BioWare Employee Busted in Dragon Age 2 Review Scandal - UPDATED

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Actually, I don't think this is such a big deal as everyone says it is.

What I really am disappointed with is just DA2 itself. Hopefully Bioware can make it out of this hole. They've made so many classics, it's insane. Eh, I forgive 'em as long as they get back to churning out some good games.

What's the term...? Ah yes: circle-jerking. Nice work Bioware.

FieryTrainwreck:

You have to be a troll. There's no way you can deride me for possibly insulting a group of people after calling CRPG fans mouth-breathers.

That was me actually. And I was only referring to the ones that would make crap reviews for a game because it didn't conform to their expectations. DA2 is a standalone game and as such is shouldn't be reviewed solely on how similar or dissimilar it is to its predecessor.

Why is this an issue? Of COURSE he thinks the game is awesome. When he sees it, he sees the fruit of his labors; the result of his blood, sweat, and tears. Every review on every site includes the biases of the reviewer. If we exclude employees, we'd also have to exclude disgruntled former employees, people who've been turned off on the series from previous games, people who love the company as a whole, people who hate the company as a whole...

You can't remove bias, and you can't deny someone the chance to submit a USER review just because of their biases.

Now, if we had evidence that Bioware had a full-time employee creating new usernames and writing reviews, or if we had evidence that they were paying journalists to inflate their review scores...THAT would be fraud. This is one person's biased opinion. If it's wrong, it'll be an outlier, and no one will care. Otherwise, it'll be part of the majority, and no one will care.

So what??
It's a user review, and how many users are really that objective?
His 10/10 rate should offset all the whiners giving the game 1/10 for being a bit disappointing.

Personally I was deeply disappointed by the game as well, but i still think its worth at least 5/10 for the things the game do well.

Now, if Bioware rigged one of the official reviews referenced on metacritics, that would be something to write about.
If a Bethesda employee gave it 1/10, would that be such a big deal?

Bioware will be vindicated, if they move more copies of DA2, compared to DA:O.

As an incidental observation, some RPG 'fans' are the most opinionated, dyed-in-the-wool and resistant-to-change folks.

Honestly who cares? I'm one of the people who were disappointed a bit in Dragon Age 2 (although it's a decent/good game I suppose, still haven't finished it) but still...all of you are overreacting.

People who dislike Bioware or DA 2 are using this to say some really snide comments and I don't need to defend that statement to any of those people cause they know deep inside they have disrespect for Bioware (whether it's good reason or not) and are taking cheap shots.

I am the only one of my friends who ignored the reviews and bought the damn thing and i love the game, i find nothing really wrong it is better then the first it has a lot of parts where i truly felt like a RPG couldn't get better im gonna give it 10/10 cause i thought it was epic but a lot of people are hating and i wonder why....

Andy Chalk:

UPDATE: Electronic Arts has apparently decided to balls it out with a statement to Kotaku that actually defends the review as no big deal. "Of course the people who make the game vote for their own game," a senior PR manager said. "That's how it works in the Oscars, that's how it works in the Grammy's and why I'm betting that Barack Obama voted for himself in the last election."

The problem is that these situations are not analogous, which makes EA's response specious at best.

The US presidential election, as well as the Grammy and Oscar ballots, have checks and balances in place (in theory, anyway) that restrict voting to certain approved populations, and limit each participant to one vote each.

In practice, Metacritic has no such controls. All that is necessary to submit a user review is an account linked to a unique email address. All that is necessary to generate any number required for a given purpose is time and commitment. Since those whose employment is related to a game's reception and performance, those individuals have greater incentive to spend that time, which skews a system designed to give a statistically valid rating of a game's reception by the general gaming public, whether it is skewed by a greater proportion of a game's reviews being submitted by individual employees one at a time, or by multiple reviews submitted by the same employee over several accounts-- or both.

(I'm not alleging either has happened here, just that the possibility exists, and this underscores the wiseness of a policy that says that employees shouldn't submit reviews-- or, at the very least, if they do, they should self-identify as employees when submitting.)

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is a membership organization. Only industry members are eligible, and their awards, voted by members, reflect the industry's opinion of itself. That includes those who work on the products they vote on, but as those in the industry are the only ones voting at all, and the Academy has 6000+ members, such individual irregularities arguably don't alter the results, nor should any such influence be deemed improper. Just as Barack Obama, as a citizen and a candidate, is entitled to vote for himself once-- as each other candidate is also entitled-- every Academy member who worked on a film up for an award is entitled to cast their one vote in each relevant categories, and unlike Obama, may have worked on more than one film, and even perhaps in more than one film competing for the same award.

By contrast, Dragon Age 2 at Metacritic at this time has a mere 1,083 user ratings-- ratings that are intended, at least, to represent the section of the gaming populace that has played the game. It's a much smaller sample, and it is not intended to mirror the opinion of the community who made this game, or who make games in general, but the opinion of average consumers. One, two, or even a dozen "reviews" by employees, regardless of their specialty, without identifying the author as an employee, have a much greater chance of skewing the accuracy of the aggregate user rating in this smaller population.

rsvp42:

Zom-B:

So you want to have your cake, and eat it too?

In all seriousness though, you don't see the problem with your approach? If it comes out that an employee or team member is anonymously shilling for a product that they helped create, it all of a sudden casts doubt on all review material. Suddenly, consumers and/or industry peers don't know what or who to trust. Which are "real" reviews, by professional critics and end users and which are basically advertisements, submitted by the producers? It might not seem important, especially if the producer is genuine in their praise for the product, but many consumers look to reviews by "unbiased" (in quotations because generally we all have some sort of bias one way or the other) critics to help them make purchases. When the reviews seem untrustworthy, eventually your brand becomes tainted.

And you must certainly see the conflict of interest that arises when you actively work to boost your own product (and possibly your own bottom line) in a user's forum, posing as a user, when in fact you are creator or producer?

Sure, self advertising and being proud of your product is great- when you identify yourself as creator. When you take that "ethically gray" road, your customer base becomes suspicious and often, as this case demonstrates, vindictive.

But user reviews are inherently untrustworthy. I'm not saying this was a good idea, but as others have mentioned, there are many reviews from people who either didn't play the game or never went in with the intention of reviewing it fairly. The game's score has already been crapped on by disgruntled "fans" so a single employee that may or may not have been involved with the game posting a good review doesn't really change the landscape at all. And honestly, his review likely reflects the opinions of plenty of players. Obviously not all of them, but there's nothing scandalous about this. It's just an issue of questionable judgment and people that use this as an excuse to hate BioWare or try to prop this up as an example of corruption or something ridiculous are just being spiteful and probably were looking for a reason to rant anyway.

It seems like everyone in this issue has an axe to grind.

I agree that this is not a scandal and one or two "fake" reviews don't make much of a difference. In the larger picture, however, situations like this and the employee review have a cumulative effect.

Look at it this way: Simply because Greg Tito gave the game a glowing review, the initial assumption is that EA paid him for the review. Regardless of whether this is true or not, all of a sudden all of Greg's past and future reviews are in doubt for some people. I think we'd agree that accepting payment for a good review lacks journalistic integrity. But let's enter your "ethical gray" area and suppose that a reviewer loved a game and was going to give it a good review but still accepted payment? Immediately we can give no credence to his review because it's a sponsored position whether it's genuine or not.

The same applies to user reviews. And while many think that user reviews are useless or untrustworthy, they aren't necessarily. Professional critics often have different criteria for reviewing than the regular public. And often, when we take an aggregate score like those used on Metacritic or the ratings for books on Amazon we get a fairly accurate gauge of the overall public reaction to a product. Sure, it doesn't work when people work to game this system, but user reviews do have a place and employees posting reviews without revealing their affiliation is, at the very least, disingenuous.

Good on Bioware for sticking up for its employees.

Therumancer:

It's a differant type of fantasy, and has me oftentimes going "WTF".

So you're saying your idea of fantasy is more realistic? You realize just how that sounds, right?

Therumancer:
People will sit down and say that they didn't dumb the game down but rather "streamlined" it, but the bottom line is a lot of options are missing. Above and beyond arguements about what you could or couldn't customize in the first game, the problem gets down to core gameplay mechanics like picking your party. In "Dragon Age: Origins" I had a real choice of what companions I wanted to use, I could set them up in whatever way I chose to support my main character. I was not saddled by having to use characters I don't like due to a complete lack of options, or having to say "that's a cool character, I like the banter, but I just don't need that skill set". In Dragon Age 2, you have few if any options. There is ONE tank companion, so if your main character is not a tank that means that for a balanced party you have to bring along their sword and shield character. Sure, the friendship/rivalry system gives you some latitude, but at the same time if your playing a criminal or bad guy, it's absolutly ridiculous to be dragging the ultra-strict "captain of the guard" along as your tank. What's more you constantly have to listen to the nagging and disapproval. It just doesn't work. By the same token if your hero isn't a healer, you have exactly ONE healer companion you can use. He's a mage, and not just ANY mage but pretty much the most vocal pro-mage character in the game, AND even goes so far as to write manifestos in the game (seriously)... having this guy glued to your party if your deciding to play Hawke as a Templar and do a pro-templar walkthrough is an absolute joy to listen to. Like the bit with the guard above, the whole question as to WHY you'd be teaming up with him arises, the only answer is "I need a healer, and there isn't anyone else".

You're complaining about roleplaying reasons for keeping someone in the party due to your meta-gaming reasons for keeping them in the party. These two concerns are night-and-day, and require looking at a game with two entirely different mindsets.

Therumancer:
It's not some small minority of contrarians attacking this game, it's a matter of the game being a HUGE disappointment compared to the first one for a lot of the players. Honestly I'd go so far as to say that I think the people who are experiencing "Dragon Age Rage" are the majority, it's just that a lot of them (like my father, who doesn't hang out on forums) are silent about it.

I'd honestly go so far as to say that I think a lot of gamers play the game, and either enjoy it or don't. The contrarians are just more vocal.

Therumancer:
Truthfully, from what I've been seeing the professional, paid reviews have been positive. But that highlights a disturbing trend of how tainted by industry dollars they tend to be. Even before the current contreversy, the user ratings of for this game were pretty bloody low, and it's not surprising that you have Bioware sending staffers to try and pad it out, or try and counterbalance the word of mouth.

Unless you can prove Bioware is 'sending staffers to try to pad it out', you're just spreading unsubstantiated rumors. Plus, you give the 'average' person too much credit when it comes to critical reviewing capability. See a Michael Bay movie for an example of the tastes of the average person.

Therumancer:
Let me be honest, people can argue about the streamlined mechanics themselves which is why so many people defending the game talk about that. You cannot however defend them recycling the same maps so much for quests, or the way they are having monsters just pop up, the wave attacks, and guys falling out of the sky (or jumping off rooftops) as they spawn or whatever. That's just horrendous and sloppy game design, and there is no excuse for it.

And if that's all the naysayers were complaining about, that would be ok. But the most widespread complaints; Streamlined mechanics, 'dumbing down' the game, not as 'hard' as the first one, etc.

Therumancer:
(Snip...)

After reading the rest, it just seems like you're upset with Bioware in general, perhaps because you prefered the ME1 and DA1 experiences more than the sequels. That's perfectly fair, and although I disagree with ME1 > ME2, I can understand your points. But if you're dead-set on having the best *roleplaying* experience possible from your games, complaining about meta-game concerns and Bioware's lack of realism with their fantasy seem like strange things to fixate upon.

PS. I never made it though DA1, haven't played DA2, and don't really care about Bioware in general (other than the upcoming Old Republic), I just don't understand the vehemence directed at them. It's not like they FORCE anyone to buy or play their games...

Makes me re-consider the scores on a lot of other EA/Bioware games. Is EA the ones who did Kane and Lynch fiasco too? I don't remember.

DazBurger:
UuuuUUUuuuhh... Looks like it could pay off to write perfect reviews using other peoples aliases...

Who to discredit who to discredit... Valve perhaps?

That was my thought as well.

I mean how many people don't share their online nick with a million others out there?

mojodamm:
PS. I never made it though DA1, haven't played DA2, and don't really care about Bioware in general (other than the upcoming Old Republic), I just don't understand the vehemence directed at them. It's not like they FORCE anyone to buy or play their games...

I was talking about that earlier as well. People are so angry about a game company making ITS game in way they don't prefer. It's like the company having fans of a game they don't agree with is them personally pissing in their cereal or something.

Seriously, who cares? It was a user review. If they were caught paying off a publisher or something I could see it as an issue. Does anyone actually take user reviews seriously? Does anyone even take published reviews seriously? Do you think that opposing game companies would never think of doing the opposite? Ha!

If I were one of the big names of Bioware. I will send a memo calling everyone in the company to write a superlative review of the game. Just to, like the say in my country, playing the chaos.

ITT: People that are shocked this shit goes on. Are you all really that naive?

How is it not okay that a developer can up rate his game, but when 4chan's /v/ organizes a huge raid of negative reviews nobody seems to care. (That comment is aimed more at the LBP2 raid, I have no evidence this happened with dA2)

ZeroDotZero:
This just makes me, a genuine fan of the game, look like a Bioware employee.

I can't say I blame the guy though, you would want to try and do something positive to balance out the negativity towards something you worked on.

You mean, like actually making a good game next time they try?

Zhukov:
I remember reading that review. I assumed it was just your garden-variety fanboy.

Just because he's a Bioware employee doesn't mean he's not also a Bioware fanboy.

danpascooch:

ZeroDotZero:

danpascooch:

You don't blame the guy for committing fraud? Yeah I would want to do it, but there are plenty of people I want to punch in the face too, but I know I shouldn't do it

This isn't fraud, it is a man who likes the product he made. He never identified himself as someone other than a Bioware Employee in the review he left.

Part of the definition of fraud is gaining an unfair disadvantage by dishonesty, deceit, or trickery.

Deceit by omission is fair game legally if the information omitted is important enough.

Omitting his job does not change his opinion on the game. One person's opinion is just as valid as another's.

Longtime lurker ever since ZP started his column here, this thread finally made me register.

Shycte:
Point is, of course they are defending themself. Why shouldn't they be allowed to? If an author gave his book a good review would we care about it then?

Only if the author did not identify himself as the author. He has the right to an opinion, and the right to express it. he does not have the right to deceive people into thinking that is the opinion of an actual, uninvested consumer.

Shycte:

Popido:

Shycte:
I'm a judo coach, and I will always support the ones I train. In a match, they will always be in the right, and the judge will be in the wrong. If he judges against us.'

Point is, of course they are defending themself. Why shouldn't they be allowed to? If an author gave his book a good review would we care about it then?

What if a chef told you that he runs a 5 stars restaurant, when in fact its just hes own opinion?

...god damm, I miss honest reviews.

And that BioWare guy gave us his opinion. A chef would say "My resturant is the greatest! Come and eat here." I fail to see what your point is? That his review isn't honest? Does it really matter? Is it more dishonest than actors visting Jay Leno marketing their movie?

There's a difference between a chef saying "My restaurant is the greatest!" and putting on a wig and fake mustache and going "This guy's restaurant is the greatest!" One is self-promotion. The other is astroturfing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing

To address a few general points I've seen floating around.

1. It's only a single review, it's not that big a deal.

Well, in the same way that stealing a 99 cent pack of batteries isn't a big deal, sure. That said, the cop who catches you sneaking it out the door isn't going to be too impressed by that excuse, and neither will the gaming community here.

2. He has the right to post his opinions!

He does, but as I said earlier, he doesn't have the right to mislead people into thinking he has no financial stake in the game. Whether or not he personally worked on it, money from sales of the game help to pay his paycheck. People have a right to know that tidbit when they read his review about a "flawless game."

3. Trolls bombed the game with low reviews, it's only fair to balance it out!

Two wrongs don't make a right. Moreover, games developers are professionals, they're held to a higher standard than Joe Shlup who has an axe to grind.

4. So, it's totally fine for trolls to bomb with bad reviews?!

It's irresponsible, sure. Much more unethical would be if a Blizzard developer or two got in on the action, posing as Joe Shlups themselves, hoping to destabilize Bioware and hamper production of The Old Republic or something.

5. Oh come on, like this never happens.

Oh sure, it happens all the time. To be caught in the act so blatantly, though? And on an already controversial title? Of course it was going to be a shitstorm. And EA's reaction isn't helping. Comparing it to voting for yourself in an election is just...yeah. (And who evokes images of politicians when it comes to looking ethical anyways?)

*sigh* I am on my second playthrough and still enjoying the game. Blah, blah, metacritic, blah, blah, fanboys hate it, blah, blah, my friend and I love the hell out of it, blah, blah, anything we haven't liked has been minor and not raising hell over, blah, blah.

Oh, and I almost forgot, blah, blah, cue people accusing me of either fanboyism or employment.

Oh Bioware, what happened to you. You used to make these cool rpg games, now look at you.

It seems like the ethical equivalent of paying a site to give a good review. Not saying that's wrong (necessarily), but the review has about equal value to consumers.

I've been playing DA2 in nearly all of the free time I have (not finished yet, halfway through Act 3) and I do like it, but I don't think it is a perfect game. I'm avoiding spoilers here, so this may lack specific examples some would prefer:

I was one of the many who were hesitant about the various changes being made to the game (conversations, streamlining, etc.) and, broadly, many of those fears have proven unfounded for me...aside from a few niggling issues. (Armor for party members is gone? That gives me a lot of spare crap I don't need and boils down to a less rewarding inventory system.)

The combat is good, but the cross-class combos lead me to downright ignore most of the ability trees, which will damage replay value. I felt like I scoured Act 1 for every sidequest, but it seems I missed out on Isabela and now there's no way for me get her without replaying. That's right, there are party members who can only be attained through sidequests. I like playing them, but there's a fair amount of major story content that you could pass over entirely if you aren't looking for it at the correct time and place.

I've seen some complaints about the game being linear, but it really isn't any more so than other BioWare games. The tale is certainly told linearly (Hawke starts out as a refugee, etc.), but you can still complete objectives in the order you prefer. If anything, I'd say that the events of the main story seem to occur independently of Hawke and the conversation choices you make...party members can talk you out of sticky situations (if you happen to have the right ones with you for the right quest), but I feel like I'm left with a main character that only reacts to the world around him/her. Hawke is no Shepherd.

In terms of the framed narrative, I like it more than I thought I would but I think that's because it isn't as intrusive as I feared. To me, Varric is the most interesting character here.

These are all still initial impressions, since I want to do at least a second run before I pass final judgment. The bottom line is that the game is fun, but there are problems that hold it back from being great (I could go on and describe more, but this post is long enough already). In more than a few ways, it is a tighter game than Origins in gameplay, but less coherent too. It could probably have used another 6 months of development earlier in production if they really wanted to strive for perfection. An extra few months of development may have made it so they didn't have to recycle every dungeon. Seriously, I don't really care that much, but I feel like you should be able to start a charity in the game to give to needy monsters who are forced to share their home.

I loved Origins, but it wasn't perfect either.

Callex:
A bit of a failure there... Now the critics (mostly oldschool RPG purists) will claim all the positive reviews were biased like this.

This,

Who ever thought this would work either really had other vendettas, is an idiot or thinks all gamers are.

keve:
snipidy snip

Even if he didn't identify himeself, does it matter. His review didn't have anymore credibility than the others. If anything it has less due the 10/10 amirite?

You claim that "he does not have the right to deceive people into thinking that is the opinion of an actual, uninvested consumer.", and while that might sound pretty, it falls flat when put into real context. Marketing is full of ugly things, this is nothing compared to all the fake demostrations EA did for Dante's Inferno.

Besides, he still has the right to defend his game. Anonymous of not, it doesn't matter. That is because of two reasons.

1) He is still a consumer.

2) He will always have to right to express himself, about any subject he want to. No one have to rights to say he can't say that it is an awesome game.

But honestly, I think that people should play the game before complaining this much. This shitstorm contains more stupid than the usual "X-game suck balls". I mean like Jesus, it's game, get over it people.

Shycte:
But honestly, I think that people should play the game before complaining this much. This shitstorm contains more stupid than the usual "X-game suck balls". I mean like Jesus, it's game, get over it people.

Oh yeah? Well. Judo is just fighting.

Bioware originally stated that Dragon Age will be their attempt at a Spiritual Successor to the Baldur's Gate Series.

Origins was an alright attempt, I liked it.

Now we have DA2....

So much for an attempted to recapture something great and re-establish their name as RPG masters through story, art, visual styles, atmosphere, the battles between good and evil in oneself and others, and love and hate.

I am very dissapointed, I'm glad I decided to play the game at a friends before choosing to buy it.

Now I won't.

Reddit has really been getting popular in past year.

Oh man, this is amazing. Since when did people actually start reading the reviews posted by Metacritic users?

And they actually believe them without taking a pinch of salt?

Whoa..... my mind is blown.

I couldn't care less. If it was a marketing ploy then, yea, it was d*ck move - one of many from Bioware. That siad an employee has the right to review his/her company's games as long as they're not doing it multiple times under different guises.

Regardless I haven't played a party based RPG I've enjoyed as much as DA2 since Baldur's Gate 2. Which I imagine some of you haven't even heard of. I wasn't a particular fan of Origins but the second game is just fun and I encourage any western RPG fan to put the nerd rage aside and give it a go.

I'm not a Bioware employee.

domicius:
Since when did people actually start reading the reviews posted by Metacritic users... without taking a pinch of salt?

Oh, and what this guy said.

what some people seem to forget here is that anyone can review a game at anytime it shouldn't matter who reviews a game or not when it comes down to it its just one person opinion of the game even when a review comes from x-box mag,game informer, game spot,ign or even the escapist no matter what there review is still tainted by there own opinion of the game

Popido:

Shycte:
But honestly, I think that people should play the game before complaining this much. This shitstorm contains more stupid than the usual "X-game suck balls". I mean like Jesus, it's game, get over it people.

Oh yeah? Well. Judo is just fighting.

Yeah I know. I don't go around creating threads at the internet, virtually screaming at others when one of my kids loses.

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