Valve has been making a number of tweaks under the hood to Steam’s user review system in the hopes of mitigating issues like review bombing. Now, the “featured” reviews for games are being updated to more accurately reflect the game’s score, while review bombers are being weeded out based on their review rating history.
In recent times, review bombing has become a common practice whenever a controversial decision is made in a game; for instance, the practice swiftly knocked No Man’s Sky to an “Overwhelmingly Negative” rating on Steam after its initial reception.
Over the past year, Valve has taken steps to adjust the system to combat this, first adding histograms so users could get a sense of whether a positively-received game suddenly saw an influx of negative reviews or vice versa. They later provided notifications indicating time periods in which large volumes of negative reviews were detected.
However, the new changes are twofold. First off, the reviews shown on a game’s store page will now reflect the game’s current user score on Steam. So if a game has an 80% positive review record, then the ten reviews will be split in a similar way, with 8 positive and 2 negative on display.
Secondly, user rating activity will be monitored, weeding out players who mass-rate reviews. Ratings will now be weighted according to the activity on each user’s account. If the user is found to frequently spam-rate reviews, each rating they provide will count for less than someone who is using the system in a regular capacity.
The goal here is to combat the fact that, while players can only leave one review on a game, they can rate any number of reviews as “helpful” or “unhelpful”. According to Valve, certain accounts have been found to be “rating more than 10,000 reviews as helpful or unhelpful on a single game.” This has allowed Steam users to use the rating system as a way to give attention to the reviews they want to see, as opposed to the ones that are widely considered helpful.
These new systems should help to punish players abusing Steam’s review system, as well as giving more balanced opinions on certain games. It’s not uncommon to look at a game with “Mixed” reviews on Steam, only to find that the positive half of the reviews are nowhere to be found on the main store page. With Steam’s three big fall/winter sales on the horizon, it’s great to see Valve making an effort to ensure games aren’t buried simply because of dissatisfied fans.