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Elder Scrolls Online Dev Interview Goes Behind the Scenes of Boss Mechanics, Adjusting for Difficulty Levels

Christina Gonzalez Posted:
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Recently, The Elder Scrolls Online Lead Encounter Designer Mike Finnigan and Senior Content Designer Shane Slama joined together to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the whole team designs boss encounters. Part two of the deep-dive is now live and this one is all about the boss fights themselves,  mechanics, as well as design with lore and player roles in mind.

Boss abilities and mechanics come from figuring out what that boss is about, again between the lore and the story, and what kind of monster it is. Essentially, they ground the design in several principles and then go from there. They also use the catalog of what's already been done in both The Elder Scrolls Online and The Elder Scrolls overall. They want to keep a throughline with how some of these creatures were presented in the past, while also adding something unique. Finally, once they have a  boss concept in mind, then it comes to how that creature will move around the environment so they can determine what kind of mechanics it will have.

When it comes to challenges, it might be too tempting to just focus on the mechanics instead of using the story enough, or getting too wrapped up in doing something exciting or cool without making it satisfying enough. Even overreliance on one particular mechanic at the expense of others is a thing they work to avoid.

One question asks how they design dungeon bosses according to player character roles. This is a basic design situation for MMOs, but they are right because roles and interdependence create connection and that builds teamwork. Things you need for effective dungeon victories.

Another issue they take on is how to design bosses when that content will have different difficulty levels. They first try to figure out which mechanics will be present in all difficulty levels so the abilities will be tuned for that experience and hopefully prepare players to step up later when they see the same mechanics they've already been exposed to. Consistency is important. and when it comes to designing hard modes it can't just be numbers like making the boss have more HP or pure damage output.

For the full blog, head over to the Elder Scrolls Online. 


Christina Gonzalez

Christina is MMORPG.COM’s News Editor and a contributor since 2011. Always a fan of great community and wondering if the same sort of magic that was her first guild exists anymore.