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.
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?