Week 2 Discussion: Boss Issue

March 29, 2016

The scenario:

You are working on a sci/fi first person shooter. Tester feedback has been coming in and they feel that the boss fight on level 4 is “frustrating and slow”. What steps can you take to solve this issue? Note that you don’t have further information from the testers (which is very common).


How I would fix testers feed back of a level four boss fight being to “frustrating and slow”.

1: Lower the bosses health and/or defense.

  • Frustration: Playing games I enjoy watching the health of my opponent drop drastically. I am sure this is the same with many other gamers as they are executing moves. If the health is too high it may not be noticeable and therefore is perceived as a frustration.

  • Slow: Lowering the health bar will reduce the time to defeat the boss in battle thus defeat the issue of it being too slow.


2: Increase players’ damage range.

  • Frustration: Like the health issue if the bosses health is not dropping at a noticeable pace it may be an issue of the damage being too low for the amount of health the boss possesses. Increasing the damage range the player deals within will eliminate the frustration factor.

  • Slow: Time is money, more time you spend working on something the less you make, so dealing extra damage you are eliminating the barrier faster, freeing the player to move on and the slow factor doesn’t even come into effect. They will notice the health bar dropping quicker and that will bolster their reserve to quickly finish off the boss.


3: The bosses’ body divided up in damage quadrants.

  • Frustration: By dividing up the body into damage levels this decreases the frustration level by giving a quicker kill and the player sees in real time that hitting different locations deals different levels of damage. 

  • Slow: If the player is able to land consecutive head shots they’ll notice the health bar going down a lot faster than if they land consecutive limb shots. This eliminates the feeling of time they’ll attempt to concentrate their shots to a certain location. Which in turn is a sleight of hand they’ll be too concerned with lining up their shots to notice how long it took them to do it.


4: Give the player combo modifiers.

  • Frustration: In response to landing multiple well-aimed shots to a specific location in noteworthy time frame they deal more and more damage up to five times the damage. This gives the player something to aim for when going into the boss, and will eliminate the frustration level; they’ll have a goal within a goal to achieve. They’ll be focusing on the multipliers too much to notice the time going by.

  • Slow: If the multipliers are racking up the boss dies quicker thereby eliminating the slowness issue. 


5: Give the player skill modifiers during the fight.

  • Frustration: Giving the player skill modifiers during the fight can be anything, ammo drop that does extra damage, a sleight of hand such as a smoke bomb making the player invisible to the boss for a moment to get around behind him thus implementing the ability to deal extra damage. This lowers the frustration level because it is eliminates the monotonous barrage of bullets the player has to issue to reach the end result.

  • Slow: By adding the modifier it gives the illusion of a speedy take down the player will be utilizing the world around them to rout the menace. When your attention is not on the work at hand time flies.


6: Implement a time limit cross-referenced with remaining health.

  • Frustration: Giving the player a timer gives them a sense of urgency and they’ll work quickly and methodically, dealing as much damage in any range they can commit. The timer can’t be set so low as to not give them a chance to inflict enough damage but it can’t be too long or else it runs into the problem of it running to slow. If there isn’t enough damage done by 10 seconds remaining the damage is increased for that time period. 

  • Slow: Doing it this way rewards the players with the effect of time going by really quick and can be a powerful tool if you pair it with the right music. The time wont seem so slow if you play some scream-o and have a 2 minute timer to get the extensive job done.


7: Pump up the volume. 

  • Frustration: Changing out the music for the often-used boss battle music change it to something quick paced and loud such as scream-o. As outlined with the implication of the time limit in number 6, music is a powerful tool; the right music for the job can eliminate or increase the frustration level. Finding the right mix will eliminate it and the slow issue.

  • Slow: I once took a test at my church where we were split up in three groups of five. Five of us listened to classical music, five of us listened to Scream-o and five of us had no music at all and we were all given the same word search. We had one minute to complete as much as we could in that time limit, the results were: The people classical got the farthest but it felt like an eternity. The people with no music got distracted easily but did manage to find more words than the ones listening to scream-o. The ones in scream-o found 1-2 words on average. The point being the music gave the illusion that time has different paces based on the type of music. The right music will give the illusion of a different time limit.


8: “Coup de Grace” meter.

  • Frustration: Adding a “Coup de Grace” meter will give the player the illusion that they are dealing enough damage. The harder or well placed their aim is the higher the damage and thus the faster the “Coup de Grace” can be activated. Activating the “Coup de Grace” increases their damage modifier a large sum more than what they normally do, and it lasts for few moments where the bosses defense and health is greatly diminished.

  • Slow: By having the “Coup de Grace” meter this gives the player the illusion of time is sped up, they are focusing more on the damage they are dealing to quickly fill that meter so they can execute the maneuver. This will eliminate the feeling of it being to slow.


9: Stealth attack damage modifier.

  • Frustration: Stealth damage inflicts double or triple the amount of damage during the time the player is shrouded in mystery. Using special abilities or modifiers to give the illusion that the player is not there will increase the damage that coupled with the “Coup de Grace”, and damage modifiers will quickly end the fight and the frustration levels.

  • Slow: Example of this working is “Skyrim” while in crouch and aiming down the sights of your bow. The Elk has no clue your there and you hit it square in the frame you drop it in one hit, the more damage you do the faster it goes by, and the less likely it will feel like the fight is dragging on.


10: Teamwork, calling in the cavalry.

  • Frustration: Having the ability to call in the cavalry when your life is reaching a low or near the end of a fight can turn the tide of battle. Calling in the Cavalry could work essentially like the “Coup de Grace” but it would be a group of “NPC” that are there to either distract or help eliminate the boss. This will take the focus off the player giving the player a moment to stall and regroup. 

  • Slow: This gives the player an opportunity to collect his wits and study potential areas they are missing that will help them remove the obstacle in front of them. The boss, they won’t have time to feel as if it’s going too slow.

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