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Disco Elysium studio ZA / UM confirmed an Estonian press report on mismanagement and misconduct among former senior employees GamesIndustry.biz.
The reports come on the heels of news that three key members of ZA/UM — disco Elysium designer Robert Corvettes, writer Helen Hindberry, and artistic director Alexander Rostov — are in the process. He was fired from the company last year.
In a private statement, ZA/UM detailed some of the reasons behind the recent dismissals, but did not name any specific individuals.
The studio said the dismissed employees did not share their responsibilities and work, created a toxic work environment, exhibited misconduct towards other employees including verbal abuse and gender discrimination, and attempted to illegally sell ZA/UM’s intellectual property. More details are outlined by the studio in the full statement below.
ZA/UM also confirmed that legal filings related to the former team are pending, but did not disclose more. Last month , Korvitz sued ZA/UM via his company Telomerfor documentation and review, although no additional details are provided.
Speaking to an Estonian newspaper Estonian Ekspress (Translated by Google), ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus said the studio suffered from a “toxic environment,” and accused Disco Elysium designer Robert Kurvitz and minority contributor Saandar Taal “of insulting colleagues and their intent to steal intellectual property.”
Tal is the former Director of ZA/UM UK LTD. He resigned in March 2021.
Combus accused Korvitz and Tal of “beliefing women and co-workers,” allegations that echo those made by GamesIndustry.biz’s own sources.
“They treated their co-workers very poorly,” Combus told Ekspress. Despite talking to them repeatedly, things did not improve, so the company had to fire them, Robert [Kurvitz] It is said that he has been known to belittle women and co-workers in the past, but this was not known to the company before. It would be shortsighted for a growing international company to tolerate such behavior.”
One source I spoke to GamesIndustry.bizMr., who asked not to be identified, described the situation as “not black and white” and said long-term employees were reluctant to speak publicly about Corvetts’ behavior because they respected him and felt they owed him their positions. Our source claimed that employees who were hired later did not have a clear picture of the situation and felt uncomfortable speaking on behalf of others.
Combus also alleged that Corvettes and Tal discussed their desire to take control of the company’s intellectual property – including Disco Elysium – which he described as “delusions of grandeur”.
“They went to sell themselves covertly and in violation of existing contracts to other well-known big game makers, but no one cared,” Combus said. That might have made them angry.”
“They treated their co-workers very poorly,” Combus told Ekspress. “Despite talking to them over and over again, things haven’t gotten any better.”
Combus added that their dismissals were requested and executed by Kaur Kender, Disco Elysium’s executive producer and direct manager at the time.
Kinder was granted leave of absence on medical grounds in late August, according to Kompus, which has been verified by our own sources.
Sources who spoke to Ekspress described a clash of two visions between the ZA/UM staff led by Combus, and the creative team formerly headed by Robert Corvetts, who viewed the profit as “minor”.
Our sources confirmed this, with one describing the situation as “the CEO’s company blueprint on one side, and Sam’s author on the other.”
“The rumor that our decision to terminate the contracts of these individuals was taken for financial gain is unfounded and does not reflect the facts in any way,” ZA/UM said in its statement to GamesIndustry.biz.
Speaking to Ekspress, Martin Luiga, co-founder of the recently disbanded ZA/UM cultural association and editor of the Disco Elysium novel, said he was “driven to drink by the abnormal work arrangement” in the studio.
“The work is organized in such a way that the goal is not to make matches, but to get people to fight with each other,” Luiga told the newspaper.
Administrative evasion is still in progress. GamesIndustry.biz It was learned that Special Division co-founder Ed Tomashowski was named the new head of ZA/UM this week, though the studio did not confirm that appointment in its statement.
The full statement submitted to GamesIndustry.biz can be read below:
“ZA/UM Studio today issued a statement to address recent team expulsions that have sparked litigation and media coverage: Our recent expulsion of a few members of the ZA/UM Studio team has resulted in inaccurate legal filings and news coverage. While we are confident that ZA/UM will prevail in court once Hearing all the facts, we believe it is necessary to address baseless allegations and lies, just to rightly defend ZA/UM and protect our employees.
“Although active litigation limits what we can share publicly, we believe additional information will provide a more accurate picture since our former employees have neglected to state key facts to reporters, on blogs and in other public platforms. For clarity and accuracy, we share reasons for justified dismissals. Some of the former ZA/UM Studio team members:
● It is limited to not sharing in their responsibilities and their work — including not working at all for about two years while the studio is still getting paid — and forcing colleagues to make up for their lack of effort.
● Create a toxic work environment that goes against ZA/UM culture and team productivity.
● Misconduct in dealing with other colleagues, including verbal abuse and gender discrimination.
● Attempts to illegally sell the intellectual property of other game companies ZA / UM with the aim of undermining the rest of the team.
“ZA/UM cannot and will not tolerate egregious misconduct, even from individuals who, along with the broader team, have contributed to a game of which we are exceptionally proud and that continues to capture imaginations around the world. In addition to creativity and innovation, ZA/UM stands for Also professionalism, kindness, decency and fairness, which is what we expect from all of our employees.It would be short-sighted to accept anything less, because we need players on a team for the very collaborative process that makes games.
“The rumor that our decision to terminate the contracts of these individuals was made for financial gain is completely unfounded and does not reflect the facts in any way. It was a decision that had to be made for the welfare of the group. Furthermore, ZA/UM rejects any claim committing financial wrongdoing or fraud against us.The vast majority of Disco Elysium’s profits have been invested in the studio in order to fund our next projects, which are currently in development.
“We will not let the actions and comments of a few voices distract from the important work of the studio. ZA/UM has tripled in size from last year to nearly 100 employees while retaining the vast majority of the team that worked on Disco Elysium. We have built an enthusiastic and creative team of Incredible talent who continues to combine storytelling, art, and technology in our efforts to elevate video games and redefine genres. We are excited to do this with all the love and intelligence in our hearts and minds. We have so much to show you.”
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