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Employee Spotlight: Mary Yovina

Hey There, I'm Mary,

What's your current title and how long have you been at Harmonix? 

Titles are weird. Generally, I’m a UI Art Lead. I’ve been at Harmonix for a little over 6 years.


What are you currently working on, what role do you play in the project? 

I’m currently working on things I can’t talk about, but the last thing I worked on that I CAN talk about was FUSER! For most of it, I was a UI Art Lead, and then I took over as Art Lead for the 1.4 update. I was responsible for managing the UI team, doing a lot of organization and establishing standards, making sure that we had a vision for the UI and getting buy-in, balancing exploration and consistency through iteration, and also trying to fit in wireframes, implementation, and polish around Lead stuff. And then when I took on Art Lead work, I was also in charge of reviewing and giving feedback on content like album art and Event posters, representing the Art team in risk assessment and planning, things like that. That was when I got to work on things like Profile lighting and making new backup dancers, which was tons of fun. I’m not sure I can make scoping and sprint planning sound exciting, but I like doing that stuff too.


What were you doing before Harmonix, and how did you find your way here? 

Before Harmonix, I had been working in games for 8 years, so I’ll condense a bit. I had gone to school for video game development, so it was always the thing I was set on doing, I just wasn’t quite sure in what way. I sort of accidentally became a UI Artist, and then kept doing it because it fit really well with my interests; I get to do a lot of technical work while also being very focused on art, and communication via that art. In that pre-Harmonix time, I worked on a couple titles people might recognize, like BioShock Infinite and the Helm’s Deep expansion for Lord of the Rings Online; I made a bunch of potatoes for the Portal 2 ARG and ended up with one of my potatoes all over Steam, which was neat and also a sentence that sounds odd without context, so no additional context will be provided; and was around for the transition to flat screen TVs for console development, when LCDs were the priority, but we still needed to support CRTs. I ended up with enough UI experience and enough technical knowledge for the UI Artist job at Harmonix, and found myself working on Rock Band 4.


What has been your proudest accomplishment / favorite Harmonix moment? 

I think making the virtual cell phone UI for Dance Central is my favorite thing I built. The process was very satisfying; my involvement in it was thoroughly multi-dimensional as a UI Artist, UX Designer, and implementer, which is really fun for me; and the end result was pretty natural and intuitive. It was also when I learned Unreal and transitioned from someone who knew Harmonix's in-house engine really well from the UI/implementation side, to the UI Artist who knew Unreal well at the studio. I like getting to the place where I know an engine well enough for my discipline that I can help other people and make engine and tool requests to improve workflow for others, and it was satisfying to feel myself get to that place.


What is your favorite Harmonix game and why? 

I think Guitar Hero II and the original Amplitude will always have a special place in my heart. Up until that point, I generally wasn’t exposed to music I liked, so when I first played Amplitude, it was something magical. I would replay songs I loved, just optimizing my path so that I could hear as much of the song as possible with as few muted tracks or missed gems as I could manage. Then, with Guitar Hero II, I got even more of that, but also playing with friends and sharing that enjoyment.


In a different capacity, where I’m not experiencing the game exclusively as a fan, Dance Central (VR). I’ll never forget putting on the headset for the first time to try it when it was still a prototype, going from “yeah, sure, it’s going to be Dance Central, but in a headset” to “holy crap, Emilia is right next to me, and that makes this whole experience feel different and exciting” in about 5 seconds. It’s awesome, because I felt that spark all over again hopping in a month ago. After spending so much time in the game, and with the perspective of a dev who was on the project, where it can sometimes be hard not to think of the things you’d do differently, it’s surprising how much the spark is still there. It’s still fun, I still love it.


What Rock Band instrument do you play?

play drums and guitar. I’m better on guitar, but drums are more fun for me.


What's your favorite Rock Band song of all time?

I I don’t really have favorites of anything, but I like playing Electric Love by BØRNS, Shadow by Bearstronaut, and My Name is Jonas by Weezer on guitar for the HOPO sections.


What’s your work from home set up like?

I like having no distractions on my desk, so it can be as functional as possible and allow me to concentrate. Definitely makes for a boring-looking desk, but I need that. Behind me is all my fun stuff, where I have all my books and figurines.

Any funny or memorable moments from your interview at Harmonix?

I definitely had a notable interview. The day of my interview was day of the huge snowstorm in 2015—the one where it snowed so much that they eventually had to dump snow into the Harbor, because there was nowhere else to put it. But I didn’t know, because I was too busy preparing for my interview, and all I had heard was that there was going to be snow. So I didn’t know what I was dealing with until saw a news article urging people not to get on the trains, WHILE I was sitting on the train. My immediate thought was, well F that advice, I’m currently ON the train and I’ve got to be at an interview. So the whole time I was just emailing Harmonix that it’s chaos and I’m really trying to be there, but also the Red Line ETAs are very bad. I think I was only 10 minutes late in the end, but I immediately knew it was going to be okay because, for one, the circumstances were that it was a huge snow storm outside, and for another, most of the people who were going to interview me were still trying to make it into the office.


What's your go-to Karaoke Jam? 

Take On Me by a-ha.


What are you doing to stay sane these days?

I’ve been hosting a weekly Jackbox night ever since the start of us working from home, which has been a lot of fun. At this point we have a regular crew with long-running inside jokes. I’ve also been really getting into sequential discovery puzzles, which are physical puzzles that have a similar feeling as escape rooms. It’s also been nice to do some home projects, like building closet shelves.


Do you have any secret talents?

Every year I make cookies for family for Christmas, and this has been going on for 10 years now, so I’ve been semi-secretly building up my cookie skills. Often, I like to modify and come up with new recipes. But I sometimes don’t write them down, or only write down some of it, or lose the paper, so occasionally those new cookies are because I can’t remake last year’s.