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Three of the core developers behind the 2019 hit Disco Elysium have left developer ZA/UM, after allegedly having been forced out.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

October 3, 2022

1 Min Read
Cover art for ZA/UM's Disco Elysium.

A trio of key developers at Disco Elysium developer ZA/UM left the company. Editor Martin Luiga announced on his blog (and later through Twitter) that lead designer Robert Kurvitz, art director Aleksander Rostov, and writer Helen Hindpere were allegedly forced by studio leadership to leave last year, and that ZA/UM was keeping the news quiet.  

"Neither Kurvitz, Hindpere nor Rostov are working there since the end of last year and their leaving the company was involuntary," wrote Luiga. The trio later confirmed their departures on Rostov's Twitter

ZA/UM began as a group of artists in Estonia (including Luiga, Rostov, Kurvitz, and Hindpere) that established a game development studio to adapt Kurvitz's novel into a detective RPG. When Disco Elysium came out in 2019, it released to critical acclaim and became an awards darling

According to sources speaking to Kotaku, the split of Kurvitz and Rostov specifically is further complicated due to the pair being the studio's co-founders and shareholders. An internal email from last year that announced Kurvitz's departure also allegedly threatened legal action against him.

In the comments of his blog, Luiga further implied that the cause for the trio's leaving was Elysium's executive producers, Kaur Kender and Tõnis Haavel. "One of them was the first guy to be convicted for investment fraud in Estonia," he said, referencing Haavel's arrest in 2016. 

"All the same," acknowledged Luiga, "idk if we would have managed to get the initial investment without these people."

In a statement to Kotaku, ZA/UM didn't comment on Luiga's allegations. Instead, it wrote that "the development of Disco Elysium was and still is a collective effort, with every team member’s contribution essential and valued as part of a greater whole."

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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