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Choose My Adventure: Disco dancing through The Kingdom of Loathing


It's been a fun week so far in The Kingdom of Loathing, but I know I have just barely started. The hardest part of this adventure is going to be deciding what to put up for a vote next. There are so many choices and so many ways to play that I might have to put up a vote just to see which area of the game I should put into the real vote! After all, the poll must run for the next several days, so I basically have to predict what I might be considering doing in the future. Future-self, help me!

I thought it would be a good idea to ask a range of questions in order to buy myself a little more time with the game as I level up some more and get my bearings. But before I do that, I'll tell you what I think about the game and community so far. Spoiler warning: Both are... interesting, to say the very least.

The Kingdom of Loathing screenshot
It's important to remember that The Kingdom of Loathing is an in-depth sandbox despite what its outward appearances. It's been in development for quite a long time, as well, so there are many strategies to use and areas to explore. Honestly, it's a bit overwhelming. Last time I played it for Rise and Shiny, I knew I was just barely scratching the surface. When I think about how deep this rabbit hole might go over the next few weeks, it's pretty exciting.

It'd be much easier to explain the game as a semi-graphical MUD. As I note in the embedded video, I have recently gone through a relatively brief but passionate love affair with MUDs. The genre represents some of the best massively multiplayer gameplay in existence today and might well represent some of the last truly immersive and customizable experiences online. Unfortunately, all of the wonderful descriptions in the world cannot convince every possible player. For many, the text-based gameplay just isn't a good fit. Even I had to stop playing with MUDs so much because my old eyeballs just can't handle it as much as I would like. Consequently, some of my favorite MUDs were those that utilized a semi-graphical client or offered links to interact with the client.

The Kingdom of Loathing is really the best of all of these worlds. It has some goofy and often very funny artwork, real-time chat options, guilds, and a clickable interface. It runs on my tablets wonderfully, including my new Nexus 7. That means the game is accessible in a lot of ways and for different players with different styles and time constraints. In fact, I was so curious about how much some players play that I decided to put the question to a vote below.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that The Kingdom of Loathing is another fantasy-based romp with orcs, elves, and dragons. Sure, it has some of those things, but the game should be looked at as something completely different. It's not to be taken seriously. Then again, some players take it very seriously. It's very serious, non-serious fun. It's min-maxing on 10 minutes a day. It appears to offer some sort of lore, and the community is very connected through social media, podcasts, and conventions. Really, The Kingdom of Loathing is more like a lifestyle. The actual game seems to be but part of the picture.

But is it fun? Is the experience of playing The Kingdom of Loathing smile-worthy? Comparing the last time I played it to this round, I'd say that it's finally sinking in just how the game and community are sort of one silly mixed-up experience. The developers appear to be open and eager to receive criticism. Of course they might laugh at a player's concern on the official podcast for all others to witness, but it's possible they hit on one of the keys to maintaining a game for longer than a few years: being open with your community from the beginning. If more developers would use something that is closer to a real human response to their playerbase instead of delivering standard, cold, and robotic messages to their community, it's possible that more issues could be resolved sooner than later. CCP, for example, has done it wrong in many ways and has paid the price over the last few years. Its devs want to maintain an air of being "just one of the guys," but they neglect to crack down on many actual abuses. It's very possible that this hands-off "cool big brother" approach has led to the game's having so many issues with the very fans who claim to love it.

"I don't really have 'fun' while playing the game. The fun comes from the entirety of the experience."

I'll give it more time before I decide that there are no community issues within The Kingdom of Loathing. Heck, I found some in my last article. My point is that it looks like the developers and community team take care of issues when they crop up, drawing a line between fun and too much fun while still communicating openly and frequently with the community.

All of this is to say that I don't really have "fun" while playing the game. The fun comes from the entirety of the experience. I am honestly overwhelmed, covered in messages and buffs from players, item descriptions, and scores of wiki articles. This brings me to another general question I would like to vote on: How do you play The Kingdom of Loathing? Is it a simple bout of 10-minute click-fests? Surely veteran players have memorized screens so that they can click through every one of them.

I've also included a poll about possible side quests. Once again I was helped in particular by the player Nightvol, who has given me some names of quests that should be recognizable to players. If you are not a player and want to vote, just pick the one that sounds coolest. By next week, I should be able to act on the votes and will also have a much firmer grasp on who my character is and where I want him to go.

So far, I have been having a type of fun while exploring the mechanics and information about the game. After all of these years, the world of The Kingdom of Loathing is pretty massive. For the record, that's a good thing. My little stick-figure Disco Bandit has been busy killing bats, half-drunk orcs, and beefy bodyguards. Will he be able to dance all the way to greatness? That depends on your help! Now vote!
For this round of Choose My Adventure, Beau Hindman wanted to try something different -- different for you, anyway. So he's diving into the world of browser, indie, and offbeat MMOs! Come back every Wednesday to vote on what he does next; goodness knows he needs the help. Tweet feedback to him at @Beau_Hindman!

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