Former Limestone Games employees accuse studio management of “crunch, harassment, abuse, corruption, and manipulation”

A scandal in Estonia. A number of the Limestone Games employees, including the studio’s founder, resigned, accusing the owners of creating “unbearable work conditions,” manipulation and corruption. Uncertainty surrounds the future of their game Aeon Must Die!, which is published by Focus Home Interactive.


Aeon Must Die!

What happened?

On the night of August 6, the former employees of Limestone Games made a number of documents available to the press. Among them are allegations against the former employer, testimonies of company employees, screenshots of the correspondence with the management and other files. All of them point towards the profound management crisis within the studio.

What’s the backstory?

According to the team, this is the sequence of events that led to the public conflict:

  • As of the summer of 2020, “unbearable work conditions ” are created in the studio: constant crunch during the development of Aeon Must Die!, toxic atmosphere, questionable employment practices, dismissals without cause, failure to provide the licensed software, problems with equipment, inadequate salaries, refusal to compensate for overtime work, several month delays of salary payments, denying sick leaves with firing threats, and so on;
  • Aleksey Nekhoroshkin, the founder and CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of the studio, is trying to resolve the situation through negotiations with CEO Yaroslav Lysenko, CTO Oleg Churikov and the biggest shareholder of the company Maxim Velichko (he owns it indirectly, through two companies), however, it leads to nothing;
  • as negotiations unfold, Aleksey hires a lawyer who helps to discover that that the company and the entire IP “were covertly taken from the founder,” leaving him unable to change the situation within the company;
  • as a result, Aleksey decides to quit Limestone Games, followed by the majority of the team (eight employees in total). On June 22, they submit their resignation letters;
  • on the same day, Focus Home Interactive, the official publisher of Aeon Must Die!, receives a letter from the team which: a) details the situation, b) calls on the publisher to investigate it, c) declares the team’s readiness to cooperate with the publisher to complete the development (the letter is signed by 12 team members, including those fired earlier);
  • later, it becomes clear that Focus Home Interactive is informing Limestone Games about this letter and the ensuing communication around it;
  • in response to the resignation letters and the team’s attempts to contact Focus Home Interactive directly, the Limestone Games CEO Yaroslav Lysenko, according to the former employees, begins to threaten them with lawsuits;
  • during lengthy talks with Focus Home Interactive held through a lawyer, the publisher is given a set of documents supporting allegations of multiple transgressions;
  • the team also informs Focus Home Interactive that the upcoming trailer for Aeon Must Die!, which the publisher plans to present during Sony’s State of Play event, violates the rights of artists who were outsourced without a contract and who were not paid for their work;
  • On August 5, direct negotiations between the team and Focus Home Interactive take place, during which a representative of the publisher notes that they did not have time to get acquainted with the documents and states that they do not plan to postpone the release of the trailer as they consider its launch as part of the State of Play event to be a important for the future of the game from the marketing standpoint;
  • the team then makes the decision to generate publicity around the situation.

According to the team, Limestone Games currently employs no creative staff to continue working on Aeon Must Die!, which was unveiled today using an edited version of the trailer given above.

According to the team, the CEO is trying to hire people at Limestone Games who he himself fired before the summer.

We plan to monitor the situation and allow all sides of the conflict to share their views on it.

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