THE EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT
Back in April 2016, I wrote the Star Citizen – Extinction Level Event blog which was my ground zero point for the inevitable collapse of the project. In July 2015 when I wrote that first Interstellar Citizens blog, I had already expressed my opinions as to why I didn’t think the project was possible, and even so, not without a capable team, engine, and minimum $150M. In April 2016 when I wrote that E.L.E blog, they had already raised $112M (according to the public funding chart).
In that E.L.E blog, I wrote about several events which I believed were evidence of an E.L.E (btw it isn’t an instantaneous event. It is a series of ripple events over time, until the final end) that was moving along apace. I said:
“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.“
I also opined about some very specific things which I will outline below.
1) Terms Of Service Agreement
Having failed to deliver the games in Nov 2014 (the same month they were fully funded to $65M for the over-scoped project), and with the additional 18 month ToS deadline approaching, I stated that they would likely change it again because the projects were nowhere near completion. I said :
“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).”
They changed it in June 2016 to a version that not only removed certain promises (refunds, financial accountability etc) made to backers, but also set the stage for the reduction of liability in the event of a catastrophic collapse of the project. I have an entire forum dedicated to the discussion of those changes.
2) The Refund Debacle
They were actively refusing refunds, even though Chris Roberts had gone on the record saying that refunds were not guaranteed because the 2.0 build (released in Dec 2015), was a “substantial update”. I said:
“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.”
Less than a month later after I stated that they had no legal reason to refuse refunds, having missed the dates in their own ToS by a wide margin, a backer who was refused a sizable refund, decided to test my theory. He went straight to the CA State authorities who agreed with my assessment. Barely a week later, he got his refund, and refunds became a thing again, and continues as of this writing. It wrote Star Citizen – The Refund Debacle blog about the whole thing.
3) The Engine Dilemna
Chris made key statements in a Dec 2015 broadcast that led me to believe that they had reconciled the fact that, as I had stated back in July 2015, they didn’t have the engine needed to make the games promised. I said:
“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. 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″
At GamesCom 2016, Brian Chambers, studio head at F42-GER where the primary engine dev takes place, stated in an interview that they had modified CE3 “by about 50%”. In Sept, I wrote that it simply wasn’t enough. I said :
“At the end of the day, as I mentioned in my missive, in order to come up with a custom engine which would make it somewhat possible to build vision 2.0 of the game, they would have to modify CE3 by a whole lot more than 50%. And even so, the underlying CE3 architecture is still going to be there because things like scene management, 64-Bit positioning, networking etc, are all the things they would need to either rip out and replace, or build on top of. And the time it takes for them to be doing all that, could have been spent building a custom engine which specifically does what they want.
It is hard for a none programmer to quite grasp how horrendous it is to go back and modify someone’s code; let alone an engine built by several people. Which is why, last year when people were saying that opening F42-GER with ex-CryTek engineers was going to be the magic bullet, most of us who know better, just laughed. It’s been almost 18 (?) months since; look at what they have now.
To be clear, I don’t envision there ever being a time whereby their CE3 FrankenEngine ever powers vision 2.0 of the game. I simply don’t see it happening. For that, would need to modify CE3 by 90% or more. Well, therein lies the rub.”
In Dec 2016, without having previously said anything about it, we learned that they had switched from one CryEngine 3 derivative to another (Lumberyard) in the 2.6 release. I wrote extensively about that in my Star Citizen – Irreconcilable Differences blog a few days later.
And if you read my article on the disastrously disappointing GamesCom 2017 show this past August, then you already know where this is headed.
4) Minimum Viable Product
For years I had stated that they simply couldn’t build the game pitched, and that they would be left with no choice but to ship “something”, release it, then if they survive the fallout, build on that. I said:
“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.”
A few days after my E.L.E blog went live, Chris in a broadcast, made clear that they couldn’t in fact deliver the games promised, and that they were instead going to work on an MVP; then build from there. In my follow-up article, I called that plan the final nail in the Star Citizen coffin.
He made the same claims in an interview from this past GamesCom 2017 event. You can read about that in my GC2017 coverage. It’s eye-opening.
5) Financial Difficulties
Having raised about $112M at the time, without ever delivering an Alpha product, rumors started swirling that they were – again – facing financial difficulties. I said:
“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.”
Later that year, between the Aug GamesCom 2016 and Oct CitizenCon 2016, Chris did the following: (1) presented an R&D demo being passed off as live 3.0 gameplay (which was later debunked by me, forcing them to admit to it) (2) claimed that the build – which he was playing – was due out on or before Dec 19th (3) didn’t show SQ42 as was expected, but later released a “Road To CitizenCon” video which proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that they didn’t even have anything to show of SQ42 at the event – but they lied about it anyway.
As a result of these carefully planned events – seemingly designed to mislead and rip off backers – he subsequently raised about $23M through that period. All based on what we now know, almost a year later, to be pure lies.
It didn’t stop there. It wasn’t until June 2017, that we finally learned that the aforementioned rumors were in fact true. This time, they had taken out a loan in the UK, while pledging assets paid for by backers, as collateral. I wrote about this in my Star Citizen – The Final Countdown blog, and also in a follow-up article about a week later.
Since that April 2016, E.L.E blog, every single thing they have done has been about raising money by any means necessary. This has included on-going JPEG concept sales, showcasing carefully crafted videos at events being passed off as the game in order to continue raising money from backer whales, various refund shenanigans in which some backers are reporting that they are either not getting their full and correct refunds, or CIG is making it prohibitive (e.g. requesting ID, attempting to refund to expired or invalid credit/debit cards etc) for them etc.
I have also learned that CIG is going to stop issuing refunds very soon, due to their on-going financial difficulties.
Then, out of nowhere, an industry developer wrote an extensive two-part article outlying why he thinks that the project is now in financial distress.
THE EXIT STRATEGY
About a week ago, I had a very disturbing discussion with a top tier (CEO of a large and well known studio) industry peer with connection to several people working on this project. That discussion left me shaken with anger, resentment, and confusion. I released this Tweet.
“BREAKING! Huge Star Citizen news inbound! 1st, read my Extinction Level Event blog from April 2016 for context”
Basically people in the industry who are either connected to the project, or to someone who is, are all talking now more than ever before. And the general theme is that the project is, as has been reported before, a complete failure, that Chris Roberts was not only looking around for investment, but also seeking an “exit” strategy. Speaking to several of my sources, they indicated to me that people are already leaving (Note that this is the most difficult industry to find work in, so leaving a project is not a decision that is made lightly) either through termination, or resignation. In fact, several of the recent ones already went public.
Statements made include, as has been reported before, that Chris Roberts is difficult to work with, and has run the project into the ground due to not taking the advice of the people he is paying to build these games, even as him and his friends blow through backer money irresponsibly. Most people on the project are basically pulling a paycheck until the final collapse because, as I mentioned before, it’s very hard to find work in the industry these days; no matter who is hiring.
You know why I’m mad? Because he’s done this before. I recently posted a short compilation which would give you some insight into what I’m talking about.
And now comes this….
Though I can’t go into a lot of detail at this point because it would compromise some sources, even as I await further clarification, I also learned at the same time that, in addition to the dozen or more corporations involved in this venture, this past Aug 29th, they formed yet another shell corporation in the UK called Cloud Imperium Rights LTD. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of another shell corp, CIG UK Ltd. I know what the implications of this are, I know the details, and I know what it’s for. But unless and until I obtain some key pieces of information that I am awaiting, I can’t yet say anything more about it. In fact, the only reason that I am even mentioning this at all is because though some of us have been discussing it in private, some people are now also aware of the existence of this new entity – though they have no clue what it’s for, nor why it exists.
FYI: Back in early August, Playdek which had raised over $660K via crowd-funding, abandoned the project, then passed the rights off to another company.
My April 2016 E.L.E blog was written for a reason. More soon.
UPDATE 2: Eurogamer just published an interview Chris Roberts gave at GamesCom 2017. It’s an eye-opening read which contains ample evidence of what I’ve stated that they can’t develop the game promised, and that they were possibly planning to dump 3.0 as a Minimal Viable Product. I covered this extensively in various blogs. To recap his statements from April 18th, 2016:
“…and, awh, wuh… we’ll have what will sort of determine a sort of… MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT FEATURE LIST for what you would call STAR CITIZEN the COMMERCIAL RELEASE, which is basically when you say, “OK! Ah, we’ve gotten to this point and we’ve still got plans to add a lot more COOL STUFF and MORE CONTENT and MORE FUNCTIONALITY and MORE FEATURES”, which by the way includes some of… the LATER STRETCH GOALS we have cos not all of that’s meant to be for ABSOLUTELY RIGHT HERE, on the commercial release…“
I like how he says the public schedule is the same as the internal one. I guess 3.0 did come out in 2016.
I am also thrilled to see that he is still reading my articles because I was the first and only person to leak that the internal and public schedules were different.
So basically, he’s gone from a $160m (as of now) crowd-funded project with a Nov 2014 delivery date, to pre-Alpha, and now right into an early access release instead, thus removing any future release dates.
He’s a liar, a scam artist, and a fraud.
UPDATE 1: For those of you asking about the ramifications of this new shell company, my answer is that I can’t say anything more about it until I get additional feedback, answers to some questions I’ve asked, as well as clearance to share some of the other pertinent info that I am not permitted to share at this point.
However, I can share a bit of background to give you an idea of why this new shell company should be raising new Red flags even if nothing funny is going on. Even it was for the sole purpose of IP licensing etc, they don’t need another EU shell corporation when they already have three in the same country, and another, F42-GER in Germany.
What this new shell company highlights is how they have systematically taken money out of these corporate entities.
Basically Chris took approximately $75M (publicly filed expenses from the formation of the studio) of backer money and built/maintained F42-UK studio for his brother and lifelong friends (The Elms, Derek Senior et al over in the UK). The corporation papers were filed in Sept 2013.
Then in 2014, at the height of the crowd-funding windfall, they turned around, and through CIG-UK, bought the company back from Erin et al for £440k, thus taking money OUT of the entity. Money which should have been spent on developing the games. Money which btw, is funneled from the US by CIG-UK via the RSI-UK subsidiary.
And during that time, they were putting the company into debt with not one, but now two UK loans – one of which collateralizes IP and assets paid for with backer money – even after taking money out of the entities for no good cause other than what can only be regarded as Unjust Enrichment. And we don’t know what is going with the US side of the financials, as those aren’t public.
All of the above in addition to Erin taking a larger than normal salary, even while giving himself salary raises and bonuses – never having shipped a single product.
The other question mark in their books is that in 2015, CIG-UK bought an IP “on paper” for £1.36m. That same year, it sold that same IP to the tune of about £2m, thus booking a “profit” of about £655k. Nobody knows what that IP is. But my guess is that, since they’ve never even mentioned it, and the fact that they “sold” it, points to them selling Star Citizen and/or Squadron 42 related IP among their shell companies. Hilariously, even with the profit, the end of year filing for the value of the aforementioned IP, is still £1.36m.
As there are no books to show who the IP was bought from or sold to, it stands to reason that it wasn’t sold to any of the UK entities (or it would be recorded there in the P&L which we have access to in the UK), but maybe to either one of the other shell companies in the US or in GER. Companies for which backers have no financial access or overview.