Until recently, Jujubee, the Katowice-based company, had been known mainly for mobile games. After the announcement of Kursk one of the things we can say about it is that the team is certainly not lacking in courage. For their upcoming release, the developers from Poland are not only abandoning the mobile platforms they're most familiar with, but they are also trying to raise a subject that is likely to arouse considerable controversy, particularly in the context of the recent tension brewing in Eastern Europe. One trailer was enough to trigger accusations of trying to make a profit at the expense of someone else's tragedy, draw attacks from the Russian gamers, as well as gain some support. During a gaming industry conference Digital Dragons that took place last Friday in Krakow, Poland, we had a chance to chat about Kursk with its authors.
The direct inspiration for Jujubee was the disaster of Russian submarine K-141 Kursk that happened in August 2000 in the Barents Sea. It's likely that during a naval exercise one of the torpedoes failed – its explosion caused a chain reaction that killed most of the crew. Initially, 23 of 118 sailors survived, but the delayed decision to launch a rescue mission combined with rapidly decreasing oxygen supplies resulted in their subsequent death. Slow response of the command, the rejection of foreign aid, and feeding the public false information caused an outrage in the media and led to a number of conspiracy theories that suggested, among other things, a suicide bombing of one of the sailors, and a collision with a NATO submarine.
The controversy surrounding the recently announced production from Jujubee is the more acute as the studio seems to be rather inexperienced at first glance. Known mainly for two racing games –Flashout 3D and Flashout 2 which met with a fairly good response – the team has only been in business for three years, and yet it intends to tackle a subject that can open some barely healed wounds, if handled without subtlety. Luckily, the Katowice-based developer has in its ranks the people who were associated witch companies such as CD Projekt RED, Traveller's Tales and Infinite Dreams. It’s also hard to ignore some similarities with the distinctive features of a different Polish game, namely Kholat which will soon be released as the debut production of studio IMGN.pro. These characteristics include a scenario based on a true story that still raises some questions (and is also associated with Russia), a first-person perspective, an emphasis on exploring, and questioning the official version of events. However, Michal Stepien, CEO of Jujubee SA, is quick to assure us that these similarities are a "total coincidence".
All the more so as Kholat is teased as an extremely atmospheric horror featuring some intriguing paranormal phenomena, and Kursk will be devoid of such elements. "It will be a serious game that's most likely to be appreciated by older gamers", says the studio representative. "We're putting a great emphasis on a mature, interesting story." At the same time, the team is trying to tone down a little bit on the emotions this production may stir, and therefore there won't be any real names of sailors who died in the tragedy. The Russian submarine disaster is to serve as a pretext for speculating about what really happened during the naval exercise in August 2000. For now, the developers don't want to reveal too many details about the script. "We are definitely not going to stick with the official government version", says Stepien, adding that one of the major plotlines will be the infiltration of the submarine. "The theme allows us to constantly surprise the players."