Former Star Citizen developers have been speaking out against Chris Roberts, founder of Cloud Imperium Games, pointing at unrealistic expectations and an ever-increasing scope leading to longer development times.
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In a lengthy and detailed Kotaku report, they reached out to various people who have worked on the ambitious space sim and many were saying the same thing: Chris Roberts was constantly requesting complex new features.
On one occasion, Roberts went to work after playing PlayStation 4 exclusive The Order: 1886. After playing the six-hour single-player shooter, Roberts asked CIG’s character artists to match that standard with the character models. Some staff saw this as impossible.
“That’s fine for a single-player game where you’re able to control stuff and stream things in a certain way,” one of Kotaku’s sources explained. “You do not expect that for any kind of MMO or open world. But that’s common knowledge for anyone that’s worked in games.”
Another time, Roberts saw Kingdom Come: Deliverance, an in-development CryEngine RPG. The game uses a layered inventory system that grants materials different properties based on weight, shape and more. After seeing it in action, Roberts wanted this for Star Citizen too.
“All of the developers who had worked on inventory systems said ‘OK, well, that’s why this works in their game and why it won’t work in this game’,” a Kotaku source explained. “We spent four months having to prove ourselves right because that’s the way it works with Chris Roberts. The team lost four months on that, a lot of manpower and hours, proving that, yes, in fact that doesn’t work.”
According to another source, “There are no compromises with Roberts or reasoning with him once he has made up his mind about something.”
Roberts agrees that this all happened, but said that this attitude “irritates” him.
“That is someone who has their preconceived notions and will settle for something that isn’t good enough,” he explained. “With the character stuff: I said we need to do it. And the inventory… it happens right now in [version] 2.4. You can put jackets and trousers on, and caps. There’s layering with the armour. So everything that that person told you that couldn’t happen, it’s all in the game now and it’s all at the quality [I asked for]. We’ve got as good or better than what [The Order:] 1886 has.
“That is an example of people saying ‘No, I can’t do it’ and fighting that corner. They are the people I don’t get on with and they are the people who end up not being at the company. We’re trying to do something that has the fidelity that you see in The Order, or has the fidelity you see in a first-person shooter but has multiplayer online and this huge universe and I absolutely, to the very fibre of my being, know it can happen.”
Despite Roberts’ beliefs though, there are still some detractors who have worked on the game that doubt it will ever live up to its ambitions.
One person said it won’t be “what they’ve promised, absolutely not. If it happened then I would believe in God.”
“There’s a lot of Star Citizen that is incredibly impractical, while not a lot of it is impossible,” said another developer. “With enough time and money and clever people, anything can be made, right? I think it suffers from the same problem that has dogged all video game development since the beginning: overscope. There’s not a video game ever made that’s not had stuff cut from it, or dropped, or been redesigned because it turns out it was too big.
“Star Citizen started from this small development targeted at doing this one specific thing with a specific set of technology, which was absolutely fine – and then it grew and grew. Rather than adapting to new technologies and approaches for the new scope they stayed with what they had, which slowed everything down. In the end, what they should have done was decide a figure after the Kickstarter and gone ‘Right, we’re going to $25 million’, and if they had hit that, they should have gone ‘We’re done. This is the game and with $25 million we can make it in this time.'”
Roberts is slightly more optimistic. ”Where we’re at now, I’m much happier,” he said. “I feel more in control of the beast. At the beginning it’s like you’re on the back of a bucking bronco and you’re trying to stay on while getting it wrangled in the direction you want it to. Now I feel good. I know there’s loads of work to be done but I feel like we have an organisation that can deliver it; maybe it won’t deliver it as fast as everyone wants but that’s just the nature of it.”
There are a lot more words on the development of Star Citizen over on Kotaku, and you should go and read it all because it’s very interesting.
CRoberts is basically Roy Keane. A driven, dedicated ambitious, perfectionist dick to work for/with. But, if hes playing for your team he is the greatest of all time.
I love how British this site is.
Yep. He sounds like an Elon Musk/Steve Jobs type for sure. A pain to work form but he gets amazing results.
Okay, reading this, all I can think about is Firefall.
Firefall, some might remember, Started out as being a PvP Sci-fi game which took inspiration from TF2 and Tribaes. The big feature was that they would use the PvP gameplay model, and apply it to PvE style content in the form of an open world (That… the users would choose in which direction they would expand, but lets not go there)
Soon, They changed the model of gameplay, so that it was more focused on a balance between PvP and PvE. Then more changes.. and more changes. They made it so that the “Thumping” activity became the only way to progress in the game, They removed PvP entirely, they imported Missions to grind out experience instead of sidegrade progression.
Then… the board of directors forcibly removed the head of Red5, and around the same time, it came to light from similar sources that Mark Kern had never settled on gameplay ideas, and was constantly changing his mind, and (just like here) was impossible to reason with.
PCGamesN recently did an article where similar complaints were heard http://www.pcgamesn.com/firefall/firefall-ex-ceo-tries-to-convince-community-to-sink-the-game-so-he-can-buy-the-ip
This is exactly what came to mind for me as well. I was an unfortunate Early Backer with Firefall, and hung around with that game far longer than I should have. You’re absolutely right about the overscope, and recreations that game went through. Supposedly Kern is cooking up another game, and has achieved some funding for it. I haven’t followed it much, but it began with him mass emailing all the original Firefall backers.
Indeed, though. This is tragically similar to what’s going on with Star Citizen.
Those “preconceived notions” could also be termed “cost-effective business analysis on development strategy”, presumably from someone with relevant experience.
I live near Foundry 42 UK and they are constantly hiring. Either they have a massive amount of staff or their employee turnover is through the roof.
Roberts seems very much like Schafer or Molynuex. Developers who had major success in the earlier days of gaming and when they had publishers wrangling them in. They don’t understand that you can’t just add a feature to a game quickly and easily anymore. They don’t understand how to control the scope of their projects and get distracted by new ideas too easily. They see something and think it can just be added easily on a whim.
I live close too. Always popping up in job adverts.
Roberts’ attitude is perfectly fine.
Until your livelihood depends on it.
Not at all surprised to read that Foundry 42 is permanently hiring. Willing to bet the developers hear the same refrain I’ve heard so many times in the past – “if you don’t like the offer we’re making you don’t have to take it, there are plenty of other willing candidates”.
Oh, i didn’t realize they were UK Based.
Am a UK Games Design student just graduated, so looking for work
They are american based however they have been moving much of the development over to the Foundry 42 subsidiaries (based in the UK and Germany), supposedly because people are cheaper to hire.
I’m a software developer myself so see their adds quite a lot.
Foundry 42 is focusing on Squadron 42 specifically. Germany is focusing mainly on engine development. The other studios are doing the MMO.
Of course, there’s overlap.
To Star Citizen’s detractors, Todd Papy, design director at the Frankfurt studio, had this to say: “I’m a firm believer of ‘You tell me I can’t do that and I will prove you wrong’.
Hes Ex-naughty dog and you see what those guys deliver on limited hardware. Hes a good position of really good hope cus i doubt if it was going fail he wouldnt still b there know what im saying
I thought he was ex Sony Santa Monica. I know he worked in God of War games
That’s the flip side of crowd funding. Everyone thinks they’re a bloody dev. GTA and Elder Scrolls take how many years to develop? Maybe publishers *aren’t* worse than entitled soap-boxers.
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