Interview with Switchblade Monkeys’ Yousuf – Secret Ponchos (PS4)
Soon to be released by Switchblade Monkeys, Secret Ponchos is set in a town crawling with bandits, murderers and bounty hunters, throwing gorgeous visuals and tense gun battles at you. We had the privilege of hooking up with Yousuf Mapara from Switchblade Monkeys to get the full story on Secret Ponchos, and with Yousuf also telling us that some big announcements are being made soon, we’re now even more excited!
For gamers that don’t know about Secret Ponchos, can you tell us more about what we can expect?
Secret Ponchos is a Spaghetti Western Online Combat game. We focused on pushing both the Stylization, and most of all just making an original style of gameplay combat! What people can expect, is a lot of competitive fun.
We all actually worked in the AAA space prior to Secret Ponchos. Like many other indies we came from the AAA space because we had this built up appetite to take some crazy risks and make something outside of a normal AAA title. AAA titles are awesome for wowing audiences with Scope, I feel Indie titles are excellent at surprising audiences with innovation.
When did you first get the heads up about being let into the exclusive world of PS4 gaming?
PAX East 2013 was our first spark of exclusive PS4. Brian Silva and Nick Suttner from Sony Dev relations approached us and asked us about launching on PS4. It wasn’t our game plan, but it sounded pretty cool so we went for it. It’s been really an amazing experience and I’m glad we took that route.
Indie gaming on the PS Vita has really transformed the handheld, so it’s really refreshing to know indie games are headed the Playstation 4 way too. You must find it refreshing too.
I personally love games developed for the digital model (things like PSN, Steam, XBLA) because you see these really cool games that excel in quality, stylization and originality. Games like Journey, Limbo, Transistor…So we’re excited to see Sony putting momentum behind this gaming space in addition to the AAA market.
We’re really inspired by the Western Film Genres and the soundtracks within them! You get such iconic visuals, strong mood, and personalities. So the main inspiration starts there. From there we either writeup a worded description of a character and their personality, their back story, and then we would start visual exploration on how they might look, dress, posture, and shapes that make them unique. Sometimes when you’re exploring one character, you sketch ideas that inspire other characters, and want to include them into our universe. I would say one difference between our creative process and a traditional game design process, is that we’re very Art Driven instead of mechanics driven. So we let the theme, attitude and artwork inspire mechanics, instead of taking the standard game archetypes, and building around those. I like our backwards approach, because the art leads the mechanics to new roads outside of the norm, and you end up making something unique.
You have really nailed the Spaghetti Western feel. What other elements make a game like this stand out and be unique?
Oh thank you! Besides the art style and theme, the originality of the gameplay is something we are very proud of, and we worked really hard on. The gameplay of Secret Ponchos is really special, and we hope it opens a new door for other combat games. The overhead camera approach we took sets it apart from other ‘team shooters’ and it lets us start drawing inspiration and learning from fighting games. With an over head camera you see exactly how far you distanced from other players, and you can rely on precision spacing and timing how fighting games launch their attacks. It’s unique from other fighting games, because they are typically side view, and are one on one. Secret Ponchos supports aggressive team fights, and you’re doing all sorts of things outside of fighting game genres, such as running around environments taking cover, shooting, and dealing with multiple opponents. Secret Ponchos is just its own type of combat game, and we hope it brings a new type of style to combat genres.
Balance is so key in a multi-player combat / competitive game. We play the game a lot, and make a lot of adjustments to moves, and tuneable values. We think we have it perfect, but then when we watch people play they do completely different stuff that we never expected, so we Tune/Tune some more. Eventually things start becoming more consistent and you get less wild surprises. The key is you want to make sure all characters can win battles if you play them well.
An important strategy we want to bring that the PC market does awesome is constant Post Launch finetuning and responses to how people play the game. Your balancing work has only just started once you launch the game, and you really need to feel how players use your game and work with that. We’re excited to try and bring this approach to a console game as well. PC games do it really well, they have a more responsive and perpetual tuning / balancing process even after launch, so thats the direction we’re taking even though we’re a console game.
We have so many great character archetypes we want to add to Secret Ponchos. The Spaghetti Western Genre provides amazing inspiration for dramatic characters, and new mechanics. The great thing about this day and age is even after you ship a game, you can continually expand on the experience instead of disappearing for 4 years working on a sequel. Our plan for Secret Ponchos is to be a perpetual development, where the universe keeps evolving and growing. If people love the game, we hope to use that DLC revenue and reinvest it back into keeping Secret Ponchos a growing experience. We have new dangerous Outlaws arriving, and they are really dramatic both style wise and in their mechanics.
How does each character differ and which character is the developer’s favourite?
We all have different Mains we use, Its really good that it worked out that way it just happened naturally based on our personalities.
Tony (Character & Environment artist) loves Poncho, Yousuf (that’s me) uses Killer but recently I’m amazed how the Matador is coming together. Jared (Character artist) loves being crazy and testing Gordo, and Chris & Caley (Music guy and Graphic arts guy) use Kidred the most, as Chris is slowly switching to Deserter as his main.
And finally…The Good, The Bad or The Ugly or For A Few Dollars More?
AHH!!! Hard question. GBU has so much psychology between the trio, I think it gets my vote my pick. But I really love the locket scene in FDM and its music in the final duel!
A special thanks to Yousuf Mapara from Switchblade Monkeys for taking the time to speak to us, it’s a real pleasure when such awesome developers look after the smaller guys like us! Here’s a final word from Yousuf on how to keep in touch with announcements on all things Secret Ponchos:
“We would like to really encourage everyone to please join us on our Facebook or twitter community. We use the site to have a dialogue with our community, so if you see a message or response on the site, its directly from one of us 🙂 As we get close to launch we have some Major announcements coming soon that I cant talk about yet, and we don’t want anyone to miss out. Thanks to everyone for all the support of Secret Ponchos.”