I’m a big fan of browsing user reviews pretty much anywhere I can find them. I love the idea of finding people with review-brains like mine that just want to critique, ramble, and gossip about every media possible. Steam User Reviews have proven a great source of entertainment for me, bringing me much joy and frustration reading the reviews of both the talented and the first-time writers. But Steam User Reviews work around a lot of algorithms to try and give people the best idea of whether a game is worth buying or not. Or that was the idea anyways. I’ve recently found a great example of how the Steam User Review system is currently broken in the store page for the game Dead Effect 2 VR, and I will explain how I believe Steam can go about solving these issues to make a more efficient store experience.
First things first, Dead Effect 2 VR is a scifi zombie shooting game designed for virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index. The original Dead Effect 2 was an iOS game, and then it was ported to PC, and then the PC port was made into a VR shooter. The Dead Effect franchise has a reputation for being fun and over the top scifi action with the vague ideas of horror floating around somewhere in its design.
The issue I ran into on Dead Effect 2 VR’s store page for several days in a row of double-checking, as of September 2020, a user review from when the game was in Early Access in August 2017, is still the second most Helpful Overall Review. It was a good review, but that’s crazy! That’s over three years ago now for a game with over nine hundred user reviews. Why is this writeup from the beta still one of the first things potential buyers see when looking at the game? I wonder how many other games are dealing with this issue. It’s particularly odd because Dead Effect 2 VR is a virtual reality game, where headsets are evolving and changing so dang fast that three years is a lifetime.
This specific review is peculiar, because it uses a lot of typical “review language” – using terminology more common to industry or publisher commentary. Most of the other reviews I read, even going back months in the ‘Most Recent’ filter, were much shorter and used smaller words. The fact this post stands out grammatically makes me wonder if Steam’s algorithm is giving extra credit to the kid in class with the biggest thesaurus?
If so, does this mean that reviewers can find games with a lesser amount of recent reviews, and just talk in their most sophisticated college accents, and rake in all the Helpful checkmarks for years to come? Theoretically with the recent addition of Review Awards and the Steam Points Shop they could even begin to get real benefits if Steam decides to add anything more than emoticons. I think it’s definitely a slope they need to be careful to avoid.
While I do strongly believe Steam needs to start paying user reviewers at some point, that’s an argument for another day. For now, I think at the minimum, Steam needs to put limits on these ancient user reviews. Because honestly, an early access review from more than three years ago should not continue to be featured so prominently and potentially affecting a game’s sales.
Hi I’m IndieSamAdonis, please call me Sam. I’ve been writing about indie games since like, 2011! I’d love to hear about what you’re working on or even what indie games you’ve been playing! Reach out on Twitter!