Bioware fan feedback “increasingly toxic” according to Dragon Age lead writer

Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider has admitted that Bioware has retreated from using its forums as a source of feedback due to their “increasingly toxic” atmosphere. The comments are part of a blog posted in response to a player who claimed that many Bioware fans now avoid the studio’s social network as a result.

“Spending too much time there starts to make me feel negative- not just about the games we make, but about myself and life in general,” he writes. “That’s not a good feeling to have.

“I’m sure there are folks there who would bristle at that comment, suggesting that all negative feedback is justifiable and that ignoring it is the equivalent of us sticking our heads in the sand. How will we ever improve unless we listen to their scolding and take our lumps like good little developers?

“That is, of course, ignoring the idea that we haven’t already digested a mountain of feedback- both positive and negative- and there’s really only so much of it you can take. Eventually you make decisions (informed by that feedback, though only in part- it can only ever be in part) and move on.”

Clearly, the new year has failed to inspire the particularly entitled, and very vocal, sub-section of Bioware’s fans to turn over a new leaf. Bioware faced what was perhaps an unprecedented upheaval last year as Mass Effect 3‘s ending inspired the Retake Mass Effect campaign. Dragon Age 2 came under fire, too.

Gaider hasn’t given up entirely on the forums, however, pointing out that there is still plenty of useful feedback. But he warns that the “signal-to-noise ratio” is increasing, in the process drowning out the more thoughtful posters’ contributions.

“I imagine that can happen to any online community,” he continues. “Eventually the polite, reasonable folks stop feeling like it’s a group of people they want to hang around. So they leave, and those who remain start to see only those who agree with them — and, because that’s all they see, they think that’s all there is.

“Everyone feels as they do, according to them. Once the tipping point is passed, you’re left with the extremes… those who hate, and those who dislike the haters enough to endure the toxic atmosphere to try and combat them. Each clash between those groups drives more of the others away.”

It’s a depressing picture of the state of the Bioware Social Network, and is all the more worrying when you consider the studio’s willingness to respond to fans’ requests for change – most notably Mass Effect 3′s ending. Whether it was a good or bad decision is a matter of opinion – straddling the line between good art and good business effectively is rarely easy – but the dangers of fostering fan entitlement are clear, nonetheless.

“At any rate, rest assured that the BSN is not the only place we go to see what ‘our fans’ think about something,” he insists. “I suspect you’d get a skewed opinion of almost any game if you went solely by its dedicated online community.

“They certainly serve their place, and if you want to gauge the temperature of the hardest of the hardcore’s opinions about core matters there’s probably no better place to go… but representative of all fans? Not in the slightest.”