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Founding member of Disco Elysium developer claims core team members 'involuntarily' left the company


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Martin Luiga, a founding member of Studio ZA/UM and an editor on PC Gamer's 2019 Game of the Year and Top 100 chart-topper, Disco Elysium, has announced the "dissolution of the ZA/UM Cultural Association" via a post on Medium (first spotted by independent journalist Nibel on Twitter). 

Luiga delineates the ZA/UM "cultural association" as distinct from the company, and claims that Disco Elysium lead designer Robert Kurvitz, writer Helen Hindpere, and art director Aleksander Rostov involuntarily left the company at the end of 2021.

Luiga asserts that ZA/UM as a cultural project "no longer represents the ethos it was founded on." Luiga explains that he believes ZA/UM was a success, and that "most of the mistakes that were made were contingent, determined by the sociocultural conditions we were thrown into."

"For a while, it was beautiful," Luiga concludes. "My sincerest thanks to all who have rooted for us."

In a response to a comment on the post, Luiga seems to blame ZA/UM's investors for its change in character and the departure of key team members. Luiga also concedes that he doesn't know if ZA/UM would have been able to fund itself without those investors' contribution.

Luiga signs off on the post as writing from "Tallinn Inpatient Treatment Centre of Psychiatry Clinic, Ward IX." Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is where ZA/UM first coalesced. It's unclear to me if the location signature is a genuine indication of Luiga's current state, or an extremely dark joke. I sincerely hope that Martin Luiga is safe and well.

Luiga, Kurvitz, Hindpere, and Rostov were all members of the punk collective that eventually became Studio ZA/UM, as outlined in various interviews and the Disco Elysium artbook. Kurvitz and Hindpere in particular were driving forces on the game's lauded script, and Rostov's impressionistic art style remains one of the game's defining features.

We have reached out to Studio ZA/UM for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

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