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Choose My Adventure: Once more into The Kingdom of Loathing


Wow, how time flies. Here it is, the second-to-last Choose My Adventure for The Kingdom of Loathing. I have to admit I am surprised at how much I am enjoying the experience so far. The reasons I am enjoying it might be surprising, but it's possible that my time with KoL is nothing new. After all, the game is one of surprises and twists as well as options for play. I've also discovered that the world of KoL is a steady one. I really expected it to be much more loosely assembled because the variable pace and lazy artwork seemed indicative of a developer that doesn't care.

It turns out that quite a lot of care has gone into The Kingdom of Loathing, whether the developers are aware of it or not. Judging by the podcast they host twice a week, I suspect they are too consumed by developer details to notice just how deep their own world goes. (Developers often get a bad case of tunnel vision.) I find the communication each week to be refreshingly different from what I see from many other developers. Most seem too afraid to say anything at all, much less to host a scheduled podcast on which they curse and discuss game mechanics.

So in this last vote of the run, be sure to make your voice heard! Give me advice!

The Kingdom of Loathing screenshot
Last time I was ordered to continue to enjoy the Council questline, a series of standard activities that are handed out by a central Council of Loathing. Every time I hit a new level, the Council had a new quest it wanted to send me on. The week before last, you voted and sent me to the Suburbs of Dis, a slightly higher-level questing area that proved too tough for me. Granted, I could have leveled faster and defeated the monsters in the Dis area if I had known more about items, the leveling process, and how things generally worked in KoL. The fact is, I am a new player who would benefit mostly from access to years of experience. Sure, the high-level and experienced players in KoL have been nothing but generous and welcoming, but it's always important to note just how lost a new player can become in such a large and layered world.

Items, for example, are mostly confusing to me. As I talk about in the embedded video below, I cannot understand why there are not more obvious stats or descriptions on the item popups. Sure, I'm all for a more "realistic" or immersive tone when it comes to items, mechanics that force me to seek out the stats or to test those items in order to see which one does what, but it doesn't make sense when you consider that I can instantly teleport, heal myself, or participate in combat. It's a bit confusing. Is KoL attempting to be an immersive sandbox -- a silly sandbox, true -- that offers players unique ways to play and build a character, or is it wanting to allow players the ability to get in and out in a matter of minutes? It appears that both design choices are at play but sometimes in conflict. Of course, I could just be reading the item descriptions incorrectly or just do not know how to detect the stats of certain items. For the record, most of the standard weapons and consumables have a keyword attached, but I am also referencing the myriad items I have in my miscellanous bag slot.

If the truth is that I have to look up every item or find out its base information from another player, then the game appears to be more daunting than enjoyable. I can imagine a future of formatted, scheduled play sessions: log in, spend your adventures, use item A and weapon B. Drink item C. Results. Log out. If I were able to see more information about items easily and quickly, I would be able to adjust my playstyle and experiment more, something I thought was key to a sandbox.

I could be making too much out of it, but I am responding with the honest intentions of a new player. Even with the item and stat confusion, I am having a good time in the game. After a while, the neat little animations and fun side-quests make me feel more attached to my little stick figure. I quested in a mountain pass called Mount McLargeHuge and found myself attacking ski hippies and snowboard bros, eventually outfitting myself in the attire of the ski slope. My stick figure changed and was wearing a scarf. That tiny change was sort of thrilling. Other little in-game adjustements were neat as well: After I defeated a powerful boss monster at the end of one of the mountain areas, I found that the mist that covered the mountain had disappeared. Sure, in a standard three-dimensional MMO, those clouds would have rolled away right in front of my eyes, but I appreciate KoL's eye for detail.

The Kingdom of Loathing screenshot
That might be a good word to sum up how this week of gameplay has felt: detailed. I worried about how many of my items were going to waste because I had no idea of the details that made them special. I slowly got sucked into the silly but consistent lore of the world thanks to the abundance of little details in quest descriptions and world art. And the community pounded me over the head with emails and in-game messages that were filled with "I know you are getting a lot of advice, but here's more." It was a lot of a good thing.

To continue my adventures, I need to finish off whatever I'll find in the Suburbs of Dis. Luckily, a kind player or two sent me several folios, items that I need in order to access the zone. I should easily have that done by next week. I'll hit a few new levels and will take some time to figure out the best way to understand what the items in my pack are for. I'll also continue to conquer whatever quests the Council of Loathing gives to me.

This is the last week to vote. Next week will be the end of time with the game, so please take a minute and let me know what you think. I'm going to include some general gameplay questions as well as some specific ones that will order me along. I have to say that I have not received as much help in previous games as I have received during my time with KoL. I'll take some time and re-read many of the emails and letters I received during my time here. Hopefully some of them are packing useful advice. So far, that's all I have received.

See you next week!
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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