Constructing The Combat of Secret Ponchos, Out Today on PS4

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Constructing The Combat of Secret Ponchos, Out Today on PS4

Secret Ponchos on PS4

Hello, my name is Yousuf Mapara, the Creative Director of Secret Ponchos, which finally launches today on PS4 (free for PlayStation Plus members)! First off, our team at Switchblade Monkeys wants to thank everyone for their support and interest.

There have been plenty of articles since we announced Secret Ponchos, which detailed the game’s characters, game modes and features, so we wanted to focus today’s blog post on combat — or more specifically, how we drew inspiration from fighting games, team-based shooters and even MMO combat to craft our own style of combat game.

Secret Ponchos on PS4Secret Ponchos on PS4

A new take on quick, twitchy combat

When we decided to make a Wild West fighting game, we knew the traditional 1v1 side view would not work for what we wanted, and that we would need to create a new style of combat outside of pre-existing genre conventions. We had to figure out how to keep the fundamentals that make great fighting games work, and carry them into 3D battlegrounds capable of supporting team play.

We wanted to keep the quick-twitch style of more traditional fighting game combat, allowing you to see what your opponent is doing and react in fractions of a second to either escape or counterattack. Elements such as maneuvering into the right position to land a strike, precisely timing your attacks to hit your opponent when they are vulnerable, and aiming mechanics that rely on precision instead of point and click combat. We also wanted players to be able to use the environment to hide or take cover, to strategize team formations, and even use line of site mechanics to set up ambushes or escape a heated shootout.

Secret Ponchos on PS4

We aimed to create dramatic moments during gameplay that have that sense of western tension. One example: you might dive behind a wooden coffin, hanging onto a sliver of life and desperately reloading your weapon. The enemies are advancing, but you see something they cannot… an ally taking cover behind a nearby gravestone ready to flank them and burst out guns blazing at just the right moment.

Controlling your space

One of the key fundamentals of fighting games is spacing. In traditional fighting games with side-views, you can see the exact distance between you and your opponent. The isometric (overhead) camera in Secret Ponchos allowed us to utilize that same sense of spacing that you wouldn’t get with the first-person or over-the-shoulder views of other team shooters — this was the main reason we went this direction.

Secret Ponchos on PS4

Secret Ponchos on PS4Secret Ponchos on PS4

Spacing is about controlling the fight and maintaining the right range to land your attacks, while preventing your opponent from doing the same. Skilled duelists will dive in and out of range to get into position, then draw with deadly accuracy to fire off a few shots before making a hasty escape.

Every action is a strategic choice – with consequences

We knew early in development was that we wanted to avoid making a “spammy” game where it’s chaotic unloading of attacks at each other until someone randomly dies. The solution was creating a set of benefits and consequences for each move. This way everything you do becomes a strategic choice. When you first start playing you make choices intuitively, but as you get better you become more aware of their consequences and become more strategic in your play. You can recklessly run in guns blazing, but when you hear that dreadful “click” of an empty chamber, you realize you’ve made yourself an easy target. A good opponent will be aware of it too, often counting your shots and playing evasively to make waste your rounds into the ground and walls. Kidred can hide a stick of dynamite in an enemies pocket, causing them to detonate several seconds later. But to do this he needs to take some major risks and maneuver himself close enough in the heat of a battle. Even your diveroll is a valuable commodity, and being too hasty with aggression might render you out of precious stamina unable to escape as your enemies unload a brutal barrage of bullets back at you.

Secret Ponchos on PS4

Attack Types

In the wild west, there are lots of ways a battle can go down. While a new Outlaw might feel they are simply running and gunning, the many different attacks are layered into a variety of types, each causing its own effect on an enemy. Some attacks are geared towards maximizing damage, while other attacks have effects like stuns and blinds. Players can learn to chain these together, creating effective strategies.

Phantom Poncho has a deadly shotgun, but its range is fairly short so it can be hard to get close on an evasive player. If Poncho switches to his secondary weapon (bull whip), it can be used to stun an enemy, disarm, or wound them to a limp, slowing them down so he can move in for the kill before they escape. The Deserter can use a stamina unit to slam into an opponent with his shoulder; this may not deal too much damage, but it stuns them long enough for his team mate, The Matador, to launch her sword impale move.

Gang Fights

We always had this goal to make a fighting game where a groups of friends could become a deadly posse, anticipating each others’ intentions and forming second-to-second reactions as they gun down all who stand against them.

That being said, we had to deviate from the classic fighting game approach and build Secret Ponchos from the ground up to support a range of combat, from 1v1 all the way to 4v4 team fights. Team play adds interesting layers to a match, particularly when a team is made of different outlaw combinations who can chain together their combos and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

Secret Ponchos on PS4

We set out to do something fresh, not only in terms of style and theme, but to create game play that doesn’t strictly follow genre conventions. As developers, we can’t wait to take a step back and see how players learn and perfect the mechanics of combat, leveraging different team compositions to chain together crazy combos and strategies that we never even imagined.

We look forward to see how far the community can push our game as a competitive online environment (let us know what you think in our forums), and supporting you guys with updates and new content. Welcome to Secret Ponchos — happy hunting.

-Yousuf and the Switchblade Monkeys Team

Comments are closed.


21 Author Replies

  • This game looks really interesting. Can’t wait to check it out later!

  • I’m excited to give this a tonight! Thanks!

  • For all the strategy talk in the article, that video sure looked run and gun to me.
    When you say supporting us with updates and new content, is that free or are we actuallygoing to be ssupporting you with paid dlc?
    I gotta say, im not happy my plus membership has turned into a kickstarter campaign to get indies onto ps4.

  • meh……pass thanks…..

  • I was hoping for another Dead Nation style game, only multiplayer, leaves me on the sidelines wishing you good luck with your title.

    I’m fine with PS+ giving this gave as part of membership.

    • @ +TwinDad, Starting out SP is focused around PVP only, but its funny AI missions is something we get asked about a lot, and we hope to expand/update ponchos to include AI missions now that the multiplayer is ready if the we get the opportunity. Coop AI missions would be really fun and we love the idea of supporting it.

  • so I been waiting for like hours to play this. is it ready for download yet?

  • Vita dead.

  • Hi Everybody! I’ll be here hanging out in the comments if anyone has anything they want to ask I’ll be here to respond . Thanks for checking out the page


  • what time will this be available for download.

    • @+cruelconz: I’m not sure myself the exact time, but I googled it this morning and I saw that often the Store updates around 2pm in the afternoon. Anyone know if thats true?

    • Yep! You might see things popping up on PS Store throughout the day, but you can expect the full update to be live by 2pm Pacific. :D

  • Platinum trophy?

  • Woo! Hype! I have been waiting for this!

    However, I have a couple questions…

    1. I heard the game is only launching with 4 maps and 5 outlaws. Will there be more available, and will we have to pay for them?

    2. Since there are only 5 outlaws at launch, are there ways to customize them?

    • +MakoSoul

      Great questions. Yep you are right the game ships with 5 outlaws, and 4 maps. We want to support the community with updates over the long term so it continues to grow, and maps are something we are excited about, and will patch at no charge as we develop them.

      The Character Roster is something we are very excited about expanding, because there are just so many great western characters and we would love to keep going. As long as the community is excited about new characters we would love to develop them. Our hopes is that if we can offer these as paid expansion characters, then use those funds to further expand the Secret Ponchos universe.

      So the 5 character classes and customization. Think of it a little like Diablo. You make a character, and choose from one of the archetype classes. You name them and it saves your character into the system, with a bounty on your head. The game tracks your match history, as you win matches, the price on your head goes up. You will level up and earn “Perk points” that you can assign to characters properties (Dmg, movement speed etc) to make a special build you like.

  • Is there couch coop or no?

    • +Foxy: Yep! It’s so awesome to have a friend next to you on the couch , go online and gun down other teams. :) We’re really proud to have supported that feature

  • Yea I just found out on google as well. The store will be updating at 2 p.m. today

  • Add me on PSN Gamer tag: JayT507

  • Based on atmosphere alone, I’ve been excited for this game since it was first featured at the PS4 announcement event. Now, I am terrible at fighting games and never play multiplayer (because, again, I am terrible at them).

    This has still been one of my most-anticipated PS4 games, and I’m excited to give it a try.

    I said the same thing about Destiny before it launched: I’m terrible at FPS and multiplayer games. But it was a sci-fi space shooter, and looked like fun. And Destiny is the game I’ve had the most fun with this year (I don’t know that it’s necessarily the best…or even my favorite…but I had a blast for 40 hours, and am looking forward to the DLC.)

    I’m hoping Secret Ponchos brings the same fun factor.

    • +Sethisthegoat

      Thanks so much for all the support.
      We have a Secret Ponchos forum at, we found the community is really great at supporting other players and helping them pick up the game when approached through the community. Us Dev’s will be running the forums ourselves, so if you have any trouble feel free to message any of us and we’ll give you some tips!

  • Looks gorgeous and a lot of fun! Very happy this is a PS+ title. Hope it’s as strategic as you say!

    I don’t know why some people bother to post, launching a game is huge for any team big or small so it’s pretty mean and cynical. To me this looks like it could be a real winner.

    • +Thunderbear

      We’re really glad you like the art. We worked really hard to push that quality on the art and rendering, so it means a lot to us that people like it

  • + Yousuf Mapara Thanks for the detailed answer. The game sounds even more awesome. Can’t wait to play!

  • Great graphics,great art,great setting,nice characters…basically great everything…and all this sums up to a huge potential wasted.I hope y’all at Switchblade Monkeys are aware that Secret Ponchos could’ve been a fantastic game…but it ain’t because its online only.

    • +Welcosca: Thanks for the post, I get where you are coming from. Single Player Campaigns are a very compelling style of game and the characters/setting of Secret Ponchos would be a strong fit.

      I’ll try and shed some light on why we did it this way. We started the project with a desire to make a competitive fighting game. We created interesting backstories and character designs though as part of our process, and fleshed this all out to stage a strong setting…

      In the process of making the universe compelling, people wanted to know more about the universe and it created a desire to see a single player campaign as well. Since we’re not a huge company like Activision that can put large teams on both Single Player and Multiplayer at the same time, we knew we wouldnot be able to do both at the quality we wanted at the same time. So our was to stick to the goal of making a great multiplayer game, and then if the game is successful it will create an opportunity for us to expand and work on AI and a single player campaign, bring those characters/stories out further.

      So hopefully one day you will see a Single Player campaign, thats our hopes too


  • Any chance for PS Vita port?

    • VITA would be fantastic, especially as it could allow cross play with the PS4 community. Vita players should push for this we would love to do it

  • What about cosmetic costumization?

    If I’m gonna be an infamous outlaw with a huge bounty on my head I want to look different than everyone else!

    • We focused leveling up on your stat customization, and the presentation of your Reputation level in terms of this Icon people see when you’re playing becoming more and more intense.. So you might see the offscreen indicator of a Deathbringer coming at a group of lower level Thugs, and hit a panic!

      We also have completely optional skin purchases, its a full character model swap if players want to give themselves a new look. They’re a lot of fun, but cosmetic only :)

  • Ill tell you why this is online only and also a day one plus game: Sony wants plus to be mandatory. Andrew House has recently said they want more MP games to “encourage” plus membership. Im sure the money from plus aided the development of this game. All they had to do was be online. Can you even play this without plus?

  • I have a question, will there be any character dlc in this game or are these the only ones you can play ?

  • this game looks very interesting, look forward to giving it a try today.. thanks :)

  • Woo! Downloading now!

  • oh i forgot and are the character dlc as i read in another comment will it be free or will it cost a few bucks because geez i just don’t like paying for dlc. I’m digging the game tho guys can’t wait to play it when i get home :).

    • Hi Newcruizer :

      We’ve had a lot of people asking us if we can continue developing new characters, so at the start we’re going to try and expand the characters by adding DLC characters which people can buy, and then using those funds to fund the next.. this way we can expand the universe as long as people are excited to see new characters. In the mean time though we will continue to support the game with updates and even hope to add some maps over time at no cost

  • WOW @ comment 19 reply! who do i need to talk to for a vita port? i would love to cross play this vs my ps4 buddies and vice versa.

    looking forward to the update today, i have my ps app ready to download from work..will be checking periodically

  • So you can’t go against the CPU? :(

    • Hi Dquad: For now its PVP only, but we have an AI tournament mode (like Steet fighter) in development, so hang in there and hopefully you’ll see it in an update over time.

  • Are there any local multiplayer options? Either vs. or co-op.

  • Sorry, missed @5 above because I searched for “co-op” not “coop”. So the local multiplayer is two people on one team taking on another team online? Are they splitscreen or do they share the same view?

    • Splitscreen Couch coop. YOu can either do a local deathmatch against a friend, or go online as a team which is my favorite

  • Guess how much each skin is? $3! Cmon, now!

  • This game looks fun. I like the art style.

  • I was looking forward to this game like a lot of others. I do love the style and atmosphere, especially the designs but i didn’t know it was online only. It looks like it’d be more fun with it’s own story and campaign and most game-types i really don’t like playing online. I’ve got Plus though so idk, i might try it out.

  • Played this game a bit today. It’s a ton of fun. Each class feels unique, and they are all a lot of fun. My only complaint is the long wait times for team deathmatch. I think the fix for that would be to let us stay grouped up with the people we just played with in the previous match until we drop out. Free for all on the other time has short wait times and is a blast as well.

  • I will totally buy this for PS VITA if it happens!

  • Hey, I’m part of the staff over at the PSN Profiles trophy website and one of my tasks is managing all of the images on the site and I had to drop by to say that you guys have such incredible artwork! Keep up the good work over there at Switchblade Monkeys ;)

    • Thank you so much BlindMago! It means a lot to us. Are you going to be attending the PlaystationExperience event in Vegas?

  • Just played my first game and got first place! Really fun and I also love the art! Awesome game! Looking forward to updates and DLC!

  • Been waiting for this game since it was announced stoked to play later tnight. @hallowedbones

  • Im liking the games art direction so far, however… The “optional” skins arent available. can we unlock them somehow or do we have to buy them?

    I t feels kinda crappy to have only 5 characters and everyone looks the same regardless if youre the number 1 player or a rookie, theres nothing to discern players.

    whats the incentive to win?

  • Tried out with my friend just earlier today. Some quick complaints:
    – I wanted to remap the controls. It feels more natural to me to dodge with L2 instead of L1, for example.
    – The online was quite frankly poor. It worked fine when I was in Private, but I really wanted to rank up and unlock more stat boosts in the other modes, so my friend and I tried to get into a 2v2 Team Deathmatch. We waited for five minutes, he got randomly kicked out and I was left with one person missing on my team still waiting, until the other team gave up and quit. I then got out and reinvited him. He tried to join, but was left waiting for ages, so he tried inviting me (Which somehow worked just fine). We tried again… And both got put into separate lobbies with one person missing from our teams. I’d LOVE to actually be able to play with others.
    – More maps with environmental hazards could be nice
    – Make things more convenient. Allow customization in lobbies, and let us rename our characters, etc.

    Other than that, I absolutely loved the game.

  • Also, I’d like to second the support for a Vita version of the game. I don’t want it to take priority over single-player/co-op missions (Or even AI bots), but having the extra people to fight against would be nice.

    Some other suggestions:
    – Add more to the maps than just the texture and the layout. Maybe the Boneyard has a dust storm that can partially cloud the screen sometimes? Maybe the Train Wreck’s pieces can be blown up if they sustain enough damage? Maybe the second floor of the Saloon could be unlocked? Various fun, unique things like that, in addition to new maps, could help make them all feel unique.
    – Maybe make some kind of equipment that could be found? Such as a modifier to a gun that increases range at the sake of accuracy or damage? Having some similar mechanic could deepen the customization.
    – Add some survival mode. This is probably the easiest fix to tide over people looking for more offline content, and has the added bonus of being even more viable for online. Just look at Towefall’s Quest mode for an example.

  • @Yousuf – sadly I won’t be able to make it to the event =( Though I will definitely be watching and reading everything that goes on there! =P It looks like it’s going to be really exciting!

  • playing it now fun takes the side by side / split screen dual stick shoot aim and run fun but has an online mode! I wish more games with local multiplayer would develop online gameplay matchmaking is quick, runs smooth, I don’t see anyone lagging you guys did a good job. A+ to the devs!

  • Looks interesting, will definitely try this out later. I also support the idea of a Vita version of the game.

  • im glad to see this game as PS+ free game… cuz 1 i never would have bought it and 2 if i had paid for this id be pretty irritated for wasting money… i dont see why people are so excited for this top down slow pace shooter… sure it has cool looking art style but damn the gameplay is horrid. i played 3 matches came in 2nd and then 1st for the other 2… not much of a learning curve nor is it fast pace like everyone says it is… if its fast to you then idk maybe you have a slow mind. .

  • This game isn’t very great. One can only play one or two matches before getting tired of kid red and the outlaw being cloned 7 times. Having only 5 characters in a 8 player game is a terrible choice, and they should have at least given us enough characters to fill a match before springing to DLC characters.

  • So, you just gave up on making a game and made this for PS Plus instead?

    How did you guys get this bought by Sony? I am sitting here waiting on Driveclub PS Plus and they put this out to test the servers.

  • Looks surprisingly fun. I was sure this was just another poor indie freebie-game that I would never play, but this really looks good! Thank you Sony for giving it away!

  • Hey @ Yousuf

    Thanks for the answer,I really appreciate it and I understand the team reasons to go online only with Ponchos.

    I really hope to see a SP campaign one day…really hope,Ponchos has a giant potential for it…but hey thank you for adding split-screen though.I oughta have some fun playing with ma brother.

  • this game gives me swag so i rate 10/10

  • Awesome game! Thanks for bringing it to PS Nation!

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