Roberts Acknowledges Some Of Star Citizen’s Woes In Tell-All Investigation

If you’re interested in crowdfunded space sandbox Star Citizen [official site], do set aside 45 minutes to settle down with a cup of tea and read Kotaku UK’s mega-feature on the game’s troubled development. Julian Benson has spent seven months talking with people who’ve been working on it, from displeased devs who wish to remain anonymous up to the big cheese himself, Chris Roberts. It’s a cracking look inside and a fine bit of work. Recommended!

Though obviously Roberts and other official responses disagree with parts and look more optimistically upon others, their thoughts combined with word from the anonymous devs (the video games industry is not kind to people who talk) paint a fairly coherent picture. To briefly (and crudely) summarise, it sounds like Star Citizen has struggled from being overscoped, from building upon the rarely-used CryEngine then struggling to find people experienced with it while needing to replace a lot of the engine’s guts, from having too many studios and not communicating well between them, from trying to make all parts at once rather than starting small, from shuffling people around as priorities changed, from poor planning, from trying to add more and more, from bottlenecks of technology and staffing, and from Roberts being too involved in too many ways on too many levels.

Which is about what it’s looked like from the outside.

I’ve been sceptical about Star Citizen since its crowdfunding really took off (it’s now past $124 million) and Cloud Imperium Games kept promising more features as stretch goals. Their vision was grand and exciting but seemed wildly overambitious.

That said, the gameplay demo of Star Citizen alpha 3.0 they had at Gamescom was quite exciting. Yes, it was likely hugely massaged for the show but for the first time I felt they might actually be able to do this. There’s still a long, long way to go from that demo to a full game with everything that’s planned, mind. As one source said:

“Star Citizen started from this small development targeted at doing this one specific thing with a specific set of technology, which was absolutely fine – and then it grew and grew. Rather than adapting to new technologies and approaches for the new scope they stayed with what they had, which slowed everything down. In the end, what they should have done was decide a figure after the Kickstarter and gone ‘Right, we’re going to $25 million’, and if they had hit that, they should have gone ‘We’re done. This is the game and with $25 million we can make it in this time.’

“But instead they just let it grow and grow and grow. I know they’ve said ‘we’re not adding features anymore’, but the feature set they’ve already got is so vast and unwieldy and huge and the tech they’re trying to adapt is not supporting it. If it had infinite time and infinite money and everyone working on it had infinite patience then, yeah, at the end you’d probably see something and it would be pretty cool.”

Anyway, go read the rest of Kotaku UK’s ace piece.


  1. james___uk says:

    This reminds me of the Double Fine documentary, there it was a case of Broken Age having too much that needed to be done in it and everyone was thinking this but Schafer pushed on and it got done and it was awesome. The scope for Star Citizen is insane and probably is too ambitious, but I gotta say from watching their developer/presentation videos lately they’ve already done such amazing work in getting these features implemented. I get all the anxiety but at the same time find it hard not to believe they can do the job!

    • 2late2die says:

      I understand people’s trepidations, but at the same time, so often people complain about how many reboots and sequels there, how game developers are not trying new things, not trying to push boundaries, and then when somebody comes along who’s trying to do exactly that they’re all like, “oh no, it’s too ambitious, they’ll never get it done!”.

      I don’t know the future, for all I know this project might end up burning and crashing (though I certainly hope not), but regardless of what ends up happening I appreciate the fact that Chris Roberts is bold enough to try it and have confidence in him and his team (and even more so after this latest presentation).

      At the end of the day, I’d rather have 10 ambitious project and only 1 of them getting done, than 10 sequels/reboots/clones/rehashes/etc.

      • Ethaor says:


        Not to sound too much like a fanboy considering I have my issues with the game (mostly the flight model that imho is an arcade twitch mess) but in their defense they aren’t hiding anything, they are showing as much as they reasonably can. Of course it’s arbitrary content they choose to share but they aren’t lying about where they’re at and where’s they want to go.

        It’s a project one’s believes in and help to fund or a project one’s skeptical about and simply wait for the released day to see if it’s worth its price or not. There’s no sketchy pre-order business here.

        As for the various management and tech issues. In my humble opinion that is completely understandable. A project of this magnitude with hundreds and hundreds of people onboard, fully manned studios across the world and revolutionary game-play and never coded technologies is bound to be met with many obstacles, errors and issues. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the industry outside of the 2 or 3 huge worldwide publishers that can pull off and organize without an itch that kind of manpower and resources without issues. Considering how half-baked most AAA games publishers release you’d think they also have management and tech issues, only the board forces them to release a buggy mess when CR simply say “well, we hoped to release it but it’s not ready, here’s what we have, here’s what we want”.

        They obviously had to learn, they had to make choices, they had to make mistake to break in the machine and get the ball rolling.

        Most of the underlying necessary core technologies are being designed from scratch to serve a bold vision that no one on the whole video game industry dared to try. That simply takes time, trial & error.

        I don’t know of any small or big entrepreneur that weren’t met with unforeseen issues and imperfect efficiency in it’s business infancy. To expect that sort of ground-breaking project of this magnitude to go perfectly smooth from start to finish is simply naive or to provide food for the nay-sayers.

        That said I firmly believe CR made a big mistake in sticking with CryEngine and should have went with the more recent and modular UE. But I’m not coder and he had been working on the CryEngine a few years before the pre-Kickstarter presentation back in 2012 so who am I to judge.

        • geerad says:

          As someone who works for a huge AAA publisher, I’d argue the number who could pull off what Star Citizen’s trying to do without a hitch is 0.

          But huge publishers wouldn’t try to make something with this scope. They would have pitched a game with smaller scope, and then ended up cutting a good portion of that to launch on time and on budget. (It’s a LOT easier to cut features when you haven’t promised them to customers upfront!) Then, they’d have added some of the cut portions back in DLC and/or the sequel. Then, if those games sell well, MAYBE the third game looks something like what Star Citizen is trying to do.

      • Baines says:

        There is a difference between ambitious and impractically unrealistic. It is also more than what Roberts wanted to do, but how he planned to do it.

      • gwathdring says:

        Games that successfully push boundaries tend to do so by making significant tradeoffs in terms of scale or graphical fidelity or what-have-you. No matter how big your team is, there’s only so much that can be done in a development framework for a given amount of investment which is in turn bounded by the likely return from customer buy-in.

        I certainly want games to innovate, but not ever game has to be made for me. That doesn’t mean I won’t offer an opinion on games that I find uninteresting or poorly designed, but it does mean I don’t expect the industry to magically produce only games I’m interested in or that meet my idiosyncratic standards.

        I can’t speak for others, but to put this another way: when I complain about a game being overly dull and redundant, that complaint is generally about the game in question not an entire studio. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to turn around and praise the first person to raise millions and millions of dollars by promising the stars. I’m not interested in promises, I’m interested in games.

        I hope Star Citizen accomplishes what it set out to do but I’m quite baffled by the number of people in this comments session who have decided on behalf of everyone else that gamers hate “unambitious” games and also hate “ambitious” games that over-reach themselves and that this is somehow hypocritical. Setting aside the hypocrisy for a second, have you considered that there are a wide variety of different sub-groups and individuals withing the Gamer cluster and that some of the contradictions are because of separate blocs of opinion rather than individually held hypocrisies?

      • james___uk says:

        Exactly! Give me something new, not someone old :)

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Broken Age had no technical or gameplay limitations placed on it only artistic ones. It technically could not “fail” as art does not do that.

      Star Citizen has made lots of technical promises and gameplay mechanic suggestions, many many more than the likes of No Man’s Sky has, and we saw how well that went when it turned out the mechanics and gameplay were shallow (though as said artistically very complete).

      • james___uk says:

        This is true, it is me comparing two very different things although the principle is similar. I will say about No Mans Sky though that Star Citizen is different, we get to play early builds and they take our feedback

    • AngoraFish says:

      “…and it was awesome.” Ummm, no. Not according to the vast majority of the universe. Mediocre puzzles, abrupt change in gameplay halfway through due to forced episodic structure, under developed world building… the list goes on.

      Ultimately Broken Age was a flawed but competent effort that, due to its disappointing results, sucked as much air out of the crowd funding bubble as it blew into it in the first place.

      • james___uk says:

        I felt these complaints were by a certain crowd of the more hardcore adventure gamers but yeah quite valid. I’ll be honest though I found it to be excellent and maybe it’s me not being from that crowd but more of a general gamer. So many it’s not that it wasn’t great overall but it wasn’t great as what people expected

    • lukibus says:

      So awesome I can’t be bothered to load it a second tme just to get a bit further.

      People I know that have finished it because the had paid for it, not because they thought it was worth finishing!

      Hardly a sign of awesomeness.

  2. sp0q says:

    Finished reading just now – an awesome piece. I urge anyone interested in SC to give it a read, it’s the most information we ever got about the studio’s internal work.

    • milligna says:

      Indeed a terrific piece, there’s a smashing book and an incredible documentary in this story and any journo can smell that blood in the water.

  3. MrFinnishDude says:

    I’m genuinely not surpised.
    Theres not much more to say, you shouldnt’ set your goals too high and promise the heavens and earth to everyone at the start.
    Maybe after this and No Mans Sky the games industry and audience will learn, but who knows.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      People will never tire of falling for hype, it’s just part of the human condition.

      • shadow9d9 says:

        I learned not to preorder or listen to hype when I was 8 to 10 years old. It has nothing to do with the human condition. Most people are simply morons. They choose not to learn. That is each individual’s choice, not something foisted upon them by being human.

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          All the rest of you morons bow down before this dude and his superhuman apathy! Only fools and losers look forwards to things!

          Seriously though, this whole school of thought that we’re all capable of perfect control over our thoughts and emotions is complete tripe. Unless you’ve spent your entire life in a monastery in Tibet or you’re some sort of cutting-edge true AI, you get excited about things just as much as the next guy, and it absolutely is human nature. We’re still just apes, after all, with all the emotional and instinctual baggage that that entails.

          • Rin Pryde says:

            It’s like these are some superhuman traits. Seeing through developers’ bullshit is really not that hard, if you have at least a quarter of a brain. I can understand the initial hype, but Star Citizen’s bullshit-train became obvious to anybody except morons quite fast.

    • P.Funk says:

      Oh come off it. Most of our culture is inundated with IP owned by cautious corporations that rarely want to be ambitious.

      Only gamers can complain about Ubi and EA then turn around and complain about an ambitious dev and all the people who threw money at it in the hopes that this ambition might do something new and interesting that those corporate devs have no interest in doing ever.

      I’m usually the guy who complains about the “everything should be positive” types who don’t like any negativity, but when it comes to this its like some sort of Schadenfreude. Gamers revel in seeing people fall to the hype, they love to see stuff crash and burn.

      I think lots of people were dim to dump huge cash into Star citizen so early. I think Roberts let himself get away with himself on the scope. I also think a project like this is exciting and we should hope its ambition is rewarded with success.

      Why can’t we be critical and hopeful? Why is the discussion set up by so many as it just being fan boys versus haters in tone? What is the games industry going to learn from this? This isn’t the industry, this is one guy and a one off project. Frankly I’d much sooner blame No Man’s Sky over the Star Citizen ones. SC is much more an open book than NMS was. With NMS they refused to be clear and even seemed to use this ambiguity to help build the hype.

      Bleh, I’m just not well tempered enough to stomach the Star Citizen discussion I guess.

      • gwathdring says:

        Why is it unreasonable to expect experienced persons to scope their projects reasonably before asking for money? I don’t think ambition has merit. Executed ambition has merit, certainly. Creativity has merit, technological advancement has merit, even pure novelty has merit in some ways. But ambition? Just the idea that something might be possible? I see no reason to celebrate that either in a game designer or in a business person.

        For my part, my issue with many EA and Ubisoft offerings isn’t that they’re unambitious, it is that they are uninteresting to me or that they execute good ideas poorly. I really can’t be bothered with whether or not a project is “ambitious.” Ambition for ambition’s sake is such an odd thing to boil down discontent with AAA developers to and as best I can tell servers primarily to set up an artificial catch-22 where there isn’t one.

        Many popular complaints about games like the Assassin’s Creed franchise or Bethesda games could easily be framed as errors of ambition, too. Games that try to have too many features (whether out of creative or entrepreneurial ambition) only to skimp on most of them, broadening to reach as many gamers as possible but presenting a shallow and incoherent product.

        That some people like to structure this as a dichotomy between risk-averse AAA development and ambitious bold indies doesn’t magically invalidate the complaints, criticisms or observations of people who see that as an inaccurate framing.

  4. Borreh says:

    Fascinating read, but feels a few months too late. The current presentations they did, as well as the release of PU 2.5 and 3.0 on the horizon, fueled back a ton of fan optimism into the project.

    • Love Albatross says:

      no way is 3.0 “on the horizon”.

      also lol if you believe anything they (or indeed any other game company) says in a presentation. Apparently nobody learnt anything from the NMS debacle.

      • Borreh says:

        Everything that was presented by CIG is playable in-game. I didn’t pledge anything, but I check up on SC in free weeks and similar and pretty much everything that I saw on gameplay demos is working in-game.

        • skorpeyon says:

          Everything that was presented in NMS was supposedly playable ingame, as well. We all saw how that turned out. Things change as development moves forward. Seriously, don’t get your hopes up.

          • Borreh says:

            No, it was stated to be playable in game by the devs. In SC, you can boot up the alpha and play it for yourself. That’s a huge difference.

      • DarkFenix says:

        Trusting nothing anyone says is just as naive as trusting everything everyone says. Think on that one before making absurd statements.

      • Psychomorph says:

        Think about how far away the horizon is.

  5. TeePee says:

    I’ve kind of been watching on from a distance with a kind of morbid fascination. I don’t have a dog in the fight, as I think I’m the only person in the Western Hemisphere that didn’t back the kickstarter.

    I really hope they pull it off, mainly because I think it’s been pure theatre so far, and I’m loving reading about it. In all honesty, I’d expected this whole thing to explode in a horrific mess after about six months, so the fact they’ve made it this far is incredible. More power to ’em.

  6. Sathure says:

    Seemed like a fair bit of investigation. As some one looking forward to SC, I’ll say this though. I’d rather see people try something ambitious and possibly fail and learn from it. Than watch the world play it safe and be filled with boring mediocrity.

    I’ll never understand people who actually want this game to fail.

    • TeePee says:

      This. I’d rather see someone try and fail with a genuine attempt to create something groundbreaking and revolutionary than to watch the industry grind out generic third-person shooters with B-list movie licenses.

    • shocked says:

      > I’d rather see people try something ambitious and possibly fail and learn from it. Than watch the world play it safe and be filled with boring mediocrity.

      While that sounds like the “right spirit”, in reality it’s kinda ruthless when someone burns other peoples money and support while doing so.

      Also, it is possible to be ambitious and still “play it safe” in the sense that you can actually build the product that was promised.

      • TeePee says:

        I think there’s a difference between ‘being ambitious’ and ‘promising the moon’ knowing you’ve got no chance of delivering, although I won’t disagree that Star Citizen is walking a line so thin that it’s barely visible.

        A good parallel is perhaps DayZ. It was an incredibly ambitious game and no matter what anyone says, it was never released with the intention of being a cash grab, or that they thought they were promising something they couldn’t deliver.
        The reality is that for all the ambition, they just didn’t bank on things being as complicated as they were with the engine, and they had a similar character at the top in Dean Hall, who just didn’t know when to stop with the new features.

        • asterick says:

          I say aim high even if you dont hit your mark you are still doing better then most.

    • fish99 says:

      There are more possibilities than a project having too much ambition or having none.

      • TeePee says:

        Oh, obviously, but of the two, I know which one I’d rather see.

      • P.Funk says:

        But couldn’t the enormous enthusiasm for backing the project, well in excess of whats reasonable, coming from the broader gaming community simply be a reflection of how dull and lacking in ambition the big budget/big idea gaming world has been for a while?

        Lets think on that maybe.

        • gwathdring says:

          I think “ambition” is just a poor framing device for this entire discussion in the first place.

          Bethesda games can be framed as incredibly ambitious, but they also consistently and seemingly comfortably release products that nowhere near achieve that ambition. The classic a-little-bit-of-everything open world game can be framed as failed ambition or it can be framed as a standardized output that gets hawked dishonestly in a familiar pattern. How you frame the “ambition” of a project involves no small amount of mind-reading and/or confirmation bias.

          People like new things. Can’t we leave it at that? New exciting things are new exciting things. We don’t need to explain that by saying everything else is “unambitious.” The new thing is new and gets attention for being new. But the old this is still plenty popular; Call of Duty sells plenty well despite lacking newness or lacking “ambition.” What then does the new thing also being popular prove? That the safe bet of a major AAA franchise is so boring everyone pounces on the hint of new-hotness at any cost? Well, why are they still buying the old thing then?

          Gamers as a group clearly like BOTH. Games they’re familiar with or nostalgic for and games that excite them with newness. This idea that the games industry has fundamentally failed us with stale ideas is very strange to me; its not that there aren’t problems its that that framework of “ambition” models those problems very, very badly.

        • fish99 says:

          Not really relevant to the ambition of the devs and management of the project though.

    • DThor says:

      I don’t *want* this to fail, but I fully *expect* it to fail. Lofty ambitions aside, there’s such a thing as due diligence and frickin delegation. They needed one less guy running it who felt the need to attach his name to it. Having a decent business sense isn’t a crime.

    • April March says:

      “I’ll never understand people who actually want this game to fail.”

      I remember overhearing an acquaintance of mine saying that every time her grandmother told her to bring a jacket and she didn’t, she would end up feeling cold. She then added that it was like her grandmother was cursing her.

      There are some mean people following SC to be sure, but most of us don’t want it to fail any more than her grandmother could curse her to feel cold.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      “I’d rather see people try something ambitious and possibly fail and learn from it. ”

      Seeing a lot of comments like this in the thread. Ever consider that if this fails the lesson people are likely to draw is to never ever make big new games like this?

  7. Plank says:

    RPS, you should be embarrassed about having that GirlsX Battle banner ad at the top of the front page. You may not be in control of the ads but you should be able to contact someone that is.

    • John Walker says:

      Hi there. While we will do what we can to prevent that remnant ad appearing on RPS, it’s not actually something we’ve sanctioned – it’s an ad that will be following you around the internet via your cookies.

      • Premium User Badge

        Earl-Grey says:

        He can run, but he can’t hide.

      • Plank says:

        That’s incorrect John.

        • Plank says:

          Also, this is the only site that that ad shows up on.

        • suibhne says:

          No, it *is* correct. That’s how modern ad servers work.

          That doesn’t mean RPS can’t block specific ads (depending on the ad network and demand-side and supply-side services they use), but none of the ads is specifically allowed in the first place – and they’re all chosen by a supply-side server in response to your behavioral profile, not RPS’s preferences.

      • AbyssUK says:

        Ha you get GirlsX Battle and I get New Scientist ads… cookies are a view to the soul…

        • TeePee says:

          I get Tie Warehouse.

          That’s so depressing I think I might go jump off something.

          • Jediben says:

            I got the blissful void that only adblock can bring.

          • April March says:

            I just get videogame ads. Am I the weird one, getting ads for videogames on a videogame site?

          • Plank says:

            No. All the ads I get when visiting RPS are gaming related. The only thing that is weird is that John knows about the GirlsX ads and doesn’t really mind them… Alice too…

          • Premium User Badge

            ooshp says:

            Holy calamity! I had no idea there were so many people who don’t use an ad blocker – do you guys also not own any version of Skyrim?

          • Alice O'Connor says:

            I what now? Mate, I get ads for trains from London to Edinburgh, which is so stereotypically Alice I can’t even say.

      • Mungrul says:

        I visited RPS through Steam the other day on a freshly installed machine. I usually browse through Firefox with AdBlock and Privacy Badger (which blocks tracking cookies).
        As well as having a hideous border ad, when I got to the end of the article, I came across those embedded clickbait ads you get on trashier sites.
        Here’s a screen capture link:
        link to

        You may want to do something about that.

        • Raoul Duke says:

          I get these god awful things too, they actively discourage me from visiting this site on my mobile phone.

    • Capt_Calamity says:

      I’m not big on the mobile gaming scene, whats the issue with GirlsXBattle?

      • Sizeable Dirk says:

        Anime girls I’d hazard to guess. Something with meticulously animated murder mans are usually more family friendly.

      • Plank says:

        I’ll describe the ad for you.

        A young girl is pictured and there are some magnification bubbles pointing at certain parts of this young girl.

        That is the type of ad that RPS makes money off.

  8. Herzog says:

    I know it is not the right article. But anyone writing a review for Dog Sled Saga?

  9. laiwm says:

    That description of Roberts sidestepping directors to micromanage really brought back memories of an awful job at a now defunct company for me. I’ve been vaguely hopeful for Star Citizen until now, without seeing much about it – but when the problem is the person at the top it’s difficult to see a way round that if that person isn’t willing to listen to criticism.

    Prediction: Roberts will keep distracting his employees with new ideas he’s had and the release date will forever be a year in the future, until someone eventually wrests control and releases it in a half-baked state.

    • Comco says:

      It’s a funny thing. Some people just hate Chris Roberts. Some have worked with him, and possibly have a reason to. Others just hate what they perceive him to be. The funny thing about perfectionists and creative people who are painful to work with, is that some of them create truly groundbreaking work. James Cameron is one that comes to mind.

      I must admit – I’m always skeptical of the views of ex-employees from any company. While there’s clearly a consensus that has been built up to say that there’s truth to a lot of the problems, there’s also some wild accusations in there – direct, anonymous accusations of illegal activity from racial abuse to fraud. Regardless of what company you look at, you’re always going to find some ex-employees that will have an…altered view of reality to what those around them saw. We all know the type – the one that claims the boss picked on them unfairly when every co-worked knew that they weren’t up to scratch.

      CIG’s other problem is their – IMO – admirable effort to adhere to the principal of Open Development. I’ve watched the game’s development since the beginning and I personally believe they try to be as transparent as possible. But at the same time, there’s a direct conflict at play as they try to a) maintain a business that is based on public opinion and PR and b) deal with confidential matters with regards to their employees. This conflict has inevitably led to some mysterious controversies, such as employees just disappearing from regular videos – with CIG being legally unable to publicly talk about why and under what circumstances those people left. There’s an irony here, with ex staffers anonymously talking about the company to avoid legal action while the company avoids talking about them for fear of the same.

      What I’m trying to say is that much of this controversy is due to the Open Development philosophy that CIG maintains, which was a promise from Chris the day the game hit its original funding target. This is the core reason I have always dismissed claims that the game is some sort of elaborate scam and that CR never even plans to release it. The truth is far more complex and far more interesting – the Kotaku article is a great read.

      Consider another company making a game of this nature.

      – We’d never hear of its existence until it was quite far along the process. An example that comes to mind – anyone remember how polished Uncharted looked when we first saw it? The core game was there from day 1 of us seeing it – that was years in the making behind the scenes.
      – You’d never see gameplay footage or anything other than scripted real-time ‘gameplay’ until a few months from launch. Think Aliens Colonial Marines here.
      – People would come and go from the company. You wouldn’t know any of them, they wouldn’t develop their own fan following and the only ones who would know their contribution to the game and the sordid details of why they left would be their colleagues, family and friends.

      None of that is to say that CIG doesn’t deserve any of the controversy – they’ve created a development system quite unlike any other, one that both rewards you for being as open as possible with your fans, but one that bites you hard at the same time when things don’t go exactly like you’d hoped.

      • laiwm says:

        The sheer number of ex-employees saying similar things about Roberts seems to rule out the idea that his mismanagement is a conspiracy theory cooked up by some incompetents. Not only that, but what they’re saying very much lines up with what we’re seeing, slipping deadlines and moving targets everywhere.

        I don’t think that open development is the problem here at all, regular dev updates are the norm for crowdfunded games. The problem is that they did not define a good roadmap to get to what they promised, and instead they’ve bumbled towards that goal. Being open has only highlighted the problem. I’m absolutely not of the opinion that it’s a scam – Roberts clearly believes in his vision – but his inability to manage effectively will thwart that vision.

        • asterick says:

          yeah because ex employees always have good opionions of there ex bosses lol

          • gwathdring says:

            Well, we can play that game every which way. Roberts is going to deny allegations because employers aren’t going to admit to wrongdoing when they can blame it on disgruntled ex-employees exaggerating lol and so on and so forth.

            The claims are credible or they aren’t; using the mere fact that they are made by employees who are no longer employees as evidence as to the credibility is extremely silly. There are lots of ways to end up an ex-employee. That’s not a useful data point.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I don’t think open development is that big an issue either.

        Elite:D was crowdfunded with a year-long Alpha and Beta period for people to play and comment on the game. There were some controversies as a result, like the dropping of the offline mode. But Frontier still managed to deliver a working game in a timeline that satisfied the backers (most of them, anyway), and they’re continuing to build on it with expansions.

        We might look back on both space games in 10 years and say that SC managed to pull off something amazing and it just took longer. However, from the present-day perspective, it sure seems to me that Frontier took the better development path. At least there is a game (of sorts) out there to play, with more content in the pipeline.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Most tales of the problems with Star Citizen ring true with accounts coming from Roberts days at Origin. He still exhibits the same failings, but now he doesn’t have anyone to rein him in.

        At the time of the Kickstarter, I started talking to my friends who worked with him. From administrative folks to game designer hall of fame member, no one had a positive thing to say about him. As a manager, he’s always been a huge drag on production. One person who worked with him on almost every project at Origin characterized him as an narcissistic egomaniac, whose sole innovating element was immersion through cinematics.

        Otherwise Roberts was characterized as really loving the limelight, full of self-aggrandizement and taking credit for other’s work.

        While not a scam per se, Star Citizen will continue to suffer from the problems of the man at the top, and his coterie of brown-nosers. Shortly after it became apparent that Roberts hadn’t learned anything about management over the years, it became obvious that he wouldn’t be able to deliver on all his promises. Roberts believes what he says at the time, but those words do not have to have anything to do with reality.

        I expect the game to come out…sometime in the far future. Roberts has too much ego tied up in it. But expectations are going to be dashed.

    • ZIGS says:

      Might as well call it Star Citizen Forever at that point

    • Foosnark says:

      That description of Roberts sidestepping directors to micromanage really brought back memories of an awful job at a now defunct company for me.

      Same here. Probably not the same company, but I had a boss who was sure he was the greatest designer, artist, writer, and developer in the building, and whose management style was “drop what you’re doing and work on this idea I just had” combined with “requirements docs are for the weak, just build the thing and I’ll tell you what I hate and why you are a terrible person when I see it.”

      It makes me appreciate working for a much more boring, but not dysfunctional employer.

  10. shaydeeadi says:

    The most recent presentation of SC actually had me quite interested, as (almost hopelessly) ambitious as it is I really hope they pull it out the bag, we will have something pretty special to play with if they do.

    They have the cash and the talent. Maybe in 2019 (or so) they will have the finished game. In the meantime I’ll be playing Elite.

  11. Zenicetus says:

    Haven’t read the article yet but will later. Just the summary above confirmed something I always thought was the Achilles heel of that project (along with Roberts at the helm), and that was using CryEngine as a foundation.

    I’m no expert in game design, but I don’t think I’ve ever known a successful combat spaceflight or aerial combat game that didn’t build its own flight and rendering engine from the ground up.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      This article actually made me a lot more positive about Star Citizen than I normally am. Yes, they struggled with CryEngine, but they would probably also have struggled plenty with making their own engine from scratch while simultaneously trying to write a game in their engine before it even existed. The project management was a mess, but probably no more than average for a massively ambitious project with no established team behind it.

      Other problems are caused by C.R. making unreasonable demands of his teams. But some of these ‘impossible’ tasks were actually accomplished. Most companies that create something great only do so after trying to go beyond what’s sensible.

      Currently I’d guess:
      40% chance: They run out of money before ever producing a coherent product.
      30% chance: They make a massive galaxy-spanning playable game, but it’s boring.
      30% chance: They finish it and it’s actually good.

      …which is a lot better odds than I would have given it a couple of months ago.

  12. Janichsan says:

    You hear that noise? That’s the sound of Derek Smart being smug somewhere…

  13. Laurentius says:

    I don’t belive SC can be what it aims to be right now. Something that started as Frelancer plus actual simiulation going on, which only that is so ambitious project that nobody so far has pulled it off. To do this on present scope, means it would be game of games apearing practicaly our of a thin air. And simply I can’t remember a game being made like that. There has to be some iteration, with certain things and mchanisms working and then adding more features. For every Championship Manager 3, Crusader Kings 2, Grand Theft Auto 5, Witcher 3 there were pack of games that build ground for them.

  14. givemefreestuff says:

    Roberts: I’m gonna make Skyrim…only bigger…and better…and multiplayer…with planets and a massive universe and persistent and guns and spaceships and [buzzword overflow error]!

  15. int says:

    Once, a source says, Chris came to work after playing The Order: 1886. Impressed by the highly detailed art, he asked CIG’s character artists to match that standard.

    Stage 4 GeorgeBroussarditis.

  16. Doomlord says:

    Knew this was going to be the case from the very start. Things are so confused there, that when I demanded a refund for the $70 I’d paid, they refunded me $200 instead. Bizarre.

    Roberts should’ve stuck with the original vision of a fun SP sci-fi sim and once he got that done, gone from there. Instead it became some lame bastardized MP online crap and here we are, with nothing to show for it, really.

    • Werthead says:

      They can put that on the advertising for the game:

      “They delivered far more than I was expecting!” – Doomlord

  17. MitchRapp_2016 says:

    Reading about the state of the game leads me to believe they will simply have to cut back on what was promised via kick starter to try and salvage any part of this game. All that money with all those backers waiting based on their commitment to only get to this point. This is a freaking disaster plain and simple. I am NOT a Derek Smart fan by any means but boy was he right on the mark on this one. I would not be surprised if Star Citizen declares bankruptcy as more and more fans get hip to the hype and the money stops flowing in. I will take Elite Dangerous small steps in improving their game any day instead of waiting for years to come to this.

  18. Bobtree says:

    “Inspired by the success of Minecraft” Roberts ignored Notch’s development method and instead crowdfunded $124M and started 5 studios. Yikes.

  19. Zenicetus says:

    It’s an interesting read. I still hope the game makes it out in some form that I can enjoy, like Squadron 42 since I have zero interest in the multiplayer side. I’ll buy that part of the game if it turns out well.

    One thing that struck me though, as I clicked through the video clips in that article and looked at the images, is how much I don’t like the aesthetics of the ship designs in SC. They seem so clunky and pasted-together. Not to mention silliness like rotating fans in the nose of a fighter, articulating wings, even what looked like ailerons operating in a vacuum.

    Considering what the article said about Roberts’ micromanagement, I assume this is mostly his input… like a 1990’s rule of cool in spaceship design. I have plenty of gripes about Elite:D but I do like the ship aesthetics better. And after all, that’s a huge part of what SC is selling here.

    • Comco says:

      Well, this is entirely a subjective discussion, of course. I’m going to assume, looking at the videos in the article, that you’re talking about the Hornet. You’ll be happy to know that it underwent a re-design (the version you saw in those clips was built for the earliest proof of concept work pre-crowd funding) and that the fans are now gone. The rest makes sense in context – the wings fold to ensure it takes less space on the hangar deck of a carrier (like modern aircraft designs) and the ailerons are there because most of the ships are capable of atmospheric flight – and will do so in the game.

      In short – she started out looking like this – link to

      And the redesign is looking like this –
      link to
      link to

  20. Artist says:

    “MURDER! Kotaku first to speak to the victim!” Rainbow press at its best.

  21. HeavyStorm says:

    The issues described (on the second paragraph) have plagued every project I’ve ever been on in ten years building software.

    And while I’m sure many projects avoid some of those, they’re so common that may be inherent to software development itself.

    So if that’s the issue, then I can rest easy. The game will came thru.

    The other stuff reported, however, are more critical, like not choosing the right set of tools.

  22. Werthead says:

    Back in the day, I always had a feeling that Chris Roberts was the unfocused dreamer and his brother Erin was the nuts & bolts, more focused of the two. We saw that with Digital Anvil, when Erin gave us the very tight, very focused and enormously enjoyable Starlancer, and Chris spent years trying to make Freelancer work only to give up and someone else bring it to market, with considerably fewer (well, almost none) of the promised ambition or scope, although modders did restore some of that later on.

    I didn’t know that Erin Roberts was behind many of the Lego games. They were fun, focused, tightly-designed and shipped on a very demanding schedule, and mostly got strong reviews. The fact he’s bringing those management skills to bear on SC as a whole is heartening.

    Going to be honest, as someone who really didn’t care too much about SC, this article has made me really interested in seeing it now. Good job, Kotaku (UK).

    • Arglebargle says:

      That’s a reasonable take on it. None of the Origin people I know had anything bad to say about Erin: None of them had much good to say about Chris.

      Given that Chris is tremendously unrealistic, the fact that things are being cut from the feature-creep promises is probably a good sign.

    • Comco says:

      The irony of this is, of course, that barely anyone remembers Starlancer at all, these days, while Freelancer has a cult following.

      I’m not saying I disagree with you. Erin deserves a lot more credit for Starlancer and the game deserved far more recognition than it got, but it was also purely iterative – simply modernising a design that had been done many times before. Freelancer was more ambitious, and even if it didn’t achieve its intended scope, still offered a fresher and more open experience to players that Starlancer did.

  23. racccoon says:

    Star citizen is like DayZ! Total bullshit way over talked! way over promised, & totally none eventful.
    The only thing different from the two is one worked from the bat & worked fine till it got moved. Sc has not got anywhere but talk, talk, talk, retract, talk, talk, talk, retract, talk, talk, talk, ‘n just keep on talking, that’s it you got it! do some more talking.

    • Ericusson says:

      Yeah well any extreme reaction one way or another is kinda dumb.

      I this case, saying something is total bullshit is pretty much as intelligent as blind adulation of wild and unsupported promises.
      Though I must say expressing extreme reactions is somewhat relaxing sometimes.

  24. Havalynii says:

    My problem with this original “investigation” is how much it has relied on former and sometimes terminated employees, reporting anonymously, and presumed “insiders”. At that point, my hearsay alarm starts going off big-time. Add to that the fact that NONE of the critics have given any credible evidence of having managed a large company (let alone found one!) or a project of such scope before, in addition to the fact that I have my hands on a beautiful, largely stable, fun build that lets me do things that I never dreamed possible in a PC game, in addition to the fact that several game sites seem to have assigned SC coverage to authors who never give it a praise without giving it four passive-aggressive suggestions that it’s all just moments from self-destruction (at PCG, it’s Andy Chalk, here it’s apparently Alice), and, well, I hope that I’ll be excused for being skeptical, not of CIG, but of the gaming pundits.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      I write about Star Citizen the most because I write most of RPS’s news. No conspiracy.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Exactly only people who’ve founded a multinational tobacco conglomerate can criticise cigarettes.

  25. wykydtronik says:

    I just picked up Star Citizen out of curiosity, I was really confused about what I was suppose to buy on their website. Apparently I almost bought the single player only… Backed out of that and bought a Mustang? I’m pretty confused, right off the bat I’m not sure where the tutorial is. I managed to find a ship simulator, which didn’t instruct me on how to use the ship. But, using common sense I managed to figure out how to launch, fly, and land a ship.

    The game seems to be running well so far, lack of objectives in a sandbox just means you need to create your own goals and explore. I was able to find the gun store and browse the selection.

    I’m excited to see where this game will go in the future.