Escapist Article on Star Citizen

Discussion in 'Off-topic Zone' started by Sylvester, Oct 1, 2015.

  1. Sylvester

    Sylvester Vice Admiral

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    As many of you may be aware, the Escapist published an article in which several former and current CIG employees assert that Cloud Imperium is in deep trouble regarding Star Citizen's budget, workplace climate and feature development. I have read it, and Chris Roberts' response to those claims. I am not, nor have I ever been in game development. I'm not sure how credible the claims in the Escapist article may be, and I'm also aware that my love of Wing Commander may incline me to take Roberts at his word.

    I was wondering what the community here has thought of this, and if anyone more experienced than I in the development world would care to comment on this? I know we're very close to many people at Cloud Imperium and that several people who were heavily involved in creating and running the CIC are now Cloud Imperium employees. Personally, I think CIG has been upfront, and I'm rather understanding of delays - my father is a software engineer and I understand how difficult programming different systems to interact properly is. But I can't just dismiss everything out of hand, either. I guess I'm just looking for some feedback from the Wing Commander community.

    If you haven't read the article, you may do so here, along with Chris Roberts' rebuttal: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/art...r-Citizen-Controversy-Reaches-a-Boiling-Point
     
  2. Wedge009

    Wedge009 Rogue Leader

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    I just noticed this as well. Read both the article and Chris' response. Of course, we will likely be biased towards Chris and CIG. Just going off what I have read, I'm not inclined to believe the full extent of the Escapist's claims. Though there is still the question of whether or not there is a grain of truth to these allegations. Would be interested to know if anyone can share anything in as neutral a light as possible - if there really is any truth at all to the allegations.

    My post on RSI after reading Chris' response (I think I can count the number of RSI posts I've made on one hand):
    Also, call me silly or whatever, but I had no clue as to Chris and Sandi's relationship. Though I did notice they seemed close in some news posts and wondered what Chris' wife would think about that. Good to know there's no conflict of interest there!
     
  3. Raptor[K]

    Raptor[K] Rear Admiral

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    I guess that was the one thing Derek Smart did get right, but most of the article just cited "sources". I know they are supposed to not list them...but really I take that with a grain of salt. Not to mention it really does just quote Derek Smart. I just don't fully trust it.
     
  4. ChrisReid

    ChrisReid Super Soaker Collector / Administrator

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    I'm by no means a Star Citizen or CIG expert as I do focus my time on our side of the space sim community, but I do have some knowledge of what's been going on. To me, it's not surprising that certain employees or former employees are making these claims, because there's been disgruntled employee issues for a while now. There's no 300-person organization in the world that doesn't have a few folks that just do not fit in.

    To me the comments about Chris Roberts' lack of leadership are way off base. It's precisely because Chris Roberts came down on a handful of folks that weren't performing that these folks were booted and resurfaced with a chip on their shoulder. It's muddying the issue to combine those isolated incidents with doom and gloom predictions about vaporware and feature creep. Those are two very separate things.

    Ask anyone who's fired, and they'll tell you that the environment was toxic and nonproductive, because behind their filter, they saw what was coming and it was bad. For them, the walls were closing in and they were being marginalized in proportion to their (bad) attitudes and (non) performance. Basically, you could be throwing the best party in the world, and anyone who gets thrown out for misbehaving is going to tell you the party sucked.

    It may not have been widely known, but it wasn't exactly a secret either. You can go back to some of the earliest Star Citizen videos and see Sandi with their kids and they look just like a mix of the two of them ( https://www.wcnews.com/news/2012/11/12/commander-roberts-pushes-through-final-week 39 seconds in with the toddlers and a dog, that's CR's family aboard the Tiger's Claw :) ).
     
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  5. Wedge009

    Wedge009 Rogue Leader

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    I just remembered (I think it was) J Allen Brack's picture of him holding a sign reading 'I yelled at Chris Roberts and did not get fired!' or something to that effect. From what we've read of those internal Origin newsletters (granted, they're not going to publish bad stuff in those), it really seemed like a fun place to work, at least in those earlier years.

    As for Chris and Sandi, I seldom watch the videos (time and bandwidth constraints) but I suppose that might explain why it was less obvious to me than for others.
     
  6. Pedro

    Pedro Vice Admiral

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    Well I will say the games industry *does* have companies where the environment is toxic and/or nonproductive. It's worth pointing out that the two are not synonymous. Not everyone who makes complaints is just sounding off. If even half of what is said is true about Konami then there is due cause to complain. But just because the developers are unhappy doesn't mean the gamers will be unhappy with the end product. MGS5 is enjoying great acclaim despite the internal difficulties.

    My very first job in the games industry all positive mental attitude and no questioning the top, even if there were real issues to be addressed - now to be fair that studio wasn't exactly a success story in the long term, but the reason I naively chose them as my first job was the quality of titles they put out in their early years - those 14 hour days, working all through the weekend, every weekend, got them results. I would never as a developer chose to work somewhere like that again, especially not now I have a family - but I won't make assumptions about the quality of the end product from the number of complaints.

    My jobs since then have varied in working conditions, personal happiness (although I am happy to say I've not had a negative experience since my very early days in the industry) and the quality of titles. There can be a link between disgruntled employees and the quality of the end product, a lack of organization can certainly be frustrating (and I'm sure with better organization the aforementioned company could have achieved the same results without such working conditions), but it's a weaker link than you might expect.

    This line in particular:

    "The letter continues, "But everyone is faced with the same repeated dilemma, a choice- make [Chris Roberts] happy or do what works for the game? Short term survival vs long term wins. And unfortunately it's the survival option that wins out, mainly because turning away from a directive of CR is a recipe for unemployment." The letter, in total, appeared to be extremely critical of Roberts' management of, and communication within, the company, as well as several key aspects of the creation process."

    Doesn't sound so different from what little I've heard about the working environment under Roberts when he was at Origin, or reports of what it's like to work with Ridley Scott for that matter. People with a clear vision are famously difficult to work for - but sometimes achieve the best results.

    Most of the article is based on Derek Smart - who in this context is nothing more than a disgruntled backer. Every company is different - he knows no more than any developer not working there (which is next to nothing), and as Chris rightly points out every company (even smaller ones never mind those of 300 people) have disgruntled employees.
    He once contacted me as a developer (having seen a post of mine on a facebook page) shortly after StarCitizen was announced - he didn't impress me at the time. If there are problems with StarCitizen he won't be the one to convince me.

    That said the project does keep getting delayed - Arena Commander is not as compelling a window into the games future as I would have hoped for at this stage in the games development. I have doubts - but that article is not the cause of any of them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  7. Silverforce

    Silverforce Rear Admiral

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    My biggest concern is the feature creep or rather, ambition. I know CR set out to make the most ambitious spacesim ever, it's to be respected. Dream big.

    Freelancer itself had a trouble development. It was due in 2001, delayed to 2003. Look at it's scope and compare what they are aiming for now with Star Citizen & SQ42.

    Do you guys think it will be released in late 2016 at the current pace of development? I suspect we'll never see the game as its current vision, all this bad PR will mean less people willing to keep on buying expensive virtual ships, with funding slowed down, the game will have to be scaled down.

    Here's some food for thought, anyone followed Eve Valkyrie? It's a very ambitious project, but at it's core, it's "just" a space dog-fighting sim, without the complexities of a real spacesim with dynamic economies, factions, AI etc. It's been in development for a few years already, they still need a few more years to go. What Chris wants with SC is Eve Valkyrie + Eve Online complexity + Crysis FPS + More.
     
  8. cff

    cff Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi

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    Its Derek Smart speaking. So whatever is written should be taken with a grain of salt about the size of the Himalaya.

    Yeah I do have my worries about CS in particular that Roberts is too ambitious in his vision as to what can be delivered and consequently that it has to be delayed quite a bit and/or scaled backthink that article is still filled of at least 99% hot air. Cannot comment on studio toxixity, but Smart must have never backed a KS before. Ever. I'v not seen a single project on time and most don't communicate at all. So far CS has been top at communicationg IMHO and the delay, while unfortunate is still in the expected range for me. I think however they should consider to release a smaller version 1.0 and build upon that one instead of waiting to include all bells and whistles (like ground combat) that was not in the initial vision but rather added later on.

    One thing caught my eyes however - CS is to be downscaled is major aspects? Didn't hear this mentioned before. Anyone can give a short summarize what is going on there?
     
  9. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    It's certainly going to be interesting to watch how it all pans out. Derek Smart aside (does anyone actually take him seriously?), Chris Roberts really doesn't have a great record when it comes to fitting within constraints. It seems like most of his biggest projects went massively over time or over budget. In most cases (Freelancer excepted?), the final product was considered well worth the wait, at least from the players' perspective. Not necessarily so from the investor's perspective... and this time, the players are the investors.
     
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  10. Mekt-Hakkikt

    Mekt-Hakkikt Mpanty's bane

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    Now that there is so much drama with even a transmission from Chris Roberts, I have read the articles and some tweets and it really looks like a campaign born out of jealousy and spite, nothing more. It's sad that the private life of Chris Roberts and Sandi Gardiner got dragged into the open for no good reason.

    Edit: Man, I really should have checked my post for typos...fixed now (I hope)
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
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  11. Dundradal

    Dundradal Frog Blast the Vent Core!

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    Yeah, this is all really strange and does seem to be based on jealously. Last week, some weirdo started coming into #wingnut every day spouting off about Chris and Sandi's relationship and that he should be head of PR. I'll fully admit that I haven't been paying very much attention to SC since I made my pledge way back when. I didn't realize things were reaching lunatic fringe levels in terms of crazies trying to go after a guy just for making a game he has a vision for.

    Derek Smart has been a joke since the older fans here first met in #wing-commander. It's kind of nuts that he was given a platform based on nothing more than his bitterness. The person who wrote that first article later refers to it as a op-ed in the follow-up piece. It's really just a pile of shit click-bait. We've made fun of Escapist here forever for being a joke. It comes as no surprise they'd publish something like this to try and be relevant...like Smart.
     
  12. Deathsnake

    Deathsnake Commodore

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    I think all media give Smart too much Attention! I would delete all News about him to shot him down!

    Just leave this here!
    derek_not_so_smart.png
    ...
     
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  13. Saleem

    Saleem 1st Lieutenant

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    Wow good to see my account here still active. But reading this has spurred me to just say this; CR has always taken his own sweet time to get things done and I am saying this as a fan of his. His lengthy dev process is one of the reasons digital anvil ended up being dismantled by Microsoft, that said, his games have never disappointed. I'm no backer, I firmly believe in buying the product when it's done and I am actually glad that its taking its own sweet time to get done. By the time its done I predict a rig capable of running the game at high resolutions will be well within my price range! - That and it will most likely be bug free!
     
  14. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    It's par for the course. To say that Chris Roberts has raised a lot of money is something of an understatement. He's raised something like ten (twenty?) times as much as the nearest successful crowdfunded game. That kind of outcome is bound to attract a lot of attention, and bring out the worst in people. Greed, jealousy, you name it, they've got it.

    The really ironic thing is that even in being attacked by Derek Smart, it's actually Chris Roberts who lends Derek Smart with whatever credibility he has been able to garner. Even the Escapist wouldn't go for a story like this coming out of Derek Smart's mouth (or at least they'd report it in a balanced way, pointing out some of Mr.... oh, sorry, Dr. Smart's successes ;) ), if it hadn't been for Chris Roberts' past with Digital Anvil. Which I suppose means that CIG just has to grit their teeth and keep going. There will be voices like this all the way to the finish line, it's just the reality of the situation.
     
  15. Silverforce

    Silverforce Rear Admiral

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    The only thing that can silence critics is delivery of a product, barring that, a show of transparency where funds are used as well as a proper timeline. Saying that CR's project gets delayed is normal, well yes, he has that record. So why did he promise late 2014 during the KS? He should have been more honest. Now its pushed to late 2016. When the time comes, it'll be pushed to late 2018... come on. Just say so at the start, "it'll take as long as it needs" then nobody can accuse them of negligence or profiteering.
     
  16. ChrisReid

    ChrisReid Super Soaker Collector / Administrator

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    Has there been a crowdfunding project more open and transparent than Star Citizen? A video game one? I've backed dozens and dozens of things on Kickstarter and Indigogo, and absolutely nobody comes close to the number of newsletters, status updates, video previews, developer Q&As, etc, etc as CIG. Honestly, the funds can go wherever they want, right? Most of the money goes to pay the wages and salary of the team, and Chris Roberts gets to determine how big of a salary he gets. If he goes and buys a mansion, that's his compensation for leading the team. From the sounds of it, he's been working 12 hour days practically 7 days a week for more than three years now and leads a team of 300. That seems like it's worth a few million bucks to me!

    It's not about "honesty," it's human nature. Why does everybody hate EA? They make you release a damn game on time and budget or they kill you. All the joys of crowdfunding and indie development strip away the fiscal and organizational responsibility that the traditional business structure imposes. It's a calculated gamble that you'll get a better product on the other end, but you absolutely have to expect that timelines are soft and the scope will change. You can't have it both ways.
     
  17. Silverforce

    Silverforce Rear Admiral

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    I like the way Blizzard goes about their game development, they start by saying "ETA: When it's done". That way, nobody can misunderstand their intentions.

    It would have been great if CIG/Chris Roberts started that way, then this wouldn't even be an issue. Now there's this cloud of negativity that must be affecting the team, drawing their focus away from what matters: making the game.

    I wish and hope it succeeds.
     
  18. ChrisReid

    ChrisReid Super Soaker Collector / Administrator

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    Blizzard can say that, but the reality is that applies to every game, especially a kickstarter game, but people demand an estimate. It's naive to think any developer date is a promise, but only a few charmed studios like Blizzard can get away without providing a timeframe. And if you think developers take too long when they are shooting for an announced date, just imagine how slow things would go if they didn't have the pressure of a big public target motivating them! Blizzard is a prime example of this.
     
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  19. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    Well now, that's another thing entirely. I do not know if Chris Roberts could have realistically delivered the game in late 2014. Obviously, I have no idea what his project plan looked like at the time. I can, however, point out very easily what has changed since then: ninety million dollars.

    Now, you might think that having all that money would make it easier to schedule things and get the project done as promised. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Firstly, the initial reception of the project dramatically changed a lot of plans. Remember, when Chris Roberts was promising late 2014, he was also asking for "just" six million dollars, which was supposed to act as proof for other investors, that the project is worth going ahead with. Subsequently, Chris Roberts announced that in light of the tremendous success, he's going to go ahead with the project without the additional investors. Somebody could say that this was unfair of him, as it almost inevitably meant that the original project plan (along with the 2014 release date) went to the scrap heap. True - but I certainly didn't hear any of the backers complaining at the time. If anything, everyone was cheering that he'll be able to go ahead without interference. I'm sure not a few people also recalled the Freelancer debacle, and thought that this would ensure no Microsoft would ever be in a position to force a premature release or to cut features. It's just that while everyone was cheering, probably very few people thought of the implications. You schedule a project differently, depending on whether you've got a big boatload of cash upfront, or if you get the same amount of cash, but dripping in over an extended period. In the latter case - and that's the Star Citizen case, obviously - you have to slow things down, be careful with when you hire people, and generally stretch your project out so that the money has time to dribble in. After all, you can't pay your employees with a promise that as soon as the backers put more cash in, they'll get their salaries.

    So, that's one aspect of the problem. The other aspect, which has also been very visible in other Kickstarter projects, particularly with The Banner Saga but also with Tim Schafer's adventure game (whose title just at the moment escapes me). Receiving way more money than expected obviously sounds like a really great thing to happen. But consider - when Schafer asked for $400,000, and received $3.5 million, what would have happened had he actually delivered a $400,000 game, and simply spent the remaining $3 million on a mansion in the Bahamas somewhere? I mean, that's fair, right? He delivers on his promise and keeps the rest, nobody can complain about that, right? Except of course that everybody would be howling for his blood - because there is an unspoken assumption that if a project receives more money than was needed, then the developers will invest that money into making the project better. Not faster, by the way - better. Yes, you can spend extra money to develop the same thing, just twice as quickly. But that's really not what your backers are expecting, because they're fine with your initially-announced release date. The same thing happened with The Banner Saga, and things got even more interesting there. A lot of the backers were howling mad, because the extra money was used to add extra features into the game, extending the timeline. Many people felt cheated, because they'd put down their money for a great single-player experience, and here the devs were spending their time on a multiplayer mode. The fact that the devs were doing this in order to be faithful to their fans and to ensure a reasonable usage of the extra cash... that really didn't help calm anyone down.

    And this begs the question: how much did Chris Roberts originally expect to have for this project? Was it less, or more than the $89 million he's apparently collected so far? Was it twenty million? Forty? Or was it actually two hundred million? I don't know, and I doubt anybody is going to tell us. But consider the implications. If the original budget was significantly smaller, then how do you spend the extra money to keep the backers satisfied? If people would have been furious with Tim Schafer running off to the Bahamas with $3 million, do you think they might be a tad more furious if Chris Roberts ran off with $50 million? :) So, in that case, you're talking extra features. And those take extra time. However, the opposite is also possible. It is possible that in fact, the project originally called for more money - money that was originally going to come from normal investors, or from a publisher. If that were the case, then that would mean the project is still being stretched out, in order to give the backers time to put more money in.

    Oh, and one more thing. All of the above are just thoughts that occur to me now, as I try to think about the implications of a situation that has come to pass. Chris Roberts doesn't have that luxury. He's been working in a situation entirely without precedent. When his initial fundraiser achieved its objective, that was without precedent. No one had earlier tried asking for so much money. When he hit $10 million, that was without precedent. $20 million - without precedent. $50 million - you get the picture. How does that affect planning, when you're doing something no one has ever done before? No one really knows how far this can go on. But instead of sitting there and thinking "hmm, I've got $89 million, how does that affect the project?", Chris Roberts would be making decisions all the time, based on uncertain projections. It's easy for bystanders to say that he's not being honest. Maybe he isn't. But then again, maybe each time they change the planned date of release, they are quite sure that that's a reasonable date... and then it turns out that the funding has once again surpassed projections, and the project needs to be adjusted accordingly? Who knows?
     
  20. Silverforce

    Silverforce Rear Admiral

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    @Quarto
    Thanks for the write-up, reading it over a few times, I understand where you are coming from, the unprecedented funds raised demands an unprecedented game.

    I honestly do not mind if CIG come out and say "We need as much $$ as possible and as much time as it requires" to finish this vision. That would be a level of honesty which I respect & support.
     

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