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"What Is Love, Beta?"

The "beta" version of build 'n' shoot micro-MMO Love has almost arrived. It's not beta in the usual sense, of course, because like the previous alpha-test version you'll need to pay a 3€ fee for access. Currently the testing stage is only for previous subscribers, but it'll be opened up as access for all on the 7th. Eskil has been working hard squashing bugs and introducing new features, and it's reflected in a new level of polish within the game world.

And Love's world is not like that of other games, as I'll explain below.

Love is a co-operative building-based MMO, with parallels to Wurm and Minecraft, but with the combat and movement of a Quake-era FPS. You can jump far and long, and you are equipped with a range of fast-firing weapons. That said, the experience is unlike that of your typical action game, partly because it looks so smoky and painterly, and partly because combat occurs only through your antagonism with AI constructs.

The core of the game is in collaborative construction of settlements, and the AI will build them too, and try to tear yours down. To construct these strange havens you have to install various tokens, which must be uncovered by exploring the world. While exploring you should be careful, because Love's procedurally-generated world filled with treacherous chasms, as well as the bases of hostile AI, which look like squiggly clouds of smoke. Fall into the water and you can drown, get shot up by the AI and you can die. It's also worth remembering that the world is a sphere. Head in a straight line for long enough and you will come back to the same place.

Once you have a token you can plant it in a settlement. The chances are you'll come in and join an existing settlement before you set out to explore, and most of these will already be furnished a bunch of tools. Even smaller settlements will allow you pick up weapons, and perhaps some of the building tools that will help you make the settlement into a better place. The various building tools now allow you to hollow out mountains into labyrinthine fortress, complete with elegant windows, elevators, and various functional monoliths. All this is hooked up to a power-grid system, which needs to be maintained by the settlement's denizens.

The fast nature of Love means that voice communications are essential. There's plenty of opportunity to get lost, but also a good chance you'll get ambushed by the AI. Reacting to that, and co-ordinating defence with other players, really does ask for voice-comms. Eskil is currently running a public Ventrilo for pop in and join, or you can use your own if you're checking out the game with some friends.

Love, unlike its emotional namesake, isn't for everyone, and I'm still unconvinced by the endgame. But it is nevertheless one of those games that I want to recommend just because, hell, it's 3 euros, and because it's unique. If you're not using your gaming time to look for some new and weird experiences then you're kind of missing the point.

On a side note, Eskil's recent bloggings report that he's going to be doing a beginner's programming course around GDC next year, for folks interested in making games. "I thought I would put together a 3 day intensive course in game programming (for total beginners) that would teach you the basics of programming, and let you make a simple game. Each day would be around 3-4 hours long preferably in the evening. My plan is to try to do this in San Francisco the week before or after GDC. It would be free, and everyone would be welcome." He needs a venue, and interested parties, so email him if you're interested.

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