UI Programmer

Katie Hirsch

The work I do at ZOS is challenging and fun, and I love it, but it is secondary to the supportive and encouraging environment created by my team that has allowed my skills to continually grow and develop.

What is your role at ZOS and what, simply speaking, do you do?

I work with a fantastic team of programmers, artists, and designers to develop user interfaces (primarily 2D menus and overlays) for our game. In my role as a programmer, I write code using C++, Lua, and XML to improve and maintain the players’ experience.

How did you come to work for ZOS? Have you always wanted to be part of the games industry?

I’ve spent most of my career working in the games industry. I graduated from UMBC in 2004 with a BS in Computer Science and a BA in Visual Arts (Animation). Through the recommendation of co-workers from my internship, I was hired as a Staff Artist at Breakaway Games. Six months later, I transferred to Tools Programming where I worked on a UI tool. This led me into the role of User Interface Programmer on Command and Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath.

Later, I worked in that role at Firaxis Games on Civilization V and XCOM: Enemy Unknown and at Day 1 Studios on F.E.A.R. 3. I then worked at a startup using game tech to create an educational platform.

When my colleague from that company invited me to come work with him again several years later, I was excited for the opportunity and eager to return to the games industry. The work I do at ZOS is challenging and fun, and I love it, but it is secondary to the supportive and encouraging environment created by my team that has allowed my skills to continually grow and develop.

What does an average day look like for you?

Typically, I get to work between 9:00am and 10:00am, greet my team, get coffee with a co-worker and then start working on my tasks for the day. My tasks vary and can include attending feature team scrums, bug fixing, writing code for a new feature, reviewing the code of other teammates, discussing designs, and working with other developers and designers. I work in close proximity with my team, which facilitates a dynamic and collaborative atmosphere.

What is working at ZOS like?

Working at ZOS is fantastic. It’s great to be in an environment and on a team where quality of both code and player experience are so highly valued. I work with some brilliant programmers who value the work they are doing as a team more than any of their own individual contributions.

What is your proudest achievement while working for ZOS?

While I hope that my proudest moment is yet to come, I was inspired by the quality of team collaboration on the feature I just completed. Though I would have to say that personally, probably my proudest moment was my first day at ZOS when I came in and discovered that some of my former students had become my colleagues.

What games do you most enjoy / are currently playing?

I play board games more often than video games. I love Eurorails (Empire Builder), but I also enjoy social and thinking games like Catch Phrase, Scattegories, and Bezzerwizzer. When I play video games, I prefer old school adventure games like King’s Quest and Day of the Tentacle.

What additional hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

I frequently public speak and participate on panels sharing my experience (both personal and professional) and encouraging students. I also serve on the production team at my church. In my free time, I enjoy listening to audiobooks and academic lectures on topics of classical education (History, Philosophy, Theology, and Literature). When healthy, I love to run.

How have you developed or improved your skills?

Through the support of my teammates, I’ve been able to kick the rust off of my skills from being out of the industry for several years. I am more adept at planning how I want to approach building features. I have also improved my code reading and analyses as we are each responsible for reviewing the code of our teammates.

How do you manage a good work / life balance?

My lead and producer do a great job managing the scope of the work I have and making sure that I have the time I need to finish the work at the quality our team strives for. This allows me to work regular hours most of the time.

How do you like living and working in Maryland?

I came to Maryland for college, and I have lived here ever since pursuing my career. I have made deep and lasting friendships here and have had great opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. ZOS is situated very close to beautiful running trails and horse country while being only a half-hour drive from Baltimore City with its many great museums and attractions.

Katie Hirsch's Department


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