“Evocatus (plural Evocati) was the Latin term for a soldier in the Roman army who had served out his time and obtained a discharge (missio) but had voluntarily enlisted again at the invitation of the consul or other commander.”
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.
THE NEXT PHASE OF THE HILARITY WITHIN
If you thought all the controversy surrounding this project was in danger of easing up, you have no clue. It’s an on-going Gold mine of hype, hilarity, tomfoolery and wanton acts of cringe-worthy shenanigans. Amid rumors of the Star Citizen project being put in maintenance mode while focus and resources go full bore on Squadron 42, backers being declined refunds amid controversial diatribes by some execs attached to the project, to reveals (1, 2) of procedural tech (which I called out as being staged/faked on sight, as did others) previously unveiled amid money grabbing hype, and recently revealed to be just that: staged/fake. It’s been non-stop.
But wait! There’s more! Quick! See if you can play a game of “Who gets fired next; or bolts for the door under suspicious circumstances” after watching this latest live stream segment. My money is on Jared aka Lando, a fan favorite, and guy (not the no-talent-having fat guy and deposition Gold mine who has been gunning for me since 2004, not the token clueless Black guy who, like an on set picture frame, started appearing frequently, shortly after The Escapist expose last year) voted most likely to be having sleepless (because some say he appears to have a conscience) nights over this train wreck; and foolishly rumored (as hilarious as that sounds) to be a “Derek Smart source/mole“.
UPDATE1: Mere days after this blog went live, Jared Huckaby went on a 2hr melt-down (1, 2, 3) in which he made statements against Chris Roberts, the Star Citizen game etc. Choice quote. Then Goons uncovered Ben Lesnick’s legacy website. More here.
Listen, things are so messed up now that as soon as you say Star Citizen, people within earshot are likely to either a) break into uncontrollable fits of laughter or b) reach for weapons, armor, and/or pepper spray.
So a few days ago, without any fanfare, CIG pulled the craziest stunt yet since they figured out how to extract money from gullible gamers by selling JPEGs (yes, that would be pictures) of ships for a game that doesn’t – and never will – exist. At least not in this lifetime.
The latest laugh riot?
I have it from very credible sources that Chris Roberts, having grown very upset about the mess that is Star Citizen as portrayed by literally thousands of YouTube and Twitch videos, decided to institute another layer of exclusivity to the game. It should, if nothing else, appease the whales (aka the big spenders voted most likely to sue them if they fail to deliver on promises) who are still propping up the crowd-funding.
In other words, guys like hilarious Goon, Major Tom (aka pgabz) whose videos are as hilarious as they are eye-opening, are about to get locked out of the game unless and until it’s less rubbish (yes, seriously, they think it’s possible). What’s going to be very hilarious is that Goons are everywhere. And my guess is that, as I type this, they’ve already gained access.
And as if on cue, just last evening, pgabz had something to say about that. Watch.
Anyway, before I go into this, let me give you some background on why this is yet another way of taking away backer entitlement. With impunity. Because they can. And backers can’t do a darn thing about it. Yet.
Star Citizen, to date, has raised almost $112M dollars via crowd-funding. Sources and some confirmed reports also indicate that this amount may or may not include funding received from outside investors; one of whom, after reading The Escapist article last year, did his own research, spoke to some of the people he knew, and subsequently pulled his reportedly sizable investment from the project. And he did so with much fanfare.
And as of this writing, the game which, back in Nov 2012 promised a Nov 2014 delivery, exists as nothing more than a CryEngine3 mod. A tech-demo if you will. The two remaining “modules” which are identified as Star Citizen (aka Persistent Universe), Arena Commander (flight dynamics testing) are still in an incomplete mess.
I’m not even going to talk about Star Marine which, after much denial, was actually canceled (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) as I first reported almost six months earlier. Needless to say, the backers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) knew this was a problem, and that they had been lied to. Again. To the extent that, less than 48hrs ago, some were still expecting this module due to statements Chris made saying that whatever was supposed to be Star Marine, was currently in the PU. As soon as the laughing stopped, the riot began.
Nor am I going to talk about Squadron 42, the stand-alone off-shoot game which was, for all intent and purposes, was never to be the priority of this project. Like the other aforementioned modules, it was just another stretch goal promise. But you know what? About that. Here is the thing, they’ve subsequently, not only gimped that one as well, split (1, 2, 3) it into separate products, sold it separately etc, but word is that’s the game that they are focused on now. Chris, who had left the gaming industry decades ago to be a movie director/producer (which he also failed at, as evidenced by his slew of Godawful movies, a crippling lawsuit against his Ascendant Pictures studio from Kevin Costner over failed promises; and not to mention the various legal movie related shenanigans over in Germany) thinks he’s still making a movie.
It is widely known that very few of the backers give two hoots about Squadron 42. That’s not the game they backed. That’s not the game they poured $112M into. To most of them, it was just another game mode to sweeten the deal and the allure of this once promising project. There isn’t a scenario on this Earth whereby a group of gamers will give him $112M to build a game like Squadron 42; when in fact very experienced teams with a long track record are struggling to raise even $500K to make a game. That’s the sort of damage to videogame crowd-funding this will have when it collapses.
Oh, did I mention that in the past three months, several leading media companies having visited Foundry 42 in the UK never saw Squadron 42 in action? Not even the BBC who ran an entire segment earlier this year, saw – the game – in action; as in, being played – by anyone. At all. And they stated specifically that. Which seems to support insider rumors that, at best, if they survive that long, it will never see the light of day before Q4/2017. But word is they have a nice trailer that’s due out soon though. So there is that. More fluff. Less game.
Chris Roberts and his F level wannabe actress wife (something they tried hard to hide for a very long time; this despite the fact that they’ve reportedly been married to each other twice), Sandi Gardiner, are appearing to use this project as their way back into Hollywood. They have spent a vast fortune of backer money building a movie experience, instead of a game. Incorporating a slew of assets – including A list actors – which were never part of the goals for that part of the game, using backer money to build a new studio location in CA, while moving the core team out of Austin to CA, and building a lifestyle (from backer money, considering that he was reportedly flat broke prior to the 2012 Kickstarter campaign) around Hollywood. Chris is making a movie, not a game. And wasting backer money doing just that. From reported $20K espresso machines, to super expensive Restoration Hardware furniture at the LA office. All this despite the fact that backer money was to be spent on building the game, not lining their pockets or wasteful spending.
And if the recent accidental leak of the Squadron 42 script, as well as reports from sources who are part of the work, are to be believed, it’s going to be D grade levels of crap. Think Wing Commander movie bad, I have been told.
And now in year five, $112M raised, and over 500 (last reports indicate around 300) people across four studios (CA, TX, Germany, UK) working on this project at some point, neither Star Citizen, nor Squadron 42, are anywhere near completion. And it has been reported that neither one is going to see a complete (lol!) release in 2016.
Back in August 2015 when I wrote the Interstellar Breach blog, here is what I said they would do once the going gets rough.
“As far as this project is concerned, from my observation and experience, it is my opinion that if they ever ship a completed Star Citizen game, that is true to the “vision” they have been selling, it will be a game that could have been made in four years for $20m.
Instead, with all this resource waste due to bad project management, scope creep, wasteful and improper spending etc, they would have blown through $86m+ and with zero accounting for where the money went. But hey, they shipped something, right? But since I don’t believe that the game – as pitched – will ever see the light of day, backers are going lose, no matter how this ends.
Here is the crucial problem with this. The minute they deliver a “game” that fits the framework they have described, regardless of how buggy or incomplete it is, the legal hurdle of accountability becomes harder to get over.
For example. You pay me $100 to build you a quality box. Then through delays you start getting irate, forcing me to deliver or face legal consequences. The end result is that I’m going to build you a flimsy box for $10. Now you have a box. I get to keep $90.
You now have to decide whether or not it’s worth coming after me for building you a cheap flimsy box.
How many times haven’t you ordered something online, received it, then had to return it because the quality or operation was not as expected? That’s what we’re facing here if we don’t push for accountability. Except in this regard, you won’t be able to return it; nor will you be able to get a refund.
Unless there is fraud and/or criminal conduct uncovered, they will get away with it; walking away with millions of dollars either through unjust enrichment, or spent foolishly in order to keep up appearances.”
THE EVOCATI TEST NONSENSE
“Evocatus (plural Evocati) was the Latin term for a soldier in the Roman army who had served out his time and obtained a discharge (missio) but had voluntarily enlisted again at the invitation of the consul or other commander.“
And now, back to the latest fiasco already in progress…
A few days ago, without fanfare (not mentioned anywhere in the usual backer facing channels), a group of select backers received a strange email inviting them to be part of a new group of testers. As hilarious as that may sound, most of the backers didn’t even believe it; and thus spent several posts debating (1, 2) the authenticity of the emails. Of course, the full-on wtf? threads and posts following shortly after.
Over the weekend, a CIG rep posted a confirmation.
“Thought I would provide some extra context…
If you played the very early builds of 1.2.0 (Social Module), 2.0.0 (Crusader), or 2.2.0, you will recall how terribly unstable each of them were. Clients and servers would regularly crash in a matter of minutes or sometimes even seconds.
The goal of this group is to get a limited set of external players onto early builds of a version so we can get it stabilized and ready for normal PTU playtesting and iteration while keeping our operational costs down. The reality is we do not need thousands of players to download a build that isn’t ready for primetime!
The need for this group will diminish once we are further into our patch size reduction project and our download costs are not so prohibitive. You can read more about that in our Monthly Report here:https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/15285-Monthly-Studio-Report. 🙂“
It’s a load of crap. Know why? There isn’t a single mention of this in the report link he posted. Or in any previous report. Yes, we scraped and datamined the entire public facing site for it. Nada. In fact, from the link (posted April 9, 2016) he posted above, there is this lovely titbit:
“Game Support has also continued to refine how we utilize the Public Test Universe (PTU). We’ve gotten a heck of a lot of value out of PTU, and it’s now essential to the development of Star Citizen. In addition, we’ll be updating our PTU list of players for 2.4.0, so make sure you’re staying active in PTU and on the Issue Council as that’s how we invite our players!“
So what is the PTU? Basically it’s a test bed for new builds being pushed to the public. It was first announced and launched on January 21st, 2015 for testing Arena Commander. And I quote:
“PLEASE NOTE: The PTU will not be permanently accessible; it will be available on occasions that the community is needed for testing a patch, and will usually be deactivated after a patch goes live on the main channel. We will update you in this space when PTU content is available for testing.“
Wait! Sooooooo, they still have the PTU which is also an invite-only system, but less than 48hrs later, there’s yet another layer on top of that? Alrighty then.
You see, dev to live (public) release procedure was always Dev –> PTU –> Public –> hilarious videos of the $112M train-wreck.
Until the latest build, that’s how things have been. It should also be noted that Arena Commander and Star Citizen (aka PU) are two separate entities. So they both tend to appear in the PTU over time.
Once I got wind of this Evocati bullshit, naturally, I went digging. This is gaming; we’re like a bunch of little girls talking to each other. And most of us industry old timers know everything that’s going on with this project. Once in awhile, stuff also leaks (1, 2) when you least expect it. No matter how much they try to hide it from the backers who are entitled to this information, it can, and will, get out. No question about that.
So basically, what Chris has done now, is added yet another layer of obfuscation in a bid to hide the true state of the project from the backers and the public. As the word goes, he has been particularly upset by the slew of unflattering videos and commentary of the tech demo, that this was a way of keeping all that stuff behind closed doors – and subsequently out of the hands of the backers who have PAID for this product in full. Which, when you think about it, makes sense considering the embarrassing video of his failed attempt to play his own game – in a live stream.
If you read closely about what the PTU is, go ahead and try to rationalize the need for yet another layer, if not to hide the janky crap that are still trying to pass off as a $112M “game” in progress.
Basically, it’s now going to be Dev –> ETF –> PTU –> Public –> hilarious videos of the $112M train-wreck.
What they’re basically now saying, aside from trying to hide things, is that those not invited to be a part of the ETF or the PTU, are not entitled to the game in all its forms (good, bad, or ugly). Think about this. How would you feel if after paying for a crowd-funded product, the creators – after taking your money – turned around and gave access to a select few but not you? There isn’t a single crowd-funded project that would get away with that. Not one.
In fact, this chart gives you an idea of the various tiers that the backers who gave them $112M are in. For example, this disgruntled backer is $15K+ involved because he actually owns the COMPLETIONIST package. When you start to wrap your head around how they could possibly have raised all this money, that’s how. Listen, people have gone to jail for scamming lesser amounts off others. The SEC, FTC, FBI, and various other federal agencies have gone after companies and individuals that con others for lesser amounts.
$30 – White Citizens Card (Scout)
$40 – White Citizens Card (Mercenary)
$60 – Green Citizens Card (Bounty Hunter)
$125 – Bronze Citizens Card (Colonel/Freelancer)
$250 – Silver Citizens Card (Rear Admiral)
$500 – Gold Citizens Card (Vice Admiral)
$1,000 – Platinum Citizens Card (High Admiral)
$2,500 – Platinum Citizens Card (Grand Admiral)
$5,000 – Black Citizens Card (Space Marshal)
$10,000 – Titanium Citizens Card (Wing Commander)
Chris Roberts actually thought this was a great idea. Then went for broke and attached an NDA to it in a bid to further prevent even those invited to the ETF, from commenting on it, taking screenshots, making videos etc. And since they are notorious for banning people, canceling their accounts – even for doing things outside of their own community and systems, naturally it is to be expected that anyone caught violating this, will be subject to the same fate. Lovely.
Of course, all of this came shortly after this “unpopular opinion” showed up and vocal backers were – for the first time – able to collectively voice their dissent in an official forum, without it being discarded. Of course that went precisely as expected. Someone said it best:
“Reading that Reddit thread was like reading 1400 people all channeling their inner Beers and speaking boldly that which they would otherwise never dare admit openly in official forums and threads.
There are 1400 messages, and each one is unique– yet they all are saying the same thing in different ways.
“I’m afraid Derek Smart was right.”
If I were you, Derek, I’d finish your business for the day, eat a celebratory meal with your wife, then sit down to your computer with a scotch and a big ass Cuban cigar. Savor every single post. You’ve earned it, man.“
And as if on cue, some of the anti-social misfits (aka Shitizens) who spend every waking moment trying to stifle (1, 2, 3) derogatory discussions of this game, are seriously trying to justify it. “Oh, this is normal“, “This is great, some people don’t understand game development“. Some of the comments are eyebrow raising hilarious; because when you consider the source, all you can do is laugh.
GOING FOR BROKE – FOLLOW THE MONEY
Rumors and unconfirmed reports have been swirling for months that they’re running out of money to complete these projects, that they’ve been seeking external investor funding, trying to take advantage of tax credits etc. Even over in the UK, where reports like this come out, there is no evidence of them ever filing with the BFI if they did in fact take advantage of UK tax credits. If they’re out trying to raise investor money, it should come as a complete shock to anyone who thinks that $112M should have been enough to, you know, develop the game as promised. All the negativity surrounding the game, the shitty and toxic community that has sprung up around it; the aforementioned videos of a shitty tech-demo (aka CryEngine mod) everyone is now laughing (1, 2) at, are collectively likely to affect any efforts to raise money outside of a bunch of gullible whales firmly entrenched in sunk cost fallacy and cognitive dissonance.
Here’s the thing, any investor or investment banker looking to invest in a project which, for five years, has raised over $112M (that we know of) for a project that the creator was originally asking $2M from the public, should be doing extensive research into all the execs associated with this project. Not to mention those involved in this project and who had ties to the Gizmondo debacle, a money laundering scheme, and which was yet another massive and sudden collapse of a gaming industry venture. At least until the sudden and unexpected collapse of 38 Studios happened years later.
To the extent that this project happens to currently boast the 4th largest game dev budget in history. And five years and $112M later, they haven’t delivered anything that resembles the game promised. And we’re keeping track. As of this writing, going by the pledge promises, not even 10% of the project has been delivered to backers. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, with the crowd-funding drying up, and with a monthly burn rate rumored to be in the region of $3m (!) per month, they’re now focusing on more ways of making money; rather than building the core game play elements of the game. This time, in the form of in-game items shoe-horned into an instanced tech demo (aka PU) that is as persistent as a hobo with Alzheimer. A “game” which, btw they can’t even get more than 12 (!) clients into any instance, without severe problems, and the server coughing up moth balls.
In fact, less than two weeks ago, Chris himself confirmed – again – that the networking layer needed to be redone. Transcript of that segment. And that he can’t find qualified networking and physics engineers to hire for the project. That’s the start of his pattern of making excuses for failures. And he’s done that all before; it’s no secret.
And since Squadron 42 no longer has multiplayer, I would bet dimes to donuts that this is going to be his next excuse for releasing that game first since there is no feasible way for them to build and deliver Star Citizen as promised. Not with a shitty networking layer and a myriad of other problems. They have insurmountable engineering problems they seemingly can’t solve. And I knew this since July 2015; and said precisely that. Note that the last time Chris was making statements like this, Star Marine, as we knew it, went up in smoke because they couldn’t merge Illfonic’s work on that module.
All this despite the fact that some exceptionally talented people have come and gone from the project. And the more that word gets around about the state of the project, the complete bullshit going on behind closed doors, the more it is highly unlikely that he’s going to find any tier 1 engineers of this caliber (the guys who are in such demand that bidding wars are the norm) to come work for him. Why would they? This is a project, with currently almost 300 people worldwide, that is reported to have more content creators (artist, modeling, audio, marketing) than it does qualified engineers. Why? I’ll give you a hint: JPEG ships make money selling dreams.
Setting aside for a minute that Sandi – who got the job because her husband is Chris Roberts, and who has lied repeatedly about her qualifications (there is no evidence that she has a marketing degree – of any kind; let alone two Masters) – in an email to a backer (Beer), went on the record with a statement like this: “I’m pretty confident I am the most formally educated person in this whole company“. That’s a slap to the face of all the qualified, and talented people with degrees who work at these studios so Chris can build his dream game. And this is the person they have to answer to, seeing as she’s the #2 (Ortwin doesn’t count; he’s just a hapless fool in over his head with these two characters) exec in the company.
Listen, he’s got the likes of Sean Tracy, a tier 1 engineer who knows this stuff inside out. He’s got Tony Zurovec (!!!). Here’s the thing; he could have ten like them and NEVER build the game he wants to build. Aside from that, he’s got a bunch of ex-CryTek (the company that developed the engine they are using as a baseline) parked in a separate studio in Frankfurt Germany. That was almost a year ago. Still no game – or anything that remotely resembles one. Why? BECAUSE IT CAN’T BE DONE. PERIOD.
This is a company with, as of this writing, almost 300 people in four studios, and a slew of third-party outsourced contractors (most of which are entire studios like Behavior Interactive) who may or may not make up that count. And he’s complaining about not being able to find talented people. In year five. Of a project that’s about to be eighteen months overdue and with no end in sight. OK then.
Meanwhile, amid an on-going major backer revolt (1, 2, 3, 4), none of the game’s core features are implemented: persistence (lol!), exploration, mining, economy, trading, multi-crew stations, procedural generated planets, planetary access, VR (ahahahaha! good one, that), private servers, player actions and professions, AI crew, ship upgrades, uhm space hookers (don’t ask)….seriously I could go on and on. And the best part? Even the game world doesn’t yet exist as far as backers are aware. See this world starmap? Aside from one single location, none of that exists as of this writing. Everything listed in the pledge drive, the game’s features, and all the bullshit that Chris and crew keep spouting, day after day, are yet to be implemented. We’re in year five.
But they are still raising money. For a game he claimed he could build with $2m. From the guy who, back in Sept 2014 said this:
“Long ago I stopped looking at this game the way I did when I worked for a publisher who gave me a fixed budget to make a retail game. I now look at our monthly fundraising and use that to set the amount of resources being used to develop this game. We keep a healthy cash reserve so that if funding stopped tomorrow we would still be able to deliver Star Citizen (not quite to the current level of ambition, but well above what was planned in Oct 2012).”
That aside from the fact that they have been routinely refusing to give refunds to people who have seen through the lies, and want their money back. They prematurely released a broken tech demo in Q4/15 as the first PU 2.0 – which as was to be expected, netted them quite a bit of cash. Shortly after, in a bid no doubt designed to curb the flow of backers ejecting and asking for refunds, they started using it as an excuse to refuse refunds. And when Sandi Gardiner got into an exchange with Beer, an early backer and previously staunch supporter, here’s the fallout from that fiasco.
And they’re doing all this because, as I stated, they know that any legal action arising from non-delivery of Star Citizen, if not from the Feds, has to go through arbitration.
As it stands, $112M later, and now in year five (in 2012, Chris claimed the game was already one year in development), the game isn’t even a pre-Alpha by any definition, they have failed to – and can’t deliver – on promises made; but yet they are refusing refunds for legacy backers. In fact, reports indicate that even asking for a refund within the fourteen day period of a purchase, tends to end up in long response time delays.
Chris Roberts has raised over $112M (FYI, there is mounting evidence that the data in this chart, is bullshit – more on that soon) – that we know of – and not including other investments (which some of us are aware of) not yet made public, has thus far failed to deliver 10% of a product promised – five years later. What makes anyone in their right mind think that he’s going to be able to deliver it by throwing money at it? As I stated in my first July 2015 blog, they simply don’t have the tech to build the game he promised. He knows it. His team of skilled engineers know it. The backers (at least those who are paying attention) know it. It’s simply not a secret anymore; and he has said so himself after so many denials and rebuttals to my blog statements and commentary. In his own words:
“Basically if a cup is sitting on this table and it’s not moving there’s no reason for it say “update” there’s no reason for it to do anything over the network. CryEngine doesn’t really work that way so we’ve been spending a lot of time and we still are spending a lot of time trying to fix and refactor that. You’re sort of seeing problems that come with the CryEngine old way of doing things. Cause really it was built as a single player game so a lot of the updating is player centric but the problem we have is so for instance if there’s sixteen players on the Crusader map and they all go to different comms arrays well they’re all triggering different AI in different spots on the server and it’s running all these AI and then it’s also telling every single client what all these AI are doing but i’m flying around and i’m at comm array A over here and someone’s at comm array B over there, I don’t really need to know what’s happening in comm array B, I just need to know what’s happening in my area.
So we have to refactor the updating of the object and also the network messaging to it’s more specific to what people’s view is and that’s ongoing sort of network task we have and part of that is going to have a more efficient network version for simple rigid bodies so you can have the cups on the table and you can have more props around. The idea would be to physicalise chairs, props like that so you can push them around or whatever. If you’re flying in your ship and the gravity goes off and you haven’t bolted things down they could float and all the rest of the stuff. That is definitely our goal and you will see more of that as time goes on.“
And the fact that they keep systematically cutting things out, walking back promises etc, they have completely proven the point that I made in my first blog back in July 2015. That being:
“Without disrespect to anyone, I’m just going to say it: it is my opinion that, this game, as has been pitched, will never get made. Ever.
There isn’t a single publisher or developer on this planet who could build this game as pitched, let alone for anything less than $150 million.
The original vision which I backed in 2012? Yes, that was totally doable. This new vision? Not a chance.
The technical scope of this game surpasses GTAV, not to mention the likes of Halo.
Do you have any idea what those games cost to make and how long they took?
Do you know how many games which cost $50 million to make took almost five years to release? And they were nowhere in scope as Star Citizen?“
THE EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT (E.L.E)
UPDATE2: Less than one week after this blog went live, Chris, on April 18th, did another broadcast in which, in no uncertain terms, declared that, as I had said back in July 2015, the game he pitched, simply couldn’t be built. Back then I said:
“Without disrespect to anyone, I’m just going to say it: it is my opinion that, this game, as has been pitched, will never get made. Ever.
There isn’t a single publisher or developer on this planet who could build this game as pitched, let alone for anything less than $150 million.
The original vision which I backed in 2012? Yes, that was totally doable. This new vision? Not a chance.”
In July, following that blog, he said this:
“There are people out there who are going to tell you that this is all a BADTHING. That it’s ‘feature creep’ and we should make a smaller, less impressive game for the sake of having it out more quickly or in order to meet artificial deadlines. Now I’ll answer those claims in one word: Bullshit!
Is ‘feature creep’ a worry? Sure… it’s always a worry, and we are well aware of it. However, building the game to the stretch goals embraced and endorsed by the community is not feature creep!”
In the latest broadcast (around 23:10 mark) he stated that the first commercial release of Star Citizen, for which he had already been given, at that point, $112M dollars to deliver all he promised, will not contain the full product promised. He stated that a “minimum viable product” is what will be delivered. Full transcript here.
I wrote a follow-up about this recent development.
For about two weeks now I have been hinting that on-going events which, combined with what has transpired long before this project turned into the shit-show that it is now, are likely to see this project result in a catastrophic collapse before they can deliver on promises. If you are in the media, a backer (are you a disgruntled whale? then you’re even more vested; do something), or in a position of authority, you need to do one thing, and one thing only. Ignore all the noise and the drama, because my opinion remains the same, the game is never going to come out as promised. Instead, just follow the money.
You could start with the ever-changing ToS which, effective May 31st, 2016 from their inability to deliver as promised, requires them to provide not only refunds, but also a financial accounting of how the money raised from backers, has been spent. They’re unlikely to do it. And there is a reason that they shifted that date from 12 months (expired Nov 30th, 2015) to 18 months (expires May 31st 2016).
Heck, this is the same group of people who, reportedly (and according to public records) still haven’t filed complete financials (1, 2, 3) in the UK, as they are required to. Since US private companies are not required to file financials publicly, but they are in the UK, the fact that they have failed to do this, continues to be a huge Red flag. Especially with so many entities (which we’ve uncovered so far) tied to this project . Instead, they’re apparently just paying the fines. For example, these are the yearly financials for Frontier Developments, a UK company, and the developers of another crowd-funded project, and Star Citizen competitor, Elite Dangerous.
List of Star Citizen related corporate entities
- Cloud Imperium Games Corp, West Hollywood, CA
- Cloud Imperium Games LLC, West Hollywood, CA
- Cloud Imperium Services, LLC West Hollywood, CA <– Interestingly found on BBB, but not in the CA Secretary Of State records
- Cloud Imperium Games LLC, Santa Monica, CA
- Cloud Imperium Games Texas LLC, West Hollywood, CA
- Cloud Imperium Games Texas LLC, Austin, TX
- Cloud Imperium Games UK Limited, UK
- Foundry 42 Limited, UK
- Foundry 42, Limited, Germany <– no corporate (LTD or GmBH) listing found in Germany
- Gemini 42 Entertainment LLC, West Hollywood, CA
- Gemini 42 Productions LLC, Santa Monica, CA
- Roberts Space Industries Corp, West Hollywood, CA
- Roberts Space Industries International Limited, UK
- Twin Brothers Production Inc, West Hollywood, CA <– Owned by Ortwin (Chris Roberts partner)
- Twin Bros, GmbH, Germany <– Owned by Ortwin (Chris Roberts partner)
And now, amid all this, we’re hearing rumors* that these folks were apparently over there recently when Erin Roberts was here in the US, and Chris Roberts was over in the UK. It could be anything, or nothing – or false. It’s a developing story that I’m following; and can’t say anything more than that at this point. But needless to say, those now following the money should be looking closely at where it’s coming from, where it’s going, and whether they have enough to complete the project or not.
As a crowd-funded company, warning signs for anyone looking, should be the standard fare forensic audit investigation which should include execs taking big exit payouts, bonuses, unreasonable high pay checks and perks, company expenses (e.g. is the company paying for the CEO’s housing, luxuries etc?), company share buy backs, share transfers, off-shore accounts, money moving between entities (e.g. why is someone who paid CIG for a game in the US, getting refunds from a company in Germany?), tax transactions (e.g. why is a company charging tax on digital goods, while claiming they are “pledges”, not purchases?), why does a company that has raised all this money, still need operating loans (!) which end up using its assets (owned by backers) as collateral? Who are the investors who got bought out with backer money? etc. Look into all of it.
And remember, a group of gamers funded the ENTIRE project and EVERYTHING associated with it. As such, they have a right to know what happened to all this money, when there is still no product to date. Assuming the public facing numbers on the website are accurate (in a Dec 2015 podcast, Sandi Gardiner indicated that it would be removed. Gee, I wonder why they’d do that), gamers who poured $112M into this project, are entitled to know where the money went, since they still do not have the product promised to be delivered back in Nov 2014.
*16-04-13: This has now been confirmed to me by sources.
Also, in consultations with my attorneys, I can now add the commentary previously not included when this blog first went live.
I can now reveal that on a date certain in May, my attorneys and I will – again – walk into a Federal building.
Further to my comments above regarding how to follow and account for backer money, one thing that sticks out in all the research material I have, is the allegation that when Simon Elms (see the aforementioned Gizmondo debacle) was called back to join the fold, he, Derek Senior, and Erin Roberts (brother of Chris Roberts) – all execs in the UK – were allegedly “bought out” by CIG. While I see no evidence of this in the short-form financial filings (as they are public) of the UK companies, if this did in fact take place as alleged, then it was probably done on the US or German CIG side of those companies (see why we started tracking all these companies?) where the details are not accessible by the public, as they would be in the UK. Why is this relevant? If true, and even if found to be legal, it would still be a blatant violation of trust as per the transfer of liquid cash assets, the bulk (again, assuming that the $112M does not include other non crowd-funded investment) of which was raised with the sole purpose of creating this crowd-funded project.
Despite the fact that we do not know how much private investment is in the project, the fact remains that they should disclose this to backers, as Chris was quick to proclaim that he didn’t need investors or publishers if he could raise the money from crowd-funding. And these are some of the things that should raise Red flags pertaining to their refusal to provide complete financials to backers, as was promised in the ToS they themselves constructed. They obviously put that in there in order to gain the trust and confidence of backers, and to show a level of accountability. Then, like everything else, after getting all this money, and still failing to deliver a product, and by the deadline promised, they reneged. Pretty much how he wrote this pledge during crowd-funding, and has thus far, has failed to uphold it.
In a meeting with the interested parties, we will provide them with an entire dossier of research material, as well as statements (some sent anonymously) by third-party sources (some who agreed to be named to the authorities) who are concerned about being accused of being complicit in what is really going on with the project, and not currently known to backers. I made the decision not to turn any of this over to gaming media because most of them cannot be trusted. And those who can be trusted, without sources on the record, probably won’t touch this with the longest barge pole until it finally collapses. Aside from the fact that they (e.g. the major UK media organisation currently doing their own investigation that I have recently become aware of) stand no chance of ever getting any of these sources to go on the record, outside of a subpoena or hearing, due to reprisals by the gaming industry proper, as well as the Shitizens who have made the attacking of dissenters, a social media sport.
As my attorneys have already indicated, we would have no problems reviewing the project financials in private and under NDA, with the sole purpose of finding out how the money has been spent, and whether or not they have reserves (as Chris has indicated several times) to complete the projects as promised. Or we can agree on a neutral third-party forensics accounting firm, for which I will bear the expense as I had offered last year. And if we are satisfied with the findings, I will issue a statement to that effect. At which point, regardless of the findings (which I won’t be able to disclose anyway), my role in this would be at an end.
To be clear, their inability to complete and deliver the project as promised, is simply a matter of failure due to ambition. I have no doubt that Chris believed that this game could be developed as he envisioned. But to date, with all the feature cuts, technical challenges, broken promises, almost eighteen month delay etc, he has been proven to be wrong. And that’s not likely to change. So for all intent and purposes, that will all be irrelevant if the money was simply wasted, albeit with no evidence of malfeasance or fraud; neither of which I am in any position to accuse them of. That’s up to the authorities and the legal system to determine.
And as I have stated before, Chris being a dreamer, I don’t believe that he set out to scam gamers. However, the only right thing that he can do now is to come clean, explain to the backers what he can and cannot do, what went wrong and how, provide the financials to the backers who are entitled to it, and stop taking money for a project he knows all too well that he simply cannot deliver as originally promised.
At the end of the day, when it all comes out, fact, opinion, hyperbole, or whatever, one thing is certain, my blogs will still be here, cataloging what has gone on with the project, and why, as an industry and as gamers, we simply cannot let this happen again.
That said, if current events don’t make them bring a frivolous lawsuit in order to tie me up in court, silence me etc, nothing will. They can bring it. My liability insurance is in need of a workout. I remain convinced that what I’m doing is legal, right, and just; and my opinions are my own. Unless and until they provide backers with the complete financials for this project as promised, and coupled with a concrete date for the delivery of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 projects, I will continue to seek accountability.
DISCLOSURE: Under the legal right to own, buy and sell digital assets, I currently have a combined total of $1,853 in the project. Thanks to all of you who helped make that happen. We will get answers; this I promise.
The E.L.E is a developing story. More soon.
OF MIGHT AND MAYHEM – THE RECAP
For those who haven’t been following this saga and wondering how I got involved and mired in this, below is the TL;DR version.
“In July 2015, after I got wind of the Star Citizen project in trouble, unable to deliver, backer money being wasted, I started to investigate it because myself and bunch of like-minded gamers, backed it from the very start in 2012. For nostalgic reasons.
I then got in touch with Chris to try and get some more details from him. As is common for how he treats backers who gave him all this money, he ignored all of my inquiries. I couldn’t even get his PR person, David Swofford to engage. Meanwhile, they were busy shoving a litany of fake and false bullshit about the project, into the mainstream media in a protracted bid to continue extracting money from gamers, while concealing the true state of the project.
So I continued with my research and subsequently published that first blog, Interstellar Citizens.
Then, in what can only be described as sheer madness, they lost their minds and made it personal.
They immediately canceled my backer account, and refunded me. Without my asking. For writing a blog questioning the project.
Then to make matters worse, they sent out a press statement about my being refunded, and my account canceled. They tried to make it look like I had somehow violated their ToS for the game and the website.
Problem is 1) I never posted on their forums 2) I have never downloaded the game due it not being complete nor playable. They actually confirmed this in their legal response letter as mentioned in my The Long Con blog from Sept 2015. In other words, they had no basis for what they did; other than their right to kick me off the game as they see fit. But they felt that by lying and trying to make it about me, they could sway public opinion against me. Because Derek Smart.
Then they doubled down when Ben Lesnick (whose only claim to fame is being a Wing Commander fan boy, having never worked in the industry prior to Star Citizen) in “customer service”, made a public forum post about it. An action that is not only uncharacteristic of any business entity, but which also calls into question the integrity of the company management, as well as how they ignore their own privacy guidelines.
All these actions were taken in obvious retaliation for the July blog, and the fact that it got widespread release in the media because I was the only industry veteran brave enough to publicly question Chris Roberts, his dreamscape project, and point out why it could never be made as promised.
As you can now see, they simply made it worse by making themselves subject to the Streisand Effect.
During all this, they heavily bet on my being completely vilified for writing an opinion based and technical blog. Forgetting that I have been a fixture of this industry for almost 30 years and that sort of tenure and experience has its merits.
I got my attorneys involved. We asked them to provide financial accounting for the money, a firm delivery date for the project, and refunds for those who requested it. As was expected, they blew me off.
So I kept digging and writing. All the while Chris, Sandi, and their cohorts-in-arms, kept making defamatory statements about me both in writing and in person. In their own offices, and in the presence of others. All of which eventually made its way back to me. The Escapist expose explains why that was the case.
Then following The Escapist expose of Oct 2015, Chris Roberts went all in and penned a highly defamatory, and legally actionable missive about me, The Escapist writer, the magazine EIC, and several other parties. Then tried to scare them (not me, I don’t scare easily; and I never met a fight I didn’t thank the Gods for) with empty, and baseless legal threats. In continuing the trend of being an abject screw-up, what he thought was a great idea at the time, ended up being yet another big mistake. And that missive, conduct unbecoming for the CEO of a $100m company, was the single defining action that made a lot of people start taking a closer look at the people behind the project, as well as the project itself. And as expected (this is gaming, we thrive on drama) it set the tone for where we are today.
Basically, as is the nature of the games we make and play, we’re at war. And Chris and his cohorts-in-arms don’t stand a ghost in hell chance of winning it. And I won’t stop until they all answer for what they’ve done with the project and the money. I am not going to leave any stone unturned.
They wanted a war. They’ve got one. Now they’re all screwed.
So this has nothing to do with me, my game, or anything of the sort. And as I’ve stated repeatedly, anyone who thinks that anything I say or do is capable of “bringing down” this large company and project, then that speaks more to incompetence and failure, than it does to malice or jealousy. Aside from that, I sleep good at night knowing that I don’t owe a product to a bunch of people who gave me $112M. I am perfectly content with my small indie gamers because, wide success or not, I get to keep making games. You can read my blogs (at the bottom of this page), for more in-depth details about how we got here, and why the fight continues unabated.
Memes by Goons