Artillery price

Ukrainian studio defies criticism over bid to ‘customise’ artillery to be fired at Russians

Ukrainian development studio Frogwares completes its Kickstarter for Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened (opens in a new tab) with an unusual and controversial promotion: a raffle to have a personalized message written on an artillery shell that will be fired at the invading Russian forces in Ukraine.

The Kickstarter Campaign (opens in a new tab), which ends on September 3, is already a resounding success, having raised almost €230,000 against a target of €70,000. To help give it a final push, fans at the studio currently serving with the Ukrainian Ground Forces 24th Separate Assault Battalion came up with the idea to give three fans a chance to have a message of their choice written. on a 152mm howitzer, just to like and share a link to the campaign on Twitter.

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The tradition of putting messages on ammunition goes back a long way. Task and objective (opens in a new tab) note that this has been common practice in the US military since WWII, but you can go back even further than that, to the days of the old Greeks and Romans (opens in a new tab). Despite this, several Twitter responses to Frogwares’ post criticize the offering, accusing the studio of glorifying violence and gamifying real warfare.

“Talk about being deaf”, Twitter user MrInspiration (opens in a new tab) wrote. “This shell has a non-zero chance of landing next to a civilian, it’s an unfortunate nature of artillery. So go ahead and give your money to write some squeaky text about something that will kill a child. “

Another Twitter user, Brutal1ty512 (opens in a new tab)replied, “You are animals and all your games should be pulled from shelves around the world if that is your idea of ​​PR. Bad luck for you and your one country joke.”

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In a message sent to PC Gamer in response to these accusations, Frogwares was unapologetic.

“Please understand that we as a team are literally at the center of this war,” the studio said. “We have people in our team whose houses have been reduced to rubble. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us are in occupied areas like Kherson where they are trying to annex the city. [to] say that it is now a Russian city. We have team members who lived near Bucha (opens in a new tab). We have team members who fled their homes in Donbass in 2014 and then had to flee again in 2022. Others are actively fighting. Others were forced to flee to EU countries and leave behind their families who were unable to accompany them.

“We are angry. We are hurt. Our whole lives have been thrown into hell because of Putin who used the term “Nazi” as a whistle against our entire population and sent in his troops.

The soldiers in the video who suggested the promotion “are real friends of ours,” Frogwares added. “Six months ago they were normal people who lived in Kyiv and had normal jobs, homes and families. After February 24, they decided they had to leave all that behind and committed to defend their homes and families.”

We are angry. We are hurt. Our entire lives have been thrown into hell because of Putin who used the term “Nazi” like a dog whistle against our entire population and sent in his troops. »

Frogwares also answered questions about the 24th Separate Assault Battalion itself. Also known as Aidar Battalionthe unit was originally formed as a volunteer unit following the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in March 2014. Within months the unit faced charges of war crimes brought by the of them Amnesty International and the OSCE; several members of the battalion were also accused of criminal offenses by the Ukrainian army. Aidar was disbanded in 2015, then reconstituted around a selection of former members as the 24th Separate Assault Battalion, under the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade, part of the regular Ukrainian army (and presumably more disciplined).

“Where they were assigned is where they were told to go,” Frogwares said of the soldiers in the video. “They didn’t have a list of units to choose from. But more importantly, whatever the history and command structure of the unit since it was formed by volunteers in 2014, it disappeared. This unit was disbanded in 2015 and under the supervision of the armed forces was rebuilt and integrated into the armed forces proper.

Kickstarter prohibits projects from raising funds for a charity or “cause”, and also prohibits projects with the theme “Weapons, replica weapons and weapon accessories”. The Sherlock Holmes game is neither a weapon nor a cause, so launching a promotion adjacent to its Kickstarter campaign circumvents these rules. Kickstarter has confirmed to me via email that the promotion does not violate their rules.

(Image credit: Frogwares)

From Frogwares’ perspective, the company is using a video game to remind the world that Ukraine, its home country, is still waging a full-scale war for its very existence. And the Ukrainian military has relied heavily on crowdfunding since the start of the second invasion earlier this year – in fact, it’s been possible to pay to have messages written about Ukrainian ammunition (opens in a new tab) and military equipment for some time now.

As for Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, the Kickstarter campaign will end on September 3, and Frogwares said it hopes the game will be ready for launch in February 2023. “But we want people to understand that anything can change, whether it’s in the country as a whole or just internally with our own team to force us out later,” said producer Denys Chebotarov. “The priority will always have to be safety and our team’s ability to work ahead of any other choice on when to release.”