Making the Rebuild Ukraine mobile game in the middle of a war zone

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While I was interviewing Pavel Izotov, the creator of the Rebuild Ukraine mobile game, he paused several times to wipe tears from his eyes. He was very humane and understandable, as he was making his game in the middle of the battlefield.

Izotov lives with his wife, Irina, in the city of Cherkasy in central Ukraine. She has fortunately survived a battle that devastated other parts of the country, such as Kiev, Kharkiv and Mariupol. They’re not out of town, but it’s still been a terrific place to work on the game.

Despite that difficulty, Izotov has managed to post an Android game, which is about rebuilding the country of Ukraine one building, landmark and one statue at a time. Proceeds from the ad-based title, published by PubRev +, will go to humanitarian charities that help Ukrainians, such as World Kitchen.

“Every step we take is about how we can best serve Ukraine,” he said in an interview with Gamesbeat. “I want to help my country, I want to help my people and I want to do everything I can.”

Statue of the 2014 War in Cherkessia: A Ukrainian soldier protects the White Tree in Gondor.

The title is one of the many ways sports companies are helping war-torn Ukrainians. Levvvel estimates gamers and game companies have donated more than $ 195 million to charities in Ukraine, including $ 144 million donated by Epic Games and Fortnight Players. And while Izotov’s contribution to that big picture is relatively small, many cannot say that he helped in the same daily pressures and wartime situations.

When the war broke out, Isotov was stunned and wanted to find a way to help. But due to health reasons he could not join the army. For the first week, the horror of the war on the news was so disturbing that Izotov could do no work. He and his wife spent time talking to friends in different parts of the country and following the news of the invasion. He knew people in many places who had become the center of the battle. And had friends who became soldiers for the Ukrainian army.

“It simply came to our notice then. And we are talking to our neighbors about how, if the Russians come to our city, how we will defend it, “Isotov said.” And some of my friends left the city. ”

Working on the battlefield

Pavel Izotov works on his laptop at a shelter in Cherkasy, Ukraine.
Pavel Izotov works on his laptop at a shelter in Cherkasy, Ukraine.

By the time the fight started on February 24, Izotov had already mocked the game as he was working on the Hopscotch title. After the war began, Izotov could not concentrate for a week. But in the end, he got a call from his publisher and they decided to do something to help Ukraine. Isotow decided to adopt the hopscotch game into a building game.

“The decision was very quick. We decided to create this game to help Ukraine and we changed our direction from commercial to charity, “said Charles Castell, CEO of PubRev + in an interview with Gamesbeat.

Ukraine rebuild

Isotow himself worked on the game with his wife, Irina, who said the testing of the games he created was always by his side. Isotov said it is still really difficult to control and sometimes focus. Another friend helped with the game design.

“It’s a lot of emotion and stress, but it has inspired me to work harder and be stronger,” he said. “I know our friends and the army on the front are very strong. I needed to do something. I felt like I didn’t need to rest. I was inspired. “

Izotov and his wife chose to stay in their hometown in Cherkasy because the rockets flew overhead to collide with other Ukrainian cities. They went to an underground shelter in the early days of the war.

“I worked two weeks out of the shelter,” Isotov said. We were always coming down when work started. So whenever the alarm went off we had to go outside and go to the shelter. And there was no internet. We were sitting on chairs and my computer was on my knees. I was working on this game. ”

To gain access to the Internet, Izotov had to move into his apartment building. It still had internet service so it moved back and forth as needed.

Irina and Pavel Izotov.
Irina and Pavel Izotov in happy times.

“After the first week, I felt I needed to do something to help,” he said. “I needed, how do you say, ‘contribute.’ I just can’t sit still. I came out of stress. I started working day and night without sleeping. I worked a lot. We were very emotional, motivated and motivated. ”

One problem was that the apartment building was one of the main targets that the Russians were hitting. So for a while Izotov and his wife got out of the house and slept in a safe house. While moving from one place to another, Isotow wrote the code for the casual game.

Reconstruction of Ukraine will benefit charities like World Central Kitchen.

The battlefield is hundreds of kilometers away, but flying over a rocket can be very dangerous.

“I think Cherkasy is the safest place in Ukraine,” he said. “It is very quiet. It is much quieter than in eastern Ukraine.

While he was doing this, his wife searched for places to find bottles of Molotov cocktail. He had a beautiful dog and the children were playing with him in the shelter. Overall, working on the battlefield is still a surreal experience for Izotov.

Focus on reconstruction

Life in an underground shelter in Ukraine.

The game has more than 100 levels and 10 cities (Kiev, Kharkiv, Mariupol, etc.). The game takes users to the reconstruction effort, where they tap bricks on the screen that fly to rebuild Ukrainian homes and monuments. The mechanic educates both users about the need for long-term reconstruction efforts and allows them to place ads in the application, 100% of which net income will be donated to those charities in Ukraine.

The game also includes direct donation links for those who want to donate more. Subsequent versions will include a collection of in-app purchases. Users will be able to purchase digital equivalents of certain items that will go into the reconstruction effort (bricks, parts of monuments, etc.).

Castell said he and his colleague Ben Green felt cold when he started thinking about the idea and talking to Isotov. The title tries to make charitable giving passionate. Castell’s PubRev + Company is a boutique development and growth mobile in-app and connected TV agency.

And in addition to running the firm, Castell is active in the social justice movement and is a U.S. citizen. And has been working with organizations and government agencies for many years to bring about positive change in the world. Without his advice, Izotov said he would never finish the game.

One of the central tenets of the company’s culture is the idea of ​​service and it ensures that its resources and talents are used to help the less fortunate, “said Castell.

Eating underground in Cherksy.

The iOS version of the game is awaiting approval. In the long run, PubRev + hopes to use the same game mechanic to raise money for reconstruction efforts in other countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and to help us meet some of the biggest social challenges here in the US.

For programming, fortunately, Izotov did not have to be online all the time. But he had to go back to his home to find the various assets and information he needed. After about two weeks, work became easier because life in central Ukraine was somewhat normal. However, signs of war were everywhere, as some anti-aircraft weapons in the city destroy rockets aimed at other cities. Some rockets landed in Cherkasy, but no one was killed, Isotov said. For the most part, the internet in the city is stable.

For the rest of the game development community in Ukraine, Izotov believes that as many people as possible are working.

“They are returning to work and people are returning to the areas because the Russian troops have fled,” he said. “Developers are working together like never before. They are doing things like making nets for the army. I am more optimistic now. “

Soft launch

The children loved playing with the Isotov dog in the shelter.

Castell said the Android game is in soft launch and has not seen much response yet.

Since there is no shower in the shelter or office, the Isotovs return to their home to bathe and then return to safer places.

Izotov has nearly eight years of experience creating games, mostly as a freelance or indie game developer. Isotov said he had received some warnings from friends before the fight began and so they prepared a backpack and had a car full of petrol. What the Russians have come so far is a few hundred kilometers away.

A girl loads a gun in Ukraine.

Isotov said he had a friend in Mariupol and did not know how that friend was doing. The city has been ravaged by Russian attacks. He knows others whose friends or relatives have disappeared in other parts of the country.

Izotov plans to add updates to a game capturing moments of war, such as the Ukrainian soldier who called for the Russian warship to be “shut down” on the radio in the early days of the war.

“We think this is a great way to combat the fatigue of charity because there is no real charity,” Castell said. “By just spending time playing a casual game, you’re contributing, you’re helping, even if you’ve played five minutes. That money comes and goes directly to help the people of Ukraine. We are 100% focused on rebuilding, as rebuilding will take decades. He will need help all the time. ”

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