Steam changes user reviews to help prevent bots and inaccuracy

In a post on the Steam blog, Valve has detailed the updates it is making to it user review system for the digital storefront, making it harder for automated bots and inaccurate reviews.

Following many recent events over games that have changed over time, or where a developer has voiced an unpopular opinion, users have been able to post negative reviews of a game. The most recent example is the user feedback for Campo Santo’s Firewatch after the developer said it was going to take action against YouTuber PewDiePie in order to sever any connection of their game with the influencer following his own unsavoury comments.

The changes by Steam aim to change the way the review system works by employing a system that will lift more helpful reviews to the fore rather than those with the most reactions. It is hoped that better reviews will come from this as well as tackling bots that are creating spam reviews.

"As of this writing, there are over 36,579,839 reviews posted by players across all of Steam," the company said in the blog post. "Some games have a handful of user reviews while others have hundreds of thousands. Regardless of the number of reviews, we want to make sure that the most helpful and relevant reviews are the ones that you see first when you are looking at a game’s page in the Steam store.

"In a perfect world, people would truthfully mark a few reviews that were helpful for deciding to purchase or not purchase the game and we could use that data to directly determine the ten most helpful reviews. Alas, it turns out that not everyone is as helpful as we would like.

"So we took a closer look at the patterns and behaviours of people that are rating reviews. Of the 11 million people that have used the helpful buttons, most follow a reasonable pattern of usage: Typical players rate a few reviews as helpful or unhelpful while deciding whether to make a purchase. However, we found a small set of users on the far extreme that are clearly trying to accomplish something quite different from normal players, and are rating more than 10,000 reviews as helpful or unhelpful on a single game. This behaviour is not only humanly impossible but definitely not a thoughtful indication of how ‘helpful’ each of those reviews were. These users also tend to rate up just the negative reviews while rating down the positive reviews (or vice-versa) in an attempt to distort which reviews are shown by default." 

The new methods will hope to change this issue by implementing a system that will judge which reviews are the most helpful and promote those that follow the rules, which means those users that post excessively will be weighted negatively in the system and their reviews be worth less than other reviews and not be pushed to the front of the game page.

Another change is that equal footing will be given to positive and negative reviews, as opposed to recent reviews in order to create a more balanced and accessible review structure for potential buyers. The new review system is launching a beta test today and Steam also points out that more will need to be done in order to perfect the system and avoid those who wish to abuse it.

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