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Star Citizen Developers Were Expected to Work During Last Month's Texas Winter Storm

Poor communication and apathy from management

Poorna Shankar Updated: Posted:
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It seems some developers at Cloud Imperium Games, the studio behind the long in-development Star Citizen, have had it with management’s expectation for them to continue working during last month’s crippling Texas winter storm.

In new reporting by Kotaku, six sources spoke with the outlet under anonymity countering CIG’s statement that, “everyone at CIG has been very understanding and concerned about the situation the Texas team is facing and we’ve stayed in constant communication.” It's important to note that the majority of the team focused on the technology behind Star Citizen works in Texas.

The sources cite communication as the overriding issue when an office manager allegedly told employees that, despite losing power, lost time had to be made up. Apparently, that week or weekend was put forth as the first option. Importantly, it noted that, “If all else fails then enter PTO [paid time off] for whatever time you cannot make up.”

It’s crucial to note that during the storm, millions of Texas residents were without power for several days. A lack of power means no heat. Water lines were also unreliable as several residents were without water for extended periods of time as well.

During the week of the storm, Kotaku’s anonymous sources said they received only “two direct communications” from CIG executives. The first message arrived on Tuesday, February 16 when a significant chunk of the team had lost power. The second communication arrived on February 21.

The first statement came with a promise of flexible hours. However, it eventually concluded that time off would require PTO (paid time off) with development still continuing. According to Kotaku, those employees who had not lost power pushed back against this statement. They cited that further power outages would eat through a full week of PTO. And, if pipes burst – as it did for many Texas residents – this PTO would be even greater.

However, they were told to work with their managers for further assistance. The problem here was that these managers were also in the same boat. And, given the power outages, communication simply wasn’t feasible.

Kotaku’s report is rather extensive and further highlights CIG’s alleged apathy towards its employees during the disastrous winter storm last month. Said one source,

“Head leadership for the company never appeared to acknowledge that we even faced a natural disaster and seemed to completely neglect to communicate our situation to other studios. This lack of awareness was evidenced when some of us were discussing the aftermath of the storm, and coworkers from another studio location asked if we had been dealing with tornadoes.”

It turns out that executives simply weren’t aware of the seriousness of the situation in Texas. Naturally, this incensed employees who had spent their precious time simply trying to communicate the reality of the situation when communication without power was almost an impossibility.

Head honcho Chris Roberts later sent an email that employees would, “get fully paid this cycle.” However, Kotaku’s sources are in agreement that the damage has been done. Morale was already low following a year with employees unsure if their company actually cared.

According to Kotaku,

“Sources cited the company’s tendency to internally tout record earnings while offering low pay (by Austin standards) and no additional compensation to help with issues like higher electric bills during the pandemic, as well as animation studio layoffs and decisions that disproportionately impacted lower-wage employees, like taking away the QA department’s work-from-home privileges before the pandemic began.”

Kotaku notes that CIG did reverse that decision once they realized people would have to indeed work from home for the foreseeable future. This ultimately led to several Austin employees simply being done with everything, citing CIG’s slow response, lack of communication, and the sentiment that the company does not care about the people it employs.

Naturally, this affects Star Citizen development. As one source put it,

“With all those things on top of a game that feels like it’s coming closer and closer to a gacha for expensive ships and no actual gameplay, useless features being constantly shoved in and removed, where marketing holds absolute power over any other department, employees start to feel disheartened after awhile.”

Despite announcing its Kickstarter in 2012, Star Citizen has yet to release as a fully functional, feature-complete game. Over the years, the game has held several alphas, free fly events, and has added features while raising hundreds of millions of dollars in crowdfunding.

Perhaps its largest feature, the single-player campaign known as Squadron 42, has yet to release despite being announced to release in 2014. Roberts has come out and stated that there’s still a, “ways to go,” before beta. Another roadmap was finally released late last year. In another post to the community, Roberts noted last year that the gameplay he described for Star Citizen’s is, “not a pipe dream, nor will it take 10 to 20 years to deliver.”


Poorna Shankar

A highly opinionated avid PC gamer, Poorna blindly panics with his friends in various multiplayer games, much to the detriment of his team. Constantly questioning industry practices and a passion for technological progress drive his love for the video game industry. He pulls no punches and tells it like he sees it. He runs a podcast, Gaming The Industry, with fellow writer, Joseph Bradford, discussing industry practices and their effects on consumers.