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‘Star Citizen’ Court Case Reveals the Messy Reality of Crowdfunding a $200M Game (vice.com)
296 points by danso 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 326 comments

He lost because of a forced arbitration clause. This massive privatization of justice where any boilerplate service or product now comes with forced arbitration is making my blood boil.

The justice system should always be an option when arbitration fails, and arbitration should take no more than a reasonable time to fail (say, two weeks for this $5000 amount). The whole point of a small claims court is to handle such cases, not offload them to a dodgy corporate lawyer masquerading as a judge.

If the public service of justice is slow and expensive, we need to fix the public service, not replace it with a free market simulacrum. That's always the case with non marketable but essential public goods.

I'm more disturbed by the parts of the article which say that he never agreed to a forced arbitration clause in the first place because it wasn't in the ToS when he paid, but the judge decided to go with the later ToS anyway:

> According to Lord, the terms of service when he made the initial pledge aren’t the same terms of service they are today. The original terms of service, according to RSI’s own records, make no mention of arbitration before February 2015. “These Terms of Service (TOS) do not affect any transactions made before its effective date,” RSI’s terms site said. “All prior transactions are governed by the TOS in effect on the date of such transactions.”

> Lord came to court prepared. He had printed out multiple versions of the terms of service, all records of communication with RSI, and a long document recording the 77 promises RSI hasn’t fulfilled in a timely fashion, including citations showing where and when RSI made those promises. But the case never got that far. He said RSI’s representatives understood that Lord’s pledges weren’t covered by the arbitration clause, and he offered to settle, again, for $3,800. They declined.

> According to Lord, when RSI’s representatives stood before the judge, they tried to argue the arbitration clause of their TOS. “Right off the bat, they assert the arbitration clause applied to everything, even though it plainly didn't,” Lord said. “I had to give the judge a copy of the first terms of services that clearly show that the arbitration clause was not there for the first few transactions.”

> ...According to Lord, the judge decided to apply the current TOS to all of the transactions in dispute. “He said he didn’t want two rulings floating out there,” Lord said. He may have lost this case, but he’s not done fighting. “I’m going to pursue it further. I’m not sure in what direction. I’m going to be speaking with a couple of different attorneys to evaluate my options.”

I mean... what? So even if you do exercise your choice as a consumer to avoid a forced-arbitration clause, companies can simply add it to their ToSes later on and retroactively make it apply to all interactions ever with the company?

This is especially important, and I don't see anyone else here (at the moment of posting this) calling this out. This is a disastrous precedent to set for consumers, because it means that even though you are agreeing to terms on the date of the sale, those same terms of the sale can be changed on a moments notice and still affect you, without your knowledge or consent. It's a shame that he has to keep fighting this, but I would assume (edit: I should say, I really, really hope) that this decision will eventually be overturned.

In other words if ToS can be changed retroactively, it's a wildcard agreement. Is there even a point in reading it?

Frankly that should make it entirely unenforceable. I’m very confused by the judges choice here, other than “it’s too hard and it’s easier to apply it here” which is a pretty crappy standard.

He made some purchases on the old ToS and some on the newer ToS. So he did agree to forced arbitration on the bulk of his transactions. That's not saying that the first transactions should be grouped in (or that forced arbitration should ever happen) but this isn't just a company changing the ToS later without him ever agreeing.

1.Sell some products where price is mentioned in ToS.

2.Change price.

3.Sell some more products.

4.Send lawyers to collect diff on product sold in [1].

The question is, was he made aware, that his previous agreement will be changed when he was giving some more money?

>The question is, was he made aware, that his previous agreement will be changed when he was giving some more money?

Any new pledge could easily have a little tickbox "I've read and understood the terms & conditions", I'm not sure if Kickstarter has one but I've seen such boxes pop up everywhere.

The simple solution is we need to ban all ToSs and EULAs. Make it a crime to try to enforce them on users, one that results in mandatory prison time (else companies will still use them to scare consumers, same as the warranty void if removed stickers).

We need a library of standard contract terms (so that every time you buy a thing you don't need to read a new contract, and to prevent shafting either side on the deals).

We also need those contracts to be much simpler. A single page of large font in language simple enough for a grade school graduate to understand what's supposed to happen.

But that would be s-s-socialism!!

EULAs are already not legal in Europe, so they're halfway there. You could always move there!

Where does that come from?

Yes, a few rights are better protected then in the US (at least if you haven't written the EULA in the right way), but I'm pretty sure they are generally legal and enforced.

You have to agree to the retroactivity and the new changes. The argument here is that he did when he made a ton of new pledges under the new agreement.

That's not true, because the new TOS plainly states that it does not apply to transactions made before the new TOS went into effect.

Even if the judiciary comes to its senses about the earlier purchaces, it's still a bait-and-switch for the later purchases. They can't claim that these were commodity purchases. Having spent a sum on one game, the next decision about where to spend on games is not a symmetric one.

Thing is, small claims court doesn't set precedent generally, it is purely for cheaply and quickly resolving small dollar disputes without the need to hire a lawyer and pay significant court and filing fees.

The other side of this is small claims cases aren't going to get a thorough review like they would traditionally, thus some cases have the wrong ruling made. Since the claim was dismissed without prejudice, it could be refiled iirc.

Read the actual case, not the review of it. I suspect the judge is relying upon the fact that the money was not paid in one lump sum. It is reasonable to believe that later payment constituted an acceptance of those new agreements, that they should apply to past monies too.

> that they should apply to past monies too

That's not reasonable

They claim that he’s played the game so wouldn’t it be possible that he was presented with the new TOS before playing and agreed to that?

I have to wonder how companies can offer any kind of reasonable proof that it was an adult user who clicked through clickwrap, and not a wandering cat or a curious child.

If there is some degree of proof that he was involved in the transaction (e.g. credit card payments), if agreeing to the terms was a precondition it's unlikely enough that a wandering cat or a curious child clicked the "accept" button for there to be no reasonable doubt (unless he proves otherwise).

By the way, the hypothetic wandering cat or curious child that were to do so would risk of being liable of perjury :|

That precedent was already established with Credit companies.

Yes. That's what it means. Your contract is meaningless against a corporation when they can change the terms of the agreement and force you outside of a court of law into a monkey court of arbitration.

The courts are for the wealthy, not for the plebiscite. This is what this ruling shows.

FWIW, a plebiscite is a yes/no popular vote of the whole population, not the population itself. Also, totally agreed.

He almost certainly meant plebeian, but his intention is clear and his point incontrovertible.

> I'm more disturbed by the parts of the article which say that he never agreed to a forced arbitration clause in the first place because it wasn't in the ToS when he paid, but the judge decided to go with the later ToS anyway:

According to several other articles I read this was argued but lost due to the majority of contributed money came _after_ the ToS update which required him accepting the new ToS.

It's still crappy though.

Let me try to find the actual rulings for y'all and post them, so we aren't forced to rely on this kind of second hand info :)

So being a small claims court case, there is no written opinion.

However, here's the other side to this particular claim. " the vast majority of Lord's 61 pledges came after the arbitration clause was added and that Lord accepted the new terms of service when he added additional funds to his initial pledge. "

My guess, if he was to appeal, the end result would be a ruling saying "The stuff done before the arbitration clause get adjudicated, the stuff after goes to arbitration"

This is what has happened in the past. But in general, you are allowed to give contracts retroactive effect if both parties agree and it's explicit.

This would probably leave Lord with a claim for basically nothing.

It sounds like a case of a small claims judge ruling in favor of a defendant simply because the defendant had a lawyer, and the plaintiff did not. Of course, there may be more to this story, but in general, lawyers almost always get preferential treatment to non-lawyers in court. That is sad state of affairs.

The plaintiff can still appeal the case though, and stands a good chance of having the case heard, if the facts are as presented.

This is a very dangerous precedent. Lord should push this to appeals and maybe call the ACLU.

It was a small claims case, so there is likely no precedent. Your are right though, he should appeal. In my state, if a small claims case is appealed, it is always heard fresh ("de novo")

Revising contracts with binding arbitration clauses has some recent precedent in the Supreme Court of the United States. Epic Systems Corp. (not the game company) sent employees a memo which can be paraphrased as, “you can no longer class action us. If you keep coming to work, you show you agree to this change.”


I think they were saying that because it was small claims court, this particular case didn't set any precedent.

The only thing to note there is the "according to Lord" part. While I have no reason to doubt him, it seems so counter-intuitive for the judge to make that decision that we should probably get an additional source.

Which is followed by "The original terms of service, according to RSI’s own records, make no mention of arbitration before February 2015".

The author is making some confusing word choices.

According to their website the ToS issued at 08 29, 2013, already contained the arbitration, and only the version issued at 10 10, 2012 is missing it.


They can retroactively change anything on their website. Of course, the same goes for the other party.

Archive.org has a copy from the 2013 terms of service: https://web.archive.org/web/20131017050205/https://robertssp...

It has an arbitration clause.

Also, are these statements legal in America?


* "To the fullest extent permitted by law, (1) no arbitration shall be joined with any other; (2) there is no right or authority for any Dispute to be arbitrated on a class-action basis or to utilize class action procedures"

* "Any arbitration shall be initiated in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America. Any Dispute not subject to arbitration, or where no election to arbitrate has been made, shall be decided by a court of competent jurisdiction within the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America, and you and RSI agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of that court."

So waiving your right to the judicial system, waiving your right to enter into a class action suit, and enforcing a particular jurisdiction location? Seems very anti-consumer and not fair at all.

When you make a new purchase, you agree to the updated terms of service. This is pretty standard practice. (Steam makes you press a renewed terms of service agreement on every purchase, for example.) When you agree to updated terms, it generally replaces your prior agreement with a company. Had he not agreed to the new terms, his account and the purchases tied to it would still be under the old terms.

The whole EULA/TOS nonsense is crazy in general, but RSI isn't doing anything unusual here, and I'm not surprised this is how a judge took it.

The idea that someone could make 61 different purchases over a span of years, and then go back and think that they are entitled to refunds for all of them is a little crazy. And while the game isn't done, it is playable, and he did spend a significant amount of time playing it. It's unfortunate the game isn't developed the way he likes, but that is again, not an RSI-specific problem.

Right, but like I said earlier (and I think the source of general confusion) is that the article doesn't seem to indicate that's what the attorney's asserted. Like, if they'd said

>"Yes your honor, this did not apply at the time of pledge, but we updated the TOS, and he specifically agreed to updated TOS as part of his playing the beta test and here is the timestamp when he did so through his account."

well, that'd still be plenty good reason to discuss how the modern practices of EULAs and TOS clearly circumvent the spirit of contract law, but it wouldn't be a new practice at all either. And it seems like it'd be a pretty straightforward, slam dunk thing to say too.

The article though doesn't make it sound like that was the argument or came up. Which might be because we're getting it 2nd or 3rd hand, so we shouldn't necessarily jump to conclusions. But if the judge arbitrarily decided it applied retroactively rather then "it applies because he agreed it would at a later date" that'd absolutely be pretty scary.

> Which might be because we're getting it 2nd or 3rd hand, so we shouldn't necessarily jump to conclusions.

Yeah, as a Star Citizen backer (at an extremely modest level) I think that it just wasn't spelled out in the article. There was a LOT of hubub in the community when they added this new clause to the TOS, because you had to accept it to continue playing the alpha, which in turn meant that you could never get a refund.

Now I do agree that it would be very nice to see that the judge confirmed that the user actually went through with this agreement personally and that his acceptance was not just implied by the fact that the change was made a ways back in the release cycle.

> The idea that someone could make 61 different purchases over a span of years, and then go back and think that they are entitled to refunds for all of them is a little crazy.

There is an important distinction to be made.

I agree that he should not be entitled to change his mind about wanting a refund, years down the line.

But a corporation should not be entitled to unilaterally declare itself a sovereign entity, where it becomes both the defendant and the judge in lawsuits brought against it!

So sure, right verdict, but based on really terrible legal reasoning that needs to be overturned.

> I agree that he should not be entitled to change his mind about wanting a refund, years down the line.

That's not a refund years after one received a product, it's years after he was promised a product that he has not yet received!

The fact that they gave him prototypes of the product in the meanwhile has little relevance (altough if those "prototypes" were explicitly mentioned as part of what you would get in exchange of the funding, they could be regarded as a partial delivery and their assessed value ought to be discounted from the refund).

But I really don't even know the Kickstarter terms, I'm just speculating...

Laws and contracts cannot be retroactive. A new TOS can force you to cede rights from that point onward. All past purchase are covered by contracts in force at the time they were made.

> Laws and contracts cannot be retroactive.

In the US, both laws (other than laws criminalizing conduct or increasing punishment for a crime, where the prohibition on ex post facto laws applies) and contracts can be, and sometimes are, retroactive.

>Laws and contracts cannot be retroactive

Could you expand upon this a bit? In the US bills of attainder and ex post facto laws were clearly banned for both the Federal and State government from the founding of the country, though I remember reading that despite statements from the founders SCOTUS has been shakier on applying it to civil vs criminal law.

But it's not clear to me how that relates to purely private contracts, unless there is something in California regulating it? Further to your own point:

>A new TOS can force you to cede rights from that point onward.

It seems like that could cover this just fine couldn't it? Ie., two parties could agree that regardless of past or ongoing legal interactions, any future new legal interactions could be governed under different rules. I'm not sure that'd be "retroactive", it doesn't govern anything undertaken under the previous agreement, it modifies it going forward. Are you saying that contracts may never be modified from their original form? That doesn't jive at all with my (admittedly non-lawyer) understanding. It'd be against all sorts of bankruptcy proceedings and private settlements for example, since those often involve modifying previously agreed terms of previously engaged in financial exchanges.

Granted this all puts aside questions of adhesion and whether he even did agree to new TOS at all of course. But assuming during his ongoing play he was presented with a new TOS, agreed to it, and then at a later date filed suit, it doesn't seem novel at least (even if we think certain rights should not be contractable) that their legal interactions after the agreement date would be governed by the new TOS.

RSI isn't even the name of a real company. It's a fictional company in SC. Cloud Imperium Games, CIG, is the actual company. The article in general is missing a lot of detail.

I'm glad you brought this up; my head spun when I read that too. I'm hoping this is a error on the part of the article author or source.

Are there records created for small claims cases?

> but the judge decided to go with the later ToS anyway:

You're forgetting that judges and lawyers are the ones who moonlight as paid arbitrators. They're only acting in their own best interests.

> If the public service of justice is slow and expensive, we need to fix the public service, not replace it with a free market simulacrum.

Completely agreed. Prisons are another example of an essential public service that should never be privatized or outsourced.

Healthcare, too

That’s a blanket statement that leaves too much wiggle-room. The UK’s NHS, for example, is partly private insofar as GPs and many other doctors work for themselves and contract themselves out to the NHS instead of being NHS employees. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a group of doctors could form an organization that forces its patients into binding arbitration for disputes while still being contracted to the NHS. It would result in a backlash of public opinion - but still possible.

The NHS also has other private components: it used to run its own logistics division which was scrapped in recent years and replaced with services provided by couriers like DHL.

> Correct me if I’m wrong, but a group of doctors could form an organization that forces its patients into binding arbitration for disputes while still being contracted to the NHS.

Could they? I thought the doctor's contract is with the NHS on standard government terms, and the patients are dealing with the NHS terms, the doctors have no direct contract with the patients or ability to impose legal terms on the patients differing from the NHS terms.

Also European consumer protection laws make it very hard to enforce binding arbitration clauses in contracts.

I wish it were this way in the US. Way to nullify habeas corpus... :-(

Transportation. Communication. Food. See? I can do it too. The idea of non-privatizing things has to pass tests other than just "Everyone needs it."

> Transportation. Communication. Food. See? I can do it too. The idea of non-privatizing things has to pass tests other than just "Everyone needs it."

Does it? Why? I'm 100% for all of the items you mentioned -- public transportation, public communication, and public food. Arguably we pay for crappier versions of all of those already (Busses, Lifeline Program, SNAP and Bridges or your state's equivalent)


You can be for "public services that should never be privatized or outsourced", and still allow private services to exist too. That's not a conflict in any way.

(I'm aware of the letter ban) but a public USPS for package delivery, doesn't prevent FedEx from also delivering packages too. A public water utility doesn't prevent Nestle from also selling bottled water everywhere. Public elementary schools hasn't prevented private/religious schools from also existing in every state. PBS / BBC hasn't prevented NBC / ABC / CBS / Sky from existing. You can be pro "public utilities for things everyone needs, ban privatization of public services" and that does not have to hurt any private companies in any way.

I would have zero problem with those things being provided at the basic levels to everyone. No you aren't going to get t-bones, but some bread, eggs, potatoes, and shit? What is the problem there? They are already heavily subsidized industries to provide stability despite whatever else is happening in the markets, we aren't going to just stop growing them unless we are all dead.

It's an opinion, man. How do I see if it passes this test without expressing it?

Government is and has always been about law -- creating law, executing law, interpreting law, and enforcing law. Healthcare doesn't have a natural, direct relationship to law like prisons and courts do.

> Government is and has always been about law

Government has always been about the legitimatized application of force; the use of law as one of the key components of the legitimization of force is very old, but not essential to the concept government (it's essential to modern, and even many older, norms or models of government, though.)

The principle of the rule of law says that all parties, even the government itself, are subject to the law. This would imply that any application of force on the government's part must only be done in the service of the law.

This is how government ought to be, and has been at least several times in the last 1000 years. The Magna Carta is famous for first codifying the rule of law principle.

If the principle of rule of law meant that a democratically elected government cannot use its powers to take care of its citizens, it would simply be a bad principle.

A democratically elected legislature's job is to write the will of the people into law.

So if the people's will is guaranteed basic medical services available to all, I don't see what the problem there is.

There needs to be a distinction between fundamental government functions (those that exist to establish the rule of law) and those that were created by law.

It's the fundamental government functions that should never be outsourced.

(If the people's will is that government take care of other matters, no problem. They can choose either way, provided the resulting laws are not unconstitutional.)

I can't get phone or Internet in my area without some form of forced arbitration.....if I don't give up my rights to the court system for those services, I just don't get them.

There is no option to simply not participate, it is absurd.

Have you tried asking your parents for an itsy-bitsy teensy-weensy million-dollar loan so you can found your own telecom?

A.K.A The Kardashian method to becoming self made.

Not asking my parents....but I have thought of it as a pie in the sky thing...

> If the public service of justice is slow and expensive, we need to fix the public service,

The public service (small claims court) was present and used. He just didn't get the result he wanted. It's not like the "public service of justice" was evaded. He got a hearing. The judge (a real judge!) said the arbitration clause was enforceable.

So he lost. In court. Having exercised his constitutional right to petition his government for redress of grievances.

I mean, look: I get that arbitration clauses can be unfair. But that's not an indictment of arbitration, it's an indictment of unfair contracts. For every case like this that makes your blood boil there's one that throws out an arbitration clause that wasn't appropriate.

The system works, basically. It just doesn't get this guy his $4500 back because he made a stupid bet on Kickstarter.

No. The judge announced that courts of law do not apply, only arbitration psuedocourts apply.

Arbitration is no longer thrown out almost ever, because of ATT Mobility LLC v. Concepcion. An unconscionable contract with arbitration is not an exception to arbitration anymore and state laws no longer apply to arbitration compelled agreements. The arbiter will decide what, if any, laws to follow. The arbiter will decide if the contract is fair. The arbiter will decide if they even want to rule based on the dispute at hand or something arbitrary.

You are behind the times on the sheer power of mandatory binding arbitration.

> because of ATT Mobility LLC v. Concepcion

Then perhaps your ire should be directed at the politicians responsible for appointing judges with more acceptable leanings on civil liberty issues like this, and not at some random local magistrate who failed to rule for the gambling rando who lost $4500 on kickstarter.

I get what you're saying. This isn't a good example of the problem, nor a productive location to whine about it.

You have a say in who gets to arbitrate your case. Are arbitration tribunals more biased than the regular courts?

Also, "An unconscionable contract with arbitration is not an exception to arbitration anymore" then isn't the problem deceptive business conduct? Can't people form a class and sue for that? (Or is that a process only the FTC can initiate?)

No, he did not get his constitutional right to petition his government for redress. He was denied this because a company added a clause forcing people to go into the private justice system. A clause that never, ever, ever should be enforceable, because it is entirely unconscionable.

The system did NOT work.

Yes he did.

He was denied his right to redress because the judge thought the case wasn't worth enough to be worth his time, wrote a very dismissive ruling and then hoped it wouldn't be appealed so his shitty ruling wouldn't be torn apart.

This isn't a 'the sky is falling' situation. This is a judge cutting a corner to get to cases he views as more important.

This is a disturbing precedent and decision. Forced arbitration is a huge flag that severely dilutes consumer rights and makes a mockery of consumers and markets.

This kind of precedent should not be allowed to stand but there is only so much time an individual who has to make a living can devote to these kind of issues.

It's not like a corporation that has legal staff on board and can afford to litigate for years on end without any consequences for anyone involved, and if there is a fine at the end it gets paid.

But arbitration didn't fail here. He never tried it in the first place.

Arguably he shouldn't have had to, since the arbitration clause appeared in the Terms of Service after he made his pledge. I have my own opinions about arbitration but that's neither here nor there when what you agreed to did not dictate that you must resolve disputes through arbitration.

According to the article, he made a some of his pledges after the change to the Terms of Service.

I can imagine that if they tried to get a refund somewhat close to the change, a judge could be convinced to allow the refund under the old ToS.

But he has used the service since, making more pledges to other companies. Part of continuing to use kickstarter is to to accept the new TOS when they come out.

If he made one pledge, and then never used or logged into kickstarter and agreed to a new TOS then he would have a case.

If the public service of justice is slow and expensive, we need to fix the public service, not replace it with a free market simulacrum.

The argument is that the justice system is slow and expensive because it is overloaded with cases that don't really belong in the justice system in the first place. Which is not a radical idea; e.g. only some cases merit the attention of a district court, and fewer still merit the SCOTUS.

You can see the "overloading" perspective when you look at the asylum hearing backlog. The demand outstrips the judiciary's ability to run fair hearings practically to the point of absurdity.

If arbitration really is a better solution, then people will choose to go that route themselves, instead of being forced into it by a company trying to get more favorable results.

> If the public service of justice is slow and expensive

Is small claims court slow and expensive? Not to my knowledge.

Any court forces an adversarial resolution: the parts have failed to come to an understanding so they are investing in a legal battle from which the loser will come out bruised, having wasted money, time, prestige etc. A strongly negative-sum game.

The ease of which you can go to court can motivate parties to use it as a strategic threat even if they feel they don't have a particularly strong case, and the openness of the court system can make that small chance of success a strong threat against a public person or company.

So arbitration, by definition, can find a mutually acceptable solution with a zero sum, as opposed to the negative sum of a legal war. Society stands to gain if arbitration works - but not in cases such as these, were forced arbitration is employed as a stopgap against any and all claims.

It's expensive for businesses because they tend to find in favour of the consumer, whereas with forced arbitration the business can pick the most biased arbitrator to rule in their favour.

Well, okay. Right. I agree. I just don't want people reinforcing the meme that "justice is always slow and expensive and that's why businesses want arbitration" when the real reason is "courts are too fair and that's why businesses want arbitration". The accessibility, fairness, speed and low cost of small claims courts to poor individual litigants is a bug, not a feature, from the perspective of the US's larger corporations.

    <comment class='devils-advocate'/>
From what it seems like, most large companies tend to use the same few arbitration firms. JAMS and AAA come up often in the contracts I've read. How often does this "arbitrator shopping" actually happen? It's a complaint I hear often, but little in the way of data to support it.

I have seen data to suggest that arbitrators rule often in the favor of the companies, but that could be a result of more people raising bullshit claims since it's significantly easier to do so.

>om what it seems like, most large companies tend to use the same few arbitration firms

Maybe the other arbitrators went out of business because they ruled on the consumer side.

See: survivorship bias.

I'd love to see the data either way. "Arbitration is popular because it always screws the customer!" is a wonderful emotionally-evocative talking point, but that seems way too simplistic and pithy for me.

Arbitrators, like jurors, tend to split the baby if there is a halfway decent rationalization for doing so.

It is if you have to pay a lawyer to represent you. Between responding and showing up in court it's probably several thousand dollars in billable hours.

You can't have a attorney represent you in small claim court.

That depends on the state. Even if it's not a lawyer, you still have to send someone. Between salary costs and travel it's still in the thousands.

> He lost because of a forced arbitration clause.

Just to be clear, that doesn't mean he wouldn't have lost otherwise, or that forced arbitration wouldn't have worked in his favor. If forced arbitration wasn't a consideration, he might still have lost.

Arbitration is a net loss for the human. The rulings are secret. The impersonal corporation knows which arbiters favor it and which do not, and can blacklist based on that. Arbiters only get work if they continue to rule for corporations. The corporation knows which arguments worked for it in the past with arbiters, but the judgements are secret and the human cannot research as a corporation can.

Arbitration is a biased loss for a human up against a corporation in mandatory binding arbitration via a contract of adhesion.

That's all beside the point.

No, that's all material to the point. It's the same type of thing that led to most IP cases being heard in a particular Circuit/District Court in Texas.

When you as the consumer have nil input into establishing an impartial venue, and the COMPANY has an ongoing business relationship with the Arbiter on which the Arbiter depends it completely undermines the integrity of the proceedings. It's like asking your Mother in Law to preside over divorce proceedings.

How is this so hard to understand?

If a company can force you into that regime, and has all the bargaining power in the transaction, you are not at the table as equals. You are cattle. You are meant to consume and remain silent. Any complaints will be ignored in the order they are received.

You can say that IDEALLY the Arbitration company runs arbitration for many other companies, so is an impartial body in this case. Losing this ONE business wouldn't hurt right?

Except their bills ARE PAID by your opponent. You don't bite the hand that feeds. It's why the public justice system "works". If arbitration is so effective, it should be integrated into the public justice system and funded accordingly. Otherwise, it's your Civil Rights being discarded by corporate contract lawyers.

> No, that's all material to the point.

No, it's not. The point being not whether arbitration is good or not, simply contesting the implication that the only reason lost because of a forced arbitration clause.

The only way you can disagree with that or argue it is to prove otherwise, which you can't.

> It's like asking your Mother in Law to preside over divorce proceedings.

That's a classic, I'll have to remember that.

No one is forcing you to use forced arbitration. You're not entitled to someone else's service. If you don't want to accept forced arbitration, then don't use their service.

What you're really saying is that you want to prevent me from offering a service on the condition that contract disputes are handled by alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

This desire to impose restrictions on other people's free action is immoral, and doesn't become okay due to your anti-free-market ideology.

This is a rather naive position which ignores the information and power disparities. The average person doesn’t have time to review every contract for everything they use, nor is it clear why this should be unlike every other thing you buy simply because it involves software, and there are whole sectors where the only option is not to have e.g. mobile phone service.

It’s especially sad to see you trying to spin blocking someone’s ability to exercise their right to use the legal system as a pro-liberty move. At the least you can be honest and acknowledge that it’s about saving money.

What you're referring to is an entirely different issue, which is informed consent. If the contract is designed to get the user to quickly glance over it, and agree to unfair terms without understanding it, then yes it's unfair, and any properly functioning court system will void it.

But that's a separate issue from the possibility of including arbitration clauses in a contract, which simply expands the range of possible contracts two consenting parties can enter into.

You don’t expand options by removing them. Being forced to use a company’s appeals process is a distinct reduction in freedom from the status quo.

No options are being removed. The range of possible contracts that two consenting parties can enter into is larger when arbitration clauses are not illegal.

>>Being forced to use a company’s appeals process

No one is being "forced to use a company's appeals process". You choose to accept a company's offer, and agree to the terms, when you sign a contract with them. Given you're not entitled to use their service, and are free to not use it, you are not being forced into anything.

I pledged a fraction of this fellow's total in Star Citizen, probably the lowest tier that would result in a digital copy of the game once complete. I was after a modern Privateer reboot, essentially, and figured it was worth the gamble.

I haven't followed the development with anything more than a casual, occasional glance and accompanying eye-roll. I doubt I'll ever see anything come of it. A shame, not necessarily a surprise.

I'm fully aware and prepared that kickstarting a game confers no guarantee, but the feature creep in this case is staggering. I suspect that if this case were to succeed they'd suddenly find themselves underwater with all the pledges clawed back once the precedent was set.

For me, Elite:Dangerous had a better model (although still not without it's troubles).

They delivered the base game in reasonable order and have been iterating and adding content since then.

Whilst the early game was pretty sparse in terms of content, at least it was delivered and reasonably complete.

I'm a huge fan in general of starting a project from a complete, well-polished core and growing outward gradually while maintaining quality. Once things get messy it's almost impossible to get back to that same level of refinement as if it was kept clean the whole time.

I imagine keeping the community interested, thriving, and paying for years of development is a tough nut to crack. Obviously it's not impossible (see Minecraft, Fortnite, etc), but the success ratio seems to be orders of magnitude lower than the traditional game development model.

The tech industry learned this the hard way - MVP, then iterate is the way to go.

Star citizen abandoned its MVP (Squadron 42) awhile ago. That's why the combat sucks and there is still no core gameplay loop. A management fiasco that would be impressive to recover from.

Fortnite is another good example of this. It began as a zombie killer game that nobody played, but then they noticed all the money success and money that PUBG was getting, so they hacked together a Fortnite version of PUBG on a much smaller map with far fewer features (like vehicles).

Fortnite BR had very little beyond its core gameplay. There were few weapons and only a smattering of locations amidst a largely homogenous small island. But bit by bit, Epic added features, slowly, deliberately. They listened to their fans and made what they wanted as the game and the community progressed.

The result was one of the most successful, popular, and lucrative video games of all time.

That does seem like a better model. I might have to check that game out.

Games should produce the base game they promised, and then just add expansion packs or additional levels (free to initial backers) to try and get everything else in until the money runs out.

Maybe even the old shareware style route of releasing Episode 1, 2 and 3 (although in the shareware days, Ep1 was free and 2/3 were commercial .. like 1 was a really long game demo).

I love Elite, just be prepared it's very much a make-your-own-adventure game.

Elite:Dangerous is definitely worth a look. Gave money to both of these projects and don't want anything more to do with anything Chris Roberts touches.

Elite is also one of the better VR games available.

Its not feature creep that killed SC. I'm a game dev and I followed its development just out of sheer morbid curiosity.. Pretty much their entire process was fucked from the beginning, and they never corrected it. Its a huge case of 'Escalation of commitment' rather than feature creep, being the root cause.

At the very beginning Chris Roberts hired some artists to make a visual demo in Cryengine, to raise money. It worked, great! .. This is when they should have scrapped the demo, and hired a really great lead dev to plan out the full game. But, no, they kept building on this amateur Cryengine demo in a disorganized fashion and have been ever since.

Uhm sorry but what you just wrote are pure assumptions. And the fact that you are "a game developer" doesn't make your claims more true.

If you really followed the development process and watched their "Around the Verse" video series you cannot, by any means, call it a "Cryengine demo".

In late 2013 the scope of the game got totally changed. It turned from a small multiplayer space flight game to an MMORPG. So they literally had to start from zero and nobody has any insights about the game development and organization except the CIG developers themself.

A very weird post from you as "game developer".

He's not entirely wrong though, CryEngine was and arguably still is wholly unsuited for anything that borders on MMO. Instead of realigning your plan around the changed scope, Chris Roberts decided to keep the glitter of CryEngine visuals and he is paying the price for this decision. Netcode is still affecting performance to this day and I doubt if it will ever be solvable.

We are long past the time when Iwata managed to single handedly refactor Earthbound in a few months with minimum external help. Complex projects carry so much inertia that makes it very hard to correct course once you have momentum in one (wrong) direction.

They switched 2 years ago from CryEngine to Lumberyard from Amazon which have an integrated feature for using AWS. They also stated that they completely rewrote the network part and still working on it to date.

They call it Object Container Streaming and Network Bind Culling (I'm not a network developer, so I have no idea about the technical side of it). I don't know how far along they are (they postponed the feature to the 3.3 update) but I'm confident in their abilites.

You do realise that Lumberyard is just an licensed build of CryEngine with AWS related APIs added on top, right? As of alpha 3.2 there is still a very noticable network latency correlated to the number of active players per server. I will gladly change my opinion when CIG do manage to fix it.

Still, none of this would help to explain why SQ42 was postponed to 2019 and beyond.

  You do realise that Lumberyard is just an licensed build of CryEngine with AWS related APIs added on top, right?
Yes I know this, but it doesn't change anything on my point that they are still working on the network part which isn't finished.

And thats why you still have huge network latencys. Wait until they finished their network module and then we can judge.

  Still, none of this would help to explain why SQ42 was postponed to 2019 and beyond.
CIG stated that a lot of things used in SQ42 is based on SC technology.

I think they came to a point when they thought "This could be huge and mind blowing, and can't be done for a long time if we don't do it" and kept going.

I myself went from a critic to someone shouting "Go ahead!"

However, in the process they seem to have fully embraced the waterfall method which seems to me to be the root cause of the problem. They could have delivered the original concept as an MVP and continued to build towards their long-term vision through patches and incremental updates, much like rockstar did with GTA V online. Instead they're working slowly towards shipping a gigantic monolith where all that's playable in the meantime are very small vertical slices that don't really represent a game in their own right.

Compare the process for "Star Citizen" to "Rimworld", another kickstarted project which is nearing a 1.0 release after years of development.

Rimworld had a public beta and has been iterating and incorporating feedback and while the end-result might not be as ambitious as someone with $200m might care to dream up (rimworld raised ~$250k) but it's a very fun game which most importantly actually exists.

In fact existing in some form allowed the community to write mods and extensions many of which have ended up patched into the game itself as it nears release.

I think a closer comparison is Elite Dangerous.

I regret backing Elite Dangerous, it's underwhelming.

And this is the unfortunate problem with the agile “release an MVP and iterate” approach when talking about a game. Unlike a SaaS product that might initially solve a problem, a game needs to be compelling, make a good first impression, and be fun, all out of the gate, to retain player interest. The Early Access model has continued to fail because people try the early version, dislike it (because it isn’t finished), then leave bad reviews and never return to see the game’s progress.

Elite continues to get better all the time and will likely eventually be a pretty good game, but it’ll never have the audience it would have if they had the budget to release a full and finished product on day 1.

I think that's because many early access developers don't put enough focus on the "Viable" aspect, and focus too hard on "Minimum". For a game to be viable it should express its core gameplay features in a compelling way. Iteration should just be building additional content on top of that, or building new modules that live on top of the core (like the FPS aspects of Star Citizen arguably should be).

True but I'd say it's that minimum and viable are much closer to the final product with games making the whole notion less useful.

that is very true, but with a huge game like Star Citizen you could likely strip out a huge share of the intended final-cut content and still have a quality and complete product.

Didn’t Minecraft release (obviously successfully) with this approach?

Minecraft released in alpha where you couldn't even mine or craft yet. In alpha it was basically a voxel terrain generator with a 1st person flying around view

No, in Alpha it was playable, with crafting and mining.

You're thinking of Classic or Pre-Classic. And IIRC, Survival Test (with mining and crafting) was the first thing you had to pay for to play. https://web.archive.org/web/20090904213840/http://www.minecr...

Me too, it just felt dull. I particularly regret it as they promised a single player version that would work without a network, and delivered a network-only game that requires a server to run. I much prefer the X3 games than E:D. They have an interesting mixture of dog fighting, empire building and missions, although the learning curve is steep.

The irony being that it's basically what SC promised in their KS.

If E:D is what SC has promised in their KS they are finished. Fly around for half an hour in the SC dogfighting mode, fly a bit more in the open world, maybe do a mission. Done. You have now fully experienced E:D. And that's with the current state of the Alpha.

Is GTA V Online a good example? Most of the delivered updates have just been additional vehicles and a few more game modes. I don't mean to sound like I'm shitting on the hard work they do, but GTA V Online wasn't really an "MVP".

I was thinking specifically of how they originally shipped when the game first came out. I don't really play it much but my understanding is that the initial version didn't contain heists, corporations, warehouses, half the mission types, half the vehicles, and so on. It may not have evolved much recently and the initial scope may have been over 50% of the current feature set, but they're the best example I can think of for an MMO MVP. For singleplayer games, minecraft would be an obvious choice but it was also the progenitor of early access so that's more of a hit-and-miss.

This changed starting at the end of last year. They are on a quarterly release cycle now, and they've hit the last 2 quarterly deadlines.

I'll preface with the fact I've not kept up with SC development at all. But haven't they released multiple "modules" as they've been going?

yes, but they're not building those atop a functioning game platform. They're completely separate, like individual prototypes. If they were integrated into a whole that'd be a totally different story.

They are though. You can go from flying a spaceship, land, get out, shoot some friends, get back in a spaceship and fly away. The module concept hasn't really been a thing for a while.

This is true, but I was under the impression that they were using separate mechanics for star Marine vs shooting in the persistent universe, which they're still in the process of merging together

no longer true

Part of the problem is that they're hacking MP into an engine that hasn't really been proven out for MP so until they get that sorted MP is gonna be rough.

Yeah but it seems like a huge problem that this issue hasn't been sorted out years into development. The whole premise of the game is based around playing in a shared persistent world: they should have gotten the multiplayer experience working perfectly in a proof-of-concept stage, with characters running around blank environments full of grey boxes before anything else.

At the moment it seems like they are a content production company for a game that doesn't exist.

That certainly would've been my first step.

Investors need to re-imagine epic games as platforms, a movie that plays for twenty-plus years, iteratively developed. This also tends to collapse genres (markets): the World-of-Warcraft effect, wherein all other games of the genre bleed-out to the big platform. Good if you're the Star Citizen in the room and succeed.

The thing I'm most skeptical of is them being able to balance the economy in a way that makes it a fun MMO. The technology parts of it seem more achievable.

If you backed in the first few years you'll have access to both the Star Citizen MMO universe and the Squadron 42 single player game. Both keep getting delayed, but the scope of Squadron 42 isn't as huge so I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be a 2019 release.

The Star Citizen alpha 3.3 release (end of Q3) will be a make or break point for the project's current schedule. That's when the "container streaming" system that lets them seamlessly load parts of the universe in and out is supposed to happen, along with Hurston, the second planet (and Loreville, the first planetside city area). If you have a beefy enough computer that's when I'd recommend coming back and giving it a play.

The game he always wanted to make, he said. How can you creep from there?

Meanwhile, No Mans Sky, the underdog-turn-most-hated-turn-underdog-again game is releasing full multiplayer free upgrade next week. They engineered a PR disaster for themselves but have been adding great features at a slow steady pace, which is exactly how it should be done.

Yeah, that should have been an "Early Access" game from the start. What they are releasing next week is more so what they ORIGINALLY advertised, which always rubbed me the wrong way. Took them almost 2 years to get it right, after that PR nightmare of theirs. Sadly, this only hurts the player base most, because most players already wrote this game off when they got burned by it 2 years ago. It's really sad to see a game with a lot of potential get ruined by their own hubris from the get go.

To each their own, but I put 60+ hours into the original game (I never bought into the hype and hadn't pre-ordered), and then put it away for 2 years..

I am greatly looking forward to diving back in next week, and am treating it basically as a free sequel.

NMS turned things around and is an excellent example of a team acknowledging their mistakes and taking the time to correct. It's a game that initially I refused to back, but have now logged solid game time in.

Have they done anything with the flight model? Specifically, it essentially auto-piloting you away from a crash? Being unable to fly as low as I wanted is what frustrated me the most.

yes you can fly low to the ground and crash now from what I've seen.

How does it compare to Elite Dangerous?

They're actually very different games. NMS is a "Roger Dean artwork generator" with a small survival game embedded in it, while ED is an inheritor of Elite for people who prefer a much more sparsely populated universe than Eve Online. And who like orange.

So. Much. Orange.

Elite has deeper combat and PvP.

NMS has base building and much better world exploration.

Both games are a grind until you come across a strategy that gives you a bunch of currency and then it's just a sandbox because you can buy everything (NMS less so because you sometimes have to find the thing to buy).

It definitely feels like it caters to the casual player more than Elite Dangerous, but it’s still a pretty good game all things considered. They just fell into the hype hole.

It still looks an incredibly boring and pointless procedural generation tech showcase even in the latest trailer.

Lots of people like games like that. Tell your own story, use your imagination, stuff like that.

I generally like games like that to some extent but I still found the original version of NMS mind numbingly dull. I think the problem is that they decided that they would just let the Random Number God decide everything through the procedural generation and they thought that gameplay would organically happen on its own.

Except it doesn't work that way, the procedural generation engine in the game obviously has too few assets too many constraints to really come up with original planets and biomes, after a few couple of planets everything looks the same and plays the same. You don't have anything worthwhile to do and nothing to look forward to. You don't feel like you're progressing, you don't feel like you can meaningfully interact with the universe.

Since then they've added base building and now multiplayer though, so that probably helps with these issues but I firmly believe that there's something fundamentally broken about NMS, it looks like it's a tech demo before somebody decided to actually implement a game with it.

I'm not sure if you're aware, but they also added a central story line and some 'farming' elements & side quests in the Atlas Rises patch (which was when I picked the game up on sale), and I found it gave me plenty to look forward to, at least for a while.

It still felt a tad bit unfinished in some respects (a flashier 'ending' with multiple possible outcomes would be ideal), but I was able to get a lot of great hours out of it-- enough so that I'm definitely planning to replay from the beginning after this Next patch.

Intriguing, I guess I should give it an other try eventually.

Putting out a product, and continuing to do so, will do that.

Guess in a few years it is worth the initial price tag.

I was 25 when I backed this game. Not only am I hugely disappointed in the waterfall approach, and feature creep that pushed this over the edge.

But I am 33 today! My desire to play MMOs has also slowly evaporated.

Wait, that's 8 years. Article says they didn't start the kickstarter till 2012; 6 years ago.

If they began backing before their birthday in 2012, today’s birthday would make an 8 year age difference.

Happy birthday gp!

No it wouldn't. If they were 25 on some date in 2012, then they'd be 31 on the same date in 2018 and the oldest they could be at any point in 2018 would be 32

Whoops, I misremembered my age in 2012 when calculating that. Their birthday yesterday would, in fact, make at most a 7 year age difference. Maybe gp simply misremembered too ;)

Memory also evaporates. :(

At least you don't have a degenerative muscular disease, wondering if you get to actually play the game before your body gives out.

For comparison, two of the most delayed games for consoles are The Last Guardian and Kingdom Hearts 3, and both either released or on track to release in 6 years. FFXV took ten years, and was more or less completely redesigned from its initial concept. Meanwhile Star Citizen is 7 years in development and still is in alpha.

But I am 33 today!

Happy birthday.

8 years already? Wow... Luckily I didn't backe at all. I was really tempted though.

At that time all the old guys made "one last game" and failed horribly.

I figured this game will fail too.

I choked on my coffee when I read "Lord is a data scientist who works on developing AI for SAP—a data-processing company in Colorado." SAP as in the 90k employee German-based European multinational software corporation?!

That bugged me too. It makes me wonder about the quality of the journalism in other places.

SAP really doesn't exist in the public eye outside of the enterprise world. It's interesting how few people would actually know they exist next to other mainstream names.

I had an opposite experience of crowdfunding just yesterday. I had played the f2p clicker heroes (with iap, but it was easy to hack your save to get them for free, but i didn't) and liked it a lot. Never having supported them in any way, I thought that them asking for $20 to make a sequel was a perfect opportunity to give back even if I got no game for it. And yesterday, half a year after they asked for money the beta is out!

Anyway I feel asking for your money back sounds like it would ruin crowd funding. How can the developers spend the money on development if there is a risk they need to refund people en masse? And if they can't spend it, what's even the point? I mean yeah I guess if all the money's gone to luxury resorts and bunga bunga parties then that's not acceptable but if they spent it trying and failing that's just tough shit.

Well, the guy's point is that they changed what they were making after they took his money. This isn't something that's outside of their control, and it's not unreasonable to suggest they shouldn't do that unless they're willing to refund.

> But games change during development and, according to Lord, Star Citizen changed a lot. According to the game’s original pitch on Kickstarter, it would be a space sim with a co-op multiplayer game, an offline single-player experience, and a persistent universe. It’s since become a massively multiplayer online game and a separate single-player game with first-person shooter elements called Squadron 42, which RSI originally pitched as “A Wing Commander style single player mode, playable OFFLINE if you want.”

> Along with the game—which originally had a targeted release date of 2014—Lord was supposed to have received numerous bits of physical swag. “So aside from [the game], I'm supposed to get a spaceship USB drive, silver collector’s box, CDs, DVDs, spaceship blueprints, models of the spaceship, a hardback book,” he said. “That's the making of Star Citizen, which—if they end up making this game—might turn into an encyclopedia set.”

This is a clear breach of contract. He should work with a real lawyer and seek punitive damages. Changing what the product is shouldn't be allowed. Hopefully the lawyer includes Kickstarter in the suit, because they also should be able to step in when a product changes fundamentally from what its funders paid for.

What's the difference between a persistent universe and an MMO?

Persistence universe just means the game world and any changes done in it still exist (and possibly continue to be simulated) even when you log off. There's no true end to the game.

MMO means massively multiplayer online. Hundreds, thousands, or more in a single world.

While the two are often hand-in-hand, they don't have to be. A persistent universe that is only open to you and 4 friends wouldn't be an MMO.

SimCity 2013 is often described as an MMO, but I would argue it really isn't, since each region you play has a maximum of 1 player per city in the region (though 1 player can play multiple cities), which each region having only a few cities, and each region is completely independent of other regions. Effectively, each region is its own universe instance played by 1-16 players. Players can make their regions public, allowing cities to be claimed by any other player in the world, but claims are permanent until the player chooses to release their claim.

I've dumped about a grand into Star Citizen over the course of 4 years. I've followed updates and developments with mild interest, and ever once and a while I jump back into it to see what's changed. It's always amazing to see the progress they have made, wither it be the engine tech or just the game play.

Do I think it will come out in the next year or two? No, but I think it will. Development is on going and active. Progress is transparent (which is why I don't pay attention- I like the surprise). Milestones have been reached, and expectations have been met. Do I think I've gotten $1k of enjoyment from the game back when I was playing it? Yes. =

> Do I think I've gotten $1k of enjoyment from the game back when I was playing it? Yes.

Not trying to be negative, but this sounds like rationalization. There are better games for much less money.

I got a HTC Vive when it came out. I spent close to a grand for it. When I set it up, got it working, and was able to play a game I thought "I'm happy I spent this money" after a couple of minutes. It's the same with Star Citizen. I've gotten enjoyment for my money.

> There are better games for much less money.

Yeah. And there are better cars out there than a Lamborghini. But I still want a Lamborghini because it's a Lamborghini.

This still sounds like rationalization. Lamborghini is a brand that has been built on a reputation and track record of supplying high-performance machines for decades.

Cloud Imperium Games is just promises at this point.

There is nothing wrong with rationalizing, contrary to your tone. I'm explaining my thought process in response to a discussion.

> Cloud Imperium Games is just promises at this point.

Completely and utterly Wrong. There are alphas. They are doing everything they are saying they are. Delays? Sure, but they are (now) being transparent. You can buy a package, download, and play now.

I know a lot people that spend money of things that I would personally not "waste" money on. But if they feel their money is well spent on those things, who am I to judge?

> There are better games for much less money.

That's your opinion only, and honestly isn't a very relevant statement. I've spent much more than $1k on Magic: the Gathering and even though I probably could have spent that money elsewhere and still been just as happy or more happy - it doesn't mean that I regret spending that money.

When you say "expectations have been met", did you expect the game to take this long to develop?

Looking at the original kickstarter from 2012 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cig/star-citizen?ref=na... it looks like the original ship date was Nov 2014, so it seems that at least some people's expectations aren't likely to have been met.

I knew when I got involved I was putting money into a black box. I was (and still am) enthralled with the idea Chris Roberts has presented. When I was able to jump into a ship and play Area Commander with other People, I felt like what I signed up for was delivered. But, I'm excited with what else is coming.

And honestly, I'm glad. If they had just stuck to the initial scope, it would be less exciting. I'd rather dream big and be let down versus not have the chance to dream in the first place. I've backed some kickstarter projects that did what I signed up for, and awesome. I've also backed some projects that got widely popular and the people decided to increase the scope of what they were trying to do. Some of them worked, some of them didn't, and some looks like they are going to. I'm not sure which is better, but for me I lean towards "let's try to do awesome."

EDIT. A point I wanted to share is that you also need to quantify enjoyment and wow factor. I've seen things come out of Star Citizen that make me feel like a kid again. They have done some awesome stuff in terms of visuals and engineering. I would still love to have a finished project, but from what I've played and seen already, I would not be overly disappointed if the game disappeared tomorrow.

I've enjoyed the journey, and will continue to enjoy it. That has to count for something. I'm not saying I don't expect a full game to come, I do.

Enjoyment is always subjective and if you feel that you've got appropriate levels of enjoyment for the money you've spent then it obviously works for you.

The original kickstarter scope was: you are your space ship and you will be able to fight and do some trading of resources.

The scope has increased a great deal since then but I feel like the time it's taken to develop is reasonable.

I will say they wasted a year or two at the beginning trying to set up an AAA studio from scratch and mis-partenering with the wrong sub-contractors. And maybe the scope could have been limited with some of the functionality to come later.

Right now backers are testing out space mining mechanics and the game is already pretty fun imo.

My understanding is that Star Citizen ran into an insane amount of both feature and scope creep.

Of course, at its core, it's a game about space exploration, so I can understand just how vast that would be at an abstract level, but trying to implement a 1-to-1 of that is just absurd to me.

> Development is on going and active.

It's sad someone has to emphasize this. Too bad too much money just makes people lose focus. Maybe the game is out there if they only had $10m.

> “Like they were some sort of charity, or like I just gave them $4,500 because I like them,” he said. “I gave them $4,500 because I wanted them to give me a video game.”

So I am not sure what's the state of affairs today but certainly in the early days it was pretty well understood that Kickstarter is not a store and every dollar you put in there might just disappear and you are relying on the good faith of the campaign runner.

While i regularly throw $20-$50 into game kickstarters, I stayed away from both Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous when I saw how hyped they were. Nothing good was going to come out of that.

Personal statistics: 19 kickstarters backed, got a finished product on 9 of them so far, 2 more have builds that show everything is on track. Everything I got was acceptable, with at least 7 being good or above.

Also, ALL of them were late delivering.

Not bad, will crowdfund again. Never $4500 though.

Your skepticism is well-founded, but I'd like to put in a good word for Elite Dangerous. I bought it for $15 on sale long after the Kickstarter had ended and it constantly impresses me with its sense of scale and level of polish. Sometimes I'm amazed that game exists at all, let alone that it successfully came out of a Kickstarter.

It's not for everyone but if the idea of "Euro Truck Simulator in space" appeals to you, you'll probably enjoy it.

Honestly it's a great game, but they have screwed over day one supporters with their dlc pricing. I bought the game for 60 bucks early on, not knowing at the time that there would be dlc later on that I would could buy for another 20 bucks. My rage compounded when I learned that newer buyers could get the full game+dlc for 20 dollars, while I was just sitting there, feeling like a fool for the 60 I had dumped, and not even gotten the extra content, which is essential to having a good ship that is pvp viable.

Is it Euro Truck Simulator in space? Because I read some previews a couple years ago (multiplayer, mind) and they sounded like a clone of Eve: Online...

It definitely can be played as Euro Truck Simulator in space, but there's also a lot to do in terms of exploration, combat, missions and multiplayer. It's a game where nothing is really forced on you and you can play as you'd like.

Elite Dangerous did turn out a very successful game though.

Not only successful but also great in terms of quality and polish - iirc they got awards for their great sound design. I've also tried it in VR and it's a killer app for that platform, especially with a joystick setup.

The sound design in Elite: Dangerous is just fantastic. In my book it's among the best games ever in this category. It takes skill to take a simulation to a level where you can literally fly the ship by ear because every nuance of your ship's quite complex status is reflected in audio somehow.

I think I need better speakers, or maybe I should be wearing headphones, because I didn't feel this at all.

>one of the worst cases of feature creep in history

crowdfunding campaign that exceed expectations put the developer in a really tough spot. Star Citizen asked for $2 million but got 6. If they had said they keep everything the same, the schedule would stay sane but everyone would call it a money grab because they take $6 million to develop a $2 million game. The other option is to make use of the additional $4 million, but in almost all cases that will destroy the schedule.

Now if you are like Star Citizen and keep raising money (and get another $180 million) that same principle quickly pushes you deeper and deeper into feature creep.

It's a systematic problem every crowd funding project has to solve. Star Citizen seems to have stabilized their predictions of total money raised to get a fixed feature set, but I can't blame them for not predicting that they would raise over $200 million until release and planning for that.

> Star Citizen asked for $2 million but got 6. If they had said they keep everything the same, the schedule would stay sane but everyone would call it a money grab because they take $6 million to develop a $2 million game.

What? That's not how crowdfunding works. If you crowdfund a bag for $200k and you get $1 mil, you don't turn that into a jetpack - you just ship the bag that you promised.

That's exactly how (many) crowfunding campaigns work in practice.

Most kickstarters define "stretch goals" that are promised at different targets, if funding surpasses the base goal.

These goals may be release for different platforms, additional content, celebrity voice acting, etc...




A $2 million game will cost (more or less) the same to develop whether it goes on to sell 1, 100, 10000 or 10 million copies. The cost of producing a handbag depends a whole lot on how many you need to produce.

So assuming that shipping more copies is very cheap once the game is developed, what do you do when you get $6 million in funding for a $2 million game?

You profit? That's what every other company that sells software does.

That's not how crowdfunding works though. You aren't selling a product, you're asking for money to cover the production expenses for a product.

That often includes a salary for the creators, but it's hard to justify a multi-million dollar profit (from the crowdfunding itself).

I think the point he was trying to make is that they had no obligation to make crowdfunding work like people expected it to. They were perfectly within their rights to just ship on time and bag the rest as profit.

I agree that it is well within their rights to do that. But I also feel that this is a reason why large software products are not inherently a great fit for the Kickstarter model. I think Steam's "early-access" model is a much more intuitive fit for both the developers and the consumers of these games.

I had to double check this story to believe it: it's almost better than ICOs.

They started with a $500.000 goal then stretched it to $2 million. For the last 6 years, they have been living off the nearly 400x more money that continued to come in, exceeding all expectations or previous games. All while delivering essentially only nice art and, we now learn, slimy legal tricks against the fans no longer willing to bankroll then. Unbelievable.

You can check their funding amounts here: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/funding-goals

They're still making 40k-70k per day

....they've raised $190m from 2m people. That means the average donation was about $95.

That's just insane.

You act like getting the extra money was some kind of unexpected surprise. In reality RSI has been shamelessly and aggressively soliciting extra funds since the early days - most famously by selling concept art for ships (not even fully designed yet in a game that doesn't exist yet!) at thousands of dollars a pop to their rich cultists. If a big studio / publisher had pulled this kind of stunt and then failed to deliver, the gaming media would have ripped them apart.

As a total newbie (well almost newbie, I've released one tiny game) I just want to ask: why not gray-box the whole damn game first, then paint rough 90s looking graphics on top, then gradually paint the whole game over with modern graphics? While tuning the gameplay the whole time? That just seems like the only sane way to build something huge, but instead all the big developers like CIG seem to start with ultra-detailed vertical slices for some reason.

Because Star Citizen is not really a game at this point, more a funding vehicle to get more money out of kickstarters - many of whom are suffering from the 'sunk cost' fallacy.

Grey boxing is a step towards a complete game, but it doesn't allow you to collect money the way that a glorious, fully modelled giant spaceship (that people can buy for $250 - years before there is even a game to play it in) does.

Star Citizen has pretty much given up all hope of trying to give people realistic expectations of a game. At this point, it's just everything anyone has ever wanted in a space MMO, no matter how grandiose or pointless a complicated feature would be to the overall gameplay.

It amazes me that people are still being duped by it.

Ha. Makes me think of the way Trump makes promises. Seems like a great way to get a crowd riled up.

Because art is your largest single cost and you end up developing a lot of art that's not used in the final product driving up costs.

Really all it takes to get slices is coordination among different teams so everything for each slice finishes at the same time.

You're not gonna sell many ships with a rough 90s looking graphics.

I love reading about game dev/watching videos and I've watched a few Star Citizen developer updates. Seems like they were wasting a tremendous amount of time refining small details like adjusting the vents and decals and landing gear on ships that could already be considered complete. It struck me as absolutely awful time management.

It sounds like they might simply need a good (and empowered) project manager to crack the whip on schedule and say no to scope creep. I’d love to see what their internal estimates and work breakdown looks like! When they miss a milestone, what corrective action do they take? Do they give themselves any real deadlines? So many games would make such interesting project management case studies.

Head over to their website and take a look. They have some of the most seasoned game project managers on their books.

There's over 500 of then working on the project. It feels like you're seeing the props department and talking like it's the whole team grinding to a halt.

That sucks, but it seems almost inevitable with these new funding/purchasing models: the risk necessarily shifts from the developer and onto the consumer. This is a big reason why I'm a "patient gamer:" why should I be the one exposed to uncertainty when there are plenty of other complete and patched games out there vying for my attention?

I mean, it does need to be treated like an investment, and you can lose on an investment. You can say, "That Camera rig is amazing. I've always wanted something like that. There's nothing on the market like that."

If you put like $600 in, you're hoping for a return on that investment in 8 months of a product. You might get something amazing, or something okay or nothing at all. Just like any other venture.

Okay, so you might say, "Well I don't want to invest, but I'll buy it once it's build if other people put up the funding." It's successful aaaaaand that's it. No more units.

That's a big issue, because now people with existing units may not even have a repair path. Devices could start getting rare and go on eBay for tons. This might even violate some basic product warrant laws in some country.

This doesn't apply here though, because games can always be purchased and distributed to people later without having to get them made in a factory.

If you are have no expectation to get your principle invested much less potential for additional monetary returns then it is NOT an investment. The potential monetary returns on this is $0 in all cases.

> why should I be the one exposed to uncertainty when there are plenty of other complete and patched games out there vying for my attention?

Because sometimes if you don't fund an idea that idea doesn't happen. Of course I'm not suggesting you jizz $4500 into a promise of a game like the guy in the article but throwing ten or twenty bucks behind an idea you wan't to see happen isn't always a bad idea.

If it happens and it's bad? nevermind it was only 10 bucks, nice to see the idea attempted though.

If it happens and it's good? awesome.

If it implodes and I get nothing? meh, never mind it was 10 bucks.

$10 won't make or break a game's development. It'll happen (or not) with or without my tiny advance payment. I'd rather hold on to that $10 and buy an actual game now instead of gambling on the promise of one in the future.

As consumers, it's not our responsibility to support other people's open-ended projects. Let developers (and their actual publishers and investors) take on the risks themselves. It's better that way: with their skin in the game, they'll know when to say "no" to dumb features and actually get to a viable product.

You can say the same thing about elections. However, because each choice is independent you end up collaborating with like minded people. Thus your 10$ ends up as 10,000$ from people like you.

Game theory has a lot of interesting incite into these sorts of decisions.

What does game theory say will happen if you give someone $200,000,000 with no obligation to do anything in exchange for it?

Your logic is the same logic used when people try give excuses for not voting. "My one vote won't matter".

No single drop of water believes it is to be blamed for the flood.

> $10 won't make or break a game's development.

No but thousands of $10s can.

> As consumers, it's not our responsibility to support other people's open-ended projects.

Why not? Patronage has been a key part of art for thousands of years. The current state of the game dev biz is that innovation and risk has taken a back seat to yearly releases churned out for mass appeal.

Why don't people understand that crowdfunding is not indie shopping? It's a high risk investment. You support projects you believe in (in the religious sense of the word) and if you're lucky, you might get something.

> Why don't people understand that crowdfunding is not indie shopping? It's a high risk investment.

Because what is being offered is neither a debt or equity instrument but a defined good or service, just as with other shopping vebues, and because the kind of detailed financial and other information that would be made available to investors for due diligence with normal high-risk investments is not offered or available for most crowdfunded projects.

Because compared to drugs, nymphomania, travel, cars, skiing, movies, gaming is incredibly cheap on a $ per hours basis, and people are willing to throw a few bucks to support a game concept that they find new and exciting.

I'm a backer and I have no problem with this. Many AAA titles take a decade or more from start to finish. For example, between Diablo 2 and 3. I want the best space sim and I like what RSI is doing. I'm not holding my breath, just living my life and when the game is finished I will be happy to play it. Although, I also did not drop 5 grand on this game.

> Many AAA titles take a decade or more from start to finish.

AAA titles that take a decade or more to develop are usually stuck in some sort of development hell.

>I want the best space sim and I like what RSI is doing.

You like that instead of making the best space sim, they are adding focusing on adding an first person combat? It's clear as day that Roberts and Co. lack any sort of discipline. It's a perfect example why sometimes constraints on creative freedom (usually forced by eviiiil publishers) are a good thing.

Unfortunately, I do like it. To each his own.

To each his own indeed, but I think it would be a good idea for them to release a kick-ass space sim, and then refine and expand gameplay in Star Citizen 2.

Constraints on creative freedom is always a good thing. But let me rephrase that. If you introduce limitations to the creative process, then the outcome will be more creative than a process without any limitation.

The argument that far less ambitious AAA games have taken a long time has seemed to me to be a double-edged sword. It does give SC some leeway in expected timeline. But there’s also the concern that if a reasonably-experienced studio like Blizzard could be stalled for 10 years to iterate on Diablo 2, then it seems very likely that CIG, an entirely new studio, is going to stumble hard when trying to solve multiple challenges in gaming that have yet never been solved. Chris Roberts is rightly a legend for the WC series, but that doesn’t suggest he can pull off a dynamic game of SC’s scope.

I’ve been paying attention to SC because its ambition is fascinating. I’m especially interested in what innovations they’ll bring to AI when it comes to populating a game world. But I would’ve thought by now — especially based on Roberts’ confident prediction of a 2016 release — that the single-player SQ42 would be in beta form by now. But it seems like they don’t have any kind of game loop, or a stable/fun flight model.

Nevermind the never-before done innovations — I think that SC, whenever it releases, is going to have a hell of a time with more mundane things, such as game balancing. I think of how much work Blizzard has to constantly put into Overwatch, a team FPS with very few innovations, to find the right mix of balance with <30 characters in 3 classes. SC has what looks like dozens of ships that have to be designed well for human and AI alike. Some of these ships cost hundreds of dollars and yet have to be tweaked so that SC doesn’t feel like a pay-to-win game, where whales dominate the galaxy with AI-controlled fleets. It’ll be an interesting project to follow over the decade but the challenges seem daunting.

Except the existence of D3 wasn't even announced until 2008, releasing four years later - and they didn't rely on the donations of backers, nor did they promise it'd be out in 2-3 years or bolt on feature after feature (and a FPS), nor did they push the limits of graphics cards and whatnot and design it for two generations over.

I could go on, not sure though, I think it's a moot comparison.

    > nor did they push the limits of graphics cards and whatnot and design it for two generations over.
Moreover, it ran just fine on a decent 2011 laptop.

Announcement of existence doesn't mean the project wasn't worked on for many years prior. Either way, this was just a quick example off the top of my head. Nothing will be a proper comparison because, as the headline states, SC is the first to raise this much and take this long to deliver.

Battletech The Game went to kick starter to get additional funds to deliver their game and it pretty much ranks up there as a AAA title. They went on to get picked up by Paradox Games who will give the access to resources they did not have before.

Having watched Star Citizen for years it is just obvious this whole process suffers from feature creep. They went in with one game and now have what? three?

It reminds me of Battle Cruiser 3000AD at this point, though to be fair they have delivered more content but at the same time not when or what people who got into it expected

Three tech demoes and a team making advertising videos for ships you can buy for a premium which you can play in a video game that still doesn't exist yet.

| Many AAA titles take a decade or more from start to finish.

Yes but no AAA title has been crowed-funded to the tune of 200m before.

That seems like a non-sequitur. How does the crowdfunding aspect change how long an AAA title takes to develop?

"I'm a backer and I have no problem with this"

That's fine that you're happy with what they're doing. Other people aren't, and they should be able to get their money back when the direction went somewhere else.

Most AAA do a game in 2-3years, a decade is not the norm, and for game that took 10years it's not a team that work on that for that long but just a couple of people.

Should I have given another example? Red Dead Redemption series can be another[1]. Not quite a decade, but close to. Also, I never said "most".

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Dead

They weren't working on development for a decade though. It was a decade between games, with a large amount of time between them when no development took place. Same with Diablo.

I'm not a backer, but your sentiment seems right. It always seemed like a game that wanted to be "the best space sim", and that is going to take a while. All the demos have looked incredible, a the features are extremely ambitious, but cool.

I think that all backers should just feel lucky the project hasn't burned through all their cash and shut down yet.

I agree with this too. It's all about your general outlook on things. Plenty Kickstarters have failed and vanished. Will this project do the same? I don't know, but I don't think so. When I contributed, I parted with the amount of money I was comfortable never seeing again.


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