Final Dungeon / Dungeons with multiple boss fights

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by jonthefox, Dec 17, 2018.

  1. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    In most games this only happens in the last dungeon, but I'd like to discuss design decisions when you have various different boss fights along the way. The main question is: do you give the player a full recovery before and/or after each boss fight?

    Example: you're going through the final tower. When you get to the end of the 1st floor, you fight a boss. Now you go to the 2nd floor and at the end, fight another boss. Now you get to the 3rd and at the end, fight another boss. On the 4th floor you encounter the final boss of the game.

    In this example, would you give save point with full recovery before each floor boss? What about after the boss, since the party will presumably be very weakened and now have to progress to the next floor. Or would you make the challenge of this dungeon to be able to get through each floor and each boss with all the resources you have, and then give a save/recovery before the final boss?

    What factors do you consider when deciding when to give the player save and recovery points in an endgame dungeon with multiple bosses?
     
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  2. Aoi Ninami

    Aoi Ninami Veteran Veteran

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    I find it really satisfying when a boss is hard enough that I can only just beat it with nothing to spare, and I pull off a victory anyway. Sometimes this is in terms of time -- a boss will use an instant-death-to-all attack on its 10th turn, so I have to defeat it before then. More commonly, it's in terms of the party getting knocked about, losing positive states / buffs, having one or two members down, and being in a position where they have to go on an all-out attack or they will lose and have to start over.

    It follows that it's really annoying if you pull off a narrow victory and then have it taken away from you by having no way to recover after the fight.

    I would also make sure there is a recovery crystal before the boss fight, since if a boss is difficult enough to be interesting, the player is going to go into it at full health anyway -- the recovery crystal just cuts out the tedium of doing so manually.
     
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  3. Biestmann

    Biestmann Heaven's Height Veteran

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    There isn't really a set path you need to follow. Most commonly, you'd probably find games healing the party before the final boss only. However, that also means it should be considerably more difficult than the mid-bosses that come before it.

    In my own game, you battle multiple groups of enemies in succession. The final mission of each area has you fight a mid-boss and a final boss, no healing for either. That means my bosses cannot be made too difficult, but that's fine. The challenge is in making it through multiple waves of enemies, not just that single one.
     
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  4. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    Healing before boss fights is probably an entirely different question than healing after, since heals before boss fights would be just as relevant (and would affect boss gameplay just as much) in a paradigm where each dungeon had exactly one boss. I do think it's usually a good idea to heal at least the party's HP before boss fights, so they don't get wrecked in the first couple turns, but whether to fully heal their resources (like MP) and statuses is a trickier design decision.

    Getting to the heart of your question, which I feel is whether to heal the party after each Boss encounter when there are going to be several in a dungeon, my answer is generally 'Yes' but it's important to consider what type of challenge your dungeons present the player.

    If the dungeons mostly present Acute Challenge, where (ideally) each battle - or at least each boss battle - has the potential to Total Party Wipe a full-resource party if played poorly, then the answer is easy: Fully restore them after each boss battle. @Aoi Ninami mentioned a few reasons this is good, like preventing the chance that the player will be left so weak and depleted of resources after the fight that they're screwed afterwards when they face down a regular encounter that would have presented a challenge at full resources. You're not taking anything away from the experience, nor hand-holding the player, when you heal them after a boss in an Acute Challenge setup. Most modern RPGs work better with an Acute Challenge structure, so for those games - the answer is Yes.

    If the dungeons mostly present Chronic Challenge, where each battle (even boss battles) don't present kill threat to a party with full resources, but they do whittle away at resources that are hard to refill (and if poorly played over the course of the dungeon, you'll eventually run out and succumb to your foes), then the answer is a lot harder. Healing mid-way in such a system would defeat the purpose. However, you could either view the lead-up to each boss within the dungeon, plus the boss itself, as a "mini-arc" that the player has to get through, or you could look at the entirety of the dungeon, with multiple bosses, as "one long arc" where the player has to carefully and efficiently manage their resources (HP, MP, other ability points, items, etc.) over the course of multiple bosses, coming into the last boss fight with enough left in the tank to take it down. This "one long arc" approach is sort of risky design when the player doesn't know how many bosses they'll need to fight over the course of the dungeon, but it can be fine in systems where the penalty for falling in battle is not "Game Over; go back to the last Save Point" (or where the player has the option to leave the dungeon at any time/after a boss fight). So for Chronic Challenges, I would generally say "Yes, heal the party after each boss" in a mini-arc approach, whereas I would generally say "No, don't heal the party" in a one long arc approach.
     
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  5. Doktor_Q

    Doktor_Q I'm not a real doktor, but I am a real Q Veteran

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    Adding a bit to @Wavelength 's point, you can find a little bit of middle ground if the player has their own methods of recovery between battles that works better than just trying to recover in-battle. Maybe you're doing something like Wild ARMs with Vitality that restores health at the end of battle, maybe you can cook food that's highly efficient but only works from the menu, or maybe you have 99 potions that are too slow to viably heal during the boss fight, but let you top off between them.

    I think a good general rule of thumb would be, "if the player dies on the last boss, how much of the segment do you want them to replay?" This is a combination of time and stress- if the individual fights are somewhat hard but don't take very long to complete well, you can probably run them through a gauntlet with only their own resources, because they haven't lost too much time, and they can try to improve their strategy in the early fight to get a better shot at the one that killed you. This style works for a Boss Rush in an action game, or something like the Elite Four + Champion in most pokemon games.

    On the other hand, most RPG boss fights tend to be long. If your boss fights go over 10 minutes apiece, definitely let them save and recover in between.
     
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  6. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    My final dungeon has 4 boss fights, one at the entrance, two on various floors on the way, and the final boss at the top. You can save anywhere in my game, and you can leave the final dungeon after defeating a boss if you wish and it will not respawn. On the other hand, I do not do full heal between fights, though the 2nd to last boss drops an item which recovers all HP/MP for the entire party, so the player can use that if they wish to do a full recovery before the final boss (or they can save it for an emergency in the final boss too).

    I think though a lot of it comes down to the following:
    1: Can your player save anywhere?
    2: Can your player leave the final dungeon and come back?

    If either of those are met, I see no problem with no recovery between boss fights.

    Also, I do know some games do multiple waves of bosses (FFXII-2 had 4 rounds to the final boss), and usually they do not heal you between rounds, as the point is to see if you can survive all those waves. Just make sure your waves do not make it take so long that the player could watch the movie Titanic in less time than it takes to attempt your final boss and all the waves once. I've played 2 games that have been guilty of this so far, Persona3 and Rouge Galaxy. You can make your final boss epic without taking 3 hours of the player's time to attempt it even once. After all, almost every game of the 80's/90's did it, so it can be done.
     
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  7. Canini

    Canini Veteran Veteran

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    I don´t really like it when a dungeon, be it a bonus dungeon or the final dungeon is dominated by the presence of boss battles (there can be mutiple bosses but it should not be the focus of the dungeon). Having a final boss with multiple forms is totally okay though, and in that case I prefer if you are not healed between battles.
     
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  8. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    Since this seems to be directed for personal opinions and personal design philosophies, I'll answer with that in mind.

    To be honest, in my long history of playing RPG's, I've found that I have the most fun when I'm not given save/heal points before or after bosses. This likely ties into my personal preference for RPG's that have at least a little bit of challenge in them.

    See, I learned a long time ago that save points often denoted either the middle of dungeons or "there's a boss fight in the next room", which sort of ruins the surprise. Now, granted, I'm not a person who likes surprises (or enjoys them all that much), but I've found that Boss fights that aren't advertised have been the most memorable to me. That moment when I think I'm just walking into the next room of the dungeon and there's probably a boss fight somewhere here at the end of it... and it turns out the next room is the end of the dungeon and now I'm in a boss fight! Those bosses have tended to be the most memorable to me simply because they have "caught me off guard". They were put at a point where I didn't have time to heal or save, which means I'll have to "make do with what I have".

    Lately, I've just been finding that games that provide me full heals/saves before bosses are "too easy" for me. While this can allow devs to make bosses much more difficult, knowing the player is fully healed and ready to go, and saved so they can be merciless and the player will just reload outside the boss room... I find that most devs don't balance for "actually trying to kill the player". Which means, the skills and stats and abilities of the Boss monster doesn't take into account a "fully healed" party in order to make combat more challenging. They don't plan for a boss to be taking a minimum of 2000 HP from each party member before it's dispatched.

    See, all that HP and all those stats are meant to get you though "the slog" that is the dungeon. Which means, you're meant to be whittled down by the dungeon over the course of it. This means, when you heal the party up before the boss fight, they have to do enough to the party that they're expending as many resources in the fight as they did getting TO the fight. Most devs don't do that, or balance for it. They provide the "safety net" without ever thinking about why they do it.

    Well, some think about it. It's provided as "an anti-frustration measure". But, what it tends to end up doing is making the bosses in the next room absolute cake walks.

    So, personally, I wouldn't put them before bosses unless I were planning to make the bosses that much more powerful as a result.

    To be honest, I prefer the player save anywhere they like. I prefer to never give them free heals. As the player, it is your responsibility to keep your party healthy and fighting fit. If you want a full heal, invest in Consumables or go to an Inn and pay for it. Spend some of your money keeping yourself in top form. Don't wait for me to give it to you for free. In a "Boss Rush", it would be just that. A rush on the bosses. Go through the whole dungeon, beat them all, including the final one, using only what you brought with you.

    Though, I had been considering in one of my games, using a "mechanic" with such save points that heal you before combat. Namely, if you used it, the boss fight would be a lot tougher (it would flip a switch). But, if you didn't use it, the Boss Fight would be what it is. Either way, you would get different amounts of loot/exp/gold for the battles. I'd give more XP for the "harder" boss, but more money and better loot for the boss you fought without the save/restore point in front of it. I've been tinkering with it a little bit, though I don't know how players would react to such a system.

    Still, overall I prefer a game not "recover" me or the players unless they stepped into say... a town or something. I prefer that dungeons always feel "dangerous" and not really have "safe areas" in them that remove the tension of dwindling supplies and suboptimal play.

    But, that's just me.
     
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