What’s going on with Star Citizen? That seems to be the question du jour for many. On the surface, everything seems to be fine. Cloud Imperium Games has raised over $85 million to make their everything-in-space game. The project status looks to be on-track with the largely cosmetic hangar module and ship against ship “Arena Commander” module released to backers. So where is the doubt coming from?
After the jump, an internet urban legend rises against Star Citizen.
Although there have been some grumbles regarding the Star Citizen’s ballooning scope and budget, many gamers seemed content to buy virtual ships to support the development of their dream game. Any criticisms have been low-level and easily dismissed since the developers have $85 million in their war chest. The tipping point for some seems to have been the release of a video demonstration of the first-person shooter module, called Star Marine, which was followed by the abrupt announcement that the module was being delayed so the dev team could work on overhauling the network backend.
When will we see Star Marine? Tonight, I don’t have an absolute answer for you. What I will tell you is that we know exactly what we have to do, and we’re already well on our way to doing it. With allocation of additional resources and increased cross-studio focus on the FPS portion of the game we are on our way… we’re just not there quite yet.
As reported by some sites, this meant the module was “delayed indefinitely,” which while technically true, is usually translated as “canceled” by most readers through long-running industry convention. The developers refuted the phrasing, and insisted that development would continue. Cloud Imperium president Chris Roberts clarified that by saying the first-person shooter module was “3, 4, maybe 5 weeks” out from release. Despite those assurances, doubt grew. What was going on? How far behind was Star Citizen?
That’s when Derek Smart stepped into the fray. Smart, a famously prickly game designer and self-described “old-school internet warlord,” published a blog post explaining why he thought Star Citizen was headed for disaster. In his detailed article, the industry veteran compared his experiences of working on the Battlecruiser series with Star Citizen’s goals and came to the conclusion that the project, as advertised, was impossible. In fact, Derek Smart wrote that the developers were using the wrong game engine, the first-person combat module wasn’t being worked on, key personnel were leaving Cloud Imperium, and that the money budgeted wasn’t going to be enough to complete the game. He went on in a second article to call for a federal investigation of Cloud Imperium’s finances.
For me, I already know – for a fact – that they can’t build this game they’ve pitched, and which I was looking forward to someone making. So all I’m looking forward to now is getting my $250 worth of gaming. And right now, a hangar and Arena Commander, after three years of development and now eight months late, is not something that inspires confidence in me.
Cloud Imperium’s reaction to Derek Smart’s posts was swift. His $250 pledge was refunded and his backer status was revoked. Citing Smart’s self-promotion and sinister intentions as issues, Cloud Imperium exercised their right to refuse service. Smart’s rebuttal was just as quick and comprehensive as one would expect from someone that gained much of his fame from his early online presence. Derek Smart accused Cloud Imperium Games of making false statements, reiterated his points against the game ever being finished, and called for the resignations of Chris Roberts and his wife, Sandi Gardner, from the studio. Smart even offered $1 million of his own money to hire an independent accountant to audit the company.
Whatever is going on, or has gone on, is going to come out. All of it. With the mainstream media now investigating this farce, the FTC reports being made etc, it is only a matter of time now. And eventually, it’s all going to be taken apart piece, by piece in order to get to the bottom of where all this money went, and what happened to this once promising product vision. When the pieces all come together, it will be swift, it will be sudden, and it will be decisive.
Finally, Chris Roberts responded to the naysayers, including a video discussion. In both, Roberts addressed the doubts that Derek Smart and others raised. Regarding the shooter module, Roberts confirmed that work was continuing. Although he couldn’t give anyone a definitive release date, it was coming. As for key personnel leaving the project, Roberts insisted that the company’s turnover rate was within industry norms and that hiring practices were filling gaps as needed. On the topic of feature creep and budget bloat, Roberts was eloquent in defense of the project.
Now I’ll answer those claims in one word: Bullshit!
Where does this leave Star Citizen’s supporters? They have the promises of Cloud Imperium, a functional hangar module in which to view their ship purchases, and a dogfighting module that allows them to square off against one another with some of the spacecraft. Cloud Imperium’s bankroll continues to grow and they are posting regular communications to their backers. While there are still questions being raised by observers regarding Star Citizen’s development, the majority seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach.
As for Derek Smart, his legend continues to grow, which may the most successful part of the Star Citizen story so far.