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Evocati 3.0 – THE DISASTER WITHIN
The image above is part of a converted movie posted from the 3.0 Evocati build. The original YT video was taken down via a DMCA strike by CIG.
Last night, CIG ran a multiplayer stress test where they claimed they were going to be hosting up to 64 player instances. After everyone stopped laughing, and making fun of them in the ETF discussion threads, they actually came out with this notice.
And like clockwork, not long after, the Tribe Of Gullible Backers, came up with this Reddit thread.
This is all propaganda which they hope will leak that they can somehow manage more than 8 clients on a server. It’s inconsequential and serves no purposes if it’s not playable.
This test would be like that time when Planetside2 decided to go for the GBWR with 1000+ people on the server. I was there. It was unplayable. The record was that the server could handle the connections, and clients could exist in game, not that it was playable.
They later set all the servers to 48 clients. And CIG said it would be “quality fun”. Yeah, everyone was laughing their asses off at the epic fail.
You can’t spawn most ships, especially multi-crew ships – at all. And those who got into the test, could barely move, let alone fly. And the QD response time is almost a full minute from the time you hit the command, to the time it actually processes it.
The fps for the test was worse than ever before, and the server instances never ran for more than a few minutes at a time without crashing.
They haven’t bothered to try and get performance metrics up for the standard 16 client instances per server. So instead, they’re doing increased client count stress tests, thinking that’s going to somehow be productive. It’s all a distraction. As I wrote in my Discord channel, basically they appear to be transitioning from using several low AWS tier instances, in exchange for higher tier ones, thinking that’s going to somehow improve performance. It’s like trading in 10 small Oranges for 1 large Orange.
I have already written extensively about why Star Citizen will never – ever – be an MMO. Like ever. And I recently expanded on that with even more damning reasons why it’s all blatant lies mixed in with pipe dreams.
And the bugs keep coming. It’s now four weeks to the December anniversary stream and the year end fund-raising, so they’re starting the hype now. My guess is that they’re either going to push 3.0 as-is into the PTU and piss off for the holiday, or hype it, then delay it into 2018.
3.0 wasn’t ready to go to Evocati at all. They did that as pure hype ahead of CitizenCon 2017 in order to give the false impression that it was coming soon. Going from Dev –> QA –> Evocati –> PTU -> Release, is a long drawn out process. Now we’re one month into Evocati and there are no indications that it’s ever going to get where it needs to be for it to hit the PTU, let alone release. Unless they just throw it out like they with with 2.0 back in Dec 2016.
THE ROAD TO 3.0
The last patch was 2.6.3 released in April. Nothing has been released since. And if you look at the progress between 2.0 to 2.6.3, it’s easy to see that there was NOTHING substantial by way of progress on the “game”. And $164 million later, it’s still a complete disaster of a project.
04/18/2017 – 2.7 automagically becomes 3.0, aka The Jesus Patch
04/07/2017 – 2.6.3
03/31/2017 – 2.6.2
12/23/2016 – 2.6.0
03/28/2016 – Lando denies maintenance mode
03/28/2016 – I wrote a post that the game is in maintenance mode
UPDATE: It comes as no surprise that on 11/10/17, they again changed the format of the dev schedule, making it even more confusing, while obfuscating the true state of the project.
Finally, as you may have heard during the final presentation at CitizenCon, we are going to switch over to a quarterly release schedule for the PU in order to provide content drops on a more consistent basis. To that end, we will be modifying the Beyond 3.0 Overview section to a new PU Roadmap that will show you exactly where the various features and additions will fall in our quarterly release schedule. If a feature requires more work, then it will transition into the next release. This roadmap will be posted once 3.0.0 goes Live.
I remember not so long ago when they were promising to do monthly update releases. It’s amazing that this is the schedule they have been using this whole time to mislead and lie to backers. Now it’s all obsolete.
REFUNDS & SMALL CLAIMS COURT
A group of backers in the UK who were refused refunds, have been making good on their threats to take RSI to small claims court. Shortly after this person filed a claim, to which they responded that he filed against the wrong entity, they suddenly agreed to refund him.
“It seems to be different in the UK than in the US, because CIG is the parent company and they have the same address in the UK, it cost me nothing to amend the claim to be at the parent of F42. Also it seemed to have worked, I got a ticket reply saying that they will now go ahead and refund me this morning, I’ll keep the claim open until i get the actual refund but it seems to be progressing at least“
You all who have been following my documentation of this scam, already know that I have always said that there is no circumstance under which RSI will allow protracted legal action over this project, as it would be completely disastrous for them given the issues with the money and what has happened to it. If they can, they will just refund. Until they no longer have money to do so. Which is how a Ponzi scheme works.
And this guy filed for a refund about 20 days ago. Suddenly, he’s getting his money back.
FOLLOW THE BACKER MONEY
As I have said these past two years, this whole thing is all about the money, and I would be taking odds that someone is going to be in some serious legal trouble when this project eventually collapses – or they successfully get sued. Given what I’ve heard, I also won’t put jail time out of the question. Especially given some of the people involved in this.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the 2016 financials filing by the UK entities attached to the project. A lot of Red flags have been going up in their financials since the Coutts loan (which I wrote about here) became public this past Summer. Clearly, as per the due diligence by the bank, that loan required them to restate quite a good portion of finances. So the 2016 filings have yielded even more questions. To the extent that, as per the analysis by a UK accountant, it appears as if over £2.4m of backer money, simply went up in smoke – and disappeared. You can read more about that in this four (1, 2, 3, 4) part series.
The Pioneer ship sale from the CC2017 event provides even more evidence that there are in fact a few whales (2000-3000) still propping up the project, and who are treating JPEGs like they were trading cards. It was still a disaster for them in terms of fundraising for the period. All metrics point to a downward trend. For a company that’s burning over $3m per month worldwide, and with no revenue stream to speak of, this is a problem. They simply won’t survive as they don’t have a finished product to sell. And they’ve already completely saturated the market base for this type of game. Hence JPEG ship sales.
About 4000-4500 out of 5000 made available
Concierge warbonds: 2000 of 2000 sold
Normal warbonds: ~800 of 1000 sold
Normal credit: 1000 of 1000 sold
GamesCom CitizenCon reserved: 200-700 of 1000 sold
So I had written an article about this show, and which was yet another tech demo display where NOTHING of the actual 3.0 game was shown or played.
After the keynote address, they showed a tech demo of a procedural city which, even with a single client, was running with horrible performance. And also a new ArcCorp preview. It’s hilarious to think that they did this same thing three years ago. This was ArcCorp back in 2014. Didn’t make it into the game. And this is Tony Zurovek talking about procedural cities. Yup, you guessed it – back in 2014.
I could write a whole paper about why the very idea of doing procedural cities at that scale and fidelity – in a real-time time game – and an MMO at that – is not only virtual impossible, but they don’t even have the tech to actually power it. Forget about the asset repetition, which was in full display; collision detect, physics, networking, preventing clients from actually going down there (Chris did say they couldn’t) like they can in ArcCorp, significant performance issues etc. And that’s not even an exhaustive list. If you’re thinking No Man’s Sky, don’t. Instead, go read a book or article about what they did, and why it worked in that game, despite some of the same issues.
Chris did say that this showcase was what was “coming after 3.0“. You’d think that he would actually be talking and showing the 3.0 which was supposed to have been coming out in Dec 2016. But that would be boring, since it’s not new hype. And from what we are now seeing in the 3.0 Evocati build, had they done that, it would have been another GamesCon 2017 type disaster – which won’t sell ships. Only hype and pretty JPEGs fund the game now.
That’s not all. They somehow managed to turn a fan convention into a snore-fest padded with pure tripe, and a lot of things they either already covered in AtV broadcasts, or which were better suited there. A pure waste of backer money.
Anyway, I have decided not to publish the article because a number of critical issues (e.g. they have now said that staff will no longer appear in external shows. Much to the chagrin of their Shillizen streamers, key people have left or are leaving etc) are happening with the company and project in the background. As a result, I was planning on including all that in the article, pending clearance and verification from various sources. However, with the anniversary sale and fundraising coming up within the next four weeks, I have decided to continue with my research into those issues and then cover everything in a single year end article as I’ve done these past years. It’s going to be amazing. Guaranteed. HINT: You were ALL warned about the E.L.E. It’s real. And it’s happening.
Even the Xi’an race are pitching in
BREAKING NEWS! UK STAR CITIZEN COMPANIES FILE ACCOUNTS
Seeing as they tend to file late, this one caught me by surprise late last night. I am currently working on a blog with a real life accountant, and another party to make sense of all this. I have also pinged a very good contact of mine who specializes in FINCEN related crimes and misdemeanors for his take. Once I get all my ducks in a row, I will publish the blog. Until then, this is what we have so far.
What’s interesting about this one is that, no doubt sparked by the due diligence required by the Coutts loan (I wrote about that in my Final Countdown blog) which they took out, with secured collateral, it has more detailed information. This is similar to the corrections they filed in the 2015 accounts and which shed even more light on the money movements between companies.
Since 2015 I have been writing that sources had said that Chris Roberts, family and friends, had enriched themselves with backer money, outside of just wages and project related expenses. Things like setting up over a dozen corporate (some of them shells) entities around the world, buying the IP back from themselves, setting up F42-UK with backer money, then buying it back from Erin, excessive paychecks for the friends and families – and for a group of companies that has yet to ship a single game – are just some of the biggest Red flags now brought to light. And so far we only know about the UK side as the filings are public as mandated by the UK govt.
There is no way to obfuscate this. They have basically taken money out of the project, enriched themselves, then went out and not only took out loans, but also continued all kinds of deceptive practices in on-going efforts to continue squeezing backers. Meanwhile, $161 million and six years later, neither of the two games, Star Citizen or Squadron 42, is anywhere near completion.
Do you remember what happened with the crowd-funded projects which State attorneys went after? For example the Lily drone one whereby they were raided in a criminal investigation followed by the DA filing a lawsuit against them. What about that case were the FTC also took action, specifically against someone who used backer money for something else. There are several similar stories across different States in the past two years.
Well think about how all of that reflects on Star Citizen and what the founders have seemingly done with backer money. And that’s what we know on the UK side. A few months back, I had written a lengthy blog about following the money. In fact, the gist of all my Star Citizen blogs, has been about that one thing; especially given the people who were involved in this project and their past dealings.
The sad part in all this is that the award winning TheEscapist magazine who reported on this back in 2015 after reaching out to sources who confirmed what I’d written, were incessantly attacked by both Croberts and his minions. The author, Liz Finnegan, even went on to win an SPJ award for that 2015 article. That article was since removed earlier this year after CIG threatened (back in 2015) a lawsuit when it was published. With Defy Media focusing on their other properties, the recent downsizing at Defy Media, and with layoffs announced a few days ago, it makes sense now why they would have wanted to settle the matter, rather then engage in a lengthy legal battle for zero gain. Especially since CIG has the benefit of free backer money.
With the recent news of RSI refusing to issue refunds, under the guise of delays due to the much delayed 3.0 patch, even as backer whales ($24K refund attempt!) try to get their money back, while others offering suggestions ranging from chargebacks to small claims court, I feel that we’re closer to the end game now more than ever before.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the latest report in states that Over three times as many video game projects fail than succeed on Kickstarter. Take a look at the trends. Then note that Star Citizen Kickstarter was in Oct 2012.
This is a developing story. In the meantime, below are some third-party comments and analysis about the filing from the Goon numbers guys.
This year they filed their consolidated accounts. This means that rather than being just that company, the set of accounts is consolidated to include all the subsidiaries. Any transactions between subsidiaries/parent are cancelled out.
The accounts preparation improves year on year as errors get picked up. I’ve pointed out the IP issue before and it’s now apparent what happened here.
On the 1st of July 2015 CIG UK paid £1,359,185 for Intellectual Property. This isn’t entirely clear but the suggestion would be that this was for the worldwide rights to Squadron 42. The sale of intangibles for £654,612 was the US rights of Squadron 42 being sold to Cloud Imperium Games Inc. Because of apparent errors in earlier sets of accounts we can’t be sure where that £1.36m actually went to, it could quite easily be to Chris Roberts himself, or a personal services company that is essentially himself.
These are actually broken down for the first time since they filed consolidated accounts. In the UK they’ve spent a little over £1m on computer equipment to December 2016. £400k on Fixtures and fittings. £300k improving the leased premises.
This is an accountancy term that represents the extra cash paid for an asset. If a company has a value of £34,851 and you pay £440,000 then in your company’s set of accounts this is recorded as an investment of £440,000. In your consolidated group accounts however, you include the activities of the subsidiary. Because of this, you do not include that investment of £440,000. You reverse it out through a set of journals which includes the value of the assets at £34,851 and the goodwill figure of £405,149. The goodwill is then amortised (written off) over, in this example, a five year period.
As you have no doubt guessed, these are the actual figures for Cloud Imperium Games Ltd’s purchase of Foundry 42 Ltd from Erin Roberts et al.
Related parties – mistakes
Note 20 on Related Parties Transactions. Accounting errors. All amounts are actually due [b]to[/b] the respective companies, but they are in brackets so the lines that currently read “due from” are correct (Like a double negative).
It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s surprising that a professional auditor wouldn’t notice it instantly. All three disclosures should really read something like, “Amounts due (to)/from” and it would be easier all round to understand and avoid mistakes such as the one made.
Related parties – analysis
There’s three US companies under Chris Roberts control that have transactions with the UK group. These transactions, from a standard accountancy point of view, are sort of nonsensical. The flow of money however keeps changing and changed again in late 2016.
1. Roberts Space Industries Corporation. This continues to be the main money pig. The UK group tells America how much to pay and they pay. “Costs recharged in the year” is turnover for the UK group. As the American company settles these, a balance remains. Because of poor planning, Roberts Space Industries Corporation has actually settled more costs than the UK has recharged. The balance comes down as they adjust (Compare 2015 and 2016).
2. Cloud Imperium Games, LLC. This one is interesting. In early 2015 it relinquished the role of funding the UK group that is now undertaken by Roberts Space Industries Corporation. Now we learn in late 2016 it has gone to being dependent on the UK group for financing. “Costs recharged in the year” is turnover for the UK group. In 2015 it is a positive and in 2016 the figure is in brackets, which means it is no longer turnover for the UK group but an expense. Apparently some US expenses were actually paid by the UK group, so this figure is netted off that which is due to the American company.
3. Cloud Imperium Games Texas, LLC. This is a brand new entry for the UK in 2016 and it only has one figure. “Costs recharged in the year” is turnover for the UK group. However, this is a figure in brackets, which means it is no longer turnover for the UK group but an expense. We know this was done in late 2016 because the amounts for both CIG US companies are relatively small and remain unsettled at the year end.
Related parties – conclusion
What this means is that they have once again refactored the way the money moves around the companies. All sales continue to be made and received by the US companies and flow to Roberts Space Industries Corporation where it is funneled to the UK and distributed in the UK but now, going forward some will then flow back to the US to pay for Cloud Imperium Games(, LLC and Texas, LLC). Pointless.
Financial Risk Management
“The Company does not actively use financial instruments as part of its financial risk management.” I’m not sure how this ties into the reddit hivemind and the infamous Sunday panic statement by Ortwin. It seems pretty unlikely however that the “pay day loan” was some sort of hedge against currency exchange rates.
Completely Speculative Conclusion
Steps have been taken to change the flow of money. It appears going forward (and this means since December 2016) that perhaps nearly all the income is going to be funneled to the UK from the USA. Some of this is then moved back to the US to cover expenses in Texas and LA. This would have the appearance of higher income in the UK group. We know in 2017 that CIG UK put up a lot of collateral to secure loans. It would be in their best interest if the interim management accounts provided to banking institutions showed more turnover. Also beyond just the vanity of a higher turnover figure, there’s the fact that the UK is now receiving its funding before studios in LA and Texas for example. The sort of thing a lender in the UK might stipulate.
“This is something I don’t understand at all – if they created Foundry to build the game then charged them for the license… where did Foundry get the £2 million from? Did they go into £2 million debt right off the bat to develop a game for the brother of the guy who runs the studio? But then didn’t CIG buy Foundry outright further down the line anyway?
Why sell them the license when you are contracting them to build the game that the license covers anyway?
Absolutely none of this makes any sense to me“
The IP is actually in the books of CIG UK not Foundry 42 Ltd. Basically, by moving things around it is easier to introduce actual bank loans. Banks would not normally lend a company money to buy shares from the directors or IP from the directors or companies owned by the directors.
This was a summary of the activity of CIG UK specifically that strips out the inter-group transactions:
Sources of funding
£710k Long Term Loans
£290k Short Term Creditors
£200k Shareholder Investment 
£650k Sale of IP to USA company
£440k purchase of Foundry 42 Ltd from Erin Roberts and others 
£ 50k Admin Expenses
£1.36m IP purchase from USA company/Chris Roberts?
“Well even if the Google Sheet was accurate, let’s assume that it is a best case scenario as well, then they have a huge issue, it shows that they have raised $21M so far this year although the cashflow forecast would need them to raise $30M, a difference of $9M. With projected cash reserves of $13M at year end, assuming that their costs were as anticipated and that they did not take in any more debt then cash reserves are probably down to $4M right now. If this trend continues, losing around $1M a month in cashflow, then they would be illiquid by Feb 2018. Again, this is purely speculation based on the forecast, they would have to start reducing team sizes and costs, if not already done so, to try and balance the cashflow. Of course, if they start getting more negative press then this would only detract further pledges from the community leading them into a cash leaking spiral.“
Even the simplest concept like turnover isn’t straight forward for the UK group. The parent company, Cloud Imperium Games UK Ltd and Foundry 42 Ltd, basically have zero turnover. It gets zeroed out in the group accounts. The only company that has actual “turnover” is Roberts Space Industries International Ltd. The one with the £1 balance sheet that is really a non-trading company.
But even they are uncomfortable with this being turnover. It’s a non-trading company and the accounts make different references to it. This behaviour (calling your headline turnover, “costs recharged in the period”) is not in any way standard. I’ve never even heard of this term before in an actual accountancy setting. It’s strange but another first for CIG I guess.
“The fact that Robert Space Industries and Roberts Space Industries are both registered companies in this money shifting scam should set off alarm bells too. Licensing their own IP to themselves is just the tip of the iceberg.
However whenever brought up, Shitizens believe it’s totally normal for a studio working on their first game have 17+ LLCs and corporations registered. This whole saga is just laughable how pathetic it is. Instead it is Frontier, the makers of Elite, who are ruining PC gaming with their cash grabbing! I mean, come on, they have 3 different large games in the works now and still only have Frontier Developments plc and Frontier Developments Inc. registered as their corporate entities. Totally pathetic way to run a business.”
I updated my wildly optimistic cashflow estimate for Star Citizen. The main assumptions made are the low costs for running companies in LA, Texas, and Germany compared to Manchester. Also that Subcontractors are really cheap. Yeah. I also assume that they receive $36mil this year in pledges and that refunds all time are negligible.
In this fantasy best case scenario the end of 2017 sees a cash balance of around $13mil with bank loans of $5.5mil. Obviously they could pay the loan off, but then they would have cash of $7.5mil.
It’s worth thinking back to June 2017 though. At the end of June, Star Citizen would not yet have received their tax credit rebate in respect of 2016 some $4mil, also no estimated bank loan of $4mil against 2017 tax credits. Also their half year income was only $13mil compared to the yearly $36mil estimate. Expenses would have been half a year’s worth. Working capital would have been tight in places. A more realistic/pessimistic estimate than mine would probably include bank loans in Germany and the United States and higher expenses in these places. It is really surreal that they still need to hit $177mil in pledges this year and this can be balanced directly with the product available at the same time, not any future product which will require ongoing funding.
UPDATE: In a four part series, a UK accountant takes a look at the financials in great detail; revealing glaring issues and omissions. Not to mention the disappearance of over £2.4m that seemingly disappeared off the books.
THE MMO THAT WASN’T
Hey, remember back in 2012 when they weren’t making an MMO?
Is Star Citizen An MMO?
No! Star Citizen will take the best of all possible worlds, ranging from a permanent, persistent world similar to those found in MMOs to an offline, single player campaign like those found in the Wing Commander series. The game will include the option for private servers, like Freelancer, and will offer plenty of opportunities for players who are interested in modding the content. Unlike many games, none of these aspects is an afterthought: they all combine to form the core of the Star Citizen experience.
Then all of a sudden they totally were? Yeah, me too.
Please read this statement from the website. It’s the most amazing piece of game design horse shit that you could only make up if you were dreaming while high, and your brain was totally disconnected from reality. Here is an excerpt:
“In Star Citizen there is going to be one persistent universe server that everyone exists on. So you will never be separated from your friends, and if you want you’ll be able to join up and adventure together, you can. Due to the fidelity of the dogfighting and physics simulation we can’t however handle thousands of players in the same area of space. Even if you had enough internet bandwidth to handle the data going back and forth and a super computer for the server there’s no PC, even with quad SLI that could render that many spaceships with Star Citizen’s fidelity.
So the “magic” of Star Citizen’s multiplayer design is how we combine a persistent universe with a more traditional (and easier to implement) temporary multiplayer “battle” instance.” – Chris Roberts on Multiplayer, Single Player and Instancing, Nov 11, 2012
Which is how we get to this, directly from About The Game:
From the mind of Chris Roberts, acclaimed creator of Wing Commander and Freelancer, comes STAR CITIZEN. 100% crowd funded, Star Citizen aims to create a living, breathing science fiction universe with unparalleled immersion… and you’re invited to follow every step of development.
More than a space combat sim, more than a first person shooter and more than an MMO: Star Citizen is the First Person Universe that will allow for unlimited gameplay.
But wait!! Let’s take a trip down the memory lane of bullshit promises, shall we? Trust me, this one is good as a setup…
“We have chosen Google Compute for our initial cloud implementation as we think its the best combination of power, price and flexibility. We are attempting to build a dynamic server system where local nodes can be spun up to handle the hi-fidelity server “instances” in areas that would help reduce the ping for people that are matched together. Arena Commander is our test bed for this. When you join a multiplayer match you are currently connected to a game server by the matchmaking service. This server eventually will spin up on demand in an appropriate location to the people that the match maker has put together. In the PU as you travel around a Star System (or jump from one to another) every time you come out of “warp” (or jump) you’ll be handed off to one of these server instances that will be spun up on demand taking into account where the people that have been contextually matched together are playing from. As we’re first prototyping / building on Google Compute this will naturally happen where there are Google Compute data centers. With some extra work we can fold other Linux Server Cloud providers into the matchmaking and server management. But it doesn’t make sense to do this before we’ve even finished the base system on Google Compute. Right now we spin up a fixed number of servers in the Google NA data center for the current multiplayer. One of the ongoing engineering tasks is to make this dynamic based on demand and then at different data centers around the world. Once this happens we would be ready to expand it to other cloud server providers if need be. Its pretty likely that Australia will get a local Google Compute data center before this but if not we would spend a little extra time making the backend system game server provider agnostic.” – Chris Roberts, Nov 12, 2014 (Note: In 2016, they had to switch to AWS due to their use of the Lumberyard game engine. I wrote about that)
You know what pattern recognition is, right? Sure you do…
“Q: What type of work is being done to increase the server population capacity? Should we expect to see 24 or 32 player instances in the near future?
A: The answer to that is ABSOLUTELY, I think, ah, if you’ve been watching some of the chatter on the recent, ah, PTU RELEASES, and, ah, you know, what’s gonna be in 2.2… eh, it is, ah, gonna be 24 players, so we’ve been working, ah, ah, HARD on sort of optimizing areas so we can sort of scale more, I think I’ve mentioned before that the, you know, the biggest issue that we have is uhm, uh, just the overhead that the ships have because they’re very complicated, they have multiple… items that have all this functionality, they need to talk to each other over the network… they’re attached to SHIPS, a ship isn’t just one entity you know, in the case of a HORNET it can be fifty or sixty, in the case of a BIGGER ship it’s a lot more than… fifty or sixty, so they’re very heavy, ah, sort of PROCESSING WISE and the SERVER in terms of just SIMULATION and also in… in network, um, sort of TRAFFIC…
So, in general, that’s, em, you know, more the limiting… FACTOR which… we’ve been WORKING ON, so we’re… we’re REFACTORING a lot of things to… make it much more, ah, SMART about when it has to UPDATE, ah, and all the other things and that sort of ties into the work that we’ve done in the past on the ZONE SYSTEM, we’re doing sort of a, uh, whatever you wanna call it, a NETWORK LOD and an UPDATE LOD that sort of scopes depending on, you know, whether you can SEE THINGS, how FAR AWAY they are, whether they are ACTIVE, whether it’s another PLAYER, whether it’s relevant to YOU and… so hopefully all that stuff em, you know, helps… increase the load that we can do and we’re doing things like we’re… we’re… you know, pushing more and more into MULTIPLE CORES, more… MULTI-THREADING to, you know, be able to do more… you know… PHYSICS PROCESSING at the same time as we’re doing more sort of entity updating and simulation.
So ehm you know, part of the benef… part of the result of that is moving to more players in, eh, CRUSADER, we’ll continue and we’re expecting to continue to sort of push that over time, eh, to get more and more and uh, you know we’re actually working on… some ah, BACK END SERVER MESH TECH uhm, that will allow us to ah, sort of MESH A LOT MORE… players all in essentially what will be kind of sort of the same, ah, INSTANCE, uhm so but that’s sort of ah, you know a LITTLE further along, but, eh, it’s ahh… yeah, I think EXCITING so I think we’ll be able to DELIVER probably more players than we were thinking originally… in concurrent areas… ah… so… when I think, actually there’s a question about that so… I maybe talk a bit more about it then…” – Chris Roberts, 10 For The Chairman, Feb 29, 2016 (Transcript courtesy of SomethingJones, Goon transcriber)
Remember this interview statement from Erin Roberts?
“So with the next big release a lot of the underlying game is there and then we can look at transferring people between servers so we can have hundreds of thousands of people maybe in one instance, but that doesn’t come online until later.” – Erin Roberts, Feb 17, 2017
Guess what that “big release” was back then? Yup, you guessed it. That would be what is now the heavily scaled back 3.0 which was totally coming out back in Dec 2016.
I’ve been calling (e.g. here, here) bullshit on this MMO nonsense for over two years now. And you know what? $160M and five years later, NONE of that shit is even implemented. And they can’t even get more than 8 clients playing reasonably well in a single server instance. And they somehow managed to make it worse in the current 3.0.
And just as Chris Roberts claimed above that 128 clients being the theoretical client limit back in 2003 for Freelancer, currently, anything above 12 clients in Star Citizen, is an impossible limit with nothing theoretical about it. Nothing even remotely theoretical about it. Every single client count they cite, when actually reproduced (some have done it, there are videos) by players, has ended up being an absolutely buggy slide-show.
Remember CIG dev, Clive Johnson, from this post he made back in May?
“In a single server instance we can currently have up to 40 players in Area18 or 24 players in Crusader. Matchmaking tries to put you in the same instance as your friends, but beyond that it is luck of the draw which instance you will end up in. However @H0wland is correct in that our goal is that eventually everyone will be in the same instance.
There quite a few engineering hurdles we need to overcome before this can happen. Server performance needs to improve a lot, so there are several tasks to address this that are either currently underway or in the schedule. This will only get us so far though, and won’t be enough to fill a solar system with players and NPCs. To go further we are going to have to connect multiple servers together in something we’re calling a “server mesh.” Each server will take on the processing load for a region of space, and these regions will adjust their boundaries to best balance that load with their neighbors. You will be able to see (and fire) across the boundary from one server to another, and, as you fly through space, will move seamlessly from one server to another. We will also be able to dynamically add and remove servers to suit the current level of demand. This technology will allow us to scale almost without limit while keeping everyone in the same instance.
The problem we still need to figure out is how to handle everyone heading to the same place at the same time. I’m not sure there’s an engineering solution to that one, so it may require some game mechanic to prevent too many players congregating in the same place.
TL;DR – yes, once all the pieces are in place and the kinks have been worked out, you’ll be able to stalk your prey, and should always be in the same instance.” – Clive Johnson, CIG Dev, May 23, 2017
Back when the above post showed up, I had written this extensive article counting all the ways that, Red flags aside, it was all a load of horse shit. Well, this latest post that he made should come as little or no surprise. It’s hilarious even.
“You’re right that the networking side of things doesn’t get the spotlight very often – that’s just the nature of the work really. Other teams will often have something that they can visually demonstrate to the community to show their progress, but that’s rarely the case for us. A lot of what we do is under the hood, and for us progress is that the game looks exactly the same but some graph is a bit higher, or a bit lower. It’s important stuff, but not visually compelling. That’s ok, instead we get to say cool things like, “we work in the shadows – like ninjas.” I think sometimes this lack of visibility can be misinterpreted as secrecy or a lack of progress, but neither of those is the case, and pretty much everything we do is shown in the production schedule. The only things that aren’t in there are those that can’t easily be scheduled like bug fixing. Also sometimes we need to change priorities and the schedule can lag behind a bit.
To give you an update on the specific technologies you asked about:
- Server meshing – not started yet. Our plan was always to make the single-server experience better and more optimized first. Server meshing is going to build on the technologies we’re creating for single servers, so these all need to be in place before we can start. Also it is going to be challenging and complex work that will need the focus of the whole network programming team, so once we start work on it we don’t want to be fighting a war on two fronts.
- Network bind/unbind (aka bind culling) – the network side of this is pretty much done. This was a big refactor of how the network code is structured to allow the server to individually control which entities each client knows about and will receive updates for. Previously the code just wasn’t set up like this, but now that refactor is complete. Actually seeing the benefits of this in a pre-alpha release is still a while off though. To avoid clients experiencing loading stalls each time a new planet or ship comes in to view, we’ll need object container streaming, and that’s still being worked on. On top of that, unbinding or streaming out entities on clients is likely to cause a lot of bugs, and it’s going to take time to find and fix them. These bugs will arise anywhere code assumes that an entity will be present on a client. For example consider a mission objective that requires you to talk to Miles Eckhart. To help you find Miles your client needs to render a marker on your HUD to show his current location, but Miles is on a different planet (literally not figuratively) that is currently streamed out on your PC, so it won’t know where to draw the marker. In this situation the client might crash, but even if it didn’t you’d be unable to progress any further with the mission. To end on a more positive note though, things have now progressed to the point where we can start looking for and fixing these bugs.” – Clive Johnson, CIG Dev, Oct 14, 2017
I’m gonna need help from some friends to express my feelings about this one….
Let me summarize this for you. Five years later, they not only have a badly broken mess of a pre-Alpha, with sub-par standard multiplayer, but they haven’t even started with core tech that could possibly form the basis for anything remotely resembling a multiplayer layer for an MMO game. And my guess is that they’re never – ever – going to get there. So there is no way in hell they’re going to ever get an MMO out of this shit-show. Heck, if they get to the part where they ever get 16 players in a server instance playing reasonably well, and as expected, I will personally send Chris Roberts an autographed card.
FYI: Right now, one of the hottest games, PUBG, has server instances with up to 100 players in a single session. And it just works. Not to mention the number of multiplayer games which don’t even consider 32 players a high limit anymore. But Star Citizen, with all this money and supposed talent, can’t get a session based client-server game running with even a 16 player low limit without the server heading South of the border.
Heck, even without having the luxury of time and other people’s money, when we were building Line Of Defense, right from the onset the multiplayer technology was designed to work in either a standard session based client-server model, or as an MMO with client limitations. That took us the better part of over four years to get it right.
This isn’t something you just tack on several years down the road. Don’t take my word for it, read some of these legacy articles (1, 2) if you think that a “multiplayer game” is the same as a “massively multiplayer game”. Heck, go ask the guys working on Dual Universe or Battlespace Infinity if they left the massive multiplayer part for last.
EVOCATI 3.0 PLODS ONWARD
You probably know by now that 3.0 is in Evocati, and the leaks about how horrid it is, keep coming. And even with CIG actively using DMCA to take down videos (though back in 2014 Chris Roberts said they would do no such thing) showing how shit it is, leaks keep coming out. The build isn’t getting any better. And we’re now up to 3.0.0e. With CC2017 around the corner.
Alpha Patch 3.0.0e has been released to the PTU, and is now available for Evocati to test! It is strongly recommended that players delete their USER folder for the Public client after patching, particularly if you start encountering any odd character graphical issues or crash on loading. The USER folder can be found (in default installations) at C:\Program Files\Roberts Space Industries\StarCitizen\LIVE.
Important: Evocati Focus: New patcher, station traversing, ship spawning, StarMap app, quantum travel, landing, air traffic control (atc) system, quantum fuel usage/balance, hydrogen fuel usage/balance, stage 2 afterburner
All the ships are flyable, but the following are the ships that have had the most attention and focus specifically for this wave of Evocati release: Gladius, Hornet Series, Sabre, Vanguard, Constellation Series, Cutlass Black, Caterpillar, Nox, Dragonfly, Prospector, Freelancer, Aurora series
We would like you to focus on the above for this initial wave of testing and bug reports.
NOTE: Other content and features are in and listed in the notes, but currently not the focus of this testing phase as they undergo bug fixes and polish. Additionally, there’s content that is not listed in the notes that are intended for live release and will be added iteratively during the testing cycle.
The issues section is a calamity of hilarity. Most of the items have been in there since the first 3.0 was released on Oct 5th. Remember back when I said if they release 3.0 inside of 4-6 months, the bugs are just going to pile on top of the pre-existing 3000+ currently in 2.6.3 (released back in April 2017)? This was the patch that was totally coming out in Dec 2016.
Major Known Issues:
- Code 20007/30007 errors
- All 3D objects displayed in the MobiGlas are missing including on the StarMap. Note: You can still interact with them as if they were there.
- The rear door/ramp on the Cutlass Black has no collision, meaning you cannot get on the ship
- Stage 2 afterburner does not work in “atmosphere”
- Content missing key elements:
- User Interface
- Insurance and Persistence
- Internal Ship Docking
- Comm System
- Bugs, issues, and work arounds (W/A):
- All 3D objects displayed in the MobiGlas are missing including on the StarMap. Note: You can still interact with them as if they were there
- Sabre has nothing on MFD screens
- The rear door/ramp on the Cutlass Black has no collision, meaning you cannot get on the ship
- Ballistics leave “replace me” textures in Star Marine
- Some purchasable items at Dumper’s Depot can not be interacted with
- MobiGlas may occasionally lock your character – W/A: Spamming F1 may recover
- When interacting with kiosk the mouse can become detached from the UI – W/A: Bring up other mouse cursor with RALT
- You can make claims on ships that are not lost, destroyed, or damaged
- Can not remove undersuit on PMA
- Vehicle customizer app on wrong MobiGlas button and not yet functioning
- ESP is may not be functioning in all instances
- Constellation spawns without cargo
- You are able to sell cargo from a destroyed ship
- Repaired wings don’t always restore weapons
- MFD screens do not fit on the panels of the Dragonfly
- Starfarers and Constellations may float of the pad when spawned or accessed
- Ground vehicles can not be spawned at ASOP terminals
Now word is that, as CitizenCon 2017 is next Friday, they’ve started working on yet another more stable branch which is rumored to be played at the show. I doubt they will be dumb enough to do that again, following the GamesCon 2017 shit-show. If they have 2.6.3 loaded on the machines they are currently setup for the show, I will be laughing so hard. In fact, it would be truly hilarious for people to have paid to attend CC2017, then get to play 3.0; while other backers who also funded the game, can’t get their hands on it if they’re not in Evocati. But hey, that’s CIG, and they know their core backers are a bunch of fools going through a various aspects of Stockholm’s Syndrome and Sunk Cost Fallacy.
NO, SERIOUSLY, REFUNDS ARE OVER
You were warned. This is completely real. Not going to say anything more about that.
Some people are already headed for small claims court apparently.
If you don’t believe that they’re refusing refunds now because they are low on funds, but because CS staff who have nothing to do with development, are totally working on 3.0 so they don’t have time to look into it, you’re a fool who deserves to be scammed. If the fact that, in those emails they are now citing the TOS, while telling you that you’re not entitled to a refund, don’t serve as a huge Red flag and warning sign, please, by all means, keep giving them money so the Ponzi scheme can keep going that much longer. The end result will be even more hilarious; and we just get to laugh at those guys.
CHRIS ROBERTS HAS COMPLETELY LOST IT
These broadcasts are, among other things, about letting backers know the state of the project. They’ve been part of a long running ruse that backers who pay extra for a monthly subscription (yes, you get to pay a monthly sub fee that supposedly pays for these shows) are somehow paying to make them. That aside from the fact that backers have given this company $160M, but are still being asked to pay for what is basically ego stroking where backers only get to see and hear what it is Chris and Erin want them to see and hear. Yea, all under the guise of “open development”, which is a rather hilarious misnomer.
Ignore the fact that, given the backer count, and the view counts for these videos, over 97.4% of the backers don’t even watch them. At all.
There are so many examples of this bullshit, that I’ve basically lost count. However, the biggest one has to be from Dec 2016 when backers found out (through me of course, and before the newsletter even went out), that for the better part of that year, they were in the process of switching from one CryEngine derivative to another. The first time backers found out about this after it appeared in my Twitter feed, was when the 2.6 patch with the first implementation, was released. In all the shows throughout 2016; all the newsletters, all the publications, not once was this mentioned to backers. The reason, as we later came to find out, is because they didn’t want to cause panic, let alone admit that “Derek Smart was right” back in 2015 when I wrote that they couldn’t build the over-scoped game with the engine they chose. Of course nobody thought they would jump out of the frying pan, into a boiling pot. I wrote about that extensively back in Dec 2016.
Throughout his history, he has always blamed others for his disastrous failures, decisions etc. To the extent that, if you look back, EVERY SINGLE company and project he has ever spearheaded since Wing Commander the game – which was controlled by a publisher btw – has ended in COMPLETE DISASTER. Every. Single. One. And that’s not hyperbole, it’s FACT. And Star Citizen is no different.
Which brings me to this latest broadcast of Oct 12.
Yeah, because that totally looks like an inspired dev team
With the much awaited 3.0 patch out to Evocati testing, and which has been ruled to be an unmitigated disaster which I recently wrote about in a new blog, this latest broadcast, if nothing else, shows that not only is the project on it’s final legs, but that Chris has completely lost it. I don’t even know where to begin. Thankfully, our archivist Goon once again risks brain damage by transcribing the key parts of this broadcast. Note that the pressure, stress and strife seen in that broadcast, are a direct toll from the project being a complete disaster – and everyone in that broadcast knows this. And most are talking to friends and family about it.
The first gem comes @ 4:50
Wilmslow Studio – Dev
“Once we’ve figured out the last 10001 disconnect issue, we’ve got a build here from the UK, just deployed from… that was kicked off earlier this afternoon that should… the fixes for the disconnect seem like they’ve ‘taken’, we could get another code build done or a full build if we absolutely needed to, go through the process of putting that up to the Evocati so that we can get them… those fixes rolled out to them today, ah.. which is good… a couple of…”
“Eh, ahhh I wanted… to mention it at project leadership meeting but it’s important that the… QUALITATIVE feedback, uh… is filtered through, ah… TARD… and we’ll make priority calls on it ‘cos… there’s some STUFF like you know, the 10001 error codes, yes with them we’re definitely… we’re definitely fixing, but then you know there’s some SUBJECTIVE feedback of like, “I don’t like THIS or I do like THIS” or whatever, now some of those issues they’re calling out we already know about we’re already working at addressing…
I always get a bit WORRIED because first of all we’re getting ah… kind of SUBJECTIVE feedback that’s sort of ANECDOTAL and so you know someone can have a strong OPINION but you know like, that could be THEIR opinion and maybe different to someone ELSE’S opinion as to whether it’s a bug or not… so it has to go through the FILTER of us on the very HIGH LEVEL of the kind of DESIGN SIDE to make sure that you know, it’s something that we wanna AGREE because a lot of the times people can’t see the BIG PICTURE when they’re making, ah… you know… FEEDBACK ‘cos they don’t know where the, you know, they’re like, “WELL THIS IS MISSING! I NEED THIS!” and we’re like ‘yeah, no shit we know it’s missing’, it’s kind of like on our TASK LIST, we’re working on it right now, and we understand that… you know… it hurts your ability to dogfight if you can’t see the status of your TARGET… or the status of your SHIP
Um, so… so I just wanna make sure we do that ‘cos we’re all worried that we automate it, some of these like subjective feedback get re-upped to JIRA, they get put in somebody’s BUCKET, maybe they get ASSIGNED and you know… we’ll spend some time working on stuff that needs to have… kind of… ahh… DIRECTION and… and… and… and… ORDER and PRIORITY called out.
SOMETIMES what people want to get FIXED, the solution is SOMEWHERE ELSE to fix the issue they’re complaining about… so on the subjective stuff I kinda wanna make sure that, um… we’re going through a FILTER on that.“
By the time we get @ 6:07, it was already off the rails.
“….a lot of times people can’t see the big picture when they’re making feedback…they’re like “well this is missing I need this!” and we’re like “yea no shit we know its missing! Its kind of like on our task list we’re working on it right now“
By the time @ 7:20 rolls around….
Wilmslow – Director’s Meeting, Erin Roberts
“So it’ll be handy also if… if… when we get to the stage when we are, you know, looking at whether we’re gonna go… LAUNCH… ah, you know, do this every day as well… it would be nice to know what, you know, stuff was FIXED today, or, you know, GOING IN today as well, that kind of information would be great… that would be good… so… we know what we’re actually putting into the build and so forth, I know the information’s passed to… WILL and those guys because they need it to tell people but I have no idea.”
Ricky Jutley (Senior Producer)
“Yep, I think it’s TUESDAYS basically, I think moving forward TUESDAYS will incorporate the live sync within the director’s sync, and the PU will have to go first, and people obviously listen to that kind of stuff, and um, that will be the way that TUESDAYS has to kind of run”
“I think what Erin… Erin was saying was actually what I was gonna kind of bring up, which was… you know… the way I look at it we’re in Evocati now, we’ve got 800 testers instead of 70 testers… and we should be looking to deliver a build every day if we can to them ‘cos we have the DELTA PATCHER… but… the key is not so much about, ‘oh we’ve got one blocker, there’s a crash here or a deadlock here’, which was sort of the approach we were taking in like getting it to Evocati… the KEY is like, ‘OK! What bits of the thing we’ve still left to do are vying for this coming MONDAY’, what about this coming TUESDAY cos… I don’t wanna have like only one blocker fixed, right? Cos we’ve got people finishing CONTENT, you know, doing LIGHTING, you know…
OK? And we… you know… these… these three areas have now being LIT, have they gone in? This SHIP has now been brought over to item two point zero has it gone in? That’s kind of it, cos what we actually want to do is have a steady stream of… ah… you know… things are getting like… FINISHED OFF or FIXED UP… putting in… and we want an… “Ok, here’s an Evocati, here’s the things that have gone in that we think we’ve fixed’, cos you’re basically… you’ve just got to sort of manage that over time so we’ve… we’ve got to get into that MODE as opposed to the… you know… what three bugs have we got to fix before we CAN go to Evocati“
…we were completely off the rails by @ 9:20
Wilmslow – Dev/QA
“So the next steps for us here in… CIG… is, we’re focusing on the SHOPPING ah, feature… SHOPPING and commodities as… as a FEATURE… em, to… PRESENT… to the Evocati and say, this is now… in a STATE were you guys can just… GO NUTS! Go ahead! Buy, sell… so, whatever you want”
Jake Ross (Producer)
“We’re fixing bugs left and right, we’ve got issues were certain CLOTHING items… CLOTHING and items aren’t showing up in the shops right, there’s issues were you can’t interact with an item through a glass case, ‘cos the glass is getting in the way with the interaction system so we’re trying to figure that out, uh… and we’re trying to work out some KINKS with the TRY ON MODE were when you look to inspect a… uh… uh… an ITEM like a ship component or something, the character will look around like he’s got… look… got GLOVES on and he’s looking at his GLOVES so like we’re just ironing out kinks getting everything working really well”
Spencer Johson (Assoc Gameplay Engineer)
“So right now I’m focusing on a suite of different SHOPPING related bugs and features that we’re pushing out to the Evocati soon… ah, today a couple of them are focused on the weapons being attached to the item ports on the shelves, so we got… trying out a weapon in the shop, drops it onto the floor for remote players, uh… weapon models disappear after inspecting them (he’s reading all this off his screen btw), these are the GREAT kind of bugs cos they’re not 100% repro, so they only happen sometimes… which are always the best to find and solve…”
Wilmslow – Dev/QA
“So what we’ve done is, eh.. we’ve taken… our… um… TOP ISSUES that we wanna get fixed, these are a collection of uh… BUGS and TASKS, ah, we’ve gathered those together, put them into the Evocati FIXED VERSION, and our internal JIRA tracking software and um… this is where we saw the burndown graph come from the last time, so when you see this report go out you’ll see the… the NEW LIST of numbers… oh, sorry, the new TOTAL number.“
The general demeanor of most everyone in that conference call, screams of resentment, resignation, frustration, and stress. Aside from the obvious clues that most in there don’t even respect Chris enough to pay any attention to his drivel, the fact remains, this project is FUBAR and Chris has completely lost it.
The arrogance of it all is that, toward the end of the broadcast @ 41:08, he says this:
“….it’s been just over five years since we first announced Star Citizen at GDC in Austin on Oct 10th, which was two days ago. And it’s incredible to think how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time, and only been possible because you’ve supported us along the way“
Yeah, for a project that was said to be coming in Nov 2014, then over-scoped, has been coming out every year since then; and now is almost three years late this coming November.
3.0 EVOCATI TURNMOIL
You see, here’s what backers don’t know. The 3.0 build, having been rushed out to Evocati in order to start drumming up the concept that it was almost ready, is a complete disaster. Let’s ignore the connection problems of the past 48hrs, or the fact that the build is still a performance nightmare, flat out broken, missing a slew of features they claimed was already completed etc – all the things I have previously written about. Let’s focus on the fact that, as of this minute, while largely unplayable, CIG is not only now saying – on the record – that backer input is inconsequential and meaningless, but that they’re not even going to listen to feedback anyway. Which explains the 3000+ bugs currently in 2.6.3, and the dozens that have so far been found and logged since 3.0 went to Evocati on Oct 5th. And all the bugs they decided to shove under the carpet weeks ago, are now rearing their ugly heads in all aspects of the 3.0x build. To the extent that even when Evocati do encounter and report them, they are told not to report anything that’s not part of the “focus testing” for the specific build.
So, last night, following this AtV and aside from the ire over the Gladius cockpit and MFDs, the bullshit helmet HUD that’s coming back etc, there were quite a few very upset Evocati testers. The hardcore ones at that. Basically, all of what has gone on in the past regarding the seventeen months long Evocati program, just unraveled in a single broadcast in which Chris and his cohorts basically confirmed that it’s all a sham and publicity stunt. Imagine this. There are about 800+ Evocati testers now. Last we checked, not even 100 of them have even touched the build. Those who came in during the initial wave, saw the mess, and never game back. I know this because, guess what, leaks aside, everyone is talking.
And the worst part of it is that streamers like AstroPub who are in Evocati and who do know what’s going on, spend most of the time sweeping it under the carpet, helping CIG mislead and lie to backers, while pretending that everything is OK. And that’s got nothing to do with the NDA btw because, right there in the chat, instead of holding CIG’s feet to the fire, they’re basically playing the submissive game, while making asinine passive aggressive comments. Because, you know, nobody wants to get kicked out of the exclusive club for speaking up. Which is how we get leaks like this. Unfortunately for them, with the number of Evocati now ready to fall on their swords as a result of 3.0 not being what it was hyped up to be, ALL of it going to come out at some point – screen grabs and all. And I’m going to publish it. All of it. My attorney is on speed dial. Bring it.
THE REFUND CASCADE
A few months back, sources had told me that CIG was 1) going to stop doing refunds 2) release a new ToS, possibly to go with the 3.0 patch release. However, less than hours after my latest blog went live, and I sent out the tweet below, a slew of posts appeared on the refund Reddit, indicating that CIG was now refusing refunds. There is even a thread now with tips on how to take legal action.
“You can still get a refund. Do it before the window closes cuz they ARE going to stop giving them. $3K refunded” – Tweet
I reached out to my sources and but nobody knows what is going on. My one credible source was the one who told me that he has to check around because they (devs) have no clue wtf management is even doing from one minute to the next. They he came back later and basically said that’s the policy going forward. He did say that the person who notified him, said that she was told that it was always the policy, but that they were issuing refunds on a case by case basis all this time and not something they were required to do.
Right. Where have we heard that before? Oh I remember.
It seems to me that this “delay” to issue refunds, financial ability aside, is probably a ploy to hold off on spending any money, until they get to see the reaction of the 3.0 release or non-release. You see, that’s precisely how a Ponzi scheme collapses. Once new money isn’t enough to pay off old money, or if you need to conserve cash, the whole thing collapses. CIG has basically been using new backer money, to refund old backers who want out. And we already knew that it simply wasn’t sustainable in the long term; especially with the project in turmoil, and over three years late. There is no plausible reason to “delay” refunds to people who were already in the refund process, under the guise of “hey we’re busy with 3.0; fuck off”. Which begs the question: what the hell does CS staff have to do with development – for a project that currently employs over 300 people worldwide?
Thing is this:
- If they release 3.0 before or during CitizenCon (Oct 27th) in this condition, they’re screwed.
- If they release 3.0 it before year end in this condition – like they did with 2.6 which released in mid Dec 2016 – they’re screwed.
- If they don’t release 3.0 before year end, at either CitizenCon, during the anniversary stream, or before year end, they’re screwed.
Now, speaking as a game dev, this wouldn’t be an issue if your development wasn’t tied to on going funding. But because CIG clearly needs the money – via the goodwill of ignorant backers stuck in sunk cost fallacy, and Q4 being their biggest fundraising period, the decision to hold onto 3.0 for another six months while they get it in a better condition, is a disaster. It’s almost as if they don’t really have money in reserves as Chris has claimed, and that they do need the on-going funding in order to survive. If the perception of 3.0 wasn’t tied to financials, they wouldn’t be hiding it behind Evocati, taking steps to out and ban those who are leaking info about it, issuing (there
is nocredible evidence yet that CIG is behind this, despite statements made in 2014 to the contrary) DMCA takedowns of YouTube video leaks etc. Even the delta patcher, which works for the most part, is enough to allow them to release the 3.0 build to all backers as-is, because that whole notion of keeping AWS costs down by not making early builds accessible to all backers, goes out the window. Not that it ever made sense, because why else would they need to hide it behind an NDA if Evocati selection was necessary in order to save on costs?
As I’ve said before, CIG are well within their right to refuse and/or delay refunds as they see fit. Whether or not it’s legal, is left up to the courts and the government officials. You mad enough yet? Well how about this guy who was given a $10K+ refund check he can’t cash?
Get a refund, fool. The game is never – ever – coming out.
SQUADRON 42 DELAYED (INDEFINITELY)
Shockingly, in the latest newsletter Chris has declared that the December anniversary stream will showcase Squadron 42. Which means it’s not releasing in 2017. I called this one back in May. Now that it has no release date showing on the website, safe to say that it will either be canceled, or will be part of the early access change that Star Citizen is about to enter. Which means they don’t have to deliver it or Star Citizen. Ever.
“SQUADRON 42 DELAYED TO 2018
As I reported on Twitter earlier today, several sources, as they have done twice before in 2015 and 2016, have once again informed me that SQ42 is now a 2018 game. In fact, the current internal schedule shows it stretching all the way to mid-2018, and possibly beyond. The past two times that I had reported this, some people didn’t believe it. And CIG kept denying it. This Sept 2016 denial was my favorite. Both 2015 and 2016 came and went. Right up to the blatant lies that CIG told during the events (GamesCom and CitizenCon) of Q4/2016. I wrote extensively about that in my Shattered Dreams blog from Oct 2016.
Sources also tell me that they’re frantically trying to either get a preview or trailer out before the end of the year. So yeah, probably a repeat of Q4/2016 all over again.
Oh, and they have definitely chopped up the SQ42 game. I reported on this back in 2016 as well, but they have apparently stuck to the goal of releasing the once full game, into bits and pieces in order to “keep things going and raising money”. It makes perfect sense if you ask me. They know that the minute they release any “final” version of any portion of this train-wreck project, that’s it’s all over. So why not maintain the bait and switch Status Quo by splitting a full game into parts, then sell them separately? If you recall, they did that back in 2016 when they split SQ42 from Star Citizen, in order to sell it separately. Except this time, they’re going to split SQ42 even further. Which, now that I think about it, explains why you can buy that game for $15 (instead of $45) if you buy it as a bundle ($45 + $15) with Star Citizen. My God man! We’re doing it all wrong.“
The last time this happened, it was Star Marine. It was delayed for years, continuously hyped to the hilt, then rushed out in the 2.6 update released in Dec 2016 as the only tangible release that whole year. It was immediately forgettable, and died shortly after.
Meanwhile over on /r/games, as of this writing, this post had almost 500 upvotes.
“As I’ve pointed out before, back in January 2015, Roberts delivered a presentation in which he claimed that not only would the first episode of Squadron 42 be released by Fall 2015, but the full commercial release – meaning SQ42 and the persistent universe / MMO – would happen by the end of 2016. He made this claim at 1:32:06 in this video.
At the time of this presentation, the PU wasn’t yet in the alpha stage. He seemed to think that his team could get through all of alpha, get through all of beta, and optimize enough for a decent MMO launch in 2 years, all while concurrently working on a single-player game. By saying this, he demonstrated that he either didn’t know what he was talking about, or he was being dishonest. It was probably a combination of the two.
Now, almost 3 years after that presentation, backers still haven’t seen a mission demo of SQ42, and the MMO is in alpha with, I’m guessing, another 1-2 years of alpha ahead of them. At this rate, I would be impressed if the first episode of SQ42 gets released by 2020, and the MMO gets released by 2023.“
REMEMBERING THE JENNISON LETTER
Two years ago this month, barely two months after I started my Star Citizen investigations and subsequently published the infamous July Blog, an ex-employee at the Austin team, David Jennison, wrote what many believe to be the single most compelling indictment of the project by someone working on it; and why it was doomed to fail due to the incompetence of one person: Chris Roberts – Creator
Star Citizen Austin Art Team
When I wrote The Long Con blog that same month, and later caused quite the furor with this long Tweet, I really didn’t think that two years later we’d still be arguing and discussing the very same things, or that the project would inevitably turn out to be the disaster that it currently is. In fact, I actually felt that at some point, having realized that they simply couldn’t build the game promised, that they would restructure the project, go back to basics (the original 2012 Kickstarter pitch), then release a game which they could later build on. But no, that would have been too easy, too logical, and likely killed the hype gravy train.
It’s even more poignant that, as I wrote in the two year anniversary of that blog, the only things that have really changed for the better, are that a development schedule was released, and refunds are happening. Backers still however have no idea what has happened to their money, nor when either of the games will be finished, let alone if they will in fact ever see the light of day in completed form now that an MVP release is on the table again.
The August 2016 Gameranx article, The Chris Roberts Theory Of Everything, which also cited and spotlit the Jennison letter, gave an in-depth look at how things went completely sideways. In September of that same year, Kotaku UK released a five-part series of Star Citizen articles which shed more light on the unfolding disaster. Two of those articles, Inside the Troubled Development of Star Citizen and What to Make of Star Citizen, served to pose more questions than they answered, simply because, all furor aside, it was just so unbelievable that a once promising project with excessive funding, and which had – at one time hired some of the best people in the industry – could actually fail.
“Robert’s deficit wouldn’t be much of a problem if he trusted the vision of the art directors, people who are actually artist and have directed other artists. But he doesn’t, insisting that he is the only one who can direct the artists. I suspect this is an issue of ego, a man intent on appearing like a visionary. But regardless, the results so far have been disastrous, rife with perpetual rework, wasted time, and mass frustration. No one can buy into CR’s artistic vision because no one, including CR, seems to know what it is.
So the one thing that no one discusses is the biggest problem. Roberts is someone who on a company- wide level is always feared, but never respected. His direction is met with nervous compliance to his face, and rolled-eyed resentment behind his back. When his orders are articulated later to the rest of the team, and basic questions of logic and practicality are inevitable asked, they are met not with an explanation of why CR’s idea is a good one, but the importance of his happiness. The explanation is always the same- “I know it makes no sense, but that’s what CR wants”. This team is filled with people who have experience publishing other titles. Lots. We all know how it is “supposed” to be done. But everyone is faced with the same repeated dilemma, a choice- make CR happy or do what works for the game? Short term survival vs long term wins. And unfortunately it’s the survival option that wins out, mainly because turning away from a directive of CR is a recipe for unemployment.
I am only speaking from one corner of this project, but I know that the micro managerial frustration experience is an epidemic at CIG. Everyone seems to be unhappy for the exact same reason. I don’t foresee anything changing at CIG if Roberts doesn’t change himself. And this is a shame because the company has all the ingredients to do something truly great, if only they would be allowed to do it.” – David Jennison
THE LEGACY OF FAILURE
The veracity of the on-the-record Jennison claims aren’t about whether or not he was genuinely disillusioned or just a disgruntled employee, because that wasn’t even written for public distribution. It just happened to leak to me, I published it, then removed it when he requested that I do so. The underlying tone, also echoed by others who spoke off-the-record to The Escapist that same year, are similar and even more damning. It’s interesting that having threatened (as they tend to) legal action against The Escapist, that never happened. In the end, as I wrote in my The Money Laundromat blog, both CIG and The Escapist reached a settlement in which both sides agreed to remove their statements, rather than litigate (The Escapist would have won – without a doubt) them through expensive and distracting legal action.
When you look back through history, even going by Chris Roberts’ own statements, it’s easy to see how this pattern of conduct that has now affected this project, continues to be the most damning evidence to date.
“In the wake of the collapse of Digital Anvil, co-founder and soon-to-be-former CEO Chris Roberts has spoken about his decision to leave the company he founded just four years ago. As we suspected, the company’s troubles were down to “wanting to develop not only hugely ambitious games, but too many hugely ambitious games”, leaving the company’s finances stretched after four years without a single game being released – the sole title to emerge with the Digital Anvil name on it was actually mostly developed by a small British company. “
At this very moment in time, two years since that very public (1, 2, 3) letter, neither Star Citizen nor the single-player companion game, Squadron 42 have been completed. Based on actual facts culled from what has been released vs what was promised, neither is even 15% completed at this point in time – six years and almost $160M later. And the insider rumors that “Squadron 42 does not exist as a game” are still going around, even as CIG uses various art assets to give the impression that it is still very much in development – and now due out in 2018. Having pledged that game IP in exchange for a payday loan a few months back, they have no choice I suppose.
Captured Sept 24th, 2017. If you think it looks suspicious; that’s probably because it is.
As of the latest metrics, ignoring the fact that not even the Twitch & YouTube streamers who used to play the game regularly are engaging as they once did, of the approximately 400K backers (that oft quoted citizen number is pure rubbish; ignore it) of this project, the abysmal engagement number is excruciating testament to the failure of the project.
Aug 14, 2017 to Aug 23, 2017
Star Marine: 16.9
Arena Commander: 20.2
Murray Cup Racing: 3.0
Sep 13, 2017 to Sep 24, 2017
Star Marine: 16.5
Arena Commander: 23.4
Murray Cup Racing: 3.0
Even the upcoming 3.0 build which has been stripped of most elements that made it a point release, is still largely unplayable – according to several sources (some of whom recently left the project). In fact, when the first public 3.0 schedule appeared in April 2017, I had written that it was just a re-branded 2.7. This was vehemently denied by everyone invested in stifling dissent. That was despite the fact that one of their own “special” Shillizen streamers, already went on the record and confirmed it. The hilarious part is that, right there, he wrote “STAR CITIZEN ALPHA 3.0 FEATURES – Renamed from Star Citizen Alpha 2.7 & Released Planned Before End of 2016“. And that was barely two days after Chris Roberts went on stage and said that 3.0 was due out in December; a fact that many backers dispute (“No! He didn’t promise!”, they proclaim) to this day.
Chris Roberts – GDC2013 Presentation
Even following the disastrous GC2017 event which I wrote about, how anyone looking at what was promised in 3.0 a year ago, can say that what is said to be released “soon” is comparable, continues to astonish. In a bid to release something called 3.0 by CitizeCon 2017 in Oct, or worst case scenario, before year end (2.6 was released on Dec 23, 2016), they continue to cut things out of it or they stand zero chance of delivering any form of 3.0 by year end.
And let’s not ignore the fact that we’re now hearing rumors of what appears to be an exit strategy of sorts, being in the works.
Back in 2015, when the project appeared to be going off the rails, a group of contractors and employees sounded the alarm. Most opted to ignore it; even as others continued to fund the project because in their mind, money would solve the problem.
They were wrong.
STAR CITIZEN – THE $45K REFUND DEBACLE
I had written briefly about this in a previous article, but decided to make it a new article because a lot of things have since come to light surrounding this refund.
I had said:
We have known for sometime now that there are mega whales backing the project, but this $45K refund is as incredible as it is incredulous. What’s even more ridiculous is that these $15K Completionist packages don’t even include the full complement of ships. Buying one of those, gives you the ability to buy a Javelin destroyer ship which goes up to $1.5K. And it also doesn’t include any ships announced after 2015.
CIG later issued a press statement saying that the refund they gave to that person was for $330, not the $45K claimed; and that the correspondence was “fabricated” to make it look like it was for $45K. This also acknowledges that this ex-backer did in fact request, and receive a refund.
Because there has a been a lot of community chatter (1, 2) around this particular refund due to its size, despite the fact that we are aware of larger verified refunds in the range of $11K to $30K, going all the way back to the Great Refund Debacle, some Goons and myself, decided to take a closer look following CIG officially denouncing it.
I am going to be perfectly honest here, and though several of us were involved in this investigation, I am only speaking for myself: My intentions were neither designed to be noble, nor to exonerate CIG. I merely wanted to catch them – again – making FALSE official statements to the media about yet another Star Citizen controversy because they have done it before to me. If this refund was in fact authentic, and they lied about it, well then that’s a huge blog for me.
Regardless, because I see how something like this could detract from the bigger picture, rather than keep our findings internal, I decided to disclose them. To be clear, I would much rather not even write this article, and just sit back and watch the shadow of doubt about the veracity of CIG’s statements, play out. Think about it, when you have to choose between a backer who did get a refund (confirmed by CIG, regardless of the disputed amount), and a corporation full of lying, scheming bastards, who are you going to believe? And even if there is a shadow of doubt, which side – as a reasonable gamer – are you going to lean toward?
Something like this, sows those seeds of discourse and puts CIG on the continued defensive because, guess what, if their community relations weren’t as bad as they are, and their credibility (which recently took a hammering over the Coutts loans in the UK, the horrific GamesCom 2017 showcase, a new UK shell company, and the project switching to early access) not festering in the bottom of a cesspool, it would be easier to take their word for it, and move on. But alas, here we are.
CIG has a well documented history of lying – blatantly – to the same backers who have thus far given them $160m (see spreadsheet breakdown) to make two games. And they tend to use the media to propagate those very same lies. No offense to David Swofford, who IMO continues to be a well respected PR guy, stuck in this farce because of money and honor to his old buddies. To me, minus the incessant lying, he’s CIG’s version of Sean Spicer; in for a penny, in for a pound – a guy just doing his job. I guess.
THE DUPLICITY OF DISCOURSE
To get things started, I want to make clear that my views on doxing (1, 2) remain unchanged. I am very familiar with online discourse and the legal issues surrounding online speech, defamation, doxing etc. So a bunch of online miscreants don’t get to change the definition of “doxing” to suit their flawed narrative.
No, linking to publicly available social media accounts isn’t doxing, you moron.
As a prolific blogger, and someone who loves his liability insurance, my involvement in the on-going Star Citizen saga remains as I stated back in 2015 after I wrote the now famous July Blog: I seek vindication. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t care one bit if CIG succeeds or fails. It’s all patently irrelevant to me.
What I do care about is that back in 2015 when I said they couldn’t build the game they pitched, and that they were now actively running a scam to fleece backers for money, with promises they can’t keep, they decided to vilify me. And since this project is primarily funded with money from the public (people like me), what I write about it, as long as I don’t break any laws, is 100% of the “public interest“. And there is no getting around that; nor are misplaced outrage and suppositions as to my motivations, going to trump that.
One more thing. When I said that if it came to that, I would do everything in my power to help put Chris Roberts behind bars, I meant it. There can be no mistake nor interpretation of this intent. That’s how strongly I feel about what has happened with this project, and how they have chosen to handle dissenting voices within their own community, employees, and contractors.
OF GOONS, LOLS, AND TROLLS
Being on the Internet for as long as I have, it’s not very hard to realize that, just like in real life, people do things for all kinds of reasons – none of which have to make any sense. Take my Goon brethren (the real legacy ones, not those guys paying Lowtax 10 bux to read the SomethingAwful forum) for example, most of them are potential candidates for psychiatric evaluation – and most will probably fail that eval. If you have been in any discourse with Goons, you will know one thing, and one thing only, it’s all about the lols and the memes. It doesn’t matter how serious you think a discussion is, if there’s a Goon involved, it’s bound to result in one or both of those things – then probably head straight downhill. And in all chaos, what is usually missed is that most Goons are grown-ups who are in all types of professions ranging from law enforcement, attorneys, and high profile higher education fields, to that one guy who came to fix your cable and took pics of your dancing cat. Goons aren’t the “destructive force seeking to damage Star Citizen because CIG didn’t make it like Eve“. That’s the nonsense posted on Reddit by some of the Star Citizen backers who still can’t figure out – for some reason – that they’re on the ass end of a massive trolling campaign for lols. Those “backers” (aka Shitizens) are their own worst enemy, and the single worst thing to ever happen to Star Citizen.
And most Goons are organized into “castes”. Seriously, you could write a whole paper on this because contrary to popular belief, most Goons don’t engage in all activities and discussions just because they’re Goons. If you know what FYAD is, congrats, you’re already screwed. As hilarious as it sounds – plus I’m laughing as I type this – unlike some of the denizens of the cesspool that is Reddit – most Goons have morals and rules. So no, they do not support, let alone condone doxing. To wit, I was temp banned once for the simple act of linking to a public social media profile.
Which brings me to the point. Despite Chris Roberts having spent the better part of 8 fucking hours back in 2015 writing an infantile missive blaming us for his troubles, Goons didn’t pull this troll move of faking a $45K Star Citizen refund. If they did, I’d know about it. Plus whoever did it, would have claimed responsibility by now because, guess what, just like that time they trolled Buzzfeed, this having made the news (even Ars Technica covered it), they would have claimed responsibility by now.
ABOUT THE ALLEGED $45K REFUND
I issued (on my forum and Discord server) an early morning statement as per our findings that ran late into the night.
“Since last night we having been looking more closely at this. As a result, following our investigation, I have come to the conclusion that the $45K refund is FAKE, and was part of a carefully orchestrated effort by this person to create drama. We don’t know why yet – nor do we care.
So I have banned him (Mogmentum) from the server.
As I did with that Deloria scammer prick, I am currently writing an expose article because this was an irresponsible thing to do.
And while it’s good for laughs, regardless of the fact that Goons had nothing to do with it, we simply cannot encourage this sort of thing.
CIG is screwing up all on their own, and we don’t need crap like this to muddy the waters when in fact genuine backers are trying to get their money out of the project. The fact that CIG is actually issuing refunds, even though they can really legally say no (as per the ToS), is enough good faith to not cause these sort of distractions.”
After the Reddit post about the refund appeared, it propagated across the community like wildfire. Then the media picked it up. It wasn’t long before CIG issued their statement calling it “fabricated”. It wasn’t long before the media who reported it, were updating their stories.
While all this was going on, as they tend to do, some morons in the Star Citizen Reddit community, started their “It’s Derek Smart and Goons” narrative in a bid to not only continue to blame us – instead of CIG – for all of Star Citizen’s problems, but also to denounce it as fake. Thing is, each time they get wind of a refund, either on Star Citizen’s official Spectrum forum, or on Reddit, as they tend to do against all dissenting voices, they immediately start attacking the backer writing about the refund. Which is precisely why most backers just refund quietly, and move on. In fact, the Star Citizen Refunds sub only exists because the person who set it up, wanted a “safe space” where helpful information can be obtained for getting a refund; and to discuss those experiences there. It is heavily moderated, and the nonsensical attacks which go on in the official Star Citizen forums and sub-Reddits, aren’t allowed there. And those who are brave enough to post there, do so in order to convey their experiences, not particularly to gloat (though that would be well within their rights; we’re gamers; we bitch about everything) about it.
And yes, there have been at least two instances of a fake refund reported on that sub-Reddit. And both were an effort spearheaded by a since exposed Star Citizen backer, Hater115, who did it – as he claimed – to “expose the fact that fake refunds are possible”. Once we busted him, we subsequently banned (he came back several times, and it was basically a case of whack-a-mole) him from our Discord server as well as my forum.
The reason these guys are embarked on this campaign – as ludicrous as it sounds – is to discredit the authenticity of the backers posting about their refunds in that sub-Reddit. It’s just another way of suppressing any form of dissent against the project. Of course they are totally oblivious to the fact that the more angst and controversy they cause, the worst it looks for CIG and indeed the Star Citizen project. But these guys are complete morons, so common sense need not apply. If they want to generate their own FUD, who are we to object, let alone try to stop them? We don’t care. If it generates lols, we’re all in – always.
In this $45K refund, this person is new to us. And his only Reddit trace (now deleted account) were some posts in the UK political forums. From the trace history, we have an entire profile of his online identity. We made no attempts to link him to a real life identity because that’s up to the media and CIG if they want to do that.
So, basically he registered on my forum on Aug 18th, as user Kastenbrust, and made 22 posts between Aug 18th, and Sept 14th.
He joined my Discord server on the same Aug 18th day, using the same Kastenbrust username. His first post there, was announcing his first post on my forum.
Shortly after the refund news went wide, and some media reached out in an attempt to interview him and get his story, his Reddit account disappeared. We actually only found out about this late in the evening of Sept 14th. Right away, we figured that something was up. Though some of us were still skeptical that he was probably telling the truth, and that he deleted his Reddit account due to harassment – which tends to happen a lot on social media – others weren’t so sure.
In fact, the general consensus was that since there were two refunds claimed, $45K for the org, and $330 (which CIG confirmed) for him personally, perhaps CIG was obfuscating the issue between both refunds, choosing to only acknowledge the personal refund. In fact, the best analogy to explain this, came from, who else but a Goon?
“They didn’t accuse him of lying. They said the individual got a refund for $330 and not $45k. They did not say the corporate card account was not refunded $45k.
Imagine if you were a corporate card holder and bought your company a whole bunch of defective binders from an office supply company. You return them for a refund of $1000.
While you are at the store refunding them, you also get a refund for a stapler that doesn’t work that you purchased personally, on your personal card for $12.
Then you tweet – hey I just got a refund for $1000 on my corporate card and the manager sees the tweet and checks his records. He then tweets out that the individual that tweeted only got a refund for $12, not $1000 alleged previously.
Doesn’t make the original tweet less true.
Secondly, only original transaction records would be definitive proof and only one person has those. Other people can vouch, but who wants the death threats (from anonymous internetters) and threatened legal action (from CIG for tortious interference)that would result from doing so.
Not many people.”
The alarm bells started going off when he later appeared last night on my Discord server as user Mogmentum.
As soon as he showed up, we decided to authenticate who he was so that we didn’t run into an issue of an impostor. Through back channel communications, in which he provided some info only known to the original backer and one of us who he was in contact with after his made his Reddit thread, we determined that this was in fact him.
That’s when the fun really started, and the holes in his story started to appear. Like sharks to fresh blood, we were on it.
Shortly thereafter, using deep web techniques and other supernatural geek methodologies, we were able to link him to various public social media accounts using the same information which he had provided in his original public postings about the refund. Starting with his Twitter account (old, new). In case you recognize that image, it’s of this guy. We know it’s not him, and it won’t be the first time someone is using another person’s image in their social media profile.
It wasn’t long before we traced him back to my forum, and his prior Discord accounts previously mentioned. In fact, he provided so much info that even CIG was able to figure out who he was by looking at the dates in the screen shots he provided; even though he masked his name from them, while leaving the name of the CS staff intact. Also, following the refund, his RSI account was subsequently deleted by CIG, but we had that already.
While on the server, he spent quite a bit of time trying to convince us that both refunds were legit, that his Reddit account was deleted without him knowing about it, implying that there was maybe some collusion between the media, CIG etc. He just kept going. And we let him keep posting, even as we were continuing our investigations. Those in the public channel were encouraging his commentary, while those of us in a secure channel continued our investigation into what went down and how, even as we remain somewhat divided as to whether or not he was telling the truth.
One thing that didn’t quite make sense was, how could the org have refunded $45K, and not have VAT added. To that he said:
“We are a limited company and UK VAT registered so VAT exempt. All that info was supplied to the mods for verification.”
Then came his revenge plotting – all in the general public channel btw. You can go to my Discord server right now, then in the search bar, enter this string: from: Mogmentum#9178 to see 31 posts he made. Through all this, he was offering to provide access to the PayPal account, get it notarized etc. At that point, none of us cared enough to take him up on his offer as we had determined that it was just talk which would lead to other continued deflection and bullshit.
Following the conclusion of our Space Court investigation, this morning he was subsequently banned from the Discord server and the forum.
We still don’t know what the motivation for this hoax was. As others have noted, it makes no sense. This person, a backer to the tune of $330, obviously supported the project in order to have sunk that much cash into it. Plus, he apparently got his refund without any hassles from CIG. And none of the usual Reddit dimwits have claimed responsibility for it. Though the Reddit account was only active for about a month, there is no evidence that any of those usual suspects are responsible. Plus they would have claimed responsibility by now because 1) they can’t help themselves 2) it would further their goals of discrediting the refunds sub-Reddit.
The other curious issue here, as I pointed out in my posts, is that through all this, nobody from the “committee” in the org, came forward to say anything. It seems to me that if there is an org with over $45K in a project, and one point man was being harassed, derided, made the news etc, that someone – even an alt, anon, or whatever – would have stepped forward to say something.
Also, though rumors and some evidence of CIG using online reputation management companies – or paid shills, have been going around for awhile, there is no evidence to suggest that CIG had anything to do with this either. So, at this time, unless and until further evidence to the contrary is presented, my opinion is that it was an elaborate hoax that someone went to a lot of trouble to pull off.
What is CIG going to do? There’s not much that they can do. First, they would have to find the person behind the social media accounts. Then they would have to prove what he did, then show what harm was caused etc. If this fool actually did forge $330 refund data to make it look like $45K, he would have to explain why he did it, and unless CIG can prove harm, it’s a waste of time and resources for them to pursue it.
As Polygon pointed out in their follow-up article, it’s getting dirty.
“Instead of providing a deadline for the next early access update, the team at CIG spent its time at Gamescom pitching another new feature, a facial scanning technology that our reporter called horrifying. At this point, nearly five years into production, people are asking for their money back, and they’re getting it.
So how much money is actually flowing out of the project for refunds? We asked CIG to tell us, and they declined to comment.”
The one thing to take away from this, lols aside, is that the subscriber base and page views for the Star Citizen refunds sub-Reddit spiked (as it has since GamesCom 2017 showcase) substantially; and backers continue to post about their refunds. One would think that the combination of media coverage over this fiasco, as well as the revelation that refunds are still possible, may also be responsible for the increased spike.
And I say to those who are saying that refunds are “hurting the project”: listen, we don’t care. CIG made lofty promises they can’t ever hope to keep, the project is three years behind schedule, and after six years, $160m in backer funding, and over 500 people (at some point or another), they still don’t have 15% of ANY of the games promised.
So yes, while they are well within their rights to refuse refunds, as per the ToS backers agreed to, they only have themselves to blame if backers are fed-up of waiting, and of the lies. Chris Roberts went on the record – several times – and said that they have financial reserves, that they do in fact allow refunds etc. So this should be acceptable as it is in all companies where you receive money in exchange for goods. If you fail to deliver, you have to refund the money as applicable by law. It really is that simple. And if the State or Fed officials were to get involved at some point, as they have done in the past to other crowd-funding fiascos, they can and will freeze the CIG assets, in an attempt to return those funds back to backers.
As a wise man one said, happy backers don’t ask for refunds – no matter what. So there’s that.
Thus concludes yet another Star Citizen shit-storm that one of their own backers is solely responsible for.
STAR CITIZEN – EARLY ACCESS
This one is really, truly, hilarious to me. If you read my article about the disaster that was the GamesCom 2017 presentation, as well as my follow-up article about the new shell corporation rumored to be part of an exit strategy, then you already know where this is headed.
Basically, during the show, Chris Roberts gave an absolutely amazing and eye-opening interview to Eurogamer that has to be read to be believed. If you’re familiar with some of his more notable interviews (yes, I have a list with choice excerpts), particularly the ones following the collapse of his last studio which led to his exit from the industry, then you should immediately see the pattern.
As the author noted, that interview was supposed to run alongside the launch of the much awaited 3.0 build which, even after six years and having raised almost $160M from gamers, still won’t even amount to 15% of what was promised.
At Gamescom we’re getting a good look at Star Citizen version 3.0. Are you in a state now that you’d term beta? What’s next?
“The term beta in terms of Star Citizen – with 3.0 the game is moving into a phase akin to Early Access. It’ll build and grow from there, and then you could say ‘well, it’s not really Early Access anymore’. The price will probably go up a little bit and it will have much more of the features and content going on.”
Where do you draw a line in the sand between alpha, beta, Early Access? Are they just labels?
“I feel like they’re just labels – people still think of the old way [of making games], like my past games. We’d talk about a game for years, we’d show it, but no one would have their hands on it ’til it was out. There was an obsession with ‘when will it get released’. Even with those [traditional boxed] games now, they get patched, they add things, make things better over time. The way I look at it is, if you’ve supported Star Citizen you can download and play 2.63 which is a mini, early-stage version of this universe and play around.“
He’s completely out of touch; and that explains precisely why this project is a major train-wreck that’s completely off the rails. I couldn’t even be bothered to break this one down; but someone else did a great post with that.
Earlier this week, I got word that a new ToS change was in the works. The relevance of this wouldn’t be immediately obvious unless you consider what had come before, and what is most likely to happen in the coming weeks. You see, back in May 2016, I had written that having missed the game’s delivery in Nov 2014, as well as the 18 month “cure” period in the ToS, that they were very likely to release a new ToS to address that slip. In June 2016, ahead of the much awaited 2.4.0 build, they did just that. I documented this change in an article which also highlighted what the new language meant to old and new backers.
The last major 2.0 patch was released in Dec 2015. The most current patch was released in April 2017. Backers have been waiting for the 3.0 patch, which is the next major milestone release. In fact, that 3.0 patch is what backers thought was coming in Dec 2016 when Chris promised it the August prior. Instead, they got 2.6, with the immediately forgettable Star Marine fps module.
In game development, Early Access is only a descriptor used to indicate that a game is available to those who want to pay to get in early. Steam spearheaded this movement and they have specific rules for it. It boils down to one simple thing. Backing an early access game means that you are prepared to lose the money as there is a chance that the product will never be completed.
Is this the same as pre-purchasing a game?
No. Early Access is a full purchase of a playable game. By purchasing, you gain immediate access to download and play the game in its current form and as it evolves. You keep access to the game, even if the game later moves from Early Access into fully released.
When will these games release?
Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to ‘release’. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to ‘finish’ their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state.
Even crowd-funded games (e.g. Infinity Battlescape, Helion, Everspace) which make on-going builds accessible to backers, are technically early access without actually calling it that. And during the early access phase, the standard software development milestones (pre-alpha, alpha, beta, release candidate, release) all still apply.
In the case of Star Citizen, it can be said that it went into early access back in Aug 2013 when the first hangar module was released to backers. Below is a list of the major milestones. Back in April 2015, they switched to a new numbering scheme which is as nonsensical as the previous. And of course the patch notes page is incomplete and doesn’t include all the releases.
STAR CITIZEN MAJOR MILESTONE BUILDS
3.0 (w/ planet/moon access etc), ??/??/??
2.6.0 (w/ Star Marine fps module), 12/23/2016
2.4.0 (/w/ ArcCorp shopping), 06/08/2016
2.0 (w/ Persistent Universe, Multi-Crew Ships), 12/11/2015
1.2 (w/ ArcCorp social module), 08/28/2015
0.8 (w/ Arena Commander dogfighting module), 06/04/2014
0.x (w/ Hangar module), 08/29/2013
So why is Chris now going on the record and saying that the upcoming 3.0 build is “akin to early access”? Your guess is as good as mine.
With an on-going refund cascade in full swing following the GamesCom 2017 event, and seeing that 3.0 is a major update, it makes sense that they would introduce a new ToS designed to not only continue the removal of promises made to backers, but also to continue reducing CIG liability. Specifically, it could also include more stringent language designed to completely remove refunds.
Curbing refunds is key to the future strategy and restructuring of the project. If the game moves to early access, and a new ToS states that you can’t get a refund after a period of time, that’s it. Since US courts have ruled that agreeing to a ToS binds you to it, if such a ToS change states that you won’t get a refund after a period of time, and you agree to that ToS, then later try to get a refund, they have every right to refuse it. Taking them to arbitration (as per the ToS) won’t get around that because you agreed to the ToS. Of course if you have the time and resources to take legal action, and you can prove things like fraudulent inducement, or anything that would give rise to false statements being made, then you may get your day in court.
What would this mean for pre-existing backers? Well, that’s a slippery slope. Backers prior to the June 2016 ToS change are 100% entitled to a refund as per the previous ToS. Those who backed the project thereafter, and subsequently agreed to that new June ToS, are on a slippery slope because it has specific language that gives them the right to refuse refunds. Following the California State authorities being involved in last year’s refund debacle which I wrote about in this article, they have been giving refunds. Recent reports indicate that refunds are no longer happening as fast as they used to be, with some people waiting up to three weeks to even hear back from CS, let alone get their refunds processed. And even then, they try to convince backers to not get a refund, thus increasing the time it takes to get to the “Fuck you! Give me my money” part.
I should also mention that the EU nations have their own rules about refunds. Key to that is there is a 14 day refund period for “delivered” period. So it’s unclear to me how CIG is going to handle this particular issue, especially given their huge backer base in Germany. For all intent and purposes, the project isn’t finished, so whether they tag it as early access or not, EU backers are still entitled to a refund as there is no finished product delivered.
The other curious thing to bear in mind is that by tagging the game as early access, it completely throws out that whole “It’s a pledge, not a pre-purchase” argument. Of course there was never an argument to be made, and only the delusional buffoons chose that particular hill to die on. Any money given to CIG is 100% a pre-purchase, and even the wording of their own ToS, clearly makes the case for this. So it simply doesn’t matter what they or their devout followers and brethren want to call it because as far as consumer law (which is the only thing that matters) is concerned, it’s a pre-purchase. And for that reason, you’re entitled to a refund if you ask for it, and subject to the ToS.
Anyway, until they release the 3.0 build, and we see a new ToS, all we can do is wait and speculate on what the future holds. Regardless, when all is said and done, the games Star Citizen and Squadron42, are never – ever – getting released as promised; so none of this even matters. What matters is whether or not backers who have been duped (1, 2) into funding the lifestyles of a group of people actively running a scam, will ever be able to get their money back pre- or post- collapse.
At the end of the day, moving to early access means that they can keep it in dev for as long as they want – until they collapse – without having to deal with the external pressures of a release date. It’s a brilliant plan if you ask me. 🙂
A long time ago, I had written that when all is said and done, all that needs to be looked into is where the money went. There is no doubt that they’re low on funds and need to keep selling JPEGs in order to keep this going. However, using new money to refund old money is a classic Ponzi scheme that will eventually collapse. Refunds are a huge financial issue because it doesn’t matter how much money they have raised, as it’s not sitting in a bank account somewhere. It’s been spent on the five worldwide studios, along with the inflated paychecks and bonuses to Chris’s family and friends program; even as they continue to leverage the project’s assets to take out loans to fund operations.
Eventually they will have to curb refunds. The only way to do that effectively is to enforce the ToS conditions.
THE EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT
Back in April 2016, I wrote the Star Citizen – Extinction Level Event blog which was my ground zero point for the inevitable collapse of the project. In July 2015 when I wrote that first Interstellar Citizens blog, I had already expressed my opinions as to why I didn’t think the project was possible, and even so, not without a capable team, engine, and minimum $150M. In April 2016 when I wrote that E.L.E blog, they had already raised $112M (according to the public funding chart).
In that E.L.E blog, I wrote about several events which I believed were evidence of an E.L.E (btw it isn’t an instantaneous event. It is a series of ripple events over time, until the final end) that was moving along apace. I said:
“For about two weeks now I have been hinting that on-going events which, combined with what has transpired long before this project turned into the shit-show that it is now, are likely to see this project result in a catastrophic collapse before they can deliver on promises. If you are in the media, a backer (are you a disgruntled whale? then you’re even more vested; do something), or in a position of authority, you need to do one thing, and one thing only. Ignore all the noise and the drama, because my opinion remains the same, the game is never going to come out as promised. Instead, just follow the money.“
I also opined about some very specific things which I will outline below.
1) Terms Of Service Agreement
Having failed to deliver the games in Nov 2014 (the same month they were fully funded to $65M for the over-scoped project), and with the additional 18 month ToS deadline approaching, I stated that they would likely change it again because the projects were nowhere near completion. I said :
“You could start with the ever-changing ToS which, effective May 31st, 2016 from their inability to deliver as promised, requires them to provide not only refunds, but also a financial accounting of how the money raised from backers, has been spent. They’re unlikely to do it. And there is a reason that they shifted that date from 12 months (expired Nov 30th, 2015) to 18 months (expires May 31st 2016).”
They changed it in June 2016 to a version that not only removed certain promises (refunds, financial accountability etc) made to backers, but also set the stage for the reduction of liability in the event of a catastrophic collapse of the project. I have an entire forum dedicated to the discussion of those changes.
2) The Refund Debacle
They were actively refusing refunds, even though Chris Roberts had gone on the record saying that refunds were not guaranteed because the 2.0 build (released in Dec 2015), was a “substantial update”. I said:
“That aside from the fact that they have been routinely refusing to give refunds to people who have seen through the lies, and want their money back. They prematurely released a broken tech demo in Q4/15 as the first PU 2.0 – which as was to be expected, netted them quite a bit of cash. Shortly after, in a bid no doubt designed to curb the flow of backers ejecting and asking for refunds, they started using it as an excuse to refuse refunds. And when Sandi Gardiner got into an exchange with Beer, an early backer and previously staunch supporter, here’s the fallout from that fiasco.”
Less than a month later after I stated that they had no legal reason to refuse refunds, having missed the dates in their own ToS by a wide margin, a backer who was refused a sizable refund, decided to test my theory. He went straight to the CA State authorities who agreed with my assessment. Barely a week later, he got his refund, and refunds became a thing again, and continues as of this writing. It wrote Star Citizen – The Refund Debacle blog about the whole thing.
3) The Engine Dilemna
Chris made key statements in a Dec 2015 broadcast that led me to believe that they had reconciled the fact that, as I had stated back in July 2015, they didn’t have the engine needed to make the games promised. I said:
“As I stated in my first July 2015 blog, they simply don’t have the tech to build the game he promised. He knows it. His team of skilled engineers know it. The backers (at least those who are paying attention) know it. It’s simply not a secret anymore; and he has said so himself after so many denials and rebuttals to my blog statements and commentary. And the fact that they keep systematically cutting things out, walking back promises etc, they have completely proven the point that I made in my first blog back in July 2015″
At GamesCom 2016, Brian Chambers, studio head at F42-GER where the primary engine dev takes place, stated in an interview that they had modified CE3 “by about 50%”. In Sept, I wrote that it simply wasn’t enough. I said :
“At the end of the day, as I mentioned in my missive, in order to come up with a custom engine which would make it somewhat possible to build vision 2.0 of the game, they would have to modify CE3 by a whole lot more than 50%. And even so, the underlying CE3 architecture is still going to be there because things like scene management, 64-Bit positioning, networking etc, are all the things they would need to either rip out and replace, or build on top of. And the time it takes for them to be doing all that, could have been spent building a custom engine which specifically does what they want.
It is hard for a none programmer to quite grasp how horrendous it is to go back and modify someone’s code; let alone an engine built by several people. Which is why, last year when people were saying that opening F42-GER with ex-CryTek engineers was going to be the magic bullet, most of us who know better, just laughed. It’s been almost 18 (?) months since; look at what they have now.
To be clear, I don’t envision there ever being a time whereby their CE3 FrankenEngine ever powers vision 2.0 of the game. I simply don’t see it happening. For that, would need to modify CE3 by 90% or more. Well, therein lies the rub.”
In Dec 2016, without having previously said anything about it, we learned that they had switched from one CryEngine 3 derivative to another (Lumberyard) in the 2.6 release. I wrote extensively about that in my Star Citizen – Irreconcilable Differences blog a few days later.
And if you read my article on the disastrously disappointing GamesCom 2017 show this past August, then you already know where this is headed.
4) Minimum Viable Product
For years I had stated that they simply couldn’t build the game pitched, and that they would be left with no choice but to ship “something”, release it, then if they survive the fallout, build on that. I said:
“Here’s the thing; he could have ten like them and NEVER build the game he wants to build. Aside from that, he’s got a bunch of ex-CryTek (the company that developed the engine they are using as a baseline) parked in a separate studio in Frankfurt Germany. That was almost a year ago. Still no game – or anything that remotely resembles one. Why? BECAUSE IT CAN’T BE DONE. PERIOD.”
A few days after my E.L.E blog went live, Chris in a broadcast, made clear that they couldn’t in fact deliver the games promised, and that they were instead going to work on an MVP; then build from there. In my follow-up article, I called that plan the final nail in the Star Citizen coffin.
He made the same claims in an interview from this past GamesCom 2017 event. You can read about that in my GC2017 coverage. It’s eye-opening.
5) Financial Difficulties
Having raised about $112M at the time, without ever delivering an Alpha product, rumors started swirling that they were – again – facing financial difficulties. I said:
“Rumors and unconfirmed reports have been swirling for months that they’re running out of money to complete these projects, that they’ve been seeking external investor funding, trying to take advantage of tax credits etc. Even over in the UK, where reports like this come out, there is no evidence of them ever filing with the BFI if they did in fact take advantage of UK tax credits. If they’re out trying to raise investor money, it should come as a complete shock to anyone who thinks that $112M should have been enough to, you know, develop the game as promised. All the negativity surrounding the game, the shitty and toxic community that has sprung up around it; the aforementioned videos of a shitty tech-demo (aka CryEngine mod) everyone is now laughing (1, 2) at, are collectively likely to affect any efforts to raise money outside of a bunch of gullible whales firmly entrenched in sunk cost fallacy and cognitive dissonance. Here’s the thing, any investor or investment banker looking to invest in a project which, for five years, has raised over $112M (that we know of) for a project that the creator was originally asking $2M from the public, should be doing extensive research into all the execs associated with this project.”
Later that year, between the Aug GamesCom 2016 and Oct CitizenCon 2016, Chris did the following: (1) presented an R&D demo being passed off as live 3.0 gameplay (which was later debunked by me, forcing them to admit to it) (2) claimed that the build – which he was playing – was due out on or before Dec 19th (3) didn’t show SQ42 as was expected, but later released a “Road To CitizenCon” video which proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that they didn’t even have anything to show of SQ42 at the event – but they lied about it anyway.
As a result of these carefully planned events – seemingly designed to mislead and rip off backers – he subsequently raised about $23M through that period. All based on what we now know, almost a year later, to be pure lies.
It didn’t stop there. It wasn’t until June 2017, that we finally learned that the aforementioned rumors were in fact true. This time, they had taken out a loan in the UK, while pledging assets paid for by backers, as collateral. I wrote about this in my Star Citizen – The Final Countdown blog, and also in a follow-up article about a week later.
Since that April 2016, E.L.E blog, every single thing they have done has been about raising money by any means necessary. This has included on-going JPEG concept sales, showcasing carefully crafted videos at events being passed off as the game in order to continue raising money from backer whales, various refund shenanigans in which some backers are reporting that they are either not getting their full and correct refunds, or CIG is making it prohibitive (e.g. requesting ID, attempting to refund to expired or invalid credit/debit cards etc) for them etc.
I have also learned that CIG is going to stop issuing refunds very soon, due to their on-going financial difficulties.
Then, out of nowhere, an industry developer wrote an extensive two-part article outlying why he thinks that the project is now in financial distress.
THE EXIT STRATEGY
About a week ago, I had a very disturbing discussion with a top tier (CEO of a large and well known studio) industry peer with connection to several people working on this project. That discussion left me shaken with anger, resentment, and confusion. I released this Tweet.
“BREAKING! Huge Star Citizen news inbound! 1st, read my Extinction Level Event blog from April 2016 for context”
Basically people in the industry who are either connected to the project, or to someone who is, are all talking now more than ever before. And the general theme is that the project is, as has been reported before, a complete failure, that Chris Roberts was not only looking around for investment, but also seeking an “exit” strategy. Speaking to several of my sources, they indicated to me that people are already leaving (Note that this is the most difficult industry to find work in, so leaving a project is not a decision that is made lightly) either through termination, or resignation. In fact, several of the recent ones already went public.
Statements made include, as has been reported before, that Chris Roberts is difficult to work with, and has run the project into the ground due to not taking the advice of the people he is paying to build these games, even as him and his friends blow through backer money irresponsibly. Most people on the project are basically pulling a paycheck until the final collapse because, as I mentioned before, it’s very hard to find work in the industry these days; no matter who is hiring.
You know why I’m mad? Because he’s done this before. I recently posted a short compilation which would give you some insight into what I’m talking about.
And now comes this….
Though I can’t go into a lot of detail at this point because it would compromise some sources, even as I await further clarification, I also learned at the same time that, in addition to the dozen or more corporations involved in this venture, this past Aug 29th, they formed yet another shell corporation in the UK called Cloud Imperium Rights LTD. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of another shell corp, CIG UK Ltd. I know what the implications of this are, I know the details, and I know what it’s for. But unless and until I obtain some key pieces of information that I am awaiting, I can’t yet say anything more about it. In fact, the only reason that I am even mentioning this at all is because though some of us have been discussing it in private, some people are now also aware of the existence of this new entity – though they have no clue what it’s for, nor why it exists.
FYI: Back in early August, Playdek which had raised over $660K via crowd-funding, abandoned the project, then passed the rights off to another company.
My April 2016 E.L.E blog was written for a reason. More soon.
UPDATE 2: Eurogamer just 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 possibly planning 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.
So basically, he’s gone from a $160m (as of now) crowd-funded project with a Nov 2014 delivery date, to pre-Alpha, and now right into an early access release instead, thus removing any future release dates.
He’s a liar, a scam artist, and a fraud.
UPDATE 1: For those of you asking about the ramifications of this new shell company, my answer is that I can’t say anything more about it until I get additional feedback, answers to some questions I’ve asked, as well as clearance to share some of the other pertinent info that I am not permitted to share at this point.
However, I can share a bit of background to give you an idea of why this new shell company should be raising new Red flags even if nothing funny is going on. Even it was for the sole purpose of IP licensing etc, they don’t need another EU shell corporation when they already have three in the same country, and another, F42-GER in Germany.
What this new shell company highlights is how they have systematically taken money out of these corporate entities.
Basically Chris took approximately $75M (publicly filed expenses from the formation of the studio) of backer money and built/maintained F42-UK studio for his brother and lifelong friends (The Elms, Derek Senior et al over in the UK). The corporation papers were filed in Sept 2013.
Then in 2014, at the height of the crowd-funding windfall, they turned around, and through CIG-UK, bought the company back from Erin et al for £440k, thus taking money OUT of the entity. Money which should have been spent on developing the games. Money which btw, is funneled from the US by CIG-UK via the RSI-UK subsidiary.
And during that time, they were putting the company into debt with not one, but now two UK loans – one of which collateralizes IP and assets paid for with backer money – even after taking money out of the entities for no good cause other than what can only be regarded as Unjust Enrichment. And we don’t know what is going with the US side of the financials, as those aren’t public.
All of the above in addition to Erin taking a larger than normal salary, even while giving himself salary raises and bonuses – never having shipped a single product.
The other question mark in their books is that in 2015, CIG-UK bought an IP “on paper” for £1.36m. That same year, it sold that same IP to the tune of about £2m, thus booking a “profit” of about £655k. Nobody knows what that IP is. But my guess is that, since they’ve never even mentioned it, and the fact that they “sold” it, points to them selling Star Citizen and/or Squadron 42 related IP among their shell companies. Hilariously, even with the profit, the end of year filing for the value of the aforementioned IP, is still £1.36m.
As there are no books to show who the IP was bought from or sold to, it stands to reason that it wasn’t sold to any of the UK entities (or it would be recorded there in the P&L which we have access to in the UK), but maybe to either one of the other shell companies in the US or in GER. Companies for which backers have no financial access or overview.