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Electronic Bioturds Bids Adieu to Hamburger Helper

Frustrated tween romance novelist, Jennifer ‘Hamburger Helper’ Hepler, has this month departed Electronic Bioturds after working as a member of the writing team on Dragon Age: Origins [primarily working on Orzammar NPCs] and as the senior writer for Dragon Age II, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the forthcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition. Key to her decision to leave appears to have been the intense animosity harboured towards her by the Bioware community in the wake of Dragon Age II‘s release. Hamburger Helper is not the first Bioware identity to exit the industry due to online pressure, as just last year Bioware co-founder, Greg Zeschuck, retired in the wake of the intense criticism he faced in the wake of Mass Effect 3‘s famously terrible ending. Helper seems to consider the protracted period of vitriol she experienced at the hands of Bioware fans was due in large part to the inherent misogyny of the fanbase – and seems to consider that she has had the prototypical female experience of the gaming industry, warning that gamers risk driving off some of the more sensitive individuals working in the industry [this warning is probably not an unreasonable assessment, given Phil Fish’s recent departure].

It’s something that comes up in almost every conversation with female developers, 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), 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.

Dragon Age Cassandra
One of DAII’s characters is even named ‘Cullen’ – because apparently Hepler’s nebulous ‘women’ demographic like their references to be really fucking obvious.

It is impossible to know to what extent misogyny fueled the gamer-rage experienced by Hamburger Helper, but while it is not difficult to imagine that it played some part in proceedings, it nonetheless seems unlikely that it proved the motivating factor in this instance. The reason for this is that back in 2006 Helper said some very silly things in an interview which went largely unremarked upon until the release of Dragon Age II, after which her words took took on an entirely new significance. In the interview Helper states that the worst aspect of working in the game industry was having to play games, and then expressed the wish that game makers would implement a button which would allow players to skip every element of a game that is not a cutscene. Subsequently, Helper compounded this faux pas by indicating her indifference to the world of Tolkien, while stating that she would like for her video game writing to have a universal appeal – like Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight!

I have a huge number of favorite authors, but most of my choices tend to be female writers writing science fiction or fantasy with strong romance elements.

Favorite movies are a little harder question. I was blown away by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, especially because I’m not a huge Tolkein fan and he made me love them anyway. I absolutely adore Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies, which I think are possibly the best ensemble pieces ever made.

I personally find television a lot more influential on my work (small surprise after working in the field), and I’d cite The West Wing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House, Gilmore Girls, ER and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit as personal favorites and excellent examples for anyone studying character and dialogue.

When writing Dragon Age 2 we weren’t aiming to make another generic boring fantasy that you expect was written by some old white guy. That kind of writing is just out of touch with most people nowadays. What we really wanted to create was a story that’d be an instant sensation, like the works of Rowling and Meyer. The kinds of stories that bridge all demographics in their appeal.

I feel that there is a large untapped market of both men and women who enjoy genre stories in movies or books, but don’t game, either because of the violence, the difficulty, the huge time commitment, or other factors, and I think of myself as the lone voice speaking up for them. I’ve been lucky that the design department here seems to appreciate that input…whether or not they end up acting on it.

In one single interview Hamburger Helper pretty much confirmed for all the internet that she has the single worst literary taste of anyone working as a WRPG writer. For any gamer with a strong attachment to the Dragon Age series the above passages would have been as red rags to a bull, especially if they had already dropped $60 on Dragon Age II at launch – a game which severely dumbed down level design and mechanics, while featuring a story that has been described by many people as being little more than slash fiction. Again, it is difficult to know quite how far Hamburger Helper was able to hamburgle the design of the game. It seems unlikely that she was able to exert too much influence over the mechanical deficiencies of Dragon Age II, though her fingerprints look to be all over the game’s allegedly poor writing. Regardless, Helper’s personal defects aligned too perfectly with the game’s own, leading to her becoming the symbol for everything that Bioware fans disliked about Dragon Age II and modern day Bioware. While it is sad that the internet never seems to have backed off of Helper, thus compelling her to resign, one nevertheless feels that the industry is no worse off for her loss.

Microsoft E3 2013 Press Conference
The malign glow of insincerity.

When 180 Becomes a Full-Blown Retreat

This week Gyme Pagel made a valiant effort to spare this author from having to write once more on the rolling black comedy that is Microsoft and Nintendo’s eighth generation console strategy in his wonderful article: Microsoft Does What Nintendon’t. In it he discusses Microsoft’s 180 on the Xbone’s Kinect requirement and Nintendo’s insistence that the Wii U does not require a price cut on account of the gimped basic model selling poorly – he then made the point that Microsoft is currently doing nothing but 180s, while Nintendo doggedly refuse to backflip on policy even when they really should. Thus, one would like to be able to say that this story concerns Square Enix’s reboot of the Mana series as a social card game – but alas, this is Microsoft that we are talking about, so of course there are more weekly flip-flops to report on as they finish shredding Don Mattrick’s Xbone playbook.

This week Microsoft have confirmed that they are drastically scaling back the Xbone’s launch from twenty-one countries to just thirteen – constituting a 1/3 decrease in launch markets. The idiots and simpletons of Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States are still in luck if they wish to purchase an Xbone, but the plebs residing in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland are now set to miss out until some time in 2014. Initial conjecture suggested that Microsoft may have had to scale back the launch due to insufficient stock, yet a Microsoft employee later took to NeoGAF to claim that the delayed launch was due to Kinect not being able to understand certain European accents. Whatever the case, this happy turn of event confers yet another launch day advantage upon the PS4 [rumoured to hit shelves on the 21st of October].

In other Xbone news, Microsoft has this week confirmed that their new console is able to sense when it has become dangerously hot, and will respond by underclocking the system’s APU until it is operating at an acceptable temperature. Given last week’s confirmation that the Xbone GPU has been overclocked by 53mhz, the system frequency sounds like it is set to seesaw up and down, piquing one’s curiosity as to how software is going to cope with such fluctuations. That said, the Xbone’s emergency underclocking may just be an extremely rare occurrence reserved for times when the console is under extreme duress.

On one final note – Yakuza 1&2 HD launched in Japan this week for the Wii U. It sold fewer than two-thousand copies.

Resident Evil 6
Apparently the Leon portions of Resident Evil 6 were just fine…

Resident Evil Back on Track? Refrain from Betting on it.

Capcom thought to appeal to a wide audience with Resident Evil 6, owing to the game’s four seperate campaigns which each targeted different gamers. The game was quite generous in terms of its content, yet extremely sloppy in its execution, leading it to garner a relatively horrific Metacritic aggregate of 67. In the wake of Resident Evil 6 it was difficult to perceive where the franchise was to go next – would it double down on the bandwagon chasing failure, or does enough talent remain at Capcom to see the series restored to past form?

This week some Resident Evil 7 news emerged which initially sounded quite positive. Capcom had heard the complaints of fans and the series is set to revert to its past survival horror sensibilities, but alas, when something sounds too good to be true then it usually is. Capcom’s former marketing boss, Michael Pattinson, had this to say:

We have obviously seen the consumer response and the PR response, there was some great positives out of that, but it was a mixed bag, as we saw from the review scores. We have got to take that on-board, we can’t ignore that, and we have to take that onto the next game when we make the next Resident Evil.

With Resident Evil 6 specifically, we probably put too much content in there, there were comments from consumers that said it felt bloated. The Leon missions went down very well, and because we did Resident Evil Revelations on 3DS, there was a cry out for us to focus our attention on survival horror, rather than be too many things to all people. You’ll find where we go next will likely be more targeted at our core fanbase.

Resident Evil: Revelations – yes, Resident Evil 6 Leon missions – no. It is nice that Capcom have finally decided to stop ignoring the Resident Evil fandom, but any alleged return to survival horror is set to be pretty bloody abortive if Capcom opt to model it after the Leon portion of Resident Evil 6. Capcom should not have received the message that any part of Resident Evil 6 was good, or even acceptable. That they appear to think internally that parts of the game were acceptable is demonstrative of them having received entirely the wrong message from Resident Evil 6‘s emphatic critical failure. Capcom would do well to give the Resident Evil 7 project to the team responsible for Resident Evil: Revelations, and to sack every last person who worked on Resident Evil 6.

14 comments

  1. Anybody that laments the loss of somebody like Hamburger Helper needs to reevaluate their life. The internet has made it so that a thick skin is needed no matter what industry you go into.

    The Yakuza sales are disappointing, but that is what happens when you put a game on the Wii U.

  2. The Xbone heating countermeasures sound like something that would be developed if they were running into heating issues when making the console. This should be worrisome. Yet it is also unsurprising.

    Resident Evil has been LONG dead to me. It stopped being Resident Evil with RE4, even though that game was very good in its own right. RE4 moved away too much from survival horror for me. But not nearly as far away as RE5 and 6 did. Mainstream survival horror doesn’t seem to be in good health. Once we get something the least bit akin to the genre it gets co-opted into being a shooter (Dead Space series).

  3. Even though I started with Resident Evil 1, and played + enjoyed every subsequent Resident Evil after, Resident Evil 4 is the best Resident Evil by a country mile. So much perfect.

  4. @Gyme: yeah, but it still doesn’t make me happy though. Like Julian said, I don’t think losing Jennifer will hurt the game industry in any way, but it sucks that people get attacked like that.

    Freaking Microsoft. Those guys are just too awesome. Hahaha.

  5. It’s sort of difficult to work out the proper way to feel about this. On one hand I don’t think that one person deserves to be made the brunt of an entire game sucking, but on the other hand it is entirely reasonable that people would be feeling angry about the way that DAII turned out, and Hamburger Helper certainly seems to have contributed negatively to DAII….

  6. Bioware today are less the guys who make the D&D games that are awesome to a hollow echoing of the progressive liberal movement. Touting about ‘diversity’ as if rainbow colouring your office will magically enhance your ability to program something worth playing. I may have posted this earlier somewhere, but my blood still boils when I read nonsense like this: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/197739/

    What this seems to imply is the sort of scenario writing I recall Caspius warning about a year ago. A formulaic romp through a highly predictable storyline wherin we take the reigns of a character who champions imperialism and represents first world oppression who himself becomes marginalized and learns the plight of the working class and the downtrodden before becoming their savior. The same tripe you get from Daniel Day Louis’s Last of the Mohicans to James Cameron’s Smurf-romp, Avatar.

    I am instantly wary of a future for gaming that seems more interested in political pandering and social apologist function than providing me with a goddamn game I want to play. Thank god for the Japanese.

  7. It certainly seems to be making Bioturds’ games worse. I think that some of these issues can be broached in games in a way that adds value to a game narrative, but certainly not when the writers are trying to shove the message down your throat like a gay Man’s cock….

  8. I have no issue with exploring human themes and social issues. But doing so just to appease one’s ego or call attention to it is just hollow lip service and an attempt to pander to the sort of jack asses who have no interest in gaming in the first place.

  9. Pretty much any social theme needs to be presented in a very incidental kind of way, otherwise players will feel like they are being preached at. People don’t really respond well to being preached to, unless they’re liberal drones, of course.

  10. Anyone who has spoken to me knows that I take some rather extreme umbrage with the Mass Effect 3 ending and the defense thereof. And, I will admit, I was displeased with Casey Hudson and Sam Walters to the point where I wished they got fired because they attempted to be all hooity tooity with an ending that said how badly they wanted to be Stanley Kubrick and ended up looking like M. Knight Shyamalan.

    Since then, however, I realized to my shame that even though I whole heartedly disagreed on the decisions they made, they did not deserve the hate they got. And the same applies here. I will disagree as to the quality of Hepler’s writing, but I in no way would wish her ill because of it.

    That’s the behavior of 4chan trolls, insecure dudebros, and Fedoras who swear by Reddit.

  11. As Lusi and SN stated in this week’s podcast, the threats made against Hepler are crimes. Vocal disagreement is different from specific threats on her life, and the life of her family. And people who have done so are acting CRIMINALLY, it’s not just in poor taste. I almost feel like this aspect of it is going under-reported. They’re not just being assholes who should know better, they are committing crimes and should be charged accordingly. She can wreck any game she likes, single-handedly or not, but these threats are unwarranted and illegal. Period.

    Even more worrying is how common DEATH threats have been of late toward people in the industry for nearly any matter. Hopefully harsh examples are made.

  12. There can be no justification for making threats of violence against people for the simple fact that they contributed towards making a crap game – but after paying $60 for a game I do think that people are entitled to give devs a little bit of shit if they turn out rubbish.

  13. @Julian and Mel: Exactly. The people that used such threats should have been banned from the site at the very least. Of course, maybe this finale was Electronic Bioturds wish all along, because Hamburger Helper seems to be a bit of an insufferable bitch.

  14. I’m pretty sure that the shit she copped resulted in some pretty drastic revisions to the Bioturds forum rules.

    I’m actually a little fuzzy on whether the death threats actually occurred on the Bioturds forums or on Twitter back when Hamburger Helper had a Twitter account for that one week. Death threats kind of seems like a Twitter thing.

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