2D, Action, Pixel Art
Unreal Engine 4
Starbound Boss Design
External University Brief
This is a prototype of a boss battle designed to fit within the universe of Starbound by Chucklefish. It was made for a university project as an external art and design test. Pixel art sprites, boss design, and the gameplay demo were developed in 2 weeks.
This project is in no way affiliated with Starbound or Chucklefish. Assets from Starbound were used under permission to attain a high level of polish.
Boss Design Document
A Boss Design Document was required as a part of the brief. It details general outlines, the boss' place in the game's lore, its visual inspirations and design, and specific descriptions of its attacks and phases. It uses the UI elements from the game, as I wanted it to compliment and be visually connected to the prototype I produced.
This boss battle prototype was made to an external university brief meant to simulate an industry art and design test. We were tasked with designing a boss that would fit within the universe, gameplay, and aesthetics of Starbound by Chucklefish. As such, I have designed it to fit a niche I have identified in the game that doesn't have a boss fight and could benefit from one - specifically, it would occur in a quest related to one of the game's races. Race quests are common in the game, but there aren't any bosses directly based on the race I picked. By filling this gap, my boss would naturally and thematically fit within the universe of Starbound.
The scene, character, and UI sprites have been recreated from the source game to create its replica in Unreal Engine 4. The demo uses the music track "Event Horizon" by Curtis Schweitzer. I have been given permission to use assets from Starbound for the purposes of emulating the visuals of the game and attaining a high level of polish.
In order to design a boss that fits within the universe of Starbound, I have led my project through multiple steps. First, I have researched the game's existing bosses and identified the best elements of their design. Those then have been used as guidelines for my own prototype to make it fit the design of the game on a fundamental level. I have also researched its lore, finding a niche within the story where my creation would fit best, as most bosses in the game are related to the story in some way. Once I have designed the phases and cycling attacks of the boss in accordance with the research, I have implemented them into the prototype by coding them in Blueprint.
I went through a similar process in the production of the assets. I have researched pixel art drawing techniques and methodologies to learn the principles of this art form. Further on, I analysed the specific art style of Starbound and identified its distinguishing features. All of this research was then applied in the creation of the sprites for my boss fight, from concept art to finished assets.
By the end of the project, I developed a polished prototype that contains a boss fight. It has 2 phases with three alternating attacks each. In total, 4 attacks are used throughout the fight. Each phase has 1 unique attack and both share 2 that evolve from phase 1 to 2 (more projectiles, wider range, etc.). The design and sprites were meticulously crafted to fit the gameplay, lore, and aesthetic style of the game.
Some sprites and sound effects were taken directly from the game under permission to gain a high level of polish. However, all assets and design used for the boss were made solely by myself.
Learning the fundamentals of pixel art, as well as studying Starbound's design and art style gave me experience in adapting to existing games and unfamiliar styles. This project has also helped me gain experience in creating fully 2D games.
Mechanic Insights & Highlights
The design was inspired by the bosses of Starbound itself. I have researched the designs of each one of them to identify what works well and what does not. I have found that bosses with multiple phases, unique and visually creative attacks, and clear telegraphs work best. Some examples of this in the game are Kluex Avatar and Shockhopper MK1. Meanwhile, bosses that have only one phase or attack are generally boring and feel particularly uninspired. When designing mine, I took special care to apply the best aspects of the game's design by creating creative and clearly telegraphed attacks that test the player's mobility skills, as those are one of the focuses of the game's design. To make the fight more engaging, I have also included a creative and surprising phase transition - a land vehicle suddenly transforms into a flying one, not too dissimilar to a UFO, subverting what a player would expect from a tank.
The code functions in a way that each consecutive attack is different, meaning that one attack will not be used twice in a row. This was done to reduce the repetitiveness of the fight. A potential issue identified during testing was that it can get stuck in a loop of randomising the same 2 attacks. However, due to time constraints, I have decided to leave it as is. One possible solution could have been to have all attacks activate in a loop. After it is cycled through, the order would be randomised, and the loop would execute again. The code would still ensure that the same attack doesn't repeat twice between two loops. It would mean that all attacks fire roughly the same amount of times throughout the entire battle, but also would mean that the player could predict the third attack after the first two of a loop. Further testing would be needed to determine whether that's a positive or negative outcome.