Steam makes more changes to fight “manipulative reviews” by users

By Matt Martin, Tuesday, 21 November 2017 09:24 GMT

The ongoing battle over user reviews on Steam continues, as Valve rolls out more measures to sink players trying to exploit the system and influence a game’s reception.

Valve made recent changes to the user review system to fight review bombing, but what it describes as “a small set of users on the far extreme” are deliberately flooding user reviews by rating up negative reviews and rating down positive reviews in high numbers.

In total, there are 36,579,839 users reviews on Steam.

“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,” said Steam.

“This behavior 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.”

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This can result in a users seeing ten negative reviews for a game that is still rated highly.

“Because of how many reviews these users are rating, they each have a disproportionate amount of influence over the display of helpful reviews and cause certain reviews to appear more prominently than they should be,” said Valve.

“This can result in a confusing appearance where the default set of reviews shown are negative, even when most players have posted positive reviews and clearly enjoy the game.”

While the new system was designed to be transparent by showing the simple maths behind how a review is calculated as helpful or not, Steam admits the system has been gamed by users.

“This has resulted in a system that allows a small group to manipulate reviews to a degree that is clearly decreasing the value of Steam for many other players,” it said.

As of today in beta, Steam is rolling out a two-step solution to the current problem.

“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,” revealed Steam.

“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% of reviewers, then the ten reviews shown by default on the store page will be 80% 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.”

Steam admits there is more work to be done with user reviews and is looking into ways to communicate problems that only affect a particular language or region, and how a rating relates to games that change significantly over time.

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