E3 2015: Supernova Interview with Producer Jason Schaefer

With all the new MOBAs on the market, and currently in development, it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart from one another. However, that isn’t really the case with Supernova, an upcoming MOBA being developed by Primal Game Studio, because it offers something that nothing else on the market is right now. Instead of simply including lanes, heroes and minion waves, Supernova has gone back to the RTS roots of the genre and added in a level of complexity that isn’t seen elsewhere. In Supernova players have more control over their minion waves and can dictate how and when they’re upgraded. Players can even customize their armies and skill upgrades before going into a match to suit their own style of play.

In addition to creating a new take on the MOBA genre, Supernova is one of Bandai Namco’s first free-to-play ventures and will likely be their main focus when it comes to eSports. In a recent meeting at E3 2015, I had the opportunity to sit down with Supernova producer Jason Schaefer and go over what makes Supernova so unique, why he believes it can survive in the current market, and future plans for the game. Here’s the discussion that took place:


What is Supernova?

Supernova is a MOBA. For those who may be unaware, it’s a multiplayer online battle arena. It’s a very saturated space right now, there’s a lot of games that are trying to be successful, so with Supernova we’re definitely trying to take a unique direction with it. A couple of key points. One is the sci-fi art theme that we have for the game. As far as we know, no other MOBA has gone in that direction; we’ve got a different art style that has really been resonating with the players. Then, somewhat in support of that, we’ve also kind of taken the game back to the roots that started MOBAs, which was an early mod for RTS games. We’ve added in a lot of RTS elements to Supernova to give the player a little bit more options of strategy and control over their army forces that go down each lane.


Dropships allow commanders to retreat and deploy to various areas of the battleground.

Can you explain the RTS elements in more detail?

There’s two factions in Supernova, currently: Human and Cyborg. The main difference between those is what types of army units that are in there, but generally speaking there are ground-based units, there’s vehicles and then there’s air units as well. Some units will perform better against others so you can form your own strategy before the game starts. If you want to go all air that’s a good strategy. If you want to kind of mix all types of units that works as well, or you can start the match, see what your opponent is doing in your lane with their army, and then you can build units that really counter what he has very effectively. In addition to being able to specify what types of units are in your army you can upgrade them throughout the course of a match as well. You can do that to compliment what type of commander you’re playing. For example, if you’re like a hard-hitting commander and you want to push a lane very hard, you might boost your army units with a lot of additional attack damage. If you’re a little bit more squishy, for example, and you want your units to last longer and help protect you longer then you might give them some more defensive capabilities as they progress through the match.


Are certain commanders locked to either faction?

You can play any commander with either faction. Some of them, art style wise, are obviously cyborgs, some are obviously humans, but that doesn’t actually impact which type of army units you can controls.


Learning to counter your enemy’s army is an essential learning curve in Supernova.

What type of progression will players see as they level up their accounts?

You level up each faction separately. So if I primarily play Human, let’s say I get up to level 20, and then I want to try out Cyborg it starts that progression path separately. It really elongates that shelf-life of the game. While early on you might be dedicated to one, you can absolutely get a whole new experience by switching over and leveling up the other. You can certainly do both. Let’s say you’re starting to get competitive, you join a team, and it gives you a lot of flexibility to determine which faction might work best with the rest of the team.


How does the game balance experienced players with newer players?

We’re implementing really intelligent match-making functionality. So if you’re a new player the system will detect that and generally match you against people equal in your level and skill. At this point in time because we’re in a closed alpha and the user pool in somewhat small, there are certain times you will get matched against someone who might be more experienced or a higher level. As we bring in more and more users those matchmaking rules are really going to kick in and help make sure that new players are also playing against new players.


What made you decide to make this MOBA in such a competitive market?

Really it came down to that the free-to-play division at Bandai Namco is fairly new and we really just wanted to get out there, find some developers to partner with who we see a lot of potential in, and we found Primal Game Studio. We are really impressed with their years of experience, not as Primal Game Studio but their individual members are veterans of the industry. They were working on Supernova already. We really loved the quality of the game, the polish of the game, and we saw so much potential in the game to really stand out from the rest of the crowd. Of course, eSports is just growing more popular so we felt it was a good opportunity to get into that.

Different commanders allow for a wide range of play styles.

Different commanders allow for a wide range of play styles.

How has the player feedback been towards Supernova so far?

In general, to the game, feedback has been really strong. Especially resonating with hardcore MOBA players who have been playing other MOBAs for years and year. They see it as a nice refreshing change and something new they can get into and really engage with. The reception to the game has been great. Throughout the alpha we’ve been definitely polishing a lot. Refining user interfaces to be more clear, fixing a lot of bugs, and adding features that they would expect out of a MOBA to be competitive in this space.


How is Supernova looking to get involved in eSports?

We definitely see a bright future in eSports with Supernova, but we want to really get the game ready for it. We want to have all the features, that players would expect, that will support eSports. Even spectator mode isn’t quite in the game yet, but we’re working on it and it will be coming sometime in the future. We see a dedicated core group of users who are very early starting to form teams, making guides, helping get other players knowledgeable about the game, and making early plans for community based tournaments. We want to work with the community to lead us into that organically. We don’t want to push it too early, we don’t want to force it on anybody. Once they’re ready, once they feel it’s that time we’ll support them and add in features to have our tournaments as well.


Like many traditional MOBAs, Supernova features three lanes and a jungle with all kinds of deadly enemies.

What types of features do you plan on implementing into Supernova in the future?

Pretty soon we’ll want to finish out replays, add spectator mode, and we will do the full five-man party. We’re also working on new maps, but timing is everything. We don’t want to introduce one too early and dilute the user pool. Right now we have a 5vs5 mode and a co-op vs AI mode, but eventually we’re going to add a custom game mode then ranked matches as well. A new faction will be longer term, but new units is an ongoing thing. Essentially, I think at least one per month and new commanders as well. When we first announced the game I believe there were 12 commanders, we’re now up to 19, and we’re adding at least one per month.


Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

I would love for your audience to know that they can go to Supernovagame.com, register for an account, and very likely they will get an invite to join our next alpha phase in a couple of weeks. That’ll be our last alpha and then we’re going to start our closed beta period in the end of July.

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About Nick Shively

Nick is an eSports and RPG enthusiast. He can normally be found in the deepest parts of a dungeon or in the arena slaying opponents. Nick has been a gamer since an early age and involved in the industry since 2011. He obtained a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2015.