The Fallout at ZA/UM: An Inside Look at the Cancellation of X7

The recent reports from current and former employees of ZA/UM paint a troubling picture of the events leading up to the cancellation of the standalone expansion to Disco Elysium, codenamed X7. The circumstances surrounding the layoffs, the expansion, and the alleged “humiliation campaign” against writer Argo Tuulik have shed light on the inner workings of the studio.

Disco Elysium, released in 2019 to critical acclaim, seemed to be on an upward trajectory. However, things took a turn for the worse when key creative talent, including setting creator and lead ideasman Robert Kurvitz, were ousted from the studio. Insults were hurled, allegations of fraud surfaced, and the studio found itself in disarray. Despite the turmoil, some of the original team members remained, and new projects were in the pipeline.

The full sequel to Disco Elysium was scrapped after the departure of Kurvitz and other leads, marking a significant setback for the studio. Additionally, an unrelated sci-fi RPG that was initially put on pause has since been canceled. X7, the standalone expansion, met a similar fate in February, sending shockwaves through the studio.

Argo Tuulik, the lead writer on X7, became the target of a disturbing “humiliation campaign” orchestrated by studio executives. Former colleague Dora Klindžić revealed that Tuulik was subjected to belittlement, demotion, and isolation within the studio. This alleged retaliation for Tuulik’s involvement in a documentary shed light on the toxic internal dynamics at ZA/UM.

The Fallout

The aftermath of the X7 cancellation left a lasting impact on the studio’s staff. Nearly a quarter of the employees were laid off, including Tuulik, whose passion for the project seemed to have rubbed some executives the wrong way. Klindžić, who had left a successful career in academia to work on the sequel to Disco Elysium, expressed regret over the situation and the lack of transparency from the studio.

The timeline for the X7 project remains uncertain, with conflicting reports from staff members interviewed by PC Gamer. The studio’s reputation took a hit following the controversy, raising questions about its ability to move forward with new projects. Despite the setbacks, the original article provides a detailed account of the events leading up to the fallout at ZA/UM.

The fallout at ZA/UM serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of maintaining a healthy work environment and transparent communication within a studio. The cancellation of X7 and the subsequent layoffs underscore the challenges faced by creative teams in the gaming industry. As the dust settles, it remains to be seen how ZA/UM will recover from this tumultuous period and regain the trust of its employees and fans alike.

Gaming

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