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Creating an enemy that can suprise you

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In a real time game, i would like to create an enemy that the first time you fight him, you will be unprepared (huge difficulty spike) and will die because you didn't expect to fight him. I want to focus on feeling of getting "ganked". No previous enemy presented in this game is similar. However i want players that came fully prepared to the encounter to win, by either "reading a strategy guide" or "reloading save game" so that they are fully prepared.

 

Goal: I want to create a division of the player base in the following groups:

a) Casuals or Experts that fight it for the first time: Guaranteed Wipe, Gameover, bye

b) Experts that fully expect what to face: Narrow win

 

Requirements:

1) The enemy is melee.

2) No consumables exist in the game.

3) Jump action to evade him makes no sense.

4) Game has no block actions. I don't want to focus on "micromanagement" of perfecting x button click to win.

5) No Equipment Optimization Min-Max (For rpg games): I don't want to rely on "out of combat" elements to counter him, like equipment or pre-buffing before battle starts.

 

Things i tried and why they failed:

6) The enemy has infinite movement speed scaling: +50% speed permanent per second (Permanent stacking buff).

  Good news: Enemy autowins players who attempt to run away.

  Bug: Afk autoattackers win him. I don't want to allow this combat path. How can i disable it ?

  Bug: doesn't solve autoattack issue.

7) False Psychological Training: All enemies beforehand are hard hitting and demand kiting beforehand. But this enemy is kite immune. Therefore the enemy relies on "false psychological feedback" on the player to make him run away.

  It works for creating the "first timers" get gimped element.

  Bug: doesn't solve autoattack issue.

8) Invisible Ambush Skill: This is not a gameplay, just adding extra burst damage to the enemy wont make the player change actions, i want to focus on the player, what "actions" can he do to avoid getting steamrolled.

  Actually it works in creating the "feeling" of run and forcing noobs to try to run (mistake).

  Bug: what if player decides to attack even when he is low on hp.

  Bug: doesn't solve autoattack issue.

9) No Heals: The enemy transmits a disease that instant kills you if you attempt to use any healing ability.

  Bug: doesn't solve autoattack issue.

10) Crowd control immunity: enemy attack patterns cannot be disrupted.

  Bug: doesn't solve autoattack issue.

 

Goals (Continued):

c) Not a dps race fight: Autoattacks, choreographing the perfect dps rotation will get you killed (guaranteed).

d) Therefore, what i ask is to propose a set of "actions" for the player, or a set of "specific enemy weakness" that will allow the player to win.

Edited by zif

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In a real time game, i would like to create an enemy that the first time you fight him, you will be unprepared (huge difficulty spike) and will die because you didn't expect to fight him. I want to focus on feeling of getting "ganked". No previous enemy presented in this game is similar. However i want players that came fully prepared to the encounter to win, by either "reading a strategy guide" or "reloading save game" so that they are fully prepared.

Hi. Sounds great. 

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I suppose you have a very specific reason for wanting this, right?

 

Do you want the player to:

 

- die the first time he meets this enemy no matter what (even if the player is skilled and has ultra-high level and stats);

- has a chance to win (even a small one) if prepared enough (not only stats, but equipment also);

 

The way I see it, this fight is a bit unfair: the player always loses the first encounter, but you don't want this defeat to be "scripted", instead relying on in-game mechanics. And the defeat results in a game-over, not in a new chance (being saved by a mage in the right time, maybe with more information about this specific enemy). Without making him invincible the first encounter (his health does not reach zero), it will be hard to fit the requirements using combat only mechanics.

 

One option (as you guessed) is to make defeating him a long part of the game (not just this fight). Make his defeat has preconditions in the game and even a sidequest (to find the "two magic glowing stones that hint how to defeat the Legendary Monster of Monstrosity"™). If the history allows, NPCs can drop hints about this monster and, if the player follows them, he has a chance to find a way to wind this specific fight. Maybe this stones turn him mortal (albeit a very hard opponent), or allow the player to see his next moves (and act beforehand, as it still requires high skill).

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Goal: I want to create a division of the player base in the following groups:

a) Casuals or Experts that fight it for the first time: Guaranteed Wipe, Gameover, bye

b) Experts that fully expect what to face: Narrow win

 

 

Games should generally be fun and they must be winnable, so this better be an optional worst-case boss for the hundred percenters (Those who seek out the entire set of content, every optional item, every rare item).

 

Does your game track when a player gets "game over"? Otherwise a guaranteed game over the very first time is going to be impossible to track. It isn't a nice thing to do to players. Maybe you could have an undetectable death trap, laser or something, that triggers that first time. Design-wise that seems foolish since someone replaying the game knows to avoid the trap, but that's your call to make.  Or maybe the first time the enemy never has their health go down no matter what damage is done. Cheap trick, but it might do what you want.

 

After that, the general method is to increase all the stats.  Lots of damage dealt, lots of health points. That way only high-level and well-equipped players can defeat it.  Make sure testers (who generally are experts at the game) can still defeat the boss. 

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I'm going to just pretend this isn't a terrible idea that will cause a large percentage of players to give up on your game, as it's acting in bad faith, and is exercising bad design principles.

 

Have two glowing lines from the monster that lead to two other places on the map that the player has never encountered before.  They lead to some floating glowing orbs.  The monster will not take damage until those glowing orbs are destroyed.  The first time through, most players are probably going to die from this monster, because they won't think to look for the glowing threads trailing the creature.  Autoattackers will die miserably, those who run away won't follow the thread lines, as they are behind the monster.

 

The other option is some weakspot on the monster that just isn't telegraphed.  Like, it's got a weakspot on it's right heel.  The heel isn't highlighted, isn't glowing, and looks just like the left heel.  

 

Now, you could make these slightly less obnoxious by providing hints to the player in advance, a book or NPC that the player meets before the monster that illustrates it's weaknesses.  

Edited by ferrous

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Wow, you provided me 6 different enemy archetypes that fill the role :

1) Requires Multiple boss fights to defeat, like trillion the god of destruction.

2) Requires Side Quest or World Condition to be defeatable.

3) Specific npc provide hints about the monster weakness therefore not unbeatable.

4) Divinition: to allow to read the enemy's next move before he acts. Thus allow you to counter him.

5) Requires orbs to be destroyed to be attackable.

6) Weakspot on the monster that just isn't telegraphed.  Like, it's got a weakspot on it's right heel.

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Do you want to frustrate the player ? Because that is what such a mechanic would do. Why do you want to frustrate the player in this specific instance ?

People have already pointed out multiple ways you can do that, and also multiple reasons as to why it would generally be bad design and how to mitigate or negate it.

If you make the enemy hard enough that an expert player fully prepared would only win by a narrow margin, you really don't need any special mechanics to prevent a successful first try. All you need is to include at least some aspect of knowledge into the difficulty of the enemy, so that it's not just based on dexterity/reflexes. That can range from impossible-to-guess weaknesses to just a bunch of unforgiving combos that you need to see once to be able to dodge them. Keep in mind that the game is usually gonna feel harder for other people than it does for you. Set the difficulty you want and then tone it down a bit, it's usually a good way to go about balance.

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Forcing a player to repeat a boss many times to "learn it" and possibly beat it later on seems like bad design. I wouldnt wanna play that game. You want your content to feel fresh to the player.

No previous enemy presented in this game is similar

How will you do this? It seems very hard to design a game that way. Interesting, but I've never seen it before so you need a large team to code and design all those enemies. Or is the game pretty short? (if you have like 5 enemies this might work, but then the player will quickly go through your content)

Set the difficulty you want and then tone it down a bit, it's usually a good way to go about balance.

This. You know your game inside out, the player doesnt.

Many players like hard games (me as well), especially if its a survival theme or similar. But dont frustrate the player by making fights unwinnable. Maybe (instead of forcing fights to be repeated) add permadeath for hardcore players, so they go back, but know more about the game in general to better face the challanges the next and next run. That is more rewarding for the player.

Edited by suliman

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I'd give the player abilities that don't all work together, hence to be "prepared" would mean to have the right ability/mode selected. e.g. in yakuza you can choose different fighting styles. Add on top, that you only can switch styles when you're at full health, hence even a light encounter that surprises you would force you to fight in a sub-optimal mode. (you'd be dead, without admitting it). 

Instead of "healthy" you could also use "fitness" instead. Hence running through the map (unprepared for fights) would render you exhausted and you wouldn't be able to switch into a fight mode. To be always prepared, you'd need to always walk slowly.

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Goal: I want to create a division of the player base in the following groups:

a) Casuals or Experts that fight it for the first time: Guaranteed Wipe, Gameover, bye

b) Experts that fully expect what to face: Narrow win

 

If you haven't played Dark Souls, you should. If you have, I would highly suggest going back through and playing it so you can get a sense of what challenging, yet not impossible, content is really about. It's the poster-boy for that type of content.

"Guaranteed Wipe" should be a red flag for you - you're cheating the player if it's guaranteed, and players don't like to be cheated. They like challenging content, they like to be pushed to their limits - but outright impossible content is a no go. It doesn't teach the player anything other than the developer is a dick, and isn't rewarding for them in any way. 

Failure on hard content is rewarding, failure on impossible content is degrading. If a player isn't being rewarded in some capacity then there's no reason for them to play your game. 

Edited by Resomaut

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