Designing the
Prominence Bosses

National Boss’s Day, celebrated every year on October 16th, provides an opportunity to recognize employers, supervisors, and bosses for their leadership and guidance. We appreciate all our Pipeworks leaders, and, of course, there’s a special place in our hearts for our all of the formidable foes throughout Pipeworks history, like our five most prominent video game bosses: The Mayor, The Beast, The Godmother, The Hammer, and The Outlaw from Prominence Poker.

For this National Boss’s Day, the original designer of the Prominence Poker bosses, Bran Ulm, took the time to share some insights on what went into creating these iconic characters.

When people think of digital poker games, they don't really think of it as a game that would have a single-player story attached to it. What was it like taking on the task of fleshing out a world and boss characters in a game centered around poker?

Because most poker games don’t have a single-player mode or bosses, it was a challenge to figure out how to inject that aspect into the game. The strategy that we went for was indirect exposition. We were trying to tell the story through the world. We wanted to build up the world and have the story be more implied, as opposed to direct story, allowing players to kind of be a part of the story and not have it be so specific that there is a right or wrong way to play the story.

That was the plan all along, and I feel like we got close to hitting that goal. You can find little bits of information for each of the big characters and the city, but it’s not necessarily enough to make a full story.

There are five different bosses in Prominence. How do you go about making them distinct from each other? Were there any inspirations or tropes that were leaned into when it came to crafting the bosses? ​

I think it's probably apparent, but Guy Ritchie's films were a huge inspiration behind the tone of the game. You can see that in a lot of the freeze frames when introducing the characters.

With that, I was really leaning into those big mobster stereotypes, which I know can be risky. But that’s why the characters are so stereotypical.

The Beast from the Club’s biker gang was actually modeled after my wife. I call her that in real life, so that’s where the nickname came from. My wife, at the time when the game was originally being developed, wore not exactly biker clothes but more studded stuff than she does now. But the purple hair is still true. So, obviously, that character is a little special to me.

What goes into creating a boss character?

I like to start by thinking from a player’s perspective: what do I want the player to feel? It’s a little different and a little more challenging due to the fact that Prominence is a poker title as opposed to an RPG, but I still started from the approach of thinking about how I would want the player to feel. Then, all the choices I make are based on the answers to that question.

Is there anything that goes into designing a boss that a player wouldn't expect?

It was difficult, for a poker game, to figure out how to have different play styles be observable by the player. We had to adjust the settings that were available to us when building the characters to have the bosses' play styles feel different from each other. I was trying to imagine the bosses’ personalities and have their poker play style kind of reflect that personality. The bosses who are more calculated would be less volatile with their chips, whereas the ones who are a little more reckless would be more likely to go all in. So, The Beast would be more likely to go all in, whereas The Outlaw would be more reserved and calculated.

What was your favorite part in designing the bosses in Prominence?

My favorite part of designing the bosses was going through the concept art and voice actor selection process.
At Pipeworks, we hold our leadership in high esteem and cherish the enduring boss battles with the legendary adversaries who have challenged us over the years, such as The Mayor, The Beast, The Godmother, The Hammer, and The Outlaw.

Prominence Poker is one of many games in the Pipeworks library — a classic staple in our history. Want to learn more about the game? Visit the Prominence Poker website to read more about the world's most immersive free-to-play poker game!