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Dsmart
dsmart
Keymaster

STAR CITIZEN – STATE OF THE FARCE

YUP, PRETTY MUCH

Much has been written about the road to 3.0 which started in early 2016. According to Chris Roberts – while he was raising money – it was supposed to be coming out by the end of 2016. Backers hung their hat on that, and dug deep into their wallets. As sources had already told me that 3.0 didn’t actually exist, and that they had no idea where the schedule even came from, let alone how on Earth Chris envisioned it coming out by end of year 2016, I just waited to see how far off the mark he was.

He was off by a whole year. Which goes right back to what we were all saying back then. He lied, and used that to raise money from backers. Plain and simple.

In July 2017, I had written an extensive article in which I explained that 3.0 was going to be an absolute mess because they simply didn’t have the tech that would power what they wanted to do. It was long after some sources read that article, that they reached out to tell me that it was even worse than I had written and imagined. Also that if it were to release within 90 days, that it would be a major disaster. I wrote another article highlighting what they had told me about bugs, performance issues etc.

“At Citizen Con we announced that we are moving to a quarterly release schedule that is less feature bound and more focused on regular updates. The release of 3.0 is the first step in that strategy. We could have spent a few more weeks dialing in performance and bugs before going “Live” after we returned from the Holiday break but as most of the company won’t return until the second week of January (as we worked a week deeper into 2017 than we did in 2016) we would then not be going Live until the beginning of February. Considering that for us to hit the Q1 release date we need to be going to Evocati in the middle of February, it would put us in the same situation as this year where we ran late as we were focusing on features versus dates. Going live with 3.0 allows us to merge back into our main development branch, continue the performance and optimization work (which will be a big part of future releases) and deliver it with solid testing for Q1 2018. So while it may be frustrating that there are some performance issues and bugs, 3.0 is a step along the way in the Star Citizen journey that will get better and more polished as we go.” – Chris Roberts, Dec 24, 2017

When it was finally released on Dec 23, 2017, just as sources had said, it turned out to be an astounding disaster – even by any standard for a pre-Alpha product that’s been sold off as a “complete experience” right there on their website. But backers had some new toys, as well as the debut of the much hyped “planetary tech” which sort of dulled the pain of the release which has since been plagued with performance issues, serious crashes – and pretty much everything flat-out broken.

By the end of January, streamers and backers alike were already over the novelty. In fact, last time I checked, streamer and social media engagement over Star Citizen were down by over a whopping 78% in Feb 2018 compared to a year earlier. Aside from the fact that pretty much nothing worked as it should, that it was plagued with horrendous performance, bugs, crashes etc, it finally dawned on some backers that this major milestone showed just how much of a mess things were, and that the road ahead was going to be even tougher.

Remember, they still don’t have a functional, closed, gameplay loop. At all. Not to mention anything that even resembles a vertical slice – of any kind.

Did I mention that 3.0 basically didn’t have over 75% of what was promised as far back as 2016?

Yeah, 75% of that was shit-canned

75% OF THAT WAS SHIT-CANNED IN THE NEW ROADMAP

Amid the backer meltdown, CIG did what it always does in situations like this. They came up with a totally new plan. This time, in the form of a Trello-like roadmap, which did away with the previous dev schedule format. Note that they started doing these dev schedules back in Nov 2016; almost a year and a half after I asked them – via a legal letter – to provide backers with a schedule in order to track progress. Except, despite them saying that it was their actual internal schedule, sources told me that it was actually nonsense – and that the real internal schedule goes up to and beyond 2021!

Anyway, so this roadmap was their re-imagining of the dev schedule. The caveats section is absolutely hilarious. Taking their caveats way too seriously, by the time 3.1 was released to Evocati (backers deemed to be special snowflakes cuz they paid more) on Mar 8th, they had already moved some of the 3.1 items into 3.2 and beyond.

The feedback from the Evocati test period was amazing and hilarious. Even those die hard guys, the most devout of the devout, couldn’t believe just how broken almost everything was.

Two Weeks (there’s a joke in there btw) later on Mar 21st, ignoring Evocati pleas and comments to hold off on releasing to wide testing, CIG released 3.1 to the Public Test Universe which was open to more backers. And lolz flowed through these lands.

Then, in order to claim that they actually hit (they’ve failed to hit a single deadline in their entire dev history) a milestone release goal, they released 3.1 live on Mar 31st. By that time, over 50% of what was in the Jan 8th version, had been outright removed from the roadmap, or kicked down the road again.

Hilariously, 3.1 live was even more broken than the Evocati builds. Even when some backers on empty servers were claiming that they saw a performance boost (it was all bullshit of course, just like 3.0, as Chris himself confirmed), it wasn’t long before it dawned on everyone that 3.1 was no better than 3.0 before it.

As I wrote in this Twitter thread, it appears to have been specifically rushed out in order to not only meet an arbitrary deadline, but also because they had new ships (e.g. the $400 Reclaimer chariot) to sell, and which had been implemented in that build.

Then, amid backer cries for them to roll back to 3.0, and less than a week after the release, they had to roll back to a previous version. Yes, it was that bad.

Listen, we’re devs and stuff happens during game development, but this is ridiculous. We’re talking about a project that’s now in year seven (depending on who you ask), has crowd-funded over $180m from backers, and has had 500+ people working on it at some point or another. And it’s currently still in pre-Alpha, with no end in sight. Aside from creating many more issues (my metrics show 3 new items for every 1 thing addressed) with each release, there are over 5000 issues currently logged.

If you look at the changelog for 3.0 and 3.1, it should be painfully obvious that it’s years away from anything remotely resembling a final release. My analysis shows that at this rate, and considering everything they have yet to do – assuming they don’t keep cutting things – this project has another +7 years to go. Forget about the 2021 internal schedule. This basically means that it’s pretty much dead. There is a reason that back in 2017, Chris – who raised money to ship two complete games – started touting it as Early Access.

YEAH, WE’RE STILL LAUGHING TOO

BACK TO ROOTS – FIX PLAYER EXPERIENCE FIRST!

As I was going through the official boards, I came across a thread which a Grand Admiral (+$2,500 backer) had created. Normally, since we just laugh at those guys and keep scrolling, this one caught my attention not only because of the responses (notice that attacks at him got more up-votes than reasonable responses) that his post garnered, but because of what he was asking for. From the very first response (an example of the toxic nature of the community), you knew how things were going to go. In fact, that first response, aside from the snide remarks, and totally made up bullshit (see engine code replacement), it is clear that some of the backers are completely clueless. Either that, or they are the same ignorant fools who have enabled CIG to continue perpetrating what many of us now regard as a on-going scam.

Anyway, Let me touch on some of what he was saying as per those three (performance, bugs, experience) issues which, like all game projects, are actually the core of all the issues that currently plague the project.

PERFORMANCE

They’re never – ever – going to be able to fix performance to any reasonable standard. Like ever. I recall when 3.1 was just out and the servers were empty, some idiots where making shit up on-the-fly that it was somehow faster. It wasn’t even 48hrs after it was released, that it dawned on everyone that they didn’t fix shit. It was just another card in the roadmap – marked as complete – which ended up being a placebo effect on some.

Since 2016 CIG has been touting one thing (item 2.0, serialized variables, network bind culling etc) to the next, as they continued to make excuses for performance issues. They literally write about this in various bulletins, while talking about in their shows. I’ve also written several articles (e.g this one from Dec 2017 on why networking fixes aren’t going to solve their overall performance issues) going all the way back to 2016 which laid out clearly why NONE of what CIG was saying, would make a difference. This proved to be true not only in 3.0, but also in 3.1.

What these guys don’t yet realize is that, as 3.0 had shown, it’s only going to get worse as they add more stuff to the game. As a result, there is NO way they’re making an MMO out of this. It’s going to remain a session based game with 64 client (NOTE: the server still dies amid horrid performance above 12 clients) max cap that will continue to suffer with bugs and performance issues.

Remember, they still only have three moons which arrived in 3.0. Imagine what will happen if/when they eventually get all of Stanton (1 system of the 100 promised) built. They now claim that Hurston is coming in 3.3, and ArcCorp in 3.4. So 3 moons in 2017, and 2 planets in 2018. Well, take a look at the game’s world map. I rest my case.

BUGS, BUGS, AND MORE BUGS

There is nothing more to be said about this. Each and every release breaks more things than it fixes. And then some. Sure, after 7 years, the pre-alpha excuse still holds up for some delusional backers; but the fact of the matter is that they are trying to shoe-horn features into a BADLY BROKEN engine framework. Which is why literally everything is broken, incomplete, or in a state of limbo.

Not to mention that amid the Crytek lawsuit, sources have told me that they are frantically running through (which btw Chris claimed in 2016 took all of 2 days to do. I wrote about extensively in Irreconcilable Differences) the port to Lumberyard, as if that’s going to make a difference. What they have right now is a potpourri of CryEngine + Star Engine (their derivative custom version) + Lumberyard (Amazon’s derivative custom version). As a result, I’m completely shocked that they’re having so many issues.

The mission system is broken, interdiction (their excuse for NPC engagements) missions are abysmal, landing on – let alone exploring planets – has issues ranging from ships getting destroyed, crashes, intersecting scene geometry etc. Every single aspect of the “game” is just flat out broken. Not to mention that hardly anyone is playing Arena Commander, let alone Star Marine. And that’s not hyperbole. See the metrics.

For example, what this admiral describes, appears to be a standard bug caused by the fact that the elevator is an entity that’s part of the ship model. Unlike the ship, it knows nothing about the world around it, let alone the terrain. Which is why it can go below it, and one hilarious video shared last week, the elevator can go up into the sky and out of the ship. Considering that they have had elevator related bugs (in ships, bases etc) like this for years now, is testament to the fact that these are considered low priority. Plus, it’s not like there’s an easy fix.

ALL THE CRAP MOVED OUT IS PERFECTLY NORMAL

GAMEPLAY EXPERIENCE

That the game isn’t even a bleep on streamers anymore, should be a clear indication that only those who haven’t yet claimed a refund, and are stuck in Sunk Cost Fallacy and Cognitive Dissonance, don’t yet have a clue that the whole thing is FUBAR.

The “flight” model has been broken for years. Each time they try to “fix” it, they somehow manage to make it worse. It doesn’t have as much to do with being an fps engine, as it does it being about physics. It has to do with math and knowledge of flight dynamics (even fake ones in a space game), as well as parameters for each ship. They don’t appear to have anyone who knows wtf they are doing with this. I have written so many flight models in my time, that I pretty much know that it’s not simple, and that it takes LOTS of iterations to get it just “right” for the type of game. But somehow, CIG keeps breaking it. The one core feature of a space combat game.

Ignoring all this, in the first reply, the poster comes up with arbitrary numbers which he pulled right out of his ass – with zero context – while not even addressing what the admiral was talking about the game experience being shit. Yeah, because replacing an engine or making changes, somehow explains a flight model that’s been shit for years now.

It’s interesting that he even talks about “experience”, ignoring the fact that it’s a pre-alpha build of a tech demo proof-of-concept. Nothing is supposed to actually work at this point. So it’s no surprise that something as simple as carting boxes of rubber dog shit from A to B, is fraught with issues. The issues are not related to the missions. They are related to the fact that the engine which the missions and experience rely upon, is badly broken.

It gets better. I had written a Twitter thread in which I was explaining how they now appeared to be using a badly broken build to gouge backers once again. Though the REC system, described by Chris in 2015 was supposed to be for Arena Command only, it had proven popular enough for testing in the main Star Citizen game. This is what he said back then:

In the Persistent Universe, that will be easy: you’ll earn credits flying missions, locating star systems, hauling goods, hunting bounties and through a dozen other activities. You’ll rapidly explore and expand your universe. But the pilots helping us develop our spaceflight in Arena Commander don’t have that ability… yet!” – Chris Roberts, Feb 13, 2015

Here’s the thing; backers are buying ships which they use in both Arena Commander and Star Citizen (aka Persistent Universe). These are modules which, as I pointed out in the above Twitter thread (which includes metrics), hardly anyone is even playing (18-04-12 UPDATE: In the latest 3.1.x patch, they have now disabled BOTH modules!). By playing in AC, they gain REC which they then use to get ships – for free – in the PU. Well, that means CIG doesn’t get to make money because as you can see from the stats in my Twitter thread, some backers are playing AC only to get REC, which they then use in the PU. So even though 3.1 has crashes in which people lose ships, they not only increased the wait times for insurance claims, but they completely removed REC from the PU. The result? Unless you have spare ships – or you buy some – you’re basically screwed. Yeah. That guy who paid $45 for the game which includes a starter ship, is totally going to sit around for 8 hours waiting for a replacement ship.

Not only that, I envision that they are soon going to remove aUEC (alpha currency) in favor of the actual in-game UEC currency which requires real cash. Either that or they introduce real cash to aUEC but at a lower conversion rate to UEC. The end result? Backers are going to continue paying more and more to keep playing their glorified tech demo. And that is the reality of Star Citizen.

It’s pre-Alpha, so NONE of these sort of mechanics should even have these sorts of stats. Want to test insurance claims? Sure, it’s a numerical value. Make it minutes, not hours, and boom – you know it works. Then you increase it to whatever it should be in the final (LOL!!) game release.

 

YEAH, I’M TOTALLY GOING TO STICK AROUND FOR THAT LONG

ERRATA

I was on an open house stream this past weekend talking about the latest Star Citizen shenanigans. One thing I mentioned is that I simply don’t get why CIG doesn’t just keep two builds running in parallel. They are using cloud servers which can be provisioned for any build they like; so it’s really a no brainer. Doing this allows them to have the live builds (e.g. 3.0.x) running, while also having the bleeding edge next build (e.g. 3.1.x) running on the PTU. Doing this would alleviate the need for rollbacks, as well as all the aggravation they’re getting. Once a build goes live, don’t touch it again. Then once the next build reaches a reasonably solid point, it goes from PTU to live, and the cycle continues.

And no, they won’t have to support two builds because whatever is live, is just a moment-in-time frozen build. Heck, even Valve recognized this need years ago and implemented this very same feature in Steam for those of us who use it to deploy various builds. Doing this allows backers to switch from build to build, and just stick with what they feel comfortable with. Most of us devs have been doing this for YEARS, but somehow the brain trust in charge of a $180m project don’t seem to get simple game dev design and logistics. Heck, they can’t even decide on a schedule format, though that’s got more to do with lying, than it does anything else.

The fact of the matter is that, from the current roadmap, it’s now clear that Star Citizen (still no word on Squadron 42) is completely out of the 2018 release window. Heck, even though they recently revised the roadmap again as they look ahead to 3.2, they appear to have scaled down Chris’s description of how mining would work. What they are now planning reads nothing like what Chris pitched back in Feb, 2015. I can’t wait to see what they release as the first iteration.

A PLEDGE IS NOT THE SAME AS A SALE

This one was so hilarious, I wrote not one, but two Twitter threads (1, 2) about it. Basically the content manager for the project, went on a third-party live stream to claim that it was backers who were referring to their income stream as “sales”.  The take-away here is that they’re now heavily pushing the narrative that they’re not selling anything. Why is this important? Well, if they are “pledging” to a crowd-funding project, they have less liabilities – and they don’t have to deliver anything, nor issue refunds. However, as a “sale”, they are bound by consumer protection laws which means that unless and until they deliver what a backer paid for, they are on the hook to issue a refund for any reason, and at any time.

However, as I wrote in yet another long Twitter thread, even as everything is burning to the ground, amid some behind-the-scenes drama that’s about to escalate, they appear to have stopped issuing refunds – completely. On the official refund Reddit are numerous reports of backers waiting months for a response, which usually either comes with a denial of the refund, or a premature closure of the request ticket. I had written back in 2017 that sources had said CIG would stop issuing refunds once 3.0 was released. That seems to explain the coincidence that was the premature end of 2017 release of 3.0, coupled with the denial of refunds (which aren’t within a two week period) starting in 2018.

CRYTEK V CIG ET AL

Since my Star Citizen – The Fall blog this past January about the lawsuit up to that point in time, several important events have happened in this on-going drama.  First came the revelation that CIG initiated settlement talks. This flies in the face of people who were claiming that this whole lawsuit was a cash grab by Crytek who was just looking for a payday. Then after Crytek filed for discovery to commence, CIG immediately filed a protective order to delay discovery until the judge ruled on the motion to dismiss – which they stand zero chance of prevailing on.

Below are links to my long Twitter threads (which I tend to use for quick missives) on all events in this matter since my original article. These events all paint a picture that CIG continues to be on the defense as each month goes by; filing motions to not only delay the process, but also using them as opportunities to continue exhibiting completely unprofessional conduct and language. Seriously, they are eye-opening. My summary of the latest (as of this writing) motion (protective order filing) that CIG filed, amounts to this:

1) Please judge, make it stop

2) We don’t know why they’re even suing us

3) We dindo nuffin’

4) CryTek are being meanies

5) And they want to look up our skirts

Regardless, I still believe that, come April 17th (the hearing date on the protective order) not only will their latest motion fail, but the motion to dismiss isn’t going to help them in any way, shape, or form. They’re going to have to go through discovery, which I believe is going to continue being contentious even as they play to their toxic backer base in the way they attack Crytek and their attorneys in the filings. For the rest of us, our main focus in this lawsuit is to see how much Crytek uncovers and which are of material interest to the backers who have given so money to this project, only to be lied to by CIG time and time again. Specifically, where did all this money go?!?

CIG responsive answer to CryTek’s filing in response to the protective order

Why discovery poses a clear and present danger to all CIG secrets being withheld from backers

CIG files for a protective order to delay discovery

Why the revelation that Crytek created all the 2011-2012 tech demos, is crucial

Why discovery means that the most guarded secret about finances will be exposed

Crytek surprisingly rejects CIG request for a settlement discussion

Crytek files Rule 26 discovery motion

Judge vacates Feb 9th hearing on the MtD

Meet the judge in Crytek v CIG and why she’s no push-over

FURTHER READING

How I got involved in this farce

All my Star Citizen blogs