Twenty former employees who worked on “Star Citizen” detailed their experiences, revealing that the nearly $300 million crowdfunded game seems destined to never release, according to a recent report from Forbes.
“Chaotic” is how the work environment at Cloud Imperium Games was described, and that chaos seems to come, in large part, from co-founder Chris Roberts. The designer, according to the report, apparently micro-manages and gets hyper-focused on minor details of the game, resulting in a, thus far, seven-year project that seems to have no end in sight. Roberts raised $288 million from crowdfunding, making it the biggest crowdfunded project of all time (not including cryptocurrency funding), but there is still no clear release for “Star Citizen” a planned online multiplayer space game that was originally meant to release in 2014. “Squadron 42,” a companion, single-player game to “Star Citizen” is also still in development.
The money comes in, in part, from enthusiastic PC gamers purchasing digital ships, sometimes for thousands of dollars. Some of those ships are in the conceptual art phases, and can’t even be used in the game yet, which is currently in its Alpha status, “Star Citizen” is nowhere near what it was promised to be yet. Roberts described a game that would have “100 star systems,” and the Alpha currently doesn’t one completed star system.
Cloud Imperium Games also received a $46 million investment last year. But despite all the money coming in, “Star Citizen” seems to have no release date in sight, and where all of the money is going is of concern. Last year, financial statements revealed that the company was spending $4 million per month, but we don’t know exactly how much money Roberts is taking in— nor do we know how much his wife and brother, both working in senior positions at Cloud Imperium, are making as a salary, according to the report.
“As the money rolled in, what I consider to be some of [Roberts’] old bad habits popped up—not being super-focused,” Mark Day, whose company did work on “Star Citizen” in 2013 and 2014, told Forbes. “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.”
For example, Roberts reportedly told one senior graphics engineer to spend months working only on the visual effects of the ship shields. Other devs spent weeks working on demos intended to keep crowdfunding money coming in. Roberts also hired an expensive cast of actors, including Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, and Gillian Anderson, to do motion capture for a cinematic “Squadron 42” trailer.
Some backers have said enough— the Federal Trade Commission received 129 complaints for the company, according to Forbes. Some of the refund requests are incredibly high, up to $24,000.
“The game they promised us can’t even barely run. The performance is terrible and it’s still in an ‘Alpha’ state,” one consumer complained. “I want out. They lied to us.”
Roberts insists that the company’s fundraising is “ethical,” according to Forbes.
“I know everyone thinks we just have $200 million in the bank and we dive off into it like Scrooge McDuck or something,” Roberts told Forbes. “All I know is when people come to me, I say, ‘Look, you don’t need to spend anything more on this game than $45.”
The $45 refers to the backing needed to get a starter pack to play the Alpha, which includes a single ship, and three months of insurance to protect said ship.
Roberts said that “Squadron 42” is coming out in 2020, but there’s no estimate for when the full “Star Citizen” will arrive.