Why it matters: After seven years and $288 million raised, there’s still no completion date in sight for Star Citizen. According to a new report, much of the blame rests on the shoulders of game designer and co-founder of the Cloud Imperium Games studio, Chris Roberts.
A recent Forbes report delves into the development of Star Citizen, which was originally due to launch in 2014 but still has no solid release date. It notes that of the $288 million raised—$242 million of which was crowdfunded by consumers—just $14 million was left in the bank by the end of 2017. This led to the team raising money through the release of virtual spaceships, which sell for up to $3,000 per ship. Forbes writes that of the 135 models, just 87 can be flown in the playable Alpha version of the game, while some of the remaining 48 are only images.
It’s noted that while this is not fraud, “it is incompetence and mismanagement on a galactic scale.” Many of the 20 former Cloud Imperium workers Forbes spoke to painted Roberts as a “micromanager and poor steward of resources,” while describing the work environment as “chaotic.” Of the 100 star systems that have been promised, none have been finished.
“As the money rolled in, what I consider to be some of [Roberts’] old bad habits popped up—not being super-focused,” said Mark Day, whose company was contracted to work on the Star Citizen in 2013 and 2014. “It had got out of hand, in my opinion. The promises being made—call it feature creep, call it whatever it is—now we can do this, now we can do that. I was shocked.”
Roberts is said to waste too much time on insignificant details, with one senior graphics engineer ordered to spend months getting the visual effects of the ships’ shields just right. Workers are also spending weeks making demos that help sell the ships and raise more money.
Another example is a lead character artist completing only five characters in 17 months due to Roberts constantly reversing approvals for the designs the employee was working on.
The Federal Trade Commission has now received 129 consumer complaints against Cloud Imperium games related to refunds as high as $24,000 "The game they promised us can't even barely run. The performance is terrible and it's still in an 'Alpha' state," read one complaint from a Florida resident who had spent $1,000. "I want out. They lied to us." We have heard stories of some backers who got their money back, along with others who didn’t.
While a beta of the single-player Squadron 42 element is expected to be here in 2020, we still have no idea when the full Star Citizen game will be released, if ever.