On Bosses

Someone has asked me ‘does Ultima Ratio Regum have bosses?’, and that is the topic of today’s blog entry.

The short answer is: no. Bosses traditionally appear the ends of levels, and URR doesn’t have ‘levels’, as such. There are no discrete points at which one zone ends and another begins that are explicitly programmed into the game – these are generated all on their own.

Closer to the mark are the non-central quest lines in Oblivion. You can choose whether or not you want to help the Mages Guild, Fighters Guild etc, and each of their plotlines generally results in a unique, ‘boss’ level character. One such example is Mannimacro, the Necromancer extraordinaire who lurks in a cave. As they are prone to do. He is utterly non-essential, but can still be found at the end of the Mages Guild plotline, gives unique rewards, and is a much bigger challenge than most comparable foes (unless he forgets to attack you, gets stuck up his own backside, or any one of other glitches).

URR, however, works differently. Creatures in a certain class have a variety of strengths. If you make your way through a fort of Orcs, for instance, you’ll encounter a variety of low-level Orcs, along with some warriors, a few involved in running the places, and the bloke in charge. These ranks can and will dynamically chance throughout the game as Orcs rise and fall, but you’ll generally (hopefully) get a reasonable distribution of creature strengths. Now and then, you’ll meet an Orc lucky enough to have an incredible set of armor, devoted followers, and high combat skills, but that will simply because he or she has risen to that height; not because they were deliberately spawned that way. These, therefore, are certainly not ‘bosses’. Similarly, the ends of a dungeon might just be a stone wall, if you’ve killed everything inside them already.

However, there are a class of unusual beings who are probably the closest URR comes to bosses. There are currently about twenty penned, all of whom have unique abilities, locations, rewards, and a variety of other properties. Slaying these unique creatures will bring you instant recognition and praise from anyone unfortunate to live near their lair, and some general approval from anybody who knows of their existence. However, I intend to make it possible that some villages or settlements may actually come to worship these creatures – killing a creature they revere as a god is not the best way to earn their approval.

What are these creatures like? None are probably quite as gross as, say, centipede-human Mendez from Resident Evil 4. They range across a variety of sizes, a variety of guises – humanoid and not – and can be found in all kinds of places.

Additionally, these encounters should function like ‘choke points’. Whereas much of the game will be utterly different on each generation, these unique creatures are things every player might encounter. I think they could serve as points for comparison between players with the exchanging of information, tactics, and similar. I’m also thinking of implementing specific features relating to these unique creatures that earn you high rewards, or allow for sharing between players, or even competitions. Nevertheless, not just are they rare and deadly, but they are hard to find – expect to climb to the top of the highest peak of delve into the deepest sub-volcanic cavern to find them all!

These creatures may not appear in the alpha. The map will be too empty, and there will be no NPCs to point you in the right direction or tell you stories of their horror. However, before too long, you should be able to find these things, hunt them down, and claim your rewards.

Well… maybe there’ll be one or two out there.

Coming Monday 14th: The final world map.

Coming Monday 21st: Ultima Ratio Regum, Skyrim, and thoughts on ‘Radiant’ questlines…

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6 thoughts on “On Bosses

  1. Sounds excellent and in time I’d imagine their numbers will grow as things get more sophisticated and underway outright.

    The growth aspect also leads me to think there’s probably a good line to be explored with some sort of group of entities expressly trying experiment/meddle with “survival of the fittest”/breeding towards some manner of ends that could turn out any number of ways and the fallout to be dealt with throughout and as a result. Something like the whole “Kid Conan on a wheel” perhaps as but one of several possibilities.

  2. I wish I could write like you. My blog gets technical updates only, I have a hard time writing down my thought process.

    I especially like the idea of having some bosses being worshipped by the local populace. My ‘bosses’ get allied to a random party of nearby creatures, but I guess I could make it more interesting then that.

    Remember that bosses give you an opportunity to create story in a progen world. For instance, I have a boss that pops out of a book, a demon that was trapped there by another boss. If you happen to ‘summon’ this demon in the presence of his captor… well, kill two birds with one stone.

    I’m interested in how you approach the issue of “choke points”, a tricky but essential issue.

    Game looks like it’ll be tons of fun. Good luck!

  3. Coming Monday 21st: Ultima Ratio Regum, Skyrim, and thoughts on ‘Radiant’ questlines…

    I’m very curious about this update. I personally think Skyrim won’t live up to it’s hype.

    I never liked this “boss” idea. It’s an arcade genre thing. Bosses should evolve in the way of “survival of the fittest” like getter77 mentioned. If you are playing a RPG you expect that every gameplay is going to be different. You don’t expect to kill every same boss in every same game. It turns the game into an action game. The Elder Scrolls -my former favorite RPG series- is turning into an action game series. I wish I could play Daggerfall with the graphics of Oblivion.

    By the way, sorry for my bad English. I’m trying to write this with my hands freezing and I drank 3 beers AND English is my second language. Looking forward to the alpha version!

  4. @ Getter – I think so. I’m hoping to eventually have maybe 50+ unique creatures from various locations. Interesting idea re: survival/growth. Once I’ve got it working, I think I’m going to just let it play out for the time being. Some species will definitely fight within themselves for leadership/supremacy, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all works out.

    @ Eclectocrat – wow, thanks : ). I suspect I’ll end up having more technical updates once the first alpha is out in a few months and I’m putting in bug fixes and adding features and whatnot. If you’re interesting in getting thought process updates, I’d suggest writing down why you’re adding in a feature *while* you program at, since that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve then been using those notes to explain on the blog.

    Villages will sometimes worship a much stronger creature as a god. It’ll sometimes be a generic high-level creature, but also sometimes a unique. I completely agree with you on the chance for bosses to create story – I want to “connect” them to as much of the world as possible so killing them really has an impact, but that impact varies each game.

    Choke points – well, most on that in a later entry. And generally, thanks for the support : )

    @ Leatra – I’m relatively confident it will live up to the hype. I adored Oblivion sufficiently that my hopes are high, but we’ll have to see. As for bosses, I’ve always felt bosses are the high point of any game, so I wanted to add that feeling, but I wanted most of the ‘bosses’ to be generated by the survival of the fittest. Those that are unique and special will be randomly placed, defended, worshipped, etc, instead. Specifically, though, the Skyrim entry will be about the radiant story, and the kind of ‘story’ I’m going for in URR.
    Also, your English was pretty much perfect throughout the whole comment! : )

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