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Chris Roberts Disputes Veracity Of New Inflammatory Star Citizen Allegations

by Mike Futter on Oct 01, 2015 at 09:31 AM

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Star Citizen has become an internet soap opera over the past few months. And while those might be fun to watch on television, when $90 million hangs in the balance, the stakes are too high for laughs.

Earlier today, The Escapist published a three-page story detailing alleged problems with developer Cloud Imperium Games and its CEO, Chris Roberts. The piece includes allegations about the company’s wasteful spending, dwindling resources, and a studio closure in Austin.

When the article went live, it included a note that CIG failed to respond by The Escapist’s deadline. Shortly after the outlet went to print, Roberts made public his email response, which addressed several points of the article. CIG tells us this was sent more than three hours before the deadline it was given by The Escapist. In turn, the publication claims that CIG only replied to its managing editor (who sent the request for comment) and didn't copy other staff members included in the email.

Roberts addressed each of the core allegations that surfaced in comments from current and former employees about the work environment and Roberts' aptitude as a leader. First, The Escapist's sources claim that CIG only has $8 million of its nearly $90 million crowdfunding revenue left thanks to overzealous spending on scrapped ideas and the voiceover talent. The publication doesn’t ask Roberts or CIG for a comment on this figure directly in its request for a statement, but Roberts indicates that the company has more than just its crowdfunding to lean on. “The company uses additional sources of funding such as tax incentives, marketing, and product partnerships, but we do not discuss these issues in public for obvious reasons,” Roberts writes. “We always keep a healthy cash reserve and operate our business prudently based on the incoming revenue.” In regards to the allegations about the voice talent, Roberts claims they were paid normal rates. The Squadron 42 (single-player campaign) voice cast, which was a campaign stretch goal, will be announced in a week.

He also addresses another key allegation in The Escapist’s story, that the studio is currently in a sharp downsizing period. “It should tell you something that we are actually increasing our global headcount not decreasing it despite the inaccurate rumors perpetuated by Derek Smart,” Roberts says. Smart, a developer also working on a space combat game, has been on a campaign against CIG and Star Citizen since the company refunded his pledge and rescinded his forum access.

Hand-in-hand with the accusation of layoffs, The Escapist says that CIG is in the process of closing its Austin location. Roberts firmly denies that is the case. “All Austin employees have been advised of a fairly minimal restructuring where some roles have been moved to LA or Europe for overall team efficiency,” Roberts says. “The majority of our Texas employees will remain in the Austin studio (indefinitely, by the way). As I’ve mentioned previously we are actually increasing our worldwide headcount in order to complete the game as effectively as possible.”

The Escapist story also includes statements about a CIG partnership with Turbulent, a digital production agency. The publication says that the developer was working to capitalize its homegrown crowdfunding platform with backer funds and sell it to Turbulent. Roberts says that is, in fact, the opposite of what is true. “CIG benefited from pre-existing software that Turbulent had developed,” Roberts explains. “Our [joint venture] with them allowed us access to cheaper rates and bound an important part of Star Citizen closer to CIG, which are both beneficial to CIG and the backers. Per our agreement Turbulent is of course free to offer their technology to other customers.”

The article continues to air a number of personal grievances between the anonymous former CIG employees and the company leadership, but only one dealt specifically with management of crowdfunding resources. The sources accuse Roberts of using company funds for personal extravagances. Roberts says this is patently false.

“No crowdfunding monies are used for any private purposes – these allegations are completely false and defamatory,” Roberts states. “This is pure innuendo for nefarious purposes and I guarantee that anyone making this claim will be unable to show any proof of it as it simply hasn’t happened. Ever since Wing Commander came out I’ve been lucky enough to be financially independent, driven nice cars and lived in nice houses. That’s due to money earned through royalties, the sale of Origin to Electronic Arts, Digital Anvil to Microsoft, and prudent investing.”

While Roberts rebuts The Escapist’s portrayal of Star Citizen’s progress and CIG’s status, the project has not been without its problems. The company had to delay its large first-person shooter module after missing deadlines and failing to communicate with backers. The company has also laid out a roadmap for the project that is significantly expanded in scope and delivery time since the Kickstarter closed. 

Right now, CIG and its detractors are in a very public game of “he said, she said,” with nearly $90 million from almost 1 million backers in the balance. Those with a stake in its success are holding their breath waiting to see if Star Citizen will be an epic space sim dream or a nightmare.

[Source: The Escapist, Cloud Imperium Games]


Our Take
Roberts is now on record about a number of allegations that have been lingering for weeks. Unfortunately, this story only has two possible endings. Either CIG fulfills all its promises and quiets detractors, or the project doesn’t make it to the finish line.