PlayStation Universe recently hooked up with Switchblade Monkeys' Creative Director Yousuf Mapara to chat with him about the indie revolution, the PS4 launch game Secret Ponchos and to find out how the journey began for the independant developer.
Here is the Q&A in full.
The indie development scene has exploded in recent years while larger studios, including ex-employer Radical Entertainment, have crumbled. What have you learned about the industry from the downfall of some popular and successful publishers and developers, and do you think the indie revolution will last?
As long as there has been a games industry, there has been a need for new IP's, new styles, and new types of gameplay to surprise players. Right now in this development landscape we are seeing the smaller teams in the digital space take that focus on creativity and new IP. Indie developers can go there because frankly they put themselves on the line out of creative passion.
A lot of the larger franchise games we play now were developed by small teams back in the day, that resembled the "indie studios" of today. The term that defines the teams that take these risks has changed over the years, but I think it has always been there.. small groups of people passionate about making new types of experiences.
AAA games are great too, they just bring a different type of experience to the market, that focuses on leaving you in awe of what 100 or 1000 people can make if they work together, in terms of scope and perfection of craft. My personal passion however is in the digital space, because it delivers constant surprises in style and innovation which is compelling for an artist.
We understand that Secret Ponchos started as a fun project and that there were no initial plans to launch it as a full retail product. At what point did you realize the game had a potential to be much more?
There was a point early on where the project was much smaller. Quickly some of our friends saw the game, and said "That's cool, if you guys want help I'm in!" They were so talented in their respective fields it inspired us to something bigger if we could all stay disciplined and collaborate together. With that decision we sort of changed goals and what we expected of ourselves.
What’s the idea behind the name? We understand that the ‘Ponchos’ part of the title is related to spaghetti westerns, but what’s the ‘secret’?
The word "Secret" came mainly from our project history. We started this project in secret, and we would all get together and collaborate on this passion project on the down low. This was our Secret Project, and we called the blog "Secret Ponchos". When we were naming the game, we brainstormed hundreds of names. But a lot of the imagery and creative content of the game connected too deep with that identity we had on the blog, and it just felt gross switching it to a more 'video game standard' name. These mysterious outlaws and bounty hunters, concealing themselves and their weapons in giant sombreros, ponchos, trenchcoats - Secret Ponchos just had the right vibe and attitude . In the end people tell us they either love the name, or hate it. But the interesting thing is that it is a memorable game name and not something generic which is what we wanted to avoid.
How did the decision to initially launch Secret Ponchos as a PlayStation 4 exclusive come about and how have you found working with Sony?
We were presenting our game for the first time at PAX East, and Brian Silva, Nick Suttner from Sony Dev relations were at the event. Brian and Nick came to our booth (disguised as regular gamers as I like to say). They checked out the game, and watched people playing it for quite a while. We had no idea they were from Sony Dev Relations or we would have been a lot more nervous having to go into pitch mode. But they got to see the game for what it was, without being hyped. They eventually introduced themselves after they formed their opinion and asked us if we've considered launching on PS4. At the time I was shocked, it was so outside the realm of what we thought was a possible option. I actually told Brian "We're just a tiny team, I don’t know if we can do PS4 " and Brian asked "What are your barriers?" and suggested how we could work together to overcome them. We really were honoured by what they were suggesting. It also did strike an impression how proactive they were in finding a strong portfolio, while being really down to earth and the type of people you want to do business with. After they left, we just huddled together and decided as a team no guts no glory, and decided we wanted to work together with Sony and get this thing on PS4.