Thousands can plot against you in the political simulator King Of The Castle – Studio Varam

Thousands can plot against you in the political simulator King Of The Castle

At first glance, King Of The Castle might look like other medieval political sims; something like Reigns or Yes, Your Grace, where you ascend the throne, rule a kingdom, and make decisions that will affect your gold reserves, military strength, or alliances. That political maneuver is intact in King Of The Castle, but this time up to 24 of your friends (or thousands of Twitch viewers) can join your campaign, putting themselves in the shoes of nobles from various regions. Everyone has different goals, everyone can vote on certain decisions, and everyone has the potential to support or betray the all-powerful monarch: you.


That’s the general premise of King Of The Castle: a hybrid between a massive party game and a monarchy sim, capturing the chaotic comedy and brittle intrigues that accompany political decision-making, with a little fantasy thrown in for good measure. . Tributary Games studio head Samuel Partridge tells me they’ve coined ‘Game Of Phones’ as a catchphrase, “which hopefully won’t get us sued,” he adds.

Most gamers are familiar with choice-based games and how they work, but it’s rare to see a game offer that experience to a crowd. King Of The Castle content lead Harry Tuffs compared it to “writing for the theatre, except it’s a theater where the audience is particularly rowdy and is also invited on stage at any time.” But tons of problems can arise when showing this type of story to thousands of players, instead of just one. A KOTC game needs to be readable, for example, to a channel-hopping Twitch viewer who stops in the middle of a plot to overthrow the King. One part of the solution was to implement medieval fantasy tropes that acted as reference points for players and were “important for quickly establishing the facts,” says Partridge.

A voting screen at King Of The Castle, where the nobles vote on whether to provide a safe haven for Oreid in exchange for muskets, reject her offer and send her away, or confiscate her and take her prisoner.

Once players controlled the world they will rule, Celest Ath, Partridge says the team wanted to add “a unique twist” and get fun with the possibilities. This is a game where you can “legalize polyamorous marriage, lose a fortune in the crab market, and launch a dead saint into the ocean via catapult… All in the same turn.” Your wild decisions (and the votes of thousands of nobles) can send the game veering into some very strange territory, through hundreds of unique and branching events that Partridge says need “spreadsheets all the way” to avoid. inconsistencies in tradition.

Partridge’s favorite story is one in which the Monarch and nobles have a “massive party, get drunk, and collectively decide to go to war directly with the biggest, nastiest empire outside their borders… before waking up hungover.” The live streams I’ve seen have been just as lawless: a group of nobles betray the monarch at the last minute, siding with the giant’s rebellion at the end.

Sure, KOTC is a hectic, hilarious, hilariously hectic moment, but one satirical bite undermines the whole experience. Tuffs calls the concept of monarchy an “absurd system with absurd implications”, and the game’s voting system actively encourages absurd behaviour. “King Of The Castle players embody a selfish little elite at the top of their society,” says Tuff. “The game encourages bribery, blackmail and outright vote manipulation. This is emphatically the wrong way to do a democracy.” However, it produces an entertaining watch.

A tax screen in King Of The Castle showing the taxes owed by each sect of nobles.
A screen in King Of The Castle showing that a player named fancy boot has offered to sell the monarch a crab (the message is delivered via the treasurer). On the left of the screen you can see the status of the treasury, authority, trade and etc.

KOTC reflects on corrupt voting systems in comical ways, but Tuff still acknowledges the grim impact it has: “Ultimately, it’s the poor common people who bear the brunt of all this – there are a lot of peasant riots in the game. And who can blame them?

The real-life daily news is practically chock full of corrupt politicians, and I like that KOTC reflects that through their voting system. She’s a smart and knowledgeable critic, but one that came back to bite Tributary Games in the butt when it came to announcement time. KOTC’s debut trailer begins with a king’s head on a spike (a familiar ‘I bet you’re wondering how I got here’ setup) and was scheduled to drop on September 8, 2022 when, an hour before launch of the trailer, the real-life Queen of England died. Tuff says that any similarity to the real world in KOTC “isn’t entirely coincidental,” except for the big coincidence that disrupted their marketing plans, naturally.

Despite KOTC’s mockery of political systems, Tuff says that Celest Ath is not divided in terms of gender, sexuality, or race, moving away from the somewhat rote depictions of these issues seen in other fantasy worlds. “This allows our players to design diverse characters and accurately represent themselves without worrying about reliving past traumas,” Tuff says, before assuring me that the dark humor and beheadings will still be around.

The Queen is being thrown into the river at King Of The Castle

KOTC’s inclusive and diverse character creation comes as no surprise, as Partridge says the team’s philosophy is to “listen to what our players are saying.” This extends to how Tributary Games approaches monthly updates, with Partridge pointing to the new Dynasty Events launch feature as an example. Dynasty events have consequences from one reign to the next, but Partridge says the change was “based on the results of a player survey we conducted, where this was by far the most requested feature” in the game’s closed beta. The team has a number of potential post-launch plans, though Partridge states that “it’s not like we can point to a similar title and take notes.” Tributary Games will continue to listen to players and make changes based on feedback.

I’m excited to see King Of The Castle expand into the future. The game has everything it needs to be the next hit on Twitch: the fun of betraying your friends, matches that change every time, and the potential for thousands of viewers to form alliances or cunningly rebel against you, the king of the castle. It’s available on PC today, via Steam, for £4/$5, and has a Twitch extension and dedicated website for smaller groups of friends (or friendly traitors).

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