Update (October 3)
After publication of the original article, Aleksander Rostov has confirmed on behalf of Robert Kurvitz, Helen Hindpere, and himself – via Twitter – that the trio is no longer at ZA/UM.
Additionally, ZA/UM has provided the following statement regarding the departures:
Like any video game, the development of Disco Elysium was and still is a collective effort, with every team member’s contribution essential and valued as part of a greater whole. At this time, we have no further comment to make other than the ZA/UM creative team’s focus remains on the development of our next project, and we are excited to share more news on this with you all soon.
Kotaku has also reported, via anonymous sources familiar with the situation, that Kurvitz' departure also contained a threat of possible legal action:
According to two sources familiar with the situation, the studio’s internal announcement of Kurvitz’s departure late last year also contained a threat of possible legal action against him. Any split would have been made messier by Kurvitz and Rostov being shareholders in the studio, the sources said.
The original article can be found below.
Original (October 1)
It seems that key development staff members at ZA/UM – the studio behind Disco Elysium – are no longer at the company or working on a follow-up to the excellent RPG. This is according to a blog post from Martin Luiga, a founding member of the ZA/UM cultural association which predates the development company.
Luiga's blog post claims that the ZA/UM cultural association has now been dissolved, even though ZA/UM – the game development company – is seemingly still active. However, lead designer Robert Kurvitz, art director Aleksander Rostov, and lead writer Helen Hindpere are all listed by name as having involuntarily left ZA/UM since the end of 2021, according to the post.
For some context, ZA/UM was originally founded as a collective of art and music, as detailed in a 2020 GamesRadar feature. It is stated that, at its founding, ZA/UM simply wanted to open a creative outlet and thus gathered artists and writers who created music, paintings, and books – including Kurvitz's novel Sacred And Terrible Air, which is set in the same world as Disco Elysium.
In some follow-up tweets [1, 2], Luiga mentions that a sequel may still happen, but it may take a long time to come to fruition. He also notes that “The money people come from a background which says you gotta grab when you can even when it in fact does not make much economic sense.”
We've shared the post below in full.
I, Martin Luiga, a founding member and Secretary of the ZA/UM cultural association, as well as the assembler of most of the core team, am hereby dissolving the ZA/UM cultural association (not to be confused with the ZA/UM company, on which subject I would note that neither Kurvitz, Hindpere nor Rostov are working there since the end of last year and their leaving the company was involuntary. Which would seem like bad news for the loving fans that are waiting for the Disco sequel.)
The reason for dissolving the cultural organization is that it no longer represents the ethos it was founded on. People and ideas are meant to be eternal; organizations may well be temporary. I find that the organization was successful overall and most of the mistakes that were made were contingent, determined by the sociocultural conditions we were thrown into. I still encourage people to organize, and I would say that one of the qualities that the ZA/UM cultural organization sorely lacked was pretty much any formal structure.
For a while, it was beautiful. My sincerest thanks to all that have rooted for us.