Forbes Explores Star Citizen History (May 4, 2019)

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
Forbes magazine has published an interesting article on the ongoing development of Star Citizen. As this also appears in the May 2019 print, the article spends some time initially to catch the reader up on the concept of crowdfunding, the history of Star Citizen and Chris Roberts' background as a game developer and movie producer. There's an update on the game's haul so far. It's taken in some $242 million from players and another $46 million in private investment, so they'll soon cross the $300 million milestone. We noted just six months ago that they hit $200 million, which suggests their revenue intake is still surging ahead at a very strong pace and may have actually accelerated in 2019. Per the game's roadmap, the Squadron 42 campaign beta is still a good year away, and there's significant work yet to go on building out the game's universe.






The piece also delves into some of the more controversial aspects of the game's long development cycle, feature creep, Roberts' management style and his personal history. While the author questions whether the game will ever be completed, he also acknowledges there are thousands of fans having fun in what is already available. No matter what happens, it's a sure bet that we're watching gaming history being made here and we'll be continuing to talk about how this saga unfolds for years to come. Check the full article out here.


If you don’t play video games, you probably have never heard of Roberts. But in the world of consoles and controllers, he is Keith Richards: an aging rock star who can still get fans to reach into their pockets. Roberts first gained fame with his early 1990s hit Wing Commander, a space combat series that grossed over $400 million and featured Hollywood stars like Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell. He followed that success by starting his own studio, Digital Anvil, with Microsoft as an investor.
Thanks to demi for the tip!

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Original update published on May 4, 2019
 

Jdawg

Captain
I personally think chris is a dev who needs a publisher who can say no. I feel the same way about kojima, everyone only wants to blame konami, but kojima was spending money like crazy.
 

Pedro

Vice Admiral
His spending had nothing to do with it, his games paid for themselves - the higher ups just didn't like him increasingly being the face of Konami, and besides they make more money from their gyms.
Wing Commander was a result of not being held back to what was practical; but that gets tougher each year.

The sensible thing to do however would have been to produce Squadron 42 first as a proof of concept and solid foundation and then move onto the far more ambitious Star Citizen. No publisher would ever have encouraged him to do that however as the contained single player experience isn't where the potential income is.
 

Jdawg

Captain
His spending had nothing to do with it, his games paid for themselves - the higher ups just didn't like him increasingly being the face of Konami, and besides they make more money from their gyms.
Wing Commander was a result of not being held back to what was practical; but that gets tougher each year.

The sensible thing to do however would have been to produce Squadron 42 first as a proof of concept and solid foundation and then move onto the far more ambitious Star Citizen. No publisher would ever have encouraged him to do that however as the contained single player experience isn't where the potential income is.
You have your opinion and I have mine I think Kojima spends money like a drunken sailor and Sony will see that as death stranding keeps getting pushed back and back and back. Its now looking like it will be a ps5 game.

As far as Star Citizen I thought the article did a good job explaining that Chris had problems with Publishers every where he went.

For the record this happens a lot look at Tim Schafer same thing happend to him on a much smaller scale he went through money and then had to beg for more, to finish his kickstarter adventure game.

For the record I don't have a fight in this race because I didn't back it because I have no interest in huge multiplayer games I'm pretty much a single player gamer these days. I just think a lot of devs need a big brother type to say NO enough is enough.
 
It's hard to argue with the article, I know it's pretty uncharitable to CR, but you can't fault the logic. As a backer I'm increasingly frustrated by the lack of real progress. S42 should have been the first out the door w/o dropping multiplayer/Coop. I understand the desire to perfect features in tandem especially when you intend to use them in the context of the broader MMO universe, but alot of features are pretty redundant to S42, (honestly are we going to need the ability to make ourselves coffee in our quarters aboard ship?); and other seem pretty silly to begin with (FOIP, or a special SSHD for example) but if you've burned through $250M and are still only in alpha, there's a management problem.
 

Jdawg

Captain
It's hard to argue with the article, I know it's pretty uncharitable to CR, but you can't fault the logic. As a backer I'm increasingly frustrated by the lack of real progress. S42 should have been the first out the door w/o dropping multiplayer/Coop. I understand the desire to perfect features in tandem especially when you intend to use them in the context of the broader MMO universe, but alot of features are pretty redundant to S42, (honestly are we going to need the ability to make ourselves coffee in our quarters aboard ship?); and other seem pretty silly to begin with (FOIP, or a special SSHD for example) but if you've burned through $250M and are still only in alpha, there's a management problem.
Exactly I don't like people who call Chris Roberts a fraud he is not a fraud he is very meticulous.but that gets him in so much trouble because as the article points out he worries about stuff that in the grand scheme of a game really doesn't matter. That's why certain developers I do believe need a publisher to finally put the hammer down. to go back to Kojima for a second I read an article with his music composer that said the reason he was fired from Konami was because he was paid a flat salary so whether the game made money or not he got paid the same amount. so he was just going through money left and right. The composer said he would submit 40 songs and kojima would turn down all 40 songs and then have him go write 40 more with no thought to the budget of the game. you can't do that.
 

Rylex

Rear Admiral
I know it's been quite a while since I've posted here...
As an early backer I'm very frustrated and if I had the choice to go back in time, I never would have spent any money on S42/Star Citizen!
Anyway, this is just my opinion... but at least I've learned for the future to never spent money on such projects, again.

It's just a pity that you can't get a refund after all that time... I really doubt that they'll finish the game to a point where I am happy enough to have spent the money.
 

Pedro

Vice Admiral
You have your opinion and I have mine I think Kojima spends money like a drunken sailor and Sony will see that as death stranding keeps getting pushed back and back and back. Its now looking like it will be a ps5 game.
He might, and it might. But no one involved in that mess thinks budget had anything to do with it.
Besides there isn’t much to defend there, Kojima aside Konami handled themselves appallingly even by the standards of Japanese games companies.
 

Jdawg

Captain
He might, and it might. But no one involved in that mess thinks budget had anything to do with it.
Besides there isn’t much to defend there, Kojima aside Konami handled themselves appallingly even by the standards of Japanese games companies.
Actually kojima's own music composer does as i pointed out earlier.

 

Pedro

Vice Admiral
I work in the Japanese games industry; I'm not touching this with a barge pole. Believe what you like.

But on the more general point of publishers; heavy handed bean counting publishers don't often lead to a profitable project. The best projects I've worked on have been with publishers which give you enough rope to hang yourself with. The issue is the lack of an immovable budget; a good developer will pick what matters to them when adding one feature will cost them another. CR just ended up with too much money for someone who'd been out of the industry for too long and didn't have the restraint to find his footing before he started spending all of it at speed.
This continuous income stream is probably the worst thing that ever could have happened to star citizen; if the budget had been fixed from day one I dare say we'd have seen something by now.
 

Maslas

Rear Admiral
I work in the Japanese games industry; I'm not touching this with a barge pole. Believe what you like.

But on the more general point of publishers; heavy handed bean counting publishers don't often lead to a profitable project. The best projects I've worked on have been with publishers which give you enough rope to hang yourself with. The issue is the lack of an immovable budget; a good developer will pick what matters to them when adding one feature will cost them another. CR just ended up with too much money for someone who'd been out of the industry for too long and didn't have the restraint to find his footing before he started spending all of it at speed.
This continuous income stream is probably the worst thing that ever could have happened to star citizen; if the budget had been fixed from day one I dare say we'd have seen something by now.
That said, there is a big confusion in the world regarding personas and positions, at least on my professional world. What I am saying is simple...
Being a talented programmer doesn't make me a talented project manager and vice versa.
Being a talented project manager doesn't make me a talented system designer and vice versa.
Propagate this to infinity and it never ends.
In this current situation the "Company called StarCitize/CloudImperium" grabbed the opportunity and used two things to marketize the product...
a. The need of a target group(market) for an old time single player cool space sim with modern stuff (coop, modern graphics etc.)
b. The name Chris Roberts

a and b (we) where the "Company's" initial capital and then this started to increase rapidly. If the manager of the "Company" truly wanted to create a product should have put a limit from starts to that crowd funding. Everybody needs a limit. Today a good development never ends, there is always something more to do. An inexperienced developer without a boss over him can easily loose his focus.
But CR is not a developer in this current situation. This is what the "Company" promoted to get the funding...
"A Chris Roberts Game" quote seeing from the 90s

It seems that he was responsible to put limits on this project and run it.
The question is simple. Is only CR the "Company"?
The fact is also simple. This project finished or unfinished, good or bad will never reach the expectations of everyone. The die is cast.
 

Pedro

Vice Admiral
That said, there is a big confusion in the world regarding personas and positions, at least on my professional world. What I am saying is simple...
Being a talented programmer doesn't make me a talented project manager and vice versa.
Being a talented project manager doesn't make me a talented system designer and vice versa.
Propagate this to infinity and it never ends.
Oh absolutely, Out here this is a huge issue, only management is respected, only management is paid well; if you want to get promoted you need to enter management. No one gets fired, when you stop performing well you stop getting promoted; people end up promoted into the job they are least suited to.
But despite how CR's career began I don't feel like this is a new role for him.

In this current situation the "Company called StarCitize/CloudImperium" grabbed the opportunity and used two things to marketize the product...
a. The need of a target group(market) for an old time single player cool space sim with modern stuff (coop, modern graphics etc.)
b. The name Chris Roberts

a and b (we) where the "Company's" initial capital and then this started to increase rapidly. If the manager of the "Company" truly wanted to create a product should have put a limit from starts to that crowd funding. Everybody needs a limit. Today a good development never ends, there is always something more to do. An inexperienced developer without a boss over him can easily loose his focus.
But CR is not a developer in this current situation. This is what the "Company" promoted to get the funding...
"A Chris Roberts Game" quote seeing from the 90s

It seems that he was responsible to put limits on this project and run it.
The question is simple. Is only CR the "Company"?
The fact is also simple. This project finished or unfinished, good or bad will never reach the expectations of everyone. The die is cast.
I'm afraid the meaning of this post is a little lost on me, but I think you mean is important enough to dictate the success or failure of the project?
I'd say yes, because he seems to be running it like he ran Wing Commander, but he shouldn't be. Games have increased in complexity so drastically that AAA titles can't be made to one persons vision, you need a company of people on board with your direction. It's why the article doesn't suprise me at all.
 

Jdawg

Captain
I work in the Japanese games industry; I'm not touching this with a barge pole. Believe what you like.

But on the more general point of publishers; heavy handed bean counting publishers don't often lead to a profitable project. The best projects I've worked on have been with publishers which give you enough rope to hang yourself with. The issue is the lack of an immovable budget; a good developer will pick what matters to them when adding one feature will cost them another. CR just ended up with too much money for someone who'd been out of the industry for too long and didn't have the restraint to find his footing before he started spending all of it at speed.
This continuous income stream is probably the worst thing that ever could have happened to star citizen; if the budget had been fixed from day one I dare say we'd have seen something by now.
Chris roberts has had this problem for yrs, even when he did have a publisher, he always went over budget, and would miss countless deadlines.

Like I said this is nothing new in the industry Tim Schafer the guy that created Monkey Island and Full Throttle went independent started a Kickstarter asked for like 500,000 and got three million to make a game. He still went way over budget cuz he immediately hired Jack Black and elijah wood for voice acting. He had to break his game up into two parts bc he had to make money off the first part to pay for the second part. I heard he's having the same problem again with his new game Psychonauts 2.

Then you got a like Peter molyneux who promise all these great things and can't deliver a third of that in his actual game releases from Fable to black and white etc.... the list goes on and on
 

Pedro

Vice Admiral
As you say, this happened even when he had a publisher.
Infact usually publishers make budget issues worse as they are quick to react to fads and there is a lot of infighting that see's your project direction getting pulled left and right.
If they just controlled the purse strings that'd be one thing; but trust me that's not the case.
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
Good to see people discussing things realisticly here. Over at the SC forums you get so much negativity whenever the topic is brought up.
Its borderling religiouse with people even saying that the press is lyign and dosn't understand the industrie.

As for SC/SQ42. Besides me feeling a bit ripped off because I backed for SQ42 not SC then the focus heavly shifted towards SC, I think the main problem I have and as other mentioned here is the features creep that is going on.
Sure there is a lot of stuff that is totaly cool like the landing on planets. Still I think for the start a few hubs where you can land on, like they originaly planed/announced would have been enough at the beginning and the entire rest of the planet tech could or should have been added later on.

Also IIRC Erin Roberts was supposed to be the one to tell Chris when he gets overboard but that dosn't seam to happen.
Sometimes I wish people would just stop buying ships and unsubscribe their abo to set a clear signal that he has to deliver something...and the faster the better.
On the other hand I fear if that happens the game will never be released what would bother me because they have a good basis but they need to add a game to the techdemo they have.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
The trouble with Star Citizen and Chris Roberts, though, is that he's doing *exactly* what he promised originally: he's working on a game that contains everything but the kitchen sink. No, scratch that - the whole premise is that even the kitchen sink is included.

This premise, frankly, was always pointless and crazy. The whole point of designing any kind of entertainment experience, whether interactive or not, is to restrict and focus. You don't write a story about all the people in the world: you write about one person. Even if you describe someone's whole life in a story, you remove all the boring bits, and rework the rest in order to explore particular themes. Similarly, the reason why especially today, games designers avoid having too many gameplay modes, and try to limit themselves in scope as much as possible, is not at all because of costs or technology. Those are complicating factors, of course, but they're not the primary problem. The primary issue is that we want to make games that are about something. And for a game to be about something, it must not be about everything.

However, while Star Citizen in my view is crazy and pointless, I wish people had the decency to go back and re-listen to Chris Roberts' original pitch presentation back in 2012. If you listened to that pitch back then, and said "yes! This is a game I want to finance!" then… be decent enough to admit that Chris Roberts has not gone off his rail, and he's simply carrying on making what he promised at the time. Sure, given what this article tells us, he probably could be further ahead, if he wasn't being silly with reworking content that was already accepted, and all that. But how much further ahead would he really be? And why even bother pointing out that he desperately needs a producer who will tell him no? Sure, he needs one. But then again, he really needed one back in 2012, to tell him to throw his crazy project out the window, and find a focus. Meanwhile, since he made his promise to deliver everything and even the kitchen sink, a producer to control him now would just make things worse. Right now, Chris Roberts is a crazy lunatic pursuing a pointless, crazy, but amazing and imaginative vision that thousands of players paid hundreds of millions of dollars to finance. If he now started cutting back on the project, it would be worse: because then he'd actually be a fraud for not trying to deliver the vision he originally pitched. He'd go from being Chris Roberts to being Derek Smart.
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
I just rewatched the "What is SC" trailer from 2012 and yes I forgot about a lot of the stuff but it was also kinda vague in some parts. For example how detailed the game would be. "Immersive" gets thrown around but at least to me he wasn't going to much into the specifics and I was then and still am, when watching the trailer again, under the impression that immersive was more about the scale of things like ships have the right scale. That you can walk around and interact with characters. Basicly an upgrade from Wing Commander where you would have cutscenes between the different parts of a ship and mostly static images to beeing there, walking around. Not "You can now make your own coffee and carry it to the briefing" kind of immersion.

So I guess parts of what is said is up to interpretation/expectations as I had definitly excepted less.
SQ42 was to me an updated Wing Commander with some nice extras, not the complex beast it has become.
SC was the Privateer upgrade and I would have been happy with that.

Still I have to agree with you, he is doing what he said he wants to do "creating the game I allways wanted to play" and that is what he does but I think everyone was understanding that in a different way.

One point I did notice, that is quite different today, was that he said that they wanted to make a smaller number of Systems / contend and then add in more contend as the game goes on while currently it seams they want to do all in one go....what I think is kinda crazy considering the amount of details they currently try to put into one System alone. Also I have to say, when the alpha works, its facinating and boring at the same time and allways leaves me with quite mixed feelings.

I would prefere they would scale things back for the moment, get what they have now working smoothly and have a release. Then patch in the rest.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I actually dug up an email I wrote to someone straight after I watched the Star Citizen announcement, when I was venting my disappointment with the whole thing.

myself back in 2012 said:
Here's what I was hoping to hear:

"Hi, I'm Chris Roberts. You might remember me from such great movie-like games as Wing Commander. I'm ready now to make more of those games that *you* always wanted."

Here's what I actually did hear:

"Hi, I'm Chris Roberts. I always wanted to make a big open universe that's a total anti-thesis of the movie-like games I'm known for. So, never mind what you want, I'm ready now to make this game that *I* always wanted."

As a project, it sounds fascinating. Working on something like this would be very exciting. But as a game, it's completely not my taste. I just don't care about it. If it turns out to be a Wing Commander title, I will almost certainly buy it and squeeze what single-player enjoyment can be had from it (which, from the sound of it, will not be much at all). If it turns out to be a completely new universe - I doubt I'll even bother to buy it.
Now, here's the thing. I believe that many people at the time filtered the announcement through the prism of Chris Roberts' career. Like, "yeah, ok, you're telling us about all that immersive stuff and big universe and all that, but really, you just want to make another movie-like space sim, because you're Chris Roberts, right?" As for me, in that initial moment, as I was reeling from the announcement (and I mean that literally: the build-up in the community had been tremendous, and then… this. I was tremendously disappointed), I tried to understand where he was coming from, and I realised that the key to understand Star Citizen is Freelancer: this project was not supposed to be a new, better Wing Commander, but rather a new, far bigger, and far crazier Freelancer.
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
I don't clearly rember what I thought back then but I think I was pretty much under the impression of what you discribed as just getting a better Wing Commander / Privateer / Freelancer.

Frankly I would still be happy if they just made Freelancer 2.0 and then started to add all the stuff they are working on now. Just imagne playing Freelancer with its automatic landing system and cutscene and then they tell you "here is the new update, you can now fly down to the planet and land yourself".
I doubt that anyone would have had a problem with that and we would have a running game by now....I guess.
Considering that they still try to figure out basic stuff like flying....I think even with the smaller scale they would still be at the point they are now ^_^
 
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