It all started when I wrote a blog about my concerns. It went downhill from there. Rather rapidly.
The TL;DR version (updated: 08/03/16):
1) In Nov 2012, Chris Roberts, who had made some space combat games (his last game was in 1996) almost two decades ago, and his attorney partner, Ortwin Freyermuth, announced a crowd-funded video game project, Star Citizen, through Kickstarter.
NOTE: At the time, even though she was introduced as “VP of Marketing“, nobody knew who Sandi Gardiner was, as it was kept a secret. She wasn’t credited as a co-creator of the project either. In July 2015 amid claims of nepotism, after she was revealed to be the wife (that’s her in this pitch video with their children) of Chris Roberts, she was then later credited as the co-creator of the project.
2) My having made a career out of space combat games, as well as being a fan of Roberts’ games, along with almost 35K others, I backed the project in Nov 2012. That was when the scope was smaller, manageable, possible – and required $2M to develop. Roberts promised to deliver the game in Nov 2014.
3) In July 2015, after I got wind of the Star Citizen project in trouble amid technical issues, rumors of mismanagement, inability to deliver on promises, backer money being wasted etc, I started to investigate it. I got in touch with Roberts to try and get some more details from him. He ignored my inquiries.
So I continued with my research and subsequently published that first blog in July 2015, Interstellar Citizens in which I stated the following opinion, which then got picked up and propagated by the media.
“Without disrespect to anyone, I’m just going to say it: it is my opinion that, this game, as has been pitched, will never get made.Ever.
There isn’t a single publisher or developer on this planet who could build this game as pitched, let alone for anything less than $150 million.
The original vision which I backed in 2012? Yes, that was totally doable. This new vision? Not a chance.
The technical scope of this game surpasses GTAV, not to mention the likes of Halo.
Do you have any idea what those games cost to make and how long they took?
Do you know how many games which cost $50 million to make took almost five years to release? And they were nowhere in scope as Star Citizen?“
4) Due to the fact that the majority of the industry – including the media – had started having concerns about the project, my blog was widely propagated. It got people talking. That aside from the fact that the media themselves had already started their own rumblings (1, 2, 3).
At that point, Roberts had raised over $87 million dollars based on nothing but promises. And that was when the project was already eight months past due.
5) After the blog hit, and the media stories started appearing, Roberts company, CIG, did the following :
- They canceled my backer account, and refunded me on July 13th. Without my asking.
- Then to make matters worse, they issued a press statement about my being refunded. In that, they also tried to make it look like I had somehow violated their ToS for the game and the website. This despite the fact that I had never – ever – used any of those services.
- Their community manager, Ben Lesnick, also made a public statement about it on the company forums.
All these actions were taken in obvious retaliation for the blog and the fact that it got widespread release in the media. All they did was made it worse by making themselves subject to the Streisand Effect. And so the media kept writing (1, 2, 3) about it. They bet on my being completely vilified for writing an opinion based and technical blog.
6) As time moved on, several people, some of who were still working on the project, others who had left, started reaching out to me to tell their stories. So I continued to write the blogs in the name of awareness and accountability.
7) In Aug 2015, I had my corporate attorneys in CA, send them a legal demand letter. In it, I was asking for them to issue refunds, as well as provide financial accounting for the project – as promised. They declined. The responses contained not only defamatory statements, but also attempts at deflection, making patently false statements about me etc, all which had very little to do with the matter at hand. Then they accused me of stalking. Seriously. Naturally, though ludicrous, we had to respond to that one as well; just for the record.
Subsequently, having received their responses in writing for the record, we decided to take a wait and see approach until ToS v1.2 expires on May 31st, 2016. That was the deadline for them to issue refunds, and provide financial accountability for not delivering the game as promised on Nov 2014.
8) Then in Oct 2015, a gaming magazine, The Escapist, started to do their own investigation, during which they got a few past and present employees to discuss what was going on with the project. They published a scathing article as a result.
9) Shortly afterwards, in the same tone of the letter his partner Freyermuth had sent to us, Roberts penned a highly defamatory diatribe about myself and The Escapist writer.
And then subsequently threatened (the letter was later added to his diatribe above) them with a lawsuit if they didn’t retract it. That, notwithstanding the fact that Freyermuth, as CIG partner, and fact witness to what is going on over there, sent the aforementioned semi-legal threat.
10) Then they went on the narrative bandwagon that somehow they had been doxed, which was false. And that we had “brought their children” into the discourse etc. Also false. They had their kids in the original promo video; though at the time nobody even knew that Chris & Sandi were even married. And the images which someone found and shared on Twitter, were from online photos that Sandi had shared. The person who found them was trying to prove that they were in fact married (which they had hidden up to the point when it was uncovered), and that those were their children as compared in the video.
As of now, the game is still nowhere near completion, and ToS 1.2 in which they promised to issue refunds (which they stopped doing in Dec 2015) and provide financial accounting, expired on May 31st. When that expired, they released a new ToS in June 2016 which removed two key things that backers previously had. That being refunds for non-delivery, and financial accountability for the project.
Not only that, Roberts has recently stated that he won’t be able to deliver as promised. Instead, after cutting features, walking back promises made etc, he stated that he would be delivering a “Minimum Viable Product“. Which is interesting because in Nov 2015, I wrote an analogy in which I opined that what they may end up delivering would be analogous to getting a $10 box, though backers already paid for a $100 Gold chest.
At this point, the larger Star Citizen project is FUBAR, and Roberts is focused on shipping the Squadron 42 component which is being developed in the UK studios by his brother. The consensus is that this is being done due to their inability to ship Star Citizen as promised, because if they could ship SQ42 (which btw was just a bonus product as per the crowd-funding), they may reduce the non-delivery liability. Plus Roberts is more focused on making a movie (word is SQ42 is comprised of more cut-scenes than gameplay) instead of the game promised.
Thing is, very few backers give a damn about SQ42, an “on rails” space combat game. That’s not the game they backed. Aside from that, seeing as all the backers are entitled to it already, there is very little room for additional sales growth; even after splitting the project into two parts sold separately. That split subsequently failed to yield the expected sales when SQ42 started being sold as a separate product earlier this year.
As of this update, they have received almost $118 million in funding for a game Roberts is now saying will be released as an MVP, with the rest to come at a later date. A game for which they were already paid in full – several times over – to develop. And now, in year five, with neither Star Citizen nor SQ42 anywhere near complete, backer money has seemingly been wasted. What was once a small indie project, now spans four studios (CA, TX, Frankfurt, Manchester) around the world, has zero backer accountability, oversight, roadmap, or a delivery schedule.
They’re not going to get away with it.