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Xbox Live's Bizarre Word Filter Still Causing Quarrel Headaches

The developer still hasn't seen the list of unacceptable words from Microsoft, but a solution is apparently coming.

Offline, you can use whatever words you please. Online, you can try--but you might not succeed.
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Try typing in “help,” “start,” “hung,” or a variety of so-far unpublished words during an online game on Xbox Live Arcade and prepare to be told, without explanation, the word can’t be used.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.

Patrick Klepek on Google+