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Levine explains how abusive fans could damage games

Irrational Games' creative director responds to Vonderhaar abuse

BioShock creator Ken Levine has shared his concerns over the abuse directed at developers by fans, and has explained how it could end up affecting the quality of games in the future.

"Say if it was someone besides me, the amount of pressure to get DLC out, I could say, f*** it, let's cut half of it so we can get it out sooner," the Irrational boss told Eurogamer.

"I'm used to the pressure, but there may be a guy who's not like me, who doesn't have the experience, who will give into that pressure and release something that's not as good because they feel that."

He was speaking in response to the recent abuse suffered by Treyarch's design director David Vonderhaar after a new Call of Duty: Black Ops II patch was released.

"What I worry more about is how it affects games. As a gamer, game comes out, I hope it's good, and if I like it I play it and if I don't like it I don't play it, and I think you can get in a strange space where it ends up being counterproductive for the gamers. But for me, it's just part of the job at this part, but I don't think it helps gaming."

It's been a tough week for the game industry on Twitter. Fez developer Phil Fish recently cancelled his latest game and quit development, saying he "could not to put up with this abuse any more."

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Latest comments (10)

Melissa Gumbs Marketing 8 years ago
I would have to agree, and he is right to say that it really depends on the individual. In any profession that relies on a consumer base that reaches peak levels of fanaticism at any given point in time, you are constantly faced with pressure and the worst forms of verbal abuse. However, everyone has a breaking point. Levine can steel himself now, but how long is that going to last? It causes the rest of us, the ones with the patience to wait for a product, to suffer the consequences of rushed work, retracted plans and other fall-outs. Really, none of this would even be an issue without forums and Twitter -_- Sometimes I think they're destined to be the bane of this industry's existence.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Honestly... for all I care sometimes it results in better games. As a huge Mass Effect fan, all the backlash about ending and story had a very positive effect on the development of the game. And if anything Dragon Age 3 will benefit from that as well. Fans can be annoying, but at the same time they are not always wrong. And its just a matter of listening to the things that can help the development of your game, and leave out what ever you consider nonesense. But to sink down to immature and ignorant peoples level, let alone a twitter account change the course of your career and life... if thats the case, if twitter is that influential in your life, or your simply annoyed by the nature of it, just dont have a twitter account.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
It causes the rest of us, the ones with the patience to wait for a product, to suffer the consequences of rushed work, retracted plans and other fall-outs.
Ah yes...
really, none of this would even be an issue without forums and Twitter -_- Sometimes I think they're destined to be the bane of this industry's existence
True but then again its also offered so much to the industry and has probably been partly responsible for its growth.
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Show all comments (10)
Ruud Van De Moosdijk VP of Development, Engine Software8 years ago
I'm not that worried about Ken, as he says himself he has seen it all before. This is where experience in this industry actuallty gived someone an additional skill next to "I know how to get a game developed". Since the release of Terraria XBLA/PSN I have been dealing with community more and more before, and that is a community that had a notoriously bad name too, but my experience in it is very postive. Just don't bullshit anyone and you'll do ok.
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Chris Lowe8 years ago
I think incidents such as this show that there are a lot of people in this industry who lack a certain level of maturity. Not like the games business is the only industry in which one takes abuse from the public. Musicians, retail workers, authors, cops, civil servants, film makers, product designers, architects and lots of other people deal with abuse and people second guessing how to do their job on a daily basis. Honestly, I think a lot of these people would be well served by a stint in the military or on a sports team where they'd learn to grow a backbone, take abuse from abuse from people and not let it distract them from the mission at hand. Being 18 years old and having a drill instructor or coach in your face screaming insults and demanding you do better for several hours a day is an experience that will serve you well later in life regardless of what career path you take. I really think the problem is too many of these people are told at a fairly young age and at a fairly early stage in their career that they're the greatest thing since sliced bread and can do no wrong. Problem of course is that nobody is perfect and when people inevitably begin to criticize their work they lack the mechanisms for effectively dealing with it. It's unfortunate because it drives some truly creative people out of the industry because they lack coping mechanisms while also rewarding others for their deeply inappropriate behavior.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
You know if I paid attention to kids making fun of me at school or every stupid thing people have told me throughout my life time.... I would never be where I am today. And to let a twitter or facebook comments stear the course of your career and life is just plain retarded...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 31st July 2013 6:28pm

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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic8 years ago
@Chris, if the negative comments were merely critiques of the products I don't think there would be an issue here. Drill instructors can be very harsh, but their goal is ultimately to motivate and even they have a line. However, when it comes to the games industry, the 'feedback' can sometimes consist of death threats and deeply personal comments that mention nothing to do with the actual product and have no productive or positive intention behind them whatsoever.
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Tbh, I was and remain very disappointed with the end of Mass Effect 3, to me it was some artsey attempt to make gamers think we were playing something we were not, we were playing game with a story which was well understood, to change it in the last 10 minutes for someones idea of artisic improvement smacks of a lack of concern for the fans of the game, I wasn't playing an abstract game like some kind of indie film at a film festival, so I didn't want an abstract ending changing everywhere we thought we knew about the world in the least 10 mins before the end of the experience giving you a choice of which color light show you want was not to me the culmination of the 1st player choice based trilogy the gaming world wanted or needed, and left most people severely disappointed in what might as been, it means I failed to buy any future Mass Effect DLC and if and I do say if I ever choose to play another mass effect game I will never risk being as invested in it as I was in the mass effect trilogy as I no longer trust them not to pull another stupid stunt like this.

It reminds me of some teenager trying to be all edgy by pulling off some stupid stunt, then looking all proud when they pull it off, to me it just ruined the ending, there was absolutely no need for a last minute step into the abstract, games aren't films, things that can be fun such "dramatic twists" into abstract which sometimes can be good in films, does not work in a game where players have invested allot of themselves into their characters treating games like films and the gamers no different then the passive audience of a film will not lead to good games, or to games ever reaching the heights they could as a form of entertainment but have yet to realise, the best ending in the game was before the true ending if you managed to successfully resolve the geth invasion, save em and that was brilliant, that's what players wanted, all the excuses given later seem to focus on artistic license vs player needs, it was never about that it was a poor decision for the series and most of its fan, if more then half the player base are not happy with something then you failed and there was just plain no need for introducing such a concept, its like they didn't have the confidence to actually finish the games they made, so wanted to make it into something else in the last minute, all they did is taint the average consumers' expectations of any future games following a similar formula, gamers no longer trust games companies not to pull another publicity stunt using their "artistic license" in future, to get that invested in a story again, notice there hasn't been any, had ME3 ending been done properly, the formula for games like that would have been easily and well mass produced and brought to other genres with other stories, now any game of that nature will be met with the very deepest of suspicion.

As for abusive fans, it should be bordering on the obvious that there are allot of willfully stupid, rude and downright offensive people out there, and the internet has allowed them to creep out the woodwork in a cloak of anonymity that gives them the freedom to be more offensive then ever before in history, after all say the wrong thing to wrong person in the past and they'd punch you, it encouraged people to at least have some semblance of public decorum, not so with the internet, frankly the average fan could live with the developer not being on twitter and facebook all the time, if your personality is not one that can live with such abuse, as some people will hurl then avoid them comes to mind.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alexander McConnell on 31st July 2013 9:38pm

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Matthew Cross Media Team Leader, holdtheline.com8 years ago
There is a balancing act that needs to be done. As Ken states it really does depend on the individual. While I agree, it is unfortunate that the signal to noise ratio from gamers online can tend to be disproportionate(good constructive feedback vs the rate of insane ones.) On the same note with it depending on the individual. it really is unfortunately up to the individual to determine what is good constructive feedback and what is just noise. Gamers/Consumers also have a responsibility to be clear concise in their feedback, but also must learn to be civil when giving it. So to myself it would seem to be an issue on both sides. However, death threats and the like are something that any logical sane gamer should definitely not be condoning in anyway shape or form. That is something that we as an industry need to change from gamers to developers to game media personalities. We all have a responsibility in the type of atmosphere we create in the community that is the video game industry,
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online8 years ago
If somebody has a problem with forums and twitter, the best thing to do ist not to tweet, not to read tweets from fans and not to read or post in forums. If you look at the public opinion and try to be part of the discourse by engaging in public discussions, you can't complain, if it hurts you to read something.
So you are condoning that people behave like assholes in forums and put out death threats to developers? Your recipe for that is that they should just not read the comments? Not sure whether you are joking or not.
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