Making Bosses Interesting

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Dymdez

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Is it just me or are bosses from all games basically identical? It is difficult to make a boss interesting -- I made one for my game and my friend tested it and basically said that it wasn't fun because it was simply a matter of memorizing the moves and then doing the timing correctly..

What are some of the ways you guys make your bosses (if any) more interesting? I use an ABS script for my game, so it might be different..

Aren't we really limited to how we can construct a boss? For example, how do we think outside of the boxes below:

1. Boss attacks depending on player attack

2. Boss has 'boss triggers' at certain % of HP

3. Boss might do random moves or triggered moves

4. Boss summons minions

5. Boss has major weakness/strength (for instance, an Achilles Heel)

6..etc..

Even new age games like Dark Souls can't think outside of this box, they just make the box a lot bigger.

So any ideas on how to make bosses not only challenging but fun?
 

Dr.Yami

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I have a game on stall now, but I made some AI for my bosses. Bosses will always too boring if they don't have AI, like da hell why dat boss use many times fire magic while all of my actors have fire drain.

Sometimes making a (some) minigame(s) in boss fighting is fun too. In Chrono Trigger, there is a fight with Son of the Sun, we have to find the correct one in 5 of its Prominences to defeat him, it's fun and random too.

Also making play make strategy for defeating bosses is also good. Some old Final Fantasy games make the bosses only have high HP, high damage, OP magic, and making them immune to most of status, so the only strategy to defeat them is have high level, high damage, have DPS, have element magic, have healer. Nothing else.

Anyway, I haven't played many games so cannot point out things, but I would agree that boss fight must be interesting in many ways :D
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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I've seen people saying: "that boss only uses a predetermined set of instructions, you do this, he do that etc"


and I was like: "Of course it will, unless you can code a very human-like AI"


I used to do 2 and 3 back when I was modding wc3...


from my experience, it's easier to make bosses unpredictable in turn-based games (if ur implementing some random triggers for example) than on ABS since on most action style games that I played, you somehow "see it coming", like literally...


I agree with implementing some kind of mini-games to make it interesting... now that one I believe is easier to do on ABS games than on turn-based games... or at least it's easier to experiment on that...


IMHO, it all depends on how intricate and intelligent you can make the AI... first way to go might be to add more logic to those points you have written up... you can try combining some of it...


PS: I've yet to find a really interesting boss fight on an RPG...
 
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byronclaude

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The down side to producing RPG's with RPG Maker, is that similar format that can be found everywhere.  The same holds true with bosses.

I have been working on a project for nearly a year and a half, and it is at 50% complete.  The first six or seven hours is fully playable, and I have been blessed to have a tester that is not only very thourough, but he is not afraid to criticize where needed.

What makes a BOSS is purely challenge.  The fact that they are interesting or not should not dwarf the fact that above all, they should be HARD.

In otherwords, the interesting part is trying to stay alive!

The successful bosses in my game are capable of introducing the game-over screen.  In most cases, while their attacks vary, one of two concepts remains prevalent:  Either their attacks damage everyone to a heavy degree...  or their attacks deal an often lethal blow to a single charactor.

Sometimes the act of trying to survive long enough to make the kill is all the "interesting" a player could want.  I guess this is to say - rather or not the boss is appealing, make victory over the boss very appealing.
 

Mouser

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Some "easy things" you can do to make boss fights interesting:

Have the boss' skills change when his HP start to drop. Not just the big bang @ 50%, you can have him suddenly switch to a whole different set. If he's got enough HP you can create a bunch of 'bands' to keep shaking things up. Don't be afraid to give him some really powerful attacks that don't get used a lot. A one-shot TPK isn't fun, but knocking one player out isn't too bad, as long as someone can rez by spell or item the fight goes on. You can even remove actors from the fight entirely (Final Fantasy did that a few different ways in different games), either permanently or for a set (or random) number of turns.

Beyond that, yeah - AI time. Binomial decision trees, that sort of stuff. Just remember that the boss is supposed to lose at some point ;p Usually anyway, there's that one in Chrono Trigger you can't beat first time through (although if you do the 2nd time through it takes you to the same 'secret room' that beating him from the early flashing dot at the teleporter does).
 
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Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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boss is supposed to lose at some point
so true... though of course there are some "bosses" that you cannot beat, and make sure that is obvious because it's quite frustrating for a player to use lots of healing items to just realize that he was meant to lose the fight... XD
 

whitesphere

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I think some ways to make a boss interesting:

- Sometimes, making the boss a major twist to the plot helps (i.e. "Luke, I am your father")  or have it be a catharsis ("My name is Inigo Montoia!  You kill my father!  Prepare to die.")  

In the fight:

- Make the boss dramatically change tactics, possibly with a change of form (see the One Winged Angel trope).  Form changing can get over-used, but it can be a shock initially.

- Make the boss have puzzle aspects.  For example:  using the Ancient Dagger (which has laid in your equipment ignored the entire game since it was useless after the first dungeon) takes down the boss's barrier.  Of course, a fair puzzle needs to be logical and have the answer foreshadowed clearly by NPCs.    In that example, maybe, scattered across several books, is the backstory "In the legends, thousands of years ago, a redeemed thief named Trelain had a powerful wizard enchant his favorite weapon to defend the innocent, and he defeated the dragon at the cost of his life."  And, say, Thieves in game always use daggers....

- Changing resistances can be a useful puzzle aspect (i.e. one particular boss in Chrono Trigger)

- Some bosses have the ability to strip the party of status resistance defenses using a powerful, yet non damaging attack (Black Hole is one in FFIV).  This can blindside players who have come to rely on their fancy equipment protecting them from nasty status effects.
 

kerbonklin

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I think the only game i've ever played that made boss battles extremely enticing and difficult was Tales of Symphonia (hard mode 1st playthrough and mania mode 2nd playthrough) and Tales of Phantasia on hard mode.  Why were the bosses really challenging and frantic? Because your controlling the main character while your party members get wrecked easily if you can't serve as the main aggro distraction. And then if you die, your party will quickly melt as well. (Yes it's on a non-RM-related battle system though, but the idea is still mutual)

But what makes it good is that there's lots of strategy going on at the same time while you're taking the frontal boss damage with aggro. You have to be actively guarding attacks, and then stunning them with your own attacks when the openings come. Sometimes you need to force a party member to attack at a specific time with a specific spell, to make sure the boss cannot cast spells himself. (cancelling their normal AI commands in order to do so) Sometimes the boss will throw out random super attacks once at 50% health or lower, which will either break his normal attack pattern randomly and cannot be guarded, or is very hard to prevent from happening. That same attack may also hurt not just the aggro-er, but the entire party for heavy damage. (or an AoE if using an ABS system or yanfly's screen-spell-AoE script)

Sometimes the boss is a two-enemy fight with all these circumstances going on already. Which of the two boss targets is more important to kill first? While you attack and aggro one, your party is getting wrecked by the other boss. Every few moments you may run out of MP, or your healers and attackers run out of MP and become useless, so you have to use MP-healing items on them. Or they die and you have to resurrect them. Or just heal them in general. And then while you're healing, that person become semi-vulnerable and takes heavy damage.

This makes for so much thrill and excitement for the player, which boss battles should desperately have.
 

Dymdez

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I appreciate all of the responses -- you all have a surprising depth of knowledge on this topic. If anyone is interested -- this is what I have decided my first boss does:

When you walk into the lair where the boss is, you will notice the ground littered with fallen challengers. The boss has 3 different moves, 1) a fireball that shoots in 8 different directions, a jump attack which will jump to the player no matter where the location is and must be guarded, and two regular attacks/fireballs. As the bosses hp lowers, he becomes more transparent. Every 25% of HP that he loses, he will disappear, and posses one of the dead bodies on the ground - so it's multi-layered. Each of the 4 bodies on the ground will also have different AI, too. This should take quite some time to program :) cant wait to show u all
 

kerbonklin

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@Dymdez, sounds like you're using an ABS. With the bodies-thing, maybe you can make them do things that synergizes with the boss's attacks? Such as when the boss shoots the 8 fireballs, they can move into the blindspot area nearest to the player preventing them from dodging properly, or a movement slow while they're alive.
 

Zoltor

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This kind of thing would be crazy to do in random battles, but in boss battle you could fully customize a randomization system, with forced actions assigned to each outcome. That would do away with any kind of pattern, if that's what you are saying you're against.

However if there's no pattern, it really takes away the strategy aspect of Boss Battles.
 

aozgolo

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I think it's not difficult at all to figure out how to make them interesting if you just look at some of the most memorable boss fights in RPGs. Some examples:

Magus in Chrono Trigger was a very tricky boss if you didn't know what you were going in for, sometimes even if you did. He would often throughout the fight switch up what his one elemental weakness was, and if you didn't have the foresight to construct your party with heroes who all had different elements... well the battle just got real tough.

Lesson: Keep the battle engaging by not making the player repeat the same tactics ad nauseum.

Super Mario RPG had fairly simple bosses but most stood out because they had a strange gimmick to them. Like attacking the chain link on the chandelier the boss is standing on instead of the boss, or having a boss randomly eat one party member taking them out of the fight for several rounds, or having an enemy skip a round of attack because your fireball caught his tail on fire, or the admittedly worst offender of "gimmicks", Bowyer had the actual gamepad buttons he would "lock out" for several rounds preventing you from using a certain skill set like attack, defend, items, or special moves.

Lesson: Don't make the fight too gimmicky but having unique abilities and states ONLY for the bosses is never a bad thing, variety is the spice of life.

Final Fantasy XII has got to be the king of frustrating battles, some just took forever but many others were a trial in state management, where the victor was whoever has less debuffs. There were some bosses in particular that would hit you with like 8 debuffs... in one move!

Lesson: Don't be afraid to go overboard with states, you don't need to restrict it to one, having multiple debuffs on a character makes them have to make more tactical decisions like which is more pressing to be healed, do I use that rare heal-all item I have limited quantities of? Do I waste more magic trying to heal all at once or just tackle the more severe things?

Those are just a few examples but really think of what boss battles you've had in RPGs, which ones stand out the most as very challenging or interesting? Learn the lessons they have to teach.

RPGMaker is incredibly robust, you might not be able to do as much with the default battle system but I see no reason why with a custom one you can't recreate the same complexity of just about any other RPG. I do tend to agree however that battles tend to be the weakest part of most RPGs, even professional ones I love can have really bad ones.
 

saintivan

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I agree with whitespear, in that a major boss should be tied in to the plot. An unexpected twist is especially interesting. Good music is also important to add to the drama. And of course, duration: a good boss puts your party close to death.
 

Randommerade

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Persona 4's bosses were really memorable. The entire dungeons are based off of what a character is thinking (everyone has that part of themselves that they want to deny, and the dungeon of a character was based off of that). Take the character Yukiko for example. Her family runs a traditional inn, and everyone expects her to inherit it once she becomes of age. But she doesn't like it, it's not that she doesn't want to inherit the inn, it's just that she's expected to and she feels that her whole life is decided for her. She hopes that someday her "prince" will come and take her away from the town, since she doesn't have the courage to do it herself. Her Shadow (her true feelings/the boss) are symbolism too. The Shadow is a bird in a cage. Yukiko feels she cannot escape Inaba and that taking charge of the inn would only limit her from what she really wants to do in the future. This would be the reason the Shadow has a large wingspan and a rather small cage. Charming Prince is a manifestation of the idea of someone saving her.

Here's a video of the cutscene and boss fight

Anyway, I thought that was a pretty good example of a memorable boss, all the Persona 4 bosses stuck in my head for a long time. :p
 

OM3GA-Z3RO

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I love battling against bosses that makes you strategies on what you need to do in order to beat him but I also love a boss which has a good concept in the story or a morale of who the boss really is, Persona 4 is a good example and the last boss of Persona 3 (Nyx) such a badass boss, more badass than Sephiroth in my opinion but yeah the way I want to make my boss battles interesting is by having unexpected phases and scenes which makes the player think at first that this is "super simple" when they have the tactic just right and then the boss changes completely which makes the player have to rethink his/her tactic.
 
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The legend of Zelda bosses always have a weakness related to the item you found in the dungeon prior.
 

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I give them a backstory and s legitimate reason for being a boss in the first place.
 

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One thing you really, really want to avoid is the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere trope.  That trope means that a big, powerful boss appears, with no foreshadowing, no close tie-in to the plot and maybe even no relation to the rest of the story.

Now, a great boss can get close to that trope.  For example:  You think you're playing a normal fantasy RPG, until you go to defeat the Dragon.  When you reach the Dragon, it is a very hard boss battle --- because the Dragon is shiny, metallic and basically a robot.  This trails into the entire game then veering into a very degraded high-tech cave, which leads into abandoned high tech stuff the characters use, as they find their world was settled thousands of years ago...

In this case, the Dragon is a plot-important boss, and the sudden robot-ness is a major wham moment for the player.  But, it ties closely into the plot.  FFIV had this with the first Tower --- until then, the game was typical fantasy RPG, but that Tower is very high tech.  And that high tech figures largely into the remainder of the plot.

If the same Dragon had no foreshadowing, and it was the only robotic high-tech opponent, and defeating it meant the players went back to their usual fantasy quest, it might be that trope.  I think players hate that trope because it abruptly breaks the logic of the story.  
 

Apollo

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Something I find helps make bosses memorable, even if their fights aren't that interesting, is if every boss has a place in the story. Not Giant Space Flees out of Nowhere, guys, because those just bog down the pacing.

It makes much more sense for me to fight a chimera that was previously stated in the story as being the ancient guardian of these ruins, set there by the main characters parents to never let anyone discover their dark secrets, than it does for me to fight a pair of crows that just happened to be near that plot device i needed to unlock more story.

In short, make the bosses mean something to the story, give them a reason to be there, rather than just putting something there because you need some sort of boss. This alone will help make your bosses more memorable. :D

EDIT: And I see Whitesphere above me just said the same thing, so TVTROPES PEOPLE UNITE! YAH!
 
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