So it would seem that the toxicity in some gaming communities is becoming a huge problem, not that you really needed to be told that. This time, it’s grand strategy prodigy Paradox Interactive who is having trouble dealing with their own fanbase. The company announced that they have been forced to pretty much ignore their own forums, as the toxic behavior there has been too much to handle.
In their most recent dev diary, the team notes that while they value having a “direct line” to their audience, it’s becoming a harder and harder thing to “enjoy” because of the ongoing behavior of many of the users. In short, the good feedback keeps getting drowned out. Players head to the forums to try and voice their displeasure at changes to Paradox games, and end up being caught up in a whirlwind of outspoken criticism. And it all creates this negative feedback loop where those complaining end up feeding into their own problem.
And it would seem that no one at the developer wants to deal with the problem, and why would they? Having to be subjected to a torrent of abuse and poor-taste questioning of your work is not fun in the slightest. This latest round of drama comes about as blowback from gameplay changes in Europa Universalis 4’s Leviathan update has been fierce. The developer has pushed a hotfix to address some issues, but it’s apparently not enough.
“We know that Leviathan and 1.31 Majapahit did not live up to the expectations you and we had set for this release,” Paradox Tinto studio manager Johan Andersson wrote in a now-deleted apology. That update made changes that focused on more robust, or “tall”, empires that have less map sprawl. Included in the update were a ton of minor changes, players didn’t react well.
And it would appear that this incident is just the latest in a long string of instances of the toxic fanbase. They made it pretty clear in a lengthy statement that folks are unhappy, but this summarizes the issue of toxicity pretty well:
“Not only is it incredibly demoralising to spend months of your life creating something, only to see the people you made it for tearing it to shreds, it is also a debate that gives no one anything.”
Fredrik Wester, the executive chairman of the board at Paradox, made it very clear that the sentiment around the office is pretty negative. “We are eager to listen to feedback on our games, and we have all channels open for discussion,” he tweeted. “When it comes to who is working at our company we honestly don’t care what you think. We employ and retain people who are good at what they do, are smart and hopefully have great values.”
The criticism, when it isn’t hostile, does have some merit. The games that Paradox have released over the years have taken on a more DLC-dependent bend. Many more recent titles like Imperator Rome and Stellaris have felt threadbare without all the DLC. That cost of potentially hundreds of dollars can really irk a lot of gamers. So while some of the anger appears to be misdirected, it’s not all hopeless and to be ignored. Imperator Rome in particular has effectively been abandoned, and users are not happy.
The company wants to make things better, but the actual good-faith attempts to engage keep getting drowned out. It’s hard to know exactly what comes next for Paradox though.