A Brief Assessment of the Star Citizen/Escapist Feud
Posted on Monday, October 5 2015 @ 17:41:55 PST
First a Short Time Line:
October 1, 2015 - The Escapist's Lizzy Finnegan posts an article on The Escapist: "Star Citizen Employees Speak Out on Project Woes"
October 1, 2015 - Chris Roberts responds "Chairman's Response to the Escapist"
(Ctrl+F and look for "My Response" as a section header)
Date Indeterminate (somewhere between October 1-3) - The Escapist updates Finnegan's original editorial to include Roberts' original responses.
October 2, 2015 - The Escapist responds to Roberts' response "The Escapist's Position on Our Star Citizen Story"
October 4 - Roberts' response is updated "Chairman's Response to the Escapist"
A very brief summary:
1 - Escapist prints Finnegan's article containing allegations from seven employees of CIG, some current, some former, about working conditions and behavior.
2 - The sources for this piece contacted Finnegan directly after her earlier piece showing how Star Citizen was likely in financial trouble and that was the explanation for the game being nearly a year late already.
3 - At some point in the writing and editing of the piece Roberts was contacted and prepared a response but it was not properly sent to Finnegan for incorporation with the rest of the article but the article was later revised for that reason.
4 - Roberts then prepared a separate response on his own site which resorted to unfounded allegations, revealed an unhealthy preoccupation with pinning the whole affair on Derek Smart, and contained a number of useless irrelevancies such as Gamedropping (mentioning Gamergate in a context where it's not warranted) and otherwise not addressing any of the substantive issues raised in either piece.
5 - The Escapist dug in its heels and stood by its reporter.
6 - Ortwyn Freyermuth, Cloud Imperium Games' General Council, produced an update to the response in which he crudely threatened legal action, namedropped a large law firm, and generally made a fool of himself.
Whether or not Finnegan, the editors at The Escapist, and Defy Media's legal team all failed to do proper due diligence on the piece is not firmly established one way or the other yet. Some have called for revealing the names of these sources who only agreed to speak on the matter on the condition of anonymity. Exposing them now would be a gross breach of journalistic ethics. The problem would be further compounded by the nature of the industry covered. Any exposure of these sources is virtually guaranteed to result in reprisal by the industry at large. Those saying it would be the ethical thing to do have no idea what the ethical obligations of a journalist actually are.
Roberts and Freyermuth's respones remind me of those protest signs in Egypt during the Arab Spring. The ones not written in Arabic. Those signs weren't for anyone in Egypt to read. They were for the cameras attached to international media outlets.
Likewise, that we (or more accurately Star Citizen backers) are seeing this letter at all tells what it really is meant to say. "Stay faithful, backer, we're mighty and will not back down! Your money is still safe with us!" Bogus threats of litigation, name-dropping, misuse of legal language, none of it matters because most of the people seeing it won't notice and aren't meant to. They're meant to let CIG keep their money, not seek refunds, and even give them more if possible.
The actual product slipped its date by nearly a year now. They've revised the terms of service such that they're giving themselves a 6-month extension on refunds. Derek Smart may be a pathetic failure whose real hobby is harassment via soft lawfare but he seems to be pretty much the only reason anyone knows about that. In the original ToS the refund requests would have to be honored as early as next month.
At this point the only practical value in going through with threatened legal action is to get to the pre-trial discovery phase and force The Escapist to reveal its sources. As frothing-at-the-mouth crazy as their behavior is I doubt that they will go that far because that same behavior indicates that the problems are real and pre-trial discovery would give Defy Media's lawyers the right to crawl through all relevant documentation, including documents on hiring and firing practices and all their financial records.
Prognostication from someone who is an expert in absolutely nothing and has a completely terrible track record for predicting things:
-This will die down.
-Those legal threats will go up in smoke.
-The Escapist won't back down from its position, either.
-Lacking direct evidence one way or the other people will believe whatever they want to believe.
-The game will not ship before the 18-month date slip has passed.
-Between now and then the ToS will get quietly revised once again to give them another extension on refunding backers' money.
1 - "Eject! Eject! Is Star Citizen Going to Crash and Burn?" --September 25, 2015, by Lizzy Finnegan for The Escapist - This editorial effectively brought a long-brewing controversy to a boil.
2 - "Star Citizen - The Long Con" --September 22, 2015, by Derek Smart on his own blog. This piece contains a lot of interesting information, grandstanding (but it's Derek Smart so that's about as surprising as fire burning things) and prestidigitation. It's also the foundation of rumors that Smart was involved in some capacity in writing Finnegan's pieces or with the sources for them.
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