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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: Joy

    - staff

  • Dean Ray Johnson, Legend of the Mooks

    I'd suggest that the most joy-ruining thing to happen to a person is a situation which constantly kills the player, causing frustration and stopping him or her from advancing to the rest of the game. I've also learned from card games like Balderdash and Apples to Apples that sometimes it's all right to do the wrong thing, as long as the other people playing the game with you agree that you're doing it correctly. For my joyous situation, I want to turn the annoyance of constant death into fun, and I want to utilize the joy of impressing the other players with humorous situations.

    Legend of the Mooks resembles Left 4 Dead in its composition. At the beginning of a scene, four players begin to move from one end of a stage to the other. Each plays the role of an unnamed security guard, mercenary, or stormtrooper. The scene differs each time it's played as different challenges strike the players, but what differs is the fifth player - the taskmaster. The taskmaster plays the role that the "director" AI plays in Left 4 Dead, selecting what challenges to throw at the players, like superheroes, giant monsters, or robot armies. The scenes are somewhat shorter, about five minutes or so.

    There's a bias toward not successfully completing a scene, as the taskmaster can simply throw challenges at the players until they die. However, when each player is dead or safe, the taskmaster gives one player an award for being Number One Mook of the scene. This player will become the taskmaster for the next scene, while the previous taskmaster takes his or her place as a guard.

    When the taskmaster names a Number One Mook, a replay will show of that mook's death scene, with replays, freeze frames, and different camera angles of the taskmaster's choice. So the taskmaster wants to grant an award to the mook who dies in the most dramatic manner, so as to have a good video to watch. Thus, the game is no longer about a life and death struggle. The mooks could try to finish the level properly, but you feel more rewarded by being the player with the most dramatic death scene possible - getting punched through a wall by a superhero, knocked off a ledge and hitting obstacles on the way down, crunched by a monster in one shot when the mook was casually strolling over to pick a flower, something that leads your fellow players to cringe at how terribly you were owned. Game replays allow you to upload your greatest hits to YouTube later. There's also a scoreboard... which doesn't matter much.

    Sure, you died, but it's not annoying as long as you die in a way that your fellow players enjoy, and then you get to set the scene for the next round. The odds are against you, but unlike other nameless mooks, at least you will be remembered for something.


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