Kyiv studio Starni Games announced a new project, a collection of visual novels about the war in Ukraine – Ukraine War Stories. The focus is on civilians who found themselves on the territory occupied by the Russians. This game will be completely free and will be released in parts, the first of which, Hostomel, is already available on Steam.
In the full version, which will be released in October 2022, 3 stories are planned. One of the stories, about Bucha, is partially based on the memories of Starni Games employee Oleksandr Androschuk, who spent a week during the occupation, hiding with his family in the garage basement. The third story will be dedicated to Mariupol.
Studio Starni Games is known for a series of turn-based wargames Strategic Mind, which even caused hysteria in Russian media about the parade of German vehicles on Red Square in Moscow in the game Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg. That is, the visual novel is a completely unusual genre for the company. Therefore, we contacted the head of Starni Games, Ihor Tymoshenko, and asked him several questions.
Visual Novel is a completely different genre, very different from your previous games. Why not a strategy?
Yes, it is radically different. We took a visual novel because developing a strategy is much longer and more expensive, so it can’t be free. And the novel allows us to tell the story of Ukraine to the whole world, we can do it quite quickly and we can do it for free.
Our goal is to convey to the widest possible audience what is actually happening in the temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine. All the events in the stories happened in reality, and the game has a special tab with links to serious media (Washington Post, The Guardian, and others) that describe the atrocities committed by the Russians. That is, we don’t just write “someone was raped” or “someone was shot in the back of the head”, we link to a respectable source and that has confirmation that it happened.
Before the release, Ukraine War Stories will be translated into 8 languages (there are only three at the moment): Ukrainian, English, Russian, Polish, French, German, Korean, and Chinese.
How long have you been working on Ukraine War Stories? How many people are involved in this project?
We thought about this project in March 2022. In fact, I was very moved by the de-occupation of Bucha and what was revealed at the same time, all that the “Russian world” did there. But the active development of Ukraine War Stories began sometime in early May. From 2 to 8 people work on the game, depending on the stage of development.
Full release in October 2022, isn’t it too late?
Well, that’s why we’re releasing the game in parts. The first story is now available. The second and third will be available in October. I don’t think it’s too late. On the contrary, it is unlikely that the war will end by then, and the press will write less and less about Ukraine. It will not be superfluous to remind people how it was in reality and why supporting Ukraine is still important.
What about the new games in the Strategic Mind series? On pause?
Yes, the Strategic Mind series is on hiatus for now. Perhaps closer to the New Year we will continue the development of the last game in the series – Strategic Mind: Spirit of Liberty. (It is interesting that Spirit of Liberty tells a story that is very similar to the modern one – about the war of the Finnish people against the Soviet invasion in 1939-1945 – ed. note)
How are you holding up, did you evacuate, where are you now and how do you work?
In March, we practically did not work and were scattered all over the country. Then we worked remotely, but since May 30 we have been in full force in the office in Kyiv. By the way, two Russian rockets landed near us. The kindergarten that one of them hit is the kindergarten that my daughter went to until February 24. We joke that Russia decided to destroy the office of Starni Games, like the main Nazis, to take revenge for “Hitler in Red Square”.
Thank you for the answers, Ihor. Wishing you inspiration!