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Employee Spotlight: Brian Ralphs

Hi, I'm Brian.

I'm a UI Artist at Harmonix and I've been here for just over 4 years. I've been dedicated to working on Fuser for the past two years. In my role, I work as a bridge between the game designers and the art director to make sure that the user interface is usable and intuitive while packing as much visual punch as possible. It's a blend of graphic design, UX design, animation, and game engine implementation.

Prior to Harmonix, I worked at Xbox for a few years as a visual designer on the shipping Xbox One user interface. I worked on the visual look of the home screen and most of the Xbox apps, as well as ensuring the Kinect hand cursor icon didn't have banana fingers. Between Xbox and Harmonix, I spent a couple years as art director at a Seattle-based electronic music festival. My life was covered in show posters and festival lineups. On the side, I screen-printed a lot of posters and did freelance design work for musicians.

After all that, I was pretty indecisive as to whether I wanted to design for music or games. I stumbled onto Harmonix's job postings and realized I could do both. I interviewed, moved my earthly bits from Seattle to Boston, and started in late 2016.

I think my favorite Harmonix moment was showing DropMix at PAX West and East. I had been going to PAX West since I was a young nerd and DropMix was my first official game that I put a lot of heart into. There's something surreal about saying "DropMix is a music mixing card game" hundreds of times and just getting to play the game with people for their first time, over and over again. It just felt like jamming with a bunch of strangers who were all excited to make music together.

Outside of Harmonix, I generally try to avoid freelance work so that I have time to play games and go outside. That said, I still end up making logos for in-game guilds, photoshopping friends, and making event posters for silly house parties (pre-covid).

What is your favorite Harmonix game and why?

Definitely Rock Band because I grew up on it and nostalgia is strong. Developing calluses from plastic instruments that helped me play real instruments was a weird reality. More recently, I love DropMix from a conceptual standpoint and from how many amazing artists we were able to commission to make cards for the game.

Tell us about your experience with music outside of Harmonix?

I used to play guitar and bedroom produce electronic music, but I had to stop when I realized I was just staying up until 4am crafting tiny drum loops. I could never finish anything, just big ideas and falling in love with sounds. It did get me interested in sound design though, which has been vital for working on music games.

What’s your wfh set up like?

Messy desk. Every time I see someone post their well-groomed workspace I just wonder how much stuff is stacked behind them as they take the photo. I'm not convinced. On the other hand, I have a habit of keeping piles of audio cables just in case I want to turn my room into a recording studio one day, so maybe it's a me problem. I've got a cute trash fire figurine on the desk, which feels right for 2020.

Any funny or memorable moments from your interview at Harmonix?

The interview was pretty regular, except for one of our technical designers asking me "If you could make your ideal game, what would it be?" I think I just rambled about "Skyrim, but better" for 10 minutes and felt like a fraud afterwards. I had never seriously considered the question.

Aside from that, I absolutely did not dress for the summer humidity. After I left the interview, I had a few hours to kill before I flew back home. I ended up changing clothes in 3 different coffee shops to whittle down to shorts and a tank top. East coast summers are not west coast summers.

What are you doing to stay sane these days?

Riding bikes is so legendary right now. I was in full quarantine life for the first half of the year with no car and no public transit, so being able to move past the immediate area and explore again has been amazing. Having less cars for city biking is definitely a plus as well.

Do you have any secret talents?

I spoke with a convincing English accent at parties through high school and college. I was convinced that I was going to move to the UK when I was younger, so I used to consume a lot of UK TV/radio/music. Looking back, it's definitely more secret shame than secret talent. It wasn't not fun though.