262: Stop Killing the Foozle!

Rowan Kaiser

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Dec 31, 1969
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Stop Killing the Foozle!

Almost every modern videogame with a story or plot has a major villain or boss to be defeated at the conclusion. Rowan
Kaiser pines for a time when this was not always so, such as the RPG masterpieces Ultima IV and VI.

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Aurgelmir

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Nov 11, 2009
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Zone of the Enders didnt have a proper end boss. It was quite frustrating. It had a lot of bosses though, but not one at the end :p
 

Tallim

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Mar 16, 2010
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Got to agree with almost all of this.
I think the problem developers have is trying to build to a climatic end of a narrative which is appropriately challenging and fits with the story.

I always felt that the boss at the end of Bioshock felt so out of place it derailed the immersion somewhat.

But as the article mentions, if having no foozle was a common occurrence then any game with one would seem unique and special.

Good article, enjoyed it.
 

DanDeFool

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Aug 19, 2009
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The Mother/Earthbound bosses are like this. You beat the boss of Mother by singing to it. You beat the boss of Earthbound by praying for help.
 

Rarhnor

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Jun 2, 2010
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(IMO) Rather pointless article.

As much as enjoyed the Ultima-series, the lack of a "Foozle" was disturbing. Without the climatic end boss, i felt less motivated to do anything (probably the same reason I don't like MMOs).

For me the "Foozle" provides motivation and reason, to go through the story.

Having no endgame-badguy seems pointless, and bland.
Of course, the endgame-badguy has to have motive (or alike) not to be excessive (looking at Borderlands, Darkvoid, etc).
 

unacomn

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Mar 3, 2008
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Loved the article. I recently made a show about the history of the Ultima games and mentioned the same issues. The Age of Enlightenment Ultima games were an amazing ride in the art of game design experimentation. Each one brought something new and different, like turning the story from a standard kill the bady plot, to a lesson about tolerance, understanding, about a society build on the most noble of principles and what would happen with that society if instead of being inspired or suggested, those principles would be enforced upon pain of death.

The closest thing I've seen in recent years from the RPG genre in this field was in the Witcher, and how it treated society. To a lesser extent there was Dragon Age, that basically copied the racism element from The Witcher.

Reading this article makes me hate Electronic Arts even more for killing Origin Systems.
 

saregos

the undying
Jul 7, 2009
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As an extension the the Bioware concept, I feel as though a game such as Oblivion is ripe for foozle-less-ness (and excepting the end fight of the main quest, it largely is...). Same with GTA, there's really no conceptual reason to have one enemy be super-powerful and abusive.

The problem I perceive is that largely RPG games are "world in strife, things are falling apart". Without the one driving force to peg troubles on, we might slam face-first into the concept that one person really can't make a difference in a short time span.

A foozle allows the "happily ever after" ending by saying "oh, look, the cause of all strife in the world is gone." Which is a difficult thing to do without that single easily-identified target.
 

MNRA

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Jun 8, 2009
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And to give an example of yet another Foozle-less game: Total annihilation - Kingdoms.

While is wasn't the best game ever, and could've been much better with the implementation of just a few simple extra controls and balances, it certainly did away with the normal campaign mode that we still see today. There was only a single campaign/story available, but each mission gave you control of one of the four (five with the expansion) fractions to further the story. It was -in essence- a WC3-style campaing with side switches after almost every single mission. You could be assaulting the island state of Verona in one mission, and be sailing to the rescue in the next. Even though it was a bit jarring sometimes (But I WANT to play the OTHER side of the story) it still told a much more compelling and good story this way. The original game did have a large battle at the end, the fall of a king etc, but it wasn't a Fozzle per sè, there were already loose ends that hinted at a bigger picture as well as the expansion taking off where the original game ended.

If you are a gaming enthusiast who isn't scared by "dated" games and wants to try out what a Foozle-like RTS is like. Try it out. It should be dirt cheap on GOG or something.
 

92Sierra

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Oct 12, 2009
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Interesting. I have always wondered if bossless games existed. I'll have to try some of these games out. And please stop saying "foozle". Nobody calls them that. I just Googled the word and all that comes up are dictionary results for what the word means. Nobody uses that word anymore.
 

Sebenko

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What about Metro 2033? You could say that
the fight with the dark one at the end
was a boss fight, but it felt more like a cinematic. It wasn't even a fight. And then there's the other ending.

Also, the one STALKER game to have a proper boss fight with health bar and all was probably the worst. Maybe that says something about the sort of game STALKER is.

There are some games where the boss fight was pretty pointless- the fight with Saren in ME? why?
He'd just SHOT himself, then got shot again (lol). But no, we need a boss fight, so he gets up due to deus ex reaper and we have a full health bar boss enemy to fight.
 

Starke

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The STALKER games come to mind as counter examples.

The first game never has a boss monster (except for the pseudogiants, and even they're in very non-boss like locations.)

The second game has a kinda boss fight against someone who isn't even fighting you. (It's a sniper sequence with a health bar.)

The third game has no bosses whatsoever (aside from literal faction bosses, who are (probably) as squishy as everyone else around them (most of them stay hidden inside safe zones throughout the game)).
 

Drakoorr

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Nov 20, 2009
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Fable II probably counts as a foozle-less game. There is the one guy you're trying to stop but there is no boss fight, your character's motivation can be purely self interest if you so chose, and you keep playing after as if nothing much happened short of the odd comment by NPCs.

On that last point, I suppose you could argue that that was just bad design but the rest is valid.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Great Article and it's awesome to see Scorpia getting some acknowlegement nowadays. :)

But yes, I do think that the "great quest to kill the bad thing at the end" is a bit overdone, it will be interesting to see if that actually changes though because to be entirely honest I think the gaming industry is increasingly corperate, and I think the actual creative process is suffering which is part of what leads to the endless parade of sequels with little in the way of new content or risk taking. I'd imagine the general attitude is simply going to be that players WANT a nasty final boss to stick a sword (or whatever in) so it's unthinkable to try and change that.

Consider that guys like Richard Garriot are more or less on the outs today it seems, and he was the brain behind the Ultima games mentioned.
 

craddoke

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Mar 18, 2010
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An article that name drops Ultima IV, VI and Planescape as pinnacles of game design? Awesome - and 100% right. I'm currently in the middle of a run-through (leisurely stroll through?) of Ultima VI and it is still better than most games on the market.
 

Crimson_Dragoon

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Jul 29, 2009
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Off topic, I like to thank you for mentioning Luca Blight in your list of villains. He never gets the attention he deserves, though that comes from being from an obscure game.

Drakoorr said:
Fable II probably counts as a foozle-less game. There is the one guy you're trying to stop but there is no boss fight, your character's motivation can be purely self interest if you so chose, and you keep playing after as if nothing much happened short of the odd comment by NPCs.

On that last point, I suppose you could argue that that was just bad design but the rest is valid.
I would still consider him a foozle. Even though there's no proper boss fight with him (that comes from the bad game design), he's still defeated by violence (you shooting him or Reaver shooting him without warning--again, bad game design).

Also, welcome to the Escapist.
 

craddoke

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Mar 18, 2010
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Drakoorr said:
On that last point, I suppose you could argue that that was just bad design but the rest is valid.
I think we need to make a distinction between games that lack adequate resolution (Fable II) and games that are consciously designed to avoid the "Foozle" issue. Lots of games lack a decent ending - there's at least one forum thread a week on the issue - but that's not what this article is talking about.
 

Serioli

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In a similar vein it may be a reflection of recent media/films/Hollywood. Off the cuff, plenty of people pointed out that Star Wars kept Darth Vader alive for three films but killed the baddie numerous times in the recent three films.
 

Omnific One

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Oblivion didn't have a true end boss. It had several bosses such as Mankar Camoran, but the boss that would be the standard end boss wasn't killed by you.
 

Rowan Kaiser

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Hey all, thanks for the kind words, and I'm always happy to talk about classic RPGs!

Some of you mentioned non-violent ways to defeat final bosses in other games, which is interesting, and certainly related to what I was talking about, but it's not entirely the same. There's still a big antagonist who's the driving force through much of the game.

@saregos - I think you're right about that. It's a fairly easy way to make the storyline seem manageable by a single hero or small group of heroes.

@MNRA - Was it a fully fleshed-out story with characters? I only played the original Total Annihilation, and the "story" was just occasional narration before battles. If so, it sounds interesting.

@Therumancer - Although I agree with most of what you said, if anything, we've got fewer sequels these days. Ultima got to 8 or 9 before it petered out, and then there are the multiple Wizardries, Might and Magics, Final Fantasies. And those games demonstrate pretty effectively that sequels can lead to innovation.

@Crimson Dragoon - When I saw this topic in the list, I had to decide between whether I wanted to write about this topic or whether I wanted to write an article praising Suikoden II and its dual-villain approach. Luca Blight is fantastic - one of the few "pure" evil villains in game history who actually deserves the fear the other characters give him.