Grand strategy studio Paradox Interactive has spoken out against the rise of toxic behavior in its fanbase, saying in the latest Hearts of Iron 4 developer diary that its developers "have gotten a little sparse in these forums in the last few months" because they're tired of dealing with the crappy behavior.
"Often we do face a debate culture that is not enjoyable to take part in, where it is taken as a given that the devs are either lazy or incompetent and where everything we do is viewed through that lens," content designer Archangel85 wrote. "Not only is it incredibly demoralizing to spend months of your life creating something, only to see the people you made it for tear it to shreds, it is also a debate that gives no one anything."
Archangel85 was making a practical point, not just referencing the emotional drain of constant online beefing. "We aren’t paid to wade through pages of abuse to find a few nuggets of useful feedback, and so that feedback is not acted on," they clarified.
Fredrik Wester, the executive chairman of the board at Paradox, expressed similar sentiments a day later on Twitter in response to complaints about the EU4 expansion Leviathan. It has an "overwhelmingly negative" user score on Steam, which has led to some rather personal blowback against Paradox Tinto studio manager Johan Andersson.
Our forum has always been an important way for us to communicate directly with our fans and I would not be a supporter of closing it down, however there are certain things I'd like to point out, hang on: https://t.co/9mmZyg3ufYApril 29, 2021
"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 nature of Paradox's games means that user feedback can be invaluable. Archangel85 said someone sent them information on Turkish railways in 1936 a few weeks ago, taken from an old Turkish book, which was used to update the Turkish railway setup at the start of Hearts of Iron 4. Developers are also open to valid criticism and feedback, "but there is no point to it if it can’t be delivered with a minimum of respect for each other."
"If you want to have a forum where developers are willing to go and answer your questions, then it is also your responsibility to build a place where we feel welcome, and where we can disagree in a productive and professional manner," Archangel85 said. "It costs you nothing to assume that we were acting in good faith. None of us wake up in the morning and go to work in order to do a bad job."