Massively-multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, have been around since the first days of the Internet, and today many boast multiple millions of players. Big-budget MMOs like World of Warcraft feature finely crafted 3-D graphics, immersive soundtracks, and exciting real-time gameplay. Kingdom of Loathing possesses none of these.
First brought into this world in 2003 by Asymmetric Publications (makers of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock), Kingdom of Loathing eschews fancy graphics and lucrative subscription fees for black-and-white stick figures and donations from players. Very seldom, a color picture or an animated .gif might be found, but that is as far as the graphics go. The game is not available through a CD or download file for sale though; this game is strictly browser-based, with an html interface. With almost 200,000 current players, KoL can be considered a success for a game in which the first version was written in a week as a joke.
While Kingdom of Loathing contains many typical MMO tropes — magic spells, healing potions, quests, guilds, orcs, fairies, and elves — these elements often take on a more humorous, pop culture sense. For example, many of the orcs are rowdy frat boys, most potions are booze-based, and quests might involve fighting a Lamz0r N00b in the Valley of Rof L’m Fao or battling a zmobie in the Misspelled Cemetary. The game’s ultimate objective is to defeat the Naughty Sorceress and free King Ralph XI from his “imprisment” in a magical prism.
Players can choose one of six character classes, all with their own advantages: Seal Clubber, Turtle Tamer, Pastamancer, Sauceror, Disco Bandit, or Accordion Thief. Character levels and stats are determined by the number of Muscle, Moxie, and Magicalness points earned via battle experience, quests, and potions. Quests also earn hunks of meat, which act as currency in the game. Special items can be combined together with meat in a process known as “meatsmithing” in order to create a meat car, a meat crossbow, or other meat-based items.
Gameplay is strictly turn-based, similar to old-school RPG mechanics. The number of turns is limited per day, but extra turns can be earned by consuming food and booze, or by using special items. Cooking and cocktail-crafting can increase the number of turns gained per snack or drink. An E-Z Cook™ oven or Schrödinger’s thermos (which collapses “the probability waveform of the cocktail into a single discrete eigenstate”) both aid in this process.
Whether you’re looking for a bit of nostalgic minimalist gaming, or you just enjoy its unique brand of humor, Kingdom of Loathing offers fun for a broad audience. It might not compete with more popular MMOs, but the free price cannot be beat.
Kingdom of Loathing can be found at www.kingdomofloathing.com