Deus Ex: Human Revolution Devs: 'We Should've Put More Effort' Into Boss Fights

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a very good game. But it had one big problem: those frustrating, out-of-place boss battles. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Eidos Montreal's senior game designer Francois Lapikas addressed the boss battles once and for all: the team didn't put enough thought into them, he said, and weren't aware what a problem they really were until the game shipped.

"We didn't have a direction sheet for boss fights," Lapikas said, referring to the complex and detailed sheets that the team created for other systems like hacking and conversation. "We kind of forgot about it."

"Because we didn't have these direction sheets, we didn't know what we were doing with boss fights. We saw them as a way to break the pacing, more than as a way to test the player's skills. That's a big factor of why you can't go through them using social or stealth."

The team didn't do any pre-production on the boss fights and designed them as they were developing the game itself. "We thought that by putting enough ammo and enough weapons in the room, that would be enough for players to just defeat them and say 'That was nice, let's go on.'"

Playtests flagged the boss fights as a problem, but they didn't flag them as a serious problem. "It was only when we shipped, and we saw the complaints, that we understood. It was a surprise to us, actually. It was a big surprise, and not a good one," Lapikas said.

"I don't really have a solution for boss fights, except that next time we're going to think about it more. They were a big part of the game, and we should've put more effort into them. So, truly sorry about that."

With that, there was some light applause and laughter. Clearly, many of the game developers and aspiring game developers in the room enjoyed the game, but agreed about the boss fights. When asked about the possibility of fixing or removing them during the Q&A, he said that it just wasn't that easy to just patch them, or remove them.

Some other interesting notes on Lapikas's talk, in which he discussed how they created the other systems in the game:

  • For a while, Human Revolution had unlimited energy, since the developers were getting feedback that players wanted more energy. But then they found that the takedowns ruined the game, and that players would just stealth and takedown their way through every level. No matter how many energy bars they added, players would want more. But when it comes down to it: "Deus Ex is a game about scarcity of resources."
  • The team didn't know about L.A. Noire while they were designing the conversation boss-battles. They worried that players wouldn't be able to read the feedback from the characters they talk to, but found in playtesting that players liked the uncertainty, because it felt real.
  • The hacking game, which was based on hacking in the real world, was almost unworkable. Lapikas said: "At some point it was so complicated that I didn't even know what it was doing." Then someone suggested adding a graphical element. Lapikas's initial reaction was negative, but he realised that by making the hacking graphical, he could easily implement all of the complicated systems he had made and make them playable. Two weeks later, they had a working version of the hacking minigame. It was the earliest system to be done in the game, finished two whole years before the game's completion.
  • The team came up with a bunch of influences that they wanted to use for every system, which explains why the game felt like a love letter to a bunch of different games. Among those specific influences were Rainbow 6 Vegas's cover system, FEAR's AI, and Call of Duty's health system.
  • The way that the team described the overall vibe of the game was this simple, kind of perfect combination: "Children of Men meets X-Men".

Comments

    Amazing that after a year of being released the devs still talk to their fans and post updates on facebook.

      yeah sounds like a group of people who both like there job and respect there fans and source material.

    I must admit, those boss fights were a pain in the ass the first I played through on Normal. But when play me second playthrough on Easy they were (surprise!) a lot easier to deal with. Then my third playthrough on Hard, it just seemed like a cake walk. I guess I figure 'em out by then.

    If you had the Typhoon they were easy.
    If you didn't and went all stealth they were hard.
    The 3rd boss was either really easy or really difficult depending on your choices beforehand (avoiding spoilers)

      Also really easy or really difficult depending on whether you hacked and carried the turret from the start of the game into his room :P

      Stun gun made the bosses almost laughable.

      or just spam mines in front of them

    More Effort? Dont you mean ANY effort? Didnt they outsource the boss battles to someone else? Last I checked, telling someone "you do it" requires next to no effort...

    I would just like to say, if this were a CD-Projekt Red game, we'd see a redesign and a patch based on community feedback. I loved DXHR but "it wasn't just that easy" doesn't cut it anymore.

    Lol I had no issue with the boss fights, simple maybe but the game was amazing regardless

    Oh look a developer acknoledging flaws in their games, listening to customer feedback and taking steps to learn from their mistakes.

    What fools! They should just censor/ban, ignore, or tell them to "fuck off" like Bioware does.

    Also, hell yeah HR was great but the boss fights definitely weren't of the same quality as the rest of the game

    So uh, couple of things:

    "players would just stealth and takedown their way through every level" - Firstly, I did that anyway. You have one infinitely regenerating energy bar. Secondly, and more importantly: Why does that break the game?!? Isn't that a totally valid playstyle? Why not use enemies who can't be taken down, then? Or guys who could see through Stealth more easily, if they wanted more variety?

    “We kind of forgot about [thoroughly designing the boss battles].”
    and
    "The team didn’t do any pre-production on the boss fights and designed them as they were developing the game itself." - WHAAAAAT?! That's... insane. I thought the game was well designed, but how do you FORGET the pivotal mission climaxes?!

    It's curious that they're pretending to have developed the boss fights themselves instead of blaming the problems on the studio that they were outsourced to. I mean at some point Eidos did have to look at them and give them the ok, but given they had a fairly legitimate scapegoat, it's interesting that they didn't take it,

      Is a case of accepting that they were responsible for overall creative direction and that they let this aspect slip. Very encouraging (and very rare) for them to accept responsibility and not try to point the finger at someone else. Makes me like them even more.

    As a fan of the original, I felt HR was an utter disappointment. Stealth was WAAAAY too easy, the enemies simply felt utterly incompetent in their ability to secure a high security facility. You could be reasonably assured that if you wanted to stealth a section there would be an alternate 'secret' way that wasn't secured.

    There was no flexibility in the direction of the story and the ending was utter tripe. The boss characters were terrible and had no characterisation as you might expect they would, it was just 'now you fight this person!'. I didn't even know who the bosses were meant to be until I read that they had been the ones who attacked the building at the start.

    Ok wow that was a lot longer than I was going to write... uhm yeah game was crap...

    I'm not a fan of boss fights at all. That's what I liked about the original HALO, the complete absence of boss fights, and hated about HALO 2 when they included them. It was good to see they removed them from later games.

    You can duplicate the difficulty level for ending a section of the game by increasing the abilities, number and weapon power of the enemies without resorting to a single boss that seems completely invincible (in some circumstances).

    If they borrowed ideas from other games (everything is a remix after all) then they should consider following how HALO handles milestones or mission endings.

    That being said, as much as I hate boss fights, I totally loved Deus Ex, having never played this style of game before. It made me forget all about HALO Reach multiplayer for 2 whole months, and I bought all the extra content. It was worth every cent and left me craving for more.

      Sam here, red t-rex. I don't hate boss fights, but I don't really care for them either. I prefer it when difficulty is scaled in more creative ways, as you suggested.

    Loved the game but the second 2 bosses both froze on me, do I just stood there nailing them. Disappointing but stress free

    Should've put some effort into the end of the game, forget the boss fights.

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