How to win the boss-fight

When doing a boss fight, is it better to have it immediately obvious how to win or does it add anything having the player figuring it out themselves? I am thinking about bosses like Zelda dungeon bosses where you usually have to figure out that you have to first hit them in the eye, then when they’re stunned hit them on the head (for example).

I am working on a boss-fight now and I want to give the player as little help as possible, but I am afraid it’ll just be too frustrating for the player.

If I need to add some “help”, should it be direct instructions or should it be done by using visual elements and/or sounds to hint to the users?

(I realize this is very dependent on the game, so apologies for asking a question with no clear, definitive answer).

I think you can do it by just giving players clues. As players learn how to play your game, they’ll start to pickup visual and audible cues that teach them how to play.

For example in Soul Reaver there’s a water boss that you kill by shining light on him, you figure it out based on the room you’re in, pillars that you jump on with water around it, nothing is really in the room except you and the boss, but there are breakable windows that shine light into the room.

Same with Shadow of the colossus there isn’t really anything to tell you how to beat them, except where to stab. Zelda, Crash Bandicoot, God of War (I think), do similar things.

There are many different “versions” of boss-fights out there. I remember, i’ve heard about one boss in a game, which reads your Controller-Input, if the controller is plugged into the first slot, so he knows what you are going to do. The only way to kill him was to connect the controller to another slot.
In some other games, you don’t fight the boss directly, but you use the environment. For example in Super Mario, you don’t fight bowser directly, but you have to jump over him and “open” the floor under him, so he falls down.
So you see, there are many possibilities.
I guess it would be pretty cool, if the different bosses have different characters and their weaknesses and strenghts are pretty logic. For example a “Fire-Monster” can burn you, but it does not like water. The boss i mentioned above could be a clairvoyant who can read your thoughts. But if you can controll them, you might you might mislead him.
I think it would be cool to make the user think a bit, but it depends on your target group. Also, you could use the non-boss-missions as some kind of training. For example, teach the player, that he can use water to extinguish a fire, he might think about that when he faces the “Fire-Monster”.

I really like how the binding of isaac did it.

Introduce the boss character, provide simple yet changing combat. Like, three different stages of defeating a boss.

Just make sure there is a walk through available. ;D

I think I’ll attempt this. I will add a new distinct visual cue that’s triggered by the player doing something that takes him closer to defeating the boss, and then another familiar cue when damage is actually inflicted.

I want the mechanic to be simple but not obvious, and the execution hard. Hardest part will be managing the player’s frustration I think.

Well I had the first proper attempt at the boss in my game today, and I think any walk through produce will be short and to the point; “Don’t bother with the boss, he’s impossible to beat.” :slight_smile:
(I might have some work to do there)

Funny that you use that example, since, if you have the Fire Flower power-up, you can fight him directly (and reveal that, save the last one, all the other “Bowsers” are transmutated regular enemies).

So it is a nice example of how you can add layers to an encounter without being too obvious.

I find that the Dark Souls series has well done boss battles.

Absolutely, and basically Dark Souls is just a modern version of the old school games like castlevania.
Overwhelming opponent, but by learning the patterns you can know whats coming, overcome and get a real sensation of accomplishment.

Victories shouldnt be gifted, unless you are making a game for 4 year olds, anyone appreciates a decent challenge. Why else would you play ?
But it has to be fair.

@Oskuro i did not play Mario for a pretty long time, so i don’t remember every detail. But i guess i meant the last fight, there you can’t kill him directly, right?

Well I think your argument makes sense and it’s typical of the sort of games I like to play, but there’s a lot of games where the difficulty either scales with the player or enough hints are provided for everyone to win.

I am going to try to make my boss fight hard, non-obvious and fair. Unfortunately it will probably be frustrating for the player as the controls will be difficult to master.

I hate it to play 4 hours each time just to see the boss, and then trying somethign else to find its weakness. Followed by another four hours. The longer the game takes to reach the boss, the less obscure should the fight be IMHO.

Like I just said in another post: I’m not sure what you’re looking for from us.

It’s like if I asked you: What should I have for dinner? What is the best option?

It entirely depends on your personal tastes, the rest of the game, your skill level, etc.

I get that you probably mostly just want to talk about programming, but your best bet is to just go in a direction and try something out. Better yet, why don’t you make a few prototypes and test out every approach to see which you like better?

Yeah I understand that, and I am sorry about that. Which is why I apologized for posting the vague question.

And that’s what I am doing. I don’t start with the question, I start with an attempt at implementing it but then I usually like to hear peoples opinions on what I am doing and generally how they like things done. I use the WIP forum for specific feedback on something I’ve done, but I find this forum is better for the general questions as the answers are not too focused on what I already have implemented.

I agree.
I’ll will try to make it so that being slayed in the boss-fight isn’t forcing you to replay parts of the game, you should be able to have another attempt at winning pretty much instantly. Reaching the boss will be a process separate from the process of defeating him.

Fair enough, to each their own. I just think you’ll gain much more insight from putting together a little prototype than you will eliciting opinions from random people without any context. Up to you though!

For mid-game bosses just make them take a bit longer to play and look meaner on screen than a normal enemy. They’re just punctuation in the story of the game like the end of a chapter in a book, so the player can stand up and get a sandwich or go back to work. Also if they’re too hard it will piss players off to be held back unnecessarily from later content.

End game bosses well it doesn’t really matter, make them as hard as you like or even virtually impossible. The player won’t mind so much if they know they’ve otherwise completed the game. It’s probably most important for the end game boss to be highly memorable rather than anything else. Like the last song on a record or the last scene in a film, it will be the lingering memory in the mind of the player.

My favourite is when you don’t finally defeat mid-game bosses but they run away seriously hurt, and actually the later bosses are the same boss who has learned new stuff and got stronger. Then you feel a real emotional involvement with them by the end - another thing is the game can sort of teach you in stages or at least drop hints how to beat the final boss.

Yes you can. The interesting thing is that, when you fireball Bowser in previous castles, upon dying, he transforms into a lesser mob (goomba, koopa, etc.), thus revealing the Bowser in that castle was a fake (at 0:24):


When you do it in the last castle, it is Bowser falling down (at 0:56):


Of course we usually reach the Bowser encounters after taking a few fireballs to the face, and thus, as regular Mario, resort to using the Axe.

Oh, and the Axe, as well as the platforms around Bowser, are the way the game communicates to the player what they need to do, which is cool too.

@Oskuro I did not know that, but it seems to be a cool idea :smiley:

[quote=richierich]It’s probably most important for the end game boss to be highly memorable rather than anything else.
@richierich thats aboslutely right, having an interesting boss can “hide” a boring fight.
But to create an interesting, memorable boss, you need to have a story which somehow introduces him
or gives him a reason to appear. Whithout the story, the gameplay i.e. the fight, as well as the visual illustartion of the boss,
could be pretty important.

I am not sure everyone would agree with that, I think a lot of people would feel frustration if they can’t fully complete the game, including disposing of the final boss. I do agree that making him memorable adds a lot, and that can compensate for other shortcomings (such as being too hard or too easy to defeat, for example).

Meeting the end-boss throughout the game only to have him retreat and build up for the final fight is a cool idea. I would really want to incorporate that into my game, so that you meet him and the setting is such that you have to use one method to win, but the next time you run into him he’s in a different setting, requiring you to attack him in another way.

Thanks for the suggestion, you’ve really given me some food for thought. I was initially only going to have him at the very end, but this approach is much more interesting (having said that, I don’t know if I’ll have time to actually add it :frowning: )