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Disco Elysium's Thought Cabinet could've brought down the whole studio

Published: 18:18, 13 January 2020
Disco Elysium, Thought Cabinet inventory
Disco Elysium, the quagmire feature!

Disco Elysium is an RPG game that fully deserves every single award nomination you see these days, and we're willing to personally vouch for that. Now, the dev revealed that Thought Cabinet was one seriously tough feature to implement, and then some.

In an interview with Gamespot, ZA/UM's lead designer and writer Robert Kurvitz was asked how he would describe the Thought Cabinet feature, which is one of the most innovative and quite revered points of their fantastic RPG. 

"[Thought Cabinet is] a quagmire feature. A feature that during development, we were beginning to suspect that it's gonna take down the entire video game studio [laughs]. That would be my pitch for it", he replied. 

Kurvitz clarified that the quagmire features are those that eat up time and money, despite never being perfect.

Thankfully, ZA/UM stuck with it and Kurvitz stressed that the mere idea of having an inventory for thoughts was exciting enough to stick with it and iterate for four years. 

Of course, this all sounds relatively simple now, but to call the actual implementation a chore is a huge understatement. ZA/UM had to come up with an inventory that kept all these thoughts, which are initially one thing until they become more significant. 

"Do not try to present this to a player unless you've got a lot of time on your hands and a lot of experimentation. Because the problem with this is - no one has ever done this before", he added. 

ZA/UM Disco Elysium, Inventory screen Disco Elysium, Inventory

Design constraints made ZA/UM opt for the rhombic shape of slots, which is a more important point than you'd think, and hire a design artist to add some sheen to it. 

Interestingly, Kurvitz mentioned that if games were imitations of reality, there's an entire layer of our perception thereof that hasn't been simulated at all. What he's referring to is the control of one's minds, which humans often wrongly think they possess, even though the real mechanism behind it is much more complicated than that. 

Disco Elysium, ZA/UM's award-winning and inventive RPG title

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A man with an axe running through a forest in SCUM
Disco Elysium, Inventory
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