The developers of Aeon Must Die, a 2D beat-em-up revealed for PS4 on PlayStation’s latest State of Play presentation, allegedly quit the studio after they faced a toxic work culture.
After Aeon Must Die was revealed on State of Play, an original version of the trailer was uploaded to YouTube. The trailer’s description included a dropbox filled with documents from anonymous developers telling their side of the story of the game’s development.
According to the documents, the trailer that played on State of Play violates the IP of the people who have worked on it without contracts or pay.
The trailer that was shown during State of Play is below, and the original version of the trailer is right below that. There are a couple of differences between the trailers in the logos that are shown and the order in which scenes play.
According to the documents, workers from Aeon Must Die’s development studio, Limestone Games, quit the studio due to “unbearable work conditions with endless crunch, harassment, abuse, corruption, and manipulation.” This includes sexism, failure to properly change practices to accommodate for the COVID-19 pandemic, working with development software that was pirated, being refused compensation for overtime work, seeing month-long delays for salary payments, being denied sick leaves with threats of being fired and more.
In addition to that, the CEO of Limestone Games allegedly tricked the founder and CCO into signing documents giving him ownership of the IP for Aeon Must Die. The CEO told CCO that they shouldn’t spend too much time signing “meaningless documents’ that he brought him, and the CCO, under the trust and reassurance of the CEO, signed them. Apparently the CCO assumed for years that he still was in control of the company and the IP when he really was just a normal employee.
On June 22, 2020, 12 current and former employees of Limestone Games wrote a letter to publisher Focus Home Interactive asking that they complete the game on more ethical terms. Eight employees comprising the entire creative team, including the founder/CCO of the studio, sent their letters of resignation on that day as well.
Focus Home Interactive remained silent for a month. Meanwhile, the CEO of Limestone Games sent threat letters, legal accusations, fired people before setting up resignation dates and put a black mark on everyone’s government work record according to the documents.
The team were told to wait as Focus Home was handling the situation. However, someone from Focus Home leaked all their confidential letters back to Limestone Games which prompted even more legal threats and pressure from the company.
With the help of a lawyer, the managed to get Focus Home to speak to them. They told the team to send proof of the allegations and they started sending their receipts. However, the publisher remained silent from then until August.
On their last work day, the team managed to get a hold of the head member of the legal team of Focus Home. They found out that close to none of the evidence the team provided for the allegations were processed by Focus Home. The head of legal told the team that Focus Home didn’t see any problems with what happened and with the trailer, and that there was no reason to change anything about the trailer or the press release accompanying it before it was shared on State of Play.
“This in their words would be ‘an amazing push for the game,’ and the team should cooperate fully and think about the future of the project,” read the document. “The game and project that were stolen and made through unpaid crunch, theft and abuse?”
You can look at the receipts yourself, which the developers decided to share with the public, over here. Keep in mind that these documents haven’t been verified, so these are still allegations at this point.
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