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Anemone

Oh no! Valve did another thing! Internet freakout!

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Valve has once again updated their review system! Or, as the news would say if this were a facebook story, Valve has “tweaked their algorithm!” LOOKOUT! ALGORITHMS!

Apparently what they did was made it so that, by default, store browsers are only shown reviews from people who purchased the game through steam. All reviews posted by people who activated the game with a key are filtered. They can be viewed, but the filter must be manually turned off, and all of those reviews are labeled as “key activation” much like early access reviews are labeled.

Valve’s explanation is that this is to fight more shady developers doing things like spamming users with free keys in exchange for positive reviews. In some cases, those accounts activating by key and leaving positive reviews have been linked back to the developers themselves (i.e. pretending to be their own fans playing and leaving reviews).

That honestly makes total sense to me.

But a lot of devs are apparently P.O.’d because it ALSO means that reviews from players who got the game from external sources such as retail, humble, kickstarter, etc, won’t be counted. For some games, that means A LOT of legitimate reviews getting filtered.

It’s not yet clear to me whether these reviews are just hidden or if they are being excluded from the overall score calculation. It seems like I’m hearing two different stories on that part.

Also, *insert conspiracy theories about how this is just a Valve scheme to devalue competitors like Humble etc*

WHAT DO YOU THINK?!

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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I don't give a shit I want more Portal.

...or an original Brad Muir game with infinite Valve money behind it...

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6 minutes ago, Bidiot Bales said:

I don't give a shit I want more Portal.

...or an original Brad Muir game with infinite Valve money behind it...

Oh no! It was a portal to the colon D dimension!!!!

:D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D :D:D

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Except that the reviews of people who legitimately bought a game from Humble at full price aren't included in the rating score anymore. That what gets it for me. A lot of my games are from the Humble Store. And not all of them from Bundles.

Edited by MusicallyInspired

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Too many smileys. Eyes burning.

Seriously though Steam reviews kinda suck in practice. Way too many 'funny' or 'troll' reviews that don't actually review the game get voted to the top.

I know you leave well thought out reviews Anemone you seem to be in the minority.

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Okay, I found and read Steam’s official statement explanation on it. Confirmed that they ARE excluding key activations from score calculations.

I agree that there are some unfortunate side effects from this, and I don’t really like those negative side effects, and I doubt Valve does either, but I think that I ultimately do side with Valve that something needs to be done about review system abuse, and this is one way of combating some of those problems. I don’t really mind as I don’t usually go by just the “positive” or “mixed” or whatever the overall score says. I tend to actually scroll down, eyeball the general trend in the directions the thumbs are facing, skim some of the reviews from the positive and negatives, and make my decisions based on those. But the only reason I even BOTHER to do that is because Valve is putting in this amount of effort to make sure that the review system (and filters etc) actually work and are useful to a person who is trying to get an informed opinion. If the review system was on par with YouTube comments left on the game’s page (which is indeed how some users treat them), then the review system is useless to everyone.

The negative side-effects are unfortunate (though it’s important to note that this will also BENEFIT as many developers’ scores as the scores it will hurt), but I agree with them putting in the effort to scrub the reviews of garbage to make sure they are still useful.

To that end, I appreciate that in their statement they acknowledged that there is a problem with some titles where the reviews are primarily positive but a large number of users are marking up the minority of negative reviews as “most helpful”. In other words, the kind of stupid downvote campaign crap that happened in the broken age reviews. So I appreciate that they acknowledge that this is a problem and want to find a solution for that as well.

I know some people don’t really care about the review system that much, but I do actually use it, so I like that they are trying to take out the garbage, so to speak.

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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21 minutes ago, Bidiot Bales said:

Too many smileys. Eyes burning.

Seriously though Steam reviews kinda suck in practice. Way too many 'funny' or 'troll' reviews that don't actually review the game get voted to the top.

I know you leave well thought out reviews Anemone you seem to be in the minority.

To be fair, Valve also acknowledged this problem in their statement and are apparently looking into ways to filter out these "look at me I'm funny on the internet" garbage reviews.

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Lot of people being upset about this today, but I try to not be, as I don't see it as a problem or a fight for me personally. Read about devs saying that they're being effected by this negatively, but I see that as their fight, not mine.

I actually have been benefited by this, as I'm interested in the statistics between reviews from direct purchases and key activations. 

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2 hours ago, Bidiot Bales said:

I don't give a shit I want more Portal.

...or an original Brad Muir game with infinite Valve money behind it...

Yeah.  When I first read "Valve did another thing", I thought it meant that they did something other than Steam for a change.

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I have seen mostly negative reactions from devs, which is probably exacerbated by the fact that the change was so sudden. But I agree with @CecilRousso that this  is a developer problem more than a consumer problem. From a developer's point of view, you want as many positive reviews as you can get. You want quantity, numbers. From a consumer's point of view, it is better to have fewer, more trustworthy numbers.

Notably Sergey Galyonkin has said he thinks it was the right choice as well, which perhaps tells you everything you need to know. The change in data may not be ideal for developers, but improving the integrity of the data is a plus.

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5 minutes ago, Jenni said:

Yeah.  When I first read "Valve did another thing", I thought it meant that they did something other than Steam for a change.

THEY DO THINGS OTHER THAN STEAM.

Like invest in VR. And then aggressively pushing VR on steam by tagging VR-compatible games with VR tags that can't be removed.

Spoiler: Half Life 3 is a VR exclusive.

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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I was hoping that this would be the announcement of Quarter-Portal 1.2.11.2: Halfway to Fortressing with VR.

But yeah, this sounds like a non-problem that Valve has decided to solve. Kinda like how one person voting twice is adequate justification for massive voter suppression moves.

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19 minutes ago, Alcoremortis said:

But yeah, this sounds like a non-problem that Valve has decided to solve. Kinda like how one person voting twice is adequate justification for massive voter suppression moves.

Per my previous posts, I disagree that this is a "non-problem".

I mean, okay, maybe it's a non-problem in a "first world problems" sort of sense, but for a person who actually uses reviews (both writes them and reads before purchasing), the things they are addressing or aiming to address are things I've been complaining about for a couple of years now.

Quote

Kinda like how one person voting twice is adequate justification for massive voter suppression moves.

More like racism and classism being justification for massive voter suppression moves while offering the explanation that "it's to reduce voter fraud" because the reality is even more disgusting.

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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That's basically what I was getting at. Valve is solving a problem of wanting to incentivize devs to only sell their product on Steam and undercut competing platforms by pretending there's some sort of review-buying scheme going on. 

It'd be sufficient to require the game to be in your library and have x hours played, both statistics that Steam has easy access to. But instead of doing that, they go a clumsy route that just so happens to make rival platforms less favorable to developers. Hmmm... 

Edited by Alcoremortis

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Well that's all my reviews hidden, then. I tend to favour purchasing from Humble 'cause I like having DRM-free copies as well.

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1 hour ago, Alcoremortis said:

That's basically what I was getting at. Valve is solving a problem of wanting to incentivize devs to only sell their product on Steam and undercut competing platforms by pretending there's some sort of review-buying scheme going on. 

 

This is what I was joking at in OP when I wisecracked *insert conspiracy theories about how this is just a Valve scheme to undercut competitors like humble, et al*

If it's not clear, I don't at all believe this is what Valve is doing. I mean, what this effectively is saying is that Valve thinks they are going to get customers to only purchase games from them due to the sexy offer of BEING ABLE TO WRITE A REVIEW.

It also doesn't make sense to me that they are trying to incentivize developers to only sell on Steam. What is the incentive? If you only sell on Steam then 30% more of your user reviews (only on steam) will count, which may help or hurt your score (only on steam), so who knows if that is even a good thing?

When asking myself which of these two realities is more likely, it seems tremendously more probable to me that Valve is just trying to fix certain problems with reviews that people have been complaining about for a long time (the people that care about user reviews anyway).

Quote

It'd be sufficient to require the game to be in your library and have x hours played, both statistics that Steam has easy access to. But instead of doing that, they go a clumsy route that just so happens to make rival platforms less favorable to developers. Hmmm... 

That won't work because what happens is that people buy a bundle of 10 games from Humble because they only want one game. Then they open all of the games and leave them running while they are at work so that they can get the trading cards, which logs a bunch of hours into the game "on record" even though they have played the game for zero hours in reality. Then they will one day boot up this game they didn't even want but just happened to end up with in a bundle because they wanted some other game in particular for fifty cents, then they will play the game for five minutes, give it a thumbs down, write a six word review, and Steam will show that they played the game for 12 hours on account of their trading card mining.

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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I'm not saying that customer behavior would change.

I'm saying DEVELOPER behavior might change. Participating in things like HumbleBundle is good for developers for getting the word out about their game and increasing exposure. If they can't get that exposure from reviews, they might be less likely to use HumbleBundle as a distribution platform. That's what I'm saying. The customers don't care. But reviews are important to devs and if they can't get them from selling their games cheaply, there's very little incentive for them to do so on a non-Steam platform. Which ultimately benefits Steam.

Also, I highly doubt the majority of Steam users would mine trading cards and then run around writing negative reviews. If that happens at all, it's most likely an extreme minority. And like voter suppression laws, it's ridiculous to change how things work because of a tiny minority that games the system. Which only leaves this whole thing being a hilariously over the top reaction, or motivated by something else entirely.

Edited by Alcoremortis

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2 hours ago, Alcoremortis said:

I'm not saying that customer behavior would change.

I'm saying DEVELOPER behavior might change. Participating in things like HumbleBundle is good for developers for getting the word out about their game and increasing exposure. If they can't get that exposure from reviews,

Is the word about their game getting out via participation in the bundle or is the word getting out on account of the subsequent steam reviews?

As far as I can tell, the steam reviews are important for customers with money in hand who are at the point of deciding whether or not to go through with the purchase (assuming they are even shopping on steam). They are not crucial to the "getting the word out" part. If you want word of mouth, then you want to get your game to as many players as possible. That could overlap with them leaving a positive review, but word of mouth is far from dependent on those reviews. To the extent that HIB increases word of mouth at all, it does it with or without steam reviews.

But let's talk about what we actually mean by "reviews" and "word of mouth".

If we mean that the person plays the game and leaves some very positive and enthusiastic comments on the game's steam page, then it's important to note that NOTHING HAS CHANGED in that regard.

But if by "reviews" and "word of mouth" you mean "my game has a better numerical user score" then that is something different, and that is the only thing that is changing.

So I find this argument (whether it be from you or from developers) sort of disingenuous, though not necessarily intentionally that way. If you are just talking about pure word of mouth, i.e. people saying and writing good things about your game to other people, then absolutely nothing has changed.

But that's not really what developers are upset about. They are essentially upset about how it might affect their "metascore" (or steam's equivalent), or in other words how it may change their game from a 79% fresh to only 71% fresh. That is really the only thing this is about (even though in some cases it is raising that score, but very few people seem to be talking about that part).

You could say "yeah but that high score makes more people want to buy that game so it is kind of conducive to word of mouth if you think about it" but I think that would be getting yourself into a chicken-or-the-egg situation.

Quote

But reviews are important to devs and if they can't get them from selling their games cheaply, there's very little incentive for them to do so on a non-Steam platform. Which ultimately benefits Steam.

Again, they are still getting them. It's just that a certain % of them are now not being used in the numerical calculation, but the words---i.e. the nice or mean things people said---are still there. All that is changing is, essentially, a number. And in most cases the change to that number is very small.

The only cases where it is very significant is with indie devs who have very small numbers as it is. I know that being an indie is hard and everything, and I don't mean to be callous, but the world (and Steam) do not owe them anything. If an indie dev's ENTIRE LIFE depends on a handful of thumbs up they got from participating in a single humble bundle, well I'm sorry, but Steam is not obligated to take that on as Steam's problem. That's not to say that Steam should not be interested in helping games succeed on their platform. They derive huge benefit from helping games succeed on their platform. But that doesn't mean they have to take on the responsibility of protecting every sick and ailing indie developer from death, nor does it mean that if an indie dies because Steam shifted its colossal butt in its chair and bumped their fragile body in just the right way that it was some kind of act of hostility on Steam's part. I know that Steam is the Wal-Mart and not the locally-owned business in this equation or whatever, but Steam has a right to look out for Steam and its own services sometimes, too, and I think that is all they are doing here.

 

Quote

Also, I highly doubt the majority of Steam users would mine trading cards and then run around writing negative reviews.

Maybe. Maybe not. But even if they mine the trading cards and leave a POSITIVE review, then developers aren't going to whinge about that (why would they? $$$$$) but it is harmful to me as a consumer who is trying to get some actual information out of those reviews.

You could say "people don't mine and then review" but they CAN and we don't have any strong assurance, aside from our gut feelings, that those types of bad data are not making it into the calculation. (And a quick peruse through steam reviews shows there is plenty of bad data in there.) Since key activiations are ambiguous and full purchases are not so ambiguous, then removing key activations from the calculation does boost the confidence in that number. I know that's not great for small indies, but that's good for me as a customer and as a user of the Steam service, and caring about the quality of their service is something Steam is allowed to care about, even if it sometimes leads to reforms that devs aren't so fond of.

(If devs get so angry about it that they all start abandoning Steam, I'm sure Valve will change their tune pretty damn quick, but I highly doubt that is how this will unfold. I think people are just going to cry about what it did to their score in the short term, but in the long term most everyone will get over it.)

Quote

And like voter suppression laws, it's ridiculous to change how things work because of a tiny minority that games the system. Which only leaves this whole thing being a hilariously over the top reaction, or motivated by something else entirely.

The fact that you keep comparing this to voter suppression laws is just hyperbole (and potentially a deck-stacking appeal to pathos). We're talking about reviews of commercial products, not a person's fundamental rights. Your right to leave an amazon review on an electric toothbrush =/= women's suffrage.

You keep suggesting that Steam is doing all of this as a reaction to nothing, but what I have been saying is that this is a direct response to feedback they have received about their service. I know, because I am one of the users giving them that feedback by creating those threads and posting in the threads that other people have created. This is not just some problem that Valve fabricated in a machiavellian attempt to indirectly kill Humble bundle. If steam REALLY wanted to kill HIB, a better way to do it would be to stop letting HIB sell steam keys. This whole idea that they are partnering with Humble to sell games but simultaneously trying to kill them by not including the reviews left by a fraction of their customers in a user score while twisting their mustaches seems kinda cartoony and convoluted to me. Partnering with them in the first place must have just been a scheme to lead them into a false sense of security...? =P

Well, I'm doing that thing where I chop up individual posts into tiny pieces of quote, and when people start doing that it is the harbinger of a thread's slow spiral into death, so I should probably not post ITT anymore. >.<

/opinions
/words
/paragraphs
/TLDR
/godanemoneshutup
 

Edited by AnAnemoneInAnonymity

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If a developer can't get their +8% improved Metacritic score from HumbleBundle Steam reviews, they might not bother with HumbleBundle as part of their marketing strategy. After all, it costs money for each additional platform and they probably have some sort of metric for determining how valuable a given platform is to improving their profits. That's what I'm getting at. I don't think anyone will leave Steam over this because Steam is more valuable than other platforms. Steam knows this too. If anything, I'm worried that some developers will leave other, less-directly profitable platforms (like HumbleBundle) and become Steam exclusive in order to maximize Metacritic score or whatever. 

I don't think this is a bad move for Steam. I think it's very clever for them. They can portray it as improving customer experience (which it probably is by decreasing reviews) and will probably get more business as a result. But I can't help but think that other platforms will suffer for it. Before a dev could have GoG and a Steam review. Now they can have GoG or a Steam review. For some, it might no longer be worth it and GoG suffers.

Now, whether a review actually is, in fact, worth anything is debatable. But the perception, from how devs are reacting, is that these reviews are valuable. And since they are perceived as valuable, there will likely be consequences, even if it's only from devs overreacting to this news and pulling products from 'less valuable' platforms.

Edited by Alcoremortis

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Yeah. Considering Gabe says that people just work on whatever they feel like working on over there (which is why HL3 hasn't gotten any work done), this seems strange.

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When Valve started with all that filter nonsense, they did exactly what they're doing now, fixing the problems that naturally come with their bullshit. I would especially like to reiterate that Valve is mostly very honest in what they are doing. Right now, they indeed want to ensure less abuse in their reviews system. To that end, they're going nuclear on the problems they've brought unto themselves.

It's the second review 'fix' this year I think? "The way in which games are meant to be made today", Valve's bright vision of the future, means that games are sold, played and abandoned in beta. But evidently you're not supposed to rate that game in beta, so 'older' reviews don't play into the total score. Thanks to Valve, reviews have an expiry date now. Which of course also supports bugged releases, humongous day one patches, crucial DLC to be added later etc. So for some time you could already buy games full price directly on Steam and still have your review not count. Heh! 

And now we have this. To reiterate, in order to establish total PC market dominance, Valve has for a decade:

(a) established a humongous and inescapable network of key resellers
That especially applies to Humble, which no one should see as a "competitor" to Valve in any way, quite the contrary. For almost five years the situation has now been that wherever PC gamers buy, they ask for "their Steam key". We have these kinds of threads on GOG, very regularly, and I guess GOG support gets those emails daily.

(b) gave developers a virtually unlimited number of free keys to their own games
Of course Kickstarter developers benefited heavily from this, but it also led them to neglect DRM free versions of their game. For adventure game enthusiasts, the most notable issue was with Broken Sword 5, when Koch Media pressed a version chained to Steam on backer archive DVDs (and retail versions too).

So even though these problems are basically baked right in Valve HQ, the developers are supposed to pay for it. There could be heavy review hits particularly on niche products (like Broken Age) where most of the reviews, both positive as well as negative, may be Kickstarter backers who received a Steam key. In this case, the clientele primarily interested in these games will be excluded from writing reviews that count towards the total score.

That... doesn't seem right to me. :|

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2 hours ago, Vainamoinen said:

So even though these problems are basically baked right in Valve HQ, the developers are supposed to pay for it. There could be heavy review hits particularly on niche products (like Broken Age) where most of the reviews, both positive as well as negative, may be Kickstarter backers who received a Steam key. In this case, the clientele primarily interested in these games will be excluded from writing reviews that count towards the total score.

That... doesn't seem right to me. :|

Looking at Broken Age, there are as I can see it, 5053 reviews from direct purchasers, and 263 reviews from key activations. That's a supringly small amount for the latter category. 

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I've been wrong before, but I refuse to believe that 95,555 Steam keys were thrown at backers (and let's not forget some 10,000 at customers via Humble bundling) only to yield 263 reviews.

But I'd rather think their filter isn't quite working correctly. In the filtered standard, I get at least one "pre-release review". That HAS had to be a key activation. O.o

Edited by Vainamoinen

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