The beginning of a new deep dive behind the scenes series for The Elder Scrolls Online is out, and part one features developers discussing the process behind the design of Tamriel’s dungeon and Trial bosses.
With the recent release of the Ascending Tide DLC, which features new dungeons, bosses are probably on players’ minds once again. Part one of this dev interview features Lead Encounter Designer Mike Finnigan and Senior Content Designer Shane Slama, who go through how the team works to design bosses that fit with the overall story being told, the lore of Tamriel, and what the most important mechanical considerations are.
When it comes to mechanics, the team does emphasize player movement when it comes to designing a boss encounter. “We want to get players moving around, and, whenever possible, lean into things like interrupts, blocking, and dodge rolling,” Finnegan emphasizes. And if you’ve taken on some of ESO’s boss battles, you probably get a sense of this already. Each of the devs also go into how the full team divides the work, from deciding what the boss’ moveset is going to be and the way they act in their environments, and even designing the full space conceptually before getting to all of that. This can be something like the features or an animation that you see when you walk into a space. They like to emphasize “building encounters”, over just making a boss fight. This is derived from both the lore and the environment that they create and where they place all the action.
Creating these encounters, the story features heavily on how they design everything from the moves to how that boss will be defeated. They work with the writers and the other designers like the animation team or visual effects and decide what the Fulton counter might look like before the idea is approved to go into a prototype stage. This is very early, but what you eventually see begins to take shape.
The devs go into much more detail on the interaction between teams, design philosophies, and how to integrate story with a boss encounter concept. and this is all just in part one. You can read the full dev blog over at The Elder Scrolls Online.