129 complaints have been made about wildly ambitious sci-fi game Star Citizen to the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
That's according to a damning new report from Forbes into the chaotic development of the most successful video games crowdfunding project ever.
Complaints to the FTC are for sums up to $24,000, with one backer who has spent $1,000 on Star Citizen saying they felt betrayed. To date the game has raised $244.5m from crowdfunding according to its official website, $39m of which was raised in 2018. That's on top of a $46m private investment that the project attracted last year.
“The game they promised us can’t even barely run. The performance is terrible and it’s still in an Alpha state,” they said.
“I want out. They lied to us.”
Cloud Imperium entertains refunds up to 30 days after the initial purchase - but that seems rather limited when it could be years before the game is in the state promised.
“Star Citizen is a playable game,” Cloud Imperium boss and development vet Chris Roberts (pictured) said.
“It has more functionality and content than a lot of finished games.”
Forbes has spoken to 20 former members of developer Cloud Imperium staff, who describe Roberts as a bad manager and work on the game as chaotic.
Mark Day, the president of developer VoidAlpha - which contributed to Star Citizen between 2013 and 2014 - says that the game's crowdfunding success lead to Roberts promising more and more content.
“As the money rolled in, what I consider to be some of [Roberts’] old bad habits popped up –not being super-focused,” he said.
“It had got out of hand, in my opinion. The promises being made - call it feature creep, call it whatever it is – now we can do this, now we can do that. I was shocked.”
One developer – asked what it was like working on Star Citizen – sent Forbes a link to the 'Turn it up to 11' scene from Spinal Tap, while others say that Roberts himself micromanages every single part of the project.
This corroborates former lead character artist David Jennison's leaked letter to Cloud Imperium human resources when he quit in 2015. This was to explain why he had finished just five characters in 17 months - Roberts' alleged interference.
“All the decisions for the character pipeline and approach had been made by Roberts,” Jennison wrote.
“It became clear that this was a companywide pattern– CR dictates all.”
Another employee says that Roberts has been hyper-focused on smaller details, such as visual effects on ships. It's likely that this is due to the fact that Cloud Imperium has been selling these in-game items to consumers for years now. 87 ships have been finished, with the developer having sold 135 different models for as much as $3,000 each.
But Roberts says that users just need to shell out $45 for their initial ship to enjoy the game.
“I know everyone thinks we just have $200 million in the bank and we dive off into it like Scrooge McDuck or something,” Roberts said.
“All I know is when people come to me, I say: ‘Look, you don’t need to spend anything more on this game than $45.’"