If you forgive the jankiness that the Switch version of the game is working through, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has been a pretty great success. It’s also a new and rare example of a major Kickstarter video game that delivered on its (figuratively speaking) promise. Perhaps as part of his victory lap, game creator Koji Igarashi did an interview with Gamasutra about his approaching to designing Bloodstained. It all makes for good reading, but the part that jumps out the most is when Igarashi talks about forcing his boss designers to defeat their creations perfectly with just a dagger!
Igarashi was asked about design guidelines he had made his development team follow, to which he responded with this:
I wouldn’t call it a design guideline but Bloodstained does follow a strict rule that I always make the team [adhere] to.
That is…the developer who creates the boss must beat their own boss without taking a hit and only using a dagger! [Emphasis original] (We almost didn’t make it…)
We make sure that it’s possible to beat a boss without taking a hit regardless of the difficulty and by doing so, we reduce the number of unfair enemy attacks. Removing the “unfairness” allows players to think about what they could have done to avoid a Game Over. It makes them want to challenge the boss again using a different method. It’s a golden rule we follow in our games. (Honestly, don’t ask us to complete this challenge more than once though…)
Personally, I think that’s an awesome idea. I’ve wondered from time to time how bosses are balanced in a game like this, and Koji Igarashi’s way of doing it is the purest way I can think of. I can’t imagine the boss designers are all too thrilled with it though!
In the full interview, Igarashi discusses how, even though he is an independent developer now, he wanted to create a “familiar” system for Bloodstained that gave “relief” to his existing fans. Providing longevity and replayability was also crucial to him. Be sure to read the interview if you’re interested in that stuff.