“long con: A con-job that requires a certain amount of effort and as a namesake, is usually in it for the long haul. Gaining someone’s trust for a number of months and then when the stake is in your court and you have their complete trust–taking advantage of it.”
BREAKING NEWS (09/24/15) :Layoffs and fallout at Santa Monica studios.
Since the beginning of July, after weeks of research into this project, I decided to write a blog post based on my findings, opinions, concerns etc. The blog that started it was, Interstellar Citizens. I already knew, going in, that I was going to attract the ire of the rabid and vocal White Knights (supporters of the project) who lash out and attack anyone who even puts together a sentence in dissent against the project. However, what I hadn’t planned for, was the widespread coverage that it would get in the media and which would suddenly get everyone talking, asking questions etc.
During the course of almost three months, I have written four more blogs.
The bane of any investigative reporting, is that you get overwhelmed with so much material that before long, it all gets really long-winded and you can’t even get around to the TL;DR version.
So going forward, I’m going to start doing these micro-blogs in my spare time so that they are shorter, to the point etc. Given the impending legal action, that format will also serve to better chronicle the proceedings as I will make public whatever the legal system allows (e.g. if a judge grants request to have something sealed, I can’t disclose it).
WHAT IS STAR CITIZEN?
Shortly after raising the money ($500K, for which they raised $2.1m) they were asking for, they continued to raise money while increasing the scope of the game to what we now know to be “vision 2.0“.
Despite making several claims that at $6m, then $20m, the game could be built, as of this writing, approaching four years this Nov 2015 and $90m later, there is still no “game”.
In fact, running through an analysis of everything promised in both of the aforementioned visions, they have yet to deliver even 25% of what was promised. Yet, as of this writing, the project which was to be delivered – complete with backer rewards – by Nov 2014, is now one year late this coming Nov.
It is all nicely chronicled here in my Interstellar Breach blog.
SO WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON THEN?
The issues of contention here are many, but the most vocal ones voiced have more to do with the crazy scope of the game, than what backers were originally pitched. Yes, arguably, some backers did expect the game to take longer, and cost more. However, we don’t care about them. What we – and the Feds who oversee issues of consumer fraud care about – are the initial promises made and which haven’t been met.
In between attacking me, attacking my games, saying I am a prejudiced and biased competitor (which is hilarious, but addressed at the very end of Interstellar Breach), the very vocal White Knights will also try to convince you that this v2.0 was the game that was pitched, that your funding (aka pledge) was destined to be lost (as a gift) etc.
It’s all pure nonsense. And it’s nicely explained in this blog post by a gaming industry legal veteran.
In fact, a cursory glance at the FTC website – or just pickup the phone and call them – tells you that much (1, 2). To the extent that just a few months ago, aside from an FTC victory earlier this year, yet another crowd-funded project was successfully prosecuted in Washington State almost a year after first being filed. This was done at the State level, unlike the Federal level which falls under the purview of the FTC and the FBI (depending on merit and severity). The key issue here is that, given how long it takes for the Feds to investigate these things, it appears as if the States are now getting in on the act since it’s quicker. Which makes sense, considering that the recently passed SEC Regulation A+ means that accountability is coming to crowd-funded campaigns because it is currently an unregulated business which many have fallen prey to.
UPDATE: This blog was originally written earlier this month and was awaiting legal clearance as well as the results (e.g. by our sources in Australia and Germany) of some research material. During that time, as part of this and having spoken to several people, both on the business and legal side of crowd-funding as well as consumer fraud, Kickstarter made news when they announced on Sept 21st, that they had reformed to a Public Benefit Corporation. Here is a quote from their statement:
“Until recently, the idea of a for-profit company pursuing social good at the expense of shareholder value had no clear protection under U.S. corporate law, and certainly no mandate.”
At a glance, this doesn’t mean much. But to those of us in the sector and who have been calling for accountability, this is huge. And a clear indication that the largest crowd-funded source in the industry, acknowledges that there is a problem with accountability in the sector.
You see, it’s all very simple. When you ask for money to produce something, you have to produce and deliver it. The law does not allow you to change the terms of that promise, let alone run off into the sunset with the money. Unfortunately where accountability is concerned, if you can’t find the con man who conned you, then you’re out of luck. And if you do, usually you call the cops, report it to the FBI, or if it’s a company operating as a business, you can start with the FTC. Though the FBI is usually better and should be your first option. Why? Because they simply don’t mess around. Nothing strikes fear into mortal men than a call or visit from the IRS or the FBI.
And when it comes to crowd-funding, as the FTC has stated the following:
- Keep your promises when crowdfunding. If you promise rewards, give them. If you promise refunds, provide them.
- Use the money raised from crowdfunding only for the purpose represented. If you collect money for a specified project, like creating a board game, use the money only for that purpose. Don’t use it for personal purposes or to start another project.
FAILURE TO DELIVER ON PROMISES MADE
I don’t even know where to begin….
1) They have failed to deliver the project promised to backers since 2012.
2) Said project is now almost one year overdue and from the looks of it, is two to three years away from completion. Assuming that i) they build the tech to power the game ii) they don’t run out of money
3) Other than the Citizens Card, thus far, they have failed to deliver other backer rewards promised.
4) They continue to sell ship concepts, knowing fully well that a) the total modeling workload, according to my sources, spans almost two years worth of work left to do b) there is currently no “game” with which to fly most of these ship models. Other than of course the Arena Commander module which is an embarrassingly poor and buggy mess and which most backers aren’t even playing; according to this poll.
5) Due to my blogs and all the chatter, they have now decided to continue the premature release of shoddy work product in order to somehow skirt around the non-delivery liability issue and hide behind the “guarantee of performance” clause. With the Social Module (with a single map, ArcCorp) released less than a month ago, and which was over a year late, it joins the Hangar and Arena Commander modules as yet another disjointed, incomplete and broken mess of a product. This is what I previously stated.
“As far as this project is concerned, from my observation and experience, it is my opinion that if they ever ship a completed Star Citizen game, that is true to the “vision” they have been selling, it will be a game that could have been made in four years for $20m.
Instead, with all this resource waste due to bad project management, scope creep, wasteful and improper spending etc, they would have blown through $90m and with zero accounting for where the money went. But hey, they shipped something, right? But since I don’t believe that the game – as pitched – will ever see the light of day, backers are going lose, no matter how this ends.
Here is the crucial problem with this. The minute they deliver a “game” that fits the framework they have described, regardless of how buggy or incomplete it is, the legal hurdle of accountability becomes harder to get over.
For example. You pay me $100 to build you a quality box. Then through delays you start getting irate, forcing me to deliver or face legal consequences. The end result is that I’m going to build you a flimsy box for $10. Now you have a box. I get to keep $90.
You now have to decide whether or not it’s worth coming after me for building you a cheap flimsy box.
How many times haven’t you ordered something online, received it, then had to return it because the quality or operation was not as expected? That’s what we’re facing here if we don’t push for accountability. Except in this regard, you won’t be able to return it; nor will you be able to get a refund.
Unless there is fraud and/or criminal conduct uncovered, they will get away with it; walking away with millions of dollars either through unjust enrichment, or spent foolishly in order to keep up appearances.”
In case you were wondering, according to the crowd-funding campaign, at $5m, they promised to deliver 70 star systems, and $6m, there would be 100. Each one of these has a landing zone powered by this Social Module. Thus far, they have only released only one. One (!).
For context, this complete “game” consists of the following modules: Hangar, Arena Commander (space flight), Social/Planetside, Star Marine (fps), Squadron 42, Persistent Universe (derived from Arena Commander 2.0 w/ multi-ship).
Note that SQ42 is a separate bonus product at the $6m raised. It however relies on components from the other modules for operation.
6) Having failed to meet their own deadlines and promises, they quietly modified the ToS which backers agreed to when they gave money back in 2012. Let me explain in the shortest possible form.
In the original (aka “vision 1.0”) game they pitched on Kickstarter, which 34,397 backers pledged $2,134,374 to help bring this project to life, they had an “estimated” release date of Nov 2014.
According to their ToS v1.1 of 08/29/13 they said if they failed to deliver within 12 months of Nov 2014 (the original Kickstarter estimated delivery date), they would issue refunds. At the time, this non-delivery period would kick in during Nov 2015.
IV. Charges & Billing
“RSI agrees to use its good faith business efforts to deliver to you the pledge items and the Game on or before the estimated delivery date. However, you acknowledge and agree that delivery as of such date is not a promise by RSI since unforeseen events may extend the development and/or production time. Accordingly, you agree that any unearned portion of the deposit shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has failed to deliver the pledge items and/or the Game to you within 12 months after the estimated delivery date.”
Since that time, having already i) missed the Nov 2014 delivery date and ii) embarked on the increased scope (aka “vision 2.0”), thus extending the delivery date for the project, they surreptitiously made another changed in ToS v1.2 of 02/01/15 (which remains the current one). The previous section was moved; and now reads:
VII. Fundraising & Pledges
“RSI agrees to use its good faith business efforts to deliver to you the pledge items and the Game on or before the estimated delivery date communicated to you on the Website. However, you acknowledge and agree that delivery as of such date is not a firm promise and may be extended by RSI since unforeseen events may extend the development and/or production time. Accordingly, you agree that any unearned portion of your Pledge shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has failed to deliver the relevant pledge items and/or the Game to you withineighteen (18) months after the estimated delivery date.“
And in the current ToS, here is a key section that ties into the above:
VII. Fundraising & Pledges
“For the avoidance of doubt, in consideration of RSI’s good faith efforts to develop, produce, and deliver the Game with the funds raised, you agree that any Pledge amounts applied against the Pledge Item Cost and the Game Cost shall be non-refundable regardless of whether or not RSI is able to complete and deliver the Game and/or the pledge items. In the unlikely event that RSI is not able to deliver the Game and/or the pledge items, RSI agrees to post an audited cost accounting on the Website to fully explain the use of the amounts paid for Pledge Item Cost and the Game Cost. In consideration of the promises by RSI hereunder, you agree that you shall irrevocably waive any claim for refund of any Pledge that has been used for the Game Cost and Pledge Item Cost in accordance with the above.”
BUT THEY HAVE BEEN OPEN ABOUT EVERYTHING!
Again, this is an absolute fallacy that continues to be propagated by them and those who are motivated to distort the facts and conceal the truth. Here’s the thing, openness, is related to transparency and disclosures. The fact of the matter is that the “openness” these people speak of, is related to the regular community updates about the project. Well, here’s the thing. These were paid for, by backers.
@ $2m “Regular community updates”
@ $3m “Increased community updates at the RSI website”
@ $4m “The RSI website will feature a monthly “Wingman’s Hangar” webcast from the development team”
So all these dev updates, Wingman updates, 10 for the chairman etc – they were all paid for. Aside from the subscriptions which some were actually paying for btw.
You see, even in private ventures, as an investor, you have the right to know how the company is spending your money. In public corporations, they have investor calls, disclosures etc. And any mistakes or appearance of improper conduct, can lead to legal action, even before the Feds (in this case the SEC or FBI) get involved.
In the case of a crowd-funded project, the fallacy is that crowd-funding backers have no such right. Well, guess what, that’s patently false.
This company was given millions of dollars to deliver a product. They have not delivered that product. And in all likelihood, the company – and project – will both fail before they even get to delivering even 50% of what’s promised. There isn’t a single pro developer on this planet, who after looking at what has thus far been delivered, compared to what was promised up to $65m funded, will say that they can deliver this product within the next three years. That aside from the fact that I still do not believe that have the tech to do the game they pitched. In fact, since my first blog, I have already proven that much by their own dev updates which clearly show that they were still attempting to build said tech. Four years later.
And with all the tips that keep coming my way from various sources, a leaked letter (UPDATE – 09/24/15: David reached out to me through back channels to let me know that his letter (not company property btw) was never intended to be made public. So I have removed it) sent to me anonymously and alleged to have been written by David Jennison (I don’t know who he is, but I did look him up) prior to his departure, is particularly eye opening (assuming that you haven’t been to their Glassdoor listing).
Though not unsurprising to anyone who has either worked with Chris Roberts or who has read the many media reports about his gaming industry failings, I have written about this very issue (cited in David’s letter) in a prior blog. It’s all there.
The number of stellar industry veterans (e.g. Travis Day, Alex Mayberry et al) who have come and gone from this project on short notice and under highly suspicious circumstances (nobody’s talking, but that’s what makes depositions fun) should be a cause for great concern for this project. These people, one and all (we have a running list), made up the star team attracted to the idea of being a part of something great, something remarkable, something exceptional. In most cases, they were uprooted from area studios with lofty promises, and as has been reported elsewhere, leaving behind projects they were working on. That also adds to the level of disruption that this project has wrought on the gaming industry proper. And it’s no secret because everyone in the industry has been talking about this very thing since 2012.
So, with the failure to deliver, coupled with the triggers in their own ToS (as per item #6 above), that “openness” should come in the form of how the money has been spent. Let’s set aside for a minute the fact that they surreptitiously modified the original agreement they had with backers and which clearly required them to issue refunds and financial accounting by Nov 2015.
Let’s continue with the openness discussion shall we?
In every venture, you trust the people that you give money to. Any financial arrangement, involves a degree of trust. We all trusted Chris Roberts when he came to us asking for money to build our dream game (dubbed BDSSE). Nobody thought twice about what had happened to Chris in over a decade (!) since he was gone, what he was up to (aside from making a string of bad movies, raising a family etc). No, he was neither rich, nor successful in Hollywood. This is a fact. What’s made him somewhat rich now, is this project and backer money.
So imagine my surprise when it was revealed to me that him being married to Sandi Gardiner, the lady who went on the record (they have since removed the original article, then posted a new one three weeks ago, Sept 1st) saying “although I’m not sure about the title VP as it stands for Vice-President and there isn’t anyone above me in the Marketing Department“, was a closely kept secret – and which was never disclosed to any of the backers.
Have you seen the sheer volume of material that she’s been a part of in the community? To this day, most in that community either a) don’t believe that they are married or b) they discard it as being a personal matter. Completely disregarding the gravity and important of this single issue.
In fact, nobody even bothered to ask any questions when, out of the Blue, she was credited as the co-creator (!) of Star Citizen. An actress with zero ties to the gaming industry, zero experience in anything related to marketing of any kind and for which no record of such experience exists anywhere on planet Earth. The only tangible connection she has to the project, is being the wife of Chris Roberts. Period. End of story.
And when the investigators were done, to add to the mystery, it was discovered that not only had she lied (1, 2 @ 18:45 note: these keep disappearing but we have archives) about attending UCLA Anderson School of Management and having marketing credentials (1, 2, 3 <– this is new, we’re looking into it) from there, but that she was still pursuing her career while shooting personal projects, hosting reading sessions (1, 2, 3, 4) on company property (that’s the RSI/CIG conference room btw in those images and videos), using company assets, and in one report from our sources, backer money to fund it.
There was no official RSI comment anywhere in the community. No, instead, one of the RSI community members (thennessy-cig), in what can only be regarded as plausible deniability (so they can later say that it wasn’t an official statement), posted this disclaimer on a Reddit thread.
“Hey guys, Elle was a short film Sandi directed on her own, outside of her work at CIG. No one from the office worked on it, and she did not use any of our in house equipment in the filming of it. No subscriber or backer funds were used at all for it.
I’m pretty sure that the only reason Berenice listed CIG on her resume was because she didn’t know what else to list for the production company.”
The entire movie first draft was reportedly shot by an ex-employee named Brian Dickson, on RSI’s own equipment (Canon 5D cameras), and there’s proof of this. The invoices were all reported to have been billed to the company. Further, liability, insurance, SAG/AFTRA, signatory costs etc are all assumed by the company since Sandi, not being signatory, can’t personally sign anything related to any movie shoot. Only the company – of which she is an officer – can be a signatory. That’s how it works.
UPDATE: On Sept 21st, after another thread showed up on Reddit following this tweet I made about her shooting movies on company premises, a new thread appeared on Reddit with a group of people asking for an explanation. Shortly after, Sandi made this tweet (in case they delete it, here is a screen cap) in which she stated thus:
“no not shot at the studios and CIG was a mistake on the DPs resume – was under Gemini 42 and all extras I personally paid“
And before you start talking about them being married is a personal matter etc – don’t. She’s the “co-creator” of the largest crowd-funded project in history. She’s not someone in the sidelines, in the background or any of that. So her integrity and credibility are important. Plus, she’s a public figure. She’s right there, front and center of this project and is one of the people entrusted with $90m in public money and with zero accountability.
And she’s a liar; and by all reported accounts and allegations thus far, a fraud.
Look at it from the bright side, Chris is just incompetent and a liar. So there is that.
The third person in this circus, is this fellow, Ortwin. There is a whole history there between him, Chris, and failed German movie investment ventures. I had promised to keep this blog short (hey, I tried!), so I have trimmed that off for another blog. It’s a fantastic read, complete with translated court documents. Thanks to my German friends and contacts for helping out with that one. As soon as I publish that, it will all be clear why we should be asking questions about this project and the people we gave all this money to.
So these are the people we gave $90m to, who have yet to deliver any product and have thus far not accounted for any of this money.
UPDATE: After I had written this blog, my sources notified me that she has recently hired a new marketing person from the mobile sector on a three month probation period, with a view to this new hire replacing her in marketing so she can exit the company. More as this develops.
RIGHT. SO NOW WHAT?
On Aug 21st, I had my CA attorneys, working in concert with my FL attorneys, draft a demand letter which was sent to RSI. That letter asked for three things which, by RSI’s own declarations in their ToS, backers are entitled to.
1) Accounting for backer money
2) An accurate completion date for the project
3) Refunds for all those who requested it
You would think that a company that was looking to do the right thing would find these to be reasonable. As I had posted before, we fully expected them to either ignore the letter, or tell us to go pound sand.
They exceeded my expectations. Here, please read their response which attorneys received on Aug 28th, and which I got to see on Sept 3rd.
The original version of this blog, contained detailed responses to each paragraph of their letter. But as part of my bid to keep this blog short, I removed them in favor of our Sept 14th response instead.
1) The “personal address” info he’s talking about, is related to the Zillow listing from one of my blogs. In other words, public record with no relevance or anything identifying any of the parties. It was there to show what backer money was being spent on. They never lived in such luxury before this project.
2) The issue with the first refund check is pure bullshit. If they sent it to the wrong address, it would have been returned to them. Even after a month. Despite that, I had my office call them to let them know that it had been received.
3) This part, I want to excerpt for context because it should concern every backer of this project.
“Firstly, there is obviously no legal basis for your client’s request and your letter cites no such authority. Secondly, the ample information provided regularly on our extensive website, including monthly progress reports from each studio, published headcounts and the like, would enable any person familiar with the cost of game development to assess the proper spending of the funds raised. Your client claims to be such an experienced person, so we are a bit perplexed about this demand coming in particular from him.”
Just ponder that for a moment. In fact, when I made the above excerpt public, here is a response from a former backer who was lucky to have received a refund through my efforts. Quoted verbatim:
“Is he serious?
When I was a Backer I had no idea (and still don’t today) how to “assess the proper spending of the funds raised” based on Bugsmashers, Around the Verse, 10 for the Chairman, Wingman’s Hangar and Meet the Devs. The monthly status reports told me nothing about how much money was spent on X, how much on Y, how much for this cost, and how much for that cost.
It’s interesting we had this conversation on your blog and in private and the conclusion was made that there were just too many variables and not enough information available to figure out how much money CIG has spent and how much remains. We came up with a ballpark of 2-3 million per month that CIG needs to make in order to meet obligations but that was based on pure conjecture. All of our discussions were based on, as Mr. Freyermuth calls it, “ample information provided regularly on our extensive website”.
No one can understand CIG’s financials based on anything they’ve published because all of it is marketing material. The conclusion is Mr. Freyermuth is lying, which isn’t surprising given Chris Roberts’ rampant misleading statements.”
Thing is, this is nonsense. No such information exists. And he’s saying that backers should rely on the word of people who have, time and time again, lied about one thing or the other with this project. That’s like telling the IRS you spent money on travel without showing the receipts of any airline tickets. This is precisely what everyone keeps complaining about, hence the calls for financial accountability.
4) The personal attacks were just laughable. First, I have no tax liens. The fact of the matter is that I tend to make too much (if the IRS says you owe close to $250K, you probably shouldn’t be complaining about income) money due to my various investments. And when you are self-employed and the IRS sends you a bill for under-reporting, the minute you dispute it – as most tend to do – they automatically file a lien (which goes in the public record) against you if the amount is over $25K. That’s a fact. It’s pretty much tantamount to how they handle rampant asset forfeiture. The IRS hits first, then asks questions later. And the liens they dug up from public records and which he is talking about, are from 2003, 2004. And they were removed (marked as satisfied) once the matter was closed, mere months later. It’s all right there in the public record.
As to the bankruptcy. That one was funny, especially considering that, even though it was recorded as discharged less than two months later, there’s more to the story than that, and an ID theft police report actually exists for it. And that was back in 1998 btw. And it was actually a huge discussion on UseNet back in the day.
And when you see someone who has a string of failed Hollywood and videogame projects, having been unceremoniously ejected from the industry, and whose last game was decades ago, talking about failures, you know that they’re clutching at straws. It’s rather embarrassing for them if you ask me.
So yeah, they had to go dumpster diving for dirt apparently. Whatever. Good thing I don’t have a criminal record, parking or speeding tickets etc, they’d probably have thrown a party.
And yes, I’m making their letter with this information public because, i) it’s going into the public record anyway, since it’s going to be in our complaint ii) unlike them, I have nothing to hide. I am surprised they stopped there, to be honest. In fact, we already expected this sort of thing, which is precisely why I wrote my Urban Legend blog once it became clear that we were headed for legal action and that attacking someone’s credibility was going to be the first thing on the table.
It should be noted that, around the same time of their letter, I had been doxed (some of the material wasn’t even mine) over on the MassivelyOP website (a click-bait site that is seemingly the premier Star Citizen media shill site) by one of the White Knights who had also done the same thing on Reddit. Facing the threat of implied legal action since doxing is criminal in every State, after them going back and forth with my legal and my office, MassivelyOp acted quickly to remove the material. Reddit had already removed it of their own accord.
I’ve been around the block for a minute. I’m an old school Internet denizen. I’m used to being attacked. None of this fazes me. And I have absolutely nothing to lose. So if they think that they’re going to stop me by sending their White Knight goons to attack me, try to discredit (that’s always hilarious) and/or harass me into silence, they’re shockingly naive. All that does is strengthen my resolve and proves to the world at large that there is something going on here. Attacking the messenger is usually the method employed when you want to bury the message.
So these are the sort of people that we’re dealing with.
Remember, I was once a backer who gave $250 to this project, right from the start back in 2012. And as I wrote in my Interstellar Justice blog, shortly after my first blog hit, and it got propagated, they refunded me without my asking, made it public both on their forums and by releasing a press statement. Something they haven’t done to any other backer. As in ever. They made it personal.
THE END GAME
As they have been advised, we are left with no choice but to take legal action because it’s the only way that we are going to be able to get to the bottom of this, as they clearly have no intentions of doing the right thing.
In addition to that, we’ve already sent complaints and detailed (you think my blogs are detailed? If you knew half the stuff that’s not even made public yet, your hair will turn White) reports to the Federal and State authorities. As I’ve said before, what the authorities choose to do, is up to them. My guess is that given the sheer amount of money involved, coupled with the compiled material, there is no way they can ignore this.
While this has all been going on since my first blog, they have been quietly giving out refunds. Even to people who were refused refunds months before my first blog hit.
And barely a month ago, as he has done so many times in the past, Chris Roberts is still making promises (1, 2) that the game is now coming out in 2016. I remember back when he said it was coming in 2014. Then it was coming in 2015.
In my opinion, what has gone on with this project is tantamount to a long con. Regardless, given what has transpired with this project, it is clear that every single person who put money into this project, is now at great risk of losing their investment. RSI/CIG do not have the capability to develop nor deliver this product as promised. At $65m, they already had an insurmountable amount of work they promised to deliver. Seriously, take a look (1, 2). And they have thus far received $90m and climbing. Four years later, still no game, or anything that even resembles one. Not even 25% of a game.
Edward H. Smith lists the “six definite steps or stages of growth in every finely balanced and well-conceived confidence game.”
1. Foundation Work – The preparations, which are made before the scheme is put in motion, including the elaboration of the plan, the employment of assistants, and so forth.
They spent a year creating a very expensive tech demo.
2. Approach – The manner of getting in touch with the victim — often most elaborately and carefully prepared.
They announced Star Citizen at GDC 2012. Then released a movie of the tech demo in a Kickstarter campaign to incredible reception.
3. Build-up – Rousing and sustaining the interest of the victim, introducing the scheme to him, and filling him with so much anticipation and cupidity that his judgment is warped and his caution thrown away.
They have been doing a constant stream of marketing videos, convention events, concept and ship sales etc. All designed to keep raising funds and selling items for a game that doesn’t exist. This despite the fact that they had pledged – in writing – never to spend backer money on marketing or PR.
4. Pay-off or Convincer – An actual or apparent paying of money by the conspirators to convince the victim and settle doubts by a cash demonstration. In the old banco game, the initial small bets which the victim was allowed to win were the pay-off. In stock swindles, the fake dividends sent to stockholders to encourage larger investments are the pay-off.
The largely broken and buggy game modules (Hangar, Arena Commander, Social Module) exist for the sole purpose of convincing backers to continue pouring money into the project. This is evidenced by the money raised with each convention, each periodic ship sale etc. For example, the recent GameCom 2015 which proved beyond the shadow of doubt, that most of the funding comes from existing backers.
5. The Hurrah – This is like the denouement in a play, and no con scheme is complete without it. It is a sudden crisis or unexpected development by which the mark is pushed over the last doubt or obstacle and forced to act. Once the hurrah is sprung, either the scammer has total control, or the con fails.
Let’s start with the revision of the ToS and the surreptitious revision that added another six months to the accountability time line. Then work our way toward the reveals in the dev blogs which show the crisis in various parts of the project. The recent lockdown of the RSI forums making critical areas accessible only to backers, is part of giving them control over dissenting opinions.
6. The In-and-In – This is the point in a con game where the conspirator puts some of his money into the deal with that of the victim; first, to remove the last doubt that may tarry in the gull’s mind, and, second, to put the con man in control of the situation after the deal is completed, thus forestalling a squeal. Often, the whole game is built up around this feature, and just as often, it does not figure at all.
As I explained above, once they end up “delivering” a bunch of buggy, incomplete modules, probably meshed together to form some type of “game”, backers are likely to end up with a $10 box, at the cost of $100. And with no legal recourse whatsoever because they did in fact deliver a “box” as promised.
My next blog, “Star Citizen – The Great Internet Heist” is in progress and will be out next month; unless something really important happens before then. In which case, I will probably release an interim update.
UPDATE: While I was waiting clearance for the blog, a notorious and controversial White Knight (featured in this fiasco) posted a response letter he received to an FOIA request. Then, taking a break from attacking me, he proceeded to spam all the media outlets in an attempt to do what they always do: use the media to further an agenda of disinformation about this project. That seemingly failed, with spectacular results. But of course MassivelyOp created click-bait out of it.
This is the same guy who, last we checked, was over $20K (!) invested in the project, has been featured by RSI in the past, called out for his ludicrous and abusive Star Citizen advocacy, then subsequently banned from RSI forums for good measure. In fact, he’s one of the primary whales who continues to lash out at anyone, including other backers, who even put a sentence together that has any sort of dissent against Star Citizen. Go to any media or game forum where Star Citizen is the subject, and you’ll find him there. Guaranteed.
What’s even more curious is that they don’t even know how an FOIA request works. The agency responds to specific queries, and have specific exceptions to what they can, cannot respond to. Particularly an active investigation – if one does in fact exist. It says so right there in Exception #7.
Aside from that, I don’t even know where they get the idea from that RSI/CIG were under any active investigation. I know I never said it; and I again clarified that in this tweet. And reporting a matter to the authorities doesn’t automatically start an investigation, nor will they even divulge that information even if there was. By their (these White Knights) submission, you might as well pick any company that’s been reported to the FTC, then send a FOIA request to the FTC asking for details. Good luck with that.
Simply put, it doesn’t happen like that. And another Star Citizen fan went to the trouble of actually trying to explain it, as have others.
The wording in the response is key. So let me quote it for context:
“Our search of the FTC’s records did not identify any record that would respond to your request. If you believe that you have additional information that may help locate responsive records, please submit a new FOIA request with further details”
The gist here is that they’re obviously worried, as they should be. Regardless of what happens to RSI/CIG via a lawsuit, State or Federal action or whatever, in my expert opinion, unless they cut and run, the project is completely FUBAR and there is absolutely no way around it.
ps: I have decided to fund an independent third-party investigation into this project.