Game developer

“We hope that we can stay here, whatever happens”

Since the start of the bombings in Ukraine, Alex Molodkin has spent most of his time following the news from the safety of an apartment hallway. Molodkin is half of independent developer Weasel Token, a studio located in Kyiv, Ukraine, which is currently working on the adventure game Puzzles for Key.

The big picture: Molodkin was working on the game in the early hours of the morning when the Russian attacks began. “I heard an explosion somewhere in the distance,” he said. “And then another, and I had to wake everyone up.”

  • Although concerns about a Russian invasion preceded the assault on kyiv, Molodkin said the attacks still came as a shock.
  • “No one here really believed anything would happen. And that belief didn’t really change much until the whole invasion started.”

Molodkin and his relatives stayed in their building. They move into the hallway as needed for safety – a windowless space, in case of an explosion.

  • They were unable to evacuate or move to a shelter because Molodkin’s grandmother has physical ailments affecting her legs. “She just couldn’t live there long,” he says.
  • They keep bug out bags – filled with basics like food, water, flashlights, magazines, knives – handy, in case they need to get away quickly. “We just try to stay here as long as possible.”
Puzzles for Key, Image courtesy of Weasel Token

Developers in Russia and Belarus are struggling with their own problems as Russia is slowly isolated.

Driving the news: Some developer conversations are about living under mounting Russian sanctions, 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. A lot of people are thinking about moving.”
  • One such studio, Belarusian independent studio Sad Cat, issued a statement condemning the war and announcing its relocation: “There is absolutely no excuse for the war and the suffering that is going on right now.”
  • Although Molodkin is located in Ukraine, the composer of Weasel Token is Russian and Molodkin fears that they will have to end their relationship due to difficulties in paying her.
  • “We hope the war will end as soon as possible and everything will return to normal,” Molodkin said. “We don’t really hate Russians or anything, despite Russian propaganda trying to paint us as some kind of Russophobic Nazis.”

Companies around the world continue to cut products to Russia.

  • Friday, Microsoft announcement it will suspend all sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia. A spokesperson declined to comment further on 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 unwarranted, unprovoked and unlawful invasion by Russia,” the company said.

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

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

  • The Weasel Token community has been supportive, and Molodkin asks people to keep paying attention to the creators of their favorite games.
  • “Game developers are usually great people who just try to enrich their players’ world and help them through tough times,” he said.
  • “Now Ukraine is going through a difficult time. If gamers around the world could help Ukrainian game developers and show them kindness, it would be really helpful.”

And after: Molodkin says he considered moving “should the worst happen”, but hopes it doesn’t come to that.

  • Where they might go is still undecided, but places like Poland are front and center.
  • “We never planned to leave Ukraine because it’s our land. We love it. We have our friends and families here. We hope we can stay here no matter what.”

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