STAR CITIZEN VERSION 3.0 LOOKS SET TO LIVEN UP THE GALAXY – Polygon, Aug 2016
To say the entire Star Citizen stream and Chris Roberts’ GamesCom 2017 presentation were an unmitigated disaster, would be an understatement. If you haven’t yet done so, you should read my coverage of the daily streams because they will serve to give a better insight (PC Invasion also has a really good one) as to how we got here, and why Chris’s presentation ended up being such a massive disappointment which now serves as even more irrefutable evidence that the project is FUBAR. Heck, as I had previously written for months now, various sources had been telling me how much of a disaster the 3.0 build was, but I was still shocked by what I saw – live.
Before we begin, I would like to lay out a few things which serve to set the stage, and illustrate why this particular presentation, like last year, was so vital.
- I backed this project right off the bat in 2012 because I wanted to see the game (which was pitched), made. According to their own nomenclature, I am an original backer. I backed it just like I did all the other space combat games I crowd-funded over the years, whether or not they succeeded or failed. My goal isn’t, never was, and isn’t going to be about me wanting to see the project fail; that I’m jealous (which is hilarious, considering that I’ve been making games for 30 years, while Chris got kicked out of the biz over a decade before 2012) of Chris Roberts, or any of the nonsense that those guys keep spouting because it makes them sleep better at night. Despite the fact that my first July 2015 blog about this farce, as well as quite a few investigative reports, made these points clear, those trying to obfuscate the issue, are making this about me, instead of about Chris Roberts and the failed project. In fact, all said and done, I really do feel sorry for him because this project has completely sealed his fate as an incompetent, lying scammer, and egotistical con man. You can never recover from that. Especially after you’ve scammed a group of people out of millions of dollars, while making promises you can’t or don’t intend to keep.
- As I wrote in a short missive a few days ago, and as I have said for over two years now, vindication aside, I’m going to continue exposing this scam and will do everything in my power to ensure that they don’t get away with it.
- In Jan 2017, Chris Roberts made the following statements:
“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.” – $141M raised.
- In Aug 2016 (at GamesCom), Chris Roberts made the following statements:
“..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.” – $118M raised.
- In Sept 2014, Chris Roberts made the following statements:
“Long ago I stopped looking at this game the way I did when I worked for a publisher who gave me a fixed budget to make a retail game. I now look at our monthly fundraising and use that to set the amount of resources being used to develop this game. We keep a healthy cash reserve so that if funding stopped tomorrow we would still be able to deliver Star Citizen (not quite to the current level of ambition, but well above what was planned in Oct 2012).” – $54M raised.
- In Apr 2013, Chris Roberts made the following statements:
“In the old model as a developer I would have captured 20 cents on the dollar,” Roberts said. “Ultimately that means I can make the same game for a fifth of the revenue, a fifth of the sales, and I can be more profitable, and I can exist on lower unit sales. I think that’s good for gamers, because crowdfunding and digital distribution are enabling more nichey stuff to be viable. It’s also allowing gamers to have their voice heard, and have their influence earlier in the process. You don’t really have your input into how Call of Duty’s being made.” – $8.6M raised
- In Oct 2012, Chris Roberts made the following statements:
“You have stated that you expect to have an Alpha up and going in about 12 months, with a beta roughly 10 months after that and then launch. For a game of this size and scope, do you think you can really be done in the next 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.” – $2.5M raised.
- Having pitched a completely different 3.0 build in Q4/16, it wasn’t until April 2017 that the first dev schedule for 3.0 was released. What should have been another major alarm bell, was mostly down-played by most of the hardcore zealots. You can read my analysis. Just this past August, after missing every single release date since that time, they just went ahead and completely removed the “release aim dates” from the schedule. And that was AFTER Chris went on an Aug 3rd AtV broadcast to explain why 3.0 was delayed, what was in it etc. No wait, that’s not all!
- The project is in pre-alpha. What that means is that six years and $157M later, they are nowhere near where they need to be. This invariably means that by the time they go through all the dev stages (pre-alpha->alpha->beta->release candidate->release), all of which have several builds over several months, the project would have been dead. The reason is simple: they’ve yet to deliver even 15% of the what they promised, having raised $65M back in Nov 2014. If this were a project funded by a publisher or other dev, it would have either been canceled by now, or chopped up and shipped in order to recoup some of the costs. Now we are seeing why, his poor reputation aside, all the publishers that Chris Roberts pitched this game (using a different name, starting with his attempts to use Wing Commander), to, just rejected it.
- The last patch for the game was 2.6.3 released in April 7th 2017. As I type this, there are over 3000+ bugs logged on their website for that build. Some of those bugs have been in there since as far back as the first hangar module release in 2013.
Finally, a LOT has been written about this train wreck, so if you haven’t been keeping up, there is no way you are going to actually grasp the gravity of the situation that the project is now in. However, even if you don’t read my rather extensive Star Citizen blogs, at the very least, please read these updates as a sort of primer. 07-29-2017, 07-08-2017 , 05-26-2017 , 04-18-2017 , 12-13-2016
STAR CITIZEN GC2017 BLOOPERS (A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS)
GAMESCOM 2017 – THE EPIC DISASTER
When we found out that Twitch and YouTube streamers at the show were going to be playing the buggy and performance hog that is pre-release 3.0, instead of the current 2.6.3 build (which wasn’t even played at the show btw), most of us “in the know” weren’t at all surprised. However, what was surprising was that it wasn’t even the current “state image” of the build. Instead CIG and their streamers were playing a stripped down version of 3.0. That build had a single moon with two outposts (non-interactive), two ground vehicles, two ships – and no game loop. In fact, not only was there no connection to the persistent universe as far as “space” was concerned, but it was just a standard CryEngine level in which any concept of “space” was just the empty area around (think sphere in a Black box) the level itself. And they had to reset it every 10 to 15 minutes. CIG made several statements indicating that they had deliberately disabled certain functionality, and that the full 3.0 build would be seen being played during Chris’s presentation.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, while all of that was going on, Chris announced in an interview with GameStar.de that Squadron 42 wasn’t being shown or played, thus confirming what sources had already told me that it was now scheduled for a 2018 release. And he never once mentioned it during his presentation.
6 YEARS + $156 MILLION + 500 PEOPLE (PAST & PRESENT) BROUGHT YOU THIS
GAMESCOM 2017 – CHRIS ROBERTS STAR CITIZEN PRESENTATION
Though the 3.0 hype had somewhat died down due to what had previously been seen during the streaming of the scaled down version, there was still some hope that backers were going to at least see the features touted for this release. Sure, as a pre-alpha game in development, bugs and performance issues are expected. But when you’re looking at a six year project that has raised $156M (at the time), you tend to expect to see some progress. For all intent and purposes, there seems to have been very little progress made between the 2016 presentation and this one.
This time Chris didn’t even bother to do slides of the 3.0 roadmap as he had done last year, and he said this right off the bat. However, he did bring slides showing the work that was being planned/done by Turbulent. This includes a new game launcher, patcher, and some VOIP stuff. All the things that you can get in lots of third-party software already.
He then declared that they were going to be playing 3.0 live. Here’s the thing, Chris wasn’t playing the game. In fact, except for that one time which ended in a complete disaster, backers have never – ever – seen him play his own game in any meaningful fashion. What he does is “direct” his team playing the game. And he got to do this again, complete with scripted role-playing dialog. And no, I didn’t make that last part up.
While some may be OK with the fact that “they played 3.0 live”, what’s lost in translation is that, yet again, this was a build created specifically (UPDATE: This was proven to be the case merely days later) for this show. Like all the others before it. He has pulled this same stunt, year after year at both GamesCom (Aug) and CitizenCon (Oct) which are their peak fundraising events. If this was a build that was meant to be played for people to experience it unfiltered, they would have been playing it during the live stream. Instead, they came to the show with two builds. One for the live stream, and the other for his presentation. Now you have to wonder which of these two builds is the one being worked on, and now said to be coming out in early October.
Anyway, the “presentation” build was supposed to be of a single mission loop meant to show backers some of the progress in various areas of the project. Nothing more than a cookie-cutter quest mission. Start game, go meet a guy (who apparently doesn’t have email or a comms device) at a bar about a job. The job? Go get a Red box somewhere on a barren moon, put it on a ship, and deliver it to another moon. I shit you not. That’s it. All of it.
And it DIDN’T WORK!
So how did it all go so very wrong? Oh God, where to begin? Just look at the blooper reel to see how it all went down. But basically everything completely fell apart right from the start.
- The NPC quest giver, Miles Eckhart, was only visible to one client. The others had to pretend he was there. They knew where he would be anyway, so there’s that. But since we could see split-screen, they got busted on this part. At that point, me and my Goon army were rolling because we knew that the disaster was already off to a great start.
- The Red box was invisible to the person who picked it up, and it could only be seen by the others. This issue, and others later (e.g. the girl driving the Rover couldn’t see the attacking fighters), made it clear that the mission quest itself was basically single player, and hadn’t been created to work in a multi-player environment. Basically the other clients were supporting actors in Chris’s elaborate movie production designed to mislead backers.
- The rover chassis and wheels, being separate entities, were moving incorrectly (e.g. the wheels were animated moving backwards). This aside from the fact that being handled separately and incorrectly is what caused the disaster on the ramp later on.
- The game crashed when the Constellation ship left the moon and jumped through space to the other moon. Then, get this, they had to restart the whole thing from scratch, then do a speed run through. Seriously, it was hilarious.
- Then later on, the rail gun used from the back of the rover, missed the fighter it was firing at, and so they couldn’t destroy it as part of the scenario. So that CIG player faked his own destruction with a “suicide” instead. We even got to see them executing console cheat commands during the stream!
- Because the math for slopes is hard, and due to how they had chosen to hack together a working vehicle controller from the CryEngine base version, it was no surprise that when they attempted to drive the rover up the ramp and onto the Idris docking bay, it fell through the ramp – and exploded. At this point, we’d completely lost it. I was shocked to be honest. Such a fundamental thing wasn’t actually working. It was just so embarrassing.
- As if the Idris (it’s supposedly a capital ship) appearing wasn’t hype enough, the most amazing thing was just how lackluster the space combat was. The current flight model is pure rubbish, and we already know this because it’s been a major bane of contention since Arena Commander was first released back in June 2014, and it didn’t get much better. However granted that the Idris is a fine ship (it’s not currently playable btw), the landing on the moon, while ganky, had the wow (which the exploding rover ultimately killed) factor, the space combat portion completely ruined it. It was horrific, uninspiring for a capital ship combat – and ran at about 10 fps. If nothing else, this just served as yet another reminder that when you focus on “visual fidelity” and forgot about the “game” part of a project, you’re bound to run into serious issues down the road.
- And when they played it a second time, they got busted when Chris was told that unless a player got the rail gun from the store, the script would break.
And not only did they fail the mission, the success/fail resolution loop didn’t even close. And they attempted it twice – and still couldn’t complete it.
One person said it best:
“Their MMO, which has been in development since 2011 (f*ck you Chris and your “full production” bullshit), can’t handle the pilot of a
multicrew vessel disconnecting from the rest of the party. Their MMO doesn’t have AI, and required a full crew of people to fake a
mission experience. Their MMO couldn’t handle a rover driving on to a ramp without exploding, or feature two large ships fighting without
turning into a slide show. Their MMO is so poorly programmed that they had to script a ship exploding when it got shot. Their MMO is shit.
Their MMO is being designed by a “visionary” who, given a year to develop a vignette to show off his dream for gameplay, could only come up
with a shitty fetch quest. A visionary who is more concerned about marketing VOIP and some shitty webcam over producing any kind of gameplay.
A visionary who believes things done a decade ago are somehow novel or interesting. Their MMO is being designed by an idiot.
Their MMO isn’t a MMO. It’s a case study in poor design practices, the perils of shitty oversight, the gullibility of gamer, and the myth of
the “Great Man” game developer. It’s a condemnation of Chris Roberts and irrefutable proof that he is a fraud who is better at spending money
than designing games.“
TWO CLIENTS. ONE MILES ECKHART. MUCH HILARITY
The only AI entities in this entire production, were at the starting base. All exhibiting various issues ranging from collision issues, animations that fail to trigger, pathfinding issues etc. He even claimed that there would be hundreds of NPC entities at these bases, all going about their daily routines on a schedule etc.
As I wrote here, having spent over three decades developing games, and which entails writing game scripts for both single and multiplayer sessions, there is no way on this God’s Earth, that this basic quest mission could ever have worked in a multiplayer environment as designed. Like – at all. So once again, Chris came to a show with a carefully made demo that backers aren’t likely to be playing as shown. Sure there’s probably going to be gameplay elements such as driving on moons and planetoids – which I’ve written (1, 2) extensively about in July (back when it was obvious that they couldn’t do entire planets), as well as the new Mobiglass and other things shown. But if a very basic quest like this is not only flat-out broken, but didn’t even portray 3.0 in a good light, why does anyone think that 3.0, if it ever gets released as promised, is going to fare any better than the disastrous 2.0 did back in Dec 2015? Let alone have any such missions in it?
That’s not all, we all saw the performance issues which various sources had told me about, and which I’d discussed these past months. This Idris ship, is a frigate (which for some reason they’re now calling a capital ship) class. Having seen the performance when even one of them is in a scene, let alone two, who here believes that they’re ever going to be able to put in ships of this size in the game? Here, take a look a the ship chart updated for GC2017 and be the judge. The Idris, which is missing btw, would be in the lower left under Aegis. You can see its size comparison in this ship cross-section image. Now look at Chris’s reaction, and listen to his statements about those ships, performance, crash etc.
And given the prices of all the assets lost in this single awful mission, with the loss of the Ursa rover, the Constellation ship, the Cutlass fighters, the Idris capital ship and the missiles it fires ($10 each btw), we calculate that a bunch of fools going on this mission would have lost about $2,500 (real money!) to retrieve a Red box on a distant barren rock. That’s on each play through if they fail. LMAO!! Welcome to Star Citizen. Please buy LTI.
6 YEARS + $156 MILLION + 500 PEOPLE (PAST & PRESENT) ALSO BROUGHT YOU THIS
Amid this furor, and in between crashes, restarts, and an embarrassing display of incompetence and waste, Chris then decided to unveil the latest “new” middleware technology. This time they showcased Faceware, a gaming gimmick that has been around since 2012 when Everquest (1, 2) was tooling around with it. Of course that went nowhere; and as far as we know, nobody is actually using it. Oh, and Facerig, a similar tool which works with every webcam, has been on Steam since 2015 for $15.
But here’s the thing. This Faceware nonsense – which looks like crap in the game – was just part of the feature creep that goes as far back as Sept 2013 when it was first shown on one of the Star Citizen broadcasts. Only this time, obviously with financial incentives attached, there is now a Star Citizen branded camera peripheral being sold along with it. And like all his previously failed partnerships, including the one with Madcatz (who he decided to badmouth during the stream btw) for a joystick/keyboard combo, this is yet another opportunity to spend resources on something that has zero benefit or pertinence to the game that was pitched back in 2012. Furthermore, considering the fact that the networking remains the game’s primary underlying issue, now they’re going to add FOIP (Face Over IP), in addition to VOIP, to their network packets for an engine which, as seen in this presentation, still has serious problems with even LAN play, let alone Internet. OK then.
And these clowns can’t get a simple vehicle to drive up a ramp. After six years. And $156M.
If you think my summary was hyperbole, well, here it is, broken down to brass tacks by someone else:
- Began with a 45min delay + 3 or 4 commercials for chariots
- New features (facial recognition, voice stuff) introduced then promptly revealed to be coming after 3.0, not with it
- After warping to the quest destination, the pilot’s client crashed. The other two players were still in the ship but couldn’t interact with it
- After 10 minutes of awkward troubleshooting they eventually had to restart. Cue another 15-20 minutes of mostly silence and long shots of a black room and an increasingly angry Chris as the demo is rebooted
- Because the demo was nearly 100% scripted, they had to do everything all over again leading up to the warp crash
- this included the world’s worst RP of all time. yes, they still repeated the RP in the 2nd attempt
- They get to the planet. it’s janky. a ton of pop-in and missing models. We all begin to notice that the lighting / colors for each player (they keep switching cameras) is completely different. It’s suggested that even the time of day for players is different
- They find the quest object – a ship’s black box which turned out to be a red cube that was just laying in a random spot on the floor
- Then they were ambushed, surprising nobody
- They shot the bad guy’s ship out of the air from their moon rover, but they clearly weren’t even aiming at the guy and it was a really embarrassing moment of scripting
- An Idris comes to save them, and jitter-janks its way to the surface. It extends a ramp for the rover to climb, and the entire thread knew at once it was going to end in disaster. It did. After many failed attempts the rover clipped through the ramp and exploded. The wheels literally fell off and rolled toward the camera, and I very nearly blacked out in laughter
- Also the red black box was aboard the rover but nobody acknowledged the mission was a failure
- Sometime after this we cut to a commercial for an RSI-branded webcam. Lots of scare tactics to make you think your existing webcam lacks the horsepower to handle Star Citizen’s new facial stuff
- Later, the Idris goes to space and is ambushed a 2nd time, surprising nobody for a 2nd time
- An epic space battle ensues as two goliaths fight through 6-7fps space and jitter-jank into one another. One explodes
- It’s the end of the demo. Chris then has a sudden and definitely not scripted idea – let’s let the goliaths fight again, but this time the bad guy could win!
- It’s another 20 minutes waiting for the really obviously fake and scripted demo to spin up. It’s awkward silence. Sandi wanders on stage in her weird clown outfit to give Chris a rum and coke
- The epic space battle begins anew. I cannot notice a single difference, other than a fighter bounces off the hull of the Idris like a Loony Toons cartoon, and the idris rams the bad guy who explodes in 6-7fps fashion. More jitter-jank
- Then Chris ends the presentation prematurely before being reminded that the employees are coming out to say goodbye. He asks them to take a bow. They do so. that’s it.
YEAH, THEY FAKED IT LAST YEAR TOO
But through all this, they did manage to unveil a new commercial (seriously, that’s a thing) for a $400 concept (it’s a JPEG) ship, the 600i. But then – get this – they started charging backers to name their ship if they started buying with cash instead of credit or gifts. As of this writing, though their fundraising for this show is tracking poorly, they did manage to raise about $1M from a group of about 2K backers. Seriously. Aside from the fact that we know the funding chart is bogus (though we don’t know to what extent), most of us remain convinced that there are people using this project to launder money, as there is simply no other reasonable explanation because it makes no sense whatsoever.
Oh but get this. Then during the show, they quietly changed the projected 3.0 release date from early Sept to early October. Though this backer claims (I urge you to read his rather lengthy indictment. update: CIG mods eventually locked the thread) to have asked for a refund because of that, I’m guessing that the GC2017 presentation was a major part in that decision.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, AND YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE LEMONADE
GAME OVER MAN, GAME OVER!
This was the first public showing of the much anticipated 3.0 build, and it was a complete disaster. Not only has hardly any progress been made since the last time 3.0 was showcased a year ago, but by my calculation, over 93% of the items they claim are coming in 3.0 and which are “completed”, were NOT shown in this build.
At this point, with the next big show, CitizenCon 2017 coming up on Oct 27th in Germany, assuming something called 3.0 is released before or after the show, my guess is that Chris may trot out a commercial or even a scripted demo of Squadron 42 because he has now completely burned 3.0 to the ground.
Chris has dug a hole he can’t hope to crawl out of and this “game” is never – ever – coming out. And now that he has spent all of the money, and barely on reserves, even as he takes out loans, and comes up with new and inventive ways to continue fleecing backer whales, the next part of this fiasco is going to be how he plans on making cuts without causing panic and spooking the remaining backer whales still funding this dumpster fire. Whatever he does, no matter how he does it, one thing is certain, it’s going to be another hilarious disaster.
UPDATE 2: Eurogamer published an interview Chris Roberts gave at GamesCom 2017. It’s an eye-opening read which contains ample evidence of what I’ve stated that they can’t develop the game promised, and that they were in fact going to dump 3.0 as a Minimal Viable Product. I covered this extensively in various blogs. To recap his statements from April 18th, 2016:
“…and, awh, wuh… we’ll have what will sort of determine a sort of… MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT FEATURE LIST for what you would call STAR CITIZEN the COMMERCIAL RELEASE, which is basically when you say, “OK! Ah, we’ve gotten to this point and we’ve still got plans to add a lot more COOL STUFF and MORE CONTENT and MORE FUNCTIONALITY and MORE FEATURES”, which by the way includes some of… the LATER STRETCH GOALS we have cos not all of that’s meant to be for ABSOLUTELY RIGHT HERE, on the commercial release…“
I like how he says the public schedule is the same as the internal one. I guess 3.0 did come out in 2016.
I am also thrilled to see that he is still reading my articles because I was the first and only person to leak that the internal and public schedules were different. He’s a liar, a scam artist, and a fraud.
UPDATE 1: I want to take the opportunity to mention that any backer who funded this project after the June 2016 ToS change is NOT entitled to a refund without taking legal action. The only way to enforce a refund, is to take CIG to arbitration (no, you can’t sue them in open court), or get the State (e.g. AG) and Fed (e.g. the FTC) authorities involved (as what happened over a year ago). If they refuse, and you wish to pursue it, the issue is going to be determining whether or not backing on their website, as opposed to an official crowd-funding website (Indiegogo, Kickstarter etc) is a pre-order purchase or a donation. This was tested months ago during the Lily drone fiasco which I wrote about in this blog. Regardless, if you want a refund, there is a Reddit page (look to the right of the page for the steps) specifically for that.