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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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TheSHEEEP 19 March 2019 at 9:21 pm UTC
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Eike
devnullBit confused by this.. I already don't give any credit to people who have spent very little time actually playing the game. Why can't valve use that?

There's games where you can say you'll never like it in half an hour or less.

It's also easy to fake playing time.
That would require effort. Which requires motivation.
Something someone who has judged a game after half an hour if not liking it will only muster in extremely rare cases.
stretch611 20 March 2019 at 12:06 am UTC
TheSHEEEP
Nevertheless
Eike
devnullBit confused by this.. I already don't give any credit to people who have spent very little time actually playing the game. Why can't valve use that?

There's games where you can say you'll never like it in half an hour or less.

It's also easy to fake playing time.
That would require effort. Which requires motivation.
Something someone who has judged a game after half an hour if not liking it will only muster in extremely rare cases.

Yes, but if things change and you are required to play for one hour to leave a review, it is easy just to leave something running on your computer when you grab some lunch. That takes very little effort and people will do it if it is needed.

In general, only a small percentage of people leave reviews.

Factorio has sold over 1 million copies and has only 37,000 reviews. That is less than 4% of the players (though it hit 1 million almost 2 yearw ago and I think it is closer to 2 million which would make it only 2%)
Rimworld also has sold over 1 million copies and only has 30,000 reviews. That is only 3% of the players. (again, it is probably more in sales by now.)

Those are 2 indie games with highly motivated players. (both 98% positive.) It requires motivation to write a review... forcing a little in-game time is unlikely to stop someone from creating a review.
TheSHEEEP 20 March 2019 at 1:26 pm UTC
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stretch611
TheSHEEEP
Nevertheless
Eike
devnullBit confused by this.. I already don't give any credit to people who have spent very little time actually playing the game. Why can't valve use that?

There's games where you can say you'll never like it in half an hour or less.

It's also easy to fake playing time.
That would require effort. Which requires motivation.
Something someone who has judged a game after half an hour if not liking it will only muster in extremely rare cases.

Yes, but if things change and you are required to play for one hour to leave a review, it is easy just to leave something running on your computer when you grab some lunch. That takes very little effort and people will do it if it is needed.
You underestimate just how lazy people truly are. As a developer myself who sees a lot of interaction between support and users (and in the gaming business, too): Incredibly lazy. It is a fact one simply has to accept and deal with.
The few people that do leave short-playtime negative reviews are not highly motivated to do so, they are barely above the motivation threshold to do so. Increase the threshold and it is 100% guaranteed to decrease the number of those reviews.
Obviously, a few would do shenanigans like you described, but that will only be a minority among a minority.

Positive and negative reviews are also different to begin with.
A positive review is almost always left after a longer time of playing (for obvious reasons), so the minimum time requirement is a non-issue here.
While a negative review can also be left after a longer time of playing (making it a non-issue), many negative reviews are left after a very short while - and the main reasons for many of these are:
- Players did not inform themselves before their purchase and blame the game for not being something it never tried to be - which is pointless criticism. "I don't like my new blue car because it isn't red"...
- Review bombing because they disagree with the dev on issues not related to the game.
- Bugs or other severe technical issues.
- Design flaws so obvious and numerous that really only such a short time is needed to come to valid conclusions.

Of those four main reasons, only the last two are truly valid in judging a game's quality.
Which does make such a minimal time requirement a bit of a double-edged sword. From what I've seen over the years on Steam reviews, though, the part of the first two reasons is much larger than the last two, so I'd still be in favor of such a requirement.

Alternatively, Valve could do what they do with review bombs themselves, allowing reviews at any playtime, but not making them a part of the (default) score.

Anyway, review bombs come not only from those short playtimes ones, but also from normal players that simply didn't post a review before and now something non-game related cause them to lash out. Nothing other than Valve's measures will stop that. At least I couldn't think of anything right now...
Doc Angelo 21 March 2019 at 8:27 pm UTC
stretch611In general, only a small percentage of people leave reviews.

Thats true because not many people feel the urge to write their experience down so that other can read it. However, many people have a strong motivation to somehow express their frustration with something. I'd say that review-bombing is typically done by people who wouldn't write actual reviews.
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