A cornerstone of the God of War series, is clearly creating large scale set pieces. I say set pieces because these encounters feel more like self contained mini experiences rather than traditional boss battles.
- Centering the game around segments that don't necessarily fit within the modelling of moment to moment gameplay means that specialized tools needed to be developed for creation of these segments.
- In GOW3 several boss battles take place on top of moving entities such as titans. During these encounters the characters respond dynamically to movements on the parent entity itself.
- This infers the existence of a system where child objects of a particular joint respond to transform changes of the parent object.
- However, these transform changes couldn't possibly be entirely systemic. A large amount of manual effort must have been involved in aligning attached entities during animation steps.
- In addition, collision on attached entities must have also demanded intricate collision meshes to allow for battles to take place on the parent entity.
- Each encounter typically has several different stages, with each stage having an epic cinematic payoff.
- Sometimes an encounter can play out over the course of an entire level.
- This affects pacing quite dramatically, as it allows for each stage to be consistently high octane with a tension release in between stages rather than during the battle.
- It also allows for the opportunity to contextualize the encounter over time.
Eg: Poseidon's encounter progresses from an attack on Kratos to an attack on Gaia placing Kratos' vehicle in jeopardy.
- Enemies don't have explicit health bars. Instead, what is made evident is how the beast can be defeated. This is also a means for players to gauge their progress in the battle.
Eg: Kratos defeats Hades by literally cutting away pieces of him.
- In addition most larger bosses also tend to have avatar changes over the different stages also indicating a sense of progress to the player. These avatars also help visualize the characters arcs of the bosses within the battle.
HADES REGULAR AVATAR
HADES ANGRY AVATAR NEAR DEATH
- Clearly a lot of effort goes into making each encounter feel unique.Nevertheless, certain characteristics of a classic God of War encounter are identifiable.
- Encounters tend to begin at surprising moments without announcement.
HADES ATTEMPT TO RIP KRATOS' SOUL AT INITIATION
POSEIDON'S SUDDEN EMERGENCE
PLAYER'S INITIAL REACTION
- A player's initial reaction to boss' at this scale tend to be instant aggression. Therefore, typical first responses tend to be furious hammering of attacks at the boss.
- To accommodate for this player behavior, bosses tend to begin by slowly paced similarly styled attacks.
- These attacks tend to be agnostic of player position, making evasion fairly simple.
- This stage could even be marked by diminished attack damage as the player will undoubtedly be hit a few times.
POSEIDON'S INITIAL UNI-DIMENSIONAL WATER BREATH ATTACK
- Eventually the player deciphers the animation that maps to the boss's attack preparation and eventually learns to either block or evade the attack depending on blockability of the attack.
- As the battle progresses, boss attacks tend to require more specific player evasive action.
- There is almost a sense of puzzle solving involved in deciphering the required evasive action which could range from flying on impact, continuous rolling, rolling to a specific position etc.
- This phase gets compounded by adding multiple attacks forcing the player to maintain an attack - evasion mapping in his mind.
- This also causes players to attack from positions where they can realistically react in time to avoid impact.
HADES' EARTHQUAKE - REQUIRES PLAYER TO FLY
POSEIDON'S PINCER ATTACK - REQUIRES PLAYER TO BE AT PLATFORM CENTER
- The game provides various means for the player to make himself invulnerable for brief periods. This includes magic attacks, rage of sparta mode, grabbing smaller enemies etc.
- An element of meaningful choice that the player encounters is when he wishes to use these time bound 'cheat' resources.
- However, the game occasionally invalidates these cheat strategies as well. For example, a boss strike could be longer than the invulnerability period of a magic attack.
WHIRLWIND MAGIC - INVULNERABILITY SHORTER THAN POSEIDON TRIDENT
EPIC PAYOFF MOMENTS
INVALIDATING PLAYER SCHEMA
- As mentioned above, encounters occur over several stages. One technique that the game utilizes is adding subtle variations on individual boss attacks in subsequent stages.
- For example, an attack sequence that had two attacks might now have 4 instead.
- This causes the player to actively resist moves that he has hopefully internalized at this point.
HADES CHAIN ATTACK HAS 3 HITS INSTEAD OF 2 IN 2nd STAGE
- Memorable GOW encounters don't always involve a boss. Sometimes waves of enemies can be just as engaging.
- Simple things like how these encounters are framed can add pressure on the player.
- For example, stating that 'wandering souls' need to be killed before they are converted into Hades army is so much more effective than simply dropping undead creatures.
- The game has a variety of types of beasts differentiated on various axes.
- By combining different categories of beasts, the game builds in feedback loops making encounters easier or more difficult.
- For example, a positive feedback loop occurs by adding grabbable characters. This gives the player breathing room to take a break from the action or evade attacks from other monsters.
- A negative feedback loop occurs when a combination of two monsters can deal greater damage. Eg : Medusa with other quick attacking characters can instantly kill Kratos by turning him into stone and then shattering him.
- Another interesting component is that there exists triangular high risk, high reward built into the negative feedback loops.
- For example, players can use Medusa's stone flash attack to turn into stone other monsters. This however, comes at the risk of Kratos being turned into stone himself.
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