Results from Game Design Challenge: Rickroll

By staff [04.13.10]

 Remember Rickrolling? The basic idea, if you don't, was to send someone to a camouflaged link to the video for Rick Astley's '80s hit Never Gonna Give You Up. It became a phenomenon because it was based around tricking someone -- a harmless and humorous joke.

Can a game be devised around the concept of tricking someone? And who will you trick? Will you trick the player, or will the player trick the other characters in the game? The field is wide open to come up with a totally original concept based around fooling or tricking someone.

Game Career Guide challenged its readers to come up with a game design in which pranks play a large role. Bonus points for adding Rick Astley in. (Note: that's not true. We don't even have a point system.)

What follows are the best and most original entries we received. Here are our top picks:

Best Entries

Ignacio Pintos, UOC Post-Degree Student, Battlefield Middle East (see page 2)
Pintos subverts the testosterone-fueled first-person shooter genre with Battlefield Middle East, an unassuming wartime action game that takes a sudden, drastic turn at its halfway point.

Andrew Putra Jaya, student of Binus International University, Mindemo (see page 3)
Jaya's entry recalls infamous player-abusing classics like The Tower of Druaga and Takeshi no Chousenjou, using misdirection and questionable logic to create a unique challenge.

Will Armstrong, Rick Role (see page 4)
Rick Role casts Astley himself as a central character, challenging players to ruin key historical events with a well-timed performance of "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Honorable Mentions
Jeremy Kraner, Flashpoint Academy, Prankster (see page 5)
Aaron Yip, Georgia Institute of Technology, HAMsters Collective (see page 6)
Praveen Sudalaimuthu Namasivayam, National University of Singapore (see page 7)
Carlo Delallana, Game Designer, Project Rickroll (see page 8)
Kiel Safstrom, Flashpoint Academy, Dunce (see page 9)

Ignacio Pintos, UOC Post-Degree Student, Battlefield Middle East

A serious game about empathy, and some geography lessons.

You play as Tom, a young north american who enrolls in the army and is sent to Afghanistan, after the military school (tutorial) where he's trained in close combat and mid-range weapons.

What comes now is never mentioned on the game box or advertisements.

After 6-8 hours of FPS gameplay comes the crucial cutscene: all his team members are dead after raiding a small village. Tom inspects the houses where terrorists where supposedly hiding. But in one he finds the corpses of two young men, hand in hand, with an unexpected outfit: glittering dresses, huge wigs and blood-smeared makeup. In the background, a cassette plays 'No More Tears' by Barbra Streisand.

Tom drops his submachine gun, closes the corpses eyes, puts on a wig, and dances to the music facing a broken mirror, with tears in his eyes, and flashbacks of his childhood singing that song alone at home. When the song ends, Tom empties his backpack and puts inside all the dresses, wigs and high-heeled shoes he finds. He also discovers and old business card of a cabaret in Baghran. Finally he drops his uniform and puts on the burka of a dead woman. Tom becomes Tammy.

Now you have to help Tom make his dreams come true: become a notorious underground drag-queen, in a quest across the Middle East towards Europe. Reflecting this drastic turn in Tom's mind, the game becomes a 3D point-n-click adventure, based on inventory and conversational puzzles. There will also be some interspersed action scenes and mini-games; ironically, the FPS stages as a soldier were the perfect training for his escape towards a fulfilling life. Examples:

- Running and stealth: escape across Kuwait roofs at night after a raid while you were performing, avoiding helicopter lights, snipers and traps, with difficult jumps and high-heeled acrobatics.

- Rhythm: drag-queen performances. Each key is mapped to a limb (hips and long hair included), and you have to follow your stage partners' moves.

- Fighting: some soldiers recognize you while performing on a brothel in Ahbaz. Beat them to escape.

In each country, Tom will meet individuals (mostly social outsiders) which tell him about the civil laws and liberties in each country: critical data to survive. Some are friendly, some pretend to be. The adventure part wont let Tom die; no matter how difficult the situation becomes, there will always be a way to overcome it. He'll also collect the traditional, natural ointments and powders used as make-up in every region, which he'll use to create the distinctive look that'll make him famous.

Thorny decisions will be common: would you exchange a sexual favor to a trucker for a ride in a cattle truck across the Iraqi border to Syria? or kill someone that profits from child prostitution but protects them from war and disease?

In the end sequence, the now famous Tammy sings the song 'A bullet changed my life' (while shooting confetti with a bazooka) representing Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest, and wins.

Andrew Putra Jaya, student of Binus International University, Mindemo

'Mindemo' is a mini games which is constructed in iphone application for single player. Mindemo comes from words 'mind' and 'emotion' since the main element of the gameplay are ‘mind' and ‘emotion'.

The objective of mindemo is really simple, therefore, simple minded is necessary to complete every stage in this game. However, emotion also plays an important role since player will maybe become a little bit crazy because of the various tricks that will be faced in every stage.

Player will be given a static route of maze, and as an ordinary maze game, there will be a starting point and end point. At the starting point, 'mindemo' who is also the name of the character in this game, is standing and waiting for a movement from player. With the touch screen functionality, mindemo can be moved according to the screen that is touched by the player.

However, as mentioned before, there will be a various tricks in every stage of this game. Without tricks, this game will be felt 'plain'. So, tricks are the enemy of the player, on the other hand, mind and emotion are the weapons of the player.

Examples of tricks which will occur in this game are :

1. Opposite - to move forward, player has to go backward.

2. Double - double click to move to the current position.

3. Triple - triple click to move to the current position.

4. Sliding - hold and move, don't let your finger or stylus away from screen

5. Limited - the movement will be limited by just a few times of clicking ( e.g 5 times,4 times,3 times, etc )

6. Wait - wait 1 minute to finish the stage, or it will never finish ( but in the real game, there will be no information to wait )

7. Calling - player has to call someone to finish the stage

8. Refresh - exit game, run the game again, and continue, then it will go to the next stage

The information in every stage will not be looked like the example, but it will appear just in one until three words, such as 'opposite', 'double', 'sliding', etc.

Therefore, there will be 30 stages in this game and mindemo has unlimited life, so the game will be end if all of the stages are clear (credits) or the player exit the game.

Will Armstrong, Rick Role

Rick Role is a satirical collection of "micro-games" where players must interrupt historical events and memorable scenes from pop culture using only their wits and Rick Astley's rich, full-bodied vocal talents. Each game takes between 5 and 15 minutes.

You know the Rules...

The objective of each stage is to reach a specific location before time expires in order to ‘rick-roll' the event before it passes. In order to accomplish this objective, players directly lead Rick Astley through the stage, avoiding the various pitfall specific to the setting.

For example, while rick-rolling the moon landings, players must carefully avoid drawing the attention of security guards on their way to Mission Control. In order to accomplish this, players can take several actions.

The first method is simply behaving normally; walking when in view of sentries and not being too chatty (though players will occasionally need to chat with other characters to get tips and hints).

The second method is the use of various costumes and disguises; after all, deception is a cornerstone of the rick-roll meme. This includes dressing up as other characters, guards, monsters, or objects in order to sneak through each stage. Blending in via behavior and appearance are essential.

Finally, stages often have puzzle or gameplay elements relative to the specific setting. Making your way to the stage in Final Fantasy VI's Opera House, for example, involves navigating the rafters and RPG-style random battles exactly as they appear in the original game. Players can expect several different play-styles to appear, but because of the micro-game nature of the title, these elements are picked up and dropped to avoid becoming tedious or predictable.

We know the Game and we're gonna play it...

The various settings players will find themselves include...
- Distract the crew of the HMS Titanic from avoiding the iceberg!
- Make Ilsa miss her flight from Casablanca.
- Ever wonder why Cloud & Company was late rescuing Aeris?
- Nobody would get a "Who shot J.R.?" reference if I even bothered to make one.

Together Forever...

Future expansions add additional events for players to interrupt, from films and television to even more historic events.

Additionally, players can look forward to several spin-off titles, such as "The Amazing Anachronistic Adventures of Vanilla Ice" and "Where in the World is Right Said Fred?" "Ricky: staring Tony Basil", of course, has the fabled choreographer stalking various figures named Richard, including Richard III, President Nixon, and even Rick Astley himself. However, because the act of rick-rolling Rick Astley may cause the universe to implode, this title is delayed indefinitely pending further research.

Jeremy Kraner, Flashpoint Academy, Prankster

The game is Prankster, an adventure genre based game in the styling of games like the Monkey Island series and Grim Fandango meets Bully. You play as the character Maximillion, a young child who has only been recently sent to Overton Hills Boarding School, a nightmarish place in the child's mind. His only chance of escape is to be kicked out, but since this is a school for trouble children, this will be easier said then done.

The basic concept is to complete tricks on a series of teachers and employees, starting with the janitor and moving all the way up to the headmaster. These tricks, while benign in nature at first, will result in a very embarrassing result for the victim, resulting in their shameful defeat. And while this game may seem to more placed towards pranks and the usual tricks of children in boarding schools, the difference here is that Maximillion uses his brains for misdirection and deception as opposed to a simple break.

The gameplay itself will be based on the idea of multiple stages leading up to the final "shame" scene, as it is. The first stage is that of research and information gathering, gaining intelligence on your intended target by talking to other students and teachers, following them through their daily routine, and reading their confidential files and clues. Next is the step of actually setting up the trap. This could result in a variety of tricks being set up, depending on the information that was gathered in the first stage. This will involve leaving misleading cues and hints for the target, leaving false information with other students and teachers, and even manipulating the schools environment.

All of this culminates in some sort of public or broadcasted humiliation, such as being caught in the girls locker room, catching the person with someone other than their significant other, being dressed as a cheerleader, etc. The game will also feature mini games in order to gain extra information on the targets that results in special endings.

While many of this might sound like leaning towards a more mature title, the major idea of this game is to retain a sense of humor and brevity. However, it will also teach the player to think of situations more critically and outside of the box, solving these "problems" in more unique ways with what's available at hand. Prankster will be all about tricking your opponents and leaving this school as Maximillion intends: as the most clever person there.

Aaron Yip, Georgia Institute of Technology, HAMsters Collective

HAMsters Collective is an online society of pranksters that wreck havoc on against fellow members in a war of trickery across the internet playground. At its core, HAMsters is a social gaming experience meets viral prankstery. It merges these two complimenting elements, joining hilarious fun of viral media with the natural interaction of social networking. Have you ever wanted to brag, to tell everybody how genius your ideas are? How about directly receiving feedback from your gagged victims? Or do you thirst for a challenge, wanting to pull tricks and hone your pranking abilities on experienced tricksters? What about the very basics of trickery: an awesome prank and nobody to witness it? The HAMsters Collective is an answer to these pranking woes.

Presentation: Social Gaming meets Viral Media

HAMsters Collective is a social game, played through either social networking websites or via internet browser plug-in. The game allows users to boobytrap pages to spring on other "HAMsters"--fellow players. While popular destinations like Youtube or Facebook profiles will obviously encourage the most prankster traffic, traps can be placed on just about any site that allows external input: comments on blogs, product reviews on Amazon, and other creative outlets on unexpected locations. Socially, HAMsters Collective aims to reconstruct the internet into a playground for fun-loving pranksters.

The pranks (known as HAMs) are viral media created or modified specifically for pranking purposes; the whole point of the media piece--be it video, image, forum poetry, etc.--is to absorb the victim HAMsters' attention long enough for them to realize they were horribly duped, and successful pranks are when victims enjoy realizing they have been conned. Pranking cues must be present throughout the piece, giving way to the "How did I not see that?" feeling during the second playing of the video. Imagine getting "rickrolled" with a greater sense of anticipation beforehand and even more creative usages. The idea behind pranks is to laugh, and HAMsters Collective strives for that slaphappy environment for both its population of players and the sites suffering from the new loads of viral pranking.

Gameplay: HAMster Media

HAMsters are the online avatars of players, and each one embodies their respective user's pranking glories and shames. A HAMster's profile details their ranking compared to friends' profiles and against the overall player base, tracks their scores of successful pranks and suffered pranks only from friends, and highlights favorite personal gags. The focus is to positively show off your achievements and competitively generate statistics against your friends. On one hand, a player is always rewarded to keep pulling gags--and never punished for enjoying others' gags. On the other, friends are encouraged to battle with trickery.

HAMs, the pranks, are designed to be easy to pick up and create. Tools, resources, and guides will be freely available to make pranking accessible to any willing prankster. Any HAMster can create, deploy, and just have fun!

Praveen Sudalaimuthu Namasivayam, Undergraduate at National University of Singapore


Rick Astley's girlfriend has been kidnapped by Dr. Toobe! Dr. Toobe, jealous of Astley's overwhelming success on Youtube and angry over his own failure at creating a viral trick video, is out to make Astley suffer the pangs of loneliness! But Rick Astley is never gonna give her up, is he?

It's time for Rick to roll!


The main character, Astley, has to create a path across a labyrinth to the next area. The labyrinth is littered with obstacles and enemies, however, so they have to be dealt with. How?

Fool them into thinking that you're in several other places at once.

Astley has a limited number of clones of himself. In the first phase of each round, the player has to strategically place these clones at various points on the labyrinth; these clones act as decoy Astleys for the enemies to be distracted by.

In the second phase of each round, the labyrinth becomes active, and the enemies zero in on the nearest Astley to them. In that time, the player has to manoeuvre the real Astley across the labyrinth and to the exit point, avoiding the obstacles and enemies before they run out of decoy Astleys to destroy.

The labyrinth resembles a chessboard, with each square housing one obstacle/enemy. The player starts on one corner of the labyrinth, and the exit is generally in the opposite corner of the labyrinth (depending on the layout of the labyrinth, the exit could be quite nearby, but surrounded by obstacles).

The obstacles could be walls, pits, spikes - basically, squares that Astley either cannot pass through at all or needs to jump across.

The enemies could be anything from zombies to turrets firing homing missiles - they all function similarly though. After they detect the nearest clone Astley that is not blocked by an un-passable obstacle, they home in on the clone and destroy it. Some enemies, such as zombies, can be lured into spikes/pits by placing an Astley on the opposite side (this only works if the obstacle can be seen across). When an Astley is destroyed, the enemy targets the nearest Astley to its current location (this may change depending on the enemy type).

Astley can move from square to square (except diagonally), and can jump over obstacles. He does not have attacks (the dude's a singer, come on!), so he must rely purely on the decoys to get past the enemies in the labyrinth. The clone Astleys do not move from their positions.

Carlo Delallana, Game Designer, Project Rickroll

The Rickroll Game will be based on the lyrics of the song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meta-game will be divided into nodes based on lyrical lines starting with the word "Never" and player's objective is to figure out how to do the exact opposite.

Each level is presented as quick micro-games ala Warioware Inc. The lyric will be displayed outside of the game space as a clue and the player will be presented with a scene they must interact with before time runs out. If they fail the game will temporarily lock them out while a dancing Rick Astley fills their screen. As the player progresses the scenes become more abstract or complex adding challenge to the way the player must interpret the lyrics and figure out how to do the exact opposite of it. When the player beats the best time for each scene Rick Astley pops out (ala Mortal Kombat's TOASTY easter egg) and sings "You know the rules...and so do I!"

Example scenarios:

"Never Gonna Give You Up"

- The player and the princes are being chased by trolls. To succeed the player must tap the hero's hand to give up the princess so he can escape

"Never Gonna Let You Down"

- The prince is climbing up Rapunzel's hair, the player must grab scissors and cut her braided hair and watch the prince fall to his doom

Upon completion of the meta-game the player can re-watch all their micro-game accomplishments to the tune of "Never Gonna Give You Up" and post this to YouTube or Facebook. Completion also unlocks game assets which allows creative pranksters to come up with their own scenes to share with friends.

Trickery doesn't end there, for iPhone/iPad and Downloadable versions the prankster can change the game's icon to ANYTHING and rename the app and install it on their friend's devices. Unwitting users who are looking to open MS Outlook or their web browser will be greeted with a Rickroll when they launch the app.

Kiel Safstrom, Flashpoint Academy, Dunce

The game Dunce lets players control Bob an employee at Gunko Inc. where the work day is filled with blinding fluorescent lights, hazy computers screens, and annoying employees. The other employees come off very needy, loud, and intrigued by the new guy, Bob. Gunko Inc. has not hired anybody new in 5 years. The company is 100 people strong besides their annoying features the company is very efficient and hard working. Bob on the other hand is lazy and childish. His brother Steve is an Executive at the company and gave Bob a job. The job is a pretty low paying for the amount of work he has to do. So he begins to pull pranks on his former employees to make them loosen up to cause the company to fail for the monthly quota.

In game you control Bob who has to cause enough disruptions and pranks to get individuals side tracked. Pranks include from; shooting spit balls, throwing gum on the floor, shaking up sodas in the employee break room and using the copy machine to take copies of your butt, to pulling fire alarms and fake bomb threats. These pranks have a limited use because people can only distracted by these certain pranks every so often during the month. With each prank successfully done, the company slowly becomes off pace towards their monthly quota. The main goal is to start having Bob's brother Steve begin firing people at the beginning of each month. The last prank of the month Bob picks one in game character and needs to pull a prank to get that person fired.

Prank includes hacking computer, continuously messing up their work space, to show messiness, to using their name on Company spending for the in game store to buy; whoopee cushions, clattering teeth, Chinese finger traps, fake cupouns for free lunches in the break room and ect.. When done ruining these employee's reputation they get evaluated by Steve on how well you made them seem like bad employees, but watch out the other in game characters might have a lot of senority with the company that can be excused for the deed or even revel it was actually Bob who had done it to them. Bob only has 2 chances to fail or he gets fired by his brother himself.

Bob, if successful, gets a promotion and contiunes to ride up the employment ladder to take down his brother Steve, cleaning the way in the dog eat dog setting. If not succeful, game over. Besides the main goal of getting promotions it is also about how quickly you can get up the chain before you ruin Gunko Inc.'s reputation all together. Coming for the Nintendo DS XL, the touch pad gives which options to chose from in a timely manner before the work day is complete. Once completing the work day, your progress is shown on a scrolling Nasdaq report.

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