Meet the Sprites: Zaid Shaikh

Category: careers

April 24, 2023
Meet the Sprites: Zaid Shaikh

We talk to Zaid about life at Firesprite as a Game Designer

How did you get your job in games?
I sent my resume to Naughty Dog for a QA role and they decided to hire me! I moved to design during my time at Sony Santa Monica and have been in that discipline since. I’m now Game Designer (Scripter) here at Firesprite.

What advice would you give to your younger self on your first day in the industry?
That we don’t have to feel imposter syndrome that day. We worked hard and deserve it.

What genre of gaming is your favourite and why?
I love story-driven games. The exact genre doesn’t matter since I love playing anything and everything. As long as it has a good story, I’m sold.

What games are you most proud to have worked on so far in your career?
I’ve worked on two games so far - The Last of Us Part II and God of War Ragnarök and I’m insanely proud of both of those.

How does your work help bring Firesprite’s games to life?
I like to use the ‘door example’ to explain my role: let’s say there’s a door in a game. I write documents on how exactly the door works and how the player, AI, UI, and a bunch of other systems would behave when that door is used. Then, I script the door’s behaviours based on the level e.g. the door is unlocked only if the player has found the key, making the level playable.

How did you develop and refine your design skills?
By playing other games and then watching the behind-the-scenes to understand everything that went into making the title (like initial designs, iterations based on feedback etc). A lot of it is also talking to other devs and listening intently to their stories and bouncing designs off of them.

What are the challenges of game design and how do we overcome them?
Being a designer means being able to clearly communicate your vision to other departments so they are clear on what the intent is and can develop accordingly. Iteration is normal in any art form but if you don’t communicate properly, then it’ll cause more iterations than needed and that can waste valuable time.

What’s your gamedev superpower?
I have an annoyingly high attention to detail and I blame my years in QA for that!

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a Game Designer?
For their portfolio, they should focus on making unique projects that will get someone’s attention and show off their design skills. That way they can talk about their inspirations, the iterations they went through, and the feedback they received. Copying a mechanic they like directly, won’t help them talk about design (unless it’s being used in an entirely different context).

Tell us something you’ve learned from one of your fellow sprites
The best comfort food places in Liverpool!

First PlayStation console you owned and your best memory of it?
The original PlayStation! I was like 5 or 6 when I got it so I would regularly have older cousins over to help me get through the difficult sections of Crash Bandicoot.

What is the best thing about games?
There are games out there that can connect with you on an emotional level and can leave you forever changed.