Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pecularity: LOVE

The first time I logged in to LOVE, after going through a somewhat arduous process to purchase and update the game, I immediately fell into the water and died.

When I respawned, I was in a much safer, stabler area, and I dismissed it as a quirk. But when the game crashed, later, and I logged back in, I spawned in the exact same place, suffering the exact same death.

LOVE is a game with quirks.

I could list a few more. There's the walls that become, from time to time, invisible. There's the Monoliths (those are crucial) that occasionally, seemingly spontaneously, explode. And there's a plethora of small spelling mistakes and bizarre phrasings - though, as the creator is foreign (Swedish?), that's quite understandable. So's the rest, really. I mean, the game's in alpha.

Let's step back for a moment. What is LOVE?

The main site has a few things to say about it, of course. But, because I'm a pure narcissist, I'll give you a few words of my own on the matter. LOVE is a first-person-shooter which has hardly any shooting; LOVE is a game of unique beauty, created entirely by procedural generation*; LOVE is a slow-paced, freeform, sandbox game in which you will be killed again and again, and all your works rendered unto dust, by a relentless and murderous AI.

I'd summarize it as "Minecraft, but bigger and stranger."

Then I'll tell you some anecdotes of play.

When I first joined the game, a few people had already set up a small base. (The game is organized by servers, of which there are, I believe, four, at present. Two in the UK, two in the US. They'll hold at most 200 people, but the one I'm on now has only perhaps 50.)

(That's not people playing at the same time - that's a total number of people registered for that server. It's a micro-MMO, a rather amusing sort of term.)

An icon at the bottom of my screen told me where the settlement was, so I made my way there. The journey was fairly long - they tend to be, when you're spawned out in the wild - but I eventually made my way there. The people there had already collected a number of 'tokens' - useful objects that will appear at random in the wilderness and can be placed near a settlement, whereupon which their associated 'tool' can be placed in one of your four inventory slots. I looked around, picking things like the Radio tool (essential - allows long-range communication), the Pavement tool (cosmetic - lets you change how a certain tile appears), and the Binoculars tool (utterly useless). I wandered around - at one point getting stuck in a teleport trap that sent me into an infinite loop of teleports back and forth between two naturally-occuring teleporters, explored, built some walls, talked to people...

After a while, there were strange reports of 'enemies in the base!' Sometimes they were dispatched. Once I was killed, shot in the back. And then, quite suddenly, the base was destroyed - the Monolith going up in flames, and all its associated Tokens vanishing with it.

It was quite perplexing.

Eventually, someone else found and planted a new Monolith. We all trekked our way over there, finding that, unlike the old base (in a sort of grassy area, named "Arden - Garden of Colossi" - the random area names can be pretty sweet), this one was on a frigid ice shelf. Also unlike the other base, this one was under constant and harrowing AI attack. I took to the field, my puny Blaster plinking away at the foe's strange, amorphous shapes (other people look really weird in the game, and AIs moreso), killing a few; but I was greviously wounded, and fell back to the base. "Nice base," I might have said.

At that point, the server hiccuped and caused the game to lock-up. When I logged back on, I learned that something of the sort had happened to most of the other people there.

It's a very peculiar sort of game, still in alpha but very interesting for that. Like Minecraft, griefers are its greatest scourge - at one point, one managed to destroy our monolith, find another, and then plant it high in the sky where no-one could reach it. (If we had our terrain-shaping abilities, we could have reached it - but we needed to touch the monolith to regain those. Catch-22.) Much later, that same griefer (who repeatedly denied he was any such thing) threw an already somewhat complicated base into complete chaos, turning it into a seemingly non-Euclidean maze. What a mess.

But for that, I would recommend it. As it stands, I still spent the vast majority of my evening on it, and plan to spend more once I finish this - perhaps visiting the UK servers, where the Rock-Paper-Shotgunites live.

LOVE: what a mysterious, many-splendored thing!

*I.e., guided randomness. Wiki can help you.

**Quick warning: despite being an alpha, there is a subscription fee for LOVE. $4.50 for 30 days. The creator says that this is because, if he were to try to pay for servers for everyone who'd want to play in alpha without a subscription fee, he'd go bankrupt. Quite plausible.

But, you know, if you thought it was free (as basically all other alphas are), that could be a bit confusing.

No comments: