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Should We Question RSI & Star Citizen? Derek Smart Thinks So

Suzie Ford Posted:
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UPDATE: This was just posted on the Star Citizen forums by Ben Lesnick regarding the refund of Derek Smart's investment in Star Citizen:

Hey guys! I believe I can clarify this. We refunded Mr. Smart’s package because he was using Star Citizen as a platform to gain attention as part of a campaign to promote his ‘Line of Defense’ space game. Our ToS (or in this case, the Kickstarter ToS) allows us to refund troubled users who we would rather not have interacting with the community. The process lets us entirely disable their accounts, preventing them from playing the finished game. Think of it as the video game equivalent of a ‘we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’ sign in a restaurant. We’ve used this ability a limited number of times in the past, always with the aim of improving the community (until today, the most famous example being our old friend jcrg99/Manzes/PonyMillar/he of many other alts.) I do now want to stress that that is not to say you can get your money back by simply being as obnoxious as possible; we’re also able to ban accounts from the forums without requiring a refund. But sometimes we take a look at a user and decide that they’re so toxic or their intentions are so sinister that we simply don’t want them associated with Star Citizen. As for refund requests working the other way: per the ToS, we’re not required to offer them. We do try and work with backers who are facing hardships, but the hard truth is that the money is by necessity being spent to develop a game rather than sitting unused somewhere (that being the significant difference with Steam; those refunds are taken out of their games’ profits rather than their development budgets.)

Derek Smart has taken to his personal blog and launched a long piece about Star Citizen, how it has taken vast sums of money from backers who appear to, as Smart alleges, be willing in all that is spoken about the game without much actually being shown. It should be noted that Mr. Smart is a backer of Star Citizen and RSI himself, and that these allegations are coming from a fan as well as a developer.  It is Smart's contention that fans will never see a product that will even approach its actual cost. With $85M in the coffers, Smart feels that dollars are being burned through very quickly with a staff of 300+.

The article begins with this:

From everything that we have uncovered thus far, it is our belief that the game, Star Citizen, as of this writing, has all the makings of a crowd-funding failure, and an unmitigated disaster. A disaster which, if, and when it happens, and everything eventually comes out, is likely to be the most shocking event in recent gaming memory, which threatens to eclipse even the 38 Studios collapse of 2012.

Smart asserts that there is no game on the planet of the scope and size that Roberts et al have pitched that could be built for less than $150M. He further claims that the main stream media has, even if inadvertently, been in collusion with one another and that none in the media are willing to do what it takes to investigate the situation fully.

Smart goes on:

Yes, when all is said and done, not only have they failed to deliver as originally promised, there is seemingly no accountability for development slips, feature creep, where the crowd-funded money is going etc.

In short, all in gaming, are at war. Again.

Smart next goes on to rebut the article posted on the Star Citizen forum where developers spoke to specific community concerns:

The point of the matter is that, this Star Citizen fiasco is so polarizing, that, not only is there a massive battle waging between supporters (White Knights), and dissenters (Black Nights) on their forums, but in every single gaming forum, or group that has any interest in the game.

From here Smart analyzes what he believes is RSI's attempt to obfuscate significant happenings at the company and bury important news in other, less significant, announcements. Most notably, he mentions the departure of Alex Mayberry and how the news about this significant event was buried in a "news release" that partner CIG had moved into a new office in Germany -- an office that he contends has been open since August of 2014. This, Smart implies, is evidence that RSI is being less than up front with its patrons.

After hours and days of research, Smart writes that he has come up with 33 important points for fans to consider, then posts what he believes are the most significant ten:

  1. The project slipped it’s original Nov 2014 ship date as promised in the Oct 2012 Kickstarter pledge
  2. Almost four (1 year prior to KS, 2 years pledged timeline, 8 months delayed) years, they have not delivered a game; of any scope as originally pitched in 2012
  3. Key people (we have a running list) have been leaving, some for patently dubious reasons
  4. Some ex personnel have already taken to places like glassdoor to voice concerns
  5. Key modules are either buggy, to the point of unplayable for the most part  (Arena Commander), or put on indefinite hold (Star Marine fps module)
  6. Technological hurdles, and the limitations of the CryEngine3 they chose, have only now started coming to light as recently as June’s dev update
  7. Chris, as seen/heard in the video above, had already stated, and I quote “the game on the low side was going to be about 14 million dollars to make and the high side, which is where we are at now, is going to be about 20 million” We’re $85m in. No game.
  8. They continued to increase the scope of the project, not only as a way to continue raising money through stretch goals, but also thereby putting the project at risk of never being completed as originally visioned; as doing so, makes it a very expensive proposition
  9. They continue to crowd-fund and raise money, selling virtual items for a game that doesn’t exist, and based on a TOS that all but guarantees that people who pledge, will have little to no recourse to get their money back, unless they sued and got the TOS tossed (as we suspect that it will, if the FTC doesn’t get there first) by a judge
  10. Investigations in the past weeks, and discussions with various people, have led to some very alarming, and disturbing things that, I’m not even going to bother making public – yet.

Further, he notes:

  1. The hangar module is not the game they promised. That just ended up being a conduit for viewing virtual ships sold, for a game that doesn’t exist
  2. The Arena Commander, largely a broken mess, is not the game they promised. That just ended up being a test module, and conduit for testing virtual ships sold, for a game that doesn’t exist
  3. The Star Marine FPS module has been put on indefinite hold. Plus, sources tell me what they have now is just two test levels. Which means it will end up being another shoddy mess like Arena Commander upon release (if ever).
  4. There is no Squadron 42 game
  5. There is no Star Citizen game

The next portion of the article cites several Federal Trade Commission (FTC) violations that Roberts Space Industry may be in violation of and opined that, should any legal action be taken against the company, these violations may lead to the ultimate cessation of the project altogether.

Smart says he reached out to Chris Roberts, his legal council Ortwin Freyermuth and to the lead PR representative David Swofford none of whom, he writes, bothered to get back to him with any kind of comment about his allegations.

Lastly, and as a backer of Star Citizen, Smart details seven demands that he believes all donors are interested in hearing about:

As backers of this project, here is our list of demands:

  1. disclose the full detailed (private jet travel? we want to see it) P&L accounting (money in off-shore bank accounts? we want to know about them) for every crowd-funded dime that has been raised and spent on this project. Allow an independent forensics accountant, hired by backers, to come and do an audit. This is standard practice in developer-publisher relationships. So you know how that works.
  2. disclose the true state of the project in terms of what is expected to be delivered, and when. Allow an independent Executive Producer, hired by backers, to come and do a project review in order to get an accurate picture of the game state, so we know when it is likely to see the light of day – if ever
  3. disclose the true timeline for the project’s completion. As per the above.
  4. setup a page offering refunds to all those who REQUEST it. The TOS is going to be the first thing attacked in any lawsuit. It is not likely to survive a legal challenge. Plus, the FTC will trump all that crap anyway, so there is that.
  5. admit, in no uncertain terms, and apologize that the scope of the project has changed since the original $2.1m kickstarter crowd-funding campaign
  6. halt all further crowd-funding activities until a sizable part of the game – as originally pitched in 2012 – has been delivered to backers who have paid for it. In other words, STOP selling virtual items and taking money for vaporware
  7. address the nepotism issues associated with the hiring of unqualified family members to head key parts of this crowd-funded project. In this regard, explain the benefits of a) promoting your brother to an Executive Producer position, as opposed to hiring someone (like the departed Alex Mayberry) who has the experience to match the job. Also what new benefits (pay raise, shares etc) he now has access to, for going into that position b) hiring someone, allegedly your wife, to a position that she is seemingly not qualified to hold. And why a more experienced executive wasn’t put in this position. Especially since that dept has several men, and women, with more experience and qualifications to do the job. Instead, they get to answer to her; and naturally, she gets paid more, as per the position

Smart believes that Roberts must issue a statement regarding his and other backers' concerns about Star Citizen. Should he choose not to, Smart says, Roberts should be removed from the company or that backers en masse should demand his resignation.

Want to read the entire story and participate in the conversation? Head to DerekSmart.com and Smart Speak to do so.

EDIT: It seems that RSI has pre-emptively returned Smart's $250 pledge to Star Citizen as well, without Derek asking for the refund:

UPDATE 07/14: This article was written last week, on 07/10, and was awaiting legal approval before posting. During that time, I had shared it with various media personnel, as well as some industry friends. Earlier this evening, I sent out a tweetthat the article was going live. Then when making my final email pass for the evening, I noticed an email had come in from Kickstarter,  advising me that RSI had processed a $250 refund for my pledge. While I was pondering that, I got another email from RSI confirming it. I don’t know what this means, but I will speak with legal in the morning to figure it out. 


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom