It’s been three years since the start of the pandemic, and over time we’ve eased back into many activities that were halted by the lockdowns. This month, we checked in with one another to see how our lives have changed over the course of the pandemic, from rekindling old passions, discovering new ones, as well as how they’ve been navigating our shift to a more hybrid work setup.
S6 employees have always been a sporty bunch—Hannah, our head of marketing, shared her excitement about being able to return to dragon boat: “I surely missed racing and training with my teammates! During the pandemic, we obviously couldn’t paddle because we need to be outdoors to do that. We also resorted to working out online and doing crossfit because we had no access to the gym.”
A number of us have also gotten back into running, cycling, swimming, you name it. Xiao, our Design Manager, shared how she’s climbed 12 mountains since 2021!
“It’s not a lot compared to my other mountaineering peers in the club, but that’s a lot compared to my usual frequency even before the pandemic. Being in nature is healing, and it’s fulfilling to come out of it in the end knowing you were able to overcome the physical and mental challenge it brings.”
We also welcomed the return of many large-scale events. Music has always been big at Secret 6, so concerts and musicals are high on the list of activities we’ve missed! According to one of our artists, Jin, “I find the experience and emotion in concerts or music festivals impossible to replicate virtually.”
For some, art and video game conventions and festivals are their go-to events now that they’re back—Jhorlie, another of our artists, shared how much she missed boothing in conventions: “I always enjoy meeting my supporters and selling my artwork. I also get to meet most of my friends this way!”
We’ve also seen the resurgence of a long-time favorite at the company: D&D and Magic the Gathering! For some reason, a lot of our new hires during the pandemic have also come out as enthusiasts, making the scene all the more exciting for everyone.
The changes brought about by COVID-19 have also given us an opportunity to discover new ways of living, to entertain ourselves and to unwind after a long day.
One thing that’s great to see is the more active pursuit of health among us—people are taking up martial arts, getting into weightlifting, and many of us have learned mindfulness activities! Carlos, one of our senior 3D artists from the Madrid team, shared with a laugh, “I remember at the beginning of the pandemic I had abs! I learned how important it is to move and train the body and mind.” Building skills in art, music and other creative pursuits have also proven therapeutic for many of us.
And then there’s food—considering the amount of time we’ve all had to spend at home, it’s no surprise that many of us have learned how to cook! What’s awesome is that most of us have not only learned how to cook, we’ve specifically learned how to cook healthier meals, which has not only helped us physically, but emotionally as well.
According to Stephen, one of our knowledge management specialists, “...it’s therapeutic for me, and I get a sense of fulfillment from making something [good] while also being able to take care of my body. Cooking has helped me take it a bit more slowly in my life, and I’ve developed a greater sense of responsibility as a result.”
We recently moved and reopened our Manila office at the iconic Exquadra Tower. After our shift to a more hybrid setup, we’ve since repurposed it, so that employees are free to use the office as a co-working or event space.
Harvey, one of our designers, shared that “going to the office to meet my teammates face-to-face is cool as well…we can discuss without having to worry about meaning getting lost over the Internet. It’s just that there’s something different about F2F, you know? The design workshops and training are all very helpful too!”
Onsite training, client engagements and even team bonding activities have been increasing at the office, and we’re finally getting more opportunities to meet many of the team members we hired over the pandemic, and in person for the first time!
At Secret 6, we’re always striving to achieve a work-life balance, which has earned its rightful spot as a top-level conversation among businesses as a result of the shift to remote work. With most earning a newfound freedom from not having to commute daily, as well as the blur between the home and the work space, we checked in to see how the people at Secret 6 manage all of this power.
Here are some of the best tips on work-life balance in the hybrid workspace:
With the introduction of the non-linear workday, we’ve given ourselves space to listen to our bodies and to understand that everyone can be productive at varying times every day. If you have to ask if you need a break, you probably already need one—we’ve also been able to prioritize getting a good night’s sleep!
Paul from QA shares, “Getting a full 8 hours of sleep is a must for me…this lets me function the best throughout the shift. I will always try to have this even when things return to “normal.””
Now that many of us don’t have to grapple with the daily commute, a lot of our time has been spent getting proper, regular exercise. This can be as simple as a home workout, or going to the nearest gym—this supports another tip we often hear about setting clear boundaries about where we work, where we rest, and in this case, where we go to exercise!
“Right after my shift, I’ll feed my dogs and eat dinner. I will then draw personal artwork or practice until bedtime. Personally, that helped me grow as an artist,” shared Jhorlie. Whether that’s going out on an adventure or staying at home to work on a personal craft, we’ve seen people give more importance to spending quality time and being truly disconnected from work, which allows us to come back refreshed and with more inspiration to build amazing games.
Building on Tip #2, it’s possible that some don’t have the luxury of a large space to physically separate their work and rest areas. Alternatively, many of us have recognized the benefits of investing in the space that we do have—a little personality goes a long way here! Decorating one’s space to inspire or to increase productivity has been helpful to many of us, and others have also promoted improving the ergonomics of your workspace.
A pro-tip from our artist, Jin: get a good chair! Your back will thank you for it!
The World Health Organization recently ended the global health emergency status of COVID-19. While that doesn’t mean the threat is over, we look at it as a sign of hope that we'll soon be able to pursue even more of the things that we love. We’re excited to see what passions our team will discover next, and we look forward to sharing those with you in the future!
If you think working with and learning with our team up your alley, check out our Careers page to learn more about how to join us.
For over 15 years, Secret 6 has built a reputation for providing world-class co-development services to some of the world’s top game development studios.
As a dependable outsourced production partner for game art and co-development, we have worked on critically and commercially acclaimed AAA titles in recent years such as The Last of Us part II, As Dusk Falls, Cyberpunk 2077, Battlefield 2042, Shadow of The Tomb Raider, Diablo II: Resurrected, Monster Train, The Lords of the Fallen, and counting.
Check out our latest showreel featuring our recent and acclaimed works.
We’ve got more projects coming out this year so follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest news and updates.
2022 was nothing but an eventful year for Secret 6, so much that it admittedly took us a while to build this article! While there are too many individual events to choose from, here we’ve narrowed it down to six major highlights from the year that was.
Six years ago, we embarked on a journey to create the first Filipino-made, skill-based, competitive 3v3 shooter—thus, Project Xandata was born. In that time we’ve reached countless milestones: earning multiple awards both locally and internationally, generating innovations in our production pipeline, as well as earning our first Epic MegaGrant! We’ve also made lasting connections both in and out of the office that will only serve to improve our services.
All of this leads us to PXD’s highly-anticipated launch, when we officially entered Steam Early Access in March! Since then, we’ve hosted many online events to connect with our players and given away in-game loot to celebrate. We’re continuing to learn more about the different aspects of launching your IP from there, from hosting servers to maintaining engagement with our community both in and out of the game itself.
Players can continue to enjoy PXD until the early part of 2023 before we move on to exciting, new opportunities down the line. The servers remain open until May 31, 2023.
As always, every year presents us with many exciting opportunities to work with many of the biggest names in the game development industry. Some of our most notable portfolio additions this year:
Winner of the ‘Game of Impact’ award at the 2022 Game Awards. We established a new art pipeline and learned new techniques by working closely with the game’s art director, and we helped bring its hand-painted art style to life by creating over 20,000 frames for the game’s characters.
The PS5 remake of Naughty Dog’s critically-acclaimed masterpiece. Our team was again given the opportunity to create many of the game’s environmental graphics and 3D assets, to bring Joel and Ellie’s adventure to the current gen.
Monster Train, originally developed by Shiny Shoe, and winner of the 2021 Dice Award for Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year. This makes it our first major PC-to-mobile port, and what better title to have achieved it with? Learn more about our work on this game here. We’ve also been hard at work on a lot of other projects, and while we can’t talk about them until they've been released, we look forward to telling you all about them once they do!
Every year, we strive to host as many game and art jams as we can, where we can work together on challenges based on a wide range of our shared interests. This also allows us more opportunities to share knowledge and to learn from one another, about the different skills that help Secret 6 function as a leading game development studio.
This year’s game jam was aptly titled ‘Jam from Home’, and followed the theme of ‘The UI is the Enemy.’ Check out our most notable submissions, Surprise! Attack (winner of the Fowl Play award) and Insatiable (winner of the Best Digestible UI award)!
We also hosted a total of seven (!) internal art jams this year, thanks to the efforts of our 2D art team. Check out some of our awesome work! In a work-for-hire business, we are often working with specific art styles, or developing content that highlights our partners’ brands and IP. Internal art jams are our way of honing the fullest range of our skills and creativity!
This year also marked the return of our annual team outings!
Since we started hosting outings across our different teams, we’ve seen them host all sorts of events, showcasing the astounding variety of personalities and interests that make up the talent in Secret 6. Camping trips, city vacations, out-of-town retreats and even spa dates were just some of the ways that our teams decided to enjoy a much-needed break from a busy year.
It also gave many of us a chance to finally, truly meet some of our new team members, many of which were hired during the pandemic. This culminated in our company Christmas lunch, held at The Alley by Vikings in BGC.
In line with recent changes to our work setup, we recently moved our Manila headquarters to the iconic Exquadra Tower. Our hybrid setup allows our employees the option to work from home or take advantage of our updated in-office facilities, including standing desk workstations, high-end machines, and new conferencing areas for both work and play. And we’ve got unlimited coffee! Here’s a sneak peek video of our Manila office.
Our Madrid team also relocated to the heart of the capital, Glorieta de Cuatro Caminos, to our rapidly-growing team there. A culturally-diverse location directly connected to the city, the new headquarters boasts plenty of open space, bright windows, and a spectacular view of the city! The office also features ergonomic workstations, as well as multi-purpose conferencing rooms.
Capping off the year, we joined the Catalis Group, an industry-leading game and entertainment service provider, based in the UK. This is our next step in elevating our business, with the help of Catalis’ own services, expertise, and global business network.
What does this mean for the Secret 6 brand though, you may ask? Fear not—while this is potentially the biggest change we’re making going into 2023, our name, structure, and management remain the same. We’re still the Secret 6 you know and love!
We enter 2023 with full optimism, as we solidify our hybrid culture and increase our involvement in the game development space. We’re looking forward to exciting new projects alongside Catalis, and we’re working on ways to better share knowledge, both within and outside of the company.
We’re not just bringing you more in 2023, we’re bringing you better!
Stay tuned for more updates this year by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
We are welcoming the new year with a fresh start as our teams move to our new home bases in Manila and Madrid.
Our old Manila office has witnessed many changes as Secret 6 grew in the past years. From Tektite Towers, our Manila headquarters has moved to the iconic Exquadra Tower in Ortigas!
Our new office space boasts workstations with standing desks, high-end machines, glass boards in spacious conference and meeting rooms, classic and new consoles, and unlimited coffee! ☕
Our studio in Madrid has also leveled up and relocated to the heart of the capital, Glorieta de Cuatro Caminos. The office is connected to the beautiful city of Madrid. It boasts a large open space and bright windows with a spectacular view of the city.
The office includes new workstations with adjustable screens, standing desks, a conference room, and a game room in the works!
Our new office spaces will provide us with creative and commercial opportunities to expand our services and realize even greater results for our clients.
This move starts a big step forward for our company, and we are thrilled to open a new era of Secret 6!
We are excited to announce that Secret 6 will be joining the Catalis Group, an industry-leading game and entertainment service provider headquartered in London, UK.
Secret 6 has been in the business for over 15 years, providing top-tier game development services to the world’s biggest game studios, and credited for various triple-A titles. Each year, we strive to elevate our business and deliver excellence to our clients. And this year, we are capping off with this exciting advancement to our company!
Catalis Group is a UK-headquartered global video game and entertainment group focused on the provision of technical and creative services to the entertainment industry. Catalis employs approximately 2,300 people across 9 countries and 13 locations.
This marks a major turning point for Secret 6 as we leverage Catalis Group’s services, expertise, and global business networks. This also paves the way for Catalis to expand their business by having their first location in Madrid, and with Manila as their first presence in Asia.
This acquisition spans all Secret 6 companies. However, Secret 6 will retain its company name, structure, and management team led by Ron Schaffner.
“We are thrilled to be joining Catalis, a group highly regarded for their excellent service offerings. We look forward to collaborating with Catalis to accelerate the group’s growth, enhance and expand the services we offer to our clients, and provide exciting new opportunities for our talented teams in Manila and Madrid,” said Ron Schaffner, founder and CEO of Secret 6.
We at Secret 6 look forward to this exciting opportunity and will continue to provide world-class services to premiere game developers across the globe.
More information on Catalis Group can be found at https://www.catalisgroup.com
Imagine a roguelike deck-builder set on a train being attacked by heaven’s forces as you protect the train that’s “hell-bent” on restoring the inferno and saving hell, you’ll get Monster Train.
Originally developed by Shiny Shoe, Monster Train is a turn-based roguelike deck-building game with multiplayer and endless replayability. Tasked with reigniting the flames of hell and preventing it from freezing over, this train ride will urge your tactical decision-making skills to defend your precious pyre from enemies as you strengthen your hellspawn army and navigate through the circles of hell.
The game is currently available on Steam and has received great reviews. It received the PC Gamers Best Card Game of 2020 award and was a finalist nominee for the 2021 Dice Awards for Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year.
Secret 6 is proud to have worked closely with Good Shepherd Entertainment in bringing Monster Train to the iOS platform. We couldn’t contain our excitement when we knew we’d get to work on this!At the very start of the project, the goal was to “develop a fantastic version of Monster Train for iOS devices that has near-feature parity with PC”. The biggest challenge was in how to incorporate the game screens on mobile, which have a drastically smaller display than PC monitors.
Ensuring the readability of UI elements, and designing responsive and intuitive touch controls were pillars of the UX-UI design process.
On a mobile device, UI directly ported from a PC game doesn’t always translate well: text being too small to read, buttons difficult to tap, or a screen layout, while workable on a monitor screen, now appears too compressed and dense on relatively smaller mobile devices. However, “Larger” isn’t always the solution, given the limited screen space we have to work with.
Understanding the mobile user experience for deck-building games and a lot of wireframing and iteration were involved to get closer to the goal. One of these instances would be the card information that appears as tooltips on PCs via mouse hover. On mobile, we made it so a few key tooltips would be visible when you tap on a card. But a tap-hold would allow you to view all information, which would appear via a module for better readability. This allowed for card details to still be available and accessible on touch-screen devices.
Across several UI, we made the elements more concise, while still keeping enough of the same information available to the player, when they set up their run and play a level.
Porting to the iOS platform posed unique engineering challenges. We were facing an issue in the iOS builds where some cards just wouldn’t display properly on the device, this involved coding in asset compression so card images would appear properly.
Smartphones nowadays are powerful devices but to ensure smooth performance, we had to optimize for them. Meta features such as achievements and cloud saving that are also present on Steam were made to work as we carried them over to the iOS platform.
Overcoming UI and UX challenges, optimizing for mobile, as well as iOS platform issues were just part of the equation. Our QA team was thorough in planning test cases and performing rigorous tests across different iOS devices throughout production. All this is to ensure we have a faithful iOS port of Monster Train.
Thank you Good Shepherd Entertainment and Shiny Shoe for the opportunity to work on Monster Train for iOS!
It has been one hell of a train ride and we look forward to doing more porting projects in the future.
Play Monster Train, available on Steam, and now on the App Store!