I write out of pure passion, so many of the topics I talk about, if not every one of them, is from my passion in gaming. I attempt as much as possible to be as unbiased and fair as possible, and extend as much courtesy to fans and development teams as I can and I have never deleted a comment – the only comments that would be deleted at ones that are personal attacks, which usually get trapped by a spam filter. I ask everyone who discusses this subject to be as cordial as possible in regards to the discussion.
I have gotten quite a few emails about Star Citizen lately, many in regards to a Freedom of Information Act Request submitted by a loyal Star Citizen backer that apparently (according to them) was the defeat of game developer Derek Smart who has had a very prolific and expanded campaign to request accountability from Cloud Imperium Gaming. In addition, a lot has happened since those emails, and I feel like this discussion needs a calm and informed voice to speak about some of the issues going on.
Freedom of Information Act and the FTC
Derek Smart has alluded to the FTC intervening into CIG’s Star Citizen game for a myriad of reasons, mostly relating to the fact they’ve failed to produce the game on the schedule they’ve promised original Kickstarter fans. I don’t believe Derek Smart has ever alleged that they are in the process, but given some very strong hints to such, including I believe urging anyone who feels they’ve been wronged by the process to submit a complaint.
In reply to this, a fan submitted a FOIA request to the FTC asking for all documentation on any ongoing investigation. This request came back with nothing to be found. Two sides immediately arose: those who argue that the FOIA’s wording, the response’s wording, etc. was non-conclusive and that the FTC wouldn’t supply documentation from an ongoing investigation. The other side declared that Derek Smart was defeated and that everything he leveraged is wrong, because this is a “no hit” letter meaning the FTC is not going to act [now/ever].
The problem with both arguments is that the FTC doesn’t operate in black & white. If the FTC were to intervene, they would most likely be slow about it, and would investigate first, before any action. Their investigation, hopefully would conclude that CIG is on the up and up, and give them a clean bill of health, which interestingly enough is what many people are desiring right now: accountability.
Additionally, the only time the FTC would be relevant would be if their investigation found CIG in non-compliance with the law. The FTC isn’t the only division of the government who would do this, and if they were not in compliance with the law then the FTC would then use a myriad of possibilities to bring them back into compliance.
Basically, this entire ordeal is pointless and barely worth the time to discuss it. It doesn’t matter for either side of the fence, because unless the FTC investigates and finds a non-compliance, they literally don’t matter to the day to day lives of a fan of the game. Additionally, many fans who fear the FTC would cause major costs and hinder development, that’s highly unlikely because their first course of action would just be to talk and look at paperwork – unless something was wrong, which by all means it shouldn’t be, they wouldn’t even be able to do anything.
Chris Roberts Joins the Fray
The Escapist recently ran an article highlighting complaints from various ex-CIG employees, some verified while others were anonymous, and then things got pants on the head retarded from my perspective. Chris Roberts engaged The Escapist personally, writing one of the longest replies to an article from a developer I’ve ever seen, including personal attacks against the author, and a rather aggressive approach. Meanwhile, The Escapist article mirrors the many emails I’ve been receiving for years about work conditions at CIG, which I believe is also where much of Derek Smart’s rhetoric has been coming from – since I’m sure the same people have spoken to him as well.
Interestingly enough, this results in Chris Roberts blaming a lot of it on Derek Smart, but I can easily attest that the emails about work conditions and that rhetoric have been around awhile.
Here’s the worst part about both sides, they both don’t look good to me. I don’t know why, but here’s the deal. The accusations are probably half true, because most things like this are. Bitter ex-employees are likely to embellish quite a bit. There probably is some hostility, uncertainty, etc. especially the further you get from the high level meetings. Meanwhile, Robert’s response feels, to me at least (my own personal feelings), as if he’s bullying and taking things too far – which comes off as defensive and as if some of the things leveraged are true – because if they weren’t, why not just toss it aside or send a postcard “Loving it Here at CIG?” Likewise though, you could look at it in another angle and say he’s justified through an “eye for an eye” argument.
I don’t ever think being mean is justifiable, personally, under any reason – but that’s just a personal thing.
I feel as if the community that wants the game to be a reality do not care at all about any of the dissension, beyond the fear that it’s going to ruin the game or their chances to get a game. I think the anxiety is unfounded in that sense, but I do feel as if there is cause for the dissension and a lot of things that aren’t being addressed properly in the middle of this “war.”
I really, really don’t want to even talk about this, it’s fatiguing and stressing and everything literally feels like a landmine, because I’ve read a lot on both sides, where Derek Smart and the Escapist Author had their tweets taken out of context, apparantly in the response all the way to how happy fans are from Chris Roberts “getting tough.”
Dissension amongst the Ranks
One of the biggest issues is that the Kickstarter and post-Kickstarter campaign are two different games. Those who pledged for the Kickstarter should have gotten their game by now, and CIG has listed many, many, many dates and times for the features to arrive that just haven’t worked out. Those who have pledged after the fact should be content with what they’ve given – they bought into that specific vision, with the knowledge of the constant setbacks, and with the knowledge that many of the ships released are just literally to soak up more cash for the game to be a thing.
You couldn’t be a more informed consumer about the state of Star Citizen right now. However, those who backed before the massive scope changes, are the ones who have been and will be continued to be burned. It’s just sort of inevitable. The response many fans of Star Citizens give is that they’re getting a much larger game than they paid for, but that’s like selling someone a car and then explaining you’re giving several free upgrades but the shipment will be delayed a few years.
Likewise, there are those who bought in and are upset at the delays they’ve experienced. Even in an interview with us several years ago Roberts stated the game would be further along than it is now. This is stressful and can very much cause concern.
Quick aside: I personally have concerns about the Javelin because a lot of people bought a ship they can’t fly in hopes of being really hype to a corporation, instead of just wanting to donate $2,500 and getting something to commensurate the cash.
From here, the argument can devolve into so many “bad places,” from those wanting to strip consumers of all of their rights on the idea that their money was “donated” for the greater good, to those who claim fraud because the original launch dates were missed. As a brief side note, I am obligated to mention for everyone that any pledge to the game is a donation (according to most SC fans I’ve had the liberty to interact with), not a purchase, although the process is similar enough to buying something that many could easily be confused as such.
There are also those on the direct opposite, who have sunk a lot of cash into the game who need it succeed and they will just vomit words endlessly at anything that isn’t positive. I disagree with this – if you’ve sunk a lot of cash into the game, it’s literally in your best interest to ask some tough questions and make sure that the game is going to be one of the best games ever, so you get a return on the donation.
A voice is a powerful tool and using it to your best advantage is the best thing you could do.
No one wants Star Citizen to fail. I think that, we can all agree, that no one wants the game to fail that isn’t just some mean hearted individual. The game should succeed, however, I feel as if the community needs to be more receptive to the idea of poking and prodding it, asking some tough questions, and demanding more transparency, especially financial transparency.
I don’t see any issue, considering CIG isn’t at the mercy of a publisher or some other nefarious arm of corporate America, of divulging the burn rate, sample salaries, and estimated funds on hand. I really, honestly, feel like this would be a great boon for the game, because with confidence comes additional funding, which can (assuming everything is honestly on the up and up) make an even more awesome game.
Confidence is hurt every time a deadline is missed, because it feels like something had to go wrong. Every time that feeling comes, questions get asked, even though the game is still being worked on. Reassuring every one of the financial status of the game would make everyone feel a lot better, I think, even those who are steadfastly loyal. Then again, giving a timeline for anything is often a way to make people sad when it's not hit, which usually happens.
I’ll easily be the first to say that Star Citizen is too big to fail. If it fails, faith in crowdfunding will be gone, and other games which are doing well will suffer as a result, and many ideas that can’t get a publisher will just fade away, which isn’t acceptable for me. I really, really, want the game to succeed if nothing else for the industry. I also want it to succeed for those who have leveraged thousands of dollars on virtual spaceships. I don’t want to see gamers unhappy.
Yet, right now, everything is so black & white, and it seems tensions are rising ever so quickly that it’s getting hard to find some voice of reason within all of the discourse. I think Derek Smart’s crusade has done one thing – open a lot of dialog that hasn’t existed yet, but at the same time, I feel as if we’re no closer to some of the answers many are seeking (actual launch dates, is there enough funding to make it to the end, what are ways that CIG is being frugal with the cash, etc.).
Hard questions need to be asked and answered and everyone needs to shake hands afterwards and work to make a really awesome game. If there is a problem, as the questions could uncover, it should be fixed. If expenses aren’t working out, it’d be a great call to action for CIG to implement a better budget and fans to fund it further – if things are healthy as is, I’m certain that fans wouldn’t quit funding.
In closing, I just want to say that I hope everything calms down and we can reach some kind of happy medium where both sides are happy – when there is undeniable proof that Star Citizen is going to be the best game ever.
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