“To be a game designer on a free 2 play game is like constantly being at war with yourself: you need to be creative, but you also need to be analytical. It’s hard but it’s the best job in the world!”
There’s never a dull moment at GameHouse. From nurturing a pre-released game, to analyzing and improving games that are live. But what is it like to work there? We asked Maryna Iaremenko, Lead Game Designer, working on a brand-new game from the beautiful city of Barcelona.
Name: Maryna Iaremenko
Function: Lead Game Designer
What do you do on a daily basis?
“There are many things I do!”, she laughs. “For example, I write a lot of documentation on how things should be working in the game from a design perspective. So how different systems interact with each other. For a new game there are a lot of unknowns and I love the challenge of figuring it out step by step. In my current team I work closely with writers, and we discuss how different systems of the game impact narrative – and vice versa. We go through a lot of iterations to make both work. I also get input from other departments, like developers or artists, so I need to take into account their constraints. Finally, I need to think about the type of players we will attract. I take the player into account at each step to build the best possible experience. At the end we have a multifunctional documentation that is used by different departments to build all aspects of the game.”
But there’s more to Maryna’s job: “I also balance player progression, difficulty, rewards, currencies, shops. To do this I need to have clear objectives for each feature in mind, know how they interact with each other and what behavior I expect from players when interacting with them. Again, it’s a very iterative process that will be adjusted multiple times even when the game goes live.”
“Another important task for a game designer is to be constantly aware of the market. Market evolves so fast that you never know if someone else will release a game that you thought would be unique. It is very useful to know what are the successful games that you are using for references doing right and wrong. It requires a lot of analysis and understanding of systems, progression, balancing and how it all connects to players’ motivation.”
“There are a lot of different elements in my day-to-day work, but what stays constant is collaboration and communication with the team. A game designer is a bridge between the design intentions, player motivations and the final implementation, so talking to different departments, aligning them towards a common goal is the most crucial part of the role. I always try to keep an open mind to let the team challenge me and share ideas. This creates a healthy team dynamic and a sense of ownership, leading to a better game.”
“There are a lot of different elements in my day-to-day work, but what stays constant is collaboration and communication with the team. A game designer is a bridge between the design intentions, player motivations and the final implementation, so talking to different departments, aligning them towards a common goal is the most crucial part of the role.”
How did you stay in touch with your team during the pandemic?
“We do go to the office sometimes, in small groups to attend some key meetings that otherwise are harder to manage online. Online brainstorm sessions are difficult because you don’t have the same connection with everybody as you would have when you are in the same physical space. So, in some rare cases we try to go to the office. But in any other case – we meet online. During the past year we got used to this type of communication. I even started at GameHouse when the pandemic hit: I had one month of getting to know people and then we all started working from home. Today everybody understands the situation we are in, and we try to make the best of it.”
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
“The people I work with, the people I create the game for and the game itself. It has a huge potential and all of us want to make it a success and really believe in it. Our team is very diverse, we have people from different countries with different backgrounds. The game itself is unique and made for a diverse audience, so it makes some decisions more challenging. But for me, this is exciting because it leaves more room for creativity.”
When are you successful?
“To be a good game designer on a free 2 play game is like constantly being at war with yourself: you need to be creative (to build unique & fun experiences for the players) but you also need to be analytical (market analysis, KPIs of individual features, Live Ops etc.). It’s hard but it’s the best job in the world if you manage to balance it! Also, you should always thrive to get validation from players!” Maryna explains that there are several stages in game development which involve getting feedback from players. Pre-release playtests have different objectives then when a game is out in the open. In any case, player feedback is crucial. “It’s very reassuring to see the player’s response to different features in the game and sometimes they surprise you. Watching these playtests is an awesome moment for the team. On the other hand, strong KPIs is another measure of success not only for the company, but for the entire team and especially for design. It’s a very exciting moment for me because I can compare qualitative data (feedback from players) to quantitative data, and see what is good and what needs improvement.”
What makes GameHouse awesome?
“I like many things about GameHouse. I find the people very nice, approachable, and collaborative. I like that leadership trusts the teams to make the right decisions, it gives us a good amount of autonomy and ownership. The company invests in us, provides resources for training and mentorships. Also, there is a great work/life balance, we have a lot of flexibility.”
What is the best advice you could give someone who wants to work for GameHouse?
“Leave your ego at the door. Try to bring your positive energy, your desire to learn as a team, and your love for games with story. If someone comes in with the wrong intentions, it’s just not going to work. So be humble, curious, keep an open mind and make the best f2p games out there!”