Elena Kalynychenko is CEO at Kalyna Games. Since the studio is relatively small, Elena also serves as Product and Project Manager. Her non-work-related hobbies include sports, hiking, travelling, and cross-stitching. By nature, Elena is a very impatient person with a changeable mood, and embroidery for her is a hobby-call to train perseverance and stamina.

Tell us about how it all began. How did you get into the industry? 

I lived in Asia (Thailand) for about 9 years, working as a sales director in a real estate agency. That’s where Covid caught me. Thailand was one of the first countries which, in fact, completely closed the borders on entry, due to which 80% of businesses went into hibernation mode. I was without an active job for about half a year, mainly doing sports and travelling around the country. I remember well a moment when I was sitting in the mountains in the north, and the phone rang. My friend Kolya called and asked if I was looking for a job. Coincidences are not random. 

Kalyna Games

When I started climbing that mountain, I realised that Covid would drag on for a long time, and it was time to decide something with plans for the rest of my life. Kolya was the co-owner of a company that dealt with mobile arbitrage and was planning to diversify the business in several directions. I had a strong desire to try my hand at something new and a complete lack of technical expertise. 

That’s how I got into the IT field related to the game industry. After a while, the desire to make my own project appeared, and that’s how our game studio was formed. In general, coming into gaming was a bit of a gamble and a dramatic change of vector in my life, which I have never regretted.

Why did you decide to develop your own games? What game/idea inspired you? 

I remember the appearance of the first computer in my life. I was in the gymnasium, and we had a Computer Science class, where we handed each other floppy disks with a slight gasp, which could hold a photo or a song, but only one thing at a time. And how we used to play Mario and Sven. For some reason, my girlfriends and I also found it very exciting to go to computer clubs and watch the boys play Counter-Strike (the good old world of live streaming). 

After a couple of years, I started to assert my mother’s right to buy a computer at home. It’s hard for me to name a particular game that inspired me. Instead, I realised that games are a great alternative to live entertainment in the yard, where sometimes the weather or lack of company prevents going. So when life brought me into a sphere that closely touched games, I again remembered the feeling of childlike delight and novelty taste, and it has not let me go.  

Let’s discuss your studio. Where are you located? What is the size of your studio, and what is your focus right now? 

We started our work in October 2021. The studio had a junior, a 2D artist, and a middle developer who was originally not on staff but was just a junior’s mentor. After making the first game, we realised that the speed was low; it was necessary to strengthen the rear, so we took him on staff. Now the studio consists of 7 people: myself, 2 artists, 3 developers, and recently the youngest member of our team joined us – a schoolboy/trainee, voluntarily and to gain experience.

At the moment, we are focusing on hyper-casual games. Since the founding of the studio work remotely, as most of the team is located in Lviv. After the war started, we took a break for a couple of weeks. Guys were volunteering, and I moved from Kyiv to Warsaw. Then we started again. I was glad that all the guys were initially in a relatively peaceful location and no one was hurt.

Tell us about your studio’s projects. 

The first couple of projects we did in the casual genre, now we are doing hyper-casual, but on the “dream” shelf is the script of an Idle. We objectively understand that it is too early to start doing it, but in due time, it will do.

What are your company’s current 2022 results and key milestones? 

Changed publisher and hired another developer. Abolished the game designer position – we have a template with the key points of how to paint the game idea. As soon as one of the guys has a window free from the current tasks, I send them to play tops, get inspired and try to come up with their own idea, so everyone has the opportunity to participate in the creation of the project on their own script.

What would you name the key events in the 2022 gaming market that have been key in the past year?

Covid. It has affected the whole world; the game industry is no exception. The mobile gaming market is one of the few areas that did not hibernate Covid. While the entire world was sitting at home, many people began to spend more time tapping on their smartphone screens out of boredom. And while the PC and console game market has been partially sagging somewhere because they need chips and parts, and manufacturing and factories have been idle for a long time, mobile games have just gone up. Covid added some uncertainty and affected the steady growth of the industry. It became harder to predict performance and economic parameters. 

War. Large international game studios with offices in Ukraine made a partial relocation of key employees a couple of weeks before, and they did not go wrong. I can see in my team how hard it is for the guys and how their productivity has dropped. Creating games is a creative process. Even when you’re conditionally safe, but you realise you can’t go on vacation with your family, and you hear sirens howling a couple of times a day, I don’t know what kind of nerves you have to have that wouldn’t affect you. We all steadily make sunshine on our emotional swings for now and wait for this “most interesting period” of our lives to be behind us.

What 3 pieces of advice could you give to people who dream about developing their own game or opening a studio? What advice would you give to beginners
  • Start working with a publisher right away. Like higher education, you can theoretically do it yourself, but as generations of experience show, it’s much easier and easier to get information in the purest form from professionals.
  • Any project or business begins with documentation. The game is no exception. Even if you’re an indie and plan to do the whole prototype in one person, still make a mockup, write to 4-5 major publishers, listen to their feedback and. This way, you’ll immediately understand the weaknesses of your idea, tweak it, save time and start the project more confidently.
  • It’s better to send a half-cooked product to the test than a perfect one. We learned this from our own experience. In the first game, we licked from beginning to end, remade every skin several times and spent a lot of time understanding that CPI is the bottom and the patient is dead. Do 10 minutes of gameplay, do not tie any ads and immediately into the test to see if it’s even worth further and deeper digging.
Your Top 5 favourite games.
  1. Lemmings
  2. Brain out
  3. Suspects
  4. Don’t Starve
  5. Hue
Thank you, Elena, for the interesting interview!

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