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WHY STAR CITIZEN BACKERS SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION
No doubt you already read about the collapse of the Lily drone project. Yesterday, news reports (1, 2) revealed its demise amid a lawsuit filed by San Francisco after several months of investigations, made possible by anonymous sources within the project. As you read these and other news reports, key excerpts such as the ones below, should give you an idea of what I have been clamoring about Star Citizen since July 2015 when I wrote my first blog raising the alarm.
“Snap passed on the deal, which was first reported by Business Insider, because of potential liability associated with pre-orders.”
“Now some tech veterans say there were red flags in Lily’s story all along.”
“There’s also a slightly technical issue that forms a second front in the DA’s lawsuit: the fact that they went with an independent “pre-order” strategy rather than an established crowdfunded development site like Kickstarter. That makes Lily’s money qualify more on the side of internet sales than investment in an idea (something Kickstarter and its projects are always careful to explain), which exposed the company to certain consumer protection laws.”
And what should be noted is that a judge saw it fit to grant San Francisco a TRO, allowing them to freeze the company assets. Which means that they did in fact have a case to be made.
Last year, amid various consumer unfriendly actions which CIG/RSI took, such as revising the ToS in June 2016, thereby stripping backers of certain protections and warranties they had since the start of the project, I wrote several blogs in which I opined that the project had seemingly evolved into an outright scam due to questionable fund-raising tactics used. And these tactics appeared due to the fact that they had run out of time and money to build the two games (Star Citizen, Squadron 42) promised. Then, just this past December, it was revealed that, despite promises made, they didn’t even have the tech required to build the games promised. So, while lying to backers, they were then found to have switched to Amazon’s Lumberyard game engine. I wrote an extensive blog about this in Irreconcilable Differences.
And through most of my blogs, I had written that no matter what CIG/RSI or the toxic backers say, anyone with money in the project, was entitled to everything that CIG/RSI promised back in Oct 2012 when the project first appeared on Kickstarter. For quite some time, they were refusing even refunds, only granting them to those (like me) who they deemed were detrimental to the project in some form or another. Much has been written about how they refund and close accounts of backers who were identified and found to be expressing dissent against either the project or it’s creators. I recently wrote another update about that as well. It wasn’t until one backer decided to heed my advice and go directly to the State authorities, thus forcing CIG/RSI to give him a refund, that people started getting refunds upon request. And I wrote the Refund Debacle blog specifically about that back in July 2016.
I had also written that CIG/RSI giving some backers refunds, doesn’t absolve them of any liabilities, nor does it allow them to maintain an open ended delivery date for the project; even after they had given a fixed Nov 2014 delivery date, and which also had an 18 month delay period. Someone running a scam, for example a Ponzi scheme, will tend to appease those who pose a threat to said scam. So if you think about it, just because someone gets a refund, doesn’t make what’s going on any less of a scam, nor does it mean that by giving refunds, they no longer have any legal liability. For example, when you break the law by stealing something, returning it doesn’t mean that you’re no longer liable for prosecution.
So this recent lawsuit, which is similar to other lawsuits taken by other states against crowd-funding projects, echos everything that I have been saying since July 2015, as it pertains to the consumer protections which backers have. And now, we have a State official stating that because a project is run off a business site, it is actually subject to even more stringent consumer protection laws. Yet, back when I was saying this, and advocating for people to report the project to the FTC if they didn’t get a refund, I was incessantly attacked and derided. And seeing as, outside of the CA refund issue previously reported, no action has yet been taken against CIG/RSI by State and/or Fed officials, some people are taking this to mean that everything is business as usual. As I had previously reported, like some backers, my attorneys and I have personally spoken (and my case met) with both State and Fed officials about how I became involved in this project and its on-going controversy. What the officials choose to do, and when, is entirely up to them. Similarly, what backers and their attorneys choose to do, and when, is also entirely up to them.
I believe that the project is an on-going scam, that certain actions taken are a violation of consumer laws; and according to sources and info which I have passed along to various authorities, could quite possibly be found to be facing accusations of both consumer and wire fraud if the project and its executives were in fact investigated. I had called for such an investigation as far back as July 2015 when I wrote the Interstellar Discourse blog. I believe that the creators, as well as their friends and family – all executives involved with the project – are engaged in actions tantamount to unjust enrichment, while pretending to be working toward the development of a project. A project that, by all accounts, is reported to be in dire financial trouble due to the amount of the time and money left in which to deliver the two games as promised. A project which, in Oct 2013 after raising $25 million, Chris Roberts in a statement said was fully funded. I wrote about this in my Fidelity Of Failure blog back in June 2016.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Star Citizen fully funded at $25 million in Oct 2013[/caption]
For as many times as I have been proven to be correct about this project, there will come a time when most people who thought that this could never happen, will be wondering how it is that a project that has thus far raised over $140 million (assuming the funding chart is accurate – which many believe it isn’t) from gamers, with other amounts from investors and loans, could possibly fail to deliver even a single game as promised, and yet managed to collapse.
Unlike projects like the Lily drone, when you consider the amount of money that backers and investors have put into this project, it’s easy to see that there is no way that refunds can be given to everyone. In short, once the money runs out ahead of the games being completed (in some form or another), it will end up being a total loss of backer and investor money.
GAMESTAR Feb 2017 INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS ROBERTS
PCGamesN: Squadron 42 would fund Star Citizen if cash ran out
Shortly after I wrote this missive, excerpts of a translated interview (original, Google translated) that Chris Roberts did with a German magazine, began to surface online. Given the print times, this interview no doubt took place within the last two to three months. It’s a pretty long interview. However, there are two very important excerpts which, without a doubt, prove two of the most important points that I’ve been going on about these past months.
1) He has basically confirmed that the project is a Ponzi scheme.
“First of all, we always have a decent amount of money in reserve, so if all support would collapse, we would not suddenly be incapacitated. We plan the scope of the development based on what arrives monthly by the people to support. I’m not worried, because even if no money came in, we would have sufficient funds to complete Squadron 42. The revenue from this could in-turn be used for the completion of Star Citizen.“
Note that he made this exact claim back in Sept 2014 in this statement – shortly after raising $55 million.
This basically confirms that they simply do not have the money to complete this project as promised; and that’s why they need to keep raising money as they have been doing. This despite the fact that the project funding currently stands at over $140 million. So basically, if refunds continue, and sales flow slows down, they can’t complete Star Citizen. Instead, now he says they are focusing on releasing the Squadron 42 single-player game which over 96% (according to our metrics) of the people who have thus far backed the project, are already entitled to – at no charge.
This also explains the lack of meaningful Star Citizen progress in 2016; not to mention the complete absence of Squadron 42 itself. Back in Sept 2016 when I wrote that neither Star Citizen nor SQ42 was going to be released in 2017, well, guess what happened.
Remember back when I said that they can’t build Star Citizen as promised, and that Chris is only now focused on SQ42 because he wants to make a movie; and that it’s more likely to be what they deliver – in some form or another? Yeah, me too. Then rumors started swirling that even so, they still can’t deliver the full Episode 1 of SQ42 as promised due to the fact that SQ42 shares the same engine as Star Citizen – complete with all the problems (besides networking) that it has. Hence rumors of a “prelude” or some sort of demo, being in the works.
If this is the bet that Chris has made, then for financial reasons, we’re back to talking about SQ42 on consoles. Hence more reasons for the Lumberyard engine switch.
2) He has basically confirmed that the 3.0 patch doesn’t exist.
“We’ve looked at 3.0 and said. We need that and that and that and then we found: Damn, that’s more than many complete games. Therefore, we develop a detailed plan for all tasks and subtasks. If that is done, we will share this plan with the community. This is expected to be the case at some point in January, depending on when the production team gets the information from the project managers.“
The article then goes on to say that during this time, there will be smaller updates due to the length of time in between. These include performance, as well as networking improvements, which the article says aren’t coming before 3.0. And that pretty much confirms what I wrote in my last blog that there were no networking revisions in the 2.6 patch; contrary to some people thinking that it was done as part of the Lumberyard switch.
Seriously, this one beggars belief, and is also proof positive that Chris has been lying to backers – consistently. Back in Aug 2016 during the Gamescom conference, Chris claimed that the much touted 3.0 patch was due out. That was even though they still hadn’t even released the 2.6 patch (which didn’t arrive until Dec 23rd). As I wrote over here, he went on the record (23:36) saying: “..so, it’s our big end of the year release. er so er yeah, so we’re gonna get it out the end of the year; hopefully not on December 19th but, er, like last year….but it is a big one, so, not making er, I got shot for making promises, but er, that’s our goal.”
You can see all the slides showing the roadmap for 3.x up to 4.0 which he then went on to share during CitizenCon 2016 in Nov. Subsequently, ahead of the show, back on Nov 2, 2016, I had written a missive that sources told that the 3.0 patch didn’t even exist at the time that he made those statements; and that he was blatantly lying. In fact, sources told me that the first time they even heard anything about such a patch, was when the slide went up. So apparently this was something the Chris and his top cohorts (Erin Roberts, Sean Tracey, Tony Zurovek, Brian Chambers) cooked up in the continued bid to lie to and mislead backers.
With 3.0 not even on the near horizon, let alone in the dev schedule, even as they talk about the upcoming 2.6.1, and now the 2.7 patch as per this recent stream (34:50) – which I recently wrote about – it is clear that with the main focus on SQ42, this 3.0 patch which most of us think is going to be the Minimum Viable Product (30:18) he spoke of back in April 18th, 2016, is not coming in the short term.
I think at this point, if the backers don’t have enough proof that this project is FUBAR, then we may need to revert to smoke signals. Regardless, it’s their money, and we don’t care what they do with it. Regardless, these unscrupulous scumbags who keep abusing backer goodwill in crowd-funding projects, are ruining it for everyone. Especially for us in video gaming. My purpose in this whole Star Citizen fiasco remains the same: archiving and sharing my opinions on this whole farce, while striving toward unconditional vindication.
Finally, along these same lines, if you haven’t yet watched this interview with Dan Trufin in the F42-GER office, you should. Key points: 1) persistent points of interest on planets are basically just ship wrecks. Just like in Elite Dangerous btw 2) @06:48, most of the ships need to be “refactored” due to docking problems 3) @09:52, networking is still mostly broken 4) @12:02, the sandstorm in the CitizenCon 2016 presentation was faked (we knew this already), and that no weather systems have been implemented thus far in the engine.
Love charts and numbers? Don’t forget to check out the Star Citizen Analytics project.