For months, Disco Elysium developer ZA/UM has been locked in a bitter legal dispute between the studio's current leadership and the original creators of the beloved RPG. On one side is Robert Kurvitz, Disco Elysium's lead designer and writer, and on the other ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus, a man Kurvitz accuses of stealing control of the studio through fraudulent means.

That accusation is still playing out in the Estonian courts in perhaps the messiest fight between a game's creator and studio in modern memory. But one thing is clear: the dispute has left the future of Disco Elysium in doubt.

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In an extensive investigation, People Make Games dove into the dispute, including the origins of ZA/UM, its evolution following the success of Disco Elysium, and its complicated ownership structure. Host Chris Bratt also interviewed Disco Elysium's creators, including Kurvitz, lead artist Aleksander Rostov, and writer Helen Hindpere to get their sides of the story, and also Ilmar Kompus, who said that Disco Elysium 2 has been "jeopardized" by the ongoing legal conflict.

The interview with Kompus lasts almost an hour and starts off with the contentious issue of whether Kompus indeed stole ZA/UM from its minority shareholders. As this is the subject of ongoing litigation, Kompus often replied he couldn't discuss details of the financial transactions that took place behind the scenes, but he continuously assured Bratt that they were to the "benefit of the minority shareholders."

What Kompus may be referring to, albeit indirectly, are accusations from ZA/UM employees that Robert Kurvitz created a toxic work environment, often ignoring company structure and protocol in order to achieve his own ends. The video goes into great detail about how ZA/UM began as a smaller indie studio with a very loose reporting structure, but as the company grew and more investors signed on, the company stratified in a way that clashed with Kurvitz's communist ideology. That conflict often resulted in explosive outbursts and abusive behavior toward coworkers.

Currently, ZA/UM has 100 employees working on Disco Elysium 2, but the legal dispute could see ownership of the IP change hands. That would likely spell the end of the game's development, or at the very least, a total development reboot. Further, many of the developers hate personally being caught in the crossfire of the legal dispute, with angry fans sending threats on social media.

Currently, the legal battle stands with Kurvitz demanding documents from ZA/UM concerning financial transactions that the studio says he has no right to. The courts have given them until September to resolve this question of ownership before proceedings will resume. It’s anyone’s guess how the courts will side.

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