Bosses - Food for Thought

“Cholera, typhoid, consumption, halitosis!
Black plague, white plague, bloody red and brown plague!
Canker, waster, foot-and-mouth fester!”

-Plaguebearer chant

Oh boy, it’s that time again, when I have too much time on my hands and put out my thoughts!

Since Vermintide has Lord fights, and we’ve gotten a new one in Nurgloth, the topic of bosses is coming up more and more.

I think that Fatshark have done a good job of developing these boss fights - traditionally, boss fights in FP games always seem to be kind of lame or lacking. The first three lords in VT2 aren’t spectacular, but they work. Nurgloth, though, shows where they’re really experimenting and taking cues from the right direction.

That is, from MMOs. I used to play these - WoW and FF14, with friends. Never really my cup of tea, tbh, but the dungeon and raid bosses are, IMO, by far the best parts of those games. Each and every boss features unique mechanics - and I see many echoes of those mechanics in FS boss fights.

First, in having phases. Not unique to MMO bosses, but standard for them. I’m going to focus on Nurgloth, who has the clearest phases and is generally the best done.

Fighting waves of adds while the boss attacks from range isn’t too exciting, but his phase where he comes down is better. Showing where the rings will explode is a vast improvement over Burblespue’s barely-noticeable ranged blasts are only a minor annoyance, but should have this kind of detail. This feature isn’t common in WoW, but is standard in FF14 and makes the fights much better. In that game, it is common for bosses to cover the entire arena in deadly spots, with only small gaps of safety for players to scramble into. While these typically only do big damage, sometimes there’s no edge to the map and so you can easily get one-shot and thrown off!

Nurgloth’s final “enrage” phase is also very standard for MMOs, and just like in those, players in VT2 have learned to save all their resources for that time. We used to call that the Burn Phase in raids; typically you’d save all your buffs with very long cooldowns for that moment, and even just before you got there you’d be getting into position and storing up whatever resources you had just for that phase. It was the most critical part of the fight.

In another thread, Daemons came up, and ignoring for a moment whether the U5 could deal with a Greater Daemon, a Great Unclean One could make a fantastic boss fight.

If we just assume for a moment the U5 can face one and not instantly die (just work with me on this; it’s an example), I can see just how such a fight could go down.

One problem brought up is the sheer size of a GUO; if one were standing in-game and you were in melee range, his belly button would probably be above your head. This is a real problem, but not unsolvable.

For its base phase, it’s immobile. It is a fat lump sitting in an arena, and you can wail on it. He’ll swing his sword at you - either a vertical chop or a wide swing, with clear telegraphs, and you have to dodge appropriately. He’ll turn, too, to focus different players. He might change targets after each attack, randomly, rather than have aggro.

If you try to just stay at range he throws large pus blobs that explode for nasty AoE damage that is very hard to avoid. Not a winning strategy, though as long as some players are in range you could have ranged classes staying back.

He also targets players occasionally with different kinds of pox, represented by colored blobs that come out of him and move towards players; some will insta-down a player a few seconds after infection, but can be negated if they all stand together (how? Character dialogue can make clear that it’s the combined power of the blessings of good gods that protect them). Others causes a DoT that spreads, so the affected player wants to spread out to avoid that. The infected player has to just run away from them until it wears off (not super long so it’s not boring; the point is to make players have to recognize what the threat is and react accordingly). In either case, pop-up information on screen will inform players of the threat.

In phase 2, he’ll stand up and start walking, chasing one player while swinging his sword. That player has to lead the boss away from the others, while he leaves a damaging AoE in his wake. He’s hard to keep up with to hit, and to break him out of this phase will require destroying buboes that pop up around the arena, while chaff enemies appear to hinder you. This makes it less boring than a typical add wave, as you also have an objective and a clear reason to hurry. When the buboes are all popped, the chaff enemies die (the daemon is annoyed at them for failing!) and the GUO sits with his back against a wall.

A modified phase 1 starts now. Trickles of adds can create more tension, if necessary. At times, the Daemon can just disappear, with more adds coming in, while bloblets of pus drip from the ceiling (with indicators). So you have a lot of tough mobs to fight, like Chaos Warriors and Maulers, while having to avoid the bad.

There are endless amounts of possible mechanics, and while you wouldn’t want to pack them all in, the point is that there are a lot of options.

Other potential ideas; perhaps the GUO moves to a higher floor, and acid starts to rise. Players have to jump up platforms to escape. The point isn’t to make the platforming difficult (we all hate first-person platforming), but to force a sense of being rushed for the players. I wouldn’t even make the platforming challenging, but you’ll be hurried all the same and it will break up the flow of the fight to make it less “hitting a thing for ten minutes”. And if you fall in, you can still get to a platform and try again, you’ll just take damage.

Other options include having the boss start giving unavoidable stacking curse that will eventually kill you. He’ll keep attacking you in the meantime, so you have to deal with a shrinking health pool and kiting him while one player goes into a difficult location to break a buboe or smash an idol or something, that clears the curse off. You can even debuff the player doing it so that they can’t do it again, forcing more coordination. “Handmaiden goes for the first one, after that the Zealot . . .” Mobility ults would be great here, but not mandatory.

This probably all sounds really annoying and exhausting to face at the end of a long map. That’s why it should not BE at the end of a long map, but should be its own type of map, where you just face one of these Raid Bosses.

Fatshark really wants to come up with new ways to play the game, and so here is my suggestion; stand-alone maps where you fight one huge, multi-phase boss. It can even give you loot! How can it be fair, you ask? Seems too easy if it can be just ten minutes.

Well, you can give a default level of chest, and then give optional side-objective that increase the difficulty. Maybe you have the option of breaking an altar at the beginning that gives you all some curse for the duration of the map, and that gives you one extra tier of chest. Maybe you have to kill x number of Chaos Warriors instead of letting them be killed by popping all the buboes. There’s lots of options here that can allow players to dynamically up the ante and get better rewards at the expense of difficulty.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Here’s a nurgle frog for your time.

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It wouldn’t be that far fetched, sure it wouldn’t be a named one such as Ku’gath Plaguefather
but power level aren’t static and the power of Demons (Named demons even more so) wax and wane continuously following their masters Chaotic favour

A few other games have had character fight Greater Demon such as Chaosbane, Age of Reckoning (iirc)

As before their size isn’t that much static, with some being just shy of the size of Giant and other mostly a head taller than Ogres

Greater Unclean Ones aren’t the most fun to fight though, they are tanky bugger, slow and tenacius, A Greater Demon of Khorne would be more fast paced but not very complicated as Khorne isn’t the most thinking of them all. Tzeentch should be fun and could be very varied and Slaanesh though underutilized isn’t my cup of tea

I tend to agree, but I just want people to bear with me so the topic doesn’t get derailed into “could they or couldn’t they”. :slight_smile: A GUO is simply an example I use here. The setting is massive, and so there are many, many options for such an encounter. Some lend themselves better than others, though, and since people often bring up Daemons I wanted to use a Great Unclean One as an example.

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As much as i do agree with the post overall i´ll take a stand and make the statement that i do not think the specifics Nurgloth fight are well implemented at all.

  1. High RNG on what the heck he spawns during the flies phase.
  2. His “stand in the middle and do magic” phase is just a game of whack a mole, a single big mole and it´s pretty much always the same.

And its also a DPS race that can easily lead into him standing by the sides of the room instead of teleporting back up, if forced back up at a poor time when he does that you can get a double enemy wave which is a large difficulty spike.

  1. The “burn phase” if we wish to call it such is also not well done, only a few classes in the game can actually steadily deliver enough damage at him during this phase and anyone without a shield runs a huge risk of eating a knockback into attacks into the AOE circle followed by eating more attacks.

All which are unblockable, since you´ll be busy flying around like a ping pong ball.

But the implementation for the fight aside i do like the more MMO based format more than the likes of lord rat(pushover) or Mr “I´ll take you all by myself”

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I don’t disagree with that assessment - but I think we could agree that it’s an improvement over previous FS boss fights like Bodvarr Punchingbag or Bungusnore Heckinfail in the sense that there’s more thought required from players, more mechanics to learn. It’s an issue of specific tweaking being needed to numbers, while the base mechanics are quite good.

A coordinated team can say “I’ll save my grudgeraker ammo for last phase while you give me strength with proxy while someone kites him”, which is good. Uncoordinated randos are ALWAYS going to struggle against any boss who isn’t a push-over, though. And with higher difficulties, we should expect players to step it up. In the highest difficulty of an MMO raid, you need between 10-40 people performing their roles with almost no mistakes to get a win! People can learn to do this.

The problem with the burn phase, IMO, is his Berserker armor - while I like that they switched that up, that armor type is kind of half-baked in that it’s just “infantry but better” and only shotties are good against it. I’d really like to see it more nuanced, so that certain tactics and damage types work better. I don’t know what we can justify, but you could make a case for many things. Bleed? Cuz they’re so worked up they bleed faster? Axes, because they cut so deeply? Piercing weapons, because they stab deeper into vital organs? I dunno. I’d personally look at what damage type seems weakest (I know we don’t officially have damage types, but in functionality the devs seem to sort them into categories), and maybe make those better against them.

That’s another topic, though! Thanks for the thoughts.

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Yep the fight overall i think is a step in a better direction than the previous lords we got, it´s just the implementations of the specifics. But the problem with the whole “coordinated vs uncoordinated” really comes into play with QP.

Being super punished because no one on the team has a weapon like grudge raker which can hit him hard enough feels real bad. Kiting him is also not really doable without either a ton of mobility or a shield.

Getting his aggro can only be done with sufficient damage, which then punishes a team that only has 1 good dealer since they tend to be squishy…1 knockback into guardbreak into minion attacks into circle knockup into more nurgloth attacks. On repeat.

In a MMO its not uncommon to have 2 tanks on rotation to handle a big boss but here we cant even keep his aggro off the only peeps who can hurt him T_T

Well, specifics are what they are, but as for what i think ought to hurt him? Basically anything that isnt a mace if we go by his evil powered fat being impact resistant…or him just taking more damage overall in the third phase to balance the much higher threat.

Kinda like how some bosses can enrage and boost their damage but also take more damage then.

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Something I want to add, though, about this idea, is that these Super Boss fights should be their own game mode, not something you can just get into via standard game quick play. So you can (and would be encouraged) to bring builds and comps good for these bosses - they should be challenging despite that!

To make sure people play, I’d go so far as to make it so your first win of the day gives you a red dust. You can fight them as many times as you want per day, but only that first win gives that. Like with FF14’s system of encouraging higher-level players to join old content with important currencies. In that game it’s pretty easy to get into even the original base-game content with a group.

In regards to Nurgloth, having a burn phase I think is undesirable. Quickplay doesn’t gives you 2 dps, a tank, and a healer to work with. The game basically has boss killing specialists which makes balancing such things particularly finnicky. The “burn phase” is trivial if you have the higher dps or boss killing characters but very difficult if not.

First two phases are great. Good teams do them easily, poor teams struggle. 3rd phase depends too much on party composition. The mechanics don’t really allow a whole lot of room for player skill or knowledge, it’s a simple yes/no question of whether you brought a shade. Teams that execute the first two phases without taking any damage can still wipe the last phase while a team that has difficulty in the first two due to low skill or knowledge can basically skip the last phase with the right heroes.

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A worthy topic for discussing, but I’d rather not derail this topic. The problem here is that Nurgloth is at the end of a standard my.

My idea is to avoid this problem by making future bosses be their own dedicated game mode where players can pick their roles for the fight - and as a result the fight itself can be balanced around even the most bursty comps. :slight_smile:

So you want to make a mode where a major part of the careers shouldn’t be used because it is balanced for dps?

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Incorrect. That is not what I said.

I said “where players can pick their roles for the fight”. The game doesn’t revolve around all DPS, but you can consider their presence when designing the fights. This means you won’t accidentally get into a game where no one is a DPS, but rather give players a chance to coordinate and say “okay you be DPS and I’ll be the special sniper and bob can be frontline”.

In other words, the mode will match you with a party, then give players the chance to pick a role. Possibly by giving them an option to pick their character after they’ve loaded in but before they’ve spawned.

I think that is a reasonoable consequence to assume from your suggestion. Players will first and foremost consider who is the most effective career to use in the context of an encounter. If the encounter is ultimately a bossfight, then players will be more likely to choose the boss killers. What reason would you have to pick, say, Footknight or Waystalker, when you can be Grail Knight or Shade, and whack the boss out of the part with enough time to go around again?

Perhaps players would undertake support roles, but when all characters have careers with high boss dps, why bother? If you’re playing quickplay with randoms (which as far as I am aware, is a significant portion of the player base), you can’t assume players will coordinate, instead of picking their career that does the most boss damage, thus invalidating all other careers. If it were a premade team, perhaps? But even still, a well oiled team of premades will just perform even better as all boss dps careers.

However, if this suggestion was to be considered for ‘Versus’, I could see a use for it a-la Evolved, where strategy would actually matter more, seeing as though one cannot predict another players moveset if they were to be the boss. Whether this fits with FatShark’s ambitions for V2 is another story.

This is a matter of boss design. If the boss is just an immobile punching bag, then yes, pure DPS classes will be best. It’s not hard to make mechanics that will require more than just GK and Shade, however.

So let’s put this artificial objection to rest; people don’t all play DPS in regular game modes, you very often see ranged and tanks and generalists. Shade and GK are popular, sure, but it’s rare to see a party of only DPS. Hell, even in QP if you’re in the Keep you typically see players switching to fill roles.

Besides boss design giving reason to bring more coordinated teams, you really just have to give players the options to see what the team currently is and then allow them to pick.

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Since this is now about bosses in general, I think that slightly reworking the mechanics is way better than reworking the numbers. Some numbers should get reworked a bit, like Skarrik’s isAlive(); timer, but overall they’re good enough.
That doesn’t mean buff Skarrik’s HP, but perhaps give him a crit resistance or an ‘ability resistance’ or even more simply a ‘damage capped per 5 seconds’ that would make GK, BH, Shade and such not one-shot him.

And since it is relevant, let me recycle an old post.

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