Best indie game winner Sea of Stars removes controversial cameo

Sea of Stars developer Sabotage Studio is in the process of replacing an in-game character based on YouTuber Jirard Khalil, best known as ‘The Completionist.’ Following ongoing investigations into The Open Hand Foundation charity, which Khalil was until recently a board member of, Sabotage Studio is removing Khalil’s in-game cameo. The indie developer, which was awarded the best independent game award for Sea of Stars at The Game Awards, says it has “arrived at this decision after carefully monitoring events over the past few weeks.”

Sea of Stars is one of the most delightful RPG games I’ve played this year, thanks to its gorgeous art and animation, a heartwarming and funny story filled with charming characters, cleverly designed turn-based combat mechanics that make smart use of every system, and a soundtrack filled with wall-to-wall bangers. Unfortunately, its inclusion of a character based on Khalil, named ‘Jirard the Constructionist,’ has become a talking point following the discussion around The Open Hand Foundation.

On Monday, November 13, YouTubers Karl Jobst and Mutahar ‘SomeOrdinaryGamers’ Anas both uploaded videos alleging that the Open Hand Foundation, founded by Khalil’s father, was holding over $600,000 in donations made to the charity in the years since it was registered in 2014 that it had yet to pay forward to organizations working against dementia. These donations included ones made during Khalil’s annual IndieLand fundraising events.

In a 20-minute video response shared by Khalil, he denies allegations of criminal or financial fraud, but says, “I’m disappointed that I was not more straightforward regarding the foundation’s timeline for making donations, and that I made statements potentially implying donations were made when they had not been. It took too long for clear action to occur, and I apologize for all of this, but such inaction was not done for any selfish or malicious reasons.”

Khalil states that “the funds we have raised together through IndieLand and The Open Hand Foundation are safe, accounted for, and have been donated.” He shares a blog post from The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration confirming that as of December 4, 2023, it has “received a gift of $600,000 from The Open Hand Foundation to further its mission to hasten a cure for FTD and improve the quality of life of those currently living with the disease.”

In a post shared to the Sabotage Studio Discord, CEO Thierry Boulanger says, “A small patch will be going live on Steam and be submitted to consoles soon to replace the builder NPC in Mirth,” referring to the character based on Khalil.

Sea of Stars - Message shared by Sabotage Studio CEO Thierry Boulanger:

“We arrived at this decision after carefully monitoring events over the past few weeks,” Boulanger continues, “and while it is not our place to pass judgment, we do make it a priority to maintain a positive and optimistic space that reflects the spirit of our intentions, be they creative or otherwise.

“As always, we appreciate your support and trust you to respect our decision while keeping the tone of the conversation in line with the essence of what makes our games and our community what they are. Thank you.”

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