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QUICK THOUGHTS ON STAR CITIZEN ANNIVERSARY STREAM 2016
The 4th quarter of each year is when CIG/RSI pulls out all the stops to raise funding. The scam campaign usually starts from GamesCom (my thoughts on 2016) in Aug, then the CitizenCon (my thoughts on 2016) in Oct; and finally closes the year with the anniversary (nobody knows of what; seeing as the campaign started in Oct, not Nov – but I digress). So this 4th anniversary stream was no different in this regard.
However, in the weeks following the disastrous CitizenCon event, a growing uprising (I wrote about that here and here) among the backers who were becoming more and more vocal, had obviously made CIG nervous. Of course they went completely radio silent on the backer dissent this whole time. Most of the complaints surrounding cash sales, discount on ships which were once high priced, delivery schedule for the 2.6 and 3.0 patches promised for year end etc.
The event itself was as boring as hell. In fact, by all accounts, it was worse than CitizenCon – if you can imagine that. A few days earlier, community manager, Lando, had tweeted that they would be playing the long awaited 2.6 patch live in the stream. So the anticipation started to build up accordingly.
It started off with a 2hr long pre-show event in which they showcased Arena Commander (the dogfighting module in the suite) and flight racing which is just another game mode that uses AC. It was as uneventful as one would expect. In fact, the only noticeable items from the list of 2.6 promises, were some minor UI changes, hardly noticeable flight dynamics, some new audio – and not much else. Even what looked like the new score leaderboards were simply broken and showed inaccurate score data.
The good part? This was all setup to run on a local LAN; which from the stream showed ping rates as high as 45 (!) ms. On a LAN. You would think that for a company building an MMO and which, as of this writing has terrible sub-par netcode, that even for a low player count they would run it across the Internet. It’s not like they don’t have 4 studios around the world – all working on the game. Heck, they even flew Tyler down from Austin to LA; as they did other streamers (e.g. Twerk17, a member of redacted who recently repeated a death threat directed at me on his stream -excerpt here – by another member of redacted) sponsored by CIG.
They subsequently had to cut the stream short and took a 3hr break. Naturally backers who were expecting to see Star Marine, were disappointed and took to Reddit and the official forums to vent.
During the wait, a source reached out to me to say that they were still having technical problems with Star Marine and that they may not even show it; though they were well aware of the ramifications of not doing so.
At some point, a series of events occurred. The first of which backers found that the prices for some ships had been increased. This appeared to be in preparation for the capital ship (Idris-P, Javelin) sales which were about to go live. Well, they went live, as did the Prowler (which looks nothing like the Copperhead ship from Final Fantasy) concept (read: JPEG) ship. These capital ships were being sold in waves in which the first wave consisted of 50 Javelins @ $2,700, and 200 Idris-Ps @ $1,300. They sold out almost immediately. As of this writing, the second wave is online and has 242 Idris-Ps left in “stock” (yeah, hilarious, I know). They made over $500K on 11/18 as a result of these sales. Remember this article about the guy who sold his fleet to finance a new car? How about the Star Citizen Grey market where these ships are bought and sold – no doubt with ill-gotten gains as per money laundering?
Then a new newsletter (which was later posted on the website) hit the inbox of backers. The TL;DR is: they need more money to finish the games promised because the $130 million (at the time) raised thus far was simply not going to be enough.
In what can only be described as utterly hilarious is that they also – for the first time ever – released something of a dev schedule for the project.
For the near term builds, they show 6 weeks past, but only 3 weeks future planning. And given all the statements they were making about Star Marine, Squadron42 etc following CitizenCon, and how they were “coming soon”, if you look at the schedule, you will see that Star Marine is targeted for release in less than two weeks; though what was shown at this stream clearly indicates otherwise. More on that later.
And even the 2.6 patch (containing Star Marine) which they played on the stream, was shown as being released to Evocati on the day (11/18) of the stream. Considering that the patch schedule is dev -> internal testing -> external (Evocati) testing -> live, how does anyone see this patch being ready for live in the short term?
And the timeline for the 3.0 patch (which sources had told me simply doesn’t exist) which Chris had gone on two recent events and said was coming by end of the year; even though he knew the statement to be patently false, is clearly nowhere in the near term schedule. In fact, it doesn’t even have a schedule. Just a listing similar to the Powerpoint slides that he has used at the two previous events. The Squadron 42 game which was coming in 2015, then 2016, and pushed into 2017, doesn’t appear in the schedule either.
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When the stream came back at 1pm PST/4pm EST, as my source had indicated, they were still having technical problems with Star Marine. They started off with more Arena Commander, more racing, ship sale shilling akin to Home Shopping Network, some talk about the lore (none of which made a lick of sense to anyone but Chris); then finally Star Marine. Even then they still couldn’t get it running. So they had another delay during which Lesnick proceeded with the usual nonsensical bullshit he’s notorious for.
For what amounted to a 4 hr stream, the highly anticipated Star Marine session came at the end (starts @1:37 and ends @1:59) – and lasted for all of 20 mins.
The less said about the controversial Star Marine, the better. It was just so embarrassing. The most depressing part for backers is that it looked a lot worse that anything they had shown in previous years, and which were built by Illfonic (no longer on the project). Seriously CIG has succeeded in licensing a top-notch CryTek engine built for fps games, and found themselves unable to actually make an fps from it. None of the innovation promised these past years are in it. Not a single (vaulting <— lol) item. What they have now shown and coming to backers in 2.6 is barely different from the fps module currently in main Star Citizen (aka Persistent Universe) game. It is devoid of any innovation or anything that would try to pass for a module in a game that’s 4+ years and over $130 million in the making. You can go right now on Steam and pick any fps game in Early Access (e.g. Angels Fall First) and see better multiplayer fps. Forget about the slew of top notch triple-A fps games which recently came out, with others being released in the coming months.
Also forget about it being pre-Alpha and all that, we get it. What we don’t get is, who exactly thought that what they have now shown as coming was worthy of the wait and almost 2 year delay? The end result is that this is just one more check box from the list of promises and which, regardless of how they do it, can now be considered as delivered to backers. Bear in mind that this module was once canceled and Chris went on to say that he gets annoyed when backers bring it up because they were already playing it in the PU. Yeah.
The Squadron 42 demo/trailer which they said was “coming soon” but which they claimed wasn’t quite ready for CitizenCon, was of course a no-show. No, we didn’t see that coming – at all. Especially since I had said that it was all lies; and which sources had confirmed was in no shape to be shown live. So Chris lied again. And of course following the show, backers are now again discussing that very same issue.
So what did backers get?
- More production work on a shilling video designed to sell ships and raise money
- A wonky and completely unfinished 2.6 play through which doesn’t even have 50% of what was promised
- A 20 min play through of an unfinished and sub-par Star Marine which doesn’t even have 10% of what was promised
- A dev schedule which is barely pandering, neither contains meaningful data nor schedules for the entire project of both games
- No 3.0 patch which was promised as “before end of the year” since GamesCon in August
- No Squadron 42 demo which was promised and claimed to be “coming soon” following CitizenCon in Oct
Then they followed all this up by breaking yet another promise they had previously made to backers, by putting back on sale a slew of “rare” ships they said would never be sold again. Then they increased the prices to boot.
IF IT SOUNDS LIKE A SCAM, LOOKS LIKE A SCAM, FEELS LIKE A SCAM…
For sometime now I have been saying that they simply couldn’t build the game as pitched, but that even if they had the tech and the talent, that it would take a very long time and a lot (I had estimated $150+ million) of money to do it. They neither have the tech, nor the talent. And now they no longer have the time or money; which is why they keep using all these tricks to keep milking the few whales still giving them money due to Sunk Cost Fallacy.
This now released dev schedule which only spans 2.6 through to 4.0 (slated for end of 2017) and which accounts for barely 30% of what was promised in terms of gameplay features, should be of grave concern to any backer who was previously on the fence. It shows a game with an 8 to 10 year development span; of which they have already chewed through 4 (if you give them a pass on 2011 preparation which would make it have made it 5) years. And considering that they have never – ever – met a single milestone schedule in 4 years, it’s safe to say that this dev schedule now shared in that ludicrous “open development” nonsense, is just pandering (through blatant lies) to gullible whales in much the same manner in which they’ve used tech demos these past years to achieve the same results. Heck, back when Arena Commander was first released, they promised regular dev scheduled dates. They went with it for a whole two months – then stopped. Then they released 2.0 last Dec with the promise of “monthly” incremental patch updates. Yeah, that didn’t happen either. Then he stopped given dates entirely. Until he started again. Then promptly missed every – single – one to date. Here we are. Again.
It gets worse. Given their average crowd-funding starting from when they were lean to ramping up to over 400+ people across 4 studios, it stands to reason that there is no way they are going to keep raising $30+ million a year to keep this farce going for as long as it takes to get some version of the two promised games in a released state. And the release of Squadron 42 which is now squarely into some unknown date next year, isn’t going to change anything.
By his very conduct and statements, Chris Roberts is clearly a liar and scam artist. This whole project has now devolved into what many believe to be a massive scam in which millions of dollars have been taken from the gamers who crowd-funded this project; not to mention the bankers and investors who have had a hand in funding it. And when it collapses, it will have long term ramifications for the gaming industry, not to mention crowd-funding itself.