The brewing battle between Derek Smart and Cloud Imperium Games has been amusing to watch, as much for the potential ramifications for Star Citizen and crowdfunded games as the barbs traded between both parties.
That's only ramped up recently with the publication of a letter from CIG's lawyers to Derek Smart's attorneys, which goes directly for the jugular by attacking Smart's record as a developer, credibility and truthfulness.
The last time we checked in with Derek Smart he was threatening to sue Chris Roberts and co if the latter failed to provide a firm release date for Star Citizen, along with a "complete forensic accounting" of all development costs and no questions asked refunds for all backers if they so chose.
That was in late August. It was only days after Smart had sent a letter to CIG's lawyers, which we now know occurred on August 21. A response from CIG was received by Smart's legal counsel on August 28 and was delivered to Smart on September 3, Smart wrote in his latest blog post.
In the letter from CIG's lawyers, they say Smart's original claims about Star Citizen being a "fraud" that "was never going to be delivered" was surprising. "Our records indicate that he actually never downloaded and installed the game," the letter, which Smart links to in his post, says.
The letter goes on to claim that Smart provided CIG with an address for a refund cheque that did not exist. "We contacted your client again via email, only to find out that he indeed had provided us with a false address. He claimed that 'streets had been renamed' but there is certainly no record of that."
"We have to assume that your client deliberately tried to prevent the refund from reaching him so that he would be able to continue his unfounded claim of being 'aggrieved'."
Smart dismisses this as "pure bullshit", saying if a refund cheque had been sent to a wrong address "it would have been returned to them". The cheque has since been received, but in a response through his attorneys Smart says "he is not interested in a US$250 refund".
"What he is interested in, however, is protecting the integrity of the gaming industry, and protecting the thousands of people that have invested in the Star Citizen project and who want a game or their investment," Smart's lawyers wrote on September 14.
The September 14 letter doesn't refute CIG's claims that Smart never downloaded the game, nor that he unsubscribed from the mailing list shortly after becoming a Kickstarter backer. Neither is indicative of much though; it's not uncommon for many Kickstarter backers to avoid downloading a project until it is fully released.
CIG's letter then gets nasty, referencing Smart's "past career performance, including struggles with tax liens and a bankruptcy proceeding". "The complete absence of any functioning or successful game having ever been released by him in his 20+ year 'career' of game development further raises the question why he would consider himself qualified to cast any judgement on Star Citizen."
Smart goes into fairly lengthy detail on his blog about this attack, saying that the bankruptcy proceeding was "recorded as discharged less than two months later" — in 1998 — and that he tends "to make too much money due to my various investments".
"And when you are self-employed and the IRS sends you a bill for under-reporting, the minute you dispute it – as most tend to do – they automatically file a lien (which goes in the public record) against you if the amount is over $25K. That’s a fact. It’s pretty much tantamount to how they handle rampant asset forfeiture," Smart explains.
It's a pretty lengthy back and forth that gets convoluted at times. It's difficult to see this being resolved any time soon, and it's even harder to envision what practical impact this could have going forward. Nevertheless you have to imagine it would be pretty frustrating for all parties involved: after all, the only thing everyone unanimously wants is more incredible space games, and dramas like this certainly don't help.