Bullies Conduct Witch Hunt Against ‘Mass Effect Andromeda’ Facial Animator

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 10:59 pm, March 18, 2017

BioWare’s new video game Mass Effect: Andromeda has come under widespread criticism from the gaming community for its shoddy quality and unpolished design. Through the efforts of Internet “sleuths,” one of its developers has been singled out for attack.

A chief complaint revolves around its hideous facial animations, which do not befit a big-budget release. The prestigious series was once critically regarded as “Star Wars for a new generation.” Disappointed fans accused the game’s developer of purposely making the characters ugly. Its running animations, gameplay, user interface, and writing are also under criticism for their subpar quality. Like everything else, the facial animations are one of many issues blighting the highly-anticipated game.

Aggravated individuals on social media led a witch hunt to find those responsible for the game’s lackluster quality, and singled out a BioWare employee to blame for its animations. It’s since become a harassment campaign. There is no indication that the harassers are fans of Mass Effect.

The animator, Allie Rose-Marie Leost, came under fire for her role in the game’s development over the past day. Crediting herself as the game’s “Lead Facial Animator” in her Twitter bio, Leost became the target of alt-right muckraker and perpetual laughingstock Ethan Ralph, who penned a post on his blog singling out the artist for the animation quality, referring to her as “a cosplayer with no video game experience.” His post is currently making the rounds on Twitter.

‘Peebee’ from Mass Effect Andromeda

Leost’s LinkedIn profile, as detailed by the blog, credits her work in facial animation for EA Games (not BioWare), showing previous experience in cartoon animation, prop painting and 3D art. Ralph makes the unfounded allegation that the only way she could have gotten the position was by performing sexual favors.

It’s worth noting that outside of her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles crediting her work in the game’s facial animation, there is no evidence that Leost is a “lead member” of the development team—she was one of many hands involved in filling the role.

Beyond that, Leost was not responsible for the finished product. Her work at EA’s Vancouver-based motion capture studio, The Capture Lab, may have been poorly ported by BioWare after they replaced the capture models with substitutes of their own.

Regardless of her actual role, Leost shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the game’s myriad problems. As the studio, BioWare is responsible for quality control over the finished product, which includes her contributions. If Leost was tasked with a job she wasn’t qualified to perform, the blame rests solely on her supervisors for giving it to her.

In the wake of the witch hunt, BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn released a public statement referring to a “former employee.”

“Recently, a former EA employee was misidentified as a lead member of the Mass Effect: Andromeda development team. These reports are false,” he wrote.

“We respect the opinions of our players and community, and welcome feedback on our games. But attacking individuals regardless of their involvement in the project, is never acceptable.”

There is confusion as to whether BioWare is referring to Leost or Manveer Heir, the game’s former lead gameplay designer, whose racist statements we wrote about.

There’s no denying that the game’s animations (facial or otherwise) are atrocious. But it’s not the fault of any one developer—the studio and publisher are to blame. Failure on this scale requires a team effort.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.