BioWare Employee Busted in Dragon Age 2 Review Scandal - UPDATED

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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BioWare Employee Busted in Dragon Age 2 Review Scandal - UPDATED


BioWare is caught in the middle of a swirling controversy over a perfect Metacritic user review for Dragon Age 2 [http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Age-2-Xbox-360/dp/B0047TG2R0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300205688&sr=8-1] that was posted by its employees.

"The immersion and combat of this game are unmatched! A truly moving and fun epic," the Metacritic user known as Avanost wrote in his glowing review of Dragon Age 2, which he scored a perfect 10/10. "Anything negative you'll see about this game is an overreaction of personal preference. For what it is, it is flawlessly executed and endlessly entertaining."

Whether or not you agree with the accuracy of that assessment isn't particularly relevant. What has people up in arms is that it was apparently written by an applications engineer named Chris Hoban, who also happens to be a BioWare employee - and who made no mention of that fact in his review.

The situation first came to light when a Plurk [http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/g3td7/dragon_age_2_conspiracy_highest_rated_metacritic], which led to the conclusion that Hoban, whether acting in an official capacity or not, wasn't being entirely forthcoming.

It could be a coincidence or a case of mistaken identity, but Avanost's review has quietly been pulled from the site, which is usually a sign that some sort of shenanigans are afoot. [Fortunately, a Benoit Houle [http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:RZSEF41hfo8J:www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/dragon-age-ii/user-reviews?sort-by=most-helpful&num_items=30&dist=positive+avanost+site:metacritic.com&cd=10&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com]. That link isn't nearly as well established as Hoban's but the "sound byte style" is very similar.

From a practical perspective, the two perfect review scores have no bearing on the game's performance whatsoever and have actually done more harm than good, as the predictable backlash has resulted in hundreds of Amazon-bomb-style negative reviews. But from an ethical perspective it's an entirely different matter. Hoban (and, perhaps, Houle) may genuinely think that Dragon Age 2 is all that and a bag of Doritos but the failure to disclose their obvious conflict of interest is a huge lapse in judgment at the very least, not to mention monumentally stupid. One Metacritic user review more or less isn't going to have any impact on the game's fortunes. But one BioWare employee busted while secretly shilling for his company and trying to artificially inflate a review score? That's the sort of PR disaster that people don't quickly forget.

UPDATE: Electronic Arts has apparently decided to balls it out with a statement to Kotaku [http://kotaku.com/#!5782097/dragon-age-ii-dev-rates-his-own-game-on-metacritic-ea-bets-obama-voted-for-himself-too] 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."

Of course one might wonder why, if "that's how it works," Avanost's review disappeared from Metacritic so quickly and quietly. After all, if everything's cool, why not leave it there for the world to see?


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InevitableFate

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I'd be surprised if just about every other developer and publisher out there haven't done this at one point or another. Probably before realising how pointless it is since Metacritic reviews aren't exactly reliable as people tend to rate a game 0 for the slightest flaw.
 

DazBurger

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


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

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
seems like bioware is having a shitstorm with da 2
 

uppitycracker

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what a coincidence. i swear, not 20 minutes ago, my buddy was linking me the metacritic site, talking about how it seemed like EA employees were throwing 10 reviews out there... man, what a crap game. so glad i didn't pay for it.


edit to clarify: yes, i have played the game, no i am not basing my judgement of the game solely on the actions illustrated in this article.
 

solidstatemind

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Nov 9, 2008
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heh. There have been some boneheaded PR maneuvers lately, but this one is going to overshadow them all...

...well, at least until the next controversy rolls around. I bet those guys are going to be hitting the unemployment line shortly, however.
 

vrbtny

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Ooooh, busted!!!

Maybe this is BioWare trying to counter those several million 3/10 user review scores....
 

Callex

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Oct 20, 2008
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A bit of a failure there... Now the critics (mostly oldschool RPG purists) will claim all the positive reviews were biased like this.
 

Danpascooch

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InevitableFate said:
I'd be surprised if just about every other developer and publisher out there haven't done this at one point or another. Probably before realising how pointless it is since Metacritic reviews aren't exactly reliable as people tend to rate a game 0 for the slightest flaw.
Yeah, that evidence-less assumption totally makes this ok.

Metacritic user scores are valid when comparing to the user score to the user score of other games, since every game on Metacritic deals with the same disadvantages because they are all using the same user scoring system.
 

stranamente

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You know who else gave this game a 100% in its review?
The escapist [http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/dragon-age-ii].
I'm pretty sure Greg Tito wasn't paid for it, and doesn't work for bioware. Nonetheless his review is far more optimistic than the game deserves, while the preview from Rock, paper shotgun [http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/14/wit-the-opening-hours-of-dragon-age-ii/] seems much more reliable...
 

ZeroDotZero

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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. The best intentions, right?
 

Crystalite

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uppitycracker said:
what a coincidence. i swear, not 20 minutes ago, my buddy was linking me the metacritic site, talking about how it seemed like EA employees were throwing 10 reviews out there... man, what a crap game. so glad i didn't pay for it.
So... just to get this strait:
Do you hate it, even though you haven´t played it, or did you pirate it?

As for the review thing: Facepalm of the day.
If this really is by them, and not by some troll out to elaboratly discredit them, that was truly a stupid move...
 

Zhukov

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Dec 29, 2009
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I remember reading that review. I assumed it was just your garden-variety fanboy.

*sigh*

Damn it Bioware. Please stop this recent trend of being dicks.

I love your games. Even DA2 is alright. I don't think I would be very good at hating you. So please don't make me.
 

uppitycracker

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Crystalite said:
uppitycracker said:
what a coincidence. i swear, not 20 minutes ago, my buddy was linking me the metacritic site, talking about how it seemed like EA employees were throwing 10 reviews out there... man, what a crap game. so glad i didn't pay for it.
So... just to get this strait:
Do you hate it, even though you haven´t played it, or did you pirate it?

As for the review thing: Facepalm of the day.
If this really is by them, and not by some troll out to elaboratly discredit them, that was truly a stupid move...
i would never actually bash a game i haven't played.
 
Apr 28, 2008
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Why the hell do people all of a sudden care about Metacritic? Before this, all anyone did is dismiss it as stupid. Why now is everyone pointing to it as proof for DA2's shortcomings?
 

Tomo Stryker

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And once again another company under EA is shooting itself in the foot for all the good they have done. Bioware is still a good game maker, but their employees are another matter entirely.
 

Danpascooch

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ZeroDotZero said:
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. The best intentions, right?
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