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Report: Key Disco Elysium Developers Have Left the Studio

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Disco Elysium

Creators who played important roles in the creation of hit RPG Disco Elysium may have left developer Studio ZA/UM. [Thanks, Nibel!]

Martin Luiga, an editor on Disco Elysium and founding member of the studio, posted on Medium that the “ZA/UM Cultural Association ” was “dissolved,” and that Disco Elysium writer/designer Robert Kurvitz, lead art and design developer Aleksandr Rostov, and writer Helen Hindpere all left the company “involuntarily” at the end of 2021. Rostov confirmed their departure via Twitter.

The ZA/UM Cultural Association is (or was) an artists’ collective that went on to form Studio ZA/UM and develop Disco Elysium as a game. The Cultural Association and Studio ZA/UM had pretty much the same personnel until its apparent dissolution.

Here’s the full quote from Luiga explaining why the ZA/UM Cultural Association was dissolved.

The reason for dissolving the cultural organization is that it no longer represents the ethos it was founded on. People and ideas are meant to be eternal; organizations may well be temporary.

He also said that he found the organization successful, despite challenging circumstances and lacking a formal structure.

I find that the organization was successful overall and most of the mistakes that were made were contingent, determined by the sociocultural conditions we were thrown into. I still encourage people to organize, and I would say that one of the qualities that the ZA/UM cultural organization sorely lacked was pretty much any formal structure.

Luiga then thanked supporters, remarking that “for a while, it was beautiful.”

In a comment on the Medium post and replies via Twitter, Luiga appeared to claim that Studio ZA/UM’s financial backers had something to do with the departures. He also conceded that those same backers were likely critical to getting the game made in the first place. Regarding the sequel to Disco Elysium, which is in the early stages of development, Luiga remarked that things are actually “sweet enough”, though he said it might take a “sh*t ton” of time.

Studio ZA/UM issued a response to Eurogamer when asked about the reports. Through a spokesperson, the studio said 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.”

They also said:

At this time we have no further comment to make other than [that] the ZA/UM creative team’s focus remains on the development of our next project, and we are excited to share more news on this with you all soon.

According to Studio ZA/UM’s website, around 60 people are currently employed there.

Disco Elysium is readily available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Mac. The Final Cut edition was a runner-up in Siliconera’s Game of the Year 2021 awards for Best Re-Release or Remaster. A sequel is in development, as is a TV series adaptation.

Josh Tolentino
Josh Tolentino is Senior Staff Writer at Siliconera. He previously helped run Japanator, prior to its merger with Siliconera. He's also got bylines at Destructoid, GameCritics, The Escapist, and far too many posts on Twitter.