Game Design Theory Level 3 – Customization and Creative Design Techniques

Where the Boss Fight Takes Place is Just as Important as Who the Player is Fighting


Boss fights are important for many reasons:

Provide the peak of the action for a level.

Test the skills players learned through the level.

Show off the programming and design ability of the developers.


There are more reasons, but the point is that you want to get these right and showcase your talents. This is the developer’s chance to go all out and make a memorable challenge that players will want to brag about defeating. The location will matter just as much as the boss itself, and in many cases the environment becomes a part of the fight itself or is vital to defeating the boss. You generally want large, open areas where the player and boss can engage each other at a distance and up close. A larger area opens up the ability for the boss to use projectiles and to throw objects across the screen in dramatic fashion.




When you’re designing a cool boss many of the fights their involved in are in the the “lair” of the boss. Think about the types of places this boss would typically be found in, what is their home environment. What kind of traps, props and other things do they have set up to use to their advantage, if any. Imagine an ice giant in a frozen castle. A dragon in a mountain-top cave. How about an ancient dinosaur under the ocean in a trench? The sky is the limit, but put your bosses in places either the player or the boss some kind of advantage or interactive elements. A neutral fighting zone with no interactive objects for either character or destructible structures? That sounds terrible bland. You can make a place like that exciting, but it’s not as easy as if you picked a place that fit these criteria.

It’s also a good idea to have things going on in the background of a boss fight. It’s easy to get carried away designing a boss and forget about the graphics of the background because the boss will block a lot of the view. Don’t fall into this trap, and make your backgrounds pop with cool effects and art to emphasize the excitement of battling the boss.


Some questions to ask yourself when designing the setting for the boss fight:

Is the fight on one character’s home turf?

Are the characters displaced somewhere else? How does that affect the fight.

What interactive objects are available for each character?

What destructible structures are available for each character?

What advantages / disadvantages does the weather or environment impose?

What is the time of day of the fight?

Can the boss fly or go underground?

Are there multiple locations in one boss fight?

How does the transition occur from location to location?

Does the boss have multiple modes and does that affect the fight setting?

What is the color scheme?