“If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle” – Carl Sagan
THE YEAR OF BROKEN PROMISES
This month in 2012, three years ago, 34,297 of us crowd-funded what appeared to be an outstanding space combat project by a self-proclaimed visionary.
That game was Star Citizen. And it pulled over $2.1m on Kickstarter alone. That was Nov 2012.
We did that despite the fact that said “visionary”, Chris Roberts, had not even worked on a game in over a decade. He had not only left behind a trail of badly managed projects, a reputation for never delivering on lofty promises, but also one failed studio. His brother’s studio, which had also worked on some of his games, also failed (bought by the guys behind the Gizmondo money laundering fiasco) years later.
After leaving the gaming industry in defeat, back in Hollywood, said visionary seemingly repeated the same mistakes through a series of horrid sub-par movies – including a Wing Commander movie. The end result was the operational collapse of said studio, Ascendant Pictures which ended up selling its assets to a third-party studio.
If you are beginning to see a pattern here, pat yourself on the back.
Having reportedly failed to obtain investor funding and the rights to Wing Commander, Chris decided to create the Star Citizen IP instead.
Returning to an industry that had since moved on, he managed to get over $2m from us forgiving types who believe that everyone deserves another chance. All that through lofty promises; NONE of which, four years and $95m later, have thus far been kept. In fact, last we checked, not even 10% of what was promised has thus far been delivered.
We all believed in that original “vision 1.0” dream from back in 2012. But then, Chris being Chris, did what he always does: he screwed it all up by not only reneging on promises made, but also by extending the scope of the project to a completely bloated “vision 2.0”. All that, knowing fully well that 1) they didn’t even have the tech to build such a game 2) there was no way in hell that scope of a game – as pitched – could ever be developed.
Having FAILED to deliver on even a “vision 1.0” game, Chris, his wife, as well as partner, Ortwin (a media attorney in CA), figured out that there was money to be made in selling PICTURES OF SHIPS (as in JPEGS) instead of actually bothering to deliver a GAME to the people who had, in good faith, PAID for it. All the while subjecting backers to Sunk Cost Fallacy that seemingly forces them to keep funding a “dream” that has since turned into a nightmare for everyone who isn’t acting like they’re in a cult.
Most of those assets being sold as pictures, are not only for a non-existent game, but they haven’t even been built for implementation in said game.
Then, as a slap to the face of backers of this project, in Feb 2015, they surreptitiously made a “material” change to the very TOS which they had written prior and which offered some comfort and confidence to those who kept backing the project. That being, if they failed to deliver the project within 12 months from the projected delivery date (Nov 2014), that they would i) issue refunds ii) provide accounting for where the money went. I wrote about it extensively in my Star Citizen – The Long Con blog.
Amid accusations of malfeasance, dishonest practices, fraudulent inducement and everything in between, not only have they failed to make good on any of these promises, but even the very people now trying to get their money back, have been met with lots of resistance. To the extent that, in some cases, not only has it taken almost a month to refund, but they are also reported to be routinely offering people half or less than the money they invested in this project. That aside from the fact that, suspiciously, some people are getting refunds from corporate entities they didn’t even give money to. And in some cases, a single refund has been split up, with amounts coming from multiple entities.
In July, after I heard rumblings about the project being in trouble, I decided to do some research, talk to industry contacts etc. The picture was bleak; so I decided to write about it in order to bring awareness to what was going on. That first blog, Interstellar Citizens, was then picked up by the media. This is what happened next.
As it stands, this is where we have today, three years of active development later:
- Hangar. Where you get to view your ships. Except that it’s nothing but a staging area. And nothing else. Plus you can’t view all your ships in it.
- Arena Commander. A dogfighting app that, even after 18 months is buggy, sub-par and has very few players (out of over 700K backers)
- Social/Planetside. A level (out of 100 promised) that is as bland, as it is empty. And with no redeeming gameplay related qualities
And they haven’t met a single delivery deadline. Not one.
Plus, there are whales who have upwards of $30K invested in this game. These are same people who keep putting money into the game.
And through it all, the extremist supporters of the game are the most anti-social and abusive in all of gaming. And that’s saying something. Attacking anyone and everyone – media and/or gamers alike – that voices any sort of dissent toward the game, they continue to bring toxicity to the game’s community. And these are some of the people who, if this game ever comes out, that those who just wanted to support and play a game, will be dealing with. Who will want to be a part of that? Yet, they wonder why people are now clamoring for refunds.
In August, as part of my quest for accountability and to bring awareness to this train wreck, and even knowing how expensive legal action can get, I retained three law firms to help wade through this. One of them sent a demand letter to the creators of this project. Rather than offer a response and/or resolution, instead they sent back a derogatory response which you can read over in my Star Citizen – The End Game blog.
To make things worse, merely months later when some in the media, as well as in gaming proper started paying attention and taking a long hard look at the state of the project, The Escapist wrote a scathing article.
The largely incoherent ‘response‘ from the CEO of a $95m crowd-funded project reads like a kindergarten rant written by someone high on a controlled substance or off their meds.
It gave yet another view of the sort of people we’re now dealing with. Not to mention the follow-up baseless legal threat communicated to The Escapist by Ortwin, the media “attorney” partner in this project. All of this is covered in my most recent blog, Star Citizen – Interstellar Pirates.
None of this should have come as a surprise, given the type of people we’re now dealing with and who have been showing their true colors these past months of intense scrutiny and questioning.
As things stand, the project is in trouble. It’s late. What’s been delivered thus far is mostly a broken mess. The studios are going through layoffs, people are quitting, being terminated etc. And that’s just the half of it.
Through all this, the wasteful spending of backer money continues. Ranging from repeated iterations of once completed game assets and tech, to relocating teams to more expensive States; building new offices; spending millions of dollars on the same tech (MoCap, fps module) which bears very little relevance to the game being made; paying late filing fees for UK studios financials ( e.g. Foundry 42); spending money on investigators and legal in taking actions which amount to intimidation and harassment etc. It is a very, very long list we’ve compiled.
And this was billed as an indie studio that set out to make a game for a group of hardcore space combat fans who were ready, willing and able to fund it to fruition. Now there are no less than fourteen entities associated with it.
To make things worse, in this past October’s CitizenCon event, Chris Roberts, despite previously going on the record as saying the game will be completed and delivered in 2016, stated that he was no longer giving backers delivery schedules for the project. And just like that, what little accountability for this $95m project was left, went out the window. It all translates to: “We’ve got your money, f*ck you very much, we don’t owe you shit”
That aside from the debacle surrounding the game’s development timeline. Is it four years? Or three years? Yet, some people are really arguing about this. Despite the fact that Chris has gone on the record, time and time again, making this sort of statement which means that the project has actually been four years in development.
“Really it is all about constant iteration from launch. The whole idea is to be constantly updating. It isn’t like the old days where you had to have everything and the kitchen sink in at launch because you weren’t going to come back to it for awhile. We’re already one year in – another two years puts us at 3 total which is ideal. Any more and things would begin to get stale.“
By all accounts and given current trends, this project is on track to be a sudden and catastrophic collapse, resulting in the loss of backer money. And there is seemingly nothing that anyone can do about it.
Three years ago this month, nobody saw this coming.
So the 3yr (since the Kickstarter campaign) anniversary TwitchTV live stream started at 2PM EST and ended a little after 5PM EST. You can view it here.
They didn’t show any live footage of the much touted PU 2.0 build. At all. They spent over 2.5 hrs on selling JPEGs of ships (the Crucible and Archimedes), talking about Squadron 42, Mark Hamill, MoCap etc. And a walkthrough of a bar/lounge work in progress are. Seriously. They spent only roughly the last 27 mins on 2.0.
I did a live Tweet (I was just doing some harmless trolling and having a blast, really) of hilarious commentary the whole time.
Later in the evening after they sent out 1000 invites to the lucky few who would get to test this disaster in the PTU (Persistent Test Universe) server, I watched some guys play and as expected it wasn’t ready for production release. Lots of glitches, crashes, not much “game” etc.
As I said a month ago, they had to release something for this anniversary, as well as to show some progress. Even if it wasn’t ready. And that’s exactly what they did. So like Arena Commander, the hangar and ArcCorp social/planetside module, we now have yet another broken piece of the puzzle.
Chris Roberts also said that it’s limited to 12-16 ships; though it’s not clear how many player clients that entails, given the multi-crew nature of some ships.
And parts of the problem they are supposed to have been fixing (e.g. the 64-Bit port) and which still results in jittering when in the game world, still exists. I wrote up a short piece about it earlier today. Then there’s the usual gaming tomfoolery showing a dialog between Chris and one of his engineers.
Long story short, four years and $95m later, all we have on hand is a glorified tech proof-of-concept demo. That’s it.
Below are the items that Chris announced are coming in 2.0. Of course he doesn’t say when. I may need to update this once the recorded stream goes up and I can review it more carefully.
20 encounters (not sure what that even means. are they missions?)
8 dogfighting missions
8 research missions
1 exploration mission
1 on-going battle in the background
1 wreckage in asteroid belt
1 station with PvP (fps presumably)
Security area (not sure which location) is PvP for fps and you can pick up weapons, recharge etc
You can repair ships
You can heal players and group (?) with others
Access to Crusader region which has 3 moons, 3 stations and an asteroid belt
You can fly ships such as Avenger, Retaliator, Constellation, and Vanguard
New flight models (we already knew about this from dev logs)
You can now EVA from the ship. This was shown at CitizenCon