June 3, 2013 Gameplay Mechanics
You know, the bad guys, the people who want to see you suffer. In every good horror story there is a presence that intentionally or inadvertently causes pain and suffering. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a post-apocalyptic world crawling with zombies, ensnared within a corrupt midcentury sanitarium battling hallucinations of writhing insects burrowing within your flesh, or facing down a sadistic aristocrat mentally fractured by the loss of a loved one. People love a good villain. It is often more important to have an exceptionally well crafted villain rather than a deep and thought provoking protagonist. Why? A good villain makes for a worthy adventure and the non-descript protagonist allows a player to supply themselves as the leading role.
In the world of the villain they will rarely be seen acting alone. This is not always the case and I encourage people to test the boundaries of a story. However, in most scenarios you will need to make use of lead fodder. Allow me to introduce the Antagonist Hierarchy. While you are entirely free to add and subtract roles from the hierarchy it generally proves practical to have one that follows the basic principles of escalation. Either by numbers, strength or complexity it should become increasingly more difficult to defeat your enemies as the game progresses.
The Imp is the least threatening antagonist. The Imp is cannon fodder, designed to engage clicks and provide small amounts of loot. The challenge that lies within the imp is not that it is a difficult opponent to subdue, rather, the imp is available in large quantities and one must spend great lengths of time carving them down to reach a goal. Imps usually have a straight forward mob mentality and will attack head on without coordination.
The minion is the upgraded imp. Inevitable the imp will become boring for a user to pacify. At this moment in the game you must provide a new type of enemy to engage the user both physically and mentally. While the imp may have linear methods of attacking, the minion will be evasive, devious, and capable of catching a participant off guard. The minion is an important enemy to keep the pace of the game escalating to a pinnacle of excitement. Repetition can kill a game, so the minion presents a variance in the way a player will be forced to interact with the world you have created. Conserving special types of ammunition, items or approaching a battle differently will serve to inspire a sense of exponential exhilaration in your game.
The mini boss is introduced as a benchmark for developed skill and growth within the game. This obstacle is designed to challenge you, forcing you to use all that you have learned thus far to conquer a foe of extraordinary skill for great rewards. Typically the defeat of a mini-boss will provide you with new items, skills or other large bonus that will make the difficult experience rewarding.
The boss need not throw terrible punches, but taking a punch is very necessary. Nothing is quite as uniquely disappointing to a user as grinding hours through a game to finally confront the evil that plagued them through the journey and knock him down with a gust of wind. The boss should be as difficult as a mini-boss in the way one must approach the battle. Conservation of resources, strategy for evasive maneuvers and offensive attacks should be an important element of the battle.
The boss doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult to defeat, but rather it should feel like it was difficult. A boss that can knock you out in one punch but only requires three strikes from your handy wrench to subdue him will not inspire a sense of satisfaction in his defeat. It is much better to have a boss that is time and thought consuming because the emotional and physical drain of the encounter will make the player feel like they have earned their victory.
The Bad Guy Break Down
Each game is going to have its own unique antagonist hierarchy, but there are right and wrong ways to fill the roles. Most importantly one must remember that the adversary is the opposition in a game that gives a player a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Through numbers, difficulty or complexity your antagonist hierarchy needs to set the pace of the game and escalate into an exciting and rewarding conclusion. Now that we’ve covered the basic idea the rest is up to your creativity!