“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” – Sun Tzu
The TL;DR recap on how I got involved in this farce and why I’m going to keep going until the very bitter end.
NOTE: When I write in my blogs, social media etc, I don’t do it to be professional, politically correct, or anything of the sort. I’m an artiste, and a gamer. So drama, flair, hyperbole, sarcasm, humor, etc, are all part and parcel of how I speak, write, and act. There is a certain excitement and exhilaration in being, and acting yourself, rather than putting on airs for the public. It’s called freedom. It’s amazing. So, as with all my writings, pull up a chair, as we head into the third phase of what started two weeks ago.
IF IGNORANT BOTH OF YOUR ENEMY AND YOURSELF, YOU ARE CERTAIN TO BE IN PERIL
So, it has come to this.
A few weeks ago, having had enough of the bullshit that is the “vaporware” (aka Star Citizen) that RSI/CIG have foisted on us legacy backers, I took upon myself to investigate. I spent several weeks pouring over massive amounts of data. From dev blogs, to videologs, to statements, to interviews. The researchers I hired (paid by the hour, they’re not cheap!) from the same online group, say they’ve never before seen so much “conflicting” information in any project. As in ever.
In other words, the crowd-funding campaign bandwagon that Chris Roberts and co dragged the media through, was nothing short of pure, unadulterated puffery. In other words, yeah, just another day in this completely, and utterly, messed up videogame industry.
When I sat down to write my article, it was very long, and I knew that it would be controversial, not to mention ruffle some feathers. A few of my industry “friends” (you know yourselves), cautioned me not to do it. Aside from the abuse, and ridicule that I would be subjected to, they also cautioned that if any evidence of wrong-doing was uncovered, that it would have far reaching consequences which may lead to the complete shutdown of the project, the total loss of backer money, as well as a loss of jobs.
I was mindful of all those things, but I felt that this was just too big to ignore, and that at the end of the day, people will always land on their feet.
So, after trying to reach several execs at RSI/CIG, I wrote my first article, Interstellar Citizens. After that, mostly technical one hit, I still waited to hear from their camp. I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest; but I thought that at the very least, that, as a concerned backer, and industry veteran with decades of experience, that I would hear something. Not a peep.
Which was hardly surprising because when it comes to, you know, answering tough questions, there are never any real answers coming out of there. So I wrote the second part of my article, Interstellar Discourse.
That’s when all hell broke loose. I mean, literally.
Which was precisely as expected. In the article, I didn’t reveal much of anything that wasn’t already being discussed in various places, including on the RSI forums. It’s all there to be searched, and cataloged. All I did was put a notable name, face, and a very loud voice, to the discourse. Most of what I was hoping to come from that second article, was accountability for the project state, as well as the finances.
Instead, within hours of the article going live, I was promptly deported by RSI. And to boot, they took all my stuff that I had paid for, and owned.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they started doing precisely what I expected that they would. They tried to silence me by not only kicking me out as a backer, but also by libeling me, and engaging in character assassination. In doing so, they seemingly unleashed their army of White Knight backers who, after acting in cult-like fashion these past months, pushing down any dissenters, took to the Internet to amplify their attacks against myself, and other dissenters. They took to attacking me in my social media feed, in forums, in article comment sections etc. You know the drill; you’ve seen these nutjobs before. They are legion.
But here’s the thing. These anti-social misfits, most of whom were probably running around in diapers, rubbing poo-dipped hands on their faces, when I was earning my chops as a hardcore “Internet Warlord” (no, I didn’t come up with that one. Credit goes to this guy in my feed), simply don’t know who they’re dealing with. I have been down this road before. This stuff simply doesn’t faze me, nor does it deter me from my goals. In short, when I set my mind to doing something, it’s with laser focus, and nothing distracts from that. Especially not inconsequential anti-social misfits. And the more noise they make, the more attention it draws to the discourse at hand. Win.
People don’t scare me. They never did.
The first thing that happened after I sent out the tweet that the second article was live, was I received an unsolicited email from Kickstarter, informing me that I was getting a refund. I was a bit surprised, since I hadn’t asked for one. Shortly after, I received a second email, this time from RSI. This is where it gets interesting.
From the two emails, they issued my refund based on the following rules below.
Kickstarter Section 5:
RSI TOS Section XX:
At a glance, this appeared to me as if people who pledged $2.1m on Kickstarter, had a greater chance of getting their money back, than those who pledged almost $83m via the RSI site, and which has far more stringent refund rules in their ToS.
The very next day, people started emailing me, and tweeting about trying to get their refunds. What people thought was that, since I got a refund – something that was thus far, largely unheard of – that meant that there was a chance they could get theirs too. This one guy, who had previously tried unsuccessfully to get his refund, couldn’t conceal his amazement when, after hearing about my refund, he contacted them again. And sure enough, within mere hours, he got his refund. Just like that.
THUS THE EXPERT IN BATTLE MOVES THE ENEMY, AND IS NOT MOVED BY HIM
Then, as with everything to do with this Star Citizen farce, the craziest thing happened.
Someone in the RSI forums, created a thread entitled “Are refunds for our packages/ships from CIG now okay to be requested?” Here is the opening statement.
When he first created that thread, of the 511 people who responded when I checked it, a whopping 31.5% said they wanted the refund option. As of the time the thread was closed (as you will later learn), as you can see from the above, 25.15% of the 1173 votes, wanted that option.
RSI, understandably, freaked out. Here’s why.
If they allowed this refund option, and even only 50% of those who polled in the affirmative rushed to get a refund, they’d have a serious problem. Imagine if a handful of those people, were the high rollers, people who had pledged from $2,500 all the way up to a staggering $16K (some unconfirmed reports say there are higher backers) – now wanted a refund because they’re tired of this vaporware bullshit. Human nature, when it comes to impulse buying, and buyer’s remorse, is the stuff that makes people buy stuff they don’t need, with money they can’t spare. Give it time, and buyer’s remorse sets in, they’re running back to the store for a refund.
Now RSI had a problem on their hands. And in the typical clueless, and unbridled, fuckeries that they’re used to doing over there, with impunity, Ben (whose only claim to fame is being a hardcore Wing Commander fan, with no industry experience, is now all of a sudden, a Director of sorts), mentioned in my previous article, put his foot in it – again – and posted this gem:
In other words, they tossed me, a legacy Star Citizen (I even have the card to prove it!), who gave them $250 in cold hard cash, from the very beginning – out an airlock.
Then took all my stuff.
And for good measure, started to libel, and character assassinate me, in an attempt to have their horde of clueless White Knight degenerates, rejoice and revel in the action, while attacking me in the RSI forums, and elsewhere online.
It gets even crazier. The media came calling. First out the gate, was Andy Chalk’s write-up of the incident for PC Gamer. This would have been any other publisher spin, except for the fact that, well, they flat-out lied. Again. I quote:
“It was obvious he was not a supporter of our project and was just using our visibility as a platform to gain attention and promote his current game and his past games,” a Cloud Imperium Games rep explained in an email. “We have strict rules about people using our forums and chat for self-promotion and it was clear that he didn’t care about the project, or the backers, or a good game being made. He was just trying to create a huge fuss to make himself relevant at a lot of other people’s expense and distress. So we enacted our rights through Kickstarter (that we also have on our own TOS) and refunded him and turned his account off.”
That’s an RSI employee, making a false statement to the media about why my account was terminated, in a byline story, knowing it to be false, and that it would be made public. That’s defamation.
So let me see if I get this straight.
- I was not a supporter, but I backed the project right from the beginning. And like everyone else, patiently waited for it to become a reality.
- Me, being someone with, you know, shipped products spanning many years, who isn’t trading on legacy products (see Wing Commander) from back when DOS was a thing, would somehow see some real wisdom in promoting my current game, Line Of Defense, through what is, for all intent and purposes, glorified vaporware.
- Me, being someone who has never – ever – posted on any RSI forum, or chat, has somehow broken these strict ToS rules for using their forums and chat for “self-promotion“.
- Me, who, after being one of the first backers with $250, and who, has been following the project since Oct 2012 – never saying anything, writing tomes or any of the sort, now somehow didn’t care about the project.
- Me, who, after extensive – and costly – research, wrote up two articles, drawing attention to various signs that point to the project being in trouble if they didn’t get their collective act in gear, somehow didn’t care about the backers, or a good game being made.
- Me, who has been so irrelevant over the years that, the very mention of my name in some circles, has been known to make grown men weep in their Cornflakes; a man who has the ability to command an audience, get their attention, and get results, somehow is now relying on vaporware to make himself relevant.
So, if I get this correctly, they’re probably referring to this very same guy, who in a span of two short weeks, has pretty much completely dominated the online narrative about this project being in trouble, needing accountability etc. You know, the guy who just became their worst PR nightmare.
Yeah, that guy.
The guy who has seemingly succeeded in putting all the bullshit chatter surrounding this project on hold, while making people stop, and think about what they should be asking and focusing on, instead of blindly buying into what now has all makings of a crowd-funding failure, and an unmitigated disaster
And, according to Ben, by writing these articles, and never having posted on any of the RSI systems, I was somehow using Star Citizen as a “platform to gain attention”. And the more they try to spin this, the more traction it gets, again, and again, and again, and again, and, again, and again….and again…and so it goes.
WHO WISHES TO FIGHT MUST FIRST COUNT THE COST
OK, so they didn’t flat out call me, a user, “toxic”, or my intentions “sinister”, but you can see the implications, right? It’s called False Light. Because guess what, as me, the user, who has never done anything on RSI systems (forum, chat, game) which would otherwise violate their ToS, was now one of “those” people, for having written a series of articles, outside the purview or control of RSI. As a result, without warning, my backing was refunded, and my RSI account closed, resulting in the total loss of what I owned these past three years, as well as my rights as a legacy backer.
I wrote my opinions on my blog, in my space, and based on my opinions.
Do you get the implications of this, or not?
Here is the analogy. This would be like you buying a product, bringing it home, writing on your blog (not even on the site that you bought it from) that it is not as expected. Then they send someone to your house to throw money in your face, take the item – and leave. Then they go post on their website, why they did it.
Let’s not even delve into the privacy minefield they just walked into, nor the potential libel implications, not only in that forum post, but also in the email statement provided to the media, which clearly show that, well, they lied. Direct from the EFF resources:
Is there a difference between reporting on public and private figures?
Yes. A private figure claiming defamation—your neighbor, your roommate, the guy who walks his dog by your favorite coffee shop—only has to prove you acted negligently, which is to say that a “reasonable person” would not have published the defamatory statement.
A public figure must show “actual malice”—that you published with either knowledge of falsity or in reckless disregard for the truth. This is a difficult standard for a plaintiff to meet.
And thus far, since this is apparently a form letter they are sending to inquiring media, they keep repeating it. As Andy Chalk indicated in his article’s closing:
“We’ve asked Cloud Imperium to confirm that Smart has never used its forums, and that it therefore views its terms of service as extending beyond RSI “properties” and into the internet at large. Smart, meanwhile, said he’s about to write a third commentary on the matter. We’ll keep you posted.”
The day after the PC Gamer article, Andy confirmed to me that he was informed by RSI, as per his query above, that my “non-use of their forums doesn’t appear to be a factor” in their decision to terminate my account.
In other words, they lied. They had no plausible reason, or cause, to terminate my RSI account. This was pure retaliation, and an attempt to silence my voice as a backer because I am voicing these opinions on the project.
This was part of a concerted effort to disparage me, and kick me out as a backer who would then have less of a standing to continue questioning them about this project. In other words, retaliation for my writing these articles, and voicing these concerns.
I’ve got news for you. You’re not going to get away with this, I’m going to keep pushing these stories, little, by little, until every little secret that’s going on over there, and which we are now privy to, are made public. That’s assuming that the investigative media don’t get there first. Clearly you all missed the memo where it says:
“Don’t mess with Derek Smart“.
THE GREATEST VICTORY IS THAT WHICH REQUIRES NO BATTLE
I have been following many a thread on the Internet since this shit-storm started. I knew, going in, that these attacks against me, are precisely what would happen once I raised these concerns in public. And because it’s me raising the alarm, the attacks would be fast, and furious.
None of this bothers me. People, through the years, have shit talked me for decades. Meanwhile, I’m still here, doing what I love; making games.
These articles, at great risk of abuse to myself, were written because I believe it to be the right thing to do. I wrote them out of sheer love for this industry, and for the mere fact that a bunch of people in the industry Boys Club, were about to, once again, do profound stupid shit which would have long term ramifications for us as gamers, and gamedevs. Many years from now, everyone will see that I was right.
And it was because of me, that all this is now being discussed. People are asking questions, asking for refunds etc
Others are just attacking me, dragging up my industry past (which is hilarious for so many reasons) in order to taint the message, and discredit the messenger through character assassination. It simply won’t work. This is not Usenet. This is not last year. This is today, where we are way more prolific in seeking answers, and seeing beyond the bullshit.
Again, the general consensus with these people is to attack the messenger, while ignoring (regardless of merit) the message.
The thing is that they’ve been doing this for years now, squashing dissent among the backers asking the same questions.
The difference being that, this being me, jumping into the fray brings a recognized voice to the discourse, thus making myself a target for these people.
That’s the MO.
People keep saying that I am self-promoting. I mean, seriously, think about this. You don’t ask a brain surgeon to comment on nuclear fusion. You don’t rely on some anon person in a forum, if you want to get meaningful results.
Similarly, I mention MY history, and MY games, on MY blog, because I have that history of making massive, complex, multi-genre games. As such, I know all the pitfalls, the challenges etc. Line Of Defense, just so happens to be such a game, though a lot smaller in scope, and not as visually advanced. It is because of this, that what I’m saying, keeps getting traction far and wide.
They know that I am the single most significant threat to this house of cards, simply because I have everything I need to challenge it all. All of it, from a business, financial, and development perspective.
In fact, in my second article, I asked for them to hire a forensic accountant hired by backers. Had they agreed to that, as a backer with the means to do it, I’d have made one phone call to my CA attorney’s office, and made it happen. Just like that. And that’s part of what they’re afraid of because I’m crazy enough to actually do it.
And setting aside the above, the scary thing here is that they yanked my accounts, took my items, and with NO justification other than the fact that I’m making noise about the project scope, accountability etc. They are pretty much saying that neither I, nor anyone with a known RSI account, can badmouth them or the project, without running the risk of their account, and items, being yanked. And the White Knights cheering this action against me and others, are OK with this. And I’m not alone. Here is a detailed article of similar behavior that happened recently. He too was a backer. As was this guy (UPDATE: after my article went live, they contacted him and unbanned his forum account. Scroll to the bottom of his article) in my article comment thread. This guy, like so many others, wasn’t so fortunate. Just read that exchange, and be amazed at the audacity of these people at RSI.
My guess is that there are thousands more who just want their money back, and out of this inbound train wreck, which has thus far failed to deliver as promised.
THE SUPREME ART OF WAR IS TO SUBDUE THE ENEMY WITHOUT FIGHTING
Here’s the thing, yanking my RSI account, won’t silence me. All you’ve done, is strengthened my resolve, and unwittingly broadcast to the world that you have something to hide by kicking me out as a backer, without warning. I am going to keep talking (podcast 1, 2) about this incessantly until we get some answers, as outlined in my Interstellar Discourse article.
And next, I’m going to take out a full page article in the NY times, just to prove it.
To the many Star Citizen fans, and fellow backers, we have many reports (which we are sifting through daily and which are not yet public) coming in from both insiders, and past employees/contractors that this project is in deep trouble. These reports range from rapidly dwindling funds left to see the project to completion; to a new report that SQ42 is almost a year away if they don’t reduce the scope, and that it is now going to be an episodic game, in which the first episode (about 3hrs long without cut-scenes) is free, while future episodes are going to be paid DLC. Add to the fact that the Star Citizen project (aka PU) is apparently still vaporware, and you can quickly see where this is going.
They talk about transparency, yet they haven’t addressed a single one of the 7 serious issues raised in the Interstellar Discourse article. We collectively gave these people, to date, almost $85m; and thus far all we have is a glorified model viewer, and a buggy flight test module. Don’t you want to know what is going on there, after almost four years, and all this money? Or how much of this $85m went to Chris, and Sandra Roberts right from the start when the Kickstarter was successful? How much is spent on the project? What the corporate expenses (paying approx $14K per month rent with backer money as a corporate housing in Pacific Palisades, is usually a big Red flag) for this company, built on crowd-funding, is?
Doesn’t anyone want to know how much Chris, and Sandra Roberts (who has gone on record saying she has multiple degrees from UCLA here @18:45, and here) are paid on this project? If what my sources are telling me is true, they are easily the highest paid execs for their positions.
UPDATE: After searching for various combinations of her name, at a cost of almost $200, there is no evidence that she ever went to UCLA. And her old LinkedIn profile with this information, has since been deleted – we have screen shots of it.
Sandi Gardiner is Sandra Roberts.
The kids in the early KS videos, are their kids. In a meet the dev video, she tells of how she first started working on Star Citizen and never mentions being married to or her having been Chris’ intern at Ascendant Pictures
At the time that my 2nd blog, Interstellar Discourse, went up, in which I questioned her experience, qualifications, etc, her original LinkedIn profile (which we have screen capped), contained entries for her degrees at UCLA.
She deleted that original profile.
Here is a Reddit thread (search for UCLA) in which people were quoting from that old profile.
After this 3rd blog went up, I again talked about the nepotism etc. I also mentioned why it is that, after spending over $200 in requests, UCLA had no records of her, or any version of her maiden and married names.
Shortly after, she then created a new LinkedIn profile which we caught when people she was linked to, received LinkedIn notifications, alerting us to it. Several people notified us.
In this new profile, no mention of UCLA. Instead, a new Australian college which our researchers there, are currently looking into.
And here is a lengthy podcast interview (update: since this blog went live, they have since pulled that podcast but there is a copy over on Stitcher) she did, in which @18:45 she was claiming a UCLA degree. She claims she got a degree in Marine Biology while in Australia, and then later got a degree in International Marketing from UCLA.
Here is another one (update: since this blog went live, they have since pulled this one too). And she claims (1, 2) to have an MBA from both the Australia Business School and another from UCLA Anderson School of Management. Both statements have thus far been proven to be categorically false.
Why do we have to resort to leaking information piece by piece, and putting present and past employees/contractors at risk, to get these answers? A lot of stuff is going on over there. Doesn’t anyone want to know? Would I put myself at legal risk, and all this online abuse, attacks etc if I didn’t think there was a lot of smoke here? Does anyone think that I’m just some crazy old coot, sitting around with nothing better to do with his time, and money? Anyone?
Well I want to know, and that’s why they’re trying to take me out of the equation.
I will spend every resource I have at my disposal to prove that I am right to seek these answers, and I know with certainty, that I will be vindicated when the dust settles. If this is my final act of industry defiance before I retire for good, so be it. I will see this to the very bitter end.
Chris, and Sandra Roberts, you both know that I am right, and where this is headed. And as I see it, this is never going away, and you’re never going to be able to silence me. So, you have the following choices going forward:
- You, and your wife, Sandra Roberts (aka Sandi Gardiner), should resign, effective immediately, and relinquish control of this company to an interim CEO.
- Using the same rules you used to refund my pledge, without my asking, you are to immediately process refunds in the amount of $2,134,374 as per the initial Kickstarter crowd-funding effort for those who request it. Those who want to wait to see the end (my instinct, from what I know now, is telling me that the end is looking a lot like a catastrophic total loss of this project), and funded to the tune of $83m on your website, are welcome to do that.
- Give backers the opportunity to hire an independent forensics accountant, and an executive producer, to audit the company records, and give an accurate picture of the financial health of the company, and it’s ability to complete, and deliver this project in a timely fashion. I hereby offer to foot the entire costs of this effort. And I will put up to $1m of my own money, in an escrow account of an attorney’s choosing, to be used as-needed for this exercise. I will pay this price to prove that I had every right to seek these answers. So this money can either go toward a good cause (righting this ship), or to attorneys who are most likely to burn it all down anyway.
- If you ignore this, the more time passes, the more articles that myself, and investigative media write, revealing what we know, the more likely it is that this will end in legal (someone suing someone, and opening the flood gates) action, thereby forcing you all to come to court and answer these questions.
As I warned before, unless there is full accountability from you, there is no version of this that ends nicely. If this ends in legal action, in any form, all relevant people who are still with your companies, or who have left, are going to be subjected to subpoenas, and depositions – under oath, as this process unfolds. This will just end up being messy, time consuming, and costly, for everyone involved. As you probably know, aside from your inner circle of sycophants, you and Sandra, have very few people who are going to put their future at risk, in order to lie under oath.
Whatever is going on, or has gone on, is going to come out. All of it. With the mainstream media now investigating this farce, the FTC reports being made etc, it is only a matter of time now. And eventually, it’s all going to be taken apart piece, by piece in order to get to the bottom of where all this money went, and what happened to this once promising product vision. When the pieces all come together, it will be swift, it will be sudden, and it will be decisive.
And while you’re pacing the room, ponder the fact that I reside in Florida. These are our defamation laws and guidelines, and Florida recognizes the Substantial Truth protection. Read that last link very carefully.