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BioWare Employees Write Reviews; Gets Caught

By - Source: Reddit | B 51 comments

Two BioWare employees have been busted for writing perfect Dragon Age 2 reviews.

What's worse: a gaming site giving a cruddy, just-released title a favorable review based on gifts and donations by publishers, or an employee of the game's developer secretly posing as a mere consumer and writing perfect-ten review?

Unfortunately, both scenarios are prime examples of how the gaming industry unsuspectingly slithers into your wallet.

While we've heard all about the former scenario of reviewers putting on a positive spin thanks to publisher promises, threats, gifts and whatnot, the latter scenario—developers posing as consumers and writing prefect reviews-- popped up over the last few days. The game in question is Dragon Age 2, published by EA and developed by BioWare.

According to a keen eye spilling the beans on Reddit, the game received a perfect 10/10 non-press review by Metacritic user Avanost. "The immersion and combat of this game are unmatched! A truly moving and fun epic," the review reads, offering up no indication of the author's true identity. "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."

This was also the only review written by this specific Metacritic user. Ever.

As Reddit user GatoFiasco pointed out, the review was "almost like a press release," dripping with promotional slogans aimed to sell potential buyers with the idea that they can't live without this game. Suspicious, GatoFiasco researched author Avanost and discovered him to be an employee of BioWare who was directly involved with the development of Dragon Age 2. Avanost's real identity is Chris Hoban, an applications engineer from BioWare.

But that wasn't the only "planted" review. "Forget about the trolls / haters," reads the brief user review from LupoTheeButcher. "This is a very immersive game and a great entertainment product. You won't be disappointed. [Fast paced] combat, great companions and engaging story line." This is supposedly written by Dragon Age Project Manager Benoit Houle who goes by the same alias on the BioWare forums.

To make the entire situation even more sketchy, an EA representative seemingly waved off any concerns that BioWare employees were artificially inflating the overall Dragon Age 2 review score. In fact, EA's comment was rather alarming. "Of course the people who make the game vote for their own game," the EA rep supposedly stated to Kotaku. "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."

Say what?

Granted that two, paragraph-long reviews won't change the overall score of Dragon Age 2 when all is said and done, it's a "matter of ethics and integrity" as Reddit user GatoFiasco stated in his original complaint. "A consumer requires objective information in order to make an informed decision about purchasing a product. If the line between editorial article and product review is skewed, then the consumer is being deceived at the cost of their eventual trust and loyalty to the company responsible. This is why disclosure of industry ties is necessary to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."

Well said.

Gamers would be surprised by the great lengths at which publishers and developers will go to in promoting their products as the next holy grail while discrediting anyone who speaks in a negative light. That, unfortunately, is a story for another day...

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  • 5 Hide
    mosu , March 16, 2011 7:23 PM
    LOL...
  • 4 Hide
    kcorp2003 , March 16, 2011 7:25 PM
    thats how every Call of Duty games are like. Since CoD:W@W
  • 4 Hide
    belltollsforthee , March 16, 2011 7:35 PM
    i would like to read this article saved for another day. Please show some light on what can only be showed to us through some great investigative journalism!
    thanks Parrish
  • 4 Hide
    Sabiancym , March 16, 2011 7:38 PM
    They know they made a crappy dumbed down game and are trying very hard to put a positive spin on it.

    Dragon Age Origins was an amazing game that was a throwback to classic in depth RPG gaming.

    Dragon Age 2 is a console action game designed for the lower common denominator in gamers. It's a game for 12 year old casual gamers.
  • -6 Hide
    nisallik , March 16, 2011 7:44 PM
    It will be ok BioWare, I'm upset at the cesspool of user reviews giving the lowest rating possible. I have your back giving and giving you the max rating at different sites to at least try to make the average score more realistic.

    Yes, I am a BioWare Fanboi.
  • 9 Hide
    americanherosandwich , March 16, 2011 7:48 PM
    Dragon Age 2 is the best game ever made, period. If you don't own it, you'll have missed out on what millions of others have enjoyed.

    EA, please make the check payable to...
  • 0 Hide
    nisallik , March 16, 2011 7:54 PM
    Sabiancym
    Dragon Age 2 is a console action game designed for the lower common denominator in gamers. It's a game for 12 year old casual gamers.


    ... I would love to see a 12 year old try Dragon Age 2 on Nightmare. Origins is a cakewalk in comparrison and would be considered "designed for the lower common denominator" if judging tactics and difficulty to Dragon Age 2.
  • 3 Hide
    PudgyChicken , March 16, 2011 7:58 PM
    Fix the title, it should be GET not GETS. GETS is used for singular nouns, GET is used for plural nouns.
  • 4 Hide
    Sabiancym , March 16, 2011 7:59 PM
    You fanboys amaze me. What could you possibly gain by defending this game? Every time someone posts something negative about this game, there are a group of Bioware fanbous that swoop in and claim the person's opinions are wrong and that the game is sheer perfection.

    What could you possibly gain from this other than more shallow unfinished games released?

    Fanboism does nothing by stagnate game development. The user reviews are in, and this game is bad. No matter how much damage control you do, it won't change that. Let the hate flow and we'll all be rewarded with better games.
  • 5 Hide
    ern88 , March 16, 2011 8:05 PM
    Ah yeah. Dragon Age 2 is right up there with Call Of Duty: Black Ops. It has excellent graphics and game play is top notch. 5 out of 5 middle fingers

    -Game Shister magazine


    LOL, who would have ever though that there were crooked people in the game industry. I though they were all Saints.
  • 1 Hide
    Horhe , March 16, 2011 8:06 PM
    They turned it into an anime similar to Final Fantasy. It seems that everybody thinks that unrealistic weapons and armor, and anime-looking characters are cool. I hate non-japanese games turning into animes. Heroes of Might and Magic 5+ is another example.
  • -3 Hide
    velozzity , March 16, 2011 8:08 PM
    What a joke of an article, I just looked at dragon age II reviews for PC and guess what...there are like 900+ reviews. These reviews undoubtedly were in the user section, so even if they were a perfect 10, then they could have made the score go up by what...less than a half of a percent. I guess we are just really bored to worry WTF these 2 were up to, heck we should be worried about all the pocket padding going on in Washington and not some lame reviews. Oh BTW, it would be so awesome to find out that Gatofiasco worked for a competitor to EA.
  • 1 Hide
    Zeh , March 16, 2011 8:09 PM
    SabiancymThey know they made a crappy dumbed down game and are trying very hard to put a positive spin on it.Dragon Age Origins was an amazing game that was a throwback to classic in depth RPG gaming.Dragon Age 2 is a console action game designed for the lower common denominator in gamers. It's a game for 12 year old casual gamers.


    Unlike and Doom game, I would never give this game to a 12 years old. Have you seen the ammount of sexualy explicit dialogues? Not to mention every companion is by default bisexual, and some of them (eg Anders) actively try to have relations with male champions.

    Also, Bioware has banned accounts that complained about the game on official forums. People who paid and complained now can't play.

    Completely lost my respect... But what do they care, they're getting their money, right?
  • 2 Hide
    lazymangaka , March 16, 2011 8:13 PM
    "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."

    That is a 100% true statement. If you made a product, why in the world wouldn't you do everything in your power to promote it as best as possible? It would be dumb to do otherwise.
  • 1 Hide
    Zeh , March 16, 2011 8:14 PM
    Oh, nevermind what I said. "EA has said that it didn’t mean to ban users".
    It clearly wasn't their intention. Yeah, right.

    http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/games/1283536/ea-accidentally-bans-user-from-dragon-age-ii
  • -1 Hide
    nisallik , March 16, 2011 8:17 PM
    @ Sabiancym

    Maybe we defend the game... because it is actually good? It has improved on a lot of things from Origins.
  • 2 Hide
    kinggraves , March 16, 2011 8:17 PM
    If you give user based reviews credit without understanding who they are or how the reviewers tastes are compared to your own then you probably deserve the garbage you end up with. Not everyone's opinion on the internet is a valid one.

    Bioware was stupid and got caught, but do you really think they're the only ones doing this? It's not even as if they're "lying" about it. EA is right, they made the game, it goes without saying that they'd have positive things to say. It's the fault of any consumer who bases any purchases off a random stranger's opinion on the internet. If I tell you there's a pot of gold over the edge of a cliff, are you going to jump?
  • 1 Hide
    shoelessinsight , March 16, 2011 8:33 PM
    "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."

    While this may be true, it's a bit of a different case here. How President Obama voted in the process of his election had no influence on how others chose to cast their votes. The voting system is anonymous, and even after the results of the votes are out, it's too late for anyone to make any changes.

    A developer posing as a non-biased consumer and writing glowing reviews for their own product, however, is an act of deception intended to benefit themselves at the cost hindering their customers' ability to make informed decisions. The fact that the developers voices may be overwhelmed by countless real consumers doesn't change the nature of their act.

    What I'm curious about, however, is what sort of investigation can yield someone's real name based on an anonymous user name that has never been used before by the developer in question. Short of getting a subpoena for the user's real information from his or her ISP, I can't figure it out.
  • 0 Hide
    techguy911 , March 16, 2011 8:34 PM
    There you go EA is evil they prob put the guy on the spot to do this or get fired EA= the devil.
    Go ahead ban my DA2 account oh wait i didn't buy it guess ill just buy something else not put out by EA.
  • -1 Hide
    rhino13 , March 16, 2011 8:41 PM
    I think this is the reason that we all read tech news sites.
    Yeah we could get our information from forums and the products websites but we want someone unbiased.

    What really disturbs me is when reviewers start to get influenced. Like if Tom's had caved when nVidia encouraged them to use the Hawx2 demo in their testing. I would have stopped reading here.
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