Steam adds graphs to user reviews, hopes that this will solve review bomb woes

Steam adds graphs to user reviews, hopes that this will solve review bomb woes

Valve is looking at how to change the presentation of the user review scores on its storefront.

In a blog post on its forums, the firm’s UI and interaction designer Alden Kroll explained the many ways that Valve could change the way reviews are presented, while also counter-arguing them.

But in the end, the firm has decided that graphs will save user reviews, providing historical context for scores.

This follows gamers ‘review bombing’ or purposefully leaving negative feedback, on Firewatch after developer Campo Santo issued a DCMA request against YouTube star Pewdiepie for using a racial slur during a livestream.

Valve too has faced similar issues, including the DOTA 2 page being review bombed after a former writer Marc Laidlaw published what might have been the story to Half Life 3; fans believed that the success of DOTA was what had stopped Valve continuing the Half Life franchise. 

The full post is pretty interesting as it shows the precarious place Valve has put itself in due to its laissez-faire approach to its consumers, much like this attitude has affected the quality of games on its storefront. Ultimately what it has created here is a means by which people can track trolls abusing their review score system in historical terms. Though this does give context to a user review, it does nothing to solve the actual root problem.

“In the end, we decided not to change the ways that players can review games, and instead focused on how potential purchasers can explore the review data,” Kroll wrote.

“Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you're able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period. As a potential purchaser, it's easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it's something you care about. This approach has the advantage of never preventing anyone from submitting a review, but does require slightly more effort on the part of potential purchasers.

“It also has the benefit of allowing you to see how a game's reviews have evolved over time, which is great for games that are operating as services. One subtlety that's not obvious at first is that most games slowly trend downwards over time, even if they haven't changed in any way. We think this makes sense when you realise that, generally speaking, earlier purchasers of a game are more likely to enjoy it than later purchasers. In the pool of players who are interested in a game, the ones who are more confident that they'll like the game will buy it first, so as time goes on the potential purchasers left are less and less certain that they'll like the game. So if you see a game's reviews trending up over time, it may be an even more powerful statement about the quality of work its developers are doing.”


PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.