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Steam to identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score

Kazza

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Oct 6, 2018
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From Steam Blog

But while easy to say, it raises a bunch of questions, so let's dig into the details. First, what do we mean by an off-topic review bomb? As we defined back in our original post, a review bomb is where players post a large number of reviews in a short period of time, aimed at lowering the Review Score of a game. We define an off-topic review bomb as one where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game, and hence not something that should be added to the Review Score.

Obviously, there's a grey area here, because there's a wide range of things that players care about. So how will we identify these off-topic review bombs? The first step is a tool we've built that identifies any anomalous review activity on all games on Steam in as close to real-time as possible. It doesn't know why a given game is receiving anomalous review activity, and it doesn't even try to figure that out. Instead, it notifies a team of people at Valve, who'll then go and investigate. We've already run our tool across the entire history of reviews on Steam, identifying many reasons why games have seen periods of anomalous review activity, and off-topic review bombs appear to only be a small number of them.

Once our team has identified that the anomalous activity is an off-topic review bomb, we'll mark the time period it encompasses and notify the developer. The reviews within that time period will then be removed from the Review Score calculation. As before, the reviews themselves are left untouched - if you want to dig into them to see if they're relevant to you, you'll still be able to do so. To help you do that, we've made it clear when you're looking at a store page where we've removed some reviews by default, and we've further improved the UI around anomalous review periods.

Finally, we've also enabled you to opt out of this entirely, if that's your preference - there's now a checkbox in your Steam Store options where you can choose to have off-topic review bombs still included in all the Review Scores you see.

Note: bolded parts are my emphasis.
 

Kazza

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DRM based negative reviews will be excluded from the overall review score:

They're technically not a part of the game, but they are an issue for some players. In the end, we've decided to define them as off-topic review bombs. Our reasoning is that the "general" Steam player doesn't care as much about them, so the Review Score is more accurate if it doesn't contain them.
 

IzukuMidoriya

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By DRM, do they mean extra DRM? Because, by definition, Steam itself is technically a type of DRM (needing the client to play games).

Though when they say they have a tool to identify review bombs, it just gives me flashes to the AI Google uses to find hateful content on Youtube and how it seems to demonetize everything that doesn't need to be. I can see this being the case in some sort of way.
 

Kamina

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DRM talk is now Off Topic? What about DRM causing bad performance then? This is a valid complaint!
 

FranXico

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Valve taking competition with Epic seriously, I see.

"Our cut may be bigger, but we let you censor user reviews, see?"
 
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ZeroGravity

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I'm sure this won't be abused at all by people with a vendetta against certain topics or publishers applying pressure to Valve to make their games look more favorable.
 

bati

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I don't understand why they can't just reclassify them into something else. For example DRM, business practice, etc. Then set default overall scoring to not include them but leave them accessible so that potential buyers still get a full picture by adding them to the overall score.
 

Yoda

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It'll give publishers a nice boost of false positive criticisms. But people who are screwed by shitty business practices aren't simply going to stop. The reviews will simply be worded in a way where it omits the items that'd get it flagged as "bombing" and instead lower the score the "legit" way.
 

GreenAlien

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I think this is a pretty good solution. The reviews don't get deleted and are still there to see for developers and those interested alike.

It's not completely automated, there are real people investigating and looking into it..

..and you can even opt-out and use the old system. What's not to like?
 
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Eotheod

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Feb 20, 2018
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This is a far better system then most expected. It's entirely opt in for seeing reviews as they are but keeps things ticking along if you don't care and want a quick glance. DRM being off topic isn't favourable but it is technically off topic in the nature of the discussion.

I just love the reactions elsewhere. Even one of my friend's straight up was like "this is the worst fucking thing I hate this" even though they were so vehemently against review bombing. The irony is just out of this world and I expect Jim Sterling to be on board that irony train in his next video saying it "isn't enough and they should be doing more and they shouldn't be doing this actually because I can't make my mind up Epic give me free shit."
 
Jan 3, 2019
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So they are going the Rotten Tomatoes route, aren't they?

Though the idea might sound plausible on the paper, reality tells that this kind of measure involves restrictions in free speech and that's contradictory to what Steam stands for.
 

rivv3r

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I simply disagree with things like extra DRM being added, or shitty microtransaction practices, being labeled off-topic.
 

Spukc

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this will def end well UHUH..
 

DeliciousDoc

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I like that they give the option of opting out of their new policy while giving the "steam reviews are useless" crowd a bone. Of course, that crowd won't be happy until user reviews match up paid (by conflicts of interest) reviews.
 

Shifty

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Steam Blog said:
It doesn't know why a given game is receiving anomalous review activity, and it doesn't even try to figure that out. Instead, it notifies a team of people at Valve, who'll then go and investigate.
If anything, this is the real step forward here. Getting actual humans to moderate and curate instead of leaving it all to the automated algorithms as Valve has so loved to do in the past.

Now they just need to stop leaving new features buggy and unfinished (cough steam input cough big picture cough) and we'll be getting somewhere.

I don't really trust this idea of classifying 'off-topic' review bombs though. Yes, it sucks that review bombing happens, but it's a symptom of consumers feeling like they have no voice when it comes to pushing back against various industry bizniz bullshit.

Voting with your wallet has never been precise enough to single out a given feature as being a problem the way a review has. This is effectively taking away one of the few remaining ways for a customer to highlight a specific issue they have with the product as opposed to the "i don't like this at all" that comes with simply not buying.

TL;DR: Shit continuing to get worse over time, film at 11.
 
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Kenpachii

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Basically censor of reviews on steam has started. Imagine being unhappy with a game that recently got reviewbombed = bye your review.
 

RokkanStoned

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Just ridiculous. Mostly because this won't work, people will just write "The game is really bad. (on-topic) And that the publisher is terrible and anti-consumer, showing in the product." Won't stop review bombing, the people doing so will just adapt and thus make it even worse for the publishers, as it won't just be obvious review bombing, but rather seemingly legit opinion on the quality of the game. Will definitely backfire

It feels like the industry is really feeling the power of the consumer with a lot of these systems and in regards to the freedom they enjoy, as there's been a lot of push against the consumer the last few years.
 
Feb 22, 2018
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DRM is a legitimate, highly relevant point in one's consideration when talking about a purchased title. We have proof that certain forms of DRM scuff 15-20fps off performance (Denuvo).

This will just lead to people not mentioning what's really wrong, but doing what RokkanStoned RokkanStoned says; simply making their review 'on-topic' by saying they dislike the gameplay or something. Thus we get useless reviews AND review bombs.
 
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Shadowcoust

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Is it really off-topic to mention DRM or microtransactions & lootboxes, tho? I would like to know if the game I'm purchasing has a half-useless anti-piracy measure that drops my frames by 20.

It's good that you can choose to opt out of this crappy feature, but is it made opt out by default or opt in?
 
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RokkanStoned

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Is it really off-topic to mention DRM or microtransactions & lootboxes, tho? I would like to know if the game I'm purchasing has a half-useless anti-piracy measure that drops my frames by 20.

It's good that you can choose to opt out of this crappy feature, but is it made opt out by default or opt in?

Default opted-in. Just opted-out of it.
 

sol_bad

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It feels like the industry is really feeling the power of the consumer with a lot of these systems and in regards to the freedom they enjoy, as there's been a lot of push against the consumer the last few years.

I don't feel that this or Rotten Tomatoes move are a push back on consumers. I think of it more as, a bit of oversight when implementing reviews.

People should not put negative reviews for a game when they are talking about another game. People also shouldn't review movies badly because they don't like the actors/directors/staff members opinion.
 

RokkanStoned

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I don't feel that this or Rotten Tomatoes move are a push back on consumers. I think of it more as, a bit of oversight when implementing reviews.

People should not put negative reviews for a game when they are talking about another game. People also shouldn't review movies badly because they don't like the actors/directors/staff members opinion.

I disagree with you there. Review bombing is not a new thing, even on Rotten Tomatoes, so I wouldn't think they suddenly noticed it.
More so, things like DRM related things being also considered off-topic makes this seem way too sketchy as well and more appeasing to publishers.
All in all, it's pointless and people will still just review bomb. You can't stop people's ability to review bomb, outside of locking reviews down or completely negating any spikes, which in the end would make you seem manipulative.
It's not like consumers are the only one review bombing or spending needless time on something outside the game. Just need to look at "game journalists" to find multiple examples of review bombing or off-topic detractions or praise. It's bad, but in the end you can't really do anything substantial about it. Since you need to purchased the game after all.
 

Shadowcoust

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Default opted-in. Just opted-out of it.

Yeah I just opted out as well. So default setting is opt-in, and then I tried to mess around with the interface to find out how to opt back in. I don't know if its just me, but this shit was hard to do. I had to click on settings under the Steam tab on the top left, spend a few minutes looking through every tab inside there, realized none of it was correct, then click on the "view account details" on the top right, followed by preferences and then saw something related to review settings.

Where's this "checkbox in the Steam store" option? I click on my Store tab and I don't see nothing.

So much for EGS being anti-consumer, huh?
 
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Ovek

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Review bombing is fucking stupid anyway, it’s one of the most limp-wristed show of protest I’ve seen.
 

Stitch

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Borderlands 2 is getting review bombed because Borderlands 3 is Epic exclusive. So yeah, it's definitely off-topic.
 

Kadayi

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Borderlands 2 is getting review bombed because Borderlands 3 is Epic exclusive. So yeah, it's definitely off-topic.

I don't disagree on that front.

I think its all very well to perhaps negatively review a game due to performance issues but review bombing as a protest against what are ultimately publisher decisions as in this case not so much.
 

Stitch

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It's ok when the game has DRM that is causing problems or if there's a heavy focus on micro-transactions or if the game is just completely broken, but not when the sequel is launching on a different launcher.
There was also heavy review bombing on the game Apex Construct because people aren't very smart and thought it was Apex Legends...
https://www.techspot.com/news/78795...ing-apex-construct-thinking-apex-legends.html
 
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Ballthyrm

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4000 odd people review bombing a legitimate good game that sold something like 15M+ copies.
If that's not tyranny by the minority, i don't know what is.

Doing something out of spite usually doesn't bring good results.
Review bombing is also a coward weapon (no cost, no consequence), if you really don't like it, rise to the occasion and don't buy the sequel.

PS: is all the ratings you give are either 5 or 0 stars, you should probably not given a voice.
 

RedVIper

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Just ridiculous. Mostly because this won't work, people will just write "The game is really bad. (on-topic) And that the publisher is terrible and anti-consumer, showing in the product." Won't stop review bombing, the people doing so will just adapt and thus make it even worse for the publishers, as it won't just be obvious review bombing, but rather seemingly legit opinion on the quality of the game. Will definitely backfire

It feels like the industry is really feeling the power of the consumer with a lot of these systems and in regards to the freedom they enjoy, as there's been a lot of push against the consumer the last few years.

This doesn't work, if a lot of negative reviews are posted withing a certain timeframe they'll be removed, you can appeal I think but how many people will bother too?

This whole thing is stupid, steam already shows 2 different review scores, so when a game gets review bombed you already know, and you can go and see why it was too see if it bother you.
Also I wonder if a lot of positive reviews would also get tagged as "review bombing".
 
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thief183

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You know, this is one of the time that I actually agree with Steam, review bombing might be a good thing in some cases, but other times is just bullshit, (see Borderlands 2)
 

Menchin

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That's great, good for them.

Time to hire a couple hundred thousand employees to sift through the shitpile that is the Steam review page.
 

LordRaptor

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Review bombing is also a coward weapon (no cost, no consequence)

Steam reviews like amazon verified purchase reviews do in fact have a cost attached - they had to obtain the game in question first, and their playtime of that game is shown right alongside that review.

Someone with "Shit sux, also, [other reasons unrelated to game]" with a 0.1 hour playtime is clearly not a useful review, and is clearly not related to the actual product.
Someone saying "Shit sucks, its not just x,y and z, but they also have 3 machine activation limit DRM, so be careful about that" with a 15 hour playtime is clearly someone who has played (more than) enough of something to give a legitimate opinion.
 
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GermanZepp

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Good. If You want the game flops be coherent and dont buy it. There's a lots of ways and places to rant about drm and shitty deals.
 

theclaw135

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One-liner reviews are generally insufficient for any game that features gameplay, graphics, music, plot, and an engine.
Especially when the review has a blatant ulterior motive like only existing to call out DRM.
 

Shin

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People have been review bombing games on Steam after announcement of Epic Game Store exclusivity.
Perhaps it has something to do with that as well since I'm not seeing that being covered in most comments.
 
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Ailike

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Basically censor of reviews on steam has started. Imagine being unhappy with a game that recently got reviewbombed = bye your review.
As long as you don't shitpost your review, it should theoretically be fine. Why should it even be an issue? Do you normally post reviews as an edgelord?