As Mass Effect fans have been diving into Andromeda, a woman who worked for EA has become the target of vicious misogynistic comments and even threats from people blaming her for the sci-fi RPG's awkward facial animations.
Allie Rose-Marie Leost, who worked for the gaming company's motion-capture labs in Vancouver, was hit with a barrage of sexist comments, rape and death threats by gamers blaming her for the animation issues.
The fierce harassment campaign was seemingly triggered by a post by Ethan Ralph, author of The Ralph Retort, who was previously tied to the 2014 'gamergate' harassment campaign on social media that targeted women and minorities in gaming.
Ralph claimed that Leost was the lead facial animator for Andromeda and accused her of performing sexual acts to get her job at the gaming company.
He also included a screenshot of Leost's Twitter page in which she identifies herself as "lead facial animator from Mass Effect: Andromeda" in her bio. Her profile no longer includes that mention. Her LinkedIn account states that she is a facial animator at EA.
Ralph's post catalysed a wave of vile vitriol targeting Leost on social media and other websites.
"I never liked [Mass Effect]," one Twitter user wrote. "However, I hated it even more when I knew it was a woman behind the animation. I hope you get fired."
Another wrote: "Why did you remove the ME Andromeda info? Ashamed of what you did? You should be."
"You're really bad at your job I guess this is what happens when they employ based on sex organs instead of talent," one user tweeted.
However, many gamers also tweeted their support to Leost amid the violent threats and sexist messages.
In response to the controversy on 19 March, BioWare released a statement slamming the harassment campaign and said it was a case of misidentification and she was not the lead animator on Andromeda.
"Recently, a former EA employee was misidentified as a lead member of the Mass Effect: Andromeda development team," BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn said in a statement on Saturday.
"These reports are false. 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."
Ralph quickly slammed the company's response alleging that either the developer, Leost, or both are lying. IBTimes UK has reached out to EA, Bioware and Leost for comment.
Slated to launch this week, Andromeda has drawn serious criticism over its animation after online players shared clips of awkward lip syncing issues, odd movement animations as well as strange dialogue in the game.
Lead designer Ian Frazier said last week that BioWare will not be addressing Andromeda's weird animation issues in its day one patch.
"We'll have more patches later on, but exactly what goes into them is still in discussion," Frazier tweeted in response to a fan query.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is set to release on 21 March in North America and 23 March in Europe for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.