Don't lower the Zombie Warlord HP
I’ve followed the Twitter entries and this thread is pretty self-explanatory.
I really do not agree over changing the boss’s weapon to a sickle/scythe. Likewise, I also do not agree over making the fight repetitive via him only using two patterns in a given run (either the spinning attack or the chasing one + the zombie summon) instead of all of them. Finally, I see the complaints about his HP being over people expecting him to be a regular Roguelike boss that can be blitzed without it unleashing even half of its pattern (the Zombie Warlord is very much par for a normal video game boss, I found. In fact, with advanced weapons, he even die quite quickly. I really, REALLY do not see where the complaints about its high HP come from. Except maybe from people not expecting boss that tough at the end of the first area). Finally, I do not see him having a short cue to his chase attack being a bad thing ; he force you to stay on the move and the cue is actually long enough that it will allow you to dodge if you stay on the move.
Basically, the only point I agreed about was about making it choosing its attacks a bit more random. None of the others appeared as good ideas to me and will actually make the boss worse in my opinion (namely, making it a lot easier and repetitive ; a large part of why I liked him was that he was relatively complex for a first boss and acted as the first real roadblock after the Cemetary)…
@Mew Thanks for the feedback, I definitely understand your concern with these proposed changes. I want to give you some insight in to our thought process though.
When looking at AWL as a whole, and boss design specifically in this case, we’ve been trying to optimize for many play-throughs. Since AWL is a roguelike(lite?), it’s meant to be played in short(ish), successive sessions. For the current bosses, we’re not completely happy with a couple aspects:
Bosses hardly change from one run to the next. The only real difference in any given Zombie Warlord encounter is the placement of the graves/webs.
Boss design and implementation doesn’t scale very well. For example, the current Zombie Warlord took a chunk of time to develop. He’s got several complex behaviors and lots of polish/animation that other entities don’t have. To us, spending that much time on something that doesn’t scale with multiple play-throughs feels inefficient (for this game). The goal is to make each run feel fresh.
In isolation, I agree with you quite a bit. ZW is a lot of fun, complex and challenging. If he was the boss of a more traditionally progressing game, I think I’d be completely happy with him. However, he does get to be tedious after several runs and doesn’t play well into the concept of each run feeling unique and unexpected.
Additionally, I feel like simple mechanics can still be engaging and challenging. Take the owls, for example. Their behavior is extremely simple, yet they are a huge threat to many players. With ZW, all his behaviors were added simultaneously. They work well enough together, but each mechanic could be more thoroughly explored on its own, as well.
We’re keeping in mind that we don’t want ZW to feel easier. In fact, I think his difficulty might go up as a result of these changes. For example, with our new approach, ZW increases his difficulty each cycle, which acts as a “soft enrage”. To be clear, we aren’t trying “nerf” him, we’re trying to optimize for replay value.
That said, these changes are an experiment. They may be tweaked and changed quite a bit before we’re happy with the boss. I think we’ll have some beta builds soon and you’ll have a change to check out some changes in game, as well.
EDIT: The weapon skin changing is simply an indicator of which ZW you’ve got on your hands. His spike ball won’t be going away, it’ll just be associated with one of his three variations. The other two will have equally cool chain “toppers” like a huge stone block, or bladed axe or something. :)
Ha! Thanks a lot for the explanation.
I do understand what you are saying now that you explained this ; since the Zombie Warlord is the first boss, he is almost always encountered regardless of the run’s progression (wherever the Werewolf Ambush, Sewer Hag, and Zombie Merchant are more varrying on player action). Meanwhile, Death is quite complex but being the final boss, this is understandable (as he’s only encountered at the very end of a successful run) and as a final boss, he can be varied up via different second forms that are fought varying on the run’s progression.
Still, I believe that an additive approach instead of an reductive one would serve things better ; the Zombie Warlord work so well because he act as an ‘in-between’ ; he’s the first real challenge and the battle pretty much teach the player crowd control and how not to rely on outlasting foes to win, skills that are essential to the Sewer. I feel that he’d lose a lot of his impact if he couldn’t tank a sufficient amount of the player’s attacks to perform all his patterns at least a couple of times. Likewise, I feel that him having three patterns means that what he does is varied enough to force the player to be flexible ; you can’t just spin around him because his second pattern will catch you but you can’t just keep your distance either because he’ll eventually revert to the first pattern.
On another hand… it is true that reducing the player’s max HP will have a potentially huge effect on the game. You could reasonably tank hits in the current version thanks to the total 200 HPs with only the Zombie Warlord, or maybe getting unlucky with owl spawns, really having a chance of killing a reasonably skilled player. With the reduced HP, the Zombie Warlord’s massive HP pool means that one will have to fight him a lot longer in a flawless manner (which is extremely difficult as although the Zombie Warlord is an easy-ish boss to simply beat, he is EXTREMELY hard to no-damage clear).
I hope I did not come off as being overly overreactive. I can definitely understand the feeling of wanting to make him more dynamic. It’s just that I felt that him having three AI patterns instead of just one or two was one of his advantages and that with the randomly generated rooms, actually made him probably the most fun boss to fight in the game alongside Death. So since I already really like him, seeing him changed in what I perceive to be a potentially radical way worry me.
I guess I’ll see for myself how the change work out.
Honestly, I don’t find the Zombie Warlord difficult at all. If anything, he’s more tiresome than bothersome. The only time I’ve ever found him hard is when the graves and webs spawn in such a way that it’s difficult to deal with him and the whittling down the zombie horde at the same time. Otherwise I find his attacks are fairly easy to dodge and his patterns are fairly easy to learn. Every run of AWL after the first has made facing the Zombie Warlord a chore. I’ll remove the zombies and their grave spawners and end up spending the next 5-1o minutes whittling down the Zombie Warlord’s large health pool, a tedious procedure. I welcome any change that makes the fight more interactive and perhaps a bit of more speedy in its completion.
I hope I did not come off as being overly overreactive.
Not all! You care a lot and that’s really appreciated :) We’ll start distributing betas of the new version soon, as always eager to hear your thoughts.
I don’t find the Zombie Warlord difficult at all. If anything, he’s more tiresome than bothersome.
I agree. I think he’s interesting maybe the first playthrough, and yeah sometimes the environment throws a wrench in your plans, but otherwise he’s easy and predictable. The new ZW changes are meant to address issues like these, I think you’ll like the changes.