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10 years of LOVE

LovePosted by Eskil Thu, December 01, 2016 08:09:07

Today is the 10th anniversary of the development of my game LOVE, and I think it's time to tell the story behind it.

I was working in academia and as much as I love science, I was getting tired of not doing something real. When you do research about something like video games or video game production, you never really know if the solutions you create would work in the real world. I was considering doing something completely different, but then i realized that it would be a waste to not use my skills, and in the end i really love making games. One late night, after coming home from a conference, I started a new visual studio project called project love. I worked on it all night. The name stuck and so did the game.

I was way in over my head, but I liked it. I decided to do everything myself, engine, networking, graphics, sound, physics, gameplay and procedural generation. It may be the most ambitious game project anyone has ever attempted, but none of that was really a problem. 3 years later I released an alpha.

I was very excited, but there were some problems. I fixed them, and then there were more problems. I kept fixing problems, but the game just didn't work. No players came, the server costs started to outstrip the income. The press loved my game, until they played it. It wasn't without merit, it just didn't come together. It turned out that I had vastly underestimated the design challenges in the creation of the kind of game I wanted to make. I was essentially trying to invent an entirely new class of games.

At the same time someone else, with my resources, in my city, made a very similar game: Minecraft. The difference was that his was a game people wanted to play. When you work on a big game there are many people you can blame if things go wrong. I had no one. The fact that someone else did it proved that it wasn't an impossible task. I was just not good enough.

I thought I wanted to make a commercial game, but at every turn where I had the opportunity to make it commercial or design it the way I wanted, I chose the latter. Many people have told me I needed to market the game better or make it easier to learn, but to me this was always secondary. To me, the game simply wasn't good, and until that was fixed, why bother trying to attract players? I spent almost 4 years trying to fix the game, and while improvements were made, it never worked.

All of this was really hard on me, and I got fairly depressed. After 7 years, I finally gave up. Love was just associated with too much pain. I had wasted 7 years and so much money. I didn't want to be a game developer any more. When I told people what I did, people would inevitably say "Oh, like Minecraft? I love that game".

At my lowest point I was at GDCE and Robin Hunicke (who BTW is awesome) gave a talk about the hugely successful game Journey that had just come out. She told the story of the horrible development of that game, about the infighting and the pain that it caused. I thought to myself: would I rather have had that experience, having a terrible time making something successful, or do what I did: have fun making something no one else cared about. That's when i realized that I had done the right thing. I followed my dream and I enjoyed the process, more than the result. Minecraft fucked me up, but not as much as the guy who made it. I got passed it, and I came out a better person. He is no longer my nemesis, I feel for him.

The last few years I kept a note file with ideas of how I would change Love, but I was scared to go back. I worked on the pivot model to be able to finally understand how games work. Last year, I decided to take a few weeks off to fiddle with Love. Just to see if I could apply any of my ideas and how it would feel, I was kind of surprised by how good it felt. And I was even more surprised by the changes I made. For very brief moments, Love started to sing.

I don't know what it means yet, and I don't dare think I have cracked it, but for the first time in many years I'm excited about it. So yes, I guess this is my announcement that I'm occasionally working on Love again (for followers of my Twitch stream it hasn't really been a secret). I was planning to make a video showing off what I'm working on, but I don't feel ready, so I wont. Maybe I will some day. I don't have a timeline or a release in mind. This time I know I'm doing it for me.

My next project is Unravel, and I can't even imagine it being successful, but I know that it will challenge and intrigue me for years to come. In the end I am a scientist and an artist. I tried to not be but I am. I will always rather boldly go where no one has gone before, than be one of the popular kids. I'm not convinced I will ever make something that anyone will ever will like and use, I will probably never be rich or famous. But you know what? I'm going to live a really good life.

  • Comments(17)

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Posted by el Wed, March 29, 2017 17:25:24

You made a thing out of pure ego and your ego kept you in the dark, which is its primary function. The thing was disliked, as it should, and you blamed others which doubled the pain. Consider yourself lucky and learn the lesson, or you're in for another round of ego trip.

Posted by Eldar Sat, March 11, 2017 22:00:45

I got interested in Love when it was already free to play. I tried to find something about it, some community or information, but there was almost nothing. And there were a lot of people like me trying to find something.
I managed to play by myself for some time, but I couldn't understand a lot of things there.
Now I'm really excited and I look forward to the great comeback of a great project. I think now is a better time for projects like this because it's much easier to create a community or to support people like you who create something.
Good luck with all your projects!

Posted by Longtime Fan Mon, February 20, 2017 22:06:05

I followed the development of LOVE for a long time, very nearly from the beginning. The entire process, philosophies and incredible tech behind the game has always inspired me. You inspired me. To better myself and my leet programming skills. It was a hell of a journey and I always popped back to this blog once in awhile to see what else you were up to. It never really occurred to me how difficult a process it was from your point of view because you seemed so damn good at it. So full of great ideas. Its good to know you are proud of all that!

Posted by Hardy Sun, January 15, 2017 08:55:28

Hi Eskil,

I was playing game right from the beginning and was fascinated of the design and the huge amount of possibilities. I wanted to get my friends into that game but there were quenched of the noise in each rendered object. I liked that a lot because it have its own fancy way of creating a moody atmosphere.

But the most significant problem (i guess) is the complex playing of the game. If you compare to minecraft which damned simple and boring after a while. LOVE is for me a damned good way of creating a own way of playing a game and enjoining it. After six years from last playing LOVE i must say, i still remember many moments I had experienced while playing...

Fuck the money, you did a great job and and could be very proud of yourself. Just because you don't hit the nerve of the mass of the people would not mean you failed, I thing you created something very special who needs time from the player, which the most of them wont spend for...

Posted by Matt Thu, December 22, 2016 07:57:07

Love is/was great. The best memory I have of it was when an update broke the AI building construction and it started turning the entire planet into a death star. So excited for the possibility of an update!

Posted by Arne Thu, December 15, 2016 00:39:59

If I had to bet money back in the day when neither Minecraft nor this game was popular, on one of them, I would have put in on this game. Just because it had this unique art style and direction. I even bought the game when it was still a subscription based game, and tried it out with a friend. As you have already mentioned that is the point where people stopped being interested in the game. And I have to say I did not really enjoy the game. Too many weird symbols I could not figure out. so many different things that seemed important, but I had no idea what to do in that game. So fun was not really there. But that didn't stop me from thinking the game is interesting. It was all so mysterious, that I keept comming back and see in the development if things where changing. I am really interested to give the game another go, but I would like to not have the same depressing experience I had last time when I played the game, I would like to have. Let the players have fun exploring your world, and not too much at a time. I know it is a lot of work, but it was even more work to come to where you are right now, it would be sad if all that would go to waste. By the way you are great. Not everybody is able to write an MMO from scratch. You are in my personal list of People with amazing Skills, that I name in conversations.


Posted by Comestai Tue, December 13, 2016 01:57:17

Thank you, Eskil!
I love the game and I hope you'll keep developing it.
May I give you my best wishes of success!
Cheers!

Posted by sirleto Sun, December 11, 2016 22:35:50

wanted to say THANK YOU for all your work and dedication and love.
i was here from the start, seeing all you ever did.
i was hugely inspired by your style, your way to do things and also the way you continued despite "no commerical success".

i am very happy to read what you write 10 days ago, i still feel you are hurt inside, but i am happy because i have the feeling you will continue to grow.

thank you very much, from one "more art than playable" game developer to another ;-)

Posted by CvX Fri, December 09, 2016 10:59:52

Good luck with the next project, can't wait to see work-in-progress screenshots!

Btw. "Unravel", any relation to 2016 game "Unravel"? 😜

Posted by Simon Fri, December 02, 2016 18:29:44

Great post, and great news! I love LOVE. Thank you. Keep having fun!

Posted by juliusthepious Fri, December 02, 2016 11:29:09

You are an inspiration to us who choose to toil in obscurity! Cheers!

Posted by david maas Fri, December 02, 2016 11:07:55

"Love was just associated with too much pain"

There are truths, and there are truths! I've really enjoyed your posts and look forward to your continued explorations!

Posted by david maas Fri, December 02, 2016 10:54:29

you are kewl. Bask in it!

Posted by Jason Thu, December 01, 2016 21:24:37

You just seem to be one of the most interesting people I've ever followed. I have made a few comments on your blog over the years, and have been so intrigued with love (though I've never tried it)... but everything you say in this blog post resonates with me too.

Thank you for your vulnerable post, honesty, and all that shit. You're cool.

Jason

Posted by Zeke Thu, December 01, 2016 15:52:55

I'm amazed by your game and tools. I've wondered at least a few times how it is possible for one person to do this. It makes sense that it has exacted a toll.

In terms of commercial success, I think it is a matter of trial and error to find the precise reward structure that provides some progressive drug as one gets further into it. That is what Minecraft stumbled on, where Instaminer failed.

I think it would be a shame to clone Minecraft though. Love is not just Minecraft with a different aesthetic. It is (or gives the illusion of being) a fully interdependent world, with its own alien logic to discover. I would love to take a 6 month sabbatical from work so I could play this to exhaustion in one long computer bender...

Posted by Jesper Thu, December 01, 2016 11:48:47

I just want to say that your blog posts have always been a great source of inspiration to me. And for what it's worth: I never really saw the attraction of Minecraft, but I was always very intrigued by your ideas in Love.

Posted by Stephan Thu, December 01, 2016 09:22:13

Thanks for sharing!

I guess I will introduce LOVE to some of my friends.

BTW do you have an Unravel RSS feed?