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Speaking With the Designer of an Indie MMO Project 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the quite-ambitious dept.
PsxMeUP writes "Love is a persistent online first-person shooter that will let players build structures, permanently manipulate the environment and share resources — all in real-time. Action will be similar to a real-time strategy game as seen through the eyes of a grunt. The game is being completely designed by a man named Eskil Steenberg, and GameObserver had a chance to interview him. Steenberg talks about how all MMOs offer an egocentric experience where character growth is the most important aspect, and how he intends to change that. He also explains how mainstream MMOs have too many players, which basically trivializes accomplishments that have an impact on the entire server. 'If you imagine Civilization where you invent your stuff or build new stuff, imagine playing one of those characters on the ground doing that. And being able to do something minute in your world and see that impact in the major world,' Eskil explains, when asked what his game will be like. 'I want to scare people in a direction that is different from this sort of "me-centric" style of games. It feels that pretty much all games are going into that Diablo direction of collecting and building up my characters, and it's all very egocentric about creating your own powerful character,' he clarifies when asked how his game will be different from other MMOs. Love is well into development, and Steenberg has already posted some incredible gameplay demos. Levels, for instance, are all procedurally generated. The game also offers open-source tools, like UV editing — not a small feat considering the whole thing was designed by one man."
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Speaking With the Designer of an Indie MMO Project

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  • Good luck! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:45PM (#29041123)
    Sounds like the first Communist MMO! But more power to him, I just don't see how one guy is going to put out a game changer, these games tend to be "mecentric" for a reason. People want to see that last boss, kill that god, but not everyone is willing to put in 40 hours a week.
    • So it was communist when Blizzard made everyone turn in cloth to try and open the doors of Az-Nerub? (or whatever the hell it was, I wasn't playing then.)

      His design would still work as long as the person who contributes the most gets the most. Think of it like the construction workers who work on the road. The guys who put in overtime get paid more, the people who don't help at all (me and you) don't get paid at all, but we all get to use the road when it's finished.

      • by genner (694963)

        So it was communist when Blizzard made everyone turn in cloth to try and open the doors of Az-Nerub?

        Gazuntite.

      • The opening of the doors at Ahn'Qiraj was a real-time event (rather than just appearing after a patch). I figure that they did the collecting thing to space out the openings so they could deal with the inevitable realm server crashes one at a time rather than all at once.
      • Re:Good luck! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xappax (876447) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:37PM (#29041903)
        I think he's re-envisioning the reward system and the meaning of "success" in his game. In a game like WoW, you're l33t if you managed to accumulate the most epic loot for yourself. Success in WoW is making your toon uber-powerful, or doing something that nobody else can.

        In Love, it sounds like success is much more based around your personal relationships with other players - success is measured in how much respect and "props" you get from your fellow players. Players are competing not for shiny loot which they can hoard, but for the opportunity to help their peers and earn a good reputation.

        Kind of reminds me of the warez scene, actually. Everyone is hyper-motivated and competitive about doing a good job, even though ultimately all they're doing is sharing with each other. It's competition to show who's the best at sharing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yokaze (70883)

      > People want to see that last boss, kill that god, but not everyone is willing to put in 40 hours a week.

      Procedural content wouldn't change that much. In fact, it would allow you to kill your personal final boss, not the same one everyone else has slain, and make you wait with twenty other people which are currently also waiting for it to respawn.

      > these games tend to be "mecentric" for a reason.

      Yes, but a different reason you cite. It is terribly hard to automatically generate content, which is actu

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like the first Communist MMO! But more power to him, I just don't see how one guy is going to put out a game changer, these games tend to be "mecentric" for a reason. People want to see that last boss, kill that god, but not everyone is willing to put in 40 hours a week.

      It depends on what you mean by "game changer". At it's most successful, it's not going to reinvent the standard MMOG, but it could very well find its own audience who wouldn't be interested in WoW, or play WoW not for the "mecentric" elements as much as the crafting or other social aspects of the game. Those players won't find such aspects to be very strong in WoW, but they might find them in Love. A Tale in the Desert is an example that has found a strong audience for itself without taking the online ga

  • Love (Score:5, Funny)

    by Korbeau (913903) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:50PM (#29041203)

    "Love is a persistent online first-person shooter ...", try explaining THAT to my girlfriend!

  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:52PM (#29041217)
    I have no idea why my son is so excited about this particular game, but every month or so he keeps asking if it's out yet. We saw some of the demos and evidently it stuck with him. I think he likes the idea of being able to change the world.
    • by sammyF70 (1154563)

      Maybe he is just in love with the look of the thing. I just watched the in-game video [stacken.kth.se], and it's both weird looking and yet oddly attractive. A bit like playing in a Van Gogh.
      The whole "build your own base/city" part sounded quite good to me too though

      The best part of the video though is "oh! The sun is coming out! How nice" ;)

  • being able to do something minute in your world and see that impact in the major world

    How do you plan on achieving that? I've had a game idea like this for a while but I can't think of an excellent way to go about making small details effecting the outcome, except for market prices.

    • by mangst (978895)
      I actually RTFA and the guy is very well spoken. He seems to know what he's talking about and seems to have realistic expectations. The screenshots aren't half bad either.
    • See a running stream that people cannot cross. Build a bridge. People can cross the stream now and you might just have created the main road to success for someone.

  • yeah but (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:58PM (#29041321)

    Even playing WoW often gets to be too much like work.

    I can see how this might be a better approximation of real society or have better ideals or whatever than WoW etc, but WILL IT BE MORE FUN?

    Honestly I dont care about the humanist validity of a game. I only want to play it if its an enjoyable and escapist experience. In fact deliberate unrealism is often more entertaining.

    Do I want to have more "realistic life issues" thrown at me for pleasure? no. Its for that reason I already hate all reality TV shows.

  • "..Levels, for instance, are all procedurally generated.." my processor just ran out the windows© with my IGP onboard
    • by nog_lorp (896553)

      Probably procedurally generated server side, lest we end up with "all totems in one spot" hacks and such.

  • Derek Smart. BattleCruiser 3000AD

    Production was always moving along and there were videos and screenshots of the game, but for the longest time there was simply no game for anyone except Mr. Smart to play.

    Sadly to say, for all the people eagerly anticipating BattleCruiser 3000AD, the game sucked.

    Let's hope Steenberg and his little game are headed in the right direction.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by megamerican (1073936)
      Rollercoaster tycoon was written by one person. Almost all of the code was written in assembly. It was one of the most fun games I've ever played.
    • Derek Smart! Derek Smart! Derek Smart!

      • by sammyF70 (1154563)

        Incidentally I argued yesterday with him (D.Smart) on the board for one of his two new games, and I must say he really lives up to his reputation : he is quite in love with himself and unable to accept the least criticism and remarks about bugs in his games. ("Don't make a judgment about my game by trying out the demo" was worth a good laugh though)

        From what I've read, Steenberg does seem to have more skills and less attitude

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>Production was always moving along and there were videos and screenshots of the game, but for the longest time there was simply no game for anyone except Mr. Smart to play.

      Why on earth do you think that people need programming teams to make things happen? A lot of solo programmers go the way of Derek Smart, much like how so many wannabe authors who are "working on their book" never get around to actually writing it/finishing it/polishing it.

      A lot of talented programmers make stuff happen on their lo

    • by Bobtree (105901)

      As your name implies, this is a bad analogy.

      Derek Smart was screwed on BC3k by his publisher who dumped it out the door unfinished and broken. He filed a lawsuit against them for the rights to it and settled out of court. Smart is still in business making his own games more than 10 years later.

      You don't have to like D.S. or his games, but serious gamers, indies, and solo devs have lots of respect for him.

  • Art (Score:3, Informative)

    by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:01PM (#29041369)

    I like his idea, but I want to touch on his game for a moment.

    It seems that he has an interesting way of doing the game art or graphics.

    http://www.quelsolaar.com/love/screen_shots.html [quelsolaar.com]

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:01PM (#29041377)

    This guy is the upper league. I met him a few times at the Blender conference. He's on the OpenGL Standards Team and has forgotten more about coding than most of us will ever learn. Just watching him demonstrate his 3D tools is jawdropping. Listening to him when he talks about 3D and real-time multi-user networking is a feast. He's in the upper league of coding *and* in the upper league of taste and design. If anybody can pull something like this through it's him. Go and watch the demos if you don't believe me.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I concur. I've been a professional game designer for just over 5 years, and when I first saw Eskil's videos, I simply couldn't believe that Love was the work of a single person. The amount of skill and talent required to produce a game of that magnitude is staggering. To see it concentrated in one person is unheard of.

      I was so amazed that I spent over an hour researching him, thinking that I would unearth some kind of collective behind him. Instead I just kept finding more proof of his genius. He's the

    • amen!

      I sat watching those two videos in absolute awe.

  • ATITD or Slave Labor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Marc_Hawke (130338) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:13PM (#29041529)

    This kind of collaborative building effort was done in ATITD. (A Tale in the Desert.) It was really great, but an interesting thing happened...

    Guild houses and other structures require LOTS of raw materials. Gathering these were very labor intensive. The 'less dominant' personalities were relegated to these tasks while the Type-A guys did fun things like detail-work and planning. There were players who literally logged in and spent hours making bricks or gathering straw. They'd hand these off the the guild leaders when they were done and start over.

    The only reason this wasn't slave labor is that there was no coercion, it was just a class system based on your personality, your 'need to be accepted' and your willingness to do the grunt-work. The social dynamic of the whole thing was one of the most interesting parts of that game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vrallis (33290)

      I also played ATITD for a while. It's a shame that the pace and timeline of the game was so closely driven by Teppy as opposed to by the players. The Second Telling was more or less killed off by a combination of Teppy releasing Tests at too slow a pace and, of course, the release of WoW.

      Up until then though, the large community efforts were impressive. Hundreds of people involved in digs (with some people making shovels for everyone, people cooking stamina food). The nearly region-long Acro lines, etc.

      • by Lordfly (590616)

        I think the problem with ATITD is that there isn't any real competition. The only economy is based on helping "everyone else" achieve "some far-off goal", which, to the average player, is a crock of shit.

        There's no incentive to profit from the inequal distribution of resources on the map; it's all very hold hands and love everyone. Which is great, but there isn't any room for conflict there.

  • by CFBMoo1 (157453)
    "He also explains how mainstream MMOs have too many players, which basically trivializes accomplishments that have an impact on the entire server."

    Is World of Warcraft. Every battleground, arena, or PvE instance is now a waiting line for your raid to get on the ride and come out looking like someone went crazy with a rubber stamp for progression. I swear standing around Org/Ironforge/Shat/Dal is like the scene of a bad photocopier accident some days.
  • by Arykor (966623) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @03:26PM (#29042633)

    He also explains how mainstream MMOs have too many players

    The MM in MMO stands for Massively Multi-player! If the servers are limited to 200 registered players averaging 50-70 online most of the time (as stated in TFA), I wouldn't call it an MMO. I've played on wolf-et servers with more than 70 players.

    • by AP31R0N (723649)

      Methinks the term is over/mis-used. If it is massively multiplayer, it MUST be online. There are no LAN games that are massive. If it is massively multiplayer... it must be multiplayer. The second M and the O are not needed.

      If i say its an MFPS or MRPG, it should be understood that we're talking about a game that uses the internet to connect many players into a shared space.

      Diablo *can* be played online, and *can* be played multiplayer. But it wasn't built around that. It's not massively multiplayer s

    • by julesh (229690)

      If the servers are limited to 200 registered players averaging 50-70 online most of the time (as stated in TFA), I wouldn't call it an MMO.

      Agreed. It's a persistent-world multiplayer game. Although I'd love to know how he expects 200 players to average 50 online most of the time. Is he expecting people to play 6 hours a day?

  • I sincerely hope he finds a way to become profitable and to find a way to keep the game play experience he wants players to have and still host more players... I doubt he can be profitable on just 200 registered players. If he can turn this into something he can make a living off of it will give me a lot of hope for aspiring developers out there. Lately it seems only people with millions in VC to burn get anywhere.
    • by j1m+5n0w (749199)

      I doubt he can be profitable on just 200 registered players.

      That's 200 players per server. My understanding is that he plans to run more than one server. I also hope he is successful; the video game industry needs more high-risk, low budget success stories.

      • Isn't "high-risk, low-budget" sort of an oxymoron?
        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>Isn't "high-risk, low-budget" sort of an oxymoron?

          !oxymoron

          It's 'redundant'.

    • by julesh (229690)

      I doubt he can be profitable on just 200 registered players.

      Even though this is 200 players per server, I'd just like to say that a single-developer indie MMO could be profitable with 200 players:

      200 players * $10 per month subscription * 12 months = $24000
      cost of server capable of hosting a 200 player MMO for one year = $240
      legal costs, banking costs, etc. = ~$1000
      marketing costs = ~$2000

      This leaves around $20000 to pay the dev's salary, which is reasonable enough if we assume he's only doing it part time.

      • by Zarf (5735)
        Well, I guess by "profitable" I think I meant "pays enough to quit his day job" which is my own personal bar for my own "extra curricular activities" and I personally wouldn't work full time for that little.
  • The gameplay video on his site doesn't appear to be working (at least for me). Here's a YouTube copy of the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc-MmieTyLQ [youtube.com]
    • As said above he really is a good designer, though you can see in the video that he grewup playing Quake and editing in Realsoft 3D.. :-)
  • In this ep. of coop [revision3.com]. Quoting:

    Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 running time 10:33

    He dropped by the week of GDC to give an extended demo of this 200-player, persistent, and uniquely beautiful game world in which players have complete control--even over the very landscape. Created with tools of his own making, including a 3D modeler and renderer, Love is an incredible example of just how far a solo project can go.

    • In City of Heroes, we can now stack up (i.e. overlap) base decorations to create new objects.

      People use desks and chests to create entire multifloor buildings, using them as "bricks", complete with hallways and multiple interior rooms and stairways.

      In other words, supergroup bases are no longer just a "The Sims" variant, with you putting down pre-designed decorations (functional or otherwise). You can now create whole worlds, buildings, mountains even.

      One giant supergroup has a whole, full-sized wrestling

  • No evidence of any sound yet, I really hope he uses similar principles for generating audio as the game seems to for other content. I'm really looking forward to games taking up a more dynamic approach to audio, synthesis could be so much more fluid and immersive than samples. And this looks like the perfect opportunity for showing people it could work especially as visually its quite stylised, so people might not expect such a 'realistic' sound world.
  • I like the concept and the look of the game. I'd love to try it. But I'm very afraid of getting trapped into the Noctis V [anywherebb.com] waiting game with Love. Noctis IV is a great open ended space simulation "game" where you simply explore stars, planets and moons in a galaxy. it was released over 10 years ago and people are still charting and naming celestial bodies today. it run in DOS and fits on a floppy. and it was all done by one brilliant person: Alessandro Ghignola.

    and so, when he showed some screen sh
  • 'If you imagine Civilization where you invent your stuff or build new stuff, imagine playing one of those characters on the ground doing that. And being able to do something minute in your world and see that impact in the major world,' Eskil explains, when asked what his game will be like. 'I want to scare people in a direction that is different from this sort of "me-centric" style of games. It feels that pretty much all games are going into that Diablo direction of collecting and building up my characters

  • I always favored War Points in PvP MUDs assigned by the other players. Sure you'd get douches, but its a good system if people respect the game.

  • Don't know if any remember Allegiance [microsoft.com]. It was a space 3d combat game with resources and objectives and building units and the like, but one player was designated the commander, and he viewed the entire battle from a tactical perspective, ordering units to go do objectives much like in an RTS.... the players would get the orders he gave them as objective way points and the like, but it was up to them to actually pursue them (or not). And the commander could assign better resources (ships, missiles, etc)
  • Reading the article i get the impression that this would be something new, the ability of making everything yourself from scratch. Note that this is my impression. Well it's not very new.

    As stated by Marc_Hawke (130338) there's also A Tale in the Desert, haven't tried that myself though. But i've tried Wurm online which is a java based MMORPG where you can make everything yourself from scratch and manipulate the enviroment as you go. This for me got very tireing after some time chopping down trees and f

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