Oct 14, 2021 - Technology

"Aeon Must Die!" stirs up controversy amid release

Image courtesy of Limestone Games
Image courtesy of Limestone Games

Beat 'em up "Aeon Must Die!"'s release on Thursday stirred up controversy around accusations from former employees that the game was created under toxic work conditions and ultimately stolen from its creators.

Driving the news: Former Limestone Games developers, now working under a new studio called Mishura Games, published a lengthy statement calling on Limestone and publisher Focus Entertainment to "complete their legal responsibilities."

  • Mishura has also requested that Focus release its alleged investigation results, as well as proof of pay for some developers' work.
  • "Limestone and Focus, two separate entities, co-own the IP ... no party, legal or natural person could appropriate, steal or exploit the IP by its own will," reads a statement published to the game's Twitter account on Oct. 12 under a FAQ subheaded "Did any party steal the 'Aeon Must Die' IP?"
  • A follow-up statement adds that "all claims remain unsubstantiated despite investigations led by two law firms and one Estonian authority."

Flashback: Last August, a group of former Limestone Games developers came forward with allegations of abuse and manipulation from their employer.

  • "People who have worked on every shot of this are no longer with the company holding IP rights," the developers wrote. "Some were not even paid for their work. The real IP for the game was stolen from the creators via foul play."
  • In September 2021, animator and former "Aeon" dev Arsen Shakhbabyan temporarily pushed the game's trailer off YouTube with a copyright claim. "I was very angry, they had the audacity [or lack of brains] to upload the same trailer to YouTube, without any changes and new fragments, as well as delete comments from any people who write the truth about them," Shakhbabyan told Eurogamer.

Mishura's statement Thursday notes that the trailer includes a "considerable amount of work" from Shakhbabyan, who doesn't have a contract with either "Aeon"'s publisher or developer. "According to relevant laws, the IP regarding Arsen`s work for this trailer still fully belongs to Arsen."

  • "It is imperative for the ecosystem of the game industry to move forward from the dark ages it is clearly stuck in," the statement reads. "The industry already suffers way too much from unfair treatment of artists and developers and true creators of the games. Crunches, toxic atmosphere, unpaid hours, abuse and so on, are unfortunately all over the place."
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