Reply To: Star Citizen – Musings
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SQUADRON 42 – #JUSTANOTHERGAME MODE?
With all the recent musings and rumors, not to mention the switch to Lumberyard rekindling talk of SQ42 coming to consoles, it’s looking a lot like, just as I said in the past*, that SQ42 could very well end up being another game module within the pre-existing game launcher.
*”A recent rumor that’s been floating around also suggests that SQ42 will probably no longer exist as a separate game as previously planned. Instead, the missions will be rolled into Star Citizen, thus making it just another game mode like Arena Commander and Star Marine. Yeah, it’s hilarious. Especially when you consider that they split it into a separate product earlier this year; no doubt in order to maximize sales, as well as spin it off as its own title; thus justifying a console port, as well as DLC (episodic content etc).
To be honest, as a developer, and given the structure of the what they’ve built so far, I think making it a game mode and accessible via the Star Citizen menu, is probably a good call. Though it is mission based single-player, but originally billed to support co-op (which requires networking support), it makes sense. In fact, doing that could also enable them to bring back co-op play. But that would require revisions to the missions of course. And if nothing else, it would be consistent with the other game modules (hangar, persistent universe, star marine, arena commander).”
To that end, someone in my forum recently posed this question as to its legality.
“I honestly don’t see a legal way for them to just roll SQ42 into the main game similar to hangar or AC once they separated the games and started selling it as a completely separate “game”. Wouldn’t that essentially make it false advertising/fraudulent sales, no matter how much sense it would make? Or am I missing something.“
Actually they can do it; and it would be perfectly legal.
Remember that right now the main game launcher is just a menu system. You can go to the hangar, arena commander, star marine, and the Star Citizen (aka Persistent Universe aka pee-you). When you
pledge buy the game – without SQ42 – you get all of that. If you buy a stand-alone ship (cheapest being $45), and also SQ42, then you get access to everything. So basically, for a low price of $90, you can get access to both Star Citizen and SQ42. Except that most of the ships they have been selling – some at thousands of dollars – either have zero functionality, let alone supporting modes (e.g. news, farming, mining, exploration etc), or they haven’t even been built yet.
If they roll SQ42 into the game launcher, then it’s just another menu item like the above. Which means that it will run just like those modules, in a stand-alone fashion, and with no connection to them.
Since SQ42 is just a single player game that takes place within the same game universe; and seeing as they still haven’t even built the other systems yet, let alone all the areas (e.g. planets) where the missions take place, it makes sense for it to be just another game mode.
Think about it. There is no SQ42 without them building the rest of the star systems – including planets – which they claim (1, 2) will be using a combination of procedural generation and hand-crafted areas. Even if they end up building them, they are shared by both the pee-you and SQ42. So why would they want to make it a separate “game” outside of the game launcher? There is no sense in that.
So whether or not they make it a standalone game, with its own launcher etc, or it’s #justanothergamemode accessible via the standard game launcher, it will end up being the same game. It just means that for those who bought only SQ42, they have to figure out a way to only enable just that module when the game is launched; thus restricting access to the others.
And as long as they deliver something called SQ42, they are legally in the clear. But they won’t, because that game is pretty specific in what was promised.
Funny thing is, back when I was developing All Aspect Warfare & Angle Of Attack, they both used the same game engine/modules/world etc. However, AOA was just the aerial combat portion and which had its own menu even though it was basically the same game, but with only planetary air combat missions (not present in AAW). Basically, one large game, split into two, and with different experiences (AAW is combined arms, AOA is planetary air combat).
Aside from all this, after completely missing all (2014, 2015, 2016) ship dates, SQ42 didn’t make an appearance in Citizen2016. After major backlash, they made a video called Road To CitizenCon which they used to explain how so close they were to showing it, but then couldn’t make it – at the last minute. Here’s the burning question. They knew – beforehand – that they couldn’t make it, why didn’t they disclose that during the show? Further, it stands to reason that they knew beforehand, and had the foresight to make a video – ahead of time – about their inability to show, let alone release it. That was Aug 2016. So, they were this close but didn’t make it; yet, now almost two months later, not only have they not even shown whatever it was they were so close to releasing, but, like the much touted 3.0, it’s not even in the dev schedule.
I remember back when some backers were saying that since it didn’t get shown in Dec 2016, that it’s possible that it would be a Q1/17 release. Well, here we are – and Q1 ends in less than a month and half.
WHY 3.0 REMAINS A PIPE DREAM
It was all lies. Right from the start when it was being touted as far back as Summer 2016, then officially took center stage during GamesCon in Aug, it was already clear. From that presentation in which Chris Roberts stated the following, then they released 2.6.0 instead, it was already clear.
“..so, it’s our big end of the year release. er so er yeah, so we’re gonna get it out the end of the year; hopefully not on December 19th but, er, like last year….but it is a big one, so, not making er, I got shot for making promises, but er, that’s our goal“
Excerpt of what I said in Nov 2016
“When it comes to the 3.0 patch, backers may as well just reconcile the fact that they were lied to – again. It’s not even a case of a missed schedule. He basically came up with a list of features (none of which, according to sources, exists or in a form that would have lent any credibility to his “end of year” promise) he knew backers would fall for, then put it out there as “coming soon”; thus – like the demos at GamesCom and CitizenCon – raising money from the few whales who are still dumb enough to keep giving him money.
Rumors and source leaks aside, the writing is on the wall. They are either going to move 2.6 into 2017 – as indeed they should if it’s not ready for test release – or they will try to push some interim 2.5.x minor branch out in order to quash some of the dissent. But the fact remains, waiting until the last minute, or at a time when the bad news won’t affect the anniversary stream, is just another dishonest plan, and one which has become a staple for them.
3.0 status: sources say all are still laughing at this one. It simple does NOT exist as was communicated to backers. It was basically a wishlist of items they wanted to see in a point release; and which Roberts when on the record (again) as saying was coming by “year end, and not on Dec 19th like last year“.“
Excerpt of what I said in Sept 2016
“While it does not absolve them of the liability of breaking an NDA, it’s easy to see why it makes sense to the people doing it. Especially in light of the fact that this latest leak has clearly shown that not only is the 2.6 patch most likely not coming in Oct; but that given that the test pattern has a lengthy period from “limited Evocati –> wide testing –> live“, it means that it probably won’t be out until sometime in the Nov/Dec time frame. And that, my friends, all but guarantees that the much touted 3.0 (aka the Jesus Patch) which Chris was heavily promoting at GamesCom as coming by end of the year, is not being released this year. At all. Yeah, I know – shocking. Note that there isn’t even a 2.7 patch. It was once talked about, then came GamesCom and Chris saying that after 2.5 (current), there will be 2.6, and then it’s onto 3.0 – the Jesus Patch which fixes everything, and includes all of the latest promises.“
In the past weeks, some backers have now realized that they were blatantly lied to – again. And a little over a week ago, as I wrote here, Ali B (Ben Parry’s boss) in a rare appearance in the community, made another post that added fuel to the fire.
“This will most likely be a setup issue with the trigger volumes and logic that the art & design teams use to control color grading across the level (e.g. if you manage to escape a space station but don’t pass through specific trigger volumes then the color grade might not be updated). If there is a known set of steps to reliably reproduce the issue I’d recommend raising it in the issue council.
This setup however is intended to be replaced with a more reliable and systemic system to control color grading where every room is tagged with the desired color grade / mood (either by art or procedurally by code). This system will be updated every frame and doesn’t rely on hand placed trigger volumes so will never get into an incorrect state, even if you somehow teleport from one location to another. This will likely have a dependency on the ‘room system’ being developed in LA so it’s something we intend to address later in the year, and is a required feature for both 3.0 and Squadron 42.
Cheers,” – Ali Brown – Director of Graphics Engineering
Basically they knew – back in Aug 2016 – that whatever Chris Roberts said was 3.0 and coming before Dec 19th, wasn’t true. Not even an over-estimation, because we’re now in February, and they’ve only just released 2.6.1 patch to the public test universe; with the next one being 2.6.2. And the dev schedule makes no mention of 3.0, let alone anything about Squadron 42. In this regard, with 2.6.1 supposedly going live by Feb 17th, it stands to reason that 2.6.2 is most likely another month or two away, depending on what they put in it.
So if back in Aug Chris said they were working on getting it out by Dec 19th, that would mean it had to have already been in development. That means, by the time 2.6.2 is out, assuming they don’t do another 2.6.x patch or even 2.7 (as Todd Pappy let slip in a recent broadcast), that would be almost eight months since Chris stated it, and four months since it was due. And there is already a major Reddit discussion asking for the 3.0 schedule.
It’s safe to say then that both 3.0 and SQ42 (which needs 3.0 framework) stand very little – if any – chance of coming out even in the Summer 2017. Which means, all eyes are to Gamescom in Aug or CitizenCon in Dec. Even with GDC, E3 and two more PAX events ahead of Gamescom, they don’t traditionally release anything at those shows. In fact, last year they skipped mostly all events, while opting for only Gamescom and CitizenCon.
At the end of the day, they can brand any build as 3.0, and call it a day. All with complete disregard for promises made. And they can do this with impunity because even as they continue to do so, and whales, in Sunk Cost Fallacy, keep propping it up, they get the impression that they have a blank check. And with that, they have zero incentive to finish the games as promised, let alone deliver on any promises made.
WHY THE E.L.E CONTINUES TO BE A GOING CONCERN
When, almost a year ago, I wrote an Extinction Level Event blog, in my description of what I believe to be the slow and gradual death of the project, and a total loss of backer money, some people thought it was just hyperbole. Especially since they were all under the impression that SQ42 and Star Citizen were going to be completed and released by the end of 2016.
The latest metrics (1, 2, 3) are a clear indicator that funding (1, 2) and backer (many whales have, and continue to, put in for refunds) numbers are on the decline. Even as I had written (1, 2) about the funding and accountability issues, it appears that a lot more people are coming to the sad realization that, when it’s all said and done, what I said back in July 2015 in my first blog, and which started a major backlash and attacks against me from not only CIG/RSI, but also their toxic backers, continues to play out and remains true.
“Without disrespect to anyone, I’m just going to say it: it is my opinion that, this game, as has been pitched, will never get made.Ever.
There isn’t a single publisher or developer on this planet who could build this game as pitched, let alone for anything less than $150 million.
The original vision which I backed in 2012? Yes, that was totally doable. This new vision? Not a chance.“
We’re now in year six (five if you refuse to take 2011 into account, despite Chris Roberts claiming the game was in dev then). With over 350 – 500 people across almost a dozen studios, having been involved in the project – and almost $143 million (not including loans, investors etc) of backer money, the game is still very much in pre-Alpha. It’s not even alpha, let alone beta, by Chris Roberts’ own definition of what those actually mean as per his development.
As I wrote extensively last month, Chris has already gone on the record describing the development funding as akin to a Ponzi scheme.
“First of all, we always have a decent amount of money in reserve, so if all support would collapse, we would not suddenly be incapacitated. We plan the scope of the development based on what arrives monthly by the people to support. I’m not worried, because even if no money came in, we would have sufficient funds to complete Squadron 42. The revenue from this could in-turn be used for the completion of Star Citizen.” – Chris Roberts, 2016
And those words are being echoed today by some backers who somehow have been led to believe that, even with all this money already pre-paid for the games, that there is a very good chance that it won’t be enough to deliver the two games promised. And that SQ42, a niche space combat title, is somehow going to be so awesome and ground breaking, that millions of gamers who aren’t already entitled to it, are going to buy it, thus keeping the operations going. Those people are the same fools who keep throwing money into an open furnace.
How foolish do you have to be to believe that when triple A games like COD:IW (barely 400K units on Steam), and Elite Dangerous (1 million units on Steam) in the space combat genre aren’t selling those kind of numbers (note that by Jan 2016, Elite Dangerous, a vastly superior game had sold 1.4 million units), that somehow SQ42 is going to be the magnum opus that’s going to continue funding this operation to the tune of over $35m a year. Not to mention that a single studio (F42-UK), as I wrote last month, burned through over 50% of that in 2015 alone; and will most likely burn through even more, given the increased resources needed for 2016.
And that’s precisely why they have not only been downsizing gradually (lots of departures in Q4/16 and in the new year) without making any noise (rumors are that Behavior Interactive is the latest third-party studio no longer working on the project) , but also said to be converting some employees to contractors. The latter is clearly an attempt to not only save money, but also save money and image because contractors don’t have the same termination protections, benefits etc as employees. And contractors, like third-party studios, can come and go without fanfare. It’s also why they have to keep using all kinds of tricks (cash-only sales, sales of JPEG ships with zero chance of making it into the game, R&D demos posing as actual game code etc) to keep raising money. Even though the project has already been funded by almost 3x what was originally needed – even after the vision 2.0 scope creep.
At this point in time, it should already be crystal clear that SQ42 and Star Citizen stand very little chance of being completed and released in 2017. Regardless of whether or not you believe the dev schedule, or the Aug 2016 dev slides, it’s just not possible, given the sheer amount of work left to complete. All backers can do now is wait and see what does get released in 2017; and whether or not the whole thing gradually collapses before they get a game worth the thousands that some have put into it.