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Writers Argo Tuulik and Dora Klindžić allege ZA/UM has been completely, permanently broken by management.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

February 16, 2024

2 Min Read
Harry DuBois in ZA/UM's Disco Elysium.
Image via ZA/UM.

At a Glance

  • Both Tuulik and Klindžić say ZA/UM has been twisted into a studio where "artistry is second to property."

Argo Tuulik and Dora Klindžić, two writers caught up in ZA/UM's newest layoffs, claim the studio has changed for the worst in recent months.

Speaking to Video Games on Sports Illustrated (VGSI), the pair corroborated previous claims made to the outlet about the studio's mismanagement.

We learned yesterday the unannounced Project X7 was canceled. It was reportedly a Disco Elysium expansion, and one of several projects that'd been scrapped in recent years.

Tuulik had been with ZA/UM since its founding and effectively co-made X7 with Klindžić. He'd revealed it had absorbed the "vast majority" of the team from a previously killed project.

Klindžić, who joined in 2022, likened her time there to "being born in ['90s] Yugoslavia. You've just missed the party and now all you get is the bloodshed.”

According to her, Project X7's last months were "rife with crunch, burnout, and conflict." She also alleged some staff were possibly cut for complaining about ZA/UM's working conditions.

"Don't get angry at the junior producer, [or] mid-level lead," said Tuulik. "It's not their fault. It was their love for Disco...that brought them here. It's their worst nightmare too."

ZA/UM's ex-staff say it's completely broken beyond repair

To Tuulik, ZA/UM's culture worsened after People Make Games (PMG) did a video on the outsting of key Disco staff. Its release had changed "a lot of things," he said, and "not for the better."

He went on to lay blame at co-shareholder Tõnis Haavel. He alleges Haavel was the "major factor" in at least five women exiting the studio.

Bluntly, he claimed Haavel, fellow shareholder Illar Kompus, and other "people on top" basically ruined ZA/UM. "[It'll] forever remain a one-game studio. The individuals...left the corporate body behind like the King Cobra slithering out of its dead skin."

"The mask has slipped from the face of capital," added Klindžić. "I've seen management and production staff terrorizing creatives, playing power games. [...] There have been no repurcussions."

"ZA/UM is a cold, careless company where managers wage war against their own creatives...and where corporate strategy is formed by an arrogant disdain for their own audience.”

VGSI's full interview with Tuulik and Klindžić can be read here. Game Developer has reached out to ZA/UM and will update when a response is given.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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