In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ukrainian game developers were certainly less experienced, but they were also brazen and self-confident. They weren’t afraid to take on extremely complex projects, trying to create the game of their dreams. Of course they made mistakes, of course the games were half-baked and buggy, but… very sincere. We talked to Maksym Horban, the developer of one such game – a simulator of Ukraine and some neighboring countries of the mid-seventeenth century Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword, we decided to talk about the good old days.

The video version of this interview is available on Mezha.Media’s YouTube channel.

Oleg Danylov: Good afternoon, dear readers, listeners, or in this case, viewers. We are glad to welcome you to the radio, that is, to the TV show “On the Edge”. Today we have our first episode in the new/old format, and a very interesting guest – game designer Maksym Horban from the Red Beat studio. Good afternoon, Maxim.

Maxim Gorban: Good afternoon!

Oleg Danylov: But first, I’ll tell you why we’re here, what we’re going to talk about, and who Maxim is. Maxim Gorban has been working in the gaming industry for over 15 years.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Maxim Gorban in the editorial office of “Mezha” during the recording of the interview

Maxim Gorban: More than 15 years.

Oleg Danylov: More than 15 years? But if you look at LinkedIn, it says that you started in 2008 at Unicorn Games Studio, a Ukrainian studio known for the XIII Century strategy series.

Maxim Gorban: Well, listen, this is just a commercial experience. Even before that, we made mods for Total Wars. Back then it was Rome: Total War and it was a non-commercial development. It’s hard to explain it on LinkedIn. It’s 2006, Creative Assembly, “Did you work there?” – “No”. Questions arise, so I removed it. But in fact, I have been working on games since 2006. At first it was Rome: Total War, and there was also a project called By Fire and Sword, and when we get to that, I’ll tell you about it.

Oleg Danylov: So it’s even more than 15 years. Before Unicorn Game Studio, there were mods, then Unicorn Games Studio. “The 13th Century is actually a very interesting game about Kievan Rus, about the outstanding battles of the 13th century. Not only about Kyivan Rus, but also about the Kyiv principality, the Novgorod state, etc. Afterwards, Maksym worked at GSC Game World, the updated GSC Game World, on Cossacks 3.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game “XIII Century”

Maxim Gorban: Yes, there was such a period.

Oleg Danylov: Then there was Wargaming Kyiv, Ubisoft Kyiv, and now he works again at Red Beat, a Kyiv-based studio that is currently developing a mobile survival RPG Frostborn: Coop Survival. This game is available in the App Store and Google Plays. But Red Beat is actually quite an old studio, it developed Space Rogue (2016), a kind of Ukrainian FTL: Faster Than Light, but that was before Maksym. Now we’re interested in the earlier part of Maksym’s life, from 2008 to, probably, 2014, his work in the indie studio “Studio Sich”, or Sich Studio, as it should be?

Maxim Gorban: I can’t even remember the correct spelling now. I think we wrote “Studio Sich” with a hard stop.

Oleg Danylov: Maxim was its chairman, as I understand it, or one of its creators.

Maxim Gorban: Це була невеличка команда з п’яти людей. За сучасними мірками це не студія, а такий собі інді-проєкт. Враховуючи, що крім мене комерційного досвіду не було ні в кого, то так, це були ентузіасти.

Oleg Danylov: Why did I mention Studio Sich, Maxim and his work on the game I’m about to name? This interview appeared because recently there was an announcement of Kingdom Come: Deliverance II. This is a historical game from Czech Warhorse Studios, about the Czech Republic a few years before the Hussite wars. (early XV century – ed.).

The second part was announced last month, and I decided that I had to play the first part, because I had abandoned it after playing for 15 hours, so I thought I would play it. I started playing and realized that this engine used in Kingdom Come with the same mechanics could easily be used to make a game about Ukraine during the Hetmanate, about the seventeenth century. That is, add firearms, add saberplay instead of swordplay, make some more changes, remove heavy armor, and we’ll probably have a game about Ukraine.

I thought about it and immediately remembered that we actually already had such a game. And the same game, the game we are going to talk about today, was made by Maxim and his friends from Sich Studio. This is the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword or Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword. This is a game about Ukraine, that is, not only Ukraine, but the Hetmanate, the Zaporozhian Army and its neighbors, about 1655.

That’s why I decided to invite Maxim and ask him questions about this game. About how it happened that such a game appeared then and whether it is possible to repeat such a game now.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Іtill from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: I’ll start from the beginning. To repeat… I guess I won’t sign up for this again. Because when we started this project, no one told us that it would be difficult. That it would be damn hard. And, apparently, no one told us that it was impossible, so we were sure that we could do it.

At that time, we already had some positive experience. We already had a project called “By Fire and Sword” for Rome: Total War, a strategy game from Creative Assembly. It was quite popular.

We were thinking, for example, Mount & Blade came out, a very cool indie game, everyone loved it. But it was about the Middle Ages, plus a fictional Middle Ages, about some obscure Calradia… By the way, there’s an interesting story there, originally it wasn’t supposed to be a game about such a gloomy Middle Ages, but it was supposed to have magic and dragons.

Oleg Danylov: Oh! I was under the impression that the original Mount & Blade was a game about Turkey and its surroundings, because the studio is Turkish, so it would seem…

Maxim Gorban: Listen, there were actually zombies and skeletons in the content. It wasn’t used, and it was cut out for the release, although somewhere in the six hundredth build of the game you could still find all this. But then they were like, okay, let it be the Middle Ages, let it be the High Middle Ages with armor and everything. And they eventually went with what they went with, and thank God, because it turned out to be a great project. Sometimes, you know, it’s good to abandon the original idea.

Oleg Danylov: This is not the first example of this, let’s remember S.T.A.L.K.E.R. You remember what the first concept was? Science fiction, space, some alien planet, some aliens.

Maxim Gorban: 15 years have passed, and sometimes it is difficult for me to recall the details of even “By Fire and Sword” in reality.

Oleg Danylov: Yes, Maksym asked me to give him questions so that he could prepare, because he had forgotten some of the details of those events.

Let’s start from the very beginning. So tell us how With Fire & Sword started, whose idea was it, who came to whom? You came to TaleWorlds Entertainment, Snowball Studios came to you, where did 1C come in?

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: Let’s go through it in chronological order. It was the middle of 2008, the crisis. At that time, I was no longer working at Unicorn Game Studio. Unfortunately, Unicorn itself was not doing well, because everyone was cutting budgets, people were quitting. I was still a student at the time, and I was like, okay, I need money, where can I get money… let’s make a game.

Then a very nice man, Kolya Matiychuk, told me: “Max, listen, you made Fire and Sword, and Snowball is looking for ideas. Maybe you should write to them, maybe it will work out.”

And I was like, okay, I’ll write it. I wrote them a half-page concept – that we are a young, promising team, we have a cool idea, “By Fire and Sword.” Well, probably everyone has seen this Polish movie (Ogniem i mieczem (1999) – ed.), we want to do the same thing, but a game, and it will be cool. I don’t know how it happened…

Oleg Danylov: How could they give money under the phrase “it will be fun,” how does it work at all?

Maxim Gorban: I don’t know, maybe when I arrived and started talking about the period, about the game…

Oleg Danylov: Did you come to Moscow for Snowball?

Maxim Gorban: Yes, they invited me then, said, “Okay, let’s get to know each other.” They invited me and bought me a train ticket. I came to their studio and we talked for about four hours.

There was this big white board. I gave a practical lecture about what kind of project it would be, and I think I managed to convince them that I liked it. Apparently, there was some kind of, you know, inner passion when you talk about something with passion and people seem to believe and see that you can do it.

Oleg Danylov: This is against the backdrop of the fact that in 2008 the entire Ukrainian gaming industry, which was aimed at the Russian one, suffered because of the Russian crisis and a lot of projects were really slaughtered. A lot of studios ceased to exist forever, and you were given money, which means they believed in you.

Maxim Gorban: Well, first of all, we asked for very little money. We sat down and calculated that it would be enough for us… nowadays you can’t even buy a nice car for that money.

Oleg Danylov: Yeah. That’s where we found out how much the A-game cost. I mean, you might not have been able to afford AAA, but it was like an A-game in 2008. Yeah, yeah. About $40-50 thousand.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: Listen, less. Less. We were… half of us were students, half of us worked a little bit for the idea. I was actually getting some minimal money, not enough to buy food. And it took a year to develop.

Oleg Danylov: Year is very little, by modern standards for a game of this scale, it is nothing.

Maxim Gorban: You know, no one told us how long it would take. In fact, the development took longer – more than two years. Because the CIS release… I wouldn’t release the project in this state now.

Oleg Danylov: It was a 2009 release and there were really too many problems. I played it for a few hours, I think, and gave up because it was impossible to use.

Maxim Gorban: It was as if we had cleared our karma.

Oleg Danylov: So by 2011, when the worldwide release of With Fire & Sword came out, the game was in almost perfect condition, so no complaints. Now everything works, it works very well, it’s on Steam.

Maxim Gorban: Yeah, and actually, Snowball somehow believed it at the time. Maybe because, you know, it was this kind of story – “Okay, it’s going to be like a startup, a small investment, so let’s try it.”

It was released in the CIS, it was a classic release, when you write a master disk to a DVD blank, take it to a factory, make a copy of it, and start printing DVD boxes.

Oleg Danylov: In the CIS, there were only such releases at that time, Steam was just starting. We still didn’t believe it would be something good.

Maxim Gorban: I even had a photo somewhere, unfortunately I can’t find it now, where the disk is signed.

After the release in Poland, it became clear that we had to keep going. In Poland, we were published by CD Projekt (developer of The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 – ed.), They were still publishers at the time. They made a huge box, and they drew a Polish hussar in it.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Polish boxed edition of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword. Photo from eBay

Oleg Danylov: With Fire & Sword is an iconic Polish novel, an iconic Polish writer…

Maxim Gorban: And then, well, it went away. And then Snowball said, “okay, let’s do a worldwide release”. And TaleWorlds said that the experiment was successful, apparently.

Oleg Danylov: You weren’t the first Total Conversion for Mount & Blade, were you?

Maxim Gorban: The first. This is the first commercial Total Conversion. After us there was Mount & Blade: Warband – Napoleonic Wars (2012) and then there was Mount & Blade: Warband – Viking Conquest (2014). Good luck to the guys. The authors of Napoleonic Wars started their own project on the Unreal Engine on Napoleonic Wars, and then it seems they started working on the American Civil War.

This kind of story is very popular in America. They have re-enactments where more re-enactors gather than there were in the actual battle. Not big battles, of course. Not the decisive battles where there were 100 thousand people, but there are battles where there were 2000 people on each side, and 4 thousand people gather.

Oleg Danylov: That’s why our Gettysburg wargame is so popular in the United States. I mean Ultimate General: Gettysburg by Game-Labs, which seems to have sold over a million copies (In fact, it’s close to 250 thousand, but there are a lot of sequels – ed.).

Maxim Gorban: Their game designer, by the way, is not from Ukraine, a very interesting guy, a Greek.

Oleg Danylov: He has also done conversion for Total War before.

Maxim Gorban: Yes, yes. A very interesting guy. Good luck to him.

Oleg Danylov: They’re a Swedish company now, you know. Last year, I think they were bought.

Maxim Gorban: Listen, it’s about keeping track of who bought whom.

Oleg Danylov: Don’t worry. Game-Labs is already a Swedish company. I mean, they still have some developers in Kyiv, in Ukraine, but they are scattered all over Europe now.

Let’s go back to With Fire & Sword. How much did you work on Mount & Blade? Was this game adapted for such a total conversion? What was it like working with TaleWorlds?

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: Oh, it was very difficult at the beginning. In the first version, when it said that we would have firearms, that we would have muskets, pistols… It was really painful, because TaleWorlds didn’t help us very much at that time. They agreed, okay, we’ll assign a person to do the animation of reloading the musket, and then… Well, you make mods, you know how to make sticks out of… and sticks….

Oleg Danylov: I mean, a musket bullet is almost the same reduced arrow from a crossbow, so what’s the difference?

Maxim Gorban: In games, there are always so many conventions that… it seems to be true, but then I get this feeling that I’m being cheated somewhere. I feel like I’m being cheated, you know? And that’s why we had to do a lot of reworking and reworking for the world release. But it was hard at first.

Oleg Danylov: You told me earlier that Mount & Blade is almost the only example of how a studio that owns the rights to a game allowed third-party companies to create content within its intellectual property.

Maxim Gorban: Yes.

Oleg Danylov: These are not mods, these are total conversions, full-fledged. Quake is probably the only example of this, Quake and Half-Life. These are games based on the Quake Engine.

Maxim Gorban: Well, it wasn’t so much Total Conversion, they gave us the rights to the engine, and the content was completely made from scratch.

Oleg Danylov: There is also a non-commercial Total Conversion, when people took the game and completely remade it.

Maxim Gorban: I don’t know, I guess the stars aligned somehow. TaleWorlds must have needed money to finish the development, because Armagan (Armagan Yavuz, one of the founders of TaleWorlds Entertainment – ed. note) had been working on his project for seven years. The first commercial release is 7 years old. It’s clear that no pension for a math and artificial intelligence teacher is enough. There was a community that paid some money to continue development, but the project was growing and becoming bigger. It needed more people.

They had the release of the original Mount & Blade (2008), then they did Warband. We were actually after Warband. We released the native, 1.0 version…

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Oleg Danylov: So it was already the engine behind Warband?

Maxim Gorban: With Fire & Sword was first released in the CIS on the native engine. After the release of Warband, TaleWorlds realized that this is it, we need content, people are ready to pay for it. They said, “Let’s remake By Fire and Sword on the Warband engine,” and then we went into development for another two years.

So there was a release, a patch, another patch, another patch. And then… what happened after With Fire & Sword is a really sad story.

Oleg Danylov: Maybe we’ll get to it now, but let’s finish with With Fire & Sword. How much did you rework Mount & Blade? Firearms are obvious, what else did you change in the game, what did you add…

Maxim Gorban: There are all new factions, all new characters, the plot, all settlements. We redesigned the hiring mechanics. Fights in taverns, fist fights, it was a small thing. One of the coolest things was that, for example, we had characters who had personal… units. For example, one of the Polish characters had Tatars in his hiring pool, and he took them with him in the army. Some of them had special reitars or something like that.

Oleg Danylov: And all the content? All these Cossack jackets, sabers, cathedrals, huts. Is this your work?

Maxim Gorban: Yes, this is our work. The whole character was actually created by one person.

Oleg Danylov: It looks ridiculous in 2024, of course…

Maxim Gorban: Yes, all the Tatars, Ukrainians, Swedes, and Muscovites were created by one man, Andriy Domrachov. A man of quite an interesting talent. When I say who he is, everyone is surprised because he is a metallurgist. He is a metallurgist by training, and he worked at Azovstal. Yes, it’s a bit of a complicated story… but let’s get back to it.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Oleg Danylov: Yes, I hope so. The events of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword takes place… begins in 1655. This is after the Pereyaslav Council, six months after the Pereyaslav Council. This is a very important year for all Eastern European countries, including Ukraine. But in real history, this is the beginning of the decline of the Hetmanate and the approach of Ruin. Why did you choose this particular time?

Maxim Gorban: Because it was the point from which all the paths were still opening. That set of decisions and actions created the conditions for any development of events. In fact, even before the 2000s, the view of the Pereyaslav Rada was a Russian narrative, sorry. The period of allied relations with the Swedes, for example, was absent from the school curriculum.

Oleg Danylov: Relations with the Tatars are very complicated.

Maxim Gorban: Yes, and with the Tatars. The figure of Vyhovskyi was also almost absent. And it was such an opportunity to show what could have been different, completely different. In the story, we tried to hint a little bit that it could have been different, that history could have gone differently, and now it can go differently.

Oleg Danylov: There are six countries, each with its own storyline, as far as I remember.

Maxim Gorban: No, no, a little less. There were three storylines. False Dmitry for Muscovy. This is based on these constant Muscovite rebellions of the seventeenth century, but the main historical narrative is False Dmitry, that is, “the false king.” For the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, we chose the Flood.

Oleg Danylov: It was the Swedish invasion of Poland, which, by the way, led to the eventual collapse of Poland.

Maxim Gorban: Well, there were a lot of things. Let’s not go into it. Because this will turn from an excursion into the history of Ukrainian game dev, into a small lesson on the history of Ukraine in the seventeenth century.

Oleg Danylov: By the way, the topic of the Flood is also taught very poorly in our schools.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: We can start with the fact that the Flood and the events of 1648-54 in Ukraine are a civil war for Poland. No matter how we feel about it, Bohdan Khmelnytsky was a subject of the Polish king in 1648.

And for Zaporizhzhia, there was a story campaign based on the original author’s novel Black Hetman. After the game’s release, it was published as a separate book under the pseudonym Oleksandr Trubnikov.

Oleg Danylov: And who wrote it?

Maxim Gorban: Written by a Kyiv-based writer, his real name is Alexander Surkov. He is a lieutenant colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, currently on active duty. (Oleksandr Surkov is a military officer, expert, author of the documentary research “Unfinished War. The History of Ukraine’s Confrontation with Russia in 2014-2015” and military adventure novels from the series “Call Sign Shulga” – editor’s note).

Oleg Danylov: As far as I remember, you can become a ruler in every country there…

Maxim Gorban: Yes, there was a mechanic there. Since we came from Warband, there was a mechanic that you could become the ruler of each of the factions. And repaint the whole map.

Oleg Danylov: Including burning Moscow!

Maxim Gorban: Several times, an encore!

Oleg Danylov: SteamDB counts that Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword sold between 1 and 2 million copies on Steam alone. If you add to this the physical releases in the CIS, Poland, and other countries, plus platforms like GOG, it will be even more. In my opinion, this is about the third best result among all games created in Ukraine. Perhaps S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has more, Metro… and I don’t know who else.

Maxim Gorban: In fact, the Cossacks have more. Even the first Cossacks have more than 2 million.

Oleg Danylov: In any case, 1-2 million is a lot. This is a big figure for a Ukrainian development, not many Ukrainian games have such a circulation. The question is: do you still get money from these sales? The game costs 99 hryvnias in total, but, well, it’s a penny for a penny.

Maxim Gorban: Let me answer this question very briefly. This is my life advice to anyone who does something for money. Invite lawyers before you start sharing or earning anything. This is, well, such… essential advice. And secondly, you need to understand that there may be a lot of games, but there were huge discounts, when the game was given away for free. There were Free Weekends, when the game was given away in bundles.

Oleg Danylov: That’s right, she was wearing bandages!

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: Therefore, these figures do not correspond to the actual figures, but in any case, it is nice that so many people were interested in learning about this period.

Oleg Danylov: By the way, according to SteamDB, the game is still being played, with 100-200-300 people always online. For a game that is now… 15, 13 years since its global release, these are good numbers, actually. Very good.

Let’s move on. “By Fire and Sword” has a Ukrainian localization, if you know. It’s a fan localization, it’s downloaded from Steam. Do you have anything to do with it?

Maxim Gorban: It’s the community, it’s the whole community, and I’m incredibly grateful to it. Because… the project came out a long time ago, and I probably don’t have the original files anymore, unfortunately. So I’d like to thank once again those people who were able to translate, well, there are really a million words, a huge amount of text, to translate it all into Ukrainian…

Oleg Danylov: The translation is not bad, actually. I can’t make any complaints about it. Not a bad translation, you can play.

Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword was the only Sich Studio game to be released. Why did it happen that your team collapsed?

Maxim Gorban: Listen, it’s a philosophical question, I don’t know, why did you fall apart?

Oleg Danylov: Well, it seems to be a very successful game, with large print runs, worldwide release, and mostly favorable reviews.

Maxim Gorban: This is now. When we first came out… Oh, listen, I even received threatening letters there. “Fix the bugs, otherwise I will find you. And you will be very bad.”

But, look, it was already 2012-2014 at that time. It was already before the war started. It’s worth remembering what the PC market was like then. And the PC market was really in decline then. Back then, indie projects were still dots on the map. Okay, Mount & Blade came out, and some other project came out. And everything else was AAA with huge budgets, ported from consoles.

Now my answer would be. We did not understand the market, we tried to make a project that was not interesting to us, not interesting to the community. And in the process, we ended up falling out with our publisher and then said “enough is enough.”

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Oleg Danylov: Do you mean 1C?

Maxim Gorban: No, it wasn’t 1C yet, it was Snowbird. After the sale of 1C, they changed the name from Snowball to Snowbird.

We said enough is enough. We were really exhausted after With Fire & Sword. I was incredibly exhausted. I had a period when I couldn’t work for over a year.

Oleg Danylov: Is it all this work, fixing bugs, that’s so exhausting?

Maxim Gorban: No, after Fire and Sword, we started doing the worst project of my life. We decided to make a game about boats on an engine that didn’t even have normal water.

Oleg Danylov: So you guys at Mount & Blade decided to make Pirates of the Caribbean?

Maxim Gorban: Yes!

Oleg Danylov: Interesting, given that the Corsairs existed at the time.

Maxim Gorban: After that, I said “enough” and didn’t even work in the game room for a while, so I took a break. This pause was followed by Cossacks 3, and after Cossacks, there was also a short pause. And that’s it, I decided, okay, I’m done with entrepreneurship and went into hiring.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Oleg Danylov: By the way, it turns out that your first three games are all related to Ukraine. Yes, directly, all three of them: “XIII Century, By Fire and Sword, and Cossacks 3.

Maxim Gorban: Listen, actually, with this approach, we can say that when we were at Ubisoft and made Watch Dogs: Legion, we were making a simulator for future drone operators. Because there were drones that shoot and throw bombs.

Oleg Danylov: Now we already have Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, the new generation of Mount & Blade, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance, is it possible to create something like Fire and Sword 2 on the basis of these modern games with modern graphics?

Maxim Gorban: Just when I was on my way to see you, I remembered a project, a new project. A game about a Cossack where he explores the world on horseback.

Oleg Danylov: I’ve seen it, but it seems to be world generation, with some predefined locations (1505: Knight Becomes Kozak – editor’s note).

Maxim Gorban: Yes, there are projects exploring this topic. I wish them good luck. This is an interesting period worth talking about.

Oleg Danylov: It seems that we lack games about Ukrainian history, because, for example, the same Serhiy Hryhorovych told me back in the 1990s that Ukraine has its own brands. The Cossacks are a Ukrainian brand. It can become a brand of the same importance as… samurai, ninjas, cowboys. We need to develop it, we need to promote it to the West. And these are the games we seem to lack.

Wouldn’t you like to work on With Fire & Sword 2 on the Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord? Or do you have the nerve to do that anymore?

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword

Maxim Gorban: I don’t know, but if Armagan Yavuz agrees, there will be someone who is ready to invest in the development. Because it will take two years, it will take a team, probably forty people.

Oleg Danylov: And this is not the same money as in 2008, not at all.

Maxim Gorban: But I understand what I have to do, how to do it, what kind of process it should be. 15 years of experience. But….

We constantly make games looking backwards, and the world is changing very quickly. Literally 10 years ago, the mobile market did not exist. That’s why games have to be different. It may not be Fire and Sword 2, it may be some simple mobile game, but it will convey these right ideas of freedom, responsibility for others. It didn’t come out of nowhere.

Oleg Danylov: By the way, there is a mobile game about the Cossacks, Dyke Pole.

Maxim Gorban: Perhaps, perhaps there is… There’s a good construction simulator Ostriv.

Oleg Danylov: Yes, I agree, the overall game is very good.

Maxim Gorban: Well, I wish success to the developers who decide to tackle this complex topic, because there is a lot to tell. There are people to tell it to. There are historians who are ready to provide material on how to tell it… Because, unfortunately, a school textbook…

Oleg Danylov: A good history game will actually encourage children to look at the same textbook, just as Assassin’s Creed once encouraged people to look and read about the historical period the game is about.

Maxim Gorban: Well, it goes both ways, of course. But, yes, I agree with you here that there is high-quality content about the game, there is a desire to explore, to dig a little deeper, to see how it really was.

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Oleg Danylov and Maxim Gorban in the editorial office of Mezha during the interview

Oleg Danylov: Well, actually, this is a question I ask all Ukrainian developers I talk to, whether we need more games about Ukraine. For example, I am very sorry that we have absolutely nothing about the First Liberation War, about the UPA. Even though these are topics that, well, they are being created! I mean, this is exactly what needs to be promoted to a Western audience. Because the Russians will make their own Partisans. They already have such a game, they have released it.

Maxim Gorban: Because yes, either you tell your own story, or someone else will tell their version for you.

I don’t know, maybe someone will watch this video and say, okay, it’s possible. Because this person did it, he succeeded, maybe it will inspire someone.

Oleg Danylov: Let’s hope that some new developers will be inspired by this!

Maxim Gorban: Me neither.

Oleg Danylov: And maybe Maksym will also work on games about Ukrainian history someday.

Okay, so we’ve talked about With Fire & Sword. I suggest that everyone who hasn’t seen this game yet download it from Steam. It costs 99 hryvnias now, which is, well, a cup of coffee, well, a cup and a half of coffee. There’s a lot to see, there’s a Ukrainianizer, and you can burn down Moscow several times for an encore. I mean, for that alone, it’s a super game, in my opinion.

Finally, a question about your current work, because a while ago we wrote about a RedBeat Games game called Metro: The Outpost. Can you tell us something about this project? What’s going on there? Will there be such a game or not?

A game where you can burn down Moscow. The author of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Maxim Gorban talks about the development of the legendary game in 2009
Still from the game Metro: The Outpost

Maxim Gorban: I’ll probably just repeat what Yaroslav Syngaevsky said. This is a tech demo that demonstrates that the company and the team have the expertise to make such a mobile project. Perhaps it could be in the Metro universe. Because there is such a theoretical possibility… why not? But this project exists only in the form of a techno-demo, unfortunately. And no work is being done there. For more comments… I think you’d better contact Artem Myronovskyi (Director of RedBeat Games – ed. note).

Oleg Danylov: Okay, okay. We’ll ask Artem this question later. I understand that this is just a test. In fact, at one time, Prof (Andrey Prokhorov, creative director of 4A Games, one of the authors of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and Metro games – ed. note) said that he didn’t want to make Metro in Kyiv because he didn’t want to see bombed Kyiv. So walking around bombed Moscow is good, but walking around bombed Kyiv is not.

That’s probably all we wanted to tell you today. Thank you very much, Maxim, for coming.

Maxim Gorban: Thank you for inviting me. It’s always nice when people remember what you did a long, long time ago. And there is an opportunity to tell others about it.

Oleg Danylov: We invite you to leave your suggestions below this video, under the text that will follow this video, with whom other Ukrainian developers we should talk to. What other part of Ukrainian game archeology do you want to see?