“Never assume inexperience, when incompetence will suffice” – Hanlon’s Razor
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.
WHY I NOW BELIEVE THAT STAR CITIZEN HAS EVOLVED INTO A COMPLETE SCAM
Right off the bat, I am going to repeat what I have always said. I don’t believe that Chris Roberts set out to scam anyone; let alone gamers. I do believe that he believed that he could make the game he envisioned. That’s why I backed his project. Like him, I was a believer.
It’s amazing how much you can learn when you start to pay close attention to something. And once people start talking, and you start to put it all together, well that’s the sort of thing that multiple blogs are made of.
Once Chris did what he has done before by overreaching, increasing the project scope – then not listening to the very people he hired to build the game for him – he subsequently killed the project. Thing is, him – and every single dev (past and present) who has ever written a single line of code, designed any component etc – knew over a year ago that they simply couldn’t build the game Chris now envisioned once he got this crowd-funding windfall. And on the record, several of them told him specifically that. He didn’t listen.
You see, here’s the thing with videogame development. It can get away from you very quickly. Once a design scope changes, the budget tends to go out the window. And when key people start bailing, there are bigger problems to contend with because bringing new people up to speed takes a lot of time. Design and programming are not like art, modeling and audio, whereby any replacement can hit the ground running. And the longer it takes, the more it’s going to cost. And if you don’t have the funding to keep at it, the project is basically dead. Our industry is plagued with nightmare stories of things like this happening; to the extent that many a studio and publisher has folded as a result of a single project going sideways, even after the delayed project ships.
To that end, CIG has no choice but to keep raising money in order to prop up finances as a result of the increased time and budget. And so they continued doing just that.
Due to Chris’s statements continuing to write checks his development team and tech couldn’t cash, clearly the goal was to continue raising funds and to keep going for as long as it takes for them to figure it out. That despite the fact that they had not only broken several key promises to backers, but also failed to honor material promises made.
The Duhaime’s Law Dictionary describes a scam as follows:
“A deceptive sale of goods or services to a consumer designed to extract money unreasonably excessive given the services rendered or goods provided, if any“
And The Lectic Law library gives various descriptions of what constitutes a fraud. Excerpt:
“The term ‘fraud’ is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage. [Fraud may also include an omission or intentional failure to state material facts, knowledge of which would be necessary to make other statements not misleading.]
To make a ‘misrepresentation’ simply means to state as a fact something which is false or untrue. [To make a material ‘omission’ is to omit or withhold the statement of a fact, knowledge of which is necessary to make other statements not misleading.]“
So, let’s break this all down to the simplest form based on facts.
Oct/2012. Star Citizen is pitched to crowd-funding backers as a $5m game. They later moved to Kickstarter. The promise was for a delivery on/or before Nov 2014. Note that given the nature of the industry, it is easy to assume that there could be delays. It is expected. At the time, the original ToS 1.0 was simple. Nothing about refunds or financial accountability.
Aug/2013. Having raised $15.5 million, and migrated to the new website, they released ToS 1.1. Section IV (A) of this contained two key components which were a huge incentive for most backers. Note also that around this time, the original game FAQ disappeared; instead it was redirected to a description of the game on the new website.
“RSI agrees to use its good faith business efforts to deliver to you the pledge items and the Game on or before the estimated delivery date. However, you acknowledge and agree that delivery as of such date is not a promise by RSI since unforeseen events may extend the development and/or production time. Accordingly, you agree that any unearned portion of the deposit shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has failed to deliver the pledge items and/or the Game to you within 12 months after the estimated delivery date.”
For the avoidance of doubt, in consideration of RSI’s good faith efforts to develop, produce, and deliver the Game with the funds raised, you agree that any deposit amounts applied against the Pledge Item Cost and the Game Cost as described above shall be non-refundable regardless of whether or not RSI is able to complete and deliver the Game and/or the pledge items. In the unlikely event that RSI is not able to deliver the Game and/or the pledge items, RSI agrees to post an audited cost accounting on its website to fully explain the use of the deposits for the Game Cost and the Pledge Item Cost. In consideration of the promises by RSI hereunder, you agree to irrevocably waive any claim for refund of any deposit amount that has been used for the Game Cost and Pledge Item Cost in accordance with the above.“
Oct/2013. The $25 million milestone came with an interesting update from Chris:
“Even though we’ve fully funded the base game, every extra dollar helps to make the experience better. The content we talk about in these stretch goals isn’t “feature creep”; it’s elements we’ve been building and planning that will be all that more impressive with additional resources. In essence, you’re putting things we’ve already discussed for the future into development now. The extra funding means we’re secure in assigning resources to go ahead and begin developing that richer content we had initially planned to fund through the game’s success upon release.Thank you for your continued support of and trust in project. You have empowered the team to make Star Citizen something truly special… the Best Damn Space Sim Ever!“
Subsequently by July 2014, it was clear to anyone paying attention, that Chris has seemingly gone off the reservation. Like, completely.
“The thing is, I know people get worried–“oh feature creep” and “you keep adding these features”–but you know, we’re building an online game, and that hangar is on people’s machines, the dogfighting module is on people’s machines. We patch it all the time, so feature creep doesn’t really apply in those setups, because normally what will happen with feature creep is “Oh I want to play this extra feature,” and it would always push back when you would roll out the game, because you’d always have to rely on a disc. Whereas now, it’s like, we really like this feature, but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t pushing out the game without this feature, and then just patching it with that feature later on. That’s the kind of approach we’re taking.
So the extra level of funding is pretty great, because it’s allowing me to ramp up a bunch of stuff much sooner than I normally would have been able to. I’ll be able to deliver more features sooner in the cycle. Because originally, when I wanted to do this, I always wanted to make what Star Citizen is with all of these features…but I was being realistic about it.
I’m pretty sure by the time the game is finished…I don’t know how much the Old Republic budget was, but we’ll probably be up there. Some people say it was 400 or 500 million, and who knows how much of that was marketing. We won’t be up there, but I definitely think that we’ll be, by the time the game is finished, we’ll be at the 80, 90, or 100 million dollar range of funding, and most of it will be all for the game.“
Sept/2014. Shortly after crossing the $54 million mark in Sept 2014, Chris wrote this studio update and made the following statement:
“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).“
A word from our laugh-riot sponsors…
Nov/2014. The month in which the games (Star Citizen and Squadron 42) were supposed to ship, they had raised $65 million. The report for that month was very detailed (as we now know, most of it was pure adulterated horse shit). NOTE: Not a word about the fact that, you know, the game was in no way, shape, or form, ready for release. It was now officially delayed. But nobody was panicking yet because, well, you know, games get delayed all the time. Very few people noticed that during all this, Chris had committed to stretch goals which – contrary to what he stated – increased the development time. And – get this – he even went on the record (see above) as saying that the added stretch goals would neither affect, nor delay the game’s scheduled. I damn near pissed myself laughing when I read that. But I had faith due to the outstanding team he had put together by then. Heck, this is what he said in the game’s original FAQ:
“The purpose of the higher stretch goals is to ensure that the game-as-described is finished in the two year time period“
Feb/2015. Having raised $71 million by end of Jan 2015, during the delivery of a game update, on Feb 1st, they rolled out ToS v1.2. This one quietly extended the 12 month delay period (for refunds and financial accountability), to 18 months. That meant after May 31st, 2016, they had to give backers not only refunds, but also a financial accounting of where all this money went.
Dec/2015. Having raised over $100 million, while missing the delivery date by over a year, Chris issued a statement on Dec 24th. The same month in which they released Alpha 2.0 which backers were led to believe signified the future of the game.
“With this funding we are now building a game that can compete with any AAA publisher backed game out there. No corporate suits deciding what franchise to milk or license. I promised a long time ago that the funds that we raise prior to what we consider the commercial release of Star Citizen would go towards additional development. Because of all of your support we can build this game bigger and better than anyone thought possible a few years ago.“
It was the first major update for over a year; and backers, starving for content, rejoiced to the tune of $5 million in new funding during that period.
CIG rejoiced too. They immediately stopped giving refunds; using this 2.0 build as an excuse, citing it as being a “substantial” update.
Apr/2016. Having raised $112 million, in a shocking broadcast, Chris announces that after all this time, and all this money, that Star Citizen (no mention of Squadron 42 – which as of this writing still shows as being released in 2015) was going to be released as a Minimum Viable Product. I cover this extensively in my Condition Red blog.
June/2016. Having raised $114 million, missed the game’s original ship date, blown past the 18 month ToS period, dealing with growing backer unrest, allegations of plagiarism (in key art assets), allegations of misuse of backer money (e.g. $20K espresso machines, a space door, expensive Restoration Hardware furniture – all at new Santa Monica HQ) CS tagging of backers, high salaries (amid reports of lavish lifestyles) for key execs not commensurate with experience, Mrs Sandi Roberts again caught filming movie projects on company property and with company equipment – bought by backers, hiring private investigators to seek out employees/contractors both past and present – and marked as “leakers”, canceling key promised (e.g. Star Marine FPS module) game features, departing key talent, competition from major players (No Man’s Sky, Elite Dangerous’ continued onslaught, Mass Effect Andromeda, COD: Infinite Warfare); in other words, a ton of really bad stuff, they upped the ante and went for broke…
An update which, were it not for the fact that the “game” was still in pre-Alpha, would never have otherwise made it past QA at any respectable dev studio.
An update which, as horrid as it is, adds an item shop (where you can buy clothes) as the key component; along with the ability for player stats to persist in a database – which they are calling persistent – and Chris actually thinks that’s ground breaking. Because, you know, the ability to save and restore player data from a remote backend is revolutionary or something.
It was a Trojan horse used to carry the new June 2016 ToS (which curiously no longer has a version number).
Since most gamers don’t ever read these things, it is to be assumed that most would just merrily click on the new ToS “agree” button, as that was the only way they could gain access to the game they had already paid for.
For months I had warned about the ramifications of the previous ToS v1.2, and that the triggers within could cause serious problems. In fact, The Escapist article also looked into and cited my overview. Amid all kinds of allegations including but not limited to reports of insufficient funds to finish (hence the constant need to raise funds) the project, wasteful spending of backer money, fraud, unjust enrichment, malfeasance, a highly suspicious funding chart and backer numbers etc, I was never convinced that they would ever release financials to backers once that condition in the ToS was triggered. And they didn’t. Instead, amid other minor but important changes, they removed both conditions from the new ToS. Here is a handy comparison image of both versions.
And just like that, any backer wanting access to the game they had paid for, now had to give up two key rights they had under the ToS they previously agreed to. And refusing to agree to the new ToS means no access to the game – ever. And even with no access to the game, backers were also categorically refused refunds. As I type this, my inbox and DMs are full of complaints about backers getting rejection emails when they ask for a refund, after having refused to agree to the new ToS.
I put that in bold so that it all sinks in. And I have a discussion thread which highlights key parts of all the ToS revisions over the years.
And before you even cite anything remotely close to “Well companies change their ToS all the time“, stop reading this blog, and get the hell off my site. Ignorance is contagious – even in digital form.
And with all this going on, and knowing full well that they i) can’t develop and deliver the game as promised back in 2012 ii) are now intending to release the game as a Minimum Viable Product, rather than with all the promised features; they are still selling concept images (JPEGs) of ships that are neither built, let alone in the game. In the past month, they have sold the Buccaneer and the Dragonfly (a space bike – seriously).
And do you know how they managed to convince gullible backers to fork out money for the Dragonfly? By tying it to the Drake Caterpillar – a ship that backers have been waiting for – and adding LTI (Lifetime Insurance) to it. The latter which, as a major incentive, backers could then use by “melting” ship assets. About the Caterpillar. Nope. Not in the game. Even the concept had a concept. And not only isn’t in the game, but like the Starfarer (another large ship), the game mechanics for the ship’s role and systems, are currently non-existent. For clarity, here are the different stages of the Caterpillar over the years.
Jun 17th, 2016 https://youtu.be/pRMCI-d1rUc
Just in time for the Dragonfly ship sale, they roll out a new video showing cargo, habitat, and engine modules. Note how simplified it is compare to the previous showcases.
Jun 7th, 2016 https://youtu.be/DuQeAErhO4A
Nov 21, 2015 https://youtu.be/eY6nJOLn6dk
This whole thing, from start to finish, has now become a massive cash grab in which, by the time they either deliver an MVP or close up shop, backers will never – ever – receive a pair of games they paid over $115 million for. And the new ToS is designed to completely remove any/all legal recourse that backers have. This is the reality of the scam.
That’s it all in a nut shell. Draw your own conclusion.
Disclaimer: For those of you without a sense of humor, he didn’t actually write that. It’s a Photoshop meme based on a presentation he gave and in which he was writing on a whiteboard.
THE FUTURE WAS YESTERDAY. AND YOU’RE LATE. AGAIN.
When Chris chose CryEngine3 back in 2011 for this game, it was the de facto Gold standard for visuals (and a fantastic cinematic module; and sources tell me that for a time, they were actually using Cinebox for all those swanky visuals), right along side Unreal Engine. We all know by now that the engine itself was not to blame. No, who was to blame was the incompetent pretend game developer who decided to not only increase the scope of the game as he continued to make promises he couldn’t keep; but also – even after numerous arguments with his own team (who had actually been making games while he was off making shitty movies in Hollywood) – continued along with the plan of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
From 2012 to now, every movie made for these games, was created in a controlled (either in the CryEngine editor or in Cinebox) environment, and designed to show of proof-of-concept work that either never happened or never will happen. From the ship commercials, to the ill-fated Star Marine fps module. Heck, take a look at what was promised in Oct 2014 as a “persistent universe” demo. You can find the post-show movie online as well, sans the narrative. Aug, 2015, almost one year later, this is what Arc Corp looked like; as well as yet another promise to add “persistence” to the social module. Then in May 2016, this is shopping in the same Arc Corp.
Now, as a backer who already agreed to the new ToS, go and play the 2.4 “persistence” build, or go look at the dozens of ganky videos of 2.4 released since June 2016. Here’s one.
As game developers, our entire DNA is in doing and showing off cool stuff. It’s what we do. And most of us who have been in game dev for decades – having never left – already know that at some point in time you are going to have to ship that cool stuff or it gets stale. As far back as 2012, Chris was promising VR. Not happening. Ever. As far back as 2013, Chris was promising Physically Based Rendering (it’s OK to laugh. Go ahead). At other points in time it was Vulcan. Then it was DirectX12. Then it was procedural planets. With birds. And animals. Then it was the ability to vault, perform Parkour. Then mocap took center stage – and even that is completely and utterly messed up; more on that later. Seriously, if you think I’m making this shit up, here, go read it for yourself.
The list goes on and on and on. It’s as if he has no filters. Nobody to tell him no. In fact, dreams aside, it all boils down to one single thing: incompetence. As artistes, we’re all born and bred dreamers; but as we age, gain experience, learn new things, we start to reconcile fact from fiction, dreams from reality. And at some point, we learn how to ensure that our dreams don’t become nightmares. We learn to temper expectations; even as we aim for the stars.
And so, with the games now over 18 months late, with less than 10% of what was promised implemented, with the visuals showing their age, and with the same triple A publishers he derided in his tirades of “saving PC gaming from evil publishers” now poised to give him a righteous spanking, it is clear that the project is completely and utterly doomed. Just as I’ve been saying these past months.
Heck, back in March 2015, Chris Baker at Wired wrote an article pointing out that “Fans Have Dropped $77M on This Guy’s Buggy, Half-Built Game“. Here we are. Except it wasn’t even half-built back then, but I’m sure you get the gist of Chris’ missive.
After skipping E3 due to not having anything to show, and while parked in the UK shooting mocap (data which sources tell me that, as of this writing, cannot – and has not even been implemented in any version of the tech) for months on end, Activision unveiled Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It immediately killed any and all chances that Squadron 42 ever had of gaining new gamers beyond the backers who were already entitled to it. Assuming it ever ships of course.
We already knew that Mass Effect Andromeda was coming; and that it was going to be an absolute slap in the face for Chris, but the COD:IW reveal was as unprecedented, as it was unexpected and downright shocking. Sources tell me that Chris was completely devastated; but remained defiant that Squadron 42 could actually beat it. Right. Because everyone knows that a game with a shitty legacy Frankenengine, a script of over 450 pages of sphincter clenching dialog, loads of raw mocap data with named actors, and one incompetent game designer/dreamer, is the clear winner against an experienced triple A team that has released hit after hit after hit. Screw it, here go look.
This is COD:IW as of E3 in June 2016.
This is Squadron 42 as of Oct 2015. Sources tell me that it was put together at the last minute, and that he would have ended up clipping through the game world and into the void of the level, had he turned left, instead of right. Smoke and mirrors. All of it.
Then there’s the Godawful “Admiral Bishop” speech segment.
And this is Chris, during that Citizencon 2015 presentation above claiming that the $115 million utter shite you’re looking at above, he would put next to “any triple A” game.
And this is Chris back in April 2015 where he claims the following…with a straight face:
“So, Episode 2 is “Behind Enemy Lines”, which I think that everyone that backed until like $6 million gets for free and then Episode 3 would be the year after. So we’ll have each one of these, each one is the equivalent of a huge triple A “Call of Duty” or better because we have a much bigger campaign…”
Note that as of this writing, the only footage of Squadron 42 that backers have seen, happens to be the presentation above, along with some mocap footage. That’s it. Later in this blog, you will find out why that is.
The Frankenengine they put together is completely and utterly broken. Aside from the networking which still has trouble having more than 5-6 clients in an instance session, sources say that the AI (pretty much non-existent btw) simply doesn’t work, swathes of code is so legacy, that throwing it all out and redoing it – something that dev, Ben Parry recently confirmed in a public exchange – was the best possible option instead of trying to actually fix it.
Like Star Citizen, the Squadron 42 game was supposed to be out by end of 2014. Then it was 2015 (as the website currently shows). And now in the middle of 2016, with no active gameplay shown to backers – due to it being non-existent – it is safe to say that neither one of these two games is ever going to be completed, let alone released this year.
Since my first July 2015 blog in which I declared that the Star Citizen game as promised could never be built – and certainly not with an engine that uses CryEngine3 as the base – every reveal, every leak, every presentation has proven me right. Even when Chris was touting “64-Bit positioning” as proof that the Star Citizen “persistent” world was possible, while not understanding what it actually means, let alone the implications of hacking (that’s all it was, and I wrote a missive about that) it in, I continued to stress just how bad things were going to get due to having done that hack. The end result is the complete and utter mess that backers are now playing in the latest 2.4 tech demo.
This is a recent broadcast by one of the Foundry42-UK devs. Listen very closely to that segment. This is year five, in case you forgot.
And yet, even after making promises for features that were supposed to be in as recently as in 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 – and which are still not in 2.4 released in June 2016, in the latest June 10th broadcast, he again made promises (it’s all lies – all of it) about even more features coming by the end of the year. Like in six (!) months.
First, let’s start with this gem where he, again, admits (btw that’s the 3rd time in the past few months – all are documented) that CryEngine has proven to be inadequate for the game he subsequently designed out of scope. If you have been following my blogs and social media, you should know by now that he has not only previously been denying this, denying (then admitting to) scope creep etc. From that same video, here are some excerpts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) with no commentary from me because I don’t want to taint your understanding of what you’re about to hear.
Incoherence (he needs a speaking coach; so he should just get rid of the chef, stylist, and wait…is that a toupée?) aside, it’s all pure and utter nonsense – and lies – designed to distract and appease backers who have grown understandably restless. Unfortunately for him, everything he has ever said in public about this project, has been tagged, cataloged, and archived (because they’ve been caught getting rid of stuff btw). All of it. And it all shows a clear pattern of deception and lies, designed to extract money from backers while not delivering promised products.
The seamless transition from login to ship to planet to landing on a procedural planet, and getting out in fps mode? Doesn’t exist. Not even the previous editor bound reveal they showed a few months back exists outside of that environment. It simply doesn’t exist.
He’s done this all before. And not only in all those 104TC shows, but in the media and elsewhere. Think I’m kidding? Fine, here is the Reddit AMA he did three years ago. Just search for his name on the page and read. Last I checked, I couldn’t find a single thing in that entire exchange that currently exists in the game – today. Not one.
Now in year five, and over $115 million received from backers – who have no idea where the money went – the game remains and looks like something a group of modders put together in their spare time.
WHERE IS SQUADRON 42?
Like Star Marine, it simply doesn’t exist. At least not as a game.
And as of this writing, sources say that there isn’t a single complete Squadron 42 mission or cut-scene; let alone any mission that uses the mocap data that Chris has spent many months, and millions of backer money on – over in the UK. And there is no vertical slice of the game. In short, Squadron 42, as a “game”, simply does not exist.
And there is no vertical slice because, well, there is nothing of this “game” – in any shape or form. They were shooting for a vertical slice to show backers at CitizenCon 2016. Knowing that’s not happening, word is they’re now going to resurrect whatever shit they had masquerading as Star Marine (which apparently is on again; despite Chris saying that it’s already in Star Citizen), and passing that off as being part of Squadron 42, and coming soon to Star Citizen. That’s precisely what Chris foolishly hinted (he can’t help himself) at in the last 104TC which I linked above.
Again, this is the same Star Marine module which, aside from the fact that CIG doesn’t even own the copyright/trademark, they have gone on the record several times as saying it’s not canceled, it’s currently in Star Citizen etc. In fact, one backer put together this damning video accounting of those particular claims. And below is what they showed at PAX in Nov 2014. Which Chris said less than two months ago, was already in Star Citizen – and not canceled. You’re a backer who has probably played the latest 2.4 build; go look tell me that this is in the game.
While you’re at it, let’s take a break to our laugh-riot sponsors…
And apparently the one test mission of Squadron 42 that supposedly exists (though few devs have actually seen it), is just as ganky as Star Citizen currently is, due to the fact that, even sans network layer, has all the same exact problems that Star Citizen has due it using the same Frankenengine. And word is that none of the mocap that backers spent millions on, is currently in the game.
So basically gamescom and possibly CitizenCon later in the year are going to showcase a mish-mash of whatever they are now frantically salvaging (God knows they can’t do it with 2.x builds) together as Star Marine, along with the test flight mission from Squadron 42. Neither of which sources tell me are actually connected together, since there is no Squadron 42 game – at all.
Same plan. Same shit. Different year.
WHEN IN DOUBT, DO OR SAY SOMETHING UTTERLY STUPID
Since the beginning, Chris and his minions, particularly one Ben Lesnick (community person who now thinks he’s a game developer) whose claim to fame thus far, aside from being a Wing Commander fan (which got him the Star Citizen gig) and one year stint at EA (working on assets for the Wing Commander Prophecy GBA port back in 2002), has been the hosting of a celebrity stalker website, complete with racist and homophobic slurs; have tried to pass off Star Citizen/Squadron 42, as a Wing Commander/Freelancer successor. The BDSSE (Best Damn Space Sim Ever). Yet, here is Ben, the BDWCFE (see if you can figure that one out), extolling the awesomeness of the COD:IW gameplay reveal during E3. A game that, just by being announced, has killed any/all chances that Squadron 42 ever had. And I quote:
“…it’s cool to see the natural evolution of…if Wing Commander had continued to happen all these years, that would be the kind of game…“
Then he goes on and talks about wanting a backstory, that these games tend to have backstory tied to war etc. This clown completely and utterly ignores the fact that, the shitty 450+ page colon cleansing script Chris has for Squadron 42 is based on war as a backstory.
Here’s the thing, Ben has never – ever – worked in PC game development. Like ever. In any form. And being voted most likely to be caught in a Constellation wank pod, is tagged as being primarily responsible for the Rise Of Shitizens (the anti-social Star Citizen fans who engage in protracted attacks against anyone expressing dissent against the project) who turned the CIG/RSI website forums and other online discussion forums into a toxic environment. The same crap he used to pull in the Wing Commander community that he was a part of.
And thanks to the very backers he has treated poorly, lied to, lambasted etc, this untalented toxic buffoon, actually now has an IMDB page, which he has no problems padding. I kid you not.
I take comfort in the thought that once this shit-show ends, like Chris and his cohorts, this clown will never – ever – work in this industry again.
And at every turn, Ben and the people responsible for the backer community have lied, lied, and lied some more, even as they help extract money to fund a project they know they simply cannot deliver on; and that halting crowd-funding would be the death knell.
Here, this is from July 2015, almost a year ago – before the recent COD:IW reveal. Read it. All of it. And note the comments about the Star Marine fps module. Choice quote:
“‘Star Marine is Call of Duty in space!’
First of all, let me speak out against reducing any concept to such broad strokes. Yes, Call of Duty and Star Marine are both first person shooters. That is just about where the resemblance ends. (I guess that’s more of a pet peeve of mine, though. It’s something publishers require for internal pitches… you don’t come up with an original idea, you come up with an idea and explain to your boss how much like a popular game it is. To wit, I once gritted my teeth working with EA on a Privateer reboot that was to be pitched as ‘Battlefield meets Grand Theft Auto.’ Shudder.)“
And he’s been having a go at me for years now. Here is a comment he made, twelve years ago, when rumors were going around that I was attempting to do a Freespace game. This is his comment on the official forums last July after my first blog; and which led to the all-out war we’re now waging. A war which they don’t stand a snowball in hell chance of winning.
When this shit-show finally falls apart, and this clown is sitting across from attorneys and/or the Feds in a deposition and/or interview, even as he sweats buckets, I want him – and everyone else – to know that I put him there. Right there. Just like I said I would.
THE FIDELITY OF FAILURE, AND THE FINALITY OF DEFEAT
As things stand, they didn’t attend E3 because they had nothing to show. And PAX was also a no show btw, in case you were wondering. And unlike previous years where they had a huge production, this year they have nothing to show at gamescom either. Instead, they’ve now said that they are going to be streaming live from a booth at the show. In short, backers are apparently going to be paying for these clowns to go to Europe to do the same damn thing they do here in the US on their streamed shows. But don’t worry though, all the money raised is going into development.
And you know why they have nothing to show? Well because whatever they have internally, is what backers are now playing. There is no major Star Citizen build being held back. There is no Squadron 42 footage being held back because of “spoilers” (<—- this one always cracks me up). There is no version of the game with better networking, improved graphics, physics, procedural generation working in a live (not in the CryEngine editor) environment etc. None of it exists. In any form.
And for a $115 million production that was supposed to ship in 2014, there isn’t a single game media person (not even those unapologetic Shillizens at Gamestar in Germany) who has seen any real-time game play footage of Squadron 42; let alone any build of Star Citizen not currently available to backers. Why? Because it simply does not exist.
They know that Star Citizen (aka PU) is FUBAR; and that it can neither be fixed, let alone completed as promised. Sources say there are arguments and discussions about this on a daily basis. They can’t abandon it and switch engines as they may as well cancel the whole thing and call it a day.
And as of this writing, in June 2016, Chris has not come out and said that Star Citizen or Squadron 42 are delayed and won’t be out in 2016. He can’t; and he won’t because that’s bound to have an ever bigger impact in their crowd-funding drive designed to continue milking backers to the very end.
And some very talented people keep jumping out of the talent pool. Just last month, the much loved Mark Skelton resigned; Jonathan Dadley (yet another talented senior designer) is reported as also gone this month. And according to sources, several other high-profile (there is one particular person who, if/when he does leave, they should just shut everything down – immediately) team members are on the way out. While Chris and his friends are reportedly trying to entice and keep talent by offering copious amounts of money, they’re being laughed at and derided for the massive failure that he has turned the project into.
In the coming months, my guess is that key people will continue to leave because, let’s face it, who wants to be part of this shit-show when it collapses? Especially if you’re talented enough to get another gig? And for such a high profile project, backers will remember everyone who was part of this project, and a part of the protracted campaign to rip them off. Unfortunately for “leavers” (as Ben has called departing team members), at some point in time, they’re all going to be able to tell their stories because there is absolutely no way that what has happened to this project, legal action or not, can remain hidden and suppressed. Backers deserve to know – and they will.
Anyone who thinks that they are ever going to get a game they paid for out of Star Citizen or Squadron 42, is a fool. A fool who deserves to be separated from his money. So, please, by all means, go ahead and give them more money.
The project is finished. And every single person at all those four studios, knows it. A constant paycheck aside, very few will admit it – though most are talking, looking for work, leaving the project, not applying for or accepting job offers etc.
The signs were there long before the cracks began to grow; and the MVP proclamation wasn’t even the first sign. The first sign was when the game, having missed the Nov 2014 delivery date, still remains a broken mess over 18 months later. The money to finish the games promised is all but gone; and they need to keep selling JPEGs to gullible backers in order to sustain the rumored $3m+ per month it costs to run four studios around the world. And that’s why layoffs and downsizing are coming sooner than most expect. It’s already well underway, as you’ll come to find out soon enough.
And for those of you not keeping up with what has been promised, someone has a nice stretch goal (aka feature creep) spreadsheet for you to look at. See that sheet? Less than 10% of that is currently in the 2.4 build.
The recent ToS change pretty much encapsulates the entire project as one big exit “Fuck You!” to backers.
If everything was going just fine, why would they need to remove such seemingly innocent (at a glance) conditions from a ToS they themselves created? And why now? If you intended to give refunds and financial accounting in the event that the project fails to deliver, and you intended to keep those promises, why remove them from the ToS?
I can answer that. It’s because they know that we’re in end times now; and any money they collect between now and the inevitable collapse is mostly going into the pockets of the execs. Just recently I was made aware of bonuses/buyouts paid out – yet again – to key execs. Yes, paid – from backer money – to execs (all Chris’s friends) who have yet to ship the games promised. Explain to me again why people are getting rich off a game they have yet to ship?!?!
Even though they released this latest ToS during E3, knowing that the media would be too busy to write about it; given all the noise I have been making about it these past months, a lot of backers took notice once they were presented with it. That’s because I made backers aware that it was coming, and that this is something that CIG would do. And as these things go, right after the E3 noise died, the media picked up on it. Starting with one crazy and brave soul at Kotaku UK. And several others (1, 2, 3, 4) followed suit; though most are missing the most important issue related to the promised financial accountability; but instead focusing on refunds (which they stopped giving back in Dec 2015 anyway). Heck, as far back as Aug 2015, less than one month after my first July 2015 blog, Colin Campbell over at Polygon wrote Some Star Citizen backers who claim full pledge refunds are getting their money back. This was Chris’ response:
“We don’t publicize it, but when people reach out to us and talk to us in a rational manner, in most cases we’ve refunded them,” he said. “We don’t want people to be part of the project if they’re not happy.”
Meanwhile, over at the official forums, threads like this pop-up, and get backers subsequently banned.
“I’ve requested a refund, but CIG refuses to grant it. They think they’ve earned my pledge, but they haven’t. They are basically challenging me to hire a lawyer. I would love to take my money and walk away.”
And when a backer created a forum thread on the official site, questioning the ToS change, guess what happened? They edited the thread subject; then a legal intern posted this warning in the thread. This is how little respect they have for backers who pay their salaries and expenses.
“Title edited to be completely neutral. If the OP truly meant nothing provocative in posting, then any alarmist wording in the title, intentional or otherwise, is unnecessary and a simple, straighforward statement will do. — Toast“
And last year when a thread popped up questioning the release of financials, this was his response. Seriously read it.
“Hello! As others have pointed out, we make our plans with all sorts of contingencies in mind. It’s only a topic for discussion right now because folks who have absolutely no insight into our finances want you to be starting threads like this. 🙂
There are some very important reasons why companies don’t share their books in this way. While it would be reassuring to everyone here to know that we have X dollars from Y sources, it would also make things like hiring, contracting and outsourcing very, very difficult. Competitors would be able to outbid us for talented employees (already a worry!), we’d have a huge disadvantage in negotiating business partnerships and all forms of logistics. While you are all genuinely interested in the success of the project, the folks leasing us office space and selling us desks and licensing our software packages are more interested in how much we can pay them right now. 🙂 We wouldn’t have room to negotiate business partnerships… anyone or anything we wanted to work with could sit down with our numbers and name their own price.“
Less than a year ago – after getting over $85 million from backers – this is Ben discussing contractor/employee turnover. This was shortly after I broke the news about Alex Mayberry’s high profile departure.
“Turnover sucks, but it happens and there’s no associated crisis. Our biggest human resources challenge remains getting skilled technical folks, people who are great with the CryEngine. One thing that entrenched companies can afford to do that we can’t is take promising new folks and take months or even years to train them… for most of our open positions, we need experienced people who can hit the ground running. So the great Human Resources challenge on Star Citizen is finding those people (who are rare in the first place) on a limited budget.“
Then there’s the funding chart which is either blatantly false (that would be a form of fraud btw since it is being used to show interest/health), or the flaws in the algorithm are being willfully ignored and/or manipulated. Either way, make no mistake; when the dust settles, if Turbulent – who built it – were complicit in misleading backers, they too are going to have some explaining to do. We’re gamers, we play the blame game all the time. And we have long-term memory.
The same applies to the claims of there being one million backers of the project. I can tell you that its false (<— yes, I can prove that too). Again, this is used as a marketing and PR gimmick. In fact, just recently one of the lead CS people took to Reddit and confirmed that the UEE fleet is the number of ships owned by backers. A question that even Ben, as far back as 2014, has refused to answer with any clarity. And to this day, nobody from CIG has ever answered the question of how many backers there are. A number which they have access to. Ask yourself this: why is it such a big secret? Isn’t that was crowd-funding is about? You go to a page, and boom! – there it is, the number of actual backers.
This project has undoubtedly made millionaires out of Chris, Sandi, and Ortwin (that would be this guy – he’s a real peach); and also lined the pockets of Chris’s brother Erin, and his friends (e.g. the post-Gizmondo Elms cartel) in the UK. Chris, who despite his nonsensical ramblings of living off prior ventures in his response to The Escapist article, was flat broke (<— Yes, I can prove this too – or it would never have cleared legal) prior to Star Citizen. After having been a part of several failed ventures (a movie business, an exotic car sales business etc) Chris has now put his exit strategy in place as the project approaches its inevitable collapse.
By the time the dust settles, I envision that all four studios will be closed, with Foundry42-UK (which I hear has now been bought out by RSI in one of the most questionable deals to date – which probably explains why still no public financials as required by UK law) being the last one. Then the juggling of all the shell companies setup as part of this enterprise, will start. Since Chris and Sandi are most likely going to want to remain in CA – assuming they don’t run off to the UK (where Chris is from) – they will most likely move back to a smaller location. And depending on how this whole farce is wrapped up, backers stand to lose everything. Including the “game”, due to its reliance on backend servers and services for on-going operation.
Not unlike other failed crowd-funded projects, these people would have all benefited from millions of dollars given to them by trusting backers who will never get the products they were promised. And if you’re that guy who backed a project to the tune of $22.5K, be comforted in the thought that you’re never – never – getting what you paid for.
That’s how a scam works. And I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that they never get away with it. Regardless of who gets sued, though attorneys keep telling me why not just wait until they collapse, at some point – one way or another – we’re all ending up in court and/or in front of the Feds. And I 100% guarantee it.
As a backer, regardless of how much money you have in this project, you too should seek the accountability you were promised. Granted you’re never going to get it from CIG/RSI, but that’s why we have consumer protection agencies in place. If you want your money back, and they refuse to refund it, complain to your bank; complain to your payment processor; call up the FBI and/or fill out their online forms; call up the FTC and/or fill out their forms; call up your State’s Attorney General; call up any number of consumer protection lawyers (we know several who have been taking a keen interest – please contact me for more info). There is recourse out there; even if you foolishly signed a one-way ToS agreement which btw, for all intent and purposes is unlikely to survive a legal challenge of any kind.
Inaction is not an option. And if you don’t do your part to ensure that they don’t get away with it, that’s on you.