Paradox has insisted it has yet to decide whether to include the phrase "Deus Vult" in Crusader Kings 3 after suffering a backlash sparked by its reported removal from the game.
Our friends at Rock, Paper Shotgun reported Crusader Kings 3 would not include the controversial battle cry after it was told as much by Paradox's community manager during a recent press trip.
That sparked a backlash within the game's community, with multiple threads across Reddit, Paradox's website and Steam - the latter of which is home to an enormous Crusader Kings community - bemoaning the move and citing "historical accuracy" to back up the position. There was even an online petition that called on Paradox to reverse its decision.
Deus Vult, which has its origins in 11th century Europe, has an uncomfortable connotation for many, and has in recent years been associated with the alt-right movement. Deus Vult is Latin for God wills it, which concluded a speech made by Pope Urban II that stirred the defenders of Christianity in the fight to win back their Holy Land from its Muslim occupants.
However, the alt-right has co-opted the phrase and used it in its hateful ideologies, as a hashtag on social media and even in public. As Washington Post reporter Ishaan Tharoor described it in November 2016, Deus Vult "has become a kind of far-right code word, a hashtag proliferated around alt-right social media and graffiti scrawled in public institutions... whatever his own beliefs, Trump will arrive in the White House with the backing of myriad people crying out for a holy war".
The phrase Deus Vult appeared in a pop-up in Crusader Kings 2, which came out in 2012, and has been a point of contention ever since. Paradox was also accussed of using a "white supremacist dog whistle" when it tweeted "Tell your friends to Deus Vult today!" in promoting Crusader Kings 2's availability on Steam in 2018.
For a limited time only, Crusader Kings II is currently available for free on Steam! Download it today and keep it forever. Tell your friends to Deus Vult today! https://t.co/SZBDQ8UkaM pic.twitter.com/NHGY4ErjMA— CrusaderKings (@CrusaderKings) April 5, 2018
Following the publication of Rock, Paper Shotgun's article reporting Deus Vult would not be in Crusader Kings 3, game director Henrik Fĺhraeus issued a follow-up comment that appeared to backtrack:
"I feel like this issue has been miscommunicated thus far. We have not specifically considered which terms are used in the game apart from making sense in the historical context. The team will decide how any text fits or does not fit into CK3 in a way that feels appropriate."
This statement, also provided to Eurogamer by Paradox, neither confirms or denies Deus Vult's appearance in Crusader Kings 3. Here, Paradox is saying it has yet to make a decision - despite its community manager insisting it had.
A spokesperson for Paradox told Eurogamer the company will not be saying anything further about this issue at this point.
The reaction to Fĺhraeus' follow-up comment has, predictably, poured cold water on anger from within Crusader Kings' community. The person behind the petition called it a "victory", and there are multiple threads across the internet along similar lines.
This apparent conflict within Paradox on the rights and wrongs of Deus Vult and other problematic aspects of Crusader Kings 3, such as how white supremacists have adopted the game, was backed up by recent interviews conducted by Eurogamer at the studio.
"We all have strong opinions on that sort of thing," Maximilian Olbers, the content design lead, said. "This comes up and it always makes me terribly unhappy, hearing about white supremacists adopting our games or whatever. My view on it is basically that at its core, grand strategy games as a genre - and this might sound a bit strange - but to me, they're about empathy. Because you not only play the crusader king, you can also play the Muslims in Mecca. They are games about multiple perspectives. So it's not just sort of ideologically saddening to see these groups adopt our games. From a sort of pure game design perspective, they're missing the point."
Rodrigue Delrue, community developer at Paradox, told Eurogamer: "I think there's no need to shy away from it. We know that since our games are historical, they also bring forth historical issues that are naturally a bit more negative.
"We don't talk down to the community. We consider them as pros. We also ensure that they are included, and naturally when it comes to any form of racism or harassment, this stuff is zero tolerance. We do not tolerate that. And this is the main challenge obviously, because naturally historical games do have this tendency of attracting a fringe of people that don't have this respect for others."
Johan Andersson, the creative director and studio manager at Paradox, had a different viewpoint when we interviewed him. When we asked him if there was a tension between granting player freedom in Crusader Kings' sandbox, and the fact that freedom lets certain groups live out a particularly unsavoury fantasy, he replied:
"Players can do whatever they want with their game experience. It's nothing we really find any problems [with]," he said.
Whether or not Deus Vult makes it into Crusader Kings 3, which is due out 2020, remains to be seen. (For more on what's confirmed to be in the game, check out our Crusader Kings 3 preview.) For now, though, Paradox appears to have its customers back on-side.