Star Citizen backer's lawsuit to refund his $4500 pledge ends in failure

midian182

Posts: 7,882   +81
Staff member
Bottom line: It’s been six years since developer Roberts Space Industries (RSI) launched a Kickstarter for a wildly ambitious project called Star Citizen. Since that time, the game has raised over $200 million from fans, yet there’s still no word on when we might see the finished product. After numerous delays and changes to the original vision, some backers want out, but it’s proving easier said than done.

Ken Lord was one of the many people who loved studio founder Chris Roberts’ Wing Commander games from the 1990s. In April 2013, Lord pledged $4,496 to the project, but with the game still not out and so many new gameplay elements being introduced, Lord eventually wrote to RSI requesting a refund of his pledge—it refused.

One of the biggest problems Lord has with the game, other than the fact it's still not been released, is the addition of the first-person shooter element in the Squadron 42 mode, which RSI calls “A Wing Commander style single player mode, playable OFFLINE if you want.”

“I have [multiple sclerosis],” Lord told Motherboard. “My hands shake badly. I have tremors...They just recently confirmed that you have to do the first-person shooter thing to get through Squadron 42. I can’t do that, I just can’t do that. So my money’s stuck in a game I can’t possibly play.”

RSI said they wouldn’t give Lord his money back as he was outside the 14-day time limit for Kickstarter refunds. He then sent a five-page letter that explained the situation and even suggested a settlement fee of $3800. Lord added that he would pursue legal action if he were ignored. Not surprisingly, he received no reply, which led to him filing a claim in a California small claims court on July 11.

The court dismissed Lord’s case, citing a clause in RSI’s terms of service that states backers waive the right to sue in court and have a jury trial. But this clause was added in 2013 after Lord made his pledge, and the top line of the current terms of service reads: "These Terms of Service (TOS) do not affect any transactions made before its effective date. All prior transactions are governed by the TOS in effect on the date of such transactions."

It seems the crux of the issue is that Lord paid his near $4500 to RSI in multiple installments, only a small portion of which were made under the pre-2013 terms of service. An RSI rep told Kotaku: “The Terms of Service are not retroactive, but a huge majority of Mr. Lord’s pledges came after the TOS was changed to specify arbitration, and those pledges are under that TOS. His pledges with new money on top of his earlier pledges required him to accept the new Terms of Service.”

While it seems Lord won’t be getting his money returned, one Star Citizen backer did get his $3000 pledge refunded in 2016 because of the game’s delays and changes. However, doing so required help from the District Attorney of Los Angeles, the Federal Trade Commission, and the LA Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

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OutlawCecil

Posts: 739   +570
The "game" raised over $200 million and they won't give a guy with MS his $4,000 back. This speaks volumes about how desperate RSI is.
They've raised a ton of money but I'm sure they've spent it too. Although the game isn't out yet, you can tell there's great attention to detail and tons of work put into this game. If you invested in the game, I'm sure it's spent by now.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,693   +6,625
The "game" raised over $200 million and they won't give a guy with MS his $4,000 back. This speaks volumes about how desperate RSI is.
On an ethical level, I agree; however, if in his second letter explaining his situation he had not threatened to sue, he might have gotten his money back since there are extenuating circumstances, his MS, that may not have existed when he initially pleged. To me, his threat to sue amounts to bullying.

Then again, others have apparently gone to great lengths to get their money back. IMO, RSI should just give people their money back if they want it. Cases where people want their money back seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

We all know the issues with RSI/StarCitizen at this point and have known them for some time. Even back when the TOS changed, people knew the situation, yet people have pledged since then. Since RSI has stated that you have 14-days for a refund in their TOS, there does not appear to be much legal recourse for those who have pledged since the TOS change.

Besides, Squadron 42 has been a component of the game since the beginning except it was not called Squadron 42 at the time. The article really does not say when he was diagnosed with MS, but if he had MS before he pledged, he should have realized he could not play Squadron 42 before he invested. Its easy to P&M and blame RSI due to the fact that work on the game has been in progress for so long, scope changes, etc., however, this guy might share some of the blame himself.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,693   +6,625
The "game" raised over $200 million and they won't give a guy with MS his $4,000 back. This speaks volumes about how desperate RSI is.
They've raised a ton of money but I'm sure they've spent it too. Although the game isn't out yet, you can tell there's great attention to detail and tons of work put into this game. If you invested in the game, I'm sure it's spent by now.
And a large amount of the game is presently playable.
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,488   +2,694
In a separate statement to Kotaku, RSI defended its current refund policy. “Our Terms of Service provides refunds for 14 days after each pledge is made, but company policy is to refund anyone who has second thoughts for up to 30 days after their pledge, no questions asked,” the statement read. “Outside of this window, we still consider refund requests for exceptional cases, but generally at that point the funds need to be considered available for development. This policy is actually very generous when compared to nearly any other gaming company—most publishers would not allow any refund at all after players have downloaded and played for several hours.”
I not only agree with RSI here but considering he pledged back in 2012, his money has definitely been spent developing the game. I recently pledged so I could have a go at the game since I've heard it is starting to come together since 3.2 build and I've gotta say, although there is quite a steep learning curve at first, the game really is impressive, the attention to detail is incredible, it's definitely still an alpha and work in progress (missions aren't all there yet, performance is generally awful and lots of mechanics are missing) but man, give them another 2 years working at the speed they have been this year and this could really be something special.

My biggest gripe at the moment is the fact I have to buy the ships at silly real money prices or get a subscription, Neither of which I want to do at the current prices, if ships were like £5 or at most, £10, sure but most are £100+. If only you could buy the ships in game with in game currency, I believe that's what it will be in the final release, it's currently just a money grab to bring in more funds.
 

OutlawCecil

Posts: 739   +570
My biggest gripe at the moment is the fact I have to buy the ships at silly real money prices or get a subscription, Neither of which I want to do at the current prices, if ships were like £5 or at most, £10, sure but most are £100+. If only you could buy the ships in game with in game currency, I believe that's what it will be in the final release, it's currently just a money grab to bring in more funds.
Actually it's sounding like all ships can be obtained from within the game. Paying for a ship just gives you a big jumpstart from the beginning of the game. When you buy the game, it comes with a starter ship. That is all you are required to buy and you can work your way into a bigger nicer ship.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,693   +6,625
I had to Google to give some perspective. If anyone's curious, GTA 5's development cost was around $265M.
That is an interesting observation. It does not surprise me, though.
I not only agree with RSI here but considering he pledged back in 2012, his money has definitely been spent developing the game. I recently pledged so I could have a go at the game since I've heard it is starting to come together since 3.2 build and I've gotta say, although there is quite a steep learning curve at first, the game really is impressive, the attention to detail is incredible, it's definitely still an alpha and work in progress (missions aren't all there yet, performance is generally awful and lots of mechanics are missing) but man, give them another 2 years working at the speed they have been this year and this could really be something special.
It's coming together, painfully slowly, IMO, but it is coming together. They finally got ships appearing in hangars properly, but go to a elevator in the Self-Land hanger and keep forcibly walking forward and you end up in space with no way back. LOL. It sounds like the 3.2.1 build will have the recreational areas in hangars working again, too.

And my guess would be that those playing now will keep their in-game empire in the multiplayer universe (lol) if/when the game goes public. However, one would have to search the RSI forums for confirmation of that. That would certainly be a big advantage for people who pledge, however, I can imagine that those buying the game retail might complain about the "Lords of Star Citizen".
 

ElShotte

Posts: 166   +18
No way. Sorry about the dudes MS and the fact that it will render him unable to play the FPS component (gamepad maybe???), but the game is well along the way to getting done, a LOT of that budget has been spent already, and if they start issuing refunds, even in those extreme cases, they're gonna have people coming out of the woodwork to get theirs which would ultimately strip them of the budget necessary to complete the project.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,142   +5,768
And this is why you never, ever, EVER pre-order or buy into "early access". I think something like 75% of projects end up shuttered and less than half of supporters get anything back. Its even worse with pre-orders which typically offer no refunds.
 
D

davislane1

And this is why you never, ever, EVER pre-order or buy into "early access". I think something like 75% of projects end up shuttered and less than half of supporters get anything back. Its even worse with pre-orders which typically offer no refunds.

Definitely agree with pre-orders, but EA isn't always a scam. Good example of this presently is Hunt: Showdown.
 

Mister_K

Posts: 2,159   +860
And that is the problem with Star Citizen.

Problem is not exclusive to Star Citizen or this type of a product, you will never make everyone happy.

It's like going to McDonalds and complaining you are getting heart-disease. You knew what you signed up for.

Star Citizen is a project, not a product that actually might exist and everyone who donates would be lying to them self if its anything other than...
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,488   +2,694
And my guess would be that those playing now will keep their in-game empire in the multiplayer universe (lol) if/when the game goes public. However, one would have to search the RSI forums for confirmation of that. That would certainly be a big advantage for people who pledge, however, I can imagine that those buying the game retail might complain about the "Lords of Star Citizen".
As far as I'm aware you get to keep the ships you purchase to use in the final product but only early backers get unlimited insurance, people like myself only get 3 months insurance on my ship then I have to pay (with in-game currency mind you) for insurance to keep it.

Apart from that, I think everything else is reset, land owned, wealth, items, all the rest of it, You'll just know who a backer is because his ship will be 3 times the size of yours.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,693   +6,625
As far as I'm aware you get to keep the ships you purchase to use in the final product but only early backers get unlimited insurance, people like myself only get 3 months insurance on my ship then I have to pay (with in-game currency mind you) for insurance to keep it.

Apart from that, I think everything else is reset, land owned, wealth, items, all the rest of it, You'll just know who a backer is because his ship will be 3 times the size of yours.
Thanks for the info. It is good to know that we won't have to deal with those who have been testing for a while and have built empires. Maybe I'll have to get another ship or two, but for the time being, I am set. Honestly, I have not had much time to devote to actually playing the game - I.e., flying around and all the other stuff. I was an early backer, so the three, small ships I have have LTI. I have contemplated trading up, but I just cannot justify it at the moment. For me, it will be interesting if they keep the trade-up offer in the final product especially if allows anyone with LTI to keep it.
 

killmess

Posts: 11   +2
And my guess would be that those playing now will keep their in-game empire in the multiplayer universe (lol) if/when the game goes public. However, one would have to search the RSI forums for confirmation of that. That would certainly be a big advantage for people who pledge, however, I can imagine that those buying the game retail might complain about the "Lords of Star Citizen".

They could make 2 worlds, old world (with the lords) and the new one. The user decides where they want to play.
Just my 2 cents.
 

Someone8MyPosts

Posts: 461   +146
That is an interesting observation. It does not surprise me, though.

It's coming together, painfully slowly, IMO, but it is coming together. They finally got ships appearing in hangars properly, but go to a elevator in the Self-Land hanger and keep forcibly walking forward and you end up in space with no way back. LOL. It sounds like the 3.2.1 build will have the recreational areas in hangars working again, too.

And my guess would be that those playing now will keep their in-game empire in the multiplayer universe (lol) if/when the game goes public. However, one would have to search the RSI forums for confirmation of that. That would certainly be a big advantage for people who pledge, however, I can imagine that those buying the game retail might complain about the "Lords of Star Citizen".

Sounds like $200 million worth of crap programming to me. Ridiculous. Glad I never backed this thing.