Disco Elysium writer sues studio ZA/UM

Writer Robert Kurvitz is taking ZA/UM to court after he, fellow writer Helen Hindpere, and artist Aleksander Rostov were forced out of the studio.

Image via ZA/UM

It looks like the Disco Elysium developer ZA/UM is about to find itself in a legal battle over ongoing tensions with the company. Studio ZA/UM founding member and developer Martin Luiga recently shared details that the current ZA/UM is no longer representative of the philosophies it was founded on. Luiga went on to say that writers Helen Hindpere and Robert Kurvitz, and artist Aleksander Rostov were “fired on false premises.” Now, it seems Kurvitz has filed a lawsuit against ZA/UM, confirming rumors that he would be taking legal action against the developer.

Kurvitz’s lawsuit against the Disco Elysium studio was spotted on the Estonian Ministry of Justice site Riigi Teataja, as shared by TechNewsSpace. At the moment, the lawsuit filing makes the demand to “obtain information and review documents” from ZA/UM. It is currently unknown what Kurvitz is going for, but in Luiga’s recent sharings, including a post about the dissolution of the ZA/UM Cultural Association, he suggested Hindpere, Kurvitz, and Rostov’s exit from ZA/UM was an unfair and “traumatizing” affair.

A scene of violence in Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium's narrative was full of twists and turns that make it one of the most celebrated adventure games around.
Source: ZA/UM

With this in mind, Kurvitz could be simply going for earnings and money he feels he was owed from his work, or he could be going for control of the Disco Elysium IP as a whole. Kurvitz has spent around a decade working on the Disco Elysium universe.

For its part, ZA/UM issued a statement in relation to the allegations against it, claiming that the development of Disco Elysium is still a “collective effort, with every team member’s contribution essential and valued as part of a greater whole.”

Disco Elysium was considered to be a masterpiece of the year it came out, earning high marks in its Shacknews review and elsewhere, and earning numerous awards including a high spot on Shacknews’ Top 10 Indie Games of 2019. It could be expected that further projects set in the same universe are either in development or conception, but time will tell what Robert Kurvitz’s lawsuit is really going for. Stay tuned as we follow this story for further updates.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 24, 2022 8:45 AM

    TJ Denzer posted a new article, Disco Elysium writer sues studio ZA/UM

    • reply
      October 24, 2022 9:04 AM

      Has Kurvitz said anything about all this publicly? Hindpere or Rostov as well?

      All we have to go on are minor details of these mains' exit of ZA/UM from Luiga, and ZA/UMs response. Have they been keeping quiet because of this upcoming lawsuit? I wonder if the others are involved or if it's just Kurvitz as well.

      • reply
        October 24, 2022 9:38 AM

        All kind of messed up and speculative.

        I know game development as a whole is a collective effort as the studio's reply mentions, and besides him as the lead writer, there were at least four other writers in the credits (Hindpere being another, who's also no longer there) and possibly even more at the studio who contributed to the story and text and quests beyond them.

        His wikipedia mentions he wrote a book set in the world of Elysium back in 2013, called Sacred and Terrible Air. It was a commercial failure in Estonia and was never translated to English, but it seemed like there were some plans to translate and republish it after the game's launch a few years back. Never happened, though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kurvitz#Literature

        So it seems the world concept itself was his and pre-dates the game by many years, and as one of the founders of ZA/UM and lead designer and writer on the game, perhaps he is suing for the rights to the IP? That would be wild. Curious to see what this is all really about.

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