Yesterday, Aeon Must Die! developer Limestone Games published a press release denying transgressions alleged by the team of its former employees. One of them, the studio’s former Chief Creative Officer Aleksey Nehoroshkin, talked to Game World Observer.
“First of all, if now the management of Limestone Games is willing to speak up, I believe they owe it to the team to also address their issues. This IP stuff seems to be the center of discussion here but the other terrible issues should be addressed. They are talking about businesses and companies, while real people are suffering for their actions. This issue is not only about IP, Limestone Games or Focus Home. It’s about how normal people are mistreated and it’s about how creativity is exploited around the world. These are the issues we need to talk about,” said Aleksey.
He also commented on specific statements contained in the press release. Below are the excerpts from the document followed by Aleksey’s commentary.
“CCO had the power of veto over all company decisions.” “CCO has been part of all the company’s decisions.”
Aleksey [addressing Limestone Games]: Please provide the document, or protocols where that is stated. All documents that were given to me in relationship to the company were checked by our law firm thoroughly and no rights other than regular employee rights and position as passive shareholder were discovered. This story about 3 unanimous votes was propagated to me and other members of the team constantly in 2016-2018 but was almost never upheld in serious decisions regarding deadlines, budget, possible investments etc. The company’s Article of Association was changed a few times since the company was founded by me, to reduce my influence to almost nothing. Name one occasion where I could or did use my veto to prevent this from happening or in any other situation.
“The former employees “lost” the IP.”
Aleksey: Absolutely true. For the first year, this company was 100% owned by me, and thus I owned the IP. I willingly shared the company with the CEO and CTO in equal parts to ensure successful business right before securing our investor, thus I still owned the IP with them in equal parts. But when I signed a little “unimportant” document given to me by my only legal advisor, friend and equal partner, Yaroslav Lyssenko, during crunch time in 2018, gullibly not reading it or talking to a lawyer beforehand, I signed off all my legal rights to make any decisions regarding the IP and the company and became a passive shareholder of the company in 2018.
“The IP belonged to the company from the beginning.”
Aleksey: Absolutely true. It is also true that I owned the entire company in the beginning.
“Psychological abuse and dehumanization“ are crimes under Estonian law.”
Aleksey: Wish I knew that earlier.
“Aeon Must Die! development is still on track with the core team intact.”
Aleksey: Very curious. I have never heard of a game company where the core team consists of 2 programmers, 1 project manager, 1 QA. Those are the people that still worked on AMD who stayed at the company. Other members of the team, as far as we know and can most likely prove, were involved with completely different projects during development. I sincerely hope those members will pick up the pace filling the following positions: Creative Director, Art Lead, Concept Artist, Environment artist, 2d Animator, Game Designer, Technical Artist, Narrative Designer, UI Designer, Illustrator, Lead writer, Dialogue writer, Sound designer, Composer, 3D animator, Battle designer. Unfortunately all people who filled these positions will not work at Limestone Games or on outsource at this time.
“Limestone Games is turning to the authorities to investigate the allegations of the former employees.”
Aleksey: We really hope they finally do that. We were courteous enough to try and handle this without going that far but we are always happy to go this route, especially now that the other side willingly agrees to it.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, a number of the Limestone Games employees, including the studio’s founder and CCO, 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.
Tambet Toomela, a lawyer hired by the former development team, said the devs are willing to prove their claims in court. Limestone Games is denying transgressions alleged by its former employees. Meanwhile, IGDA Estonia is conducting its own investion in the situation. Publisher Focus Home Interactive also said it’s “carefully looking into these allegations.”
On a related note, last year Focus Home was party to another scandal involving an indie developer. In September 2019, Frogwares, the developer of the Sherlock Holmes video games and The Sinking City, said that following the end of a publishing agreement with Focus Home Interactive, the publisher refused to transfer the title IDs to them. As a result, a number of the titles were delisted from Steam and other digital stores. Some of those Frogwares was able to re-publish and re-certify, while their PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were lost permanently.