Xbox Live's Bizarre Word Filter Still Causing Quarrel Headaches

Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -
Offline, you can use whatever words you please. Online, you can try--but you might not succeed.

Quarrel is a word game (imagine a mix of Risk and Boggle) with a massive problem: an inconsistent, utterly mystifying word filter.

Try typing in “help,” “start,” “hung,” or a variety of so-far unpublished words during an online game on Xbox Live Arcade and prepare to be told, without explanation, the word can’t be used.

You can see why this might be a problem for a word game.

The filter does not exist in offline games, so long as family settings are flipped off. It’s mandatory when playing through Xbox Live.

Quarrel uses the official Scrabble dictionary, which you could buy for yourself right here. It also features unacceptable words, yes, but we're talking swears and the like.

Microsoft's own self-created filter layers on top of that. Quarrel developer Denki admits to being aware of the filter before the game went live on Microsoft’s service, but had no idea how problematic it would eventually become.

“Did we know the far reaching implications of the filter before we launched?” said producer Sean Taylor over email this morning. “No. If we knew then what we know now, would we handle the pre-release awareness for this issue differently? Absolutely.”

Edge Online first reported on the word filter, and I've been trying to find out more ever since.

Even now, Denki has not been provided a complete list of unacceptable words, with Taylor characterizing the filter as a “dynamic list on Microsoft’s side,” and affirming it has "never seen it and do not know its contents.”

Microsoft has not yet commented on the situation to me, despite repeated attempts to secure an explanation. I’ve been told a statement from the company may be coming but nothing yet. I'll be sure to let you know if that changes.

The easy (if messy and clunky) solution would be to publish the list of unacceptable words.

“Microsoft clearly has reasons for censoring the words they do but we haven't discussed that with them,” said Taylor. “What we're focused on at the moment is working with Microsoft to provide a suitable solution.”

The “suitable solution” will come in the form of a patch in the near future. Taylor did not have a timetable for this patch, nor would he elaborate on the details of any proposed solution.

“Suffice to say that it will fix the current word filter issue,” he said.

Quarrel is not the first to encounter issues with XBL’s word filter. Former Giant Bomb intern Nick Robinson tried to upload a replay from Driver: San Francisco on Xbox 360 with the title “Glitch,” but it was rejected for text issues.

Ubisoft ended up responding to Nick’s issue over Twitter, pointing the blame in a familiar direction.

“That's definitely a new one on us! we use the console's profanity filters,” said the company, “so that one may be down to MS/Sony...”

We now know that’s likely true, it’s just a matter of what Microsoft does (or doesn’t) do about it.

Quarrel is also available for iPhone and iPad, and does not have the word filtering issue on those platforms.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -
Offline, you can use whatever words you please. Online, you can try--but you might not succeed.

Quarrel is a word game (imagine a mix of Risk and Boggle) with a massive problem: an inconsistent, utterly mystifying word filter.

Try typing in “help,” “start,” “hung,” or a variety of so-far unpublished words during an online game on Xbox Live Arcade and prepare to be told, without explanation, the word can’t be used.

You can see why this might be a problem for a word game.

The filter does not exist in offline games, so long as family settings are flipped off. It’s mandatory when playing through Xbox Live.

Quarrel uses the official Scrabble dictionary, which you could buy for yourself right here. It also features unacceptable words, yes, but we're talking swears and the like.

Microsoft's own self-created filter layers on top of that. Quarrel developer Denki admits to being aware of the filter before the game went live on Microsoft’s service, but had no idea how problematic it would eventually become.

“Did we know the far reaching implications of the filter before we launched?” said producer Sean Taylor over email this morning. “No. If we knew then what we know now, would we handle the pre-release awareness for this issue differently? Absolutely.”

Edge Online first reported on the word filter, and I've been trying to find out more ever since.

Even now, Denki has not been provided a complete list of unacceptable words, with Taylor characterizing the filter as a “dynamic list on Microsoft’s side,” and affirming it has "never seen it and do not know its contents.”

Microsoft has not yet commented on the situation to me, despite repeated attempts to secure an explanation. I’ve been told a statement from the company may be coming but nothing yet. I'll be sure to let you know if that changes.

The easy (if messy and clunky) solution would be to publish the list of unacceptable words.

“Microsoft clearly has reasons for censoring the words they do but we haven't discussed that with them,” said Taylor. “What we're focused on at the moment is working with Microsoft to provide a suitable solution.”

The “suitable solution” will come in the form of a patch in the near future. Taylor did not have a timetable for this patch, nor would he elaborate on the details of any proposed solution.

“Suffice to say that it will fix the current word filter issue,” he said.

Quarrel is not the first to encounter issues with XBL’s word filter. Former Giant Bomb intern Nick Robinson tried to upload a replay from Driver: San Francisco on Xbox 360 with the title “Glitch,” but it was rejected for text issues.

Ubisoft ended up responding to Nick’s issue over Twitter, pointing the blame in a familiar direction.

“That's definitely a new one on us! we use the console's profanity filters,” said the company, “so that one may be down to MS/Sony...”

We now know that’s likely true, it’s just a matter of what Microsoft does (or doesn’t) do about it.

Quarrel is also available for iPhone and iPad, and does not have the word filtering issue on those platforms.

#2 Posted by JoeyRavn (5007 posts) -

"Help"? That's racist.

#3 Posted by evilalfie (27 posts) -

Dude! Start that hung filter!

#4 Posted by Nekroskop (2786 posts) -

Hurray for XBL!

#5 Posted by RobertOrri (1151 posts) -
Quarrel developer Denki admits to being aware of the filter before the game went live on Microsoft’s service

Before or after it was sent in for certification? I assume this filtering is not present on PartnerNet?

#6 Posted by mordukai (7184 posts) -

@patrickklepek: You think that's ridiculous? Try the PS3 chat.

#7 Posted by jozzy (2042 posts) -

Yeah, the time I tried to play te word "train" and it was denied was the last time I played this game online. Not the only problem this game has, but definately one of the worst. Actually, the worst problem this game has is the really short timer you get for a turn.

#8 Posted by MideonNViscera (2257 posts) -

Try searching for Joe Cocker on Zune Music Pass haha

#9 Posted by ptc (622 posts) -

I own the game and play it (online and off).  Not perfect, but it's fun and inexpensive.  I hope this doesn't deter people from giving it a shot.
#10 Posted by ptc (622 posts) -
@jozzy said:

 Actually, the worst problem this game has is the really short timer you get for a turn.
 

I figured this was so people online don't just plug the letters into some online anagram unscrambler. 
#11 Posted by RiotBananas (3600 posts) -

Up until recently I couldn't use my name "Steve" in the name field on my profile because of the filter. So stupid.

#12 Posted by RobertOrri (1151 posts) -

Xbox Live filters the word "gay". Meanwhile, things like "The Ballad of Gay Tony" are advertised and released on Xbox Live.

Hilarious, really.

#13 Posted by jozzy (2042 posts) -

@ptc said:

@jozzy said:

Actually, the worst problem this game has is the really short timer you get for a turn.

I figured this was so people online don't just plug the letters into some online anagram unscrambler.

Could very well be, but it also turns it into a very frustrating game for me. I guess I am just to slow, but 30 seconds to think of a word and type it in with the controller without mistakes often lead to me screwing up turns.

#14 Posted by BlazeHedgehog (1102 posts) -

I remember being in the Halo Reach beta and naming a screenshot, "Somebody's about to have a bad day" and being told the word filter wouldn't allow it to go up.

#15 Posted by AngriGhandi (787 posts) -

I would love to sit down with someone at Microsoft and hear their explanation for banning each one of these words. For every one they can't explain, they give me 1,000 dollars.

That would be a fun game.

#16 Posted by Aegeri (110 posts) -

XBLA is clearly a nanny state.

#17 Posted by onan (1286 posts) -

I tried using this handle on PSN and was denied, apparently because it was a fragment of something offensive in Japanese. Talk about restrictive, even pieces of international terms get blacklisted.

#18 Posted by ptc (622 posts) -
@jozzy said:

I guess I am just to slow, but 30 seconds to think of a word and type it in with the controller without mistakes often lead to me screwing up turns.

It's frustrating when you've thought of the word, but can't input with the controller fast enough.  I've been considering getting a chatpad if I can find a really inexpensive one.
#19 Posted by megalowho (976 posts) -

Another dumb quirk that we've known about for years that Microsoft still hasn't addressed in any meaningful way. At the very least, it seems pretty ridiculous that parental control triggers aren't shared with developers.

#20 Posted by eccentrix (1608 posts) -

Why are they scared of people finding out what words they don't like?

#21 Posted by IamAwesome (42 posts) -

@onan said:

I tried using this handle on PSN and was denied, apparently because it was a fragment of something offensive in Japanese. Talk about restrictive, even pieces of international terms get blacklisted.

Add an "i" at the end of your name and congrats, you've got the Japanese term for masturbation. Guess its super offensive or something.

#22 Posted by brownsfantb (409 posts) -

I wasn't allowed to use "What it is" as my quote or whatever on my profile. If you take the "t" from the end of what and drop the space before "it" you get "tit" which is what caused the problem, I assumed. That's a big reach though and a dumb use of censorship.

#23 Posted by YukoAsho (2106 posts) -

@RobertOrri said:

Xbox Live filters the word "gay". Meanwhile, things like "The Ballad of Gay Tony" are advertised and released on Xbox Live.

Hilarious, really.

And you're pretty much constantly being called a "fag" on Call of Duty games.

Really, this whole thing is stupid.

#24 Posted by onan (1286 posts) -

@IamAwesome said:

@onan said:

I tried using this handle on PSN and was denied, apparently because it was a fragment of something offensive in Japanese. Talk about restrictive, even pieces of international terms get blacklisted.

Add an "i" at the end of your name and congrats, you've got the Japanese term for masturbation. Guess its super offensive or something.

Yeah, and that's based on the English world "onanism" which isn't considered vulgar even though its a synonym for masturbation, and the root of that word is based off of a biblical story which is where I got this name from. Onan was the guy struck down by God for not making babies with his brother's widow, instead relying on the pull-out method of contraception.

My questionable choice in handles aside, it would also totally screw over any Conan fans (Barbarian or O'Brien).

#25 Posted by Andy_117 (169 posts) -

@RiotBananas said:

Up until recently I couldn't use my name "Steve" in the name field on my profile because of the filter. So stupid.

I just sat here sputtering "what" for over a minute now. They censor "Steve". They... censor... Steve.

What? ...what? What?? WHAT?!

#26 Posted by agoaj (35 posts) -

Why not just iterate over the list of words and send them over XBOX live? Whatever is rejected gets added to the list. Now you have the list!

#27 Posted by Beforet (2932 posts) -

They censor "help"? Why?

#28 Posted by HaltIamReptar (2029 posts) -

I don't have an XBOX, but I can tell you right now: They banned me for the username "Sir Mix-a-bot". Go figure!

#29 Posted by Boopie (191 posts) -

Well when I tried to name my wizard in Crimson Alliance Fagron the Queer it would not let me do it and I got really upset.

#30 Posted by xxizzypop (577 posts) -

@Andy_117 said:

@RiotBananas said:

Up until recently I couldn't use my name "Steve" in the name field on my profile because of the filter. So stupid.

I just sat here sputtering "what" for over a minute now. They censor "Steve". They... censor... Steve.

What? ...what? What?? WHAT?!

Because of Jobs.

Duh.

/sarcasm. But seriously, what the actual hell, Microsoft?

#31 Posted by AgnosticJesus (545 posts) -

I haven't experienced any issues. In fact, I played "cunt" and it then gave me a definition of "slang for female genitalia". Surprised the hell out of me.

#32 Posted by depecheload (497 posts) -

Well, I hope that this costs Denki money and drives them crazy, because Quarrel is a horrible, horrible game with buggy sound, cheating AI, and a flubbed dictionary that includes words that are in neither the Collins Scrabble Dictionary nor the American Official Scrabble Dictionary.

Seriously, eff those guys.

#33 Posted by briangodsoe (487 posts) -

So you can't type the word "start" into a word game but shithead 10 year olds can call you every derogatory word invented over voice chat? Awesome. Way to go XBL.

#34 Edited by Macabros (37 posts) -

Sony also uses a word filter in the PSN chat. I´m german and if I want to type the german word "nicht" (which means "not" or "don´t") it censors it. It´s ridiculus, some other common words are censored too, but I don´t remember at the moment. I only use it if the person I´m playing with has no headset.

#35 Posted by Swoxx (3006 posts) -

@JoeyRavn said:

"Help"? That's racist.

"racist" ? That's racist!

#36 Posted by Ace829 (2083 posts) -

This is what happens when political correctness goes too far. What an offensively stupid policy.

#37 Posted by angelfan91 (892 posts) -

@xxizzypop said:

@Andy_117 said:

@RiotBananas said:

Up until recently I couldn't use my name "Steve" in the name field on my profile because of the filter. So stupid.

I just sat here sputtering "what" for over a minute now. They censor "Steve". They... censor... Steve.

What? ...what? What?? WHAT?!

Because of Jobs.

Duh.

/sarcasm. But seriously, what the actual hell, Microsoft?

Don't most word games disallow proper nouns such as names, places, etc.? I tried to use Burma. Didn't work either.

#38 Posted by xxizzypop (577 posts) -

@angelfan91 said:

@xxizzypop said:

@Andy_117 said:

@RiotBananas said:

Up until recently I couldn't use my name "Steve" in the name field on my profile because of the filter. So stupid.

I just sat here sputtering "what" for over a minute now. They censor "Steve". They... censor... Steve.

What? ...what? What?? WHAT?!

Because of Jobs.

Duh.

/sarcasm. But seriously, what the actual hell, Microsoft?

Don't most word games disallow proper nouns such as names, places, etc.? I tried to use Burma. Didn't work either.

"Up until recently I couldn't use my name "Steve" in the name field on my profile because of the filter"

#39 Posted by President_Barackbar (3472 posts) -
@AgnosticJesus said:
I haven't experienced any issues. In fact, I played "cunt" and it then gave me a definition of "slang for female genitalia". Surprised the hell out of me.
You must've been playing with Vinny Caravella rules on.
#40 Posted by Zleunamme (697 posts) -

This reminds of tweet a NBA beat writer posted on ESPN.com. I can't remember who it was but he was congratulating San Antonio Spur Matt Bonner for having a great game. Matt ******'s last name was censored on the tweet.

#41 Posted by Mindslave360 (1 posts) -

Thats ridiculous how many rules are out there now. I guarantee even kids playing the game have heard any word that has been censored by microsoft, so they arent protecting them from anything

#42 Posted by Xenctuary (49 posts) -

The game's help screen has this to offer on the topic:

HEY! THAT'S A VALID WORD!
You might be right, but we are forbidden to transmit over Xbox LIVE any words considered offensive in one or more countries. As a result, some words in our dictionary that are fine in Single Player cannot be used in Multiplayer matches. This rule and the words considered offensive are completely outside of our control.

#43 Posted by GorillaMoPena (2289 posts) -

I don't recall for sure.

But oddly I don't remember having a problem with this with Scrabble online on Hasbro Family Game Night

#44 Posted by djenson (16 posts) -

Hope they roll out a fix for this soon.

#45 Posted by Soundwave123 (38 posts) -

Microsoft filtering the word 'Glitch' seems very 1984 to me, double-plus un-good me thinks.

#46 Posted by BigChickenDinner (766 posts) -

* **** ******* ** ***** **** **** !*!

#47 Posted by LemonJoose (54 posts) -

Yes, time to dump the Orwellian, stupid, politically-correct word filter on XBL. Just filter George Carlin's list of the 7 words you can't say on TV and leave it at that. Even with the current draconian filter, people still find ways to thwart it by using misspellings and numbers/symbols to get their point across, proving that the whole thing is an exercise in futlity anyway.

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