Sherlock Holmes Chapter One and The Sinking City developer Frogwares has been sharing its stories of life in war-torn Ukraine during the current Russian invasion. The studio says the situation is a "nightmare" and that it's thrown their plans and ambitions "into disarray".
What has Frogwares said about life in Ukraine during the invasion?
Over on Twitter, Frogwares has been tweeting regularly about its situation since the Russian invasion began. Its most recent tweet shares "great news", which is that the studio has managed to find safe accommodation for a team member.
Day 12. We had some great news today from someone in the team. We were able to find a safer place for them to stay. From a studio perspective, we're organizing the next steps. This is only possible because heroic defenders are saving the country from destruction.
Elsewhere, Frogwares criticizes the "warmonger" Putin and his willingness to send "untrained boys" to their deaths in Ukraine. Earlier in the invasion, Frogwares described the "calm" Kyiv and celebrated being able to shop for food. Overall, the studio paints a portrait of a war-torn city (and, by extension, country) striving to resist a horrific unprovoked attack.
We reached out to Frogwares to discuss their situation and ask them to share their stories. CEO Wael Amr told us that sharing his story, and the stories of his studio, is a "small act of defiance", and that Frogwares is not willing to let a "maniacal dictator trample over our lives". Amr says the Russian invasion has been long in the Ukrainian people's minds; he describes Putin "pushing and pushing, inching closer and closer" to an invasion, until the moment when he and his team realized they would need to "fight for [their] survival". We asked Amr what he and his team had been most surprised by during the invasion, and he had this to say.
The sheer resilience of the Ukrainian people and military to stand up to Russia. There are videos of mass civilian marches in occupied cities confronting armed soldiers and their tanks telling them to fuck off and go home. Children singing in bomb shelters to keep some sort of happiness alive. There are photos of women, old men, and teenagers in the streets of Kyiv with rifles in one hand and their shopping in another. And our military, continually holding its own when so many thought it would be obliterated in days. What’s also quite notable is just how quickly the Russian military machine deteriorated tactically and how quickly they switched to indiscriminate bombing and shelling, just as they did in Chechnya and Syria.
Amr also describes how the war has particularly impacted Frogwares. He says that sales of Frogwares games are still able to reach the team, but that its ambitions and plans are in disarray and that it has had to stop development on most of its projects. Despite this setback, Frogwares is still paying its team and checking in with them "two or three times a day". This is, after all, the studio that committed to releasing its most recent game entirely without crunch on its own part, so perhaps Amr's dedication to his team shouldn't come as a surprise. Even still, the company did have "some things completed" before the start of the invasion, so members of Frogwares who aren't currently in Ukraine are looking into how they can release those games right now.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine from a gaming perspective
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th, the gaming industry has responded in a number of ways. Most recently, the indie platform Itch.io launched a Ukraine bundle in support of medical relief and children in the country. There are a whole bunch of great games in the bundle, including Celeste, A Short Hike, and Wandersong, but most importantly, all of the proceeds will go towards the International Medical Corps and Voices of Children charities.
As well as the Itch.io bundle, other developers are also doing what they can to support the Ukrainian resistance effort. The Pokemon Company recently donated $200,000 to Ukrainian relief, while the devs of action RPG Book of Demons were review-bombed on Steam for imposing massive price increases on Russian users in support of Ukraine. Elsewhere, huge companies like Microsoft and Sony are halting sales in Russia to varying degrees, and studios like Bloober Team and CD Projekt are also stopping operations in Russia and Belarus.
When we asked Amr what gamers could do to help the Ukrainian people right now, here's what he said.
To keep talking about this. To keep sharing the stories they see and to keep this fight on the front pages and in people’s minds. The pressures that are being put on Russia right now are working in some form, but there needs to be more and more. It needs to snowball into an eventual avalanche and also be able to counteract the various strategies Russia will use to try to hide the impact it's having on them. And we also ask for those who can to donate to the country. This is no longer a blitzkrieg but a rather siege and it's a matter of how long we can hold out till Putin’s will and means to carry out these war crimes falls apart.
Even if you can't donate, there are lots of ways you can help the Ukrainians resist the Russian invasion. Amr wants the initial "snowball" of resistance to Russia to eventually become an "avalanche"; he says there's "no point or value" in remaining quiet about the situation. In the spirit of that comment, we'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.