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Know Your Developer: Switchblade Monkeys

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A couple weeks ago at PAX East, I was fortunate enough to get some quality hands on time with Secret Ponchos from the gang over at Switchblade Monkeys over inside the Indie Megabooth section of the show floor. For those who don’t know, Secret Ponchos is an upcoming multiplayer shooter with a western theme, where players select a character from a handful of available outlaws and go to work taking down other players. I firmly rooted myself to this booth and found this shooter which is set firmly in the a fictional western universe, to have all the right flavors of fun and fast gameplay mixed with unique experiences.

Recently (before PAX even) I had been speaking with Yousuf Mapara, the Creative Director on Secret Ponchos and President of Switchblade Monkeys. The man was nice enough to sit down with me and let me pick his brain about Secret Ponchos, his company, and being on stage during the Sony press conference at E3 last year. Big thanks to Yousuf for the time! 

If you want to know more about Secret Ponchos, head on over to the official website and make sure to keep an eye out for when their Early Access campaign begins sometime (hopefully) in June.

Derek Nichols: For those who may not be familiar with your studio, if you wouldn’t mind, please give us a run down. Who is Switchblade Monkeys and how were you founded?

Yousuf Mapara: At Switchblade Monkeys, we are a group of friends who decided we wanted to sneak off from our Studios and make a game together as a passion project!  We had no idea it would grow to this scope at the time. We did not approach it like a business, we approached it as a group of friends making a band in their garage to play cool music they like.  Most of us worked on the project entirely out of passion without taking any Pay, and this allowed us to stay independent and really make the game we wanted to, without making external compromises.

Nichols: First off, I love the studio name so I have to ask, where did the name originate from?

Mapara: We wanted something that was fun and edgy, and did not seem like we take ourselves overly serious!  Our main thing is about fun and stylization and Switchblade Monkeys reflected that to us.

Nichols: What games have inspired you and your team growing up?

Mapara: So Many!  Fighting games would be Street Fighter II and the Soul Calibur series. There was some Crazy PC gaming too,  games like Syndicate, X-com, and Ultima Online was one of the most impressionable games I played.

Nichols: For those unfamiliar with Secret Ponchos, can you provide an overview of the game?

Mapara: Secret Ponchos is an online combat game,  that sets stage in a stylized Spaghetti Western setting.  We set out to make a game that’s original, and has that sense of adrenaline and competitive fun.

You’re an outlaw with a bounty on your head, and so are other players. As you take down other players online, the price on your head increases and you become a more valuable target.  Players battle in 1vs1 battles which are really cool. But we took it much further and build the game to support 2vs2 battles, 4v4, and even 8 player free for all matches.  I think this team aspect really sets it apart from other fighting games.

Nichols: One aspect that I love about certain games is customization and being able to kind of make the character your own. How deep will the customization be in Secret Ponchos?

Mapara: It’s really about building a character that suits your play style.  Every match you play is tracked in your legacy, and as the price on your head increases so does your reputation.  As you increase in reputation you will unlock Perk points, and you can use them to increase your characters base stats and customize your gameplay style.  So if you play KidRed who fires really fast, you might decide to add some more HP to balance out his survivability… Or you might make a different build and tweak out his fire rate even further!  We do have some simple Aesthetic options, such as DLC skins available,  but our focus on customization was more on gameplay.

Nichols: How many characters are you shooting for at launch? Can we expect any added post-release?

Mapara: Rather than launching with a huge roster of clones, We took the approach that less is more and to go really deep with how different the characters are from one another. We are launching with 5 characters, who play extremely different from each other, in mechanics, weapon types, and even the base feel of how they move around.   We took it so far that every character has over 100 animations, and we kept each guy totally different, we hope people enjoy the depth!

Our 5 characters are:

“KidRed” (dual pistols/Dynamite,  fast firing guns blazing kinda guy)

“Killer” (6 shooter, and a hunting knife)  Precision shots and high damage, old grizzled survivor, who is deadly up close with his knife.

“Deserter”  (Rifle/Bayonet, and a Civil war Medkit).  He’s all about survivability, and he’s got crazy variety with his bayonet in impaling enemies,  or sniping them from far away.

“Phantom Poncho”  (Shotgun, and super long Bull Whip)  He’s a bounty hunter with a short range deadly shot gun.  He moves in burst movement, and can wound you like a predator with his whip, and then move in close range for the kill. He can even disarm enemies by pulling the weapons right out of their hands with his bullwhp.

“The Matador” (Cape/Sword,  Banderillas)   We just announced her at PAX Prime 2014. She fights without a gun, taking down outlaws with a matadors cape and sword.

We’re really excited and inspired about the Western theme, and we’ll continue expanding our character roster, as long as people enjoy the game and want to see it expanded!  Our hopes are to use DLC to fund development of these new expansions and characters.  There should be some great new characters coming into the Secret Ponchos Universe.

Nichols: Last year you guys announced that you had partnered up with Sony to bring Secret Ponchos to the PS4. How did that opportunity come about? Did Sony approach you?

Mapara: Sony approached us at our booth, where we first showed the game to the public. They are a great team, and very proactive in scouting out awesome projects, and as a result the PS4 is going to have a killer lineup for Digital titles!  We had no idea they were Sony, we thought they were just regular gamers there having fun at the booth, and then they asked us if we’re interested in putting it on PS4! That was the greatest thing ever for us.

Nichols: Many people got their first look at your game when you took to Sony’s stage during their E3 press conference. That must have been a thrill for the team!

Mapara: It was an amazing honor to be an indie studio on stage at a press conference for the PS4! Again Sony rocked with their proactive approach to putting indies on the forefront.

Nichols: Which platforms are being targeted for release? Any plans to bring the game to other platforms in the future?

Mapara: PS4 has always been our lead title, but at PAX people have been very excited for us to to do a PC version! We always promised we would do our best, and now have some Great news! We have just announced we will be bringing the game to Steam’s “Early Access” almost immediately.  We realized it would be so much better to do a Community based beta with actual gamers, instead of a private beta, and the PC community is amazing at this stuff. We’re going to get Secret Ponchos in their hands to help us as we balance and polish the game as we take it to Final, and then we can use the funds the Early Access brings to develop the PC version!  Early Access was amazing and a win for everyone.  It is a win for PS4 gamers because of the great polish and balancing it will bring, and PC gamers will have the PC release they pushed for!

Nichols: I know you guys are working diligently over there but is there any release window currently for Secret Ponchos?

Mapara: No official release date yet, but we’re pushing for Fall 2014 for the final release.  But gamers can get their hands on the Steam’s Early Access almost immediately.  We’re pushing hard to have that ready, and it looks like we can launch it in June if things go right.  The Early Access build we have is very far along at this stage, so its going to be great for people to get their hands on it and really help us with the more subtle balancing and refinements.

Nichols: Anything else you’d like fans and gamers to know?

Mapara: If you like what you see about Secret Ponchos, please Sign up on our mailing list at http://www.secretponchos.com

We will update everyone as soon as the Early Access beta is ready to launch and anyone interested will have a chance to get their hands on it.  This is also the best way to help us fund the PC version, and help us drive the game to final.  Feel free to reach out to the team by joining us on twitter @switchbladeMkys or facebook\secretponchos

Most importantly thank you everyone for the enthusiasm about Secret Ponchos, it’s really exciting to have such an awesome community behind the game.


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