EXCERPT FROM AROUND THE VERSE – SEP 20th, 2018
AROUND THE FARCE
Yes, I am well aware that raging on Star Citizen is getting a bit old and somewhat boring. But here’s the thing; having the distinction of being the biggest crowd-funded venture (of anything) in history, and which has developed into nothing short of a scam, it’s like that train wreck you can’t stop watching. Chris Roberts made some lofty promises back in the 2012 campaign, which to date and at $195M raised from gullible backers (who can no longer get refunds!), haven’t come true. A lot of people from various industries have been paying close attention to the project these past months; and the Crytek lawsuit increased that exposure even more.
So far from what we’ve seen and played, there’s nothing innovative, ground-breaking, or revolutionary about the game. Not even by a little bit. It’s a boring, shoddily built mess of modules which have zero gameplay coherence, and are collectively devoid of anything resembling a “game” – of any kind. It’s basically a $195M tech demo used for making pretty pictures and videos, courtesy of CryEngine and some exceptionally talented artists and modelers.
Even when they split the project into two (Star Citizen MMO + Squadron 42 single-player) back in Feb 2016, almost two years after both were supposed to have been delivered, as of this writing, they haven’t even completed the single-player game yet. And if the vertical slice (below) which they showed back in Dec 2017 is any indication, well, we already know the reason for that.
SQUADRON 42 VERTICAL SLICE, DEC 2017
For over three years I have consistently written that they stood zero chances of ever building the game promised; and that they were better off just going back to the original 2012 pitch, getting that done, released, and moving on to expanding it. But doing so would have completely killed their on-going funding drive because shockingly there are some backers who are still giving them money for JPEGs of assets which are still not in the game, as well as for assets which are in the game, but are either non-functional, buggy, or basically unusable. With the game packages selling for $45 – $60, they have zero incentive to stop selling future dreams for hundreds and thousands of Dollars.
You can only run a scam for so long before it all starts to fall apart. And we’ve been right at that junction since the disastrous 3.0 was released back in late Dec 2017.
KICKING THAT CAN ‘TIL IT HURTS
Hilariously, it was barely two weeks ago that I wrote an article saying that whatever they had planned for the next Jesus Patch (aka 3.3) was probably never going to happen, and that they were just going to keep kicking that can down the road. Specifically, I said:
“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.“
So imagine the collective shock (at least to the gullible fools who still pay any attention to their bs schedules) when in the Sept 20th broadcast (see video at top) they finally came out and said what they had to have known for months but didn’t reveal. They weren’t going to make it. In fact, it’s not that 3.3 was going to miss its Sept 30th release window, but that they were going to split it into two parts. The first neutered part (3.3) would be released during CitizenCon event, while the other part (3.3.5) with all the promised critical tech and content, would be released “as soon as it’s ready“. To me that means 3.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3, 3.3.4, and then 3.3.5 at some point in 2019. Guess what that does to 3.4 and up? I can’t even stop laughing.
BEHOLD! THE NEUTERED 3.3 PATCH
To be honest, from a dev standpoint, I don’t have any issues with this in particular because stuff happens. But this is something that they have actively been touting and hyping as far back as 2015! Not only that, they came up with these dev schedules (they have changed the format three times since the first one in 2016) all on their own. Yet they were planning on adding what we believe to be high visual fidelity content to a build of a game which simply would be unable to handle it. And yet still, they totally planned to implement both of the core tech and said content – in the same build. And they did that because since 3.0 (a performance nightmare) they’ve upped the fervor with which they were claiming that both (Network Bind Culling + Object Container Streaming) core techs would solve the performance problems in the next Jesus Patch (that being 3.3). And most of the backer sheep have been hanging their hats on that particular bit of nonsense ever since.
I still maintain that it’s simply not going to turn out that way because that’s not how that works. There is no magic bullet or magic tech; especially not when your engine baseline is absolutely incapable of powering anything remotely as large as what they want to build. I mean, we’ve been through this with the initial planetary tech in 3.0, and how they had to do it. Remember how they were showcasing that back in Oct 2016? How much of that did you actually see make it into the 3.0 build in Dec 2017, up to the latest 3.2.x build? I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting to be standing on my ship in high orbit, looking down at the planetary base below. Wait! What do you mean I can’t do that? I saw it in the presentation!!!
STANTON SYSTEM. INCOMPLETE. SEVEN YEARS LATER
Aside from all that, this comes at a time when they were planning on releasing the first ever full planet, Hurston, its landing zone (Lorville), and its four moons. From the map above, so far in 3.2.x, only those three Crusader moons and a planetoid are in the game. Note that Crusader is a gas giant for which the game currently has no support. So you can’t enter or land (they were planning on adding floating landing zones) on it. If you have been keeping up with my articles, then you already know that for 3.0, they moved Delamar (a planetoid) from clean clear across the galaxy, to Stanton because they couldn’t add the tech that Crusader required.
But let’s wind back a bit. Back in 2012, via stretch goals, they promised 106 starsystems with literally hundreds of planets and moons.
- $6M: 100 starsystems
- $36M: Tamsa
- $37M: Tanga
- $38M: Cano
- $39M: UDS-2943-01-22
- $40M: Kabal & Oretani
Tech constraints aside, they have yet to build and release a single starsystem to completion. Here is the full proposed interactive starmap that went live a couple of years back. That’s what they claim they would build.
This isn’t a game like No Man’s Sky which uses a game world that is entirely procedurally generated. Every single scene (space or planet) in Star Citizen and Squadron 42, has to be manually created and populated with assets. You know, the old fashioned way – in a level editor. In fact, I am engaged in the same thing right now in my on-going update to one of my oldest and most popular franchise games. While the planetary terrain in my game is procedurally generated, the scenes with buildings and other assets, still need to be loaded into an editor and manually placed; while others have to be scripted (and the locations obtained by loading the scene world in an editor – and writing it down!).
PROCEDURAL CITIES ARE TOTALLY COMING. SOON!
It gets worse. Remember the big hype behind “procedural cities” from CitizenCon (see video above) in Oct 2017? Well, just this past week sources have told me that it’s a hype driven pipe-dream that’s all but shelved, and that it was never going into the game anyway. Curiously, they haven’t said anything about it since then. I’m completely shocked by this.
So there you have it. Seriously, there is no way on Earth that if this project were controlled by a publisher, that it wouldn’t have already been shutdown by now, re-targeted, the leads fired etc. It’s completely inexcusable and unheard of for this sort of thing to continue unabated. Especially when you consider that after $195M, and over 500 people working on both projects at some point in time, that they simply can’t seem to get a base product out.
EVOCATI ARE ON IT!
The most alarming thing about the neutered 3.3 is that it is devoid of any tangible gameplay elements. I mean, Sandi Gardiner was touting fps enemy AI and racing on planets. In a space combat game of all things. But 3.3 does have shiny new ships (for which their gameplay mechanics don’t exist) which they totally want you to buy. This is like what they did back in Dec 2016 when after a year of nearly zero progress and backer angst, they somehow resurrected Star Marine (stand-alone FPS module) and released it. As I had predicted and written back then, it was DOA.
As things stand, between now and Oct 10th (the proposed 3.3 release date), they have two more Fridays to release updated schedules with more bad news regarding whether or not 3.3 is going to release, and if so, what’s going to actually be in it. But until then, now that 3.3 has gone to private Evocati (mostly a group of insufferable dweebs who don’t really test anything) this past weekend, we have a lot of lols to look forward to. And of course, as everything about Star Citizen is bound to leak, so we now have the changelog.
The videos which have started coming out of Evocati already prepare backers for what’s to come. And it’s not pretty. This one shows off the NPC AI, while this one shows off a small rest stop level. I know, it’s alpha, but wow – I mean just look at that.
Looking at the Sept 21st schedule, along with this first changelog, I have absolutely no idea how on this God’s Earth they are going to complete what’s left for 3.3, and get into a reasonable state for release on Oct 10th. That’s less than three weeks away, in case you weren’t counting.
IN CASE YOU HADN’T HEARD, THIS IS ALL NORMAL GAME DEVELOPMENT. ACCORDING TO REDDIT.
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
I have updated my lawsuit chronology following the Sept 21st filing of the Crytek response to the Sept 7th motion to dismiss filed by CIG. This one was a bit too easy to predict. As I wrote in my Sept 8th article, the Crytek answer was going to hinge on the specific wording of “in the business of“. And that’s precisely where they went with that, then cited case law in support of their arguments.
Remember back in my August article after the judge all but decimated the CIG motion to dismiss, I wrote that the judge herself gave Crytek the 2.4 opening, and that it was a much stronger cause of action? Yup – it sure is. As I’ve said all along, it’s not enough that the GLA never terminated (btw it is still in effect as of this writing), but CIG switching engines doesn’t automatically terminate it. Sure CIG could switch to any engine they wanted to, but that doesn’t release them from the on-going obligations of the GLA because unless and until it is mutually terminated, they are bound by it. Which is why Section 2.4 is particularly troublesome.
I’ve written several times that the very existence of Star Engine, which, like Lumberyard is a derivative of CryEngine, is a very big problem for CIG because that endeavor alone encompasses most of what is prohibited in 2.4. And CIG did it with both Star Engine and Lumberyard. I have no idea how CIG could possibly say that Star Engine isn’t in competition with CryEngine when in fact they have made numerous statements to the contrary. Aside from the fact that Lumberyard is a competing engine to CryEngine. A developer can choose to use either CryEngine or Lumberyard; and to that end, CIG used CryEngine and later (as they claimed back in Dec 2016) Lumberyard to build their own custom engine which became Star Engine.
And this latest filing is precisely why, come Oct 12th when the both sides go in front of the judge, I believe that we’re finally headed to discovery. Also, I don’t believe that the judge will grant CIG the Sept 7 motion to dismiss either. And now that CIG have switched the lead counsel from the more expensive and experienced partner, Jeremy Goldman, to an associate in the litigation group, Mark Swiech, I guess they are preparing for the long road ahead. I remain convinced that this case isn’t likely to settle, and certainly not before discovery concludes. Not only because at this point in time, CIG doesn’t have the kind of money that it would require to settle, but because my opinion is that Crytek are more interested in beating them into the ground due to all the bad blood from past years.
So now we wait for the hilarity and hype that will come with CitizenCon on Oct 10th, then we fall right into the lawsuit fireworks on Oct 12th. I have ordered a fresh supply of popcorn from Amazon.
Previously: Anatomy of a Gamedev Debacle