Today’s timewaster, Kingdom of Loathing, stopped being just a time waster a couple of years ago; as such I’m somewhat hesitant to post about it in this fashion. It represents one of the most successful indie MMO-type games, though it’s not quite an MMO either. In the “My blog [kinda], so I can do whatever I want [though I can expect to get called on it by my peers if I do something absurd; and I dearly love them for this] vein”, we will kill two birds with one stone here and I’m sure there will be some good alternate suggestions in the comments thread.
What is it, exactly? KoL (we in gaming like to abbreviate alot) is a browser based online RPG. Players get 40 turns a day to spend however they wish. There are many locations to visit and many quests one can do. The game was inspired by an old BBS “doorway” game called Legend of the Red Dragon, which used a similar mechanic. What sets these games apart from games like World of Warcraft or Everquest 2 is that limit to what you can accomplish in a day, and this is what gives the game it’s “coffee break” appeal. There are ways to extend that turn limit via consumption of items (food and booze), but the bottom line is that there’s only so much to do during a day so you need to spend your time wisely.
The other main thing that sets KoL apart from, well, almost every game in existence is the wonderful sense of humor the game possesses. Its snarky and satirical, making fun of everything from its own genre to other game genres to any number of real world issues. And even itself at times. It’s a geek’s dream in many respects, as it’s highly unlikely that anyone who ever did anything remotely geeky (played D&D, video games, read sci-fi, whatever) won’t be delighted at some point in the game by some reference. It adds plenty of humor that stands well on its own, though.
The sense of humor can’t be emphasized enough. With classes like Disco Bandit and Seal Clubber; stats like Mysticality and Moxie; skills like ambidextrous funk-slinging and Jackass’s Symphony of Destruction; areas like the Orc Chasm (thing about it) and the Hippy/Frat boy battlefield; and items like the Sword Behind Inappropriate Prepositions (which will [in]appropriately alter prepositions in your message displays when equipped) and Happiness (a warm gun, natch) there’s just a ton of things to see and do. What really enhances this are the graphics. Minimal – many things in the game are represented in stick figure variant form – they’re usually clever in their own right. A player can spend hours just looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions. Exploring a new area is exciting as much for the new messages one will see from new encounters as it is from the traditional “new things to kill, new quests to solve” standpoint.
When most of the people on this blog first encountered the game (introduced on the forums of the now defunct website Gonegold – RIP – probably some time in 03/04ish, but memory fails me), that was pretty much *all* the game did. There were a decent amount of areas and quests to discover, but ultimately the rewards in the game boiled down to finding the next set of funny stuff the devs had written, and wondering when [favorite geeky item] was going to show up spoofed in an area. It was fun, an amusing diversion. But then it grew up, started running with the wrong crowd (in the right way), and blossomed in a way that nobody really anticipated (though the devs surely hoped).
What changed? Everything and nothing, spectacularly. That snark and satire remained – omnipresent but now with just a lot more (and more variety). The devs kept adding quests and puzzles to solve, and more often than not they were cleverly done and offered interesting rewards. An entire new area with a penultimate quest was created: eventually would be adventurers quest to the lair of the Naughty Sorceress to defeat her and free King Ralph.
And then the game really begins. Now, players can “ascend”, starting over. But they keep all of their items (sent to Hagnk’s Long Term Storage. Hagnk is a gnomad. . . well, you get the idea). And they get to make permanent a skill from the last run (those skills have also come a long way since we all first encountered the game, but that’s beyond the scope of this post). Additionally, there are additional restrictions one can chose to place on the next “run”, which have special rewards to offer but also make that run trickier (doing things like restricting the player from eating booze, or food, or getting any of their items out of storage). The changes are beyond the scope of this and the next 3 posts I do, and we all know I like to ramble on so I won’t.
After starting out as a random assortment of humor and references galore, the game evolved into the ideal form of a diku mud/MMO (presented with humor and references galore). It is still that coffee-break game, but it can be more if a player so wishes it. Along side that wonderful geeky humor repository is a cleverly done game with interesting game mechanics that will give players an opportunity to put their brains to work in classic gaming fashion – the game is one of the ultimate resource management games in existence, I think. And it does all of this without requiring players to put in 6-8 hours a day just to keep of with Guild-mates. KoL is not a world that is immune from the have/have-not issues that plague today’s MMOs. But it has rendered them of minimal relevance.
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