Disco Elysium was released to rave reviews in 2019, but developers say that it only made its release date at all because they were under "mega crunch". The game's lead director even says that the development of Disco Elysium "destroyed lives", with another writer saying that it "changed" people and hurt relationships.

This comes from an extensive documentary into the development, release, and aftermath of Disco Elysium, courtesy of the YouTube channel People Make Games. In the two-and-a-half-hour video, almost everyone involved discusses Disco Elysium's troubled development, and the even more troubled development of its sequel. And even if many writers and developers can't come to an agreement on ZA/UM's legal drama, they all agree that the production of the first game was unhealthy for everyone involved.

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"The last nine months of working on Disco... this was mega crunch," says Argo Tuulik, a writer at ZA/UM. "For nine months, I think I didn't sleep at least one night [every week]. After this, everyone was so broken and burnt out."

This version of events is shared by others who worked on the game, including Robert Kurvitz and Aleksander Rostov, who were terminated from the company after the release of Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, prompting ZA/UM's current legal issues. Even if they don't agree with ZA/UM about the events leading to their firing, they do say that Disco's development was "utterly relentless." They blamed "totally unrealistic deadlines" for this crunch.

"This created a really hellish rhythm of production," says Kurvitz. "You know that it's not going to be possible to release this really complicated CRPG in 11 months' time. You know it's not possible. You're even saying it's not possible. But you're demanded to do it anyway.

"You have the option of either walking off the project entirely and letting [...] all of the hard work of everyone on it just go to waste, let everyone down. Or just say 'Okay let's try to do the impossible' and fail at it until you succeed at it."

An isometric view of a shootout with numerous figures in Disco Elysium

Helen Hindpere, who was also dismissed alongside Kurvitz and Rostov, shares a similar sentiment.

"I think Robert [Kurvitz] was working like absolutely insane," says Hindpere. "In some ways, we stopped having a relationship because he was working so much. He would get up at 4am and just start working, and finish at 11pm."

A isomatric view of a dirty room with a half naked man grabbing his head in the middle

Of course, the headache was far from over when Disco Elysium launched. Work on The Final Cut began shortly after, but recollections on who worked on this vary among former and current writers at ZA/UM. In any case, it's not a time that Kurvitz looks back on fondly.

The legal feud between ZA/UM leadership and Kurvitz is ongoing. Judging by how the proceedings were looking in the People Make Games documentary, the two sides are unlikely to reach an agreement anytime soon.

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