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How The Feature That Almost Sunk Disco Elysium Was Made

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Dancing with design.

Who would have thought that, in a year with game releases from Nintendo, From Software, Remedy Entertainment, Capcom, Respawn, and numerous other well-known studios, a CRPG from a small, unknown team would become one of the most talked-about titles of 2019?

Disco Elysium is a game that commands attention. Whether it's the striking watercolor acid trip aesthetic, the moody and melancholic music, dense lore, or satisfyingly verbose writing, there's a lot to get caught up in. At the same time, Disco Elysium is remarkably ambitious, offering players an incredible amount of freedom to define their character and role-play.

It's easy to forget that this is Studio ZA/UM's first game, especially when you encounter something like the Thought Cabinet--the subject of this episode of Audio Logs. At its simplest, the Thought Cabinet gives the player insight into the mind of Disco Elysium's main character, but--as with real people--the mind is a complicated, messy, and often chaotic place. Needless to say, realizing it on-screen and as a core part of how the player progresses through the game and develops their character proved to be a challenge.

Disco Elysium designer and writer Robert Kurvitz breaks down the creation of the Thought Cabinet in this episode, describing it as a "quagmire" feature that almost sunk the entire project.

Kurvitz also discusses some of the other design decisions Studio ZU/AM made to modernize the CRPG genre. Among these is the way text is displayed on-screen, which--as genre enthusiasts will know--hasn't changed all that much since the early days of CRPGs. However, Disco Elysium's devs decided to mix things up and it found inspiration in Twitter, of all things.

Beyond the design of the game itself, this episode is a look into Kurvitz himself, who has been building the world and lore of Disco Elysium for years. He has some fascinating insights into player behavior and the tendencies of modern-day video game players. He also talks about some of the ideas he'd like to explore in future projects, offering a tantalizing tease of what we could see next from 2019's breakout studio. Needless to say, this is a must-watch episode of Audio Logs, whether you've played Disco Elysium or not.

This is the third episode in Audio Logs Season 2 and, if you haven't already, make sure to watch the first two. The season began with legendary developers Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa breaking down a pivotal scene from Death Stranding. Episode 2, meanwhile, is a deep dive into Control's Ashtray Maze. Game director Mikael Kasurinen shows exactly how Remedy executed the memorable sequence from one of 2019's best games. Both of these episodes are available on YouTube. Be sure to subscribe to GameSpot on YouTube to see more episodes as they’re released every Sunday.

If you haven't already checked out Disco Elysium, you should. In our Disco Elysium review the game was awarded a rare 10/10. Critic David Wildgoose said it is "a mad, sprawling detective story where the real case you've got to crack isn't who killed the man strung up on a tree in the middle of town--though that in itself, replete with dozens of unexpected yet intertwined mysteries and wild excursions into the ridiculous, is engrossing enough to sustain the game. Rather, it’s an investigation of ideas, of the way we think, of power and privilege, and of how all of us are shaped, with varying degrees of autonomy, by the society we find ourselves in."

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Tamoor Hussain

Tamoor Hussain is the Managing Editor of GameSpot. He has been covering the video game industry for a really long time, having worked in news, features, reviews, video, and more. He loves Bloodborne and other From Software titles, is partial to the stealth genre, and can hold his own in fighting games too. Fear the Old Blood.

Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium

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