A quick history and timeline of Derek Smart vs. Chris Roberts (Star Citizen)

Jun 12, 2015
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#1
I'm sure you guys have been reading about the ongoing fiasco that was elevated by a recent Escapist article on Star Citizen. Once you build a timeline for the entire situation of Derek Smart vs Star Citizen, going all the way back to Wing Commander and BC3000AD, to Mr. Roberts starting a new grand project years in the future while Mr Smart is basically still trying to get the spiritual successor to his life's work to the world, things gather some clarity that are not evident when looking at the smaller pieces. Here is a rough timeline, correct me if I get any times and events wrong. Here are the events that lead to where we are now.

• 1990 Chris Roberts releases the now famous Wing Commander under the Origin Systems label, to very positive critical reception, and it's an instant success with us PC gamers (it was awesome, in my humble opinion). It's sometime during this period that Derek Smart begins development of Battle Cruiser 3000AD, and allegedly threatens to sue Roberts and company for infringement (they were both space games I guess), and, according to Roberts, their response is "We told him we never heard of him and good luck with that..". I think this is significant because it seems "I never heard of you" might be the worst thing one could insult Mr. Smart with. I think it's at this point that a long term motive begins to establish. Mr. Smart disputes this, stating in this thread that "things were said" but that he never threatened litigation in response to Wing Commander

• 1992, 1994, and 1996 Wing Commander 2, 3, and 4 are released respectively, all are rather well received.

• 1995 After much struggle in development and in finding a publisher, Take-Two Interactive releases v1 of BC3000AD, to poor reception as it's unfinished and riddled with bugs. Derek claims later that he was holding onto a later iteration of source code that fixed many bugs that he purposely did not share with the Take-Two development team, he also refutes allegations that he at this point assaulted his NEW adversary, Coca-cola machines (I don't have a factual source on the Coca-cola machine attack, but it makes for great urban legend). In the years following, Smart releases many more versions, each attempting to fix issues and give the world the game Derek dreamed of making, but in the end this does not happen. It should be stated though, that after the disastrous release of Battle Cruiser 3000AD, Derek Smart continued to patch and fix bugs in the software even when he was not in possession of the rights to the source code. Derek then uses his own money from a settlement with Take-Two Interactive to continue development of BC3kAD on his own, and eventually releases the title for free on the internet. I think, and this is my personal opinion, that this illustrates Mr. Smart's desire to give the world the game that he envisioned, and shows his commitment to making games for gamers, motives we see less and less in the AAA publishing world. Derek develops and release three more titles based on his BC3kAD IP, all of which are received poorly by both critics and consumers. One title, Universal Combat (2004) will see 5 more versions until it's final released version in 2009.
In the interim period here, from the early 90's to the early 2000's, Mr Smart becomes notorious to various online communities and message boards, including AOL and several Usenet newsgroups as a rather out spoken defender of his games, as well as establishing a reputation for starting and then exacerbating conflict on said forums.

• 2010-2011 Derek Smart begins development on the latest title in the BattelCruiser IP, Line of Defense, which SHOULD NOT BE considered the spiritual successor to BC3KAD.

• 2011 After a lengthy period away from the industry Chris Roberts announces his intention to develop a new Space Flight Simulator, Star Citizen. In 2012, Chris Roberts launches a Kickstarter campaign to begin serious development on the new IP, a project that will grow greater in scope and more ambitious with each year. Notice here we have what might be a recreation of what occurred in the 90's, Derek Smart starts development of a new Space game to little fanfare, and Chris Roberts does the same to rather greater publicity. I personally believe that this is another instigation to the same motives that started in the 90's for Derek Smart. and that it possible leads to great frustration for Mr. Smart, but that is me speculating.

•November of 2012 Derek Smart contributes $250 to the SC Kickstarter in return or the "Rear Admiral" package, supposedly because he was genuinely interested in the project and wanted to support it, but according to CIG he has never downloaded or installed the software. I can't speak to his intentions, only to his history with the developer of the project.​

• 2/5/14 Derek Smart publishes his first message via his twitter account with regards to his concerns about SC, calling it a "massive Ponzi scheme" (Thanks to GAFer JoseJX for digging this up)

• 9/16/14 Line of Defense releases on Steam, it currently has 17% positve reviews, rated at "Very Negative", people who complain are banned from the forums, some are apparently banned for bug reporting. Mr. Smart claims later in this thread that the title was "review bombed" due to a mistake in Steam labeling the game as Free to Play even though it required a purchase, resulting in some not being able to play it, he also states that it continued to get "review bombed" afterwards (I think it would be safe to say that many of the reviews were most likely posted by detractors of Derek Smart, as there seems to be many). Mr Smart also refutes the claim made by the Youtube poster and others that the developers ban users making bug reports, stating in this thread "We never - ever - ban anyone for making bug reports. We only ban shit-posters and trolls. It's a tradition that hasn't changed. Which is how I get to make so many enemies over the years." Regardless, it is considered by most to be rather unfinished and by most accounts in reviews, extremely bug ridden. It also appears to have weak server populations.

• 6/6/15 Smart publishes his first of many rants, titled "Interstellar Citizens", on his personal blog with regards to his concerns over SC's development, where he expresses his concerns with the scope and reach of the SC project within it's given budget and his feelings on not being completed withing the kickstarter time frame due to feature creep. He also relates a summary of all his games to date, of course talking about how awesome they are (Mr. Smart states that this was an effort to acquaint a younger generation with his efforts to date, and to demonstrate to them his experience and record of making huge games. Granted, there were probably many that were indeed not familiar with his history and games.) We know however, at this time he has already called the SC project a Ponzi scheme.

• 6/10/15 Smart publishes the second article, titled "Interstellar Discourse", on his personal blog about SC, this time calling for an FTC investigation into the finances of CIG and it's use of Kickstarter funding. A FOIA request to the FTC on September 11 shows that up until that point, no such inquiries have been raised by the FTC. (Mr. Smart claims here that this is just not how FOIA request to the FTC work, and I frankly can't say as I have no idea about the proper way to FOIA FTC investigations) It's at this point that RSI refunds Smart's Kickstarter backing, claiming he violated the TOS agreement by using his backing to promote LOD, Smart describes this action with this statement "That’s when all hell broke loose. I mean, literally".

• 6/17/15 Smart publishes his third article on his personal blog in which he details RSI's refunding of his kickstarter, saying "I was promptly deported by RSI. And to boot, they took all my stuff that I had paid for, and owned." He also states he has hired "researches" at great expense to himself, to assist him in going through "massive amounts of data". He continues to update the three articles on his blog over the coming weeks, notoriously banning and deleting comments that argue with his point of view on the matter.

• 8/21/15 Smart sends a letter via an attorney, addressed to Chris and Sandra Roberts and one Ortwin Freyermuth, co-founder of CIG, stating various concerns with the handling of SC's development, accusing the above of "false and defamatory statements" but most notably making demands for refunds for anyone asking for them, complete forensic accounting of expenses, and release date for all things promised on the kickstarter.

• 8/22/15 Smart publishes an article on his personal blog comparing Line of Defense to Star Citizen in which he extols all the ways in which it is superior (almost every way) and praises all of Line of Defense's virtues. Steam page for LOD, read the reviews.

• 8/24/15 Smart publishes his fourth rant concerning SC on his personal blog, in which he quotes Sun Tzu under the title, apparently it had become a war for Smart and he publicly states his demands from the letter, and further states that this is now a matter for the IRS and the FBI in addiction to the FTC.

• 8/26/15 Roberts and company send a letter to Mr. Smart in response to his letter, questioning his qualifications of questioning the Star Citizen finances, given his past bankruptcy and tax liens, and suggest that he is a "troll".

• 9/14/15 Smart responds to the response via attorney that states blah blah blah blah.

• 9/22/15 Derek composes his fifth and final blog about Star Citizen, but his time it degrades into ad hominem attacks on Chris and Sandi Roberts, in which Smart calls Sandi a liar and a fraud. Smart refutes the tax liens and refers to his bankruptcy as "funny". Smart claims to have sent evidence to state and federal authorities, as he said he was left with no course but legal action. Note: if you follow Derek's adventures, you see a pattern of pulling people into escalating words and action that justify ever more reactions from him, in what ends up being a constant elevation of flames.

• 9/23/15 It's at this point that Derek becomes embroiled in a small GamerGate feud with Online Abuse Prevention Initiative founder and author of the now famous "twitter auto-blocking tool" Randi Harper. Edit: This is Mr. Smart's first hand take on how this entire event took place.

Ok, now it gets interesting, correct me if I'm wrong, as this was difficult for me to source, but I thought I remember reading that it's at this point that Derek Smart first starts to exchange tweets with Lizzy Finnegan publicly, in context to his GG fiasco, if anyone can find this for me, I'd like to know. Regardless, this happens:

• 9/25/15 Escapist writer Lizzy Finnegan authors an article entitled "Eject! Eject! Is Star Citizen Going to Crash and Burn?" that seems to be sourced from Derek himself and his blog rants, as she quotes both Derek and his blog, links to it in the article, and claims that Derek allegedly (she likes that word) has a leaked letter from former CIG employee David Jennesin, which claims less then desirable working conditions at the studio and is critical of Roberts leadership. She quotes Derek at length, and mentions that four people have left or were fired since Derek posted the leaked letter on his blog.
Lizzy's article, like most publications on this fiasco, makes no mention of Derek's and Robert's history in the game development industry, which I think is more significant than people reporting seem to think it is, maybe I'm wrong.

• 10/5/15 The infamous "Star Citizen Employees Speak Out on Project Woes" article is published by the Escapist, authored again by Lizzie Finnegan, which claims, as you all know, to have information from questionably vetted anonymous sources that parrot the claims made by Derek in his last blog plus more sever allegations of illegal hiring practices and fraud. Other journalist call into question methods used by the Escapist to vet sources in addition to the manner in which the article is presented. It is published without a response from the person that it is accusing of illegal activities, as the Escapist seemed to be in a hurry and not able to wait more then 24 hours for a response. Mr Roberts did indeed respond, and manages to publish his somewhat awkward and rambling response online before the Escapist puts it into the article.​

You guys know the rest.

TL;DR It would be easier to summarize the plot of Game of Thrones

Further reading: THE REDEMPTION OF DEREK SMART- a very well done article written by Russ Pitts over at Polygon back in 2012, very good read.

I would also like to thank Mr. Smart for stopping by the thread to offer his take on events posted here, as well as offering some information on corrections, it was good to hear from Mr. Smart in person with regards to this time line. I am making corrections where needed when I get the chance and have posted Mr. Smart's take on things elsewhere.

-Edit: If any GAFers have any suggestions on something I missed, feel free to let me know.
I added some more historical and wiki links, check the "Derek Smart interim period" of the mid 90's to the early 2000's for the Flame War history of the AOL and Usenet period. I've also added some history about Derek's continued development of Battle Cruiser 3000AD after the disastrous release by Take-Two Interactive, something which I feel also speaks to the motives and intentions of Mr. Smart.​

Note: I would like to say that my intention with this was to give folks an idea of the entire story, and to frame it in the scope of the narrative that is. That said, I have to add that if you are a supporter of Star Citizen, a backer of the Kickstarter, or just someone that would like to see this game become reality like myself, you would be wise to not quickly defend the project or dismiss all of the things Derek and others have brought to light. I think there might be legitimate concern about the state of the project, but we all don't really know what the facts are except where we know the facts. However, there is a way to go about this, as pointed out by some in the game journalism community, and I feel the way the questioning of Star Citizen has been handled by Mr. Smart and Escapist is not the correct way to go about it, but that is just me.

There is something to be said about the history between Smart and Roberts (Edit:This is my take on it, and according to Mr. Smart's post in this thread, this is not the case, as he states "Actually no, there isn't. As Chris himself said in his rant, we don't even know each other. We know "of" each other. This whole thing came to a head when they made it personal. Then completely - and utterly - underestimated my industry reach, influence and resources.", you decide for your self.), but now that you have the story, you can judge how relevant that is yourself. I stated in the timeline where I expressed my opinion that it was indeed just my opinion, as I myself felt that this was more than Mr. Smart just being genuinely concerned about Star Citizen as a backer, given the history, his online personality and his past actions, and he seems to unfortunately worked to somewhat delegitimize his own opinion with references to his own competing game in development (what CIG used to refund his Kickstarter). Again, this is just my take on it and I wish no ill will towards Mr. Smart or Mr Roberts or their respective games, as I love video games.
 

Dio

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Apr 3, 2013
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#2
The Escapist saying that one of the sources was 'a guy with a company ID card' and Chris Roberts revealing that they do not issue company ID cards, and people realizing that this source probably just showed the Escapist a backer card from the crowdfunding campaign - did this put a critical hole in the whole thing? If it is indeed true that at least one of the supposed sources of the Escapist article made it up, then it really undermines everything being said there.
 
Jun 12, 2015
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The Escapist saying that one of the sources was 'a guy with a company ID card' and Chris Roberts revealing that they do not issue company ID cards, and people realizing that this source probably just showed the Escapist a backer card from the crowdfunding campaign - did this put a critical hole in the whole thing? If it is indeed true that at least one of the supposed sources of the Escapist article made it up, then it really undermines everything being said there.
That's the big question, only time will tell, I have my fears but it all kinda stinks. No matter what happens, somebody is most likely going to get burned before it's done.

Appreciate the summary. I have felt really over my head in those SC threads, so I have a bit of context now. Thanks^^
No problem, I felt the same way you did, there was so much peripheral reading to this, that's what made me think we need a clear picture of the situation in it's entirety. -Edit: oh, and nice handle, pretty funny and somewhat relevant. hahaha
 
Mar 20, 2014
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Thanks for doing this as I havent really researched this myself. Smart needs to give up. But id also like to see star citizen finished sometime in 2016!
 
Feb 20, 2009
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Thanks for doing this as I havent really researched this myself. Smart needs to give up. But id also like to see star citizen finished sometime in 2016!

finished in 2016? they're releasing the bare minimum and adding things onto it as time goes by. its probably going to have a full release in 2017+
 
May 23, 2013
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Thanks. Nice summary if its accurate, particularly the early stuff, which I had no idea about. And yeah the escapist thing has had so many holes in it, and made things worse. That said there's no real telling what's going on behind the scenes unless they do go for legal action
 

Anjelus_

Junior Member
Aug 4, 2014
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It's kind of interesting to see it phrased "Roberts vs Smart," when really, from that summary, it's more like

"Chris Roberts Works While a Random Person Snaps at his Heels for 20 Years"

Like, I don't think Chris Roberts has truly given DS much thought over this period of time, whereas DS seems a little obsessed. DS acts like CR's stalker.
 
May 24, 2013
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It's so weird to see people who never knew about Derek Smart's BC3000 era (which I fondly remember as the Desktop Commander era). Like, you guys, COME ON.

And then I realize there's a significant number of people following this who were born after all of this happened, and I realize I need to be put in an old folks' home.
 
Apr 23, 2010
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#15
I had never heard of Derek Smart before reading all this but I am curious how he remained relevant to fhis day if all his games are poorly received trash. I'm confused how he has people reading his personal blog, for example, if he's essentially a nobody.

I grew up with Wing a Commander. The Privateer is one of my all time favorite games, but I still never heard of this clown.
 
Jun 12, 2015
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It's so weird to see people who never knew about Derek Smart's BC3000 era (which I fondly remember as the Desktop Commander era). Like, you guys, COME ON.

And then I realize there's a significant number of people following this who were born after all of this happened, and I realize I need to be put in an old folks' home.
Hahaha, me too dude... we're old. Even Derek says that video never gets old though haha.
 

Dio

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#17
I had never heard of Derek Smart before reading all this but I am curious how he remained relevant to fhis day if all his games are poorly received trash. I'm confused how he has people reading his personal blog, for example, if he's essentially a nobody.

I grew up with Wing a Commander. The Privateer is one of my all time favorite games, but I still never heard of this clown.
Because he had a legendary stint in the Usenet/forums/IRC days where he would never shut up anywhere. He was one of those 'infamous trolls' who can't stop bringing himself up or inserting himself into any situation he lays his eyes on. Apparently, he's back at it again.

If you're familiar with Lanced Jack or Manly Tears, you know the type of user I mean.
 

vicinity

Neo Member
Aug 18, 2014
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• 2011 After a lengthy period away from the industry Chris Roberts announces his intention to develop a new Space Flight Simulator, Star Citizen, a project that will grow greater in scope and more ambitious with each year.
I believe it was announced Sep/Oct 2012? (though they had a prototype) This gives the impression it has been in development longer, which i'm sure someone is going to complain about.
 
Oct 8, 2009
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MMORPG.COM unfortunately has a pro-Smart camp that are riled up. My generalizations say that it is a bunch of young people who have never worked for a big company, and thus they don't understand that things changes, delays and roadmaps. As a result some of them buy into that SC is some sort of mass con conspiracy and that heckling on the Derek Smart train is the best path for justice.

mmorpg.com has for a long time had a community of jaded gamers who have a bad tone. It's too bad because some of the staff like the founder are genuinely decent people. But both the editorial side and the layout of the webpage is hopelessly outdated. The site always attracted a lot of people for the URL.
So it's annoying to see the vitriol.


It's so weird to see people who never knew about Derek Smart's BC3000 era (which I fondly remember as the Desktop Commander era). Like, you guys, COME ON.

And then I realize there's a significant number of people following this who were born after all of this happened, and I realize I need to be put in an old folks' home.
Don't worry, tomorrow most of these young posters will feel the same. It goes by so fast, and whe 2025 rolls around they are gonna think back on this all these new young people are gonna be "wtf is star citizen?" as they are vaping auto tunes out of a wristband watch in a quantum computer inside their one eyelid.


Don't sweat it mate. your young as fuck. if we are not dead, they are gonna find a way to keep us alive past hundred, with pig parts and cyborg parts.
 
Feb 13, 2013
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Thanks for typing all that up, wasn't aware of the backstory when that Escapist article landed.

Seems to me like Smart is a massive fucking sore loser. Your games are shit mate, move on and do something different. Or is game development actually what this clown is invested in?
 
Nov 5, 2010
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#24
The Escapist saying that one of the sources was 'a guy with a company ID card' and Chris Roberts revealing that they do not issue company ID cards, and people realizing that this source probably just showed the Escapist a backer card from the crowdfunding campaign - did this put a critical hole in the whole thing? If it is indeed true that at least one of the supposed sources of the Escapist article made it up, then it really undermines everything being said there.
That was the point I completely stopped caring about anything Escapist.
 
Jan 12, 2012
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#26
Seems to me like Smart is a massive fucking sore loser. Your games are shit mate, move on and do something different. Or is game development actually what this clown is invested in?
Pretty much sums it up. Derek Smart has had a pretty long history of joining web forums/ blogs/ social media groups/ whatever just to attack people that criticize his Battlecruiser 3000AD series. That's sort of how he stayed relevant to anything. His posts were so amusing on the Quarter to Three forums (in a hilariously sad way). That's where I was first "introduced" to this man.
 
Jan 18, 2009
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I had never heard of Derek Smart before reading all this but I am curious how he remained relevant to fhis day if all his games are poorly received trash. I'm confused how he has people reading his personal blog, for example, if he's essentially a nobody.

I grew up with Wing a Commander. The Privateer is one of my all time favorite games, but I still never heard of this clown.
Derek Smart is THE original indie developer.
 
Aug 19, 2011
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Excuse me for sounding like a broken record, but: what?
What was he even trying to achieve by that?
He was pissed because Take 2 released BC3000ad without telling him. Apparently he had stopped cooperating with the other developers and was working on his own code branch in hope that they wouldn't release it if it was bad enough. I think Take 2 just wanted to cash out at that point as they'd bought out the rights from the previous publisher and Derek kept delaying things.
 
Sep 28, 2014
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He was able to leak the ship they announced at CitzenCon.

The dude's got to be getting his information somewhere. Even if he is a nutcase.
You mean here where he got the name wrong, no other details, and some fearmongering about the price being even more than $175? Got it.

It's clear that disgruntled former employees are talking to him, but their info won't be current forever, and then he'll stop appearing informed.
 
Aug 31, 2007
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#34
There's like an almost 20 year gap in my knowledge of what that Battlecruiser guy was up to. Had no idea he was still trying this whole time. That's very funny to me. Uwe Boll would be proud.


Oh shit. That's the best idea ever.
Start a Kickstarter to get Uwe Bowl to cast and direct the cutscenes for, "Battlecruiser: It's really real this time."
 
Oct 7, 2014
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#37
Don't care much for Derek Smart.

Don't have much hope that CIG will meet whatever schedule that they set.

OP is right, the whole thing is a mess.
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
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#39
Summary's nice, if a bit vague.
I'm actually old enough to know that Derek Smart is certifiable.
He'd be a joke character, if only his desperate shtick wasn't going on for decades now.

Arguably, his games are worse than that Wing Commander movie.
How's that for a bit of semi-relevant perspective?
 
Jan 30, 2015
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Regardless of the other fishy elements of this recent stuff from The Escapist, taking Derek Smart seriously is one of the most amateurish things I've ever seen from any media outlet.

He's a notorious blowhard, and hasn't produced anything worthwhile in his entire career. He is a joke, as is anyone considering him a credible source.
 
Jul 8, 2013
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#44
In some ways, the whole Derek Smart thing is the best thing that could have happened to Star Citizen, because it means now anyone who questions how things are going or if it will live up to all the hype is immediately lumped in with gaming's most notorious internet lunatic.

On a side note, I'm surprised Derek Smart doesn't have a GAF account.
I was under the impression that he is banned here.
 
Sep 13, 2014
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