Kingdom of Loathing

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The Kingdom of Loathing
The KoL logo. "An Adventurer is You!" (quote spoofing Pro Wrestling)
The KoL logo.
"An Adventurer is You!" (quote spoofing Pro Wrestling)
Developer(s) Asymmetric Publications
Publisher(s) Asymmetric Publications
Distributor(s) Asymmetric Publications
Designer(s) Zack "Jick" Johnson
Josh "Mr. Skullhead" Nite
Platform(s) Web browser
Release date(s) February 11, 2003
Genre(s) Turn based RPG
Mode(s) Single player with some multiplayer interaction
Media Internet
System requirements Web browser, Internet access
Input methods Keyboard, Mouse

Kingdom of Loathing (KoL) is a humorous, browser-based, multiplayer role playing game, designed and operated by Asymmetric Publications, including creator Zack "Jick" Johnson and writer Josh "Mr. Skullhead" Nite.[1] The game was released on 23 February 2003. Because content is still being added frequently the game is still considered unfinished and officially remains in open beta.[2]

It is notable for its use of hand-drawn stick figure graphics and writing characterized by surreal humor, word play, parody, and references to pop culture. In KoL, players fight monsters for experience, meat (the game's currency), and items, through a turn-based system. Players also interact with each other through player versus player competition, participate in the in-game economy by trading goods and services, organize themselves into clans, and speak to each other in many different chat channels.

The game now hosts a player base of 100,000 to 150,000 regular users.[3] It is also particularly notable for managing to be financially successful purely from donations rather than from advertising or subscription fees like many online games.[4]


[edit] Plot and setting

‫‬‭‮‪‫‬‭The player takes on the role of an adventurer who is tasked with solving problems and killing monsters in a fantasy-based kingdom. The game is humorous in nature, and most quests, battles and individual item descriptions include jokes, witticisms, or references to popular culture.

The Naughty Sorceress has captured and "imprismed" (imprisoned in a prism) the Kingdom's ruler, King Ralph XI. The ultimate objective of the game is to defeat the Naughty Sorceress and free King Ralph.

In King Ralph's absence, most of the power in the Kingdom of Loathing is held by the Council of Loathing, which gives quests to players as they increase in level, with the final Council quest (the Naughty Sorceress Quest) given when the player finishes the other quests received from the Council. Players can unlock up to 34 quests from other sources, some of which are only available after ascending. As much as the Council cares about its King, it seems that it is in no particular hurry to aid his rescue. At one point, they explicitly tell the player they "would continue to have absolute power throughout the land" if the player does not free the King, and that there is "Seriously, no rush."

[edit] Gameplay and features

A screenshot of combat against scarab beatles.

Gameplay involves fighting monsters, completing quests, gaining skills and stats, and accumulating items and meat.

In KoL's turn-based gameplay, a player is supplied with a number of adventures each day. The game day resets at a time called "rollover", which starts at 9:30 PM MST. Rollover lasts about 30 minutes, except on Saturdays, when it takes about an hour and a half. Players are allotted forty adventures every rollover, though they can increase that number with various equipment and items. Additional adventures can be acquired by consuming food, booze, and spleen-damaging items. However, only a limited amount of each can be consumed each day, and drinking too much booze puts the character into a drunken stupor for the remainder of the day. During rollover, drunkenness, fullness, and spleen damage are reset to zero, and minor amounts of HP and MP are restored. Although a player can accumulate a large number of adventures, the number is reduced to 200 at rollover.[5][6]

Many actions require a certain amount of adventures (usually one) to execute. These actions can range from cooking food to combat. Combat against a monster takes one adventure and is turn-based, allowing the player to use attacks, skills, or items each round.

Players can combine items by using "meat paste", which is made from currency. They can also cook food, mix cocktails ("cocktailcrafting"), smith weapons and armor ("meatsmithing"), and make jewelry ("jewelrycrafting"). Some items can only be created by players with a certain skill, which makes them rarer and more valuable (for instance, Saucerors and Pastamancers have access to skills that together make some of the best foods in the game, and Disco Bandits have access to a skill that allows them to make some of the best drinks in the game). Players may also make items such as the "Chef-in-the-box" or "Bartender-in-the-box" to cook or mix drinks for them without consuming adventures (these items have a limited number of uses, after which they explode). Updates and new content are frequent occurrences.

[edit] Player interaction

While Kingdom of Loathing's player versus environment content largely operates as a single-player game, there are other features based upon multiplayer interaction.

Players can compete for spots on leaderboards for certain accomplishments such as having the largest collection of items, achieving the fastest ascensions, or eating the largest quantity of a given food.


Player versus player (PvP) combat is voluntary, and only those who have broken their "Magical Mystical Hippy Stone" can attack or be attacked by other players. Players can repair their stone, removing themselves from the PvP community. A PvP battle is unlike combat against monsters and features a series of stat comparisons and a randomized selection of non-interactive minigames. These tests, which range from a "Work Ethic Contest" to "Wine Tasting" or even "Balanced Diet," compare sometimes obscure statistics of the two competitors. The winner of the PvP battle can take rank, stats, or sometimes even meat and items from the loser. However, there is no direct form of PvP, and the winner of the minigames is purely based on the characters' stats and chance.[7]


The game features an integrated chat system which is only available after completing a basic test of English grammar and spelling (with one mocking question, "What was the color of George Washington's favorite black horse?"). There are many chat channels, including even a channel in which all chat must follow the syllabic conventions of English haiku. Most of the chat channels are moderated; those who violate the chat rules are banned, with ban duration increasing for successive bans. Players can also message each other and send gift packages in-game. The official Kingdom of Loathing forums are also an active venue for discussion among players.[8]

Clans and clan dungeons

At level 3, players may join a clan. Clans are bands of players who can share items through a clan stash and have clan hall, which can be furnished with beneficial equipment. A clan may choose to engage in inter-clan warfare, fighting other clans for prestige and status. Members can chat with other members of their clan in a clan-specific chat channel.

On June 16, 2008, a clan basement was added, in which clan members can play cooperatively in Hobopolis, the underground city of hobos. It features a large group of zones for higher level players, where they work together to defeat all the enemies in that zone, allowing them to fight high level bosses and collect very powerful rewards. The dungeon can also be "Flooded", effectively resetting the areas and allowing players to begin again. Eurogamer likened this multiplayer dungeon to World of Warcraft instances.[9]

Trade and item collections

Players can buy a store in The Mall of Loathing and sell items to other players. Most items, including Mr. Accessories, can be traded in this way. Direct trading between two players is also possible, and in the trade chat channel, users can auction items and advertise shops.[6] Some players enjoy playing the market in an attempt to attain economic superiority.

However, quest items and "untradable" items cannot be moved from one character to another in any way.

Players buy display cases to show off collections of various items, as a second store, or simply to store items they do not immediately need.

[edit] Character classes

Players choose from six classes when they create a character (and after each ascension). Each class specializes in one attribute, and raising that attribute sufficiently results in gaining a level. Each class has a quest for an "epic weapon" which can be upgraded to a "legendary epic weapon", both of which give a bonus to their main attribute to that class alone. There used to be a quest which rewarded the character with an epic hat, but it has been temporarily unavailable since the implementation of NS13.[10] Players also receive a non-tradable class-dependent stainless steel, plexiglass, or brimstone item as a reward for completing harder ascensions. There is also a trophy for each of these classes, awarded to those who attain level 30 or higher.

Seal Clubber 
Seal Clubbers are a muscle-based offensive class, with skills that expand their fighting style, increasing damage as well as defenses. They have access to skills which allow them to craft weapons and pulverize items into elemental components, which then can be smithed into other equipment.
Turtle Tamer 
Turtle Tamers are a muscle-based defensive class, with combat abilities that depend on and enhance their armor. They can learn to craft armor and cast a number of defensive and familiar-enhancing buffs.
Pastamancers are a mysticality-based crafting/spellcasting class with the ability to summon and cook noodles, making some of the best foods in the game. They can also learn combat and healing spells.
Saucerors are mystical spellcasters who can cook potions and sauces, ingredients of powerful noodle dishes. They can also create saucespheres, shield buffs which can damage enemies, restore health and bestow other effects. They have offensive combat spells and passive skills which increase spell damage.
Disco Bandit 
Disco Bandits are a moxie-based class with high evasion and the skills to make advanced cocktails, highly potent booze. They also have combat abilities which weaken their enemies and looting skills which increase item and meat drops. They, along with Accordion Thieves, can pickpocket enemies to steal their items, including some items that can only be obtained from pickpocketing.
Accordion Thief 
Accordion Thieves are a moxie-based class whose music can provide a wide variety of buffs to themselves as well as other players. In fact, all but one of their skills are buffs, providing a wide array of enhancements such as increased damage, improved stats, or drop rate increases. Their mortal enemies include mariachis. Like Disco Bandits, they have the ability to pickpocket enemies.

[edit] Familiars

Familiars are creatures that can accompany players in combat, performing (usually) helpful actions. Players obtain familiars by placing certain items into a "Familiar-Gro Terrarium" at their campground. Inside, the items "hatch", becoming the familiar. A player can adventure with one familiar at a time; the rest remain stored in the terrarium. Familiar equipment is available to improve the abilities of each familiar.[11]

Most familiars gain experience to gain levels (expressed as weight in pounds) as they participate in combat, compete against other familiars in the Cake-Shaped Arena, and through other means. Familiars become stronger as they gain experience. The maximum base weight of a familiar is 20 pounds. This weight can be increased with items, equipment, and buffs. At each ascension, the player's familiars' experience is reset to zero and weight is reset to one pound. However, the number of kills that each familiar accumulates does not reset.

Familiars display many abilities. For example, a Sabre-toothed Lime attacks monsters, a Leprechaun grants extra meat after combat, and a Hovering Sombrero increases stat gains from combat. Some familiars are combinations of two other types, and cost the equivalent of one Mr. Accessory or more. Others, such as the Misshapen Animal Skeleton and the Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, require a lengthy search or expenditure of meat to gather their component parts.

[edit] Ascension

Ascension is a feature added to the game on June 9, 2005 that allows players to "win" the game and play through it again, similar to a New Game Plus feature.[12] Ascending players must choose a difficulty level (Casual, Normal, Hardcore, or Bad Moon), a dietary path (Normal, Teetotaler, Boozetafarian, or Oxygenarian), a class, a gender, and a moon sign. With the exception of a casual run, players may also choose one skill from their existing skillset to make permanent, meaning that it will be available in all future ascensions. There are large amounts of ascension-only content, including ascension rewards and zodiac sign zones.

[edit] History

On February 10, 2003, Kingdom of Loathing was officially launched to the public in an open beta-testing stage.[13] On June 9, 2005, ascension was released,[12] followed by another major update to the game on June 25, 2007, NS13.[14]

Conception and creation
Johnson had created several games before creating Kingdom of Loathing but never felt that they were good enough to make available online. Deciding that he was taking the games he created too seriously, Johnson then set himself the challenge of creating a game within a week and publishing the result online.[15] The early game was considered more of a joke than a game, and the initial content including classes and even the name of the game were stream of consciousness.[4]
"Black Sunday" and its aftermath
During the beta-testing phase, some serious bugs were found and exploited, resulting in a severe influx of duplicate items and meat into the economy. The worst of these incidents occurred on Sunday, August 8, 2004, a day now known to players as "Black Sunday." In order to revive the economy without upsetting the player base, a number of "meat sinks" - expensive "must have" items and services - were instituted to slowly leech meat from the economy. The Penguin Mafia, an in-storyline organization of belligerent penguin criminals, appeared in the game world over the subsequent months, creating a series of in-game events designed as meat sinks. These meat sinks resulted in massive amounts of currency leaving the game, essentially fixing the problem.
The Gray Plague
Another event, which began on the October 11, 2005, was the introduction of "The Gray Plague," a fictional disease which caused the infected players' font to fade into progressively lighter shades of gray (eventually becoming very hard to read in chat).[16][17] The plague was thought to be spread through chat and messages, and at its height over 30,000 player characters were infected.[18] Eventually, a quest appeared that allowed players to create doses of "Ofuxxor," a permanent plague cure. After implementation of this quest the plague was eliminated within a few days.
Because the Gray Plague began on Columbus Day and because it originated from "comfy blankets" given out by a character named Cristobal Colon, it is likely that this event was inspired by stories of the deliberate exposure of Native Americans to smallpox-bearing blankets.[16] The event possesses similarities with the accidental Corrupted Blood outbreak which had occurred in World of Warcraft about one month earlier, and the idea of an effective virtual plague may have been inspired by that incident.
"White Wednesday"
On Wednesday, October 26, 2005, Jick accidentally deleted several data tables during rollover, causing all users' alternate ascension inventories (at Hagnk's) to be reverted back to their previous state as of September 6. This accident has come to be known as "White Wednesday." It took more than 32 hours for Jick to bring the game back online because he had to use the full backup from September.[19] As an apology, all players received a special item called petrified time. The developers created new game content in the form of temporal rifts that sent players backwards and forwards in time and provided an in-storyline explanation for the accident, referred to as "The Great Time Catastrophe." In the following weeks, Jick and the Asymmetric Publications staff worked to restore valuable items to players who had lost them. By December 2005, most of the temporal rifts closed, although one remains as a permanent feature.
NS13 was a major content addition implemented on June 25, 2007. The Naughty Sorceress Quest now appears at level 13 (rather than the previous level 11). New quests for levels 11 and 12 were implemented, along with numerous new zones, monsters and items. NS13 introduced two new ascension types: Casual ascensions, in which a player may have access to their full inventory at the start of each ascension, and Bad Moon, a type of Hardcore ascension which offers a level playing field by restricting access to previously acquired familiars and skills. NS13 also included a number of content additions to existing quests. Along with the new content, there were also significant changes to game mechanics to slow down speed ascensions.[20]

[edit] Business model

Kingdom of Loathing is advertising-free and does not charge subscription fees. Maintenance and development of the game is supported by sale of associated merchandise, and by donations. Player donations of at least $10 USD to Asymmetric Publications result in a gift of an in-game stat-boosting item known as a Mr. Accessory (Mr. A) at the rate of one Mr. Accessory for every $10. Mr. Accessories can be equipped to give +15 to all stats, spent in the "Mr. Store" to buy powerful items (including special monthly items), or used to purchase a unique avatar or custom title.[21] Mr. Accessories and Mr. Store items may be traded freely between players.

Jick offers a different gift for a donation of $10 Canadian in cash: an in-game item called Mr. Eh?. Mr. Eh? is a Canadian version of Mr. Accessory. The stat gain of a Mr. Eh? is roughly proportional to the exchange rate between Canadian and United States currency, and is adjusted at the whim of the developers, but cannot exceed 15. The bearer also has "(player's name) is the prood bearer of a Mr Eh?" added to their profile, supposedly a play on the Canadian accent.[22] Unlike a Mr. Accessory, Mr. Ehs cannot be spent in Mr. Store.

[edit] Community

Many KoL players advocate the use of proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and will often correct those who misspell words or use leetspeak in chat. There is an in-game item called a "Wang" which, when used, will correct some usage of Internet slang.[23]

Spoilers are generally discouraged in KoL. Players are encouraged to give hints to help less experienced players. In the KoL forums, spoilers are typically hidden in black boxes. It is forbidden to publicly give away spoilers in chat, although many external websites provide spoilers and are extremely popular among KoL players.[24]

[edit] Player-based projects

There have been several player-based projects that revolve around the game. Successful projects include the official KoL fansite named Coldfront which now hosts a growing KoL-specific wiki[25]; and The Player-Made Music Site[26], a sizable collection of music created by players of the game that features both parodies and original songs about the game as well as non-game-related pieces by or involving players.

KoLMafia is a fan-made Java desktop client for the game.[27] It provides an alternative interface to the game as well as several bot utilities to automate many aspects of the game. Similar projects include KoLmelion[28] and KoL CLI[29]. In a similar vein, several players have developed an extensive library of Greasemonkey scripts for Firefox. These scripts allow users a great deal of extra functionality and enable customization of the game's interface.

[edit] Conventions

Since 2004, Asymmetric has hosted an annual player convention called KoLCon. In recent years, each convention has taken place during a weekend in September in Tempe, Arizona, the location of Asymmetric Publications' home office. The 2007 event featured live performances by The Minibosses, Nekrogoblikon, and MC Frontalot.[30] As well as these official conventions, there have been a number of others in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands. Several of these have become annual events in their own right.

[edit] Radio

A Web-based SHOUTcast radio station, Radio KoL is the "official unofficial" radio station of KoL. It is a 24/7 DJ-hosted station, with volunteer DJs drawn from the KoL user base. Radio KoL is nonprofit and sustains itself solely through donations.[31] It was founded in June 2004 by KoL players SeveredToe and Artsychick (all DJs are known by their KoL character names.) Radio KoL primarily consists of DJ-hosted music smf talk shows. DJs frequently take song requests from players through the KoL chat system, as well as running contests boasting game items and meat as prizes. Jick has created several exclusive items for Radio KoL DJs to give away in contests.

Twice weekly, Jick, Mr. Skullhead and other development team members host shows on Radio KoL in which they discuss the state of the game and answer questions from players. Past shows dating back to 2004 are archived on Kingdom of Loathing's website. [32]

Radio GKOL is a separate Shoutcast station that was created by regulars of the /games chat channel, and features many of those regulars as DJs.[33] These shows often include games, contests, and prizes. Their motto is: "We exist to give you sh*t [sic]," spawned from the popular Radio KoL comment (from listeners and DJs alike), "the radio does not exist to give you shit."

Besides these two stations, a number of the larger and more powerful clans have their own radio stations, usually operating part-time and with considerably smaller fanbases.

[edit] Reception

Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 9[34]
Netjak 7.4[35]
ESCMag 7[36]

Critical response for Kingdom of Loathing has been generally positive with consistent praise for the game's humor and surrealism. The gameplay and content have also been praised as being "well designed" and having a "huge amount of content".[34] Jay Is Games called it "a 'must play' game for RPG fans who want something different."[37] Worlds In Motion said "Kingdom of Loathing isn't just a great game, but a really unique and interesting MMO".[17] The graphics have had mixed reception with some reviewers praising the decision to focus only gameplay but others deriding them as "functional, but nothing more".[35] The player community has also received praise for being welcoming and for rarely using Internet slang, unlike many other online games.[17][34]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Cooper, Park. "An Adventurer Is You: The Zack Johnson/Kingdom of Loathing Interview". Silver Bullet Comics. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  2. ^ "What is The Kingdom of Loathing?". Asymmetric Publications. Retrieved on 2008-11-08. 
  3. ^ "KoL Forums post by Riff". 2007-06-23. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  4. ^ a b Janelle, Robert (5 August 2008). "Stumbling Into the Kingdom of Loathing". Escapist Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-08-05. '
  5. ^ "Rollover - The KoL Wiki". Coldfront L.L.C.. Retrieved on 2007-08-28. 
  6. ^ a b Hecht, Eliah (November 5, 2007). "Time is money, friend!". Massively. Retrieved on 2008-10-11. 
  7. ^ "Strangerer's PvP Guide". 20 May 2005. Retrieved on 2005-10-15. 
  8. ^ "Chat Faq". 11 October 2005. Retrieved on 2005-10-15. 
  9. ^ Pearson, Dan (June 18, 2008). "Kingdom of Loathing expands". Retrieved on 2008-07-10. 
  10. ^ "Epic Hats - The KoL Wiki". Coldront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-04-23. 
  11. ^ "New User FAQ". 10 November 2004. Retrieved on 2008-10-15. 
  12. ^ a b "History of Loathing June, 2005- The KoL Wiki". Coldront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  13. ^ "History of Loathing 2003- The KoL Wiki". Coldfront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  14. ^ "History of Loathing June 2007- The KoL Wiki". Coldfront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  15. ^ Turczyn, Coury (November 3, 2004). "G4 - Feature - Ten Minutes with Zack Johnson". Retrieved on 2008-10-11. 
  16. ^ a b "The Gray Plague- The KoL Wiki". Coldfront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  17. ^ a b c "Kingdom of Loathing". Worlds In Motion. Retrieved on 2008-10-14. 
  18. ^ "Grey Plague Numbers- The KoL Wiki". Coldfront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  19. ^ "White Wednesday- The KoL Wiki". Coldfront, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  20. ^ "NS13!". Retrieved on 2008-10-15. 
  21. ^ Mr. Accessory - TheKolWiki
  22. ^
  23. ^ Wang - TheKolWiki
  24. ^ "Alexa Traffic Rankings for KoL Coldfront". Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  25. ^ Main Page - TheKolWiki
  26. ^ The Player-Made Music Site
  27. ^ KoLMafia
  28. ^ KoLmelion
  29. ^ KoL CLI
  30. ^ "KoLCon IV official announcement". Retrieved on 2008-05-07. 
  31. ^ "Radio KoL Homepage. Scroll down for reference". Retrieved on 2008-01-03. 
  32. ^ Kingdom of Loathing Radio Archive
  33. ^ Radio GKOL: About the Station
  34. ^ a b c Hamblin, Jon (15 April 2008). "Browser RPG Roundup Review". EuroGamer. Retrieved on 2008-10-11. 
  35. ^ a b Chris, LoBue (September 27, 2007). "Kingdom Of Loathing - Windows Review". Netjak. Retrieved on 2008-10-11. 
  36. ^ Grieser, Andy (September 27, 2007). "Kingdom of Loathing - ESCMag Review". ESCMag. Retrieved on 2008-10-22. 
  37. ^ Preston (September 12, 2005). "Kingdom of Loathing". Jay Is Games. Retrieved on 2008-10-13. 

[edit] External links

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