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Video Games

Valve continues changing how Steam's user reviews work

Further changes are now in place, with more on the way.

Following last week's updates to how Steam handles user reviews, Valve has now implemented further changes and shared some details on others that are on the way.

The initial round of changes focused on shrinking the influence of reviews written by those who had not purchased the game in question through Steam. (That could mean they got a key from a Humble Bundle, a Kickstarter, or directly from a developer for promotional purposes, among other avenues.) It did this by only showing reviews written by Steam customers by default and no longer counting non-Steam customers' reviews in the average review score.

"One frequent piece of feedback we've heard regarding the recent changes is that it has become more difficult to find and read the helpful, articulate reviews written by customers that obtained the game outside of Steam," Valve said in its latest announcement before explaining the new changes.

Scores will continue to reflect only reviews by Steam customers, but in response to that feedback, Steam will now default to showing reviews from all users, no matter how they obtained the game. Should you prefer to filter out one type or the other, you can choose to see only reviews by Steam customers or those who used a key. That choice will then serve as the default as you browse around Steam.

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Valve

The other two new changes are less significant. The text color used for the score on a game that has received "Mixed" reviews is now consistent across Steam. Additionally, when looking at all of a user's reviews, they'll now be sorted by most recent, rather than ones voted as being most helpful (which can be misleading, as more popular games are likely to attract more votes for reviews of them).

As for what's next, Valve reiterated an issue it outlined last week, which is finding a way to surface the most helpful reviews.

"The goal is to be able to better identify and highlight helpful reviews while hiding or lowering the prominence of unhelpful reviews," Valve said. "Our existing system just looks at the overall number of users that rated a review as 'helpful,' but we're seeing this can produce unpredictable results. For example, sometimes unhelpful memes get rated as 'helpful' because people think it's funny. So we're working on updating the system to consider more factors when deciding how to rank 'helpful' reviews so that it can generate better results."

Rather than roll out an attempted fix for this to everyone, Valve said it will offer a beta "soon" that you can "opt into so you can compare the sorting of helpful reviews before and after the change." It didn't specify what the exact changes will be.