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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."

Go deeper

NFT games fueled by speculation

Legacy. Screenshot: 22 Cans/Gala Games

Plots of virtual land for veteran developer Peter Molyneux’s upcoming NFT-based game Legacy have sold for more than $15 million, based on a check of items marked “sold out” in the online marketplace for the forthcoming game.

Why it matters: A lot of the money in NFT gaming now is based on speculation.

16 mins ago - Technology

Ex-N.Y. Post digital chief files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment

Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Former New York Post editor Michelle Gotthelf is suing her former employer, its parent company News Corp. and two editors, alleging she was reprimanded after complaining to senior executives that she was sexually harassed by retired N.Y. Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. The N.Y. Post issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: "I felt that I owed it to myself and I owed it to the news organization and the people who answered to me," Gotthelf, who was a long time editor at the N.Y. Post, told Axios in an interview.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.