Game Design Theory Level 3 – Customization and Creative Design Techniques

The Player Has to Give the Boss the Killing / Finishing Strike

When the player is battling a boss and has finally worn down the boss to the last blow, some games actually take control and show a cut-scene where the player character finishes the boss and some other stuff happens. The player will likely feel robbed of the satisfaction of being able to finish the boss themselves and deliver to the final move that finishes the sequence. Having an awesome finishing shot or maneuver delivered by the player themselves is highly satisfying. Although a cut-scene can sometimes have better graphics than the in-game engine it still leaves some players feeling like they didn’t get to finish the boss, and therefore the level, themselves.

Remember to make that final shot for each boss something to remember and even non-combat elements which defeat the boss should be exciting and triggered by players.

Instead of an Image appearing here, think of the most interesting or coolest boss fight that you can remember in a game. Then write down all of the things that made that boss stick out in your mind and why it was so cool. Now you’re on the right track for discovering how you can make your boss fights epic like the ones you remember most. 


Make Bosses the Most Despised Characters by Players

Even though it’s not necessary to make players feel emotionally connected to characters in a game in order for them to be motivated to defeat enemies it certainly helps build player’s interest and attachment to a game. Your bosses are characters as well, and if they have legitimate reasons to oppose or stand against the player character the battles will mean more and be more fun to players. The bosses can be part of an organization or separate altogether, but each boss should ideally have their own conflicts with the player character and the more personal it is the better. Sometimes giving two characters a shared history of kinship or conflict makes a good fight into a great one. Some bosses taunt players and use insulting tactics, and others just overpower and push players to focus on survival. Some bosses keep causing trouble until the player has found all the right solutions to some puzzle or task. Make the bosses interesting! 

Instead of another image I want you to think of the character in a movie, book or video game that you despise the most. Preferably think of a video game character that really made you furious because of taunting, cheat-y tactics / powers or a plot-related event they caused. Think of a character that you wanted to get their atonement before the end of the series and you kept an eye out for their comeuppance! Then do the same exercise and list what it was that made you notice that character and emphasize them over the others. Think about how you can use those same elements to make your character conflicts better. 


Emphasize Drama, Danger and Conflict Rather Than Just Huge Scale and Gimmicks

I have played a games where there were big, decent bosses to fight and it was interesting taking down these foes, but the most memorable video game fights are the ones where there is some kind of underlying conflict or story plots that involve the characters involved in the boss fight. Remember that you can have a different characters helping the main character to take down a boss, one sidekick or even some kind of third party entity that is also fighting the boss at the same time and their survival can depend of the player, which can increase investment for some players. 

I once fought a boss that was also fighting another big adversary, and together we worked to distract and wear down the boss character. In this scene the boss character finishes the other adversary towards the end of the fight and focused it’s rage fully at the player character. That fight emphasized conflict and danger more than drama, but you can see how focusing on one or more of these elements can increase the “wow” factor of a major confrontation and keep it from being considered too boring, shallow or simple.