Triternion, the devs behind the massively popular medieval combat game Mordhau, have found themselves in the crosshairs due to their stance that players should be responsible for chat filtering and for discussing the option to toggle certain custom character traits such as ethnicity and gender.
On July 1st, PC Gamer published an article titled Rampant racism and toxicity are driving players away from Mordhau, which discussed an alleged “toxicity problem” concerning offensive language within Mordhau’s community which was rapidly driving players from the game and featured interviews with members of the dev team regarding their thoughts on the issue. In the article, PC Gamer reporter Samuel Horti accused Triternion of being “unwilling to take a hard stance against any toxicity” because the team added a mute function to the game to “put the power in the players’ hands” and avoid accusations of censorship:
“We want to put the power in the players’ hands. If we take an official stance and we put an official filter list on all the words in chat, people will, first, find a way around it, and it might catch innocent words, or people might claim we’re censoring. So we’d rather put the power in the player’s hands.”
Andrew Geach, a member of the Mordhau dev team, also notes that users spouting racist or sexist slurs are “pretty much banned on the spot,” to which Horti accuses the team of possessing a “misunderstanding about what constitutes racism and what doesn’t”.
Horti also discussed the plans made by Triternion to add the option to allow players to create female characters and characters of differing ethnicities, and characterized a quote from Geach as stating that players could ‘disable’ non-white and non-male character models:
“With plans for playable female characters and a choice of ethnicity on the horizon (you can only create white male characters at the moment), I expect the vitriol to get worse. The Mordhau team seem to expect that too, and say their current plan is to let players ‘disable’ these new options if they want. “That goes back to a similar situation as the chat filters,” Desrosiers says. “Whatever stance we take officially, some group of people are going to be upset with us. And so, ideally we’d put the power in the players’ hands, and give them the option to enable and disable different things.
Geach says giving players the option to disable characters that aren’t white and male “is not set in stone” and “depends how our community is in the future.”
These comments by Triternion sparked massive outrage across social media, leading the story to eventually be picked up by video game news outlet Kotaku in an article titled Mordhau’s Developers Are On Some Bullshit, stating that the dev team’s positions show “just how far they’ll go to add options into their game to make sure that they don’t upset anyone who is being actively racist or sexist in their community.”
Amidst the backlash, Triternion took to Twitter to address the controversy, claiming that the assertions made in PC Gamer were false:
We at Triternion, and as a small indie team, have a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with toxicity/racism in a large community. However, we need to clarify some claims posted in an article today. 1/2
— MORDHAU (@mordhaugame) July 2, 2019
We do not, nor have we ever, had plans to add a toggle to hide other ethnicities or “disable characters that aren’t white” in Mordhau. Any claims to the contrary are false. Official statement coming soon. 2/2
— MORDHAU (@mordhaugame) July 2, 2019
The response from Triternion prompted a counter-response by PC Gamer, who proceeded to post the relevant portions of the interview they conducted with Triternion:
“During our interview, we asked, “Are there plans to increase, on the character creator side, the diversity of the characters players can create? You’ve talked in the past about adding female playable characters and changing character’s skin tones … is that something you guys are committed to doing?”
Desrosiers replied, “That goes back to a similar situation as the chat filters. Whatever stance we take officially, some group of people are going to be upset with us. And so, ideally we’d put the power in the players’ hands, and give them the option to enable and disable different things.
“There has been endless debates about it, and it attracts a lot of toxicity, a lot of stuff we’re not interested in attracting to the game itself, any more on top of what’s already present. But we’re definitely always looking at ways of expanding [our customisation].”
Later, after Geach explained how Triternion might go about creating new character customization options, such as female characters, black characters, and Middle Eastern characters, we asked, “So current thoughts on that, as Mike said, maybe adding that and then giving the option for players to disable it? Is that the current thinking?”
Geach replied, “Yeah, that seems to be the current thinking. It’s not set in stone, it depends how our community is in the future. Maybe if it calms down in the future, the game still has a lot of players, a lot of toxicity, a lot of racism, a lot of politics, everything, people argue in chat about all sorts of nonsense.”
PC Gamer also notes that a member of the dev team previously discussed similar content toggles, in a discussion regarding the implementation of female characters on the Steam page for the game:
“We are still looking into adding female characters post release as was promised, if added they will be on par with the rest of the game and implemented properly to ensure they are not a detriment to the atmosphere of the game. The voice acting especially will be crucial for this.
The realism complaint is valid, so when we add them we might add a simple client-side toggle (for both female and male characters) which would let you disable them.”