Valve tweaks Steam review system to block 'helpful bombing'

November 22, 2017 // 11:25 a.m.

Tags: #alden-kroll #digital-distribution #steam #valve

Valve has announced further changes to the way reviews are handled on its Steam platform in an apparent effort to reduce the impact of 'review bombs', where scores of people suddenly descend on a title at once with a view to artificially increasing or decreasing its perceived popularity.

As part of ongoing work designed to make reviews on its Steam digital distribution platform more useful and less vulnerable to gaming - work which has already seen reviews of games not purchased through Steam itself, in the case of both free review copies and keys acquired from third-party services, discounted from overall rankings - Valve's Alden Kroll has announced changes which the company hopes will make the platform more robust against attack.

'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,' explains Kroll. '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.

'So we're making two main changes. Firstly, our system will use a new method of calculating the helpfulness of each review, taking into account the users that are trying to manipulate the system. One way we're doing that is by counting the helpful ratings on reviews differently for users that are far outside the norm. Ratings from users that follow normal patterns of rating will continue to be counted the same way that they have, whereas accounts that rate an excessive number of reviews on an individual game will see the weight of each individual rating count for less and less.

' Secondly, store pages will now show the default helpful positive and negative reviews in a similar proportion to that of the overall review score for the game. For example, if the game is reviewed positively by 80 percent of reviewers, then the ten reviews shown by default on the store page will be 80 percent positive, showing eight positive and two negative. This should keep the reviews shown on a game's page from being so easily manipulated by a few determined players and should more accurately represent the overall sentiment of the people playing the game.'

The new review system is available in beta now and will be rolled out fully in the near future along with additional tweaks to allow reviews discussing regional issues - 'such as server locations', Kroll explains, '[and] poor translations - to be more clearly indicated'.


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