Accusations have been levied against the CEO of Limestone Games by supposed former employees, accusing him of stealing the IP for Aeon Must Die!, along with other immoral and possibly illegal behavior.
Developed by Limestone Games, the game was technically announced back in 2018, the game has seemingly been re-announced. However, seemingly at the same time or just before PlayStation’s State of Play Presentation, a video appeared on YouTube entitled “Aeon Must Die! original version TRUTH IN DESCRIPTION.”
The video description reads as follows:
“This trailer was created with abuse, manipulation, theft.
Find out the truth about the development of this game here.
People who have worked on every shot of this are no longer with the company holding IP rights.
Some were not even paid for their work.
This trailer has a pending conflict of IP.
The real IP for the game was stolen from the creators via foul play.
Final reaction of the publisher to this information remains to be seen”
The damning claims from the text documents with in the dropbox include alleged statement from the game’s original developers. However, there appears to be no authentication of who created them. The document also refers to “the publisher” throughout, rather than Focus Home Interactive.
The documents claim that the staff of Limestone Games, including its founder and creative director, were forced to leave due to “unbearable” work conditions. These included “endless crunch, harassment, abuse, corruption, and manipulation.” Two employees were also allegedly “illegally contracted.”
The alleged goal of the CEO (Yaroslav Lyssenko) was to drive out employees, finish the project “on a criminally minimal expense,” and pursue new goals (a VR simulation project) without approval of the CCO or creative team.
During a meeting with the main shareholder, they confirmed the allegations (as recorded by alleged audio of the meeting), and a letter of resignation from multiple employees sent to the CEO on the same day. A letter describing the issues was also sent to the publisher.
The main shareholder allegedly agreed to a petition, proposing the hiring of a new CEO for the game. However, they would later allegedly decline any such deal.
Requests for an external audit, or splitting the company into two “sub-entities” (one to focus on games, the other on Lyssenko’s goals) were also allegedly rejected. This main shareholder even ended meetings allegedly stating “there will certainly be SOME restructuring after AMD ends.”
All employees would later allegedly receive the same message to discuss completion of the work contract. However, each of these was at a different time. Fearing an attempt to segregate them, they all went together during one of the meeting times.
Despite being told by the publisher that they would handle the situation, the confidential letters was in front of Limestone Games’ CTO. The CTO allegedly stated the team no longer needed to work until the end of their contract.
They then allegedly used the letter as an official document, pointing to inconsistencies as proof that their complaints were invalid. The CTO allegedly claimed the publisher gave them the letter, and told them all the allegations therein were lies and should be ignored.
Hours after this meeting, employees received emails to return to work tomorrow. On advice from their attorney, the team ignored these messages from “unofficial channels,” working from home via the same systems used during the coronavirus pandemic quarantine orders.
The next day, some developers allegedly began receiving “threatening” calls and messages from Lyssenko, inquiring to their whereabouts. Later that day, employees started to receive tasks, including the CCO who received tasks allegedly not in his contract and during unpaid overtime.
The next day, employees were allegedly given a first warning for breaching their contract for not turning up to work, including a concept artist who had not been contacted prior to being told not to work.
After the attorney sent a letter to Lyssenko and the CTO demanding an end of the harassment (and all communications passing through him), all those who had signed the letter to the publisher were allegedly issued a “reminder.” This even included those no longer employed at Limestone Games.
The contents of this reminder was allegedly “basically comprising thinly veiled threats.” Even so, the letter was in Russian (despite the company’s official language being English), leaving some employees unable to read it. Further, all documents in Estonia must also be available in Estonian. This was allegedly not done here.
The message also contained the alleged claim that Lyssenko owned the Aeon Must Die! IP solely. After this, representatives and current employees of Limestone Games allegedly “started to contact outsource employees, spreading misinformation and encouraging them to not work with the CCO.” This allegedly lead to more “veiled threats” against the ousted employees, including the Lyssenko’s family approaching some.
The employees’ attorney sent another let to the publisher (laying out the issues but expressing a desire to work on the project), which later ended up in the hands of the legal team.
During this time, the game’s Motion Designer and Assistant Game Designer allegedly sent their own letter (though later shown to be an e-mail) to the publisher, outlaying issues. Once again, this information allegedly got back to LimeStone Games, giving them new contracts that were backdated and containing contradictory information.
The Assistant Game Designer allegedly sent their message via a fresh e-mail account. This created one of two possibilities. Either Limestone Games and the publisher were in cooperation, or Lyssenko had no contact information, and did not attempt to contact the Assistant Game Designer via their real e-mail.
Further attempts to make the Motion Director sign a new contract allegedly included a new employee attempting to contact them by their personal phone, asking for his signature in order for them to be paid. This contract stated they had worked less hours then they did, and was backdated.
Lyssenko continued to allegedly “threaten and coerce” the employees to cooperate, until they were finally fired due to “breach of contract,” cited as the letter sent to the publisher in confidence (and despite approval from their attorney removing any NDA-breaking information).
This breach of contract allegedly resulted in the threat of fines, black marks on their work records, and “asked to submit work basically for free out of fear to get more fines.”
The attorney would also discover that the IP of the game had allegedly been “covertly taken” from the founder and was now owned by Lyssenko. This also meant alleged unpaid overtime and other promises by Lyssenko were now “legally nonexistent.”
“22nd of June 2020 the publisher of “Aeon Must Die!” received a confidential letter from the team who expressed their concerns about the company and cried out for help. 12 current and former Limestone Games employees have digitally signed the document. The team asked for cooperation with the publisher to finish the game on humane terms and in the best possible quality. On the same day 8 employees of Limestone Games comprising the entire creative team of the game, including thefounder/CCO have handed in their resignation letters. The publisher sent a short e-mail and was silent for almost a month, while Limestone Games continued to pressure the team in any way they can. While completely ignoring the existence of their attorney and ghosting multiple attempts at establishing contact, the CEO of Limestone Games sent threat letters, legal accusations, unlawfully fired everyone before the agreed upon resignation date, put a black mark on everyone’s government work record.”
The team eventually sent information they had on all allegations, including “audio recordings, logs, documents, bank statements” and more to the publisher’s legal team.
Leading up to the team’s final days of work and before the trailer was revealed to the public, and spoke to the publisher’s Head of Legal during a call. Allegedly, “close tono [sic] information” had been processed by the publisher. The Head of Legal then allegedly stated they had no issues, and the trailer’s release would go ahead as planned.
Focus Home Interactive issued a public statement on the matter on August 7th. While not addressing the allegations directly, they stated they had begun “carefully looking into” the claims.
“Focus Home Interactive has always praised and supported all our partner studios and the developers who compose the creative teams. We pride ourselves on treating our own employees and third party developers fairly and respectfully and this will not change.
Focus Home Interactive was informed of serious allegations by some of the developers at Limestone who have worked on the creation of the video game Aeon Must Die!.
The grievances are directed at Limestone, their direct employer.
As the publisher of this video game, Focus is carefully looking into these allegations and will draw the necessary conclusions if they are proved to be well-founded, and then take all appropriate measures.
No further comment will be shared until we have a clearer and complete view on this matter.”
We will keep you informed as we learn more.