11 Dec Building on Experience Part 1: Expanding our Capabilities at Secret 6
To paraphrase an old school affirmation: “Every day, in every way, things are getting better and better.” Over the past fifteen years, our portfolio has steadily grown, and so have the kinds of projects we have undertaken. To be able to take on new challenges successfully, we have constantly upgraded our skills and capabilities, leading to who we are today.
This steady evolution on an individual, team, and company level gave us the ability to compete and thrive in 2D and 3D game art production and game design and development.
Expanding Horizons in 3D
Our highly experienced team of organic and hard surface artists in our 3D division have held up a proven track record in AAA games. Collaborating in prestigious titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and both parts of the The Last of Us franchise have let us delve deep into producing quality 3D art for games.
Our work with Sony and Other Ocean Interactive on the MediEvil remake for the PlayStation 4 had both our Manila and Madrid studios collaborate on the art assets, 3D modeling, and animation for the game. This involved character redesign, including the main character Sir Dan, plus concept and key art assets, and additional props—all handled by the Manila team. Meanwhile, Madrid took on the equally challenging tasks related to full game environments, more prop designs and additional concept art.
We’ve also got Virtual Reality covered with Blood and Truth from Sony London Studios, where we were tasked to create a materials library with authentic-looking textures. To achieve the level of visual authenticity required for the project, our Leads went around the City of London to photograph various textures like rain stains on concrete and damage to brick work on buildings, to name a few.
This was the first project where our artists had direct real-time communication with the team from London Studios. These frequent interactions didn’t only do wonders for production. It contributed to our artists’ growth as well, especially in improving their eye for detail.
The Shadow of the Tomb Raider project was also our first experience in building a variety of large environmental set pieces like temple facades, statues, and others—all from scratch. Lara’s iconic Recurve Bow and other in-game assets required a high level of research into textures, materials, and damage states.
Working with Eidos Montreal on this gave us the opportunity to create concepts of all the game’s weaponry and carry those through to the final render.
With each project that pushed us, we learned and grew, paving the way for similarly-scaled projects down the line.
Alexis Lewington, our Business Director, lays down the vision for 3D in the future: “Our goal is to accompany our clients on their journeys of exploration into enhanced art techniques. This entails being a part of next generation game visuals, games that involve a diverse range of asset creation, as well as a variety of different game genres.”
She continues: “We’ve had the privilege to play a part in creating some of the best and most complex visuals on the PlayStation 4. It would make perfect sense that we would want to cement our future on all the best that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles have to offer.”
The 2D World Isn’t Flat for Us
Our growing team for 2D art and animation brings creativity, collaboration, and experience to the table.
To be competitive, you need to be able to conceptualize and deliver on a wide variety of graphical styles, aside from being technically proficient in the standard tools of the industry. Beyond being good in concept art, the Unity Engine and Spine, we had to offer something distinct.
We started working with Grab Games back in 2010. The first of our many 2D clients, their projects challenged us to integrate our art production pipeline with our gamedev workflow. Our work with them on Belle’s Beauty Boutique, Gold Miner World & Robot Junkyard pushed us to learn more about game development and cross-team collaboration. This allowed us to create cohesive game and app experiences. This holistic approach helped us ensure seamless asset integration, from concept to completion.
Further growth was fueled by work with another long-time partner, PocketGems. “Ultimately, Campus Life, a PocketGems project, started the growth of the 2D Team Outsourcing that enabled us to expand leadership, management, and processes as an independent team,” shares Ann Galit, our 2D Creative Manager.
Collaborating with PocketGems honed our outsourcing strategies. We continuously expanded our dedicated team to provide marketing ads, motion graphics animation, and 3D collaborations. Titles such as Pet Hotel, Stranded Narrative, Agency, and their mobile shared storytelling platform, Episodes, are just a few of the many collaborations we’ve had with them over the past eight years.
Last but not least, our work with Sony and Other Ocean Interactive on the MediEvil remake for the PlayStation 4 helped us further expand our capabilities in visual development. We were given the task and the privilege of doing character concepts for the new release. Our artists made sure to bring something fresh, while still staying true to the roots of this classic title.
Looking to the future, our 2D teams seek to level up their skills to take on bigger projects and expand their services.
Their big picture leads to more involvement and collaborations with game development, as well as art direction through visual development and concept art.
The vision is to be a strong partner in co-developing art and game elements from conceptualization and visual art direction to full implementation and execution.
Constantly Developing in Game Development
Many skills and technical competencies need to come together to deliver on game development work-for-hire projects. All the teams under game development strive to find the balance of diversifying capabilities while mastering specific aspects of their craft.
The game industry is fast-paced and ever-changing. This meant that learning, growth, and adaptability were critical to keeping up with different trends and technologies. Other times, the complexity and depth of the project required us to train for new skills and software, and adapt new workflows more fit to the new technology.
Working on Lumi required us to port the game from the Xbox 360 to iOS. This gave us one of our starts in mobile game development and porting. We’ve expanded our capabilities further into multiplayer development with Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Generations, and upskilling that further into our own Project Xandata.
Our co-development with Sony and Other Ocean Interactive for the MediEvil remake for the PlayStation 4 grew our VFX skills and gameplay programming for console. Also, this was the first big project that had both Secret 6 Studios (Manila and Madrid) working together. It laid the foundation for great collaborations that continue to this day.
Daryll Española, our pioneering VFX programmer, found his passion in VFX and spearheaded it in Secret 6. He’s since started mentoring others to grow our VFX capabilities. He recounts: “MediEvil was the first AAA console game I was able to work on. Over time, I acquired a ton of growth through self-learning and working with experienced teammates from Other Ocean Interactive. With the lessons learned, I began teaching others so they could join me in completing the game.” Today, he continues to lead the VFX work on our very own Project Xandata.
Being open to experiment and explore new ways of building games is important. We take time to do R&D to adapt new tools and processes. We’ve grown both our fundamental programming skills as well as our knowledge of Unity and Unreal Engine through the varied projects we get to work on.
Growing and becoming better means our game dev teams can get involved in more projects that we are passionate about: multiplayer titles and doing co-development work for PC, console, and mobile. We look forward to future partnerships and collaborations in these areas.
Elevating Game Design and User Experience
Our Game Design team grew hand-in-hand with our Game Development division, learning new tools and techniques on systems, narrative, and level design to create engaging experiences. Essential to this endeavor was developing a user-centric design mindset.
Designing games for long-time partner Cartoon Network entailed quick design turnarounds. This kept us on our creative toes, while still being true to the spirit of the show behind the project. It taught us to be agile in our design process.
The User Experience (UX) perspective eventually became a formalized part of the process. We’ve continually pursued knowledge and improvements in this field, integrating it in projects until it became second nature. Internal knowledge sharing, workshops, side projects, and putting theory into practice all bolstered our perspective and capabilities in this field.
Now, we have a robust User Interface and User Experience (UI-UX) pipeline, tailor-fitting solutions for each project.
More than technical skills, however, soft skills such as communication and collaboration, systems thinking, and empathy for better understanding user experiences and behavior also come into play.
We’re just getting started, and we are looking to improve this every step of the way!
Better with Every Endeavor
With every project and addition to our portfolio, we continue to learn and improve on our capabilities.
We also take active steps in ensuring our employees grow—which in turn helps the company grow and adapt to the rapidly evolving and dynamic industry that we are in.
Our quality work and our long-term relationships with our clients over the past fifteen years are both the proof and the inspiration for continually improving our craft.
With a lot of upcoming projects on different gaming platforms, and Project Xandata on the horizon, we look forward to facing these new and exciting challenges. We will always strive to deliver quality work by constantly improving ourselves and our ways of working. This keeps Secret 6 agile, relevant, and prepared for the future.
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