Star Citizen – Five Years Ago

Star Citizen – Five Years Ago

Five years ago today, what was to become an unprecedented scam, hit the unsuspecting PC gaming industry. I look back.

10/10/12 – STAR CITIZEN PUBLIC INCEPTION

No, it’s not Star Citizen’s birthday. Ignore those clowns on social media who are wishing it Happy Birthday.

The FACT is that, even according to Chris Roberts, the project was already in development a year before it even became public and jumped on the crowd-funding bandwagon.

Basically I’ve been working with a small team over the course of the past year to get the early prototyping and production done. The team has varied in scale from just me, essentially, to about 10 people. That’s just the actual work though.” – Chris Roberts, 10/19/12

It was on this day in 2012, that he announced it at the GDC conference.

And at the time, even the old website which was later improved on once the money started rolling in, had pretty much the same unbelievable bullshit he’s been peddling to this day. Read this. Seriously, just read it.

Nobody Told Me That Saving PC Gaming Would Take This Long

Wait! There’s more. Below is the pitch movie which was being passed of at the time, as being “in-game” footage. In fact, as we later found out, it was just the same series of tech demos that they are still doing today as they continue scamming backers for money. The biggest one that completely blew up in their face, was the CitizenCon 2016 showing. I cover that fiasco (later bested by the GamesCom 2017 fiasco) in my lengthy Shattered Dreams blog.

The fact that it wasn’t until 08/23/13 that the first build, the Hangar module, ever went to backers, and which didn’t have any flying in it – should have been a sign that they were basically using tech demos to scam backers into giving them money. The first flight module, Arena Commander, didn’t appear until 06/04/14 – barely six months before the project’s original Nov 2014 ship date – and looked nothing like the pitch video which was being passed off as in-game.

Star Citizen – The Pitch

And if you funded it at the time, you would have been greeted with this.

Every Company I Formed, Collapsed – Chris Roberts Legacy Of Failure

The game later appeared on Kickstarter on 10/18/12. And they later upped the bullshit barely a month later with a new pitch video on 11/12/12. Later, this Oct-Nov period would become what is currently known as CitizenCon and the Star Citizen Anniversary. Both huge fundraising events. I don’t think anyone paid any attention to the “con” part of that.

Star Citizen – A Long Con Is Born

Through all this, like all the crowd-funded games and products I back, Star Citizen completely fell of my radar, as I wasn’t expecting them to release anything until after the promised Nov 2014 date. During that time, not only did Roberts increase the scope of the game by way of continuing to add even more ridiculous nonsense to it, but by Nov 2014, having raised $65 million from those promises, the project had gone completely off the rails; even as industry vets who had been excited to join, started leaving, talking to others etc. Some of those eventually reached me because, good, bad, or ugly, I’m literally the only dev alive and on this planet, who has ever attempted a space combat game that matches the scope that Star Citizen promised.

Against my better judgement, after what I was hearing piqued my interest, I decided to start looking into the project, talking to people who were still working on it, moved on etc. What I found completely surprised me. So I wrote what is now fondly referred to as The July Blog. Almost immediately, Chris and his band of merry men, led by most toxic buffoon (who used to be community manager) this side of gaming, the on-the-record racist, homophobic, antisemitic, Ben Lesnick, went on the attack. Right there and then, I knew that I was on to something. I have since written a series of blogs and short scoops and musings articles for which I am constantly harassed and attacked by devout backers who think it all has to do with a decades old feud which they made up in their dreams. This despite the fact that the only single person who, giving his storied history of failures, could possibly cause the collapse of the project, was Chris Roberts himself.

To this day, five years and claiming to have raised over $160 million (excluding loans, investments etc) since the first public announcement, neither of the games are 15% completed, let alone anywhere near completion.

THE 3.0 EVOCATI FIASCO

Amid mounting pressure from backers, and seeing as the much touted 3.0 “game changer” which was supposedly (Chris lied. Pure and simple) coming on or before Dec 19th, is almost a year late, this past Oct 5th, CIG decided to release “something” called 3.0 to Evocati testers. Yes, it’s totally coincidental that CitizenCon 2017, the yearly fundraising drive, is barely three weeks away on Oct 27th. And the emphasis on “something” is intentional because guess what? After making lofty promises a year ago for 3.0, then in April unveiling a 3.0 dev schedule which scaled back the core promises while adding a bunch of peripheral nonsense nobody asked for or wanted, they decided to release it in stages. This is Erin Roberts on the record:

I wanna get… I wanna go to Evocati… I wanna make sure the first thing we can do is ensure we can traverse the system easily and well, and that’s all this set of bugs is about, is we… you know… from getting in, taking off, ATC working, QT-ing working, being able to go to locations, all that kinda stuff, we just get THAT working and so it’s not… it’s not a nightm… you know I’m not going into maps all the time and trying to work out where I can jump places and so forth… you can do that kind of stuff and we have what I think is a really good start for EVOCATI cos it’s a lot of FUN, it’s FUN.

You go down to planets you do some EVENTS. And THEN, once we get this set of twenty, you know, SIX bugs left, you know… and don’t forget these are the 26 bugs I want fixed to go to EVOCATI with, but I’m SURE we’ll fix a bunch of other STUFF, you know, at the same time and stuff like that… and then we basically go and get that in, and then once we get that set of BUGS… you know, those set of, uh, BUGS… then what we’re gonna do again is sit… sit down with TARD and then say, ‘Right! What’s um… what’s the next feature we wanna focus on’, and then pick another say ten, twenty um… like FEATURES… let’s get TRADING maybe working properly and then maybe… ten or fifteen features…

… and we say right, here’s the… here’s the seventeen BUGS for that, that’s the next release for EVOCATI, let’s get all this stuff worked on and then we fix all sorts of stuff in the background, and we just basically PICK a FEATURE at a time, NAIL IT DOWN and just keep on going that way and that’s how we’re gonna close this out.” – Erin Roberts, 09/14/2017

….and that was barely a week after they started removing features and bugs from the schedule, by deferring them to a later build. All of which basically plays into Chris’s talk about the game going into early access.

Back in April 2016, I had written about this Evocati bullshit, and why not only was it a bad idea, but also a way to squeeze backer whales for more money, while playing favoritism and splitting backers into castes. It’s bad enough that even though all backers funded the game, but CIG decided to pick a few of them, make them sign an NDA (you should read it), and gave them early access to builds. Though there are streamers and media people with access to it, they also try to pass off Evocati as being based on the number of bugs reported and testing done by those in it. We’ve since proven (there are several people in Evocati who have reported a total of 7 bugs or less) this to be patently false, but they’re still parroting that particular nonsense. And even when a build goes from Evocati to PTU (public test universe), only paying subscribers get first dibs, before the rest of the backers. No, seriously, that’s all true.

And at the core of the Evocati are the most devout cultists and streamers (you know who they are) who will rise up at any dissenting opinion, help CIG spread lies and fabrications about the project etc. Even those backers in there who just hope to get the game they paid for, are still derided if they do so much as utter any dissenting opinions about the game’s development. And of course stray too far off the path, and you’ll get booted out of the boys club. Pretty much the same consistent behavior you find on the game’s official Reddit (controlled by the most devout cultists, and with CIG influence), as well as the official CIG forum.

Through all this, a company that has raised over $160 million from the public, plus whatever loans and investments they’ve received, has a largely incompetent QA “team” because apparently spending money on staffing up QA with experienced people, or hiring a third party company, would be considered spending money wisely. Which is precisely why this DEV -> QA -> EVOCATI -> PTU -> LIVE method simply doesn’t work. Not that it was setup to do anything meaningful anyway. And it’s also the reason that, even for a tech demo, the project is horribly buggy. To wit: As of this writing, the 2.6.3 patch released back in April, before 2.7 morphed into what became 3.0, still has over 3000 bugs in it. Some have been in there for years.

 

Amazing bullshit you’d write when asking people for money

As this upcoming 3.0 build is critical to their upcoming fundraising drive, and not wanting for the other backers to know just how bad it is, guess what they went and did this time? They added a now prominent visual watermark to the Evocati build. I didn’t even believe it at first, thinking that it was just some UI glitch, exacerbated by texture filtering. Then the evidence from Evocati leaks started pouring in. It wasn’t long after that those doing leaks, figured out a way around it.

So all things aside, they’ve now decided to add spying to the list of actions taken against backers. Because, even with a build that ALL backers are entitled to being hidden behind an NDA, nothing screams “open development” than finding and punishing backers who funded a $160 million game, for sharing their experiences with the public and each other.

observe (someone) furtively. discern or make out, especially by careful observation.” – What is spying?

Which, considering their history of punishing backers for actions outside of the Star Citizen community, seems like a brilliant idea.

Then, after some backers started hacking into the new patcher (which hilariously contained the source scripts), they discovered that CIG had either implemented, or was in the process of implementing Easy Anti Cheat into the game. Not that they would, you know, mention it or anything like that.

THE 3.0 EVOCATI BUILD

Some of us have played it. And it’s horrid. That’s not even about the fact that it’s still pre-Alpha. No, it’s about the fact that six years and $160 million later, it’s an absolutely buggy mess of a tech demo, with zero redeeming qualities and no vertical slice. Need I even talk about the still MIA companion game, Squadron 42, last seen in Q4 2015?

Back in Nov 2016 I wrote that Chris Roberts had basically gone on stage, lied, and made up a bunch of shit. Several sources told me that, unequivocally, what was being touted as 3.0, simply didn’t exist. In any form. And CIG proved me right, months later in April 2017 when the first 3.0 dev schedule appeared – and looked nothing like what was promoted almost six months earlier.

3.0 status: sources say all are still laughing at this one. It simple does NOT exist as was communicated to backers. It was basically a wishlist of items they wanted to see in a point release; and which Roberts when on the record (again) as saying was coming by “year end, and not on Dec 19th like last year“.” – Derek Smart, 11/02/2016

And they’ve continued to prove that I was right. First with the completely different 3.0 schedule released in April 2017. Then with the scaling back and removal of items they previously claimed were completed. Then with the sweeping bugs under the rug, and so on.

Basically, according to well placed sources, for them to release 3.0 as promised back in April 2017, with minimal bugs, decent performance, networking etc, it needs – at a minimum – another six to eight months in dev and QA. And CIG knows this. Hence the rushing out of this build, the talk of early access etc. So they’re going to dump it on backers, to grab some quick cash (there are still suckers funding this train wreck), then iterate on 3.0x as they did with 2.x – which they stopped updating back in April 2017 even though it has 3000+ bugs in it. So this 3.0 bug list is just going to add to the pile.

The key take away from those of us who have played it, boils down to this summary:

1) PERFORMANCE

Let’s just this one right out of the way. As warned back in July by various sources, performance is way worse than ever before. Last I checked, the client was now chewing through over 20GB of RAM and more VRAM than even the highest graphics cards currently have. It struggles to get above 10 FPS with more than two clients within view. And even on the only base built into an asteroid, it’s a 5-6 fps slide-show. Over the weekend, people in the test pattern were talking about going to the store to get more RAM because 32GB is now the new sweet spot. They did release a follow-up “a” patch which they claim improved this somewhat. But so far, it was a big “nothing burger”.

…for some reason performance is in the toilet on today’s build” – CIG Dev, AtV Oct 5 (recorded Oct 2nd), 2017

This and the networking – two very critical components for the game they’re trying to build – are the most contributing factors to the game facing insurmountable odds of success. They went for fidelity (see CryEngine), while completely ignoring other factors which will invariably hurt the game when added together. Those being networking, AI, UI, component entities, scripts etc. You know, all the stuff you have to mix together to build a “game”.

Building games like this, you have to balance visual fidelity with gameplay and scope. You absolutely cannot have it all, and even if you do have it all, something will suffer. Either visual fidelity, or performance.” – Derek Smart, The July Blog, 2015

2) NETWORKING

Hey, remember back when CIG was making a bunch of promises to backers, about how they were going to “overhaul” the networking, that it would be vastly improved, that “serialized variables” (<— LOL!!) was the magic bullet? Yeah, me too. I’m still laughing.

Right now, in this build, you can’t get even 6-8 clients working without either a huge performance issue, the server or client crashing, or consistent connection problems. And this is an instanced game which has always struggled to host even 12 clients per instance. And they’re supposedly building an MMO in which, according to Erin and his halt-wit brother, Chris, they will end up with 1000 clients per instance. Yet, six years later, here we are.

They managed to make it worse in 3.0. Which isn’t at all surprising because, short of a complete overhaul of their networking layer, they’re never – ever – going to get to more than 12 clients per instance, let alone the “MMO” part. And even then, given the game’s design, unless they manage to pinch the Frontier guys who built the networking layer for Elite Dangerous, and then be happy with 32 clients per instance, they’re never – ever – getting an MMO out of this. Like ever.

Yeah, this was barely five months ago. On the record even.

Both of these are very important, but by far the most important thing is to get object container streaming working. Object container streaming will allow us to only have a subset of entities on the client and server that are the minimum required for gameplay, which should dramatically reduce update time as well as a fair amount of memory usage. It will also make other game code behavior such as zone queries faster by making these queries operate on a smaller set of potential entities. Unforutnately this is not going into 3.0 as it is a huge epic legendary task that will introduce many complexities into various other systems in the game, but we are actively working on it. ” – Chad McKinney, CIG

3) PHYSICS

If you thought it was bad in 2.6.3, oh boy, you have no idea.

You know why CIG and some backers keep making a big deal out of “physics grids”, which is just nonsense? It’s because CIG made it a buzz term. Even though practically every single game that has vehicles, has managed to have one inside another while moving through 3D space. Heck, I did that over a decade ago as a “what if?”, when I was trying to fit a ground vehicle into the back of a shuttle which I wanted to fly somewhere else.

Everything from world/scene clipping, to ship and weapons and everything in between, it’s all very much still a broken mess. In fact, if you were playing 3.0 right now, and you didn’t know it, someone could tell you that it was 2.6.3. No kidding.

Here is an example which also goes to show what happens when CIG showcases stuff in a controlled environment, running local server side, in the editor etc – and then you send that same build out into the wild frontier that is a remote client-server multiplayer environment.

Nox bike parking inside a Cutlass (July 2017)

Nox bike parking inside a Cutlass (Evocati 3.0, Oct 2017)

5) FLIGHT DYNAMICS

If you thought this was bad before; then guess what? They managed to somehow make it even worse. For starters, most of the ships don’t actually work properly. To the extent that you can’t even get into some of them, let alone move around without dying.

I should mention that back in July, one David Colson made an announcement on Twitter that he was joining the UK team. I have recently learned that he is now in charge of the flight dynamics & mechanics for the game. Yes, the guy who made this game, is now in charge of what is the most critical component of a $160 million game. Even before he was feet wet, he said this: “I learnt something today. MMOs are really hard to make. Don’t make MMOs. Thanks for listening“.

And remember the much touted ATC system which I wrote about here? Yeah, it’s just a voice recording (which doesn’t work all the time), and a vertical line over the launch pad. That’s it. All of it. Done.

6) SUBSUMPTION AI

Everything you’ve seen in ATV broadcasts, you can just ignore and disregard. This much touted AI is non-existent. As we saw in the horrid GC2017 presentation (read my troubling review), it’s just scripted NPCs hanging around, glitching, and doing nothing but taking up space and impacting performance even more. They’re no more important as “ambiance”, than the tables and chairs you see in the levels.

There’s really nothing there. Like at all.

7) MISSIONS

Nope, they don’t work either. Oh you want a mission, do you? Go ask Miles over there. Assuming he’s at the freaking table, and not floating off 20 feet away – glass in hand, while still somehow maintaining the same sitting posture as if he were at the table.

Interestingly, hours ago in ETF chat, CIG was admonishing testers for doing PvP, and trying to get missions. Nope, you can’t do that.

Miles Eckhart. Mission Giver By Day, Hobo By Night

8) PLANETARY TECH

The much touted “planetary tech” is as underwhelming as it is mindboggingly boring. And it’s buggy as hell. And barren. The one location, Levski, is an absolute slideshow. And that’s with just you and the environment. And that’s with two moons and an asteroid. So much for this plan.

As to the “seamless” space <-> planet transition nonsense we’ve been going on about these past months? Well, it’s sorta there, but how they actually did it, is for another article. If you’re guessing that I was right, then yeah – I am. Hint: There are POIs and instances involved. Also watch this. Amazing, isn’t it? They used that placeholder type logic to implement it.

A year ago today, this is a 50K upvoted thread on Reddit over proof-of-concept that is still nothing more than a pipe dream.

9) MOBIGLASS, ITEM 2.0, NEW UI, DELTA PATCHER

As boring as these topics appear to be, and are easy targets for criticism, I’m not even going to say anything at this point. Just wait and try these for yourself.

They did make good on a promise to develop a new delta patcher. You know, something we’ve had in PC gaming before you and I knew hairs could grow on our chest. And for the most part, it works. You no longer have to download a 30GB game with each new build. Don’t ask me why the first two 3.0 patches were still about 8GB though; I have no idea. We still don’t know yet if there are any ramifications to how they did it, because, you know, patch development is tough. In my experience, you could end up with old files pulled by a patcher, which then wreak havoc on a game install. Been there, done that; and my guess is seeing as CIG are adept at screwing up even the most mundane things, they’re likely to screw this up too.

10) IT’S BORING AF – AND THERE’S NOTHING THERE

There’s literally zero gameplay. They implemented a stats mechanic which, as backers have found out, you can actually die (your heart explodes) from running around too much. You know, the sort of mechanic that most FPS games have had for years now; but which actually works. Heck, I did that back in the first Universal Combat game. In 2002. And we have it in Line Of Defense. It. Just. Works. But in Star Citizen, they somehow manage to botch the most mundane things.

The patch notes are even more of the same nonsense. For starters, though this is a scaled down release, they jammed everything into that changelog, despite the fact that a good portion of that list is neither implemented in this build, let alone working to any extent. In fact, barely days after the Friday release, they released another “a” patch that, claimed performance fixes aside, fixes things that weren’t even listed as being bugged. And just last night, yet another “b” patch went out

And in that list, we’ve gone through each item and compared to what they released. As of now, 93% of that list isn’t actually in the 3.0 they released. Yes, I know, it’s absolutely unbelievable. Right now on ETF they’re telling testers not to do any combat PvP, missions etc because they’re supposed to be focus testing doors and lights. I’m guessing that the more Evocati engage this build, the more it will be obvious that it’s pure rubbish. Of course amid the outcry, they went and added more Evocati members to the list, which is just going to lead to even more leaks going forward.

There is absolutely NOTHING worth doing in 3.0. Seriously, NOTHING. When all backers get this, assuming they can get in a ship, fly to a planet, and enter it – the spectacle will be over in all of 20 mins. Guaranteed. Then, the streamers are going to be doing the same repetitive bullshit for weeks on end because, well, they have nothing.

It’s all still a glorified $160M tech demo that’s not even a vertical slice, if you can believe that.

What Evocati are now seeing in 3.0 is precisely the bane of these types of games. They’re dull and boring if you don’t have people to play with, or a robust AI and mission system for solo engagements.

And in 3.0, good luck finding anyone. There could be 8 clients in your instance, and you’d never see them. And when you do, there’s nothing to do because there is no “game”. Six years later.

Even Elite Dangerous suffers from this same thing, and that’s why those who don’t like it, call it boring. And the funny thing is, you could be peddling rubber dog shit for hours in ED, and get some “fun” from it because everything is just so well put together. Even in my Battlecruiser/Universal Combat games; I spent decades developing and improving revolutionary AI (check out my recent 6hr live stream) to alleviate this problem – specifically. Which is why I never even bothered to spend too much time with multiplayer for those games.

UPDATE: CIG have now resorted to using DMCA to take-down Evocati videos. This directly contradicts this statement he made in 10 for the Chairman: Episode 06 on 01/24/2014.

Star Citizen 3….” This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Cloud Imperium Rights LLC and Roberts Space Industries Corp

NOW WHAT?

This whole project is an absolute travesty. I don’t care what anyone says, they’ve basically blown through all this money, spent all this time – and have this shit to show for it. I have said it before, I will say it again, with all this money at stake, someone is going to jail over this because there is NO way on Earth they get away with it.

I don’t even care if devout cultists (who don’t have Evocati friends) believe me or not, because they will get to experience incredible Evocati leaks like this first hand sooner than they think. Now that CIG have prohibited backers from discussing leaks in EFT chat, and also told them to stop posting bug reporting videos (highlighting bugs) because they become public when linked, we’ll see for how long they can keep the lid on this 3.0 fiasco. My guess is they’re going to keep it internal until they get through their two upcoming funding drives. After which they won’t give a shit, and will just release it as-is, then go away for the Christmas break. Like always, pretty much.

@25:00 Using Fake Demos To Fool Publishers – Chris Roberts, Forbes – May 17, 2013

GET A REFUND!!!

UPDATED 10/13/17: Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse. Then it did. Squadron 42 delayed indefinitely.