Posted may,04th - 2015

Boss or player, that is the question

During Canvaleon’s development I have received some critics about the musics accompanying the bosses of the game. These, particularly, said that the songs do not share a feeling of tension, nervousness or similar emotions. But as it makes me be sick to death that people question my work, I asked to myself if there was really a rule saying that those soundtracks must generate that kind of bad feelings during those particular moments of the game.

I do believe that this opinion came out with the tendency of considering the boss soundtrack as that: the soundtrack of a boss. With that what I want to say is that the music that sounds during the battle of the player against the boss only represents the boss. It is the music that personalizes the enemy, the threatening sound that attacks you. It is designed to make you feel bad and makes you understand that the enemy is stronger than you and that you are definitely going to lose that battle.

Foto 1Boss or player, that is the question

In my opinion composers tend to create music with which the closer you get to the moments of climax, the more antagonistic they become for the player. However there are other ways to focus the soundtrack which I found really interesting, although they are not as frequently used. Music can be understood as the player fighting with the boss, offering music that guides and cheers them. Doing so the feelings provoked by the music will be totally different, with a song that does not create tension but give the players the encouragement needed to achieve their goal.

For me, the best example of musics that are on the boss’ side would be those that the majority of J-RPG uses, as for example “One Winged Angel” or “Atma Weapon” from Nobuo Uematsu; or the soundtrack from the bosses of Megaman X. But on the other side, the musics that are on the player’s side would be for example “A stranger I remain” from Metal Gear Rising or some of the music that Suda 51 uses with bosses, as “Philistine” (specially on its Japanese version).

I understand that this differentiation can be very important, not only because through it we can generate a specific mood on the players, but also because these sensations can modify the way they play. Of course, this effect is only possible the first time someone plays a game, because after a few attempts the players start being used to the game’s music and dynamics. But this cannot be applied to all the players and its importance does not have to be the same as it depends on each player’s attitude; although as a composer I do believe that this is a very interesting aspect to bear in mind.

If we use a boss’ music, wanting to create an oppressive environment to give strength to the enemy, the players will have a feeling of inferiority. This feeling can make them be more wary of the threat and ironically help you solving the hassle.

On the other hand we have the player’s music, which exalts the players and makes them feel confident about their victory. This music achieves the feeling of superiority on the players, which can make them be too confident of their abilities and possibilities, what can result on their failure, making them be less cautious on their way of playing.

These feelings are based on my own experience as player. The truth is that the effect is curious, because in a first attempt it may seem that a music that supports the players instead of one that goes against them will be better for the players, but as we have said the effect can be the opposite.

That being said, in a lineal game a good way to distribute the bosses could be using a boss’ music at the beginning and change progressively to a player’s one towards the end. That would make sense as the players tend to be more powerful through the game. And if we think about how these musics influence the players’ way of playing, these can also help on the game’s difficulty.

Regarding Canvaleon, the game’s lineal approach I have just explained is not valid, but I had these dilemma between both player’s and boss’ music in mind during the game’s development. Anyway these feelings that my work can transmit would be valued by the players, as they can’t be valued by me. I do not want to spoil the surprise, so I do think that each one of you should check them by yourselves and draw your own conclusions.


Juan Antonio Maldonado