Can you add any good ways to indicate enemy strength to this list:
- physical size
- equipment quality
- narration or preview scene
- demeanour

I'm designing a spell-casting/stealth game where some enemies are cannon-fodder, others are decent fights, and some (initially) will be lethal - hence the stealth requirement.
It's a VR title so I don't want UI elements (like stars, health-bars etc) messing up the immersion.
At the moment my inclination is to avoid cartoony art style so it'll be as 'realistic' looking as I can manage while keeping 90fps.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Well Zelda changed the color, and pretty much everyone got it \$\endgroup\$
    – Bálint
    Jul 27 '17 at 10:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ heh I'm right in the middle of reading an article about Zelda enemies :) gamedev.net/articles/game-design/game-design-and-theory/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Pete Baron
    Jul 27 '17 at 10:47
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It might help to get a bit more context about what your enemies are and how you fight them. I'd represent toughness differently for a melee brawler versus a ranged shooter versus a spellcasting wizard, etc... \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jul 27 '17 at 11:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ great point @DMGregory I'll add more details to the question, thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – Pete Baron
    Jul 27 '17 at 12:36
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that color psychology is not culturally universal. You need to teach your players which color means which power level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Jul 27 '17 at 12:48


This is the obvious one. The graphical aspect of a monster is very important and should tell the player if an enemy is strong or not (in some cases you want to do the opposite effect but let's pass on this). You can play on different aspects such as :

  • The face : if he has big teeth, an angry look etc, it will indicate that he's not a really friendly enemy
  • The size : let's face it, bigger monsters tend to be stronger. They do not have to be more agressive (ex. elephants) but they will be more resistant.
  • The weapons : weapons tell perhaps more than physical aspects. Just picture a cute teenager girl with a rocket launcher ... well, you get the point.

Color code

Many games work with color codes to indicate if a enemy is dangerous or not at all. For instance in the tower defense Bloons the color of the enemy represents the number of health points the enemy have (red : 1, blue : 2, etc.).

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This is a very basic example but it could be a possibility. Green generally means peaceful, red means dangerous, black will be the deadliest enemy.

Music and sounds

This aspect if often left behind but to my mind it's really important. If you have an area where the music is peaceful you can expect to have peaceful mobs but if the music gets epic all of a sudden (such as in Dark Souls) you know you are going to face some kind of boss or really tough monster.

Enemy noises, dialogs or screams/roars/.. could be a hint about their strength too.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your suggestions, music is a great signal. The facial aspect is nice too - in VR enemies that snarl at you will have a lot of impact. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pete Baron
    Jul 27 '17 at 12:49

I want to present an experimental idea for this.


Since you are using VR, might it be possible to use some blurring/focal techniques like in cinema.

As an example, if you have a single lethal enemy among others, when that enemy enters the center field of view, blur the other lesser enemies and make the lethal enemy very clear with even maybe a small bit of zoom or enlarging. Perhaps increase the contrast in colors on that enemy specifically.
This might work best in stealth parts, where the player is likely to be taking their time and observing.

The reverse could work as well, depending on setting. If a lethal enemy is presented as some unknowable horror, or something beyond immediate comprehension, you could cause it to be harder to focus on. This simulates part of an adrenaline rush from panic where your pupils dilate and hence your vision blurs.

Potential Issues

  • Nausea: it's already an issue with VR, I'd suspect this wouldn't help unless the effect is balanced very well
  • Timing and position: How long does a player have to have something in their field of view before this effect happens? Does it have to be in the center, or does it work at periphery as well?
  • Tracking/Movement: Once the player looks away, does the effect persist? For how long?
  • Gameplay Impedance: Will this affect prevent the player from interacting with other game elements?

Again, this is an experimental suggestion. I'm not aware of any games using this concept with VR. But I'd certainly like to see if it could work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting idea - simulating fear through vision especially. I think it could be very powerful when tied with suitable sound effects (a gasp followed by increased rate of breathing, an almost subliminal heart-beat...) \$\endgroup\$
    – Pete Baron
    Jul 29 '17 at 11:05

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