Boss Rooms?

I was thinking about an interesting gameplay mechanic: what if there was a game that had no boss rooms? OK, don’t get smart with me; there would still be bosses themselves. Just no traditional boss rooms.

You could enter a particular room where you might encounter a boss. Typically at that point in the game, if you are playing something akin to a traditional platformer, the door behind you will lock or you will be confined (artificially by the camera, for instance) to a certain area until the boss is taken down or you die. But what if that wasn’t the case? Say that door behind you didn’t lock, and after seeing the boss you run back through it in a flight of terror. Now wouldn’t that be interesting…

The whole point here would be to have some sort of dynamic, flexible boss battle. Most of the time, when you fight bosses in more traditional games, you are restricted from exercising the option of retreat. But what if we gave that choice back to the player? What if the boss said, hypothetically, “Hey, why am I staying in this one room? I should chase my opponent!”, and gave pursuit? What if an entire dungeon suddenly became the battleground for your epic boss encounters? I mean, we’re so used to the “find boss, drop everything else, take it down” agenda. It’s not a particularly bad or flawed agenda. But think about how the atmosphere of a game could change if the boss could move outside of that prison known as a “boss room”.

Example 1

As an example, I envision a hero fighting to protect a train from invading attackers. He moves from the front of the train all the way to the back, where he finds some big hulking droid waiting for him. It targets our hero, and the “boss battle” begins. But the hero could decide to flee back into one of the previous train cars. Now what? Maybe while our hero is fighting off leftover grunts, our boss will suddenly blast a hole in the train car’s ceiling and drop in. Maybe our hero will then jump through the hole, followed by the droid, and now they’re fighitng on top of a car with who knows what in the background. And maybe this is actually a secondary way to defeat the boss. What if there’s a tunnel ahead? The hero dives and ducks while our hefty droid’s face meets with cement going at 80 mph.

Example 2

Imagine dungeon crawling with this kind of set-up. You could be going up an elevator shaft in the elevator when suddenly in drops your favorite boss from the top of the shaft, pushing you back down. You drop into the closest room and hide. But it might follow you. All the while, you’re dealing with other enemies, perhaps trying to explore, and attempting to not let every background noise make you jump. The next explosion could be that big bad boss busting through a wall.

* * * * *

There are so many options and possibilities. It could seriously heighten the excitement and suspense in a game to do such a thing. Boss battles might become more than 2-3 minute ordeals. You might be taking cover, trying to manage your health, replenishing supplies… battling hard to make sure this war of attrition that’s already lasted 15 minutes doesn’t end in failure with an impending retry. It could add a greater sense of urgency and value to the game as a whole, where every decision or mistake you make could be the difference between losing your last hour of progress or clearing a dungeon. But the point is the decision lies with you, the player, and your options and possibilities extend with the boss’s as well.

Don’t you think that would add some interesting depth to a game? If only…

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Posted in Design

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