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.