Paradox Plaza (official forum) can be unpleasant for devs

Before closing, I would like to note a few things on the subject of giving feedback. When I first started at Paradox, the direct line between community and developers was a major plus for me, because I liked the idea of talking to the community without having to run every post past three different marketing departments first. However, this kind of direct community access comes at a heavy cost for us. As many of you have noticed, we have gotten a little sparse in these forums in the last few months, or even years. The reason for this is that 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. 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. 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. A lot of you have access to sources in languages we don’t speak or have studied some detail that we weren’t aware of. Such feedback is very useful - just a few weeks ago someone sent me a plan of the Turkish railways in 1936 taken from an old Turkish book, so I was able to use that to update the Turkish railway setup at game start.

We’re not looking for fawning adoration (although we will certainly accept it) or a forum in which our decisions can’t be discussed with a critical eye. We want to have your 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. 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.

While this may be a persistent, long-time problem, this present crisis was mostly caused by people’s reactions to the broken state of Europa Universalis 4 when the new DLC Leviathan released a few days ago. In other words, it’s been bad for a while, but it’s particularly bad right now because of that.

Yeah, there has always been some… troubling… undercurrents. Certainly the subject matter and focus of the PDS games leads to gamers of a certain stripe with some very antisocial tendencies to congregate.

It’s a shame, but even as a fan of their games it is unpleasant to try and deal with. Like it is one thing to dislike a mechanic or design decision, that’s fine. But to angrily attack anyone who doesn’t join your crusade against the terrible design crime that is bird mana, well, I don’t have the energy to deal with that stupidity. Because me linking that design over the sliders of EU3 is fine, as is preferring the EU3 sliders.

And, yeah, criticism of Leviathan is fair. I like the idea behind many of the changes, even if the implementation leaves things to be desired. Migration and tribal systems increasing production at the expense of devastation leading to a naturally recurring cycling around lands to maximize output while not forcing a European style settled community? An interesting idea with some historical relevance.

Having 100 development mobile cities all over the Americas due to the implementation? not so great.

Based on my interactions with Paradox, they aren’t good at taking criticism. I’ve certainly written some harsh things about their games, but their reaction has been uniformly unprofessional and antagonistic towards me in a way unlike any other major publisher. Fredrik Wester even tried to call me out on Twitter for having some sort of anti-Paradox bias.

I have no idea how or if this colors their interaction with the community, and I don’t doubt that a lot of their customers are jerks. But I’m not the least bit surprised that they have a hard time handling negative feedback, constructive or otherwise.

-Tom

Having to deal with the anonymous internet public, on any kind of regular basis is a job they couldn’t pay me enough to do. Easily one of the circles of hell.

I think too many of their forum posters are extremists in decrying this or that mechanic.

I also think their development strategy, which must be the maximal DLC approach within the genre, also stokes that fire more regularly than other developers. So the impassioned fans are just barely getting over the last DLC and hot fix debacle when another one is incoming.

Remembering what Paradox did was a big part of why I started to sour on them hard to the point their games went from some of my favorites of all time to a publisher I try to avoid now.

Yeah ever since I slammed Stellaris for being the shit that it is, they’ve completely stopped contacting me, whereas before the release of the game they invited me to freaking Germany to see it. Ah well.

Yeah, the Paradox Forums have always been awful. Always - from the very start back in 2000, with both extremely critical fans, but also fans extremely willing to pile on anyone criticizing the games (and often - at least from what I saw), with the fairly open approval of the moderators. That it turns into a cesspit over something like this is not very surprising.

I don’t get how this is the fans responsibility? PDX own the forum. If people are not following the code of conduct, then there is a simple recourse for that. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then the problem is either with the code of conduct or the administration of the forum.

Didn’t Paradox publicly stand by Rowan’s negative review of Stellaris and promise to maintain good press relations? I thought that was cool. Why not you two as well? Disregard if this is a big can of worms…

Speaking for myself, I’m not on a popular podcast occasionally co-hosted by a Paradox employee is my guess.

I’m betting that many publishers are not going to be talking to people who aren’t sycophants within the next few years. There are just too many people who have podcasts or streams that are too popular to fail and are always willing to sell out.

This is the critical landscape people brought on by saying all the reviewers were on the take for years and years. Now it’s in the hands of kids in their bedrooms. Welcome to the future of game criticism.

Even back when I was in the biz, which is getting further in the rearview every day, I was well damn aware that it was only the size of the publication I worked for that got me any access to companies I wasn’t particularly nice to.

Also for all that the Internet at large seems to revere Euro publications over whatever remnants of American game writing stagger on, it was consistently my experience that European publishers had way more of an expectation for shall we say unethical bullshit than any American ones ever did.

Nothing all that nefarious, really, especially compared to the fever dreams of various online commentariats, but a whole lot more straight up “you want me to scratch your back, you better be prepared to scratch mine” types of interactions.

Paradox specifically was always super nice and accommodating to me, for what it’s worth. Definitely a different time in their history though, for sure.

This is part of the move to discord that a lot of game developers do- they have more control over discord than they do forums.

Places like this are really the only place left to get solid judgement about games, though you have to understand the biases of the place.

I really think Paradox changed hard when Wesker became prominent. I really blame him for the decline of the company.

Well, it would have been cool if it hadn’t been a bald-faced lie. They released a statement after that dude’s Stellaris review saying they would never blacklist someone for writing a critical review. But that’s exactly what they told me they were doing after I gave one of their games a three-star review. After their PR folks stopped responding to my emails, Johan Andersson told me they weren’t working with me* anymore because I was hurting their aggregate ratings. Which was no skin off my back, but it was weird that he admitted that’s exactly what they were doing. Generally, when you do that, you don’t admit it!

That’s also around the time I stopped getting invited to participate on Three Movies Ahead, but I can’t say whether it’s related to Paradox’s PR policy. Regardless, it put Troy Goodfellow in an awkward place. To be honest, I was pretty surprised when I was asked back onto the podcast last month.

-Tom

* PR speak for “we’re not giving you review copies”

I actually had wondered about that, for precisely that reason. A surprise, but a pleasant one. Does this signal a shift, and perhaps future invites?

I really wish someone else was making the kind of grand strategy games PDS has historically made, especially since they themselves don’t necessarily seem to be doing it all that reliably well anymore. Disappointing to hear about their treatment of Tom and Brian, too. I stopped listening to 3MA regularly right around when Tom ceased to be a regular, come to think of it.

Thanks, Tom and Brian. I don’t maintain a belief that the game developers are saintly but that’s all still disappointing and frustrating to hear. Didn’t think about the ‘politics’ in respect to 3MA…

Unfortunately it’s all a bit academic because clearly the main driving force behind community interaction are influencers and not game reviewers today. And since influencer culture more or less hangs a for-sale sign on its door and everyone expects it, that’s where most of the investment for future games is going to go.

I think the main shift is that i kind of wonder if anybody actually cares about Metacritic anymore - the sense an aggregate print review score being more important than buying a top 5 influencer spot seems… quaint.

The Original Sin of the Paradox forums is just that by the nature of their games they attracted that particular Central and Eastern European fan that really, really cares about each rock on each hill of their undying motherland. But it’s also the case today that long-form communication in the age of social media is just more effort than anyone wants. IE, send tweet to Paradox about a bug, don’t waste your time posting crash logs and writing a dozen pages of text, nobody wants to read it. I’m a bit sympathetic because if I ever did publish a game i would basically never read the official forums or even more probably not even host forums, because why?

It was really nice hearing you on the 3MA podcast, Tom! I picked a random episode and there you were!