Disco Elysium - Interview
The Escapist interviewed the lead Designer of Disco Elysium Robert Kurvitz:
Why the Creator of Disco Elysium Hasn’t Read the Reviews, and What’s Next for the IP
ZA/UM spent five years developing Disco Elysium, but the ideas behind the extremely ambitious CRPG date back much further. The game shares a setting with lead designer and writer Robert Kurvitz’s 2013 novel Sacred and Terrible Air, which in turn was inspired by 10 years of world-building work done through pen-and-paper role-playing games.
“I always knew I wanted to build worlds,” Kurvitz said. “We wanted to do something truly strange and ridiculous. Our goal was to make a world to end all worlds, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
The members of the small Estonian studio are all high school dropouts who had no prior game development experience before working on Disco Elysium. Kurvitz, who is 35, said they spent most of their youth smoking cigarettes, wandering the gray Eastern European architecture, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. They started with a bootleg Finnish copy of the tabletop role-playing game but quickly were inspired to start coming up with their own rules and setting. Disco Elysium has drawn numerous comparisons to the Dungeons & Dragons-based CRPG Planescape: Torment, and Kurvitz said that’s no accident.
“The two biggest favors anyone’s ever done me in my life are the political education from Estonian punk bands and what (lead designer and writer) Chris Avellone did with Planescape: Torment. Punk bands got me through my life until I was 27 or 28, and Chris Avellone’s contributions to video games got me past 29. I don’t think I would have had the imagination to think you could be so ambitious and literary in video games.”
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