On March 14, Eurogamer and GamesIndustry.biz reported on a ZA/UM press launch that declared the decision of its authorized dispute with founding member and Disco Elysium producer Kaur Kender, whereas additionally indicating that Disco Elysium undertaking lead Robert Kurvitz and lead artist Aleksander Rostov’s wrongful termination go well with was dismissed over lack of proof. Since then, Kurvitz and “Sander Taal” (GamesIndustry.biz signifies that it is a pseudonym utilized by Rostov) have responded, stating that they are going to proceed to pursue authorized motion. In the meantime, ZA/UM launched Disco Elysium’s first content material update since December 2021’s “Jamais Vu” patch.

The ZA/UM saga, briefly

  • 2000s: ZA/UM initially coalesces as an artist collective in Estonia.
  • 2013: Robert Kurvitz publishes Sacred and Horrible Air, a novel and the primary industrial work set within the Elysium setting.
  • 2016: First public reveal of Disco Elysium as “No Truce With the Furies” (archived on Reddit) with predicted EOY 2016 launch. Producer Kaur Kender appears to have been concerned since earliest levels, with eventual funding from Tõnis Haavel and eventual CEO Ilmar Kompus. Round this time, ZA/UM turns into a formalized game developer. 
  • 2019: Disco Elysium launches to crucial acclaim.
  • March 2021: Disco Elysium: The Ultimate Lower, a definitive version of the game releases.
  • Finish of 12 months 2021: Mission lead Kurvitz, lead artist Aleksander Rostov, and author/Ultimate Lower lead author Helen Hindpere “involuntarily” go away the corporate.
  • October 2022: Disco Elysium editor and former ZA/UM member Martin Luiga reveals the trio’s departure, subsequently confirmed by ZA/UM and a letter from Rostov co-signed by the opposite two.
  • Trio alleges unfair ousting, in addition to misappropriation of €4.8 million from ZA/UM to buy majority share in firm by CEO/investor Kompus and fellow investor Haavel with help from investor/Disco Elysium producer Kaur Kender.
  • Kompus, through ZA/UM, alleges poisonous administration model, belittling of feminine workers, and different abuses by Kurvitz and Rostov. No particular incidents or particulars elaborated, however GamesIndustry.biz cites an unknown variety of nameless sources to at the least partially corroborate the narrative.
  • Kender sues Kompus and ZA/UM over misappropriation of €4.8 million, Kurvitz and Rostov file their very own, separate go well with in opposition to the corporate.
  • December 2022: Kender withdraws go well with in opposition to ZA/UM, citing return of funds by Kompus, with no elaboration as to why he had the €4.8 million within the first place.

That is the primary public growth within the story since ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus paid €4.8 million again to the corporate and Disco Elysium producer Kaur Kender withdrew his personal lawsuit in opposition to the developer. In ZA/UM’s preliminary press launch this week, it claimed that Kender has since paid Kompus for his authorized charges, and GamesIndustry.biz shared a seemingly contrite message from the author and entrepreneur:

“I’m grateful for the years of belief and cooperation with the crew, which made Disco Elysium a profitable undertaking,” Kender instructed GamesIndustry.biz. “After leaving my full-time position, I filed a lawsuit which I noticed, after seeing the info, was misguided.”

ZA/UM additional said that Kurvitz and Rostov’s “unfair dismissal” declare in opposition to the corporate has been dropped as a result of “lack of proof,” however this solely appears to be a part of the total case in opposition to it as the corporate nonetheless faces what it characterizes as a “sequence of baseless allegations from former workers” that may “crumble below authorized and factual scrutiny.”

A consultant for Kurvitz and Rostov shared a four-part assertion with PC Gamer in response to ZA/UM’s claims. “The press launch is fallacious and deceptive in a number of respects and seeks to unfairly paint us–Robert Kurvitz and Sander Taal, the remaining minority shareholders in ZA/UM–as mere disgruntled workers,” the assertion begins.

Kurvitz and Rostov additional deny that their employment claims in opposition to ZA/UM have been withdrawn as a result of lack of proof. “They weren’t. We see our dismissal as half of a bigger marketing campaign in opposition to us and can pursue authorized choices accordingly.”

The pair additionally notice the unusual circumstances surrounding the €4.8 million withdrawn and far later returned to ZA/UM by CEO Kompus, the topic of Kaur Kender’s lawsuit. “Kender’s lawsuit was based mostly on the misuse of ZA/UM’s funds (4.8 million euros) by the bulk shareholders Kompus and Haavel to extend their very own stake within the firm.” Kurvitz and Rostov clarify. “Within the press launch, Kompus and Haavel admit to this misuse, arguing solely that the cash has been ‘paid again to ZA/UM’. Paying again stolen cash, nevertheless, doesn’t undo the crime; right here, it doesn’t undo the bulk that Kompus and Haavel have illegally gained in ZA/UM.”

“Kompus and Haavel silenced Kender on this matter, however they won’t silence us,” The pair concludes. “Not like Kender, we’ve got not participated within the looting of ZA/UM, and Kompus and Haavel don’t have any energy over us.”

The ultimate level paints Kender as an adversary of Kurvitz, Rostov, and Hindpere (the latter of whom will not be a celebration to the lawsuit, however has indicated help of her fellow builders). In a Medium publish from Rostov co-signed by the opposite two final 12 months, the artist states that the ousting and misappropriation of €4.8 million was “perpetrated by Ilmar Kompus and Tõnis Haavel with help from Kaur Kender, one other minority shareholder.”

Tried out the brand new mode! Ahaha that is so enjoyable, I am glad they’re so in contact with us followers! from r/DiscoElysium

Two days after the preliminary press launch from ZA/UM, the corporate launched a “collage mode” for the game, a mix picture mode, mannequin viewer, and Garry’s Mod-style sandbox. Whereas innocuous sufficient by itself, its timing with the brand new developments within the authorized battle over ZA/UM has elicited heated reactions from followers of Disco Elysium.

One of many highest-rated posts on the Disco Elysium subreddit from the previous few days makes use of the brand new mode to indicate a company stooge character from the game hawking its new function, whereas others are encouraging followers to pirate the game. Taking a look at responses to the collage mode announcement on Twitter, many are criticizing it as a tonal conflict with the game, and even accusing it of being a distraction from the continuing authorized dispute of Disco Elysium’s possession. One reply was merely a screenshot of character Joyce Messier musing on how critiques of capitalism solely find yourself reinforcing capitalism, drawing a parallel with the game’s politics and present state.

For now, as earlier than, the way forward for one in all our favourite video games of all time stays unsure. ZA/UM is hiring, nevertheless it’s unclear how a lot leeway the studio has with Kurvitz and Rostov nonetheless pursuing authorized motion, whereas the artists’ personal path to any kind of victory or reclamation of the IP is murky and little question costly.