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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » BioWare - Jennifer Hepler Leaves BioWare

Default BioWare - Jennifer Hepler Leaves BioWare

August 18th, 2013, 00:56
Eurogamer has news that Jennifer Hepler has left BioWare. You may remember her from being fan-harassed last year.
Jennifer Hepler, the BioWare writer harassed by fans for her work on Dragon Age 2 - and for comments made years earlier about wishing to skip combat sections in games - this week left the famed RPG studio to work on a book and pursue some freelance work.

She had received death threats, had her family and children threatened and found herself the figurehead of a raging debate about how fans treat game makers in an age of unprecedented access brought on chiefly by Twitter.

She spoke to Polygon about the ramifications it could have for gaming as part of a large and impressive article.

"It's something that comes up in almost every conversation with female developers," she said of her experience.

"Overall, people seem to try to shrug it off publicly and fume privately, and younger women contemplating the field are reconsidering whether they have the stomach to handle what it currently asks of them.

"That's the biggest risk in my opinion: that we will lose out on the talents of people who would make fantastic games that we would all be the better for playing, because they legitimately don't want to make themselves into targets.

"A lot of the best artists and storytellers (and quite a few great programmers too)," she said, "tend to be sensitive people - we shouldn't lose out on their talents because we are requiring them to be tough, battle-scarred veterans just to walk in the door."
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August 18th, 2013, 00:56
Whoever threatened her or her family should be locked for good.

But her reasoning that fans went frenzy because she's a woman and not because the game sucked is beyond my imagination.

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August 18th, 2013, 01:20
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Whoever threatened her or her family should be locked for good.
If true I agree (well maybe not forever but some jail time might make them make better choices in the future).

But her reasoning that fans went frenzy because she's a woman and not because the game sucked is beyond my imagination.
Yeah it's been how long now they have milked this and used it to distract from their bad games?

EA even accused the people who voted them worst company of the year of being homophobes and racists. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Even if everyone who dislikes bioware came together to vote EA the much deserved award it's still a drop in the well. The people mad at them for the decline of the sims have to outnumber them ten to one, and guess what? They are mostly women.

It's not that they are sometimes untruthful they can't seem to say anything true any more.

Man these kind of major accusations just to get your way infuriate me, I hope they try it on the wrong guy and someone sues their silly asses.
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August 18th, 2013, 01:36
She's still mad about it? If you're going to make yourself visible to the community and not hide within your corporate office the way some developers do, then you need to know how to deal with criticism. Granted, death threats and sexually-flavored insults aren't your usual kind of criticism, but that's how things are on the internet/twitter/FB/etc and she should have learned to deal with it.

Hepler's problem was that she was very combative towards the community, and when people pushed her buttons she pushed back…in a very bad way. You can google the things she said about her fan's sexuality and such, so I won't retype them here, but she fanned the flames of war herself and made things far worse than they needed to be. Had she simply ignored them, counted her blessings for having such an awesome job and realized this sort of thing comes with the territory then this wouldn't have escalated.

You don't feed trolls, and she didn't learn that.

That being said, I don't like her writing or her attitude. I'm more of an Avellone fanboy myself. Dragon Age 2's writing was abysmally bad and many of the sidequests seemed to drag on far too long. Just play the Aveline romance side quest if you want an example of how awkward the writing is. I can't remember how many times I literally cringed in pain at the dialog.
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August 18th, 2013, 01:56
Originally Posted by DungeonHack View Post
death threats and sexually-flavored insults aren't your usual kind of criticism, but that's how things are on the internet/twitter/FB/etc and she should have learned to deal with it.
Or, people posting on the internet should be held to basic standards of courtesy.
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August 18th, 2013, 02:47
Originally Posted by RedSocialKnight View Post
Or, people posting on the internet should be held to basic standards of courtesy.
It's impossible to control that. Doing so would be a free speech issue. You'd think throwing someone in jail for a death threat online is easy? They did it in Texas this year with that League of Legends post, and look what happened. Too much mess.

Do you really want us to go clockwork orange on the entire populace and force them all to "play nice"? Seems about as bad as the people acting up online if you ask me.

It's easier and far less expensive to just ignore them. Plus ignoring ignorant people is one of the skills you require to reach adulthood anyway.
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August 18th, 2013, 02:53
I remember Blizzard wanting you to use your real name as your ID in their forums and the outrage that came out of that. That is what is needed no more being able to hide behind an anonymous wall.

You don't have to charge or arrest anyone just expose the worst offenders, and the rest will follow. Anyway that's a pipe dream that will never happen. The internet outrage made an end to that.

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August 18th, 2013, 03:05
Ignore them vs. throw them in prison seems like a false dichotomy. Surely there are other options?
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August 18th, 2013, 03:15
The problem with the internet is that playing nice has different meanings for people from different backgrounds.

Threatening physical harm over a game is pathetic.

If you don't stand behind your troops, feel free to stand in front.
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August 18th, 2013, 03:22
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
I remember Blizzard wanting you to use your real name as your in their forums and the outrage that came out of that. That is what is needed no more being able to hide behind an anonymous wall.

You don't have to charge or arrest anyone just expose the worst offenders, and the rest will follow or be caught. Anyway that's a pipe dream that will never happen. The internet saw to that.
For all intents and purposes I may as well be posting with my name and address in my sig as it's been exposed by rpg codex, and also because obviously when I sell my game people will have to know who they are forking money over to. But I don't think that's a good idea for everyone.

Mainly because of children, but in any sane society no one under 18 would be allowed on any social sites of any kind. Any parents who don't observe that are negligent and/or quite gullible in my opinion.

But there's also political persecution. I have always voted democrat, and gave 1500 to get Barack Obama elected (and as I said people will be able to verify for themselves once my name gets out). Yet just because some idiot doesn't like that I use actual logic I am now a racist, homophobe, and misogynist and could get harassed on that basis for years on end.

I know it can happen because I just had it happen to me for the last 5 years by rpg codex twonks.

So like everything it would be a race to the bottom. People who are complete losers have nothing to lose, and can spend their whole life screwing with someone. Anyone who disagrees with the party line gets mercilessly harassed and shouted down. Soon, no one with a brain is stupid enough to go against the thought police (of ALL kinds) and debate becomes even more idiotic. RPGs and programming/work related forums are the only thing I care enough about to join a forum, but that's exactly what I see on all the sites I lurk on, or when anything becomes remotely political. Conform or be driven off, and not like slightly conform but 100%.

More and more these aren't even real users but shills. It started off as a big problem for commercial products, then even for tech sites (not just spam but elaborate personas created to covertly market stuff) and now it's a plague on facebook, blogs for political issues and I think it's even creeping into general forums as well. So you better be politically correct, conceal your ethnicity, and go with the flow or you could be in for serious stalking if IDs are all public.

So maybe I did just mean "suck it up" before when it comes to anonymous users.

Forums and social sites are are not the personal marketing sphere of big business. If you get negative responses then unless they break the law and for example make a genuine death threat or defame you by claiming you did things you did not and can prove you didn't and they know damned well you didn't (like my buddy Dark Underlord), tough luck. The USERS deserve the protection, NOT the people selling games.

Bioware's problem is they failed to address real complaints, so of course they intensified. So how to do that?

1. Be honest. They won't do this option, but it is an option. Simply admit you have no interest in making hardcore games or catering to hardcore gamers, then no one can complain.

2. Try to fix it. Bring out a nerdy guy with glasses who has a math degree and likes wargames, tell them what he's doing to make the next game satisfy hardcore gamers more. Tell people hepler is just a writer and then never bring that gaff up again. Would have instantly stopped all problems (though that's not what they want). And again try to be somewhat honest here as well, don't claim stuff you know wont be true. Their main issue is they are incorrigible liars and of course this makes people mad.

Instead they chose all the worst options.

Ignore any complaints completely. Lie about users who complain. Lie about state of games.

So what do you expect to happen? Sorry but again I can't feel the least sympathy here. Constantly aggravating the fans not just with the game but by posting horrible and baseless rhetoric against them is not how you get what you want. That's how a little kid acts, that's how complete losers with nothing to really say act.
Last edited by ManWhoJaped; August 18th, 2013 at 03:33.
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August 18th, 2013, 03:38
I can't argue your points as I was warned, and had topics closed on the Bioware forums plenty of times. Word of advice don't use or visit the Bioware boards.

If you do don't criticize or give your opinion. Let's just say even if your reasonable the moderators there are a little to trigger happy.

Though if your being psychotic and raving about killing or raping someone you should be instantly banned. If it continues there is always legal action to be taken.

Just look at the the Anita Sarkeesian blowup allot of what was said was uncalled for.

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Last edited by Couchpotato; August 18th, 2013 at 03:57.
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August 18th, 2013, 04:02
Originally Posted by DungeonHack View Post
Do you really want us to go clockwork orange on the entire populace and force them all to "play nice"?
Oh, ok. I guess my plan to strap people into chairs and pin their eyelids back was ill-conceived. Thanks for stopping me - I was just about to invest my life savings in a prototype torture chair.

There is no truly free platform online. Every site where people spew anonymous abuse is operated by people who already have all the tools necessary to uphold standards of conduct.

Couch Potato's suggestion is the simplest and best: remove anonymity.
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August 18th, 2013, 04:03
Originally Posted by ManWhoJaped View Post
Forums and social sites are are not the personal marketing sphere of big business.
Of course they are.
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August 18th, 2013, 04:41
Originally Posted by RedSocialKnight View Post
Oh, ok. I guess my plan to strap people into chairs and pin their eyelids back was ill-conceived. Thanks for stopping me - I was just about to invest my life savings in a prototype torture chair.

There is no truly free platform online. Every site where people spew anonymous abuse is operated by people who already have all the tools necessary to uphold standards of conduct.

Couch Potato's suggestion is the simplest and best: remove anonymity.
Do you, personally, find it hard to weather the blows of other people online threatening you? Seems you take this subject very seriously, that's why I'm asking.

Removing anonymity is impossible, since if they are using the name of the credit card, as was proposed, I can easily borrow my wife's. Or even swipe a relatives. Not going to work in the real world.

It's still easiest to merely ignore it and move on. Nothing in this 1-0-1 binary world of the internet is worth spilling electrons over. It's mostly meaningless and what little things have meaning are not worth much in the real world. Cue the Matrix theme.
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August 18th, 2013, 04:49
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
Though if your being psychotic and raving about killing or raping someone you should be instantly banned. If it continues there is always legal action to be taken.

Just look at the the Anita Sarkeesian blowup allot of what was said was uncalled for.
Yes, that's a big no brainer. Don't escalate things if something is untoward just ban them, but have it be for a reason. And ideally if they are not in the ban list let them say what they want before then.

They seem to want things both ways, even from the same person. They don't have the right to force people's opinions and obviously that doesn't work at all it just leads to explosions.
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August 18th, 2013, 04:50
Originally Posted by RedSocialKnight View Post
Of course they are.


They are but they shouldn't be. They can make press releases, too, if they can't handle feeback. They can even put NEWS in them or GAME INFO instead of forum drama, if they so choose.

They want the feedback but only 100/100 ten thumbs up will you please marry me feedback. It's bad enough they don't want any criticism but even sadder they could care less about neutral input as well. They could just care less what people think and it shows in their attitude and in the end product.
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August 18th, 2013, 09:15
I just retracked what Hepler said in 2006:

What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?

Playing the games. This is probably a terrible thing to admit, but it has definitely been the single most difficult thing for me. I came into the job out of a love of writing, not a love of playing games. While I enjoy the interactive aspects of gaming, if a game doesnít have a good story, itís very hard for me to get interested in playing it. Similarly, Iím really terrible at so many things which most games use incessantly ó I have awful hand-eye coordination, I donít like tactics, I donít like fighting, I donít like keeping track of inventory, and I canít read a game map to save my life. This makes it very difficult for me to play to the myriad games I really should be keeping up on as our competition.

And with a baby on the way in a few months, my minimal free time (which makes it impossible for me to finish a big RPG in less than six months already), will disappear entirely. If there was a fast-forward feature on games which would let me easily review the writing and stories and skip the features that I find more frustrating than fun, Iíd find it much easier to keep abreast of whatís happening in the field.

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a broader audience which includes women, what would that one thing be?

A fast-forward button. Games almost always include a way to ďbutton throughĒ dialogue without paying attention, because they understand that some players donít enjoy listening to dialogue and they donít want to stop their fun. Yet they persist in practically coming into your living room and forcing you to play through the combats even if youíre a player who only enjoys the dialogue. In a game with sufficient story to be interesting without the fighting, there is no reason on earth that you canít have a little button at the corner of the screen that you can click to skip to the end of the fighting.

Companies have a lot of objections, such as how to calculate loot and experience points for a player who doesnít actually play the combats, but these could be easily addressed by simply figuring out an average or minimum amount of experience for every fight and awarding that.

The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, thatís the biggest perk. If youíre a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare, kidsí homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you donít need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest ó especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you donít enjoy. A fast forward button would give all players ó not just women ó the same options that we have with books or DVDs ó to skim past the parts we donít like and savor the ones we do. Over and over, women complain that they donít like violence, or they donít enjoy difficult and vertigo-inducing gameplay, yet this simple feature hasnít been tried on any game I know of.

Granted, many games would have very little left if you removed the combat, but for a game like Deus Ex or Biowareís RPGs, you could take out every shred of combat and still have an entertainment experience that rivals anything youíd see in the theater or on TV.
IMHO a game writer that doesn't want to play games is better off writing books.

The unnecessary catering service for casual gamers is against the original design ideas of Baldurs Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Nerd games with micromanaging, combat tactics, interesting character & party development, exploration etc.

It is false to launch personal threats against devs, but fans of the old Bioware have every right to critisize the new "everything is awesome" design directive.

I personally return to Bioware games, if they become more interesting and challenging for me again.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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August 18th, 2013, 10:14
As long as skipping unwanted content is an option, I wouldn't mind. I myself would like to skip mini-games in a certain types of games (In Alpha Protocol's case, even the main gameplay, which is , however, a very rare case). Also, one of the reasons why I don't play Bioware games any more is that I began to find the gameplay very repetitive. Some of them boast hours and hours of gameplay but, if they don't have more rich content to support it, it will get boring quickly. That said, sad irony here is I don't find Bioware's story interesting enough to keep me playing their games. I haven't played DA2 just to be fair, though.
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August 18th, 2013, 10:36
A forum is only as good as its moderators are, and it's perfectly possible to keep the tone civil without swinging the banhammer all the time. Of course this requires effort, involvement, and common sense by the staff, and that's why many forums are basically just cesspools.

Stripping away anonymity would probably work too, but aside from the technical problems you'd also reduce player involvement in general and make people feel more paranoid.

And about Hepler: Threats of any kind are totally unwarranted and disgusting, especially against her family, and the people having made them should be (in an ideal world) punished. However, her comments and her reaction to criticism were extremely poor, and like someone already mentioned, if you don't want to draw the ire of raving gaming geeks then don't stick the head out and make the statements she made. Thinking the internet community would react to them in a civil way is at best naive.
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August 18th, 2013, 10:41
While I wouldn't face actual consequences, many people in my private and professional environment would not understand my involvement in gaming forums etc. So giving up anonymity would probably mean that I would stop participating at sites like the Watch. So naturally I'm against that idea.
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