Game Development Reference
Figure 9-2: Rewards in Kingdom of Loathing, from a KOL fan wiki
“[Ascension Mode] opened up the design space by turning the game from a single ongoing linear progression
to a series of short challenges to see how quickly players could get through. That enabled us to offer real incent-
ives for donating—stuff that would speed up each short challenge,” says Nite.
In addition, for KoL's developers, not trying to make money at every turn has served them well: “I think
we had success because we didn't take every opportunity to monetize,” says Nite. “We didn't include a ton of
micro-transactions; we didn't block off half the content we'd created until you donated; we didn't run ads or ad-
vertise the game on other sites. We started with a healthy wariness about selling out and being lame, and I think
that caution paid off. People donate because they like us and like what we're doing, and they appreciate that
we didn't try to trap them in a FarmVillian Skinner box.” This donation-driven approach is especially valuable
for developers making low-budget indie games as quirky as Kingdom of Loathing. Once players realize how
unique and special it is, they are much more likely to donate in order to help ensure it keeps going.
Advice for New Designers Aiming for KoL's Quirky
Success: Revive a Niche You Love and Launch Early
Nite's advice to developers who would follow Loathing's path: “Find a style of game you used to enjoy playing
that nobody's making right now. KoL was in the style of old bulletin board system games like Legend of the
Red Dragon, for example. The market for those games didn't go away, but the games did.” As we've noticed
in the last year, Kickstarter and other crowdfunder platforms have proven just how much players are willing to
pay in order to revive a genre the industry has walked away from.
CROSSREF Read more about this in Chapter 15, “Is Your Game Ready to Get VC or Crowdsourced Fund-