A fighter picks up an enemy and holds them overhead while standing on a bridge in Aeon Must Die.

Screenshot: Focus Entertainment

Tomorrow the beat-’em-up Aeon must die released for PC, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation. A day before its release, some of the game’s original developers, now in a different and newly formed studio, have published a statement requesting that the publisher and developer of the game “fulfill their legal responsibilities”. This means, among other things, fairly compensating people who have not been paid for their work on the game.

Let’s go back a minute. Focus Entertainment, the mid-sized French publisher behind games like A story of plague: innocence and Aliens: Fireteam Elite, revealed for the first time Aeon must die at a Sony State of Play event last year. Fans were immediately given an update on his lavish sci-fi art and crispy fights. But that same day, like reported by Kotaku, former developers who had worked on the game accused the studio, Limestone Games, of abuse, manipulation, overwork and other issues that indicate a culture of harassment. In addition, they accused Limestone Games of intellectual property (IP) theft over assets used in Aeon must die.

Read more: PlayStation Showcase game ‘stolen’, say former developers

At the time, eight developers, including studio co-founder and creative director Aleksei Nehoroshkin, left the studio in response to problems they encountered there. This is where it gets weird.

A third party download of the trailer (presumably by Nehoroshkin and his colleagues) alleged that it was produced by unpaid labor, largely outside of working hours, and that the game was currently linked to an intellectual property dispute . This trailer refers to a Dropbox cache containing a wealth of documents in support of the claims. Following the collective departure of staff, Nehoroshkin and colleagues claimed that Limestone Games had retained the intellectual property for Aeon must die and his visual assets through what appears to be a fuck case. According to the statement released today, which admits that Focus and Limestone own certain rights to the game, Nehoroshkin never signed a contract waiving all rights to the creative work he says he created at his own pace.

“Focus Home Interactive has been made aware of serious allegations raised by some of the developers at Limestone who worked on the creation of the video game. Aeon must die, “Focus Entertainment, then known as Focus Home Interactive, said in a press release. “As the publisher of this video game, Focus is carefully examining these allegations and will draw the necessary conclusions if they are found to be well founded, and then take all appropriate measures.”

For a while, that was the last word. In the meantime, the former developers have founded Mishura games. They are currently working on a lavishly styled beat-’em-up called roguelike. Immortal: and the death that follows, which you could say looks a bit like the earlier work of the creators. (Immortal “Is not a continuation, expansion or connection in any way with Aeon must die“Mishura said in today’s statement, noting that every part of the game was created from scratch.)

Then, earlier this summer, Aeon must die resurfaced. In August, Focus Entertainment reposted the trailer on its YouTube channel. Mishura responded with surprise, claiming that the “IP issue” still remains unresolved and claiming that most of the animation work on the trailer remains unpaid. As reported by Eurogamer, Arsen Shakhbabyan, an animator who worked on the game, filed a copyright infringement claim and removed the trailer. But the trailer is back. According to today’s statement, YouTube has reinstated the list in the absence of any legal proceedings. (Mishura Games, who reportedly spent nearly $ 60,000 on the whole mess, says he’s not reassuring enough at the moment to take legal action in court.)

Yesterday, Focus Entertainment published a statement on Twitter saying he hired two independent law firms to audit the case. This same statement, organized as an FAQ, is currently pinned as the first comment on the YouTube trailer for Aeon must die.

This brings us to where we are today. You can read Mishura’s full statement here, but the general requests are triple:

  • For Limestone Games to publicize any contract that Nehoroshkin may have signed by waiving intellectual property rights;
  • For Limestone Games and Focus Entertainment to prove that Shakhbabyan was paid for his work, and if not, to pay him;
  • For Focus Entertainment to release the results of independent legal investigations it has conducted into the case.

Kotaku contacted Focus, Limestone and Mishura but did not receive a response in time for the post.

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