Aeon Must Die Resurfaces Without Answers to Workplace Culture Allegations [UPDATE]

The original development team left shortly before the game was last seen.

Update: Focus Home Interactive released a statement on the situation to Fanbyte, saying it carried out a social and legal audit with an international law firm and an Estonian law firm, as well as an independent investigation by the Estonian International Association of Video Game Developers. Neither of which confirmed any of the accusations against Limestone management. The company also says it doesn’t replace the creative teams of projects it publishes, and maintains an “advisory and support role.”

The full statement reads as follows:

Focus implemented the social audit clause of the Limestone contract upon receipt of the employees’ resignation letter on June 22, 2020. Focus carried out with the assistance of two law firms, one international and one Estonian (both independent), a social and legal audit which did not confirm any of the accusations leveled against the management of Limestone.

In addition, the Estonian branch of the International Association of Video Game Developers (IGDA) conducted an independent investigation on the basis of all available information, which also did not confirm the charges against management of Limestone, and calls into question their basis.

Imposing vision on creative teams is not part of Focus’ DNA, and is not how it works. While our teams have more than 20 years of experience in production follow-up, we at Focus, do not replace the creative teams. We have an advisory and support role and share our knowledge to put creatives and developers in the best conditions to provide the most qualitative experience for players.

Meanwhile, former developers working on Aeon Must Die have released their own statement regarding the trailer’s resurfacing on Twitter.

We the former developers of Aeon Must Die! are confused and baffled by the announcement of Aeon Must Die! No legal matters pertaining to the situation were solved and even more arose in the aftermath. The IP issues are not solved. The trademark for the product does not exist. No publisher investigation was conducted. Work for the trailer remains unpaid. Most of the animations in the game remain unpaid. Multiple legal attempts at REAL compromise have yielded nothing for the last year.

Original story: Just a little over a year ago, Aeon Must Die was shown off at a State of Play presentation. While the stylized beat-em-up caught viewers’ attention, the trailer was actually outsourced, as the entire development team at Limestone Games had left the company due to toxic workplace culture, which was illustrated in a series of files uploaded by ex-staff to Dropbox. However, that trailer has once again surfaced on publisher Focus Home Interactive’s YouTube channel, raising questions about the state of the game, the developer, and the investigation the publisher said it was conducting last year.

After information on the state of Limestone Games went public, it was revealed Focus Home Interactive had been aware of allegations made regarding “endless crunch, harassment, abuse, corruption, and manipulation” after workers had to pursue legal avenues to get the publisher to ask for proof. According to the documents Limestone published, Focus Home leaked documents about the situation to Limestone management.

Focus Home’s response to the entire mess was to say it was putting forth an investigation on the matter, and that it wouldn’t be releasing comment on the situation until it had a better picture of what was going on. Well, it’s been a year, and Aeon Must Die is suddenly part of Focus Home’s marketing push again. We reached out for comment from Focus Home Interactive but have not heard back by the time of publish.

In the time since, Limestone has published a blog post about the team on its official website, saying it’s “forever thankful to all the amazing people that help bring our visions to life.”

“Making game is a great thing to do, but making them with people you care for is even better! Which is why we make sure we spend as much time together not making games as we do when we’re making them.”

CEO Yaroslav Lyssenko, who was cited as a source of much of the toxicity within the company in the original docs, is still in that position at the company, according to the site.