Design of War Ender - Boss 1: The Wall of Lasers
Let’s get ready to rumble!
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We made it, folks. The first boss level of War Ender is upon us. By this point the player will have learned the basics of the game. In addition they will have been introduced to the bulk of the enemies they will come across for the duration of the game. Now it’s time to put all that they’ve learned to the test, using the age-old game mechanic known as the boss battle. The entire first chapter of the game has been dedicated to getting the player excited and revved up for the adventure to come. This level is essentially the climax to that build up.
Things start off a little unusual for War Ender. There’s an ominous music track playing with Red standing in an empty room. Move forward a little and somebody speaks, saying that Red will make for an excellent test subject. Step a little further, and there it is! The Wall of Lasers, quickly closing the space between itself and the player. You’re introduced to the boss through two black bars, with dramatic lightning effects and text stating “Red VS Wall of Lasers.” Fun fact: when this was first put together I was very, very giddy.
All bosses later on would use this style of introduction, letting the player know that the enemy has now brought out the big guns. Wall of Lasers is different from other bosses though, both in presentation and in the fact that you’re not really fighting anything so much as evading something. It’s a totally different dynamic to the bosses that will come later. Okay, even saying you’re not fighting anything is a stretch, as there are the laser cores that make the Wall of Lasers operate. The point is, it’s a different sort of battle and one of the more unique levels in the entire game.
But back to the battle at hand. Sparks are flying, the camera is shaking, the building is being destroyed, and it’s time to run. There’s a general sense of chaos to the level, and I for one enjoy it. This is also one of only two bosses to incorporate regular enemies into the battle. These enemies can also be destroyed the laser wall if you allow it. Oh, the thins The Outsiders will do to defeat Red, am I right? The level begins similarly to the game’s first level, where all you must do is cross a simple gap. The first enemy you encounter is the Shooter, but beyond that things start to take a turn. Turrets and mines begin to appear as well as a Shielded Flamethrower enemy. But in total there’s only a few enemies and it’s simple enough to get to the first core.
Here is where the more traditional part of the boss begins. Your goal now is to destroy the core that powers the Wall of Lasers in order to progress. The Outsiders planned for someone making it to the cores and set up a defense system to keep their foes out. Four turrets move along the walls, firing bullets as you take down the laser core. I also placed two platforms to get the player on equal height with the core, eliminating the need to jump constantly to get hits in. One thing I could have improved is making it more obvious what the target is. There were multiple times when watching others play that I’d realize people playing the game would jump straight into the core, only to die instantly and wonder what happened. I tried adding the lighting bolts and the boss’s health bar to let the player know that the core is dangerous and is the target, but it seems to have only done so much. Thankfully people are smart and quickly figure out what to do, but it would seem there’s more I could have done.
Getting past the first core leads to the player’s first checkpoint. In addition, the same person talking to you before will comment on your progress, though at this point they still believe they have the upper hand. The second section has even fewer enemies, being more of a platforming challenge with an emphasis on disappearing platforms. There’s a couple rocket turrets standing the way but that’s all the enemies here. For those doing a destroyed checkpoint run there’s a health box lying in this section for players to pick up. Then we get to the second core and, aside from some slightly different geometry, it’s the same song and dance as before.
The third section is my personal favorite part of the level and is another area I’m quite proud of. It’s nothing you’ve never seen before, but it’s always nice to have. After defeating a few enemies the player is greeted with a health box, but to get it they’ll have to take time to go down the structure to get it followed by climbing back up and jumping over the gap to progress. What we have here is an example of risk vs reward, a common element in games. Level 1-3 had a similar idea in its second section, with a health box surrounded by mines. Here, the risk vs the reward is much more obvious. Once again, for those doing a destroyed checkpoint run they’ll probably want this. After all, the whole point is to risk progress in exchange for 100% completion. Players playing the level normally may not see the need for this health box as their health was just refilled by the checkpoint. Unless, of course, they take a ton of hits from the enemies earlier.
Upon entering the third core the player is given a little mix up. There’s now a smaller laser in the core room, placed on top of the floating platform. Two things happen from placing this one object - first, the player now has to account for an object to their side as well the bullets coming from above and below. Second, this smaller laser can block player bullets, meaning that the player must move around occasionally to get their hits in. This is arguably the hardest of the three core rooms, though there aren’t as many turrets as before to deal with.
One last gauntlet remains, mixing both platforming and combat into a majestic dance of death. You probably know what to expect at this point. Just before the last core room is a health box and a turret. The turret is interesting to me in that it asks players to either have one less hit point by running into it, saving precious seconds of the laser wall coming in. Or they can instead shoot it down and take no hits but risk the laser wall defeating them instead. What the player will do is up to them and their current situation. In the final core room we have almost the same room as before, but noticeably shorter, with an extra turret, and the small laser being on the roof.
The small laser could have honestly been moved to the platform and nothing would have been lost, but I think I kept it because I liked the differentiation. In addition, the room is shorter and that’s to limit the player’s options. Before they could easily jump or the small laser (though that wasn’t advisable) or the bullets. In this more cramped space they are relying more on dodging now. But, the core itself as the same as the other three. Destroy it, then move on to the level’s end. The building is collapsing, explosions are everywhere. Basically, it’s time to leave. But Red won’t quite make it out in time, as the building will give way beneath his feet and he will find himself underground.
This final photo I placed above is the original sketch of the boss level. Wall of Lasers stayed very true to the original document, with only a few differences. For instance, disappearing floors were present much earlier in the level (though the document does show I crossed that out) and some structures were given increased height or additional platforms. The core rooms were also not sketched out in any detail, which meant I sort of made those up as I went along. Every core room was changed from the early version to the final product. For instance, the final core room was supposed to have two small lasers for the player to focus on. The reason that was changed was because two small lasers hitting each other created some interesting problems. Two of the core rooms were also going to have turrets on the sides as well as on the top and bottom but that created a little too much chaos for the first boss.
Thus concludes the design of the first chapter of War Ender, but there’s plenty more levels to dissect. In addition, I can assure you that there will be some updates on both of my next games in the August dev blog. That’s right, this time I can guarantee it instead of continually saying “probably.” I should mention that neither game will be getting any sort of release date there, just to be clear. Instead it will be an update on where things are at with the two projects. Finally, as of this writing the summer sale is going on with War Ender at a 75% discount. It’s a great time to jump into the game and experience the levels I’ve been talking about for yourself.
Until next time!
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