Mar 4, 2022 - Technology

Ukrainian game developer: "We hope we'll be able to stay here, whatever happens"

Alex Molodkin and his partner, Tay Kuznetsova.

Alex Molodkin and his partner, Tay Kuznetsova | image courtesy of Alex Molodkin

Since the bombings in Ukraine began, Alex Molodkin spends the majority of his time following the news from the safety of an apartment hallway. Molodkin is half of indie developer Weasel Token, a studio located in Kyiv, Ukraine, currently working on the adventure game Puzzles for Clef.

The big picture: Molodkin was working on the game in the early hours of the morning, when Russia's attacks began. "I heard an explosion somewhere in the distance," he says. "And then another one, and I had to wake everyone up."

  • Although concerns over a Russian invasion preceded the assault on Kyiv, Molodkin said the attacks still came as a shock.
  • "Nobody here really believed anything would happen. And that belief didn't really change much up until the whole invasion started."

Molodkin and his loved ones have stayed in their apartment building. They move into the hallway as needed for safety — a space without windows, in case of explosions.

  • They haven't been able to evacuate or move to a shelter because Molodkin's grandmother has physical ailments that affect her legs. "She just wouldn't be able to live there for a prolonged amount of time," he says.
  • They keep evacuation bags — packed with basic items like food, water, flashlights, chargers, knives — at the ready, in case they need to flee quickly. "We are just trying to stay here for as long as possible."
Puzzles for Clef, Image courtesy of Weasel Token
Puzzles for Clef, Image courtesy of Weasel Token

Developers within Russia and Belarus are grappling with their own unique problems as Russia is slowly cut off.

Driving the news: Some conversations among developers are about how to live under growing sanctions on Russia, Molodkin says.

  • "The current issues they have are whether they'll be able to get their money from Steam, whether they'll be able to work there at all. Many people are thinking about relocation."
  • One such studio, Belarusian indie studio Sad Cat, released a statement condemning the war and announcing its relocation: "There is absolutely no excuse for war and suffering which is unfolding right now."
  • Though Molodkin is located in Ukraine, Weasel Token's composer is Russian, and Molodkin worries they'll have to end their relationship because of difficulties over paying her.
  • "We hope that the war ends as soon as possible, and that everything goes back to normal," Molodkin says. "We don't really hate Russians or anything, despite the Russian propaganda trying to portray us as some kind of Russophobic Nazis."

Companies worldwide continue to cut off products to Russia.

  • On Friday, Microsoft announced it will suspend all sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia. A spokesperson declined to comment further to Axios.
  • "Like the rest of the world, we are horrified, angered and saddened by the images and news coming from the war in Ukraine and condemn this unjustified, unprovoked and unlawful invasion by Russia," the company said.

The news follows a busy week of companies restricting access to their products, including CD Projekt Red, Electronic Arts and more.

As support for Ukraine worldwide pours in, Molodkin says he's grateful for the initiatives, donations and attention developers in his country have received.

  • Weasel Token's community has been supportive, and Molodkin asks that people continue to pay attention to the creators behind their favorite games.
  • "Game developers are usually very wonderful people who just try to enrich their players' worlds and help them get through some harsh times," he said.
  • "Now Ukraine is going through harsh times. If gamers around the world could help the Ukrainian game developers and show some kindness to them, it would be really helpful."

What's next: Molodkin says he has considered relocating "if the worst comes to pass," but hopes it won't come to that.

  • Where they could go is still undecided, but locations like Poland are top of mind.
  • "We never planned to leave Ukraine because it's our land. We love it. We have our friends and families here. We hope we'll be able to stay here, whatever happens."

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