On a broad level, my 4 criteria for depth fit basically everything. Not going to repeat those.
Well designed enemies are good at performing multiple functions. They’re good at engaging with the player directly, they’re good at blocking the player’s path, they have ways they can be exploited to deal damage to them, and they avoid falling into repetitive patterns.
Good enemies are aggressive enough to threaten the player sufficiently, and passive enough to fit their function in the level, like barring the player’s path, or simply making a section as challenging as it should be. Ideally an enemy is both difficult to engage and difficult to bypass.
Contact damage enemies should move in the general direction of the player, but in some way not directly at them. This is what makes them dangerous but exploitable; not overwhelming. Enemies that move directly at the player should either be slower than the player, or faster but have a slow turning speed or recovery time between turns or some other limitation. Axiom Verge did not follow these rules, AM2R did.
Good enemies accentuate the existing difficulties of the environment, such as many ninja gaiden and castlevania enemies. Such as the enemies in zelda that push you back really far if you touch or slash at them. They’re positioned near pits and spikes because the danger isn’t from them, it’s from the environment.
Good enemies always give you a chance to avoid damage and basically shouldn’t set you up for “checkmate” scenarios, where you cannot avoid taking damage, especially enough damage to kill you. I can imagine an appeal for that type of thing, but it needs to be telegraphed in advance or built up over time and all I can think of right now is Ludwig randomly pulling out a really hard to avoid attack right after I get hit, and that sucks.
Good enemies threaten in different ways by controlling different areas of the battlefield, literally and metaphorically. Good enemies work well together with other enemies. Good enemies move differently, in weird but predictable ways. Good enemies force the player to move.
That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.
What would you consider to be well designed enemies for platformers?
Ones that bar progress in varied ways. I really like ninja gaiden for this (both series actually).
I think a bad thing that happened in the transition to 3d games is we became more afraid of using contact damage enemies, so categorically enemies became worse at blocking our path. This follows from the trend of also using enemies with less predictable movement patterns over time as AI got more complicated, and enemies having distinct attacks with startup, active, and cooldown times.
I’ve been playing AM2R and I really like a lot of the enemies. Some move diagonally in circles around important points, some diagonally at you, some just close in slowly on you, some jump various heights, the metroids orbit around you and sometimes rush you and need to be hit from the bottom.
Medusa heads are a work of genius. Flea Men are annoying but pretty good too.
Hammer Bros and derivative enemies are generally pretty good. Same for enemies that work like donkey kong.
Hopping enemies work well.
Ninja Gaiden Birds are a nice example of a homing enemy. The robots in megaman that home in slowly are a good example of the opposite type. I also like the boomerang throwers in ninja gaiden.
My friend Ben Ruiz did a simple breakdown of various castlevania enemy types.
With platformers, the best enemies are simply ones that move well to block you. Blocking the player is the most important task for a platformer enemy. In most cases it’s better for it to be harder to get past them than to straight up engage them, though it should probably be possible to get through without taking damage and without killing them, just as a flexible guideline.
What do you think of these bosses from Axiom Verge? I think they’re some of the worst designed bosses I’ve ever seen due to their lack of moves, boring repeditive attack patterns, and bullet spongey nature.
I commented on this when I reviewed axiom verge, these are some seriously disappointing bosses. All of them have you be extremely passive in fighting them, which is lame.
The second boss, Telal, is notable, because you can damage boost through it to get to its opposite side. It cannot turn around, so you can stand behind it and shoot its weakpoint and there’s nothing you can do about it. Also his pattern just has you standing on top of a platform and jumping when projectiles come at you.
Uruku, the third boss, is easily defeated by simply using the address disruptor to create a platform in front of it. This platform never disappears, then you can position your gun diagonally, and shoot directly at its weak point, and none of its projectiles can harm you. If you don’t realize you can do this, then you can simply stand by some of the higher up platforms and shoot at him when he’s not using the laser.
Gir-tab, the fourth boss, is wrecked by the hypo-atomizer, which shoots forwards and sends extra projectiles out off its main path, so it reaches under him and hits the weak spot very directly. Also you can damage boost through him and deal a ton of damage with the kilver or drill. This boss and Telal really seem like lazy design. They have projectiles shooting in places you have little to no reason to be, and there’s phases you can just shoot at them without worrying about projectiles. A common theme with many of the bosses.
Ukhu Variant is the next boss, and the only one with a cool kill strategy. You can glitch the wasps it releases to become explosives, and they float upwards. If you shoot them when they’re near its mouth when it’s open, you insta kill the boss. This is the only cool thing in the entire game. Boss tracks you too closely on hard mode, makes many of its attacks impossible to avoid.
Similar deal with sentinel after it. The guy in this video just sits in the corner and shoots at it while tanking its projectiles. The fast strat for this guy is to jump up at his center and mash up on the dpad to teleport through it, because your teleport moves really far and does a ton of damage at this point. Either way, lame boss.
The final boss is even more lame, it almost used to be basically impossible to beat him unless you got into a safe corner of the room where the robots can’t shoot you. They’re playing against the patched version of the boss in this video. Those robots also show how a ton of enemies are in this game. They swarm on top of you, and you need to kill them before they can hit you.
The common theme is that it’s like there was no regard given for interplay between how the player would attack the boss and how the boss would attack back. AM2R bosses are just as complex as these bosses, or even simpler, but they all show how to avoid these mistakes. Except for the Omega Metroid, that one was just poorly considered (he’s like an axiom verge boss stuck in metroid!).
Even the alpha metroids can be weaved around and opened up.