We might not feature the game development sector all that much on Esports News UK, but the UK is home to a host of dev talent that often gets overlooked.
Bad Fox Studios is one such developer, which has built Super Squad, a new 5v5 MOBA-like team shooter that the studio is calling a Multiplayer Online Shoot-‘Em-Up (MOSH), available in early access on Steam and the Epic Games Store from June 25th 2021.
Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco catches up with three members of the team to interview them while playtesting Super Squad at the same time.
What is Super Squad and what was the thinking behind the game?
Bad Fox Studios say that Super Squad combines the frenetic style of play from MOBAs and shmups with the strategic decision making you’d expect to see in RTS titles.
The free-to-play PC title been in development for two years and at the moment it’s in the beta stage. In essence it’s a 5v5 team shooter where each team must collect 10 keys on the map to activate a missile launch. The team that activates it must defend four missile relays and the attackers must destroy them. If it’s successfully defended, the missile launches and deals damage to the opposing team’s base. The first team to get two successful launches wins.
There are more modes planned for the future, as well as Troopers – the game’s playable characters – who fall into four classes: tanks, damage dealers, healers and supports. These classes have their own passive abilities that can be upgraded as the game progresses, instead of a complex item system found in traditional MOBAs.
For example, damage dealers can buy the following passives: Kill Shield (get a shield after killing an enemy), One Two (use an ability, next basic attack does 150 extra damage), In n Out (when you kill someone, refresh a dodge charge) and Hunting the Weak (if an enemy is below 25% health nearby, you move faster).
Each Trooper also has two unique special abilities, as well as their own weapon and role on a team, plus as the ability to dodge (some mobile troopers like Flintlock have two dodge charges, while Xandark has three).
Troopers have their own range, damage, fire rate, accuracy, health and speed stats, but just having two abilities was part of the developer’s plan to make Super Squad easy to pick up and play.
The average game length about half an hour, it ranges from 15 to 18 minutes if it’s a stomp, to around 45 if you have two balanced teams.
Sam Hudson, technical director, tells Esports News UK: “Our goal is to have a game you can just pick up and play, so you don’t need to watch 100 hours to understand what’s going on.”
Eddie Davis, lead game designer, adds: “In terms of the game’s genre, we’re calling it a Multiplayer Online Shoot-‘Em-Up (MOSH), so taking inspiration from games like League of Legends, Dota and Smite, and combining it with the bullet hell chaos from games like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, which is where the dodge ability comes in.
“We basically wanted to have a faster MOBA without the item complexity. If you have the mechanical skill in there, you don’t need 100 items to be good, it’s purely down to everything being a skillshot and your fidelity in dodging and shooting.”
How have League of Legends, MOBAs and some retro classics influenced Super Squad?
“I used to play League of Legends quite extensively, but took too long of a break and had no idea about the item reworks!” Eddie admits. “We really want to go a little bit old school, we want to give people different game modes, maps and play styles to give people variety.
“Rather than have a back catalogue of items, we have passive abilities that you can upgrade using the in-game shop, in order to finesse your play style. Each ability has a condition, and if you meet that condition, it happens. These abilities change per class, so tanks have tank-specific passive and damage dealers have damage-specific passives. And then the same for healers and supports. Currently you can have two passive abilities at any one time, but we are adding a third active ability.”
“We’ve had a lot of League players trying Super Squad and saying this is a ‘more succinct form’ of what League is to them – team comps, reflexes etc, but you don’t have this 100+ pool of items you have to learn before you can start playing the game [properly].”
Sam Hudson, technical director, is a fellow MOBA fan – as are several members of the Bad Fox Studios team.
“We love MOBAs, a lot of us play them but obviously they are extremely difficult to get into,” he says. “Smite is my main MOBA I play and it took me months and months and months of arduous item watching to understand what’s going on in them!
“The twitch reflex gameplay of the MOBA is what I really loved, and bringing that to a more casual market was something we really cared about. So Super Squad has elements of a MOBA where players have specific roles, a purpose and you play them in a different way, but you’re not having to deal with loads of items, and the progression comes through a passive [ability] system.”
David Bonney, creative director at Bad Fox Studios, also says the team took inspiration from classic warfare games like Cannon Fodder and Worms.
Who are Bad Fox Studios?
Bad Fox Studios is a UK-based game developer set up to fill a gap between a smaller indie dev and a giant triple-A studio.
David Bonney, creative director, explains: “The studio started in July 2018, there were about eight of us back then and we’ve had others join along the way – and now we’re putting out our first game.
“Me, Sam and Barry [Hudson, studio head] founded the company. We worked together before at another company, working in Flight Simulators. We founded the company with the ethos of creating employment and making cool games that we want to make for people.
“Everyone who works for this company is employed, we don’t really outsource, we do everything internally, which was a big part of the ethos when we created Bad Fox Studios. There was a gap in the market for a mid-sized developer that we could fill.”
The team is based near Portsmouth, just outside of Fareham, and work out of an unusual base of operations.
Eddie says: “We work in an old converted barn house. It’s a lovely place to work. We’re now a team of 13 and that covers all disciplines – sound, design, art, programming.”
Business model, beta & battle passes: What does it cost and what will be added to the game in the future?
Super Squad is a free-to-play PC game for Steam and the Epic Store (with cross-play between the two), so there is no cost to play but you can pay for skins and other cosmetics.
Eddie explains: “There’s no pay to win or anything, we’re making a game for gamers. We have two in-game currencies, one your earn (tokens) and one you buy (coins). Using these you can purchase troopers, podiums, regular skins and super skins, which are a full visal rework with a new model, sounds and particle effects.”
“We also want to drive home the story of Super Squad. In each season, or volume (we’re calling them volumes because we want it to feel like a story you’re taking part in), you will progress the story and factions, and unlock story skins, so the story is a progression mechanic.”
The game is in closed beta at the moment, with players able to take part by joining the Super Squad Discord to receive a key and download the game on Steam.
A weekend-long playtest will take place from Friday May 14th at 7pm BST to May 17th at 1am. Gamers will be able to take part in challenges, play against the devs and get the chance to win a battle pass, which unlocks an exclusive skin for the trooper known as Sarge.
Early access is expected in late June and the full launch in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Troopers will be on a weekly rotation, so there will be eight to play from each week. Also, two new troopers will be added to the game each month, and there will be new passive skills and modes added as well, for example a mode which sees each team collecting orbs. Players must deposit these orbs into capture sites, then defend that site. Player profile levelling, daily/weekly challenges and ranked leaderboards are also planned.
“At the moment we have 11 troopers, we have 16 ready to go, they need to be made but all of the assets are there for them,” Eddie continues. “Then post-release we’re planning to release two troopers per month. We want a constant stream of troopers to keep the gameplay fresh.”
David adds: “New passive skills you unlock in the store will be constantly released as well, so that will add to the build possibilities of troopers.”
A ‘super pack’ will also be available, where upon purchase, the player will receive all of the troops and all future troops to come – similar to buying a full game.
Bad Fox is also open to making different types of games in the future, and bringing Super Squad to other platforms.
“We’re really interested in and are super open to bringing the game to PlayStation, Xbox and Switch, it’s just a case of getting the PC launch successful and then moving to those platforms for sure,” Sam states. “We’re open to everything [in terms of making other games and modes], we’re just here to make good experiences for people, whether that be single player or multiplayer.”
Could Super Squad have esports tournaments in the future?
“Super Squad is designed to be competitive,” says Eddie. “And if a game is competitive, it has the potential for esports. So we’re really going towards that aspect of esports, bringing in the competitive element, doing tournaments and ranked leaderboards with the hopes that in the future we have tournaments around the world. That would be the dream.”
Sam adds: “We’re also interested in setting up make-your-own tournaments in the game too, so facilitating players in their own communities to set up their own tournaments inside of the game and run amateur leagues if they want to.
“We’re all quite competitive game players in the studio, so it’s kind of at the heart of the game because of that. It can get loud and noisy when we’re playing dev matches!”
‘An accessible team shooter with potential’
Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco shares his thoughts after MOSHing with the Super Squad devs
When Bad Fox Studios reached out to me to ask me if I wanted to interview them and playtest Super Squad, I jumped at the chance.
I know there are thousands of games out there worthy of coverage and Esports News UK has not typically focused on this area in the past – we’re mainly about the players, teams and tournaments in UK esports.
But it’s great to see a small UK-based studio aim to shake up the MOBA genre, and I like a good underdog story, so I said yes to the playtest, and I’m glad I did.
Super Squad is a fun little shooter that takes elements from MOBAs, making it familiar, but does things differently enough to offer a fresh experience. For example, like League, there’s a ping feature – attack, defend, retreat, help – and the 5v5 nature of the game, plus character abilities, all feel similar.
On the other hand, it was refreshing to play a ‘MOBA-like’ game that didn’t force me to run down lanes and destroy towers to progress. In the mode I played in Super Squad, you have to collect 10 keys to start a missile launch, before defending your missile relays within a time limit. Two successful launches and you win.
There’s a mix of open space, cover and choke points, leaving good potential for teamwork and strategy. Shooting is enjoyable – each trooper has their own rate of fire and playstyle.
As a fan of artillery mages in League of Legends and damage dealers in general, I took to Crow, a long range sniper with low health but high damage. There are tanks, healers and support classes too, so as usual, forming a balanced team comp is important if you want to win.
I was also encouraged to see an in-depth lore PDF in the press materials I was sent, which featured a whole story. The idea is that ‘New Mars’ has invaded and each team must be first to assault the enemy mothership to bring it down. But let’s be honest, people mainly play team shooters and MOBAs for their gameplay, not the lore, and so I’m also pleased to report that Super Squad is fun to play.
I had a lot of fun playing Super Squad with the dev team – it has the potential to become a solid competitive team game in my opinion. What it lacks in complexity compared to games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, it makes up for in accessibility – and charm (the art style reminded me a little of Fortnite).
I think one of the most surprising things to me about Super Squad is that, when I usually play a game that’s similar to another title or falls into a genre I’m a fan of, I just compare it to my favourite games in that genre. By playing the new game, it just makes me want to play my old favourite. For example, when I see Legends of Runeterra I just want to play Hearthstone. Final Fantasy XIV? Just give me World of Warcraft already.
Super Squad didn’t make me want to just go and play League, because it doesn’t feel like League. It reminded me of the old classic Cannon Fodder, but blended with some elements of MOBAs and RTS games in a way where it doesn’t feel like it’s copying them.
I did get the urge to lower the camera height, but it wasn’t possible. And while Sam said the devs are open to exploring adding that option in, he also said that they’re not sure because it’d change the competitive side of things.
The idea of upgrading your class’ passive abilities mid-game is interesting, but I did miss having an item shop or access to power-ups that could spawn around the map.
All in all, I had a lot of fun playing Super Squad with the dev team – it has the potential to become a solid little competitive team game.
Check out the full Super Squad interview and playtest with Bad Fox Studios on YouTube here.
You can also follow Super Squad on Twitter here, join the Super Squad Discord here and visit the Super Squad website here
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.