When the player is the villain, all boss fights have to be reversed. This leads to interesting experiments with game mechanics.
For its debut title, the two-man studio Starblade took an unusuall approach. Normally, the player slips into the role of the hero, who has to rescue a pricess or defeat a tyrannical usupator in order to save a kingdom. But like in the good old days of Dungeon Keeper, in Nefarious, the player is the villain and has to defeat the heroes.
In a new article, Gamasutra reached out to the developers, asking about their inspirations. “It all began as a thought exercise,” Josh Hano, animator, illustrator, and designer explained. “I’ve always been a big fan of video games and Disney villains. So I began wondering: how would being a bad guy affect a game? How would this change game mechanics?”
There are many ways to play as a bad guy in a game. In some games, players can define their virtue or evilness through choices within the game. But that wasn’t enough for Starblade. They aimed to build the whole game around the villainous player. But not only from a narrative point of view, as the developers also altered the boss fight mechanics.
“Each fight was a challenge to design. We had to basically invent a new type of game every time. The controls had to be simple and intuitive, because the encounters were designed to only last a few minutes. Making the fights challenging but winnable was important.”
Hano aimed to design the villain as some kind of mad genius. “The player had to be able to pick up the fight, figure it out in relatively short amount of time and then develop a strategy to win. To be a successful villain, you have to be smart as well as over-whelming. After all, the heroes you fight are used to winning. “
And the team of Starblade has a lot of ideas for boss fights. Of course, they couldn’t implement every inspiration, but according to Hano those ideas might come in handy in the future.
“We had a few more ideas for reverse boss fights we wanted to explore. So we decided to hang onto them for now in case we wanted to produce additional content or DLC,” he said