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What do you need to create a successful boss?
Hey guys, Neo here
I'm writing a post like this because oftentimes I end up discussing various facets of game design on the server, and people are usually interested in what I think. Though I've taken no classes on it, I have plenty of experience on the matter and I think my viewpoints are structured and well thought-out (even if you may disagree with said viewpoint). As such, in an effort to increase forum playercount by a bit, I'll be posting questions and/or design thoughts every once in a while that encourage you to think about what kind of concepts go into creating things on the server, respond with your own opinion, and maybe teach you something you didn't know.
Today's post involves something that I'm sure many people have toyed with the idea of at least once: creating a boss. On the surface, it seems easy enough, you create a cool boss with cool abilities that do some set amount of damage and you throw that out there and modify numbers as necessary. However, there are many things to consider that some people like to throw out the window because they're too busy coming up with a cool backstory or impressive-sounding abilities. How fair is it? Is there counterplay? Is it unique? Creating a boss is easy, but creating a successful boss that rewards players for counterplay (without making the fight excessively easy) and is unique in that it feels different to fight against than every boss is more challenging. Other things to consider that are ignored even more (but I personally believe are as important, if not more) include: How long should the fight be? How will it punish a tank for standing still and/or running brainlessly? How will it deal a DPS brainlessly damaging the boss if there's a tank in existence? How much more difficult does the fight become if a player dies on an off chance? Expanding on that, if you want the boss to have that kill threat, how does it pull it off other than making it do more damage? What kind of team compositions would do well against it? Or poorly?
Unfortunately, to this day, it is difficult for me to answer many of these questions while designing a new boss, and many of the most powerful bosses are still complained about in one way or another, which means I do not have an answer to this that will satisfy everything. Usually, when designing a boss, we end up having ignore some questions in order to answer others definitively. This leads up to my question. What do you, as a player, find to be the most important questions to answer when aiming to create a successful boss?
After a few answers, I will put down my own design philosophy. Thanks for participating if you do!
Owner of MLMC
Posted Apr 11, 19
· Last edited Apr 11, 19
I personally believe making the proper boss relies solely on how it can apply pressure to the players fighting as well as how reasonable it is to counterplay.
There should always be at least three of these methods of pressure that the boss can apply, the methods are directional denial, proximity denial, escape path denial, and long term area denial.
Directional denial is almost always aggro/single target based and is the most basic method of pressuring an enemy, an attack like Demon's Breath gives players incentive to spread away from the boss and player they are targeting. Spreading the party out will almost always mean a temporary cut off of interaction between the team in regards to buffing and healing which will put more pressure on the tank to survive as well as the supports to risk themselves to help the tank if needed. Directional denial should always be the strongest of the four methods listed above to act as a defense against face tanking and/or pushing the boss into a corner however the punishment for being attacked indirectly shouldn't be life ending.
Proximity denial is the main way to apply constant pressure in a 360 degree field, most of the time around the boss itself. This method of denial is the most important tool as well as the most difficult tool to balance, the goal of this method is to place a large singularity around the boss at all times that works to ward off players and give the boss an advantage based on where they are positioned in the arena. Positioning of a boss will make or break a team in a handful of scenarios like say if the boss knocked a damage class around and caused it to fail in damage output or if the support missed their large heal skill due to the boss punishing them for being in the wrong place. Proximity denial should be fair in damage yet still very threatening, lots of experience on MLMC shows using CC is by far the most threatening power since players actually like to play the game.
Escape Path denial is simple yet effective, it should be used to punish a player for being too greedy or too offensive. This denial is focused on inhibiting a target's ability to escape after being in close proximity of the boss for a very long amount of time. it can be either directional or proximity based and should always be used very carefully, positioning of a boss can cause skills under this method to be exceptionally powerful and borderline fight enders
Long Term Area denial is used primarily to place pressure on those not under the boss's aggravation, these skills will place effects on the battlefield for a lengthened period of time and will force players to react accordingly to both avoid them and avoid being cornered by the boss, these skills are also skills bound to the battlefield that will effect similar areas every time it is used.
Other simple factors such as Fast Base Speed, Teleportation, & Dash Capability should always be used very carefully, I usually pick only one and leave the other two to avoid a boss that's too agile as currently existing bosses with two or more of these tend to be extremely difficult and/or unreasonable to dodge (Lillith, FRat, FAng, Frost Queen)
Use of summons should be very careful, how much can the summons contribute to the boss in terms of diverting attention and resources and is it worth dealing with them in the first place, how much health/damage/meaning do they have?
Driven in: 2014 Ford Focus RS
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These are my thoughts, when I say sometihng it's negative, that's how I view it, and it isn't an objective fault/flaw.
From a player view, one of the worst design choices (in my opinion) I see is unavoidable damage. When damage becomes too common, I feel like a boss feels much less powerful, even if it could deal more damage in the fight.
If a boss dealt crushing blows but could be avoided, I feel like it is much more threatening and you are forced to respect it's skills, rather than just look at the skill, go "oh I don't dodge that skill so I'll just ignore it".
It feels very uninteresting and I don't think it adds anything interesting to a fight. On the flip side, a basic attack like water bolt, unleashed power, or other low stakes move may not feel unique, but the skill can be made more powerful to compensate, and then you have to respect it otherwise you take too much damage.
For example, I think path of the occult is an interesting skill that loses much of it's luster when it's just something that you more or less don't bother to dodge because it covers too much of the arena and overlapped with Wring (although recent changelog affects this). I don't have an issue with a more generic attack in a boss's moveset, as it can also emphasize what the unique parts of a boss are. Boss attacks don't feel strong when you have no control over them, they're not threatening to me. They just happen, and then being a "good player" comes down to "do you have gear/collections", because you're not allowed to dodge skills. Frat until the most recent changelog was mostly this, especially before withering pierce was nerfed so it didn't randomly delete a player without warning. Two examples of skills that I respect a lot are demon's breath and rampaging waves. Both skills are avoidable, despite having little to no telegraph, and dealt very high damage in tier 2. These were skills that felt like a strong boss attack, one you had to respect.
Another downfall I've felt in recent times is slowing/stunning/rooting, especially when the skills are unavoidable (prefix eldritch bolt, ethereal chains, FQ's moves in general). Being unable to act lowers the stakes, when you die while being unable to act you just accept it because that is all you can do. It drags out a death and I'd much prefer if the boss hit like a train and had that immediate threat of danger. If the skill was avoidable, then the player can be at fault for it, but it's still extremely boring to just stand there for 5+ seconds with nothing to do but check your phone and wait to be able to act again. With cleanse so far and few between, with long cooldowns on lemon tart and divine spirit, and especially when the bishop has to react to the stun and then find you and then cleanse you, I feel like you're going to wait out the stun more often than not because they're too frequent and there's not enough counterplay to stun. There is culinarian remedies now available so this could change.
Boss mobility goes a big way towards making a fight very difficult. I agree that having 2/3 of fast base speed, dash abilities, and teleports make a boss extremely oppressive in damage dealing ability and removes a lot of interaction, leading players to just facetank.
The boss fight duration should be around 7 minutes for an average group of players (max party size, 0-1 collections on average, gear appropriate epic/angelic for HF/FW). The fight could go down to about 3 minutes if the party is very stacked (3-6 collections, 1-2 gear tiers above average, good communication)
I feel like if boss damage was amped up and chip damage was largely removed, damage could be focused on the tank and punish them for not dodging enough, while giving dps a better chance of surviving, as they have had multiple buffs to sustain to avoid just flatout dying to the boss just existing. To punish aimlessly running away, targeted skills could have splash/aoe around them, to keep the tank from just running with a support the entire battle. This would hopefully let range feel like a better asset of a class, as right now it doesn't let you feel safe at all, as you're still likely to get hit a lot by tons of chip damage skills. Currently, switching taunt between 1 tank and another feels nearly impossible unless one tank outright dies. Assuming the second tank is doing their job and taunting, having 1 of 2 tanks die would not break a fight. Losing a support can be very impactful. Losing a dps can range from noticeable to outright fight loss, if the boss becomes unbeatable due to this (outheals party damage, can't deal with summons).
I don't have an issue with a boss having a high damage, "this is probably going to kill you if you keep getting hit by it" kind of move, like demon's breath or death sentence.
While it's unreasonable for a boss to be an average matchup for each class, I do think it's important to let each class function. Phase 3 of Karav Bol is extremely brutal on berserker or infiltrator, both of which have to do a lot to begin doing their job.
As for what I'd like to see in action:
Massively decrease chip damage skills and drastically increase targetted damage to put pressure on the tank. Have telegraphed moves deal more damage to force players to react. Avoid giving the boss too much mobility as you remove the option of running. Cut down severely on CC moves, they feel anticlimatic and uninteresting, and I feel like they make the boss feel much weaker in theme (even if it leads to more damage). Allow/promote kill moves like death sentence. Try to make bosses not a super bad matchup for classes, though they can be bad or unfavorable, just not unbearably bad that you could consider it a throw if a player brought that class to the fight.