 8Bit refers to the era of computers with eight bit processors. N8 parodies the graphics style these computers were capable of… Right now you’re just getting the very basics of N8. But soon there will be all sorts of cool things. Soon there will be Guns to shoot, More PowerUps to get, Achievements to unlock and Ships to sail through the sky!”


Even at this very early stage it’s crystal clear that developer Calvin Goble is a very, very talented guy. There’s a sparkling personality to everything in N8, from the proportions and gait of your blocky avatar, to their hats and clothes, to the emote animations, to the garbled chip jabbering you hear as players chat. I was giggling for at least 35 minutes of the hour I lost in N8. It has all the charm which Love, ironically, lacks.

Keen to experiment with the game’s all-important building, my friend and I were instructed by some very friendly locals where the free build area was. They then followed us as we jogged off under a blue archway into a confused jumble of player constructs. There was a huge recreation of a Mega Man sprite, a giant chess board and some rubbish little houses. My friend and I got busy spawning trees into the world and sticking boxes to each others’ faces.

We then got distracted by the chessboard, effortlessly sliding all the man-sized pieces back into place and commencing a game. We were four moves in before one of the other players slid the board out from under us, sending my friend tumbling into space. I drew my sword and demanded satisfaction from the prankster, and a bizarre yet completely awesome 8Bit jedi duel followed. With both of us able to jump very high and manipulate objects within the environment, we spent most of the fight pulling the floor out from under each other, sliding walls between into and out of the way or flinging chess pieces around. None of it helped us kill one another, but it was fun. We were playing.


I also like that N8′s distinctive and deliberately basic art style allows player-created content to immediately look at home in the world. As the guy who uninstalled any user-created mods for Morrowind and Oblivion that didn’t look like they were made by Bethesda, this is important to me. It also makes me more keen to add to the world myself.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on N8 and seeing where it goes. If Mr. Goble decides to keep up the hard work, he definitely has a future ahead of him. Have a look yourself and see what I mean

, , , .

51 Comments »

  1. Okami says:

    Eskil… Eskil… Wasn’t that the guy who said, that you should fire all designers, because they’re useless and don’t have any skills needed for game development? And it turns out that he created a game that, while undoubtedly being beautiful as well as a technical achieving, suffers from serious design problems?

    You don’t say….

    • Sparvy says:

      To be fair he never said that, he said you should only hire designers that also knew how to code.

    • Stijn says:

      If only coders knew how to design, too ;)

    • Nollind Whachell says:

      Sparvy: He most definitely implied he had evolved over other developers.

      As the old saying goes, just because you’re an expert at something, it doesn’t mean you’d be a great teacher at it. In his regard, just because he’s a great coder, doesn’t mean he totally understands the mechanics of game design and the sociological aspects of human interaction to drive a good multiplayer experience.

      I think the track record of the LOVE alpha is a perfect example of this. The first two weeks of October showed a steady climb of people trying out the game and the majority raved about it. At it’s peak in mid October, we had settlements setup with tons of playtesters within it. Even Eskil was surprised when he showed up ingame one day and was blown away by how many people were in the settlement we were building.

      As soon as he dramatically changed the direction of the gameplay in mid October (i.e. different approach to token acquisition), people started dropping like flies and within a few days, active server populations plummeted. I’ve heard from people repeatedly saying that the latter part of October was a waste of their time and money because everything in the game was in flux and bugs didn’t appear to be getting fixed (even when he said he had fixed them). Because of this, people just disappeared, many not even bothering to comment about it on the forums.

      Don’t get me wrong. I still think LOVE has a lot of potential. It’s just that I think Eskil needs to seriously learn how to effectively communicate with people better or possibly hire someone else to do that for him (i.e. Community/Beta manager). I mean communications is a critical component of an alpha and beta test experience. If it’s not there, the people involved will feel like the relationship is just a waste of their time and leave. That’s what seems to have happened to me. You had people reporting bugs and suggesting improvements to the original version, yet those bugs weren’t addressed and the suggestions were largely ignored in favor of a completely different and seemingly radical approach that changed the entire flow of the game.

      Right now you have a small group of testers left who like the game (mostly because they came in after mid-Octobers change and weren’t aware of the radical changes) and they are wondering why everyone is leaving or has left. I think it’s great they are enjoying the game but they just don’t know what others have already gone through. For myself, I probably won’t purchase another voucher until it’s evident he has finished all of his radical gameplay changes and has dramatically improved the AI experience which was my only primary issue with the original version of the game.

    • heartless_ says:

      @Nollind

      Sounds like you were playing a game in ALPHA, where such changes are prone to happen.

      Don’t fault Eskil for allowing testers into the ALPHA. Love has a long way to go and personally, I knew that going in, and am more than willing to let Eskil make the changes he wants. Look at what he accomplished WITHOUT following anyone’s suggestions, its pretty fucking amazing. Give him the time he needs to improve the game, not bitch because he made a couple changes to an Alpha.

  2. Baboonanza says:

    I’ll be trying N8 shortly. I have a feeling it’s about to be flooded with RPSers!

  3. rei says:

    Nice to see Love not getting a free pass seemingly just for the sake of a sentiment for once.

    N8 looks rather a lot like fun.

  4. Ryx says:

    Yay!

  5. Nicomallo says:

    I have been playing love quite solidly since the beginning of the open alpha and I have to say that the potential within love’s framework already does exist – sometimes. The big problem facing the game at the moment is that it isn’t nearly consistent enough at delivering the right circumstances for its magic to happen.

    When things are working well, I’ll stay online for hours and hours, and the sense of consequence and community is wonderful. However the insanely complicated systems that give the game its strengths are still very temperamental. Often I find myself logging in to find my server stuck in the state you have described above and it is always disapointing. I feel like unless you are lucky enough to log into the game during the good times and get a feel for how things should be working, the in between times won’t make sense either, and the potential that is already inside love’s systems will be missed.

    • Dominic White says:

      The fact that it’s as playable as it is, even in Alpha phase is something it should be praised for, not something that should be held against it.

  6. ckpk says:

    It’s very true that Love is a flawed experience as it exists currently, but you have to remember IT’S AN ALPHA. Eskil hasn’t even put in in beta yet because it’s no where near being what it’s intended to be. It’s only been opened to players now because it’s hard to find playtesters when you’re a one man dev team.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, this is the thing a lot of people really seem to miss – Neverdaunt is effectively a complete product, doing most of what it has set out to do. Love is still in relatively early development.

      This article is comparing an online engine-test to a feature-complete beta, and somehow finds the latter a more complete product. Durrrr.

    • Stijn says:

      It might be an alpha in name, in practice it feels a lot more like a beta, as it is very playable already and doesn’t constantly fall apart like pretty much any alpha.

  7. An Innocuous Coin says:

    That PvP you described sounds absolutely fascinating.

  8. Jeremy says:

    “Nice to see Love not getting a free pass seemingly just for the sake of a sentiment for once.”

    What sentiment would that be? Love? Hahahahahahahahah.

    I kill me.

  9. Wulf says:

    Love looks amazing, but I can’t help but feel that such beauty would be better served as…

    Okay, try to wrap your mind around this: Love + Noctis + Nethack + Outcast = …?

    Basically, one runs around finding ludicrous items and fighting hilarious procedurally generated monsters, but one can also go from World to World in a spaceship, and one has the chance of finding rare elements in the generation, such as super-sized monsters, unusual land formations, and so on.

    There could also be a minigame to document every find, flora and fauna. Basically, you get a screenshot key and critters (hostile and not) and plants are tagged, you take a photograph of them, they’re added to your library and you get something for it, and for reaching milestones you get big rewards. You could also have this link to an online player profile page where peple can display their entire gallery and give focus to their favourite shots.

    Anyway, that’s enough of my ramblings, I’m off back to playing games.

    • cs says:

      Wulf – I want to subscribe to your newsletter. Just the thought of a Noctis-esque MMO with thousands or millions of explorable planets is enough to make me need to hit the fainting couch. You’ve just described the perfect space game.

    • Wulf says:

      Indeed, it would be a wonder. Though as I thought about it, it occurred to me that I might just be describing Galaxy Rage, and I was again reminded of why I’m so wholly ensorcelled by the potential of this game, enchanted by its promise, and excited at the prospect of its release. It’s single-player, but it might just be that game. And now I’m all obsessed with Galaxy Rage again.

      Sigh.

      But yes, it amazes me that such a space game hasn’t been released. If Galaxy Rage was made co-op and added the photography aspect, then it would probably be the game I seek. Then I could drag people off to show them this unique planet or that unique creature/plant I’d found. And for a person whose strongest interest is exploration…

      Well, if nothing else, I hope that Galaxy Rage will sate those desires a little.

  10. Jazmeister says:

    Poor Love. If he’s trying to design a co-op base builder, earthquakes and endless tech trees might help, surely?

  11. Carra says:

    By the looks of those screenshots Mr. Gobble will get sued by Lego.

  12. Hypocee says:

    One major thing that excited me about Love, and may still be true, was the announcement that it was intended to be private: a group of IRL friends or a forum would rent-a-world. If that’s still the intended final use, the griefing problems could well vanish.

  13. hoff says:

    VERSUS?

    Wait… who won?

  14. Tei says:

    I have played both, and I only “get” LOVE. The other feel to me like a weird 1997 cyberspaceworldchat, another Second Life-ish thing. Since my interest is more on games, I never logued back. Maybe a better intro (directly to a editable area?) would have help.
    LOVE can make your life miserable, but alpha or not, is already playable.

  15. mandaya says:

    you, good sirs, have obviously never played Dwarf Fortress, which has been in Alpha for years. although, yes, DF is single player. Still. I also found Eskil’s decision to charge wannabe-players 3 bucks for playtesting quite strange. must be low on funds.

    • Starky says:

      I’d say his choice to charge $3 a month for play testing was more to keep away zero value adding freeloaders than earn money.

      Far too man people will abuse “free” and would have probably ended up costing him a fortune in server bandwidth.
      That $3 is probably just enough to pay for said servers, and ensures that only those actually interested in helping develop the game (or those too curious to resist) play.

      If it was free he’d have thousands “testing” it, and maybe 0.1% of them would give any feedback or bug reports.
      All he’d get from most of them is whines on the forum in broken english, leet speek and racial slurs.

  16. Nobody Important says:

    Why does Love always feel like a Battlefield?

  17. morte says:

    ‘Love’ made a nice experiment, I thought.
    I was instantly drawn to griefing, no interest in building at all, but I was ‘playing’ and I found it a lot of fun. Not sure why this has to be stopped, surely a clever designer can work this into the game?

    As has been suggested here (making the game world closed, for friends etc), so you fight just the ai? In that god awful graphics engine? Dull beyond belief.

    What’s also interesting to me is just how tolerant some are because someone is trying to be different, avoiding objective criticism completely.

    Hence I like this article, and entirely yes, you can make criticisms on game design of something in alpha, that is the point, isnt it?

  18. Aion says:

    Wow, glad you like the game!
    Mr. Goble makes me sound like an old man :(
    just call me Aion.

    • Marcin says:

      Sorry, too much confusion with that one game by the same name. You’ll have to be Mr. Goble. :)

      Heading over to try out N8 myself …

  19. Cutman says:

    My only problem is that nearly every shrine I saw was completely encased in like 10 layer thick blocks. So to get to those shrines, I’d need tons of bombs, but to get bombs I need money, in which I need shrines. It’s a little problematic there, but aside from that it’s fun.

    Any shrines not encased were in closed or public mode. So it was all kind of fruitless.

  20. MadMatty says:

    Nice.
    I´ve followed Love from the early RPS coverage and it seems genuenly interesting. I like the gstyle a lot :)
    Unfortunately my credit card is allready low on “credits” so ill have to wait a bit….
    (Spent my gaming money this month on ol´ WoW subscription and Cliffski´s “Gratuitous Space Battles” which was initially a LOT of fun, but died rather quickly- id give it 7/10)
    N8 sounds fresh aswell, ill give it a go as soon as ill find myself bored again…. im currently occupied with the Mortal Online Beta.
    I´ll try anything different, as ive been playing games a lot since 1990, and finding myself a little tired of the ´ol genres.

  21. fluffypuffy says:

    You are all right saying LOVE si only alpha. But loosing 24h from your payed gametime when switching from a bugged out server to another is just too anal. Sorry but i dident buy another voucher till eskli comes back to the gound…

  22. LionsPhil says:

    Great, thanks to this title I have Journey stuck in my head again. I hope you’re happy.

  23. Aion says:

    damn you NCsoft!

  24. LionsPhil says:

    If that domain name is a reference to robotfindskitten, then I approve entirely.

  25. DethDonald says:

    I have tried to play N8 multiple times but I always seam get an some sort of an error.

    • Aion says:

      Post it on the forums and I’d be happy to debug it, thats what Beta is all about :D

  26. Stitched says:

    I look at both screenshots for the two and hate the say that Neverdaunt 8Bit looks far more appealing.

    Unfortunately, I can’t articulate adequetly this preference.

  27. exfate says:

    Tried N8 because of this article and it was pretty good fun. I got lucky and found a poorly defended shrine. Looking forward to hopefully keeping hold of it and crafting a pretty little kingdom for myself. :D

    Fantastic.

  28. Kenny says:

    Am I really the only one that found Love’s visual style to be eye wateringly ugly?

  29. Starky says:

    Love looks amazing in screenshots (still images) almost like a watercolour, but ugly as sin in video.

    Ironically the utter opposite of N8, Looks ugly as sin in screenshots – Like an ancient N64 game, but thanks to the wonderful animation looks really cool when you see it in video, like you imagined living lego as a kid.

  30. JoeX111 says:

    It sounds like you’re looking for Otherland.

  31. JoeX111 says:

    Well, that was meant to be a reply to Wulf up there, but…

  32. Matt says:

    I played N8 last night. It was a lot of fun. I met another RPSer there too, and we tried to figure out how to use the world. The creator of the game, Aion, was online, and was very friendly and showed me how to operate N8 and how to create/modify structures. He’s a neat guy – he told us that his server has been flooded with RPSers ever since this article was posted. Give N8 a try!

  33. KindredPhantom says:

    “As the guy who uninstalled any user-created mods for Morrowind and Oblivion that didn’t look like they were made by Bethesda [...]”
    Glad to see i’m not the only one who takes that approach to mods that change the game.

    Both games seem to have potential and it will be interesting to see how they pan out.

    • heartless_ says:

      Me three! I have given up on a lot of modding because it just ruins or completely destroys the original direction of a game. Or flat out doesn’t fit.

      I miss the good days of NWN1 which seemed to have a modding community united towards making a better game overall. Nowadays it feels like every mod team is trying to turn into Splash Damage and screw anyone that gets in their way.