Beamdog today released a statement to Polygon, following heated online criticism about Baldur's Gate expansion Siege of Dragonspear's inclusion of a trans woman and a one-line joke reference to reactionary culture group GamerGate. Polygon ran the full story about this affair yesterday.
In the statement, Trent Oster, CEO of the Canadian developer, hit out at critics of the game who have harassed and insulted members of his staff, including writer Amber Scott.
"We stand behind all our developers."
"While we appreciate all feedback we receive from our fans, both positive as well as negative, some of the negative feedback has focused not on Siege of Dragonspear but on individual developers at Beamdog, to the point of online threats and harassment," he said.
"I just want to make it crystal clear that Beamdog does not condone this behavior, and moreover that it will not have the desired effect as we stand behind all our developers 100 percent. We created the game as a group, and moving forward we'll work on the game's issues as a group, which I believe is exactly as it should be."
Many negative reviews on the game's Steam and GOG pages references the inclusion of a minor character called Mizhena who was raised as a boy but "came to understand I was truly a woman." Angry responses to Mizhena's appearance included accusations of "political correctness," "LGBT tokenism" and "SJW pandering."
Oster said that Mizhena will become a more central character in a future update. "We've received feedback around Mizhena, a supporting character who reveals she is transgender. In retrospect, it would have been better served if we had introduced a transgender character with more development," he said. "This is a lesson we will be carrying forward in our development as creators and we will be improving this character in a future update."
However, Oster said he will cut a line from one character, which references GamerGate. The line — "it's all about ethics in heroic adventuring" — is a reference to a mocking meme about that movement's professed interest in game journalism, compared with its active misogyny and harassment of women.
"Looking back on the line, we agree with the feedback from our community, it has nothing to do with his character and we will be removing the line," he said.
"We will be improving this character in a future update."
Released in 1998, Baldur's Gate is regarded as one of the best role-playing games ever made. Set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, it features party-based combat within a rich world of fantasy characters and themes. An Enhanced Edition was released in 2012 by Beamdog. Siege of Dragonspear is a 25-hour expansion on that game.
Last night, Ed Greenwood, creator of Forgotten Realms novels and many D&D games, posted a note on Facebook supporting Beamdog. "D&D has half-orcs, and half-dragons, and half-elves, and has magic items that specifically change gender, right there in the rules. Surely, if you can handle the basic notion of cross-species sex, having a full variety of gender roles should be something that doesn't blow your mind," he wrote on Facebook.
Some negative reviews for the game referenced bugs and crash issues, most especially in multiplayer mode. Oster said his team is working on those, and will fix them in a future update.
"We're hard at work right now patching up the issues that slipped through and we're striving to ship fixes and improvements quickly. We will provide a complete list of the issues we plan to address in our next update."