Robert Kurvitz

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Robert Kurvitz
Kurvitz in 2014
Kurvitz in 2014
Born (1984-10-08) 8 October 1984 (age 36)
Tallinn, Estonia
video game designer
GenreSpeculative fiction
Notable works

Robert Kurvitz (born 8 October 1984) is a Estonian novelist, musician, and video game designer. He founded the video game development company ZA/UM in 2016, which released the critically acclaimed Disco Elysium in 2019.


Early life and musical career[edit]

Kurvitz is the son of artists Raoul Kurvitz and Lilian Mosolainen.[1] In 2001, inspired by Estonian bands Metro Luminal and Vennaskond, he became the lyricist and lead singer of progressive rock band Ultramelanhool,[2][3] To date, they have released two albums, Must apelsin (Black Orange) and Materjal (Material), in 2004 and 2008 respectively.[4] A song from the first album Talvehommik ("Winter Morning") was featured in the Kanal 2 TV series Ühikarotid ("Dorm Rats").

The band failed to secure an Estonian record label for their second album. It was then self-released with money inherited by Kurvitz's long-time friend, editor and collaborator Martin Luiga,[5] and released on the internet for free.[6] A third album, Fantastika was announced in May 2011;[7] it has yet to materialize.[8] In 2011, Kurvitz collaborated on his father's album Forbidden to Sing, providing backing vocals and keyboards.[9][10]



In 2013 Kurvitz published the novel Sacred and Terrible Air (Estonian: "Püha ja õudne lõhn"). The novel, set in a fictional world, centers on three men who, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of their classmates, are still determined to locate them. It received positive reviews,[11][12] with literary theorist Johanna Ross highlighting it as one of the few books to successfully bridge the science fiction and "literature proper".[13] Later in that that year, Kurvitz resigned from his role as editor of Estonian cultural magazine Sirp after Andres Aule voiced his objections in public after a poem was printed in the publication without Aule's permission. Kurvitz and Kaur Kender assumed responsibility.[14]

In 2016, Kurvitz founded the video game development company ZA/UM. ZA/UM's first game, the single player computer roleplaying game Disco Elysium, was released on 15 October 2019. Kurvitz was the game's lead writer and designer.[15][16][17] The game was set in the same world as Sacred and Terrible Air. It received universal acclaim. Its story and conversational systems receiving the most acclaim in particular. It has won many accolades and awards.[18][19][20]

Writing technique[edit]

Having played tabletop roleplaying games for much of his life, Kurvitz uses worldbuilding techniques derived from Dungeons & Dragons, though writing in worlds far different from those presented in the game. He employs help in the development of his ideas. "Mass editing" is employed as a tool in the finishing stage of the book; people of varying backgrounds assess the readability and realism of the work, point out confusing passages and suggest amendments.[13]


  1. ^ "TÄISMAHUS: Robert Kurvitz austab lootuse esteetikat". Eesti Päevaleht. 29 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Sõjaajaloolane Jüri Kot?inev vestab – üllatus, üllatus – täna hoopis muusikast. Ansamblist ultramelanhool. Ja sellest, miks eelmainit grupp tänases ja ehk ka homses kontekstis tähtis on. ‹ Ajaleht KesKus koduleht".
  3. ^ "Ultramelanhool – päästerõngas uppunule?". Postimees. 10 August 2004.
  4. ^ "Eesti rahvusbibliograafia".
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Hüvasti plaadid, tere veebimuusika!". Postimees. 19 September 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Eesti rahvusbibliograafia".
  10. ^ "NOAR | Nordic and Baltic Contemporary Art Center". NOAR.
  11. ^ "Nädala raamat: Kurvitza püha ja õudne aegruum". Eesti Ekspress. 30 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Vikerkaar ; 4–5 2014-05 | Digar".
  13. ^ a b[dead link]
  14. ^ "Kaur Kender ja Robert Kurvitz panid pillid kotti". Elu24. 25 November 2013.
  15. ^ Marzano, Anthony (15 October 2019). "Police procedural cRPG Disco Elysium is out today". Destructoid. Retrieved 16 October 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ Taylor, Haydn (31 October 2018). "Chasing oblivion with Disco Elysium and alcohol addiction".
  17. ^ Macgregor, Jody. "Disco Elysium's lead designer wants to make an expansion and sequel, has already written a novel". PC Gamer. Retrieved 13 November 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Makuch, Eddie (13 December 2019). "The Game Awards 2019 Winners: Sekiro Takes Game Of The Year". GameSpot. Retrieved 13 December 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Byrd, Christopher (17 October 2019). "'Disco Elysium': Riveting delirium". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 October 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ "The 25 Best Video Games of 2019". Slant. Retrieved 15 December 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)