Valve has waded into the thorny issue of Steam user reviews once again, this time adding a weighting to reviews based upon how useful its algorithm deems then. There’s a big old blog post where Valve goes into it in exhaustive detail, but the basic gist of it comes down to what makes a helpful review.
“A good review typically describes some of the factors that directly impact the experience of playing the game, which can include a wide variety of things like how well the matchmaking works, how buggy the game is, or whether the game represents a good value for the price,” says Valve, indicating those annoying joke reviews could become a thing of the past.
As within Steam, Valve has discovered that leaving the reviews system entirely down to users hasn’t worked. In their own words, “it turns out that not everyone is as helpful as we would like.” Game reviews are being manipulated in order to push certain reviews to the top, with reviews granted a ‘helpfulness’ rating based on whether users deem them ‘helpful’ or ‘not helpful’. Valve intimates that some users are abusing this system, while bots are being used to rate as many as 10,000 reviews on a single game. None of this is what Valve wants, so it’s implementing a couple of key changes in order to filter out the bad reviews and help the good, informative reviews float to the top.
Firstly, Valve is implementing a system whereby review ratings are weighted. Users who follow normal patterns when rating reviews helpful or unhelpful will have their ratings counted in the normal way. However, users who post an excessive number of ratings will see the weight of each individual rating count for less and less.
Secondary to this, Valve is also changing how and which reviews are displayed in accordance with the game’s overall score. Previously, it was just the reviews with the highest proportion of helpfulness that were being shown. Now, the proportion of positive and negative reviews is based upon the overall score for a game. So if a game is reviewed 80% positively by Steam users, eight of the ten user reviews shown will be positive while the remaining two will be negative. I think this, in particular, is a really neat change because it can be frustrating to turn up to a well-reviewed game and just get a page of negative reviews and vice versa. The aim of this particular change is to prevent the reviews on a game’s page from being too easily manipulated by “determined players.”
The changes have already been rolled out to the Steam beta client and the new review sorting method can be turned on and off to show the difference it makes.
What do you make of Valve's tweaking of Steam reviews? Should review bombs even be filtered out or does the current system work just fine? Let us know!