Derek Smart calls for FTC investigation of Star Citizen’s finances, presents Chris Roberts with list of demands

Game developer Derek Smart continues to be terribly concerned over the future fate of Star Citizen. After an epic-sized rant last week, Smart posted another piece last night, this one restating his immense concern over the development of the space sim, urging people to “wake up and start asking the tough questions.” In the nearly 11,000-word post, he sets out to explain, as he puts it, “why RSI and all subsidiaries need to be investigated – right now!”:

From everything that we have uncovered thus far, it is our belief that the game, Star Citizen, as of this writing, has all the makings of a crowd-funding failure, and an unmitigated disaster. A disaster which, if, and when it happens, and everything eventually comes out, is likely to be the most shocking event in recent gaming memory, which threatens to eclipse even the 38 Studios collapse of 2012.

Smart calls on Chris Roberts to issue a public statement addressing seven “demands” in his post, including providing an itemized list of how all of Star Citizen’s money has been spent thus far and acquiescing to an audit.

As backers of this project, here is our list of demands:

  1. disclose the full detailed (private jet travel? we want to see it) P&L accounting (money in off-shore bank accounts? we want to know about them) for every crowd-funded dime that has been raised and spent on this project. Allow an independent forensics accountant, hired by backers, to come and do an audit. This is standard practice in developer-publisher relationships. So you know how that works.
  2. disclose the true state of the project in terms of what is expected to be delivered, and when. Allow an independent Executive Producer, hired by backers, to come and do a project review in order to get an accurate picture of the game state, so we know when it is likely to see the light of day – if ever
  3. disclose the true timeline for the project’s completion. As per the above.
  4. setup a page offering refunds to all those who REQUEST it. The TOS is going to be the first thing attacked in any lawsuit. It is not likely to survive a legal challenge. Plus, the FTC will trump all that crap anyway, so there is that.
  5. admit, in no uncertain terms, and apologize that the scope of the project has changed since the original $2.1m kickstarter crowd-funding campaign
  6. halt all further crowd-funding activities until a sizable part of the game – as originally pitched in 2012 – has been delivered to backers who have paid for it. In other words, STOP selling virtual items and taking money for vaporware
  7. address the nepotism issues associated with the hiring of unqualified family members to head key parts of this crowd-funded project. In this regard, explain the benefits of a) promoting your brother to an Executive Producer position, as opposed to hiring someone (like the departed Alex Mayberry) who has the experience to match the job. Also what new benefits (pay raise, shares etc) he now has access to, for going into that position b) hiring someone, allegedly your wife, to a position that she is seemingly not qualified to hold. And why a more experienced executive wasn’t put in this position. Especially since that dept has people, with more experience and qualifications to do the job. Instead, they get to answer to her; and naturally, she gets paid more, as per the position.

He also takes the time to assure readers that he’s writing this for the best of reasons:

A lot of the combatants in this war that’s now in progress, don’t really know who I am, let alone who Chris Roberts is. They know nothing about my industry tenure, my accomplishments, my experience, my credentials etc. They’re looking at it if I were some drama queen looking for attention. This despite the fact that, over the years, I have built, pretty much, a vastly more advanced game, in the same genre that Chris and Co. are apparently having trouble building. And, this year, we’re about to release an even better one, Line Of Defense. Though it won’t look as pretty, it works, it’s here, and it’s not vaporware. This is not an endorsement to buy it.

Further on in the post, he reminds gamers that anyone who signs up for Line of Defense’s closed beta test by this evening is “guaranteed to have a free key to the game’s Starter Kit.”

An addendum notes that RSI has apparently refunded his original Star Citizen pledge.

Update 07/14/2015 2:54 PM: CIG’s Ben Lesnick has posted the following to the Star Citizen forums regarding Smart’s pledge:

Hey guys!

I believe I can clarify this. We refunded Mr. Smart’s package because he was using Star Citizen as a platform to gain attention as part of a campaign to promote his ‘Line of Defense’ space game. Our ToS (or in this case, the Kickstarter ToS) allows us to refund troubled users who we would rather not have interacting with the community. The process lets us entirely disable their accounts, preventing them from playing the finished game. Think of it as the video game equivalent of a ‘we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’ sign in a restaurant. We’ve used this ability a limited number of times in the past, always with the aim of improving the community (until today, the most famous example being our old friend jcrg99/Manzes/PonyMillar/he of many other alts.)

I do now want to stress that that is not to say you can get your money back by simply being as obnoxious as possible; we’re also able to ban accounts from the forums without requiring a refund. But sometimes we take a look at a user and decide that they’re so toxic or their intentions are so sinister that we simply don’t want them associated with Star Citizen.

As for refund requests working the other way: per the ToS, we’re not required to offer them. We do try and work with backers who are facing hardships, but the hard truth is that the money is by necessity being spent to develop a game rather than sitting unused somewhere (that being the significant difference with Steam; those refunds are taken out of their games’ profits rather than their development budgets.)

Update 07/14/2015 3:24 PM: Former CIG dev Eric “WingMan” Peterson has also chimed in on the debate:

Look, I am no longer at CIG, but I recall when Chris and I were working at Origin, Derek Smart sent several negative emails accusing us of stealing his ideas etc, the guy is just not worth the time to read.

He is just trying to get attention – something none of us should ever give him.

IMHO, I think CIG did the right thing here, that guy is just not worth the trouble.

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FrancoisGiraud
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FrancoisGiraud

unixtimed If you take time enough to do some research, you’ll find out very soon that Erin Roberts is very qualified for this job. And also that CR’s wife, Sandi Gardiner, has a MBA in Marketing and few previous experiences. 
You might argue that’s not enough, but she’s the one who made possible a $90 millions income with her marketing plan. I think that speaks for her competence here.

mightili
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mightili

unixtimed Chris Roberts hired people that he knows, because they worked with him on previous games. A lot of people that work on SC right now, worked previously on Wing Commander. Including his brother Erin Roberts. Also, even if Sandy was Chris’ wife… Why people even ask that? Its not their business. She is an employee of CIG, qualified one too. What does it matter if people in one company are related to each other? 

I work in a company of 15 thousand employees. We PREFER hiring people from existing employees families, as long as they qualify and have necessary experience to fill out the spot, why not? I don’t get some people. What right do they even have to ask if employees of some company are related or not? Should there be a conspiracy in everything?

gijsdrevel
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gijsdrevel

Cosmic Cleric gijsdrevel jefreahard 
While the start date and place, and the sum of money asked for and
received may seem trivial, they do show the intend of Smart or the true
‘investment’ into what Star Citizen is supposed to become. Now, he
comes off as some KS hangaround that at some point noticed 
the project while it already was well funded and chipped in, without
really diving into all the information already available on RSI’s own site  at that point. The information there went further than the updates on KS, partly because of
an already very active forum and so on. 
Anybody
that funded through KS had the chance, option and imo, the
obligation to read up on RSI what was going on in
general, if they now feel the right to make statements like Smart is
making. If you throw money at it for getting the game when it’s done, without looking at
what’s going on, you’re doing something wrong.Maybe some list should be made, with all his errors, in a similar style as his demands towards CIG.

KneeDragon
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KneeDragon

Not sure if serious or trolling…
Although if you do play LoD you can bump the player count up to six.

HutchCartmen
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HutchCartmen

JonathanDoe HutchCartmen rioinsignia Not for me so i will keep spending money on star citizen ;)

HutchCartmen
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HutchCartmen

JonathanDoe HutchCartmen KneeDragon I can’t help it if you continue to dismiss the principles of investing. You are stating your opinion that this game is not worth your money. I am stating facts that spending money with a possible return of countless hours of entertainment is an actual investment. You can keep saying grass is pink, but it really is green ;)

Pesko
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Pesko

If you take the time to read through the comments (I know, there are a lot), you will see reasoned refutes of his assertions.
Your comment is just as inaccurate and incendiary as some of his. Maybe you’ll go enjoy Line of Defense, then.

Pesko
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Pesko

I will also say this… Derek Smart is a special case. From what I have been able to tell, his style seems so abrasive, hypocritical, self-serving, and often not based on facts, and he’s been doing this for a while, that it becomes hard to have a logical discussion on his assertions. People are right to be weary of his conspiracy theories, and it’s understandable that there is exasperation in response.

Pesko
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Pesko

For the record, I have never called someone an asshat in my comments. It was an attempt at a humorous way of saying in shorthand that I am also free to disagree with someone and call them out.
I actually flagged one of the responses to Derek Smart because it was purely a vulgar insult that had no commentary value.
My comments tend to range in tone, depending on my mood, but I am pretty sure I try to include something relevant in what I say. I want Massively OP to be considered a place where the user comments have value.
You were right to point that out; thanks for the chance to clarify.

KneeDragon
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KneeDragon

One: While everybody backing/funding CIG does get a copy of the game, the buy in cost is presently $45. No one has to pledge at any higher level, yet people do. The monies beyond and in fact including the $45 go to the direct funding of the developer (RSI) as they create Star Citizen.
Two: Funding, backing, supporting something is an investment which may or not pay off. I’ve had much more expensive relationships fail, and one of those included college funding. I invested, my return on investment was nil. My return here may be nil as well but so far I’ve had more fun playing the current build of Star Citizen than I did playing Destiny and that cost me $80.
A stock market investment (which also might result in a total loss) and the investment of labor, time, emotional support, insert your commodity here, are little different at the heart of it.
So I do see this as me investing in the creation of something I’ve dreamed of since I started playing games decades ago. I’ve been investing in iterative games up to this point and not getting the return I hoped for. Whether this pays off for me or not I don’t feel badly about my involvement in it.