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.