Fromm, Clemens
Supervisor:Prof. Gudrun Klinker
Advisor:Dyrda, Daniel (@ga67gub)
Submission Date:[created]


This thesis explores the design concepts of bosses and boss fights and the process behind them. Its main focus is to create a prototype of the tool, Boss Board, in an attempt to support and assist the boss design process by creating a model of a boss and its fight. This tool is based on the foundation of a shared knowledge base, vocabulary and design language surrounding boss design. The creation of this foundation is attempted throughout the thesis as an answer to the problem statement of addressing a less utilized design space within game design. This is done by clarifying, categorizing and displaying concepts of boss design. The aforementioned prototype and its components as well as the intent and motivation behind it is elaborated on after looking at already existing ways on how to display boss fights. The results of this thesis and the prototype created are then discussed and further options on how to extend it are brought up.

Project Description

The motivation behind this thesis includes exploring boss design, the concept of a boss and its components. This addresses the process behind bosses and also attempts to improve and support this process. A bosses' corresponding fight within a game was also one of the primary focal points.

Problem Description

Several problems are attempted to be addressed throughout this thesis:

  • The process of boss design is a less utilized design space
  • A lack of a clear unified fundation for design and communication
  • Exisiting tools primarily support the development process but not boss design specifically.


Originiating from this motivation and the previously mentioned problems, the goals of this thesis are as follows:

  • Starting a foundation for
    • a shared knowledge base
    • a vocabulary
    • a design language
  • Describing core concepts of bosses
  • Exploring existing ways of displaying bosses
  • Creating a prototype tool that supports the boss development process

Boss Design

Boss Design was primarily explored to describe core concepts and start the foundation for a shared knowledge base, vocabulary and design language.

What is a Boss?

Bosses can generally be described as strong enemies, opponetns, stages or fights in a game. They are often difficult challenges and feature a unique design.
They further serve as a skill test and a method to raise tension as they are often used at pivotal points within the game and the story.

What is a Boss Fight?

A boss fight describes the encounter between the player and the boss. It is the interaction between the two opposing sides within a space dedicated to the fight itself. They are usually difficult challenges that are meant to change the pace of the current gameplay.
A boss fight can have multiple stages or phases that differ in the general mechanics and themes compared to one another.

Aspects of a Boss Fight

The aspects of a boss fight describe components that can be modified and influenced concerning the parameters of the fight and its participants.


  • duration and length of a fight
  • frequency of attacks
  • general pace and rest periods
  • phases or stages of a fight


  • area of a fight
  • intended distances and size differences between participants
  • obstacles
  • traversal and movement of participants

Player Resources

  • statistics and attributes
  • survivabilty and ability pools
  • items and abilities

Boss Resources

  • health
  • additional enemies
  • attacks and patterns
  • phases

Context and Challenge

  • general game properties like the role and story
  • Difficulty and challenge level
  • type of boss
  • amount of participants
  • restrictions

Categories of a Boss Fight

The categories of a boss fight are primarily meant to offer an overarching description of how a boss can be defined.


Patterns describe all possible actions a boss can take, this spans over predefined actions a boss takes in a certain order or randomized sets of attacks the boss chooses from.


The match-up describes the amount of participants in a given fight which is also often dependent on the genre and types of games like MMOs or singleplayer games. This spans from one boss to multiple bosses and one player to large groups of players within one fight.


The purpose of a boss can be split into two categories that are descibed individually but can be used in combination. Combatant and Boss as a puzzle.


The boss fight is primarily intended to be a combat encounter. Its mechanics are predominantly designed around fights.

Boss as a Puzzle or Level

The boss fight deploys puzzles or levels as part of the fight or as the boss itself.

The Boss Board

The Boss Board is a modular board that provides an overview of a boss fight and its components. It is meant to be iterable and assist the prototyping phase without having to implement the actual boss fight. The board is split up in multiple modular zones that each represent a specific part of a boss fight and its components. The core principles that the Boss Board tries to provide are as follows:

  • Visualize and evaluate a boss and its fight
  • Foster conscious and intended design
  • Specific zones for each component
  • A modular nature through choices and optional components
  • Interconnected board of zones, parts and components

General Components

  • Zones
    • Distinct areas that represent individual parts of a fight
  • Transitions
    • Arrows and lines connecting elements within and between zones
  • Markers and Tokens
    • Identifiers and numbers corresponding to specific components on the board
    • Event points signify important events that happen during a fight and are placed throughout the board
  • Icons and symbols
    • Represent player and boss resources, as well as their addition and removal
    • Also represent time instances and effects on player and boss 

Area Zone

  • Sets the area, dimension, perspectives and obstacles of a fight
  • Marks the starting position of entities and any changes

Shown below is an example for a simple boss area setup. It has a circular shape with a double rim representing the edge or border of the area. Obstacles are marked with a diagonal line pattern in their shapes. The intial start positions of the participants are also represented.

Phase Zone

  • Phases mark distinct stages of a fight
  • They include actions and attacks that the boss can perform

Boss actions make up the majority of a phase. A boss action is given its own space in a shape containing the specific action as well as any transitions, conditions, weights, threat levels or other relevant information. To display boss actions, the general area layout is used as well as the position of the boss, usually in the center unless otherwise relevant.

This figure shows multiple examples of boss actions, the colored shapes represent the actions or attacks by displaying their intended hitboxes and areas that they affect. Transitions and conncected actions can also be indicated.

Pacing Zone

The pacing zone showcases the the general pacig and intended development of a fight and its phases.

  • Can be part of the Phase Zone or used independently
  • Describes the behavior of the boss and rest periods throughout the fight
  • Can be used with icons and symbols or text descriptions

Progress Bar

The purpose of the progress bar is to depict the intended progression a fight is following until its completion. This is done through two major lines, the timeline and lifeline.

  • Depicts the overall progression of the fight by using events and milestones
  • Timeline
    • Used as a rough outline for how a fight is supposed to progress
    • Tracks time sensitive events 
  • Lifeline
    • The health of the boss throughout the fight
    • Certain milestones or events are triggered by reaching a certain amount of health

This figure below shows an example of the possible usage of both a timeline and a lifeline for a fight. The destruction of obstacles should happen towards the beginning and end of a fight while a check concerning the damage the player has dealt to a boss is supposed to take place during the middle of the fight which should be around the time the boss reaches 50% of its health.

Concept Zone

The concept zone serves as a description of the purpose and core concepts of the boss fight. It primarily contextualizes the boss within the game while providing the intended design choices for it.

  • Context
    • Role, theme and story of the boss
    • Placement within the game
  • Categories
    • Pattern, Purpose and Match-up
  • Challenge
    • Amount of attempts, difficulty level of the fight
  • Characteristics
    • Any additional information
    • Noteworthy mechanics
    • Prerequisites and rewards

Example Board

This figure showcases the potential layout of a finished boss board for an example boss fight. Not all components or notations are used in this example which primarily serves as a display for how the different zones and their components can be placed and used in collaboration with each other.


The goal was to create a prototype of a tool that can assist the boss design process while also exploring the design concepts of bosses and boss fights.

An attempt was made to create a shared knowledge base, vocabulary and design language by both categorizing and defining core components and concepts of bosses and their fights. The thesis provides a collection of aspects, categories and principles for a bosses' design and general structure. This primariy provides the groundwork and further elaborations and more precise details are need for a more thorough foundation. These concepts can be applied to existing tools but those are, in this context, more oriented toards game mechanics than general boss design

The Boss Board was created as a simple tool with a visualization notation that offers guidelines while leaving room for individual adjustments.There are enough limitatios and guidelies to provbide a base while leaving room for the creative process. It delivers an overview in one place that could potentially foster communication while offering a variety of options and modularity. This could potentially lead to issues of either oversimplifying certain aspects or adding unnecessary complexity. It provdies less precise visualiziation and notation compared to existing tools, especially concerning the display of mechanics in heavy detail. It is generally more geared towards bosses within the action genre but could potentially be used for other puposes.


As submitted on 15.11.2021

Final Presentation