Ten Years Of Loathing

My other car is made of meat

No, it’s not the anniversary of when I started writing about games – this is in fact year twelve of my moaning about flashing pixel-based products, I’ll have you know – but instead the tenth birthday of satirical, stickman-based browser-kinda-MMO Kingdom of Loathing. It’s a game I spent an awful lot of time playing during the last couple years of my tenure on PC Format magazine, in between compulsively browsing eBay for vintage Transformers and repeatedly going to check if the snack machine had accidentally priced Kit-Kats at 5p again, so I am heartened by its longevity.

Perhaps a joke spawned in 2003 doesn’t deserve to still be receiving guffaws of approval today, but anything that uses meat as a currency remains approved in my book. Also, the activation code to remind me what my password for my ancient account is was ‘scentsmellhead’. And when I did log back in, I got an anniverary giftbox, among whose contents were spandex anniversary shorts and an anniversary chutney sculpture.

The game is still the game it ever was, though it has expanded in geography, items and puns over the years. It’s a big achievement for any game, let alone a weird indie thing about stickmen and Turtle Tamers and friendly mosquitos called Tonald. Devs Asymmetric Publications don’t seem entirely sure how to celebrate the anniversary, having settled on an open letter to their own game:

Hey, kiddo. Geez, you’ve gotten big! I still remember when you were just three zones and a handful of items. Now I hear you’ve got thousands of items and dozens of zones, and you’ve entertained millions of people over the years! I couldn’t be more proud of you.

Now, look here, kiddo, I know you just turned ten years old, or you’re about to turn ten years old — I gotta admit I don’t know for sure. Your old dad’s got a lot on his mind these days, but we both know that the exact date you turn ten isn’t the point, right? It’s that I love you, and I wouldn’t trade you for the world. And I know what you want most in the whole world is a brand new pony, so here’s what I’m gonna do: this year, I’m gonna give you three real Sacajewa dollars and a $5 gift certificate to Gopher Gary’s Pizza Palace. Remember when we used to go there? Well, I’m too busy to take you, but the gift certificate will remind you. Maybe you could go with some of your friends, eh? I mean, even if they don’t play with you much anymore, they could come back around and see how big you’ve grown!

And you know we’ve always liked the number eleven more than ten around here, right? So next year we can go for broke with the big party and the presents. I promise. Your old man’ll make it up to you next year. Happy Tenth Birthday, little Kingdom of Loathing. You’ve done your Pa proud.

Whatever any of that means, now seems like a fine juncture to return to KoL. Off you go: I really want to see your meat, people.


  1. The Random One says:

    I was just playing it before I came to RPS, which means that Alec Meer is secretly watching me and posting stuff depending on what I do to gain my unconditional trust, as I’ve always suspected. The lows to which the gaming press will stoop to these days!

    KoL is the only game I really keep coming back to. I’ll sometimes leave it alone for months but then I’m back, usually by Christmas, or rather Crimbo. Now that they have special thematic ascensions every three months I have a reason to keep hanging out there – the next one should be coming this Friday if my math is right.

    Their current item-of-the-month is videogame-themed and includes a walkthrough for a fake game with a randomly generated command list. I laughed out loud at stuff like “F3 on second controller: put on contact lenses. Middle stick (hold): sextant.”

    Also, first! (An expression that here on RPS means, “Hello there, spambot replying to my post!”)

    • int says:

      How odd, I just played yesterday. Gotta love this game.

      What’s a “tan gnat” backwards?

    • frightlever says:

      I couldn’t believe it. My cousin Grace makes $60 per hour. She let me have a peek. At her pay cheque. And it was for $17,123.00

      Clearly she’s working an 80 hour week. I don’t think she’s even noticed that Dale has taken the kids to his mother’s home until she sorts out her priorities. Dammit, there has to be a balance. She doesn’t even let me take a peek any more. At her pay cheques.

      • apocraphyn says:

        10/10, would read again. You need to include a random link in there somewhere to make it seem more authentic, though.

  2. BillygotTalent says:

    This looks like fun.

  3. aliksy says:

    I remember playing this back in… shit, I guess it was around 2003. It was kind of fun, but I usually burn out on turns-per-day web games pretty quick. It had some excellent writing and humor, though.

    • LintMan says:

      Yeah, I tried it a bunch of years back, and it seemed quite amusing, but I was immediately rebuffed by the “only x turns per day” mechanism. I had the impression that players created multiple accounts as a workaround and that for those in the know there was some exploit to get more turns, but it wasn’t worth the headaches for me.

      I just recently read that they have paid transactions – something like $10 for a “Mr. Accessory”, which you can trade in one or two of for high-end gear. I don’t recall anything like that when I played it, but I didn’t stick around for long so maybe I missed it. Yuck, though.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Manufacturing food that gives more turns as efficiently as possible is basically the core gameplay.

        It takes a little while to get past the introductory part of the game where you really are limited to those 10 turns though.

        • JD Ogre says:

          You get a base of 40 adventures a day (refreshes at system rollover at about 10:30pm Eastern), which you can then augment with gains from food, booze, camp items, equipment, etc. (though you get brought down to a cap of 200 adventures if you’re over that amount at rollover, so should always at least get yourself down to 160 or below if you can’t play all your turns that day).

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Hah, it’s been a while since I played obviously ;-)

          • President Weasel says:

            KOL is still going? Wow. I remember playing it back when it was less than a year old with people from the now-defunct Dumbrella forums The turns per day mechanic turned me off after a while, but it was fun to see what terrible bit of humour was around the next corner.

      • malkav11 says:

        The core game and the vast majority of content (and that is a -lot- of content) are free. But because it does involve a lot of man-hours and there are significant server costs (KoL is very popular) , donation is encouraged by rewarding optional toys like unique familiars and funky things like superpowered pants and (the current item) a subscription to a gaming magazine that’s “only useful for the walkthrough in the back” that opens up a retro-gaming themed randomized dungeon once per day with occasional puzzles solved by reading the (elaborate) randomized Gamefaqs-esque walkthrough. AFAIK, while these special items and familiars once rotated out virtually never return to availability, they are all tradeable so people with enough disposable cash do sell them for large amounts of in-game currency. (I hadn’t played for ages until I came back after reading this article, so that may not currently be the case. Certainly was at one time, though.)

  4. Snargelfargen says:

    Had a lot of fun with KoL a couple years back, but I burned out once I reached the ascension meta-game. It didn’t help that I picked up the game as a quick fix for morning coffee. and ended up knee deep in spread sheets towards the end. The game’s got very funny writing and a great community though. I met some cool people and was lucky to get help from a guy who pretty much wrote the book on boozetafarian disco bandits. It’s something everybody should try at least once. Because boozetafarian disco bandits, obviously.

    …and now I’m getting the urge to play again. An adventurer is me!

    • The Random One says:

      I never touched any speed-run metagame. I only get close to the wiki when I either genuinely can’t figure out how to progress in one of the retouched quests (which is rare) or when I’m trying to maximize my item drops to grab more one-time content loot. It’s good that the game accomodates for speed-runners and market-players, but the jokes and constant new content mean ‘coffee-break’ players can enjoy it in installments as well.

      Though I’m glad they don’t look down on botting. At worst you can fire up KoLmafia and just enjoy the new stuff.

  5. Dare_Wreck says:

    This is the one game I have absolutely spent the most time playing ever. I think I may have recently hit 100 ascensions in the game (from over 7 years of playing the game), and that’s not even close to where the power players are at.

  6. emertonom says:

    The best thing about this game is that before you can comment in the forums, you have to do a quest for “the ghost of the English language” and pass a test in which you use “their,” “there,” and “they’re” in a sentence, and stuff like that. I was, of course, a pastamancer. I’m now looking forward to the KOL card game I kickstarted a while back.

  7. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Same here, I lost hours to this game and eventually had to quit because I was spending too much time on it. So many joyous references, so much humour.

  8. squidlarkin says:

    The Sword Throughout Inappropriate Prepositions is probably my favorite item upon any game ever.

  9. rawrty says:

    Oh god this game was great, guess I shouldn’t be surprised it’s still going.

    On a chance, does any one remember the infamous player named “Pocket Hell” from kingdom of loathing ~2003-2004?

  10. squareking says:

    itti, my pastamancer, has been sitting on the beach for the past year or so. I need to log in again.

  11. pfooti says:

    I really loved this game, back in the day. I still kind of love it, but hardly play anymore. Once in a while, I’ll log in and burn through some turns here and there.

    I do, however, have a complete set of plexiglass gear of my very own, having completed a hardcore oxygenarian ascension in each class.

  12. JD Ogre says:

    Just started playing again last week after a year off. And immediately donated $10 for a Mr. Accessory and bought the current Item of the Month for my alt (who is, and always shall be, a Disco Bandit no matter how many times he ascends – can’t seem to get into playing my main, who I’ve probably spent $60 or $70 on since I started playing regularly back in ’05). :)

  13. alms says:

    Turtle tamer here. The game’s far too intricate for my liking, I was literally spending half the time in the wiki trying to figure out things, but it deserves the attention. Thank you for the heads up, now I have a shiny anniversary box in my hands and heading to kol wiki to find out about it…

  14. pertusaria says:

    Also a turtle tamer – I love the adventure you get from dressing up as a turtle tamer for Halloween.

    I haven’t played this in ages – there just wasn’t enough variety in a second play-through to hold my interest, even though I went Hardcore and joined a clan, although I guess if you stay away long enough there are new zones to look forward to. My boyfriend stuck with it for longer, but he enjoys the competitive speed-running side more than I do.

    My first memory of KoL is from around 2004 – a Theoretical Physics student friend was playing it in the maths computer room in college, some time before I knew what a MMORPG was.

  15. sinister agent says:

    Steal your own pants, without alerting yourself to your presence.

  16. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    This game was great when you could do a two day ascension, when the game finished at level 11 (i think, long time ago now), extending to level 15 broke the game for me. For me it was all about getting better skills to make my next run even quicker.

    This was a situation where more content (how ever well done, even with the fact that each new zone was clever than the last) made the game worse. Each new zone I’d read the content, once, twice, then get bored of it and only ever use kolmafia (which essentially played the game for you).