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DragonBooster

What truly makes an enemy/boss hard to beat and be wary of?

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Hi guys, lately I've been playing a lot of games (because i love games a whole lot, they're kind of a big part of my life) but Also whenever i play my games that i like, i automatically analyze every game that i like and play to try to figure out why developers did the things they did in the game like:

 

Why did they make the level as it is? Why did they choose this colour scheme? Does the music and the whole game environment suit each other? What was the character inspired by? and etc. most of the time i am able to answer my own questions and i get ideas of how my own game would be like from playing those games and it is such an amazing feeling that i honestly love doing every time. But, there is one big question which i think would require a discussion with different points of view.

 

What truly makes a enemy/boss hard and how would you design an enemy that players would be wary of? I've played so many amazing games that are difficult: Castlevania 1&3,Demons Souls,Dark Souls 1&2, SMB3 (Super Mario Brothers 3), Ninja Gaiden 1&2 (NES), Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3) and many more games like this. I noticed that when you first play these games, everything is difficult because you just started the game and you're just learning and analyzing how to beat the enemies you face, the thing i noticed with most of those games is that after you finished the games and you know the boss patterns, weaknesses and how to get around those enemies and levels because you had experience and the levels gave you clues on how to clear them and enemies had a certain pattern of attacks that you knew about.

 

I am not saying that's a bad thing, if anything i think those games are gems which have quite a good level design and they're games that i highly enjoyed just like i would enjoy a quality guitar that i purchased. The thing is however, the more you play the more you get better, for example: Yesterday i cleared Dark Souls which was an amazing experience and it took me around 50-60 hours to beat on my first play through.

 

However, as i played NG+ the game felt miles easier to play because I've already played it and the enemies/bosses, after examining their patterns became a breeze to play through and i feel like i improved from my first play through because it felt like an NES castlevania game to me, when you die its your fault and you learned through those mistakes and after you learned from them it became much more satisfying to know that after hours and so many deaths you defeated/cleared the boss/level. Its an amazing amount of satisfaction which makes the game more memorable because of the many times you failed but succeeded in the end.

 

However, the thing is that i would like to try something new with enemies and games which i think will be very difficulty to achieve or maybe I am wrong which i am open to any counter arguments but i would like to create enemies/bosses that you have to be wary of because you never know what they're up to and even though you killed them once, you never know if that is the one and only way to kill them. I want enemies and bosses to approach the player in very unorthodox and very surprising ways so that the player has to adapt to the current situation at hand and try to see if they can defeat that enemy by adapting to the situation and trying to find ways they can damage the enemy by trying to examine the enemies current behavior which changes over time.

 

Of course, for balancing I would make the enemies do some mistakes when facing the player based on how the player adapts to the situation. I would also make the enemies HP and the players HP somewhat similar and make damage quite high so that the fights don't drag out. I would also make the level somewhat reasonably long or short. I want to design enemies so that players, no matter how many times they have played the game, are still very wary of the enemies and every enemy they face is not the same but a new experience. 

Edited by Zero_Breaker

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Well it could be that some gamers are more into the challenge. Me more for having fun. And prefer realism. The problem with End Bosses The seam very much more powerful. But they have a Achilles heel. Some gamers have a natural game instinct, to find this really fast. Ore are on the same brain waves of level designers so. After few tries they get trough.

 

Well the other end. It's 10 to 30 times its quit exit DE install and move on to the next game.

 

Why I think a lot of gamers don't like to be stuck and replay one piece of a game so many times. Which also brakes the story flow.

Just like commercials on TV movies. But then much longer.

QTE I also don't like. But then again a small Hardcore crowed want to be challenged and find modern mass-market triple A games to Easy.

 

MSG4 the action between the insane large cut scenes and end bosses was fun. so the other 2 of 3 fazes not.

 

Currently playing tomb raider. I did encounter a End Boss which taken out by specific QTE event. double bummer.

 

The problem with End bosses is. Player differ very much by skill set. Often to key to figure out a boss is the keep up with avoiding its attack.

Just like in online games some people doesn't have the skill set as a regular game to avoid attacks. This means for some people it not doable at all. even if the look up walkthrough guide it still very difficult.

 

But if you could adjust end boss to player skill as making it more adoptive to player play style. If player is slow the boss entity react to your skill level. As more over confident taunt the player. attacking in more risky way with no hurry more. But more skilled player also measure trough the regular level  enemies. It could act more defensive and low risk attacks as if your skill reputation is well know by those NPC. Also the regular foo act to skill.

 

If bosses get to difficult you loose a very large audience.

To easy you loose those hardcore audiences

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So there is the current "boss" model of combat where the boss goes through stages of aggression and power as the player progresses towards winning.  Any good FAQ on a game can detail these changes and what causes them to any frustrated player (or cheater).  Randomizing the behavior is a good way to somewhat overcome this predictability.

 

Say the boss is a big knight.  It's default behavior is to close the distance to the player and swing its sword.  If the player can dodge and counter attack successfully a number of times, then the boss AI should be programmed to try something else rather than keep up the ineffective action.  Perhaps a faster attack like charging at the player with the sword held out like a spike would be next.  Or it could throw a net to ensnare the player.  Or something else.  Maybe have a set of attacks in a table with % chance of trying it next would be nice.  If an attack fails, the % for that attack would be lowered to zero and the points redistributed evenly among the other attacks.  If the attack is successful, then the % to try that attack again increases and it'll be used more frequently.  Roll again to see which attack comes out.  This doesn't negate the possibility of boss stages.  It's just that those stages can have their own set of attacks.

 

So yeah, bosses with set patterns can and will get old after a few play-throughs.  I'm thinking that a boss with a sizable move list (5 or more?) and a moderately-complex AI to be less predictable (patterns, useless moves) would go far to keep things fresh for a while longer.

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Well, from a more abstract game design view, a boss is just a challenge milestone for the player. Two kind of challenges come to mind:

1. learning challenge: in this case you need to analyse the boss, its tactice and beat him according to your knowledge.

2. skill challenge: in this case you need to be really skillful and need to master the game mechanism to beat the boss.

 

These are really two different kind of challenges, where the learning challenge is much saver to be used. According to your question, the hardest boss would include a learning and skill challenge. The issue with skill challenges is, that there will be always players who will not be able to archive the necessary skill level (=>frustration) and players who will master the skill level with ease (=>boredom). The same could be said about the knowledge level, some players will be learning or just knowing the right things at first sign (=>boredom/too easy), and some players wil justl not catch a single hint you give them (=>frustration/it is bugged attitude), but atleast you can beat the knowledge challenge with the help of others (guides,internet,forum).

 

As you see, a hard challenge depends really on the player. Most veteran players will most likely take knowledge challenges with ease (yeah, I know this move/riddle/puzzle already from game X), whereas adding skill challenges could be really dangerous and should target only a defined audience (eg dark souls, in which both skill and knowledge is needed).

 

This has an interesting impact on games. With games getting more expensive to produce, but players are less willing to pay high prices (waiting for steam sales etc.), games only make any profits by selling really large number of copies. Therefor a game needs to address a really broad audience, and therefor it needs to reduce all the challenges (e.g. in single player games 90% of the challenges will be knowledge based and the rest will be based (low) skill-level). On the other hand, players who want to challenge their skills, will pick up most likely a multiplayer game (you need higher skills than your opponent).

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The most powerful motivator to beat a boss and really be scared of facing him is to put a really long unskippable cut scene immediately following the save point and before the battle, which you have to watch every god damn time angry.png

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Make sure the boss has a very powerful attack that almost, but not quite, kills you in one hit, but make it capable of being dodged fairly easily, but not effortlessly. Make it really explosively-looking and flashy, and give it an extremely cool sound effect. Make the boss do some easily discernable, flashy, and cool-sounding charge up before using it. It has to be fair, not cheap. The boss needs to be powerful and feared within immersion - but you don't want your game to be despised and break immersion by players thinking the boss or the developers are cheating.

 

Because of that, players will be trying to fight the boss, all the while thinking, "Hope the boss isn't about to... *boss starts charging up* ohdangohdangohdang here he goes... *dodges attack* Phew! Just barely survived..." - and then that line of thought repeats every few minutes during the battle - have the player go through cyclic high points of intense concentration and then intense relief. It'll make them remember the fight. biggrin.png

Edited by Servant of the Lord

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@Ashaman73 Excellent post which makes sense and i know what you mean by going online since some games just aren't fun if you don't play with others like fighting games because if you don't play online or at arcades they get very boring quickly, but i think you can make the boss less frustrating having the boss be a mixture of:

 

1. Skill learning.

2. Challenge.

 

The way i would design a boss would as Servant of the Lord said above me, I think a good idea would be is to design the boss (just a quick example) with say 6  A.I commands with around 5-7 attacks (don't know if that's overkill). I would design the commands like this :

 

1- Randomize Attack and move to player.

 

- Calculate effectiveness percentage and assign percentage to chosen attack. (@Meatsack suggested this idea about seeing how effective the moves the A.I is doing and i thought it was an excellent idea.)

 

-- Move away from player and wait 10 Seconds for next command.

 

2- Randomize Attack and move to player.

 

- Calculate effectiveness percentage if the attack is not the one that was done before and assign the percentage, if its the same attack and if its effective then repeat that   move and add more effectiveness percentage .

 

-- Move away from player and wait 10 Seconds for next command.

 

-- If the attack connects, do a another one which is a combo.

 

3 - Do a predictable super move which does a lot of damage but requires high level concentration to dodge like Servant of The Lord said which is another excellent post.

 

- After the move recovers, do the next command immediately.

 

4- Randomize Attack and move to player after super recovery.

 

- Calculate effectiveness percentage if the attack is not the one that was done before and assign the percentage, if its the same attack and if its effective then repeat that move and add more effectiveness percentage.

 

-- Move away from player and wait 10 Seconds for next command.

 

5- Mix two random attacks and move to the player.

 

- Use moves with high effectiveness percentage rates to attack the player.

 

-- Move back and wait 12 seconds for the next command while moving.

 

6- Check player HP, if the HP is highly low do a one hit kill move which is a bit predictable, reasonably fast but dodge able and requires concentration a lot and the move kind of makes the player jaw drop at how effective that move is which makes them more aware of their HP while fighting the boss.

 

Also the player is also getting used to those moves and trying to learn them but it will be difficult to anticipate the moves which retains the challenge of the boss.

 

@MeatSack,Lord of The Servant,Ashman73 thank your for your amazing posts and ideas, they were quite helpful.

 

@Promit and when that boss is so easy to defeat that the whole build up was a gigantic waste. I think there are 5 things which make a good boss:

 

- Good character design. This is quite important because a good designed character who is just awesome will be remembered better and will make the fights enjoyable and quite memorable. Good examples would be Sephiroth (from Final Fantasy VIII) and VAVA (Vile from Megaman/Rockman X). They're very well designed, Sephiroth's long blade makes him see like a formidable foe and his colour scheme gives a kind of cold feeling, like the character had a lot of experiences before. VAVA just straight up appears in a ride armour in the first stage and his purple colour scheme gives of that calm yet burning passion to defeat you.

 

- Purpose. For a boss to be a good boss they must have a meaningful purposes, VAVA just straight up wants to destroy you and will do so at every chance he gets in his single-minded pursuit of you and the player feels that VAVA outmatches them since he takes his goal quite seriously and is more desperate to defeat you in every of incarnation of his in the Rockman X series and in the first level he just straight up wrecked you, humiliated you and mocked you. This gives the player a purpose to payback VAVA for what he did to you in the first level, this creates a goal for the player to outmatch and destroy VAVA.

 

- Boss feel. When you first encounter the boss, the player should be feeling helpless and clueless for the first time he fought the boss. Rather than doing a flashy cutscene that basically wastes the whole build up for the boss since he's/she's not that difficult to beat, there should be a short introduction of the boss showing the player how they are outmatched just by the bosses design.

 

A good example (Yes i watched Egoraptors sequelitis it was very well crafted) is in the first stage from Rockman X, when you see that ship and you get to it you suddenly stop. Wait like 5 seconds and *VRRRRRRRRRRRRM* you see some hatches open up and the first things you see: A Big dude in a mech just coming down on platform and you instantly know that he's going to wreck you. And when he gets down he's just wrecking you with no mercy and no hesitation. You're pretty much just screwed and when he grabs you and humiliates you he just seems more crueler. You pretty much know that the boss is no joke.

 

- Theme song. I think this should apply to the main character as well but if the boss has a suitable theme song that is good and quite menacing then it again, increases the memorability of the boss fight especially if the theme song is very good. I also think that music, as well as the other things that make a games is HIGHLY important.

 

- Fairness. Of course a good boss fight should be fair so that it is enjoyable because if its just unfair and gamebreaking then the fight will become quite infamous and quite boring. When i mean unfair I mean a boss that basically spams a 1-hit KO attack that is 90% of the time difficult to dodge.

 

- Backstory. Seeing what a boss went through and showing how they became who they are makes them quite memorable if they have an interesting back story. I think this should be done later after fighting the boss a bit of times because if you just show a cutscene in the beginning of the game trying to get the player to be interested in a boss then it will just go to waste. Backstory of a boss should be introduced later on after the player fought the boss.

Edited by Zero_Breaker

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If you want replayability with bosses, I would suggest small tweaks rather than complete unpredictablility. Bosses are tough, people often need patterns to beat them. But vary the parameters of the patterns, e.g. which sequence they do moves in, how quickly they turn, when they are vulnerable, etc. Maybe keep the pattern the same until they beat them, then change the parameters for the next playthrough.

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@jeffertitan That's why i added a effectiveness percentage, if the player knows that there is an attack that is difficult to dodge then the boss will use it more frequently with until the attack doesn't start working on the player, this makes the player remember the attacks the boss does and the player basically learns while making the boss challenging and fair.

 

If the player knows all  5-7 Attacks of the boss he still has the problem of anticipation since the moves are still randomly ordered and at different effective rates. Also the boss has a 10 second cool down after each move which gives the player a chance to attack the boss. I know what you mean by changing parameters after clearing a game but as said before, i would want to make truly difficult enemies that are fair and reasonably long to defeat.

 

Also for replayablility i would probably decrease the Bosses HP by 20% and increases the players HP by 15% and make the players attacks more damaging and quicker while making the bosses attacks more damaging based on percentage effectiveness.

 

But I will be honest, making such a complex A.I would take a whole year or 2. But i would try my best to create a truly difficult A.I which is unpredictable.

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Okay, most of the things you have stated are more or less the same thing. Attack Cycles 1 and 2's only difference is that 2 is a combo attack. 3 and 6 are effectively the same thing. You can just increase the frequency of the one-hit-kill move in relation to how much the player's health has decreased (if there are multiples, then do a lottery for determining which). The only real "different" attack patterns are the one including a "super recovery" ability (which I presume heals the boss) and the one that has 2 random attacks occur one after the other. Also, exactly how much health does the enemy have / how weak are the player's attacks that they need 10+ seconds just to be able to deal a substantial amount of damage against the boss? If you really time it out, 10 seconds is a long time. I would go with something closer to half of that as the delay between attacks.

The diversity of possible attacks is also not necessarily the core goal of a good boss battle. The first boss of Phantom Dust (Xbox) was a character that shot long range beams of energy at the player that could warp around particular boundaries of the battle arena, so if the player didn't know the map well, they wouldn't be able to tell where they should be standing in order to use the stage as cover from the long range attacks. To add on to that, if the player used short range attacks against the boss, they teleported to another part of the map. If the player stayed back and tried to shoot at them, they got mauled by the energy beam attacks. The way to win was to A) run up close to make the boss attacks out of range and less effective, hoping for a quick strike before they teleported or B) fire off a single long-range beam of your own to get the enemy to teleport to a spot very close to you, where you then rush in for a single short-range strike before they teleport away again. Rinse and repeat until dead. The issue was that popping around a corner to hit them or rushing in were both things that left you completely exposed to the enemy's beams, so timing and cover-awareness were critical.

In this case, the boss had 1 attack move and 1 defensive move, but it was STILL a good boss battle. It was the player's initiative and awareness of their surroundings that led to them surviving the enemy's attacks (especially because parts of the stage could be destroyed, fall on the player, and damage them). It was also their perceptual ability to time the exact moment when they attacked the enemy that determined whether or not they actually landed a hit. The player would have to get in range for a short range strike, but do it quickly enough that the boss hadn't already teleported away. As a result, the player was responsible for the damage they took and for the damage they dealt. There was always a way to go through the battle without taking any damage at all, if the player were skilled enough; ergo, the complexity of a boss doesn't imply a well-crafted boss. It's the required skills of the player that really make a boss interesting. Do they have to look at the environment? Do they need to pay attention to subtle cues from the boss? Do they have to time movements or attacks in a particular manner? How often? For how long? A continuous flow of careful movement to avoid death or a storm of concentration accompanied by bits of respite as windows to attack? Balancing the amount of work on the player's mind with the player's skill level is the key to achieving a sense of challenge.

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