All seems lost until you spy a glowing, red spot on its chest. You swing your blade at its glowing heart and the beast reels from the blow, lurching backwards. The dance continues, but now you know how this game is played and victory feels close at hand.
Slaying the Beast
The sequence I just described has been played out hundreds of times in legends, games and the imagination for as long as anyone can remember. Little wonder then that so many games seek to recreate that exact experience. But what is it about the story above that hits home so deeply with people?
The answer is not simple, but one piece matters heavily for today's lesson:
There is always something you can do to handle the monster's attacks.
The dragon has a weak spot. You must attack that weak spot in order to slay it. However, the creatures attacks prevent you from safely approaching it. Furthermore, the heart is only exposed at certain times. The bright glow draws your eye to its location.
The dragon's armor deflects your sword effortlessly. It is clear that attempting to attack any other location is useless. This is reinforced with a metal deflecting sound which is highly unsatisfying.
The dragon's attacks swing fiercely, but slowly, giving you ample time to raise your shield or roll away. However, it can only claw in front of itself, giving you a safe area to completely avoid the claws while it is frenzied.
The dragon's mouth glows brightly for a time before the flames are hurled at you. You can either dodge the flames once they start, or take cover behind a rock to wait out the attack.
A Masterpiece of Responsive Mechanics
Despite being a difficult, highly damaging and dangerous boss, you are solely responsible for your survival. The beast doesn't attack you without warning, its most powerful attacks are clearly telegraphed and the exposed safe spot of the heart makes it abundantly clear where you should strike.
These are the types of fights players like the most. The path to victory is clear, but fraught with peril.
There's a sea of details, exceptions, theme and nuance that I could delve into here, but the lesson here is clear:
Give the player a response
The Types of Responses
There are three major categories of responses:
- Reaction - I see it occurring and I take action to counter it now.
- Preparation - I know it can occur and preemptively take actions to prevent it.
- Recooperation - It happened and I take action to recover from the consequences.
What are your favorite examples of these categories of response?
Next time, I will write some more about these three points and how I've put them to use.