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Choose My Adventure: Out of breath but not out of meat in The Kingdom of Loathing


Here we go into another week of The Kingdom of Loathing, a wacky, free-to-play, browser-based MMO published by Asymmetric Publications. The community proved on the first day of voting just how strongly its members feel about this stickman world, and I've learned over my short time in playing the game that the community is really the game's number-one feature. Sure, there are tons and tons of items to collect, adventures to go on, areas to explore, and terms to memorize, but the community really binds the game together. Without its help, I am convinced my time in The Kingdom of Loathing would have been a confusing blur.

I am slowly getting the hang of the pace of the game. Last week's votes showed that most players enjoy the game at about the same pace I do. It's only an hour or so a day that many of us play, but that's because of how the game is built. I can guarantee that a lot of that time is spent hanging on the forums, chatting it up with other players, and generally staying connected to the game while not necessarily playing it.

It's a good pace, especially for someone like yours truly who cannot sit for several hours a night playing a single title. So let's recap the last week and get to voting!

The Kingdom of Loathing screenshot
I really felt as though I needed to buy myself some time over these last several days of playing. I needed to get familiar with some of the terms and mechanics of The Kingdom of Loathing without having to worry about how well I was doing. The community's kindness sort of overwhelmed me by smothering me in a blanket of buffs and gifts. Almost every single one of the new black and white bits that appeared on my screen was brand-new to me. Not only had I not seen most of the items in The Kingdom of Loathing before, but I hadn't seen them in MMOs in general.

Meat, for example, is essentially gold. That's easy enough. But what about all of the buffs I had cast on me? How about the scores of little weapons, consumables, and bottles of alcohol I received? I had no idea what most of them did, and clicking on them usually linked to a pretty vague description. I didn't really want to have my hand held as I traveled through this game, but the confusing descriptions made me wonder what the intention was: to look up each item on some wiki or to ask the community for help? Either way, it was not that much of a bother since most of the gifts came wrapped up with a letter that explained things. The players were very eager to suggest how to play, to say the least.

Slowly it all started to make sense. My Disco Bandit was going through a series of standard mainline quests given to him by the Council of Loathing. I could easily follow this main questline and have a great time, or I could branch off and explore on my own. The Kingdom of Loathing is a sandbox, after all. Some of the items I received opened up new quests, even if just for a short amount of time. One of the items up for vote last week was which side-quest I ought to tackle, with choices fed to me by Nightvol, my go-to for game information. The crazy part is that I had no idea how to pursue the quest when it won the vote. I decided on wiki'ing the answer and soon noticed that someone had already given me several of the items I needed to unlock the questline. As you can see in the embedded video, my level was too low to really tackle the Suburbs of Dis quest area. I will be high enough soon, however.

I wondered why I leveled sort of slowly. I think that the problem stems from the fact that I would spend my adventures quickly on mobs or quests that didn't reward me with a good amount of experience. I avoided using a lot of the items in my inventory simply because there were so many. I didn't find the time to look each one up to see what might happen when I used it. Finally, I got sick of wondering and just started clicking, whereupon I recalled The Kingdom of Loathing is a relatively complicated game that features interlocking systems. Booze restores adventure points (points that are used to perform tasks) but afflicts me with a drunkenness level that might put me out for a while. Food is good for all sorts of things, but I easily grew too full to eat more. I used a few items as well, like the grease that my Groose dropped, but again I grew full and couldn't use much. It all felt relatively balanced, and I knew that the key to efficient gameplay was there if I wanted it. The cool part is that I didn't feel punished if I didn't play perfectly.

Speaking of that Groose, I placed his existence up for a vote in the first column of this series without realizing he was a pet. The following week, I asked you to vote on which pet I should play with even though the Groose had already won that vote. Live and learn, I guess. For the record, I use him all the time now; he dutifully spits out grease at almost every opportunity.

"I would click, click, click and then read when something new came along. It might sound boring, but it makes a lot of sense when you get used to it."

I blew through my adventure points when I had the chance. After seeing the same combat descriptions once or twice, I stopped bothering to read them. I would click, click, click and then read when something new came along. It might sound boring, but it makes a lot of sense when you get used to it. Just because a player can move through his or her adventures quickly does not mean that he or she is missing something. It's similar to the effect of grinding through mobs in almost any title; players stare at the screen, mouths open, pushing a series of buttons over and over. It has a sort of comforting, hypnotic effect on me. I never became bored simply because the play sessions were so short. The Kingdom of Loathing has struck a pretty nice balance between hardcore play and casual tinkering. As someone who often has two or three games to play every day (I know it sounds miserable, huh?), I am glad to find another game that offers depth on almost any schedule.

So now I am at the point of waiting for adventures to recharge each day so I can burn through them and hit a new level or two. Over this next week, I want to destroy the Suburbs of Dis questline or zone and then move on to the next. Which one is next? That's where you come in. I need your help in determining the general direction of my character's quest choices. I've thrown in a question that might seem fluffy but will serve to show player motivations in play. Thanks a bunch to ErnieR, #924244, for helping me out with this week's round!

Now, vote or die!
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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