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What makes a great boss fight? You can probably
think back to some of your favorite boss encounters

out there - what makes them stick out to you?
Is it the way they looked? Is it the difficulty

or accomplishment you felt when you overcame them?
Whether you're designing a game yourself,

or just want to see what makes bosses tick,
today I wanted to take a look at some of the different

building blocks that construct a great boss
battle. Let's talk about it.

Bosses come in all shapes and sizes, but there's
something different about them compared to

the rest of the enemies in a game. What is
that X factor? Well, first off, I think for

a boss to be enjoyable, it needs to be challenging.
Often bosses are commanders of armies or head

honchos of enemy factions; they should put
up more of a fight than the average baddy.

That being said, it's also important that
your boss is fair. No one enjoys a cheap boss

battle - if they can't predict what's
coming next or be able to avoid damage, a

much easier option would be to just quit the
game! Make sure attacks are either telegraphed

or at least part of a pattern that the player
can learn from. The first time a player fights

a boss it might seem overwhelming, but if
they keep their cool and learn from their

mistakes, they can persevere and feel great
doing so. As player skill and knowledge increases,

the challenge of a boss should decrease, but
if it's too random or cheap, that will be

harder to achieve.
In the same vein, avoid padding boss health.

An easy way to make a boss harder is to just
give it a giant health bar, but this is false

difficulty and honestly, uninteresting if
that's all that sets a boss apart. Don't

get me wrong, a boss should be beefier than
other foes, and even harder bosses should

be more difficult still, but it's not enjoyable
to slowly chip away at a boss's energy meter

if the fight doesn't change itself. The
Binding of Isaac is an interesting example

of this. Because of the random nature of items
you can get, some bosses that are supposed

to be really hard can become pushovers if
you have the right combo of items, so when

they released the Afterbirth expansion, they
added a few bosses that are just huge damage-sponges.

Even if you do have great items, these guys
take forever to kill, and can become especially

frustrating if you don't have a lot of damage
or health. So it's a fine line, but making

sure a boss is challenging yet fair is essential
for fun gameplay.

Next, your boss should be intimidating in
some way - this is what makes most bosses

memorable. It's okay for the player to feel
fear as a boss enters the arena, even if you're

supposed to feel overpowered in the rest of
the game. Player emotion is so important to

the overall experience, and challenge combined
with an intimidating design can make for a

truly memorable fight. That being said, you
can also use this concept to subvert player

expectations. Shovel Knight comes to mind
with how they incorporate Tinker Knight's

battle. He's one of the later bosses, so
he doesn't seem very tough when you reach

him. You can kill this little pipsqueek easily,
but then it turns out he has the biggest and

baddest machine of them all, what a great
moment.

Now what's interesting is that you can actually
use the opposite of this principle to send

a message to the player. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder
is the final boss of Dark souls, so you'd

expect him to turn into the scariest monster
you've ever seen, but instead it's just

a regular guy while somber music plays in
the background. After all the other behemoths

you've fought up to this point, Gwyn is
a huge contrast, but this makes sense with

the narrative of Dark Souls. I guess he does
still have a giant flaming sword though, so

he's got that going for him!
Third, a boss should test what the player
has learned from the game up to that point.

Sometimes it can be fun to use a boss as a
teaching moment to try out a new ability.

This is even more true for end bosses - these
should be a final exam of everything the player

has learned and put their skills to the test.
It may be challenging to pull off in a realistic

way, but it always adds bonus points in my
book if a boss can uniquely find ways to use

special abilities to take them down. Some
examples include Gruntilda from Banjo Kazooie,

where you'll be flying around, shooting
eggs, and turning invincible to defeat this

evil witch, or Mr. Freeze from Arkham City,
where you have to use a variety of gadgets

to take him down because he adapts and won't
make the same mistake twice. This not only

keeps a fight fresh, but can cause the player
to feel more accomplished in their victory,

because they used critical thinking to win,
not just brute force.

Another thing to consider when designing a
boss is what the reward will be for fighting

them. Most of the time the prize is simply
progressing the story, working your way from

boss to boss as a means of rising action until
the climax. But sometimes the player is compensated

with a special item or powerup. The Mega Man
series is an obvious example of this, and

these new abilities can be used for an advantage
against later bosses. But occasionally, the

boss fight itself can be the reward if it
is satisfying enough. Some games will have

a “secret final boss” that is only unlocked
after certain requirements are met, and the

reward is simply the pride you feel when you
best it. These are normally the hardest boss

in the game, and can be very exciting, especially
if it's a surprise. I think it's important

to ask yourself “why am I fighting this
boss?” and if your answer isn't satisfactory

to your overall goals of your game, then change
it!

Finally, great boss fights are ones that stay
fresh and unique. Not only should bosses look

different from regular enemies, but they should
behave differently too. Give them moves that

connect with their theming, like a swamp monster
causing the screen to go blurry, or a musician

attacking you on a giant piano. Many games
will reuse the same boss and just give it

a color swap and slighty harder patterns,
but I would avoid this, it comes across as

lazy. Donkey Kong is notorious for doing this,
but at least in DK 64, your rematch against

Dogadon is with a different kong. So even
though the boss was basically the same, it

felt different because your character's
abilities had changed. Consider giving each

boss multiple phases that change up the battle
Every boss in Wings of Vi does this and it
keeps you on your toes. Just when you think

you're getting good at fighting back, they
introduce a whole new set of attacks. The

final boss of Castle Crashers has 6 phases,
including one that's a fake out where he

turns into a giant spider hiding in the treasure
chest. This many phases certainly ramps up

the challenge, but you also don't want bosses
to overstay their welcome either. As long

as it continues to be enjoyable, adding new
things is a good idea!

It is not easy to make a boss that is both
challenging and intimidating, but rewarding

and fair. That's why I think it helps to
go back and look at some of your favorite

bosses that you've fought before. In fact,
tell me in the comments below some of the

bosses you remember most, and why you liked
them so much. And next time you fight a boss,

put it to the test - does it hold up under
these principles? Now of course, these are

just my ideas, there are other great concepts
to incorporate into your boss fights as well.

But above all, don't forget that the best
bosses are ones that are fun, that's why

we play games after all. Thanks for watching
another episode of Good Game Design, stay

frosty my friends.
Hey, I'm snomaN and if you enjoyed you can
always subscribe for more analytical content,
or support the show through Patreon. Thanks!

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遊戲設計 (Good Game Design - Bosses)

119 分類 收藏
ping 發佈於 2018 年 1 月 10 日
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