Gaming Writer Tom Green reports on the brains behind Disco Elysium’s decision to leave ZA/UM
Several members of the team behind Disco Elysium have been pushed out of game studio ZA/UM. Those who have left the company include art director Aleksander Rostov, lead designer Robert Kurvitz, and one of the lead writers Helen Hindpere. Founding member of Studio ZA/UM Martin Luiga, who has also left, announced the news in a blog post on October 1st. In the same post, Luiga claimed that some of the key talent behind the studio’s success had been pressured to leave. In 2019 Studio ZA/UM released Disco Elysium, an isometric open-world RPG based in the fictional post-Soviet landscape of Revachol, where the player must solve a murder case involving a mercenary. Upon release, the game received near-universal acclaim for its bold philosophical writing and broader political worldbuilding, largely thanks to the writing contributions of Kurvitz and Hindpere.
The game has a noticeable left-wing slant, particularly taking aim at capitalism and corporate power. Kurvitz and other contributing writers have taken influence from the writing of Karl Marx, even putting an analogue, Kras Marzov into the narrative. Studio ZA/UM have hinted at a new game with live service features and are currently listing jobs such as “Sales and Monetization Specialist”. Luiga suggested that a change of direction imposed by investors was responsible for the decision. Many online reactions to the news have lampooned the studio for funding and creating Disco Elysium, only to remove the talent behind its success. There has been confusion surrounding the integrity of a planned sequel, which was already underway before the exodus. Luiga stated in a tweet that a sequel may still go ahead absent of some of their original team.
Before the founding of Studio ZA/UM, the group functioned as a ‘cultural association’ or collective working out of Tallinn in Estonia, but moved to the UK after securing venture capital to create Disco Elysium. Luiga believed the collective to be departing from its founding ethos, and dissolved it In early October after leaving Studio ZA/UM. It is currently unclear whether any of the affected members are moving on to other creative endeavours.
Watch the trailer for Disco Elysium here:
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