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"110% Authentic, Most Hardcore" Disco Elysium Spin-Off Could Have Been Out Next Year

But ZA/UM cancels projects left and right. Here's what was abandoned and what's left.

ZA/UM

ZA/UM is a studio that created the player-favorite Disco Elysium, a fantastic game that's hard to fully explain. Despite its wild success, ZA/UM may remain a one-hit wonder considering how often it gets rid of games and its developers.

The biggest hit on the company's creativity occurred when Disco Elysium's key developers, Lead Designer Robert Kurvitz, Writer Helen Hindpere, and Lead Artist Aleksander Rostov, were fired. ZA/UM says it was due to misconduct, toxic behavior, and trying to sell intellectual property. However, the developers themselves alleged financial machinations. There is one thing both sides seem to agree on: relationships at the studio so seem to be toxic.

Since then, ZA/UM has seen many layoffs and falls of its projects. As pointed out by PC Gamer, the studio worked on several projects including Y12, a canceled sequel to Disco Elysium; P1, a canceled sci-fi game led by the former Disco Elysium producer and shareholder Kaur Kender; X7, a canceled Disco Elysium spin-off; M0, a smaller Elysium game for touchscreen devices, still in development; C4, a new large-scale RPG the studio is focused on.

X7 was one of the brightest hops for a lot of developers. It was supposed to be "110% authentic, most hardcore Disco since Disco," said the game's lead writer Dora Klindžić. Featuring "one of the most beloved characters in Disco Elysium," it was led by the original game's writer Argo Tuulik. It "would have advanced the story, the emotional threads, and gameplay elements all at once to truly evolve the genre of psychological RPG."

"For a while it seemed like miracles were possible, and with them, redemption."

Project X7 started development in 2022 and could have been released in 2025, but after a while, it was canceled and nearly a quarter of ZA/UM was laid off.

Firing ZA/UM's original creators left a bad taste in the company's mouth: "It was very uncomfortable for everyone there." X7 would have given it another chance to break into the industry, but the management had other ideas. The developers weren't allowed a pre-production planning period and were accused of not wanting to do their jobs if they raised concerns.

"Pretty much from the moment the writing team's pitch was approved in August of 2022, the other teams started production," Tuulik said. "We didn't even really know what the story or the characters were gonna be, when art teams were already making first character and environment concepts. I'm sure you can see how this is a big problem, when you're making a narrative-led game."

Eventually, the project succumbed to the lack of time and workforce. Some believe the amount of work was retaliation for Tuulik's statements in the People Make Games documentary where he criticized the management's decisions and expressed his admiration for Kurvitz.

"They put Argo through a humiliation campaign. They made him apologize to people for what he said in the interview. They undermined his confidence and tried to make him doubt himself. They told him he was incompetent, unqualified, and unfit to lead his own project, demoted him and made him invisible inside the studio," said Klindžić.

The cancellation of the project caused frustration among the developers. It's not hard to see how all of these inner politics would make it hard to work at ZA/UM. We might not have been given a spin-off of our favorite game, but hopefully, not everything is lost yet and something will change. All we can do for now is wait for the studio's new IP.

If you want a deeper understanding of what's going on, read the full article on PC Gamer. Also, join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on InstagramTwitterLinkedInTikTok, and Reddit, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

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