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Valve making steps to address 'off-topic review bombs' on Steam

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In a blog post today, Valve announced a pretty simple change to the way Steam games get a review score, to help with review bombing.

What is Review Bombing? To put it simply, tons of users going to a Steam page and leaving a negative review that's not always to do with the actual game in question. It's been something of a hot topic, since it became a tool for users to show their feelings about various things, most of the time something directed at the developer or publisher.

A recent example, would be how the Metro games on Steam got waves of negative reviews when Metro Exodus was announced as a timed-exclusive on the Epic Store.

So what are Valve doing? Well, they're going to remove what they say are 'off-topic review bombs' from the overall review score for that time period. However, the reviews themselves will still be left up for all to read and users on Steam can actually opt out of this removal system to continue seeing a review bomb as normal.

In a two question Q&A at the end of the blog post, Valve also mentioned a flaw in the system being that any review made during this period will no longer count if you leave this system turned on, which presumably means positive reviews too.

Valve did say they're working on "some other features around User Reviews" but they wanted to get this out as they thought it was "worth shipping by itself".

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65 comments
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monnef 17 March 2019 at 4:51 pm UTC
chris.echozGood thing it's optional
But by default enabled, toggle hidden behind like 5 screens and I believe it is only a matter of time when they disallow disabling it entirely (won't probably matter, majority of people will see manipulated reviews and ratings so publishers will have free hand at screwing customers).

I am limiting my spending on Steam, probably won't buy anything beyond the new Grimdawn dlc (only because I already have game and a DLC on Steam). Maybe use GoG and Nintendo store a bit, mostly waiting for a free-speech supporting game store where all legal games are allowed and reviews and ratings are not manipulated in any way. I wouldn't even care if games would be 10-20% more expensive, because I don't like supporting authoritative censorious companies.
monnef 17 March 2019 at 4:58 pm UTC
EikeI wonder if they could use some "AI" to extract the reason of the review bombing and add this information to the store page, like at the place where you see "similar to games you played", "played by friend" etc:
* Review bombed for going to sale
* Review bombed for leaving Steam
* Review bombed for featuring pronouns
* Review bombed for DRM
etc pp

Probably could, but easier is to identify "review bombing" by AI and a person would add a tag. But snowflake developers and greedy publishers would eat Valve alive, because this shows Valve could detect "review bombing" and yet Valve would not be doing anything with it - e.g. deleting reviews and ratings from the time of "review bombing".

I am using "review bombing" in quotation marks, because I don't believe what Valve is targeting is an organized effort (campaign), I think it will be in most cases organic. Valve is just silencing unhappy customers. Quite good video about the topic - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Rhua9WcZs
Mal 17 March 2019 at 5:57 pm UTC
Doc Angelo
MalA sad day for consumers.

Huh? Why?

That shouldn't even be explained. When someone decides for you what you are entitled to express your opinion on, that someone is free to shit on you.

Like:

You're not entitled to have an opinion on a game getting a new DRM (and one day you find out you can't play your product anymore).
You're not entitled to have an opinion on a developer moving his game form one platform to another (and you planned to play with friends but now if he buys he'll be on a separated platform).
Your're not entitled to have an opinion on a game getting a change in price policy (again maybe you planned to play with friends, but with the new pricing they're cut out)
You're not entitled to to have an opinion on a dev promising something and then not delivering (you bought because you trusted the devs, but they took money, showed you middle finger and you can't even manifest disappointment)
You're not entitled to to have an opinion on a publisher enforcing a new EULA that kills streams and videos (maybe you like to imitate pros on twitch when you buy game or you like to stream/youtube yourself)


And so on. Those are just examples of -in my humble opinion ofc- legit opinions that covers aspects of the product that do influence your experience but that the average authoritarian redditor would dismiss review bombing. Unless he's one in the minority being damaged ofc. In the end the real issue of this age is lack of empathy on the Internet.

Then I'm all for better review system, more clear, that allow you differentiate score between aspect of the product. I'm also open to discuss when a review tool is indeed abused, like when the mob punishes a dev for his legit ideas and opinions rather that for actual actions that had an observable effect on customer fruition of the product.

But in 2019 claiming that software is just a bunch of binaries and that everything around it from support, publisher policies, associated media, distribution platforms, pricing, DRMs, EULA and so on are totally unrelated to the product, have 0 effect on customer experience and thus must not be subject to end user review... frankly speaking: it's bullshit.
Eike 17 March 2019 at 6:08 pm UTC
MalThat shouldn't even be explained. When someone decides for you what you are entitled to express your opinion on, that someone is free to shit on you.

Like:

You're not entitled to have an opinion on a game getting a new DRM (and one day you find out you can't play your product anymore).

You really should take your time for reading and understanding stuff before commenting on it.

First things first, you can always feel "entitled" to your opinion. Nobody can take away your opinion on anything anyway.

Second, you can still put your opinion on anything however unrelated to the actual game in your review and it will not be deleted:

Quotethe reviews themselves will still be left up for all to read

Third, users caring for masses voting down a game for reasons related or not related to the game can still have these reviews counted in the overall score:

Quoteand users on Steam can actually opt out of this removal system to continue seeing a review bomb as normal.

Fear Thou Not.
Purple Library Guy 17 March 2019 at 6:12 pm UTC
monnef
einherjar
monnef
stuffAnother example being Shadow of the Tomb Raider because it got a sale soon after release.
Price and value of the game is definitely part of my ratings and reviews. This is IMO deserved, they should have not cut price so soon after release ....
Hmm, but every one looking at the game a few month after release, will see a negative rating. And this does not help these customers. They want to know if the game is good if it is fun to play. They do not care, if someone thinks, the game was lowered in price to early.
So it is a point of view. If I want to inform me, if the game is fun to play - what does the reviews help me, that rate the game down, just because it was going cheap to early (and this is just a feeling of the ones, who bought it at a higher price).

The act of lowering prematurely is still present. People who bought it early were paying for a service they didn't get (exclusivity in exchange for money, they lack money and exclusivity, theft?). This is not some subjective metric, you can compare all AAA games in last several years and look at how long it should remain at the top price. Weren't last Battlefield and Fallout just weeks after release hugely discounted? Right there, that is anti-consumer and in my opinion should reflect rating of a game, because if they pulled such scam once, people should expect to pull it again and this (rating and reviews) can warn new customers against scummy practices.

I am for everything being on-topic, because seeing how Valve is incompetent - saying DRM and EULA are OFF-TOPIC and not part of a game (WTF? DRM is literally part of a game and EULA must be accepted before playing, so, in my view, part as well). I don't trust them to not **** up, because they have several times already.
This strikes me as a massive overreaction. You sound like the game publishers were conspiring with the later buyers against the initial buyers like some kind of backwards pump-and-dump stock scheme, which seems kind of unlikely since both groups are random assortments of individuals, and if there were people they really wanted to have the game cheap, they could just give those people keys individually. The game publishers have no reason to prefer any one group of random individuals over another group. Presumably they dropped the price because it seemed like they weren't selling enough at the original price.
Also, precisely because it's a matter of one group getting a lower price than another group, it can hardly be considered "anti-consumer" in general. It favours one group of consumers over another. But there are inevitably going to be sales and price drops in the end, and the people who buy for cheap inevitably get a better deal than people who buy at full price. Sales starting soon after release just mean fewer people had to pay full price. But those few early buyers would still have paid full price if the sales started a year later--they just would have had more company. So essentially, they're complaining not because they got a bad deal, but because someone else is getting a good deal.
Given all that, I don't see why consumers coming along later to decide whether they should take the good deal, should want to be influenced by people who specifically would prefer they be getting a worse deal. Really, how persuasive is "I want you to have to pay more for this game, so don't buy it cheap!" What's my incentive to want those people's reviews included in the game's score?


Last edited by Purple Library Guy at 17 March 2019 at 6:17 pm UTC
Nevertheless 17 March 2019 at 6:13 pm UTC
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I think it's a step in the right direction. Maybe there's better mechanics to differentiate between product quality and issues with licence, dev behaviour, pricing or whatever there is to have an opinion about, but please remember a review bomb is quite destructive, and who guarantees the bombers are right every time?
On the other hand, does anyone of you believe your voice, with your special weighed out mix of opinions will be recognised from within the blunt force of a review bomb?
doomiebaby 17 March 2019 at 6:32 pm UTC
EikeI wonder if they could use some "AI" to extract the reason of the review bombing and add this information to the store page, like at the place where you see "similar to games you played", "played by friend" etc:
* Review bombed for going to sale
* Review bombed for leaving Steam
* Review bombed for featuring pronouns
* Review bombed for DRM
etc pp

so use AI to turn it into youtube. suuuuure x3
stretch611 17 March 2019 at 6:51 pm UTC
stuffWell, before just putting out pitchforks, we should remain objective. There are instances with games being review bombed and these reviews having nothing to to with the quality of the game. For example Metro series because Metro Exodus is an Epic store exclusive. This has nothing to to with the quality of the game and should not be taken into consideration for the rating in the store. Another example being Shadow of the Tomb Raider because it got a sale soon after release. Some other games because of some Youtuber.
Because of that, this feature might be not necessarily anti-consumer, but actually pro-consumer. So, if anyone has info which games' ratings were purged, it would be nice to know. Because then we can see if this system is used in a sensible way.
While I agree, the case of Metro:Exodus had nothing to do at all about the quality of the game. (although the Denuvo DRM part does screw up player experience and lower the quality.)

It was review bombed because of the Epic Game Store exclusivity agreement. However, as we all know, exclusivity agreements are anti-consumer.

Other than a you-tuber not getting his/her narcissistic fantasies fulfilled, I would argue that review bombs are generally pro-consumer as they notify the public to anti-consumer behavior, whether that is DRM, micro-transactions in paid games, broken or horribly programmed garbage, or exclusivity agreements.
Nevertheless 17 March 2019 at 6:54 pm UTC
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stretch611
stuffWell, before just putting out pitchforks, we should remain objective. There are instances with games being review bombed and these reviews having nothing to to with the quality of the game. For example Metro series because Metro Exodus is an Epic store exclusive. This has nothing to to with the quality of the game and should not be taken into consideration for the rating in the store. Another example being Shadow of the Tomb Raider because it got a sale soon after release. Some other games because of some Youtuber.
Because of that, this feature might be not necessarily anti-consumer, but actually pro-consumer. So, if anyone has info which games' ratings were purged, it would be nice to know. Because then we can see if this system is used in a sensible way.
While I agree, the case of Metro:Exodus had nothing to do at all about the quality of the game. (although the Denuvo DRM part does screw up player experience and lower the quality.)

It was review bombed because of the Epic Game Store exclusivity agreement. However, as we all know, exclusivity agreements are anti-consumer.

Other than a you-tuber not getting his/her narcissistic fantasies fulfilled, I would argue that review bombs are generally pro-consumer as they notify the public to anti-consumer behavior, whether that is DRM, micro-transactions in paid games, broken or horribly programmed garbage, or exclusivity agreements.

I would argue they are a matter of force, not of quality and diversity of arguments.
Eike 17 March 2019 at 7:05 pm UTC
doomiebaby
EikeI wonder if they could use some "AI" to extract the reason of the review bombing and add this information to the store page, like at the place where you see "similar to games you played", "played by friend" etc:
* Review bombed for going to sale
* Review bombed for leaving Steam
* Review bombed for featuring pronouns
* Review bombed for DRM
etc pp

so use AI to turn it into youtube. suuuuure x3

I don't understand what you want to tell me.
If I wasn't clear enough:
I don't want review bombs to contaminate overall rating,
but I do want to know if a game has been review bombed and why.
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