Main › Star Citizen – Musings
- October 1, 2016 at 8:50 am #4548
- October 27, 2018 at 9:19 am #6723
DEV SCHEDULE UPDATE (10/26/2018)
STATE OF THE ENGINEERING FARCE
In my previous article, I outlined just how much of a disaster the much touted 3.3 patch was turning out to be – even for a pre-Alpha build. And so far, it’s been going precisely as predicted. Aside from the fact that they came up with this pledge (complete with a new dev roadmap format) a year ago to release a major point build at the end of each quarter and which they’ve basically missed every time. In fact, the only time they ever made a deadline, was by cutting stuff out of the build, and moving it into the next build. Yay! We made the deadline!
And they did precisely the same thing months ago in which they had 3.3 and then 3.4. Next thing we know (as I wrote here), mere weeks ahead of the annual whale milking that is CitizenCon, they split 3.3 into two parts (3.3 and 3.3.5). And just like that, they were totally going to be releasing (to live) 3.3 during CitizenCon. Then they made an entire spectacle out of 3.3.5 (which btw didn’t even have the much-touted Object Container Streaming enabled) during CitizenCon.
Of course that live release didn’t happen. What did happen was that after a brief stint in Evocati (see: special snowflakes) test, they released it to the Public Test Universe (PTU) for any brave backer to download and “test”. FYI, the dev schedule goes like this: Dev -> Internal Test -> Evocati -> PTU -> Live
I could go on and on about the numerous reports of how completely broken everything is in 3.3, but I’m not going to bother with that. What I want backers to bear in mind is that for over 18 months CIG has been touting two pieces of technology (Object Container Streaming + Network Bind Culling) which they claimed would solve many of their performance issues. I have written numerous articles explaining why that’s patently false, and that even as more content is added, this “tech” will only serve to be a bandaid over a gushing wound. While there are some extolling the virtues of the “increased” performance in 3.3, it’s not only the usual disingenuous nonsense that is the pattern of deceit surrounding this project, but also the extents that “believers” will go. Let’s face it, if you’re standing around on a server in an unpopular location taking screen shots or just pissing about, it’s easy to see a +5 fps gain due to assets not previously loaded. Let me explain in layman terms as best as I can.
Games with lots of content tend to “demand load” them as-needed. What the player isn’t seeing or interacting with, doesn’t need to get loaded or rendered. It’s not rocket science – and every engine tends to do this automatically, while giving the devs some control over it. In the loading of content, you can do it either in whole or by streaming it as-needed. Here is an example of how it works in Unity3D, and how it works in UnrealEngine. This technique can be used for any type of content (level, textures, meshes etc). The challenge is that when it comes to determining what does get loaded and rendered, bad design tends to yield unexpected results. In the simplest form, there is no point in loading parts of the world the player can’t see or interact with, let alone any assets associated with it. If the player is at a location with a view distance of 20km, loading anything beyond that view distance is a waste of resources and leads to major performance and memory issues. With Star Citizen, not only does it load unneeded assets regardless of where the player is, but the problem is further compounded by the high fidelity (model meshes & textures) of the assets in question; thus resulting in huge memory usage as well as performance issues. Both of which have plagued the project since day one, and which got exponentially worse with the Dec 2017 release of 3.0 (which introduced surface tech in the form of moons).
MINING ADVENTURES IN 3.3
If you were getting 15 fps in some area in 3.2, then you’re now getting 20 fps in 3.3, that’s not only a superficial gain, but it also highlights the problem of diminishing returns. Any additional content that gets added is not only going to reduce any perceived performance gains, but also will behave as if no gains previously existed if you went from 15 fps to 20 fps and back to 18 fps as things progress and new content is added. Amid all that, have you been to Levski lately? Especially when there are more than 8 clients there? Did you notice the single digit fps? So what good is a performance gain if it’s not consistent where gameplay matters. It won’t matter if you’re not intending to play the game, but instead just taking screen shots to show off your chariot and a broken and unattainable dream.
It’s all a farce; but hey as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My guess is that at some point, they’re going to have to either disable OCS and release 3.3 live without it, or just keep kicking that 3.3 can down the road. There is no way they are going to release it live in the current state, let alone release the 3.3.5 branch when they have so many performance and crash issues in 3.3. Funnier still, with 3.3 still in the PTU, one month past it’s Q3 release, according to CIG, they are totally going to release 3.3, 3.3.5 and 3.4 in Q4/2018. I can’t wait, because it’s almost as if they rushed out 3.3 for CitizenCon hype.
WELCOME TO DA GRIND, PEON
IN-GAME SHIP BUYING AND DA GRIND
We didn’t see this one coming because it wasn’t even in the dev schedule – at all. During CitizenCon, it was announced that ship buying was coming, along with REC ship rentals in Arena Commander. The latter was already in the schedule; but then out of the Blue a few days ago, UEC ship buying was enabled. So far the response from the tribe has been epic and hilarious.
Here’s where it gets interesting. CIG makes money from selling ships at hundreds and thousands of Dollars. In fact, funding chart inaccuracies aside, they made almost $4m from CitizenCon spearheaded by ship sales, one (Valkyrie) of which is in 3.3 (released during CitizenCon of course), and the other (Kraken) being a JPEG concept which, like dozens before it, won’t be in the game for quite some time. As they have already pre-sold all interesting ships to the two hundred or so whales who keep giving them money, that’s why they resort to adding new ships (and requisite scope creep) such as the Kraken in order to bring in new cash money. So they have no incentive to allow lucrative in-game ship buying, thus undercutting their primary revenue stream. Hence the ridiculous pricing. The cash (pledge) money and UEC (in-game currency which can be bought for cash) spend are a revenue source, unlike earning ships by grinding for in-game UEC.
3.3 IS LOOKING REAL GOOD!
Now comes the other side of the hilarity. There are currently only three methods of earning UEC in the game. Wait, it’s funny, trust me on this.
- Doing combat engagements against NPC units
- Cargo runs in which you pickup a box and deliver it somewhere. This requires a ship (prices start at around $125) which can collect cargo. The starter ship which comes in the $45 base package won’t work
- Mining on a moon or asteroid. This requires a ship with mining capabilities. The game has three mining ships, the cheapest and only one (implemented for 3.0 in Dec 2017 when surface moons was released) is the Prospector which costs $155
None of the above is going to average more than 4000 UEC per hour of gameplay. With #1 you’re going to die – a lot because combat sucks, the game crashes a lot etc. In #2, if you don’t crash, or die in transit, or the mission doesn’t complete, the most you’re going to make is about 2000-3000 on average. In #3, not only is it tedious enough that watching paint dry has more appeal, but in addition to the crashes, or possible death from other players, you have to deal with a rubbish method of “refining” your minerals which you then have to sell. And the yield is so hilariously low that mining for a living is just one of those things you do when you can’t find a freshly painted wall to stare at.
Most of the whales who have spent hundreds of Dollars on ships, are also collectively freaking out that in-game ship buying with UEC is finally in. What are they pissed about? Well these chuckleheads who have been clamoring about how their money is in support of the game, that it’s totally not P2W etc, are suddenly now faced with the reality that the ships they spent so much money on, and which made them feel special, can now be gained by lesser peons who don’t have to pay anything. So, get this, they’re saying that the UEC amounts are too low. I wish I was joking.
THE CITIZENCON BOUNTY WAS PLENTIFUL THIS YEAR
CLOUD IMPERIUM GAMES (UK) FINANCIALS
The UK parent of the group of companies, has finally filed it’s financials. You read my coverage of the financials for RSI and for F42. Also note that CIG is the parent for the group of companies, and it acts as the US and UK publisher (funding source) for F42 (US, UK, GER) which are making the Star Citizen and Squadron 42 games. As of YE 2017, all companies in the group were insolvent, when taking into account that they had less than $1M in the bank, against a significant debt load, and over $2M in monthly operating costs.
As usual, the latest filing is fraught with errors, omissions, and curiosities. Aside from the EU entities using up 64% of annual revenue (obtained from the highly suspicious public funding chart which is shockingly consistent year on year) for 2017, from these numbers it’s easy to see how the world-wide monthly burn rate for the project is probably around the $3m per month mark where the UK/GER group alone burned through almost $17M (!) of total revenue.
There is currently no financial insight to the US side of things where there are studios in CA and TX; but development notoriously costs way more in the US than it does in the EU. On page 21 (under “Bridge Crew” section) of this Oct 2017 article below, Chris Roberts points out that dev/labor costs in the US are double that of the EU. And he’s not entirely wrong because that’s how it has been traditionally; which is why most US companies outsource if/when they can.
“We try to be quite smart about development costs, so we do a lot in the UK and two-thirds of our developers are in Europe. It’s far more cost effective. Over here you can have two developers for the price of one in the US. In the places where there’s game development in the US, the price of living is really high. We’re up in Manchester and it’s a lot cheaper to live there than in LA. The average salaries in the industry are less for that reason.”
It’s not just the cost of living, though: “We get basically 25 per cent of the UK cost back from the government. And that allows us to hire more people. We wouldn’t have as big an office in the UK if that deal wasn’t there. I think that was a very good move for the government to do that, because now we have around 250 in the UK, by far our biggest group of people” – Chris Roberts, Oct 17 2017
Also, Erin Roberts (brother of Chris Roberts) one of the highest paid game devs in the Manchester area, and who previously sold his F42-UK (studio built with backer money) shares back to the group, increased his pension plan contribution in 2017. In fact, he doubled it. They’re not even hiding the audacity anymore.
With 2017 being a pivotal year, we won’t know more until around this time in 2019 when the 2018 financials are filed; but my money is on the continued drop in operation commitments in the US, with primary focus being in the UK/GER. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they continued to gut both US studios by 2019, as they have been doing since 2017.
So once again a UK accountant has done the break-down of the filings. I will just quote it below, with minor edits and corrections for clarity and accuracy.
Going to start with something straight forward that is easy to interpret but always controversial. No layoffs. CIG dramatically increased their employee count yet again. These figures must include employees based in Germany and any other countries hidden around the world, but not the USA.
- Period ended 31 Dec 2014 – Average 52 employees
- Year ended 31 Dec 2015 – Averaged 132 employees
- Year ended 31 Dec 2016 – Averaged 221 employees
- Year ended 31 Dec 2017 – Averaged 318 employees
Total salaries rose and the average rate of £43k per employee (including employer’s National Insurance) is broadly in line with previous years. There is however a hilariously obvious and simple mistake in the notes of the accounts. You really don’t need to be a German auditor to spot this one and yet…
Here’s the origin of the very basic error in the accounts but I cannot explain how it was missed.
2016 FILING. NOTE THE 2015 AMOUNT
2017 FILING. NOTE THE 2016 AMOUNT
THE COUTTS LOAN
Since these accounts cover the year ended 31 Dec 2017 and the Coutts loan was taken out around the middle of 2017, the balance outstanding at the year end was £1.54m. There is a little note in the accounts about it which does not entirely make sense but it’s there.
BEYOND THE UK GROUP
One has to bear in the mind the very obvious and simple mistakes that are often littered in the CIG accounts but I think something fundamental has changed with the Byzantine Empire.
Up until December 2016 the US group acted as a sort of de facto parent company of the UK group. They held all the money and booked expenses, did some sort of expense recharge with the UK group. I always held reservations about how this was supposed to work with regard to actual accounting practices. I think during 2017 a number of things have happened…
- Cloud Imperium Rights LTD incorporated on 29 Aug 2017
- CIG UK LTD (The UK parent) increased its investment in unlisted companies from £440k to £462k a precise increase of £22,205. Presumably CIR LTD above
- The UK group is no longer declaring its income to be related to RSI Corp (et al) in the USA
- The note to the accounts which analyses turnover by geographical market, which I pointed out was clearly incorrect, has now changed
I would have to assume that the story now is that we are to believe that any cash given to CIG in pledges or subs etc is directly split. Any money given by persons in the USA is given directly to the US group of companies and used there. Any money given by the rest of the world is funneled to the UK/rest of the world group of companies.
It’s a subtle difference but it makes the UK group appear to have actual customers and turnover, rather than handouts from a related company in the USA. It would have been a basic requirement for the Coutts loan and make more sense from a tax credit angle. It gives a plausible reason for the creation of yet another company, though there is no suggestion that the new company is active yet.
It would also mean for example that the US corporate structure would no longer show numbers such as say, $34m income, $17m US expenses, $17m UK expenses and would instead show say $17m income, $17m expenses. Which might be of some interest if your US companies were fighting a lawsuit.
This whole thing is a bit of a tax dodge as well as some shenanigans. Previously one company (US), was booking all the income and receiving most of the cash. Then there is a myriad of “expenses recharged” and such. Which is not normal accountancy language or behavior. Normally it’s just revenue and expenditure. These companies were seemingly listing it as revenue and expenditure but simultaneously making notes about calling it recharged expenses.
This causes some issues when you are looking to take out a loan. If one of the companies at the bottom of the pyramid wants to take out a loan and they only have one customer and that customer is a related party, it raises many questions. Why doesn’t the parent company/related party at the top of the pyramid take out the loan?
Furthermore, there are hoops to jump through when receiving tax credits. In order to qualify for the UK video games tax credit, the company in receipt of those credits (Foundry 42 Ltd) is supposed to be solely in charge of production and distribution of the qualifying video game (Squadron 42? Star Citizen?). Obviously the UK government has repeatedly bent the rules and been flexible to allow it but there’s a certain level of questioning, that the old Roberts empire could not really even come close to fulfilling.
If anything can really be taken away from all of the accounts as a whole, it is the complete lack of consistency. Every year they seem to make up something new. We’ve had a different source of funds from different US companies (CIG Corp and RSI corp). We’ve had a different destination of funds from the US companies (CIG LTD and RSI LTD). We’ve had different methods for calculating how much funds should be transferred, including one year having to restate the previous financial statements to recalculate. Now we have a different method of funds from the US. Transfers covering recharged expenses vs presumably a revenue sharing agreement.
3.3 PTU GAMEPLAY SESSION
FOUR YEARS AGO
As Nov 2018 rolls around, this is a reminder that back in Oct 2012 Chris Roberts started a $2M crowd-funding campaign to build two games, Star Citizen (multiplayer) and Squadron 42 (single-player w/ co-op play). He later moved the campaign to Kickstarter where he raised $2.1M from myself and 34,396 other gamers.
The games were supposedly going to be released by Nov 2014 – something that Chris Roberts in lots of interviews stated was totally going to happen because if the development took longer than two years….
“Really it is all about constant iteration from launch. The whole idea is to be constantly updating. It isn’t like the old days where you had to have everything and the kitchen sink in at launch because you weren’t going to come back to it for awhile. We’re already one year in – another two years puts us at 3 total which is ideal. Any more and things would begin to get stale.” – Chris Roberts, Oct 19 2012
Having discovered a lucrative way to monetize the otherwise dreaded scope creep, by Nov 2014 they had raised $65M without shipping either of the games promised. As of this writing, they have raised $198.7M, even as the scope creep continues unabated. Not a single game is anywhere near complete.
By all accounts, the entire project is an unmitigated disaster that continues being financially propped up by a number of whales who have the opinion that throwing good money after bad is a totally sound decision, even as each release serves to highlight the glaring truth that the project is doomed to fail and they can’t possibly build, let alone deliver what was promised.
Aside from that, they are facing a devastating lawsuit which if they lose (as most of us believe they most certainly will), will completely destroy the company, and backer money along with it.
“My brother is a big of Star Citizen. As an non-Game Designer he thinks they are doing a lot of pioneer work for game development, testing more things and taking more risks than other devs thanks to the crowd-funding. Would you say this is in some way true or is it just that Cloud Imperium Games is more open about their development process?” – Askagamedev response
Previously: CitizenCon 2018October 15, 2018 at 10:08 am #6682
CITIZENCON 2018 FULL KEYNOTE PRESENTATION
Well amid much fanfare, the keynote of the show which returned to Austin this year, was off to a great start when it crashed after the player interacted with a coffee mug. But no biggie though; after all it’s only pre-Alpha after seven years of development.
Having over-hyped the upcoming 3.3 build which was split into two parts (see my article on that) back in September, all focus was on the neutered 3.3 build which they had said would be released during the show. I am not going to spend 45 minutes writing about how it was basically just another slog through a badly broken tech demo; or how they truly had nothing substantial to show for a whole year of work.
At this moment in time, everything about the game is either incomplete, flat-out broken, or just awful due to bad design choices. The live play through of what we believe to be 3.3.5 (since it contained Loreville which isn’t in 3.3) had the usual great looking set pieces. But broken AI pathfinding, awful character models, assets popping in and out of view, chuggy performance etc, all served to completely negate whatever pleasantries are in the presentation. Having raised – and spent – almost $196 million (as of this writing) on this project, one thing is certain, NOTHING in this presentation shows the quality you would come to expect from even a $10 million game project. Go look at upcoming sci-fi games such Cyperpunk 2077, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw etc and you be the judge.
And there was a train station – with a schedule. The designers really think that making players wait five or more minutes for a train is a great design choice in a video game. But the train was a great way to show off the insurmountable technical limitations that they are facing. But more on that later. After the train ride, we end up at another part of the scene where after getting a mission to recover parts from a crashed satellite, he grabbed a fighter to head to the crash site. Upon arrival at the crash site, and after much screwing around, he dies trying to do a jump from one place to another. A quick dev warp cheat later, and he was back at the site. Shortly after there is a very uninspiring planetary battle against the most boring backdrop and incompetent AI and team mates – ever. If you are thinking “…wait a minute! I saw this last year!“, you would be correct. Same gameplay premise, different “monster in the closet” set pieces.
Oh, as if that wasn’t bad enough, a little over a year ago, in yet another instance of scope creep, they announced that they were going to implement middleware from FacewareTech to bring a gimmick to the game which would debut in the upcoming 3.3 patch. Face Over IP (FOIP) uses a webcam to project the player’s face into their in-game character. They tried to demo it during the presentation, and it was a mess that completely fell apart. With the insurmountable networking problems the game already has, I can’t wait to see the reaction to this one when it gets released wide.
You know what? Screw this – I’m not writing about this Godawful gameplay presentation any further. Go watch it for yourself and be the judge. Enjoy!
STAR CITIZEN 2018 GAMEPLAY. $200M WORTH OF UNINSPIRING TRIPE
STATE OF THE ENGINEERING FARCE
What I do want to write about is something that I have written about since 2015. That being the insurmountable technical challenges facing this project since the scope was increased beyond reasonable comprehension. If you recall, a specific limited scope game was pitched back in 2012. Then, somewhere along the line after Chris Roberts figured out how to monetize scope creep, he kept increasing the scope all the way to a $65 million bounty in Nov 2014. The very same month that he had claimed the two games would be released. All of a sudden, he was building an MMO, complete with in-game micro-transactions with real money transaction hooks. And so the era of the JPEG bounty was born. And over the years they’ve continued to increase the scope beyond those stretch goals, and all the way to almost $200 million. And they’re not even 30% complete yet.
To hear the most devout backers tell it, you would think that CIG somehow invented a swath of technologies since 2012. To them things like first person mode inside fully modeled 3D ships is ground-breaking. This despite the fact that Star Wars Galaxies, Angels Fall First, my own Line Of Defense game etc, already did all that. Large game worlds requiring 64-Bit scale precision? Yup, some of us have actually done that. Battlecruiser 3000AD (which turned 22 years this month) had massive worlds back in 1996 – back when no other game envisioned such a scale. Then along came Elite Dangerous which just took that to the nth degree – and just kept going. Not long after, No Man’s Sky came along. Nested physics scenes with independent collision? Yup, been done before. Any game you have ever played which has a vehicle or building that you can enter, regardless of how many rooms or levels, does that. Right now, you can take any Battlefield game, Just Cause, any Call Of Duty game, any GTA game, or any $9.99 game on Steam which has vehicles and buildings, enter the vehicle or aircraft, crash it into a building or flying around the world, get out, do stuff. I mean, the first time they were promised planets, back in 2015, and then barren moons showed up in the 3.0 build back in Dec 2017, they claimed it was revolutionary. This despite the fact that there are many games with both space and planetary scenes/levels in existence. They think this is all revolutionary, and that we are all collectively fools for doubting that CIG could ever do those things.
Except that none of it is revolutionary; and we never claimed that CIG couldn’t make a game of sorts. Everything they’ve done and are doing, has all been done before, done better; and not only cheaper, but also exist in games that have since been completed and shipped. As I have said time and time again, backers have paid for a Golden chest, but are going to end up with a cardboard box – without a lid.
In my previous article regarding the next phase of the shocking (to backers) revelation, I said:
“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.“
For the longest time they have been promising backers that the performance issues which have plagued the game since 2.0 was released in Dec 2015 would be resolved with the introduction of new (it’s not) technologies such as Object Container Streaming (OCS) and Network Bind Culling (NBC). I have written several articles indicating that neither of these two is going to solve the performance issues because 1) the visual fidelity of the art assets and scenes are way too high, and level of detail meshes can only get you so far 2) the custom engine built from a potpourri of CryEngine and Lumberyard, simply wasn’t up to the task.
So it came as no surprise that, as I wrote last month, they started walking back those incredulous claims.
OCT 12 2018 DEV SCHEDULE UPDATE SHOWING 3.3 SPLIT INTO 3.3.5
When you look at the presentation, notice how the frame rate drops when he is looking out the window. Also notice how the distant (and some close up ones) assets look very low quality – especially when he is flying around. Some have claimed that they are using 3D textures (like the kind you find in skyboxes) in those outlying areas. They are not. It is a fully 3D level built in such a way that you can’t just travel anywhere, land anywhere, enter buildings etc. It’s all a massive set piece designed to give the illusion of expanse. That’s why they have restricted “no fly zones” even within the confines of the city. Backers who think they’re getting GTA V, The Witcher, Assassins Creed etc, are going to be sorely disappointed. Now you see why the train is needed to link various parts of the “level” because it’s not designed to be open world. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. The issue is one of visual fidelity vs performance. If you are having fun in a game, you’re not going to notice that you’re restricted to a set piece; after all that’s how most games are designed. But that’s not what they have been promising backers for seven years straight.
In the dev roadmap, they provide basic explanations for what exactly these two technological improvements do.
“Object Container Streaming considerably expands the playable game area and increases performance”
OCS is about memory and loading performance. If you have a machine with 16GB of memory, you will barely have memory (DRAM|VRAM) left for anything, let alone a game that relies on high performance and lots of memory. If assets are constantly being loaded from disk, paged in/out of memory etc, there is a performance hit somewhere in the chain. Especially if the client is loading assets which are outside of the player’s cull distance. If you limit this and reduce the memory footprint, the performance gains are not only barely noticeable in a game that’s already a performance hog, but you will eventually hit a wall where you can go no further.
“This work aims to help improve performance in multiplayer by cutting down the number of entities that exist on clients. Entities too far from a player will be removed from the local client, and when the player moves or the server otherwise detects new entities entering the player’s range they will be added to the client. Because clients will then only consider updating entities that are near to them the overall CPU load will be reduced and performance should improve.”
NBC is all about networking and goes hand-in-hand with OCS – at least in terms of what CIG claims they’re doing. The only reason why this will reduce CPU load is because the client then wouldn’t have to load entities it doesn’t care about. But it’s not going to increase networking performance to any reasonable or noticeable degree because, well, it’s not as if they’re loading assets into packets and sending them across the network. All they can do is reduce the size of packets, the frequency at which packets are sent, and the accuracy (UDP vs TCP) and order in which packets are sent and received. And again, there is a point where you hit a wall because compressed or not, there is a limit.
And according to Chris (@ 4:25), due to instability they didn’t even have this enabled in the live stream build which was running 3.3.5 branch build, unlike the current PTU build which is running 3.3 without Loreville all those bits.
LINE OF DEFENSE HAS 13 CONNECTED SCENES
When you’re building an open world game, you not only need the ability to stream and demand load assets, but you also need to be optimizing every step of the way. If you fail to do these basic things from the onset, then think you’re going to be able to get huge performance gains down the road, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. Open world games like PUBG, Day Z etc, all suffer from this specific performance related problem – and there’s no fixing it to everyone’s satisfaction. Star Citizen has always touted high visual fidelity assets, long before it became this bloated mess that’s stuck in development hell. It’s how they have used high fidelity visuals to monetize the game from the onset.
In LoD, I had the option to have a single cohesive world (with both space and planetary regions) similar to my previous massive games in the Battlecruiser/Universal Combat series. Had I done that, we would end up with large and highly detailed planetary scenes which would have huge performance issues down the road. In fact, compare a planetary scene in All Aspect Warfare, Universal Combat CE 2.0, and Universal Combat CE 3.0 to one in Line Of Defense (better yet, watch this live stream recording from earlier this year). And even after breaking up the LoD world into 13 (space, planet, stations, carrier) sections, we still had to keep the visual fidelity in check because as an open world multiplayer game in which the player can go anywhere in first person mode, vehicle, or aircraft, a performance nightmare is always around the corner. And the trade-off between visual fidelity and performance, is a dance you do with the devil – constantly.
Even in splitting the world, we still had to figure out a way to connect them. So we came up with a custom network architecture with server interconnection (which CIG is calling server meshing) nodes. The way it works is that any of the 13 scenes can be loaded independently on the server. And as they are all linked via jump points, dynamic jump pads, and turbo shafts, what we did was connect all of them via IP hopping. So for example a client would load into Heatwave (planet). In fps mode, to go to Lyrius (space), they would need to take an aircraft, fly up to a jump gate on the planet, then select their destination. Once that selection is made, the client is moved from that scene to the target – regardless of which server is running it. And from space, the client wanting to enter Arkangel station or GCV-Starguard carrier (which we also had to split into three parts), would dock their ship with the target; and again an IP hopping hand-off is initiated, putting the client in that scene. To go from inside the station or carrier to the planet below, the client would either use a ship, fly to space, then select a planetary base target via a jump point, or use a special suit that allows them to jump from orbit directly to the planet surface.
Doing it this way not only keeps performance in check, but it also allows us to run a “cluster” of servers, each hosting a number of scenes. And they’re all not only independent, but you can also hop from server to server based on the target scene. It also allows us to control the number of clients in a scene by restricting access depending on how many clients are already there.
This is not something that you build in the middle or toward the end of a development. It is fundamental to the design of the game; and where performance is concerned, it’s something that you have to worry about right from the start. CIG went the other way. But that’s OK though because backers say the real development on the project only started last week.
Right now those who are playing 3.3 in the Public Test Universe would have seen minimal performance gains depending on the server population. For example, if you’re getting 30 fps in 3.3, when you were previously getting 15 fps in 3.2, trust me when I tell you this, that’s short lived and you really didn’t gain anything. Don’t take my word for it though, wait and see what happens between 3.3 and 3.3.5 which has the new planets seen in the CitizenCon presentation. The performance will again go back to probably worse than 3.2 levels due to addition of these new highly detailed planetary scenes because they add more to the game than ever before. I said the same thing long before 3.0 was released in Dec 2017.
If nothing else, the CitizenCon presentation of 3.3.5 should serve as a wake-up call for what’s coming when they do release it. And it will come along with the same promises from 2015 about “on-going performance tweaks; it’s only pre-Alpha; we’ll optimize later etc“. Except, as has been the case these past three years, it will remain a performance nightmare for the foreseeable future because they HAVE ALREADY HIT THE WALL. And they know it. Which I suspect is primarily why they had to split 3.3 into two parts while they continued working on that.
Bottom line, they’re never – ever – going to be able to do instances with thousands of players as has been promised. Right now they can’t even get 16 players in an instance to have a good experience. As I wrote back in this 2017 article on the subject of the “server mesh” nonsense, if they ever do it, all that’s going to entail is the ability to move clients from one instance to another, as that may be the only way to “stitch” together the game’s proposed world in order to give the appearance of a seamless MMO world – with load times. They haven’t left Stanton yet though – so there’s that.
CHRIS ROBERTS ROAD TO RELEASE KEYNOTE
THE FLYING ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Now seven years into the development, Chris attempted to define what a “release” is. And as these things go, he failed miserably. For starters, he was highlighting all the different milestones they hit, starting with the hangar module which debut back in August 2013. Then he got to the current 3.3 and 3.3.5. From that point on, it was the usual waffling, baseless claims, meaningless promises etc. None of which answered the ultimate question: When is the game going to be finished and released?
Most of us who have developed games know that there is nothing worse than engineering debt for a project that the producer seemingly has lost control over. As I mentioned in my previous article, we are going into year seven (eight if you count 2011 prototyping year) and they haven’t even built 1% of the game universe promised. With the upcoming 3.3.5, they wouldn’t have even finished Stanton system which is just 1 out of the 106 promised in the finished game. Not only that, you can’t even fly to any other system, let alone to its planets and moons as there is still no interplanetary travel either. Which makes sense since there are no other systems in the game.
Which begs the question. If they have yet to build the complete game world – or even a fraction of it – how then are they going to complete and release Squadron 42 in the short term? Unless it takes place solely in Stanton, or they are planning on using specific level based set pieces for it, the world that the story takes place in, seemingly doesn’t exist. If it does, they haven’t made it public. And if so, since both games take place in the same world, why not? I have no reason to believe that it exists. Which explains why, technology aside, SQ42 has been delayed year after year. Before I forget, I’d like to point out that in this latest event, he again promised the full SQ42 roadmap coming soon. He said the same thing – last year.
All that aside, once again during the event, in addition to the commercial for a new ship added to 3.3, they unveiled yet another ship concept. That being the Kraken – which never existed before in the game lore or design, and which they’re now hyping to sell – at a high premium. As a JPEG. The most astonishing part of this is that the new ship in 3.3, the Valkyrie, is being touted as the first direct to game addition. In other words, they designed and built it, then immediately added it to the game. You know why this is astonishing? Because they still have a huge backlog of ships which currently exist either as JPEG concepts, or in early model form – and still not in the game. But they had already sold those, and got the money for them. So now they introduce a new one – ready to go in the game – for new cash money. That’s basically an engineering Ponzi scheme.
In a post-show interview, Brian Chambers indicated that even though they have a roadmap and know where they’re going, he can’t say when the game will be completed, when backers will get the “best experience possible” etc. He also said that there about 450 (!) people currently working on the project. Also in a recent broadcast, a backer sent in a query in which he claimed that CIG seemed to have a ship creation backlog of about seven (he was being generous) years. The response from the CIG dev was as funny as it was ridiculous. But it’s in line with the same script from Brian Chambers’ interview.
NO SQUADRON 42 THIS YEAR. BUT HERE’S ANOTHER SNAZZY TRAILER
ROBERTS SPACE INDUSTRIES (UK) FINANCIALS
Meanwhile, over in the UK, earlier this month they filed accounts for RSI, but still haven’t filed for the parent company, CIG which owns RSI and the other companies (of which F42-UK is a subsidiary). Going by the fact that F42-UK was literally insolvent in the their 2017 filings (my article breaks it down), I wasn’t expecting that they would file for the parent company until after CitizenCon due to some of the eye-openers we’re expecting in there. They probably won’t file until after the anniversary and holiday sales, or at some point in 2019. They have a history of filing late, while paying fines; so we’ll see how long they delay this one for.
Regardless, it is a criminal offense to not file accounts within 14 days when due. And right now, both the accounts and confirmation statement are overdue.
In the meantime, someone else over on SA has done the break-down of the RSI filings. I will just quote it below, with minor edits and corrections for clarity and accuracy. You can find my running list of companies over here.
This company exists to make accounting mistakes. It serves as the resting spot for money coming from the US and then being redistributed in the UK. The distribution changes pretty much every year. Do they distribute to Foundry 42 or to CIG, who then funnel it onto Foundry 42? Not sure which option they chose this year.
The source of funds from the US changes even more regularly and this year it’s obfuscated.
The only real purpose this company has is to make the “accidental” mistake that the UK group derives 100% of its income in the UK, when in fact the group derives 100% of its income from the USA.
As usual it nets out. A couple of things to note however. In 2016 the company made a gross loss and admin expenses were a negative expense which made up for the gross loss. It was something like £139,487 foreign currency gains with £26,477 admin expenses, meaning once netted off, is the £113,010 contribution to net profit as shown. In 2017 they have not disclosed the foreign currency gain/loss. I wonder if that could be because they made a basic mistake last year :
ACCOUNTING ANOMALIES – 2016
Knowing your debits from your credits may be hard for your first week but this should become pretty ingrained as part of the core of double-entry bookkeeping.
It’s pretty simple. A credit in the profit and loss account is a “good” thing, it increases profit. The corresponding debit in your balance sheet is a “good” thing, it will represent an asset. So a debit value in your profit and loss account will be a “bad” thing that reduces your profit and the corresponding credit in your balance sheet is a “bad” thing that will represent a liability.
So if you make a foreign currency exchange gain, it should be apparent that it will be a “good” thing in your profit and loss account that increases your profit. Thus a credit balance.
So here, you can see the wording is correct in the 2015 RSI accounts. In 2016 someone just had to add “(gains)/.” to the line where it says, “Exchange losses”. Instead they added brackets around the word losses and then added in the gains/ without brackets. This is painful to see because of both how basic the error is and how they had to go out of their way to make the error. I included the line from the CIG UK Ltd 2016 (group) accounts just to show it is possible to get this correct.
This has no real numerical impact but this is building on the narrative about the quality of the preparation of the 2016 RSI accounts, which is some foreshadowing.
So this year they just didn’t bother with the fundamental disclosure because…moving on.
This year they made a gross profit of £744,013 which neatly covers their admin expenses of £744,013. It’s kind of a curious comparison because remember, this company has no employees and serves just to funnel money. We’ll come back to this.
The related parties tell us where in the US the money is funneled from. I’ll start by pointing out that in 2016 there were costs recharged in the period from Roberts Space Industries Corporation of £15,132,933. This matches the declared turnover for Roberts Space Industries International Ltd. You do not net off the negative values for CIG Texas LLC and CIG LLC, you should never net off against turnover so they did this correctly. However, I cannot tell what has happened in 2017. Roberts Space Industries Corporation is apparently no longer a source of turnover and neither are the other two companies shown. So there are a few possibilities.
1. Some basic accounting error and they forgot to disclose it properly.
2. Some other unlisted unrelated company is now funding the UK operations.
We know they have not reverted to funding the UK companies directly, as has been done in the past, because we can see the money coming in and going out in the profit and loss.
This one is curious. Remember how the company suddenly has large admin expenses? Well, there is also a new miscellaneous tax item of similar value. It’s not social security because this company has never had employees. It’s not tax on income aka corporation tax because then it would be corporation tax. It could in theory be VAT but then it would not be an admin expense and thus coincidence. It would also mean that something had legitimately changed in relation to which companies their income were derived from. We’d then be left with unexplained administration costs.
The implication here is that this company either transferred too much money to the UK companies or transferred money without a valid invoice. Basically they are messing around again and it hurts to think about what legitimate reason could be behind this happening given that this company only exists to transfer money to the UK companies and it somehow got that wrong. Judging by the related parties it also got wrong the part about receiving money from the USA group.
Roberts Space Industries International Ltd is my favorite CIG company.
1. It literally has zero reason to exist and is always littered with basic accountancy errors.
2. It also “hides” numerous “accidental” “errors” which actually have pretty big implications.
I cannot help but feel reasons 1 and 2 are related but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
THE FACE OF SCOPE CREEP
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
On Sept 28th, shortly after CIG filed a new cause of action in the case, CIG filed their opposition. I am not even going to bother going through that one because it’s the usual nonsense that we have to wait and see how the judge rules. My guess is that she’s going to toss (reject) it because as I explained in my previous article, that section 2.4 which is now in dispute, is vital to certain aspects of the Crytek complaint; and so I don’t see how the judge – who pointed it out in her previous MtD ruling – could grant CIG a dismissal on it.
The good news for Crytek is that as the judge had ruled that discovery is to start, both parties filed a joint Rule 26(f) discovery plan. This means that, regardless of the timeline for the judge’s ruling on the new MtD, they have to start discovery. Though CIG is also asking the judge for a bifurcation of the discovery process – and we have no clue why they’d want that. I can’t wait to read the judge’s decision on that one. We’ve seen for almost a year now that CIG has tried to delay discovery for as long as possible. The judge’s ruling on the MtD, as well as their failed attempts to get Crytek to come to the settlement table, put an end to those efforts. But they’re still trying; and this bifurcation request is just another delay tactic.
It’s interesting to note that Crytek isn’t resisting the CIG request to have certain documents filed under seal. We don’t know what those would be, and we don’t know which of those Crytek would want to make public. But when that fight comes, we’ll be sure to read about it in the filings. One thing to remember is that Crytek isn’t fighting a lawsuit for backers; so they have no incentive to take actions which benefit any parties other than themselves. So if backers were expecting to see things like financial accounting, the number of backers etc in the public filing, my guess is that’s probably some of the most important docs that CIG would want to file under seal; and I don’t see why Crytek would fight to make them public since it doesn’t benefit them either way.
Anyway, on Oct 12th, the judge was supposed to hear oral arguments and to rule on the MtD. But then the day before that, she decided that she didn’t want to hear oral arguments. So she vacated the hearing. Now we wait for her written ruling.
Previously: Around The FarceSeptember 22, 2018 at 8:27 am #6639
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 DebacleSeptember 8, 2018 at 9:23 am #6615
@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 :
- The game was never designed to be an MMO
- You just can’t automagically convert an instanced session based game into an MMO
- They simply don’t have the tech or the expertise to do #2
- Even if they did have #3, and they attempted #2, it’s too late to switch from one type of networking backbone to another
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 ,07/07/2017, 10/29/2016) 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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
Previously: CitizensConned FiascoAugust 31, 2018 at 9:12 am #6601
CITIZENS CONNED PAYWALL
If there is one thing that we can always count on happening every month with the Star Citizen project, it’s that there is bound to be another major screw up or controversy. I mean, we barely just recovered from the latest Crytek lawsuit fiasco. This latest fiasco is not just so funny, as it is completely and utterly incredulous to even those of us who have come to expect nothing less.
Every year since the project’s inception, CIG has attended various industry shows such as GDC, E3, Gamescom, PAX etc. They’ve also had a yearly event called CitizenCon where they focus on the current and future state of the game. It’s basically BlizzCon – but with propaganda and lies designed to continue ripping off their backers. In case you were interested, that amount currently stands at $192M (Disclaimer: most of us believe that chart is pure fraudulent bs; designed to show healthy interest in the project) seven years later – and no game to speak of.
YEAH WHALES ONLY. PLEBS PAY $20 BUX
Last year, they unveiled plans for this year’s CitizenCon event, and as they always have – started selling tickets for those who wanted to attend. The rest of us just watched it streamed live – for free. Those tickets for attendance were previously priced from $55 to $130. So imagine our collective surprise when in last night’s Around The Verse broadcast, we learned that not only were they now going to stick it behind a paywall, they actually introduced a new $20 tier if you wanted to watch the stream. I’m not even joking. Watch…
@11:07 THE STAR CITIZEN SCAM LEVELS UP
Unlike in previous years, they’ve had problems selling out tickets this year. Which is surprising when you consider that the event is taking place in Austin, TX. I’m guessing that having lied up a storm in 2017, while failing to produce even 10% of what they promised during the last events, the remaining gullible backers who keep giving them money, are holding on to their wallets. So what do they do? They came up with a way to get more money from their backers. It’s a slap in the face of backers when you consider that they have ALL funded this project. And now, those who aren’t subscribers (to their monthly propaganda bs), are being asked to fork out an additional $20 if they want to watch the show live.
And if you buy a ticket, but can’t attend for whatever reason, you don’t get a cash refund back – only store credit. LOL!!
As soon as the news broke, and the tribe took up arms (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Chris issued a statement which is not only as short-sighted and ludicrous as others before it, but also rife with his utmost disrespect for the very same backers who pulled him out of abject poverty, and made him a millionaire. The same people to whom he currently owes not one, but two games – neither of which is even 20% complete. As these things go, it wasn’t long before the moderators started deleting posts, banning backers voicing outrage etc.
YES, HE WROTE THAT. ALL OF IT.
So here’s the thing. He’s now going for the BlizzCon model whereby Blizzard – who funds their own games – charges for a virtual ticket to attend. Ignoring the fact that Blizzard isn’t crowd-funded, and doesn’t owe their gamers anything, take a look at what comes with their virtual ticket, then compare to what CIG is charging its backers for. I mean, think about this; do you think anyone who isn’t already a staunch Star Citizen backer is going to watch their stream, let alone fork out $20? Yeah, no. In fact, in the history of all their shows, let alone their posted YouTube videos, they’ve been hard-pressed to even break 30K views. And this is a project that’s touting two million (it’s pure bs; as that number is less than 500K when duplicate, as well as free accounts are taken into consideration) citizens.
Which brings us to the “The Pledge” from 2012. It’s hilarious to me that some backers, right now on Reddit, are once again evoking it. It’s almost as if they haven’t been paying attention ALL these years when CIG has systematically broken it in every single possible way.
YES, RIGHT FROM THE START, THIS WAS ALL A LOAD OF HORSE SHIT
Yes, Chris Roberts has not only routinely lied to the public and indeed to his backers, he’s also routinely walked back almost every single promise of material significance to the project. In the case of this CitizenCon paywall, not long ago this past August 3rd in one of his posts to the community, he said this:
“This was the economic approach I proposed out when I first pitched Star Citizen because it is the model as a player I prefer. I don’t like to have to pay a subscription just to play and I hate when things are deliberately locked behind a paywall, but as someone that doesn’t have twenty hours a week to dedicate to building up my character or possessions, I appreciate the option to get a head start if I’m willing to pay a little extra.”
This is the part where I mention that, after years of touting a dev schedule and their need to release a major update each quarter, barely weeks ago in a shocking update, they not only stripped the upcoming 3.3 build of all material features they had been hyping for months, but also said that it’s no longer going to be released at the end of Sept. Instead it’s going to be released during CitizenCon on Oct 10th. See what they did there?
RECENT FREE FLY WEEKEND SESSION. UNCUT. UNEDITED. $192M OF PURE HILARITY
So that’s the end of another month, and yet another fiasco, in the Star Citizen ecosystem.
LESS THAN 12 HRS LATER
It’s all about money. Once again, he planned something that he blew the budget on. Then he tried to get backers to pay for the excess. That’s all there is to it. Had he not reversed, it would have tainted the event from this point, and right on to Oct 10th. He had to make a choice – and it had nothing to do with “listening” to backers. I like how he managed to throw a sale pitch right in there too.
Meanwhile, we’re 3K up votes into yet another Reddit thread about the latest fiasco
Previously: CRYTEK v CIG/RSI + F42 FINANCIALSAugust 15, 2018 at 6:00 pm #6560
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
Parts of this article first appeared in my breaking news Twitter thread.
On Dec 12th 2017, CryTek sued CIG and RSI. Shortly following their Jan 5th 2018 response to the lawsuit, CIG/RSI filed a motion to dismiss with the court on Jan 6th 2018. Since that time, very little has happened as we waited to hear the judge’s ruling on the motion to dismiss. I have been tracking all of this over in this dedicated forum.
Now the judge has finally ruled on the motion to dismiss, denying 4 out of 6 items. It’s not looking good for CIG at all. I predicted this outcome months ago. You can read the filing here.
The long and short of this is that CIG/RSI are facing a very serious issue that could have long-term ramifications. That they could even hope to settle this for less than $20M, is a pipe-dream; unless of course CryTek are desperate and willing to take whatever they can, plus attorney fees. Even with the punitive damages temporarily off the table – assuming they don’t re-file as per the judge’s suggestion (bottom of last page in the filing) – the breach in Section 2.4 alone is already a major slam dunk. Combining that with copyright infringement as it pertains to SQ42 being a separate game, the damages go through the roof. For context and comparison (and that was back in 2012), Epic Games won massive damages (later doubled!) against Silicon Knights, and bankrupted the company in the end. And they took advantage of the injunctive relief, forcing SK – via court order – to remove and destroy all their products from market. That’s how bad this is. That we’re in 2018, where new precedent for damages have been set and won, well you can guess the rest.
I can’t WAIT to read what all those Star Citizen YT lawyers (who shockingly have law degrees) have to say now. Anything that doesn’t amount to the usual “Derek Smart Was Right”, should be disregarded out of hand.
Make no mistake, seeing as CIG/RSI are basically INSOLVENT, this is the final death knell. Especially if Crytek files an injunction to prevent them from continuing to operate Star Citizen. The damages alone are going to be catastrophic. If you’re an investor, you just got rekted. Notice that the judge also allowed the lawsuit to proceed against BOTH entities. And since they own/support the others, they are ALL on the hook. There is NO ESCAPE.
Now the fun begins. We’ll see if Crytek starts discovery or goes for the injunction first.
For an idea of just how destructive this MtD ruling is to CIG/RSI, read up on the Epic Games v Silicon Knights, Bethesda v Oculus, and similar cases. I don’t see how they can even settle this, when they don’t even have the money to do so. They’re on the hook for MILLIONS. Anyway, let me opine on the 6 elements in the CIG filing for the MTD.
1) RSI WAS NOT A PARTY TO THE GLA (DENIED)
This one was puzzling; especially considering that RSI is the parent company of most of the companies setup around this project. Hilariously, the judge saw right through their “We don’t even know why they’re suing us” nonsense. Not only did she deny that defense, she also ruled that RSI was in fact party to the GLA; thus putting both CIG and RSI on the hook. This is a major deal.
See all these companies? This ruling DESTROYS the shell game in one fell swoop. Only Twin Bros (Ortwin’s own personal co) has minimal protection. Until discovery shows that it received funds for the project. Which it DID. And given Ortwin’s expose in this lawsuit, he’s now at huge risk.
2) BREACH OF CONTRACT AS PER EXCLUSIVITY (GRANTED – IN PART)
To be honest, I was surprised by this one. After reading the judge’s ruling, and given the ambiguity of the GLA, I see now where she was going with this. Basically CryTek was claiming that CIG agreed to use CryEngine exclusively for the development of Star Citizen; and as part of that, was required to display their logo in the game etc. The judge disagreed with this, and from her notes, she did give Crytek the opportunity to amend their complaint to better address what they were going for. If they are successful, and the judge grants it later, then discovery will no doubt fill in the missing pieces.
A key part of the “exclusivity” section that some people (apparently even Internet lawyers) are missing/ignoring is the judge’s notes at the bottom of p11. She pointed this out for a reason. Now take a look at what section 2.4 of the GLA says. And therein lies the rub.
The GLA has not expired, and is still contractually valid (the term) until otherwise terminated (+ 2 yrs). CIG were NOT allowed to switch to a competing engine.
Section 2.4 of the GLA makes the 2.1.2 claim immaterial in its entirety, and thus a BIGGER problem for CIG because they DID switch. This is why the judge made those notes because she wanted to point out that even the denial of 2.1.2 on its merits, has no relevance to the big picture because there is already a much larger breach (2.4) with NEITHER side is denying.
Now, CryTek doesn’t even have to prove that CIG actually switched to Lumberyard – because they did so; and it’s all in the public domain.
I can’t even stop laughing.
The judge is basically telling CIG “Look, here’s your REAL problem“. That’s the thing with lawsuits, lawyers will throw anything that even looks good, while waiting to see what sticks. BOTH of what the judge granted, are relegated to Red Herrings. Who remembers this thread where I covered this exclusive issue back in Jan?
When I profiled this judge back in Feb, I predicted that her ruling was going to be a thing of beauty. She didn’t disappoint. I have since been following her slap Trump around these past months.
3) BREACH OF CONTRACT AS PER SQUADRON 42 (DENIED)
Remember when I wrote that the GLA only covered a SINGLE game and not two (SC + SQ42) and that the GLA was clear on this? The judge agreed on p13. In fact, she used my EXACT (see my web forum for links) reasoning in her brief. I remember all those internet YT lawyers (who actually have law degrees!) arguing that SQ42 was part of the project and so CIG had every reason to split it, sell separately etc as part of the pre-existing GLA.
Nope, I haven’t stopped laughing. Even the judge’s note on this is 100% support of the argument that I made back then. And she made this note for a reason: that being, the SQ42 split isn’t ambiguous – it’s a FACT.
Again in that note 7 she’s saying to CIG, “Hey guys! GUYS!! This here is your REAL problem – and YOU put it in the public domain. It’s not even in dispute“. The long and short of these 2 critical parts are that 2.1.2 allowed them to use any other engine; not just CryEngine, and 2.4 prevented them from doing so for the term + yrs. Since the GLA is in full effect, they are in material breach of 2.4, while 2.1.2 is immaterial. LOL! Back in January, those same “lawyers” were claiming that 2.4 was a non-compete clause. This is what I said back then. And it’s EXACTLY the judge’s ruling.
In case there was any doubt about the GLA term, here it is.
The GLA is still 100% in effect, whether or not they switched engines. Thus 2.4 still stands. THAT’S why the judge made that note. Just because they switched to Lumberyard doesn’t automatically terminate the GLA. And they were already developing, promoting, and selling SQ42 long before they announced the switch in 2016. I wrote a blog about it in Dec 2016.
Basically, not only are they locked to CryEngine – whether or not they use it – they can’t terminate the GLA without doing ALL of those things in Section 8.3. And it’s a mutual termination, not a one-side thing.
Yes, CIG/RSI are so screwed, I haven’t even started contemplating on that yet.
4) COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT AS PER SQUADRON 42 (DENIED)
Having ruled on point #3, this one was easy because, as per 2.4, the judge already saw a copyright infringement by their using CryEngine to make not one, but two games. And this stems from the breach of contract of the GLA.
The judge’s ruling on p17 regarding the copyright infringement in SQ42, is the single largest liability that CIG is never – ever – going to be able to defend against. And the judge’s wording already hinted at that.
For context, these are some of the SAME things that caused serious damages & issues in cases such as Epic Games v Silicon Knights, Bethesda v Oculus etc. Copyright and trademark infringement damages are the single most destructive things in ANY corporate lawsuit. That CIG failed to get the SQ42 issue dismissed is a major problem. Even if they had succeeded in getting ALL the other items dismissed, this is THE one that throws them off a cliff. It’s like being up on charges for murder & burglary; but only the latter gets dismissed.
5) DISMISSAL OF MONETARY DAMAGES CLAIMS (DENIED – IN PART)
As I wrote back in Jan, CIG’s Section 6.1.4 reference in their filing never made ONE lick of sense. And the judge felt that way too. In fact, she used a LOT of words to complete DESTROY it. Even the note is snarky enough to make me chuckle.
To recap, CIG were basically saying that even if they were in breach, that there were no damages. LOL!!
Yes. Really. Not making this up.
On p17-18, not only did the judge deny the CIG motion to exclude all damages, but she also issued CIG a crippling blow in that she pointed out that Crytek in fact CAN seek injunctive relief if they chose to do so. What will that do? Prevent CIG from selling the games.
It may seem an easy thing to gloss over, but consider that when a judge rules that you have to pull a product off the shelves, that’s what you have to do: pull a product off the shelves. CryTek can file this – at any time. And then we’re back to even more fireworks.
At this point, I believe that CryTek are more focused on discovery because there are enough causes of action which survived the MtD that are going to make discovery an absolute nightmare for CIG and expose ALL their secrets. More importantly: WHERE DID ALL THE BACKER MONEY GO!?
The importance of the injunctive relief in any damages which are pertinent are substantial enough for the judge to spend a whopping 2.5 pages explaining her ruling.
She left NO room for ambiguity.
She’s basically saying to CIG “Pucker up because we already KNOW SQ42 exists“. I believe that she went to those great lengths because she wanted to make clear to CIG that the most material breach (e.g. 2.4, SQ42 etc) were subject to specific damages by law – just as CryTek had claimed. So CIG can’t hand-wave it away by writing a $100 instead of $1M check.
6) REQUEST TO STRIKE – AS PER ORTWIN FREYERMUTH (DENIED)
The last part of her ruling, is my personal favorite because it involves Ortwin and she was 100% in line with what I wrote months ago about his liability.
This was my thread about Ortwin and his duplicity. I wrote this back in Jan this year. I also cataloged it in my forum thread on the lawsuit. On p21, the judge didn’t mince words, and I am actually tickled that her reasoning was in line with mine. She even highlighted it. LOL!! I love this judge. Definitely a Goon. 🙂
Here’s what this means.
It puts Ortwin squarely in the case, and makes him a material PART of it. Not just the corporate entity. CryTek are no doubt going to go for it.
As an attorney, accused of acting in BAD FAITH for FINANCIAL GAIN this is disbarment territory right there. Now you see why CIG wanted to have those parts of the Crytek complaint stricken. The judge wasn’t having any of it because she recognizes the critical problem that the duplicity poses and she couldn’t have agreed to this without causing procedural issues down the road.
If I were CryTek, and because I’m a complete bastard when it comes to lawsuits, I would immediately file a separate action and stick that prick right in the middle of it. Then file a bar complaint.
So, of the 6 causes of action which CIG wanted dismissed, the judge only granted 2; both of which didn’t have any major impact to the Crytek case merits.
Section 2.1.2 (granted) : we already know it’s a Red Herring because they’re already royally screwed with the PROVEN & UNDENIABLE breach of 2.4 of the GLA anyway.
And the judge helpfully pointed this out to them in her notes. The judge granted them the punitive damages dismissal, and which was a long shot anyway. They’re still on the hook for monetary damages, statutory damages AND injunctive relief.
Interpretation: They’re f-cked.
Now we see why, back in April CIG had filed for a protective order to stifle all Crytek attempts at discovery. And it was in that filing and responsive pleading, that we discovered CIG had initiated settlement talks – which CryTek dismissed and decided to wait for the MtD ruling. If CryTek had gone for the quick settlement, they could NEVER have known that the most material breach (2.4) would stick, nor that EVERY SINGLE important cause of action would in fact survive the MtD. This was a HUGE bet by Crytek, and it paid off in spades.
CryTek also could NEVER have known that the 2nd most destructive force in their lawsuit, the SQ42 copyright infringement, would ever survive that motion. While it was clear, parts of the GLA left enough room for ambiguity; though most of us software devs already UNDERSTOOD it. When you license an engine to make ONE product, the minute you use it for TWO products, you have violated the license. It doesn’t matter if the engine was free or not. Only the EXISTING license agreement prevails. I have said this over and over again. I mention this because some people were saying CryEngine is free, so there was no breach if CIG used it for SQ42 as well. Aside from the fact that people were deluded into saying the license covered BOTH games. It did not.
The execs running CIG are bunch of lowlife scumbags who have SCAMMED gamers out of money. So this is not surprising to me at all. Thing is, had they not gotten GREEDY and PUBLICLY split SQ42 into a separate product, they wouldn’t be on the hook for a DAMAGING infringement suit. The damages would would have been awarded in all the other causes of action claim, would have been dimes to donuts when compared against a copyright infringement claim. They have basically DESTROYED the company with this because they simply cannot afford for this to go to trial.
Now, this MtD ruling has not only given Crytek a massive upper hand in any settlement talk, if I were in Crytek’s shoes, I would just go in, take every f-cking thing, kick them all out, finish the game and extract their losses and damages. That’s what it will come to.
Contrary to popular belief, CIG isn’t sitting on a pile of cash. As I highlighted in my discussion of the finances for their largest studio, they are operating on a month-to-month basis with money from backers (and some investor cap). The largest studio (F42 UK/GER) is burning through about 73% of their yearly funding. And that entity is in debt, has little to NO cash, and ZERO sources of income other than from the parent company. And their assets are already 100% pledged to Coutts bank. We know little about the US entities in LA and TX, but what we do know is that they too are heavily leveraged. And THAT is why Crytek is going to start looking into the finances as that’s how damages are derived down the road.
The other problem for CIG is that they probably don’t have liability insurance to cover this sort of thing. And even so, that the GLA is a pre-existing contract, considering how half-assed they do everything, even if they got one later, the claims are probably not covered.
So that’s the end of that. Now we wait for Crytek’s next move, which I suspect will be the filing for discovery which they tried to do back in March.
With this MtD now out of the way, things are going to start moving really fast now. If they didn’t think they were funding a lawsuit before, I think backers still giving them money should now come to the realization that, aside from them never – ever – getting their money back, nor the games promised, they are now going to be funding a LOSING lawsuit. If we take the funding chart at face value, and say they are raising about $30M a year, let me assure you, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the sort of damages they are going to be faced with very soon.
And they don’t have the money to settle, unless they sell the co. While I don’t believe that Crytek is intending on destroying the company or project, what CIG and Ortwin did to them, is enough bad blood for Crytek to BURN IT ALL to the ground, then write-off their legal expenses against company income. That’s what I would do. And if there were to be any settlement, knowing that any award is going to create financial liability that exceeds the company net worth, Crytek will basically own ALL OF IT, after CIG/RSI are forced into bankruptcy.
For posterity sake, I am calling it now. We’re going to wake up one day and find that Crytek owns EVERY asset of CIG/RSI entities. If you thought this was far-fetched 8 months ago, this MtD ruling should help you rethink that position. Biggest problem which most are going to miss, is the judge AGREED that both CIG and RSI were on the hook.
So that’s the end of my coverage.
Now we wait to see Crytek’s next move. I’m sure it’s going to be hilariously good.
UPDATED 08/17/2018: CIG FILES OPPOSITION TO LATEST CRYTEK FILING. MY COVERAGE
UPDATE 08/16/2018: CRYTEK FILES A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT. MY COVERAGE.
FOUNDRY 42 (UK/GER) FINANCIALS
They recently filed the financials for period ending Dec 2017. Quite a few interesting tit-bits in this filing, but not important enough for me to write an in-depth analysis as I’ve done in the past.
Several keys points:
1) This filing presents sufficient evidence that the number of employees in both F42-UK and F42-GER, increased within June – Dec 2017 from 284 to 318.
Given the number of current vacancies following key departures in 2018, we’ll know more next filing.
2) Erin Roberts, brother of Chris Roberts is still one of the highest paid studio directors in the UK. In 2017 he made over £200K. Note they also bought the studio from themselves in previous filing period to the tune of £440K. I wrote about that before.
3) Employees alone cost the F42 group over £14M in 2017 alone. In case you were wondering why they need to keep raising money, this is why. And that’s just UK/GER
4) This filing provides strongest evidence that the Coutts loan which caused such a furor when I broke the news last Summer, really was a payday loan. Of the £3.69M remaining, they have to re-pay £1.53M by Dec 2018. Basically, they didn’t get a loan for the full award.
5) As of Dec 2017, they were £3.9M in debt to various parties – including the Coutts loan. Notice the £1.065M from June 2017 period ending? Yup, that’s part of the money they previously paid themselves by taking money OUT of the project, while putting the project in debt.
6) F42 owes other group company entities over £1.25M. The interesting part of this is that in order to hide the inter-group transactions so backers won’t know what they did, they exercised the non-disclosure rule. Backers will never know.
7) It’s hilarious to me that a professionally prepared accounting and audit, got the name of the parent company WRONG. Here again, we see “Robert” vs “Roberts”. It’s an on-going joke now, since this has been a running theme on their website, various materials created by them etc
8) The long and short of it is that taking that they “gained” £622K in 2017, combine that with their debt load and accounts payable, that group was basically insolvent YE 2017.
F-cking hell! I’m laughing so hard I can’t even breathe. In the words of the commander himself..
9) Remember that these shenanigans are going on over in the UK & GER, and musings from the US side say the LA & TX studios aren’t faring any better.
With refunds past 14-days now at an end, we have to wait and see for how long whales keep throwing money into an open furnace. The project, now in year 8 (!), and over $190M in funding raised from backers buying ships in a game that’s totally not P2W (wink-wink), it’s still not even 20% complete for either of the two games promised
YUP, YEAR 8. CHRIS SAID SO IN 2014 @ 1:15:55
SO DID THE EX-TECHNICAL DIRECTOR IN DEC 2015 @ 26:20
Even more hilarious when you consider that was less than 5 months after my first blog in July 2015. During that month, backers who were just entering sunk cost fallacy engaged in “spite pledging” because they thought money would prove me wrong cuz the game was totally coming. LOL
Previously: YEAH, NO MORE REFUNDS. EVERJuly 18, 2018 at 10:32 am #6474
YEAH, NO MORE REFUNDS. EVER.
I am just going to jump right into this one, no preamble, no foreplay, nothing. If you put money into Star Citizen, and you didn’t apply for or get a refund before end of 2017 – congrats you’re now a statistic in a long con scam. The End.
I saw this coming a mile away, over three years ago in 2015. And, like my other warnings, I issued a Red Alert about the implications. Some people listened, got a refund, and got out. Others were riding the wave of the project’s popularity due to repeated lies from Chris Roberts’ camp, and so just kept on giving them money. Hey, it’s their money – and we don’t care.
It’s now 2018, and all what I warned about has all come to pass. CIG has now gone on the record that, as I had accurately predicted, their TOS changes over the years were designed to rip backers off. Here are two official statements recently issued to Motherboard/Vice , Kotaku , Ars Technica , PC Gamer and others.
“Our Terms of Service provides refunds for 14 days after each pledge is made, but company policy is to refund anyone who has second thoughts for up to 30 days after their pledge, no questions asked,” – CIG
“The Terms of Service are not retroactive, but a huge majority of Mr. Lord’s pledges came after the TOS was changed to specify arbitration, and those pledges are under that TOS,” the rep wrote. “His pledges with new money on top of his earlier pledges required him to accept the new Terms of Service.” – CIG
Let me preface everything that comes next with these irrefutable FACTS -:
- Star Citizen was NEVER billed as an Early Access game. Not even once.
- In Oct 2012 Chris Roberts asked for, and raised $2M via initial Kickstarter crowd-funding. He promised to release both multiplayer (Star Citizen) and single-player (Squadron 42) by Nov 2014.
- By Aug 2013, when the first hangar module was released, they had raised $16.7M.
- By Nov 2014, the month he promised it would release, after increasing the game’s scope significantly, they had raised $65M.
- Contrary to what some backers try to promote, there was NEVER a vote of consensus to increase the scope of the game. That scope creep came when Chris Roberts himself created additional stretch goals after the initial Kickstarter goal was met. And then he kept on doing it by making various feature promises, new ship JPEG sales etc.
Right. So now lets discuss why this backer lawsuit and his subsequent court loss is so significant now more than ever. I have covered the fiasco in three (1, 2, 3) Twitter threads since news of this backer’s lawsuit broke. But first, a bit of history for context.
Back in 2012, Chris Roberts launched a crowd-funded campaign to deliver a multiplayer game called Star Citizen, along with a single-player component (which latest became Squadron 42). The original campaign was on their own makeshift website. Due to technical issues, they quickly switched their backend to an official crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, and relocated the campaign there.
Shortly after writing my Interstellar Citizens blog (aka The July Blog) in 2015 in which I raised some alarms about the project, some industry people contacted me about it, as well as to help shed some light about what was really going on behind the scenes. It was through those very sources that I was later made aware of looming company policy changes due to my writing several blogs in which I had indicated that, as per the pre-existing TOS, any backer wanting their money back, was entitled to it. During that period, I even hired attorneys to contact CIG with demands about the project, including financial accountability, refunds for those who requested them, and a dev schedule. You probably know how that turned out. I setup a dedicated forum section, and started tracking the policy changes in their Terms Of Service (TOS).
In August 2013, having raised $16.7M of the $2M they originally asked for, and right before they released the very first playable version of a module in the game, they made some startling material changes to the TOS. Part of that was the addition of an arbitration clause. Between Aug 2013 to Jan 2018, they released five updated versions of the TOS, each one stripping backers of previous rights and protections, while protecting CIG and removing all accountability for the project and it’s finances. Each one was also released to go along with a major build release (Yes, of course I track those too), thus suckering backers into agreeing to it and wiping away previous protections. By the current Jan 2018 version, according to those changes, not only do they NEVER have to issue a refund, but they do NOT even have to deliver a product – of ANY kind. Ever.
“RSI agrees to use its good faith business efforts to deliver to you the Pledge Item(s) as soon as possible. You agree that any unearned portion of your Pledge Funds shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has ceased development and failed to deliver the relevant Pledge Item(s) to you. In consideration of the promises by RSI hereunder, you agree that you irrevocably waive any claim for a refund of your Pledge Funds except as set forth in the preceding sentence.” – CIG
While publications like PC Gamer are only now writing articles about this latest fiasco, while citing the TOS changes, none of it should have come as a surprise because I have been sounding this alarm for years. To the extent that shortly after a blog I wrote about it started making the rounds, the UK edition of Kotaku also chimed in with their own warning. That was in 2016. I guess nobody envisioned that two to three years later, not only would Star Citizen come to be regarded as a full-on scam, but that it wouldn’t even have delivered 18% of the two game promised.
HEROES OF MIGHT AND METTLE
The first time any backer tested my theory that taking CIG to the govt authorities or to court would force them to issue refunds, a backer tested that theory – and won. I wrote a blog about it in July 2016. At the time, he was not only still under the arbitration clause, but also under the most egregious TOS changes since 2012. Read my update of 06-10-2016 on that particularly horrendous TOS change. But this guy just got lucky because when he took his case to the CA authorities, it went public, the media (always late to the party – even if you send up flares) got on the bandwagon – and it became an immediate PR nightmare. Plus I don’t believe that CIG wanted the govt looking into their business. Most especially given that around the time, other crowd-funded campaigns had run afoul of the authorities for failure to deliver, being sued, shutdown, assets seized etc.
So what changed two years later? They are running out of money – fast. Like all Ponzi schemes, the “Rob Peter to pay Paul” game they were playing by refunding old backers with new backer money, was completely unsustainable. I wrote about that many times. So later in 2016 – when they were selectively giving refunds – they put a plan into place whereby they would stop issuing legacy refunds completely. Seeing as all TOS changes had come with major build releases of the game, they tied that decision to the release of the much-touted (as I wrote here, it was DOA) 3.0 release. Once sources alerted me to this, I again issued a warning. As Chris Roberts had gone on stage and blatantly lied that 3.0 was due out at the end of 2016, he kept getting money due to that much hyped build. It didn’t arrive until Dec 23rd, 2017, along with yet another TOS change in Jan 2018. Thereafter anyone who didn’t already have a refund request in the works, immediately lost the ability to get one after 14 days. This meant that ALL legacy backers were screwed. That’s why the official refund sub-Reddit is littered with complaints since Jan 2018.
So it came as no surprise that a backer, having expressed concern about the project and wanting his money back, was rejected under the new TOS rules. So he decided to sue. I reported back in June when it was first made public, that he would lose as there were no getting around the arbitration clause.
As has been reported all over gaming media this week, he lost – and the judge dismissed the case (18SMSC01860) due to the arbitration clause.
But he didn’t lose his bid to get a refund, he lost his bid to have the small claims court hear his case. As I wrote in my thread, there is a distinct difference that many people, even media, keep missing. The arbitration clause in the TOS prevents a group of backers from getting together and filing a devastating class action lawsuit. Unless you can somehow prove that your pledge wasn’t subject to the TOS prior to the Aug 2013 revision, you stand zero chance at a standard lawsuit. Of course nothing is stopping backers from mass filing individual arbitration suits, as that seems to be the current process for getting around that.
So what if you’re not subject to arbitration, or you even decide to go to arbitration to make your case for a refund, then what? Well, you’re going to run into the next egregious part of the TOS. The part that determines how much of a refund you are entitled to. Because of the wording (see excerpt above) in the TOS, that amount is zero because the game is still in development, and you already waived any claims of a refund anyway. BUT even if the game has ceased development, that amount is still zero because :
- You AGREED that they could calculate and allocate your “pledge” – in its entirety – to the development cost. As in “Sorry, we failed, and spent all your money. Thanks for all the fish“
- You AGREED that they were under NO OBLIGATION to deliver a game – of any kind. As in “Sorry, we tried and failed to deliver the dream“
And that my friend, precedent aside, is precisely why CIG did not take him up on his offer of a partial refund. To them, all of his $4,500 has gone into the game’s development. As a result, he’s not entitled to a single Penny back. Yeah.
MY VIDEO DISCUSSION OF THIS ARTICLE
Now you see why I have been advocating since 2015 that backers should get their money and get out because in the event that things started to go South, these TOS changes were going to come back to haunt everyone? Right.
“Three years ago when Star Citizen was at the height of popularity and seemed untouchable, DS repeatedly warned that these TOS changes were done for nefarious reasons. HE KNEW and so he started tracking them separately from everything else. He warned that people should get their money and get out while they still could. He wrote several articles and blogs about that. Some listened, and some did not. Whose fault is that?
And what people didn’t know up until now – three years later – is whether or not he was right, and that CIG would one day use those changes to keep backer money. With the lawsuit, Firefly212 has PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that this was the case and that DEREK SMART WAS RIGHT. Go ahead and cite any other source that has warned about or saw this coming.
But CIG didn’t just cite the arbitration clause and left it at that. They could have, and they would have still won. Instead, they wanted to send a message because they knew this issue would be public. That message was in their response in which they explained why this backer wasn’t entitled to a refund. That message is their precedent going forward in terms of how they are going to respond to arbitration and any lawsuit regarding refunds. They used this backer to send that message. However, from other posts here, they have been saying the same thing in CS replies – which are private until revealed in public by the backer – though without consistency. Now they have it in the PUBLIC record. The message has been sent. There is no taking that back. And to me, THAT is the “success” of this backer’s attempt. He drew them out – and a time when they were continuing to lose in the court of public opinion.” – OldSchoolCmdr on Reddit
The legality of the TOS is up to the court system whereby arbitration is notorious for favoring corporations. The legality of the project’s crowd-funding practices is up to the govt authorities. However, those are battles that backers have to fight on their own. It’s not as if all the warning signs weren’t there all these years. I mean, for example this backer gave CIG money over 61 instances – for a total of $4,500. It wasn’t done in one single instance. So it’s not as if he didn’t know what was going on with the project that whole time. He was even in the private Evocati test community!
ATTACK THE MESSENGER. IGNORE THE MESSAGE
I tend not to focus on my detractors because then it just means that I am validating their existence, their plight, and their drama. That’s why I tend to just incessantly troll them at every opportunity because nothing brings out the troll in me, than to know that something I’ve written or said, is enraging a detractor somewhere on the planet. And there’s practically nothing that they can say or do about it, and which would have any effect. I mean, even as they embarrass themselves with badly written and inflammatory rhetoric, harassment, doxing etc all of which just makes them come off as the unhinged, insane, and rabid people we know them to be, they just end up proving all of that to the world at large. All of which pretty much describes the toxic backers – aka Shitizens – involved in the Star Citizen project. And that’s precisely how the “community” got such a terrible rep in gaming.
That said, I want to point something out that this recent fiasco has again brought to light. That being, I have been the only person who has been keeping track of the Star Citizen project since I wrote that first blog in July 2015. Nobody else has done or is doing it. I write blogs, articles, scoops, social media tweets etc. I also do interviews, appear on streams etc – raising the alarm and explaining why this project was doomed since 2015. Similarly, VirtualPilot who decided to start tracking the actual development goals and releases, is also the only one doing that. The guy who has been tracking the historical funding amounts, is also the only one doing that. As gamers, we tend to focus on things that interest us, and we discuss and share those things at every opportunity. It’s really no different from people who write blogs or news articles about specific things, develop and release free software etc. To each his own. But to the Shitizens, as far as those clowns are concerned, I’m obsessed with Star Citizen. Because, you know, that’s the only plausible explanation they can come up with. But if I was spending my time making flattering videos of the “game”, that would make me a fan and member of the Cult Of Christ Roberts.
You would be hard pressed to find anything about the on-going Star Citizen train-wreck that either I didn’t first write about, or which I haven’t been keeping tabs on. So it comes as no surprise that when news like this breaks, sometimes even without attribution (where sometimes links to my work are used) it can all be traced right back to me. Such is the case that when I first wrote a Twitter thread about this backer lawsuit, it was picked up by a little-known website, which correctly attributed the news to me by linking to my Twitter threads. Shortly after that, it started being picked up by other media around the world. This happens from time to time, as was the case with The July Blog back in 2015, and which caused a major uproar at a time when Chris Roberts could do no wrong, and the Star Citizen project was the latest hype-fueled media obsession.
So it stands to reason that when something as damaging as this breaks – even with clear and irrefutable facts and evidence – Shitizens are quick to start attacking those reporting on it, for citing me as a source. Heck, a few of them even make YT videos raging over it. It’s all so very hilarious to me that I barely contain the excitement that I feel in my loins seeing just how enraged they get. I mean, you could literally tell them “Chris Roberts said this, here’s the quote that Derek Smart cited” and they would – literally – deny it. Even when they go direct to a third-party cited source, they will still call it fake news. To those paid and unpaid Shillizens, facts simply don’t matter. What ultimately matters is that you should attack the messengers, ignore the messages, and if it’s Derek Smart, take it all to the next level because he must be defeated at all costs. I mean seriously, they’re deranged.
I love it.
And for that reason, I’m going to start doing YT videos on my channel because I’ve been told that I need to up my game. I prefer to write, and I’m not a fan of doing audio-visual updates because they come with too much work, preparation etc. If the recent three-way video “dance off” between premier Shillizen (he’s a complete moron) Montoya, SidAlpha, and ex-backer FailureToReport is anything to go by, then I think it’s time for me to throw my hat into the ring. Now we have a party.
FURTHER READINGJune 29, 2018 at 8:12 am #6418
THE GENERATION THAT WILL DELIVER CHRIS ROBERTS’ DREAM
THE NEXT GENERATION OF SHILLIZENS
You know what? I don’t even care about the outrage that you are probably feeling right now. So get over yourself because you’re not important, and this isn’t your safe space. So let’s get to it…
In what can only be attributed to shamelessness and desperation, Chris and Sandi Roberts – the two in a group of the most prolific scam artists this side of Madoff – have finally sunk to a new low. See the image above in the header? Those are their two kids (missing is Chris’s daughter with his ex-wife, Madison) from the latest studio broadcast. Now they are being used as props to sell ships to gullible backers. The kids were first spotted (then and now) in one of the final launch videos (@ 0:37) for the project. Nobody knew any of this until I broke the news in my articles due to their concerted effort to hide nepotism among other things.
Back in 2015 after I wrote the now famous July Blog, sources had confirmed to me that Chris and Sandi were in fact married, and that they were actively concealing it from backers (@ 30:09) etc. I first covered this in a 2015 follow-up blog, Interstellar Justice. Along the way I even got accused of doxing for re-tweeting a post which had a link to their IMDB and modeling profile for Sandi and the kids. That Tweet was part of someone else’s (the group that did research for Chris Roberts Theory Of Everything) research into the Roberts family and how they were actively involved in what appears to be the biggest scam since Madoff. These articles tend to always be well research and extensive. For example, see Kotaku’s 5-part series.
Meanwhile, as soon as this latest video appeared, some of the same backers who were accusing us of all sorts of things, have two Reddit threads – complete with the images of the kids – in an active discussion. It’s as cringe-worthy as you might expect. I have to mention that according to my sources who have access to Sandi’s Facebook account, her children are never featured in it.
For my articles, to go with information from sources, I even hired my own investigators to verify various information because, regardless of merit, nobody likes being sued. e.g. Chris was literally flat broke (I wrote briefly about what he was doing prior) going into Star Citizen, that Sandi had Visa issues (she’s Australian), had later married Chris whom she met when an intern at his previous failed venture (Ascendant Pictures), she has never graduated with a degree from UCLA – let alone two degrees as she had claimed (@18:45 + transcript), that following the crowd-funded windfall they moved out of an apt and into a lavish Pacific Palisades mansion – complete with cook, helpers etc. Trust me, it’s a LOT of stuff, and most of it so personal that I have refrained from sharing them in my articles. This is how scammers operate. They lie. About everything.
Why is any of that relevant? Well, while there have been several articles and govt. action against crowd-funding projects misappropriating backer funds for personal unjust enrichment, being outright scams etc, some would think that digging into the lives of people seen to be actively operating a scam, should be off limits. They are wrong. Especially as it pertains to public figures connected to public and private funding. I even got accused of stalking and harassment. Attorneys got involved and we literally gave them the middle finger and an open challenge to sue me. Chris even went on the rampage and wrote a massive (now removed) diatribe accusing myself and others of various things. Amid the baseless threats, we all just laughed. But alas, much to my chagrin (as I was prepped, poised and waiting to expose them via discovery in any such matters), nothing came of it.
So now, with the Star Citizen project having the dubious distinction of being the biggest crowd-funded project in history, as well as shaping up to be the biggest crowd-funding fraud, they are pulling out the oldest trick in the book. That being, trotting out their kids – again – in a bid to humanize themselves ahead of what’s (trust me, it’s hilarious) coming. And Sandi tried similar crap once before. We all collectively laughed – and moved on.
THE ROBERTS GENERATION – AROUND THE VERSE, 06/28/18 @ 10:52
All aside from the fact that he basically turned the project into a family business in which between his wife, brother, childhood besties here in the US and in the UK, long-time business partner, they have basically squandered backer money, getting rich – while not delivering a single project of any kind. I mean, listen, they used backer money to build a studio (F42-UK) for his brother, then turned around and bought the studio back from him, taking wealth out of the company and project. And sources said they did the same thing – and worse – here in the US. You can read more about that in my article on their 2016 financial disclosure.
If the Theranos fiasco (Feds are involved, and people are headed for prison) is any indication, and which was completely exposed by a brave writer (NYT article), I’ve said it many times before, I remain 100% convinced that someone is going to prison over Star Citizen’s inevitable failure. I know things – so do the Feds. Not to even mention CryTek which is on track to completely expose this crowd-funding scheme for what it is. A LOT is currently happening behind the scenes, and which is yet to be made public; and I can barely contain myself. So I am left with the belief that this latest attempt by them, is a precursor to what’s coming.
THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE DISASTER
It is no big secret that the much delayed 3.0 patch which was released Dec 23, 2017, was an unmitigated disaster before and after the fact. The follow-up 3.1 from Mar 2018 fared no better. And between that time to now, the 3.2 patch having been reduced (lots of things moved out) to barebones functionality, only contains a single feature of importance. A bog-standard mining mechanic that’s as innovative as making an elevator in a video game level actually work in a $190M game.
Mining is a biggie because, just as I had predicted, they are now using it to sell a mining ship, The Prospector, which they sold as JPEG concept back in April 2016. At the time when there was no mining mechanic in the game. They implemented support for the ship in late 2017. Again, with no mining mechanic for it.
But wait! There’s more! As I wrote in this Twitter thread, instead of selling that ship, barely two weeks ago, they unveiled another JPEG concept. For a salvage ship, the Vulture. In a game that has no such salvaging mechanic. As if that wasn’t hilarious enough, it was also a complete rip of a ship in another space combat game, Eve Online. The furor over that one is still on-going as I type this. And it made headlines during a time when a major battle was being waged on Reddit as a whale backer lost faith and bailed.
In this other long Twitter thread, I had described how they actually unveiled an Orion mining platform back in 2015. It came with the most elaborate (it was all bs right from the start) mining mechanic design doc imaginable. And none of that is even in what they have now implemented in 3.2. Instead, they mashed together whatever they could, in order to attain their goal of raising money, not through measly $45 sales of game packages, but through the sale of ships (basically DLC) via RMT (Real Money Transaction). But it’s totally not P2W (Pay To Win) though.
And they even released a new bullshot-ridden trailer to drown out the noise of that fiasco. But naturally, gamers weren’t having any of it. Here’s what Kotaku wrote about that.
And just when you thought the ridiculousness had attained the highest value, you find out that as the Prospector isn’t for sale, very few people would be able to actually test the mining mechanic in the 3.2 build that was put into testing about two weeks ago. So what did CIG do? If you buy a Vulture JPEG, they gave you a Prospector on loan. Seriously. Think about that for a minute. But when I said that they were going to be selling the Prospector as they had no choice, due to the limited demand for the Vulture, some people thought I was kidding. Then it happened yesterday. Ahead of the release of 3.2 which is due out in wide releasing any day now, the Prospector is on sale again for $155.
MINING IN STAR CITIZEN IS AS BOG-STANDARD AND BORING AS YOU IMAGINED
NETWORKING & INSTANCING
Right off the bat, I’m just going to say it : Derek Smart Was Right. Again.
I have been interested in and developing software since I was about 16. By the time I was 24, I had single-handedly designed and developed what was then one of the most ambitious and complex space and planetary video games of all time. At the time I started, I knew nothing about video game development, let alone specific programming disciplines. But I learned it – all of it – because I wanted to complete what I had started. It was a life-long dream of mine. And so, now at retirement age, though I have had various career changes, I still found a way to keep doing what I love. By the time Battlecruiser 3000AD was released by its publisher in 1996, while still in late Beta stage, it was still heralded as one of the most complex and ambitious games for its time. It was buggy as hell, had a manual that made grown men weep, and wasn’t immediately intuitive. But by that time, nobody had dared to even try anything like that. As I explained in this blog and in this extensive podcast, because I was new on the scene, people made fun of me, vilified me, attacked me etc. All because I dared to dream and try something nobody else had before that time. The rest of that historical time has all the makings of an urban legend.
My point? I know the genre, and I know the technological aspects of designing games for it, inside and out. I have designed and built entire games and engines, working on various disciplines (logic, AI, graphics, UI, scripting, networking, physics etc – all of what you HAVE to know to build a game of any kind) which would otherwise require entire teams of specialists for each discipline. While my games don’t – and never did – cater to the masses, they did what I said they would; and so like-minded gamers kept buying them over the decades that I’ve been doing this.
Not until Elite Dangerous (which, at less than $20M to make, has now set the bar so high, that it has pulled ahead of the competition by decades) which went into crowd-funding in 2012, and released in 2014 as promised, was anything close ever attempted. As I mentioned in the July Blog, it had its own share of problems, and it didn’t even have 50% of the feature set (e.g. first person, AI based capital ship crew mechanics, planetary access etc) of my game. Nor did it need to because those guys, including David Braben, who designed and developed it, know the limitations of technology, expertise, and the tolerance limits of gamers. As some of you reading this probably know, in 2013 due to previous attempts by David to re-make the classic, I was very skeptical that they would ever deliver as promised. And I didn’t even back it at that time. I bought it shortly before official release.
“Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen needs your money to get more money, and promises everything to get it.
This is the sort of ambitious, large scale space title PC gamers have been dreaming about, and Roberts has some tech demos and videos to show how much work he has finished already. Of course, for all this to happen, he needs your money.
Why that’s a bad bet” – Ben Kuchera, Oct 2012
In Oct 2012, Chris Roberts promised a base space combat game which would combine elements of Wing Commander and Freelancer. Then gamers threw money at him. By the time he had increased the scope and raised $65M in Nov 2014 (the same month he had promised to ship both games), he had basically promised every feature that ever appeared in a space/planetary combat game – and then some. As of this writing, approaching 6 years and almost $190M (of other peoples money) later, he hasn’t even made the basic Wing Commander game, let alone anything resembling the excellence that is Elite Dangerous, nor the ubiquitous time-sink that is Eve Online (a game released in 2003). But he’s totally making an MMO.
Which brings me to the point of this.
When it comes to this genre and these games, I know precisely what I am talking about. There is no piece of game development technology ever written that I am not either familiar with or for which I don’t have a practical working knowledge of. By all accounts, the chances of an MMO ever coming from Star Citizen are so low (I was dare say non-existent), that I don’t think even the most staunch backer has any hopes in that particular promise.
SURE YOU CAN GET 50 CLIENTS INTO A PRIVATE SERVER INSTANCE. AS LONG AS YOU’RE NOT INTENDING ON ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GAME
In terms of instancing and networking technologies, since 2016, I have written various articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) explaining, both in layman and technical terms, why they simply can’t build the game, let alone the world, as he has been pitching since he increased the scope in 2014. The core of any MMO, boils down to three things: 1) networking 2) instancing | open world 3) in-game monetization
Let’s start with this Multiplayer, Single Player and Instancing article which Chris wrote back in Nov 2012, at the height of the hype. As of this writing, everything he wrote and promised for Star Citizen in that article has turned out to be pure bs. Don’t get me wrong; as a software developer, during development we tend to add and remove things, while revising others to a degree that may end up being radically different from the original design. But what’s different in the case of Star Citizen is that the game is crowd-funded, and backers were promised one thing, paid for that thing, and are getting something completely and totally different. For the same money they paid. And in some cases, what they got is vastly inferior to what they were expecting. Meanwhile, the execs at the head of the project are using every trick in the book to get rich from the project, under the pretext of making a pair of games.
STAR CITIZEN – A BRIEF HISTORY OF LYING
After making so many promises over the years, changing them, denying them, revising them etc, a new interview with VentureBeat (the same publication that recently wrote this hilarious gem) has another shocking eye-opening statement by Erin, which – again – provides conclusive evidence that I was right in everything that I had written about their networking and instancing implementation. So now, 6 years into the project, we’ve come full circle in the game’s underlying design.
GamesBeat: Where are you now as far as how many people can be accommodated in the alpha? Is that going to change? Are you in the hundreds or thousands of players?
Roberts: In terms of an instance, right now we can put about 50 players in an instance. That will go up, but the final plan is obviously once we get the server meshing in — that won’t be this year, but that will be coming in next year — that will allow everyone to play in one huge instance with all the players. The servers will patch people from place to place. You can have 200 people in a room, and when they leave that room, another server takes over. When they take off into space, another server takes over. But the goal is to have everyone in the same instance.
Right now, as I say, we’re at about 50. We’ll probably get up to about 100-odd once we get the unconstrained streaming stuff in later this year. But right now, as far as the concurrency of players together, we have thousands of players who are in the game all the time.
Does that sound familiar at all? Yes, that’s because he made those same claims (10FTC-053, 10FTC-081, PCG Interview-2016) over three years in a row. And now they’ve come full circle and said they’re going to do it precisely as I had said they would have to. And it’s not even close to how Elite Dangerous does it; and which is the only way to implement a multiplayer (btw ED is not an MMO) game of that scope and scale.
With the upcoming 3.2 release, the server still falls over with more than 8 clients, adding 50 clients is as theoretical as that time when Planetside2 won a world record for the number of simultaneous clients on a server. It was unplayable – but that wasn’t the point of setting that record. Similarly, Star Citizen is still unplayable with more than 16 clients. This recent 3.2 video from a few days ago, shows the results of such a test to get 50 clients into an instance. And this was a private instance btw. The session chat log was all kinds of hilarious.
Remember that time, a little over a year ago, when sources told me that the internal dev schedule goes all the way to 2021? And then they suddenly changed the format of the public version again, and showed a timeline to Q4/18 which isn’t even 50% of the game promised? Right. So now he’s also confirmed that Star Citizen (let alone Squadron 42) isn’t going to be completed in 2018.
Here is another example from 2.5 years ago. On Nov 25th, 2015, Chris led backers to believe that the features which didn’t show up in the game until years later, were actually in the game – and working.
“Just great to go seamlessly from foot to your ship, Quantum travel, land,, explore another station, get in a gun fight, return back to base”
STATE OF DEV. WHERE IS SQUADRON 42?
They still haven’t released the road map promised last year. Sources say work on the project has stalled since late last year.
NO SQUADRON 42 IN 2018
In that same broadcast, there were so many revelations – mostly of defeat and that I was right about the project – that you have to watch the whole thing to fully grasp the gravity of it all. Some highlights :
- No SQ42 in 2018. No roadmap either
- SQ42 is too big and ambitious, and probably shouldn’t have been made
- 500 people working on Star Citizen & Squadron 42 across 4.5 studios
- Only have enough people to focus on about 10 different things at any time
- They don’t have enough people working on tools
- They only have 3 AI programmers; and the AI for FPS characters won’t appear until next year – probably
- The project is a bit of a mess; Chris says he’s an optimist and bad at judging time schedules
- There was not enough “game” prior to 3.0 (released in Dec 2017)
- Chris isn’t happy with the first iteration of SQ42
- Still fixing IFCS (flight dynamics model) even though John Pritchett*, Ph.D, the lead who since 2013, has been working on that, the physics etc, just announced his exit from the project
- 3.3 is bigger than 3.0, but they are prepared to drop things out of 3.3 as-needed
- No idea when capital ships (e.g. Idris) will appear in the game as this relies on Object Container Streaming. Also they can’t yet LOD them properly
* This is a devastating loss for Star Citizen. Now that this critical and important system, which was done by a seasoned and experienced dev since 2013, has been handed off to an inexperienced junior dev, Dave Colson, who has zero experience in that field, they are going to either leave the flight model (IFCS) as-is, or scrap it and start over. Read more in my Twitter thread on this subject.
Chris also basically said that the project, 6 years and $190M later, is “a bit of a mess“. And this statement below @ 55:41 is completely astonishing.
“I’m over like being blamed for being optimistic, over promising, and you know, people feeling like I lied to them because totally that’s not my intention. I am on optimist by nature; you can’t be a game designer and try to do things at this level without being totally optimistic, because otherwise you just can’t start the journey. And I would say that, you know, most creators tend to be optimists. You generally won’t find a pessimist that’s a creative type because you kinda have to be optimistic to do that. So, I am not the best person estimating my time or other people’s time because I always feel like I could do it quicker than ultimately it would be. So there you go; I absolve myself of that, and then let the other people who are maybe a bit more realistic or pessimistic do that.” – Chris Roberts, RtV June 29, 2018
In April 2017 when they unveiled the second generation (I wrote about that here) of the dev schedule, less than a year following the first generation, I later wrote an article in which I pointed out that sources told me it was pure bs – and that it goes way beyond 2021. They later scrapped it again, and released a third generation format. In late 2016 when he was also lying to backers about the state of the project, while claiming that 3.0 was coming later that year, I also wrote that sources said it literally did NOT even exist. That build wasn’t released until Dec 23, 2017 – and it was completely broken.
MEANWHILE IN SPACE COURT
As I had predicted as far back as 2016, it has finally dawned on backers that since the release of 3.0 in Dec 2017, refunds outside the 14 day period, are no longer a thing. And while I can’t think of any circumstance under which any backer will succeed in taking a lawsuit (let alone a class action) to trial, given the arbitration clause in the Terms Of Service, one brave soul has decided to try. He has filed legal action in CA small claims court (Docket # 18SMSC01860) for his $4,500 refund. You can track his progress on Reddit.
While I have no confidence (neither does OldSchoolCmdr) that he will prevail, if CIG doesn’t defend (they will) this, and they lose by default, it will cause them serious problems down the road because it will just set a precedent and open the flood gates for similar small claims legal action. My guess is that they are going to answer, then file a motion to dismiss due to the arbitration clause in the TOS. If that happens, then he will have to re-file an arbitration case where they are likely to win since it tends to favor corporations. If he goes that far, it will be interesting to see their arguments. CIG is going to have to convince the arbitrator that they have somehow satisfied their obligations to him, and delivered a product. Aside from them having to make that whole “it’s crowd-funding” argument. It’s going to be several shades of hilarious – and I can’t wait. Since 2015 as I was tracking their various TOS changes, I had said that they were doing it in order to rip backers off by walking back various promises (refunds, financial accountability etc). Here we are. A similar lawsuit in NJ failed earlier this year.
However, the numerous posts on Reddit and on the official forums about refunds being refused, don’t seem to have deterred this $10K backer whale from putting in for a refund either.
From the posts there, it also appears as if CIG is no longer outright refusing refunds for those outside the 14 day period. Instead, they are sending out auto-responder emails claiming that the cases are being assigned to a “specialist” – which no backer believes actually exists. They’ve been doing this since January. It’s now June.
The development Ponzi scheme is on the rapid decline, and unlike my 90 day to collapse prediction (based on info at the time) which didn’t happen in 2015 because backers kept spite pledging just so I would be wrong, there is no escaping this time. The E.L.E is in full swing.
Previously: STAR CITIZEN – THE E.L.E IS REAL
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