Disco Elysium devs who still work at ZA/UM have gone on the record with claims of toxicity against lead writer and director, Robert Kurvitz. They've also opened up on the abuse they've faced from the Disco Elysium fanbase since Kurvitz made claims against ZA/UM shareholders, with one developer receiving multiple death threats.

This all comes from an extensive investigation into the Disco Elysium situation, courtesy of People Make Games. In this two-and-a-half-hour documentary, People Make Games speaks to almost every main player in the ZA/UM controversy, including ordinary developers, who have gone on record with their claims for the very first time.

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The details in the video are far too complicated and wide-ranging to be explained here, but the issue of toxicity specifically refers to Robert Kurvitz's behaviour during the development of the first Disco Elysium. Here, he was a lead on the project, but the remaining ZA/UM staff say he was a toxic leader, and disagree with some of his claims since being dismissed from the company.

"I disagree with Robert's [Kurvitz's] version of events," says Argo Tuulik, one of Disco Elysium's writers who has known Kurvitz since the early 2000s. "The way it was presented was dishonest and manipulative."

This isn't the first time Kurvitz has allegedly misrepresented the situation at ZA/UM. When asked about Kurvitz's claim to have written 50 percent of the words in Disco Elysium, Tuulik replies, "I don't think that's true". "I've heard these crooked estimations from Robert [Kurvitz] before," he says. "I've heard worse ones."

This was far from his only issue with Kurvitz's leadership, however. Tuulik says that Kurvitz's feedback would include comments such as, "it looks too shit" and "too ugly". Summing up his time as the lead, Tuulik says, "I don't think he understood that leading is a burden, not a privilege."

"Making Disco Elysium was so difficult that it changed some people," says Tuulik. "[It's] fucking horrible. I don't like how it has ended up."

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

Other devs have spoken out too, taking issue with statements put forward by Kurvitz and others who were fired alongside him, lead writer Helen Hindpere, and lead artist Aleksander Rostov. The trio maintain that their roles within ZA/UM were diminished through "fraudulent" deals with company shares, making CEO Ilmar Kompus the majority shareholder by more than 50 percent. Kompus has denied any wrongdoing, and the two sides are currently caught in a bitter legal feud that has stopped the production of Disco Elysium 2.

However, writers such as Kaspar Tamsalu, also feel that they have misrepresented the situation, leaving remaining staff to face abuse from fans. "I personally received death threats and harassment online," says Tamsalu. "I did message them about it and didn't get a response. Since then, they've only leaned into this narrative."

Lead Technologist, Petteri Solonen, also feels this way. "It's understandable how the fans have responded. If I had been outside I'm pretty sure I would have responded the same way. But it has felt really unfair. It's been stressful...we've felt completely helpless to counter it."

Harry Du Bois' necktie hanging from the fan in Disco Elysium

For his part, Kurvitz responded that this abuse was "very unfair", and he "doesn't agree with this at all."

Despite this, writers also paint a picture of Kurvitz being difficult to work with, forming an "inner circle" that had preferential treatment.

In response to claims about his alleged toxicity, Kurvitz says: "I'm very sorry that not all relationships between people have survived this ordeal. It's been very painful." Hindpere admitted that she and Kurvitz may have been difficult to work with, but doesn't feel that this is the place to have that conversation. Rostov, on the other hand, said that these allegations are "deliberately created caricatures and exaggerations" of Kurvitz.

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