- Oct 15, 2012
Here comes a new challenger!
"Chris Roberts, CEO of Cloud Imperium Games posted:
From: Chris Roberts
Sent: 01 October 2015 14:10
To: John Keefer
Cc: David Swofford
Subject: Upcoming Star Citizen article
I was quite shocked to see the email that David Swofford forwarded to me filled with a bunch of conjecture, falsehoods and opinions of disgruntled ex-employees enflamed by Derek Smart’s personal quest to destroy Star Citizen.
I know you say that “none of these come from Derek” but we both know that’s not true. You are quoting the exact same things in your email he has spewed in his blogs and twitter for months. If you want me to give you links to the exact same claims (which are patently UNTRUE) I can but we both know it’s coming from him and the few people he’s rounded up. We are a company of 261 employees spread across two continents and four development studios. With a company our size there will definitely be a few unhappy ex-employees – the same would be true of any large organization – we have built up quickly and not everyone is a superstar or fits in with the culture. We have parted ways with a few people over the past couple of years, not all of them amicable, and it is alarming to feel like there is a one sided piece that will be filled with complaints of people who aren’t part of the project for a reason. As long as I’ve made games, especially on large projects this has always been the case and it shouldn’t be news.
So why is it for you guys? Do you really want to give a platform to Derek Smart? This is the same person who wrote a letter to Origin and me after Wing Commander was out claiming that we were infringing on his game and we had to cease publishing it or he would sue us. We told him we never heard of him and good luck with that. He never sued. His game was, of course, the now infamous Battlecruiser 3000AD that would take many more years to come out (I think I shipped four Wing Commanders before his game came out).
Derek has a long history of finding some “big” thing to joust at just to keep himself in people’s consciousness rather than let his games do the talking. We’re not the first project where he has made it his mission to attack. Personally I think it would be much better to use that energy on his own game rather than take this path. He’s managed to rouse up enough attention that sites like yours are reporting his bile like it’s fact. You can’t pretend that the article that you published the other day was anything but a mouth piece for him. It completely repeated his narrative hook, line and sinker and mentioned plenty of out of context material in an attempt to harm the project and my reputation. I just don’t get it. The only person who is famous for being a blowhard, bully, an awful game developer and human being is Derek Smart. Just look up his history over the years. Or see how he treats people who dare to write a bug up on his current “game.” Why aren’t you doing a piece on the state of Line of Defense? Everything he accuses us of doing, he actually does himself! He’s the king of self-projection!
I’m pretty disturbed by your approach to this piece as well as the last piece Escapist published online. Why the rush to publish with or without our comments by noon today? What’s so urgent that you can’t take a little time to actually approach this like responsible journalists and do proper fact checking, get both sides of the story and only publish verifiable claims that have proof? Otherwise you’re just engaging in the same kind of campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt that Derek Smart has been actively pursuing every day since he realized that he could get attention by attacking Star Citizen (as he certainly wasn’t getting any for his own game).
I’m also pretty concerned that your reporter on this is compromised and pursuing her own agenda. For someone who is a self-acclaimed Gamer Gate supporter, which last I checked was about ethics in video game journalism, she’s not been behaving or going about her business like an ethical reporter. Lizzy Finnegan appears in this tweet from Bandit@istheguy:
This is directed at a self-avowed feminist. Meantime, Bandit@istheguy is the very same person who started attacking Star Citizen on the day before your reporter wrote her article, tweeting about two people we parted ways with, then following up by retweeting the Escapist article and people who mentioned it…and then finally ending up by doxing myself, my wife and one of my daughters with this sequence of tweets.
“Bandit” is an anonymous account that was created on August 11th of this year and is almost exclusively used to aggressively attack and harass folks seen as enemies to Gamer Gate – the usual targets are all there, as are the usual proponents being retweeted. It’s notable that this account was interacting with and supporting Derek Smart when he was complaining about being blocked and reported as a harasser by two huge GG targets; Randi Harper and Briana Wu, which was another Derek Smart self-announced drama (he loves to play the victim, which he did when we refunded him publically sharing his refund email, claiming we were trying to silence him. We weren’t – we strongly believe in free speech and allow many dissenting opinions on our forums as long as they stay within standards of decency. You don’t keep someone as part of your community who is demanding you run the development differently or else he’ll sue you, especially someone who is plainly using the opportunity to attack Star Citizen for self-promotion).
Derek tweeted @1:15pm on September 24th about us letting go of staff in LA, less than an hour after we had completed the exit interviews of the two employees we were terminating (considering he’s in Florida and we’re in LA it’s not hard to connect the dots on where he got his information from). At 4:01pm “Bandit” starts mentioning people being let go.
If you look at the Twitter history of Liz and “Bandit” they frequently retweet each other’s tweets and generally reinforce each other’s views / opinions. I don’t know Liz’s personal life (nor do I care to) but based on the picture of her in “Bandit’s” tweet it is not a stretch to assume there is either a close relationship between Liz and “Bandit” or they are potentially one and the same. Which kind of calls into question these statements she made on Twitter:
Also retweeted by “Bandit” (as evidenced above).
This would explain her approach to the article, which was to pretty much take everything that Derek Smart claimed and report it without allowing us any opportunity to properly respond. Liz’s first email to David Swofford was at 744pm on the 24th, after which “Bandit,” riding into battle for his/her new friend, and Liz directly referenced Derek Smart’s claims. I didn’t see this until Friday afternoon (David works out of our Austin office, I was in our LA office) after David had a brief and rather irritated exchange with Liz (attached). I replied to him with some comments and concerns expecting David to have the opportunity to go back to Liz to further discuss some points she was bringing up that were clearly just singing out of the Derek Smart hymn book and much to my dismay and disappointment the article had already been published.
Which brings me back to my original point on all this. Why the rush to publish an article without allowing a proper round of fact and source checking? It completely feels like an agenda is being pursued. This is not the journalism that I remember from the Escapist of old. It’s click bait journalism of the lowest standard. It’s pretty ironic that it’s exactly the kind of journalism that Game Gate stands against. I’m also pretty bemused how suddenly Star Citizen and I have become the subject of attacks by a few people who associate themselves with Gamer Gate. I’m a gamer. I am making a game that gamers have overwhelmingly said they want made, to the tune of almost $90M and rising! I believe in ethics in journalism. I also believe in being inclusive to all and not being abusive to people in person or online. I don’t support either side because I believe it’s too polarizing but I believe we can do better, as gamers, as journalists and as human beings.
So why? It can’t be because we don’t buy banner ads and thusly are an easy click bait target for sensationalist pieces. I have to believe that your reporter is telling you she is onto something and you are taking her at face value and not questioning her motives or ethics.
Derek Smart is very adept at doing what he has been doing; spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. He always grabs one nugget of a fact and uses that to sell a whole lot of lies and disinformation. He tweets about Star Citizen EVERY DAY. Not once but multiple times. If you read his Twitter stream it comes across as the crusade of a crazy man. He continually blogs about us. He constantly agitates…encouraging people to ask for refunds, report us to the FTC, the FBI and/or their local attorney general. He calls me a liar, a fraud, incompetent and many other names. He has slandered my family members and business partners. He has publically doxed me, sharing the address of my home in LA, pictures of my wife and five year old daughter. He constantly attacks Sandi Gardiner, accusing her of having no qualifications, or experience, that she had other people do her work for her and only has the Marketing position because she is my wife. That is incredibly ironic considering we are the most crowd funded project in history, that she wrote the marketing plan, and single handedly executed it when we were a tiny team – even today she’s the only dedicated marketing person at the company, for a game that has raised almost $90M for its development solely through viral marketing, word of mouth and PR. If you were going to criticize Star Citizen you certainly can fault us for taking longer than everyone wants, which would fall on the development side of the company but not marketing! The icing on the cake is that she has five degrees and speaks five languages, which I am willing to bet makes her a lot more qualified than Derek Smart is!
You have to ask yourself why? What does he have to gain? He didn’t like how I was running Star Citizen? Fine, he has his money back. He has no active claim in the game, nor would I ever want someone like him to be part of our community. I have never met Derek Smart, nor do I ever care to. I have never done anything personally to him. Yet he has continued to wage a FUD campaign on Star Citizen, the company making it and its community since July. He actively tries to destroy the hard work that I and everyone else making the game have put in to this project. He wants to tear down something that close to one million people have put their hopes and dreams into. Is it ego? A sense of self-importance? The fact that he’s getting attention again after being in the wilderness? It’s probably not a coincidence that he’s actively courted the Gamer Gate crowd, while professing to remain neutral since he started attacking Star Citizen. It’s also probably not a coincidence that he’s been using the buzz words “accountability” and “ethics” when attacking us as he knows in today’s internet world, where almost no one actually does the research to find the real facts that hyperbole sticks and people love to tweet an instant response to an attention grabbling statement on Twitter.
Derek Smart publishes blogs where he talks about lawsuits and how’s he going to take us down. He’s going so far as to publically share a letter with some pretty silly requests from his supposed lawyer (he seems unable to sign these letters), regardless of the fact we haven’t received the letter. In his latest blog he linked to a letter from his “lawyer” that was dated September 14th. We only received it yesterday, on September 30th! And it was post marked September 22nd! If you know anything about real legal discourse you would know that it stays behind closed doors. You don’t publish this kind of communication as it will prejudice any possible case. What he is doing is just a publicity ploy to get headlines from journalists who don’t know any better and to worry Star Citizen backers into thinking he’s going to legally give us troubles. And this is exactly his FUD plan – scare enough people, tell enough lies, round up the occasional angry ex-employee to help pour fuel on the fire to give him some semblance of credibility. We are not afraid of Derek Smart. We have nothing to hide and are very confident in our ability to defend ourselves against anything he may try to bring. But my bet is he won’t – he’s full of hyperbole. He claims he’s made over $200M in royalties from his games as recently as a week ago (I don’t think I have to go into why this is a complete lie). He also says frequently that he’s worth over $100M, or that he has two PhDs, or that back in July he was taking out a full page ad in The New York Times to expose us. He says a lot of things to get attention and for some reason people don’t call him on it. You may say, “Well don’t shoot the messenger,” but when the messenger is delivering his own message, then I think it’s perfectly fair to question that persons motives and credibility.
And you know what? If he was a decent person he would state his opinion and then sit back and see if it actually plays out, which at that point perhaps he would be vindicated. Instead he is actively trying to make his prophesy come true, using whatever dirty tricks he can muster. Why?
So he’s trying to put 261 people out of a job and destroy the dreams of almost a million people? For a personal vendetta? To gain some notoriety? Because he’s jealous that people love my games and ridicule his?
I’m just a passionate game developer making the game of my dreams. I am lucky enough to be supported by a huge community of gamers that has contributed a large amount of money to make a game that no publisher would dream of making. We have a very large team, most of which share my passion and dream. Yes, there will always be people who don’t fit in with the work and dedication that the dream demands and some of them will be resentful when they part ways, but I am in this to make something that will stand the test of time, much like Wing Commander has. When reaching for the stars there are bound to be a few bumps and delays on the road. You’ve covered games for a long time. You know that games, especially big complicated ones always have hiccups and are frequently subject to unforeseen delays. We aren’t even at the three year mark of full development (we didn’t open up the first development office in Austin with 15 people until February 2013). Projects of half our scope frequently take four to five years.
We are a very public project and rely on the goodwill of gamers to exist. Having a negative article that includes the views or comments of a small number of disgruntled ex-employees with their own opinions on whether things were run well or not, especially when they will be shielded behind anonymity, could give people an impression of the project and company that is 100% false, especially if we are not part of the story. This would be far more damaging to us than a normal developer or publisher. I know that this kind of material is great for clicks but you also have to remember that we are talking about the jobs of 261 people and numerous contractors. Every time a game studio shuts down every outlet and commenter is quick to lament the state of the game industry. Every time a big public company pushes out a game quickly to make the holiday season everyone laments about lack of ambition and taking the audience for granted. Here you have a 100% gamer funded project on the PC, a platform that almost every publisher ignored or pushed crappy console ports to and you have a game in a genre that everyone said was dead to a level that no publisher would dare to – and you want to harm it? Shouldn’t the press be cheering on these kinds of games? The gamers spoke. They wanted something as big and ambitious as Star Citizen. I will deliver it – I have never in my life worked this hard – including when I was 20 and making Wing Commander. There is a huge group of very talented game developers who all share this vision, who are all working as hard as possible to deliver a game that will make all the backers happy. So I implore you to think twice about going for something that while it may be fun to see Rome burn…isn’t in the best interests of the game, the employees of CIG or the 987,217 members of our community. You may say that if it isn’t true what is the harm but we both know in today’s world that’s not how it works, the truth will be lost behind the click bait headlines and the damage will be done.
In an effort to be complete and also answer the talking points you sent David here are my responses;
-Employees have indicated that Star Citizen and all of the promised stretch goals, “even with competent management,” could not be made for $90 million.
CR: How do you or they know this? Which employees said this and what makes them qualified to make that judgement? I know it’s what Derek Smart loves to say but he couldn’t make a good game with $200m so I don’t think his opinion matters. Outside of that, no employee beyond me and a few other key people who are leading Star Citizen would have the appropriate information and overview to make any judgement about the cost of the total project. Secondly, the company uses additional sources of funding such as tax incentives, marketing and product partnerships, but we do not discuss these issues in public for obvious reasons. We always keep a healthy cash reserve and operate our business prudently based on the incoming revenue. It should tell you something that we are actually increasing our global headcount not decreasing it despite the inaccurate rumours perpetuated by Derek Smart.
-Concerns expressed over the planning of the project prior to launching the Kickstarter, namely related to Roberts’ extended absence from the video game industry.
CR: What concerns expressed prior to launching the Kickstarter? The small, tight team that put together the KS campaign and worked on the technical demo are all very much still at CIG and none of these people had any doubt. And judging from the record breaking campaign which is the biggest crowd funded project (not just game) in history I would say that there’s a large amount of people that also didn’t have these concerns. So may I ask where did these concerns come from?
-In 2012, a Kickstarter FAQ indicated that the high cost of stretch goals was in order to ensure a 2014 delivery date.
CR: Is this the FAQ line you’re talking about?
The purpose of the higher stretch goals is to ensure that the game-as-described is finished in the two year time period. We intend to build the game that Chris Roberts described at GDC Online regardless, but without additional funding we are going to have to do it one piece at a time, starting with Squadron 42, rather than as a single larger production. With more funding we can include more ships, systems, unique locations, animations and cinematic sequences.
You will notice that this is saying that we would only be able to deliver Squadron 42, not the bigger game without additional funding. If you refer to the stretch goals you will notice that the base goal was enhanced community content (delivered), alpha dogfighting module (delivered) and Squadron 42 (in progress). That was the base game as described. The full persistent universe and all the extra features like FPS boarding, multiple star systems to visit, extra ships and so on are all stretch goals. As is true with most projects when the scope changes so do the timelines, you can’t build a castle in the same time you would a wood shed no matter how much money or how many people you have. To try to make some kind of narrative about how we promised the game in two years no matter how big the scope grew is false. Could we have shipped a small scale 30 mission game in the old Wing Commander format in two years? Yes, but that’s not the game the community wants or the game we’re building. What we are delivering now, just on the Squadron 42 side is more akin to a huge AAA game that would retail for $60 by itself. The value for money that people are getting for a $40 pledge is pretty crazy.
-Allegations of a “toxic” work environment, including ignored Human Resources complaints against Sandi Gardiner (including accusations of discriminatory hiring processes, vulgarity and personal insults during both public disagreements and email exchanges).
CR: All personnel and HR matters are obviously completely private and we can’t comment on this as a matter of principle. As always, there are two sides to each story.
-Accusations of the mismanagement of money, including: using crowdfunding money to pay for couple’s Pacific Palisades mansion, using crowdfunding money to pay for personal vehicles, using crowdfunding money to pay for personal vacations, using company resources and employees to create videos for films and auditions (Sandi Gardiner).
CR: No crowdfunding monies are used for any private purposes – these allegations are completely false and defamatory. This is pure innuendo for nefarious purposes and I guarantee that anyone making this claim will be unable to show any proof of it as it simply hasn’t happened. Ever since Wing Commander came out I’ve been lucky enough to be financially independent, driven nice cars and lived in nice houses. That’s due to money earned through royalties, the sale of Origin to Electronic Arts, Digital Anvil to Microsoft and prudent investing. So why are people making a deal about me having these things now? I also find the continued attack on Sandi fairly alarming. Why is she being singled out? Because she’s my wife? A woman? Yes, she’s also an actress and there’s nothing wrong with her also engaging in one of her passions after hours or outside of work. We let employees play games of D&D in our conference room in the evenings or weekends. I don’t see attacks from Derek Smart about how this is a waste of company resources (and it is not his to comment on or judge anyhow).
-Accusations of entering into a joint venture partnership with Turbulent, and using crowdfunding money in order to assist with the continued creation of the crowdfunding platform that was used on the RSI website to market to other companies.
CR: The opposite is true. CIG benefited from pre-existing software that Turbulent had developed. Our JV with them allowed us access to cheaper rates and bound an important part of Star Citizen closer to CIG, which are both beneficial to CIG and the backers. Per our agreement Turbulent is of course free to offer their technology to other customers.
-Accusations of “irresponsible spending” of money, including the use of “big name” Hollywood actors for voice-overs for the commercials, the hiring of inexperienced “movie people” to work on certain aspects for large fees with minimal to no experience.
CR: Where does this come from? Has anyone given you examples of “big name” actors or numbers? It’s completely incorrect – we paid appropriate rates for normal VO work for the commercials. Now for Squadron 42 we do have a really great cast, which we will announce in a week from Saturday, but that was one of our stretch goals so it would be a bit rich to accuse us of mismanagement there!
“Squadron 42 will feature celebrity voice-acting including at least one favorite from Wing Commander”
-Accusations that the majority of the crowdfunding money has been used, with minimal progress made. Sources state they “feel like they were making commercials, not a game.”
CR: Anybody even with minimal knowledge about game development can assess the significant progress by looking at the released modules and the detailed monthly reports from each development studio. We have a massive team, working flat out to build something special for everybody. We feel like we’ve made huge strides and have completed a good portion of the underlying technology that will enable us to make Star Citizen the game that your sources say can’t be made. I don’t know how someone could say with a straight face that they felt “they were making commercials, not a game.” In fact we haven’t had a ship commercial since last year! As an aside the commercials were used as a fun milestone to make sure everyone got the ship to final game quality, and it focused the artists on finishing the work for public consumption, which in turn helps with getting more final assets in the game sooner. It was also a great way to build the lore of the universe of Star Citizen up, which is a universe we intend to continue to expand for many years to come.
-People feel the company is understaffed for what is being asked of them
CR: In every project I’ve done and others I’ve witnessed it’s a very common tendency for people to want more staff to help finish the job. It’s always that way until the game is finally done. Under Erin’s leadership at head of Global Production we’ve re-organized to make things more efficient (which is really what started this flap in the first place) and we are in a hiring mode (which you can see by our open positions) which shows that we are working to address these concerns. We have ten confirmed new hires that will start this month alone and offers out to several more candidates.
-Employees are concerned that Roberts is not listening to the advice of people who have worked in the industry during his absence, and that they will have to waste time and resources attempting something impossible just to prove it would not work.
CR: I have a very strong vision for Star Citizen, which is why I believe we have been backed to the level we have. I have no doubt what we can achieve. Now that most of the base technology is in place we will be able to get with the Large World and MultiCrew milestone a game experience that will allow you to seamlessly go from foot, to boarding a fully realized spaceship with your friends, take off, fly thousands or millions of km in space, exit your ship in EVA and explore derelict space stations or wrecks, engage in FPS combat, return to your ship, engage in space combat and return to your home base to share the tales of your adventures with your other friends. All with no leading screens, all at AAA first person fidelity that you can’t even get on a next gen console. This is the core of the Squadron 42 and Star Citizen experience that we will continue to iterate on and add content to, but even the first release will be more “game” than most commercially released space games. In terms of not listening to the advice of people that have worked in the industry that is not true. I have a very strong executive management and design team with huge experience in AAA titles that all contribute to the decision making of the company. I listen to everyone – from our top level all the way through to our QA testers and community giving feedback on gameplay and features. I care and want to build the best game possible. Now that doesn’t mean I agree with everyone’s opinions and feedback as a project director I owe it to the community to stay true to my vision and pick the things that I think will make the game better which can occasionally lead to people feeling disgruntled, which I suspect is the root of this “concern”.
-Allegations indicating that there are not currently any complete character builds for the game.
CR: Where are you getting this from? Have you guys really looked at what you can do right now in the game? You’ve been able to walk around your hangar since August of 2013. I’m pretty sure that was a complete character walking around rather than a mass hallucination. We have multiple characters in the game and are working on a lot more (of which some will be seen at Citizen Con).
-Statements made that the Austin office will be closing, as is understood by employees.
CR: This is completely false. We’ve actually made public statements to this fact. All Austin employees have been advised of a fairly minimal restructuring where some roles have been moved to LA or Europe for overall team efficiency. The majority of our Texas employees will remain in the Austin studio (indefinitely, by the way). As I’ve mentioned previously we are actually increasing our worldwide headcount in order to complete the game as effectively as possible. I would hope that the backers want us to be constantly trying to increase efficiency and making the hard choices that will benefit the game.
-Accusations that Star Citizen became more about crowdfunding than about making a game
CR: It’s about making a great game. Crowd funding is just a tool that allows us to do it with freedom that you would not normally have with a traditional publisher. So no it’s always about the game.
-Employees feel as though they are “part of a con”
CR: This is the statement that really makes my blood boil. If any current employee feels this way they should not be working on Star Citizen or at CIG! I suspect these are the words of a few bitter ex-employees trying to stir trouble but I consider it a privilege and an honor to have so many people support myself and the team in making the game of all our dreams. I have nothing but gratitude to our backers for their support and patience and nothing but respect for the CIG team giving their all to make this game. Anyone who doesn’t feel this is welcome to the door, and as you must now realize there have been a few people who haven’t shared the same passion or love and now resent being called out for it.
Ok, there you go.
I would like to point out that ever since I got your email from David I have been working on this response. I worked on this until 5am last night, and a couple more hours this morning in the UK, where I am currently am in preparation for CitizenCon in a week from Saturday. Conservatively it’s taken me about eight hours to write. This is time I could have spent working on the game instead of dealing with a Derek Smart instigated drama. And this is really what annoys me – that his silly rantings occasionally gain traction and pull me away from the very thing I prefer to do and the very thing everyone wants me to do and the very thing Derek Smart accuses me of not doing – FINISHING THE GAME! By constantly tweeting, writing blogs and soliciting journalists in the background to report his “findings” he’s waging guerrilla warfare on my time, the time of other key executives, and the peace of mind of our employees and backers.
I would ask you to think hard about this in the context of what you guys have been considering running with. What do you hope to achieve by running with an article like this? What good do you hope will come out of it? Are you looking to cast assertions on our chance of success? What’s the point of unfounded conjecture and innuendo from biased parties? People say we will not deliver the game we’ve promised. So? Shouldn’t you just let us get on with it? If it falls apart they will be vindicated, if not we will be. I don’t know any other project that gets the level of scrutiny that we get in the development phase. Every day I have to deal with thousands of arm chair CEOs and developers mostly because we are the most open game development project in history. I have no problem with our community having its opinion on various facets of our development but when our openness is used against us by a small number of outside agitators harbouring ill will against us, it becomes incredibly frustrating and detrimental to my ability to deliver the game as promised.
If you guys are willing to do a proper piece then I’m happy to engage. You’re invited to visit all of our four studios, meet the developers making the game and see how we’re building one of the most ambitious PC games first hand. I’ll put my 261, their passion and energy against the complaints of a few disgruntled ex-employees any day. We have backers visit the offices all the time, they all come away with the same impression – that the entire team is dedicated to making the best game possible – if you took the time to research this you will find that it is a common comment and that the “noise” that has been generated is really from a very small number of people and some quite bitter ex-employees.