As everyone following Mass Effect: Andromeda has already been made aware: the facial animations are bad. And it’s not like the rest of the series had glorious animations to begin with. Strangely long necks and exaggerated forehead geometry often had the aliens looking better than any of the humans in the original trilogy. But rather than accept that a studio has screwed up, we (as gamers do), have instead looked for someone to blame.
If you’re reading this, you may have already heard the rumor that Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Lead Facial Animator was a cosplayer who has no prior experience in the industry. Not only did this rumor quickly propagate through the online gaming community, but it almost immediately lead to the harassment of the woman identified.
OK. But here’s what we actually know.
- On February 2016, Allie Rose-Marie Leost listed herself as a Facial Animator at Electronic Arts. She appears to have had animation experience originating in 2012, when she started studies at the Art Institute of Vancouver. Though rumors state she has “no experience in facial animation,” she has a demo reel dating back from 2013.
- Up until recently, Allie Rose-Marie Leost listed herself as “Lead Facial Animator” for Bioware on Twitter and on Facebook.
- On March 2017, Bioware made a statement that a former EA employee was mistakenly identified as a lead member of the Mass Effect: Andromeda team.
- Leost herself has not responded to any inquiries.
So What’s the Real Story?
Allie Rose-Marie Leost appears to be an animator for Electronic Arts who either exaggerated or otherwise misunderstood her position within the corporate structure. It does not appear that she is or ever was the “Lead Facial Animator” for Mass Effect: Andromeda, though she did claim to be. It does not appear as though she’s responsible, in whole or part, for Mass Effect: Andromeda’s bad animations.
(And it is possible, with the way that these projects run, that she may have been briefly in charge of facial animation for the game. And when she was in charge of facial animation, she might have considered herself “lead,” even if it was not an actual title. These are things we cannot know, but we could guess, if we were being overly charitable.)
What we do know is that she’s not credited as an animator. Maxwell Adams, Tyson Bradock, Schwan Khalid, Patrick Sinclair, and Jeff Wong are those currently credited.
So why does the story have legs? The number of people who have exaggerated on their resumes is a non-trivial one. But, in part, it plays into a fantastic narrative: the idea that a talentless cosplay girl (“hot chick”) could finagle her way into a lead position at a large enterprise through nothing but a little T&A. Cosplayers have always had an antagonistic relationship with the gaming community.
And we can assume this has become part of the narrative specifically because her lack of credentials have become a selling point. Though Allie Rose-Marie is represented as having no experience at all, she actually has four or five years of experience within the industry. That is quite a lot in an industry that is notorious for burn-and-churn tactics.
But Can We Leave Her Alone Now?
Ultimately, a single employee is not “responsible” for anything that a large game production company such as Bioware does. Bioware has millions of dollars that it can put forward to motion capture technology and art direction. There’s no reason to go on this type of witch hunt except to prove an agenda — and this particular agenda simply doesn’t mesh well with the facts. What we have here is an individual who may have misrepresented her job background on social media, for whatever reason she did so.
If rage can be directed anywhere — and if facial animations are that important for anyone — it should be in the form of canceling Mass Effect: Andromeda pre-orders, not stalking a random former EA employee. Especially one who doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with the project to begin with.