Remember in Enemy Design That Form Follows Function
In general when you’re creating enemies, obstacles and bosses you want to remember the rule of thumb that form should follow function. If you character needs to move very fast, make them smaller, have more legs or use technology. If you character needs to be strong, make them big, have robotic arms or a special suit. You can see that whenever you’re designing a character, especially an enemy, their attack or their main way of causing conflict should be a guiding factor in their physical designs. For instance, a stealthy enemy should be harder to see, small or camouflaged in some way and should not wear armor or lots of trinkets. Their weapon would also be lighter and more precise. An imposing boss that uses electricity should have electronic and mechanical body parts or weaponry and there should be some electricity coming off of the character or vehicle itself to let everyone know that this character will shock you.
Cognitive Dissonance – When Reality Conflicts With Expectations
Whenever you see an enemy type, whether you realize it or not your brain automatically creates a kind of profile of how you expect it to behave. If you see a large, heavy enemy you would expect that enemy to move in a lumbering fashion, with loud footsteps and a powerful striking ability. If the player experiences things that differ from their expectations it causes intrigue that can be good or bad. Like if a character has wings but never flies it can make the player disappointed because they expected to see the winged character fly. If a smaller and less imposing character were to unexpectedly have incredible strength or skill it might make the player feel surprised and tricked in a good way which challenges them.
Think about the characters movements, attacks, sounds effects, graphics and everything else and how it relates to their role in the game, the player character and how they create conflict.
Design Your Enemies to Complement and Contrast With Each Other
You don’t want to have the same types of enemies throughout your entire game, some should be weak, others strong, some fast, some slow, some sneaky and some loud. You should mix up the gameplay styles that it takes to defeat these enemies and make it necessary for the player to use their weapons in adaptive ways if possible. It’s always a fun twist when you get to re-use gameplay elements in interesting and challenging ways. Think of how you can upgrade enemies from earlier in the game or expand on their ability to add a new element. You should also make sure that just as much focus is given to enemy balance as player character balance. The player character reflects all the enemies and bosses abilities because they have the counter measures to defeat them. So by having a strong player character with many abilities you give yourself more options for enemy types. You can also use the environment or level itself to provide special or temporary means for the player to defeat an irregular enemy like a turret or large structure that the player can interact with. Remember to balance the strength of each enemy (how much damage they do to the player) their speed and movement types and their size.