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I am making a game where I have a player spaceship on left side and an enemy spaceship (boss) on the right. I need some ideas on what my enemy should do.

If I move my enemy down and up, down and up, etc.. then the player will be able to predict the enemy's movements. On the other hand, I don't really want the enemy to move randomly. It won't look good if the enemy is just moving to and shooting at random places.

I am also thinking of making my enemy move left, and when it reaches the outside of the screen then coming back in from the right side. Let me know what you guys think.

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your best bet is probably to pick a random place to move the boss to every once in awhile (rather than a random direction every frame) that way he doesn't just jerk around. Another thing you should consider is having your boss pick areas that would help him avoid power attacks by the player, other than that I can't really give you any more help without a better description of the game. –  Benjamin Danger Johnson Apr 18 '13 at 23:43
    
This might help (maybe it's even a duplicate): gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/19651/… –  bummzack Apr 19 '13 at 6:06
    
If your boss had a secondary weapon which tracks the player (e.g. a small turret which can rotate freely), your boss could move to positions where it can't bring its forward weapons to bear, but still pose a threat. –  sarahm Apr 19 '13 at 11:47
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5 Answers

From my memory of boss battles, many have known but challenging movements.

It's OK if a player knows their movements. Random movements could be very frustrating to players who are experienced with arcade shooters. The movements don't have to be solely based on left, right, up, down either. You can have the boss move towards the player slowly, or keep a specific distance or any number of combinations. Often times the movement pattern will change throughout the battle, sometimes based on the boss's health, sometimes based on timers.

All in all, it's something you'll have to try out. Play testing is pretty important in these kinds of situations. Make sure you're able to easily change the movement patterns between builds so you can easily test multiple configurations.

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+1'd. Bosses are important to game progression. Their difficulty shouldn't be left to randomness. –  UnderscoreZero Apr 18 '13 at 23:48
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Almost all arcade/shooters are built this way, a boss has to have patterns to learn and defeat for what should be obvious reasons. –  Patrick Hughes Apr 19 '13 at 1:18
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I guess it would be nice when the enemy would always shoot at the player, but with a time delay, so that he cannot hit the player when the player moves fast enough, but this would only be nice if the boss fight should be easy to manage, when it should be more difficult, than you can let him shoot in kind of a circle and mix it with shooting at random positions. You can also let the spaceship fly in a circle, but to the right of the screen and then back sounds also good. I would make a mixture of that things, dependent on how difficult you want to make the boss fight. You can also look at the game "Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction". There are some boss fights with spaceships, and it is always different.

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I would suggest having a handful of scripted motions which always lead the boss back to a default location. Then when the boss has compled a motion, you can either choose the next one randomly, or you could take it from a predefined pattern if you want the player to be able to learn the behaviour through repeated play.

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In most classic shoot-em-ups, bosses have a fixed behavior pattern which they execute without any regard to the actions of the player.

The main challenge here is to learn the pattern and react accordingly.

To give a spin on this you could make the behavior of the boss depending on the actions of the player. Like:

  • Have it move or change its move strategy when it takes damage
  • Make its weapons fire into the direction of the player
  • Or Have weapons which fire only in one direction, but make the boss itself move so that the player is in the weapons field of attack
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Prepare some patterns and do tests with all of them with multiple game testers (or just some friends) multiple times per pattern (e.g. 6 times per pattern). For each pattern, record the success rate and the learning rate (e.g. average success rate first and second half of the test). Also let the testers rate the boss movement pattern as "too easy", "easy", "okay", "harder", "hard", "too hard", "nearly impossible".

The preparation of the patterns could be done by once controlling the boss yourself like the player character and record the actions. Implement some kind of "arena" where you directly enter the boss fight and one can control/record the boss. This way your boss will probably become more "natural", that means less "programmatic".

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