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#6615

dsmart
Keymaster

@10:15 ALL DREAMS AND PROMISES ARE SHATTERED. AGAIN

ANATOMY OF A GAMEDEV DEBACLE

For as long as I’ve been right about so many things regarding this train-wreck, I should probably write an AI program to generate new blogs from pre-existing content. I mean, seriously. Before I delve into the latest fiasco which we totally didn’t see coming, let’s get up to speed.

Back in 2015 after I wrote that first blog about this train-wreck, I had taken legal action in which, among other things, I had asked CIG to provide a dev schedule to backers. CIG basically ignored me, while claiming that backers can determine the state of the project from videos and data posted on the website.

Then, amid a massive outcry, it wasn’t until several months later that they created and released a public dev schedule. Right off the bat, it was bullshit designed to appease a major backer uprising that was in full swing at the time. This is the April 2017 newsletter (take a trip down the hilarious memory lane) that accompanied the much hyped 3.0 version (12/22/2016 archive) of the schedule.

Before that point, and since the project’s public inception in Oct 2012, no such public dev schedule existed. Basically, backers had no idea how the project was coming along, when it would be released etc. The only insight backers had to the state and progress, were through Gamescom and CitizenCon events; both of which were hype machines planned months in advance. Think I’m kidding? Fine, this is what was promised in Aug 2016, for the Dec 2016 release of 3.0. Later, this is what it looked like when the actual schedule was finally released months later. As we now know, 3.0 was chopped up, and rushed to release on Dec 23, 2017 for fundraising purposes. As I wrote in a Jan 2018 blog, it was an unmitigated disaster.

Having missed every deadline in the dev schedule, while not even delivering 50% of what was promised, months later they changed the format again. In this one, they removed most of the items from the previous schedule, while moving others months down the road. Except for the format change, nothing about the development actually changed. As I wrote in this article, the release of 3.1 on Mar 31, 2018 was even worse than 3.0. None of this came as a surprise because as far back as Summer 2017, sources had told me that not only did 3.0 not exist at the time Chris was claiming that it totally did and was coming in Dec 2016, but they also said that the internal dev schedule went all the way to 2021. Judging from the current schedules, this is now fact.

MOST OF THIS IS PURE HYPE-RIDDEN BS THAT’S GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE KICKED DOWN THE ROAD

BUZZWORDS CAN WORK WHEN YOU HAVE FOOLS FOR BACKERS

Features aside, performance has always plagued the project – and it’s not getting any better. The networking layer is horrendous. Aside from it not being developed for an MMO, it doesn’t even work to any reasonable degree even as a session based instanced game. Amid the networking hiccups and performance issues, you could maybe play for a few hours on an 8 client instance. But as soon as that creeps over 12, you’re done. In fact, you can go to Youtube right now, and you would be hard pressed to find actual gameplay videos of the game with lots of people actually playing the game. What you would find are solo encounters, people posing for video screen shots etc. Occasionally you will find one or two videos of a bunch of people trying to see how many clients they can fit into a 50 (the current server max) client server instance. They’re not playing though. No, that would be weird. They’re just milling about and posing while taking screen shots and making videos to showcase. You know, the same thing we used to do in Planetside back when we were attempting to break the world record for number of clients in an instance. Nobody was actually playing the game.

Imagine how much performance tweaks you would have to do in order to build a massive MMO game with the visual fidelity that Star Citizen has been trying to attain. It’s not as if they’re actually building a game, but more so they’re building a visual showcase because that’s really what raises funding. Pretty pictures. Until backers began to notice that as the project progressed, new features added, alongside some of the high fidelity ships they had been buying, the game’s networking and performance degraded exponentially.

So it came as no surprise that CIG started claiming that Object Container Streaming (OCS) and Network Bind Culling (NBC) – two buzzwords they totally made up – would apparently fix everything. The magic bullets so to speak. And that crap started back in 2015 (!). Since that time, they have been using these terms and tech as a carrot excuse to keep the backers contained within their delusional bubble of hilarity, even as they kept kicking that baseless can down the road.

The things with running an active con is that at some point, depending on how many mistakes you make, your mark is going to figure it all out – and then you’re screwed. That’s what’s currently happening now that backers were expecting these boosts in 3.2, but now said to be coming in 3.3 that’s due out in October during CitizenCon 2018. With nothing else to hype this year, short of pulling SQ42 out of a hat and releasing it at CitizenCon or the holiday live stream in Dec, they are now touting the release of new moons, as well as the first planet (Hurston). Guess what that means? Yup, even more performance and networking woes are coming.

After spending all this time touting two pieces of tech as the answer to everything, in the past 24 hrs they’ve started walking back those claims in a bid to lower the expectations ahead of the 3.3 release at CitizenCon in Oct – barely a month from now. And to add to that, the latest dev schedule update released on Sept 7th, is a startling wake-up call. But then again, we’ve long known that the entire schedule was bullshit anyway; but backers continue to indulge. Anyone who thinks that either of these two pieces of “tech” will make it into 3.3 is a fool. They’re just going to keep kicking the proverbial can on that farther down the road, until they run out of time and money.

THAT’S NOT A STAR CITIZEN BATTLE. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

I have written time and time again that neither of the two things (us devs who actually develop and release games, know them by their real names) that they were touting would make a lick of difference in the big picture because :

  1. The game was never designed to be an MMO
  2. You just can’t automagically convert an instanced session based game into an MMO
  3. They simply don’t have the tech or the expertise to do #2
  4. Even if they did have #3, and they attempted #2, it’s too late to switch from one type of networking backbone to another

You can read some of my articles about specifically this issue: 02/20/18, 12/11/2017, 10/18/2017, 05/24/2017

In the recent video broadcast at the top (update: here is a break-down here by another dev) of the article, they’ve now flipped the script from these two pieces of tech being implemented, completed, and will just work – to them being initial implementations, subject to further improvements. And it’s only client side for the foreseeable future. I can’t even stop laughing. So yes, just like the major 3.x releases before it, the upcoming 3.3 is going to be more of the same shit-show. I have an entire forum section dedicated to tracking metrics for the various modes in the game. It’s horrendous because, even with over 500K backers, most of them aren’t actually playing the game anymore.

THAT’S NOT A STAR CITIZEN BATTLE. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

The last time they pulled this stunt, was over the much hyped planetary tech which made its debut in 3.0. Again, I wrote several tech articles (07/20/2017 ,07/07/201710/29/2016) explaining why everything they were previously touting simply wan’t going to happen; how they were bound by the limitations of their chosen engine architecture; that they would never be able to build the promised game world consisting of 100 star systems and many planets and moons etc. In the end, six years into development, in 3.0 they released some barren moons with landing sites; along with a half-assed surface landing zone mechanic – which btw I had previously written was one of the only feasible ways to link their planet/moon containers to space. And then came the performance nightmares that I predicted so many months prior.

October can’t come soon enough.

CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE

About two weeks ago, the judge in the case threw out 4/6 of the items in the CIG motion, while giving Crytek the opportunity to amend their complaint by adding one new item. You can read my Aug 15, 2018 article about that.

Shortly after the judge released her ruling, Crytek released their amended complaint along with a motion for discovery to begin. Instead of answering the amended complaint, CIG immediately filed an objection to the motion for discovery. I had expected that they would file an answer to the amended complaint, but what I wasn’t expecting was the hilarity of their answer.

So on Sept 6, 2018, CIG filed their answer. Complete with quotes from Websters dictionary. I wish I was joking. To add to the hilarity, as if ignoring attempts by CIG to continue delaying discovery, on that same day the judge released a schedule for discovery under FCRP Rule 26 to begin.

Whatever is going on with CIG right now over this discovery that’s about to hit them, I could very well draw as a Wile Coyote cartoon sketch. Complete with a canyon, a cliff, a stick of dynamite and a match stick.

I had always maintained that I don’t see this case being settled because:

  1. Crytek aren’t primarily interested in money. The bad blood between the two companies over how CIG execs stripped them of key talent, then breached their contract, changes the motives.
  2. CIG had the opportunity to settle this, and correct their alleged breached over ONE YEAR ago. But even as they kept SCAMMING backers for money, they also kept playing “Come at me bro!” with Crytek, thus severely underestimating the human emotions that govern wars of attrition.
  3. That after Crytek had created (CIG had lied that they created them. the lawsuit brought clarity to that) the promo videos, assets etc, which served to propel the project to be the largest crowd-funded campaign in history, CIG reneged on their deal.

It’s not even as if you licensed an engine from a third-party, and thus don’t owe them any obligation. When you do cross-promotion deals, that’s precisely what they are. When one side renegades, after hitting it big, that’s gotta hurt the other party. And that is what happened. Regardless of the merits of the lawsuits, the entire GLA between the parties is one of co-operation, and not a passive standard license like you would find with any other third-party (e.g. Unity, UE, Lumberyard etc). Now CIG is litigating what they agreed to do.

Even when CIG filed a 6 point MtD, they were granted only one immaterial (punitive damages) issue which had nothing to do with the actual Crytek claims. And the one claim they were granted, was ambiguous enough for the judge to ref another section, thus prompting the new filing by Crytek. Setting aside the one issue granted, plus one added, this would mean that CIG basically lost 4/6 items in their MtD. And if the judge rules against them in the latest one, that would mean they have lost 5/6. Going into a lawsuit with that many claims is disaster on steroids. Which is why it’s funny to me that some devout backers and legal “experts” who were claiming that the lawsuit was bs, have grown quiet since the MtD ruling. If a lawsuit is bs, the claims won’t survive an MtD. That’s what its designed to do: weed out bs.

That the judge has now setup a Rule 26 conference, while ignoring CIG’s opposition filing, speaks volumes. It basically means that the judge doesn’t believe that holding up discovery over one pending issue, is good use of time. And even if she did rule in CIG’s favor over their latest filing, that would mean 4/6 claims are still going to trial – thus discovery has to proceed.

Having read the latest CIG filing to dismiss the 2.4 section that’s the focus of Crytek’s last filing, it doesn’t even warrant my time to analyze because it’s pure and utter rubbish. This is 2.4 of the GLA.

In my previous analysis, I had stated that this was going to hinge on a comma. And that is PRECISELY the CIG argument. I love it when I’m right. Here is the CIG argument in its entirety.

Notice how they conveniently emphasized that part, while not bringing focus to the word “business” that’s material to it? Right. So read how a similar case a comma cost a company $5M.

CIG is basically saying that 2.4 isn’t a valid cause of action because, well, they’re not “engaging” in the “business” of doing any of those things. Well, here’s the problem (it’s hilarious, trust me).
As per 2.4, “during the term of the license” they can’t do any of the things listed in 2.4:

– designing
– developing
– creating
– supporting
– maintaining
– promoting

The GLA hasn’t terminated. So whether or not they are using the engine, doesn’t matter. Despite the fact that, with their own Star Engine and later Lumberyard, they have been doing all of what 2.4 prohibits above, they’re now saying it’s not true. Seriously. In fact, the only 2.4 conditions which they haven’t breached are “selling” and “licensing”. That’s it.

They’re now saying they haven’t done any of those things because the language in “engage in the business of” protects them because they’re not doing those things as a “business“. I have to admit, it’s a pretty solid & bold argument. But here’s the problem. In their filing, I didn’t see any arg that supports how they could get around the issue that they’re not, for example “in the business of” doing those six things. To wit, what does “in the business of designing” mean? Obviously they did all of those six things above for not only their custom engine, Star Marine, but also for a competing engine, Lumberyard, which they switched to. It gets better.

What about “in the business of licensing (directly or indirectly) any engine or middleware which compete with CryEngine”?

It’s public knowledge that they did that with Lumberyard. Arguably, by their own promotions, Star Engine, which like Lumberyard, is built with CryEngine, also qualifies as a competing engine.

They’re stating that, for example, since they’re not in the “business of developing any game engine or middleware which compete with CryEngine” that they haven’t breached 2.4. This despite the fact that they have done precisely that in their promotion of Star Engine. The same could apply to Lumberyard if you read it as “business of promoting any game engine or middleware which compete with CryEngine“. And the “supporting” and “maintaining” qualifiers would also apply not only to their own engine, but also to Lumberyard.

I can’t wait to read the judge’s opinion on this one. After all, she opened that door when she pointed out the merits of 2.4 when she granted the dismissal of 2.1.2 in her Aug 14 ruling. I swear if the judge reads this CIG argument, then in her ruling cites the Oakhurst Dairy class action, I would literally die laughing. I hope that Crytek’s lawyers do cite it in their answer because then it would be twice as funny.

Anyway, that’s the end of my opinions on this. Now we wait for the hilarity that is the Crytek response and the judge’s ruling (on the CIG motion, as well as the Rule 26 scheduling order) on Oct 12. Meantime, we have Rule 26 fireworks to look forward to later this month. You can track the progress of the lawsuit filings over here.

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.“ – Chris Roberts, Gamespot interview, July 19, 2014

YUP. THAT BACKER PLEDGE FROM 2012 COULD VERY WELL HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ON TOILET PAPER


FURTHER READING

Previously: CitizensConned Fiasco

How I got involved in this farce

All my Star Citizen blogs