Forum Replies Created
June 30, 2017 at 10:00 am in reply to: Star Citizen – Musings #5447
DOES A BANK NOW OWN STAR CITIZEN?
Over the past weekend, a huge furor erupted after I wrote and article and a blog announcing that CIG/F42 in the UK had taken out a loan with a bank, and that bank now “owned” (this is debatable as per Section 4-5 of the docs) both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen.
As I dug deeper, and heard from various people who had some knowledge and insight to the matter, I decided to write the Final Countdown blog about it. Due to the fluidity of the situation, I have since updated (scroll to the bottom) that blog three times to cover various aspects of this developing story.
Not wanting to increase the length of the blog again, and seeing various nonsensical and false reports and opinions by some gaming “media” and Star Citizen streamers (most of whom have a financial incentive to mislead backers), I decided to write this in-depth article about why I believe that Coutts Bank, not only has secured Squadron 42 as collateral, but in doing so, also holds certain aspects of Star Citizen in collateral as well.
June 13th, Charge by Coutts & Co UK. (NOTE: this is a 29 page JPG album for easier viewing than the original PDF)
Is Star Citizen in it’s entirety really excluded from the “Collateral” (p22) as per the “Excluded Collateral” (starts on p22, continues on p23) definition?
Collateral means the Chargor’s right, title and interest in and to (i) the property charged pursuant to Clauses 4.1 and 4.2 hereof and (ii) the property assigned pursuant to Clause 5 hereof; excluding in all cases the Excluded Collateral;
Excluded Collateral means (i) the assets that have been charged pursuant to the Nat West Security Agreement; and (ii) all Intellectual Property Rights and all exploitation and distribution and other rights and all title, interest and materials with respect to the video game provisionally entitled “Star Citizen”;
Also on p7
4.2.2 the Game Assets and the Distribution Rights
4.2.5 all digital material and sound and visual material made or to be made incorporating or reproducing all or any part of the Game
By process of elimination, we know that “Game” refers to Squadron 42. This is because there are only two games (Star Citizen & Squadron 42) in this project. And the former is mentioned in “Excluded Collateral”.
NOTE: These are all FACTS, no hypothesis, conjecture, hyperbole, or opinion.
- Star Citizen (hereinafter “SC”) is the multiplayer aspect of the game. It consists of various “disconnected modules” which are: Arena Commander (space combat), Star Marine (2 level FPS), Hangar (3D ship viewer), Planetside (shopping/social), Persistent Universe (all-encompassing space combat in larger universe).
- Squadron 42 (hereinafter “SQ42”) is the stand-alone, story driven, single player portion of the game, with Hollywood talent acting the cutscenes.
- SC was developed using a custom engine which uses CryEngine 3.x as it’s core baseline. The only “custom” in the code, are top-level elements (e.g. 64-Bit space addressing) added to create their own “game engine” aka StarEngine. This is similar to Unity3D, UE4 etc which are baseline engines to which you add your own assets, code (internal or via plugins developed by others) etc to make your game.
- In late 2016, without any prior notice, it was discovered (by me) that CIG had switched to Amazon’s LumberYard (also a more recent subset of CryEngine). I cover this extensively in my 2016-12-27 – Irreconcilable Differences blog.
- Both SC & SQ42 are developed using StarEngine (currently undergoing the switch from base CryEngine to LumberYard – 6 yrs into development)
- Both SC & SQ42 take place in the same world, and share the same IP (more on this later). All the same ships, places, weapons etc are part of both games.
- The only assets which are unique to SQ42, are the cut-scenes, musical score (SC has its own), story-driven dialog based script etc
- Without all the tech, tools, and common assets in SC, there can be no SQ42.
I have 1st hand knowledge of how that last item works, because I have done it. In 2006, I started working on All Aspect Warfare, a combined-arms game with no space combat. In early 2009, ahead of the game’s release, the community were saying that the aerial flight combat aspects of the game were worth being it’s own game. So I came up with Angle Of Attack which used the same engine and all the same assets. However, it had no FPS aspect, had its own aerial only missions, it’s own multiplayer session (AAW clients cannot connect to AOA and vice versa). I released both games in 2009, and sold them separately, as well as in a bundle. The game’s movies and screen shots show the differences in gameplay, though they share the same basic components. So, without AAW, there can be no AOA.
“Excluded Collateral” excludes the following:
- the company’s income bank account secured via a prior NatWest bank loan which we believe to be a Line Of Credit. Note that NatWest, like Coutts, is also owned by RBS. So basically, two arms of the same company, made these loans.
- all Intellectual Property rights and all exploitation and distribution and other rights and all title, interest and materials with respect to the video game provisionally entitled “Star Citizen”;
Item (2) above is the point of contention as it pertains to how some of us believe that the collateral in 4.2.5, came to inadvertently include parts of SC, namely the tech (source code) due to it being used to develop SQ42.
The reason for this position is that there is no feasible way to strip Star Citizen from SQ42, without affecting that game as a whole. ergo, there is no SQ42 without critical components of SC.
Some (like me) argue that “Intellectual Property” defined in “Excluded Collateral”, does not cover everything about Star Citizen, and that as a result, parts of Star Citizen cannot be excluded in this manner, due to the SQ42 dependency.
Others disagree (possibly due to ignorance of how IP law works) with this assessment. Even as they ignore that the same section specifically mentions an aspect, “materials”, which would normally be covered under “Intellectual Property” if it was such an all-encompassing and broad definition – which it isn’t. The other aspects, “exploitation”, “distribution”, “other rights”, “all title”, “interest”, are not generally covered in IP definitions.
The “Intellectual Property” definition which includes Star Citizen, is ambiguous enough to cause a dispute in the event that this loan defaults, and the bank seeks to secure everything related to SQ42 as defined in Section 4. And specific to this, is the carefully worded 4.2.5 which some of us contend, will include the Star Citizen tech, and various assets by the mere fact that they are 100% REQUIRED in order to make SQ42 the “Game” defined, and understood by the bank, to be what they secured as part of this loan. To the extent that they went to great pains to itemized various “Game” components and rights, without ever resorting to using a blanket “Intellectual Property” term to secure them, as they did in “Excluded Collateral”. I wonder why that is.
The argument continues in which, despite the fallacy within, some people have convinced themselves that “Intellectual Property” – as it pertains to SOFTWARE – almost always includes source code, tech etc. That opinion is pure and utter NONSENSE. The reason being, every good software contract that seeks to define IP, will list what that definition entails, in the same way that the bank used an itemized Section 4 to list what the “Charges” under this loan contain.
It boils down to this:
- some contracts DO NOT itemize software in Intellectual Property definitions because it is “supposedly” (FYI, it’s not) a common knowledge assumption that it would invariably include “source code”.
- some contracts DO itemize Intellectual Property so that there is no ambiguity as to what rights are included
Any good IP lawyer will immediately tell you that in software IP, item #1 above is an immediate legal problem if it were to end up in dispute that a source code for the works (e.g. a video game) was in dispute. One common example – which has in fact resulted in various court cases – is whereby a company, owning an IP, hires a contractor to create some work (art, script, code) for the IP. If the 1099 “work for hire” contract doesn’t clearly stipulate who owns what, and a dispute arises down the road – for whatever reason (e.g. contractor seeks unpaid amounts for their work), that’s a problem. If an employer finds out that an employee is working on a part-time project, while on their clock, they could have a valid claim to his work, regardless of any claims to IP by the employee. See Zenimax v Oculus.
Comparing IP works of art, writings, movies etc to that of software, is the dumbest thing ever. As is the notion that, Intellectual Property automatically encompasses everything associated with the “works” in question.
Intellectual Property Law and Legal Definition
FindLaw – Intellectual Property
All the above considered, my opinion remains that if this loan defaults, and the bank seeks to secure it’s collateral assets, and they find out that they really don’t have all the components of the “Game”, they would have a case for either misrepresentation, not negotiating in good faith, or worse, bank fraud (as this security was in exchange for money).
There is also an issue with the fact that the games use Amazon’s Lumberyard. Like all engine licenses, it can neither be re-assigned, nor sold. This means that in the event that the bank succeeds in securing these assets, the buyer would be subject to the licenses of all third-party middleware contained within. In the case of LumberYard, while free to use, the buyer would only “own” those components which are not the “LumberYard engine proper”.
To be clear:
THERE IS NO CIRCUMSTANCE UNDER WHICH THIS LOAN DEFAULTS, THE BANK SUCCEEDS IN TAKING CONTROL OF SQUADRON 42, SEEKS TO SELL IT ETC, WHILE CIG/F42, AFTER GIVING THE BANK WHAT AMOUNTS TO A “DUD” ASSET AS DEFINED IN THE “GAME”, GOES ON THEIR MERRY WAY TO CONTINUE TO DEVELOP, DISTRIBUTE, AND SELL, STAR CITIZEN AS A SEPARATE AND NON-COMPETING ENTITY.
This graphic which someone created, illustrates the issue that is being discussed in very clear detail.June 24, 2017 at 8:34 am in reply to: Star Citizen – Scoops #5346
THE STAR CITIZEN PROJECT IS IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE
As I have reported in the past, for some time now sources have informed me that the project was in financial straits. Despite denials from some in the toxic backer community, and silence from CIG/RSI – even though they had pledged to provide financials to backers – their recent 2016 financials filing in the UK, had some curious entries which served to support this notion.
Read more in Star Citizen – The Final Countdown blog.
STAR CITIZEN 3.0 DELAYED – AGAIN. BUT THE SALE MUST GO ON!
The on-going saga surrounding the much touted 3.0 build also just had another event.
Back on May 26th, I wrote up an article based on some new info sent to me via various sources. Sources had claimed that not only was Squadron 42, the single player game based on Star Citizen, not due out in 2017, but neither is Star Citizen itself. They also claimed that the internal dev schedule was totally different from the public version, and that the former stretched all the way to 2021.
Since they started publicizing the dev schedule, it has been consistently riddled with bogus and highly questionable entries. During that time, they continued to use all kinds of new and inventive ways to squeeze their backer whales for money, under the guise of progress being made on the project. And they just did it – again.
After announcing a new concept sale for June 23rd (date of new schedule) weeks prior, they started the sale a day before the new schedule was due to be released. The sale was for a “racing” bike, which doesn’t exist, and for a game mechanic that doesn’t exist either; but which they have been touting as coming in 3.0. The same build in which they touted procedural planets, but have now settled for “level” based moons and planetoids due to on-going technical difficulties with the engine. I wrote about this on June 22nd:
“**BREAKING*** two sources have now confirmed that 3.0 is such a technological nightmare, and performance hog, that nobody knows how they are going to end up releasing it within the current time frame; let alone for GamesCom.
Croberts working on his new justification speech (aka newsletter), in which he may have no choice but to admit that the switch to LY hasn’t been as straightforward (gee, who knew!?) as they made it out to be – seven months ago.
It’s amazing to me that since July 2015, I’ve been right about so many things, that those guys don’t even bother recapping them anymore. This despite the fact that I document them religiously in my blogs and forum posts – for a reason.
All that aside, the primary claim that “they can’t build the game as pitched” and which everyone was saying that I was wrong about, remains true.
Ignoring the $150m (they were at $85, and have since passed this) + proper engine (they switched to the more advanced LY) that I said they would need to pull it off.
Recently (well, before GamesCom 2016), I said that they simply didn’t have the tech to do procedurally generated planets, that the pitched 3.0 was bullshit dipped in Ether. Less than 6 months later, 3.0 has been significantly scaled back. And has moons – in a level – instead of procedural planets (shown in an elaborate R&D video showcase posing as in-game).
I have no doubt that they will probably release something called 3.0, then continue to update it. They did the same thing with 2.0. Right up to 2.6.x
ps: There is another JPEG sale tomorrow June 23rd. So they’re probably going to lie in tomorrow’s 3.0 schedule update, then update it again the following week with the proper data.”
The sale for the Nox bike went up, and so far they have raised about $700K from it. Bear in mind that the funding chart is said to be highly inaccurate and being manipulated and used by CIG/RSI as a way to show that there is continued interest in the project,
Then the 3.0 schedule went up the day following the sale. And it’s hilariously as expected.
On June 20th, I had written that, from looking at the June 16th schedule, that there was no way they were going to make it.
“But 3.0 is on the way. The Evocati “aim” date, as per last week’s schedule update, is 06-21-17 to 07-05-17. We know that’s probably not going to happen. And when it eventually drops, we’ll see what the performance is like.”
So in last week’s schedule, the Evocati (closed test group) release date window was 06/21/17 – 07/05/17. This week it’s now 07/07/17 – 07/20/17. And from comparing it to the previous schedule, while littered with entries such as “TBD” and “delayed due to unforeseen shortage in resources”, it’s clear that they’re not likely to make that date either.
Basically, a total of 7 items were “completed” (this is subjective, when you look at notes which indicate that such tasks spawned new sub-tasks), and a total of 19 (!) were pushed back.
This is all in line with sources saying that the internal dev and public schedules are completely out of sync, and that CIG/RSI are just releasing as much as they feel is needed to appease backers. As far back as the April schedule, which I wrote about, among other things, and during which it was scheduled to be released the end of June, I was saying that it’s highly unlikely to happen.
The Star Citizen Tracker which is religiously maintained and updated as development continues, is a stark reminder that, regardless of the rumored 2021 date (subject to further delays of course), there is so much work left to be done, that even if they automagically got the resources (money, talent, tech) to pull it off, that it clearly has another five or more years to go.
And here I was, back in July 2015 being conservative when I stated that to pull off what they promised would require $150 million minimum, a competent team, and capable engine. Since that time, at $85 million raised, they’ve exceeded that $150m, and switched engines – even as they continue to bleed experienced talent who are being replaced by inexperienced people who have to get up to speed on a six year project.
With their two biggest fundraising events, GamesCom (Aug 22-26) and CitizenCon (Oct 27th) coming up, as they have done in the past, it is likely that they will brand and push out whatever build (3.0 was previously 2.7, as sources had stated that the former didn’t exist at the time Chris announced it) they have in time for either of those two events.
Which brings me to…
THE LATEST BLATANT CASH GRAB
Basically, ahead of this latest sale, without any forewarning or announcement, they yanked the Redeemer ship from sale.
Unless you are familiar with how the game’s assets work, you won’t understand what just happened. Basically, this move not only removes the ability for backers to trade up and/or trade in better ships, but it also requires them to spend more money in order to get what they want. Here, are some choice comments (1, 2 3) from those affected.
“I’ve got a big ship pack and am fully reliant on CCUs to convert the contained ships into the ones I want.
After CIG’s initial threat to erase all $0 CCUs from our hangars, I quickly hunkered down to make a solid upgrade plan, got it in place, and bought all the necessary CCUs. These were not particularly cheap, and largely revolved around using the Redeemer as a stepping stone, simply because it iswas the only always-available ship at that price. Now a large majority of the upgrade plan that CIG ‘encouraged’ me to invest in just got decimated. And the remainder of it will go down the drain with the $0 CCU wipe, removing the CCUs I can now no longer use because of the Redeemer removal.
I’m starting to have some serious regret about giving money to a company that treats its backers with such blatant hostility.”
I bought the 5-pack of the Nox with the sole intention of grabbing 3x Redeemers so I could use my Eclipse and BMM CCU with LTI, and still have a Redeemer and a Nox to hang on to.
Without warning that kinda screws up my plans to finalize ships before the 3.0 $0CCU wipe…
“My guess is that the Redeemer was removed to break the $0 CCU conversion to Banu Merchantman.
Might be a very clever first step to the anticipated Great $0 CCU Hangar Cleanout of ’17.
Once they started doing sudden, unannounced price changes on existing ships (like BMM going from $250>$300>$350), the writing was on the wall.
My guess is they WILL continue to announce prices for new Concept ships ahead of time (as stated), but they WON’T announce price hikes for anything that isn’t new. And temporarily removing the Redeemer removes a critical permanent CCU upgrade point.
So…. Remove previously permanent ships temporarily, mix in some selective price hikes, and remove old $0 CCUs from hangars- it will go along way to stop the ability to build ships for less than sticker price.
If you can, complete any upgrade chains while it is still possible!”
STILL BUILDING TOOLS & TECH
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, having dropped the pretext of doing procedural planets in the game world, in a June 22nd broadcast of Around The Verse, they showed a segment (FF to 26:46) showcasing a new tool – outside of the CryEditor – that’s basically barebones for manual entity placement. In a “level” based world. Essentially, this tool basically sets up the world entities – and has nothing to do with the actual creation of the 110 star systems and 500+ planets and moons they have yet to manually create (in the CryEditor) for the game. And as of the upcoming 3.0, they are still struggling to create even the three moons promised; even after removing the promised planet from the schedule.
Six years later, they are still building tools. For a game that was supposed to have been released in Nov 2014.June 12, 2017 at 8:09 pm in reply to: Star Citizen – Scoops #5325
2015 STAR CITIZEN FINANCIALS FROM FOUNDRY 42 (UK)
The 2015 financials are up. For the first time, they actually filed on time this time around. I wonder what could possibly be going on over there. If I had to guess, I would say that section 19 has something to do with it.
Anyway, the numbers are in stark contrast to the 2015 (analysis here) numbers. As of Dec 2016, they had £593K ($754K) in the bank. Considering that they get money from the parent (Cloud Imperium Games UK) company as-needed, there is no immediate concern here. If the parent company runs out of money, well, they’re screwed. They actually mention this “going concern” in section 1.2 of the filing.
They are now taking the tax credits awarded by the government for software companies in the region. For 2016, they took £3.3m ($4.1m) allowance, and with the £3.1m ($3.9m) taken in 2015, brings the total tax credit to £6.4m ($8.1m) thus far. Due to how this is calculated (after expenses), this tax credit adds approximately £6.4m ($8.1m) to the projects P&L calculations.
Yearly expenses increased from £12.7m ($16m) to £15.4m ($19.5m), which is an average of £225K ($285K) per month.
The average employee count increased from 132 in 2015, to 221 in 2016. This was a financial increase from £5.9m ($7.4m) to £9.8m ($12.4) in wages and benefits. What’s curious here is that they hired 89 more people in 2016, with an increase of only £3.9m ($4.9m) in wages & benefits. Thus making the average yearly “per person” increase of only £43.8K ($55.4K). Given those numbers, these are probably either mostly interns, or part-time contractors. Especially when you consider their monthly burn rate for prior years.
It appears that they still owe money to NatWest bank. Going from the financials, that amount seems (it’s not stated with clarity in section 13) to be £794K ($1m).
They don’t own the building they are in. Their five year lease is now disclosed as being £249K ($315K) per year.
Alarmingly, Erin Roberts (brother of CEO, Chris Roberts), the director of the studio, took a pay increase from £152.7K ($193.5) to £230K ($291.3) in 2016. As if it wasn’t bad enough that it was previously over 2x the average for someone in his position in the Manchester region; at that 22% increase, it is way higher than the inflation increase for the region. Aside from the fact that the average salary in the region declined by almost 2x the inflation rate between 2015-2016 period. Not to mention the overall financial conditions in the UK, especially in the videogame sector. Oh well, backers will never know.
To date, they’ve raised over $151m in crowd-funded money, not including known and unknown loans, as well as other outside investment money, without ever shipping either of the promised games. So even as they keep using all kinds of tricks to continue raising money from the few remaining gullible believer whales, they’re basically continuing to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of the project. If Erin alone is making this much money, one can only wonder what the rest of the people in the nepotism-r-us friends (Elms brothers, Derek Senior, Ortwin Freyermuth) and family (Chris & Sandi Roberts) program are making off a project they seemingly stand no chance of ever delivering on.
Section 19 is very curious. Due to the huge restated amount of £2.4m ($3.0m) from 2015, it reads like the sort of thing that would result from either a govt audit, or them just cleaning up their books in order to pass any due diligence muster. Also, as they’re now taking tax credits, it makes sense that these sort of numbers should be devoid of any such discrepancies, or they would also be in some serious problems with the govt. If you look at the chart from the previous analysis, with these restated numbers, it is now also clear that though the company doesn’t sell anything, they’re using money received from the parent (the backer piggy bank) company, as their income/turnover cash flow.
A single studio is burning about $2m per month. Yet, when we estimated that they had to be burning approx $3m per month worldwide (five studios), some said nuh-uh. In 2016, they raised about $36m, and this single studio burned through about $24m (including the $8m tax credit) of it.
“Finally there is one very important element – the more funds we can raise in the pre-launch phase, the more we can invest in additional content (more ships, characters etc.) and perhaps more importantly we can apply greater number of resources to the various tasks to ensure we deliver the full functionality sooner rather than later” – Chris Roberts, Sept 16, 2013
UPDATE: Analysis of suspicious asset allocation.
STATE OF THE SCAM
As it stands, the upcoming highly anticipated 3.0 patch, as per the schedule update of June 9th, is already late, and with a slew of items either on the “TBD” chopping block, or delayed by up to a whole month. In fact, since the schedule first showed up six months ago, it’s been consistently rubbish. When sources recently told me that the public schedule was bullshit, and that it didn’t even reflect the internal dev schedule, I was a bit skeptical. It all makes sense when you consider all the radical changes to the schedule, and then think back to Aug 19, 2016, during GamesCom, when Chris stated this:
“.so, it’s our big end of the year release. er so er yeah, so we’re gonna get it out the end of the year; hopefully not on December 19th but, er, like last year….but it is a big one, so, not making er, I got shot for making promises, but er, that’s our goal.“
That was a whole 10 months ago. So by the time it is released – assuming Aug (yah! just in time for another GamesCom fundraising) – it would have been a year since it was “coming in four months”.
The changes in last week’s schedule update are truly hilarious. Some highlights:
Line 47: Procedural Planets
Line 154: Netcode
Line 162-182: Cargo
Line 180: Repair. This was feature complete in the last schedule. Now it’s back on the menu + 2 weeks.
Line 208-211: Component system (in case you missed it, read my latest Quora reply regarding performance issues)
Line 349: Volumetric Fog. Notice how it was due to be completed on June 9th (today), but somehow isn’t marked as “Feature Complete”? Yeah, me too.
Line 378: Mission System Broker. Delayed a whole – freaking – month. LOL! I’m dying.
Whatever they brand and release as 3.0 between July and Aug, is going to truly test the patience and loyalty of the remaining (those who didn’t get a refund off this sinking ship) backers. Even those who are probably laundering money through the game, are going to be concerned. From what I am hearing from inside sources, 3.0 is going to be just another chopped up mess, masquerading as a point (remember 2.0? yeah, me too) release, just in time for a critical fundraising (Gamescom in Aug, CitizenCon in Oct) drive as 2017 draws to a close. As I’ve written before, every single promise they have made for planets (moons vs planets), networking (critical revisions removed from schedule), etc in 3.0, has either been revised/removed, or in a state of disarray. But wait! If you read my May 24th analysis of the networking and instancing issues they have to contend with, it should give a good idea of what they are facing, and what to expect if/when 3.0 is actually released.
Two years ago in July 2015, after they had raised an unprecedented $85m, I stated in my Interstellar Citizens blog that they simply couldn’t build the game as pitched, let alone for less than $150m. I had no clue that two years later, with an engine switch, and over $151m raised, that they still wouldn’t have shipped either of the two games, let alone 25% of the Star Citizen MMO game. It’s just amazing to me.
And with E3 2017 going on, and the studio and the projects (Star Citizen and Squadron 42) nowhere (they were last seen at the Amazon Lumberyard showcase booth at GDC 2017 in Feb) in sight, given the amazing games on display, all made for less than $150m, it stands to reason that, as most of us have said all along, this project – in its entirety – is DOA. It will never be “finished”, let alone delivered as promised.May 26, 2017 at 7:54 pm in reply to: Star Citizen – Scoops #5276
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.
DAT DEV SCHEDULE!
I have seen it.
And it goes beyond 2017, and all the way to 2021. <—- LOL!!
The internal dev schedule looks absolutely nothing like the public dev schedule they put up for backers. Not only does the internal one have entries for SQ42, but it also shows all the tech and asset dependencies that the title is currently awaiting. Since SQ42 uses the same engine as Star Citizen Actual, it stands to reason that, networking fiasco aside, they simply can’t complete that title without those core engine components and assets.
When they first released a dev schedule, following backer dissent and outcry, it was along the lines of what was shown in Q4/2016. They got quite a bit of money by the time dust settled, and backer trust (in some regard) was regained. That didn’t last very long because shortly thereafter, they released a new version for the upcoming 3.0 that looked nothing like the original plan, though it did go all the way to 4.0. Then, shockingly, they later released another version which completely removed everything after 3.2. Yeah.
Basically, having failed to “save PC gaming“, while singing the “death to publishers!” theme song, Chris is basically doing what publishers know some devs with publisher funding tend to do: maintain two separate schedules. One to keep the publisher happy, and milestones paid; and one that’s the actual internal one which they hope will match the timeline that leads to a game. It’s the equivalent of having two accounting “books”, one of which is highly fraudulent. Only this time, backers are the publishers. Except that the backers still giving them money, are either completely gullible fools, or they’re using Star Citizen to launder money as I wrote in my Money Laundromat blog.
It is amazing to me that there are two games in development; but yet still, even though backers haven’t seen anything tangible from SQ42 since the Godawful Morrow Tour from 2015, that it doesn’t even appear in the public dev schedule. It’s as if it doesn’t even exist; or that they know if they release it, that backers would freak out, and see that it’s nowhere near complete in the short-term. This despite the fact that they keep showing art and videos purportedly from the game. But that’s normal though, right?
What’s even more egregious to me, is that backers have forked out over $150 million for two games, but they have to rely on insider leaks – for a crowdfunded project – to get most of the tangible and reliable information about the project they paid for. And they still don’t have a clue about most of what’s left to do in the games. So we have a public tracker that’s just as hilarious as it is shocking.
The project is FUBAR. And backers are in for the most interesting shocker yet. But I’m holding on to that one for now. Stay tuned.May 24, 2017 at 9:34 am in reply to: Star Citizen – Musings #5263
STAR CITIZEN MULTIPLAYER INSTANCING
In my Irreconcilable Differences blog, I wrote extensively about the instancing issue and how they stand very little chance of ever getting past the broken underlying architecture that they currently have in StarEngine. In a Feb 2017 interview, Erin Roberts made the following comment:
“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.“
Yesterday, a new post, How many people can be in an instance?, popped up on Spectrum (Reddit thread also) in which one of the devs has made several statements which lead me to believe that :
- They have no clue what they’re doing.
- When they do get a clue, it would be revealed to them that they have to gut their entire networking layer to implement what they are aiming for.
- They’re fucked. Completely.
“so we were reading that this dynamic local instancing will try it’s best to put you in the same instance as friends and people/ things of interest. so if you were a pirate, and were following your prey.. are you guaranteed to jump into the same instance or is there a chance it’s all in vein and you lose them? based on yall’s dynamic local instancing system?“
“In a single server instance we can currently have up to 40 players in Area18 or 24 players in Crusader(1). 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(2). However @H0wland is correct in that our goal is that eventually everyone will be in the same instance(3).
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(4). 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(5). 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(6).
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(7).
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.”
Let me break it all down:
- I know for a fact, as do most backers who are actually playing this right now, that the server can’t handle more than 8 clients within the same locale without falling over. Let alone anywhere near 24 clients in Crusader (introduced in 2.0 released in Q4/2015), which is the core of the Star Citizen that started the “Persistent Universe”. Area 18, a glorified shopping center, can handle more players because, well, there’s nothing to do there except move around, look at, buy stuff etc.
- This is a glaring Red flag. There are lots of games, even those built with SteamWorks, that allow some form of grouping agnostic matchmaking, even for instanced games. For six years, since they started using cloud servers, they didn’t think that implementing the ability for clients to group, then all launch in the same instance, was a priority. Elite Dangerous, which also uses instancing, had this same issue during alpha and beta cycles. They address it with features such as Wing Beacons, nav-lock, private grouping etc. In fact, read this Elite: Dangerous’ 3,000-player battle royale article.
- This one is a head-scratcher. I hope that his use of “everyone” means those wanting to group with their friends in the same instance. If that’s not the case, then we’re back to the “they have no fucking clue” part, because there is no way they can get “everyone” in the same “instance”.
- Whatever that schedule is, it’s not public. The current schedule which goes all the way to 3.2, has no mention of anything related to any of what he wrote. In fact, the entire schedule page has 12 instances related to network implementation and/or revision; and none of those entries mentions anything like that. Not. One. Thing.
- This is all wishful thinking. If six years into the development of an MMO, you don’t have this stuff already completed or in progress, chances are it’s either never going to get done in the short-term (delays cost money, and when money runs out, the project is dead), or there was never an intention to actually do it. Make no mistake, everything he said there, are things that both Chris and Erin have said in the past.The reality is that it is simply not possible with their current networking framework which was built around CryEngine 3.7. And LumberYard (based on CryEngine 3.8), isn’t going to give them that because it too does not have support for any of that. They would have to build it themselves. Just like how Frontier did it for Elite Dangerous, and how we did it (FYI we don’t use instancing; so our server-to-server hops are live) for Line Of Defense.For one thing, they have touted this whole “seamless” 64-Bit space, which is one large “scene”. For them to do any sort of population control, they would have to split it up into boundaries. And each of those would then need to have a set of criteria that determines how many clients are allowed in there. And that involves a significant amount of work involving proxy server connections, data aggregation & collection, etc. The way we did pop-loc in LoD, is similar to how Planetside did it. You set a limit on the number of clients in a scene, then don’t allow any further connections until someone dies, drops off etc. And this is possible when you have low-level control – right from the start – of the scene management structure. In our Wide Span Global architecture we built this from the start so that each space or planet “scene” is controlled by a server connection. And that server is the arbiter that controls how clients can enter via jump anomalies (Dynamic Jump Pad, Jump Gate, high altitude insertion from space). If you try to enter a scene (e.g. Heatwave planetary base from Lyrius space) that has reached it’s server configured client limit, you’re stuck in Lyrius, and will have to keep trying. The messaging is all done from the connection interface for the jump anomaly which talks directly to the server. And this was all done right from the start and before we even had complete dynamics for fps, space craft, and vehicles in the game.And if they do manage to actually build all of that, they have a different problem. Players can EVA. So if they allow, say 64 clients per instance, guess what happens when you have 64 ships and 64 players in EVA. And that’s just assuming 1 player crew per ship. Imagine the hilarity if you have passengers, and cargo. And ships are shooting, EVA players are shooting. LMAO!! I can’t even.Let’s not even get into the whole issue with localized physics grids, which allow players to move around inside their space chariots in fps mode. That’s got it’s own performance and networking issues which are currently part of the problem they are faced with.
- Yeah, this is the part where any developer would start laughing. Basically, “scaling” implies “limits”. And when it comes to networking architecture, there is no such thing as “without limits”.
- And therein lies the rub that negates everything he said previously. Note the use of the phrases “will allow”, “still need to”, “how to”, “not sure” etc.If you have your pol-loc sorted out, there is no requirement to figure out how to handle “everyone heading to the same place at the same time”. The fact of the matter is that if you allow 64 clients per instance/shard, you should be prepared for the inevitable scenario that all of them are likely to end up in the same place at some point. Elite Dangerous planned for this, right off the bat. Which is why sessions in which over 900 players journeyed to Sagittarius A, was possible.Saying “I’m not sure there’s an engineering solution” simply means that, as I said, they really have no clue what they’re doing with this game. There is absolutely no way to prevent all server allowed players from being at the same area at the same time. Which is why, even though they claim that Crusader can support 24 players theoretically, all it takes is for more than 8 players to be in the same local area for the server to croak and it all becomes unplayable.
This game was never supposed to be an MMO. And it wasn’t pitched as one. And Chris has gone on the record several times, even after all the stretch goals funding were met back in Nov 2014 at $65 million, saying that it wasn’t. And the stretch goals have no such indication or implication that they were building an MMO. Somewhere along the line, because of scope creep and promises made as they pulled every trick in the book to keep raising money from gullible backers, it morphed into an MMO because that’s the only game model that would support some of the things they were promising. And they’re doing all this despite the fact that they neither have the tech, nor the talent, or the time and money to pull it off.
At this point, as I’ve shown above, if they don’t have the framework for their future networking model already in and working in some fashion, there is absolutely no way they’re going to have time to gut what they have now, and implement a proper solution. Something they should have done from the very start. Now it’s too late. And they are still making promises they can’t keep, even as they continue to defer* promised features into a post-release schedule.
My guess is that the current networking layer is going to remain as-is for quite some time, as they continue to build other features and systems on top of it. Then if by some miracle they survive (they won’t) long enough to actually get around to it, all that stuff they are building on top of a network layer they have to replace, will either have to be ripped out, or modified to support whatever it is they need to do in order to support their long term goals.
All of this means that even if they are around long enough for a 4.0 schedule to go live, and it does include the major networking features they need to make what they plan work, until then, backers are still going to be stuck with 8 player clients in Star Citizen. I can’t wait to see what happens when 3.0 goes live with the two moons. It’s going to be hilarious. Maybe they’ll shock everyone and have 6 clients running in Crusader without problems.
Anyone who still has hopes that this project is ever going to be completed, let alone as promised, is delusional. Meanwhile, it’s Sandi’s birthday, and apparently they’re in Monaco again this year. Paid for with backer money of course.
* Modding is out. Private servers are out. And a litany of other things are either not in progress, or have been deferred. The latest being the docking collar support for ships (e.g. Cutlass) that have that feature, and which were sold with it during the 2012 Kickstarter campaign if you pledged $110 or more. So instead of having two modes of docking, one which was a big draw for backers who bought the ships that were designed to support it, they will now have only one, whereby you have to EVA in order to board another ship. So if you’re looking to fulfill your dreams of boarding another ship, weapons armed, like in The Expanse, Interstellar or similar movies, ain’t gonna happen. Like ever.
UPDATE: Shortly after this article went live, some backers were trying to say that “building an MMO” out of Star Citizen, was the $3m stretch goal because it says:
“Citizens with appropriate packages will receive access to the Star Citizen universe with 40 star systems for persistent online play upon release.”
That’s the single most ridiculous thing I have ever read about this issue. People listen: “persistent online play” does not, and never did, imply that the game will be an MMO. Heck, even CIG themselves proved this point when they released Star Citizen 2.0 in Q4/15 and called it “Persistent Universe”, when in fact, nothing about the game is persistent, other than player stats stored and retrieved from a database. By this definition, they are implying that games with leaderboards, stats saving, are all MMO games because they have persistent stats save/restore features. Which would make every Call Of Duty or Battlefield game an MMO. The Star Citizen universe isn’t persistent. It’s an instance. When the instance closes, everything shuts down. I wrote about this extensively in my Star Citizen – Condition Red blog from May 2016.May 19, 2017 at 6:22 pm in reply to: Star Citizen – Musings #5256
STAR CITIZEN HITS $150 MILLION CROWD-FUNDING MARK
So today another of my Star Citizen predictions has come true.
By the virtues of about 2000 whales still funding this train-wreck, and who just spent over $500K+ buying the latest $250 concept ship JPEG (seriously, it’s not a model, and is not in the game. It’s just an image of a ship), Star Citizen crossed the $150 million mark. At this point, though several sources have claimed that the funding chart is grossly inaccurate, we have to continue to go with the number they are showing to the public.
Back in July 2015 when I released my first blog, Interstellar Citizens, they had raised $85 million. At that time, I wrote that:
- They couldn’t build the game as pitched. So far, with all the stuff they’ve cut or botched, this is playing out to be true. In year six, they still don’t even have 25% of one game, let alone two games. And they had a delivery date of Nov 2014, with a 12, then 18 month delay period to May 2016. Even though Chris Roberts had said numerous times that increased stretch goals won’t affect the delivery timeline, the game is now officially over three years late. Remember that at $65 million raised in Nov 2014, both games – including all stretch goals – were 100% funded.
- They needed a robust custom engine to do it. In 2016, we come to find out that they were making the switch from StarEngine (derived from the stock CryEngine 3.7 to Lumberyard (derived from the stock CryEngine 3.8). As I wrote in my Irreconcilable Differences blog, they evaluated this engine throughout 2016 without notifying backers because they knew that it may cause some concern. In the Dec 2016 release of the 2.6 patch, it was finally noticed when they switched from Google’ Compute cloud services to Amazon’s AWS cloud services (via the LumberYard implementation).
- They needed a stellar team with the experience. So far, a lot of talented people, including several third-party studios, have come and gone. Those left have never – ever – developed any massive game before, let alone an MMO. Meanwhile, some of those who are left are parroting the same lies that Chris has been telling backers regarding the true state of the project. The most recent being that whole argument about how the switch to LumberYard took days and that it was already finished. Chris Roberts, Erin Roberts, Sean Tracey, and Ben Parry, among others, are on the record supporting this lie. Even though several sources (both past and present) working on this very same project, have stated that it’s all patently false, that they have been having serious problems with the switch, that it has completely skewed their schedule etc. For example, the latest schedule released today, delays the project by almost 50% since it first went online on April 14th, 2017. And one of those listed delays is related to their merging of the volumetric fog from the LumberYard engine into their own custom build.
- Even if they had all of the above, that they couldn’t possibly do it for less than $150 million. Well, here we are at that amount, and still not even 25% of a game, let alone two games.
Meanwhile, even with the events playing in the background regarding their financial situation (which various sources say is dire), their on-going attempts to seek additional outside funding, and quite possibly to sell off to a third-party (I still don’t believe the Amazon rumors btw), as they have done in the past, they continue to keep backers in the dark. What’s going to be interesting is that several weeks from now when it all goes public, as I expect that it will, people are going to wonder what Chris Roberts knew, and when he knew it.
Make no mistake, raising money isn’t a crime. And if you have a group of naive people willing to give it to you, even though your project is super late, isn’t even out of pre-Alpha in year six, recently made a critical engine switch, and still doesn’t even have 25% (that’s being generous) of the features promised, you should take the money and run.
For the rest of you sensible ones still putting in for refunds (this is a $4,300 refund from today) to get off this train-wreck, rest assured that in the coming months you will see what most of us have been saying.April 21, 2017 at 10:06 am in reply to: Star Citizen – Musings #5254
It’s just amazing to think that things are so very desperate over at CIG at this point, six years, and almost $147 million later. For a project that had over 4x the amount of money needed to complete the two games promised. Not to mention Roberts claiming several times that they had healthy reserves – then changing that to say if money ran out, sales of SQ42 would then fund Star Citizen. It’s mind-boggling what is now unfolding.
In this latest AtV broadcast, amid the on-going money grab, what appears to be IP infringement, the desperation, backer revolt etc it’s hard not to see the signs of a project that is on life support and, according to sources, mere months away from a catastrophic collapse (apparently for real this time) due to lack of funding, departure of key team members, general internal dissent etc.
Oh where to begin?
NEW STAR CITIZEN REFERRAL PROGRAM
“Earn a free trip to GamesCom 2017 and other great rewards with our all new RSI 2017 Referral Contest! Simply gain referral points by sharing your Star Citizen referral code with friends. Each friend who pledges to Star Citizen using your referral code earns you one referral point.”
So they introduced a new referral system. You would think that since backers have given them so much money these past years, that it would be more favorable to them. But why would they do that, when after all they already have their money; and by the looks of it, backers aren’t exactly throwing money at them like they used to?
I don’t even know where to begin with this one; so I will just defer to the backers who are rightfully – once again – pissed (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) about some dumb crap that CIG has pulled. Yes, it’s basically a lottery for billionaires.
Aside from this being new referrals only, not only does this screw the pre-existing backers (hardcore or not) and is skewed toward affiliated streamers – who aren’t even playing (some are totally pissed) the game like they used to – but it also highlights two things: 1) the desperation to bring in new money 2) that CIG doesn’t give a damn about existing backers who got them this far.
LOL! Watch the RSI 2017 Referral Contest broadcast clip; and do stay for the comments – and dislikes.
And as expected, the fact that they referenced those streamers at the end of the broadcast, made them shoot to the top of the referral leaderboard, almost immediately.
And this particular promotion, is seemingly against Federal law. Among other things, the minute they promoted the affiliated streamers in the broadcast, they probably broke (1, 2, 3) the law.
The most hilarious part of this? The 2932 referral pledges required to “win” a ticket to Gamescom in Germany, amounts to $131,940 (2932 x $45) based on the current minimum pledge for the game. The website says “minimum value of $40” for a pledge, though the actual minimum – as of this writing – is $45 for a copy of Star Citizen or Squadron 42.
And the contradictions in the terms and conditions are amazing…
Bonus: As a supporter of Star Citizen, this “contest” is complete utter BS and a slap in the face to the community.
“As a supporter of Star Citizen, this “contest” is complete utter BS and a slap in the face to the community.
The only people who can possibly win it are content creators, despite it being billed as something you can do “even with 0 referals right now”. Want to know what’s even better? They cherry picked a few in their latest ATV and showed their referral codes, effectively putting them in the lead.
There is nothing here for normal backers using referrals to get their friends into the game. What about more rewards for them? Why couldn;t the prize be a random draw for anyone who has at least 1 referral?
This is not a community contest, it’s a competition between content creators that pits them against their own communties as well as those of others. If I were a content creator I would boycott this out of principle.
To me it’s another example of CiG taking the community for granted. Like I said, I may be a strong supporter of the game but I will never forget how they conveniantly waited until the very last minute to announce a Squadron 42 delay in the presentation they were meant to show it in during Citizencon. People travelled from all over the world to come see that!
We never got an actual apology for that. Nor did we get an apology for the awful holiday livestream (which they have tried to erase all existance of). So I am not expecting one for this either.
I expect so much better from a company that tries to put on an image of being so close with its community. I sincerely hope it’s mostly just a few morons in marketing.”
And the most upvoted topic on Reddit: CIG Your Marketing is Too Far Ahead of Itself
It gets better…
STAR KITTEN MEETS HELLO KITTY
“Meet Sally, the “star” of the Star Kitten lineup. Sally loves speed racing across the verse with her friends. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses. To Sally, all that matters is fun and friendship.
Created by venerable animation auteur Genady Kuzo, the Star Kitten animated series first premiered in 2932 and immediately warmed the hearts of citizens of all ages. To celebrate Sally’s fifteenth birthday, her image will be licensed on a special edition UEE tee and a Drake Dragonfly. Get your Sally Star Kitten gear while you still can!”
If you noticed the new Star Kitten mascot from the referrals link, I know what you’re thinking. And yes, you’re right. That looks suspiciously like Hello Kitty and similar. This is yet another blatant act of wanton IP infringement which has plagued this project for so many years; several of which I have written about. I mean, seriously, take a look at this.
Not sure how long this “Star Kitten – another decision that makes the game worse” Spectrum thread will remain, but it’s there for now.
Bonus: These terms are absurd to agree to
Oh there’s more where that came from…
BANU MEET GROOT
This one speaks for itself. First, watch the broadcast segment. Then stare in amazement at the “similarities”.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Banu[/caption]
Aside from the fact that, six years later, there isn’t a SINGLE unique or innovative thing about this project, it has basically ended up being a cornucopia of every darn sci-fi trope you could think of; right down to the Starship Trooper’s premise of conscripting of shit..erm, citizens into military service.
Bonus: Does anyone else see Groot when they look at the Banu faces?
BANU DEFENDER MEETS….
The latest concept ship they just started selling, isn’t original either. If you recognize it, that’s because it’s similar to ships from various other IP include Halo, Planetside 2, Prometheus etc. Heck, even games like Wipeout and others. Here is an entire album of similarities.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="728"] Banu Defender[/caption]
DESPERATE TIMES, CALL FOR DESPERATE MEASURES
It has to be noted that when we’re talking about a crowd-funded project which had raised more than enough money to build and release the project, talking about on-going fundraising efforts, seems a bit off. I mean, think about it. If you asked for $500K to build a specific game, got $2.5 million, then subsequently increased the scope which raised $65 million – then got almost $150 million to build the same game, why would you need to keep raising money – often through desperate measures (and blatant lies)? The answer is that, not only can they not build the game promised, which has been blatantly obvious since I said so back in 2015, but also that the longer it takes, the more the risk of running out of money. Hence the need to keep raising money.
Remember back in 2013 when he said he could make “the same game for a fifth of the revenue, a fifth of the sales, and I can be more profitable, and I can exist on lower unit sales” ? Yeah, me too.
And when you’ve front-loaded a significant portion of the revenue in pre-sales – especially when you consider that most games don’t even make $150 million in their lifetime – the room to grow is very small. Then you have to consider on-going hosting and maintenance costs (the entire game is hosted on cloud servers), as well as employee/contractor costs. This room to grow, which is rapidly shrinking due to all kinds of factors, aside from bad press, backer revolt & refunds, employee/contractor dissent etc, is all the difference between a sudden catastrophic shutdown of this project, and the ability to actually ship a final product.
I wrote about this in my recent missive, as it pertains to the 3.0 schedule which, conservatively puts the game – if they have the money – somewhere in the 2022 time period for them to deliver 100% of both the games promised. They’re never – ever – going to pull that off. Even the free fly periods they’ve been running these past months, are duds; streamers are hardly playing the game, aside from periodic updates – the media stopped giving a shit back in 2015 etc.
Back in July 2015 I said that “There isn’t a single publisher or developer on this planet who could build this game as pitched, let alone for anything less than $150 million.” Looking back two years later – despite the fact that we know the funding counter is bullshit – not only are they at $147 million – but they don’t even have 15% of the games promised. I was probably too conservative. Those backers who say things like “they can take as long as they like; that’s the beauty of no publisher“, have no clue what they’re talking about. The project will run out of money long before 2022.
And like every major build (e.g. 2.0 from Dec 2015) before it, if they eventually release what resembles a 3.0 promised, that too will fail to make a dent – for all the same reasons. I can’t wait for when they do release planetary (well, moons) access, it ends up being “just another level”, with nothing to do on it – just like current PU. Some backers simply don’t realize that all CIG is now doing, is releasing the bare minimum of what they promised – leaving them largely broken – but with the plausible deniability that goes with having released something, but with no guarantee of performance. It’s ingenious if you ask me. Just look at the other modules: Hangar, Arena Commander, Star Marine, Star Citizen Actual (aka PU) and just think about that for a minute. Last we checked, even with the much touted “over one million backers”, Star Marine averaged less than 25 people playing it. For an entire month. Remember back at $100 million when Chris said it would be “more lethal than Call Of Duty“. Yeah, me too.
While trying and failing (FYI Plastc after raising over $9 million, just collapsed 1, 2) to build a project isn’t illegal, what is illegal are things like unjust enrichment, fraudulent conversation, wire fraud, money laundering, tax evasion etc. All the things that State and Fed officials tend to look at when investigating the collapse of such high profile ventures. It simply won’t matter that they “tried“. It won’t matter that they had all those “disclosures” in the ToS about performance, delivery etc. What will matter – pay attention here – is that they only raised $2.5 million via crowd-funding, and to this point, over $145 million via pre-orders. There is a very clear legal distinction here, and which, as seen in the recent Lily drone fiasco, will make all the difference in the end. It’s ironic that this “Crowdfunding: Potential Legal Disaster Waiting To Happen” Forbes article, came out the same month that Star Citizen crowd-funding hit Kickstarter.
Through various sources, I am aware of several behind-the-scenes things are going on at CIG/RSI; not just here in the US, but also in the UK. While I could find a million ways to justify making them public, I decided that it was prudent not to do so – for the greater good. As I said in my latest “The Money Laundromat” blog, there is no way they can away with any excuse for not shipping these two games. Now that their very own employees and contractors, both past and present, are said to be talking to officials, it’s only a matter of time now before we see what’s going to happen.
Until then, my advice remains the same; if you feel that you’ve been misled, or no longer feel confident that they will deliver on promises, get a refund. They can neither refuse, nor provide any legal reason for not granting it. And if you want to wait and see what happens in the end, there’s nothing wrong with that either – it’s your money. Just remember one thing, if you’ve been using the Grey market and the project’s lax buy/sell mechanics to launder money, you’re going to get caught because every single piece of data collected by CIG/RSI, can be obtained by State and Fed officials, or any citizen engaged in a lawsuit with them. Just remember that.
Finally, as I’ve done before in the past with the FTC and DCBA links, I have been asked to share these details for those who, like the other crowd-funding scams, want to file a complaint with the State attorney in CA. Note that, as CIG are currently giving refunds, the DCBA office (which made that possible), has already done their part in this.
LA County DA’S Website : http://da.lacounty.gov
LA County DA Office (investigations) : Tel: 213-974-3613
LA County DA Office (forms) : http://da.lacounty.gov/contact/formsApril 18, 2017 at 1:00 am in reply to: Star Citizen – Musings #5238
THE STAR CITIZEN 3.0 SCHEDULE IS OUT
“..so, it’s our big end of the year release. er so er yeah, so we’re gonna get it out the end of the year; hopefully not on December 19th but, er, like last year….but it is a big one, so, not making er, I got shot for making promises, but er, that’s our goal.” – Chris Roberts, GamesCom, Aug 19, 2016 @ 23:36
So between Aug, 2016 and the 3.0 schedule (amid much fanfare), the 3.0 is now stated to be coming June 29th, 2017. That’s 10 months since Gamescom; and 6 months since Dec 2016.
Yet, shortly after raising over $22 million (see below) between Aug-Dec based on those LIES; right after that, in Jan, they started talking about “doing a 3.0 schedule”. And then on April 14, 2017, they released it. Remember the old one, from back when they were raising money during the holidays?.
Amounts raised Aug-Dec 2016
Someone said it best:
“You have to admire them. They’ve reduced the next major deliverable to a ‘schedule’ of an actual deliverable that’s a year or more overdue. It’s a masterclass in misdirection“
Meanwhile, over on Reddit.
“Is it ok to say Im disappointed? Because Im disappointed. Glad to have the schedule, but now I have some serious questions which I kinda feel like everyone is glossing over, and god knows CIG wont answer…
How did things fall so incredibly behind? Im struggling to understand how we went from a predicted release of 3.0 full Stanton system roughly end of 2016 to a drastically cut down 3.0 ‘light’ almost 6 months later? And even the 3.0 light… the jesus patch network code might not make it in?
Its one thing to say delays happen, but seriously, what the hell happened? A almost year delay assuming it will definitely not release on their july estimate this year. Thats some serious additional development costs and overrun. I dont care who you are in the dev business, that cost is going to be significant to the overall cost. An extra year of development costs is nothing to sneeze at. Especially considering the gravy train of crowdfunding dollars wont last forever.
Downvote me all you want, but it needs to be said. How did things get thrown so far off?”
Chris Roberts also wrote another newsletter to go with it.
“3.0 represents a giant jump in gameplay potential from the code in the 2.x branch. For a start, it will contain about nine months of our main development branch beyond 2.6.x as well as almost two years of Planetary Tech development that the Frankfurt Engine team embarked on in the last half of 2015.”
Oh, there’s a monthly studio report as well.
Aside from the fact that sources are still telling me that it’s all smoke and mirrors – as always – this 3.0 schedule, amid much fanfare, is the same build that Chris went up on stage in Aug 2016 and LIED about when he said the patch was in progress, and being released on|before Dec 19th, 2016. I wrote about that extensively in my Shattered Dreams blog from Oct 2016; amid several smaller subsequent posts (1, 2) since that time.
Yet, after raising all that money to the end of 2016, come Jan 2017, they started talking about “working on the 3.0 schedule“. You know, a schedule for a build they were supposedly going to release months earlier.
Now, not only is this 3.0 schedule basically 2.7 in disguise, but it’s also missing several (e.g. mining (LOL!! see the official statement), planets) components they’ve been promising and touting for years now. And it also pushes the project well into 2018. If they even survive that long – and have the money – it’s safe to say that it’s a 2020 game. But none of that matters because not only is what they’ve now promised never seeing the light of day, even if you added leeway for delays, you’d end up well into Q4/2017. And assuming they complete it, well, you’d be looking at barely 25% (need I mention that 3.0 now only contains 3 moons, no planets – and not even 1% of the promised 100 star systems?) of the game they promised. Not including SQ42.
Notice how every task in the schedule appears to have started in April? Yeah, me too.
With CIG it has been more about marketing and showmanship, than about building a “game“. And that trend continues here, in that they even made a video – about a watered down schedule that’s now almost a year late. The same thing they did back when they made a video – ahead of telling backers that the SQ42 demo promised for CitizenCon 2016, had been scrapped “at the last minute”.
Back in Feb 2017, I wrote that several key team members had left the project; as they have been doing throughout 2016. Because Shitizens (toxic Star Citizen backers waging an Internet war of attrition against dissent) tend to attack them, and me; I had stopped giving out the names of departing parties. In that missive, I mentioned that Behavior Interactive were no longer working on the project. This has now been confirmed, two months later.
“And that’s precisely why they have not only been downsizing gradually (lots of departures in Q4/16 and in the new year) without making any noise (rumors are that Behavior Interactive is the latest third-party studio no longer working on the project) , but also said to be converting some employees to contractors. The latter is clearly an attempt to not only save money, but also save money and image because contractors don’t have the same termination protections, benefits etc as employees. And contractors, like third-party studios, can come and go without fanfare. It’s also why they have to keep using all kinds of tricks (cash-only sales, sales of JPEG ships with zero chance of making it into the game, R&D demos posing as actual game code etc) to keep raising money. Even though the project has already been funded by almost 3x what was originally needed – even after the vision 2.0 scope creep.”
So with this 3.0 news, it’s finally official that Behavior Interactive (like Illfonic and others who never got to see the project to completion) were in fact no longer on the project.
“We had originally hoped to deliver most of the Stanton Landing Zones with the first release of Planetary Tech, but that proved optimistic once the talented team at Behaviour, who had built ArcCorp, Levski, Grim HEX and had begun work on the remaining landing zones of Stanton, moved off Star Citizen and onto another Behaviour project in December. We had been steadily shifting our reliance away from external resources and we felt it would be unfair to block them from the opportunity to work on their own game. Unfortunately, replacing an Environment team of over 20 is no small task, which has set back the progress we had originally planned to make on the landing zones of Stanton.”
Notice how, as was the case of Illfonic (Star Marine), Roberts again makes a blame shift? In this instance, he is saying that because BI had to leave to go make their own game, it affected Star Citizen. I have been in this business for almost 30 years; and in my experience, paid contractors working on a major project, seldom leave a solid paying gig, to go take on the risk of “working on their own project”.
As I had mentioned before, there are other exits, including sources saying that Matthew Johns (Now at Naughty Dog), Tony Z, and other key players are either gone, or have put in their notice. It has gotten so toxic to be involved in this project, that some exits don’t even bother to update LinkedIn now, because it is being data mined due to CIG keeping it all a big secret.
As always, Roberts keeps things like this from backers and investors who have given him almost $150 million (1, 2) to build two games.
He did the same thing with the switch from their own CryEngine derivative (StarEngine) to LumberYard; not telling the backers anything beforehand – for a whole year. Then only releasing a newsletter when the 2.6.0 patch – which had the prerequisite LumberYard logo – went live. I wrote about that extensively in my Irreconcilable Differences blog.
The few backers still left giving them money, or who are yet to ask for a refund, should have known the end was near when in June 2016, they made a dramatic change to the ToS, and tilted it even further in their favor, while stripping every single recourse that backers once had.
In the ToS, as long as CIG – or any of its multiple shell companies – is active, even if they downsize to just 4 people working on the project, they no longer have to provide the financials they promised. And they no longer have to deliver ANY of the games promised.
In the vein of the Trump Tracker, someone put together a Star Citizen tracker. It’s amazing to see what’s left to do, $146 million, and 6 years later. For a project that has had over 500 people working on it.
THE FATE OF SQUADRON 42
I have written many times that sources keep telling me that it simply doesn’t exist as a “game”. Aside from the fact that if it ever sees the light of day – in any form – that it would be just another half-assed game mode running off a menu selection, like the other modules.
I have written in the past that it won’t be released in 2015, or 2016 for the same reason that it doesn’t exist. Even as some backers and CIG stated publicly that I was making stuff up. It’s now Q2/17, and not only is it not in the updated schedule (you’d think that it should be, right?), backers haven’t seen any gameplay of it since 2015.
The hilarious part of this? Even though Star Citizen was in fact the primary game pitch, with SQ42 being the single-player portion, there are backers who are now downplaying that fact, while saying that SQ42 was the main game. Even as the funding page itself is over 90% Star Citizen content.
This doesn’t need a long blog write-up, and it certainly doesn’t warrant my releasing the blog I just finished last week. I was hoping that CIG would have at least made public something MAJOR that they have yet to disclose (LOL!!) to the backers; and which I can’t divulge without compromising an on-going investigation, sources – and rendering the whole blog moot.
As I said a recent Tweet storm, the project is FUBAR, and CIG already have a plan in motion to scuttle it and bail in the coming months. Any money that backers give them now, is going to severance (those lucky enough to get it) pay, and into the pockets of the creators (the family and friends program).
My opinion that it’s all evolved into a major scam, remains the same. And as I said back in 2015, it’s akin to one long con that has played out in the two years that I’ve been writing about this doomed project after they made it personal. As I wrote in my recent Money Laundromat blog, most of the primaries involved, have had legal troubles over various past projects in which investor money resulted in a total loss. The same is precisely what is now playing out with this Star Citizen project.
With the legacy forums closing (they said it’s being archived, but as has happened before, they will eventually disappear – but we’ve got it all archived for posterity and evidence) today, as they move the discussion over to a more restrictive, and horrid Discord clone, the project wind down is in full progress.
Also, bear this July 2015 Letter From The Chairman in mind, so you have an idea of what’s currently playing out behind the scenes, and yet to be made public.
“This is all being made possible by your enthusiasm and support. As we promised since the start of the campaign, we invest every dollar raised into the game. Anyone with knowledge about game development can assess our spending based on the information we share every month. It speaks for itself that from the outset our TOS provides for an accounting to be published if we ever had to stop development before delivering. With the progress and the funds we’ve raised this is no longer an issue, but quite obviously we wouldn’t have provided for this clause, if we weren’t using your funds very carefully for the development of Star Citizen.”
The Mitanni interviewed Chris Roberts on 10/19/2012. He CLEARLY said they were 1 year into the project then. So 2017 is year 6. So, 4 yrs late (delivery date was 11/2014). This 3.0 schedule puts it in 2018 (year 7) with barely 25% of what was promised, and not even 1 of 100 systems built by then.
To show you how utterly ridiculous the 3.0 schedule is, whereby they are promising a MASSIVE list of stuff for release END OF JUNE 2017, someone spliced it all together in a nice graphic.
If that doesn’t show just much BS that is, then I don’t even know what to say at this point. Good thing is that even some of the hardcore backers are taking notice that we’re way past the ridiculous point now. Completely. Then there’s this: http://schedule.starcitizen.guide/
Never in the history of gaming, has a game – any game – had this much controversy and delay, then resulted in either an actual game being released, or one that was released and met the expectations of the many. The problem with this, and the reason that I got involved in the first place – and at which point they declared war – is that this is all front-loaded gamer money. They’re selling ship assets which are neither built, nor in the game. Some of the ones that are in the game are either flat out broken, or missing functionality (cargo, mining etc) that makes them worth having. As I wrote here, this is after breaking literally every single promise they’ve made to backers since day one.
They’ve had 6 years + $146 million (back when I wrote my first July 2015 blog, I said that a competent team couldn’t build the game envisioned for anything less than $150m). Here we are; almost two years later and they still don’t even have 15% of the game promised back in 2012. And they’ve already blown through over $150 million if you take into account the investor money and loans that we know about.
Not forgetting the fact that, as I wrote in my latest blog, the creators and lead execs in this project, have been involved in various legal shenanigans related to the total loss of investor money, money laundering etc. In my opinion, this project too, in the coming months, will suffer the same fate of a total loss of backer money. Then everyone will be writing polarized tomes with premises like i) how could this happen? ii) we totally saw this coming! iii) at least he tried.
LEGACY FORUM CLOSED
As of April 14th, right at the same time this 3.0 schedule was to go live, they have closed (we have it all archived for posterity and evidence) the official 6 year old forums and moved everyone to the awful work in progress Discord clone, Spectrum, which gives them more censorship controls. Right off the bat, threads like this are being deleted (PDF archive)
Note that they timed this transition – to a broken system – within the same period as the release of this long awaited 3.0 schedule. On a weekend. They knew what would happen.
The really horrid part of this is that, between the 1600+ whales (that we’re tracking through publicly available analytics), the reputation management company that’s creating user accounts to spread “interest” and manage the project’s tainted rep, as well as the toxic backers who are not only engaged in profiteering through the Grey market of selling ship assets, but also waging an Internet wide war of attrition against dissent, the outlook is even more grim now than ever before.
But now that the State and Fed officials are aware of what’s going on; it’s only a matter of time now before we hit the big finale.
Anyone giving them money now, instead of waiting to see if they can actually build the two games promised, deserves to lose it when they fail to deliver on those promises.
LILY DRONE PROJECT COMPARISONS
In case you haven’t followed the most recent action taken against a crowd-funded project by California State authorities, read up on what happened to the Lily drone project.
Part of the suit has to do with the initial pitch video, watched by millions of people, showing off what appeared to be a Lily drone following users and shooting video. The drone responsible for all that fancy aerial work and video was not in fact a Lily, but a DJI Inspire, something the creators failed to mention.
There’s also a slightly technical issue that forms a second front in the DA’s lawsuit: the fact that they went with an independent “pre-order” strategy rather than an established crowdfunded development site like Kickstarter. That makes Lily’s money qualify more on the side of internet sales than investment in an idea (something Kickstarter and its projects are always careful to explain), which exposed the company to certain consumer protection laws.
One, the FTC’s Mail Order Rule, required that, if a pre-ordered product is seriously delayed, the company must issue refunds unless customers indicate they don’t mind the wait. Lily certainly must qualify as having encountered long delays — from February 2016 to “later in 2017” — but refunds were not issued at large.
It’s this second offense that caused the DA’s office to file a temporary restraining order freezing Lily’s assets — to prevent it from, in the words of the TRO, “further dissipating these ill-gotten preorder funds.”
Here are the comparisons to Star Citizen.
1) The Lily drone video was faked, didn’t represent the product pitched; and the execs were busted in fraudulent misrepresentation.
See Star Citizen “demos”
2) The Lily drone project was very delayed.
See Star Citizen’s Nov 2014 promised date, and every single missed date since then. As of today, the project is officially 29 months overdue
3) The Lily drone project wasn’t issuing refunds.
See Star Citizen refunds debacle.
CIG/RSI wasn’t issuing refunds – as required by law. To wit: Back when I challenged the refunds as per the rubbish ToS versions, very few took me seriously. At that time, refunds weren’t happening. Then someone decided to test it and went straight to State authorities. The fallout was amazing. I wrote a whole blog surrounding it. Then just like that, refunds were a thing.
4) The Lily drone project moved their crowd-funding off Kickstarter.
CIG/RSI started crowd-funding on their website, raised about $500K, then moved their funding to Kickstarter, where accountability would have prevailed. After raising over $2m there, they moved back to their new private crowd-funding site, where they ended up raising over $144 million more (to date).
5) The Lily drone project regarded the backer money as “pledges” and not sales.
CIG/RSI have long insisted that backer money were pledges, and not sales (as in pre-sales).
In the end, clearly the judge granted a TRO, one of the most difficult (1, 2) court orders to obtain, because he believed that the State Attorney had a case, and would thus prevail in the injunction.