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Ori and the Blind Forest developer accused of mismanagement

While next project's subject matter led to prolonged arguments.

The founders of Ori and the Blind Forest developer Moon Studios have been accused of toxic behaviour and mismanagement.

A Venturebeat report into the Vienna-based company includes various details on Moon Studios founders Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol, who it is claimed fostered a work environment where anyone could speak their mind without fear of reprisal.

But this approach led to the founders insulting each other and their staff on several occasions, the report alleges. One example - feedback from both men on an internal report - included the comments "nobody cares what you think really" and "lol, you're retarded".

The subject matter in Moon Studios' next project has also sparked staff concern. In development under the working title Forsaken, the game's main character initially would have been a survivor of rape.

Maher, Venturebeat wrote, had pushed for this to be the character's origin story to create motivation for them becoming a "badass" later on. Maher eventually backed down after "weeks of arguments".

Mahler and Korol have since responded to the report - their comments lie below. The pair also held a meeting with staff prior to its publication, where they said the following:

"Whether or not that was a good idea, well that is beside the point," Korol reportedly told colleagues. "But obviously trying to paint the narrative that there is a deeper bad thing going on. It's a bit of an unfair thing, to be frank. The way this article will characterise things might be unfair. That doesn't mean we are perfect. It doesn't mean we cannot improve or should not improve."

Moon Studios issued the following statement to Venturebeat, reproduced here in full:

"We don't believe the experiences suggested by your questions are representative of the more than 80 Moon Studios team members who are thriving and doing great work every day - nor do we believe they are representative of the experiences of former members of our team. In fact, we are very proud of our history of making people happy, advancing their careers, and contributing to their financial success.

"We built Moon Studios with a simple premise. First, we wanted to create a distributed studio that is not limited by geographic boundaries enabling us to draw the top talent from around the world. Second, we wanted to foster a vibrant culture where our team thrives and delivers the very best work in our industry. And finally, from day one we set out to share the profits and rewards of our efforts with the full team. We believe we have succeeded.

"What makes our team so powerful is our global and cultural diversity - we have team members working from more than 40 different countries across four continents - and a flat studio structure that allows everyone to speak honestly and directly and to challenge and push each other to do our very best work. We purposely set out to create a different kind of studio - one that encourages creativity, open communication, collaboration, and performance.

"The result has been two award-winning games - with more on the horizon - and a team of professionals who enjoy working together, are excelling and breaking new ground in our industry, while also sharing in the financial success of Moon Studios. If at times we are brutally direct in our critiques and challenges, we are also genuine and vocal in our praise. We are incredibly proud of everything we have built and achieved together.

"Finally, we appreciate the irony that we - an Austrian and an Israeli Jew - started this multicultural enterprise. We view each other as brothers. And, like brothers, we sometimes argue and frequently tease each other. We have made jokes at our own expense about the differences in our backgrounds - and there may have been times that our teasing of each other has come off as insensitive and may have made others feel uncomfortable."

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