June 22, 2005

You are Not the Boss of Me

by psu and peterb

Video games, like all forms of entertaiment, have their own set of idiosyncratic formal conventions. All the Zelda games have a series of dungeons, broken up by exploration, where you collect items to defeat the final enemy. Horror games have a slow pace, shuffling zombies and stupid camera angles. Platform games have hateful jumping puzzles and take place in a strange world where whacking a box turns it into money. Conventions like this can be useful because they provide a formal framework in which the game designers can work. The form gives the player context and helps to set expectations, the same way the formal structure of a film or a piece of music informs the viewer or listener about what should be coming next.

However, while some gaming conventions are useful enough to have evolved into a sort of form, most head over the line into the territory of annoying cliché. There are too many such game design sins to list here: useless backtracking for keys, juvenile puzzles involving 8 tiles in 9 spaces or the Towers of Hanoi, and of course, stupid savepoints. However, the single most damaging game design crutch is the Boss Battle. We are here to say that Boss Battles are stupid and should be annihilated.

Bosses are a mainstay of action, RPG, platformer and shooter games. They tend to appear at or near the end of major stages of the game. The end of a game may also be structured around a climactic "final" Boss, which is usually like one of the intermediate Bosses, only more tedious.

Boss characters share a few common characteristics:

1. They are very powerful. Typically, they take a long time to defeat but can defeat the game character very easily.

2. In games with a narrative, they might be characters from that narrative transformed by some bizzare power into a huge deformed killing machine.

3. While powerful and deadly, they are not smart. They generally have one or two patterned attacks that they use over and over again.

4. There are usually only one or two specific ways to actually do damage to a boss.

Note that we want to distinguish between a "boss," who is simply a strong enemy who may provide drama and challenge, and a "Boss," who you can only defeat if you apply a set of nonsensical and arbitrary rules for a hideously long time. From now on, we will refer to the latter as a Boss with a capital B.

For the most part Boss fights are always the same. You figure out the pattern in which the Boss is moving. You therefore figure out how to dodge its attacks. Then you read the walkthrough to figure out how to do damage to the thing. Then you sit with your controller for fifteen minutes and dodge, hit, dodge, hit, dodge, hit until the Boss dies or you die and get to start over again.

In modern games, Bosses have become a crutch for both the game designer and the player. The "hardcore" gamer contingent wants Bosses because they are the traditional narrative hint that the end of a stage is approaching. They also feel like beating a Boss makes them bad-ass. Game designers use Bosses as an automatic way to change up the gameplay and thus provide some variety. Unfortunately, there are few fresh ideas in Boss design. This means that rather than creating a nice change of pace, Boss fights just replace whatever you might have been enjoying in the game with a task that inevitably boils down to a deathmarch of twitching and boring pattern matching.

Proponents of the Boss battle may argue that the Boss provides not only a climactic moment to finish off a stage of the game, but also a chance for the game player to utilize newly acquired skills or items. This happens in the Zelda games. You will go through a dungeon and pick up a couple of new things. The game then gives you some interesting things to do with the new stuff so you get some practice in using it. Then, just as you are really enjoying the game and your new toy, everything is ripped away and replaced with a huge stupid boss which you can only defeat if you puzzle out exactly how your new item can be used against the bad guy.

The question is: why not just stick to the fun gameplay that came before the Boss? Zelda is certainly not lacking for great gameplay. But rather than stick to it, the game leads the player into a boring twitchfest combined with boring puzzle solving. Why not allow the core gameplay to stand on its own terms?

Games that are true to their core gameplay are always better for it. For example, why, after providing 15 hours of high energy combat goodness did Halo 2 feel the need to throw in a completely redundant and unoriginal Boss fight at the end of the game? Did the designers lose faith in the meticulously tuned and balanced gameplay that had served them so well up until that point? Or did they just throw it in because the moron hard-core fanboys had complained about the fact that Halo did not have a "real" Boss at the end? They should have stuck to their guns, so to speak.

The Splinter Cell games never had any Bosses. The designers just made the final levels ratchet up the difficulty as you got close to the ultimate objective. This is just one of the ways that Splinter Cell is infinitely superior to Metal Gear Stupid.

RPGs lend themselves to a structure involving bosses, rather than Bosses. This is especially true in the turn based games since it is hard to design a Boss battle in a turn based battle system. If the combat is not in real time, stupid pattern attacks are easy to observe. And yet, a game with the stature of Knights of the Old Republic actually had a completely pointless final Boss, complete with puzzle combat.

On the other hand, more recent RPGs, including Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Bioware's own Jade Empire did a good job of — for the most part — avoiding pointless Bosses. Occasionally you would run into stronger enemies, but they were just that. They were not mysteriously powerful macguffins who you could only damage if you sliced them behind their left kneecap. On a day with a full moon. While spitting. Perhaps we can take the fact that KOTOR had a Boss, but Jade Empire didn't as an indication that Bioware agrees that the concept is outdated. As Corvus points out, below, Jade Empire did have some Bosses, but as they were (comparatively speaking) easy to dispose of, they were not as disruptive to the pacing of the game. Perhaps we can hope that Jade Empire II disposes with their use altogether.

Looking at platform games, we can draw a comparison between the best platform game ever made, Banjo Kazooie, and a later effort by the same company, Donkey Kong 64. There were a number of things wrong with DK64, but it's a fair approximation to describe it as "Banjo with Bosses." This is one of the reasons it is universally acknowledged as one of the worst platform games ever created. The other reason would be its "must backtrack through every level 5 times to win" nature, but that's the subject of another rant. The reason Banjo succeeds where DK64 fails is pacing. The player is always in control of their game experience, and is always applying their skills in a straightforward, measured way. New dangers are introduced at a steady rate. In DK64, at the end of every level comes a Boss who squashes the player like an insignificant bug, until they figure out the "trick," which takes the pacing and throws it out the window.

Sports games never have Bosses, and yet somehow they provide enough variety for people to finish all 5,000 races in the Gran Turismo or Forza career mode, or for would-be football coaches and armchair quarterbacks to run the Madden franchise mode for the better part of a simulated century. These games don't fall back on the Boss crutch because their core gameplay is designed to provide variety and also because they provide some variety in other ways (franchise mode, tuning cars, mini-games).

The following thought experiment may elucidate just how stupid Bosses are. Just imagine if Madden were designed in the same way that your average third person action game or RPG is designed. Just as you get to the final minutes of the fourth quarter in the Super Bowl, suddenly the quarterback on the opposing team (let's say it's Peyton Manning) runs out into the middle of the field and lets out a deafening gutteral scream as he raises his arms and transforms into a flaming blue lizard beast with 15 eyes. In order to win the game, you must now repeatedly run over to the ball-boy and grab footballs which you throw at the eyes. If you hit one, Manning's helmet temporarily opens up so you can bean him in the head with other footballs. Meanwhile, you have to watch out, because the lizard beast periodically whips his tail at you as you attempt to target him, so you have to be sure to dodge these attacks, since one or two hits are enough to take you out of the game. Once you destroy all the eyeballs and hit Manning in the head 20 or 30 times, he falls over, transforms back to his human form and is taken off the field on a stretcher and you can return to the rest of the football game.

It is understandable why designers want to use Boss fights: they want an event that provides a dramatic moment, similar to the climax of a movie. While this desire is noble, Bosses are a monumental failure in this regard. No game in recent memory is at its best during a Boss battle. The true highlights always spring forth from the core design and narrative of the game rather than some artificially constructed battle with an ultra-powerful beast from beyond. What we can hope for is that these "core gameplay" moments — consider how well most of Halo 2 worked with its "Sneak, assassinate, grenade, firefight" dynamic — will become more and more integrated into the dramatic climaxes of games, and the Bosses can be sent to some far off land and be retired forver. It's a noble goal to strive for because if we reach it, games will have been made better forever.

Posted by psu and peterb at June 22, 2005 10:50 PM | Bookmark This

I'd argue that Jade Empire had at least a couple of Bosses. Mother required the same sort of trick as the Boss of KotOR and the Emperor had his pattern of immunity.

Posted by CorvusE at June 23, 2005 04:31 AM

Oh, Mother -- you're absolutely right. I had totally forgotten about her. She's absolutely a traditional videogame Boss.

Somehow the Emperor didn't seem as Boss-like to me because he seemed to obey all the other rules (eg, when he's a ghost, use the same attack you use on ghosts, etc.) But maybe I'm just giving JE too much slack because I liked it.

Posted by peterb at June 23, 2005 06:59 AM

God of War is interesting ... because it uses mini-bosses near constantly. It seems like every other step is a creature or a couple of creatures which require special moves to dispatch gracefully.

Posted by Josh at June 23, 2005 08:50 AM

God of War gives you bonuses for dispatching enemies via the little mini-games. And that's sort of fun.

I have only played the first part of the game, but the first big Boss is a classic, and boring, Boss IMHO. Much less interesting than the normal combat.

Posted by psu at June 23, 2005 09:09 AM

What a great rant! I tend to avoid the classes of games that have bosses, but I still do come across them. The two I most remember are Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance and, most horribly of all, Diablo 2.

BG:DA had all of the particular Boss problems - weird attacks, patterns, and generally just dumb stuff like that. In general, the progression of enemies felt perfect in BG:DA, but then you'd have to fight a Boss battle. And the Boss battles ruined all the pacing up to that point.

Diablo 2 had the worst ending Boss battle of all time. My friend and I rolled through the entire game (given its lame death consequence, it's no wonder), and then we come upon Diablo himself at the end. Massively overpowered, we just died and died and died again. Eventually, we stopped bothering picking our stuff up from our dead piles, and would just run down and pound on him with our barehands, repeated ad infinitum, until he died. To be honest, that didn't wreck the game for us, as we were pretty tired of the whole thing by then anyway.

Posted by Hieronymus at June 23, 2005 09:10 AM

Hear, hear. What I hate about Bosses is that they aren't amenable to experimentation -- you're always in such danger of getting whacked at any instant, that it's all you can do to stay alive. So, as you say, you end up going to the walkthrough because spending an hour like this:

* get to Boss
* make small incremental progress in understanding patterns and how to counter them
* die
* restart at save point which for NO GOOD REASON is TEN MINUTES AWAY from the BOSS
* fail to do the pre-Boss lead up correctly and get to the Boss battle with insufficient health, and die.
* repeat for maximum enjoyment

This is why I'm only halfway through Ninja Gaiden, which I otherwise enjoyed immensely. There's a Boss in there who is at least a level away from any merchants who can sell me health potions, so I'm -- wait for it -- screwed.

Posted by Eric Tilton at June 23, 2005 10:50 AM

On God of War: I'd say you're misjudging the first big boss battle. It's more like the standard "first level that's a tutorial" game trope. It teaches the special-combo system by giving you an enemy which can only be defeated via it. Most of the rest of the game has standard combat with special-combo opportunities integrated in (according to monster type).

My memory may be slipping, but I can think of just *one* other boss-type fight in God of War, and it *wasn't* the ending. (The ending fights were distinctive, but didn't involve the combo system, environmental stuff, or funny patterns.)

On boss fights in general: I've played some games where I said "Gah, boss fight, what a broken idea". I've played other games where I thought "Hey, this is fun and an interesting change from the rest of the game."

So I've pretty much decided that it's *not* a broken idea, it's a trope which is easy to use badly. A well-built boss fight makes use of the environment; it forces you to consider the game world as a physical environment, and your enemy as a real being, with strengths and weaknesses. *Not* as a red square marked "press X now." In other words, it's an adventure-style puzzle, and I am of course always fond of those.

(Footnote: the first boss fight in God of War is not an adventure-style puzzle at all, but the second one is.)

(Eric's point about experimentation is correct: any adventure-style puzzle requires freedom to experiment. Many games get this right: if the boss sporks you, you restart the fight immediately, at full strength. Or you restart right outside the door. Many games get it miserably wrong, but not all.)

I am currently amusing myself by replaying _Soul Reaver_, which has the best boss fights in living memory. They're all environmental. They're all thematically tied into the game (different ways of killing vampires). You are immortal -- the worst a boss can do to you is send you to the spirit world, where you can club a couple of rats to regain your health and return to the fight. The monsters all look great (for a PS1 game).

The ending of _Ico_ is the other greatest boss fight in living memory, for most of the same reasons. (You're not immortal, but you get free restarts.)

Posted by Andrew Plotkin at June 23, 2005 12:06 PM

I also meant to mention that I found the Boss fights in Wind Waker to be extremely enjoyable; I felt like they balanced the "Ahhh I'm gonna die" vs "I'm trying to figure out what they react to" in a way the worked well for me. It was the rare occassion where I beat the bosses (usually) on the first try, but after several minutes of frustration followed by pleasurable inspiration.

Also, the noise-sensitive tentacle in Half Life was a brilliant Boss fight. I defy you to disagree. DEFY YOU.

Posted by Eric Tilton at June 23, 2005 02:13 PM

I liked the tentacle beast. But there again, it was pretty clear what to do from the start. Also, Half-Life had quick save.

IMHO the Bosses in Wind Waker can bite me.

Posted by psu at June 23, 2005 02:22 PM

...but if they bite you, they'll take half your health with just one attack!

Posted by peterb at June 23, 2005 02:30 PM

Boy, are you guys going to hate Shadow of The Colossus. 18 boss fights in a row, baby.

Posted by A. Jacobson at June 23, 2005 04:48 PM

I more or less disagree with this rant, HOWEVER it was extremely well written and the author makes some very good points. Boss fights, in general, are not bad. There are, however, very poorly done Boss fights, and those suck ass. And it's the rare game that doesn't put in a few suck-ass boss fights.

BUT, for me personally, as long as the game doesn't PUNISH you for dying to the Boss, by making you replay long segments (more than 2 or 3 min) of the game before getting back to the Boss, I'm okay with nearly any Boss fight. They add tension, they add drama, and they break up the gameplay which CAN be a good thing despite the author's objections.

Posted by Knight37 at June 24, 2005 12:49 PM

re: God of War

More specifically, I guess I thought it was interesting the way the blended the action between normal fighting and boss fighting. Some fights are just all buttonmashing, some are just combos and some are a bit of both. It's a neat way to blend the action together.

re: Bosses in general

My beef is that they are jarring, which seems in line with the points being made here. But ... if you think of it like a minigame, then it's dependant on how well that minigame is designed.

Posted by Josh at June 24, 2005 03:17 PM

I do agree with the majority of the article but that last line jarred me a little bit.

"No game in recent memory is at its best during a Boss battle"

In my opinion the best parts of the original Devil May Cry were the boss fights. Although increadibly hard, those battles with the Dark Knight and that giant spider (forgot his name) are up there in my favorite moments of gaming. They were hard, but the designers were toatally fair without making you jump through indescribable hoops to kill those guys.

Posted by Reddragon at June 25, 2005 01:29 AM

The authors state that the pacing of a game is thrown off when it takes 300 tries to figure out a boss/finally finish him off. I was just wondering how they think this is any different from e.g. in Splinter Cell when it takes 300 tries to get past an area without setting off the alarms (ostensibly to get a 100% on the level)? To me these are similar in their retardation of the pacing of a game (but can still be fun if done correctly, just as bosses can be). Like it has been said above, there are games with well-made bosses and games with bosses that are poorly made, just as there are games with poorly made puzzles and games with well-made ones.

I think it would be interesting to see a game in which you didn't have to *learn* how to be the badass that you're embodying by tackling a boss or a puzzle 300 times in a row before you finally cinch it and set off some epic in-game cinematic. I'd like to see a game with lots of puzzles that are doable (but still difficult) on the first try. That would give me a better sense that I truly *am* the character -- I would essentially have access to his skills and knowledge as opposed to being foiled by my own bumbling reaction times and lackluster intelligence. In other words, how realistic is it that the main characters from SC or God of War wouldn't pass their respective "tests" on the first try? Not very. They're frickin' badasses!

Overall, a decent article but I don't think it really goes beyond "a bad game is boring; a good game is fun" to stab at the very heart of the issue -- games are games are games and there haven't been very many innovations since their inception. Until there are true innovations, devs are going to be working with the same sets of materials and some of them do it better than others.

Posted by cackle at June 25, 2005 01:05 PM

I guess my core claim is that there are very very few, if any, well designed Bosses. In particular, most of the time the Bosses in games that are otherwise excellent are hateful and stupid.

To pick on a recent example: many people appear to be enamored of the Boss fights in Resident Evil 4. I would say that some of the larger set pieces were much more interesting because they had no hidden rules (whack the mole until something else pops out, which is the real mole) and were more connected to the core gameplay (shoot zombies).

The only thing I liked about the RE4 Bosses was that you could kill many of them with one shot if you obtained the right weapons. The one boss I did like was the first one. It actually introduced an interesting mechanic without forcing me into a lot of boring trial and error. The rest of them I could take or leave.

Posted by psu at June 25, 2005 01:55 PM

I think what's really up is that you are just playing the wrong games. Clearly you don't like games with bosses.

I on the other hand do. I can't imagine any Zelda without the bosses nor any Metroid nor Star Fox nor Mario. The bosses made those games far far more memorable and satisfying then they would have been without them IMO.

There are sucky bosses, yes, just as there are sucky games. I personally couldn't get into Splinter Cell because I couldn't deal with replaying such long levels when I got caught somewhere later in the level.

Your comparison of games with bosses to Madden is totally ludicrous. Football isn't a super hero fantasy. Can you imagine Star Wars without the the death star? Can you imagine Jedi without the Darth - Luke fight? Can you imagine Batman not fighting the bad guy at the end? Can you imagine any James Bond movie where he doesn't have to fight the bad guy? Fighting the bosses is the whole friggen point.

Posted by gman at June 26, 2005 02:17 PM

> Football isn't a super hero fantasy.


> Fighting the bosses is the whole friggen point.

As I think we've made clear, fighting bosses is just fine. Fighting Bosses is just stupid.

Posted by peterb at June 26, 2005 05:29 PM

I was going to say the same thing: without bosses, how does one end an adventure game? But then I remembered you made a point to distinguish a difference between bosses and Bosses. Nevertheless, my opinion follows.

Pac-Man didn't have Bosses, but there's a game that theoretically never ends. There always has to be a dragon at the center of the maze or else there's no reason to go in unless you're a weakling-exterminator getting paid by the hour.
Sports and puzzle games don't have Bosses because there's no pervasive evil to extinguish -- no all-consuming threat to permanently put a stop to by destroying the source/leader.

And yes, some Bosses are horribly overpowered in relation to the rest of their respective games. (like Diablo in Diablo II [I still haven't beaten him with my Necromancer. My friend says I need a particular spell, but I didn't research that tree. How frustrating...] and come to think of it, the economy of purchasing items needs serious work... I have issues with that game.) But throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the answer.

So why does this happen? Lazy programming? Probably, but more likely is lack of appropriate testing time (glitches anyone?). Rushing games to market is no more conducive to superior gameplay than endlessly tweaking that last little insignificant detail.

Posted by Overseer at June 26, 2005 07:47 PM

My suggestion: you end action/adventure games with a final challenging encounter that fits in line with the core gameplay and narrative of the game that came before, not with some wierd uber-beast that I have to read the walkthrough to know how to beat.

Posted by psu at June 26, 2005 09:21 PM

Well it seems like this whole discussion is a little console heavy. but heres my two cents.

Zelda well I am a totally certified Zelda Fanboi so I'm not going to say anymore (I bought a gamecube for windwaker)

The bosses of Devil may cry was actually the only thing that kept me going thru that game since the essentiall game mechanics was utterly tedious. Other than that I will say the Seeker worms, and Thorn no to mention the Kernel himself from Tron 2.0 was A ok in my book. Now the bosses from Doom3 Ressurection of Evil was a little Arcade like, but it felt good to finaly kick Bertrugers Demonic ass.

On the other hand Far Cry provided with an incredibly fun, interesting, involving gaming experience until the completely blindside the player by throwing in a helicopter that takes at least 8 missiles to shoot down, and this after the player har destroyed countless of these exact same choppers with a singel missile, or a couple of ammo clips, shees.

Now the Theif games had more of the type of boss puzzles rather than any conventional bosses, the best game of the series being Theif II: The metal age and the final level in the mechanist tempel.

Posted by Tor Torden at June 27, 2005 10:28 AM

I agree with the idea that Boss battles can be incredilbly frustrating and in some cases are completely useless. The complete eradication of them from games is a bit extreme in my opinion. In some genres of games boss battles can be quite exciting and rewarding. The own thing that is probably universally true is that there is no more frustrating thing in games than the poorly engineered Boss fight. Well the one thing greater is the poorly engineered Boss fight combined with a lack of quick save.

Posted by David at July 2, 2005 01:20 PM

Ill put this simple. There are only three elements really in a game that defines it:

1) The boss's in order of Hierarchy
~ Like it or not they are the core of the game. There are exceptions but they are at most usually only exceptions.

2) Distractions
~ A game with Distractions is a good game. This is pretty much anything from side quests to minigames and even those traditional pesky conversations between NPC's. (You know the ones that have you going back at forth between NPC's with different tid bits of information for them etc)

3) The Goals
~ Live by it games must have goals. This is the point of a Game to win or lose. For example in the horrible and evil game boy pokemon series you had two major goals 1) To be the best...cough cough and 2) To catch em all. This was frustrating for most of us and most just gave up however a few stuck 2 the game despite its many and I say many floors. heh. Goals are in everything if it is to get to the other side of the road, maybe to destroy the evil space monkey reeking havoc in downtown L.A. or maybe just stopping evil aliens on an massive Halo: P. Live by it learn by it.

I also noticed that allot of you were both saying you enjoyed the thrill of killing a boss but hated the monotony of breaking it down. In the old days of gaming this wasn’t such a big issue but developers should be using technology as it currently is to their advantage. The main problem back in the old days was AI. We no longer have that problem so why are there so few really intense and good fights with "Boss's" now?

As a final thought strictly as a game designer myself there are many flaws associated with the "Boss" issue. Of course the moves etc will loop and almost always there will be some sort of weakness or move that does more damage/etc. This however does not excuse the evil boss stereotype of a boss that steps forward shoots 3 bullets steps back waits three seconds does a special and then move left and right shooting randomly in your direction before returning to step forward and shoot 3 bullets.

I try to make my boss fights in my games more complex then a simple slugfest. Mainly in my RPG's. In such one I just coded in a scene where you have to avoid the enemy elementals by jumping to different platforms and switching off crystals. Add this to the fact of water eruptions that move your hero great distances over the map. And when you finally disengage the crystals and think your safe only then does the boss emerges who chases you and although not impossible 2 avoid it will eventually catch you. When it does only then does the real hack and slash begin...

So really the main thought is to all you game designers or project coordinators to motivate your programmers to develop your boss's a little more. Give the AI some very hellish things 2 do. And NEVER have all the moves on a timed sequence completely. A good boss will interact with the environment in some ways (because most likely it will be THERE environment and you will be the Intruder) they will also have a large cycle of moves anywhere from 15-30 different styled moves that it does in random sequences. This combined with overall strength and speed of the Boss makes a hellish fight. But at the end you can sit back put the controller down and just say "Bet you I could do that again and lose no health"...of course then the playability of the boss comes into it and the player will feel that they get more bang for there buck quite literally. This has been Cronius just mumbling lol. So yeah.

Game Dev

Posted by Cronius at July 8, 2005 02:46 AM

"This is one of the reasons [Donkey Kong 64] is universally acknowledged as one of the worst platform games ever created."

Funny story: I'm sitting in the same office as one of the guys who worked on DK64, and quoted this to him. He shrugged and said, "still sold 5.4 million copies". Touche! :-) Incidentally neither he nor I were aware of the universal acknowledgement, something of an exaggeration methinks!

That said, I agree with quite a lot of what you say. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within was utterly ruined by two completely pointless, tedious, insanely difficult and illogical boss fights in which all the fun things about the rest of the game, and all the skills and tricks you had learned in order to progress, were thrown out the window. Not only did you have to learn a new method of playing, but you had to get it right hundreds of times in a row to take off their health, while they could hit you three or four times and it was all over. It was excruciatingly painful and I hated it, intensely, with a passion, I wanted whoever came up with the idea of doing it to die horribly and spend the remainder of eternity in Hell. Gah, Bosses suck. Give me a boss ahead of a Boss any day!

Posted by Andy P at October 27, 2005 04:52 AM

DK64 sold millions of copies because it had the name "Donkey Kong" on it. That seems fairly clear.

Hopefully, that person (and you) work for Rareware, in which case I am compelled, by law, to tell you to hurry up and make Banjo Threeie already.

Posted by peterb at October 27, 2005 07:54 AM

Unfortunately I am also compelled by law (or Microsoft anyway and it's much the same thing in the end) to say, "no comment". :-) Sorry!

Posted by Andy P at October 27, 2005 08:52 AM

If a game ends with a Hideously Difficult Boss, I don't bother finishing it. Ever. It's not worth the hassle. I know other gamers who do the same thing.

People who like Hideously Difficult Bosses are generally adrenaline junkies. Note the poster above who likes the "tension" they add. Said adrenaline junkies are a core group of gamers, but I think most gamers are like me — I want to have fun. I'm not a teenager anymore, I have quite enough tension in my life, thank you. I also REALLY do not believe frustration should be a major goal of game designers. If you're designing games, and all you can come up with is to torture the game-players, you're short of ideas and imagination. There's a big difference between being legitimately challenged and being driven to a desire to throttle the game designer and throw the controller at the screen.

I've always thought the best RPGs are the ones in which the really tough bosses are optional. If you beat them, you get special bonuses, rare weapons, etc. What I hate is games in which you have to beat insanely difficult bosses to progress farther in the game.

Personally, I liked DK 64. It was a bit easy, but the animations were fun. I've always liked the challenge of making difficult jumps in platformers, but there you go — different strokes for different folks.

As to the poster who claimed "games must have goals," well — exploring is a goal. Wandering around aimlessly in a well-designed environment is a goal (in Super Mario 64, I loved dicking around in the park in front of the castle, doing long jumps, triple jumps, and dives into the pond, for the sheer joy of utilizing the best game controls ever).

Posted by hector at November 4, 2005 03:10 PM

Guess I'm an adrenaline junkie. :)

Posted by LnGrrrR at November 8, 2005 06:45 PM

Hear, hear. Good post. I have just shelved Gun (which was short bun fun) 96% finished, thanks to the horribly annoying and stupid Boss fight at the end.

The thing that really makes Boss fights suck is that you have honed your skills and tactics throughout the game, only to have the game replaced by a boring, stupid and repetitive mini game that has *nothing* to do with the gameplay leading up to it. It's like having the Stanley Cup finals replaced by 433 rounds of rock, paper, scissors.

We have computers to do boring and repetitive things for us, not the other way around.

When I have played a game and reach a climatic moment in the game I want to make use of the skills and upgrades I have aquired. Make the boss smarter, tougher, faster - so I can beat him by being even smarter, tougher or or faster. Force me to develop new skills and tactics (and don't dare to call "run in circles for five minutes, shoot a geyser, repeat ad nauseam" a tactic). But don't change the rules of the game.

I threw the control away in disgust after ten minutes with Magruder in Gun, but I spent days (or was it weeks?) getting the "International A license" in Gran Turismo.

Bosses are not a challenge, just a waste of time. And lazy game design.

Posted by Max at March 31, 2006 05:27 PM

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