The Spaghetti Western is an inspiring genre brimming with attitude and style. From iconic character personalities and vivid settings, to tension-filled musical climaxes and boldly stylized visuals, every moment spent in a Spaghetti Western is filled with anticipation and epic drama.
At Switchblade Monkeys, we were inspired by this genre, and set out to make Secret Ponchos. We focused on 3 areas: creating original gameplay; setting a bold tone with the art and music; and shaping a player experience that feels true to the Spaghetti Western genre.
It seems like many first- and third-person shooters use similar gameplay mechanics to each other, and while we love those games, we knew we wanted to do something different with Secret Ponchos. We wanted to create an original gameplay style, one that felt as unique as the genre itself.
As it turns out, the keystone for this change was the camera. By placing the camera overhead, we discovered the game had its own unique feel for combat, because there were new types of information a player could draw from. Players could suddenly see who is where, how far they are, the environment in-between. The gameplay became about how you read and react to these situations in addition to the combat itself. We now had opportunities to create new mechanics. Among these, we studied fighting games and included elements of precision range mechanics as well as precision timing to give the game a responsive quick-twitch console control feel. The result is a combat style with a unique marriage of fighting games and team shooters. What’s especially cool is that even though it has fighting game aspects, it works for a wide range of player modes, including: intimate 1 vs 1 duels, 2-4 player gang fights, and guns-blazing 8-player free-for-all shootouts.
The art & music direction on Secret Ponchos was a real highlight for us to start developing. While there are other Western games, we found they tend to aim for a realistic feel. With Secret Ponchos, we wanted to push in a more stylized direction and go for more of a graphic comic book feel. Character shapes and attitudes were exaggerated. Dramatic poses and stylized animations brought the characters to life. Envision a mysterious character standing perfectly still, with his Poncho whipping in the dusty wind. Not to be outdone, the original scores were created to raise the epic feeling even higher. In Spaghetti Westerns, the music defines the mood, things become incredibly intense with ranges of tension building timpani rolls to epic trumpet melodies and crescendos of violence. Spaghetti Western music was the inspiration that started us to focus on this genre!
Lastly, the setting itself. The premise of the game is “What’s Your Head Worth?“. Players create an outlaw (a persistent character) and enter the town of Lonetree – where they instantly have a bounty on their head. Players then engage in battle against others, battles where one will stand and one will fall. Our bounty system fosters this mentality of kill-or-be-killed. If you win, the value on your head goes up, while the defeated outlaw’s bounty drops. As your notoriety and reputation increase, you can unlock perk points and upgrade your gameplay abilities, tweaking your properties in a way that suits how you want to fight. Something interesting that developed from this was the aspect of head hunting. When players gain fame and accomplishments, they also become larger, more valuable targets to take out. “What’s your head worth?” sets the player mentality in a space that we felt was a cohesive fit with the wild west.
With Secret Ponchos, we set out to create something unique, both in style and gameplay itself. We created and embraced a new type of cross-genre combat, and set the stage in a dramatic, highly stylized Spaghetti Western world that we hope people will love.
We’ve a very hands-on development team, and enjoy talking to people about the game and process. Please feel free to ask any of us questions and we’ll do our best to answer!