Building Better Bosses

I'm returning to a fundamental theme of my first entry: the tension between the need (or desire) to tell a story in a particular way, and the need to keep the player involved and immersed - by maintaining the consistency and believability of the game-world. Once again I have specific Halo examples in mind - the boss-battles in Halo 2, and Halo 3. Obviously, this means Halo 3 Campaign spoilers, so stop reading here if this is a problem for you.

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What exactly is a boss-battle? Looking at Halo 3, each Scarab encounter might be considered a boss-battle, and the final encounter with 343 GS is most definitely a boss-battle. In each case, you're fighting an opponent with vastly superior fire-power and very specific vulnerabilities. That's about as good a definition of a boss-battle as I think we're going to get. Personally, I find that the Scarab-battles are enjoyable to play, whereas 'fighting' 343 GS is a chore which detracts from my enjoyment of, and immersion in, the game.

The critical differences between these encounter-types seem to boil down to flexibility and consistency. Taking flexibility first; though there's ultimately only one way to destroy a Halo 3 Scarab (by attacking the power core), there are so many ways to achieve this that the player has great freedom of action and scope for tactical invention. There's only one way to kill 343 GS, one weapon which can do it, and one place from which it can be done. That's not gameplay - it's ritual.

The consistency issue is rather less clear-cut. Though the Scarab's tactical weaknesses and vulnerabilities (for example, the slow traverse speed of the main cannon, the squat-when-legs-damaged behaviour and the rear armour weakness) are slightly artificial, they're not flagrant violations of the physics and conventions of the game-world - just typical examples of compromises which must be made to balance gameplay and stay within hardware limitations.

The case of 343 GS, however, is significantly different. Guilty Spark's beam-weapon is so powerful that the player can only survive by dodging. In order to make this easy and convenient, Guilty Spark's normal ability to pivot rapidly on the spot has to be degraded so far that he'd have trouble tracking an elderly tortoise with his all-conquering red death-ray. Then there's his irresistible field, which could so easily push the player straight over the edge of the catwalk, if 343 GS just moved a few metres to the side. This field seems to exist primarily in order to keep the player confined to one small area so that he'll be able to pick up the Spartan Laser from Johnson before Guilty Spark recovers from the first blast - which has such notably different effects from the subsequent ones. This encounter isn't just artificial and contrived - it's blatantly artificial and clumsily contrived.

Before going on to the questions I've just begged - why Bungie would do this, and how they could have avoided it - it's worth comparing my two examples with their counterparts in Halo 2. Halo 2's Scarab could only be boarded from tall structures (requiring very specialised level-design), and was completely invulnerable to the player ("Bullets won't stop it, rockets won't stop it - we may have to use nuclear force scripting and a cutscene!"). The Halo 3 Scarab has been comprehensively redesigned with an eye to improving gameplay, reusability and functional transparency, and I think most players would regard it as a resounding success. How does Halo 3's Guilty Spark boss-battle compare with its Halo 2 counterparts; the encounters with the Heretic Leader, Prophet of Regret, and Tartarus? My own reaction would be - it's easier, quicker and less annoying. Clearly, that's an overall improvement, but it's also rather faint praise - especially when we consider why the Guilty Spark boss-battle should exist in the first place.

We can now answer that last question with some confidence, thanks to N'Gai Croal's recently-published interview with Joe Staten. Staten's comments regarding the Halo movie attracted the most attention at the time, but the following section was what caught my eye:

"I think that was one of the more satisfying moments in Halo 2: jumping on the Prophet of Regret's throne and beating him up while he's yelling at you. That was something we always wanted to pull off in the first game, but didn't have a chance to do that."

Joe Staten's idea of fun is obviously a little different from mine, but the implication is clear. Staten. and presumably others at Bungie, consider that the player will so thoroughly enjoy taking personal revenge on certain characters that it's worth expending developer effort on special-case code - and completely violating the canons of Halo gameplay - in order to achieve this. While most of us would probably agree that - in the abstract - personally fighting and beating an arch-enemy could be satisfying, I'm fairly certain that for many of us, 'satisfying' isn't the adjective which springs to mind when we think of these encounters. In the case of Guilty Spark, the combat is so heavily constrained (presumably to minimise player frustration) that it becomes, quite simply, perfunctory. The lack of challenge translates directly into lack of satisfaction, thus rendering the whole encounter largely pointless.

As for the alternative to a boss-battle, that's obvious - a cutscene. Truth's death is handled that way, and though I don't rate that particular cutscene very highly, I still think it's preferable to Player vs. Regret, Round 2. The Guilty Spark battle is, in fact, already just a brief interlude of (limited) player control between two cutscenes - and I'd argue that the whole sequence would work better, and be more involving, if the combat was represented as a climactic action scene. By way of compensation, the cutscene could end after Johnson's death, leaving the player to press the final, fateful button and make his own way to the door.

Some (perhaps many) of you may wonder why I've expended this much time and effort on this subject. There are two parts to the answer; the first is that I've enjoyed the Halo series so much that any perceived blemish - especially if it's the result of a design decision - is especially disappointing. The second part of the answer is that this is a good example of a type of error (as I see it) which I observed many times in my own games industry career. Sometimes I was been able to talk people out of it, sometimes not. This final section is effectively a compendium of all the things I wish I'd said in the course of those arguments.

Fundamentally, I dislike the Guilty Spark boss-battle because it's clumsy and inelegant - the relevant paragraph above spells out why, and I won't repeat it. It's a multiple violation of the most basic maxims of design, valid in literature, art, engineering, formal logic and many other disciplines - economy of means, and self-consistency. These two concepts are closely related, and in practice it can be hard to draw a dividing line between them. The first principle turns up everywhere from Occam's razor (Do not multiply entities beyond necessity) to the KISS rule; 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'. The second principle - self-consistency - is an absolute rule in any rigorous or quantitative discipline, but also appears in many artistic contexts - the Classical Unities, the scorn visited upon an author who lazily introduces a deus ex machina, and the 'fair puzzle' rule of the classic detective story, for example.

Neither of these maxims is an absolute in game design (or any other artistic endeavour), but experience suggests that you should think long and hard before - and after - you break them. It's worth remembering that when programmers do this kind of thing, the resulting code is almost always infested with bugs. Restating my point (one last time) in terms specific to game-design: Whenever you're tempted to include a feature which will require special-case code, used nowhere else in the game, treat this as an urgent warning sign. Red lights should be flashing and sirens whooping in your head. Step back and think about what you're trying to achieve in broad terms, rather than blindly pursuing one specific scenario. Is there really no way to accomplish your underlying purpose within your existing game systems? Or is there a consistent way to extend these systems which will pay off in richer gameplay throughout the game? Since this sort of case should usually be identifiable early in the design process, there should be time available to come up with a superior solution.

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narcogen's picture
narcogen
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Re: Building Better Bosses

Actually while I'm not a fan of the boss battle concept I do disagree on the 343GS boss battle. I agree it is somewhat inelegant and not ideal, but on a visceral level, you just can't put that in a cutscene.

At some point Halo 3 would become a movie and not a game.

Look at what ends up happening:

Truth kidnaps Johnson (2nd time in this game Johnson's taken prisoner) and then Keyes stages a rescue. Truth takes out Keyes. In a cutscene.

You finally catch up with Truth and kill him. Or, rather, the Arbiter kills him. In a cutscene.

Gravemind makes his only Halo 3 onscreen appearance. As a tentacle. In a cutscene.

343GS deals Johnson a fatal blast, preventing him from firing 04a. In a cutscene.

The thing I liked about Halo cutscenes is that traditionally they were not action-based. It's an action game, the action should take place during the gameplay. Cutscenes are for scene-setting, backstory, conversation, atmosphere-- not action. A lot of Halo 3's action takes place in the cutscenes-- a lot of climactic action.

I think putting the 343GS battle into the game is an absolute must. Without it, that level is just blasting a few flood and then grabbing a ride. Players have been shooting at 343GS since the first game and hoping it would have some effect. Finally in Halo 3 we get a gun that actually can have an effect-- and for me that makes it consistent. The splazer is a powerful gun. I've got no trouble believing that, for whatever reason, it's the only thing in the UNSC armory that's able to hurt him.

I can see why, to some extent, the Truth scene is done the way it is. We've already fought a prophet. If Bungie couldn't come up with something better than the chair, then it's fine to let this one go. Plus, it gives the Arbiter a reason to be in the story-- this is a more personal fight for him anyway.

However, where you don't get to actually fight Gravemind-- at least, not the Gravemind we saw in Halo 2-- 343GS is the closest we get to a "final boss". Halo 2 had Tartarus and Halo 1 had the engine room-- which, when you think about it, was sort of a boss encounter with an invulnerable boss, 343 Guilty Spark. The fight against him in Halo 3 is the conclusion to that fight, started way back at the start of Two Betrayals and continuing through the engine room encounter in The Maw.

Also I can see what Staten meant about the chair. There's a difference between saying "hopping on the chair and popping Regret one in the chops was fun" and "the Regret boss fight was a well-designed encounter". Jones, in the cutscene commentaries that came with the Legendary edition of H3, notes the dichotomy. There is something viscerally amusing about the moment when you realize what you're supposed to do and execute those first couple of punches. The problem is that this is an act unlike any other in the game. Sure there are other vehicles that can be boarded, but Regret is different because he cannot be killed any other way. Then, once you've realized that, the difficulty level comes into play-- you may have to repeat that move several times in order to get the kill.

So the moment of boarding and punching itself is fun. The trial and error that precedes it, as well as the tedious repetition that follows it on high difficulties, is not.


Rampant for over se7en years.

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OldNick
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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Narcogen:

Regarding 343 GS boss-battle vs. cutscene:

I agree that you have solid points here - it would ultimately be preferable to turn this encounter into a good boss-battle, and that the Spartan Laser would seem to be the logical killer weapon. My suggestion to render it as a cutscene was based on the conviction that the cutscene - short combat - cutscene sequence is structurally undesirable - flicking back and forth inevitably harms the player's immersion.

Quote:

"Also I can see what Staten meant about the chair. There's a difference between saying "hopping on the chair and popping Regret one in the chops was fun" and "the Regret boss fight was a well-designed encounter". Jones, in the cutscene commentaries that came with the Legendary edition of H3, notes the dichotomy. There is something viscerally amusing about the moment when you realize what you're supposed to do and execute those first couple of punches. The problem is that this is an act unlike any other in the game. Sure there are other vehicles that can be boarded, but Regret is different because he cannot be killed any other way. Then, once you've realized that, the difficulty level comes into play-- you may have to repeat that move several times in order to get the kill.

So the moment of boarding and punching itself is fun. The trial and error that precedes it, as well as the tedious repetition that follows it on high difficulties, is not."

Accepted. I really must get myself a copy of the Legendary edition, now that it can be had more cheaply. My own, deeply indignant, reaction to this encounter was undoubtedly aggravated by my playing style at the time, which was slow and deliberate, with a strong tendency to engage more powerful opponents from greater ranges. On my first few attempts at this encounter, I tried to draw the Grunts and Honour Guards to or beyond the door, and clear the room a few at a time from outside. By the time I actually entered the room to go after Regret himself, the whole ramp outside the door was carpeted with bodies. It took several repetitions before I could finally bring myself to accept that the Honour Guards were endlessly respawning. Then, of course, I was hitting Regret from a distance with powerful ranged weapons without result, while fighting off the respawning guards and never even seeing the 'Press X to board' prompt. I think I eventually had to go online and seek tips before I found out about the board-and-melee vulnerability. I wasn't a total noob at this point either, having completed Halo CE on Legendary, and various other classic shooters on their top difficulty levels - I'd got that far while largely avoiding the close-quarters and melee element of Halo gameplay. Halo 2 certainly opened my eyes to the fun to be had from close-quarters swashbuckling, but, equally certainly, it wasn't this encounter which did it.

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not.now.murray
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Re: Building Better Bosses

My first impression of the 343GS encounter was that it originally took place in a cut scene. Bungie then decided that this wasn't very satisfying and changed it late in development, but by then they had painted themselves into a corner somewhat (for example, the architecture of the room isn't really suitable for an interesting boss fight) and had to make do with what they had. Pure speculation on my part, of course, but that's how it feels to me. That said, at least it's over pretty quickly - which alleviates a lot of the tediousness. But it also detracts from the sense of achievement.

Alternatively, maybe Bungie wanted the Warthog section to be the real highlight of the level, and felt that a challenging boss battle (typically the climax of a level, in theory at least) might have taken away from the Warthog drive. A bit of a stretch, but...

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To not.now.murray:

Quote:

My first impression of the 343GS encounter was that it originally took place in a cut scene. Bungie then decided that this wasn't very satisfying and changed it late in development, but by then they had painted themselves into a corner somewhat (for example, the architecture of the room isn't really suitable for an interesting boss fight) and had to make do with what they had. Pure speculation on my part, of course, but that's how it feels to me.

A very similar idea occurred to me while I was writing this entry, but I omitted it in order to save length and yet more digression. My own speculation was that, as you suggested, the cutscene was written and perhaps even shot to include the fight, but that Bungie planned from the start to replace it with a live encounter if time and resources permitted. That might sound extravagant, but it's probably one of the better ways of building in flexibility you can use in a deadline crunch - much better than chopping levels. The most obvious downside (apart from the quality of the encounter itself) is the structural problem I mentioned above in my reply to Narcogen, the cutscene-fight-cutscene switch.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Re: Building Better Bosses

I dont know if this topic is covered in the later portion of this discussion, but one thing I noted while watching the old Halo 2 LE disk was about their original intentions for the final boss fight. Originally, Tartarus was supposed to get killed by Arby in a cutscene while trying to kill Johnson and the other marines outside the control room... but was later changed because the guys at Bungie were unsure of how the player would react to having such a moment take place in a cutscene. So they decided on making the final boss, and letting the player get revenge on the brute (no pun intended). I think its a way for the Arbiter to get back at Tartarus for his betrayal, and at the same time make the ending seem more interesting... cause otherwise it would just be a walk in the park: deactivate the ring... and maybe not even that.

For the same reasons I think the final boss in Halo 3, GS, becomes the chief's way of getting revenge for all of the things that light bulb did to him on the first ring (and the final battle where the chief thinks he got him), while at the same time making the ending seem more interesting... otherwise (and mind u, I love Halo 1) it would be just another remake of the final "boss battle" (Warthog run) in Halo 1.

And if i got any details wrong about the Tartarus boss battle/cutscene thing from the LE disk, please fix it... cause I would watch it again but my friend has it right now and its 1 AM where i live...

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Anonymous wrote:

Quote:

I dont know if this topic is covered in the later portion of this discussion, but one thing I noted while watching the old Halo 2 LE disk was about their original intentions for the final boss fight. Originally, Tartarus was supposed to get killed by Arby in a cutscene while trying to kill Johnson and the other marines outside the control room... but was later changed because the guys at Bungie were unsure of how the player would react to having such a moment take place in a cutscene. So they decided on making the final boss, and letting the player get revenge on the brute (no pun intended). I think its a way for the Arbiter to get back at Tartarus for his betrayal, and at the same time make the ending seem more interesting... cause otherwise it would just be a walk in the park: deactivate the ring... and maybe not even that.

For the same reasons I think the final boss in Halo 3, GS, becomes the chief's way of getting revenge for all of the things that light bulb did to him on the first ring (and the final battle where the chief thinks he got him), while at the same time making the ending seem more interesting... otherwise (and mind u, I love Halo 1) it would be just another remake of the final "boss battle" (Warthog run) in Halo 1.

And if i got any details wrong about the Tartarus boss battle/cutscene thing from the LE disk, please fix it... cause I would watch it again but my friend has it right now and its 1 AM where i live...

I've just reviewed the Halo 2 LE DVD, and your account of the origin of the Tartarus battle is reasonably accurate, though there was less emphasis on 'we must let the player kill Tartarus' and much more on 'all this cutscene animation will take forever to create'.

As I've already said several times in the course of this discussion, I'm not hostile to the idea of fighting these characters as opposed to watching them die in a cutscene - my quarrel is with the way the actual encounters are designed.

I originally laid out the alternatives the way I did - boss-battle OR cutsecene - partly in order to emphasise just how much I disliked this particular kind of combat. I was, in effect, saying 'I'd rather watch the action in a cutscene than slog through this highly artificial excuse for satisfying combat'.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

There is another reason for the GS Boss fight.

I blame Marty! Smiling

He, rightly, suggested that the story would lack punch if nobody died.

Keyes was killed off. Though that bothered me not, I never had any attachment for her.

Maybe Bungie realised that Miranda wasn't a big fan favorite so they 'killed off' sarge as well.

They would want to do it near the end of the game and we just wouldn't buy it if a Flood infection form got him. Sparky was the only obvious person to kill him. So its a combination of the need to have someone to kill sarge and the 'fun' of killing sparky.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Re: Building Better Bosses

actually Scarab, Johnson can not be infected by the flood. he has a unique type of nerves system disorder that the flood can't interface with. if you read the book "first strike" it describes it in detail and also how he contracted it and escaped from halo.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

The case of 343 GS, however, is significantly different. Guilty Spark's beam-weapon is so powerful that the player can only survive by dodging. In order to make this easy and convenient, Guilty Spark's normal ability to pivot rapidly on the spot has to be degraded so far that he'd have trouble tracking an elderly tortoise with his all-conquering red death-ray. Then there's his irresistible field, which could so easily push the player straight over the edge of the catwalk, if 343 GS just moved a few metres to the side. This field seems to exist primarily in order to keep the player confined to one small area so that he'll be able to pick up the Spartan Laser from Johnson before Guilty Spark recovers from the first blast - which has such notably different effects from the subsequent ones. This encounter isn't just artificial and contrived - it's blatantly artificial and clumsily contrived.

Fighting sparky was never going to be anything other than an irritating Boss fight.

Sparky, legitimately, had all but one of the qualities of a Boss: he's invulnerable, he can fly to places you can't reach, he can fit in vents you can't, he can teleport and he has legions of minions that he can summon at any time.

He didn't even need his beam, he could just head butt you to death or teleport you off a cliff or into solid rock.

Vulnerability was the only Boss attribute that he lacked prior to Halo 3.

I think that once you decide to have sparky kill Johnson then you can either try to make the sparky fight good or you can try to get it over with as soon as possible.

I think that Bungie took the second option and it might have been the wisest solution.

I mean, seriously, how would you make it better? And remember, there was a lot of hostility to Boss fights expressed after h2.

I can think of some small improvements.

They could have removed the need for the force push by having the platform incomplete. You can't go too far away from Johnson because you can't go too far away from Johnson. Smiling

They could have made sparky vulnerable to the splazer throughout the game.

I nursed an unused splazer in the Covenant level until I could take pot shots at him when I left the final beam tower. I think I managed 3 hits and in the saved game there was no detectable effect. I'm impressed that I got that many, he is very hard to hit and never stood still for long. I just went for it and was lucky. I'd hate to have to do that whilst he was dodging and fighting back, specially on a raised platform with no side barriers.

If sparky was vulnerable to the splazer outside of the Boss fight then he could have bugged out, out of sight, after your first shot with the splazer and insisted that he wouldn't help whilst you carried it. You don't kill him but you establish the legitimacy of the power of the splazer against sparky.

Not doing something like this was lazy.

But what else could be done to improve the fight itself?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Re: Building Better Bosses

For me, killing Sparky didn't really feel like a boss battle. It's so easy, and so simple, that it doesn't really count. I don't see why people seem to take so much offense about a scene that's about as challenging as pressing the Cartographer's button. The main reason for the whole sequence, as far as I can tell, is that you finally get a chance to just blow up the little smug git, especially after he's just killed one of your best friends. There's not really much more to it than that, and, since I don't really like boss battles that much, I'm glad there isn't any more to it than that, too.

PS: I did like the scarab battles, though Smiling

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Anonymous:

Quote:

For me, killing Sparky didn't really feel like a boss battle. It's so easy, and so simple, that it doesn't really count. I don't see why people seem to take so much offense about a scene that's about as challenging as pressing the Cartographer's button. The main reason for the whole sequence, as far as I can tell, is that you finally get a chance to just blow up the little smug git, especially after he's just killed one of your best friends. There's not really much more to it than that, and, since I don't really like boss battles that much, I'm glad there isn't any more to it than that, too.

PS: I did like the scarab battles, though

I completely agree that it's a fairly minor point, and doesn't seriously interfere with my enjoyment of the game. I tried to explain why I thought it was worth at least a short rant in my last few paragraphs, but I can add three more reasons, two general and one personal.

General reason 1: At the point in the game where this happens, we're reaching the climax of a decade of development and expectation, and thirty-odd hours of gameplay. Everyone who's commented so far seems to agree that this encounter is, for want of a better word, a bit lame. I'm saying that even if it never had the potential to be a great battle, it could easily have been a better and less artificial one.

General reason 2: We also all agree that we're glad it's over quickly. The point here is that while Bungie have obviously learned from Halo 2's reception, they don't seem to have really grasped or accepted the fundamental reasons why we dislike boss-battles of this kind. Minimising an annoyance is progress, for sure, but eliminating it - at no cost - would be better. That's why both Narcogen and I have devoted time and effort to analysing and discussing the subject of boss-battles, and why we think they need to be handled very carefully in the context of Halo.

Personal reason: During 14 years in the games industry, I developed some fairly strong opinions, but never had the chance to put all of them into practice. Since I'm unlikely to work in the industry again, for a variety of reasons, this is a sort of last chance to get at least some of my most (to me) important pet ideas about game design and development heard and discussed.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Scarab battles, as I did. They do give me hope for the future, in that Bungie seems to have learned and applied the right lessons here, to general acclaim.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Scarab:

Quote:

"There is another reason for the GS Boss fight.

I blame Marty! Smiling

He, rightly, suggested that the story would lack punch if nobody died."

I must have missed that, but your reasoning is very persuasive. So that's why Johnson suddenly develops a deep emotional attachment to Cortana!

As for how the GS fight itself could be improved, I do have some suggestions:

1) Let Guilty Spark's stop shooting if you dodge the beam, and perhaps increase his recharge time between shots. With a shorter pulse-length, you could still dial down his ability to track a moving target without making it so obvious, and a longer recharge time would help balance the SpLaser's pre-shot charging time. This would also help the player survive long enough to realise that he should be using the SpLaser, and obtain it from Johnson - without the need to artificially restrict the player's movement.

2A) If you want to keep the door shut, and the Arbiter out of the fight, provide some cover, and perhaps more room for dodging. This version of the Control Room seems smaller than the original Halo CE version, and lacks the transparent plates on the catwalk edge which provided cover in that version. This raises another interesting design point: I'm fairly sure that those transparent plates were a late addition to the original Control Room design, prompted by gameplay testing. They also serve another vital, but less obvious purpose, as a visual reference for the catwalk edge, allowing the player to move more freely during the sentinel fight without having to watch his feet every step.

2B) Alternatively, don't shut the door to the approach corridor, allowing the player to retreat there, which would make 343 GS an easier target when he pursues you into the corridor, and also allow the Arbiter to join in the fight - purely as a distraction.

I'm not seriously suggesting that any of these options would transform this into a really memorable battle, but I, personally, think that they'd be improvements on what we got.

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Anton P Nym
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Re: Building Better Bosses

If one absolutely had to have a 343 GS boss fight, here's how I'd have done it:

- Sparky retains his past armament state. (ie: no death ray, no push ray)
- Instead of Sparky raying down Johnson, Sparky whistles up a wave of Sentinels to do it in keeping with past precedent.
- The fight procedes as a redux of the start of Two Betrayals, except that Sparky doesn't leave.
- Sentinels come in "waves", size of each wave dependant upon difficulty level and number of SPLaser hits already inflicted on Sparky.
- There is a brief (10s, say) interval between the elimination of each wave and the arrival of its replacement. That's the player's window of opportunity to spark up Sparky. (However, to cue the player, Johnson will still place the first hit during the first window.)
- There would have to be some store of replacement SPLasers, or Sparky would have to be also vulnerable to the dropped Sentinel Beamers after the casing's been "cracked" by the first SPLaser hit.
- To add time pressure, have the same "podling thump" at the big pressure door as was in Halo after the Jenkins cutscene, implying that Gravemind's come a-callin' and is impatient.

However, personally I'm still not sold on the idea of making the death of Guilty Spark a boss fight however much it serves as dedicated fan service.

-- Steve never really found Sparky that annoying. Odd, perhaps, but true.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Re: Building Better Bosses

I really like Anton's idea, having to fight Sentiels while trying to splazer Spark.

But I disagree with those who say it should be in a cutscene. We've all been waiting since Halo CE for a weapon that does some sort of damage on that back-stabber. It may have been more climatic in a cutscene, but even MORE people would complain that they wanted to do the deed themselves, and Bungie realised this.

If I had to make changes, it was Spark is as mobile as he is in the rest of the game, and shoots faster, targets more accurately, changes direction of fire faster, and he has no "push-away beam", but just flew away if you get too close or does some close combat move...

OR

Spark keeps his lack-of-weapons from the previous games, and like Anton suggested, called in Sentinels for help and you have to fight Sentinels WHILE trying to splazer Spark. Something I also would have liked to do was crack his casing, then stick his insides with Spike or Plasma grenades.

And I was looking forward to the "Press RB to Activate Halo", but unfortunately that was put in the cutscene.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Anonymous said:

Quote:

I really like Anton's idea, having to fight Sentiels while trying to splazer Spark.

But I disagree with those who say it should be in a cutscene. We've all been waiting since Halo CE for a weapon that does some sort of damage on that back-stabber. It may have been more climatic in a cutscene, but even MORE people would complain that they wanted to do the deed themselves, and Bungie realised this.

If I had to make changes, it was Spark is as mobile as he is in the rest of the game, and shoots faster, targets more accurately, changes direction of fire faster, and he has no "push-away beam", but just flew away if you get too close or does some close combat move...

OR

Spark keeps his lack-of-weapons from the previous games, and like Anton suggested, called in Sentinels for help and you have to fight Sentinels WHILE trying to splazer Spark. Something I also would have liked to do was crack his casing, then stick his insides with Spike or Plasma grenades.

Clearly a significant proportion of Halo players, feel the way you do, and you'd have been disappointed to miss the opportunity to deal with 343 GS personally. I accept that, and I'd be perfectly happy to fight him in a less artificial battle so that you could have your wish. This fact wasn't obvious to me when I began this, since I've always regarded 343 GS as 'insane but useful' rather than 'useful but evil|dangerous'.

Quote:

And I was looking forward to the "Press RB to Activate Halo", but unfortunately that was put in the cutscene.

Yes, I think that was a real missed opportunity, a perfect climax to the series. Bungie must have considered this, and I'd love to know how the argument went.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Anton P Nym:

Yes, that's definitely a neat alternative, with nostalgic appeal too. Given that Cortana can fire the Halo, she could reasonably remove you from the Sentinels' targeting list at the same time (or not). The only quibble I have is that I'm not keen on the idea of the linkage between hits on GS and numbers of Sentinels in a wave - it would take the player a while to recognise the connection, and there's no really simple, plausible technobabble explanation that I can come up with. In a word, it falls within my own definition of artificial or contrived.

Feel free to call me an opinionated ideologue if you like, but I fervently believe that the way forward in game design is to model not just objects but systems (more working buttons, real wires and plumbing etc.), which means that you have to establish a self-consistent set of rules for the game world, and stick to them (unless you choose to break them, very carefully, for shock effect).

Quote:

However, personally I'm still not sold on the idea of making the death of Guilty Spark a boss fight however much it serves as dedicated fan service.

-- Steve never really found Sparky that annoying. Odd, perhaps, but true.

Yes, I'm definitely with you there - I could never be bothered to shoot at GS, since I was always sure it was pointless. I found him mildly annoying, but didn't hate him. However, it seems that quite a lot of people have been looking forward to this for years. Since they feel strongly about it, while we're largely indifferent, it's only logical to try to please them.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

The only quibble I have is that I'm not keen on the idea of the linkage between hits on GS and numbers of Sentinels in a wave - it would take the player a while to recognise the connection, and there's no really simple, plausible technobabble explanation that I can come up with. In a word, it falls within my own definition of artificial or contrived.

In part, that's because I didn't really phrase that bit too well. Oops. I'd meant that the challenge would be escallating, not de-escallating, until Sparky's defeated.

Say that the first wave would be three Sentinels Sparky has diverted from rigging the Control Room shock mountings. Johnson plants an owie on Sparky. Sparky gets less cocky about the invulnerability of his casing thanks to his new piercing and expends even more effort to summon Sentinels away from the necessary chores of assembling 04a and culling Pure Forms. Johnson hands over his SPLaser to the player.

You do the totentanz again with the, say, five Sentinels this time. Last one drops, slow count on the SPLaser, and Sparky gets a second owie. Sparky howls for more help, calls six of the Sentinel cordon away from the outer pressure door to the Control Room.

Fight again. During the fight the Sentinel cordon around the outer pressure door gets wiped out because it was weakened. Flood hammer their way through the doors while you try to fry Sparky again.

And one more loop, to make it the magic three rounds the player has to dump into Sparky to kill him. All the while you hear the Flood pounding on the inner door. Go to cutscene; the Chief and Johnson say their goodbyes much as it happened. Cortana charges the ring, control room starts to shake apart thanks to the lack of shock mountings, Arbie then howls that the Flood is breaking through. Back to player control and fight your way out.

Quote:

Feel free to call me an opinionated ideologue if you like, but I fervently believe that the way forward in game design is to model not just objects but systems (more working buttons, real wires and plumbing etc.), which means that you have to establish a self-consistent set of rules for the game world, and stick to them (unless you choose to break them, very carefully, for shock effect).

I agree to a degree, but I'm willing to compromise some realism if it favours gameplay or verisimilitude. Also, art is the elimination of the unnecessary; unless there's a good storyline or gameplay reason for destructable toilet paper rolls (hmm... *scratches chin*) I'd say leave 'em out.

-- Steve loves this kind of brainstorming.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Anton P Nym:

You and Scarab have, between you, done a very good job of fleshing out better ways to set up this encounter. One point which I think is worth making is that you'd have to allow and encourage the Sentinel battle to move back into the corridor (ideally an L-shaped corridor like the original one) so that wrecked Sentinels would fall where their weapons could be picked up, rather than being lost in the depths of the Control Room.

Quote:

"I agree to a degree, but I'm willing to compromise some realism if it favours gameplay or verisimilitude. Also, art is the elimination of the unnecessary; unless there's a good storyline or gameplay reason for destructable toilet paper rolls (hmm... *scratches chin*) I'd say leave 'em out."

Er... my dictionary defines verisimilitude as 'the appearance of being true or real'; in other words, realism - for the purposes of a game-world. I wouldn't dream of disputing the contention that Gameplay must always come first, I just put a very high priority on maintaining the self-consistency of the game-world, and concealing its underlying artificiality from the player.

Your aphorism "art is the elimination of the unnecessary" is another worthwhile (and much more concise) re-statement of the point I'm trying to make in the last few paragraphs of my original blog entry, but clearly none of us wants a less rich or detailed game-world - we rightly measure progress and quality (in part at least) by the addition of detail.

I evidently didn't succeed in putting over my concept of systems simulation, since the core of this idea is that the systems simulated will have significant effects on gameplay, enriching the player's tactical options rather than adding non-functional frills. For some better examples, think in terms of being able to cut communications cables or powerlines, open a pressurised compartment to space or turn off specific sections of a life-support system, or subvert elements of a security system (as in Bioshock). The idea is that there will always be multiple ways to solve any problem, just as there are in the real world - it's the concentrated essence of what we love in Halo-style combat, extended further into the game-world.

Trying to make this as clear as possible; my original fascination with this idea goes back to my rather extensive experience in building maps and creating missions for flight-sim games, where it was always very challenging to create dynamic multi-mission wargames and make it plausible that the player's actions should decisively affect the military balance over thousands of square miles. It seemed obvious to me that the way to achieve this was to model (say) transport, logistics, communications and utility networks well enough that the player could identify critical targets and see real, plausible effects from taking them out. Note that this is rather different from using ad-hoc scripting to set up specific cause-and-effect chains.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

To Anton P Nym:

You and Scarab have, between you, done a very good job of fleshing out better ways to set up this encounter. One point which I think is worth making is that you'd have to allow and encourage the Sentinel battle to move back into the corridor (ideally an L-shaped corridor like the original one) so that wrecked Sentinels would fall where their weapons could be picked up, rather than being lost in the depths of the Control Room.

If you use the glass panels at the sides of the circular walkway then the sentinels would have to hover above the walkway to get a good shot. A judicious amount of cheating in the physics could enure that a fair number of sentinel weapons fall on the walkway as sentinels explode.

But moving on from the sparky fight for now and going back to the scarab 'Boss' battles...

Bungie did a great job with that.

I've always been a big fan of the Lekgolo and I asked Bungie if we could see new Hunter forms in Halo 3. I was asking for things like, red needler Hunters or black Wraith-cannon Hunters. I even asked for a rhino armored Hunter with a Hunter rider with a lance. <- fan boi or what? Smiling

What did Bungie deliver? Lekgolo piloted Scarabs!

And just like Hunters, the Scarabs have a weak spot, damage the armor, kill the worms. They are consistent. they are also consistent with halo 2 Scarabs, kill the pilot, kill the Scarab. That felt contrived in halo 2, probably because it was done in a cutscene. It doesn't feel contrived in Halo 3. <- Well maybe 0.4% contrived. But again its consistent. All vehicles in Halo, since Halo 2, explode when the driver dies.

I would have liked to have been able to take the Storm Scarab out on foot, Half Life 2 Strider style. The drain pipes give a degree of cover but I'd need 'infinite' rockets. Constantly spawning marines could deliver these. Either they carry them down fom the buildings and deliver them to me or they take ineffectual potshots and die under Scarab fire and drop half loaded rocket launchers.

Its just that on foot is the only way that doesn't work in Halo 3. I've even sniped the pilot from on top of the cranes. I was so pleased it worked. I'm going to try the grav lift next and, if I can co-op, I may try the flying dumpster ploy.

They also avoided the obvious opportunity, to kill the pilot and drive the Scarab yourself.

If you could persuade the pilot colony to disengage from the controls and fight you then the Scarab wouldn't explode and you could take the wheel. Either climb into the 'cabin' where the worms were or go to the screens at the front and drive from there.

I imagine that the petal shaped armor that protectes the colony could morph, transformer style, and you'd face an armored Hunter of a form you'd never seen before. Fire a few shots to persuade it to fight then hold off whilst it disengages. Then watch out!

Maybe shooting off the rear armor could persuade the Hunter to give up on the Scarab and bail out to save its skin. Any Covies left alive on the Scarab could go to the forward screens and drive from there. I'd have this Hunter walk on four legs, the four petals of its Scarab armor and give it a Wraith style mortar or a needler cannon. But it would be a tough SOB. If you want that Scarab then you're going to have to fight for it! Maybe it has active cammo so your missile pods wont lock on or its just good at shooting them in mid air. You need to get close to fight it.

But anyway, once you have the Scarab what can you do with it?

Maybe you could climb over the buildings to take out the big AA gun. Marines would join you onboard and you'd have to repel boarding attempts from Phantoms and Drones, or grav lifting Brutes. You'd be buzzed by Banshees and have to switch between walking mode and AA gun mode. You'd have to multitask like crazy. <- NOT good if this is the first time you've driven one.

Drivable Scarabs would have a big impact on level design. There would be three levels of size. Scarab sized, smaller vehicle size and Chief size. You would feel Lilliputian if you exited the Scarab and went on foot. I'd add a grav lift 'moon pool' on the bottom of the cargo bay to facilitate boarding.

Imagine if you could capture the second Scarab and climb up the ramp area, razing the Brutes with the main weapon. You put in the work to steal the Scarab but reap the reward of sweeping all the Brutes out of your path. It would be like pest control.

You could steal one of the last pair and fight the other. Scarab to Scarab.

This is beginning to sound like, 'Attack of the killer Scarabs!' instead of Halo 3. Smiling But I think that if we could have driven the Scarabs then awesomeness would have ensued.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Anton P Nym wrote:

If one absolutely had to have a 343 GS boss fight, here's how I'd have done it:

- Sparky retains his past armament state. (ie: no death ray, no push ray)
- Instead of Sparky raying down Johnson, Sparky whistles up a wave of Sentinels to do it in keeping with past precedent.
- The fight procedes as a redux of the start of Two Betrayals, except that Sparky doesn't leave.
- Sentinels come in "waves", size of each wave dependant upon difficulty level and number of SPLaser hits already inflicted on Sparky.
- There is a brief (10s, say) interval between the elimination of each wave and the arrival of its replacement. That's the player's window of opportunity to spark up Sparky. (However, to cue the player, Johnson will still place the first hit during the first window.)
- There would have to be some store of replacement SPLasers, or Sparky would have to be also vulnerable to the dropped Sentinel Beamers after the casing's been "cracked" by the first SPLaser hit.
- To add time pressure, have the same "podling thump" at the big pressure door as was in Halo after the Jenkins cutscene, implying that Gravemind's come a-callin' and is impatient.

I'd prefer something along those lines.

But we can't have cases of splazers lying around a newly built Halo that nobody has been to.

Bungie could have given us duel wielded plasma rifles and a fuel rod gun on our back. Arby could have dropped a carbine or his plasma rifle at the door. The sentinels could drop sentinel beams onto the catwalk.

But getting sparky to stand still is the problem. Giving him a weapon gives the designer a reason to have sparky stay still.

Cortana could, temporarily, immobilise him if she was in the system, how could we get her there?

Maybe the cutscene could highlight Cortana's 'chip' dropping from sarge's hand. Halo story veterans would make the connection. Maybe Cortana could send you one of her psychic messages in between sentinel waves.

Talking of which... chuck in an enforcer or two.

Get Cortana into the system, she immobilizes sparky and opens the doors to let the Arbiter in. You splazer sparky, and pummel him, use grenades, whatever. He recovers and calls another wave of sentinels. Repeat until finished.

Make sure you establish that the teleport system is ofline...

Let him be splazer vulnerable in other parts of the game.

Its still a Boss fight but, apart from the magic splazer to crack his casing, it obeys the rules established in previous games. So its almost not a Boss fight. Almost completely not. Eye-wink

Anton P Nym wrote:

However, personally I'm still not sold on the idea of making the death of Guilty Spark a boss fight however much it serves as dedicated fan service.

-- Steve never really found Sparky that annoying. Odd, perhaps, but true.

I know what you mean.

I quite liked him myself. I've tried killing him from time to time but it was nothing personal, he can be irritating. And I've killed lots of Grunts but I'm actually rather fond of them. So I don't do a dance of joy when I kill him. I'll miss him. Its another downer.

I really needed a hug after I finished Halo 3 for the first time.

Now that I think of it, Marty's to blame! It was his downer suggestions and his depressing music that did it!

-PS Marty,

I don't mean depressing in a bad way. If you know what I mean. The music fitted the tone of the story. Its the whole Ark thing, the emptiness, and what we did all those years ago...

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Anton P Nym wrote:

- To add time pressure, have the same "podling thump" at the big pressure door as was in Halo after the Jenkins cutscene, implying that Gravemind's come a-callin' and is impatient.

And/Or have sparky fight back and start to hurt Cortana and kill her if you take too long. EEK!

Hmm... maybe thats too much pressure. :-0

-PS I doubt that this was planned from the start but we've now seen sparky's two betrayals.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Scarab:

My last reply crossed (or I otherwise missed) your suggested variations on the Sentinel theme, which are excellent. I think we can take it as established that this could have been a good fight. Now all we need is a time machine...

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

I think we can take it as established that this could have been a good fight.

I have reservations about beating up sparky whilst he's on the ground helpless.

1) I quite like him

2) Its not very exciting or challenging.

And its too repetitive.

How about changing things each time.

1st hit: Sarge does it, you get it for free.

2nd hit: Cortana zaps sparky and he's on the ground

3rd hit: sparky fights back at Cortana and concentrates on the control panel, zapping it with his Halo style electrical discharges. This keeps him still enough for another blast.

4th hit: sparky is free flying but can't see too well and isn't dodging much, its up to you to hit him.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

I must have missed that, but your reasoning is very persuasive.

Mentioned in the cutscene commentaries on the Halo 3 Legendary companion DVDs. Mentioned as one of the times that Marty saved Halo.

I think that Marty was right and maybe he did save Halo Smiling

OldNick wrote:

So that's why Johnson suddenly develops a deep emotional attachment to Cortana!

That's because he had an affair with Miranda and was feeling not his usual self. Or its just a smokescreen to try to stop you wondering why the Chief can't just walk over to the console and press RSB to activate Halo. You knew that something was up when Bungie stole control from you and made the Chief give Cortana to someone who wasn't wearing armor.

OldNick wrote:

As for how the GS fight itself could be improved, I do have some suggestions:
.
.
.
the Control Room seems smaller than the original Halo CE version, and lacks the transparent plates on the catwalk edge which provided cover in that version.

There are glass panels on the inner edge of the circular walkway (and on the outer). They are impervious to sparky's beam. Sparky doesn't move far so its easy to get out of his line of fire, to be shielded by the glass.

That control room is very beautiful when you have time to admire it. Tying sparky to the one spot means that you can completely ignore him once you are out of his direct line of fire.

OldNick wrote:

Alternatively, don't shut the door to the approach corridor, allowing the player to retreat there, which would make 343 GS an easier target when he pursues you into the corridor, and also allow the Arbiter to join in the fight - purely as a distraction.

He couldn't steal your kill as he wouldn't have the uber weapon.

OldNick wrote:

I'm not seriously suggesting that any of these options would transform this into a really memorable battle, but I, personally, think that they'd be improvements on what we got.

But is it enough to be worth the effort? It just feels like fighting sparky in that environment with only one weapon and limited ammo is never going to be a win.

I hate to ask that question because I always feel that its worth the effort. But maybe Bungie felt that they'd get more flack for prolonging the ordeal. I think that a requirement of the story overrode gameplay concerns.

Maybe we could have been given the option, press A to skip Boss fight. But what we got was so quick that it almost is 'press A to skip'.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Scarab:

Quote:

There are glass panels on the inner edge of the circular walkway (and on the outer). They are impervious to sparky's beam. Sparky doesn't move far so its easy to get out of his line of fire, to be shielded by the glass.

That control room is very beautiful when you have time to admire it. Tying sparky to the one spot means that you can completely ignore him once you are out of his direct line of fire.

I humbly stand corrected - I don't think I ever bothered to move off the radial walk. I think I've only ever explored the Halo 04a Control Room as a camera in Theatre mode, and then I was mainly interested in the Halo hologram. Now that I mention it, that's another reason why this encounter raises my blood-pressure - have you seen this from an external camera? Watching the Chief's legs churning in their running animation while he slides smoothly backwards, you could almost believe we were back in the twentieth century, for heaven's sake.

Quote:

But is it enough to be worth the effort? It just feels like fighting sparky in that environment with only one weapon and limited ammo is never going to be a win.

I hate to ask that question because I always feel that its worth the effort. But maybe Bungie felt that they'd get more flack for prolonging the ordeal. I think that a requirement of the story overrode gameplay concerns.

Anton's suggestion regarding the Sentinels could make this encounter a lot more interesting, especially since that would be the easiest, most plausible way to get more weapons in there.

As it is, it's quick, so it falls flat. I'd say that if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well, and it's precisely because Bungie usually do such a good job that lapses like this are notable.

Quote:

Maybe we could have been given the option, press A to skip Boss fight. But what we got was so quick that it almost is 'press A to skip'.

Yes, it's hardly worth mentioning. Presumably that's why we've already collectively written several closely-reasoned pages about it. Smiling

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Wow, lots of good stuff! Thanks for starting another great discussion OldNick.

I'm starting to favor the waves of Sentinels idea - its logical that if GS could summon help he would, in fact its very logical that GS would do that and it seems like an odd omission. The downside to "waves" is the similarity to the endlessly-spawning honor guards in the Truth fight, and I think "waves" tend to get tedious rather quickly. Maybe Bungie wanted to stay away from any similarity to the Truth fight.

A little off topic, but does anyone know why the large Sentinels (Enforcers?) didn't appear in H3? Are they unique to Delta Halo?

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Re: Building Better Bosses

not.now.murray wrote:

Wow, lots of good stuff! Thanks for starting another great discussion OldNick.

I'm starting to favor the waves of Sentinels idea - its logical that if GS could summon help he would, in fact its very logical that GS would do that and it seems like an odd omission. The downside to "waves" is the similarity to the endlessly-spawning honor guards in the Truth fight, and I think "waves" tend to get tedious rather quickly. Maybe Bungie wanted to stay away from any similarity to the Truth fight.

Waves aren't even a Boss fight thing, they are a staple of almost every encounter.

not.now.murray wrote:

A little off topic, but does anyone know why the large Sentinels (Enforcers?) didn't appear in H3? Are they unique to Delta Halo?

I don't know. I haven't seen any mention of this. I don't even know how long the Flood was fighting on Delta Halo. Maybe they were invented on Delta Halo as a response to prolonged fighting. But I don't understand how the fighting on Delta Halo could last a long time without Flood reinforcements.

Simple answer, I dunno.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

To Scarab:

I can certainly agree that the Scarab would be fun to drive, but you'd need to design whole large-scale levels around it - probably not more than one in a whole game, to keep things in proportion. And you'd need to make sure that anywhere else the Scarab occurs, it couldn't be driven. Since I'm already rather annoyed by the fact that not all Wraiths are driveable in Halo 3 (at least not without time-consuming and error-prone glitch exploitation) I don't see that as a desirable way to go. Then there's the problem of what happens if it falls over - I'm sure that the driving AI is heavily constrained so that it never does anything even slightly risky (or flings its passengers off), but as the player you'd find these restrictions very irksome, if they were imposed on you.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

not.now.murray wrote:

Quote:

Wow, lots of good stuff! Thanks for starting another great discussion OldNick.

I'm starting to favor the waves of Sentinels idea - its logical that if GS could summon help he would, in fact its very logical that GS would do that and it seems like an odd omission. The downside to "waves" is the similarity to the endlessly-spawning honor guards in the Truth fight, and I think "waves" tend to get tedious rather quickly. Maybe Bungie wanted to stay away from any similarity to the Truth fight.

A little off topic, but does anyone know why the large Sentinels (Enforcers?) didn't appear in H3? Are they unique to Delta Halo?

I'm very glad you've enjoyed the show. My thanks go in turn to everyone who's contributed.

You've got a point about the possible monotony of repeated waves of the same enemy. I suppose you could bring each group in from a different direction - one from the bottom, one from the top, one up the corridor - and you could revive the major/minor Sentinel distinction from Halo 2. Scarab's suggestion to bring in an Enforcer certainly sounds appealing, but I think the space available is maybe a bit marginal, and those waves of exploding projectiles might tend to blast useful (like Sentinel beams) and plot-critical (like Johnson's body) items off the catwalk into the pit.

I haven't seen anything official on why the Enforcer didn't reappear in Halo 3, but I could offer a few speculations. You only ever encountered the Enforcer in Halo 2 as an enemy (balanced by the fact that it's also the enemy of your enemy, the Flood), but it would perhaps be a rather overpowered ally, and cause a lot of friendly kills. As for whether it might be unique to Delta Halo, that's an interesting question. The modular sentinels from 'Ghosts of Onyx' certainly suggest that there's diversity in design, and the Enforcer does seem to be (in a slightly inept way) a more military type than the general-purpose Sentinel - possibly an expedient design cobbled together from available modules by some sub-sentient manufactory AI deprived of its Monitor's guidance...

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

not.now.murray wrote:

Quote:

Wow, lots of good stuff! Thanks for starting another great discussion OldNick.

I'm starting to favor the waves of Sentinels idea - its logical that if GS could summon help he would, in fact its very logical that GS would do that and it seems like an odd omission. The downside to "waves" is the similarity to the endlessly-spawning honor guards in the Truth fight, and I think "waves" tend to get tedious rather quickly. Maybe Bungie wanted to stay away from any similarity to the Truth fight.

A little off topic, but does anyone know why the large Sentinels (Enforcers?) didn't appear in H3? Are they unique to Delta Halo?

I'm very glad you've enjoyed the show. My thanks go in turn to everyone who's contributed.

You've got a point about the possible monotony of repeated waves of the same enemy. I suppose you could bring each group in from a different direction - one from the bottom, one from the top, one up the corridor - and you could revive the major/minor Sentinel distinction from Halo 2. Scarab's suggestion to bring in an Enforcer certainly sounds appealing, but I think the space available is maybe a bit marginal, and those waves of exploding projectiles might tend to blast useful (like Sentinel beams) and plot-critical (like Johnson's body) items off the catwalk into the pit.

I think the major problem I have with the "waves" idea is that it's very, very traditional. Fight the boss, score a hit, fight some lesser baddies, score another hit, etc. To me the predictability of that mechanic screams "you are playing a game" to me and I find that jarring.

The entire concept of "waves" I tend to dislike whenever I see it. It reminds me of those endless fights in kung fu movies where no more than 2-3 opponents attack the hero at once (because that's how many he can handle) and the rest just stand around politely and wait their turn.

The only time in Halo this made sense to me was for the Flood. Their very nature suggested attacks in waves. As they attack their enemies and convert those bodies into allies, they form small groups and attack. There's no supply chain back to a main base.

When other enemies attack in small waves like that you have to wonder who is doing their strategy. The obvious winning move is to hold all the waves for the end and send everything at once. The player couldn't possibly handle that. If enemies are going to arrive in waves there had better be a good reason for it.

It's not been discussed much but I'd consider that there are reasonable explanations for such waves of Sentinels in Halo 1-- Cortana still has some control over the ship, the engine room is deep within the structure-- the passages the Sentinels use to get in and out have a definite maximum capacity.

Even that really doesn't cut it, though. To help there's the Flood attacking them, also, which distracts from the real dynamic-- which is that the engine can only handle so many actors at once.

We see in Halo 3 absolutely massive groups of Sentinels. A group much larger than the Chief could ever potentially repel. And we are on board 343GS's ring with hardly any backup.

Sentinel attacks would make one wonder too many things:

1) If 343GS can summon one, or two, or even a few dozen Sentinels or enforcers, why do they need to arrive in waves? Surely they are not being built on-demand?

2) With 04a incomplete, why would any significant effort be put into building sentinels or Enforcers? Wouldn't the finite resources at hand be better used completely the structure?

OldNick wrote:

I haven't seen anything official on why the Enforcer didn't reappear in Halo 3, but I could offer a few speculations. You only ever encountered the Enforcer in Halo 2 as an enemy (balanced by the fact that it's also the enemy of your enemy, the Flood), but it would perhaps be a rather overpowered ally, and cause a lot of friendly kills. As for whether it might be unique to Delta Halo, that's an interesting question. The modular sentinels from 'Ghosts of Onyx' certainly suggest that there's diversity in design, and the Enforcer does seem to be (in a slightly inept way) a more military type than the general-purpose Sentinel - possibly an expedient design cobbled together from available modules by some sub-sentient manufactory AI deprived of its Monitor's guidance...

Gameplay wise I think they just figured the Enforcers did not add enough to gameplay that was unique to warrant including them. They were the most fun in vehicle encounters; I don't think they'd be much fun in a Control Room battle.

As for the story-- I suppose one might speculate that Enforcers were built on Delta as a response to the Flood incursion and the (apparently) long siege. Their construction would've diverted even more resources away from the construction of 04a. Perhaps the Ark doesn't have any of its own for reasons I can't think of.

In fact, for a structure so much more massive than any Halo installation, it seems less well defended than either 04 or Delta, and I always found it odd that it does not have its own avatar or AI-- although I admit that this was done to keep 343GS involved and engaged in the story.


Rampant for over se7en years.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Good commments, but I could not read them all.

Given the insanity of running away from giant explosions in the first game, why did Bungie not one-up themselves? Instead of a lame, easy boss fight that breaks previously established rules, I would have much preferred having 343 GS still invulnerable.

What if you had to dodge his powerful laser, run past him, press the button, and run away? What if he harrassed you during much of your escape on foot and on vehicle? I can imagine many ways to make that fun and memorable. As far as getting your revenge on him, I think there are many ways to do that, not all of which involve killing him.

It was a short, aweful fight that felt contrived. Keeping him invulnerable so that you have to run for your life from him, that just sounds fun.

Mercutio2000

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Mercutio2000 wrote:

Quote:

What if you had to dodge his powerful laser, run past him, press the button, and run away? What if he harrassed you during much of your escape on foot and on vehicle? I can imagine many ways to make that fun and memorable. As far as getting your revenge on him, I think there are many ways to do that, not all of which involve killing him.

It was a short, aweful fight that felt contrived. Keeping him invulnerable so that you have to run for your life from him, that just sounds fun.

That is a new idea, I think, and the fact that it's so obvious once pointed out is no discredit to you - quite the reverse.

I can think of some possible objections, though. Story-wise, Johnson's last words would have to be a lot more concise (and he'd probably have to shout them at your retreating back). Then there's the small matter of a totally deranged, nearly indestructible, heavily armed and dangerous AI potentially chasing you all the way to the Portal and beyond - 343 GS' escape from Halo 04 neatly demonstrated that he can either survive a multi-megaton explosion at close quarters, or has the capabilities of an interplanetary spacecraft - or both, of course.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

Narcogen wrote:

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I think the major problem I have with the "waves" idea is that it's very, very traditional. Fight the boss, score a hit, fight some lesser baddies, score another hit, etc. To me the predictability of that mechanic screams "you are playing a game" to me and I find that jarring.

The entire concept of "waves" I tend to dislike whenever I see it. It reminds me of those endless fights in kung fu movies where no more than 2-3 opponents attack the hero at once (because that's how many he can handle) and the rest just stand around politely and wait their turn.

The only time in Halo this made sense to me was for the Flood. Their very nature suggested attacks in waves. As they attack their enemies and convert those bodies into allies, they form small groups and attack. There's no supply chain back to a main base.

When other enemies attack in small waves like that you have to wonder who is doing their strategy. The obvious winning move is to hold all the waves for the end and send everything at once. The player couldn't possibly handle that. If enemies are going to arrive in waves there had better be a good reason for it.

It's not been discussed much but I'd consider that there are reasonable explanations for such waves of Sentinels in Halo 1-- Cortana still has some control over the ship, the engine room is deep within the structure-- the passages the Sentinels use to get in and out have a definite maximum capacity.

Even that really doesn't cut it, though. To help there's the Flood attacking them, also, which distracts from the real dynamic-- which is that the engine can only handle so many actors at once.

I think the 'waves mechanic' is pretty much unavoidable in a single-hero-versus-army scenario. You object that it looks like bad strategy to throw in reinforcements piecemeal - and it is one of those classic errors of generalship which every armchair general (myself definitely included) knows by heart. But that's high-level command decision-making, and typical FPS encounters are squad-to-platoon-level tactics, which must inevitably be more reactive and less considered. (If anyone with real infantry combat experience wants to tell me I'm spouting nonsense, please feel free).

If that assumption holds, then it's not too unrealistic for reinforcements to arrive one squad at a time. What's artificial is that they only turn up when you're just about to finish mopping up the previous wave, which is, as you pointed out, an inevitable consequence of the need to avoid overwhelming the player or overloading the game engine (though after the first squad or two of reinforcements gets cut to pieces, I think any NCO worth his salt would hang back and set up an ambush or a strong defensive position while waiting for reinforcements).

Quote:

We see in Halo 3 absolutely massive groups of Sentinels. A group much larger than the Chief could ever potentially repel. And we are on board 343GS's ring with hardly any backup.

Sentinel attacks would make one wonder too many things:

1) If 343GS can summon one, or two, or even a few dozen Sentinels or enforcers, why do they need to arrive in waves? Surely they are not being built on-demand?

2) With 04a incomplete, why would any significant effort be put into building sentinels or Enforcers? Wouldn't the finite resources at hand be better used completely the structure?

I thought that the 'sentinel dispensers' introduced in Halo 2 and retrofitted to the 04a Control Room's external structure did exactly that - build Sentinels on-demand.

As for the question of why sentinels should be built on Halo 04a, the very cutscene you mention conveys the strong implication that sentinels play a vital role in building Halo rings - and if energy is effectively no object, you could even regard them as self-transporting raw material, to be cannibalised back into the Halo structure once their services as assembly workers are no longer required.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

OldNick wrote:

I think the 'waves mechanic' is pretty much unavoidable in a single-hero-versus-army scenario. You object that it looks like bad strategy to throw in reinforcements piecemeal - and it is one of those classic errors of generalship which every armchair general (myself definitely included) knows by heart. But that's high-level command decision-making, and typical FPS encounters are squad-to-platoon-level tactics, which must inevitably be more reactive and less considered. (If anyone with real infantry combat experience wants to tell me I'm spouting nonsense, please feel free).

To some extent it is unavoidable; I just think that where it cannot be avoided it should be explained, and if it can't be avoided or explained maybe the encounter should be changed so that it can be.

OldNick wrote:

If that assumption holds, then it's not too unrealistic for reinforcements to arrive one squad at a time. What's artificial is that they only turn up when you're just about to finish mopping up the previous wave, which is, as you pointed out, an inevitable consequence of the need to avoid overwhelming the player or overloading the game engine (though after the first squad or two of reinforcements gets cut to pieces, I think any NCO worth his salt would hang back and set up an ambush or a strong defensive position while waiting for reinforcements).

Quote:

We see in Halo 3 absolutely massive groups of Sentinels. A group much larger than the Chief could ever potentially repel. And we are on board 343GS's ring with hardly any backup.

Sentinel attacks would make one wonder too many things:

1) If 343GS can summon one, or two, or even a few dozen Sentinels or enforcers, why do they need to arrive in waves? Surely they are not being built on-demand?

2) With 04a incomplete, why would any significant effort be put into building sentinels or Enforcers? Wouldn't the finite resources at hand be better used completely the structure?

I thought that the 'sentinel dispensers' introduced in Halo 2 and retrofitted to the 04a Control Room's external structure did exactly that - build Sentinels on-demand.

I was never sure if they were sentinel dispensers or just a transmit tube system. After all, we're told the fallen structure in QZ is a "sentinel factory" yet we see the dispensers throughout the shield wall as well.

In any case, those are only outside the control room, not inside, and conceivably the door, once closed, would not be opened by 343 while he was active since letting the Flood into the control room would be a grave risk.

OldNick wrote:

As for the question of why sentinels should be built on Halo 04a, the very cutscene you mention conveys the strong implication that sentinels play a vital role in building Halo rings - and if energy is effectively no object, you could even regard them as self-transporting raw material, to be cannibalised back into the Halo structure once their services as assembly workers are no longer required.

It also suggests that those selfsame sentinels-- as many as could possibly be fabricated-- are busy with the job of constructing 04a to make it ready for a normal firing. If memory serves they only engage the Flood on that level after the installation is activated-- at that point continuing construction is pointless.


Rampant for over se7en years.

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Re: Building Better Bosses

narcogen wrote:

I was never sure if they were sentinel dispensers or just a transmit tube system. After all, we're told the fallen structure in QZ is a "sentinel factory" yet we see the dispensers throughout the shield wall as well.

In any case, those are only outside the control room, not inside, and conceivably the door, once closed, would not be opened by 343 while he was active since letting the Flood into the control room would be a grave risk.

That's not a problem if you are the level designer. Ask the art guys to put dispensers inside the room. Enforcers could enter via the opening at the top of the room. (At least it looks like the room is unfinished and that there is an opening up there. If not then ask the art guys to put one there.)

OldNick wrote:

As for the question of why sentinels should be built on Halo 04a, the very cutscene you mention conveys the strong implication that sentinels play a vital role in building Halo rings - and if energy is effectively no object, you could even regard them as self-transporting raw material, to be cannibalised back into the Halo structure once their services as assembly workers are no longer required.

We didn't see nearly enough Sentinels to build Halo. What were they for? I dunno. But, as an imaginary Bungie designer, if that cutscene gives your story any problems then change the cutscene. Smiling

Maybe they were an initial batch of Sentinels to provide security until the ring's own systems could take over. Our proposed waves could come from this batch or be made on demand. I don't suppose it matters. The ring's systems could be more mature now that its X hours later. We know that not all Sentinels were destroyed in the Assualt on the Control Room because we had to fight some later. So Sentinel availability is not in doubt.

If we want to explain, in great detail, why they arrive in waves then put a sentinel builder inside the room, give it an obvious capacity. Show it firing up, maybe make it semi-transparent so you can see the contents forming. That reminds me of 'The Tomb of the Cybermen'. Smiling Maybe it can make 5 sentinels or one Enforcer at a time.

My preference would be to spawn them from the normal dispensers. they'd have less of an impact on the room's esthetics.

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