August 31, 2018 at 9:12 am #6601
CITIZENS CONNED PAYWALL
If there is one thing that we can always count on happening every month with the Star Citizen project, it’s that there is bound to be another major screw up or controversy. I mean, we barely just recovered from the latest Crytek lawsuit fiasco. This latest fiasco is not just so funny, as it is completely and utterly incredulous to even those of us who have come to expect nothing less.
Every year since the project’s inception, CIG has attended various industry shows such as GDC, E3, Gamescom, PAX etc. They’ve also had a yearly event called CitizenCon where they focus on the current and future state of the game. It’s basically BlizzCon – but with propaganda and lies designed to continue ripping off their backers. In case you were interested, that amount currently stands at $192M (Disclaimer: most of us believe that chart is pure fraudulent bs; designed to show healthy interest in the project) seven years later – and no game to speak of.
YEAH WHALES ONLY. PLEBS PAY $20 BUX
Last year, they unveiled plans for this year’s CitizenCon event, and as they always have – started selling tickets for those who wanted to attend. The rest of us just watched it streamed live – for free. Those tickets for attendance were previously priced from $55 to $130. So imagine our collective surprise when in last night’s Around The Verse broadcast, we learned that not only were they now going to stick it behind a paywall, they actually introduced a new $20 tier if you wanted to watch the stream. I’m not even joking. Watch…
@11:07 THE STAR CITIZEN SCAM LEVELS UP
Unlike in previous years, they’ve had problems selling out tickets this year. Which is surprising when you consider that the event is taking place in Austin, TX. I’m guessing that having lied up a storm in 2017, while failing to produce even 10% of what they promised during the last events, the remaining gullible backers who keep giving them money, are holding on to their wallets. So what do they do? They came up with a way to get more money from their backers. It’s a slap in the face of backers when you consider that they have ALL funded this project. And now, those who aren’t subscribers (to their monthly propaganda bs), are being asked to fork out an additional $20 if they want to watch the show live.
And if you buy a ticket, but can’t attend for whatever reason, you don’t get a cash refund back – only store credit. LOL!!
As soon as the news broke, and the tribe took up arms (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Chris issued a statement which is not only as short-sighted and ludicrous as others before it, but also rife with his utmost disrespect for the very same backers who pulled him out of abject poverty, and made him a millionaire. The same people to whom he currently owes not one, but two games – neither of which is even 20% complete. As these things go, it wasn’t long before the moderators started deleting posts, banning backers voicing outrage etc.
YES, HE WROTE THAT. ALL OF IT.
So here’s the thing. He’s now going for the BlizzCon model whereby Blizzard – who funds their own games – charges for a virtual ticket to attend. Ignoring the fact that Blizzard isn’t crowd-funded, and doesn’t owe their gamers anything, take a look at what comes with their virtual ticket, then compare to what CIG is charging its backers for. I mean, think about this; do you think anyone who isn’t already a staunch Star Citizen backer is going to watch their stream, let alone fork out $20? Yeah, no. In fact, in the history of all their shows, let alone their posted YouTube videos, they’ve been hard-pressed to even break 30K views. And this is a project that’s touting two million (it’s pure bs; as that number is less than 500K when duplicate, as well as free accounts are taken into consideration) citizens.
Which brings us to the “The Pledge” from 2012. It’s hilarious to me that some backers, right now on Reddit, are once again evoking it. It’s almost as if they haven’t been paying attention ALL these years when CIG has systematically broken it in every single possible way.
YES, RIGHT FROM THE START, THIS WAS ALL A LOAD OF HORSE SHIT
Yes, Chris Roberts has not only routinely lied to the public and indeed to his backers, he’s also routinely walked back almost every single promise of material significance to the project. In the case of this CitizenCon paywall, not long ago this past August 3rd in one of his posts to the community, he said this:
“This was the economic approach I proposed out when I first pitched Star Citizen because it is the model as a player I prefer. I don’t like to have to pay a subscription just to play and I hate when things are deliberately locked behind a paywall, but as someone that doesn’t have twenty hours a week to dedicate to building up my character or possessions, I appreciate the option to get a head start if I’m willing to pay a little extra.”
This is the part where I mention that, after years of touting a dev schedule and their need to release a major update each quarter, barely weeks ago in a shocking update, they not only stripped the upcoming 3.3 build of all material features they had been hyping for months, but also said that it’s no longer going to be released at the end of Sept. Instead it’s going to be released during CitizenCon on Oct 10th. See what they did there?
RECENT FREE FLY WEEKEND SESSION. UNCUT. UNEDITED. $192M OF PURE HILARITY
So that’s the end of another month, and yet another fiasco, in the Star Citizen ecosystem.
LESS THAN 12 HRS LATER
It’s all about money. Once again, he planned something that he blew the budget on. Then he tried to get backers to pay for the excess. That’s all there is to it. Had he not reversed, it would have tainted the event from this point, and right on to Oct 10th. He had to make a choice – and it had nothing to do with “listening” to backers. I like how he managed to throw a sale pitch right in there too.
Meanwhile, we’re 3K up votes into yet another Reddit thread about the latest fiasco
Previously: CRYTEK v CIG/RSI + F42 FINANCIALSSeptember 8, 2018 at 9:23 am #6615
@10:15 ALL DREAMS AND PROMISES ARE SHATTERED. AGAIN
ANATOMY OF A GAMEDEV DEBACLE
For as long as I’ve been right about so many things regarding this train-wreck, I should probably write an AI program to generate new blogs from pre-existing content. I mean, seriously. Before I delve into the latest fiasco which we totally didn’t see coming, let’s get up to speed.
Back in 2015 after I wrote that first blog about this train-wreck, I had taken legal action in which, among other things, I had asked CIG to provide a dev schedule to backers. CIG basically ignored me, while claiming that backers can determine the state of the project from videos and data posted on the website.
Then, amid a massive outcry, it wasn’t until several months later that they created and released a public dev schedule. Right off the bat, it was bullshit designed to appease a major backer uprising that was in full swing at the time. This is the April 2017 newsletter (take a trip down the hilarious memory lane) that accompanied the much hyped 3.0 version (12/22/2016 archive) of the schedule.
Before that point, and since the project’s public inception in Oct 2012, no such public dev schedule existed. Basically, backers had no idea how the project was coming along, when it would be released etc. The only insight backers had to the state and progress, were through Gamescom and CitizenCon events; both of which were hype machines planned months in advance. Think I’m kidding? Fine, this is what was promised in Aug 2016, for the Dec 2016 release of 3.0. Later, this is what it looked like when the actual schedule was finally released months later. As we now know, 3.0 was chopped up, and rushed to release on Dec 23, 2017 for fundraising purposes. As I wrote in a Jan 2018 blog, it was an unmitigated disaster.
Having missed every deadline in the dev schedule, while not even delivering 50% of what was promised, months later they changed the format again. In this one, they removed most of the items from the previous schedule, while moving others months down the road. Except for the format change, nothing about the development actually changed. As I wrote in this article, the release of 3.1 on Mar 31, 2018 was even worse than 3.0. None of this came as a surprise because as far back as Summer 2017, sources had told me that not only did 3.0 not exist at the time Chris was claiming that it totally did and was coming in Dec 2016, but they also said that the internal dev schedule went all the way to 2021. Judging from the current schedules, this is now fact.
MOST OF THIS IS PURE HYPE-RIDDEN BS THAT’S GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE KICKED DOWN THE ROAD
BUZZWORDS CAN WORK WHEN YOU HAVE FOOLS FOR BACKERS
Features aside, performance has always plagued the project – and it’s not getting any better. The networking layer is horrendous. Aside from it not being developed for an MMO, it doesn’t even work to any reasonable degree even as a session based instanced game. Amid the networking hiccups and performance issues, you could maybe play for a few hours on an 8 client instance. But as soon as that creeps over 12, you’re done. In fact, you can go to Youtube right now, and you would be hard pressed to find actual gameplay videos of the game with lots of people actually playing the game. What you would find are solo encounters, people posing for video screen shots etc. Occasionally you will find one or two videos of a bunch of people trying to see how many clients they can fit into a 50 (the current server max) client server instance. They’re not playing though. No, that would be weird. They’re just milling about and posing while taking screen shots and making videos to showcase. You know, the same thing we used to do in Planetside back when we were attempting to break the world record for number of clients in an instance. Nobody was actually playing the game.
Imagine how much performance tweaks you would have to do in order to build a massive MMO game with the visual fidelity that Star Citizen has been trying to attain. It’s not as if they’re actually building a game, but more so they’re building a visual showcase because that’s really what raises funding. Pretty pictures. Until backers began to notice that as the project progressed, new features added, alongside some of the high fidelity ships they had been buying, the game’s networking and performance degraded exponentially.
So it came as no surprise that CIG started claiming that Object Container Streaming (OCS) and Network Bind Culling (NBC) – two buzzwords they totally made up – would apparently fix everything. The magic bullets so to speak. And that crap started back in 2015 (!). Since that time, they have been using these terms and tech as a carrot excuse to keep the backers contained within their delusional bubble of hilarity, even as they kept kicking that baseless can down the road.
The things with running an active con is that at some point, depending on how many mistakes you make, your mark is going to figure it all out – and then you’re screwed. That’s what’s currently happening now that backers were expecting these boosts in 3.2, but now said to be coming in 3.3 that’s due out in October during CitizenCon 2018. With nothing else to hype this year, short of pulling SQ42 out of a hat and releasing it at CitizenCon or the holiday live stream in Dec, they are now touting the release of new moons, as well as the first planet (Hurston). Guess what that means? Yup, even more performance and networking woes are coming.
After spending all this time touting two pieces of tech as the answer to everything, in the past 24 hrs they’ve started walking back those claims in a bid to lower the expectations ahead of the 3.3 release at CitizenCon in Oct – barely a month from now. And to add to that, the latest dev schedule update released on Sept 7th, is a startling wake-up call. But then again, we’ve long known that the entire schedule was bullshit anyway; but backers continue to indulge. Anyone who thinks that either of these two pieces of “tech” will make it into 3.3 is a fool. They’re just going to keep kicking the proverbial can on that farther down the road, until they run out of time and money.
THAT’S NOT A STAR CITIZEN BATTLE. NOT EVEN CLOSE.
I have written time and time again that neither of the two things (us devs who actually develop and release games, know them by their real names) that they were touting would make a lick of difference in the big picture because :
- The game was never designed to be an MMO
- You just can’t automagically convert an instanced session based game into an MMO
- They simply don’t have the tech or the expertise to do #2
- Even if they did have #3, and they attempted #2, it’s too late to switch from one type of networking backbone to another
In the recent video broadcast at the top (update: here is a break-down here by another dev) of the article, they’ve now flipped the script from these two pieces of tech being implemented, completed, and will just work – to them being initial implementations, subject to further improvements. And it’s only client side for the foreseeable future. I can’t even stop laughing. So yes, just like the major 3.x releases before it, the upcoming 3.3 is going to be more of the same shit-show. I have an entire forum section dedicated to tracking metrics for the various modes in the game. It’s horrendous because, even with over 500K backers, most of them aren’t actually playing the game anymore.
THAT’S NOT A STAR CITIZEN BATTLE. NOT EVEN CLOSE.
The last time they pulled this stunt, was over the much hyped planetary tech which made its debut in 3.0. Again, I wrote several tech articles (07/20/2017 ,07/07/2017, 10/29/2016) explaining why everything they were previously touting simply wan’t going to happen; how they were bound by the limitations of their chosen engine architecture; that they would never be able to build the promised game world consisting of 100 star systems and many planets and moons etc. In the end, six years into development, in 3.0 they released some barren moons with landing sites; along with a half-assed surface landing zone mechanic – which btw I had previously written was one of the only feasible ways to link their planet/moon containers to space. And then came the performance nightmares that I predicted so many months prior.
October can’t come soon enough.
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
About two weeks ago, the judge in the case threw out 4/6 of the items in the CIG motion, while giving Crytek the opportunity to amend their complaint by adding one new item. You can read my Aug 15, 2018 article about that.
Shortly after the judge released her ruling, Crytek released their amended complaint along with a motion for discovery to begin. Instead of answering the amended complaint, CIG immediately filed an objection to the motion for discovery. I had expected that they would file an answer to the amended complaint, but what I wasn’t expecting was the hilarity of their answer.
So on Sept 6, 2018, CIG filed their answer. Complete with quotes from Websters dictionary. I wish I was joking. To add to the hilarity, as if ignoring attempts by CIG to continue delaying discovery, on that same day the judge released a schedule for discovery under FCRP Rule 26 to begin.
Whatever is going on with CIG right now over this discovery that’s about to hit them, I could very well draw as a Wile Coyote cartoon sketch. Complete with a canyon, a cliff, a stick of dynamite and a match stick.
I had always maintained that I don’t see this case being settled because:
- Crytek aren’t primarily interested in money. The bad blood between the two companies over how CIG execs stripped them of key talent, then breached their contract, changes the motives.
- CIG had the opportunity to settle this, and correct their alleged breached over ONE YEAR ago. But even as they kept SCAMMING backers for money, they also kept playing “Come at me bro!” with Crytek, thus severely underestimating the human emotions that govern wars of attrition.
- That after Crytek had created (CIG had lied that they created them. the lawsuit brought clarity to that) the promo videos, assets etc, which served to propel the project to be the largest crowd-funded campaign in history, CIG reneged on their deal.
It’s not even as if you licensed an engine from a third-party, and thus don’t owe them any obligation. When you do cross-promotion deals, that’s precisely what they are. When one side renegades, after hitting it big, that’s gotta hurt the other party. And that is what happened. Regardless of the merits of the lawsuits, the entire GLA between the parties is one of co-operation, and not a passive standard license like you would find with any other third-party (e.g. Unity, UE, Lumberyard etc). Now CIG is litigating what they agreed to do.
Even when CIG filed a 6 point MtD, they were granted only one immaterial (punitive damages) issue which had nothing to do with the actual Crytek claims. And the one claim they were granted, was ambiguous enough for the judge to ref another section, thus prompting the new filing by Crytek. Setting aside the one issue granted, plus one added, this would mean that CIG basically lost 4/6 items in their MtD. And if the judge rules against them in the latest one, that would mean they have lost 5/6. Going into a lawsuit with that many claims is disaster on steroids. Which is why it’s funny to me that some devout backers and legal “experts” who were claiming that the lawsuit was bs, have grown quiet since the MtD ruling. If a lawsuit is bs, the claims won’t survive an MtD. That’s what its designed to do: weed out bs.
That the judge has now setup a Rule 26 conference, while ignoring CIG’s opposition filing, speaks volumes. It basically means that the judge doesn’t believe that holding up discovery over one pending issue, is good use of time. And even if she did rule in CIG’s favor over their latest filing, that would mean 4/6 claims are still going to trial – thus discovery has to proceed.
Having read the latest CIG filing to dismiss the 2.4 section that’s the focus of Crytek’s last filing, it doesn’t even warrant my time to analyze because it’s pure and utter rubbish. This is 2.4 of the GLA.
In my previous analysis, I had stated that this was going to hinge on a comma. And that is PRECISELY the CIG argument. I love it when I’m right. Here is the CIG argument in its entirety.
Notice how they conveniently emphasized that part, while not bringing focus to the word “business” that’s material to it? Right. So read how a similar case a comma cost a company $5M.
CIG is basically saying that 2.4 isn’t a valid cause of action because, well, they’re not “engaging” in the “business” of doing any of those things. Well, here’s the problem (it’s hilarious, trust me).
As per 2.4, “during the term of the license” they can’t do any of the things listed in 2.4:
The GLA hasn’t terminated. So whether or not they are using the engine, doesn’t matter. Despite the fact that, with their own Star Engine and later Lumberyard, they have been doing all of what 2.4 prohibits above, they’re now saying it’s not true. Seriously. In fact, the only 2.4 conditions which they haven’t breached are “selling” and “licensing”. That’s it.
They’re now saying they haven’t done any of those things because the language in “engage in the business of” protects them because they’re not doing those things as a “business“. I have to admit, it’s a pretty solid & bold argument. But here’s the problem. In their filing, I didn’t see any arg that supports how they could get around the issue that they’re not, for example “in the business of” doing those six things. To wit, what does “in the business of designing” mean? Obviously they did all of those six things above for not only their custom engine, Star Marine, but also for a competing engine, Lumberyard, which they switched to. It gets better.
What about “in the business of licensing (directly or indirectly) any engine or middleware which compete with CryEngine”?
It’s public knowledge that they did that with Lumberyard. Arguably, by their own promotions, Star Engine, which like Lumberyard, is built with CryEngine, also qualifies as a competing engine.
They’re stating that, for example, since they’re not in the “business of developing any game engine or middleware which compete with CryEngine” that they haven’t breached 2.4. This despite the fact that they have done precisely that in their promotion of Star Engine. The same could apply to Lumberyard if you read it as “business of promoting any game engine or middleware which compete with CryEngine“. And the “supporting” and “maintaining” qualifiers would also apply not only to their own engine, but also to Lumberyard.
I can’t wait to read the judge’s opinion on this one. After all, she opened that door when she pointed out the merits of 2.4 when she granted the dismissal of 2.1.2 in her Aug 14 ruling. I swear if the judge reads this CIG argument, then in her ruling cites the Oakhurst Dairy class action, I would literally die laughing. I hope that Crytek’s lawyers do cite it in their answer because then it would be twice as funny.
Anyway, that’s the end of my opinions on this. Now we wait for the hilarity that is the Crytek response and the judge’s ruling (on the CIG motion, as well as the Rule 26 scheduling order) on Oct 12. Meantime, we have Rule 26 fireworks to look forward to later this month. You can track the progress of the lawsuit filings over here.
“The thing is, I know people get worried–“oh feature creep” and “you keep adding these features”–but you know, we’re building an online game, and that hangar is on people’s machines, the dogfighting module is on people’s machines. We patch it all the time, so feature creep doesn’t really apply in those setups, because normally what will happen with feature creep is “Oh I want to play this extra feature,” and it would always push back when you would roll out the game, because you’d always have to rely on a disc. Whereas now, it’s like, we really like this feature, but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t pushing out the game without this feature, and then just patching it with that feature later on. That’s the kind of approach we’re taking.
So the extra level of funding is pretty great, because it’s allowing me to ramp up a bunch of stuff much sooner than I normally would have been able to. I’ll be able to deliver more features sooner in the cycle. Because originally, when I wanted to do this, I always wanted to make what Star Citizen is with all of these features…but I was being realistic about it.
I’m pretty sure by the time the game is finished…I don’t know how much the Old Republic budget was, but we’ll probably be up there. Some people say it was 400 or 500 million, and who knows how much of that was marketing. We won’t be up there, but I definitely think that we’ll be, by the time the game is finished, we’ll be at the 80, 90, or 100 million dollar range of funding, and most of it will be all for the game.“ – Chris Roberts, Gamespot interview, July 19, 2014
YUP. THAT BACKER PLEDGE FROM 2012 COULD VERY WELL HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ON TOILET PAPER
Previously: CitizensConned FiascoSeptember 22, 2018 at 8:27 am #6639
EXCERPT FROM AROUND THE VERSE – SEP 20th, 2018
AROUND THE FARCE
Yes, I am well aware that raging on Star Citizen is getting a bit old and somewhat boring. But here’s the thing; having the distinction of being the biggest crowd-funded venture (of anything) in history, and which has developed into nothing short of a scam, it’s like that train wreck you can’t stop watching. Chris Roberts made some lofty promises back in the 2012 campaign, which to date and at $195M raised from gullible backers (who can no longer get refunds!), haven’t come true. A lot of people from various industries have been paying close attention to the project these past months; and the Crytek lawsuit increased that exposure even more.
So far from what we’ve seen and played, there’s nothing innovative, ground-breaking, or revolutionary about the game. Not even by a little bit. It’s a boring, shoddily built mess of modules which have zero gameplay coherence, and are collectively devoid of anything resembling a “game” – of any kind. It’s basically a $195M tech demo used for making pretty pictures and videos, courtesy of CryEngine and some exceptionally talented artists and modelers.
Even when they split the project into two (Star Citizen MMO + Squadron 42 single-player) back in Feb 2016, almost two years after both were supposed to have been delivered, as of this writing, they haven’t even completed the single-player game yet. And if the vertical slice (below) which they showed back in Dec 2017 is any indication, well, we already know the reason for that.
SQUADRON 42 VERTICAL SLICE, DEC 2017
For over three years I have consistently written that they stood zero chances of ever building the game promised; and that they were better off just going back to the original 2012 pitch, getting that done, released, and moving on to expanding it. But doing so would have completely killed their on-going funding drive because shockingly there are some backers who are still giving them money for JPEGs of assets which are still not in the game, as well as for assets which are in the game, but are either non-functional, buggy, or basically unusable. With the game packages selling for $45 – $60, they have zero incentive to stop selling future dreams for hundreds and thousands of Dollars.
You can only run a scam for so long before it all starts to fall apart. And we’ve been right at that junction since the disastrous 3.0 was released back in late Dec 2017.
KICKING THAT CAN ‘TIL IT HURTS
Hilariously, it was barely two weeks ago that I wrote an article saying that whatever they had planned for the next Jesus Patch (aka 3.3) was probably never going to happen, and that they were just going to keep kicking that can down the road. Specifically, I said:
“After spending all this time touting two pieces of tech as the answer to everything, in the past 24 hrs they’ve started walking back those claims in a bid to lower the expectations ahead of the 3.3 release at CitizenCon in Oct – barely a month from now. And to add to that, the latest dev schedule update released on Sept 7th, is a startling wake-up call. But then again, we’ve long known that the entire schedule was bullshit anyway; but backers continue to indulge. Anyone who thinks that either of these two pieces of “tech” will make it into 3.3 is a fool. They’re just going to keep kicking the proverbial can on that farther down the road, until they run out of time and money.“
So imagine the collective shock (at least to the gullible fools who still pay any attention to their bs schedules) when in the Sept 20th broadcast (see video at top) they finally came out and said what they had to have known for months but didn’t reveal. They weren’t going to make it. In fact, it’s not that 3.3 was going to miss its Sept 30th release window, but that they were going to split it into two parts. The first neutered part (3.3) would be released during CitizenCon event, while the other part (3.3.5) with all the promised critical tech and content, would be released “as soon as it’s ready“. To me that means 3.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3, 3.3.4, and then 3.3.5 at some point in 2019. Guess what that does to 3.4 and up? I can’t even stop laughing.
BEHOLD! THE NEUTERED 3.3 PATCH
To be honest, from a dev standpoint, I don’t have any issues with this in particular because stuff happens. But this is something that they have actively been touting and hyping as far back as 2015! Not only that, they came up with these dev schedules (they have changed the format three times since the first one in 2016) all on their own. Yet they were planning on adding what we believe to be high visual fidelity content to a build of a game which simply would be unable to handle it. And yet still, they totally planned to implement both of the core tech and said content – in the same build. And they did that because since 3.0 (a performance nightmare) they’ve upped the fervor with which they were claiming that both (Network Bind Culling + Object Container Streaming) core techs would solve the performance problems in the next Jesus Patch (that being 3.3). And most of the backer sheep have been hanging their hats on that particular bit of nonsense ever since.
I still maintain that it’s simply not going to turn out that way because that’s not how that works. There is no magic bullet or magic tech; especially not when your engine baseline is absolutely incapable of powering anything remotely as large as what they want to build. I mean, we’ve been through this with the initial planetary tech in 3.0, and how they had to do it. Remember how they were showcasing that back in Oct 2016? How much of that did you actually see make it into the 3.0 build in Dec 2017, up to the latest 3.2.x build? I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting to be standing on my ship in high orbit, looking down at the planetary base below. Wait! What do you mean I can’t do that? I saw it in the presentation!!!
STANTON SYSTEM. INCOMPLETE. SEVEN YEARS LATER
Aside from all that, this comes at a time when they were planning on releasing the first ever full planet, Hurston, its landing zone (Lorville), and its four moons. From the map above, so far in 3.2.x, only those three Crusader moons and a planetoid are in the game. Note that Crusader is a gas giant for which the game currently has no support. So you can’t enter or land (they were planning on adding floating landing zones) on it. If you have been keeping up with my articles, then you already know that for 3.0, they moved Delamar (a planetoid) from clean clear across the galaxy, to Stanton because they couldn’t add the tech that Crusader required.
But let’s wind back a bit. Back in 2012, via stretch goals, they promised 106 starsystems with literally hundreds of planets and moons.
- $6M: 100 starsystems
- $36M: Tamsa
- $37M: Tanga
- $38M: Cano
- $39M: UDS-2943-01-22
- $40M: Kabal & Oretani
Tech constraints aside, they have yet to build and release a single starsystem to completion. Here is the full proposed interactive starmap that went live a couple of years back. That’s what they claim they would build.
This isn’t a game like No Man’s Sky which uses a game world that is entirely procedurally generated. Every single scene (space or planet) in Star Citizen and Squadron 42, has to be manually created and populated with assets. You know, the old fashioned way – in a level editor. In fact, I am engaged in the same thing right now in my on-going update to one of my oldest and most popular franchise games. While the planetary terrain in my game is procedurally generated, the scenes with buildings and other assets, still need to be loaded into an editor and manually placed; while others have to be scripted (and the locations obtained by loading the scene world in an editor – and writing it down!).
PROCEDURAL CITIES ARE TOTALLY COMING. SOON!
It gets worse. Remember the big hype behind “procedural cities” from CitizenCon (see video above) in Oct 2017? Well, just this past week sources have told me that it’s a hype driven pipe-dream that’s all but shelved, and that it was never going into the game anyway. Curiously, they haven’t said anything about it since then. I’m completely shocked by this.
So there you have it. Seriously, there is no way on Earth that if this project were controlled by a publisher, that it wouldn’t have already been shutdown by now, re-targeted, the leads fired etc. It’s completely inexcusable and unheard of for this sort of thing to continue unabated. Especially when you consider that after $195M, and over 500 people working on both projects at some point in time, that they simply can’t seem to get a base product out.
EVOCATI ARE ON IT!
The most alarming thing about the neutered 3.3 is that it is devoid of any tangible gameplay elements. I mean, Sandi Gardiner was touting fps enemy AI and racing on planets. In a space combat game of all things. But 3.3 does have shiny new ships (for which their gameplay mechanics don’t exist) which they totally want you to buy. This is like what they did back in Dec 2016 when after a year of nearly zero progress and backer angst, they somehow resurrected Star Marine (stand-alone FPS module) and released it. As I had predicted and written back then, it was DOA.
As things stand, between now and Oct 10th (the proposed 3.3 release date), they have two more Fridays to release updated schedules with more bad news regarding whether or not 3.3 is going to release, and if so, what’s going to actually be in it. But until then, now that 3.3 has gone to private Evocati (mostly a group of insufferable dweebs who don’t really test anything) this past weekend, we have a lot of lols to look forward to. And of course, as everything about Star Citizen is bound to leak, so we now have the changelog.
The videos which have started coming out of Evocati already prepare backers for what’s to come. And it’s not pretty. This one shows off the NPC AI, while this one shows off a small rest stop level. I know, it’s alpha, but wow – I mean just look at that.
Looking at the Sept 21st schedule, along with this first changelog, I have absolutely no idea how on this God’s Earth they are going to complete what’s left for 3.3, and get into a reasonable state for release on Oct 10th. That’s less than three weeks away, in case you weren’t counting.
IN CASE YOU HADN’T HEARD, THIS IS ALL NORMAL GAME DEVELOPMENT. ACCORDING TO REDDIT.
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
I have updated my lawsuit chronology following the Sept 21st filing of the Crytek response to the Sept 7th motion to dismiss filed by CIG. This one was a bit too easy to predict. As I wrote in my Sept 8th article, the Crytek answer was going to hinge on the specific wording of “in the business of“. And that’s precisely where they went with that, then cited case law in support of their arguments.
Remember back in my August article after the judge all but decimated the CIG motion to dismiss, I wrote that the judge herself gave Crytek the 2.4 opening, and that it was a much stronger cause of action? Yup – it sure is. As I’ve said all along, it’s not enough that the GLA never terminated (btw it is still in effect as of this writing), but CIG switching engines doesn’t automatically terminate it. Sure CIG could switch to any engine they wanted to, but that doesn’t release them from the on-going obligations of the GLA because unless and until it is mutually terminated, they are bound by it. Which is why Section 2.4 is particularly troublesome.
I’ve written several times that the very existence of Star Engine, which, like Lumberyard is a derivative of CryEngine, is a very big problem for CIG because that endeavor alone encompasses most of what is prohibited in 2.4. And CIG did it with both Star Engine and Lumberyard. I have no idea how CIG could possibly say that Star Engine isn’t in competition with CryEngine when in fact they have made numerous statements to the contrary. Aside from the fact that Lumberyard is a competing engine to CryEngine. A developer can choose to use either CryEngine or Lumberyard; and to that end, CIG used CryEngine and later (as they claimed back in Dec 2016) Lumberyard to build their own custom engine which became Star Engine.
And this latest filing is precisely why, come Oct 12th when the both sides go in front of the judge, I believe that we’re finally headed to discovery. Also, I don’t believe that the judge will grant CIG the Sept 7 motion to dismiss either. And now that CIG have switched the lead counsel from the more expensive and experienced partner, Jeremy Goldman, to an associate in the litigation group, Mark Swiech, I guess they are preparing for the long road ahead. I remain convinced that this case isn’t likely to settle, and certainly not before discovery concludes. Not only because at this point in time, CIG doesn’t have the kind of money that it would require to settle, but because my opinion is that Crytek are more interested in beating them into the ground due to all the bad blood from past years.
So now we wait for the hilarity and hype that will come with CitizenCon on Oct 10th, then we fall right into the lawsuit fireworks on Oct 12th. I have ordered a fresh supply of popcorn from Amazon.
Previously: Anatomy of a Gamedev DebacleOctober 15, 2018 at 10:08 am #6682
CITIZENCON 2018 FULL KEYNOTE PRESENTATION
Well amid much fanfare, the keynote of the show which returned to Austin this year, was off to a great start when it crashed after the player interacted with a coffee mug. But no biggie though; after all it’s only pre-Alpha after seven years of development.
Having over-hyped the upcoming 3.3 build which was split into two parts (see my article on that) back in September, all focus was on the neutered 3.3 build which they had said would be released during the show. I am not going to spend 45 minutes writing about how it was basically just another slog through a badly broken tech demo; or how they truly had nothing substantial to show for a whole year of work.
At this moment in time, everything about the game is either incomplete, flat-out broken, or just awful due to bad design choices. The live play through of what we believe to be 3.3.5 (since it contained Loreville which isn’t in 3.3) had the usual great looking set pieces. But broken AI pathfinding, awful character models, assets popping in and out of view, chuggy performance etc, all served to completely negate whatever pleasantries are in the presentation. Having raised – and spent – almost $196 million (as of this writing) on this project, one thing is certain, NOTHING in this presentation shows the quality you would come to expect from even a $10 million game project. Go look at upcoming sci-fi games such Cyperpunk 2077, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw etc and you be the judge.
And there was a train station – with a schedule. The designers really think that making players wait five or more minutes for a train is a great design choice in a video game. But the train was a great way to show off the insurmountable technical limitations that they are facing. But more on that later. After the train ride, we end up at another part of the scene where after getting a mission to recover parts from a crashed satellite, he grabbed a fighter to head to the crash site. Upon arrival at the crash site, and after much screwing around, he dies trying to do a jump from one place to another. A quick dev warp cheat later, and he was back at the site. Shortly after there is a very uninspiring planetary battle against the most boring backdrop and incompetent AI and team mates – ever. If you are thinking “…wait a minute! I saw this last year!“, you would be correct. Same gameplay premise, different “monster in the closet” set pieces.
Oh, as if that wasn’t bad enough, a little over a year ago, in yet another instance of scope creep, they announced that they were going to implement middleware from FacewareTech to bring a gimmick to the game which would debut in the upcoming 3.3 patch. Face Over IP (FOIP) uses a webcam to project the player’s face into their in-game character. They tried to demo it during the presentation, and it was a mess that completely fell apart. With the insurmountable networking problems the game already has, I can’t wait to see the reaction to this one when it gets released wide.
You know what? Screw this – I’m not writing about this Godawful gameplay presentation any further. Go watch it for yourself and be the judge. Enjoy!
STAR CITIZEN 2018 GAMEPLAY. $200M WORTH OF UNINSPIRING TRIPE
STATE OF THE ENGINEERING FARCE
What I do want to write about is something that I have written about since 2015. That being the insurmountable technical challenges facing this project since the scope was increased beyond reasonable comprehension. If you recall, a specific limited scope game was pitched back in 2012. Then, somewhere along the line after Chris Roberts figured out how to monetize scope creep, he kept increasing the scope all the way to a $65 million bounty in Nov 2014. The very same month that he had claimed the two games would be released. All of a sudden, he was building an MMO, complete with in-game micro-transactions with real money transaction hooks. And so the era of the JPEG bounty was born. And over the years they’ve continued to increase the scope beyond those stretch goals, and all the way to almost $200 million. And they’re not even 30% complete yet.
To hear the most devout backers tell it, you would think that CIG somehow invented a swath of technologies since 2012. To them things like first person mode inside fully modeled 3D ships is ground-breaking. This despite the fact that Star Wars Galaxies, Angels Fall First, my own Line Of Defense game etc, already did all that. Large game worlds requiring 64-Bit scale precision? Yup, some of us have actually done that. Battlecruiser 3000AD (which turned 22 years this month) had massive worlds back in 1996 – back when no other game envisioned such a scale. Then along came Elite Dangerous which just took that to the nth degree – and just kept going. Not long after, No Man’s Sky came along. Nested physics scenes with independent collision? Yup, been done before. Any game you have ever played which has a vehicle or building that you can enter, regardless of how many rooms or levels, does that. Right now, you can take any Battlefield game, Just Cause, any Call Of Duty game, any GTA game, or any $9.99 game on Steam which has vehicles and buildings, enter the vehicle or aircraft, crash it into a building or flying around the world, get out, do stuff. I mean, the first time they were promised planets, back in 2015, and then barren moons showed up in the 3.0 build back in Dec 2017, they claimed it was revolutionary. This despite the fact that there are many games with both space and planetary scenes/levels in existence. They think this is all revolutionary, and that we are all collectively fools for doubting that CIG could ever do those things.
Except that none of it is revolutionary; and we never claimed that CIG couldn’t make a game of sorts. Everything they’ve done and are doing, has all been done before, done better; and not only cheaper, but also exist in games that have since been completed and shipped. As I have said time and time again, backers have paid for a Golden chest, but are going to end up with a cardboard box – without a lid.
In my previous article regarding the next phase of the shocking (to backers) revelation, I said:
“Yet they were planning on adding what we believe to be high visual fidelity content to a build of a game which simply would be unable to handle it. And yet still, they totally planned to implement both of the core tech and said content – in the same build. And they did that because since 3.0 (a performance nightmare) they’ve upped the fervor with which they were claiming that both (Network Bind Culling + Object Container Streaming) core techs would solve the performance problems in the next Jesus Patch (that being 3.3). And most of the backer sheep have been hanging their hats on that particular bit of nonsense ever since.
I still maintain that it’s simply not going to turn out that way because that’s not how that works. There is no magic bullet or magic tech; especially not when your engine baseline is absolutely incapable of powering anything remotely as large as what they want to build.“
For the longest time they have been promising backers that the performance issues which have plagued the game since 2.0 was released in Dec 2015 would be resolved with the introduction of new (it’s not) technologies such as Object Container Streaming (OCS) and Network Bind Culling (NBC). I have written several articles indicating that neither of these two is going to solve the performance issues because 1) the visual fidelity of the art assets and scenes are way too high, and level of detail meshes can only get you so far 2) the custom engine built from a potpourri of CryEngine and Lumberyard, simply wasn’t up to the task.
So it came as no surprise that, as I wrote last month, they started walking back those incredulous claims.
OCT 12 2018 DEV SCHEDULE UPDATE SHOWING 3.3 SPLIT INTO 3.3.5
When you look at the presentation, notice how the frame rate drops when he is looking out the window. Also notice how the distant (and some close up ones) assets look very low quality – especially when he is flying around. Some have claimed that they are using 3D textures (like the kind you find in skyboxes) in those outlying areas. They are not. It is a fully 3D level built in such a way that you can’t just travel anywhere, land anywhere, enter buildings etc. It’s all a massive set piece designed to give the illusion of expanse. That’s why they have restricted “no fly zones” even within the confines of the city. Backers who think they’re getting GTA V, The Witcher, Assassins Creed etc, are going to be sorely disappointed. Now you see why the train is needed to link various parts of the “level” because it’s not designed to be open world. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. The issue is one of visual fidelity vs performance. If you are having fun in a game, you’re not going to notice that you’re restricted to a set piece; after all that’s how most games are designed. But that’s not what they have been promising backers for seven years straight.
In the dev roadmap, they provide basic explanations for what exactly these two technological improvements do.
“Object Container Streaming considerably expands the playable game area and increases performance”
OCS is about memory and loading performance. If you have a machine with 16GB of memory, you will barely have memory (DRAM|VRAM) left for anything, let alone a game that relies on high performance and lots of memory. If assets are constantly being loaded from disk, paged in/out of memory etc, there is a performance hit somewhere in the chain. Especially if the client is loading assets which are outside of the player’s cull distance. If you limit this and reduce the memory footprint, the performance gains are not only barely noticeable in a game that’s already a performance hog, but you will eventually hit a wall where you can go no further.
“This work aims to help improve performance in multiplayer by cutting down the number of entities that exist on clients. Entities too far from a player will be removed from the local client, and when the player moves or the server otherwise detects new entities entering the player’s range they will be added to the client. Because clients will then only consider updating entities that are near to them the overall CPU load will be reduced and performance should improve.”
NBC is all about networking and goes hand-in-hand with OCS – at least in terms of what CIG claims they’re doing. The only reason why this will reduce CPU load is because the client then wouldn’t have to load entities it doesn’t care about. But it’s not going to increase networking performance to any reasonable or noticeable degree because, well, it’s not as if they’re loading assets into packets and sending them across the network. All they can do is reduce the size of packets, the frequency at which packets are sent, and the accuracy (UDP vs TCP) and order in which packets are sent and received. And again, there is a point where you hit a wall because compressed or not, there is a limit.
And according to Chris (@ 4:25), due to instability they didn’t even have this enabled in the live stream build which was running 3.3.5 branch build, unlike the current PTU build which is running 3.3 without Loreville all those bits.
LINE OF DEFENSE HAS 13 CONNECTED SCENES
When you’re building an open world game, you not only need the ability to stream and demand load assets, but you also need to be optimizing every step of the way. If you fail to do these basic things from the onset, then think you’re going to be able to get huge performance gains down the road, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. Open world games like PUBG, Day Z etc, all suffer from this specific performance related problem – and there’s no fixing it to everyone’s satisfaction. Star Citizen has always touted high visual fidelity assets, long before it became this bloated mess that’s stuck in development hell. It’s how they have used high fidelity visuals to monetize the game from the onset.
In LoD, I had the option to have a single cohesive world (with both space and planetary regions) similar to my previous massive games in the Battlecruiser/Universal Combat series. Had I done that, we would end up with large and highly detailed planetary scenes which would have huge performance issues down the road. In fact, compare a planetary scene in All Aspect Warfare, Universal Combat CE 2.0, and Universal Combat CE 3.0 to one in Line Of Defense (better yet, watch this live stream recording from earlier this year). And even after breaking up the LoD world into 13 (space, planet, stations, carrier) sections, we still had to keep the visual fidelity in check because as an open world multiplayer game in which the player can go anywhere in first person mode, vehicle, or aircraft, a performance nightmare is always around the corner. And the trade-off between visual fidelity and performance, is a dance you do with the devil – constantly.
Even in splitting the world, we still had to figure out a way to connect them. So we came up with a custom network architecture with server interconnection (which CIG is calling server meshing) nodes. The way it works is that any of the 13 scenes can be loaded independently on the server. And as they are all linked via jump points, dynamic jump pads, and turbo shafts, what we did was connect all of them via IP hopping. So for example a client would load into Heatwave (planet). In fps mode, to go to Lyrius (space), they would need to take an aircraft, fly up to a jump gate on the planet, then select their destination. Once that selection is made, the client is moved from that scene to the target – regardless of which server is running it. And from space, the client wanting to enter Arkangel station or GCV-Starguard carrier (which we also had to split into three parts), would dock their ship with the target; and again an IP hopping hand-off is initiated, putting the client in that scene. To go from inside the station or carrier to the planet below, the client would either use a ship, fly to space, then select a planetary base target via a jump point, or use a special suit that allows them to jump from orbit directly to the planet surface.
Doing it this way not only keeps performance in check, but it also allows us to run a “cluster” of servers, each hosting a number of scenes. And they’re all not only independent, but you can also hop from server to server based on the target scene. It also allows us to control the number of clients in a scene by restricting access depending on how many clients are already there.
This is not something that you build in the middle or toward the end of a development. It is fundamental to the design of the game; and where performance is concerned, it’s something that you have to worry about right from the start. CIG went the other way. But that’s OK though because backers say the real development on the project only started last week.
Right now those who are playing 3.3 in the Public Test Universe would have seen minimal performance gains depending on the server population. For example, if you’re getting 30 fps in 3.3, when you were previously getting 15 fps in 3.2, trust me when I tell you this, that’s short lived and you really didn’t gain anything. Don’t take my word for it though, wait and see what happens between 3.3 and 3.3.5 which has the new planets seen in the CitizenCon presentation. The performance will again go back to probably worse than 3.2 levels due to addition of these new highly detailed planetary scenes because they add more to the game than ever before. I said the same thing long before 3.0 was released in Dec 2017.
If nothing else, the CitizenCon presentation of 3.3.5 should serve as a wake-up call for what’s coming when they do release it. And it will come along with the same promises from 2015 about “on-going performance tweaks; it’s only pre-Alpha; we’ll optimize later etc“. Except, as has been the case these past three years, it will remain a performance nightmare for the foreseeable future because they HAVE ALREADY HIT THE WALL. And they know it. Which I suspect is primarily why they had to split 3.3 into two parts while they continued working on that.
Bottom line, they’re never – ever – going to be able to do instances with thousands of players as has been promised. Right now they can’t even get 16 players in an instance to have a good experience. As I wrote back in this 2017 article on the subject of the “server mesh” nonsense, if they ever do it, all that’s going to entail is the ability to move clients from one instance to another, as that may be the only way to “stitch” together the game’s proposed world in order to give the appearance of a seamless MMO world – with load times. They haven’t left Stanton yet though – so there’s that.
CHRIS ROBERTS ROAD TO RELEASE KEYNOTE
THE FLYING ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Now seven years into the development, Chris attempted to define what a “release” is. And as these things go, he failed miserably. For starters, he was highlighting all the different milestones they hit, starting with the hangar module which debut back in August 2013. Then he got to the current 3.3 and 3.3.5. From that point on, it was the usual waffling, baseless claims, meaningless promises etc. None of which answered the ultimate question: When is the game going to be finished and released?
Most of us who have developed games know that there is nothing worse than engineering debt for a project that the producer seemingly has lost control over. As I mentioned in my previous article, we are going into year seven (eight if you count 2011 prototyping year) and they haven’t even built 1% of the game universe promised. With the upcoming 3.3.5, they wouldn’t have even finished Stanton system which is just 1 out of the 106 promised in the finished game. Not only that, you can’t even fly to any other system, let alone to its planets and moons as there is still no interplanetary travel either. Which makes sense since there are no other systems in the game.
Which begs the question. If they have yet to build the complete game world – or even a fraction of it – how then are they going to complete and release Squadron 42 in the short term? Unless it takes place solely in Stanton, or they are planning on using specific level based set pieces for it, the world that the story takes place in, seemingly doesn’t exist. If it does, they haven’t made it public. And if so, since both games take place in the same world, why not? I have no reason to believe that it exists. Which explains why, technology aside, SQ42 has been delayed year after year. Before I forget, I’d like to point out that in this latest event, he again promised the full SQ42 roadmap coming soon. He said the same thing – last year.
All that aside, once again during the event, in addition to the commercial for a new ship added to 3.3, they unveiled yet another ship concept. That being the Kraken – which never existed before in the game lore or design, and which they’re now hyping to sell – at a high premium. As a JPEG. The most astonishing part of this is that the new ship in 3.3, the Valkyrie, is being touted as the first direct to game addition. In other words, they designed and built it, then immediately added it to the game. You know why this is astonishing? Because they still have a huge backlog of ships which currently exist either as JPEG concepts, or in early model form – and still not in the game. But they had already sold those, and got the money for them. So now they introduce a new one – ready to go in the game – for new cash money. That’s basically an engineering Ponzi scheme.
In a post-show interview, Brian Chambers indicated that even though they have a roadmap and know where they’re going, he can’t say when the game will be completed, when backers will get the “best experience possible” etc. He also said that there about 450 (!) people currently working on the project. Also in a recent broadcast, a backer sent in a query in which he claimed that CIG seemed to have a ship creation backlog of about seven (he was being generous) years. The response from the CIG dev was as funny as it was ridiculous. But it’s in line with the same script from Brian Chambers’ interview.
NO SQUADRON 42 THIS YEAR. BUT HERE’S ANOTHER SNAZZY TRAILER
ROBERTS SPACE INDUSTRIES (UK) FINANCIALS
Meanwhile, over in the UK, earlier this month they filed accounts for RSI, but still haven’t filed for the parent company, CIG which owns RSI and the other companies (of which F42-UK is a subsidiary). Going by the fact that F42-UK was literally insolvent in the their 2017 filings (my article breaks it down), I wasn’t expecting that they would file for the parent company until after CitizenCon due to some of the eye-openers we’re expecting in there. They probably won’t file until after the anniversary and holiday sales, or at some point in 2019. They have a history of filing late, while paying fines; so we’ll see how long they delay this one for.
Regardless, it is a criminal offense to not file accounts within 14 days when due. And right now, both the accounts and confirmation statement are overdue.
In the meantime, someone else over on SA has done the break-down of the RSI filings. I will just quote it below, with minor edits and corrections for clarity and accuracy. You can find my running list of companies over here.
This company exists to make accounting mistakes. It serves as the resting spot for money coming from the US and then being redistributed in the UK. The distribution changes pretty much every year. Do they distribute to Foundry 42 or to CIG, who then funnel it onto Foundry 42? Not sure which option they chose this year.
The source of funds from the US changes even more regularly and this year it’s obfuscated.
The only real purpose this company has is to make the “accidental” mistake that the UK group derives 100% of its income in the UK, when in fact the group derives 100% of its income from the USA.
As usual it nets out. A couple of things to note however. In 2016 the company made a gross loss and admin expenses were a negative expense which made up for the gross loss. It was something like £139,487 foreign currency gains with £26,477 admin expenses, meaning once netted off, is the £113,010 contribution to net profit as shown. In 2017 they have not disclosed the foreign currency gain/loss. I wonder if that could be because they made a basic mistake last year :
ACCOUNTING ANOMALIES – 2016
Knowing your debits from your credits may be hard for your first week but this should become pretty ingrained as part of the core of double-entry bookkeeping.
It’s pretty simple. A credit in the profit and loss account is a “good” thing, it increases profit. The corresponding debit in your balance sheet is a “good” thing, it will represent an asset. So a debit value in your profit and loss account will be a “bad” thing that reduces your profit and the corresponding credit in your balance sheet is a “bad” thing that will represent a liability.
So if you make a foreign currency exchange gain, it should be apparent that it will be a “good” thing in your profit and loss account that increases your profit. Thus a credit balance.
So here, you can see the wording is correct in the 2015 RSI accounts. In 2016 someone just had to add “(gains)/.” to the line where it says, “Exchange losses”. Instead they added brackets around the word losses and then added in the gains/ without brackets. This is painful to see because of both how basic the error is and how they had to go out of their way to make the error. I included the line from the CIG UK Ltd 2016 (group) accounts just to show it is possible to get this correct.
This has no real numerical impact but this is building on the narrative about the quality of the preparation of the 2016 RSI accounts, which is some foreshadowing.
So this year they just didn’t bother with the fundamental disclosure because…moving on.
This year they made a gross profit of £744,013 which neatly covers their admin expenses of £744,013. It’s kind of a curious comparison because remember, this company has no employees and serves just to funnel money. We’ll come back to this.
The related parties tell us where in the US the money is funneled from. I’ll start by pointing out that in 2016 there were costs recharged in the period from Roberts Space Industries Corporation of £15,132,933. This matches the declared turnover for Roberts Space Industries International Ltd. You do not net off the negative values for CIG Texas LLC and CIG LLC, you should never net off against turnover so they did this correctly. However, I cannot tell what has happened in 2017. Roberts Space Industries Corporation is apparently no longer a source of turnover and neither are the other two companies shown. So there are a few possibilities.
1. Some basic accounting error and they forgot to disclose it properly.
2. Some other unlisted unrelated company is now funding the UK operations.
We know they have not reverted to funding the UK companies directly, as has been done in the past, because we can see the money coming in and going out in the profit and loss.
This one is curious. Remember how the company suddenly has large admin expenses? Well, there is also a new miscellaneous tax item of similar value. It’s not social security because this company has never had employees. It’s not tax on income aka corporation tax because then it would be corporation tax. It could in theory be VAT but then it would not be an admin expense and thus coincidence. It would also mean that something had legitimately changed in relation to which companies their income were derived from. We’d then be left with unexplained administration costs.
The implication here is that this company either transferred too much money to the UK companies or transferred money without a valid invoice. Basically they are messing around again and it hurts to think about what legitimate reason could be behind this happening given that this company only exists to transfer money to the UK companies and it somehow got that wrong. Judging by the related parties it also got wrong the part about receiving money from the USA group.
Roberts Space Industries International Ltd is my favorite CIG company.
1. It literally has zero reason to exist and is always littered with basic accountancy errors.
2. It also “hides” numerous “accidental” “errors” which actually have pretty big implications.
I cannot help but feel reasons 1 and 2 are related but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
THE FACE OF SCOPE CREEP
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
On Sept 28th, shortly after CIG filed a new cause of action in the case, CIG filed their opposition. I am not even going to bother going through that one because it’s the usual nonsense that we have to wait and see how the judge rules. My guess is that she’s going to toss (reject) it because as I explained in my previous article, that section 2.4 which is now in dispute, is vital to certain aspects of the Crytek complaint; and so I don’t see how the judge – who pointed it out in her previous MtD ruling – could grant CIG a dismissal on it.
The good news for Crytek is that as the judge had ruled that discovery is to start, both parties filed a joint Rule 26(f) discovery plan. This means that, regardless of the timeline for the judge’s ruling on the new MtD, they have to start discovery. Though CIG is also asking the judge for a bifurcation of the discovery process – and we have no clue why they’d want that. I can’t wait to read the judge’s decision on that one. We’ve seen for almost a year now that CIG has tried to delay discovery for as long as possible. The judge’s ruling on the MtD, as well as their failed attempts to get Crytek to come to the settlement table, put an end to those efforts. But they’re still trying; and this bifurcation request is just another delay tactic.
It’s interesting to note that Crytek isn’t resisting the CIG request to have certain documents filed under seal. We don’t know what those would be, and we don’t know which of those Crytek would want to make public. But when that fight comes, we’ll be sure to read about it in the filings. One thing to remember is that Crytek isn’t fighting a lawsuit for backers; so they have no incentive to take actions which benefit any parties other than themselves. So if backers were expecting to see things like financial accounting, the number of backers etc in the public filing, my guess is that’s probably some of the most important docs that CIG would want to file under seal; and I don’t see why Crytek would fight to make them public since it doesn’t benefit them either way.
Anyway, on Oct 12th, the judge was supposed to hear oral arguments and to rule on the MtD. But then the day before that, she decided that she didn’t want to hear oral arguments. So she vacated the hearing. Now we wait for her written ruling.
Previously: Around The FarceOctober 27, 2018 at 9:19 am #6723
DEV SCHEDULE UPDATE (10/26/2018)
STATE OF THE ENGINEERING FARCE
In my previous article, I outlined just how much of a disaster the much touted 3.3 patch was turning out to be – even for a pre-Alpha build. And so far, it’s been going precisely as predicted. Aside from the fact that they came up with this pledge (complete with a new dev roadmap format) a year ago to release a major point build at the end of each quarter and which they’ve basically missed every time. In fact, the only time they ever made a deadline, was by cutting stuff out of the build, and moving it into the next build. Yay! We made the deadline!
And they did precisely the same thing months ago in which they had 3.3 and then 3.4. Next thing we know (as I wrote here), mere weeks ahead of the annual whale milking that is CitizenCon, they split 3.3 into two parts (3.3 and 3.3.5). And just like that, they were totally going to be releasing (to live) 3.3 during CitizenCon. Then they made an entire spectacle out of 3.3.5 (which btw didn’t even have the much-touted Object Container Streaming enabled) during CitizenCon.
Of course that live release didn’t happen. What did happen was that after a brief stint in Evocati (see: special snowflakes) test, they released it to the Public Test Universe (PTU) for any brave backer to download and “test”. FYI, the dev schedule goes like this: Dev -> Internal Test -> Evocati -> PTU -> Live
I could go on and on about the numerous reports of how completely broken everything is in 3.3, but I’m not going to bother with that. What I want backers to bear in mind is that for over 18 months CIG has been touting two pieces of technology (Object Container Streaming + Network Bind Culling) which they claimed would solve many of their performance issues. I have written numerous articles explaining why that’s patently false, and that even as more content is added, this “tech” will only serve to be a bandaid over a gushing wound. While there are some extolling the virtues of the “increased” performance in 3.3, it’s not only the usual disingenuous nonsense that is the pattern of deceit surrounding this project, but also the extents that “believers” will go. Let’s face it, if you’re standing around on a server in an unpopular location taking screen shots or just pissing about, it’s easy to see a +5 fps gain due to assets not previously loaded. Let me explain in layman terms as best as I can.
Games with lots of content tend to “demand load” them as-needed. What the player isn’t seeing or interacting with, doesn’t need to get loaded or rendered. It’s not rocket science – and every engine tends to do this automatically, while giving the devs some control over it. In the loading of content, you can do it either in whole or by streaming it as-needed. Here is an example of how it works in Unity3D, and how it works in UnrealEngine. This technique can be used for any type of content (level, textures, meshes etc). The challenge is that when it comes to determining what does get loaded and rendered, bad design tends to yield unexpected results. In the simplest form, there is no point in loading parts of the world the player can’t see or interact with, let alone any assets associated with it. If the player is at a location with a view distance of 20km, loading anything beyond that view distance is a waste of resources and leads to major performance and memory issues. With Star Citizen, not only does it load unneeded assets regardless of where the player is, but the problem is further compounded by the high fidelity (model meshes & textures) of the assets in question; thus resulting in huge memory usage as well as performance issues. Both of which have plagued the project since day one, and which got exponentially worse with the Dec 2017 release of 3.0 (which introduced surface tech in the form of moons).
MINING ADVENTURES IN 3.3
If you were getting 15 fps in some area in 3.2, then you’re now getting 20 fps in 3.3, that’s not only a superficial gain, but it also highlights the problem of diminishing returns. Any additional content that gets added is not only going to reduce any perceived performance gains, but also will behave as if no gains previously existed if you went from 15 fps to 20 fps and back to 18 fps as things progress and new content is added. Amid all that, have you been to Levski lately? Especially when there are more than 8 clients there? Did you notice the single digit fps? So what good is a performance gain if it’s not consistent where gameplay matters. It won’t matter if you’re not intending to play the game, but instead just taking screen shots to show off your chariot and a broken and unattainable dream.
It’s all a farce; but hey as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My guess is that at some point, they’re going to have to either disable OCS and release 3.3 live without it, or just keep kicking that 3.3 can down the road. There is no way they are going to release it live in the current state, let alone release the 3.3.5 branch when they have so many performance and crash issues in 3.3. Funnier still, with 3.3 still in the PTU, one month past it’s Q3 release, according to CIG, they are totally going to release 3.3, 3.3.5 and 3.4 in Q4/2018. I can’t wait, because it’s almost as if they rushed out 3.3 for CitizenCon hype.
WELCOME TO DA GRIND, PEON
IN-GAME SHIP BUYING AND DA GRIND
We didn’t see this one coming because it wasn’t even in the dev schedule – at all. During CitizenCon, it was announced that ship buying was coming, along with REC ship rentals in Arena Commander. The latter was already in the schedule; but then out of the Blue a few days ago, UEC ship buying was enabled. So far the response from the tribe has been epic and hilarious.
Here’s where it gets interesting. CIG makes money from selling ships at hundreds and thousands of Dollars. In fact, funding chart inaccuracies aside, they made almost $4m from CitizenCon spearheaded by ship sales, one (Valkyrie) of which is in 3.3 (released during CitizenCon of course), and the other (Kraken) being a JPEG concept which, like dozens before it, won’t be in the game for quite some time. As they have already pre-sold all interesting ships to the two hundred or so whales who keep giving them money, that’s why they resort to adding new ships (and requisite scope creep) such as the Kraken in order to bring in new cash money. So they have no incentive to allow lucrative in-game ship buying, thus undercutting their primary revenue stream. Hence the ridiculous pricing. The cash (pledge) money and UEC (in-game currency which can be bought for cash) spend are a revenue source, unlike earning ships by grinding for in-game UEC.
3.3 IS LOOKING REAL GOOD!
Now comes the other side of the hilarity. There are currently only three methods of earning UEC in the game. Wait, it’s funny, trust me on this.
- Doing combat engagements against NPC units
- Cargo runs in which you pickup a box and deliver it somewhere. This requires a ship (prices start at around $125) which can collect cargo. The starter ship which comes in the $45 base package won’t work
- Mining on a moon or asteroid. This requires a ship with mining capabilities. The game has three mining ships, the cheapest and only one (implemented for 3.0 in Dec 2017 when surface moons was released) is the Prospector which costs $155
None of the above is going to average more than 4000 UEC per hour of gameplay. With #1 you’re going to die – a lot because combat sucks, the game crashes a lot etc. In #2, if you don’t crash, or die in transit, or the mission doesn’t complete, the most you’re going to make is about 2000-3000 on average. In #3, not only is it tedious enough that watching paint dry has more appeal, but in addition to the crashes, or possible death from other players, you have to deal with a rubbish method of “refining” your minerals which you then have to sell. And the yield is so hilariously low that mining for a living is just one of those things you do when you can’t find a freshly painted wall to stare at.
Most of the whales who have spent hundreds of Dollars on ships, are also collectively freaking out that in-game ship buying with UEC is finally in. What are they pissed about? Well these chuckleheads who have been clamoring about how their money is in support of the game, that it’s totally not P2W etc, are suddenly now faced with the reality that the ships they spent so much money on, and which made them feel special, can now be gained by lesser peons who don’t have to pay anything. So, get this, they’re saying that the UEC amounts are too low. I wish I was joking.
THE CITIZENCON BOUNTY WAS PLENTIFUL THIS YEAR
CLOUD IMPERIUM GAMES (UK) FINANCIALS
The UK parent of the group of companies, has finally filed it’s financials. You read my coverage of the financials for RSI and for F42. Also note that CIG is the parent for the group of companies, and it acts as the US and UK publisher (funding source) for F42 (US, UK, GER) which are making the Star Citizen and Squadron 42 games. As of YE 2017, all companies in the group were insolvent, when taking into account that they had less than $1M in the bank, against a significant debt load, and over $2M in monthly operating costs.
As usual, the latest filing is fraught with errors, omissions, and curiosities. Aside from the EU entities using up 64% of annual revenue (obtained from the highly suspicious public funding chart which is shockingly consistent year on year) for 2017, from these numbers it’s easy to see how the world-wide monthly burn rate for the project is probably around the $3m per month mark where the UK/GER group alone burned through almost $17M (!) of total revenue.
There is currently no financial insight to the US side of things where there are studios in CA and TX; but development notoriously costs way more in the US than it does in the EU. On page 21 (under “Bridge Crew” section) of this Oct 2017 article below, Chris Roberts points out that dev/labor costs in the US are double that of the EU. And he’s not entirely wrong because that’s how it has been traditionally; which is why most US companies outsource if/when they can.
“We try to be quite smart about development costs, so we do a lot in the UK and two-thirds of our developers are in Europe. It’s far more cost effective. Over here you can have two developers for the price of one in the US. In the places where there’s game development in the US, the price of living is really high. We’re up in Manchester and it’s a lot cheaper to live there than in LA. The average salaries in the industry are less for that reason.”
It’s not just the cost of living, though: “We get basically 25 per cent of the UK cost back from the government. And that allows us to hire more people. We wouldn’t have as big an office in the UK if that deal wasn’t there. I think that was a very good move for the government to do that, because now we have around 250 in the UK, by far our biggest group of people” – Chris Roberts, Oct 17 2017
Also, Erin Roberts (brother of Chris Roberts) one of the highest paid game devs in the Manchester area, and who previously sold his F42-UK (studio built with backer money) shares back to the group, increased his pension plan contribution in 2017. In fact, he doubled it. They’re not even hiding the audacity anymore.
With 2017 being a pivotal year, we won’t know more until around this time in 2019 when the 2018 financials are filed; but my money is on the continued drop in operation commitments in the US, with primary focus being in the UK/GER. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they continued to gut both US studios by 2019, as they have been doing since 2017.
So once again a UK accountant has done the break-down of the filings. I will just quote it below, with minor edits and corrections for clarity and accuracy.
Going to start with something straight forward that is easy to interpret but always controversial. No layoffs. CIG dramatically increased their employee count yet again. These figures must include employees based in Germany and any other countries hidden around the world, but not the USA.
- Period ended 31 Dec 2014 – Average 52 employees
- Year ended 31 Dec 2015 – Averaged 132 employees
- Year ended 31 Dec 2016 – Averaged 221 employees
- Year ended 31 Dec 2017 – Averaged 318 employees
Total salaries rose and the average rate of £43k per employee (including employer’s National Insurance) is broadly in line with previous years. There is however a hilariously obvious and simple mistake in the notes of the accounts. You really don’t need to be a German auditor to spot this one and yet…
Here’s the origin of the very basic error in the accounts but I cannot explain how it was missed.
2016 FILING. NOTE THE 2015 AMOUNT
2017 FILING. NOTE THE 2016 AMOUNT
THE COUTTS LOAN
Since these accounts cover the year ended 31 Dec 2017 and the Coutts loan was taken out around the middle of 2017, the balance outstanding at the year end was £1.54m. There is a little note in the accounts about it which does not entirely make sense but it’s there.
BEYOND THE UK GROUP
One has to bear in the mind the very obvious and simple mistakes that are often littered in the CIG accounts but I think something fundamental has changed with the Byzantine Empire.
Up until December 2016 the US group acted as a sort of de facto parent company of the UK group. They held all the money and booked expenses, did some sort of expense recharge with the UK group. I always held reservations about how this was supposed to work with regard to actual accounting practices. I think during 2017 a number of things have happened…
- Cloud Imperium Rights LTD incorporated on 29 Aug 2017
- CIG UK LTD (The UK parent) increased its investment in unlisted companies from £440k to £462k a precise increase of £22,205. Presumably CIR LTD above
- The UK group is no longer declaring its income to be related to RSI Corp (et al) in the USA
- The note to the accounts which analyses turnover by geographical market, which I pointed out was clearly incorrect, has now changed
I would have to assume that the story now is that we are to believe that any cash given to CIG in pledges or subs etc is directly split. Any money given by persons in the USA is given directly to the US group of companies and used there. Any money given by the rest of the world is funneled to the UK/rest of the world group of companies.
It’s a subtle difference but it makes the UK group appear to have actual customers and turnover, rather than handouts from a related company in the USA. It would have been a basic requirement for the Coutts loan and make more sense from a tax credit angle. It gives a plausible reason for the creation of yet another company, though there is no suggestion that the new company is active yet.
It would also mean for example that the US corporate structure would no longer show numbers such as say, $34m income, $17m US expenses, $17m UK expenses and would instead show say $17m income, $17m expenses. Which might be of some interest if your US companies were fighting a lawsuit.
This whole thing is a bit of a tax dodge as well as some shenanigans. Previously one company (US), was booking all the income and receiving most of the cash. Then there is a myriad of “expenses recharged” and such. Which is not normal accountancy language or behavior. Normally it’s just revenue and expenditure. These companies were seemingly listing it as revenue and expenditure but simultaneously making notes about calling it recharged expenses.
This causes some issues when you are looking to take out a loan. If one of the companies at the bottom of the pyramid wants to take out a loan and they only have one customer and that customer is a related party, it raises many questions. Why doesn’t the parent company/related party at the top of the pyramid take out the loan?
Furthermore, there are hoops to jump through when receiving tax credits. In order to qualify for the UK video games tax credit, the company in receipt of those credits (Foundry 42 Ltd) is supposed to be solely in charge of production and distribution of the qualifying video game (Squadron 42? Star Citizen?). Obviously the UK government has repeatedly bent the rules and been flexible to allow it but there’s a certain level of questioning, that the old Roberts empire could not really even come close to fulfilling.
If anything can really be taken away from all of the accounts as a whole, it is the complete lack of consistency. Every year they seem to make up something new. We’ve had a different source of funds from different US companies (CIG Corp and RSI corp). We’ve had a different destination of funds from the US companies (CIG LTD and RSI LTD). We’ve had different methods for calculating how much funds should be transferred, including one year having to restate the previous financial statements to recalculate. Now we have a different method of funds from the US. Transfers covering recharged expenses vs presumably a revenue sharing agreement.
3.3 PTU GAMEPLAY SESSION
FOUR YEARS AGO
As Nov 2018 rolls around, this is a reminder that back in Oct 2012 Chris Roberts started a $2M crowd-funding campaign to build two games, Star Citizen (multiplayer) and Squadron 42 (single-player w/ co-op play). He later moved the campaign to Kickstarter where he raised $2.1M from myself and 34,396 other gamers.
The games were supposedly going to be released by Nov 2014 – something that Chris Roberts in lots of interviews stated was totally going to happen because if the development took longer than two years….
“Really it is all about constant iteration from launch. The whole idea is to be constantly updating. It isn’t like the old days where you had to have everything and the kitchen sink in at launch because you weren’t going to come back to it for awhile. We’re already one year in – another two years puts us at 3 total which is ideal. Any more and things would begin to get stale.” – Chris Roberts, Oct 19 2012
Having discovered a lucrative way to monetize the otherwise dreaded scope creep, by Nov 2014 they had raised $65M without shipping either of the games promised. As of this writing, they have raised $198.7M, even as the scope creep continues unabated. Not a single game is anywhere near complete.
By all accounts, the entire project is an unmitigated disaster that continues being financially propped up by a number of whales who have the opinion that throwing good money after bad is a totally sound decision, even as each release serves to highlight the glaring truth that the project is doomed to fail and they can’t possibly build, let alone deliver what was promised.
Aside from that, they are facing a devastating lawsuit which if they lose (as most of us believe they most certainly will), will completely destroy the company, and backer money along with it.
“My brother is a big of Star Citizen. As an non-Game Designer he thinks they are doing a lot of pioneer work for game development, testing more things and taking more risks than other devs thanks to the crowd-funding. Would you say this is in some way true or is it just that Cloud Imperium Games is more open about their development process?” – Askagamedev response
Previously: CitizenCon 2018December 16, 2018 at 11:34 am #6792
MY BROADCAST ON THIS HILARIOUS BUT SHOCKING NEWS
DARK MONEY COMES TO STAR CITIZEN
The original version of this entry has various revisions due to the emerging news at the time. For that reason, I converted it to a blog article with various revisions, additions etc. See Star Citizen – A New Dawn.
STATE OF THE ENGINEERING FARCE
Everything is still broken, runs like crap, and not going anywhere. Several items in the upcoming 3.4 build have been deferred to later builds in order to meet it’s end-of-year release. We fully expect everything to be even more broken seeing as some items jumped from 50% to 100% – in the span of a single week. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.
DEV SCHEDULE UPDATE (12/14/2018)
CRYTEK v CIG/RSI LAWSUIT UPDATE
I have updated my lawsuit chronology following the latest ruling. On August 16th, Crytek filed their Second Amended Complaint (SAC) following the judge’s ruling on the motion to dismiss. Then on Sept 6th, CIG filed yet another motion to dismiss which focused on the highlight of the judge’s prior ruling – that being Section 2.4 of the GLA. On Dec 6th, the judge ruled on the SAC in favor of CIG – but with leave to amend if Crytek decided to file a Third Amended Complaint with additional material.
Key to this ruling is that the judge had already ruled in favor of CIG by tossing the “exclusivity” aspect of the GLA in Section 2.1.2. And this Section 2.4 is related to that, which is why the judge mentioned it in her first MtD ruling; thus prompting the SAC filing by Crytek.
Not long after the ruling, two Internet lawyers, favorites of backers, started proclaiming (incorrectly once again) that the judge had dismissed the entire case, and that Crytek had lost. Which of course wasn’t true. They completely ignored the fact that the SAC was focused on specifically Section 2.4 of the GLA, and that all prior rulings in the Aug 14th motion to dismiss filed against the First Amended Complaint, were still valid, and thus headed for trial. Days later, they both started walking back their previous proclamations. It was hilarious really. So much so that I made a video explaining the whole thing.
STAR CITIZEN FAKE NEWS ALERT!
Previously: Engineering farce, CIG 2017 Financials
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