Dev Discussion #25 - Boss Difficulty

LieutenantToastLieutenantToast Moderator, Staff
edited January 12 in General Discussion

Glorious Ashes community - it's time for another Dev Discussion! Dev Discussion topics are kind of like a "reverse Q&A" - rather than you asking us questions about Ashes of Creation, we want to ask YOU what your thoughts are.

Our design team has compiled a list of burning questions we'd love to get your feedback on regarding gameplay, your past MMO experiences, and more. Join in on the Dev Discussion and share what makes gaming special to you!

Dev Discussion #25 - Boss Difficulty
Do you enjoy "gatekeeper" bosses - a boss that is very difficult right at the start of a dungeon, followed by a few easier bosses? Or do you prefer linear difficulty in boss difficulty?

Keep an eye out for all-new Dev Discussion topics in 2021!

UPDATE: Hiya friends! We finished putting together a recap of your top feedback for our team - check out what you shared with us below!
  • While community members differed widely on whether they preferred linear boss difficulty progression or a more varied structure, many agreed that the final encounter should be the most difficult overall.
  • Those who preferred a more varied difficulty shared that they appreciated the deviation from the norm, which kept them more engaged in encounters overall.
  • Many seemed to agree that while an initial boss could serve as a good DPS check, they liked to see the complexity of boss mechanics increase as they progressed.
  • A few shared ideas for how to make encounters even more engaging, such as through the use of dynamic boss spawns and skills.


  • Personally I prefer the familiar route with linear progression of difficulty. With the loot getting better and better as you go. I could be Biased because its such a nostalgic format that's ( in my opinion ) almost expected. That being said someone might argue that its played out and another format should be used for a fresh new take on dungeons.
  • SinjinSinjin Member, Braver of Worlds
    I like to be kept on my toes so I don't mind a difficult encounter in the beginning, mid, or towards the end of a dungeon. Whether it's a super mob or even a puzzle, it's always fun to keep things interesting.
  • I prefer a harder boss at the start. A good gear/skill check sets the scene for the rest of the instance. I find that, if the first few bosses are too easy, raiders tend to fall asleep or stop paying attention. A difficult first boss keeps them engaged and tentative.
  • TemkkeyTemkkey Member
    edited December 2020
    I have no preference and would therefore like a variation in the dungeons.
    However the last boss should always be the hardest of them all.
  • The first boss in a dungeon, if they are supposed to be the first line of defense, should be more of a dps check than anything IMO. It sets the standard of the raid and you can get fancy with mechanics and special effects with the rest of the bosses. If you can't beat the boss before the wipe mechanic hits then you should go back out in the world and gear up/improve your rotations.
    This creates a "tier" that players have to reach to progress from the lesser dungeons to the greater ones.
  • I'd say I'm tired of these two methods at this point. I prefer a system dynamic system that drops are determined by spawn monster/boss. As in add multiple bosses and mobs but only one of them appears during any encounter, and guaranteed drops, but the drops depend on the method of killing the mobs and bosses.

    Giving this flexibility to a player is more fun and rewarding as one learns how to fight the monster to get what they need and also ensures parties discuss strategies on how to fight the boss so they can get what they need. I feel more rewarded killing a monster and getting what I wanted, than having to kill it the same way over and over again until it drops. Make some spawn tables to be rare as well, I feel less tedious when fighting and getting what I want than the other two systems. This also adds a system, where the player can make the content easy or hard, depending on what they need.

    It also adds more repeat content without becoming dull to the dungeon.

  • As some others have said, I think variance is extremely important based on the dungeon itself. I'm a big fan of dungeons where the mechanics of the boss get more complex the deeper you go in, rather than just having higher health and damage numbers.
  • George BlackGeorge Black Member, Intrepid Pack
    edited December 2020
    For instanced dungeon runs with bosses 99% of people will watch YouTube guides. So the only difficulty is for groups to find people willing to understand the raid and try until succeeding.
    Open world raids can be interrupted or meddled by other players. This is the difficulty of open world raiding in addition to the wish of IS to add environmental mechanics and adjustments to the number of raiders.

    I will list the requirements I believe need to be met by player characters:
    1. a healer with good MP management skills (and proper robe armor)
    2. a tank that can control the raid and its adds (and proper heavy armor)
    3. bards that can effectively complement the DPS of the group (is the group made of warriors or mages?)
    4. cool headed dps that trust the healer and tank, and don't run around needlessly and deal good dmg (using good weapons)
    A team of players/friends/guild must make sure that the group has the gear they need to raid and fend off enemies. That is challenging.
    If these conditions are met, the group(s) should take down the raid fast, instead of:
    • the boss outlasts the healers and tanks MP and kills the group and resetting
    • other groups of players come and harass, with the aim of killing of the first group and then continuing to lower the bosses HP, eventually claiming the loot.
    • simple another group comes over, out-DPSing the first group and claiming the loot.

    Open world raiding should be a task for teamwork, not solo minded people.
    PLZ not LFG or Group Finder system features no gear checks, no DPS checks.
    Guild leaders should play with their members and get to know them and their strengths, not judge them in a second and discard them forever.

  • I believe a gear-check boss is a good route, and really assist the group in understanding their abilities. I also believe Gate bosses will be an important aspect since we won't have DPS meters and such.

    That being said, I'd really like to break free of such a system and perhaps inquire about "Special" bosses that have a random chance of appearing in the Dungeons with randomized abilities from a table for that Dungeon? Something to keep us on our toes and for the Dungeons to constantly feel "fresh".
  • Myrkur12Myrkur12 Member
    edited December 2020
    In my opinion, I prefer that at the start of a dungeon, the boss is hard but not impossible. As the dungeon progresses, I would like the mobs and bosses to become harder, regardless on how fast they defeated the last boss/mobs. For legendary tier dungeons, I would expect near to impossible dungeons at the start till the end. With loot becoming legendary pieces of gear which appear a few times per server.
  • Having a Gatekeeper boss has the possibility, that the group only pays attention in the beginning of the dungeon and then starts slacking because "well, the hardest part is done, right?".
    I personally prefer non-linear dungeon designs with difficult bosses mixed in between.
    BUT! The strongest boss in the dungeon should always be the final one, for that sweet hit of dopamine and feeling of accomplishment.
  • NeurotoxinNeurotoxin Member, Alpha One
    Absolutely not, the gatekeeper is the first problem with raids. Ease the team in, let them get beat up but squeak out a win, get some better gear for when they come to try again. If you have to build up resources and form a crew just so the first boss wipes the party with awkward mechanics and over-the-top damage output, and there's basically nothing to show for it aside from crap loot off the enemies leading up to the boss, that's a huge lose for all the effort and organization. This also means bosses will force players to quickly develop best practices and that's the only way to play, rather than letting players experiment on something tougher and learn their own strategies.

    It doesn't have to be linear, either. I think of casual games or world-based games like Mario Galaxy. Difficulty could be more like 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 6, such that you start easy and reach a mid-point apex at 5, then it drops back to 2 to repeat the cycle a tier harder than the first three. This also means players can get most of the higher-quality stuff, but not the top tier stuff, if they only manage to clear the first half before attrition and back-spawns and wipes catch up to them.

    TBH I look back at vanilla WoW raids--because I quit hard after vanilla--and I hate them. Hate hate hate hate hate. Just garbage. Stand hear like this, do this, its just a giant 40-player square dance of death. It isn't inspiring, it doesn't feel coordinated, and it doesn't seem the least bit in-character. When you fight a dragon in a TTRPG, do you place the main tank up front while everyone perfectly arranges in areas that lets them avoid predictable attacks? No, hell no, curse the DM/GM who thinks that is acceptable. There's general rules like spreading out so you don't all get breath attacked, maybe stay near the radius of a bard or mesmer who can stave off charm or fear effects, but otherwise the players have to act and respond to what the boss is doing, rather than setting up in a rehearsed formation and making sure you don't over-damage and get the boss's attention.
  • I prefer the linear style much more. The pros are obvious: lower barrier to entry for new raids/groups, easier to get your hands on raid tier loot, and difficulty ramping up means that you know what to expect and progression is easier to follow.

    I played Wildstar, and one of the raids was called Datascape. The first boss in that raid was called System Daemons, and was the perfect example of a gatekeeper boss. It was such a massive barrier, that most guilds that even got the required number of people to raid ended up falling apart because of how difficult the first boss was. While the more hardcore raiders might enjoy or tolerate gatekeeper bosses, it is less fun for the more casual crowd.

    I feel that the above scenarios really only apply to traditional linear layouts in dungeons/raids though as well. If you have an outdoor raid for example, the layout could be non-linear so the order of bosses is not set. While you might technically have a "first" boss and it might be more difficult, if raids can just circumvent it until they're ready then the players will be able to make their own progression too. That can be appealing in other ways, but I don't know how challenging that would be to design.
  • I remember some explanation given for how bosses might work in this game: you would progress through a dungeon or arena or trial or whatever the content is called and as you beat each boss in a certain amount of time or ease you would unlock harder modes/ mechanics for the following boss. (this is great)

    That seemed interesting and something im sure a lot of people would enjoy and strive to compete to beat the hardest modes the quickest or whatever metric there might be to compete in that way.

    Perhaps these dungeons arent designed to have competition in that way, then my answer would just be :shrug: which ever seems to make the most sense. Which i guess would be for the linear type progression of difficulty for the bosses.
  • xilodonxilodon Member, Intrepid Pack
    If you're going to go the route of using the first boss to measure a group's performance and scale the difficulty/rewards of the rest of the dungeon based on that, then it would make sense to give the boss a lot of health without making it excessively difficult mechanically. So an undergeared group that doesn't make any mistakes could eventually get it down, but wouldn't get the more rewarding version of subsequent bosses.

    I'm still curious about how all of that will interact with most dungeons being open world, and different groups of players competing over the same bosses, especially in more popular areas that are crowded all the time. It will be interesting to see how the earliest dungeons play out in the Alpha with a lot of uncooperative players packed into the same area.
  • IYIIYI Member, Alpha One
    Linear; Depending on if the boss is a high tier dungeon or not. If it is then no if it isn't then yes.
    Some dungeons that are just "Loot dungeons" are good additions to the dungeons that want to beat your ass.
    Especially if you're geared enough to clear the dungeon efficiently it doesn't make sense to have the people who're clearing it slow down and speed up over and over until the end.
    Either make the last boss harder than the rest or make all the bosses the same difficulty
    "Imagine dying to a broken sword."

  • In dungeons I've always enjoyed a variety of challenges rather than a typical linear progression. I love seeing a gatekeeping boss, followed by a boss with a lot of tricks and traps/puzzles that need to be solved to defeat it. I find most dungeons in linear mmo's like WoW to have a lot of content kind of thrown in as filler. Like, here's a mini-boss that has been in the world for a while with a small backstory, and all he does is waste the parties time doing the same moves as the last two mini-bosses... just to lead up to a genuinely fun final boss battle. I love every part of the dungeon to feel engaging, and loot to match. As always, the final boss should absolutely be a chore to defeat with the most rewarding loot.
  • MichaelMichael Member, Alpha One
    I think it can be great either way. But at the same time it could also depend on a dungeon's layout. What if the dungeon itself is not linear? Multiple options at any given crossroads in a dungeon, always different orders you could take out in a dungeon. What if a dungeon layout is setup where you could pick which boss out of a few to do first? Optional bosses, and maybe a couple required bosses to continue on to a harder final boss.

    While linear dungeons with difficulty going up per boss is pretty standard, why not make it interesting and unique compared to most dungeon settings players are used to?

    Maybe there would be certain unique limited use drops in a non-linear dungeon setting from some bosses that may help with other bosses. This could create unique situations for a group of players that may be thinking "Hey, lets go to the far end of this dungeon passed a few of the other paths to other bosses because I heard this boss has a chance to drop something we can use once on this other boss to make it weak to a certain attack from us." and other random scenarios like that that could even potentially alter an entire encounter(whether or not the alterations could be major or minor) due to the players' choice.

    A simple answer to the discussion: I would say it is entirely subjective for linear path dungeons. Maybe there will be a majority, but I would say mix it up. Make some dungeons linearly progressing to the "final boss difficulty", while some may have a really strong gatekeeper boss, then afterwards it maybe mellows out until towards the end again.

    Otherwise, make it interesting. Give players a more variable experience based on their knowledge of the area, the dungeon, and available locations in the dungeon to go to that aren't necessarily linear but could all end with the same final encounter. (or maybe not ;) )
  • I don't think the most engaging (or stressful) part of the dungeon should be at the beginning. Because then what? The rest of the dungeon is just a long, drawn-out victory lap?

    Let people choose the difficulty that they enjoy (or want to challenge themselves with), and give them consistent content at that level. And when they want something more difficult, they can move to the next level.

    In short, linear dungeons are better. With differing difficulty between dungeons.
  • When it comes to Dungeons I enjoy a linear difficulty progression, with loot and bosses getting better and stronger. But optional areas in dungeons with special mobs/bosses for a specific set of loot or something like that would be great. Maybe all mobs would be minibosses? Idk.

    But about the gatekeeper boss, I'd like something similar outside of dungeons. Like a stronger version of the field mobs gatekeeping that area from access until defeated.

    All in all, linear good for me.
  • As others have pointed out, there are pros and cons to linear and gatekeeper, especially with the scaling difficulty.
    What really sticks out to me is that linear is a lot simpler, for players and for developers. With the scaling difficulty it could be hard to balance a gatekeeper boss. If the gatekeeper boss is strong enough that only the top guilds can beat it consistently then it would not only lock out content from more casual players but also be hard to balance bosses after that.
    The linear raids i feel works a lot better with the scaling difficulty system and would personally like to see that more but im also curious how gatekeepers would work and how you could make it interesting.
    Feel free to experiment in the alphas and betas.
    Id personally like to see more of a 80/20 or maybe ven 90/10, leaning towards linear. Saving gatekeepers for some special raids that only the best can clear
  • If it's lower-tier dungeons then I'd much rather it be a surprise, since people will probably be running those daily and might get bored or inattentive to the point that they don't do anything UNTIL they to the end. With higher tier dungeons I would prefer it to be linear with a couple of small surprises sprinkled somewhere in there, like a weight puzzle or something. My thinking behind the more linear higher tier dungeon experience is that it's already hard to wrangle 40 or so people to do said dungeon, you have to worry about other raids screwing it up for your group, leadership isn't always the best at directing things, lots of big personalities crashing into each other constantly will probably be a big issue as well. So with that in mind, a completely random higher tier dungeon probably wouldn't be the best idea in my opinion.
  • George BlackGeorge Black Member, Intrepid Pack
    Reduct wrote: »
    I prefer a harder boss at the start. A good gear/skill check sets the scene for the rest of the instance. I find that, if the first few bosses are too easy, raiders tend to fall asleep or stop paying attention. A difficult first boss keeps them engaged and tentative.

    This would be an interesting instance shakeup
    Kill the gatekeeper and then explore the cave of treasures (with a couple more weaker bosses)
  • In my opinion, I prefer a mix of gatekeeper and linear progression. As long as difficulty is attributed to mechanics and testing the players skill, I enjoy most boss fights. The only type of boss fight I really dislike is a boring boss with an absurd amount of health.
  • I prefer random events. It keeps makes people have to be on their toes. I also like the idea that has been presented here that the bosses have many different "abilities", of which there is no set order, so you do not know what is coming next. Their attacks, their magic spells, defensive never know what the boss will do.
    The lazy days of sitting in the same spot with a group of 6 knowing how the boss will attack you and the route he will take when running around should be over! This random ability should be passed on to lesser mobs as well. Dungeons are supposed to be hard and you must bring your -A- game to them, unless that dungeon is specifically made to be easier.
    Unpredictability is the hallmark of a good dungeon or any encounter worth it's weight.
  • I think designing the first boss to be the most difficult mechanically is preferred over a "gear-check/DPS-check" boss. If the very first encounter actually requires your group to be coordinated, knowledgeable, and exercise personal responsibility then your group will have to prove that they are worthy of getting loot from later bosses. There's no reason not to have a variety of difficulties over many dungeons, however, so that players have the linear difficulty, varied difficulty, and initial difficulty style dungeons. I'm the kind of person who just loves doing the hard things first, so that it all feels downhill from there. The big bad boss is dead, and now I can enjoy the loots of less intense encounters.

    Players who have proven their ability to actually play like a team deserve the best loot.
  • although I personally like a linear progression of the bosses, it maybe makes more sense for the open world dungeons to have some kind of gate-keeper boss. he shouldnt be too hard, but hard enough to keep undergeared groups out. otherwise it could get pretty messed up with 10 different groups trying to complete the dungeon simultaneously.
    for instanced dungeons a linear progression should be enough.
    the most important things for me are: the final boss must be challenging and strong... like, really ****ing strong (not just more hp and dmg); the bosses should have different and challenging mechanics; riddels to defeat a boss are also appreciated

    sorry for my bad english D:
  • I think they should all be hard, but just have different mechanics to each. The final boss should have something particularly nasty. If there are five bosses in a dungeon, I don't want them all to have the same technique to beating them. Each one should challenge a party in different ways, whether it's a DPS race, positioning, environmental hazards, switches/levers, split groups within your party that need to complete separate challenges simultaneously, etc.

    For the open world bosses, the design challenge is going to be making it accessible enough for smaller raid sizes, but hard enough that huge raids aren't just going to steamroller it.

    However, to answer the question more correctly, I prefer the first boss to be the easier of the lot, as failing at the first hurdle without even a tiny taste of success is pretty demoralising.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    I care more about the story than the difficulty.
    Typically difficulties/obstacles ramp up as stories progress...and it could feel anti-climactic to have a very wimpy challenge at the end of the dungeon.
    For me, it's fine if we stumble up on and kill the Dragon two thirds of the way through its lair - we shouldn't always expect to find the Dragon waiting around in its nest.
    Best if the mobs move around their lairs so that it's not always the same exact chain of events. And best if each run through the same dungeon is not predictable.
  • The dificulty of the bosses shouldn't be made based on the PvP fights. If not, the boss will be too easy when done without PvP threat, and boring.

    This is very important, bosses should be VERY HARD by themselves, and if a PvP fight for the boss breaks out, both parties should be wiped the majority of times.
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