According to developer Creative Assembly’s Grace Carroll, the Total War series’ Steam community was, until very recently, a mess. Largely left to their own devices, forums became “toxic” and “an awful place to be.” Instead of letting the trash fire burn, though, the developer decided to dedicate resources to putting it out.

Speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton, England today—as detailed by GamesIndustry.biz in an in-depth post—Carroll explained that the developer had let things on Steam get “highly toxic.” And given Valve’s largely hands-off approach to, well, everything, that can lead to some serious nastiness.

“If you have a toxic audience, it’s going to stay that way, because the nice people are going to leave,” Carroll said. So the studio gave a new employee the task of cleaning up the Total War Steam community. This helped change the users’ behavior, she said. “Just having that visible presence of moderation, knowing that someone was deleting threads and banning people, turned it around in about a week,” she said. “People start to self-moderate. They tell each other off. They start reporting things.”

Suddenly, there were consequences to people’s actions. They weren’t hollering into a void anymore when they were angrily making demands of developers, either. People started apologizing for their mean comments.

At this point, the community is still by no means perfect. Carroll said that divisive and dissenting topics pop up, and trolls still exist. But those issues are systematically and consistently managed now.

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