This year did not turn out the way we had hoped. But neither rocket fire nor power outages is a reason to refuse communication with friends and colleagues. Therefore, as last year, we decided to ask some questions to Ukrainian game developers. Of course, this year they are a little different.
1. Which plans were you forced to abandon this year due to the Russian invasion, and what, on the contrary, were you able to implement despite everything?
2. How do you adapt to air alarms and blackouts?
3. Do you think the events of this year will affect the games of Ukrainian and foreign developers? Do you plan to create a game about this war yourself?
4. What do you expect from next year 2023, besides victory, of course?
Developer of Wild Field: Sloboda 2
Games: series of games “Wild Field”
1. We wanted to release the game Wild Field: Sloboda 2 in September, but due to the active phase of the war, this did not happen. But we still brought it to the end and released it in December, despite the war.
2. We hide from air alarms only when we hear explosions overhead. We experience a power outage on a MacBook M1, which supports development on Unity and Blender for almost 8 hours without charging. But then you have to work at your main job from 6 in the morning to make up for lost time, because it is impossible without the Internet.
3. I think there will be many games about the Russian-Ukrainian war. I have already seen many demos and trailers in various TG channels for Unreal Engine and Unity. I am especially looking forward to the Glory to Heroes shooter and the game where you play as the operator Bayraktar. Our game was also no exception: we have quests to help the Cossacks near Azov and other links to current events.
4. In 2023, we want to release the first extension to the game Odesa-Khadzhibey, where we will develop the Cossack Odesa, and also start the development of a new game. So far, we are choosing between three ideas, but there is still time until summer. It will either be an RPG/Quest, naval battles in the Black Sea, or something else. Of course, everything is in the Cossack setting.
1. We were forced to abandon or postpone a couple of large projects with new partners and investors until “after the victory”. Due to objective reasons, few people are ready to invest in Ukrainian studios – we live in conditions of permanent force majeure. But we hold on and bring victory closer by all available means – including the military, because several people from our team are currently in the Armed Forces. Among the positive points: it was possible to maintain financial stability and the team in general; continue the release of updates for projects that were released earlier; even start pre-production of a new game.
2. We recently completed the equipment of the office with a powerful generator. In addition, the office building has a full shelter in the basement. Well, of course, everyone came up with individual solutions, based on subjective circumstances and opportunities. Someone organized a “battery farm”, someone found spare airfields in the form of co-working spaces with generators or got their own (if it is possible to install and use it safely). Of course, the work schedule has become more erratic, unpredictable, but we try to take this into account when planning tasks, realistically assess our capabilities and be prepared for the worst scenarios.
3. In Ukrainian – definitely. In general, no one but us is able to understand this war properly. And it, of course, has already influenced all Ukrainians in one way or another. And these feelings, this experience must be worked out, told by us in various forms. Including gaming ones. It is already noticeable how, after the first wave of fast small projects like the Bayraktar arcade simulators, and more thoughtful, complex games with a military theme are appearing. This topic will definitely continue to resonate for a long time.
As for Western developers… Of course, the topic of war is perceived differently by them, because they are outside observers (and it’s good, because you wouldn’t wish such an experience on anyone). And again, making projects dedicated to this war is our mission, not theirs. But at least I want to believe that the war clearly showed them the fundamental differences between Ukraine and Russia, demonstrated where the notorious “Gate of Europe” is, created a modern historical context that cannot be ignored and that will affect how we are perceived and seen as a nation.
4. I look forward to the further removal of Ukrainian game development from Russian ties, strengthening of intolerance towards people and companies with an apolitical position, and generally freeing the market and business from the Russian presence. This is a painful but necessary process. Without these changes, the full development of the domestic gaming industry is simply impossible.
Game: Miramixi Storyteller
1. Of course, our plans suffered. As an indie studio, we concentrated all our efforts on only two goals, but we refused to release the demo version and participate in Comic-Con Ukraine with a stand with a desktop version of the game. However, we were able to expand the team and continue to work. Also, outside of game progress, we helped with Frostpunk fan localizations and created an extension that translates the English Twitch interface into Ukrainian. We still have many plans ahead, and the fact that we were able to keep people in the team and add new ones is, in my opinion, our most important achievement.
2. Our team works remotely and from different cities. If the air alarm sounds, then there can’t be any work – people’s safety is our top priority. We do not require you to work a standard 8 hour work schedule, if a person works and makes progress according to expectations, then that is enough. There are times when more than half of the team meets on Discord at 5 in the morning – someone already has a light, someone still has, and the discussion and just chatter begins. Of course, this affects the development time and demo output, but we count on the understanding of our future users.
3. Experienced emotions and the desire to express them in creativity exist and will exist, you can still see games on the theme of the Russian invasion from Ukrainian developers. The whole world saw the heroic spirit of the Ukrainian people and the strength of our Armed Forces, it can be an inspiration for creating games not only for our developers. We currently have no such plans. Maybe later. Once we get an idea to implement that will have a unique story and show the events of this war in a decent way, we will review the plans, but not for now.
4. Meet the team, open the office and, of course, relax under the peaceful sky.
Wargaming Kyiv, Executive Director
Games: World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, World of Tanks Generals
1. The full-scale Russian invasion had a significant impact on Wargaming. First, we have exited the markets of Russia and Belarus and, despite the fact that they constitute a significant market share for the company, we now have neither offices nor business there. Secondly, the company had to optimize the product portfolio, which affected the projects that we supported for years. Speaking of Wargaming Kyiv studio, we were forced to abandon the launch of a themed event using artificial intelligence for Halloween in Word of Tanks and replace it with another, smaller-scale one.
Despite all this, we regularly release updates for our games, work on new projects, Ukrainian players were able to transfer their accounts from the CIS servers to the European region, and World of Tanks for the first time received a game portal and official communities in Ukrainian, which today is almost the only example among AAA games.
2. The Podil office has full-fledged bomb shelter, built back in Soviet times, but still fully functional today. There is a separate ventilation system, and air filters, and bathrooms, and even hand generators for minimal electricity if needed. For employees, there are workplaces, access to high-speed Internet and a supply of drinks water with snacks and cookies.
Regarding electricity, we have had our own 140 kW generator for 8 years. During power outages, it supplies uninterruptible power supplies and work infrastructure, so employees have the opportunity to fully work from the office 24/7. The Kyiv office has two Internet providers, which also have uninterruptible power supplies and generators, and as a backup option, connection via Starlink is available.
The entire infrastructure of Wargaming Kyiv is duplicated in Europe. Therefore, in the event of a complete power outage in the office, employees will not actually notice it – all corporate services will continue to work.
3. Undoubtedly, yes, they are already influencing. For some, it will be just a new setting to make a new game in, someone will be limited to references or indirect hints – we have already seen this in some games. And someone will want to tell more about this war to a wide audience through the game.
We do not have such plans yet, but the events are already reflected in us, such as, for example, the characteristic Ukrainian voice acting in Best Replays.
4. Quick victory and return of our defenders home. And, of course, the restoration of our cities and villages. As for the game industry of Ukraine, after the victory I am waiting for its growth. Both from the side of the GameDev market and from the side of the players.
Game: Corsairs Legacy
1. Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, the work of our studio has almost stopped and, in certain aspects, has not yet returned to the rails it was on until February 24. We planned to release the PC version of Corsairs Legacy this year, but we are forced to postpone its release to 2023.
I consider the main achievement of this year to be that we managed to keep our team.
2. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have switched to a remote way of working and started working not only with Kyiv residents. Therefore, the situation with light is quite heterogeneous for us. So far, it is possible to show a fairly high efficiency of work, taking into account the peculiarities of today.
3. I think that the events of this year affected the whole world, but most of all, we, the citizens of Ukraine. We have already started designing a new game that will tell about the events on the territory of Ukraine, but not about this war.
4. In some sense, since February 24, life has been on pause for all Ukrainians. I really want my compatriots to regain the opportunity to calmly think about the future, be close to loved ones and feel safe as soon as possible.
Creoteam, director and co-founder
Games: Collapse; Collapse: the Rage; Football, Tactics & Glory
1. Two years before the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we have planned a big addition to our game Football, Tactics & Glory. A year before this event, we drew up plans. The war started 9 months before that. We could not work fully, so we changed our plans. Instead of an extension, we decided to release a large free update, in which, in addition to a large number of improvements, we also made messages for players who play in Russian. First, these players will see anti-war banners that condemn war, ruscism, and Putin. Secondly, in the footballpedia of the game, we wrote why the war is senseless. This text was written at the beginning of March, when I still naively believed that arguments could be used to prove something to someone. Well, for foreign players, they left information in the game about how they can donate to help Ukraine.
By the way, it is no longer possible to buy our game in Russia.
2. Unfortunately, the team did not fully adapt to the power outage. We work from our homes, so we depend on the opportunities available to each of us. Those who could – switched to a laptop. We are currently looking for additional work opportunities.
3. I expect that the missions “Battle for Kyiv”, “Defense of Azovstal”, “Destroy the crossing near Bilohorivka” will appear in new shooters and strategic games about war. And a mandatory mission with infinite spawn of the enemies “Defense of Bakhmut”.
We are not going to make war games. I know that there are those who will do it better than us. Personally, as a creator, I do not like to express my feelings literally. War will appear in my work metaphorically: through images, symbols and allusions.
4. We hope to be able to keep the company going and still release extensions to Football, Tactics & Glory, which will feature national teams and other cool mechanics.
Starni Games, Director
Games: Panzer Strategy, Strategic Mind series, Ukraine War Stories
1. Unfortunately, we had to postpone the release of two of our games for a year. But, at least one only benefited from it.
2. We installed the generator and sealed the windows with a special film.
3. In fact, we have already created a game that is partially based on the real experiences of our employees during the temporary occupation of Bucha – Ukraine War Stories. The game is completely free and contains no microtransactions or ads. Anyone can download it on Steam.
4. In spite of everything, next year we are looking forward to the expansion of the company and work on new, interesting projects.
Frogwares, Publishing Director
Games: Sherlock Holmes series, The Sinking City
1. We had to slow down our big project, work on which was already in progress. On the other hand, we were able to start development on a remake of one of our older games that we’ve been thinking about for a while; of course, we are talking about Sherlock Holmes The Awakened.
2. It is not easy. Frequent alarms and constant blackouts greatly interfere with usual work processes, although the team managed to adapt well to the conditions of remote work even during the covid period. Now we meet much more offline as everyone adapts to blackouts in their area and runs to the office when there is electricity. Someone equipped their own home with a generator and charging stations. In general, these troubles force us to work according to a not always convenient (and sometimes completely chaotic) schedule, adapting to the ever-changing situation.
3. It definitely will affect. The Ukrainian gamedev community is very proactive, and we are already seeing projects based on the events of this war, or more precisely, this phase of it. I am sure that this influence can spread to other studios around the world, since the themes of military conflicts have long occupied a separate niche in the industry, and in various genres, not only in shooters.
As for our plans, it is too early to say anything, but I am sure that many people in our studio have already had such an idea in one form or another.
4. There’s a feeling that the next year will be better for Ukraine, for the world and, of course, for the game industry in general. For us, this will be the year of the release of The Awakened (unless, of course, we have to face some extraordinary circumstances), as well as the year of starting work on new studio projects.
1. Many of the publishers we talked to were from Russia. I realize now that it was silly, but better late than never. Of course, we immediately broke off contact with them, for some time we were looking for a publisher in Europe, but later we decided to publish on our own.
Unfortunately, all foreign conferences passed me by, which, of course, is sad, but not critical.
Instead, the biggest thing we decided to abandon was the release of Through the Nightmares in orcostan. Consider this an official announcement!
I haven’t looked into the technical side of regional bans on Steam yet, I’ll do that closer to release, but the Russian language disappeared from the game, the website, and the Steam page a long time ago. Honestly, it’s not even a pity, although Russia is in the top of the countries in terms of the number of additions to the Wish List.
2. Our developer, who lives in Zaporizhzhia, has the most difficult situation. Has a working day when there is light. Flexible working hours.
3. I started to notice that it is becoming fashionable to add Ukrainians to pop culture (the racer Anechka in Need for Speed: Unbound, the superhero Yadro in DC comics, etc.) and remove the references to Russia. I think this trend will continue, as Ukrainians have gained worldwide fame as bold and strong-willed people over the past year.
During the war, PlayStation and Xbox added Ukrainian localization, and I hope that this trend will also transfer to games. Let’s be honest, most of us play in Russian, since it is unprofitable to translate into Ukrainian due to a rather narrow audience of players. And the level of English does not allow you to fully enjoy games in the original language. So I hope that petitions about translating games into Ukrainian will draw the industry’s attention to this, and we will be able to play all the next big releases in our native language.
Regarding war games. I consider games important because, on the contrary, they allow you to get away from everyday life by plunging into other worlds. That’s why I want to make games that will entertain, not depress.
4. For me, it is, of course, the Through the Nightmares release! I feel like I say this every year, but the finish line has never been straighter!
We want to release the game at the end of summer. Of course, the war damaged our plans – we lost several months without being physically able to work, now the power outages, although they do not stop the development at all, but they hurt the pace a lot. However, we do our best to make it on time, without compromising the functionality and overall quality of the game.
AB Games, Founder
Game: Hidden City
1. In March, we were forced to shut down the development of a new game with match-3 mechanics, which had been in development for some time. Everything was so unstable that it was irrational to continue. It did not reach the release.
Other plans remained unchanged. We are developing Hidden City and releasing a new update every month – we and the publisher have succeeded. Every day I am amazed at how our employees create such beauty despite the war.
We create concepts for new games, no matter what. Many of our employees were under heavy fire, they work from bomb shelters, have to look for electricity… This is our reality today.
Unfortunately, we lost the leading game designer Mykhailo Novikov. He died at the front at the end of spring, defending Ukraine in the ranks of the Armed Forces. Four of our employees continue to fight now, we support them with everything necessary.
2. AB Games created two main offices in Kyiv and Rivne, where generators and Starlink were installed, and we ask everyone to come to work there when there is no electricity at home. Someone is trying to equip their apartments/houses with generators and satellite internet.
Those who had such an opportunity went abroad. For such employees, we cover part of the housing rental costs.
3. The war changed us all forever. Three or four generations of Ukrainians will remember all these horrors – they will not forgive Russia and its citizens, who brought us so much grief.
Ukrainians are inventive, creative and active, we will take revenge in one form or another for many decades. Game developers – through games. Because games are also weapons where you can create images and narratives and spread them around the world. Reality is now created by the media. And yes, we have a game idea that was born during the war.
As for foreign developers, the war in Ukraine for them is a picture on TV. Some “motives” will really appear and this is exactly how it will be reflected in their creativity. For example, missions in Call of Duty about the defense of Bakhmut, etc.
4. Victory of Ukraine. The collapse of Russia and the drop in the standard of living of its inhabitants to such a bottom where they will finally think about why this happened and what they should do. Unfortunately, our neighbors will not disappear anywhere and our children will have to live next to them, so the inhabitants of that country need to go through a path to change. Such as Germany and the Germans experienced at one time.
And I really want to meet the whole team in the office and celebrate our victory.
1. Because of the war, we completely focused on development. Plans for an independent publishing house were abandoned. We focused on helping each other and supporting uninterrupted work.
2. We bought a generator and Starlink for the office. But for those who are remote – quite a question. For now, we encourage everyone to gather in the studio.
And we adapted to anxiety purely psychologically. We follow the news and respond to the largest shelling, we go down to the bomb shelter. Otherwise, we work with constant cursing.
3. It will definitely affect. Ideologically, we won this war, the world heard about us as a nation. This means that you can expect good games with a Ukrainian theme and they will pay off.
About us – many people from Dreamate were involved in the development of Cat Drive, which raised several tens of thousands of dollars through NFT, thanks to other developers cooperating with the Cyber Police. But now we are concentrating on our main project – New Arc Line.
4. Oh… We expect a lot of work, because we are getting closer to the release. And yes, we look to the future with anger and positivity.
yevhen8, developer of Island
1. Recently, I noticed that we all seem to have stopped mentioning our “ridiculous” plans for this year. Sometime in the spring, this topic kept coming up in conversations with friends. Someone was planning renovations, someone was planning business expansion. I myself had already looked at the residential real estate market of Kharkiv, but fortunately, I did not have time to make any mistakes.
Of course, there were many surprises. I certainly did not expect to invest millions in killing Russians. I definitely did not expect that I would not release a single update of The Island since February. I definitely did not think that in a few months I would release Tile Cities.
I think it was the worst year, but we showed our best in it.
2. The fact that my desktop work PC has been unpacked since the move, and I do all my work on a laptop, the power outage is rather a minor inconvenience, because the battery charge is usually enough for almost the entire time of the outage. I didn’t even have to buy any expensive solutions for energy storage or generation.
In general, I think that we were lucky that the Russians chose the energy industry, and not, say, military units, for their strikes. Transformers can be replaced, but life cannot. So we will somehow survive without light.
Don’t tell anyone, but to be honest, I think my current performance is higher than last year.
3. Like all developers, I generate several new game ideas per day. Of course, some of them are about killing Russians… But, you know, there is one major problem with developing games about killing Russians: it will have to make Russians. And I would like to make Russian the least of all things in my life.
4. I’m pretty sure we’ll release our long-suffering Alpha 5, which will probably be the highlight of development until the final release. The Island will finally be able to rightly be called a city-building game, because we will start building something that really looks like a city.
1. We refused to localize into the Russian language and support the Russian-speaking audience. First of all, it is even good from some point of view. Because it was necessary to move away from Russian a long time ago. Ukrainian game development is more powerful, better, richer. Ukrainization of content and increased attention to our market is a plus. We would like more unique projects to be born in our country, which will emphasize the fact that they are from Ukraine.
Regarding restrictions. Well, we won’t have a Russian audience, there will be less toxicity. But no one will die from this, except the Russians themselves, who will write “Where is Rusik?”, but he is not there – he is dead.
2. It depends. Laptops – power and portable batteries, such as Ecoflow. If you need the Internet, then a co-working space or a cafe. It’s a bit difficult – but it’s harder for the guys at the front, so we have to work for the win.
3. The events of this year will definitely affect the games. They will affect the representation of the Russian troops, the representation of our troops. It would be better if the world learned about our country in a different way… But unfortunately, you can’t do anything. To be honest, I would like to have a project such as Call of Duty, in which the events would take place in Ukraine. But all the same, there are doubts that westerners will reach this point.
4. We are waiting for the release of our project to the general public and victory. Honestly, winning will be the biggest gift. We are ready to finish the game under rockets, but to see victory… this is what we dream of.
The editors thank all the developers who participated in this survey and wish them, all players and readers of Mezha victory and a peaceful sky above their heads.