A new platform fighter with a Marvel soul
SuperCombo is a website focused on traditional fighting games, but once in a while we receive the opportunity of covering some more bizarre, experimental fighting games or even games that have fighting just as an additional side mode. After all, yours truly is a fan of whatever game classifies as a borderline fighting game (including a 1v1 doujin spaceship shooter I’ve spent the best part of one year looking for). So, when the fine folks at Team Punkzilla reached out to disclose the first details of their upcoming game Combo Devils (wishlistable on Steam), we decided to keep the ball running and give them a chance to showcase the fruit of their efforts! In spirit, Combo Devils is a platform fighter which borrows several elements from traditional 2D fighters, such as chain combos, air-dashes and cancels. The game takes inspiration from Super Smash Bros, but sprinkles in elements from Marvel vs Capcom, Blazblue and other traditional fighters in the blender.
First thing first for our competitive community: The game is slated to be equipped with rollback netcode from day 1. Furthermore, the team has made it clear that they want to foster a healthy competitive community, with official tournaments and prize pools.
Co-op Roguelite WHAT?
A look at the press kit and the trailer revealed something that made my casual player heart excited: A co-op platformer mode with semi-randomized power ups and big bosses. There’s also a campaign planned down the line that doubles as a tutorial, with several mini-games also available as extra modes. The idea of having extra mini-games playable with or against friends is something that made my heart even warmer (however, Tekken Ball is still the undisputed champion in this sector, in the absolutely unbiased and objective opinion of this writer).
From the depths of Project M
By their own definition, Team Punkzilla is a small (itty bitty, teeny tiny) dev team based in California looking to make a splash on the fighting game scene, with alums from Epic, Blizzard, and Project M behind the helm. The team includes several former members of the Project M development team, working together with traditional fighting game heads. This amalgam of styles is reflected in the design decisions behind the project, which is planned to incorporate many elements from traditional whack-your-opponent-games and transplant them on the familiar framework of platform fighters. Since I’m not the best competitive platform player, I’ve asked the development team some questions about the design philosophy behind Combo Devils and what we can expect from it!
Q: First off, the co-op roguelite mode with the BIG BOSSES caught my attention! I’m not a very competitive player and I value a good ol’ single player and/or local play mode, so that had me very intrigued. How was that conceived? How many levels are planned? How many unique bosses are planned for the campaign?
A: Yeah fighting games in the past have been pretty scarce on casual player content, and there are a ton of people who love the world and characters of fighting games who don’t want to play the competitive 1v1 experience. We knew we needed some kind of casual player content, so we designed this co-op PVE campaign/roguelite mode that focuses on introducing new players to the mechanics of the game. And yeah, if there’s a skill difference between you and your friends and you wanna play together, this is the mode you can go to. Right now we’re planning for about 4 or 5 levels, with a big boss at the end for each. There’s also another feature that we’ve been pitching to publishers that involves big bosses but I won’t say too much more about that until it’s for sure.
Q: Secondly, on a first look the game seems to be very reminiscent of Smash Bros, as platform fighters go. From a trailer it’s of course hard to see what is different in terms of game mechanics, but since in your email you mentioned BlazBlue and Marvel vs Capcom… what did you add to spice up the gameplay?
A: The foundation is definitely Smash Bros, the codebase was initially pretty much a Unity port of Melee from what I remember. Early on the team was looking for something to distinguish ourselves from Smash so taking inspiration from anime fighters felt like the most natural fusion with how much platform fighter combat happens in the air. For movement we added super jumps, an 8-way airdash as well as airdash cancelling for combo conversions. For combos we added launcher combos, special cancels, magic series (jab-> tilt -> smash similar to Project M Lucario), and a sprinkle of target combos for each character. There’s also some resource management as well, a special meter for EX moves and Supers, and a shield meter that depletes on block. Your dodge roll, air dodges, and universal DP will also use the shield meter. Another core mechanic worth noting is that, after 100psi (our version of percent), hitting a wall with enough velocity will kill your character (we call that Impact K.O.).
Q: About the art style, the cel shading is pretty clean and gives the game a slick look. What were the priorities when deciding how the game should look?
A: The art style is pretty nostalgia driven, taking inspiration from games that the team grew up on, and focuses on a comic/manga aesthetic with bold shapes, vivid colors, and expressive lines. We were really focused on giving the game a distinct but familiar look to it. There’s also a ton of push, pull, and polish when it comes to the little details of the characters rendering inside of the environment to make sure that the characters stood out while being aesthetically pleasing.
Q: Of course, I’d also like to know how big will your launch roster be and how many characters are you planning in total!
A: We’re looking to launch with 15 characters and have a total of 20 characters after year 1, but it’s still TBD pending talks with publishers.
Q: How was the character development process approached? How were the movesets designed and tested? Was there a generic pipeline you followed or was it more on a character-per-character basis?
A: On the art/concepting side of character development, they usually start out as casual sketches, and evolve over time as we introduce cultural and regional influences and explore what kind of fighting style they would have. A ton of thought and exploration is put into the iterations of a character’s visual design before we even touch on gameplay. For movesets, the design process was really really loose for Jingo (and also Ikani), we took a long time experimenting with different mechanics and systems for characters. Moves would start out as a sketch, that got turned into a temp animation, then we would play the character with that blocked-in move until we got it feeling really good in playtests. When we started on our third character Achilles we tried out just listing out every action on a jamboard and filling it out with references and sketches and sorting out the economy of their tools. And of course that went by way more smoothly by kinda roughly doing one move at a time. Once we get an initial pass on animations and engineering we just playtest it with our community and tune it until it feels really good.
Q: We have seen several games trying to create their own niche in the platform fighter genre, including Icons, Rushdown Revolt, Nickelodeon All Stars Brawl, Multiversus and, of course, Rivals of Aether. What makes Combo Devils stand out, in your opinion?
A: I would say Combo Devils differs from our other indie platform colleagues by how much we’ve tried to bridge the gap between the platform fighting community and the FGC. People coming from platform fighters will be familiar with the movement of the game and the usual mechanics of platform fighters, but FGC players will be used to all the combo routes, cancels, and meter management. A lot of people we’ve shown the game seem to really think we’ve nailed that aspect. At Genesis: Black I was watching someone labbing tri-dash mix ups on a fightstick like it was Magneto, so we’ll see how everything pans out.
Q: What was the worst connection that felt sufficiently playable, in your current implementation (e.g. would the game feel playable on something as extreme as Brazil to New Zealand on McDonald’s Wi-Fi)? Is rollback supported for all number of players or only for 1v1?
A: We’re unfortunately not that far along with our rollback implementation at the moment, ideally we’ll have a solid east to west coast connection. But yeah Brazil to New Zealand probably won’t feel good, and your mileage may vary if you’re on Wi-Fi. We’ll be implementing rollback for more than just 1v1, we’re targeting up to 4 players online, and we’ll do some heavy stress testing to see if we can go beyond that!
Team Punkzilla is making a fighter that takes a base of Smash Bros. and mixes in flavors from Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, and BlazBlue to make what we think will end up being a devilishly tasty combo!
Combo Devils (sometimes stylized COMBO DEVILS for impact, and fun) is a platform fighter It aims to fill in that “competitive platform fighter, but also a party game” niche – rollback netcode and a focus on stylish mechanics that make people want to get sweaty, but *also* a fun roster of characters, a cooperative beat ’em up mode (with roguelite elements), and more!
About Team Punkzilla
We’re a small (itty bitty, teeny tiny) dev team based in California looking to make a splash on the fighting game scene, with alums from Epic, Blizzard, and Project M behind the helm.