A scandal in Estonia. Some of the employees of Limestone Games, led by its founder, left the studio, accusing the owners of unbearable working conditions, manipulation and corruption. The future of their game Aeon Must Die!, published by Focus Home Interactive, is in question.
Aeon Must Die!What happened?
On the night of August 6, former employees of Limestone Games shared a package of documents with journalists*. Among them: accusations of a former employer, testimony of company employees, screenshots of correspondence with management and other files. All of them are designed to demonstrate the management crisis in the studio.
* update from 07.08.2020: initially we did not give a link to the submitted documents, after getting it into open access, we decided to add the link anyway (the documents can be found here).
What’s the background?
The chronology of events that led to a public conflict, according to the team, looks like this:
- by the summer of 2020, “unbearable working conditions” are developing in the studio: constant crunches during the development of Aeon Must Die!, a toxic atmosphere, problems with official registration, dismissals without explanation, lack of licensed software, equipment problems, low salaries, refusal to compensate for overwork, months of salary delays, a ban on sick leave threat of dismissal and so on;
- Alexey Nekhoroshkin, the founder and creative director of the studio, is trying to resolve the situation, is negotiating with CEO Yaroslav Lysenko, technical director Oleg Churikov and the largest shareholder of the company Maxim Velichko (he owns not directly, but through two companies), but this does not lead to anything;
- against the background of ongoing negotiations, Alexey attracts a lawyer, with the help of whom it turns out that the company and all rights to its IP “were secretly taken away from the founder,” so he cannot change the situation within the company;
- as a result, Alexey decides to quit Limestone Games, he is supported by the main part of the team (only eight employees). One day — June 22 — everyone submits applications;
- on the same day, Focus Home Interactive, the official publisher of Aeon Must Die!, receives a letter from the team, in which: a) the situation is reported, b) a request is received to sort it out, c) the team declares its readiness to cooperate with the publisher directly to bring the development of the project to the end (the letter is signed by 12 game developers, including those dismissed earlier);
- after a while it becomes known that Focus Home Interactive informs about the letters of Limestone Games;
- in response to the resignation statements and the team’s attempt to contact Focus Home Interactive directly, Limestone Games CEO Yaroslav Lysenko, according to the retired developers, begins sending them letters threatening to sue employees;
- during lengthy negotiations with Focus Home Interactive, which go through a lawyer, the publisher is given a package of documents that is designed to prove numerous accusations;
- the team also informs Focus Home Interactive that the future Aeon Must Die! trailer, which the publisher plans to present together with Sony, violates the rights of outsourced artists of the game who were issued without a contract and who were not paid for their work;
- On August 5, direct negotiations between the team and Focus Home Interactive are taking place, during which a representative of the publisher notes that he did not have time to read the documents and states that he does not plan to postpone the release of the trailer, since he considers its launch as part of the State of Play a very important event for the future of the game from the point of view of marketing;
- after that, the team decides to publicly declare the current situation.
According to team representatives, Limestone Games currently has no creative staff to continue working on Aeon Must Die!, whose new trailer can be presented today.
The team also reports that the CEO is trying to get those people who were fired by him before the summer to work at Limestone Games.
We plan to monitor the situation and prepare material in which all parties to the conflict will be able to reveal their views on the situation.
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