Star Citizen developer taking legal action over recent Escapist article

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Star Citizen preparing legal action against recent article 1

It’s been a rather interesting few days for anyone not directly involved with Star Citizen. Late last week an article published by The Escapist made some incredibly bold accusations of creator Chris Roberts, his company Cloud Imperium Games and how all $90 million of that backer funding was being used. Not satisfied with just publically sharing his response, Roberts has got the lawyers involved – and they’re taking legal action against the publication.

The article in question was initially published last week without any comment from Robert.The article accused the CIG CEO of embezzling money to fund vacations and trips around the country, while other anonymous sources claimed that Roberts’ wife was racist and ageist in her hiring practices, as well as verbally abusive to staff. Roberts not only flatly denied these allegations in his response, but question why the article was published without his input despite the fact that he has emailed his reply hours before going live.

A representative from the CIG legal team laid out the timeline of events simply:

“The original request for comments came from Managing Editor John Keefer. EiC [Josh Vanderwall] and reporter were copied. Early last night I copied them all (off the same thread) to let them know that something from Chris was on the way. I received a direct e-mail message from John after that encouraging me to get Chris’ responses back to them and thanking me for my help. I responded then directly from that email to John to let him know that the response was taking longer (Chris was in the UK and it was early in the morning there) and that the response should be in my Inbox when I woke up this morning. Chris sent his response directly to John Keefer at 8:11 AM CT this morning.”

Star Citizen preparing legal action against recent article 2

CIG went even further yesterday, with a brand new five page document further denying all allegations in the article (and being signed by CIG vice chairman and general counsel Ortwin Freyermuth). The document refutes claims that Roberts spent an inordinate amount of money on his residential property, as well as claims that the CIG Austin studio was being quickly and quietly closed down.

In response to Roberts’ initial denial of the allegations and the questioning of where the sources came from, The Escapist and author Lizzy Finnegan posted another article explaining the process behind verifying their multiple source – who comprised of ex and existing CIG employees.

After our original story on Star Citizen by Lizzy Finnegan, she was contacted by seven ex-employees and two current employees about their experiences at Cloud Imperium Games. She exchanged emails with all of them, but then spoke with all of them via phone and Skype. Six gave their real names, while the seventh did not use his real name, but did show pay stubs and a Cloud Imperium Games ID with the name blacked out.

Two others who identified themselves as current employees contacted the writer via Lockbin, but we could not verify their identities so did not quote them. Their responses reiterated claims by the other seven, however. Lockbin disposes of messages after 24 hours, another reason the comments were not used.

Freyermuth was quick to question their process however:

“You might be interested to know that CIG does not issue any company ID cards at any of its studios!”

Freyermuth also believes The Escapist was duped by false Glassdoor reviews which appeared in groups prior to the article’s release, some of which were quoted verbatim by Finnegan. The attorney claims that The Escapist had been also influenced by views expressed by Derek Smart – a vocal detractor of Star Citizen and its CEO.

Star Citizen preparing legal action against recent article 3

Hence, CIG and their attorneys laid out three demands that The Escapist has until the end of today to comply with, before the company files for more legal action in both the United States and United Kingdom:

We hereby demand that you, as the responsible person in charge,

  • Personally apologize to Ms. Gardiner and our HR Manager for the tremendous emotional distress and potential repetitional harm that you have caused to them by violating the most basic journalist duties of fair and balanced reporting.
  • Publish said apology on your magazine’s website, together with a retraction of the Article until such time as the murky backgrounds of its creation have been investigated.
  • Engage and empower an independent party to fully investigate the events and circumstances that led to the creation and publication of this Article, including any bias of your staff and their involvement with other interested parties and any conspiring arrangements between them.

The Escapist has yet to reply, but this certainly is something CIG isn’t messing around with. And with a lot of the proof swinging in their favour, it does seem like something is very off here. Anonymous sources or not, The Escapist made some bold claims directed at specific people, and one cannot just do that without irrefutable proof. If things do end up going to court, this could be very bad for either side.

Last Updated: October 5, 2015

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff’s a bastard.

  • Brady miaau

    So, employee cards. How much of the belief in these employees stemmed from a name and an employee card that seemed to match up?

    I am, of course, Allesandro Barbosa. See, employee card as well, so it must be, right?

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      I’m a member of the Green Lantern Corps, see proof below…

      • HairyEwok

        Seems legit. So that means that D is in fact Batman and the Porra Rangers are real.

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          Close, Damian Wayne-Bonthuys

    • Gdom

      They used ID cards, LinkedIn, and paystubs to validate their sources. ID cards = blank security cards. LinkedIn = I could say that I worked anywhere I wanted to. Paystubs = Also easy to fake with 2 minutes in photoshop.

      • Ken

        Exactly…

        Look guys! I work at CIG!

        https://i.imgur.com/rModjSj.jpg

        I’m a valid source!

      • Brady miaau

        Also, I think a good dose of “I want to believe” to get an article done. Pity.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    People can write whatever crap they like about the project, scam, never be finished, blah blah blah. It irritates backers like me, but it’s opinion & people can have whatever opinion about it they want to.

    They crossed the line when they published personal accusations against their staff without proof.

    • Hammersteyn

      Where there’s smoke there’s fire…. or a pothead. But yeah, if they don’t have any proof the better get their cheque books ready.

    • Pariah

      What if I feel that you supported a dead game? O_o Sort of crosses the personal line, but does it really?

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Well a zombie game is a natural evolution of games with zombies.

        • Pariah

          So Carmageddeon is the progenitor of all zombie games?

      • Gdom

        If I said that I wouldn’t hire you because you were black and had a hairy snatch, would that really cross any lines?

    • Weanerdog

      I really hope that they do get this right and deliver a great game. I do, however, feel that they have bitten off more than they can chew and that they are going to struggle to deliver. This is purely through over ambition and not through any maladministration. This is not based on anything except me looking at the inherent risks as I perceive them and not through any information that I may or may not have in my possession.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        It’ll be great, average or bad. Time will tell. We’ll only know for certain once we get to play it properly and decide for ourselves if expectations have been met or not.

        I thought the Gamescon demo they did looked amazing though, and what actually impressed me the most was when they played it twice because the first time around the mission didn’t go as planned.

        • Bobby

          some silly bastard on blue team shot out the red teams quantum drive so they had to redo it to allow them to get back to base and land the thing

  • “this could be very bad for either side.” <- seems a little silly. Going to court is always bad for one side 🙂

    • Weanerdog

      No it is generally bad for both sides. It is time and money even if get awarded costs.

      Edit: it is often catastrophic for one side, but bad for both.

    • More to it than just the verdict; there’s publicity, public opinion, all sorts of other nonsense.

  • Weanerdog

    This is just stupid, they could have just published the companies response to the allegations and still let fly with it.

  • Hammersteyn

    Well, they do have the money for the best legal team in the world

    • konfab

      heh

  • Grand Admiral Chief

    All good and well, BUT WHEN IS THE GAME RELEASING???

    • Pariah

      Just after HL3 is announced.

      • Grand Admiral Chief

        There we go, now was that so hard?

  • The Escapist are sellouts. They have been for a while now and when that article originally popped up I did not even think much of it because of their bad rep.

    Then again I backed SC and have been fairly happy with what I have received so far and I am still as patient as ever cause I am one of those early access bastards. 🙂

    • Mighty Meh

      I have to agree with you, the Alpha’s that they have release so far are brilliant considering they are in fact alpha’s. Hell BF4 was in worse shape when it was released.

      This whole thing stank from the get go, every time I dealt with CIG they all seemed really passionate and happy to be doing what they were doing. I remember ordering one of their goliath mouse pads last year and contacted them when I didn’t receive it after 3 or 4 months. They got back to me within a day apologizing and sent me a replacement for free(it was even signed by the CIG team as an added sorry!). I ended up receiving the original shortly after, I offered to pay for the replacement too which they kept saying wasn’t necessary. Eventually we came to a middle ground where I paid for the express shipping 😛

  • Andrew

    The letter on the RSI site is dated 02.10.2015 and they were given 24 hours to respond. Doesn’t that mean that the period to meet the demands has lapsed already?

    • Andrew

      Ah, never mind. See that they just had to acknowledge in writing so who knows if that has happened

      • Ken

        They got the letter to the main editor(the one who sent him the email) 3 hours before the deadline, This was after the editor was called repeatedly and told to expect a response before the deadline. He even confirmed that he received the letter before the time he gave, but claims it “went to his spam folder”.

        Pretty pathetic, if you ask me.

        • Gdom

          Yeah that’s not a valid excuse. The talking points also completely failed to mention the allegations of federal crimes. I hope The Escapist ceases to exist. Their brand of journalism is the worse I’ve ever seen.

  • fred

    Will it be finished before we land a human on Mars?

  • spore

    An accurate, unbiased article from a gaming news site?

    What is this madness!

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