The Daily Grind: What makes for a good MMO boss fight?

    
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Thanks to the DikuMUD model, MMO players have fought many, many bosses in their gaming careers. New dungeons primarily are introduced by how many bosses they hold, not necessarily their themes or sights. Players slaver over downing bosses to get to the desirable loot that they hold, and as such, conflict is inevitable and unending.

That said, what really makes for a good MMO boss encounter? Is it the presentation? Unique mechanics? Memorable quotes? Stiff challenge? Moments for each class role to shine? Length? Chaotic visuals?

I’d love to see us step into developers’ shoes today and break apart what makes for a stellar boss fight. What do you think?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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kjempff
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kjempff

– It should not be “puzzle fight” where you have to figure out the one and only solution. Versatility in tactical approaches should be possible.
Meaning the developer should not overdesign the encounter, but they should test and remove exploits..continuously – Sound like work for the developer, and the bad news .. it is.

– It should have randomized elements, from random phase sequences, to boss skills & usages, to boss helpers attributes or behaviours, anything that makes sense. Obvious reasons; to avoid facerolling, engage the player to be present, make the game feel more alive, in some cases it will prevent bots, for co-op fights create social connections between players (small things like these are also social).

– It should have infinite or at least some number of retry attempts, and without clearing half a dungeon again (generally respawning is not a fun behavior), especially for group/raid encounters. It may be hardcore to fail and have to wait 3 days, or fail and have to re-clear everything, but in this case fun trumps hardcore.

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Dean Greenhoe

Should not be a static location or interval on appearance. Make the community finde them and communicate location. Add some changes in the actual encounter including abilities, size amd power to add some flavor.

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mysecretid

For me, personally? Something which feels adventurous (i.e. fun) and semi-spontaneous, as opposed to something where you have to watch YouTube strategy videos in advance, or do internet research, to even have a hope of surviving.

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3dom

Boss should be killable no matter what level of reaction the player has – like Monster Hunter World bosses (except for that stupid FF cross-play Behemoth which convinced me to never try FF). And drop some loot or at least loot tokens, otherwise I’ll just go play other activities or better yet – other games.

Example of bad boss design: I don’t want to return to Warframe nd Dauntless because these clowns have locked some content behind nigh-unkillable bosses. Screw that.

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Ben Stone

I like it when the solutions to the fight are intuitive rather than needing datamining or distracting OOC messages popping up to know what is going on.

I should be able to see where the attacks are being aimed and dodge, or see the weak spot, pick up on attack patterns, or notice something in the room that I can use to my advantage.

MMOs could learn a lot from single player RPGs in this regard. Yes I want to see where an attack is going so I can dodge, no I don’t want it to be a giant red circle of obvious badness.

I also kind of hate the easy availability of strats before content even comes out, and the expectation that everyone already knows them. I know that is kind of unavoidable these days, but I miss the days of trial and error and exploration.

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rafael12104

So, it depends on the content. A raid boss shouldn’t be as easy to kill as a quest boss, you know what I mean. So, the mechanics and difficulty should fit the content.

A few general rules of thumb.

A boss should be more than an hp meat bag. Even at lower difficulty settings. The AI and the encounter should be dynamic so that more than just spamming attack is required.

In raids and dungeons should require group coordination. This is more than just a click of a button here and there. Moving the boss and group dynamics to generate debuffs or pierce the bosses protection should be required.

Group combos are a great thing. Tactics that allow all classes to play a role in a group combo that hurts and eventually downs a boss make things fun.

No single points of failure. If a player misses the timing of a mechanic there should be a way to recover. No need to put failure all on one player. It is a group effort.

No random kill shots. I’ve seen this in higher difficulty raids and dungeons and it is a cheap way to increase the difficulty. One shots IMO for a missed mechanic shouldn’t be group wide. Survivors should be able to recover if resourceful.

A boss fights should always be challenging, but the length of a fight should not dictate the challenge.

I’ll stop there to save you more walls of text. Heh.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

I would prefer no boss fights. The whole concept is out dated and silly.

kjempff
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kjempff

I tend to agree. However, how that might be possible and still keep a challenging progression system going… not an easy design task.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Challenging and fun fight mechanics.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Since I cannot edit the post, I wanted to add something. This is not about “good fight” but about GOOD GAME DESIGN.

Any boss fight should be made soloable in any game. Doesn’t matter how you do it – by giving your player more HP and damage or by giving you NPC companions.
A lot of extremely selfish people forget that not everyone can sit in a basement for several hours a day or for whole day. Many people have limited time for playing games due to the fact they work and have family or friends, so they can only play for limited amount of time. Preventing them from experiencing a boss fight because of long queues at certain time of the day or specific schedule set up by raid leader is a BAD thing. Let them be able to experience the boss encounter whenever THEY have time for, without waiting. You can take away rewards from loot table, it does not matter to people who just want to experience it themselves and who have only limited time to do so or who may have to immediately leave the game at any time or pause it for various reasons.

TL;DR: Let people do any boss fight solo. Many people in real life do not have enough time to wait in queues or may need to pause game at any time or may not want to be in a group of other players due to things like social anxiety. Preventing them from completing boss fights solo because they cannot play in group of other players is a BAD thing and very BAD game design. You can still let other basement dwellers play with other players by scaling down their HP and damage.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

As a human being and not a person who designs games by copying other games, here are the good parts about boss fights:

1) Unique music, which fits the theme of the boss and which has different variety

For an examples, look at FFXIV Trials with Titan, Shiva, Lakshmi, Titania and of course the Copied Factory.

That is it, everything else is irrelevant, especially the mechanics – people should watch guides before doing the bosses to learn how to avoid the preprogrammed attack pattern in order to not be a selfish idiots and not inconvenience their teammates.
Of course, if there are no guides available yet – you will have to go through a torture by trying to learn the pattern in game itself but with the way people are doing this type of content in any MMORPG it will not take long for people to share the attack pattern in Discord or on YouTube or on reddit.