The Origins of Boss Saga

Boss Saga Balzac mascot cute devil - origins of Boss Saga

I first started working on the concept that would become Boss Saga in August 2017, or at least that’s the earliest I found any evidence for it on my PC without searching too hard.

Where the Concept for Boss Saga Came From

The idea to make Boss Saga was the culmination of several earlier, often odd influences. For one thing, I had spent years working on an adventure novel about monsters as the main characters, but I finally had to cut my losses and quit on it when I realized there was one major element that just wasn’t working properly. (I still hope to return to it and make it work someday.) Nonetheless, I continued to love the idea of a story about traditionally villainous characters being placed in situations that let them flaunt their power…

Live A Live from Takashi Tokita inspired Boss Saga.
Live A Live, released in 1994 by Square, fan translated. Original image from VGMuseum, enlarged by me.

Lastly, the most blatant and obvious influence on the concept of Boss Saga comes from a Square RPG from Takashi Tokita on Super Famicom, Live A Live. Officially, the game has never left Japan, but I played it around a decade ago through a fan translation and fell in love with it. It’s a game all about self-contained, episodic stories set in different timelines with distinct settings, and at the end of the game, you can optionally play as all of the bosses to destroy all the heroes you played as earlier in the game. Live A Live is certainly a larger game with a larger scope than Boss Saga, but our game definitely carries on the spirit of “episodic stories set in different, distinctive worlds” and “bosses defeating heroes.”

So, all in all — an aborted novel, a random Kickstarter stretch goal, and a Square RPG a lot of people never played might be the major reasons Boss Saga exists.

Deciding to Make a Video Game

Fantasy Bonanza, created with RPG Maker 2003, an improbable precursor in the origins of Boss Saga
RPG Maker 2003, published by Degica, with graphics taken from Nintendo’s EarthBound for a silly old personal game. I spent a lot of years having fun with RPG Maker when I was younger. However, Boss Saga is being made with Unity, and it is using 100% original art assets!

But the urge to make a video game never actually went away, and as the years went on, I started to wonder if… maybe I could just make a game with my brother, Todd. He’s a great musician and knows how to code. I’m a competent writer (I hope) who can just barely put together some art assets. If you mash together our skill sets, you theoretically have the ability to make a video game.

Still, I knew the game would need a “simple” concept; we couldn’t do a 60-hour RPG. I wanted to keep the scope of the game as small as possible while still being fun and exciting all the time. Based on the influences outlined above, I ultimately arrived at the concept for a video game: “a game that is all RPG boss fights, but you play as the boss.” Simple enough, I figured?

Next, I had to actually pitch the idea to Todd. To do so, I created a bunch of prototype art assets, some of which have been replaced and some of which are still around (for better or worse!). Then I dumped it all into an Imgur gallery with some lengthy explanations of what the images were, and I fired off the email to Todd.

An old concept image for Boss Saga. We don’t use that tree asset anymore.

Fortunately, Todd had always wanted to make a video game too — who goes to college for computer science and doesn’t want to make a video game? And also fortunately, he and I have pretty similar tastes in video games. So Todd liked the concept and was on board, and suddenly we were making our unnamed* video game in Unity about playing as RPG bosses.

*(I first gave our game the generic name of “Boss Wars,” which I knew I would change because there is no boss war in our game. A while later, I briefly floated the name “Boss Tyrant,” but it sounded too much like a game about an evil office boss. However, soon after that, I finally landed on Boss Saga as the perfect short and snappy game that gives you a straightforward idea of what the game’s about. And the rest is history — much like this entire post.)

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