17 Dec Building on Experience Part 2: Project Xandata as a Platform for Breakthroughs
In our last post, we shared about how our projects and experience in outsourcing over the past 15 years have helped us grow in terms of skills, processes, and perspective.
Here we share the one project that allows us to compound everything we’ve learned, channeling our passion to create our own game, Project Xandata. This skill-based, team-focused, competitive first-person shooter is built on the Unreal Engine. The game is a combination of precise gunplay and a mastery of class skills in a 3v3 format.
Since starting out as a personal project of Gene Gacho and later on becoming a Secret 6 game title, it has already won Best in Technology at Level Up KL in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as Best Downloadable Game and the People’s Choice Award at Casual Connect in San Francisco, USA. As a competitive 3 versus 3 shooter, it opens up avenues for esports and high level player engagement.
For us, however, Project Xandata represents our own effort to help elevate video games developed in the Philippines. At the same time, it’s an avenue for us to channel our passion to and try new things.
Building from the Ground Up
As the first large-scale, in-house game title for Secret 6, Project Xandata had everybody on board learning and updating their skills.
Our programmers, artists and designers all had to learn the intricacies of visual effects, art and code optimization, level design, as well as UI and User Experience design of a multiplayer FPS game.
Being a multiplayer game, Project Xandata also had us take on netcode optimization as we created a robust multiplayer platform that allowed support for dedicated servers. We also learned about Profiling Tools that helped us track areas where net code could be further optimized, leading to better performance and gameplay.
Among the other tools we learned to use were: game analytics to get the data during testing that we need to improve the game, plus server tools and setup for cost efficiency and to provide good game performance.
In addition, the use of audio middleware for games with Wwise allowed for a streamlined audio pipeline in a game that utilizes thousands of different sounds.
“All in all, Project Xandata required us to coordinate with all disciplines and studios in Secret 6 that contributed to this project,” says the game’s Creator and Secret 6’s Technical Director, Gene Gacho.
Upscaling in Other Major Areas
The creative vision and influences behind Project Xandata were a challenge to execute. Inspired by action-platformers from the 1990s, it pays homage to its roots with a mix of exaggerated proportions and bold, vibrant colors. The game’s unique art style seeks to bring that aesthetic into the present day through sleek designs with enhanced depth and detail.
The 3D work for the game involved a balance between eye-pleasing aesthetics and playability—basically, between looking good and still playing well. “A lot of it has come to the mindset and communication of the work. For the longest time, a lot of the decisions on art for our outsourcing projects has mostly been done with clients. But with this project, we realized that we are on our own on this one. Thankfully, there were some that took up the challenge and were able to make things better along the way,” says Jem Bernaldez, 3D Lead of Project Xandata.
As the scale of our project grew, so did its needs.
The vision for the game’s audio must match its aesthetics: a distinct and precise mix of realistic elements and stylized effects. As for the music, we sought to tread the fine line between heroic and hopeful overtures and epic and intense battle themes. To achieve this, we’ve integrated an in-house sound designer for the past 3 years, who now works tightly with our game, as well as client projects across the company. Having someone onboard for audio design gives us true “full game production” capabilities. It enables us to create and weave in unique and distinct musical compositions and sounds for different characters, classes, scenes, and modes in games.
Sound Designer Nickey Ronas shares the technical and creative challenges in Project Xandata’s sound design: “Learning the technicalities of implementing audio was a big part of my growth in the project. It required closely collaborating with devs on making the overall audio mix of Project Xandata. Figuring out how to make skills and classes distinct meant I had to think outside the box on how they should sound creatively.”
Beyond 3D Art and Sound Design, this project also stretched our Concept and UI teams, refining our skills further in visual development and UI art and design. Now that we have these capabilities, we can provide more 2D art support like 2D Motion Graphics and Animation, art assets, and UI design to other projects beyond Project Xandata.
Handling Challenges and Opportunities
In the meantime, Rai Villanueva, one of our 2D Leads, highlights the challenges and improvements that Project Xandata brought to her team.
“Project Xandata was a whole new playing field I hadn’t yet explored, and will always be the most ambitious project I probably have ever dipped my fingers in,” she shares. “It is here that as a team, we’ve fashioned better and better pre-production and prototyping. We also began developing ways to test out our ideas. I came to understand that making the pipeline was just as important as getting things done. And cutting down tasks into manageable chunks really made us move better. We began putting more value on improving pipelines, documentation, and creating tools for better collaboration.”
Ann Galit, her manager, advised her to “wear a different hat for a different task.” Settling into her role and finding out how it worked within the rest of the team improved both trust and productivity. This kind of learning at the team level occurs when we take on bigger, more complex tasks.
We figure out the best way to leverage our individual strengths and improve how we work together. “I learned how to rely, trust and learn from the rest of the team which in its own way its own brand of courage too,” Rai concludes.
Birthing an entire new game gave us a new learning curve. As we build the world of Project Xandata, we also bolstered our own capabilities as game developers, artists, and storytellers. Development work for this project translated into learning, streamlining, and upgrading as a company.
Welcome to Our New World
We’ve gone far with Project Xandata, and we have even pivoted by redesigning parts of the game. We are excited and determined to see this game to release. You can check out all the new developments on the official Project Xandata site, and keep updated via the official Facebook and Twitter pages.
We look forward to launching the game soon on PC, and to seeing you on the playing field, future Xandats!
In the meantime, get to play Project Xandata starting December 17, 2020 (4PM, GMT+8) until January 14, 2021 (4PM, GMT+8) in the G.Round Limited Testing. The limited testing will be worldwide and we are excited for everyone to play, and also hear your feedback. Learn how to be a part of the playtest by going here.