ZA/UM fired the former Disco Elysium devs for misconduct, according to a new article from GamesIndustry.biz. The studio confirms an Estonian report about mismanagement and misconduct from the former devs. This news sheds light on the firing of three key developers (designer Robert Kurvitz, writer Helen Hindpere, and art director Aleksander Rostov) from the studio last year.
The Former Disco Elysium Devs Created A Toxic Work Environment
ZA/UM had this to say about about why the company fired the developers:
- Little to no engagement with their work responsibilities
- They created a toxic work environment
- Were verbally abusive toward other employees
- Practiced gender discrimination
- Attempted to sell ZA/UM’s intellectual property
ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus singled out two devs for their misconduct: Disco Elysium designer Robert Kurvitz and minority shareholder Saandar Taal. The CEO accused the two of “humiliating colleagues and intending to steal IP.” Taal, who resigned in March 2021, was a director of ZA/UM UK LTD.
Kompus said management tried to get the devs to stop their bad behavior but “Despite talking to them repeatedly, things did not improve,” according to Kompus. “Therefore, the company was forced to fire them. Robert [Kurvitz] is said to have been known for belittling women and co-workers in the past, but this was previously unknown to the company. It would be very short-sighted of a growing international company to tolerate such behaviour.”
This Will Turn Into A Lengthy Legal Battle
As of now the lawsuits are flying between the former devs and the game studio. Robert Kurvitz’s company, Telomer, filed a lawsuit against ZA/UM in Estonia in October 2022. There’s not much information available about the lawsuit except it’s to “obtain information and review documents.”
Now ZA/UM will file their own lawsuits soon against the key developers. However, we don’t know what the company will sue for or about. If I had to hazard a guess it’s probably related to the allegations of those devs trying to steal the studio’s IP and sell it to another company. In addition, I could see the studio filing a suit for salary reimbursement since the CEO says the developers didn’t do much work or any at all. Or there could be a suit on behalf of the worker against the former developers for creating a toxic work environment, specifically Kurvitaz.
Anonymous sources told GameIndustry.biz workers at the studio didn’t speak out because they respected Kurvitaz and credited him for their job. Thus, they didn’t want to cause a problem that may lead to job loss.