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Ukrainian studio Frogwares’ Epic MegaGrant ‘brings a little bit of extra stability’ during war

‘This entire invasion has shattered the lives of everyone involved’

A Ukrainian national flag seen in front of destroyed buildings in Zhukovsky district Photo: Aziz Karimov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Ukrainian forces have been defending the country from Russian invaders for more than 80 days now — throughout which Russian forces have destroyed cities, killed civilians, and forced more to flee. Months into the war, Russia’s attack has moved east as it looks to capture the Donbas region, with some refugees returning home to rebuild.

The war has “shattered the lives” of Ukrainian residents, Frogwares CEO Wael Amr told Polygon. Though some of Frogwares’ estimated 90-person team has been able to return to their homes, life and development is far from normal. Despite that, Frogwares is also announcing a new game, currently called Project Palianytsia, the company announced Thursday.

“As it stands now, everyone on the team is more or less safe and accounted for,” Amr said. “We haven’t lost anyone, though there are a handful of people who [we] are quite worried about. They are either serving in the military now as they signed up or they are in areas under Russian occupation and are prohibited from leaving.”

The Sinking City and Sherlock Holmes developer announced Monday that it received an Epic MegaGrant from Unreal Engine and Fortnite developer Epic Games. Amr said the company has suspended development on its next open-world game and shifted the team to a different project, something “more streamlined in scale and scope,” Amr said, to allow for the flexibility necessary to create games during a war. That game is Project Palianytsia, which Frogwares said is a “horror and mystery experience” that fans of its other games will enjoy.

“The only silver lining to COVID was that it taught us to work remotely,” he said. “This workflow, of course, didn’t account for air raid sirens, meaning people would need to go to shelters throughout the day, the regular loss of power or internet, and the need to continually be able to cover for people who would become unavailable for hours or days on end.”

a dark stormy picture Image: Frogwares

Amr said roles and responsibility now shift constantly.

On Twitter, a Frogwares representative said the money from the Epic MegaGrant, which is a program designed to support “creative, noteworthy, and innovative projects built in and around Unreal Engine,” will help the team “soften the financial blow from the war and stay on our feet.”

Frogwares CEO Amr reiterated that intention to Polygon. “The support from Epic is extremely welcome and helps bring a little bit of extra stability in all this chaos,” he said. “We don’t have any external backers or publishers keeping us afloat or waiting to bail us out, so Epic being able to contribute a small amount to help keep the lights on is very helpful.”

As of 2021, Epic Games has financially supported “more than 1,600 creators and teams across 89 countries,” the company said in a news release. Epic Games announced in 2020 that it’s given away $60 million of the $100 million fund so far. MegaGrant funding varies by recipient; previously announced MegaGrants have ranged from $25,000 to developer Nukklear, which supports larger studios on big projects and is working on its own game, Fog & Silver, and $1.2 million to the Blender Foundation, the nonprofit organization in charge of open-source 3D modeling program Blender. Typically, the MegaGrant awards range is from $5,000 to $500,000, Noon said.

Epic Games did not disclose the amount of Frogwares’ grant but confirmed that it has distributed money to Ukranian studios, including Frogswares and Kyiv-based developer Beatshapers. An Epic Games spokesperson said the Ukrainian studios “may use their discretion to support their teams as they see fit.”

“Keeping the studio running and maintaining the livelihood of all our team is our responsibility alone,” Amr added. “We do what we can do keep the studio going. That’s the priority, and anyone who is offering to help us, like Epic, is welcome with open arms.”

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