Oct 9, 2010

Posted by in News | 2 Comments

Damion Schubert: Make Better Bosses

Every other month, BioWare’s Damion Schubert writes a column for Game Developer magazine called “Design Of The Times.” This time around, he spends some time lamenting how, even in this day and age, we still are forced to play through terrible boss fights. Of course, as a game designer, he isn’t just complaining – he also gives some tips on how to design them better:

Show Me My Progress. Damion says to make sure the players know how they’re doing over the course of the fight by giving them feedback continually, to show they’re on the right (or wrong) track.

Get Me Back To The Fray. Here, Schubert advises designers that when players die, to not make it frustrating for players to get back to this super-special boss fight you’ve designed, since you’ve likely designed it so that the player dies early and often.  In a single player game, a distant save point can be heartbreaking. In an MMO, maybe re-spawnning NPCs are enough to make you log out frustrated.

Teach Me How To Beat The Boss. No, Damion isn’t talking about on-screen guides. He’s referring to making sure the player is familiar with the mechanics and environment of a boss fight before they get there. He uses an example of fighting an underwater boss without ever having been in an underwater environment up to that point. Or being assigned a completely new set of abilities.

Make The FIghts Interesting. Schubert says “great bosses aren’t just stat-boosted bags of hit-points.” It’s important to give the player a new and creative challenge, but to do so within the already well-established mechanics of the game. Otherwise it can feel “clunky” rather than fresh.

Make Beatable Fights. Damion suggests that it’s important for designers to keep a handle on the relative meaning of “hard,” and to not let they’re intimate knowledge of the game, as designers, skew that. But he also talks about other things, including the performance of the machine you’re playing on as well as letting players overcome the challenge by out-leveling it if they so choose.

While some concepts discussed may apply more to single player or platform-type games, the entire article is a great read. And considering Damion’s role on Star Wars™: The Old Republic™, provides some great insight into philosophies we may see in TOR when it’s released in the spring.

The October issue of Game Developer magazine is out now, or you can buy a digital copy to read the entire article here.

  1. Sounds like a boss fight I could get into. Let us hope Bioware gets them right and makes them fun not a job.

  2. MMOveteran says:

    Star Wars has a long history of lead characters who “run away to fight another day”.

    I’d imagine a recurring villain or hero boss who appears in several boss fights either directly or indirectly through the course of a game’s life cycle(5-10 years) would build up such an addiction to the cause that it would drive the player base MAD with ever consuming obssession for years! now that is an endgame!

    Example: Darth L33t is in the same room as tier 1 Boss when the raid group enters. Before Darth L33t gets on his starship to leave he orders tier 1 Boss to “Dispose of them”. Then bye!

    Next: Players learn of Darth L33t’s location through various lesser “dungeon” runs and attacks the location with a raid. They disable his starship this time resulting in Darth L33t having to fight. Darth L33t suffers damage before his escape and swears vengeance! but he gets away.

    Next: random game feature- player bounties commissioned by Darth L33t for random members of the raid group.

    Next: news worthy but rarely – Darth L33t randomly shows up in a random player hang out(Tattooine bar,etc.) and injures(or outright kills) players who have raided him.

    Next:Next:Next – you’ll have to hire me lol but you get the idea – this is endgame stuff that WOW does not have…yet.


  1. Episode 8: Feel the Power….of MICROTRANSACTIONS! » Corellian Run Radio - [...] Schubert’s column, “Make Better Bosses” in Game Developer.  Ask A Jedi summary here.  Buy a digital copy of magazine …
  2. SWTOR Explorer » Blog Archive » Episode 8: Feel the Power….of MICROTRANSACTIONS! - [...] Schubert’s column, “Make Better Bosses” in Game Developer.  Ask A Jedi summary here.  Buy a digital copy of magazine …

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