A group of developers went public today with serious accusations of overwork and theft against their former employer, the Estonian studio Limestone Games. The claims surfaced shortly after a trailer for Aeon Must Die, the game they say was stolen from them, was shown during today’s State of Play broadcast.
In total, eight members of the Aeon Must Die creative team resigned from Limestone Games in June, according to a cache of testimonials published by former employees earlier today. The ex-employees attribute the decision to what they describe as poor working conditions at the studio and the behavior of its chief executive. Limestone Games has not publicly responded to these allegations.
“This trailer was created with abuse, manipulation, [and] theft,” the description of a third-party YouTube upload of the Aeon Must Die video reads before linking to the aforementioned Dropbox repository. “People who have worked on every shot of this are no longer with the company holding IP rights. Some were not even paid for their work. The real IP for the game was stolen from the creators via foul play.”
While names and other assorted details have been redacted from the Dropbox documents because of the ongoing legal situation, the complaints are led by accounts from former CCO, Aleksei Nehoroshkin, who co-founded Limestone Games in 2016. According to his statements, he received little support from the current CEO, Yaroslav Lyssenko, in hiring additional developers to work on Aeon Must Die, leading to severe workload issues that he says often resulted in long stretches of crunch. Nehoroshkin goes on to accuse Lyssenko of working with a major investor to become the studio’s sole board member and assume total ownership of Limestone’s intellectual property while Nehoroshkin’s focus was on development.
Representatives from Limestone Games did not immediately respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.
The documents released today also claim that attempts by the former Limestone Games developers to contact Aeon Must Die publisher Focus Home Interactive for assistance were dismissed. Kotaku has contacted multiple reps for Focus Home Interactive about these details but did not hear back before publishing.
It’s highly unusual to see game developers denounce their former studio alongside a splashy debut. As with many projects, it’s vital we take a close look at the alleged conditions in which Aeon Must Die was created while also remembering that we’ve only heard one side of the story. Here’s hoping we learn more soon.
Update: August 7, 2020, 11:00 am: Publisher Focus Home Interactive says they’re “looking into these allegations,” but notes that the accusations involve the developers at Limestone, not them. The publisher is not explaining whether it had been contacted earlier and failed to take action, as Nehoroshkin’s group of developers said.