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Mykhailo Pushnia Unveiled: CasinoBeats Game Developer Awards Nominee’s Secrets to Game Design

8th May 2024

In light of Mykhailo Pushnia's recent nomination for Game Designer of the Year at the CasinoBeats Game Developer Awards, we sat down with our talented teammate, affectionately known as Misha, to delve into his journey in the igaming industry. We discussed why working at Tom Horn Gaming has been such a valuable experience for him and explored the inspiration behind the games he's been working on.


Q: Hi Misha, could you tell us a bit about yourself, your journey in igaming, and your experience at Tom Horn Gaming?

Absolutely, thank you for asking. I am currently a game producer based in Prague. My career in the igaming industry began five years ago at Tom Horn Gaming, where I had the pleasure of celebrating my fifth anniversary on April 17th. I originally joined the team as a Technical Artist, a role that provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the video slot game creation process. This position enabled me to collaborate extensively with various teams involved in game development, from artists to sound engineers.

After a year with the company, I found my passion not only in working with individual elements like art and sound but in crafting the entire gaming experience. This realization inspired me to pursue a career in game production, where I could have a direct impact on delivering engaging and enjoyable experiences to players globally. My journey has been both challenging and rewarding, providing me with invaluable insights into the complexities of game development and the dynamic nature of the igaming industry.


Q: What inspired you to become a game producer, and what keeps you passionate about game development?

My fascination with gaming began two decades ago when I first interacted with my uncle's PC. The rich, immersive experiences and unique fantasy worlds captivated me from the start, and my passion for gaming has never waned. As a fervent fan of fantasy, I thrive on developing new themes for games - crafting settings, designing characters' personalities, and building narratives that transport players to other realms.

What keeps me passionate about game development is the blend of creativity and challenge it offers. I find it particularly intriguing to bring a contemporary vision to classic games, including fruit-themed slots. This involves not just a creative reimagining of familiar concepts but also an integration of modern aesthetics and technologies to enhance player engagement and satisfaction. The continuous evolution in the field requires a dynamic approach, and the opportunity to innovate and redefine gaming experiences is what drives my enthusiasm every day.


Q: At the CasinoBeats Game Developer Awards, you were shortlisted for the Game Designer of the Year category for the game Aarupolis. Could you tell us more about this game, including the inspiration behind its narrative and game features?

Certainly, Aarupolis marks a significant milestone for Tom Horn Gaming as it was our first venture into scatter pays games. The game is innovative, featuring a progressive multiplier which increases with every win. This synergy with scatter pays mechanic enhances the gameplay, especially during the free spins game where the multiplier is persistent and does not reset between spins. This design ensures that even smaller wins progressively build up, culminating in the potential for substantial rewards during the final spins.

The narrative and setting of Aarupolis explore a fascinating concept: a modern Egyptian civilization equipped with advanced technologies. This allowed us to blend the rich, ancient culture of Egypt with futuristic elements, creating a unique and immersive game environment. One of the greatest challenges we faced was imbuing our characters with realistic emotions and distinct personalities. Achieving this level of detail in character development helped engage players more deeply with the game. I believe we succeeded in bringing this vision to life, creating a game that is both visually captivating and rich in gameplay dynamics.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from for game themes and mechanics?

Inspiration for game themes and mechanics is truly all around us - it can come from virtually anywhere. I find a wealth of ideas in books, films, video games, cartoons, and even current trends. Anything that captures my interest might spark a concept for a game. I make it a practice to jot down all these ideas, whether they are overarching themes, intriguing mechanics combinations, or even specific details about how elements within a game should be designed.

When the time comes to develop a new game, I have a repository of ideas to draw from. This allows me to combine and refine these concepts in innovative ways. I believe that setting a clear general direction for a game is crucial - it's the foundation. However, it's the details that really make a game stand out. These small, meticulously crafted elements are what transform a good game into a great one, offering players a truly unique and memorable experience.


Q: How do you approach balancing gameplay mechanics to ensure a fun and engaging experience for players?

Balancing gameplay mechanics is fundamentally about getting the mathematics right. Even the most compelling features can fall short if the underlying math doesn’t reward the player adequately, leading to a lack of engagement. Similarly, a visually appealing theme can disappoint if players experience extended periods without wins, which some may find discouraging.

At Tom Horn Gaming, our strategy begins with a clear understanding of our target audience - knowing who the game is for helps us tailor features and themes that resonate with that demographic. We then design features that not only complement the theme but also enhance the gameplay style we're aiming for. Ensuring these elements are well-balanced is crucial, and we achieve this through rigorous playtesting.

This process involves iterative testing and feedback loops to fine-tune every aspect of the game, ensuring that both the math and the features contribute to a fun and engaging experience. By striking this balance, we aim to create games that are both enjoyable and rewarding for players.


Q: Can you walk us through one of your favourite games you’ve worked on? What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?

One of my favourite projects at Tom Horn Gaming was Wild Dragon's Fortune. In contrast to other projects, where complexity usually lies in only one aspect, Wild Dragon's Fortune presented challenges from start to finish.

The primary challenge was balancing the game's mathematics. We introduced innovative features like symbol upgrades and variable win lines, which allowed players to adjust their gameplay style. Additionally, the game featured four distinct free spin options, each linked to the upgrading symbols. Balancing these elements was particularly demanding because it required ensuring that each level of gameplay was engaging and provided equitable chances of winning.

To overcome these challenges, we adopted a rigorous iterative testing process. We simulated countless gameplay scenarios to observe the interactions between different game mechanics and their impact on player engagement and game stability. Through these simulations, we refined the game mechanics to ensure that each element was perfectly tuned for an optimal gaming experience. This meticulous approach helped us create a game that was not only challenging and engaging but also fair and enjoyable for players.


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