Star Citizen, the ambitious PC space game, has been in development for a long time. Too long, for some.
One player, who goes by the name Streetroller, managed to score a whopping $2500 refund after taking his case against developer Cloud Imperium Games to the California Attorney General.
Streetroller, who describes Star Citizen is a "scam", was involved in a lengthy back and forth between himself, CIG and various US agencies. It's all documented on the Something Awful forum. In short, Streetroller demanded a refund after CIG changed its terms of service to make it harder to get a refund.
As we reported last month, Star Citizen's Terms of Service changed 10th June, and altered the amount of time you need to wait before you're eligible for a refund.
In the old TOS you could claim a refund if, after 18 months, the "relevant pledge items and/or the game" hadn't been delivered. But in the new TOS you can only claim a refund if "[Roberts Space Industries] has ceased development" of Star Citizen and failed to deliver what you pledged for.
Streetroller argued Star Citizen, which according to the official website has raised an incredible $117m, "remained unfulfilled" and "no longer constitutes the product I originally purchased".
CIG, as you'd expect, disagreed, arguing the incredible amount of money that has poured into its coffers in the years since its crowdfunding effort went live, meant the developers could expand the scope of the game. Right now over 325 people are working on Star Citizen full-time, at offices in Los Angeles, Austin, Manchester and Frankfurt.
So, Streetroller wrote to California's Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the LA Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to argue his case. The upshot is CIG agreed to issue a refund, but it's clear it was through gritted teeth.
CIG pointed out its delivery dates were always "estimates", and compared the development time to the likes of Blizzard's World of Warcraft, which took between four and five years to make.
"Takebacks", CIG said, "are not compatible with the whole concept of crowdfunding since it is simply not fair to the fundraising backers who join our community every month."
It sounds like CIG just wants shot of Streetroller, and said it issued a refund not because one is "owed", but because it is "in our interest".
The decision, though, is sure to raise more questions of Star Citizen, which has faced growing concern from some backers who wonder whether it will ever come out.
Star Citizen is built using a modular design. Some of these modules are already available to play in an unfinished state, such as the Hangar and Dogfighting. Also in the works is a fully-fledged single-player story module, called Squadron 42.
Throughout development, an online store has sold virtual ships, some of which cost hundreds of dollars. The Completionist package, which gets you all ships announced up to 2014, plus a couple 2015 Concepts, costs an eye-watering Ł11,700.
Will others, buoyed by Streetroller's success, now request a refund? CIG issued the following statement:
"Any refunds with respect to Star Citizen are made on a discretionary basis. There was nothing special about this situation. The fact that this particular party used a complaint form that is online and openly available, doesn't make this any different."