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Sessler's Soapbox: Boss Battles Can Be Better

Posted: September 16, 2009
Sessler's Soapbox: Boss Battles Can Be Better
http://www.g4tv.com/videos/41412/sesslers-soapbox-boss-battles-can-be-better/
http://images.g4tv.com/ImageDb3/176460_LGST/soapbox-better-bosses.jpg
Video_41412
Adam explains why he thinks final boss battles are often anticlimactic, and asks for your help to come up with ideas on how to improve them.

Comments are Closed

  • MartiansfromUranus

    I think the best part about games is the bosses. I want to play a game with mini bosses strewn throughout. Forget the final boss. I want the fun to be in getting there.

    Posted: September 3, 2010 6:44 AM
    MartiansfromUranus
  • alz_4_eva

    i know this is probably going to sound cliche but what i think is that if your going to make multiple seqeuls you should have the same guy only he gets stronger or weaker depending on how you beat him in the game before. per se you completely anihaliated him, so in the next game at the end you make him weaker but if you barely make it out alive he gets stronger. the only setback is you have to have a save for the previous game.

    Posted: August 3, 2010 5:11 PM
    alz_4_eva
  • burdy233

    The beauty of modern games is this fact alone. Gone are the days where all the games fundamentally end the same, where you beat the boss and your character walks off in to the sunset. Modern games are more of an interactive cinematic event. You invest hours into the characters, relating and empathizing with them throughout the story. So that by the end of the game you fell the emotion that the developers wanted you to fell, whether it be happy, sad, angry, or any other emotion that would provide a fitting end to the experience you and the character went through. However, while I enjoy the emotional aspect of games there still has to be some sort of final fight. The most glaring example of this would be Fable II, their idea of a final fight was to shoot a man that isn't moving or attacking. Now on the other hand Mass Effect had a terrific ending, final fight and emotional payoff. All I'm saying is that for a good ending you need a physical and emotional climax to the story, you just don't end the game with just the physical or just the emotional, or neither like Halo 2 did.

    Posted: December 22, 2009 10:11 PM
    burdy233
  • tsr2494

    if the game will not get a sequal the give us a 5 min video telling us what happends to the mane people in the story. I constinly wanted that since i started gaming

    Posted: December 17, 2009 6:26 PM
    tsr2494
  • mochy

    I personally think that Adam made a good point when he pointed out how the mechanics you've been using through out the whole game don't apply to the end boss in most cases. But I would like to see a game where you work hard and become an equal with the end boss; since after all you've beaten all his/her minions, shouldn't that put you on an equal level by the time you've reached the final fight? there's something very satisfying about beating an opponent with the same skill level as you and with the same arsenal at his/her disposal. another interesting idea would be to let other players take on the form of bosses (ie: in demons souls the final boss of the 3rd stage can be another player via online)

    Posted: November 12, 2009 9:00 AM
    mochy
  • Jack_On

    I ended up here after just beating Batman: Arkham Asylum, a GOTY-potential game with one of the worst boss battles I've ever come across. I felt much the same after playing my roommate's Twighlight Princess just a few weeks ago, AND about Bioshock (being played by my roommate now): Solid gameplay, mind-numbing boss battles.

    My problem with boss battles is that they always seem to be on our terms. We always happen to have the right item or right special attack or be in the right place. It's never like we have to actually THINK, which is a shame considering we have the technology to make boss battles that require you to do more than use an item, beat a clock, or find a weak spot.

    To make matters worse, developers do all they can to flesh out the Player's character but do nothing in the way of fleshing out the enemies. Sephiroth, Ganon, Bowser, even the Joker, all of them--when in the confines of a video game--have absolutely no personality. Yea, I said Sephiroth was a one-dimensional flop of a character. Just because he's a pissed genetic anomaly I should say he has depth? Get real.

    Even Metal Gear Solid (which a lot of people are citing has having great bosses) had boss characters acting very, well, un-professional. Why would Sniper Wolf--sniper extraordinare--want to take Solid Snake on one-on-one in a flat terrain that's only a couple hundred yards long (if that) and has no tree cover or brush?

    If a world-reknown sniper is after me, I should never see their face. I should never be within 50 yards of him/her. I should be taking cover and worrying every time I come across an abandoned bell tower. And after being hunted for whatever length of time, should I manage to best them, it should only be done using a sniper rifle or unexpected RPG launch (unexpected because you shouldn't be able to just sneak around with a RPG launcher and 10 rounds for it). And even then, I shouldnt know they're dead until I'm brave enough to venture to said bell tower and scout for a body.



    Why would Joker--known for his genius yet insane intellect--want to fight Batman one-on-one, much less inject himself with the ever-dangerous venom?! Scarecrow at least stuck to his guns and used mind games! Why not Joker!?

    And why did all of the bosses in Twighlight Princess repeat the same tiring routine as I stabbed them the prescribed three times before dying? You'd have to have the short-term memory of a fish to let someone hit you the same exact way THREE TIMES!



    Yea, long rant, I know. But those aren't the actions of great snipers, genius madmen, and armored blood-thirsty dragons.

    I dont expect to have every thug, every orc, and every Locust be fleshed out and given a back-story, but I would like to get the sense that the higher-ups on the bad-guy food chain (aka the BOSSES!) have just as much mortality as I do and know it, just as much of a reason to sneak around and try to get the upper hand on me using the environment and time and gadgetry, and just as much a reason to give it their all when it comes down to the final fight. (Not turning their back on me all the time like the Joker did). It's almost like bosses WANT to get beat.

    Posted: October 18, 2009 4:17 PM
    Jack_On
  • dwstrat

    Well, it's tough to give someone a really satisfying boss battle after an entire game's worth of level-bosses and regular enemies. I think the only way to make a believable (at least in the game world), fun, and challenging (without being impossible) is to really focus on building the character's skills/tools throughout the game that can all go into defeating the big enemy in the end. I think that's why most FPS's fall short (not all) in this field, because most do not offer new ways to defeat enemies and progress through the game. When the end comes, you have a gun... and that's pretty much it-button mashing untill you've shot him enough that he rolls over and dies. The end.
    I also think that the boss battle should be a level in itself, for example LOZ Twilight Princess, where there were multiple stages, all requiring different sets of skills/gameplay mechanics, to kill Ganon.
    Another possible way to fixing the problem is to make the boss battle a level in the technical sense of the word - The goal not to kill the bad guy whom you've seen glimpses of forever, but something else (Ex. James Bond doesn't wrestle the old fat guys with cats at the end of every movie - mabye he'll explode the base or disarm the missiles). These would give designers a lot more room to explore different stories that don't have to revolve around an army of monsters/aliens/zombies that fight for some super buff guy who is in control because he is. Mabye he's a teen, a woman, or an elderly man! A Gerbil for crying out loud!
    Anways, that's what I think.

    Posted: September 24, 2009 4:53 PM
    dwstrat
  • gigadrill98

    What comes to mind to me is how Kojima-san strips away EVERYTHING from the players at the final confrontations. (excuse my poor grammer and english)

    And i believe what makes MGS4 (arguebly) works is the sense of "Despair" at the end of the narrative, gameplay, and freedom projected from the game to the players controls and their emotions

    Kojima-san strips away everything that the players are familiar with, as in, the mechanics of sneaking, gunning, stealthing and its arsonnel of gagdgets. Before reaching that final confrontation, Snake slowly grow stronger and stronger through equiptments gadgets and his heroic prowess through narrative. And the players gets the freedom to approach the objective however they please.

    Until suddenly when the story went to (Spoiler alert) to despair where kojima strip Snake's heroism prowess to the point of despair, as in to the point where he is the only one who can save the world. And to the point where kojima completely strips Snake away from his gadgets and equiptments, the ability to do everything players been doing all the time. and then are force to control a snake who isnt as agile beaten and practically nothing but his hands and legs. On a final, "controlled" battle sequence, accompanied by cinematics that makes it worthwhile.

    Hence why to me, (arguebly) what makes all the previous MGS games final confrontation fun and rewarding is because the "freedom" that were given throughout the entire game is suddenly stripped away and when you feel that heavyness, going against the final boss and when finally beaten him is the best satisfaction you'll ever have.

    So what i believe might work is the fact that the final boss should feel like a completely different game, if not it feels when the superpowered protagonist are completely weaken and stripped away and are force to fight a final boss who is no stronger than all the other "minions" which creates the frustration, challenge and satisfaction of the final confrontation. (accompannied by cinematics)

    Posted: September 23, 2009 3:01 AM
    gigadrill98
  • gigadrill98

    What comes to mind to me is how Kojima-san strips away EVERYTHING from the players at the final confrontations. (excuse my poor grammer and english)

    And i believe what makes MGS4 (arguebly) works is the sense of "Despair" at the end of the narrative, gameplay, and freedom projected from the game to the players controls and their emotions

    Kojima-san strips away everything that the players are familiar with, as in, the mechanics of sneaking, gunning, stealthing and its arsonnel of gagdgets. Before reaching that final confrontation, Snake slowly grow stronger and stronger through equiptments gadgets and his heroic prowess through narrative. And the players gets the freedom to approach the objective however they please. Where the player almost felt invinsible with his favourate protagonist.

    Until suddenly when the story went to (Spoiler alert) to despair where kojima strip Snake's heroism prowess to the point of despair, as in to the point where he is the only one who can save the world. And to the point where kojima completely strips Snake away from his gadgets and equiptments, the ability to do everything players been doing all the time. and then are force to control Snake who isnt as agile, beaten and practically nothing but his hands and legs. On a final, "controlled" battle sequence, accompanied by cinematics that makes it worthwhile. (spoiler ends)

    Hence why to me, (arguebly) what makes all the previous MGS games final confrontation fun and rewarding is because the "freedom" that were given throughout the entire game is suddenly stripped away and when you feel that heavyness, going against the final boss and when finally beaten him is the best satisfaction you'll ever have.

    So what i believe might work is the fact that the final boss should feel like a completely different game, if not it should make the players feels their superpowered characters lost all their abilities by a boss who is just as normal as they the protagonist.

    Posted: September 23, 2009 2:52 AM
    gigadrill98
  • Just_Mike

    Sup Sessler? How u doing?

    For boss battles. In my entire time of playing video games, ONE boss battle has always stuck with me to this day.

    In Earthbound(mother 2), the final boss Giygas.

    Though Giygas is your typical big bad centre of evilness, I think the elements that made him stick with me can be transferred to modern boss games.

    Giygas in the game was a force of evil that not one second in the entirety of me playing did that ever leave my mind. The story drilled in to you that Giygas had to be stopped. I believe to make a compelling boss battle, one must first start with the story.

    Giygas was also nigh invincible. I remember playing through the game literally hundreds of times just to figure out a way to beat Giygas. It made me think, like as if I was trying to solve a morbid rubix cube of the damned. No matter how strong I got, no matter what I brought in the fight, in the end, brute strength nor tactical prowess combined were enough to beat this behemoth. I believe the final boss should be the hardest fight in the entire game.

    Giygas also horrified me. Not because he was just an abomination, but he was also unmistakeably human. Devoured by the evils that gave him strength, Giygas loses his mind and slowly recovers as the final boss battle rages forward. Only to tell you that he wants you to kill him. A sense of right and wrong should always be present.

    Next I think whats important to make a good boss battle is HOW the final boss is beaten. The story that drove you to fight on, should ultimately be what saves you. Not the biggest gun, or the heaviest hammer, but a simple story element, like a song the protagonist grew up too, or a simple prayer that empowers you with all the people you've met in your journey. The final fight should not be "How do I beat this?" but instead, in the darkest moment, it asks your heart, "Can you hold on?"

    Lastly, theres this small bit about Giygas breaking the 4th wall. Spoiler alert for anyone who cares. :P In the end, the game asked the very player, me, to lend my strength to the intrepid 8-bit adventurers that I've been guiding around. This gave me chills the first time I saw my name being called out. And when the fighting was through, my television set grew rampant, I thought the game had broken when I beat Giygas. The face of Giygas warped and whipped across my TV set with a horrible air raid siren sound. Until it dissolved into static. The boss fight "grounded" me. It invoked emotions and that without a doubt is important to any good boss battle.


    Anyways, thats my thoughts, I hope you make a follow-up. I'd like to hear what YOU now have in mind.

    Posted: September 23, 2009 2:39 AM
    Just_Mike
  • InfectedDead

    First to comment

    Posted: September 22, 2009 6:00 PM
    InfectedDead
  • heavy_metal_king

    oh yeah its me again screamin at you loud and proud from my secret hideout in canada well i have some thing serious to say if you dont want to say anything about the subject at hand dont make comments

    For example ive read so many comments that just involve kissing adams butox or saying he knows nothing about the subject come on do you really have nothing better to do than kissup now im not saying adams not funny or cool but you dont need to state this every day

    Now i realize that what im saying in this comment is contridictory to my statement but i just thought it needed to be said.....yeah ROCK ON!!!!!

    Posted: September 22, 2009 3:58 PM
    heavy_metal_king
  • CAG01

    For me, as long as it doesn't feel "tacked on". The final battle should feel just like that, a final battle. It should make you feel as if you accomplished something, not just beating another "bad guy" with more health, throughout the entire game. The method isn't as important as the feeling of accomplishment. Some boss battles that do feel overdone are the ones that have multiple forms or an insane amount of HP. These and timed button mashes really don't give me the feeling of satisfaction. A lot of times they just make me feel frustrated because it seems nothing I do will ever make it end. The ending is going to depend on the type of game, also. Like Adam said, a one on one boss battle at the end of a game based on a war (pick one), usually isn't going to work out. There are always exceptions, like Modern Warfare, I know.

    Posted: September 22, 2009 3:16 AM
    CAG01
  • heavy_metal_king

    I believe that in the final boss battle you should fight a nearly indestructible foe (ie beserk gow1(without hammer of dawn))this would make the player have the thrilling fear created by the monsters reaction to sound but instead of using a satillite lazer it should be a combination of all the skills and weapons the player has gained throughout the game with multiple ways to defeat the enemy all which use multiple types of strategies

    the main point i am getting at is that to create the perfect boss you must combine fear slight disadvantage to boss(ie blindness) nearly indestructable use of strategy multiple ways to defeat enemy but not to easy and this is essential if you are to create a boss like this you must have coop in your game i know this sounds unreasonable but really are you this guy:

    "...totally dude I just got to the boss alone i spent 20hrs getting there and im so totally stoped...(2hrs later)hey dude its me again i just got so close to killing that final boss but at the last second i ran out of ammo but that doesnt matter ill just try again alone because i dont need your help"

    Im not kidding this was an actual conversation my friend had with me but if he had asked me to help we would have finished it on the first try but no playing alone is soooooo much better when fighting a boss

    this kid makes me laugh and if hes reading this then hahahahaha you stupid noob

    Posted: September 21, 2009 9:00 PM
    heavy_metal_king
  • Slakesssh

    I've always liked the bosses that have multiple stages, like Ultimecia from FF8.

    Though I have to agree with Adam that some bosses are not that "big" as the rest of the game was, and kind of a let down (Dungeon Siege as an example ... the boss at the end was so easy yet a sidequest boss was excrutiating hard).

    Posted: September 21, 2009 5:29 PM
    Slakesssh
  • Otsdarva

    There are two games that instantly come to mind when I think of well-done boss battles: Devil May Cry 3, and Armored Core 4: For Answer.

    When polled about what their favorite kind of boss-fight was, gamers voted with a huge majority that they prefer smaller, 1-on-1 battles (Such as Dante vs. Virgil) to huge man vs. giant battles that you can only win by stabbing them in their super-magic-weak-point. I include myself in this group. The best kind of boss battle is one where you and your opponent are of similar size and stature, have somewhat similar abilities, and that really comes down to "Are you faster, smarter, and stronger than the AI?" Devil May Cry 3 established this beautifully, with a battle that was fast-paced, intense, climactic, and really, really, hard.

    Chances are, most of you haven't heard of this second choice: Armored Core 4: For Answer; but I assure you, it was a very, VERY good game that FAR surpassed the mediocre previous installments in the series. This game captured boss battles incredibly well, and actually displayed a combination of both the "Man vs. Man" and "Man vs. Gigantic-Death-Machine" styles of boss fights quite well.

    Pilot Vs. Pilot battles were VERY fast paced, strategic, and fun. Each pilot had a different "Style", so it became neccesary to adapt your fighting style dependant on theirs, and you had to constantly exercise every trick in the book.

    The Giant Death Machines in Armored Core were called "Arms forts", and varied greatly depending on which one you were fighting. They avoided the cliche'd "Super-Magic-Weak-Point" tactic, with the exception of a gigantic train-like boss that you had to get inside, battle up through its interior, and pump lead into it's engine, then escape. All of these battles, including the afformentioned, were of epic proportions, and really gave the player that "Holy...!" moment when they saw what they were fighting.

    Now, there was one thing that both these games did very well that is essential to making a good boss fight; they didn't restrict you to one "Right way" to kill the boss, they allowed you to choose how you wanted to come at the problem. Allowing for variety is what makes a boss fun and exciting, instead of just more of the same "Jump, roll, shoot him in the eye, repeat"

    Posted: September 20, 2009 9:16 PM
    Otsdarva
  • REmaster0514

    I think that the final boss battle isn't good unless it has that dramatic end where you feel the story was resolved like mass effect or Metal gear solid 4. Those battles weren't all that unique in gameplay, but you had a feeling of resolution as I was fighting liquid in MGS4 I had the feeling of this is it and this is the final confrontation brother to brother, sort oflike dante and virgil from Devil may cry, but not as strung out. Batman arkham asylum had one of the most disapointing final bosses ever because it felt rushed and felt like it threw away all the sense of the game's core machanics, games today do that too much. So to make a final boss battle great I think we have to move away from thinking just one on one and move toward a narrative way to end it then just beating the crap of the boss til it dies. I look to games like heavy rain which are more based on story [basing on what I've seen so far] to give an ending and that is where I think games should move towards, more dramatic and smart endings not just the boss is dead and it ends.

    Posted: September 20, 2009 4:15 PM
    REmaster0514
  • Crash486

    When I think back to all of the boss battles I've ever played that I thought were extraordinarily satisfying, all of the truly memorable ones had a few things in common. Maybe this isn't really innovative, but it's what I look for when I think of an "epic" satisfying boss battle.

    1. Over The Top - This is the battle that people are going to remember. I mean this is the resolution to the past 10 hours of gameplay, it should be memorable, its the fruit of your labor. It really depends on the type of game you're making, but the last battle should be at a level at least 9,000 levels higher than the rest of the game. And I don't mean the enemy boss, but your character as well. Ideally, this is where your character should be the strongest it's ever been throughout the entire course of the game. Take Heavenly Sword for example, while the game was short and enjoyed somewhat limited praise from reviewers, I have to think the end boss battle of taht game is probably one of the most memorable i've played to date. *spoiler warning* right before the end your character (and the boss) both raise to a god-like status. You just feel blisteringly powerful, and this is illustrated by the hordes of generic bad guys that are running through the scenery of the final battle getting swatted around like flies by the shockwave of your blows which aren't even directed at them. It's just fun to be able to say "holy crap look how powerful I am, look at all the cool new stuff I can do that I could never do before." Not only does it feel satisfying, but it gives you some new gameplay elements to work around with just so its not the same old rehashed attack dodge attack dodge.

    2. Step Up the Difficulty - Seriously, no one wants a final boss battle that's over with 1 or 2 swings of your sword. RPGs are notorious for this and I hate it. You shouldn't be able to level your character up to level 1,000,000 if the boss you're fighting was meant to be fought at level 100 (unless of course you're using an easter-egg weapon). Don't be afraid to set the end boss difficulty a few notches above the rest of the game.

    on that note

    3. Keep the final difficulty consistent. No one likes ridiculous difficulty spikes during the fight itself, (I'm looking at you Killzone 2). The end fight should be hard, and should take you a few tries to beat. But it should always be at about the same level. Just because the AI is losing doesn't mean he should be able to pull out some 1000 hit combo which instantly kills you from 100% health, or rather, the Killer Instinct effect. All I'm saying is keep it fair.

    4. Checkpoints - Boss battles should be long, it's part of what makes them epic, but for the love of god put in checkpoints. If your boss battle is 30 minutes long and I've played through 25 minutes of it and slip up, I really don't want to have to play that whole 25 minutes over again. Sure there should be some penalty for dying, but throw me a bone. Plus, using checkpoints gives the developer an easy way to change up the fight into different segments. As a gamer, i love variation, and nothing segeways quite like a small cutscene and a checkpoint. Also incredibly daunting tasks just seem to feel more do-able when cut into smaller parts. It also adds more realism to the size of the task, and gives you more of an appreciation for what you just accomplihed. Like wow, he really was strong, I had to do this and this and this, but I finally killed him. Yay me!

    Lastly, I want you to keep in mind there's a fine line between satisfyingly difficult and needlessly frustrating. It varies from gamer to gamer as to where that line sits, ideally though, if I were a developer I would always want the majority of players walking away thinking "wow that hard, I can see why that dude was the boss." It's always disappointing when a boss earlier in the game was more difficult than the final boss. And don't cop-out by just giving the final boss the powers of all his predocessors.

    Posted: September 20, 2009 3:29 PM
    Crash486
  • AcidCandy

    I see I'm not the only one who had "Metal Gear Solid 4" in mind...
    But what makes it so epic?
    I think it's the emotion. Ocelot was such a great vilain! Either you loved him or you loved to hate him.
    I know it's not all game though that have the chance to build up your tie with the vilain over 4 games, but getting the player attached to the ennemy is, in my opinion, the first factor of how you'll feel after the battle.
    The final boss shouldn't just be a tougher ennemy to defeat, it should be a character of his own. Adam asked no to talk about Shadow of the Colossus, but I'll just say that, even though the colossi are not deep character, you can't be senseless about them, you're in awe with them and the atmosphere and all.
    So basically, I think that bounding the player with the boss, in whatever the way, is the first step to take.

    Posted: September 20, 2009 1:13 PM
    AcidCandy
  • lord_oneder

    I think that what Sess is getting at here is mainly a concern with the action games and third-person shooters of today. Most of these games from the last few years that I've noticed either pit you against a bigger enemy type from earlier in the game, or invent unique characters with unfair weapon combinations to make them harder to overcome. I think, however, that these methods are outdated and archaic. They do indeed need to be replaced, and I think I've found the solution. With the skill set already understood by a majority of gamers who play these games (think God of War/Gears of War control schemes), I believe it is the design of the environment which should make these fights memorable. The boss itself doesn't need to be any different from the normal enemy type, but if a situation makes them incredibly difficult to take down, then the reward for doing so is magnified greatly. In a sense, the traditional boss battle needs to go away, replaced by set pieces involving unique characters. Games like Uncharted seem to be moving in this direction more, and I fully support that decision. After all, it's the moment to moment action that matters the most in these games, and any break for an arbitrary boss fight that feels nothing like the standard action seems very uncomfortable now, especially if they happen several times in a row (I'm looking at you Resident Evil 5, Act 6). Though this is only my opinion, I would hope several developers take note of the best games in both genres, and try and incorporate some new ideas into these final fights, as all of us still want to brag about beating THAT boss on SUPER-ULTRA HARD mode. Just make sure it was worth the effort to get there.

    Posted: September 19, 2009 4:28 PM
    lord_oneder
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